Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

Happy New Year!

12.01.2011 22:44

Well, sorta. Considering we’re almost a full two weeks in, it is rather late. Then again, I had quite the way to start the new year.

On the morning of New Year’s Eve (December 31), I woke up with a sore throat. Not a good sign, I can tell ya. I wasn’t exactly in a party mood. Then again, we were going to babysit my 8 month old niece that night, we weren’t about to go into full party mode anyway.

The next morning (January 1), my condition was more or less confirmed: I had flu-like symptoms, not unlike what my mother’s been having for the past week or so. In the next few days, I was taking turns coughing, sniffling, sleeping and going to the bathroom (due to the increased fluid intake – what comes in has to come out), and not much else. You could say that I was in no condition to get started on my work plans for the new year. Then again, since I have a job that allows for telecommuting, it doesn’t stop me completely from doing at least some work.

By Thursday (January 6), I felt an improvement that would allow me to get a fresh start after the weekend. Saturday morning, I was proven wrong, as I woke up with an even more sore throat, and my voice completely gone. You could say I didn’t get to enjoy that weekend as much as I had hoped for. Just wonderful.

And now we’re into Wednesday, almost two weeks into the new year, and my voice is only at about 50-60 %. It still hurts a little just to talk, and with a teleconference meeting (using WebEx) scheduled with a client earlier today, I just had to make the most of it. I’m still coughing, too, and every little cough hurts a little.

I’m not too happy with how 2011 started out, and I seriously hope this doesn’t set the mood for how the rest of the year is going to be like.

Oh, and there’s a big Blue Man Group fan meet in New York at the end of July this year, and it coincides with their 20th anniversary in New York. I seriously hope I’ll be able to make it there – and stick around for a total of 2 weeks, with the fan meet day either at the end or at the middle of those two weeks. All financial options are being considered. Following the advance planning I did for my USA vacation in 2009, I should have everything in place (flights and hotel stays) by the end of March or mid-April. Occasions like this don’t come around often, so fingers are crossed.

Stockholm 2010, day six (final), going home

05.10.2010 23:54

Final day, and time to just wake up, pack up the last few things before I check out of the hotel and start my way towards the airport.

I was a bit worried about getting the spin art from the day before with me home, but after a few tweaks to my suitcase (if I open up a special zipper in the lid, the suitcase can contain about 2-3 cm more stuff), I was able to carefully squeeze the frame into the lid. I was already looking up options for mailing it home or cost for extra pieces of luggage on my flight (the first piece of luggage is free with SAS, anything beyond that costs extra), but the fact that it managed to fit into the lid made me relax a whole lot more.

I had been up almost all night surfing the web and didn’t get around to really turn in for the night before closer to 6 in the morning. I already had my phone’s alarm clock set to a 8:30 wake-up call, since they stop serving the breakfast buffet at 10, with an additional wake-up at 11 (final check-out is at 12, or noon). I woke up just slightly at the first wake-up call, and decided I could just catch a few more hours of sleep and find something on the way to the airport instead.

I’m thankful for almost eternal repeat (the app I use for my phone’s alarm clock makes me solve mathematical problems to completely shut off the alarm) – I didn’t get my ass out of the hotel room until it was closer to 11:55, which is really pushing it. I took the bus the usual three stops to where I can switch to the subway. There’s a Burger King right next to this stop, and I had originally thought about grabbing me a burger menu (I didn’t have to be at the airport for another 2 hours at least), but I decided to just travel all the way to the airport, get myself to the baggage drop and be done with it. The subway leads about 4 stops to T-Centralen, which is where just about all public transportation in Stockholm meets, including the Arlanda Express, which takes me to the airport in 20 minutes or less.

Yes, this little folder

Arriving at the airport at about 13:10, I felt I had all the time in the world, and after walking about 5-10 minutes around the check-in area to find my airline’s check-in terminals and baggage drop-off counters, I suddenly realized I had forgotten my folder aboard the airport express train.

Now, this is where I kept a written copy of the booking reference code, one of my credit cards (more specifically, the credit card I used to pay for this trip), and last but not least, my passport.

You can imagine the sense of panic I felt at that moment. I rushed downstairs to the airport express trains and waited for the next train to arrive. I tried looking in through the windows around where I sat, hoping it was the exact same train I arrived on myself, but without luck. Finally, one of the train staff noticed the slightly confused and worried person that I had become at that point, and approached me. I explained the situation, and he managed to call up the train central for more information. The train he was operating was at its last stop, and would be switching tracks to leave for the city about 5 minutes later, but he would meet me again at the track at the other side of the platform to give me an update.

Sure enough, the guys at the central had found my folder, and the person now holding my travel folder would be on the train arriving at 14:10, about 40 minutes later. I patiently waited at the platform until the time came, and I finally got it back, with an immense feeling of relief.

I rushed back upstairs to check in my baggage (SAS lets you check in to the flight and select seats up to 22 hours before the flight, so I did just that the night before), first via one of the check-in terminals (for a baggage attachment), and then over the the drop-off counter. When I had dropped off my suitcase, I looked at the clock up on the wall; it was now 14:30. The flight takes off at 15:35, and baggage has to be checked in no later than an hour on international flights (this was for a flight from Stockholm, Sweden to Oslo, Norway). So much for that relaxing extra time I was hoping for.

Next up was a quite long walk through the security checkpoint and to my gate (which was probably as far away as you could possibly get – if you’re on an international-bound flight at Arlanda airport outside Stockholm, try walking the distance to gate 10A, you’ll see what I mean). I managed to grab me a cinnamon bun and a croissant along with an orange soda (Zingo) when I had found my gate, just to eat at least something (and those were the only things I found tempting at the time).

The transfer from an international flight to a domestic flight at Gardermoen airport (outside Oslo) was no picnic, either. I now remember what I hate about travelling internationally, especially if the first airport I arrive at on an international flight isn’t the airport of my final destination. I have to walk a long way to the baggage pick-up, take my luggage, haul it through customs and outside the security checkpoint, where I have to check-in my baggage again (I can go directly to the drop-off counter this time, though) and go through the security checkpoint all over again. I don’t think I’ve walked that far in a very long time.

Good thing the next flight of my trip wasn’t leaving for another 2 hours or so. After finally finding some decent food (the choice finally landed on a heated ham and cheese ciabatta), I found the right gate for my flight (which wasn’t up on the boards yet when I first arrived through the checkpoint) and sat down for some eating time. The flight appeared to be slightly delayed, and seemed to be the last of the 19:10 flights to start boarding, but this slight delay allowed me to finish my ciabatta and soda before the boarding started.

Some flights can really be tiresome. I just hope the flight portion of my next trip goes more smoothly. I don’t know when or where my next trip will be, though, but I hope it won’t be too long.

And for those who are interested, I’ve uploaded all photos from this week to my Flickr account:

Flickr photoset: Late Summer Vacation 2010

Stockholm 2010, day five

04.10.2010 04:29

Another great day, and tomorrow I’ll be on my way home. Even so, it does feel like I’ve been here for more than a week, and I certainly wished I had time to experience even more.

I didn’t get much done today, other than the last dose of Blue Man Group for a while.

I met up with the stage production supervisor (I believe his name is Richard Herrick – at least that’s what the program says, and it sounds about right) at 14:45 (or 2:45 PM for you 12-hour geeks out there), a little over an hour before the show would be starting. He had been at the Stockholm show for some time now, as he was training someone to take over the production supervision for the Stockholm show while he went to London. He usually travels around a bit, and is involved in every Blue Man Group stage production all over the world.

He took me backstage, and was told I would get some secrets to things behind the production. Just that bit of trust kept me from taking out my camera and snapping shots like mad. I’ll share some trivia tidbits with you, the blog readers, but I’ll keep some of the secrets to myself, to avoid spoiling too much of the fun.

I actually got to know a little about how Chris, Matt and Phil (the original three Blue Men – last names are Wink, Goldman and Stanton, in that order) got started in their stage production. They got their start in New York, which is also where the Blue Man Productions global headquarters are located, an organization which I believe turns 20 next year. In the beginning, these three were performing every single show themselves, but when Phil hurt his hand bad, it prevented him from drumming, a major part of the Blue Man character. One of their regular drummers had learned much of the show to heart, and they decided to give him a chance at taking Phil’s place in the performance of the show. This went over quite well, and it showed that anyone, with the right training (combined with the right height and build), can perform as a Blue Man, which in turn opened up for what would later be a global expansion. Today, there are permanent shows (more or less) in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin and Tokyo, with touring shows around the U.S. and around Europe (currently in Stockholm, but moving on to Vienna in November).

And as I figured out, the stage production supervisor is more or less like the director of the show, directing the pace of the show as it happens, and a direct line to each of the performers’ ears, to give directions and visual cues for the show elements.

I got to see the what the stage looks like before the show starts (mainly, what’s obscured by the big white screen when the audience is allowed to enter and find their seats), where I found some things I expected (like the “angel airpoles” seen as shadows at the very beginning), and some things that surprised me (I’m not telling). And a close view of the text board and the preparation of the cereal boxes. I got a closer look at the “main” PVC instrument (or, at least, one half of it), along with the props used in that exact half (several sets of paddles and lighters – yes, that half). I also got to see the paint drums up close, and the mechanics that drives the special effects associated with them (lights and the flow of paint). I even got to see the LED back wall up close (where some video is shown). Next, our focus turned to the prop room, which they take with them on the tour. This “kitchen” is where they prepare all of the props used in each show, along with a big fridge which keeps some elements cooled between each show. I got to see props for the shows, and one of the backpack tubulums, stored near the props station. I also got an unsold spin art from the day before, as well as drum sticks. These are the type of drum sticks used for the paint drumming. The soft spot at the end simply gets soaked by the paint, eventually to the point where the drum sticks are no longer usable, which was why I just got a pair.

Next, we headed off to the other side of the stage, where the TV heads, the other backpack tubulum, a few more props (close-up of the “gumballs”), and a make-up station for the Blue Men. This is where they come backstage at certain points to freshen up their blue make-up, and more or less vent at eachother (the Blue Man character doesn’t talk, so they get a chance to talk a little while there’s a video showing up on the large screen.

Another fun fact: for each show, the performers are assigned one of the three characters; left, center and right. Or Matt, Chris and Phil, as they’re also called (named after the original performers and founding members of Blue Man Group – not exactly in that order, but Chris was always the center one). Each of these characters have specific tasks during the show (which are usually improvised upon, depending on the situation). The original performers no longer perform at any of the shows, though, but they are more involved in the management and creative direction of the shows’ content.

The backstage tour was shorter than expected, but a fun experience. I was even introduced to several crew members as the backstage tour went along. The crew was from just about everywhere, some from Berlin, some picked up in Basel, Zurich, the US, just to mention a few.

The show itself was great as usual, but now it’s over for this round. Maybe I’ll be able to go the US of A again next year? You never know.

Now I just need to figure out how to get all of this with me back home…

Stockholm 2010, day four

03.10.2010 12:21

Another day over, and it has been quite the Blue Man experience for me. 🙂

I had three shows lined up for the day, and I chose to wear the white T-shirt I got from Blue Man Group Las Vegas in one of their Twitter giveaways. After every show, the band and the Blue Men always come out to the lobby for photos, and after today’s first show, one of them spotted me in my white Blue Man Group T-shirt, and decided to give me a nice blue handprint on my belly. In paint.

Not this guy, though. I didn't get a photo of the one that made the handprint. But at least that's the white T-shirt.

After the second show, just outside the lobby, actually, one of the Blue Men (don’t remember if it was the same one) spotted me in my white Blue Man Group T-shirt with a blue handprint on it, and decided to give me an extra souvenir. He took an arm’s length distance, and went head-on into another blank spot on my T-shirt. Yep, I got myself a hefty face print as well.

At this point, my T-shirt was so full of paint that I decided to rush back to the hotel (in a taxi, to make it quicker – the next show was only about an hour or so away) and change to a different T-shirt. This type of paint takes a very long time to dry, so I had to change to avoid getting blue paint all over. After a quick cleaning and a new T-shirt, I rushed back to the theater for the third and last show of the day. Once again, an awesome show.

In the lobby afterwards, while I was talking a little bit to the band, I was suddenly approached by a man who identified himself as the production manager (or at least that’s what I thought I heard, it was so noisy in the lobby I didn’t even catch his name). They have apparently noticed me coming to every show this week, and wanted to do a little extra special for me. Today (I’m writing this on the day after, actually), I’ll be meeting him again outside the theater a little over an hour before today’s show, and I’ll get to go backstage (!) after they’re done with the soundcheck.

As it turns out, this vacation may actually get a bit bigger than I originally had hoped for. After grabbing a bit to eat last night, I ran into one of the band members on the subway, heading in roughly the same direction as me. Since the subway train he was going on runs past where I was going, we both got on the same train and had a small chat about his little part of the production (he’s the one on the far left in the above photo, btw).

I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures backstage (where possible) and upload them to my Flickr when I get home Monday night.

But first, a quick nap before I head out.

Stockholm 2010, day three

02.10.2010 03:18

Oh my, what a day it has been.

I decided to start off today with a trip to Tekniska museet (the science museum). There certainly was a lot to explore, with just about every technical science represented (mining, energy production, cars, airplanes, metal work, inventions, space exploration, and much more). Although I didn’t have enough time for it, the museum also boasts to have the only 3D movie theater in Sweden. I’ll see if I can drop by either tomorrow or on Sunday before the 4 pm shows with Blue Man Group.

Speaking of which, I had two shows with Blue Man Group today. And again, they were awesome! I (almost) can’t get enough at this point! Then again, I’m glad that it’s just this week with shows. I don’t wanna get too full up with the experience. If Blue Man Group was playing in my town, though, I might get around to see them once a week, or at least 2-3 shows a month. I’m doing what appears to be overkill right now because I have to travel so far just to get access to these shows. The closest permanent show is in Berlin (Germany), and the closest English-speaking show is currently New York. I can’t exactly afford taking trips to either of these locations on a regular basis (at least not for the time being).

And so, for the Blue Man afficionados out there, here’s the complete set list for the Stockholm shows (I actually wrote them down this time – those who have been to more than one show with Blue Man Group knows what these mean):

  • TV Song
  • Paint drumming on canvas
  • Opening Mandelbrot / Marshmallows and Gum Balls
  • Text boards / Captain Crunch (or in the case of Sweden, Kalaspuffar)
  • Tension 2 / You’re Late (“Ni är sena”)
  • Modern Plumbing (“Avloppssystemet”) / Drumbone
  • Feast Picking / The Feast (using Kinder Brioss instead of Twinkies)
  • PVC IV
  • Dance moves + Tributes / Time To Start
  • Animation (without using zoetropes)
  • Utne Wire Man (using a cyber café, but without light suits)
  • TV Heads
  • Klein Mandelbrot
  • Chant Jam / Paper Finale
  • Paint drumming finale

There, that should cover it. I’ll be attending 3 shows tomorrow – and I’m still looking forward to see it all again.

Stockholm 2010, day two

01.10.2010 01:27

Second day is up, and what a day it has been!

The daytime was all open for me, and after considering the list of pre-selected possibilities, I decided to go for Leksaksmuseet (the toy museum) and spend a few hours. When I got there, I eventually found out that the toy museum was waaaaay at the back of Spårvägsmuseet (the railway museum), with a common entry ticket.

Since I already was there, I walked around the old trams and buses of past and present Stockholm. It was actually surprisingly interesting to basically see the development of inner city public transportation from the late 13th century until today.

This wasn’t just relevant for just Stockholm, though. It felt relevant for just about any city with a wide range of public transportation.

Next up, the Toy Museum. I know Mike Mozart would get a kick out of this one. 🙂 There was a large collection of old and new toys. Teddy bears (and other stuffed animals), dolls, toy cars, model ships, model airplanes, Meccano, trains, puzzles, board games, dioramas and much more. And, as one of the highlights, the museum was donated a rather large toy car collection back in 2008. It consisted of about 1400 cars in 1/43 size from all possible manufacturers, like Dinky Toys, Corgi, Schuco, Solido, Brum, Polistil, Rio and many more. The collection alone fills four huge display cases at the museum.

I took a large amount of photos from both museum sections (both the railway museum and the toy museum). The Internet connection at the hotel isn’t that good, so I’ll post the whole gallery to my Flickr account when I return.

I can absolutely recommend a trip to these two museums, but keep in mind that you might spend about 3 hours to get through it at a good pace. The entry ticket for both museums is 40 SEK (or roughly 6 USD) for adults, so it’s totally worth it.

After the museum closed, it was time to make my way to Göta Lejon for my pre-purchased pre-show dinner.

I had already bought a burger menu when I bought the ticket for the Thursday show. This was definitely far from McD or BK quality. We’re talking genuine gourmet burger here.

The show itself was awesome, as usual. Something I didn’t quite expected, was that all text was translated to Swedish. And the finale wasn’t the new one, as obviously first seen on the current North American tour (I’m guessing it will be a while before that one comes to the current productions around the world, then).

Aside from those two items, which were all about hightened expectations, I had a great time. I don’t remember the set list from memory from tonight, but I’ll post it after tomorrow’s shows.

And now, bedtime again!

Stockholm 2010, day one

30.09.2010 00:10

My first day is just about over, and not much has happened.

My day started with the airport bus at 10 am, lift-off to Bergen at 11:05, and touchdown in Stockholm around 2 pm, the Arlanda Express arriving in the city center a little before 3 pm, getting a little lost trying to find the right subway track going near my hotel, and finally checking in at 3:45 pm.

I was originally going to the first Blue Man Group performance of the week at 7:30 pm, but I got an e-mail from the ticket agency on Friday letting me know that the Wednesday show was cancelled. To tell you the truth, I was a little disappointed. Still, there’s always the other 7 shows, starting with the 7:30 pm show tomorrow (Thursday).

I spent the left-over time using the free Wifi connection at the hotel (for hotel guests), wasting several hours. The fact that there’s a supermarket next door to the hotel comes in handy for snacking supplies, though. I finally got my ass together around 8 pm to get some dinner.

Today’s dining choice became Stockholms Matvarufabrik, about 1 block away from the hotel. The menu was limited, the dining area was a bit so-so (but clean). I’m not a big fan of the deliberate worn-down interior designs, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere too much.

My choice on the menu landed on venison with pumpkin, duck liver, black currant and liqourice ( hjortrygg med variation på pumpa, halstrad anklever, svarta vinbär och lakritsrot hjort med gresskar, andelever, solbær og lakris). Delicious!

And now, for a shower and it’s off to bed for me…

Blue Man Group coming up!

20.09.2010 16:50

It’s settled!

I’m going to Stockholm next week to catch some of the Blue Man Group experience! I can’t wait to see them again! I’ve actually had the trip itself planned for about a month now, it was only last week I could secure the final tickets for a full week of shows. They’ve already been playing in Stockholm since September 8, and they will keep it going in Stockholm until October 24, which is when they pack up and move to the next city of their European tour, which will be Vienna. Although they already have a more permanent show in Berlin, it will be much closer with the show in Stockholm. It could only be better if they set up shows in Oslo, which is only a single flight away.

I’ve bought myself a ticket (only myself, I’m afraid) to each show while I’m there; one on Wednesday, one on Thursday, two on Friday, three on Saturday and one on Sunday. I plan to return the following Monday.

Thinking back, I did notice that my last two foreign vacation trips were also planned around specific Blue Man Group events. In 2008, I went to Copenhagen in October specifically to catch the How to Be a Megastar 2.1 international tour, and in 2009 (last year), I went to Las Vegas and Orlando in mid-July, planned around the Blue Man Group Monster Fan Meet in Orlando. I specifically chose hotels close to Blue Man Group venues (The Venetian in Last Vegas, and Loews Royal Pacific in Orlando, which is one of the three hotels connected to Universal Studios and CityWalk).

And once again, this year, my “main” vacation is planned around a Blue Man Group event, which is the short show run in Stockholm. This will be the closest it has been so far (although for the Megastar tour, I did fly on a direct flight between Ålesund and Copenhagen). Stockholm, by comparison, is two flights away. I’ll be travelling via Bergen on my way to Stockholm, and via Oslo on the return trip.

Show times I’m booked on:

  • Wednesday @ 19:30 (7:30 PM)
  • Thursday @ 19:30 (7:30 PM)
  • Friday @ 19:00 (7 PM) and 22:00 (10 PM)
  • Saturday @ 16:00 (4 PM), 19:00 (7PM) and 22:00 (10 PM)
  • Sunday @ 16:00 (4PM)

I imagine it will be quite the experience. The 19:00 show on Friday and the 22:00 show on Saturday is in the mid section of the theater, while all the others are in the poncho section (where you’re given a thin plastic rain poncho to protect your clothes due the possibility of stuff spraying off the stage). My last show (on Sunday) is even in the very front row! The mid section tickets were by choice, though, just to make sure I get a slight variation in my experience.

If someone wants to meet up while I’m in Stockholm, feel free to contact me through my website. I’ll be checking my e-mail periodically while I’m there (but not as often, so please let me know before the 27th so I can give you my direct number). I only have dinner plans before the Thursday show and after the Sunday show, otherwise I have no specific plans.

See you there?

Ferie i USA, del 2 av 2

13.09.2010 17:02

This article is intended for Norwegians who’d like to repeat my vacation last year, either in whole or in part. It contains information on travel, booking and other travel tips when going on vacation to either Las Vegas (Nevada), Orlando (Florida), or both.

Min ferie i fjor sommer (2009) gikk til for første gang utenfor Europa, destinasjon USA, og jeg reiste helt alene. Nå i etterkant tenkte jeg å dele noen tips basert på mine egne erfaringer både i planleggingen og under selve reisen. Jeg føler at disse kan være til nytte for andre som kan tenke seg å reise til USA, og kanskje alene.

Dette er del 2 av 2 i artikkelserien rundt dette temaet. For planleggingsprosessen og innkjøp før avreise, sjekk del 1 i denne serien. Denne delen vil ta for seg selve reisen. (more…)

Forsinket bloggpost

05.09.2010 09:04

De som følger denne bloggen, vil kanskje legge merke til at jeg ennå ikke har kommet med andre og siste del i serien om feriereise til USA. Dette kommer mest av en spesiell nyhetssak som gjelder nordmenn nettopp i Las Vegas.

* Dagens IT: Norske Visa-kort forbudt i Las Vegas

Et slikt forbud ville da umuliggjøre en skikkelig reise til Las Vegas spesifikt, så jeg la min artikkel på is i påvente av en oppdatering.

* Dagens IT: – Loven er skivebom

* Dagens IT: Strandet på Kypros

Som dere kan se, så rammer en slik lov mye bredere enn bare gambling. Dessuten vil de som virkelig er spilleavhengige uansett klare å finne en omvei rundt en slik lovgivning, så det ville bare ramme alle oss andre. Så å si alle hotell på “The Strip” i Las Vegas er såkalte casinohotell, dvs. de er delt inn i to deler – en casinodel og en hotelldel – men begge deler regnes da under ett når det kommer til betalinger. Dermed vil en gjest på bl.a. The Venetian med et norsk kredittkort ikke kunne sjekke skikkelig inn på rommet med sitt kort for løpende utgifter (romservice og ting som settes på rommet – hvis man har fulgt mine anbefalinger i del 1 av artikkelen, har man nemlig allerede forhåndsbetalt for selve oppholdet til et online reisebyrå), og man må da være nødt til å ha med flere kredittkort på reisen slik at man kan ta ut kontanter etter hvert som maksgrensen er brukt opp på hvert kredittkort (altså maksimalt beløp for en spesifikk tidsperiode).

Først nå nylig har jeg lagt merke til enda en oppfølgingsartikkel rundt dette temaet, der kulturminister Anniken Huitfeldt kommer til å se nærmere på saken og vurdere å endre loven. Det er da håp i hengende snøre at loven kanskje er fjernet igjen i tide til neste år.

* Dagens IT: Huitfeldt vil se på «kasinoloven»

Jeg vil i løpet av den neste uken fullføre artikkelserien for de som skulle ønske å gjøre et forsøk på denne turen til neste år. Allerede nå har Expedia.no åpnet for bestilling av reise (fly+hotell) for juli 2011, for de som skulle være interessert.

* Ferie i USA, del 1 av 2

* Ferie i USA, del 2 av 2