my mind is just not on painting.

For the last two years or so, Mr. Q and I have been saving up for a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands.  We were planning the trip with my sister and another couple for this fall.  As it turns out, the friends decided they can’t afford a trip this year, and my sister decided to buy a house instead, leaving her with no budget for travel either.  So, there we were.  A healthy travel fund saved up, plenty of vacation time on the books, and no idea what we wanted to do (we are saving the Belgium trip for another time when my sister can join us).

For a little while we entertained the idea of spending some money and time on home improvements instead of travel.  We got a quote for refinishing our wood floors.  It was over $6,000.  And on top of the price, we discovered that you basically have to move out of your house, furniture and all.  Most people rent one of those Pod things, put it in the driveway and move all of their furniture into it for the duration and then stay with friends or in a hotel.

Um, no thank you.

And you know what?  Ten years from now are we going to be glad we spent the money on refinished floors?  Or would we rather have some amazing memories of some fabulous adventures?  In the end, we realized we’d rather spend the money on travel after all.

So, I started researching some new ideas for a trip this year.  It took a couple of months to find just the right thing, but we finally found it!  Mr. Q and I are going on a cruise that starts in Copenhagen, Denmark and then goes to five ports in Norway, followed by three stops in Scotland, one in the Shetland Islands and a final stop in England.

Now if you are a travel snob, you might be turning your nose up at a cruise.  But did you know that even Rick Steves believes there is value in taking a cruise in Europe?  There is a great lecture by Cameron Hewitt on the Rick Steves YouTube channel about cruising in Europe and Cameron points out that it is one of the most efficient ways to travel to multiple destinations.  After all, you get on your ship, unpack your stuff, and then every night while you sleep you are transported to a new spot to explore.  No living out of a suitcase and lugging it onto trains or ferries.  It’s also one of the most cost effective ways to see Northern Europe specifically.  The Scandinavian countries are very expensive places.  With a cruise, your room and meals are already paid for.  And as Cameron points out, Northern Europe is one of the few places where it is actually cheaper to buy a drink on your ship rather than on land.

But we aren’t going into this blindly.  We know that there is also a trade-off.  You don’t have the same opportunity to become fully immersed in the culture, and you also don’t have a chance to experience the nightlife since your ship will usually be leaving port by 6 p.m. or so.  In addition, you have to be very careful to not get sucked into incredibly over-priced ship sponsored shore excursions with 500 other people.  In other words, you have to do your research.  So that is what I have been focused on lately.

Here’s a good example.  One of our stops is in Flam, Norway.  A popular tourist activity there is to take a train up to the top of the mountains for beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and the fjord.

The ship offers this excursion for $149.95 per person.  But guess what?  The spot where you get on the train is about a five minute walk from the ship’s dock.  And you can buy tickets for the train online ahead of time for about $50 per person, thus cutting out the middle man.  Granted, the ship’s excursion includes a cup of coffee and a waffle at the café on top of the mountain, but do you think that is worth the extra $99.95?  You might find the markup on this shocking, but it’s not unusual for ship sponsored excursions to be ridiculously overpriced.

But actually, Mr. Q and I aren’t going to take that train at all.  I’ve discovered that there are also several really lovely walking/biking trails in Flam, and doing those on our own is free. And this, by the way, is what Flam, Norway looks like …

So we are going to hope that most of the people on our ship get on that train and leave the rest of Flam to us.  We like nothing better than just wandering around exploring a place on our own.  See that path along the river?  That’s the way we’ll be headed when we disembark our ship in Flam.

Anyway, since there are 10 ports of call on our cruise plus we’re spending a couple of days in Copenhagen before we sail, I have been spending all of my free time researching all of our destinations.  And when I’m not doing that, I’m going to look at houses with my sister.  She had a fantastic 1894 farmhouse picked out last week and for the 2nd time she was outbid by another buyer.  We’re heading out again tomorrow to see some more potential houses, so keep your fingers crossed.

 Unfortunately for you, dear reader, this doesn’t leave much time for painting furniture or for blogging about it.  My mind is just not on painting furniture at the moment.

But I will return to it soon.  I just brought home this buffet and plan to start work on it tonight.

 In the meantime, do any of you have suggestions about what to do or see at any of our destinations?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

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22 thoughts on “my mind is just not on painting.

  1. What a wonderful vacation that will be. I love a cruise but sometimes a shore excursion is not the best option. I choose it when the destination is a distance. As we all know the boat leaves without you after you don’t show. I agree that poking around on your own is more fun than the tour. I will look forward to your blog and photos of this one.

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    1. My mom the travel agent has drilled a healthy fear of missing the boat into my head since my first cruise umpteen years ago. I have spent years trying to get over it, and much like you I still feel more comfortable on a ship sponsored excursion if I’m heading far from the port. Funny though, Cameron Hewitt mentioned this in his lecture and said he’s talked to various people in the cruise industry and they say it almost never happens. Still, you never know what can happen. I was on an excursion once where the bus caught on fire. Seriously. While we were on it! No one was hurt thank goodness, and another cruise line’s similar tour was passing by and they let us join them (which required everyone standing in the aisle) for the ride back to the port.

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  2. I’m so excited for you! You are going to have a fabulous trip … all the more so because you’re doing your homework. I recently painted a china cabinet that is an exact match to your buffet. It’s now a beautiful indigo, and we use it in our bathroom for extra storage. Looking forward to seeing what you do with the buffet. 😀

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    1. Found yours (here it is if anyone else wants to see it). Gorgeous! And it sounds like you were worried about bleed-thru from the stain, as am I. I am going dark with mine too for that reason. Maybe I should just slap a coat of sealer on it first though, huh? By the way, I didn’t know you were a Zumba teacher. I love, love, love Zumba. Have been doing it for gosh, at least 10 years or so I think. I still remember when it first came on the scene here in Minnesota. My gym offered an introductory class to see if anybody liked it. I took the class and thought to myself, finally! this is what I have been looking for. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

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  3. Enjoy your trip! Maybe next time you’ll come a bit further south to the land of the tulips – it really is worth exploring the Netherlands and a canal boat is a great way to do so here. 🙂 (I’m in The Hague)

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    1. I absolutely want to do that! The trip we were planning (that got postponed) was supposed to include Belgium and the Netherlands. Hopefully we will be able to take that trip next time. I’ve switched planes in Amsterdam so many times (and will be again this trip) and I’ve always thought that one of these times I should just stay 😉

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  4. Copenhagen is such a wonderful place, you are going to love your time there. The food halls,
    Torvehallerne, are really a great place to visit and perfect for lunch, as you can wander around and stop at different little places to try the food. The palaces in Copenhagen were really enjoyable. Tivoli is fun, especially at night with all the lights. If you have enough time a take a take to Roskilde for the day, all the kings and queens of Denmark are buried in the cathedral there and the Viking ship museum is wonderful, plus it it a lovely town for just wandering. Eat lots of Kanelsnegl for me!

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    1. The food halls sound fun. If my sister were joining us that would be right up her alley, she loves trying lots of different things like that. I had to look up Kanelsnegl, and now that I know what it is I can assure you we’ll try to eat as much of it as we can for you 😉 I’ll check out Roskilde, that sounds interesting. We were also considering a day trip to Fredriksborg Castle, have you been there?

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  5. Sounds wonderful I am assuming this trip is trumping Charleston? I have only been to Edinburgh off your itinerary.
    Took the Royal Scotsman up from London for a few days. Best pastry shop ever in Edinburgh such wonderful whipped cream. Then Eidburgh Castle, Rosslyn chapel and of course there are fabulous wool shops of tartan throws and kilts. Maybe you could get hubby into one of those.
    Love the buffet. Great lines looking forward to that reveal.

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    1. Yep, this trip is the winner for this year. Charleston will still be on our list for ‘some day’ though. I hope we can find some of that delicious pastry while we are in Edinburgh! And it wouldn’t be hard at all to get my hubby into a kilt, and who doesn’t love a man in a skirt 😉

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  6. Hi guys=You have just made the best decision you could ever make. My husband and I travelled a great deal and have never regreted it for a moment (all I can think of is all the furniture that will not be chipped while you are away)LOL. I guess you know that this is Betty from Ontario. Take lots of pics

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    1. You always crack me up Betty. Yes, I will definitely take lots of pics and at least two pieces of furniture will be saved from a chippy paint job while I am gone 😉

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  7. Sounds like fun . Can’t wait to hear how you liked exploring this way for the rest of us who are thinking of doing this some day!. How is it looking for getting to your departure point from where you live? Looks beautiful! We have also booked a few excursions on our own for different cruises and really enjoy it. One hike to glaciers in Alaska it was only my husband and I plus the guide! My fingers almost froze off but great memories and beautiful way to see Alaska first hand.

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    1. We will have to fly from here to Copenhagen, but currently airfare to Europe is fairly reasonably priced. At least when we are going (in May). Your hike to the glacier sounds like it was amazing!

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    1. LOL, for a minute there you had my sister convinced that really was a fairy garden (she read your comment and then texted me)! Looking back at it … it’s so adorable that it does look fake. Clearly I’ll have to snap a few photos while I am there just to prove that it is real 🙂

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      1. Yes Ruth, at one point in Toledo, Spain I turned to my friend Carlos and said, “Wow, Disney has done an excellent job with this place!” So many places in Europe are too quaint and perfect to be real.

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