20 June 2006

Paris: Smokers, Big Sunglasses, and People Watching

June 15-19: Final stop, Paris, and the best hotel of the trip ... the free one, via cashing out hotel points. Was greeted by an herbal statue, and am still working on The Swede to add one to our yard chez nous.

The mad dash included greatest hits - Arc de Triomphe, Tour Eiffel, Musee d'Orsay, Louvre, Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle, Musee Rodin - and a few Monet showcases - L'Orangerie in the Tuillieries and Musee Marmottan. But people watching was the most enjoyable. On the walk from the Marmottan, we ducked for cover from the weekend urchin water balloon war. Sunset over Place de la Concorde and the Tuillieries had locals and tourists milling, while we enjoyed a picnic.

Everyone smokes in Paris. Trip to Italy last fall didn't see nearly as much. All the girls are into Jackie O, big-A sunglasses, and iPods a'plenty. English speaking is more obvious and less resisted by shop owners, urchins, and average strangers. The city is still dirty - littering in museums next to priceless art was commonplace and disturbing. Graffiti is up, big time.

Our last night - street cafe hopping in Place St. Michel, where the requisite art nouveau metro photo is not without its own guest - the wee chat on the bar awning spied as we dined below. We were off the next day back home to our own, not so wee chats.

Packing included the use of one of my favorite things that don't suck - the "oh crap" duffel bag (OSB) that folds into nothing, but stows away a week's worth of laundry. We managed to make the trip home without breaking into the Belgian chocolate meant for The Swede's office mates and my visiting family, but it's doubtful either portion will last long upon arrival.

Brussels: Beer and Chocolate

Dateline: Wednesday, 14-June: Laundry day, in Brussels. Home of the EU, the Smurfs, and the impertinent Mannekin Pis. The clean but rank laundromat was made pleasant by an al fresco breakfast: pain du chocolat and juice outside on the street, where the air was consumable. The rain caught us on the way back to the Hotel Ibis. Gaufres with nutella as a breakfast second course, some Rick Steves recommended sights, and then we hit the 4 chocolate shops on the Grand Place and acquired 100 grams each of Godiva, Neuhaus, Galler, and Leonidas, quaffed with Kriek and Framboise beers. The white chocolate from the latter two were deemed superlative. Cards, Hoegaarden, and world cup soccer in the hotel pub during the afternoon rainshower, Italian pub grub, and better sleep, as the sky approached darkness compared to the Swedish light fest. Chocolate and beer, yummm. Homer Simpson heaven.

Swedish Baby Bling

Ok. So perhaps I identify a bit too much with Eddie From Ohio's song "1,000 Sarahs", where a girl isn't allowed to get her ears pierced until she's 12, no matter what. I mean, really. What does it hurt to let a prepubescent youth put on some lip gloss, pierce her ears, and rush just a bit headlong into being a bit too glammed up for her britches? "Because your sister didn't have them done until she was 12" is not parental righteousness; it's the I told you so defense.

Still, I suppose some parents could be too lax in letting their kids adorn themselves with piercings, tattoos, and such. The Swedish seem to be more flexible than the average American. You decide.

17 June 2006

A Helan Gar Utfart

The evening of Saturday, June 10th found us with jumbotron action for Sweden’s first game in the World Cup. A disappointing 0-0 tie, but a spectacle by the water in Sodertalje, nonetheless.

Sunday, we dined with The Swede’s uncle and family; a grand affair, with a table spread the likes that found us wondering which glass housed which alcoholic beverage. Since herring was served, “snaps” was in order, as well as the traditional Helan gar song. The natives sang first, and our hosts graciously provided “Svenglish” lyrics but righteously mocked our attempts to sing along.

The afternoon’s Bocca, warm weather, and company found us reluctant to go.

Monday, we took a chance on a tour of nearby Stockholm. And Mamma mia, we found a great street perch to catch the changing of the guard. The marching band, who struck up a tune that took a while to figger out its Fernando familiarity, only to finally pin it down as ABBA’s “Waterloo.” Who knew? We chased it with a great tour of the Vasa museum and the oldest ship that never quite sailed. So ended our Swedish sojourn, and we were off to Brussels.

09 June 2006

Välkommen from Sweden!

Well, we started out fresh. Freshly showered, a fresh repast, and connections begun. We wung ourselves eastward to Scandinavia for a familial trek to Sodertalje, Sweden. Plane to Stockholm was diverted 250 km southwest due to air traffic control system failure, but a few hours, another flight, some trains and automobile, and my own handsome Swede sherpa'd us into lodgings and the rendez-vous with famdamily. Light knoshing at the local Australian pub, and sleep. Today we sojourned about the town, haunting the hometown of Bjorn Borg and the Swede's father, visiting festival grounds, observing Swedish fowl

and foul Swedes all about the village - albeit, high school grads celebrating, so we gave 'em some slack. Grub at a Croation-owned pub, where English was short on the menu, but World Cup action in large relief. Twilight on the Swede at 10 pm finds us saying hey da for now.