Monday, July 27, 2009

Vacation weeks 2 & 3 (of 3)

Just got back to Stockholm after our Southern/West Coast swing and am getting ready to pack up and head out on the final leg of my long vacation to Seattle for a few days.

After the first week of boating and messing around at the summer house, we took off for a week long road trip to the Southern part of Sweden, Skåne and Österlen. It's truly a beautiful part of the country, and a bit different than any other part. Reminds me a lot of Nebraska by the sea oddly enough. Wide open fields right next to rocky seascapes, and the weather seems to be a bit more temperate than the rest of the country.

We started off with a 2 night stay with some friends of Cecilia's parents outside Malmö. In addition to their fine hospitality, we enjoyed a round at Bärsebäck Golf & CC, site of the SAS Masters Cup (which just finished). My golf season kicked into high gear here and I shot my best round ever, a 9 over par 80. It was enough to drop my handicap to a respectible 14, which subsequent rounds would show is probably too low. Crappy thing about the Swedish handicap system is that you can lower your handicap pretty easily with a good round (I went from 18 to 14.1), but when you play 3 crap rounds after that (which I did), you don't raise it nearly as quickly (I'm now at 14.3 despite 3 horrendous rounds). So with my one-time fantastic round, I basically shot myself in the foot for the upcoming company tournament in September where I'll have to play on a 14 handicap.

After our stay north of Malmö, we pointed the Volvo east towards Simrishamn to meet up with some of Cecilia's old friends and tour the countryside, including a beach stop, tour of an apple orchard, a couple small fishing villages and ending at a great little B&B in the middle of nowhere where we enjoyed a great dinner. Highlight was the parmasean cheese sauce served w/the steak Cecilia had. Tasted fantastic and the chef gave me the recipe which is embarrassingly easy. Cream, paramsean cheese and a bit of lime juice. I'm going to give it a go tonight to see if I can recreate it.

We took off early for another round of golf among the apple orchards and along the sea at Lila Vik. Not the worst round in the world, those would come later. Cecilia did have a brain fart which made for a good laugh around the 13th hole (see picture below for explanation).

After our round, we meandered along the coast south towards Ystad, stopping at about every antique store and flea market on the way before finally arriving in Ystad. It was sort of a last minute decision to stop here and we booked a room a couple days in advance. A wildly popular detective series ("Wallander") was filmed here, and now the Brits are doing an English version. All English actors speaking English, but its set in Sweden and all the characters have Swedish names. If it doesn't sound strange, take my word for it, it is. Anyway, the cast and crew totally booked 2 hostels for about 2 years and that on top of it being high season, we were left with the one hotel room left in an ancient hotel on the main street. Sounded good, until we got there. The receptionist said it wasn't a double, but 2 single beds. "Fine", we thought, "we can just push the beds together". Wrong. The room was essentially 2 closets they combined. 2 single beds, with a 1/2 wall separating them, and, the kicker, 2 mounted TV's on either side of the 1/2 wall. The 2nd kicker, the toilet was in a closet. 3rd kicker, so was the shower, only a different closet. By far the strangest hotel room we ever stayed in.

A nice meal and we were off the next day for some outlet shopping on our way back to Stenungsund. Our final week there was spent at the summer house just relaxing and doing a bit of gardening, which continuously surprises me how much I enjoy weeding. I could sit there all day just turning dirt. Cecilia and Carl-Axel kept interrupting me with dinner and other small trips though. In the end, I got most of one entire flower bed done and it's looking good considering it was basically a lawn when I started.

That was it really, 3 weeks and we made a few trips, but in the end it felt like we didn't do too much. I don't think Cecilia was ready to head back to work today, but I think I will be when I get back from Seattle. That said, I need to do a bit of packing before I leave tomorrow.

Cecilia doing her impression of the Turning Torso in Malmö

Another shot of the Turning Torso. Its an apartment building apparently.

At Clas & Kerstin's house outside Malmö. Theme for the vacation: Pimms Cup.

Enjoying some freshly made Gaspacho after meeting Cecilia's old friend Maria and her boyfriend Frederik. I don't remembering it being quite as blissful as the expression on my face would indicate. Good though.

Cecilia sampling some of the Applemust from Kivik's Musteri

Relaxing and deciding what to have for dinner at our B&B in Österlen.

Golf at Lila Vik.

Even though I look good, I don't think I hit the green here.

So there was a little sign next to this green "contraption" advertising smoothies. Cecilia was disappointed when, despite her best efforts, no smoothie came out of it. "It" being the BALL CLEANER. Cecilia is catching on to golf quickly, but apparently still has a way to go.

Cecilia was a bit overly enthusiastic about the poppies we found. I did check her bag for contraband.

The hotel. You can see the double TV's hanging on the wall.

Ales Stenar - These extremely old rocks in a formation that no one know's definatively why they are there.

Down the hill from the rock circle thing towards a little harbor where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch of....

Fresh Ale (shelf life 3 months), potato salad, shrimp salad, 2 kinds of smoked makerel, and freshly baked bread. Delish.

Back at the summer house, admiring my flower bed work.

It don't get more Swedish.

Crayfish dinner before we left the West coast. Delish.

Wine on the train. I'm finding I love riding the train between Stockholm and the west coast. Even though we rode the slow "milk train" and it took almost 5 hours, it's more enjoyable than flying.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swedish vacation (week 1 of 3)

(don´t judge grammar or spelling, this was hastily put together on our way out the door...) *

The first week of our summer holiday in Sweden has come to a close. If the first week is any indication, the remaining two are going to be fantastic.

We began last Saturday with a comfortable ride on the fast train from Stockholm, first class. Apart from the free coffee and slightly wider seats, I'm not sure what makes it first class. Crossing the breadth of the country in 3 hours is nice (it would take considerably longer to cross the length but we'll save that for another vacation).

A (terrible) round of golf at our home course in Stenungsund Sunday morning before readying the sailboat for our trip to Åstol, a small island in the western archipelago. We had a pleasant 2 hour trip to the island Brattön, where Cecilia's sister and family have their summer house. Cecilia and I spent our first night, which for me was one of fittful sleep, on the boat, and we departed for Åstol just after lunch. With I at the helm and Carl Axel as navigator we made the hour and a half trip through some relatively choppy waters and arrived at the disgustingly picturesque harbor. A few Pimms Cups (the quintessential summer drink) and a change of clothes and we were ready for what brought us here: Daniel Lemma at the smokehouse.

For those of you who don't know, Daniel Lemma is a Swede of ethiopian descent who's rise to fame (in Sweden) came when he penned the soundtrack to a hilairous film here. He's enjoyed moderate success with his subsequent releases but hasn't quite made a name for himself outside his homeland. I've been a fan ever since his first release and his song, "If I used to love you" was what Cecilia and I had our first dance to at our wedding (5 years ago in August!!!). The venue for the show was a 75 or so capacity dining room at a retaurant where smoked shrimp are the specialty. Between the friends/family, all you can eat shrimp, and the fact the venue was so small I could have refilled Daniel's water glass without getting out of my seat, it was easily one of the best musical experiences of my life. After the show I had a beer and a chat with Stephan, Daniel's very talented muti-instrumental backing musician aboutBreaking into the US and the music industry in general.

The plan was to leave the next day, but the weather was so fantastic and having nothing really to do, we poured a few more Pimms Cups and laid back in the harbour and relaxed for another day.
After making it back to the mainland, we loaded the car up and headed out to the summer house at Råö, which has been in Cecilia's mother's family for 3 generations. Cecilia is taking up the project of interviewing her grandmother about the history of the house for a coffee table book to be published in a very limited run (of 1, so don't be looking for it in your local Barnes & Nobel any time soon). We spent the next 2 days gardening and doing odd jobs around the house and its looking pretty good.

Today we are taking off for a roadtrip down south to Skåne, where the dialect boarders on Danish, for some golf and sightseeing.

The Swedish is coming along now. I can more or less follow any conversation I hear, with varying degrees of comprehension. I can almost always figure out at least generally what people are talking about. Speaking has proven to be the most difficult, but my interactions with Swedes have ceased to begin with "Pratar du engelska?/Do you speak English?" and I'm taking a stab at getting my message across, with varying degrees of effectiveness. When things get a little over my head I just pretend I know what people are talking about and just nod. It reminds me of how David Sedaris described learning French. Whenever someone would say something, he'd reply, "d'accord/ok" and see what happens. Fortunately I haven't found myself in my underpants in a doctors office waiting room, surrounded by fellow fully clothed "waiters" as a result of my faked comprehension, unlike Sedaris...yet.

Enjoy some pics from the last week...and the video of DL playing at Åstol at the bottom (if it ever finished loading...)

*computer froze so this is getting uploaded a week after it was written...(Cecilia)

a lovely couple.

Captain and skipper

Daniel Lemma and Stefan

Åstol...what you see is the extent of it.

It looks nice, but not nice enough to tempt me. Its not the Florida or South Carolina or Indonesia bathwater temperatures I am used to.

The family enjoying mackerel at the summer house.