Sunday, October 11, 2009

Parting Shots [A Stroll Around Paris]

You know that you've arrived in Paris when you see the bums drinking champagne. Now, had I only seen one bum drinking from a bottle of champagne, I would have considered this an anomaly; albeit an amusing one. However, I observed several bums drinking the bubbly. And saw quite a few empty bottles strewn around on lonely streets. And, so, I can confirm that Paris is a magical place where even the bums indulge in the finer things in life. Such is my vision of Paris.

Walking from where I was staying in the 10th arrondissement toward the Seine, I passed down a familiar boulevard, Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis. Prostitutes abound. They hang out in the doorways. And they hang well out and over their brassieres. For some strange reason this street is home to well-aged hookers; most are in the 50+ range. And most bear more than a passing resemblance to Marianne Faithfull. How delightfully odd.

I embarked on a little photography project while in Paris. Inspired by bad illustrations in an Air France magazine article on French food and encouraged by my friend Pascal, I put my whole stomach into the project. Basically, I photographed pastries with a famous Parisian landmark in the background.

In all, eleven pastries were photographed. Not quite all of the pastries were consumed after the photo was taken. Even I have my limits. More photos here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Parting Shots [National Food Holidays]

There is something so deliciously satisfying about a food holiday. In Sweden, there seem to be a lot of food holidays. Today, for example, is October 4th which is Kanelbullens dag or National Cinnamon Bun Day. I blogged about this last year. But, this year is my last. So, to commemorate this occasion, I opted for the giant Hagabullar from Café Husaren in Haga, the old part of town. It is shown here compared to a regular kanelbullar that bought at Hemköp. I ate a lot of it, but not all. It's pretty damn big. I may need to go lie down and let the digestive process do its thing. But what a sweet memory to carry with me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Parting Shots [A Dogwalker's Tale]

I was walking the dogs near the Feskekôrka (Fish Church) when a woman started talking to (at) me from across the street. Once she switched to English, I realized that she wanted to pet the dogs. She told me how much she loves animals (a lot). Then she proceeded to tell me all about how many pets she had (a lot). She was quite talkative. She must have realized that she was rattling on and paused to explain "I'm a bit drunk." Then, she hugged me and laughed. And promptly ended the conversation by saying she needed to go have a smoke. As she left, she wished me a good life. It was oh-so-very untypically typical Swedish. And such divine randomness too. These are the types of encounters I will miss in Sweden.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Germany and Belgium: Summer Holiday 2009

So, here we are in Cologne, Germany. We're riding around on an open air bus taking a tour. It's a bit cold. Seeing some nice sights. Then, we glance at the ticket. There are coupons for free beer. Score!

Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

But, first, let's back things up a bit. After having departed Copenhagen, TJ, Mike and I drove South through Denmark into Germany. Usually, we take the ferry from Rødby to Puttgarden. We decided to check out the scenery in Denmark this time around (and we're frugal). Lots of pastures. Lots of windmills (modern and old). Once in Germany on the autobahn, TJ got into a driving groove. And we raced towards Cologne.

Over 90% of Cologne was destroyed in World War II. The exception was Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral). I had visited the city and church 10 years ago. On this trip, we went up one of the church towers. At the top, 100 meters up, you get a good sense of just how big this church is. I had some nice video of the interior of the church, but that is gone as I mentioned in my last post.

After the bus tour, we headed toward the first of three bars to redeem our coupons (but 1, get one free). Now, Cologne is the home of Kölsch beer. Kölsch is traditionally served in small (0.2 liter) glasses so that the beer remains cold when you drink it.

The next evening, TJ's colleague, Frank, took us to a large local beer house where the wait staff is known for being surly. And where you have to cover your beer with a coaster. Or else the staff will bring you a new beer unsolicited when your glass gets low. TJ found this out firsthand. Frank also took us to a restaurant where I had a schnitzel. I always have to have a schnitzel when I go to Germany.

The next day we drove South from Cologne along the Mosel River with its restored and ruined castles. We toured one of the few preserved castles, Burg Eltz. Then, we headed through Luxembourg (blink and you'll miss it) and into Belgium.

Now, I had been through Brussels before (on a train from Berlin to Amsterdam), but had never stopped and explored the city. I wish I had, but was glad for the opportunity this time around. I love Brussels. Beautiful city. And very French. In fact, the city, which was remarkably clean, reminded me of Paris. I could have wandered around there for days.

But, our time was short so we had to make the best of it. Upon arrival late in the afternoon, we headed for the Grand Place, a large market square in the heart of the old city. We caught a nightly light show on the facade of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) pictured above. The Baroque and Gothic styles of the buildings surrounding the square is decadent. It's almost too much. Almost. Like the food. Mussels are quite popular in Brussels. And tasty.

On the way back to the hotel, I was more than tempted by a Belgian waffle. Soft, warm, with a scoop of ice cream and some caramel sauce. That really hit the spot after an evening of sightseeing.

The next day, we visited a few more sights including the Palais Royal de Bruxelles (The Royal Palace of Brussels) and Cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule (St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral).

Belgium chocolate. Quite famous indeed. And delectable (if you like that kind of thing). There were shops with elaborate displays of chocolates. Two-meter high chocolate fountains. There's even a museum, the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which Mike and I toured. And then there is chocolate-covered fruit. On a skewer. In Brussels, you can find decadence in all forms. take your pick.

For more photos of our trip to Germany and Belgium, click here.

Copenhagen: Summer Holiday 2009

Okay. So, after arriving back in Göteborg on Saturday, we relax for a few days before Mike gets into town. He was a little groggy late in the afternoon, but did not have major jet lag. Good thing cause we left the next morning for Copenhagen.

Due to a last minute review of the weather and some advice from Norwegian travelers in Greece, we opted to skip the fjords. Instead, we decided to head South. First up was Copenhagen which was hosting the World Outgames. Coinciding with Copenhagen Pride. How gay and festive!

The weather could not have been better. As such, we hopped on a boat and took a canal tour of the city. Once back on dry land, we wandered along Strøget, a long pedestrian shopping street that runs through the heart of the city. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

The next day was time to wander about. Off to Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of Our Saviour) to investigate the stairs up the outside of the spire. You begin the climb inside and walk past the bell. Once you arrive at the outside platform, you're up pretty high; it is 90 meters to the top of the spire. The stairs take you nearly to the top. Just underneath a giant gold ball. Apparently, trying to touch the golden ball is some sort of manliness test. Had we known, that would have been the goal. Instead, we were left to enjoy the amazing view of the city. TJ, who was in front of me, did get almost to the very top where the stairs narrow to a point.

Later that night, we saw Kate Ryan in concert near Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady). She sings in both English and French and is fairly popular in Europe (and Canada). I've known of her music for a number of years. She was great! The gays loved her. Je t'Adore, Kate!

The next day was the Pride Parade. So we set about that morning to see some sights. Just as a gay cruise had docked. It was kind of amusing to see the guys from the boat slowly work their way through the city. Mike kept track of new arrivals. Hard to miss some of them in their tight shirts, worked out bodies, and shopping bags. Meow.

The Pride Parade was, um, interesting. Kind of what a lot of parades have become. An endless series of semi-trailer trucks filled with people dancing to music blaring from huge loudspeakers. Needless to say, with beers in hand, we enjoyed the show. Until that lesbian on the truck threw water at us. Karma, honey. At the end of the parade, we joined it. Yes, this was the quickest way to get back to Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square) where the concerts and entertainment was taking place.

The entertainment included a Michael Jackson impersonator. I could not tell if it was a man dressed as a woman dressed as Michael or a woman dressed as a man...dressed as Michael. How appropriate. A drag review from Canada (is that an oxymoron?). And...Kate Ryan again! What luck. We stayed until the bitter end.

As luck would have it, TJ ran into some friends from Laguna Beach and Chicago. Both had been on the cruise. We were hanging out with the Chicago boys until late. They were witness to TJ making new friends with the usual suspects: lesbians, large-breasted women, little people, and fellow Swedes. At one point TJ jumped up on a rather large lesbian (she did invite him to do this), wrapped his legs around her waist, and let her swing him around. Unfortunately, I was not able to whip my camera out in time.

Speaking of which, the one casualty of the trip was my videos. A truly unfortunate circumstance. When I got back to Sweden, I downloaded the photos but forgot to download the videos. Then, later that day before I was to use the camera again, I erased all the photos. Ugh! I had purposely taken videos in place of photos on this trip. And had gotten some really great stuff. Well, okay, lots of Kate Ryan singing. And some nice virtual tours of Cologne and Brussels. All gone. But, be sure to ask TJ about the chicken dance.

For more photos of our trip to Copenhagen, click here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Istanbul: Summer Holiday 2009

So, Istanbul was one of those "if you visit Greece, you should visit Turkey since they're so close" destinations. The cuisine of each country overlaps, but culturally, they are worlds apart. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

Although Turkey is secular, the majority of the country is Muslim. In fact, this is the first Muslim country I have visited. As such, TJ and I made a point to visit as many mosques as we could. Of course we visited the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) and Hagia Sophia. Any self-respecting tourist has to see these two gems. But, see for yourself: the architecture and atmosphere of mosques is mysteriously beautiful.

It wasn't a mosque-centric adventure. We did go out and about and experience some of the nightlife in Istanbul. Two of TJ's colleagues, Johan and Cânâ, showed us around town and ensured we got a taste of the high life.

I'm dressed up a bit more than my usual vacation wear (shorts and t-shirt) for our dinner at Suada Club. Suada is a manmade island that sits just offshore in the Bosphorus River. You take a little ferry boat out to the club. In addition to Suada, we had dinner at Joke Perestroyka, Istanbul's current "it" restaurant, and drinks with the jet set at Anjelique. A mini-tour of these clubs is provided in the video below:

But, it wasn't all fancy clubs either. No, we got right into the thick of things at the bazaars. The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar to be exact. While TJ did not care for haggling, I could have walked around those bazaars for hours.

And I practically did trying to find the right pair of Björn Borg underwear. That was my big purchase at the bazaars! I even convinced TJ to buy two pairs. Mainly since, I was able to negotiate the price down on the premise that I'd buy four pairs. TJ has long resisted the move to European-style underwear. Whereas I have embraced it. Is this TMI? But seriously, this underwear is over $30/pair here in Sweden!!! And I got my (probably fake) Björn Borg underwear for ~$6/pair. Damn, I'm a good negotiator. I tend to fight for those things that interest me. And commando-pattern underwear interests me. Ooops, TMI again.

I also bought some Turkish Delight. Um, the confection. They sold all kinds in all sizes. The blocks of Turkish Delight were huge in some cases. I preferred the bite-size pieces. With less nuts. Okay, all sugar. But, I did try some chocked with pistachio nuts.

And baklava. Did I mention baklava?

Honey and nuts never tasted so good together. We even visited a store that had ISO 9000-approved baklava. Tastes great and manufactured adhering to quality standards. The perfect combination.

I also went with Johan to a Turkish Bath and got the scrub, massage and wash treatment. It was a smaller bath, not one of the the big tourist draws. I was a bit apprehensive about being man-handled during the massage. I had read that they could be quite forceful. And, my back is a bit delicate. But, our big, sweaty, and hairy Turkish masseur didn't get too rough. How's that for a visual? It was so relaxing that I could have gone again the next day had I had the time.

But, there's never enough time to see and do everything that you want on vacation. You just have to enjoy the delights that you do get. For more photos of our trip to Istanbul, click here.

Lastly, I leave you with a tour of the Basilica Cistern and one of the many building in Topkapi Palace. The Cistern, dating from the 6th century, is the largest cistern beneath Istanbul.

Santorini: Summer Holiday 2009

I had heard the stories and read descriptions of sailing into the caldera in Santorini. But, second-hand accounts don't do justice to the experience. Seeing the towns with their blindingly white houses high up on the cliffs is an eye opener. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

This video shows us arriving by ferry. And also a day trip we took to Nea Kameni, the island in the center of the caldera.

After having blown off Santorini during my previous trip to Greece, I was finally here. Very exciting. But, not as exciting as the van ride from the port up to Fira. That was hair raising. I kept my eyes where they needed to be: on the rocks in the cliffs. The volcanic history of this island ensured some fascinating geology. At least to me. TJ, not so much.

Once we got settled in our hotel, we headed for Oia to see the sunset. Oia is pretty spectacular. Rebuilt on the cliff side after a 1956 earthquake sent nearly the entire town down into the water. We staked out our claim for choice viewing and let the sky, clouds and atmosphere take over.

Yes, I crush your picture perfect sunset!

We spent two nights watching the sunset at Oia. Both times as the sun faded out of sight, applause rose us from the crowd. Pretty freaking awesome. They applaud the sunset here!

As on Mykonos and Naxos, we rented an ATV for the day and headed out exploring other parts of the island. There was a beautiful red sand beach (like the one in Maui). And two black sand beaches. By this point in the trip, TJ and I had acquired quite a healthy tan. Is that an oxymoron? So, we stayed for awhile, tested the water, and moved on. As usual, we found some great gyros to snack on. And some pastries for me.

Fira is similar to Mykonos Town. But, not as geared toward clubs and late night craziness. Or maybe we just went back to the hotel before all that got started. Hmmm. Maybe.

During the day, the town buzzes with tourists in search of evil eye amulets, nodding donkey dolls, and other truly horrible gifts to remember their stay. I picked up a leather and twine bracelet. Reminds me of my early days living in Southern California. And at 3 euros, cheap.

At night, the crowds are still there shopping. And eating. And drinking. But, the town itself becomes the star. Lit up like a Christmas tree. Night and day in Fira are worlds apart.

Since Fira sits on a cliff, you have to do a little up and down to get from one part of town to the next. This usually is fairly benign. On the day we took a boat out into the caldera, we had to be at the old port. Which is located directly below the town. The way down wasn't too bad. Except for maneuvering around the donkeys. At certain points, they stood across all the steps. Move that ass!

On the way up, TJ noticed the numbers on the steps. At the top, we saw the sign indicating that there were over 500 steps from the old port to where we were.

This is me arriving at the top of the steps. Well worth the effort. We rewarded ourselves with lunch at our favorite restaurant, Santo Mythos. Nothing more than a simple gyro shop. But, they made the gyros just right. The shaved pieces of meat were crispy, yet juicy. The pita was crispy, soft on the inside, and glistening with oil. Santorini may have had less emphasis on seafood than Mykonos or Naxos, but they more than made up for it with traditional gyros.

And thus ended our Greek vacation. On to Turkey, where we could expect to find kebaps and baklava. Gastronomically, we weren't really going far.

For more photos of our trip to Santorini, click here.

Naxos: Summer Holiday 2009

Relaxing in Naxos. It's not hard to do. The crowds are much smaller on Naxos. There is no party all night atmosphere. In other words, it serves travelers who are a bit older. Like me. With less than 2 days to explore, we stuck close to the port in Naxos Town in the evening. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

But, we did rent an ATV and venture to some of the beaches to the South. The beaches so tranquil, the water, clear and warm. The beach below had its own church.

We found one little beach nestled underneath some cliffs and shared it with a total of six other people. We ended the day at Agios Prokopios. I snorkeled while TJ enjoyed a beer at a bar overlooking the beach. I later joined him for some tasty fried, fresh octopus.

Of course, this might be a little too fresh. But, it does highlight the fact that we ate some pretty damn good seafood on our march through the Greek Islands. The squid, cuttlefish, and octopus, in general, were superb. I'd be remiss if I forgot to mention that I found a favorite pastry here on Naxos: Galaktoboureko. It is layers of pastry filled with custard. Pure heaven.

For more photos of our trip to Naxos, click here.

The sunsets on Naxos were quite nice as well. We found a nice bar (Mojo) along the port in town that had the best view of sunset (with drinks). Here's a little taste.

Mykonos: Summer Holiday 2009

Mykonos. I have fond memories of Mykonos. When I arrived there for the first time in 1999, I had no set agenda. In fact, I had only planned to stay 4 days before moving on to Santorini. But having just come out, and being on an island filled with men from all over the world, I decided to stay a bit longer. At first, 8 days. Then, thirteen. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

Super Paradise, drag queens, amazing sunsets, and wandering around the narrow winding streets of Mykonos Town at night. Those were my memories then.

And those are my memories now.

This time around, we tried an alternative form of transportation: an ATV. Sure, you get quite an adventure taking the buses (which we did). And everyone seemed to have a scooter. But, then we started hearing the scooter accident stories. And seeing people with their arms in a sling or bandaged or bandaged in a sling. I admit to chickening out. So, an ATV was the compromise.

I saw so much more of the island than I was able to last time. And we got to wear these dorky helmets.

The nice thing about revisiting a place is re-experiencing the things you saw the last time. I found and photographed a church and a balcony arch that I had photographed on my first visit. Now, these images (with some new perspectives) are preserved digitally. And, I redid the walk from Paradise Beach to Super Paradise Beach. Last time, there was an indistinct path, but, it was well-traveled. This time around, there was a lot of development and a less-defined path. Sometimes, it's better not to revisit everything.

Of course, drinks along Little Venice never disappoint.

And watching sunsets never gets old. The sky just kept getting better every night. But, I'll let you be the judge.

Sunsets and cocktails. Now that is the end of a perfect day.

For more photos of our trip to Mykonos, click here.

Oh, I did mention drag queens, didn't I? Enjoy!

Athens: Summer Holiday 2009

I was in Athens 10 years ago. I had followed the advice from fellow travelers and decided to stay barely 24 hours in the city before heading on to the islands. I hopped a ferry from Brindisi, Italy to Patras, Greece. Then, caught a 2am train into the city arriving in the early morning. It was everything everyone had told me. A hot, dirty mess. I slept for a few hours and began to explore with my limited time. I climbed the Acropolis and toured through the National Archeological Museum (go there is you visit). But, I was glad to find myself the next morning on the docks at Piraeus waiting for a ferry to Mykonos. What a difference 10 years makes.

Athens is still a hot mess. A little less dirty. But, still a hot mess. It didn't help that seeing main attractions required us to walk to/from our hotel through Omonia Square. At night in this square, we walked past addicts with needles sticking of their arms. The subway comes in handy in times like these.

Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

The Athens I'll remember from this trip is all about architecture. Really old architecture. With really great light. There were some great little unexplored nuggets waiting to be found. Like the Temple of Hephaestus (above).

But, what was really nice was the opportunity to walk around the city at night. Lots of hustle and bustle in the main tourist area of Plaka. And some wonderful monuments that projected their former (and current) glory well. Walking beneath the Acropolis lit up at night on a quiet street away from the shopping and eating frenzy of Plaka is great therapy for erasing bad images of Athens.

The difference is like night and day. And the difference between walking around in daylight and at night is like, well, just watch the video.

Now, both of us ended up buying one of those gauzy, long-sleeved, white cotton shirts in Plaka. When in Greece...

For more photos along with descriptions of our trip to Athens, click here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Musik i Full Fart [Music at Full Speed] v5

A long overdue post of the music I've been listening to and highly recommend. Artist links will take you to an informational website (MySpace page, artist website, etc). Song links will take you to a video of the song.

Swedonia Songs
There is some really great pop music coming out of Sweden. The varied offspring of ABBA and Roxette keep forming new wondrous variations. I only wish my friends in the States had direct access to some/all of it. So, I'll do my part to enlighten and encourage.

Alphabeat's bouncy Fascination came out in 2008 but holds up well to global inspection even today. John ME has a yearning love song with the requisite reference to drugs, Love is My Drug, on which he duets with Amanda Jenssen (winner of Swedish Idol). At 3:05, it looks a lot like love. Another winner of Swedish Idol is Agnes Carlsson (or just Agnes). Her dancefloor hit, Release Me, is one of the best dance pop songs of 2009. YouTube seems to have pulled the video (since she has exploded on the music charts around the world), but you can watch it on her website. Another one of her songs, On and On, is more Eurodance but still lots of fun. Basic Element is a dance act from the 90's that re-emerged a few years ago. They are putting out blatant eurodance like Touch You Right Now. What's not to like about that? Then, there's Robyn. She's practically Swedish music royalty. Be Mine! is quirky pop. Very Robyn. Speaking of Swedish musical royalty, A Camp, the side group of Cardigan's lead singer, Nina Persson, released Stronger Than Jesus.

In spin class, I've gotten into the zone with some spirited music including Oh Laura with Release Me (Attic Remix) and Swingfly with Singing That Melody. Position 2, please.

Swedish acts are featured prominently in commercials. The Honeythieve's Reminder is used in television ads for Lindex. I love the global ad and the song for Magnum Temptation ice cream bars. Though, the music sounds a bit like the White Stripes. A DJ/music producer out of Stockholm creates sonic snippets for use in Cubus commercials. And I love them. Two ads, for Christmas and Summer, are the best. I think of them as my own personal soundtrack. I walk down the street and this music plays in my head. Try it. Oh, and the model in the commercials is Swedish supermodel, Mini Anden.

I'm a sucker for a good power ballad. I grew up in the 70's and 80's, so guilty as charged. When I heard Takida's Curly Sue, I knew I would like it in spite of myself. Why!?! And then there is my lone Swedish Alternative pick (cause Alphabeat is pop with a capital P), Mando Diao, with their Echo and Bunnymenesque song, Dance With Somebody.

Shena brings back the disco with her NuDisco gold, Can't Stop The Rain. David Guetta pairs up with Kelly Rowland for When Love Takes Over; this is the dance song of the Summer. And, yes, the Black-Eyed Pea's I Got A Feeling will compete with Guetta for song of the Summer. Hed Kandi continues to roll out (and rework) some great dance music including Warren Clark's Bitch is Back which features the aforementioned Shena on vocals. And Ali Payami's Dancin' which features vocals by Missum. She brings on the fun-K. Kraak & Smaak lay on the funk with Squeeze Me Tight. Utada is a Japanese-American who sings mainly pop who has had much more success in Japan. But, Automatic, Pt. II caught my attention. Sleek. Stylish. Tokyo at night. Laurent Wolf, French DJ/producer, has delivered with a followup to No Stress, again featuring Éric Carter: Wash My World. And finally a song from way back in 2007: Let Go by German DJ extraordinaire Paul van Dyk.

Moby's new release, Wait For Me, traverses one amazing sonicscape. Shot in the Back of the Head is sublime. When the weepy guitar comes in at 1:08, it's staggering. Pale Horses harkens back to Play quite nicely. Lily Allen actually wrote a song I like (Lily Allen = not so much). Normally, I think the whole Brits singing with a Brit accent a little much. But, this cheeky homage to a Carpenter's song, F*ck You is quite catchy. Diane Birch has some great pipes. Fortunately for me, she was featured on iTunes where I was exposed to Rise Up.

Adult Alternative
Seriously, I love Laura Izibor. This woman's voice has me hypnotized. She finally released an album with all the wonderful songs I'd heard before and some new favorites. This includes the quite lovely If Tonight is My Last. It puts a big smile on my face. Another new voice with promise is Angel Taylor with Make Me Believe. True, Yael Naim made her name by having her song, New Soul, included in an Apple commercial. Don't hold that against her. Instead, check out another single, Far Far, and enjoy.

A great voice not to be missed is Chrisette Michele with Blame it on Me.

Trip Hop
Tricky! He's back. Puppy Toy. Check it out.

Guilty Pleasures
I am not sure if these guys qualify as a guilty pleasure or the end of all things with taste as we know it. Star Pilots competed in Melodifestivalen 2009 with their song Higher. Needless to say they did not make it to Eurovision representing Sweden. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. So, where do I start? How about a contest? See how many song lyric cliches you can identify in this song. It is basically just a string of cliches set to a throbbing dance beat. Not as egregious and 100% eurodancepop is their other song In The Heat of The Night. Enjoy.

Archive Posts
Musik i Full Fart Volume I
Musik i Full Fart Volume II
Musik i Full Fart Volume III
Musik i Full Fart Volume IV

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hund Dag Eftermiddag

For the past few weeks, the weather here in Sweden has been nearly perfect. Blue skies with some occasional small puffy clouds. A nice breeze (or occasional strong wind) to cool you down. Temperatures have hovered around 27C (that's 80F for you Yanks). That's quite toasty by Swedish standards. And awe-inspiring sunsets. Det är sommar!

So, last weekend was a "home" weekend. As such, we decided to treat the dogs to a day at the beach. Like most places in the States, dogs are not allowed on beaches during this time of the year. But, there are a few places to be found. We headed about an hour South of Göteborg. Past the town of Varberg. To Holmen. The beach is situated right next to a nature preserve and a small boat harbor.

The water was extremely shallow. Which I found out once I thought I had lost the dog's water toy. The wind was pushing it further away. The toy was now quite far away and I assumed it was in deep water. I was in calf deep water wearing shorts with my wallet in my pocket. I looked to TJ for help. He had on board shorts. And likes to swim more than I do. So, off he went. It turned out to be shallow quite a ways out. He never had to swim at any point. Zoey, who followed him out, did. Good girl.

Zoey and Lily enjoyed themselves. Though, Lily had to retire a bit early since she's not the water dog she used to be. Here's a little video snippet of all the fun:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Weekender: French Riviera

Oh la la. We ventured to the South of France. The French Riviera to be exact. We arrived in Nice and traveled along the coast from Monte Carlo to Cannes. The weather was spot on. The scenery was picture-perfect. And the food was rich. Nearly everything was rich in this part of France. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

The concentration of wealth in this region was both breathtaking and mind-numbing. People made comments like, Bernie Madoff had his yacht berthed here or Bono owns a large estate nearby. People with money. So, this is what they do with it. The term "super yacht" could be bandied about with the greatest of ease; they were everywhere. Each town had a port with at least a few docked. In Monaco, TJ got his first glimpse of a super yacht breeding ground. There were tears in his eyes.

The beaches along the French Riviera were quite nice. Many of the beaches around Nice consist of smooth, flattened stones. And some extremely fine sand that borders on being invisible. But, there were some sandy beaches situated south of Nice in Antibes and Cannes. We sampled both areas. TJ is modeling the finest in Cannes beaches in this photo. Not too crowded. Warm, salty (bouyant) water. Nice, very nice.

And it was fun to walk around the old town sections of Antibes, Monaco, and Cannes. Some places, like Antibes were millennia old. Others, mere babes dating to the 12th century. I love wandering through narrow streets. Here, I'm taking in the sun and scenes in Cannes.

Quite frankly, while the sites and sounds of the French Riviera are full of delights, it's the tastes that inspire an out-of-body experience. Drool.

[You need to sing this next part to get the full effect] Flan, glorious flan! Oh how I love you! Every time I go to France, I get some flan. This trip was no exception. Rich. Thick. Creamy. It's worth every calorie.

And this little find topped off our day in Cannes. A mille-feuille nature. A crunchy crust like a crème brûlée. And that familiar custard inside.

For more photos of our trip to France, click here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekender: Stockholm

This post is a bit en retard as they in French. And, no, that has nothing to do with my state of mind. It's just a bit late. After the fact. Tardy. Moving right along.

A few weeks ago, we visited Stockholm along with our friend Peter. What a difference a year makes. Last year, we went to Stockholm at Easter and it was bitterly cold. And then some. This time around, it was North of 30C (that's mid-80F). And so, everywhere we went, TJ took time out to recline in the sun. In fact, most of the few pix I did take on this trip consist of TJ reclining. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

We stayed in Gamla Stan (old town) which is right in the heart of the city. The Stockholm Marathon was being run on Sunday. So, lots of activity. I took a fascinating solo tour of the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet). The Vasa is a preserved 17th ship that sailed 1500 meters out of Stockholm and sank. Now, if you are asking why I toured the museum alone, it has to do with Peter having been there already. And TJ being a bit "under the weather."

Um, yep. We had gone out the night before to two clubs (Paradise and Torget) and had a fun time. As usual, TJ befriended women and danced with them. And did his little jiggly dance (sans bottle on the head). There was a schlager cover band that performed most of the hits from this year's Eurovision finals. Oh, speaking of, some twink from Norway won this year's contest. Cute, the song, that is.

What trip would be complete without an animal adventure. This one involved Barnacle Geese. We took a ferry out to Fjäderholmarna in the Stockholm archipelago. A rather small island. And there were nesting geese everywhere. As usual, TJ wanted to pet whatever animals were in closets proximity. Now, Barnacle Geese are nice to look at. But, when they are agitated, they stick out their tongue which looks like a giant worm. Scary and gross. We had an encounter with one goose near a small path that went out to an outcropping of rocks on the shore. Needless to say, it didn't end well, but was quite comical.

All in all, it was a wonderful return to Stockholm. Such a beautiful, livable city. Retracing some of our steps from the last visit and exploring new parts of the city. Who could ask for more? On the way back to Göteborg, we had to stop outside of Borås and pick up the dogs. They were enjoying their stay at a kennel in the country. Just past Rude. Who knew it was a destination?

For more photos of our trip to Stockholm, click here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Weekender: Medieval Germany

Our weekender was a northern Germany rewind. The original destination was Lüneburg, but hotels were filled up, so we headed back to Lübeck. Both cities retain a charming medieval look with old buildings and narrow streets.

We arrived in Lübeck on a Thursday afternoon and were informed that a special Father's Day celebration was going on in the city. This celebration seemed to involve lots of drinking. People were pulling around small carts and wagons filled with beer. At this point in the day, it was mainly empty beer bottles. Most people were headed home.

Stores were closed as we wandered around old town (innenstadt). So no window shopping opportunities. We stopped at Paulaner's pub and had a pint of the namesake beer. Then on to dinner at a great Turkish restaurant, Ali Baba. We had been to both back in December and heartily recommend them. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

Lüneburg was suggested by a German traveler, Martina, that we met on New Year's Eve in Tenerife. She insisted that we visit Lüneburg rather than go back to Lübeck. And so, I put the city name on a list of places to visit. Five months later and here we are. A most excellent suggestion it was.

TJ is standing in front of the Fish Market (Am Stint) which is also known as the longest pub mile in Lüneburg. I think I elicited one of TJ's best smiles in this photo. Wish I could tell you what I was saying to him to get that reaction. It was something gross...but not dirty.

Kind of odd to have the statue of a creature with horns outside of a church. But, there it was butting right up against St. Mary's Church (Marienkirche) in Lübeck. Naturally, I had TJ take my picture with it. At first, I proclaimed it to be a devil. But looking at it now, it seems more like a satyr. Kinship, nonetheless.

And, finally, this: an advert for a gym in Lübeck. With a photo of some "women" doing step aerobics. Lady Men Fitness. Sounds like a old comedy routine from Saturday Night Live. Pump you up!

For more photos of our trip to Lübeck and Lüneburg, click here.