Hayden’s Pages


Hayden's Page 2019

Hayden’s Page 2018


Day VIII: Siem Riep, Cambodia

After one day at sea (during which I may or may not have sang All Star by Smash Mouth at karaoke night), we disembarked at the Singapore cruise terminal and rode a shuttle to Chengi Airport, where we boarded a Silk Air flight to our next destination: Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The next morning, we left our hotel early in the morning and began our tour of the ancient city of Angkor. Built by the Khmer Empire in the 12th and 13th centuries, the sprawling ruins include hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu temples. Of these, the most famous by far is Angkor Wat. The silhouette of this magnificent temple is depicted on the Cambodian flag.

Angkor Wat was built between in 1113 as a Hindu temple. The temple originally featured nine stepped towers, but only five remain standing today. The highest level of the temple was reserved exclusively for the Khmer king. The exterior corridors of the temple are enscribed with intricate bas-relief carvings depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.


Next, we visited the so-called “Smiling Face Temple”. Built by King Jayavarman VII, the most famous king of the Khmer Empire, it was originally built as a Buddhist temple but was later converted into a Hindu place of worship. The temple’s many towers are covered in sculptures of smiling faces, one facing in each direction.



Last, we visited the so-called “Tomb Raider Temple,” which resembles something out of an Indiana Jones movie. The temple is largely being held together by centuries-old trees. If the government were to emove the trees, what’s left of the temple would collapse - for that reason, the temple has been largely left in its overgrown state. Large portions of the temple have already collapsed.



The Angkor temples are beautiful, meticulously detailed, and in surprisingly good condition given their age and the unforgiving tropical climate. Though moisture has stained the ancient stone green in some places, and the Cambodian jungle has begun to reclaim some temples, the opulence and splendor of Angkor largely remains. Preservation efforts by the Cambodian government, world governments, and UNESCO will ensure that the temples of Angkor stand, in all their glory, for another millennium.

- Hayden M. Strong

Tomorrow: One last day in Singapore before we fly back to Philadelphia.



Day V: Phuket, Thailand

Today, we anchored in Phuket Bay and rode a smaller boat to shore, where we travelled to the marina to begin our boat tour of the Phi Phi Islands.

For this post, I intend to let the pictures we took here speak for themselves, adding captioning as required.

Tall limestone cliffs and jungle greenery characterize these tiny uninhabited islands.

Shockingly clear crystal-blue water.

Schools of tropical fish. Picture taken with a waterproof camera whilst snorkeling off the coast of the islands.

Part of the colorful coral reefs that surround the white sand island beaches.

A spiky sea urchin.

A huge school of tiny, electric blue fish. The color isn’t very evident in this picture, but in person all the fish were vibrantly patterned.

More fish. Huge groups of coloful green, yellow and blue fish congregated underneath our boat while we were docked.

Viking Cave, so named because cave paintings that resembled a Viking ship were discovered here some time ago.

White fish blend into the pure-white sand just a few feet from the beach.


The Phi Phi Islands were some of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. The warm, impossibly clear water, colorful fish and coral, and beautiful deserted islands combine to create a serene, otherworldly landscape.

Tomorrow is a sea day as the Voyager of the Seas returns to Singapore. Soon after, we will depart for Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we will visit Angkor Wat.

- Hayden M. Strong

Fish photobomb!

Day IV: Langkawi, Malaysia


Today, we got off the ship and were driven by truck (with Dad in the back) to the beach for an island-hopping tour via Jet Ski.

The streets of Langkawi, an island town with a vague Hawaii/Caribbean feel. Bicycles and mopeds far outnumber cars, and most of the buildings are simple structures, some with traditional straw roofs. One brand-new ultra-modern W Hotel looms over the tiny town.

The small, uninhabited islands surrounding Langkawi look like something out of Avatar, with brilliant green trees and weatherbeaten limestone cliffs.

The first place we visited on our tour was Dayang Bunting, an island with a freshwater lake in the center.


As we trekked through the jungle, Violet got slapped in the face by a wild monkey.

Fortunately, none involved were injured.


We then visited a saltwater cove perfect for swimming:

The islands’ limestone cliffs have been attacked by the pounding surf for centuries, forming outcroppings and caves.



We then voyaged to a cove frequented by nesting eagles.

These birds of prey gave Langkawi its name; Lang Kawi means Eagle Rock in Malay. They prey on the many tropical fish that live in these crystal-blue waters.

This pier was decimated by a tsunami several years ago and now resembles something operated by the DHARMA Initiative.

Next, we drove across the bay for a photo op with our ship:

Here our guide attempted to demonstrate a trick and ended up violently throwing me from the back of a Jet Ski going 37 MPH. Fortunately everybody was fine!

Langkawi may be the most incredible tropical locale I have ever visited. It is sometimes difficult to believe that places like this actually exist. The splendor and sense of serenity, in my opinion, are unmatched by any island in the West.


Tomorrow: Phuket, Thailand, for a boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands for snorkeling in the famously crystal-clear waters.

- Hayden M. Strong






Day III: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Today, our ship docked in Penang, an island off the coast of Malaysia.

We met our guide, Maxwell, outside the cruise terminal. Our first stop was Penang’s largest Buddhist temple, a monastery set into the hills surrounding the city.

The entire complex from a distance.

The intricate facade of one of the structures. Built by a visiting Chinese monk, portions of the monastery date back to 1890.

Inside the complex’s largest temple.

Financial records from the monastery’s construction, engraved into a building’s stone walls.

The view from the top of a seven-story pagoda. The tall circular building is KOMTAR Tower, the tallest building in Penang.


As we were driving back to the historic George Town district, which is comprised wholly of British colonial buildings and is a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site, we passed by a group of wild monkeys:



Walking the streets of George Town:

This is Chew Jetty, built by Chinese merchants in British colonial times to dodge taxes on land use. Today it’s used by local fishermen, who set up crab traps underneath the wooden structures.



Penang is an interesting city. It is rapidly being adopted by Malaysia’s nouveau riche, hence the increasing proliferation of modern high-rise buildings and sprawling mansions that coexist with colonial-era shops and homes. In Penang, shiny new German luxury sedans share the road with old trucks, motor scooters, and tiny city cars made by Malaysian companies like Proton and Perodua. This Malaysian beach town is in the middle of its Westernization and reinvention, as the old slowly cedes its position to the new.

Tomorrow: the tiny island town of Langkaui, Malaysia.


Day II: From Singapore to Seafaring

Today, we embarked on another tour of Singapore, this time highlighting the more traditional, culutural side of this gleaming modern metropolis.

We began today’s journey at the Singapore Botanical Gardens, specifically the sprawling complex’s orchid garden. 

Walking through the colorful gardens in the early morning mist was beautiful and almost surreal. 



Next, we departed for Kampang Glam, the city’s traditional Malay quarter. The name translates to “Eucalyptus Village”, named for the many eucalyptus trees that dot the area. Most of the buildings date back to the nineteenth century and are protected historical landmarks. The district is nestled in the heart of SIngapore’s central business district, surrounded by towering residential and commerical high-rises.


This mosque, Masjid Sultan, is the largest and most ornate mosque in Singapore. Built in 1824, the building’s designer cleverly made use of limited resources when constructing the building. Some of the building’s trim is made from empty soy sauce bottles!

Here, the unique juxtaposition of crowded, narrow streets and modern skyscrapers.

The old Malay quarter is surrounded by new buildings, including Duo, a superluxury condominium complex designed to look like a honeycomb:

and this office building, which our guide compared to a building in Gotham City! It’s a beautiful and ridiculously ornate Art Deco-revival structure. Postmodernist architecture at its finest.



Next was Singapore’s Little India, a neighborhood of narrow, winding streets and colorful buildings. 

Merchants and vendors set up shop in the street, selling everything from food to clothing to carpets.

Next was Chinatown, where we visited a magnificent Buddhist temple. Built entirely with private donations, the building houses an archaelogical relic which is claimed to be one of Buddha’s teeth.




We stopped at one of Singapore’s hawker centers, or food markets, where we tried a traditional Malay lime drink.

 As we made our way to the port, we passed many of Singapore’s newest and most innovative buildings:

The Oasia Hotel, a truly “green” building. The facade is covered in plants which absorb heat and sunlight, helping to cool the building and reducing energy usage.

The Pinnacle, Singapore’s premier public housing project. The complex of seven towers features shops, restaurants,  swimming pools, and a rooftop jogging track. Despite its amenities and premier, bayfront location, government subsidized pricing makes these apartments accessible to the masses.

We boarded the Voyager of the Seas in the early afternoon and set sail at around 5:00, en route to George Town, Penang though the Strait of Malacca. George Town is a beautiful old colonial city on the island of Penang, said to have the best food in all of Malaysia.

- Hayden M. Strong


Day I: Arrival in Singapore

Twenty-three hours airborne.

After an exhaustingly long day of travelling, our plane, United Flight No. 1, touched down in Singapore early Sunday morning, a full day and a half after we departed Philadelphia on Friday afternoon.

After we arrived at our hotel, the Four Seasons Singapore, we ate a quick breakfast and promptly went to sleep. We ended up sleeping far longer than we’d anticipated and awoke just in time for the day’s scheduled activity, a brief tour of the city of Singapore.

Singapore is a densely populated city-state that gained independence from Great Britain in the early 1960s. Since that time, it has established itself as a major player in the finance, shipping, and petroleum industries, helped by low corporate taxes and an extremely livable urban environment. Singapore boasts the world’s second busiest port and the world’s most critically acclaimed airport, and is widely regarded as the most expensive city on Earth. The official language of Singapore is Malay, but English is by far the most widely spoken and used language within the tiny nations borders.

Most of the city’s residents live in high-rise buildings. The astronomical cost of rent in the city is partially alleviated by government housing subsidies. Here, a collection of residential buildings:

The city’s wealthy residents live in privately owned condominium buildings, where prices can range into the tens of millions of American dollars. Even more expensive are the city’s few low-rise homes with land, which can exceed $100 million in price. Here, a complex of ultra-luxury condos.

The Merlion is the unofficial symbol of Singapore, representing the fusion between the old and the new. The most famous Merlion statue is located on Marina Bay, but there are a total of five such statues to be found throughout the city.

More shots of the cityscape, almost entirely comprised of new, high-tech structures.

Viewed from the city’s second-highest point:

The city’s central business district, which is almost entirely made up of international and local banks. It is often referred to as the “Wall Street of Southeast Asia."

The Marina Bay Sands hotel is Singapore’s most famous building. It is the most expensive casino ever built and features a full shopping mall with brands such as Tiffany and Louis Vuitton, movie theatres, a convention centre, and three hotel towers supporting the Skypark, which houses a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, and overlook. Also on the property is the flower-shaped ArtScience Museum.


At the sprawling Gardens by the Bay, engineers have constructed a grove of so-called “supertrees.” These are sustainable, self-sufficient “green” structures which generate their own electricity, collect rainwater, and absorb carbon dioxide. Some include walkways and viewing platforms, and the tallest even has a restaraunt!

Lastly, this 1,000-foot-long dam, the Singapore Barrage, separates Marina Bay from the Pacific Ocean. On the left side of the bridge is the freshwater bay, dotted with tourist boats and lined with skyscrapers. On the right is Singapore Harbor, filled with huge container ships and oil tankers docking at the city’s busy port. 

Singapore is a sleek, efficient city, a testament to the incredible pace of modern innovation and a living, breathing exhibition of the capabilities of engineering and technology. In just fifty-three years, the tiny nation has gone from barren British colony to a commercial and financial powerhouse.

Tomorrow, we take a more cultural look at Singapore, visiting the city’s smaller neighborhoods before boarding our ship, which will take us to Georgetown and Langkawi, in Malaysia, as well as Phuket, Thailand.


- Hayden M. Strong


Fun Fact: Singapore’s passport is the most widely accepted in the world, granting entry to 182 nations without a visa.

Hayden’s Page - Tenth Anniversary Edition

It’s been ten years since I wrote the very first version of Hayden’s Page. Since then, I’ve visited and catalogued our travels around Europe and Northwest Asia, featuring exotic locales such as Greece, Turkey, Sweden, Estonia, and Israel. All accompanied by interesting facts, personal anecdotes, and stunning, high-resolution photographs.

Now, ten years after it all started, Hayden’s Page is back. And this time, I’ll be traveling to an entirely new set of locations.


M a l a y s i a .

S i n g a p o r e .

T h a i l a n d .

C a m b o d i a .


D e p a r t i n g   J u n e   2 2   2 0 1 8


Hayden’s Page 2017


Planes, Paintings, Pyrotechnics

This post chronicles the events of two full days, in which we visited two art museums and watched the festivities for La Fete National, the French national holiday also known as Bastille Day.


Day 1: Musée Marmottan-Monet, Bastille Day

Starting with yesterday, we woke up at around ten in the morning to watch the Défile, a parade down the Champs-Elysees featuring the French armed forces. Both the presidents of France and the United States were in attendance. 

While the troops march down the avenue, the French Air Force demonstration team flies above. We watched it all from our 30th-floor apartment’s balcony.

After watching the flyover, we headed to Musée Marmottan-Monet, a small privately owned museum that houses some of Claude Monet’s most famous works. Photography was forbidden inside the museum, but it was pretty cool seeing so many great artworks.

After returning home, we played Uno and Monopoly until 11:00, when the Bastille Day fireworks show began. There are a bunch of different shows all around the Paris area, but the main one takes place in the center of the city.

The entire Eiffel Tower closes and becomes a giant fireworks launch platform. The thirty-minute show was the most spectacular fireworks show I have ever seen.

Incredible.


Also, our suburb of Puteaux put on a pretty impressive show as well. They actually launched them from a plaza in the middle of a complex of high-rise apartment buildings.

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Day 2: Musee DOrsay, Arc de Triomphe, Our Last Day

Today, we decided to visit Musee d’Orsay, a huge art museum housed in a converted Victorian train station and dedicated primarily to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. Works by Cezanne, Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh are all housed here. Here are some of the highlights:

The main hall of the museum.

One of Van Gogh’s Starry Night paintings.

One of Monet’s Waterlilies.

Cows by a Neo-Impressionist painter (early 20th century).

Musee d’Orsay was impressive in more ways than one: the architecture, the size and scope of the collection, and the quality of the artworks within. After we visited the museum, we rode the Metro to Place Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, which houses the Arc de Triomphe.

Built by Napoleon I to commemorate a military victory, the arch is one of Paris’ most recognizable landmarks. It is possible to visit the top of it, but the lines were too long for us to do so. We do have some nice photographs from the base, however:

After getting crepes at a streetside cafe,

we rode the Metro home.

Unfortunately, this marks the end of our trip. Tomorrow, we fly back to Philadelphia from Charles de Gaulle Airport. To everyone who has read my blog this year, I thank you for taking the time to read about some kid on another continent describe his daily experiences.

Thank you, and goodbye (for now.)


- Hayden M. Strong

TGV, Towers, Tunnels

I must admit, before today’s trip, I had absolutely no idea what Luxembourg’s attractions were or even what it looked like.

Following our visit, I can say I was very pleasantly surprised.

Our visit started early today. We rode the Métro to Paris-Gare du L’Est station where we boarded a French TGV (Train de Gran Vitesse) train to Luxembourg. When we arrived, we first went to the tourist information center, something we generally avoid, but in this case it was necessary since we had no tour guide and no idea what to see and do while we were there.

Our first stop was the Cathedral de Notre-Dame de Luxembourg, slightly less well-known than the Parisian cathedral that bears the same name. The cathedral is beautiful, with soaring ceilings and maginificent stained-glass windows. Beneath the church is the crypt, which houses the tombs of several members of the royal family.

The City of Luxembourg was founded in 973 AD and centered around a powerful fortress, once nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the North.” In addition to the towers and gates, the fortress also housed an immense network of casemates, or tunnels built directly in to the mountain fortifications of the fortress.

The fortress itself was destroyed in the 20th century, but the network of tunnels remains. At various times, they have been used for evacuation, storage, defense, and, during World War II, a bomb shelter. They are now open to visitors.

Luxembourg is divided into two parts: the Upper City or Centre, the newer (but still very old) section of the city, and the Lower City or Grund, which dates back to early medeival times. They are separated by huge, towering cliffs. The only way to get from one section to the other is via an elevator built into the rock.

Luxembourg is unique among old European cities because its town center is surrounded by magnificent natural beauty. Trees, vineyards, and canals surround the medieval-era dwellings and churches, all nestled within the confines of the towering cliffsides and the towers of the old fortress.

This old aqueduct, dating back to medieval times, has been converted into railroad tracks.

L’Eglise de St. Michel (The Church of St. Michael) overlooking the medieval town and canal.

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Looking through the window of the fortress’ lower gatehouse at the old canal.

We didn’t visit many museums or monuments today, but the ambience of walking around Luxembourg was truly unique. Luxembourg’s unique look and feel is difficult to explain in text, so brace yourself for an onslaught of photographs.

Luxembourg’s airport is a major cargo hub for European freight carriers. The flight path for all incoming planes is directly over the old city. Here, the old and the new: a Cargolux 747 soars over the buildings of Luxembourg-Centre.

Houses perched atop the monolithic, soaring walls of the old fortress.

Vineyards built into the setbacks and contours of the city’s old walls.

Openings in the rock allow light and air into the casemates, while a guard tower stands sentry over the old city’s canal.

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A bridge spanning the canyon housing the old city. This used to be the only entrance into the Upper City of Luxembourg.

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A beaver swims in the canal.

In the tunnels beneath the fortress.


Luxembourg was awesome! I loved the architecture, the natural beauty, the unique culture and ambience of the city. I hope someday I can come back and experience more of this amazing city.

- Hayden M. Strong

Gardens, Grandeur, Gold

We met our guide, Marie-Claire, at the Invalides Metro station today, and then took an RER train to today’s main attraction: Palais Royal du Versailles.

Versailles is one of the largest and most opulent palaces anywhere in the world. It was built by Louis the Fourteenth (the Sun King) because he no longer wished to live in the Louvre, the royal palace at the time. The complex includes the royal residence, but also a chapel, an opera house, and immense grounds with beautiful statuary and gardens.

The palace itself was the home of Louis XIV, XV and XVI, the last three kings of France. The enormous palace’s architecture and decoration draws heavily on Greek and Roman mythology and particularly on the myths of Hercules and Apollo, who Louis XIV often compared himself to. King Louis XIV chose Hercules because of his strength and demigod status, and Apollo because of his role as the sun god. Symbols of lions (a symbol of Hercules) and the sun, as well as the fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the French monarchy, are common.

This is the Room of Apollo, one of the King’s beautifully decorated rooms for entertainment.

This was the King’s ridiculously ornate bedroom.

And this is the Royal Chapel. The balcony level was exclusively for the royal family, while the nobles sat on the level below.

The most famous room in the palace is this chamber, the Hall of Mirrors. Interestingly, at the time of the palace’s construction, methods of making mirrors did not yet exist in France. So, Louis XIV sent spies to Italy, where mirrors had recently been invented, to steal their formula so French glassmakers could craft the room’s mirrors!

After touring the opulent interior of the palace, we exited to the grounds. The grounds feature acres of woods, pathways, canals, and even a small working farm, the pet project of Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France. Due to its size, it was impossible to see all of the grounds, but we were able to see parts of them.

The gardens are designed so that most of the features (groves, colonnades, statues, etc.) are not visible from the main paths, requiring visitors to explore and wander in order to see everything. The gardens are so immense that the king himself wrote a guidebook so that visiting nobles could fully experience them without getting lost!

An example of the palace’s symbolism. The crown and fleur-de-lis make it very clear that a king lives here. The sun icon signifies Louis XIV, who called himself the Sun King, and his involvement in the palace’s construction.

Louis XIV had an enormous ego. He compared himself to the Roman gods of old - and the sun itself! He commissioned large numbers of portraits of himself. And to prove just how great a king he was, he constructed one of the most ornate and most opulent palaces in the world.

Here’s a set of interesting facts about Versailles and King Louis XIV:

- King Louis XIV loved dogs! He had many dogs while he was king. He even comissioned portraits of them and ordered his chefs to prepare special pastries for his dogs.

- Many of Versailles’ features were inspired by Italian palaces. For example, the use of multiple types of marble in decoration and the use of mirrors were inspired by Louis’ trips to Italy.

- It was impossible to run the gardens’ water features all the time, so when the king entered the garden, a man would blow a whistle, letting the gardeners know they needed to turn the fountains on!

Versailles is an incredible place, almost beyond belief. Its sheer size and opulence speak to a bygone era and must truly be seen to be believed.


Next…Luxembourg!

- Hayden M. Strong


Métro, Mountains, Mickey

We began today by taking an RER commuter train to the village of Marne-la-Vallée, home of the DIsneyland Paris Resort. It marks the third time we’ve visited the resort, but for the first time ever, both Violet and myself are tall enough to ride all the attractions.

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The resort has many rides that can’t be found anywhere else, and some of the rides that are in the U.S. parks are wildly different here. Case in point: Space Mountain.

In California and Florida, Space Mountain is a pretty mild indoor roller coaster with a touch of retro charm (both U.S. versions date back to the 1970s.) Here, it’s a much more intense launched coaster featuring three inversions and speeds approaching 55 miles per hour.

It also currently features a Star Wars overlay called Hyperspace Mountain, which was pretty cool.

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This was the first ride we visited and also the one I was most nervous about trying! It was the first time I’d ever gone on a roller coaster with a rocket start or loops of any kind. I admittedly had concerns before we rode, but it turned out to be pretty fun. Definitely intense - but fun.

We also rode Phantom Manor (the French Haunted Mansion, much spookier than the American versions!), Thunder Mountain (which we waited over ninety minutes for), Slinky Dog Spin, Buzz Lightyear, Ratatouille, Space Mountain again, and Rock n’ Roller Coaster (another looping roller coaster.)

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I was excited to go on Ratatouille because it’s one of the most technologically spohisticated rides on the planet (the ride vehicles are trackless, controlled by local positioning satellites), but it turned out to be a bit of a letdown. On the other hand, I’m glad I decided to try looping roller coasters for the first time.

Montagne D'Espace

(This is Space Mountain. The “cannon” houses the vertical launch.)

Overall, a great day at Les Parcs Disneyland!


- Hayden M. Strong

(I apologize for the pixelation of some of the photos, this is because most of them were taken on our phones.)

RER, River, Relaxation

Following our quadrifecta of marathon days, we all agreed that the best activities for today were rest and relaxation.

After sleeping until 11:00 am, we decided to book tickets for an afternoon river cruise on the Seine. After eating lunch at a small Parisian café, we took the Métro down to the Pont-Neuf (New Bridge), actually the oldest bridge in the city, where the boat dock was located.

Our cruise was operated by Vedettes de Pont Neuf (vedette being French for a type of small boat) and consisted of a one-hour tour down Paris’ main river, the Seine, passing by many of Paris’ main landmarks, such as…

Notre-Dame, the world’s most famous cathedral.

La Tour D’Argent (The Silver Tower), the most prestigious restaurant in the city.

Musee D’Orsay, a museum dedicated to 19th-century and Impressionist art housed in a converted Victorian-era train station.

Tour Eiffel. (For more details regarding this structure, kindly visit the blog post entitled “Tours, Tower, Triangles”. That concludes this brief marketing message.)

A fake T-Rex skeleton perched atop a commercial boat dock along the Seine for some bizarre reason.


After our tour concluded, we took the Métro back to our apartment. The Métro trains that run on our line were manufactured by Alstom in the 2010s and feature interlinked carriages, indirect lighting, and foldable seating, and are also completely automated. The lack of a driver’s compartment means passengers can sit in the front of the train, allowing cool photos like this one.

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Tomorrow, we will visit an incredibly authentic, culturally enriching, traditionally French attraction: Disneyland Paris.

Farewell,

Hayden M. Strong


Amsterdam, Again

Today, following breakfast at our hotel, we took a taxi to the city’s center and admired the beautiful scenery.

At 2:30 exactly (we had timed tickets), we entered today’s main activity: the Anne Frank House.

No photography was allowed inside, and it would not do it justice anyway. It was a truly remarkable experience, emotional and saddening. Words and photographs alone cannot convey the history and the emotions one experiences while inside.



As I write this, we are onboard a Thalys high-speed train en route back to Paris. We have no big plans for tomorrow, so in all honesty I can say I have no idea what the content of tomorrow’s post will be. Ah, the suspense! You must be too excited for words.

Until next time,

Hayden M. Strong


Railroads, Rivers, Relocation

Today, we took an RER commuter train to Paris-Gare du Nord Station, where we boarded a Thalys high-speed train. Following a three-hour train ride, we arrived in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, where we’ll be spending the next two days.

Amsterdam is a city like none I have visited before. It’s sort of a Scandinavia-Venice hybrid with a lot of unique character. Electric cars are everywhere, and the houses are tall, narrow, and lean odd directions, like something out of Harry Potter. And of course, walking down the street is like a game of Frogger or Crossy Road due to the overwhelming abundance of fast-moving bicycles. 

We met our guide for a three-hour walking tour of the city in the city’s central square. We visited a lot of the city, which is very walkable due to its relatively small size. We saw many examples of the city’s unique architecture.

Many of the buildings date back to the 1600s, when the Dutch controlled a vast colonial empire and ruled large portions of the sea. The city is also crisscrossed by eighty-eight canals and has hundreds of bridges. Trams and trolleys run through the streets which date back to medieval times. 

After our tour, we returned to our hotel (Hotel Okura), ate a pizza, and went to sleep.

Amsterdam is a unique city with its own unique culture, with awesome old houses, beautiful waterfront neighborhoods, and a generally forward-thinking culture (public transportation, walkable/bikable, and renewable energy), and it definitely exceeded my expectations. We have one more day here, and I intend to make the most of it!

- Hayden M. Strong


Tours, Tower, Triangles

Today, I visited the largest art museum in the world, visited the 2nd tallest structure in France, and slept for less than five hours.

For some bizarre reason, I remain the only member of the family who has yet to acclimate to the time change, meaning I wake up at approximately 3:00 AM every day. 

Since I’m sure you care more about our travel experiences than my sleeping habits, I’ll move on to Musee de Louvre. Formerly the home of the French royal family, the enormous structure currently houses thousands of works of art across three wings (notably, the visitors’ center is enclosed under a giant glass pyramid!) Some of the highlights of our private tour include:

the Great Sphinx, which is one of the best-preserved Egyptian artifacts in the world.

Venus di Milo, an original Greek sculpture from over 2,000 years ago which combines the Hellenistic and Classical styles of Ancient Greek art.

Winged Victory, another original Greek sculpture.

Renaissance art, including this painting by Descartes…

and this slightly better-known work.

The Grand Salon, from the era of Napoleon III and used by the French Prime Minister during the Napoleon dynasty.

Napoleon I’s throne.


After visiting the Louvre, we ate pizza at an Italian restaurant before taking the Metro to the Eiffel Tower.

Completed in 1898 for the Paris World’s Fair, the wrought-iron structure is 324 metres tall, houses three observation decks, and was the tallest structure in the world for 41 years. We ascended only to the second level (located about halfway up the tower.) 

A general sampling of the view.

After that, we rode the Metro home, ate dinner, and went to sleep.


Due to several unprecedented technical problems, I had to publish this post a few days after the events actually happened. First, our power converter broke, and then somebody forgot our camera’s data transfer cable. (I’m not telling anybody who it was that made that mistake.)


- Hayden M. Strong


(The Louvre features a pyramid. The Eiffel Tower is also vaguely triangle-shaped. This can mean only one thing…)

Illuminati Confirmed!




Airplane, Arrival, Architecture

At approximately 6:40 PM Eastern time, our American Airlines A330-200 lifted off the tarmac. Seven hours later, it touched down on French soil (well, asphalt) at Charles de Gaulle International Airport.


We had arrived.

Our driver was waiting for us at the airport. We then proceeded to navigate across Paris in rush-hour traffic (it was about 8:00 am), and finally arrived at our apartment building in the La Defense district. 

Our building (Tour Eve, 1 Place du Sud) was constructed in 1975, is 109 metres tall, and is probably the only building in the world with its main entrance on the eighth floor. Our apartment is on the thirtieth floor.

The La Defense district is the commercial hub of Paris, and also a thriving residential area popular with young people. Since we were all rather disoriented from the flight and time change, for obvious reasons we didnt attempt any tours or sightseeing. Instead, we opted to explore the area immediately surrounding our building.

So, enjoy these architectural photographs I took on my phone!

The Total Enegy Ventures building.

The Ariane, a tall, hypermodern apartment building.

Sandwiched between towering glass skyscrapers, these yellow-brick residences form an interesting contrast representative of the district itself.

The La Defense skyline (well, part of it.)

The Coeur Defense residential tower next to the Areva Building.

Looking towards the district’s famous Arch.


Tomorrow’s exploits should be a bit more exciting (and include higher-quality photographs), as we are visiting the immense Musee du Louvre and the Eiffel Tower’s uppermost point.


- Hayden M. Strong


Hayden’s Page: The Adventures Continue

On July 5th, witness the power of this fully operational travel blog.

My globally acclaimed travel blog will return to its full previous glory in just a few months as I singlehandedly document every detail of my exceptional adventures in the exotic locales of France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands! Experience the majesty and wonder of transcontinental travel and the unique, rustic charm of Europe from the safety and comfort of your computer, as I embark on a truly incredible journey.


Hayden’s Page 2017 goes LIVE with daily updates July 5, 2017!


Hayden’s Page 2016


It’s The End of The Trip As We Know It

Remember how my post from two days ago was completely and entirely devoted to the Beatles?

This one is completely and entirely devoted to Harry Potter!

Today we rode a London Midland train (not this one) to a suburban station and boarded a shuttle bus to the Warner Brothers studio complex, where all of the props, sets, and costumes from all eight films are housed. Pretty awesome.

The Great Hall!

The Gryffindor dormitory!

Dumbledore’s office!

Snape’s classroom!

The door to the Chamber of Secrets!

The Black family tapestry!

The Hogwarts Express, a fully functional 1937 Great Western Railway 4-6-0 class steam engine!

The Marauder’s Map!

The Dursleys’ living room!

Hagrid’s motorcycle!

The flying Ford Anglia!

Diagon Alley (a completely indoor set!)

Annnnnnnnnnnnd….a 1:24-scale model of Hogwarts in its entirety, used for all the panorama and Quidditch scenes in all the movies.

Incredibly intricate.

Just plain awesome.


Unfortunately, this will be the final post from Hayden’s Page 2016. Our return flight to Philadelphia departs early tomorrow morning. From everyone at Team Strong, thanks for tuning in.

- Hayden M. Strong



The Children Assert Their Dominance

This is us, in a seven-story toy store, one of the largest in the world.

Wondering why that was a part of our vacation? Because we (“we" being Violet and myself) got to choose everything we did today. Remember that promise of random stuff to come? 

Well, here it is!

We started out at Holland Park Playpark (that awesome playground from the post entitled “Yay! I Am No Longer On A Plane”).

Me on the zipline.

Then we took an Über car to Regent Street, home to Hamley’s toy store. (This is actually the second time I’ve been. The last time was eight years ago. Read about it under Hayden’s Page 2008, My Day at the Huge Toy Store. That concludes this brief infomercial.)

Seven floors of toys and games, although unfortuantely the giant Hot Wheels car isn’t there anymore. Instead, we took a picture in a giant Underground car.

Next, we ate lunch and took the Underground to the British Museum.

The real Rosetta Stone! Not a replica, reproduction, or reconstruction.

A huge statue of Ramesses II!

A Lykian (a part of Greece) temple to the Nereids (sea spirits)!

The original panels of the Parthenon!

A beautiful carved horse’s head!

An Easter Island statue!

A Mesoamerican carving of a snake!


The British Museum is way cooler than I expected and has stuff from all over the world. Greece, Rome, Egypt, Peru, Sudan, Iran…the list goes on. A great representation of artifacts from all sorts of ancient civilizations, from the Aztecs to the Ming Dynasty.

Sounds like a pretty fun day, doesn’t it? KID POWER!

- Hayden M. Strong

Why is This City Named After a Pool of Liver?

If you’re not a Beatles fan, I advise you to turn back now, because this page is one of the most complete collections of Beatlemania ever compiled.

Still with me? Excellent. Let’s proceed.

This actually happened yesterday. It’s pretty much the only thing we did yesterday, though, so don’t complain about not getting a post. Unless you want to hear about every single store we went to in order to buy Mom new pants, the combining of the day’s posts is for the best.

Today, however, was a bit more interesting. We rode a brand-new Virgin Trains trainset (an Alstom Pendolino) at 135 mph from Euston Station to Liverpool’s Lime Street Station. There, our guide met us and we began our tour of the city. To begin, we did a quick panorama of the city.

John Lennon’s birthplace, now converted into student accomodations at Liverpool’s local university.

Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, owned by Paul McCartney.

A statue outside LIPA, with the Magical Mystery Tour bus in the background.

Me signing my name on Ringo Starr’s old house. The whole block is unfortunately slated for demolition.

Ringo's next childhood home.

Us at Penny Lane.

The real yellow submarine!

Me, actually getting to play one of John Lennon’s first guitars.

Us at Strawberry Fields.


That’s about everything Beatley we did…except this.

Oh, yeah.


Liverpool is an awesome city, full of cool architecture, both new and old.

St. George’s Hall, a huge convention center-kind of place currently being used for filming of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Neo-Classical with Corinthian columnades.

An office building on the banks of the Mersey, in the Neo-Deconstructivist style.

Liverpool One, a brand-new apartment building. Post-modernist, with a simultaneously narrowing and twisting façade. The spandrels alternate in thickness and the piers are canted. Pretty awesome.

One of the “Three Graces”, three huge stone buildings on the Mersey river. Georgian, Neo-Gothic, and I don’t even know what that one on the end is. Art Nouveau, maybe? That’s a lot of domes.

Hagrid’s flying motorcycle in Harry Potter!

Liverpool was pretty sweet. Situated on the banks of a two-mile-wide river, a mix of grand 20th-century buildings, retro-industrial and country homes, and full of interesting history.

Tomorrow, we’re going to do a bunch of random stuff in London. So get ready for random stuff!

- Hayden M. Strong

Brussels, Without the Sprouts

Who wants to read about another pair of rides on the Eurostar? Nobody? Well, too bad. Today we took an Über car (for some reason, they almost always seem to be black Vauxhall Insignias) to St. Pancras International Station. We then boarded another high-speed Eurostar train. After a brief stop in Lille, France, we arrived at Gare Bruxelles-Midi.

All this at 186 MPH. A hundred and eighty-six! These trains are amazingly fast but incredibly smooth. In short, they’re awesome.

Our guide picked us up in a tiny Ford Fiesta subcompact and drove us to our first destination, the Atomium. Built in the 1958 World’s Fair, it’s a massive replica of an iron molecule. Yes, it has an observation deck, and no, we didn’t go up in it. 

Our next stop was the European Union’s headquarters, nicknamed the Jukebox.

We walked through the Parliament Museum, which was really cool.

The European Union is pretty impressive. All the different countries, hundreds of miles apart, countless languages and cultural differences and they all cooperate to pass laws and whatnot. If the United States were fifty different sovereign nations, I’m pretty sure there would be no United States.

Our next destination was Autoworld, one of the largest automobile museums in the world. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of photographs, because I took pictures of everything.

A Hispano-Suiza!

A Delahaye!

A Citroen 2CV!

A really awesome old BMW!

An Alfa Romeo!

A Lincoln Continental Mark II next to a ’58 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham!

A Mercedes 180-class!

An Isetta!

A Jaguar XK140!

A Bugatti!

A ’59 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible!

A Packard V-12!

A Testarossa!

A 308 GTB!

A Corvette Stingray!

and…a Pacer.

Now that approximately 75 percent of my post has been devoted purely to automobiles, let us proceed!

Our next stop was Brussels’ city center. There’s a lot of stuff here, so I’ll try and cover everything.

An amazingly intricate old church.

The buildings of the city center.

Another city center building.

Yet another city center building. 

The center is pretty impressive. After eating a delicious Belgian waffle, we headed back to the train station and boarded our Eurostar back.

All in all, a fun little day trip. It’s amazing how easy the high-speed trains make travel. Before the Channel Tunnel’s advent in 1993 we would’ve had to ride a ferry across the Channel or else fly. Now, we can wake up in London, spend the day in Belgium, and come back in time for dinner.

So long for now,

- Hayden M. Strong




Insert Clever Title Here

All right, let’s get this over with. I know you’re all saying “Come on, Hayden! You can at least come up with a half-decent title for this post!”

Well, for the record, coming up with a descriptive and informative, but also mildly amusing title, all in the space of ten words or so, is hard. You try weaving “Tower of London” and “National Gallery”, along with “subway” and “inclement weather”, into a hilarious one-line title.

See? You can’t! So don’t go complaining about my lack of a title.

Today, we rode the Underground (that’s right, no Über cars or Mercedes vans today) to Tower Hill station and walked to the Tower of London. Originally constructed in the 1200s, this mighty fortress has served as a prison, a royal palace, and even a mint. Today, it houses the Crown Jewels of England. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of them. Rats.

The fortress is mainly comprised of stone towers, but some Tudor-style dwellings and a few ordinary-looking houses also lie within the walls. The tower was originally surrounded by water and today sits in the middle of London’s central business district.

Old houses with the Shard in the background.

30 St. Mary Axe, better known as the Gherkin. What does this building have to do with the Tower? Nothing. I just felt like taking a picture of it.

After a quick Underground ride, we arrived at the National Gallery.

The Gallery was quite crowded, but we were still able to see some amazing artworks, including a whole room of Monets. After we toured the Gallery, we rode an Über car back to our house. (Remember when I said no Über cars today. I lied. Sorry.)

Thank you for reading.

- Hayden M. Strong

Parisians In The Mist

Today’s post is a brand-new, low-production, specialty limited-edition Hayden’s Page. For just one day only, you can follow not one, but two days of our travels - in one post! That’s right, you’re getting TWO for the price of ONE!

Okay, that’s thirty seconds. The advertisement just ended. Now back to our regularly scheduled Hayden’s Page.

Our adventures in Paris began yesterday morning, when we boarded a 186-mph Eurostar train at London St. Pancras International Station.

These trains are FAST. They’re so fast that every time you go in a tunnel your ears pop. After a 2 1/2 hour ride, part of which was underwater in the Channel Tunnel, we arrived at Paris’ Gare du Nord train station. We took an Über car to our hotel, the Hotel Chambiges-Elyseés. Our room was oddly shaped but nice, and the beds were very comfortable.

After napping, a Volkswagen van picked us up. (A shiny new VW van. Our tours are not conducted in rainbow-painted Type 2 Transporters with peace-sign headlights.) 

It was absolutely pouring for our entire tour, so most photographs were taken from inside said van. Here’s a brief overview of what we covered, in photographic form.

The Grand Hospital, built by Napoleon.

A Neo-Classicized church, complete with Greek columnade.

The Sacre-Coeur cathedral in Montmartre.

A panorama from the top of a hill.

The view from the restaurant we ate at, a great little Italian food place. The margherita pizza was so good I ate a whole pizza.

A stunningly beautiful portrait of my sister, taken by me.

The EIffel Tower from the banks of the Seine.

The tower in the clouds. As you can see, the entire city was blanketed by fog and mist. 

The tower covered in sparkling lights at midnight. 

Yes, I said midnight. We stayed up incredibly late last night, but the pictures we took were so worth it.


All we did today was ride the Eurostar back and sit around in our house. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!


We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do tomorrow, so stay tuned!


- Hayden M. Strong

A Museum of Rocks and a City of Bathtubs

Today, our same driver from yesterday, Jeff, picked us up in a grey Volkswagen van, and we drove two and a half hours to Salisbury Plains. There, we met our guide, Cheryl, and rode a bus to the Stonehenge British Historic Site.

Stonehenge is a lot bigger than I’d imagined. The large stones are around twenty feet tall and the site is around three thousand years old.

We know the stones are from a quarry about 140 miles away, but we don’t know how they got them here. The larger stones weigh over 250 metric tons. They used to be arranged in rings and spirals, and the stones lie perfectly on the line where the sun travels on the equinoxes and solstices.

The stones were used for burials, but other than that we don’t know what they’re for. Why were the stones dragged so far? Why are they arranged in these shapes? Why were they stacked so precisely? We may never know the answers. 

Theories range from an ancient people erecting a monument at an important astrological site to aliens landing in sophisiticated spaceships and moving rocks around for no good reason.

After Stonehenge, we drove across the Salisbury Plain to the city of Bath.

Bath is built around the only bubbling hot springs in Britain. The Romans constructed an elaborate bath around these springs, full of underground channels and drains. Most of them still operate today. 

Our first destination in Bath was the city’s namesake, the Roman Baths.

Only the lowest level is original here. The columns, statues, balustrades and side buildings were all added during the Victorian era. 

The baths here were some of the most elaborate in the Roman empire. The complex featured a warm influx of water, a sauna, a steam room, cold, warm, and hot rooms, two temples, and a gymnasium. Water entered the complex through a channel, first to the Pool of the Gods and then into the Great Bath.

Then, the water drains through a sluice gate into the other baths. This is the hot room. The mosaic-tiled floor is set above a furnace that heats the room from above.

After passing through the rooms and eventually into the Cold Plunge, where the water has cooled significantly, the water passes through a waterfall and a channel:

and eventually into the Great Drain. 

The Drain leads out to a canal that then drains to the River Avon.

After exploring the Baths, we checked out the rest of the city.

Bath is a beautiful city, a blend of classical, Victorian, Georgian and Modernist architecture. After driving through the city, we hit the road and drove back to London. We spent about five hours in the van an according to my Fitbit, I walked about two miles, which doesn’t sound like a lot but combined with the car ride was plenty exhausting. Tomorrow, we ride the Eurostar high-speed train from St. Pancras Station into Paris, where we’ll be spending a day and a half.

Thank you for commenting on my previous posts. I really enjoy reading feedback.

- Hayden M. Strong

The City of Ferris Wheels, Black Cabs, and Large Clocks

Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture with all three.

Today’s tour was one of the most interesting I’ve taken. Our guide, Joe, picked us up in a Volkswagen (that’s right, not Mercedes) van, and drove us to Trafalgar Square.

Us, standing by the lions beneath Nelson’s Column.

No climbing on said lions.

The column itself.


After Trafalgar Square, we saw the Houses of Parliament and the Queen Elizabeth II Tower (more commonly known as Big Ben.)

The Houses of Parliament.

Us in front of Big Ben.

After that, we saw the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

Overtouristed? Sure. But it is pretty impressive and lives up to the hype.

As we were driving to our next destination, we saw the Prime Minister’s car go by!

Leadenhall Market is a massive complex of shops covered by a beautiful Victorian-era glass roof. 

A lot of the filming for the Harry Potter movies was done around here:

The Leaky Cauldron (the blue building.)

Twelve Grimmauld Place.

The entrance to the Ministry of Magic.


After getting a bite to eat at another open-air market (Borough Market) we drove over London Bridge, which isn’t the original London Bridge. It was built in the early 1960s and is really boring-looking. But it does have some great views of nearby Tower Bridge.

We passed through London’s business district and got some views of the skyline.

20 Fenchurch Street, an office building nicknamed “The Walkie-Talkie”.

The Lloyd’s of London Building, nicknamed the “Inside Out Building”. All the air-conditioning, stairwells, ventilation, electrical conduits, water and gas pipes, and even the elevators are mounted on the outside.

The Shard, London’s tallest building.


Afterwards, our guide dropped us off on the south bank of the Thames. We stopped at the Tate Modern,

and then finished our visit with a ride on the London Eye.

The view is spectacular. You can see for miles. Here are some pictures, some of which I took.

High-speed trains leaving Waterloo Station.

Barges on the river and high-rises behind it.

Victoria Gardens from the air.

a Gulfstream business jet, practically level with our capsule.


After that, we took an Über back to our house. Tomorrow, we visit Stonehenge and Bath on an all-day tour.

- Hayden M. Strong

Yay! I Am No Longer On A Plane

Seven hours, thirty minutes.

Seven hours, thirty minutes onboard an Airbus A330-300, from takeoff at PHL’s Terminal A-East to landing at London Heathrow. After a very long night of watching movies, constructing Minecraft skyscrapers, and trying unsuccessfully to sleep, we eventually docked at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. We took a quick rest at the airport Hilton, and then our hired car drove us to our house, at Nine Pembroke Mews in Kensington.


No pictures. Sorry.


We unpacked and claimed bedrooms, and then headed out to check out the neighborhood.

We got a bite to eat at local restaurant Byron (and no, they don’t just sell hamburgers) :

Then we walked to Holland Park. Holland Park is a massive complex, with soccer fields, gardens, an orangery, an opera house, and the most epic playground I’ve ever seen. Even though technically I wasn’t allowed in (being over 12) I threw caution to the wind and played with Violet.

The “playpark” at Holland Park has three jungle gyms, banisters that are actually built for you to slide down, merry-go-rounds, rock climbing, a zipline, and this skateboard-on-tracks thing:

It was pretty fun. I fell off quite frequently but it was definitely worth it.

On our walk back, we saw some fountains and a heron.

And, for your amusement:

Tomorrow, we’re taking a tour that covers most of central London’s landmarks and a few less-traveled destinations. 

Thanks for reading!

- Hayden M. Strong

It’s The Final Countdown!

Contain your excitement! In just two short days, we’ll board an American Airlines A330 and the latest iteration of Hayden’s Page will go live! Experience the latest and greatest Hayden’s Page, with bigger and better descriptions, cool destinations, and stunning photos! Follow our adventures in near-real time with new posts - chroncling that day’s exploits - added everyday! With the all-new Hayden’s Page 2016, you won’t miss a beat. It’s the closest thing to being there.

Want to get a different perspective on our travels? Head on over to Violet’s Page and select 2016 from the drop-down menu, and see what up-and-coming travelogue author Violet Strong has to say. Or see our parents’ views at Kelly and Neil’s Pages. 

- - - All sites go live on May 25, 2016! - - -

Hayden's Page 2015


And So Ends the Awesomeness


We didn’t leave the apartment until 1 PM today. That’s right. No eight-hour tours, no frantically rushing to yet another Mercedes van. Just rest and relaxation. When we finally got up, we decided to visit the Rome zoo. It was huge! We saw lots of really awesome animals, such as:

Snowy owls!

Zebras!

Baby monkeys!

King vultures!

Ostriches!

Leopards!

Lynx(es)?

Lions!

Swans!

Bears!

After the zoo, we came back to the apartment for a little while, and then drove to Tivoli for the most amazing meal of the entire trip.

The restaurant has been in business for over 300 years and has been visited by people like:

Princess Margaret of England, Princess Gina of Liechtenstein, the Prince of Prussia (back in 1872), and other royalty from places like Afghanistan and Nepal. And I can totally see why they’d want to eat there.

I got risotto, and for dessert, raspberry-strawberry sorbet. Both were some of the most delicious things I’d ever tasted. The restaurant was situated next to some 3,000 year old ruins:

It was dark by the time we left Tivoli and drove back to Rome. The city lights were utterly spectacular.


I won’t be seeing anything like them for a long, long time.


Tomorrow we return home, leaving behind all the awesomeness of Europe.



Signing off for the last time,

Hayden M. Strong


As is customary, I must add a bird picture here. Unlike the other times, however, I know for certain that this is a stork (and possibly the biggest bird I’ve ever seen!)


We Drive, and Drive, and Drive Some More

Today, we said goodbye to beautiful Montefili Estate and hopped in our BMW station wagon. We drove out of the Tuscan hills onto the A1 autostrada and headed towards Rome. We drove for about an hour and a half before stopping in Orvieto.

The town is way up high on a cliff, so we rode a funicular into town. We ate pizza at a great little restaurant, walked around the town, rode the funicular back down to the station at the bottom of the hill. Then, bam! An Italo, the fastest train in Europe, roared down the track going 186 MPH! 

Then we got into the car. We were driving out of the parking lot, when another high-speed train, a Frecciarossa (red arrow), zoomed by. We’d stumbled upon the Rome-Florence Dirretissima, one of the fastest train lines in the world!

Going way, way, way too fast (186 MPH, remember?) to get a great photo, but this is a Frecciarossa.

Then we drove to our apartment in Rome, which is on the top floor of a 1930 building. It’s huge! And it has a big terrace.

We then walked around Rome. Which, well, left much to be desired. As in, the Trevi Fountain was drained and scaffolded for maintenance. The Parthenon was closed. And the city was packed beyond belief! We just ended up eating dinner (I had risotto, and French fries) and going home. Meh.

- Hayden M. Strong


(This one’s for you, Ba.)

Frigid Waters, Fine Wines, and Happy Dogs


The first thing we did today, was, well, nothing. And I liked it that way! When we finally decided to get out of bed, we just walked into our backyard and hung out, and looked at the view:

Then Violet got this crazy idea that she wanted to go swimming. Our pool is so freezing cold it makes Arctic glaciers jealous. But Vi was upset that I was being reasonable and protecting myself from hypothermia (by not swimming with her.) So we worked out a deal: I would dip my feet in the frigid waters for thirty seconds…if she would cannonball into the pool!

She did. And it was hilarious! Then we kept daring each other to do more crazy stuff. I wound up going in to my knees for a full minute while Vi had to jump in, swim for thirty seconds, and then get out and jump in again! We all wound up drenched in ice-cold water, but it was worth it.

Then we ate lunch, hung out a bit more outside, played with Boo, the estate’s puppy, for a while:

If you ever stay at Montefili Estate in the countryside of Tuscany, Italy, do NOT let this dog get his hands (well, paws) on your shoes (or sunglasses!)

Then we visited a winery (on 500 acres) which looked like this:

We saw lots of cool stuff during the tour:

Where they dry the grapes.

Where they store the bottles.

Where they age the wine.

Then Mom and Dad got to do wine tasting, and we did water tasting (which tasted like water!)

It was really cool. Then we came home, played more with Boo:

In pursuit of the shoe!

Then we ate (surprise!) pasta for dinner. Tomorrow we leave for our penthouse apartment in Rome, and we’re stopping in Orvieto along the way. Stay tuned for more awesomeness!


- Hayden M. Strong


DSC_0072

Argh! Another unidentified bird sighted today (at the winery!) Anyone with any information, please comment! It’s seriously infuriating that I have no clue what all these birds are!!!



Mountains of Gelato! (Oh yeah, and Florence too.)

Today, after some much-needed sleep, we drove from our house to Florence (in Italian, Firenze.) The first thing we saw was the statue of “Davey” as Violet calls him:

which was sculpted by Michaelangelo in the 1500s and is over fifteen feet tall.

Then we checked out the city. This is a church from the 1200s. 

After that we ate lunch. I had gluten-free (of course) pasta with parmesan cheese. And we got really great gelato! (Sorry, no pictures.)


Next we visited another art museum. We saw some really awesome paintings:

There was some amazing architecture in the museum too:

And this funny sign outside:

No fast food, no umbrellas, no acoustic guitars, and no stereos!

Then we went home. The house’s owners have a puppy who loves to play with us!


Stay tuned…


- Hayden


Bonus! How the heck are you supposed to pronounce the name of this car?


Ciao Epic, Buon Giorno Tuscany


Today, we said goodbye to our magnificent ship. When we disembarked, we boarded a bus that took us to the rental-car place and picked up our car, a (stick shift) BMW station wagon. We then drove three hours from Civitavecchia to Greve, Tuscany.

We visited a 2700-year-old Etruscan tomb (which Violet was too chicken to go in):

and ate lunch at a great restaurant.

Then we drove to our house, which is a really cool old house on a farm. Our backyard borders a huge olive-tree orchard, and we have a vanishing-edge pool!

We saw this cool bird:

DSC_0047

This is our view:

And this is the inside of our house:

Dad made us a caprese with fresh mozzarella cheese for dinner tonight. Tomorrow, we’re going to Florence to see the statue of David and some other cool stuff.

Let Part 2 of our adventures begin!


 - Hayden


Paradise Falls, Without the Giant Birds

If you haven’t seen the movie Up, you won’t get the title of this post. Sorry.

Today, the Norwegian Epic docked in Naples, Italy. Our guide picked us up in a (wait for it) black Mercedes van. The first place we visited was Pompeii (which, as you know if you’re in Tutorial I at OC) Violet is quite the expert on!

Our guide in Pompeii was actually an archaeologist, so we learned a ton of stuff - like that the Latin inscription on this beautiful 2,000-year-old mosaic means “Beware of dog”.

Speaking of “Beware of dog” signs, all of them in Italy seem to show pictures of happy, friendly dogs:

But that’s another story. Here are some more Pompeii photos:

A dining room in a Roman mansion.

Fresco on the wall of an open-air market, with pictures of bread, fish and other food.

Jugs and pots unearthed while excavating.

This stray dog really liked us!

An “ancient" House Sparrow singing from a “Roman” electrical wire. : )


After Pompeii we went to Sorrento, a town on the cliffs above the Mediterranean.

Impressive, right?

After Sorrento we went to the even more beautiful Amalfi coast.

This is the restaurant we had lunch at. I had a DELICIOUS gnocchi with homemade tomato sauce, and a strawberry cheesecake for dessert!

Everything at the restaurant was made there: from the wine to the plates! It was a great place.

After the restaurant, we visited an overlook and saw a waterfall...

…and saw a lizard.

I had the greatest day. Ever. 

Tomorrow, we say goodbye to our beautiful ship and say hello to our house in Tuscany!


- Hayden Strong

We Get Soaked While Sliding Downhill


The first and only sea day of this entire cruise happens to fall on Violet’s birthday. So we took advantage of this ship’s star attraction: the trifecta of waterslides crowning the pool deck. But before I get into how awesome the waterslides were, I’m just going to give you a sense of how the Epic is laid out:


Decks 1, 2 and 3: Who knows? They’re crew-only.

Deck 4: Where you get off the boat.

Deck 5: Restaurants, the “Atrium” club with live music.

Deck 6: Theatre, casino, some restaurants, the art gallery.

Deck 7: Shopping, the bowling alley, a restaurant or two.

Decks 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12: Rooms.

Deck 13: More rooms and the bridge.

Deck 14: More rooms, the spa, the Kids Club for Violet.

Deck 15: The buffet, the pool deck, waterslides, the Teen Club.

Deck 16: The Haven Courtyard, Restaurant and Lounge, and some of the Haven rooms (including ours.)

Deck 17: The rest of the Haven rooms, the gym, the Beach Club.

Deck 18: Our private sundeck.

Deck 19: The second part of our private sundeck.


So, back to the post! There are three waterslides on the Epic: a green one, a purple one, and a yellow one. The purple one is short but fast. The green one is a little slower but still fun. But the yellow one is the most fun!

On the “Epic Plunge” (which is what the yellow one is officially named), you get in an inner tube and go through a normal slide tunnel. Then it shoots you out onto a big bowl-shaped thing where the current spins you around faster and faster and then drops you into another tunnel, which drops super-fast before it dumps you into the pool!


Then we went to the arcade and got a ton of tickets. For dinner, we ate at the ship’s French restaurant, Le Bistro (on deck 6). Then we went to our respective Clubs (Kids for Vi, Teen for me) and had a blast. It was a great day!


- Hayden Strong

This is us following the Aidablu and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, out of port. The Aidablu is on the left.


“Sagrada Familia” Is Not A Tongue Twister


Today, the Epic docked in the second-largest city in Spain: Barcelona, a bustling metropolis of two millilon full of interesting architecture and Roman artifacts almost 2,000 years old.

The first thing we did was get into a (shocker!) black Mercedes van. Our guide, Jorge, drove us to an absolutely beautiful cathedral.

Inside, there was a courtyard with waterfalls, fish and even geese!

Then we went to Bubo, one of the best chocolate shops in all of Spain.

We each got a hot chocolate made with dark chocolate. It was really good! Then we visited another awesome cathedral with really intricate stained-glass windows.

Then our guide took us to the beach! We found lots of seaglass, rocks, and shells.

Next, we visited the old Olympic stadium left over from the 1992 Olympics. It could seat over 60,000 people!

No Bigfoot beyond this point!

An old Spanish car called a SEAT (pronounced “say-it”.)

The view of the city from up in the hills. 

Then, we ate lunch. I ate a delicious vegetable paella!

Then we visited the Park Guell, which was designed by the famous architect Gaudi.

We even saw the most out-of-place bird ever in the middle of a city: a parrot!

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Then we drove to the Basilica de Sagrada Familia, a cathedral which started contruction in the 1850s and is due for completion in 2026.

Amazing, right?

This is another building designed by Gaudi. He wanted it to look like a dragon, so the roof is scaly and horned.

And another one, influenced by the ocean’s waves. The balconies look like seaweed!


Then, after eight hours of awesomeness, the van dropped us off at the port and we got back on the boat. Tomorrow is a sea day…and Violet’s 9th birthday. 

Signing off for now (2011 style!), 

Hayden M. Strong

Another mysterious yellow-billed blackbird with a yellow eye-ring spotted…ID help? Please? : )


The Nameless Post of Mallorca


Our (surprise!) Mercedes van drove us from the port to Palma, the largest city on the Spanish isle of Mallorca. 

The city is full of cool, semi-modern Spanish architecture.

And big, old trees are everywhere. 

We saw the Palma marketplace, which had fruits and vegetables of all kinds. 

Then…we walked to the Palma railroad station and boarded THIS: A narrow-gauge 1927 electric-powered passenger train.

The train took us through the Tunel Major, a 2-mile tunnel through the mountains, and over a huge bridge crossing a valley. Then, it stopped in Soller, a beautiful town by the sea (sort of.) 

After touring the town and eating GREAT ice cream, we boarded the first electric trolley in Mallorca:

The trolley was really slow (some bikes passed us), so it took half an hour to bring us to the beach.

There were lots of small boats out on the water...

And big fish in the water.

Vi and I walked out on the sand.

No parking your horse here! : )


Signing off for now,


Hayden


French Fries Are Not French (They’re Belgian)


Our colossal monstrosity of a ship couldn’t even fit in the port at Cannes, France. So they lowered a few of the lifeboats (each of which holds 275 people) and ferried us in to the port. 

The seas were rough. Like, really rough. Like, wave blows the lifeboat into the side of the ship and leaves a dent in the fiberglass rough. After a hair-raising ride, we disembarked and walked to yet another black Mercedes van.

Our tour guide, Cecilia, drove us to the beach. The water was so clear it made glass jealous.

Speaking of glass, the beach was strewn with seaglass, glass that fell into the sea and was eroded and smoothed by the ocean’s waves. And looks awesome. 

The pier had rows upon rows of multi-million dollar yachts like this one:

This yacht, the Lady Moura, cost $400,000,000 just to buy and holds 70 crew. It’s owned by a Middle Eastern prince’s ex-wife.

After touring the “Billionaires’ Pier” in Antibes, we visited the town of St. Paul-de-Vence.

St. Paul-de-Vence was built in the Middle Ages and people still live there today. It’s a beautiful town, filled with winding paths and houses that date back to the 1500s.

This church, the Chapelle Saint-Michel, was first mentioned (probably in a book) in…wait for it…1356.

The outside of the chapel.

After St. Paul-de-Vence, we visited a great family-owned restaurant, where I ate possibly the best cheese panini I will ever taste. Then we got a crepe (with Nutella!) which was delicious. 

Then we got back in the van and drove to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, a beautiful hilltop village known for its (wait for it) violets.

They had violet candies, violet perfume, violet-based oils and lotions and whatnot, violet jam, and even violet ice cream (which, surprisingly, tasted amazing!)

After an even more hair-rising ride back to the boat on the tender, we ate dinner and saw a Cirque de Soleil show in the Epic Theatre. Which was awesome. 


Tomorrow…stunning seaside Palma, on the amazing Spanish isle of Mallorca.

Auf wiedersehen, au revoir, ciao, sayonara, and goodbye.


- Hayden


P. S. Any help identifying this mysterious French bird would be appreciated. And no, it’s not a starling!



Hayden's Page 2013

My name is Hayden and I'm going to Europe (again) this year. This is my blog, where I write about my experiences and other stuff. I hope you enjoy it. These are links to Mom and Dad's Blog and Violet's Blog. They have cool posts too, so check in!


Naples, Italy and Our Last Day

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Today, we got off the boat in Naples, Italy.  We met a guide …

Another Double Episode!

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2 Days: 1 Port Day and 1 Sea Day!

DAY 1: Heraklion, Crete (…

Our Second Day In Israel

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Location: The Mediterranean Sea     Time: 9:12 AM

Yes, I am …

Our First Day In Israel

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Today, we docked in Haifa, the 3rd largest city in Israel. We …

Limassol, Cyprus

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Today we docked in Limassol, Cyprus. Cyprus is an island split …

Alanya, Turkey

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This is actually 2 days after my last post, but we didn't do …

We Set Sail

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( The huge boat we're standing on is the cruise ship, not the …

Our Last Real Day In The Italian Country

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Today, we re-visited the Etruscan Caves to get a better look. …

Piazza Does Not Mean Pizza (Our Visit to Rome)

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Yeah, we finally went to Rome today. We drove to the station …

Special Double-Length Episode!

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Yep- that's right; a special DOUBLE LENGTH episode! 2 days …

Welcome to Italy

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That's our house.


It's a pretty nice house in the Italian …

Cleared for Takeoff

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Today we flew around 6,000 miles from LAX to Rome, via Munich.  …

I'm Going To Europe Again (Woo Hoo!)

I'm going to Europe again on March 30, 2013.  I'm going a few …


Hayden's Page 2012

The White House and the National Art Gallery

Today, we went to the White House first.  We took the Metro in to Federal Triangle station.  The area was fenced off, and we …

The National Archives and National Zoo

The first thing we did today was meet our friend Paul.  He was waiting at a Starbucks, but we went to the wrong one!  Did you …

Hiking and Shopping

Today, we didn’t have any stuff to do, so we headed out to go hiking.  We went to this cool place called Great Falls.  It has …

The Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial

Today, we were supposed to go to the Library of Congress, but we didn’t because we slept late and missed the tour.  So, we …

Two Cool Museums

The Two Cool Museums are the National Museum of Natural History and the American History Museum.  The first one we went to …

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

We had a two-hour drive out to Gettysburg.  When we got there, we went to the Visitors Center.  It was really cool!  We saw …

Mount Vernon- George Washington’s House

At Mount Vernon, the line to go in the house was miles long, and plus, we couldn’t go in until our ticket said we could.  So, …

National Air and Space Museum

At the Air and Space Museum, I saw the Spirit of St.Louis.  The Spirit of St. Louis is a Ryan NYP.  It isn’t a very big plane …

Leaving soon

We are going to Washington DC.  I am excited to see the Air and Space Museum.  I will see the Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St.…


Hayden's Page 2011

Harvard College

Today we went to the children’s museum.  3 floors of pure fun!!! 4 …

Boston U.S.A.

Today, we left early in the morning to get to Roissy- Charles de Gaulle …

The Two Ds

Today we drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and …

Mont. St. Michel, etc.

Today we went to Mont-St-Michel, a 15th century abbey on an island.  …

The Woods and Bayeux

Today we left to Cerisy-La-Forêt, a park with 13 trails.

We took blue,

Omaha Beach of D-Day

Today we went to Omaha beach, which was one of the 5 beaches allied …

And Now for Something Completely Different

This is not like the parents’ post named the same thing!!!

Today we

Last Day in Amboise

Today we drove to yet another castle.  It was called Cheverny Chateau.  …

A Great Day!

oday we went to Amboise Chateau Royale (Amboise Royal Castle.)  It …

More Castles!

Today, we drove to chambord chateau.  It had four floors and a double …


Hayden's Page 2010


Paris, France

On our first day, we didn’t do much.  We planned to walk around our neighborhood, Montmatre, …

Sea Day

Today, we were not going anywhere, so we just went to the Kids Club. The Kids Club is …

Katakalon and Olympia, Greece

Today, we took a cab to Olympia.  We were going to take the train, but it would not …

Santorini, Greece

Today, we went to Santorini, which is located on top of a sheer cliff.  We took a cable …

Kusadasi and Ephesus, Turkey

Today, we went to Ephesus, which is an ancient city near Kusadasi, Turkey. 


In Ephesus, …

Mykonos, Greece

In Mykonos, we went to the beach.  The beach was a lot of fun.  After that, we went …

Istanbul, Turkey- Day #2

Today, we went to a palace.  At the palace, there were four treasure rooms.  In the …

Istanbul, Turkey - Day #1

When we docked in Istanbul, the first place we went was the Hagia Sofya, which was a …

Athens, Greece

Today, when we got off the boat, we had a private tour waiting for us.  We were not …

Split, Croatia

Today, we had to get on a smaller boat to get to the port.  The smaller boat was pretty …


Hayden's Page 2009


Days 4 and 5


Yesterday, I went to New Grange and went across 3 bridges and named a bunch …

Traveling on Day 3


Today,I went to a place where the parking lot had 2 layers.  The bottom …

The Second Day and Don't Trust the GPS!


Today,I went to Powerscourt and went to Pepperpot tower .  Pepperpot is …

The Flight and the First Day


On the  first flight I watched Spongebob and ate cookies and on the second …

Ireland


I'm going to Ireland with my family in May. I will write about it here.



© Knstrong 2013