Thursday, December 29, 2016

Bergen Norway

Bergen, Norway is a clean, colorful, port framed by mountains and water. The rich colors of many buildings draw attention to their architecture and stimulate thoughts of children's stories.

After arriving by ship, we walked a short distance to the center of Norway's second largest city, we walked through a fish market, which also sold inviting fruits and vegetables. Close to the market is a tourist center with free WIFI.

A local item of interest is the brown cheese featured below.

Part of the attractiveness are the shops along the waterfront. The quaint shops and restaurants of the Bryggen (Hanseatic Wharf) link the city to the Viking Age some 900 years ago.

You can ride a tram to the top of the nearby mountain (Floyen).

--or walk up like we did.

-- to enjoy fantastic views of Bergen

There are historic places as well including St Mary's Church and the Bergen Museum.

We found the people friendly and helpful. Most of the people in the shops spoke English. Credit cards were widely accepted--even for small purchases.

The local currency is the Norwegian krone or crown.



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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wildlife Safari Kenya

My trips to Kenya rank high in my list of favorite places to visit. The wilderness landscapes and wildlife were the highlights.

I visited with a friend , Grant Jones, and several university students. We capped off a week of helping children and families with a visit to a wildlife park and animal preserves near Nairobi.

We had not been in the park long before seeing this lion eyeing a giraffe. Even better, I got video of her chasing a giraffe. See video below for those scenes.

It was good to see people invested in the care of animals- for example this refuge for giraffes ( aka Giraffic park).

The care facility for orphaned elephants was a winner with our whole team.


These vehicles are relatively inexpensive inclusive of a driver from Nairobi.

I'll add a few photos to wet your appetite for a safari.



On our way back from the park, we saw a sign about a boat ride to view hippopotamuses- so we turned in- an amazing close to the day!

I'll close this off with some notes. But first, here's a link to a YouTube video from the adventure.

A few notes.

We found the people of Kenya very friendly during both visits.
We exchanged U S dollars for Kenyan shillings at a Nairobi bank.
We hired vans and local drivers rather than risk our own driving skills. Besides, we were busy taking in all the scenery.
you can travel light by having clothes washed inexpensively in town.
It can be really hot in the summer months.

We did not have problems but you do need to be careful- there are pick-pockets.
Our return flight was full but we were well taken care of by the Kenyan Airline who put us up at a five star hotel near the airport. A few of our team did get on the scheduled flight-- bumped up to first class.
You'll pass a lookout over the rift valley on the way to the park. The toilet stop is not fancy.

You might work up an appetite - all of us enjoyed The Carnivore.

I recommend the show put on by locals at the park where we spent the night.



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Monday, November 28, 2016

Silver Dollar City Branson Missouri

Massive skillet at Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City (SDC) is an 1800s themed amusement park in Branson, Missouri USA. My wife and I have visited the attraction many times since 1972.

You will find the most recent schedule of rides, shows, and other attractions on their website. Despite it's old-time theme, SDC stays current by adding new rides--including some serious coasters. You can also download the SDC app for current showtimes and waiting times on rides.

Here's a brief look at The Outlaw Run coaster- I took this after my ride 27 November 2016.

The shows vary with the season so if you frequent the area, you will profit from a season pass to see different shows. On a one time visit, I'd recommend Christmas- the lights are spectacular and the productions of It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol are well done.

SDC is clearly a family-friendly place. There are separate areas for children's rides and activities. Also, many shows are either child-friendly or designed specifically with children in mind.

One unique attraction for an amusement park is a guided tour underground through Marvel Cave. This is an old photo (1980) but tours still go on.

In keeping with the 1800s theme you will find a candy maker (free samples), glass blower, blacksmith, carpenter, and many more.

At Christmas time there are two special program events that draw a big crowd near the Christmas tree. The tree lights pulse to Christmas tunes at 5:00 pm for a fifteen minute show and nearby you will see a parade (weather permitting) at 6:00 pm. These events are repeated later. We recently went on a Sunday and the park hours were 1:00 to 9:00 pm. Check online for daily openings and hours.

Here's a video clip showing part of the "tree" show.

About the park- Ratings where 10 is high.

Coasters 8-9; The best are: Outlaw Run a "woodie" (68 mpr) and Wildfire (66 mph), Powder Keg (64 mph)
Food = 6-7- smells great and many items taste good for theme park fare
Food and Drink Prices = 5 - Expensive for the area
Restrooms 8- clean, well-stocked
Shows-hard to rate because they vary in quality, length, and each person has a different taste. Some are worth a 9-10 rating for sure e.g., It's a Wonderful Life.
Nearby Attractions: Many shows and additional activities in Branson Missouri.
Website =
SDC App =


Lines can be very long on weekends and holidays so choose alternate days if you can.
If you go often, you can purchase a drink mug and save money on refills.
You can bring your own food and drinks into the park. Picnic tables are scattered throughout. Tip- No glass containers or alcohol.
Parking is free as are shuttle rides to the main entrance. There is a fee to park near the entrance.
Changing and nursing stations are available.
Strollers can be rented onsite.
You can enter early for breakfast at 8:30 on open days.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Milwaukee Wisconsin

Milwaukee 2016 Geoff W Sutton
The picture above is from a bridge across the Milwaukee River.

I took a weekend trip to Milwaukee November 10-13, 2016. I came across the Trainfest Model Railroad weekend event when searching for things to do.

After spending several hours at the event located at the fair grounds in West Allis, I headed downtown for some Wisconsin cheese at the Wisconsin CheeseMart.

Whilst there, I took advantage of the coupons to have a late lunch in the connected pub.

The day before I visited the Audubon Center --North Milwaukee by the shore (previous post).

Lake Michigan at Audubon Center Geoff W Sutton 2016

I would rate my grilled ham and cheese sandwich very good. The service was friendly. The restrooms were clean and well stocked. The prices of the cheese goods were reasonable and there's a great variety. I and my wife enjoyed all three samples I brought home- Apple Cinnamon, Cranberry, and Blueberry Cobbler.


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Friday, November 18, 2016

TRAINFEST The Model Railroad Megashow in Wisconsin

Trainfest, Wisconsin by Geoff W. Sutton 2016
I suspect one of the reasons this model railroad event is such a success is its proximity to Christmas.

The website claims this annual November show as "America's Largest Operating Model Railroad Show." The attendance count runs around 25,000.

You can check the website for details. Dozens of American clubs displayed their craft from across the United States and Canada but especially from the North Central States and Ontario.

I was surprised to see this happy contest winner from Japan. His award winning model resulted in a trip courtesy of the Kato company.

Kato contest winner, Hiroshimo, Japan, Photo by Geoff W Sutton 2016

The creative works ranged from the tiny luggage-sized displays to

larger scale riding models

Train ride in the activities section.

Of course there were many examples of best-selling sizes (HO, n-scale).

And Lego's trains and buildings are popular everywhere...

One part of one Lego display.
Lego tables for children.

You might be tired after visiting the Expo Center. Trainfest provides an included bus ride to a second building packed with many more displays--including some Christmas themed layouts.

Model railroading is a popular hobby for people of all ages. In addition to the varied quality of the locomotives and sophisticated technology, the hobby attracts skilled craftspeople and engineers. Often, what you cannot make, someone else can.

The show itself was interesting for its breadth in terms of model scales, vendors, and participants. It was clearly designed to engage children as well as adults eager to improve their skills.

Finally, a short video clip featuring Christmas...

See my GeoffWSutton YouTube channel for more Model Railways and other travels.

See the Trainfest website for details on admission costs, parking, and directions.

A few notes

There's plenty of parking at Trainfest, which is located on the State Fair grounds. The cost was $6 in 2016.
Food vendors are expensive as you might expect at such venues. You'll see folks enjoying their homemade sandwiches.
I stayed at a nearby Best Western, where I had a hearty and late breakfast- I skipped lunch to enjoy some local food- Wisconsin cheese for sure.
I noticed some folks getting golf-cart rides from the parking area to the Expo Center.
I received my NMRA member discount to $10 from the posted $15. I couldn't find my card but they did accept proof of membership from the magazine cover and warned me to bring my card next time.
I found the folks friendly and quick to give directions.
There are lots of seats where you can take a break in the buildings and outside.
By midday on Saturday the place was packed so it was hard to get close to some displays.
The children's activities area was busy and all seemed to enjoy the variety from train races and rides, to coloring-- and of course Lego building. If I wasn't so far away from home, I would loved to have taken my granddaughters.
The restrooms were clean, plentiful, and well-maintained.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Schlitz Audubon Center Milwaukee Wisconsin

Visitor's Center

I visited the Schlitz Audubon Center on Friday 11 November 2016. I recommend the center if you enjoy wooded lake shore settings, hiking, and birding. The center is a clean and attractive building with friendly and helpful staff. The open hours are limited but were enough for my day trip. I walked most of the 6-miles of trails and climbed the lookout tower.

I often miss the Atlantic shore so I headed for the beach and was pleased to see some waves.

Lake Michigan, Schlitz Audubon Center by Geoff W. Sutton 2016

I did not see a lot of wildlife during my visit- a few squirrels and rabbits and many common birds.

This golden bird caught my eye. You will find it near the entrance.

There weren't many ducks on the pond but I enjoyed the view.

Several animals are inside the center.

The website provides helpful information such as hours, fees, and directions. You will also find a calendar of events.

I paid $8.00 to get in, which is far more than the free or low cost I am used to paying. There is no discount for Audubon members or seniors. But I still think it is worth the visit.

There are places to sit along the trails and near the center.

The rest rooms were clean and well stocked.

There's a small gift shop in the center.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

St Louis Art Museum

St Louis Art Museum Photo Geoff W Sutton 8 July 2016

The St Louis Art Museum is worth a visit if you have even a few extra hours in St Louis. It is conveniently located in Forest Park nearby other places of interest. I would rate this 9 of 10 stars for a pleasant, educational, affordable art Museum experience.

 Admission is free. Check for the most recent hours. Recently, hours were limited to 10-5 most days, later on Friday and closed Mondays. Parking is free in some lots and at a cost in the garage.

The collection includes more than 30,000 works. You can see a few thousand online (

There are works and activities of interest for children on up. The Museum shops contain some inexpensive , some unique, and of course some expensive items. As with most places I found the cost of dining rather expensive compared to what is available in the community. But you can take a lunch. There are plenty of picnic tables outside.

The museum hosts special events and you can arrange group tours. As with most places, check online for the latest information.

You will find a diverse collection of objects from many parts of the world as well as local works.

The collection includes examples of art spanning thousands of years.

Bull's Head 2600-2450 BCE, Sumerian Photo by Geoff W. Sutton

Acts of  Nebuchadnezzar II, 604-562 BCE

Roman cremation urn c 1st-2nd Century

English, View in Suffolk, Gainsborough, c1755

European Paintings & Sculpture

Italian, Interior St Peter's, Panini, 1731

French, St. John the Baptist, Rodin, 1878

There are several dioramas including rooms in Early American homes, which include paintings, fabrics, and paintings.

Native American

The African collection includes objects from various parts of the continent.

Birthing Couple, Mali

My ratings 1-10 and 10 is the best.

Overall = 9
Parking = 8 (free nearby; $$ onsite)
Admission fee = 10 (free!)
Appearance = 9
Grounds = 7 (nice, not exceptional)
Friendliness of staff = 9
Cleanliness of toilets = 9
Cost of dining = 7

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