I know I said I would post more yesterday, but I took the day "off" to clean house. Sue me!
Maria pointed out, rightfully so, that on the first Sunday of our trip we also packed in a visit to the Dag Hammarskjold museum. How could I forget that? It was an old farmhouse where he used to live. It was surrounded by acres of land he owned...beautiful. My mother was a huge Hammerskjold fan...she was so proud when he was named Secretary General of the UN. He did a lot of good things for children around the world, and was a peacemaker. Probably the last true peacemaker the UN has had running it.
So, I left off with the fab party that the Lowerstroms threw for Sandra and which we were lucky to be part of. We met Birgitta's father and Mats mother and sister. We met Birgitta and Mats best friends, Ankie and John. John is a police man and travels all over representing the Swedish police at national police conferences in the US. He has been to more states than I have! He was very interesting and funny, we spent the night chatting with him mostly.
Did I say yet that we had "Ann Miller Vacation Weather?" When I go on vacation I usually get exactly the weather I need to do what I want to do. This is well-known. Even Jean tells people to plan their vacations around when I'm going away.
It didn't fail me in Sweden. We had sun when we needed sun, overcast, cool conditions when we were going out hiking and rain....at night. Except it did start to POUR just as Mats put the meat on the grill for Sandra's party! I got pictures of him, huddled under a beach umbrella he hastily rigged over the grill!
So, when we wanted to relax at the beach on Saturday, to recuperate from the party, of course we had the sunniest, hottest day of the trip...or so it seemed. We went to the beach, which had great sand, wasn't crowded at all and we all went for a dip...or two. I read my book on my Kindle in the sole beach chair, while the other three stretched out on blankets.
Afterwards we went to eat at the "Shakespeare" an authentic British pub that had been floated in from England and set up in this shore town. We started out sitting on the patio, but there was a guy playing piano there who was just "too much." And there was too much cigarette smoking going on. I will admit however, that it would have been worth it to endure all that just to watch the various characters who were sitting out there.
The piano player had to be gay. I mean, no straight guy would sing "Goodbye Norma Jean"...at least not with that look on their face! It was hysterical to hear those words cominig out with a Swedish accent! Too bad I didn't shlep my video camera over there.
I ordered the fish and chips...I figured, hell, I'm in a British pub...it should be good. Not! The fish was overbreaded and overfried....the stuff inside tasted like it was rotten. I focused on the chips part of the meal...which were greasy. Unfortunately, I think all of us ate at least some of those chips, so we all had to fight each other for the bathroom that night. All night long in my case.
On Sunday we got up, ate and left for the airport to fly to Stockholm....an eight hour drive by car, but it took us only 50 minutes in the air to get there!
When we went to get a taxi, Mats approached a guy and asked him about taking us to the hotel...I guess the guy didn't understand so Mats said, (IN ENGLISH!) "Do you speak Swedish?" The guy said, "Yes, I do, do YOU?" We laughed hysterically.
He turned out to be a nice guy and yes, he did take us to our hotel. When we got there they told us Birgitta and Mats room was ready, but our room, which was right next door, wasn't. So we went up to their room and stowed our bags there. Then we all headed out to explore Stockholm.
We took Maria to "Gamla Stan"...the "old town." This area is close to the palace, so we took a quick look there. Then we hiked down the famous street where all the tourists go and all the souvenir shops are calling to you. We found a place to eat on one of the side streets and got to sit out on the patio, watching folks go by. Good meal there. I had the weiner schnitzel....delish.
When we got back to the hotel I went to get the room key and the clerk told me she had to check something and took off. When she came back she told me we were in Rm 220. I told her "no, we are next door to them, in Rm 309." She said they had to move us and gave us a bigger room. So we all went up to get our bags and then we all went down to check out this room.
We walked down the hall on the second floor and found a door marked 220...but when we opened it, there were stairs going down! We went down the stairs and came out to an area where there was a room on the left--our room and straight ahead was a door that led out to a bar/patio area! We were the only room on this level!
We went in the room and it was bigger, it had an anteroom with a second tv and sitting area, a good sized bedroom...a big bathroom with double sinks. It had french doors opening out onto a little walkway that led to the patio area. The only thing it didn't have was Air Conditioning...and Maria and I are both in menopause! OUCH!
Birgitta was furious with them for changing our room and wanted us to protest. We started unpacking as we were tired and said, "let's see how it goes." So they left and we got ready for bed. But it started getting really hot in there. Soon we get a phone call from the desk, Maria answered. Apparently Mats filed a complaint with them about moving us and now they had a room on third floor for us! Maria didn't want to move all the stuff again, we were tired...so she said no to the move and asked for a fan. They brought one down.
The fan was a dinky plastic thing that was totally inadequate. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep like that. So, I got up and opened the french doors to let the air in. I knew it put us at risk for break-in (as if someone could actually FIND this room!), so I put a chair in the doorway, figuring that if someone tried to get in I would hear the chair move. I was all set to yell in a deep voice, "get out or I will shoot!"
We slept okay and the next day got out room moved to one with airconditioning. We slept good the next two nights.
This was a very nice hotel...the Hotel Stureplan. It is in the Stureplan area, hence the name, a very exclusive area of Stockholm, where all the rich and celebrities go to eat and shop. It was very nice walking around in that area. The hotel is an old building that has been restored and the rooms are very nicely decorated and appointed. I loved the "rain shower" showerhead in the bathrooms. You had a choice of the massage shower head (great water pressure) or the rain shower one....I would massage my shoulders, legs and back with the massager and then rinse myself with the rain shower. Now I have to have both in my new shower at home...when we renovate.
On Monday we went to see museums in the castle that I had already seen...but they did add new displays so it was cool. We also went on a boat tour "The Bridges of Stockholm." Stockholm is built on a huge archipelego, it's on a huge lake essentially. Everywhere you go you see water. We got on our tour boat and waited for other passengers....we expected a lot of them as the boat before us was loaded with people. Well....NO ONE else got on! We pulled away from the dock, the boat carrying the Lowerstroms and the Millers...that's it! It was like we had our own personal tour...we could shift from side to side of the boat to see what the "tour guide" (a recording in various languages) was talking about. It was so cool.
Monday night was a big night. We caught the train to the town where my cousin Lilian lives...she picked us up at that station and drove us to her house. She had a big meal planned for us. We were also jonined by cousin Peder, who I had never met.
Peder is doing a lot of genealogical study of our family and he brought cds for us that he had burned, containing the results of his research. We exchanged stories of the family and had fun. Lilian served us liver pate, a mushroom pate (delicious!) and a seafood bouilliabase that she had made. It was so good and so RICH! My stomach had trouble processing all of it and I spent the night in you-know-where.
Peder drove us back to our hotel. We really enjoyed meeting him...he has the great sense of humor we all seemed to get from our families. He told us that it seems that Carl and Carolina (my great grandparents) raised their children to believe that they could do anything they wanted to do if they were willing to work for it....my grandfather used to tell me that all the time. Their children grew up believing that...that's why they built their own houses when they knew nothing about carpentry; tackled new careers with zest and handled change with eager anticipation.
Tuesday we saw the changing of the guard at the palace and then toured the podalace. It's all so impressive! Sweden has a king and queen and the oldest princess married this year to her long-time sweetheart and former personal trainer, Daniel. The guard ceremony was great...I'm glad Maria got to see it...especially the drummer on the horse.
Excuse me but this is where I draw a bit of a blank about what else we did. I know that in Stockholm I ate only two meals a day...breakfast at our hotel...which gave us the opportunity to get our eggs and bacon...something Birgitta and Mats don't have at home....well, in that form anyway! HA! Breakfast at the Lowerstroms is a smorgasbord of cheeses; knackerbrod (rye crisp); liverwurst; ham; marmalade; pickles; and coffee. I am still eating in this style now that I'm home, but I have cheese and pickled herring on rye crisp.
Anyway...since I usually have meals help me remember the day I am a little fuzzy about the details of Tuesday...oh! We went to the Tre Kronor Museum, which none of us had seen before, then we went by boat to Skansen--Duresgarden...this is a huge area filled with various museums (like the Vasa Museum that I visited last time I was there); an amusement park; an area like we visited in Lund, with old buildings and houses that had been moved there from various parts of Sweden (like Old Sturbridge Village;)a great zoo and loads of walking and biking trails. They were also having that famous Tuesday night TV show that all of Sweden watches---a sing-a-long show. They hold it in this park. The place was packed with people trying to get into the show.
We went to get something to eat as it was well past noon. We went into a restaurant where they sold slices of pizza, etc....but the guy there was all alone and swamped with customers. When Mats got a cloth and cleaned off our table, the guy came over and yelled at him...for a long time. We got up and walked out. I told them I would treat to lunch and we went to the exclusive place that was next door and had one of the best meals of our trip!
Then we hiked through the old houses, taking a million pictures, everywhere you looked was a photo op. It was closing time, so we didn't get to go into any of them.
We hiked up the hill to the zoo and that was AWESOME! We saw babies....buffalo, bear and moose; we saw WOLVES and wolverines; we looked for, but couldn't find, owls. It's a great zoo....the habitats for each animal is large, with lots of variety for them...trees to climb on and over; water features, places to hide. If the animals don't want to be seen, you aren't going to see them. The kind of zoo I like.
When we got back to the hotel we tuned in the TV to watch the show from Skansen...I couldn't believe that this is the show I heard so much about, that dominates the Swedish airwaves on Tuesdays....maybe if I knew the songs it would be different...but I doubt it. I don't think I could watch for more than five minutes if I lived there. Hope I don't insult anyone by saying this...it's a Swedish thing...you have to be there.
On Wednesday our flight back to Malmo wasn't until 6:30 so I figured I would treat all of us to a massage and pedicure at the spa that is affiliated with the hotel. We got a price list and Birgitta reviewed it with me....OUCH!!! They wanted almost $200 for a massage and a $100 for a pedicure! We said no thanks and opted for roaming about the Old Town again, where we loaded up on souvenirs.
We made it back to the hotel to collect our bags, catch a cab and got to the airport with no time to spare! We were the last ones on the plane!
On Thursday we traveled to Aspo...the island where it all began for the Lowerstrom/Lofverstrom family. This is where my grandfather lived. We found the property with no problem and we even found a man who remembers hearing about a tailor (my great grandfather) who had beautiful gardens and when the kids graduated from school, they were allowed to go into the gardens and pick flowers. That felt good to hear that story.
We walked around the area where the family homestead once stood and took loads of pics. Again, a photo op every second. All the red cottages, with the beautiful gardens. We went to the church and the graveyard to see the family grave...although we know that they are not buried there...they moved the gravestone a few years ago. I left stones on the gravestone, to let them know that someone from the family had been there...if a grave is considered abandoned, they get rid of the stone.
It felt like it took forever to get back to Svedala from Aspo. Birgitta had to drive as Mats was pooped and not feeling well. It rained on the way home...it was like Sweden knew we were leaving.
On Friday we packed and headed for the airport in Copenhagen. Some confusion about getting our boarding passes and getting our bags checked...good thing Birgitta was there to help us figure things out.
We bid tearful goodbyes and got on the plane for the USA. In Iceland, my name was on the randomly selected list to have my carry-on bags searched. They pawed around nside my shopping bag and my purse and then had the gloves swabbed and the sample put into a machine for analysis. Very cool. I passed, of course, and they gave me a bottle of Iceland water for my troubles. Good water.
Sandy and Jean picked us up at airport and took us home. It felt good to see the doggies and Murphy and it was great to sleep in my own bed and have the free rein of my bathroom! HA HA! I am already working on getting Sandy to agree to go to Iceland...she said she would like to go for a week...which is more than I thought I would get out of her...I was thinking a long weekend!
Since I have returned I found out that Windows can't process more than half the pictures I took! It says that the files are corrupted. Bullshit! I cToan see them in the camera! I'm going to take the camera down to Coopers and have them put the pictures on a CD for me.
I am losing a half pound a day...which is good as I gained aout five pounds on vacation...all that bearneaise sauce and good Swedish cooking!
I made an appointment about the hernia, which acted up a little on the trip. They are going to see me today, so I'm off to shower, change and get my butt to New Haven after I finish this.
I have lots of MD stuff coming up....CT scan next week and then seeing Dr. D. for my quarterly cancer follow-up on the 1st and Olympia for my (non-existent) GYN appt on the 2nd. I don't know how that works...do I still go for annual appts if I have no "works" down there? And if I'm seeing the surgeon every three months.
Another great thing...the mammogram that I had done before I left for Sweden came out okie doak. Olympia sent me a nice note with the results, telling me how she thinks of me all the time and prays for me. I am so fortunate to have health care people like her in my corner!
Okay, I'm sweating out here now on the patio. Have to get everything inside.
Oh...remember that wren that built the nest in the hose reel by the back door? Well, she had at least two babies and I've gone through hell everyday worrying about them...are they still alive? Is she still alive and feeding them? Have the dogs been bothering them, etc. So far so good, despite the fact that every day I tell myself that they are dead. Can't wait for them to get the hell out and fly away! Then I'm going to destroy that nest and put up a wren house on the wall above the hose reel...let her use that next damn time!