JenSop: The Singing Travel Pro!

Idealist. Dreamer. Singer. Explorer.


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Olde Towne Carolers’ New CD is out now!

Exciting news!

Olde Towne Carolers announces our new CD, entitled “Sing We Noel.” The album includes fifteen holiday songs, with a range spanning from the Renaissance to the 20th century.

Here’s a look at the song list:

1. Sing We Now of Christmas / Noel Nouvelet
2. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
4. Silent Night / Stille Nacht
5. Patapan
6. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
7. Joseph lieber, Joseph mein
8. Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
9. The Holly and the Ivy
10. Good King Wenceslas
11. The Wexford Carol
12. Remember O Thou Man
13. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
14. Auld Lang Syne
15. In the Bleak Midwinter

The album will be available soon through all the standard online retailers, but if you’d like to get your copy sooner, just drop us an email and we’ll get a copy mailed out to you! (info@oldetownecarolers.com)

A big shout out to the singers of OTC for a great project, as well as Jennica Musselman for her amazing graphic design work, and Dave at Morningstar Studios for putting the tracks together!

OTC CD with bleeds.indd


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Pure Nostalgia: Music at Christmas Time

When you think of Christmases past, what most sticks out in your memory?  Running down the stairs on Christmas morning?  Freshly fallen snow outside your window? Or maybe it’s baking cookies with your grandmother.  Put together, all these things can fill you with the happiest of nostalgia. 

But nothing can put you in the holiday spirit quite like the music of the season.  When the tree is lit on Christmas Eve, and all the lights are out in the house, and the fire is crackling….the right song just takes you back to the most special of times. 

Growing up, it was always a tradition in our house to play The Vienna Choir Boys first thing on Christmas Day.  My dad liked to pull out his mother’s old record, and we listened to those same carols every year.  To this day, it’s not Christmas to me without the Vienna Choir Boys!

And there are other songs that simply remind me of family times together, decorating the tree, or making our own Christmas ornaments.  When I was a kid, I LOVED “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” because of the lyrics mentioning “Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie!”  Then many years later, the song had renewed special meaning when my young niece kept wanting me to sing it to her over and over.

I think these are all reasons that I decided to start my own Christmas Caroling company.  I loved the nostalgia of holiday music, and I loved singing it!   What could be better than to spread that joy to others and remind them of their own happy Christmas memories?  I wanted to make it easy for people to hire Christmas carolers – I wanted them to experience the beauty of live Christmas music.  Whether it was for an office holiday party or a concert at a retirement home, we could be an integral part of the delight and cheer of the season.  Add the Victorian Caroling costumes, and you have the perfect package!  Olde Towne Carolers delivers it all!

This holiday season, when you’re out shopping and feeling the stress of everything you have to do, if you happen to see Victorian carolers stroll by, singing your favorite holiday melodies… stop for a moment, leave the modern world behind, and reconnect with the child inside you who loved Christmas and everything about it!

Olde Towne Carolers

Olde Towne Carolers

Thinking about hiring Christmas carolers this year?  Olde Towne Carolers is available anywhere in the Northeast United States:

Philadelphia Carolers, Lehigh Valley Carolers, New Jersey Carolers, Boston Carolers, Connecticut Carolers – we’re there for you!  We’d love to be a part of your holiday celebrations!  Visit the website today: http://oldetownecarolers.com/


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Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway

Milos and I recently both had some time off between tours for a few days (at the same time!), and it made more sense for me to head up to Norway to meet up with him, as his tours are taking him through Scandinavia this season.

We had three full days to explore and spend time together.  (I got there late in the evening on day one, so I’m not counting that, and on day five, we both flew to Copenhagen so he could get ready for his next tour.)  But days two, three, and four were just for us!  🙂

I had never been to Norway before, and was excited to see what Oslo had to offer.  With our limited time, we wanted to focus strictly on the city itself and not try to venture out on any day trips out of town.

First, a few things about Norway and its capital, Oslo.

Due to its far-north latitude, we certainly didn’t have to worry about the heat, despite it being the end of July.  During our few days there, it averaged in the upper 60’s to around 70 degrees fahrenheit.  In the evenings, we definitely needed our jackets.  Bear in mind that Oslo is “southern Norway.” Milos goes all the way to the north cape on one of his tours, where he needs his heavy winter coat even in summer.

There really were an enormous amount of blonde people – everywhere.  I read that about 80% of Scandinavians are blonde. And after my visit to Norway, I totally believe it.    Except for my short height, I really felt like I blended in there.  Haha!

Almost EVERYONE speaks English, making it easy for tourists.

The country has a great deal of wealth due to its oil industry, which is also the reason Norway is not in the EU.  (It IS a member of the Schengen, however.)  It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, which is a downside for tourists, as everything is EXTREMELY expensive.  Plan for this if you’re making a trip there! $$$$

There are SO many electric cars in Norway!  If you purchase an electric car there, you don’t have to pay tax on it, you get free parking, you can drive in bus lanes, and there is an amazing infrastructure of charging stations.  As a result, over 22% of new car sales in Norway in 2015 were electric cars.  Pretty impressive!

Oslo is also the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is given out in the city’s town hall every year in December.  (The only one not awarded in Stockholm.)

The city is very modern, with just a few examples of old structures.  Much of Oslo has gone through some destruction during its history, most recently in WWII.  As a result, most buildings are very modern-looking.  Overall, Oslo is very clean and the people were friendly.

What are some of the sites we explored in Oslo?

We walked around the city to get a feel for its orientation. There is a big main street going through town with lots of shops and restaurants, called Karl Johans gate.  As you approach the area near the royal palace, the area opens up with a park running along the side of the street.  The palace itself is surrounded by green areas where everyone is free to walk around and enjoy the space.  We spent some time wandering through the gardens, just relaxing and enjoying our time together.

Along the water, there’s an area called Aker Brygge, which is also full of restaurants and shops.  (But mostly restaurants!)  It is bookended by the Nobel Peace Center on the city end and the Modern art museum (Astrup Fearnley Museet) on the other end.  We walked this area each evening, and had dinner there twice. 

Opposite the bay/marina from there is the Akershus Fortress; a medieval castle that was built to protect the city.  (Disney fans will recognize the name, as it is used at the Norway pavilion in Epcot in Disney World!)  It is well preserved and fun to explore.  You can get a great view of the coastline and the city from up there! 

We visited the Viking Ship Museum, which is home to the remains of three viking ships from approximately 1100 years ago!  Amazing!  We got there via the Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus. 

We also visited the famous Vigeland Gardens, renowned for its sculptures.  Vigeland wanted his art to be timeless, so the figures are all nudes.  Clothing represents specific eras in time, so the artist decided to forego dress of any kind in his creations.  One of the most famous sculptures is that of the “angry boy,” who is stomping his feet in protest to something he doesn’t like. 

And while at Vigeland Gardens, we stumbled upon a Bruce Springsteen Concert!  The concert was scheduled for the evening, but Bruce was doing an initial soundcheck, which we got to hear. I thought it rather funny that a musician who I consider “local” to back home was there half way around the world at the same time as me!

We also paid a visit to the National Gallery, home of Munch’s “The Scream.”  I won’t pretend to be an art historian or expert, but we enjoyed our time taking in the paintings and other art on display.  Milos and I had a few shared favorites among the paintings, and I especially liked the fairy tale room, with the painting of the young princess in front of the castle being my top favorite. (Called “Prinsessin” by Hanna Pauli.)  A plus side to the National Gallery (besides all that awesome art, of course) – free admission!

Here are some photos of our adventures in Oslo!

General Pics Around Town:

 

The Akershus Fortress and Castle Complex:

 

 

 

 

Royal Palace and Queens’s Garden

 

 

Viking Ship Museum!

 

 

 

Vigeland Park and Sculpture Garden

 

 

 

National Gallery.  Some of our favorites:

 

 

Some fave dinner/lunch spots:

 

 

 

And a farewell pic from the airport!  Troll!

 

Last minute troll pic while still in Norway

Last minute troll pic while still in Norway


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Our Very Own Happily Ever After

May 28th was a fantastic day – we had our wonderful wedding in Milos’ hometown of Crikvenica, Croatia. (At the Hotel Marina in Selce, to be exact.)

 

The planning started even before we got engaged (back on Feb. 13, 2015), as some of you might remember from previous blog posts.  I chose a color palette of lavender and mint green, and I got some wonderful decorative items while back in the U.S. during winter and spring.  I was so pleased with how the hotel made our modest decorations come together in such a beautiful and elegant way.

 

Our wedding day weather was warm and sunny with happiness all around.  Of course we had lots to do – the week leading up to the wedding was crazy stressful.  I had just gotten into town after my two week tour on Monday evening (5 days before the wedding), but Milos had been there a few days already and had  started getting things in order.  But no matter how well prepared you are, there are always last minute things to keep you busy leading right up through the wedding day.

 

The ceremony was on the “beach” of the Hotel Marina: a flat concrete area on the water’s edge.  We bought an archway that was decorated with flowers to serve as the “altar” at the end of the aisle between the beach umbrellas made of palm fronds.  Our reception was just above on the lower terrace of the hotel itself.

 

Despite the stress and busy-ness, everything came together spectacularly.  The florist created some gorgeous bouquets – mine looked exactly like the photo I had shown her from Pinterest.  The photographer was professional, easy-going, and exceptionally talented.  We were able to choose the photos for our album AND get a full USB stick of ALL 800-something of our photos just days after the wedding.  The hotel served delicious food and also organized a gorgeous yet simple wedding cake – again, exactly to my specifications.  (And it tasted great!)

 

My friend and bridesmaid Rebecca was a super woman – not only doing my hair, but my sister’s and her own all within our limited given time frame.  We also sang a super duet during the ceremony to “Panis Angelicus.” My sister ran around and was a great wedding day assistant.  All three of my dresses made me feel beautifully bridal, each in their own special way.  (I’ll categorize the three as feminine boho (#1), elegantly classic (#2), and comfortably sexy (#3).

 

Milos looked so amazingly handsome in his light grey suit and lavender tie.  We took some awesome pics together: some near Kastel in the middle of town, some near the seaside park by his childhood house, and some at Lanterna – an old fisherman’s house on the sea.  And of course, we got great photos of people having fun at the reception on the terrace.

 

I didn’t have a lot of folks on my side make the trip to Croatia, but I was so grateful and appreciative for those that could.  We had a FANTASTIC time reliving our younger days out on the dance floor.  (I had put lots of good dance songs on the list from the 80’s and early 90’s.)  The party went until 5:30am, when the few of us remaining decided to take a quick swim in the sea as the sun came up.

 

The most important parts: everyone had a great time and we are now so excited to start our lives together as husband and wife.  After all, a wedding is only a day, but a marriage is a lifetime.  And we are so excited to have that lifetime together.  <3

 

Here are some photos from our happy day!

 


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Spring, Love, and Weddings!

I see it’s been awhile since my last blog post, so I thought I’d just check in and wish everyone a happy spring!  (Now let’s get some spring weather already!)

The most important news for May:

The final countdown is on – the big day is just weeks away!  Milos and I have almost everything ready for our wedding and are super excited for our special day!

Due to work right now, we’re having to do some stretches apart.  It’s a strong reminder of just how easy it was for us to get used to being together every single day for a very long time.  (We just really love being together – in personal and in work life.)  We are definitely the embodiment of the saying “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  We each have a lot to offer as individuals, but we hit the ball out of the park when we’re working together.

I just read an article about a study that showed being away from your significant-other can cause real physical withdrawal symptoms.  (We could have told them that!)  But we’re grown-ups, and we’ve been through these kinds of challenges before.  We know that the reward is worth the effort and short-term sacrifices.  Milos and I get to talk everyday due to the awesomeness of modern technology, which helps with the whole *missing-eachother-terribly* part.  (We’ll be reunited five days before the wedding, later this month, and we CAN’T WAIT!)    <3

I’ll say this as a final thought… through all of our fantastic adventures, together and apart, I’m just constantly reminded of the wonderful life partner the universe has given me.  Someone whose love for me matches my own for him.  Someone who encourages me, and always reminds me of my value in every single way.  Someone who makes me smile and laugh and have fun.  Someone to be silly and goofy with.  I can’t think of any better qualities to have in a husband!  ❤

Wedding Invite

 


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Pula, Croatia

Today, Miloš and I took a nice little day trip out to the ancient Istrian city of Pula.  Istria is the peninsula that makes up the northwestern part of Croatia.  The drive from Miloš’ hometown of Crikvenica was about an hour and forty minutes.  We arrived in Pula in the early afternoon, and were eager to take advantage of the fantastic sunny weather.  (Something that’s been quite rare so far this year.)

 

Here’s a map of the area!

 

As you can see, this part of Croatia is very close to Italy, and the Istrian peninsula was highly influenced by Venice, due to being a part of the Venetian Republic for centuries.  (You can see the direct water route between the two cities of Venice and Pula on the map.)  This connection to Venice is especially noticeable in much of the architecture in Istria’s cities.  But this area (and Croatia in general) was first a strong part of the Roman empire, with the architectural remains to prove it.  Many are still around today!

 

Our first stop was the famous Roman amphitheater!  Built in the first century AD, Pula’s Arena is the sixth largest amphitheater in the world.  It’s also the only one to have four side towers and all three stories preserved. We took our time exploring this impressive structure – trying to imagine the gladiators that fought on the very spots where we were walking.

Of course, I took lots of pics!  Here’s a look at Pula’s Arena:

 

 

After exploring the Arena, we headed out to see the rest of Pula!

The city is built right along the water, so it has a large marina area.  After visiting the Church of St. Anthony, we walked down towards the water (where we saw a very active school of fish right by the water’s edge), passing the ancient Twin Gate, looping into the old town to the open Forum area where we saw the Temple of Augustus and The Town Hall.  Close by in the old town are the ruins of the House of Agrippina, where an ancient bust of the empress Agrippina was discovered during excavations. Then we trekked up the hill in the center of town to hike along a little path next to the Fortress (Kaštel), while enjoying excellent views of the city below us.  Behind the Kaštel are the ruins of a small Roman theatre.  We also continued along to see the Gate of Hercules, which is the oldest surviving Roman structure in Pula.  Not far away from there is the Triumphal Arch of Sergius.  We finished by grabbing an early dinner at Bistro Alighieri – a lovely little restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine.  On the way back to the car, we walked through the streets of old town again, where we saw the Cathedral of Pula in the lovely evening light.

 

Here are some more photos of our day AND additional interesting info about some of the sites!

 

 

First up, the Church of St. Anthony.  It’s located immediately next to the amphitheater, and it’s tower can be seen rising majestically, even when standing inside the Arena.

 

 

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Next up, the Twin Gates. They were constructed between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, and are considered to be the most beautiful of all the city’s ancient gates.

 

 

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We spent a few minutes walking along the marina, and saw an amazing school of fish, swimming in circles at the top of the water.  So cool!

 

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We then took a left turn inland, and headed through the pedestrian streets of the old town towards the Forum.  Once there, we were able to see the Temple of Augustus and the Town Hall.  The Temple of Augustus was dedicated to the first Roman Emperor and was built between 2 BC and 14 AD.  Much of it was destroyed in the second World War, but it was later reconstructed and it now houses an ancient sculpture collection.

 

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While walking along the narrow street away from the Forum, we happened upon a little sign pointing to Agrippina’s House.  We wandered down a little alley to find a grouping of ruins.  Upon further research, I learned that the site derived its name due to a 1st century bust of Agrippina being found in the ruins during an excavation in the 1980’s.

 

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We strolled along another narrow street and stumbled upon the Church and Monastery of St. Francis.  It was perched higher above the street, along the hill leading up to the Kaštel.

 

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As we climbed to the center of town, we came upon a grassy steep hill leading up to the town’s old Fortress/Castle.  (Kaštel)  The Fortress is surrounded with cannons and is circled by an empty moat.  It was built in the 1600’s by the Venetians.  Currently, it is home to an impressive museum.  On the other side of the fortress hill, we descended upon the remains of the Small Roman Theatre.

 

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After finding the Roman Theatre, we trekked back down to the old city walls to visit the Gate of Hercules and the Triumphal Arch of Sergius.  The Gate of Hercules is the oldest remaining Roman structure in the entire city of Pula.  You can just make out the sculpture at the top of Hercules’ head.  The Arch of Sergius is a much large and imposing structure, at one of the entrances to the old town.

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And then after dinner, we walked through the old town towards the Arena, where our car was parked.  Here are some of those pics!

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One last look at the Pula Arena, and we were on our way back home!

Croatian Travel Experts


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A Day in Milan, Italy

We just got back from a very short trip to Milan, Italy.  Milos had an interview about forty kilometers outside of the city, but we decided we HAD to book an extra night in town, so we could actually see some of Milan; even if it was only for a day.  (We had to make it worth that five hour drive to get there!)

 

Here are some of the top things to see when you’re in Milan with limited time, AND some helpful tips to help you with your own trip!

 

But first, some pics from the drive!  As I mentioned above, it was about a five hour drive (longer with stops) from Milos’ hometown in Croatia to Milan.  We essentially headed straight west, so for most of the time, we had the Alps rising up majestically to our right side.  And if you’ve seen some of my past blog posts, you’ll remember that I am fascinated with these mountains!  (Click on the pics to see them enlarged.)

 

Anyway, fast forward a couple days, the interview is over, and we have one day to explore Milan.  What did we do?

 

Milan CathedralThe Duomo (The Cathedral)

If you’re going to Milan, a visit to the cathedral is a must.  It’s the largest in Italy, and fifth largest in the world; it took nearly 600 years to complete!  What struck me so about the facade of the cathedral was its marble finish, lending a most beautiful look of pastel color variations, as if an artist’s chalk sketching had been realized and brought to life.  Inside, it is expansive and impressive, with little details hidden all throughout its nooks and crannies.

But unlike so many other cathedrals in Europe, this one is NOT free.  You need a ticket.  For everything.  But here’s a little hint – instead of getting in the long ticket line immediately next to the cathedral, head on over to the museum to the RIGHT of the cathedral (when you’re standing in the square looking at the front of the cathedral.)  They also sell cathedral tickets, and we only had to wait behind two people in line, as opposed to about 50 people in line at the ticket booth.  Entry into the cathedral is inexpensive (2 euro at the time of this posting) – going up to the rooftops is a bit more pricey (8 euro for the stairs, more for the elevator.  Make sure you’re in shape if you attempt the stairs.)  But going up to the top was worth it.  You can see all of Milan from up there and on your way along the side of the cathedral, before reaching the very top, you’ll be able to take in some of the amazing architecture this structure has to offer.

*One thing that I found different here than so many other cathedrals I’ve visited in Europe – the heavy military presence.  There were soldiers guarding the area with machine guns and everyone entering was scanned with metal detectors.  (I’m used to Vienna, where you just wander in to the cathedral at your own whim.)

For additional history on the cathedral, CLICK HERE to visit its official site.

 

 

 

Approaching the cathedral…

 

 

 

Then once inside, amazing sites await you….

 

Climbing to the roof…

 

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

This is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, four stories tall, and covered by an impressive glass arched ceiling.  It’s just lovely to walk through! There are not only shops, but restaurants and bars as well – some of which are located along the upper sides of the building, with balconies overlooking the cathedral.  The shops inside are mostly high-end designers (although there are more economical options along the outside), but it still makes for an enjoyable time, even if you’re just wandering through.

 

La Scala

La Scala (Teatro alla Scala – The world’s most famous opera house!)

Well, you know, I couldn’t go to Milan without at least seeing La Scala!  I’d never forgive myself for not visiting the world’s most famous opera house! Founded over 200 years ago, the greatest voices of the opera world have performed on its stage, and it has had its fair share of controversy due to the booing and heckling of the loggionisti.  Some singers even refuse to sing here for that very reason. Granted we didn’t have enough time to go inside, but just to be here was super cool!

 

 

We also spent a lot of time just walking around.  We grabbed some pizza and bruschetta for a late lunch / early dinner at a little place called Cafe de Ville, just a bit up from the Duomo.  We passed lots of places, but we always check Trip Advisor first, as we don’t want to wander into a tourist trap, rip-off, or disappointment.  This place got a very good rating, so we decided to stop.  The food was good and so was the service.  If you want to get into one of the highly rated top restaurants in the city,  you need to reserve FAR in advance.

 

In the early evening, we decided to visit the Da Vinci Museum on the far side of the Galleria.  Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.  :-(  Inside were all kinds of cool models of Da Vinci’s mechanical inventions.  There were also interactive screens that let you see how many of the creations worked.  It was really fascinating.

Later on, for dessert, we tried out a little shop called Amorino Gelateria.  They have delicious gelato, but also specialize in crepes and waffles.  Not only was it SO GOOD, but if you order your gelato in a cone, they scoop it out in the shape of a flower!  LOVE!  I had mango and strawberry, while Milos got chocolate and hazelnut.

 

We finished the night with a nice glass of wine in a busy cafe.

Here are some more photos from our day in Milan…

 

 

A few overall tips and hints…

  1.  Don’t forget to buy your cathedral tickets next door at the museum – save lots of time!
  2. If you’re driving in the city, or anywhere in this region, be… prepared.  No one seems to obey traffic laws, and there’s a bit of anything-goes type of chaos.  No one uses turn signals and if it’s dark and raining, who needs headlights?!  Consider yourself warned.
  3. If you want a reservation at a popular restaurant, book it way in advance.
  4. Along those lines, if you want to see DaVinci’s Last Supper, you need to reserve your spot weeks in advance.
  5. I used the new international data roaming plan from Verizon to enable Google maps when we were driving to and from Milan, but also during the day we decided to explore the city.(My smartphone is still hooked up to an American number.) It was really helpful – not cheap, but not horribly expensive – I’d say it’s a good option to use once in awhile when you really need it.  I’ll write a separate blog on that topic, coming soon!