The Heartland of America

The time had come for another road trip across the good ole US of A.  We’d taken our “family and friends” road trip in July, but hadn’t really driven around the country since 2012, and there were plenty of new things for us to explore in the Midwest.  Stop #1: Indianapolis, Indiana for a taste of Americana.  Not knowing anything about Indiana, we only knew we wanted to check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500.

06 The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

We had been warned that although we could take a lap of the track in a closed bus, we could not get off the bus at all, and the narration was pre-recorded. Wrong, wrong and wrong!  We signed up for the “Kiss the Bricks” tour which was on an open-air tram, and narrated by a real live human.  Best of all, we stopped at the finish line for a photo op at the famous “yard of bricks”…and yes, we kissed them.  Don’t ask me why!  For those of you who (like me) had never heard of this before, let me tell you about it.  The original Speedway was paved with 3.2 m-i-l-l-i-o-n bricks, and was nicknamed “The Brickyard.”  When it was resurfaced, they left three feet or one yard of the original bricks.  (Get it?)  These are right at the finish line, and it was here that the photos were taken.

The tram went slowly, but it was neat to feel the banked track on the curves, and to imagine the empty stands filled with thousands of race fans.  After the tram ride, we explored the museum which features many Indy-winning cars from the first race in 1911 all the way to the present.  We talked with a wonderful volunteer named Joe who seemed to know everything there was to know about auto racing having attended the last 52 Indy 500 races in person. (You read that right!)

We continued on to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, but as luck would have it, the museum is closed on Mondays.  Open however, was the attached art park called 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park.  This park is a 100 acre plot of land complete with a lake, and containing 12 larger-than-life-sized art installations.  Some of our favorites were these twisty benches that seem to come out of the ground, twist around a bit, and then dive back down, as well as a huge human(ish) skeleton made of climbable fiberglass called “Funky Bones.”

That night we headed to Fountain Square – an old, historic section of downtown Indianapolis.  We spent some time walking up and down the main drag admiring the architecture and checking out artsy stores like the record shop that actually sells vinyl records. (Man, have they gotten expensive!  I hope it’s worth it, hipsters!)  We also had to check out all the vintage clothing stores.  One was actually a Goodwill, but when you’re appealing to the upscale artsy crowd, you call the clothes “vintage,” not “thrift,” and you charge more.

There was also a Duckpin Bowling lane.  This is a variation on bowling that was popular in the 50s.  We had never heard of it, but at $40 a game, we decided “maybe next time.” I’m glad we held off, because as we walked, we found a retro 80s bar called Tapper’s.  Just as I was thinking “Hey, there was a video game in the 80s called ‘Tapper’,” we realized that this bar had an actual 80s-style arcade with some of my favorite games from when I was a kid.  Best of all, they were set on free play, with no cover charge required.  After Stephanie whomped me at Centipede, I showed her Burger Time, Donkey Kong, the original Mario Brothers, and Arkanoid before moving on to the granddaddy of them all: Galaga!  I’m not saying I’m great at it or anything, but let’s just say there’s a Galaga machine in Indianapolis with my name on the high score.

Sometimes we get lucky with our timing on a trip, and Indianapolis was one of those times.  The Indiana State Fair was underway, and our couch surfing host lived an easy 30 minute walk away.  The day we were there happened to be “$2 Tuesday,” and we love us a bargain, so off we went.  Neither of us had ever been to a full-blown state fair; Pennsylvania doesn’t even have one.  The fair was exactly what we pictured.  We started off watching the Clydesdale judging.  I have no idea what they look for in a horse, but the guys with clipboards were making lots of notes.  We caught a reptile show, watched some old-timey farm machinery in action, and checked out the needlework entries (to satisfy the cross-stitcher in me).  We even caught some pig racing – all before lunch!

Video – Pig racing

After lunch, I let Stephanie convince me to enter a watermelon seed spitting competition.  Mine went a paltry 12 feet, but Stephanie launched hers 23’11”, and almost earned herself a top ribbon.  It just goes to show that you never know what hidden talents your wife might reveal after almost 13 years of marriage.

109 Fire in the hole!

Fire in the hole!

Next up was a cow-milking demonstration.  Since neither of us had ever milked a cow, we decided to see what it was like.  It turned out this was a hands-on demonstration, and so each of us got to milk a cow.  I wonder if the cow could tell that we had no idea what we were doing.


We caught a show on hawks and falcons from a hilariously entertaining bird-of-prey expert, and then went to see some prize-winning veggies.  I have no idea how they judge a plate of potatoes, or a sheaf of rye, but we could easily see how they judged the giant pumpkins.  The winner weighed 1,232 pounds!

131 That's quite a pumpkin

That’s quite a pumpkin!

We ended our day with something new for me:  A full-blown, fully-sanctioned rodeo! We had it on our bucket list to attend one together someday, but here it was being handed to us.  In the time leading up to the show, they played one Country song after another.  Now, as I mentioned in our post on Nashville, Country music isn’t in my top 100 favorite music genres, but when in Rome, right?  I made it more palatable by people-watching, and keeping my musical judgments to myself.

They opened the show by having a cowgirl in red, white and blue sequins parade a large American flag around the field.  So far, so good as they talked highly about the flag and how America is a great country with a lot of freedoms.  But then they started saying that thanks to Old Glory, Americans are “free to wake up on a Sunday morning and go to any one of 300,000 churches across our great nation.”

136 She's behind the flag

She’s behind the flag

After recognizing any current or former military in the crowd, and singing the National Anthem, they said a prayer for America and the rodeo participants.  We were definitely a little thrown off not only by the prayer at a state fair, but the fact that it ended with “in Jesus’ name we pray.”  That would never happen in a blue state!  I was really upset, and felt all out of sorts for the next half hour.  I’m not offended by anyone else’s religion, but I am stunned that in America – the land of religious freedom – an unconstitutional preference for one particular religion was publicly declared at a State-sponsored event.  I was also upset that most of the people there might be so used to hearing this sort of thing, they wouldn’t even realize how many people were excluded.

Religious differences aside, it was time to enjoy my first-ever rodeo!  It started with the bucking bronco.  Very few of those guys could hang on for the full eight seconds it took to actually earn a score.  Next up was steer wrestling.  This is where you chase a young cow on your horse, leap off onto the cow, throw it to the ground, and tie up its hind legs.

Buckin' Bronc

Buckin’ Bronc

Right about here, Stephanie started saying she felt bad for the animals and wasn’t sure she was glad she had brought me to a rodeo after all, and I started to wonder what PETA thinks about rodeos.  I figured it can’t be as hard on the animals as it looks, or these things would have been shut down a long time ago. (Note: I’ve since heard otherwise.)  The announcer and the rodeo clown kept up a joking banter the entire time entertaining us between events.  My personal favorite event was the women’s barrel racing.  I swear those horses were having as much fun as their riders.  After the two-on-one steer roping (at which nobody succeeded), the rodeo ended with the grand-daddy of them all – Bull riding – at which nobody succeeded.  Score one for the bull!

Video – Bull riding

After all that, there was only one thing left to do: eat traditional State Fair fare.  And what are State Fairs known for?  Why, deep-frying everything of course.  There were about 20 different types of fried potatoes, fried veggies, fried pickles, fried candy bars, fried Reese’s peanut butter cups, even fried cookie dough.  I settled on deep-fried Oreos.  They’re like an Oreo wrapped in a funnel cake, and then fried up.  They were surprisingly good.  I may just have to try them again.  Stephanie – strong girl that she is – stayed away from the whole artery-clogging mess.

148 Fry me to the moon

Fry me to the Moon!

And just like that, we were done with Indianapolis; but not quite done with Indiana.  On our way to our next destination, we detoured to Vincennes, Indiana to visit the George Rogers Clark National Historic Site.  Who on earth is George Rogers Clark (I hear you cry)?  George was the older brother of William Clark (of Lewis and Clark Fame), but more importantly, during the Revolutionary War he led a secret mission to do an end run around the British, and retake the gateway to the west.  The British had recruited Native Americans to their side, and Clark marched his men for three days in the middle of winter through a nearly-frozen river to intimidate both the British and the Native Americans into backing off.  And it worked!  Hooray for the good guys.  The beautiful memorial is the largest national memorial outside of Washington DC.

We made a quick stop at the Illinois border to see a memorial to the fact that Abraham Lincoln once passed this way on his way to Illinois.  This trip, it turned out, would be full of Lincoln related national sites.

Chapter 1 of our road trip came to an end as we celebrated our first 1000 miles en route to Missouri.


It’s Not Just a Steel Town

If you read our blog and/or know me well you may already realize that with my points and miles hobby, it’s not all too uncommon for us to have “expiring award nights” – that is, hotel award nights we’ve been given for a credit card sign-up bonus or spend, that we haven’t gotten around to using for the past year (or sometimes two).  Last summer we found ourselves in that situation for some Fairmont Hotel award nights we had, and we were trying to figure out where we could use them without too much trouble.  I looked at the map of Fairmont Hotels, and one that’s local to home stood out: Pittsburgh!

All of these years, all of these travels, all of these countries; and we’d never been to Pittsburgh together.  It was time.  We booked the hotel and then timidly contacted a couple we had met five years before in a hot tub in Hawaii.  Gregory and Nancy had driven from their residence in Pittsburgh to Philadelphia once since then, for Elliott’s birthday party, but it had ended with an emergency room visit and we weren’t sure if they were too keen on seeing us again.  What a fabulous surprise, then, when they appeared delighted at the idea of us visiting their town, offered us a place to stay, and insisted on being our personal tour guides.

Gregory grew up in Pittsburgh and was proud of his hometown.  Elliott had never been, and I didn’t remember being impressed as a kid, but Pittsburgh apparently grew up and matured with us!  Even from our hotel room, we could see a nice-looking, clean city.

On our first evening in town, Gregory and Nancy showed us some local outdoor sights.  There’s a really nice walkway that goes right under some buildings downtown, and at least one of the many bridges lights up at night.  We found a statue with some really big eyeballs in front of it to see if we could freak out Elliott.

13 Our hosts Gregory and Nancy

Our hosts Gregory and Nancy show us the way

We also went to Point State Park and got a comprehensive history lesson on it and its role in forming Pittsburgh.  After a 12-year refurbishment period and $40 million, Point State Park reopened in 2013.  Point State Park is a Pittsburgh landmark like the arch for St. Louis and the Golden Gate Bridge for San Francisco.  It is located at the site where three rivers meet; or more accurately, where the Monongahela and Allegheny form the Ohio.  It’s marked by a huge 150 foot fountain at the edge of the park, and has great views, grassy areas on which to play or relax, and the nearby River Trail.

But Point State Park is more than just geographical; it’s highly historical as well.  It is the former site of not one but two forts – Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt – and where the “wild West” began.  Fort Duqesne was built by the French and used during the French & Indian War, but was also destroyed by the French when they no longer felt they could defend it from the British.  Once the British got hold of the land and found there was no longer a fort on it, they built their own fort – Fort Pitt.  Though neither fort stands any longer, a stone path in the park still marks the outlines of Fort Pitt.

18 Point State Park Fountain

Point State Park Fountain

Finally, we were excused from school and allowed to go to recess where we played in a fountain as it changed colors and form.


The next day, Gregory and Nancy took us to the Carnegie Science Center.  I got right to work on some important projects for mankind while Elliott took a nap.

On our third day, Gregory and Nancy decided to stop taking it so easy on us, and they packed our itinerary with activities.  We started out at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which were well worthwhile despite the sometimes blistering heat in those greenhouses!

31 At the botanical garden

Me, Elliott, Nancy and Gregory


Next up was the Heinz Chapel at the University of Pittsburgh.  We were all very excited it was open and we could get inside, as Gregory and Nancy said it is often closed.


Gregory told us our visit to University of Pittsburgh would not be complete without seeing the Cathedral of Learning.  It was, indeed, a fun and interesting building to walk around!    Parts of it really did remind us of our favorite school: Hogwarts School of Withcraft and Wizardry of the Harry Potter series.


Last but not least, Gregory was sure to drive us to every great Pittsburgh viewing point he could think of.  We had a lot of great vantage points, and saw the city in a whole new way!  We can’t wait to go back and spend more time in this fun city with our amazing guides:)

Segelbaums over Pittsburgh

Segelbaums over Pittsburgh


A Big Decision and the Five Year Repeat

Just before we left on our Around-the-World trip in the summer of 2012, we took a “Family and Friends” road trip in order to say goodbye to some of our loved ones since we were heading out for a year.  It was a crazy and exciting time: we had left our big townhome and rented it out, moved into a two-bedroom condo, quit our jobs, put the bulk of our things in storage, and then left our new two bedroom condo – all in the span of five months!  Our little goodbye road trip gave us some breathing time before we hit the road and tried to make one of the biggest decisions of our lives; whether or not to permanently retire and live in another country to do so.

Well, if you’ve been reading our blog, you already know we did move to Ecuador and base ourselves there the last several years!  It’s been great living in and exploring another country, and we wouldn’t trade the experiences we’ve had for the world.  In the middle of 2017, though, we were ready for another change, and we moved ourselves back home, to the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Just before we made the official move, we found ourselves on another “Family and Friends” road trip, and I couldn’t help but think about how perfect the timing was.  It was exactly five years since the last one, and just like then, it was right before a big change in our lives!  What a special “anniversary.”

Five years ago, the same trip was immediately before we started our blog, and barely got a mention.  I thought it seemed more than appropriate then, to include it this time.  First, we headed up to Toronto to visit Elliott’s Uncle Roger, Aunt Rose, and any of his cousins we could corner.  On the way to their beautiful lakeside cottage two hours outside of Toronto, we stopped in the city to meet up with our friend James, whom we met several years ago in Cuenca when he came to stay with us through couch surfing.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a photo of James that day, but we got a few of Elliott’s family.  At the cottage, we had a great time relaxing, canoeing in the lake, catching up with family members, and even ballroom dancing!  When we left, we stopped in the city of Toronto again, this time to see one of Elliott’s cousins who hadn’t made it to the cottage.

We made some fun videos during the weekend of Elliott leading Aunt Rose in a Foxtrot, and Anya pushing her Grandpa “Mo” on the Swing.

Next up was the coastal town of Tiverton, RI, just outside of Providence.  This time we were visiting my Uncle Jon and Aunt Mary, and they were wonderful hosts as always.  They took us to a local Maritime Museum where we learned all about a famous ship builder with local origins and his contributions to racing yacht designs for The America’s Cup.  We met up that evening with my cousin Chris and his seven-year old daughter, whom we were thrilled to meet for the very first time.  And the next day Jon and Mare took us out into Mt. Hope Bay on one of the boats from their local boat club – always a special treat, and a great and relaxing time for us.

RI_01 Ahoy, Captain Elliott!

At the Maritime Musem

Last but not least, we drove to Bristol, Connecticut to see our good friend Stacey and her daughter (our niece!) Pez.  They had made a big move in the past five years as well, out of her parents’ house and into a place of their own with her boyfriend Craig.  It had been way too long since the last visit so we had a lot of catching up to do.  The five of us played lots of games together.  We liked Craig right away and had such a blast hanging out with them all, that we ended up going back a few times in the summer and fall.

Visiting our friends and family again just before our move back to PA reinforced for us that no matter where you travel or end up in life, it’s always great to be back home.

Different than Disney

One more leisurely day at sea, and we were back in Copenhagen where all this Baltic-ness started. Ben & Caitlin spent an extra day in Copenhagen with us so the four of us could take in world-famous Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli opened in the mid-1800s, and has been a public flower garden and amusement park ever since. In general, it felt like a comforting combination of old-world charm and modern ride technology. In fact, as amusement parks go, it had some pretty hairy rides. I may have refused to go on a couple of them. To the person who told us “if you’ve seen Disney, you can skip Tivoli,” I couldn’t disagree more.


16a The gang at Mini Taj

The gang at Mini Taj







Oh yeah…Danish candy

12 Danish candy

Art and Amusements in Klaipeda, Lithuania

Ever hear of Klaipėda, Lithuania? Neither had we.  Vilnius is the city that gets all the tourists, but as it’s not a port, our ship would have had a tricky time docking there. Even though Kalipėda is Lithuania’s primary port, it is not a major world hotspot, and so we were unable to find a self-guided tour online.  We had to result on sheer intuition alone.  Fortunately, as we disembarked the ship, the local tourist department had a whole page of sheer intuition for us – complete with maps, and we once again had a plan to follow.

780 Good morning, Lithuania

Good morning, Lithuania

We started our day at Klaipėda Castle; or at least the remnants thereof.  There is a museum in the foundation that tells of the history of Klaipėda and its importance in the region.  Most of it was in Lithuanian but they did have a single, laminated guide in English that gave us the gist of what was going on.

Our walking tour took us through Theater Square, past some fachwerk (i.e. timber-frame) buildings, and to a ship/restaurant called Meridianas.

816 Meridianas ship and restaurant

Meridianas ship and restaurant

One of our favorite aspects of Klaipeda was how much art and sculpture there was everywhere.  Courtesy of our walking tour, we found Slibinas the dragon, The Lucky Chimney Sweep and even a cat with a human face.

854 Mouse

Whispering to a Mouse

817 Lucky chimney sweep

Lucky chimney sweep

Klaipeda also features a sculpture park with over 116 sculptures to muse over.

But wait there’s more!  Our tour took us down Martynas Mazvydas Avenue – a pedestrian strip with whimsical benches.  We also saw the Post Office which dates back to 1893.

Klaipeda ended up offering us plenty to see on our last Baltic port day.  We passed a jazz club on our way back to the ship, and, of course, picked up some candy.



I’d Put My Stock in Stockholm

Stockholm, Sweden! THIS is what I expect when I think “Scandinavia.” From a distance, Old Town Stockholm was beautiful and welcoming. Even though the crew of the ship told us we wouldn’t be able to walk to town from where we docked, it was only about a 30 minute walk with a dedicated, color coded walking path from the ship right to the heart of everything. Our friends and cruising companions Ben and Caitlin had no other tours scheduled, so they joined us for another one of my (okay, the internet’s) self-guided walking tours.

Good morning Stockholm!

Good morning Stockholm!

It was bright and early, and Gamla Stan – Old Town – was just waking up, so we didn’t have to contend with too many other tourists at first. It also meant that several things weren’t open yet. That was okay, though; Stockholm is easily appreciated from its streets. At this early hour, we had views of the Royal Palace, Gustav Adolf’s Torg and the 19th Century Swedish Parliament building all to ourselves. Down by the waterfront is even a statue reminiscent of Philadelphia’s statue of Rocky Balboa. There is also a museum of Medieval Stockholm which we opted to pass on, not realizing that admission was free.  (Later on our friends told us it was worth stopping there, so go if you have the chance!)

After Mynttorget (Coin Square) where the original Swedish mint building still stands, was the Riddarhuset, or House of Nobility. In the 17th Century, Swedish aristocracy would meet here. Today it’s a place where people try to figure out which direction their vague walking tour is sending them in next.

Eventually we figured out how to get to Riddarholmen – a small island of medieval buildings dominated by the giant Riddarholmskyrkan church and its giant cast-iron spire. We walked a quick loop of the tiny island before continuing on to the Stortorget or Great Square, pausing on the way to get thrown out of the Lady Hamilton Hotel. It turns out this exclusive, ultra-expensive hotel frowns on non-guests using their restroom. (Stephanie managed it anyway.) So, in retaliation, there are no photos on our world famous blog which is read by literally tens of readers. Take that, Lady Hamilton!

The Stortorget seems like a place to relax and meet up with friends now, but this plaza was the site of the Stockholm Blood Bath of 1520 when Christian II of Denmark beheaded 80 Swedish noblemen and displayed a “pyramid” of their heads in the square. On a more tranquil note, this square is now where the Swedish Academy meets to choose the Nobel Prize winners in literature each year.

706 Great Square plus Segelbaums and Ben & Caitlin

Great Square plus Segelbaums and Ben & Caitlin

707 Swedish Academy

Swedish Academy

The Storkyrkan is one of the most important churches in Stockholm. Need to hold a royal wedding or a coronation? This is where you do it. The church goes all the way back to the 1200s, and contains Royal pews where royalty seats their royal selves during services, as well as a giant sculpture of St. George Slaying the Dragon.

After winding through half a dozen more tiny old alleyways, we came upon Mårten Trotzigs Gränd – the narrowest street in Stockholm.  It’s narrow, that at the top of the street, there is a stairway you can span with your arms.

The narrowest street in Stockholm

The narrowest street in Stockholm

The German Church of Stockholm (Tyska Kyrkan) and a pedestrian shopping street called Västerlånggatan brought our tour to an end at Järntorget – a square where people were once publicly punished for their infractions. Having committed no crimes, we settled for a photo op with Swedish poet Evert Taube.

Swedish poet Evert Taube

Swedish poet Evert Taube

Back on board the Serenade of the Seas, we found that Stockholm wasn’t finished with us yet. We headed on deck for one of the most beautiful sail-aways ever.

The scenery as we headed out to sea was strikingly reminiscent of Alaska with little pine-covered islands all over the place. I kept expecting to see bears and eagles just like in the Pacific Northwest.

The ship set up stations outside serving hot soup in bread bowls to ward off the chill in the air.  Eventually, it started snowing on us was we sailed. So naturally, we did the only thing we could – we threw on our bathing suits, and went hot-tubbing in the snow!

771 Hot tubbing in the snow

Hot-tubbing in the snow

There was nothing left to do but get dressed up for formal night. Oh, and appreciate the Swedish candy we purchased. You didn’t think we forgot, did you?

Finn-tastic Finland

Having never been to Scandinavia before, we were pretty excited to set foot in the land of Vikings and legos.*  We got up and out the ships doors before 9am.  The weather was a cold 38 degrees Fahrenheit but the sun was out and it wasn’t windy at all when we started walking from the pier into town.  As tour guide for the day, Elliott was armed with maps and a walking guide on the Kindle.  As if that weren’t enough, there were signs pointing into the center of town.  But Elliott had better ideas – he saw a tall steeple and was convinced it must be our destination.  He guided us towards it using only his eyes and intuition!

(*Elliott’s note, as that’s all of his general knowledge about Scandinavia.)

Okay, so in the end it turned out the steeple wasn’t the one he thought it was, and so we wandered a bit, eventually finding our way into town.  As we like to put it, we sort of “spiraled” in to our destination, which was the starting point of our walking tour.  We passed Kauppatori Market Square on the way but didn’t really shop; we figured we could always come back if we wanted to and had time.  The spiraling into town was also okay because we found all sorts of cool things on the way, not the least of which was snow!

In addition, we came across the Uspenski Cathedral at the top of a hill.  It was of Russian Orthodox denomination, gorgeous inside and out, and wasn’t even on the walking tour!  We went inside to warm up and admire its beauty.

We left the warmth of the church to go back outside and finally begin our walking tour.

The snow had stopped but then started again in force before we even got all the way down the hill to the harbor.

The cold was so intense, we found ourselves ducking into whatever places we could find just to get warm for a few minutes at a time.  We found a dark hallway in an old office building, had hot chocolate in a Finnish McDonald’s, and pretended to read Finnish books in a local bookstore.  (Was it obvious we were imposters?)

But the snow made it all worth it – stopping and starting, I got excited every single time.  It was May, after all!!

611a Loving the snow

Loving the snow

611 It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We carried on in through our Winter Wonderland.  We saw some “official” houses, then finished our walking tour with the art museum, national theater and train station.  I was thrilled to see that the National Theater was decorated with carvings of owls, and Elliott was thrilled to see the Art-Deco Helsinki Railway Station which was used in the movie “Batman.”

The Helsinki Train Station

The Helsinki Train Station

After our tour, we had just a few more stops.  We found the local Hard Rock so we could buy a guitar pin for a friend.  Then, on our way to the Temppeliaukio Church, we found some giraffes hanging out on a balcony, and Santa Clause!  (Santa, at least, seemed quite appropriate given all the snow.)

Our last stop for the day was the Temppeliaukio Church, also known as the Rock Church.  This church was carved out of a rock hillside, and has some of the best acoustics in the world.  The ceiling is a giant coil of copper wire – literally miles of it!  The dome spans 70 feet and is covered on the interior by 15 miles of Finnish copper wire.

Our day in Finland had quickly come to a close.  We arrived at the ship just in the nick of time – having had to jog a couple times there at the end!  We never thought we’d be able to say we walked a snow-covered gang plank.  It had snowed FIVE times on us in the one day!

After we appreciated the majestic sight of our ship in the snow, there was nothing left to do but check out our haul of Finnish candy before we returned to our floating, Baltic home.