Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Drinking Perfume in Sweden

Our last stop before the magical journey home (besides Iceland, we also flew over Greenland, which blew my mind just a little at how desolate yet gorgeous it is) we were in Stockholm visiting the lovely Bronwyn and Daniel (old friends of J's) for a week. 

It's funny, when you're traveling you want to see everything you can, especially in another country. But with them, it was about quality conversations, having a few unique experiences and being able to share them with each other. 

One of the beautiful spots we went to was a cemetery that's actually a world heritage site, Skogskyrkogarden.
Graves and chapels amongst the trees. Exquisite. And home to Greta Garbo. Also home to the Resurrection statue!

We visited the Nordiska Museet (museum) and rented bikes on a sunny afternoon, sipping lattes in an apple orchard on one of the smaller islands of Stockholm. This was one of the most beautiful moments we had. The sun was beaming, the geese were being chased by a little boy, who I'm sure ended up getting chased back, the cakes were delicious and we were smiling.

This was also the spot that Penelope discovered her love of the nectarine.

She ate an entire one by scraping it little by little with her two bottom teeth. Our child is awesome.

We took a day trip to Uppsala for the Midsummer celebration to see the Maypole and traditional dancing, and to see the ancient rune stones and walk along the viking burial mounds.

 We also discovered this gorgeous river running through the city on our way back to the train.
And, being blessed on the Solstice, it was so fitting that we saw this statue!

I was overwhelmed with how perfect the timing. (For non pagan readers, you should know that Midsummer is celebrating the goddess and her consort, and that she is swelling with life, much like the fields are ripening for our first harvest.

Speaking of being blessed on the solstice... we saw the statue above on the day of the Midsummer celebration, AND on the day of Summer Solstice itself, we came across this:

Yes, that's Thor Fishing. I met Thor in Sweden on the Solstice. Hell. Yes. Another incredible moment that I was able to share with a new friend. (heart)

On the Friday night after our Uppsala trip, we were treated to a party and got to participate in a traditional Swedish Midsummer feast - which essentially is a lot of pickled herring and schnapps (pronounced snaps). Now, let me just pause here for a moment to describe the feast.

Take a new potato, that has been boiled with dill
Top it with sour cream and chives
Place a piece of pickled herring on top
Drink a shot of schnapps
Repeat but with a different flavor of pickled herring

Or in the case of the schnapps that tasted like a Sears perfume counter girl sprayed cologne in our mouths, down a glass of wine - THEN repeat. 

We made a cake, which is essentially a giant strawberry shortcake, but for some reason the Swedes have claimed it as their own, and we learned the frog song. Yes. There is a wicked awesome frog song, which we sang. poorly.

Oh, and I got P a stupidly adorable bonnet.

That was Sweden!


Monday, 25 June 2012

Nedews is Sweden backwards

Last I wrote we were still in Ireland, and much has happened over the past 3 weeks. That one bad day lead to a lot of phenomenal ones. I got to visit the Boyne Valley and go inside the tomb at Newgrange, look out at the land at the Hill of Tara, leave offerings for the gods and continue the blessing for Penelope (a counter to the horrible island adventure).

J joined us in Dublin after it had been just P and I for two and a half weeks. Say it with me now: Adjustment! But it was so wonderful to reconnect as a family. We toured the city, and the Guinness Brewery, and I got to do a whiskey tasting at the Old Jameson Distillery! 

We saw J's brother and his beautiful partner join in wedded bliss (in a really wicked castle in Scotland), we went hutting (off the grid cabin) in the Highlands and drove through the Cairngorm Mountains, we took a black cab tour in Belfast in a silver mini van and lay down for the Goddess and her consort in Sweden on the Summer Solstice. 

Before we hit Canada, we were in Iceland. Just for a stop in Reykjavik. (To grab a bottle of Icelandic Vodka) Flying over all the various terrain has us planning a future vacation to swim in the Blue Lagoon, hike the mountains, snowshoe across glaciers and warm up in the hot springs. It was the most magical, diverse and beautiful landscape I have ever seen. 

Yes, it was that kind of vacation; we went everywhere.

I have so many stories to tell and don't really know where to start, I'm going to have to write a book. You will then have to buy it to hear about the 34 days on the road in Europe with a baby. I'll make back some of what the trip cost, you'll get to read a fun story and we'll call it a day. ;)

No? Okay. Reader's Digest version it is. Let's go backwards, starting with Sweden.  

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Tourist Scam: Welcome to The Aran Islands

The Aran Islands: home of the Aran Sweater. The Aran Islands: one of the main reasons I'm staying in Galway for the Ireland leg of our trip. Inis Mor (the big island): the biggest tourist scam I have ever seen.

We ventured out yesterday morning to do what I truly thought would be the highlight to our Ireland adventure. I had hoped to rent a bicycle with Penelope in tow and check out the middle sized of the three islands. Just take the day to soak up the salt air and have a picnic on the rocky beach. . I let my host talk me into going to the big island. She said the fort was outstanding and there would be lots of amenities nearby for the baby and what not. Why not?! Locals would know better than me so off to the ticket office we went. The guy working claimed he was short on cash and would have to bring my change to the bus. He did not. Yes, I got a receipt from them, I'm not that trusting. I am a little annoyed that I have to go back today to get my money though. 

What started off as a horrible day, got worse. Although, before I get in to that part of the story, let me share the adorableness of Penelope on the bus to the ferry port. 

My attempt to pepper this story with bouts of cuteness and positive enlightenment is helping me feel better about the day. We made it there without any fuss, and she was great on the boat too. SHE was amazing all day. Except for the helmet incident.

When we arrived on Inis Mor, there was a pushy guy directing tourists to his bike shop. This is the same bike shop that wouldn't return any of my emails. I now know why. When I tried to ask him about baby helmets and restrictions he blatantly ignored me. So on to the next bike shop we go, where they have helmets for P but just a seat on the back of a bike, which she needs to be a toddler for. 

I figure I might as well pay a little extra and just get the horse and wagon. I have always dreamed of touring around Ireland in a little caravan. I asked one man, who told me he wouldn't take the baby because his horse was too new. Fair enough. The next guy said he would take me but that he takes 6 people. Another couple joined me and we waited for a few more people. A a group of four asked to get on. He told them to take a seat. Guess who got left out? At that point all the other horses had gone, and all the coaches had left. I just walked over behind a bush and cried. And then I cried a little more. Turns out I'm averaging one meltdown a week on this trip. Not bad I figure.

I told myself not to let this ruin the day, I had spent all this money to get here, and waited for the perfect weather to do the trip, so I wiped my nose, dried my eyes and went to another bike shop, the last on the island. They had a chariot. *happy dance* He said if P could sit upright in it he wouldn't be too strict on the age requirement. We got it all hooked up, he charged me twice what he quoted me but at that point I didn't even care. I got P situated in it and discovered they only had a toddler helmet. I tried to tighten it on her head but she... well... lost. her. shit. Massively. This was just not happening. 

I went and got ice cream and bought a sweater. Retail and chocolate therapy together. 

I decided to walk down the road and just look at the beach to figure out what to do. We had a moment in the sand where P tasted the ocean for the first time! 

So, after breathing the salty goodness that is the air here on the west coast, I decided we'd go eat our lunch in the grass and wait for the tours to return. I'd grab one as it came in. As I was walking up the road, one of the caravans came towards me, and Patrick (of course) asked me if I was the lady looking for a buggy tour. I said yes, the women in it let us join them and I smiled for the first time that day. 

We stopped to hike up to the little St. Patrick church, which is the smallest in all of Europe. That was pretty cool. Walking the rocky hills, sidestepping cow patties and connecting to the land a little.
The foot of the path to the church
Almost there
View from halfway up
The church
After that I discovered they had done all the sites the day before and were going to another part of the island. 


But, we ended up at the water's edge...

... and I failed to be in the moment. It was beautiful but the whole time I was trying to figure out what my lesson was. Why was I being put through all this. Don't get me wrong, I still soaked up as much as I could, but it didn't hit my spirit. I even got to see a seal and wasn't moved. I think by that point I was just done.

We got back to the ferry port and I went to get on the 4 o'clock boat. (scam ticket guy told me I could buy a 5 but come back early if I wanted) They wouldn't let me on. So, I got to wait another hour. Beer please! At this point I really just wanted to get off the island.

So all in all: £8 for the bus, £25 for the ferry, £15 for the jaunt to the church and water's edge, £7 for the Guinness and chips I had while waiting for the 5pm boat (okay that part was alright) and £10 for the scam on my change. £65 for the day. Not worth it, time wise (spending one of my precious days in Ireland there) or money wise. Advice: go to one of the smaller islands and just connect with the land and yourself. 

It's beautiful but the tourist scam on Inis Mor ruins the beauty.

Lesson: ALWAYS go with your gut, and ALWAYS do what your spirit is being called to do. I realize that the universe will guide us to what we are meant to do... but it's up to us to be present in that moment and recognize it. I ended up where I wanted to be when I started the day and failed to because I was so caught up in the negative that happened. 

So, today I've decided I'm going to Dublin early. It's a rainy, grey day. Perfect for travel. I leave all that behind and take the lessons with me.  Sláinte!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Galway, the city I may never leave

I sit with blisters on my happy feet and a glass of wine to my right. Playing in the background is the CD I bought today off of a group of buskers from Portland, Oregan (The Underscore Orkestra) *happy sigh*

Today was an exploration like no other. Sun shining, we decided on a self guided walking tour and ended up seeing almost everything I wanted to in one afternoon. 

Notice the "pedestrian zone" sign. This is an entire area where no cars are allowed. It's brilliant. There are fantastic street musicians all along the cobblestone roads and shops, cafes, restaurants, and pubs. I'm in love. I still need to hit the Latin Quarter and the Market, but we sat in Eyre Square, visited the Galway Museum and walked through the Spanish Arch.

Inside the arch (super cool)
 Oh, and because I know you miss her - Penelope at the Spanish Arch...

Oh, if you were wondering, the Occupy movement is strong here too:

After strolling through the pedestrian way, and making a big giant dent in my Euro budget on delicious picnic type foods, we sat in the grass. Me sipping my latte, Penelope making eyes at the guy with the guitar. 

This was the view to the left....

 and to the right...

See why I'm in love?
It was far too beautiful a day and with rain inevitably in the forecast, decided to head to Salthill. It was a bit of a hike, but worth it! Not only did P snooze the whole time, the second the salt air hit my nostrils it was like I was home again. We've had so many adventures up til now, but today was my first without any frustration or negativity (let's just say the nights have been tough). It's as if the ocean cleansed me. I am hoping for another nice day so we can go back. I would love to see Penelope's reaction to the waves of the Atlantic and build a castle in the sand for her to destruct. 

Tomorrow it's Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. It's a bus tour so I'm hoping it's as exquisite as everyone says.  If not, outside of cycling on the Aran Islands, I'm spending the rest of my time in this incredible city! Hell, I may never leave it. 

Bickiepegs: will they prevent blood from being drawn?

Yesterday P and I traveled to Galway, Ireland. Being a travel day, she was on the boob. A lot. Ten months and teething. Ten months and traveling. Ten months and... biting. By the time I had questioned whether or not my nipples were bleeding (for the 7th time) I started to wonder if these brilliant little teething biscuits I found, might be encouraging the chomp factor.
I have discovered Bickiepegs, they are all natural and taste a little like cardboard. Eww away, I think it's pretty perfect since P is constantly trying to eat any paper she can get her hands on. But these are hard, so that she is able to chomp down on them like a teething ring. 

They don't dissolve like the rice crackers, or have all the sugar the MumMums have. But, I wonder, is giving her something that hard and encouraging her to gnaw away on it transferring to when she nurses? I hope not, because I think these things are brilliant and I'm truly hoping they will give her something else to clamp down onto. 

Bickiepegs: will they prevent blood from being drawn? I fear a pump and a bottle may be in our future if not.