As I mentioned in my last post, Friday was midsummer eve in Sweden, a very sacred holiday! It seems almost as big as Christmas. Everything is closed and the city is practically empty because everyone goes to the country to celebrate the occasion.
My uncle and aunt took us out to the country for the day to take part in a traditional midsummer celebration. This involves the ceremonial raising of the maypole, followed by performances by the local folk dance group all dressed in traditional costumes, after which everyone joins in to sing and dance around the maypole.
This woman made her costume, from weaving the fabric to sewing it together. Very impressive!
It's traditional to make a wreath of flowers to wear, so Herbert made one to fully immerse himself in the midsummer experience.
I included this last photo to show a super Swedish country house.
I'm a little behind in my posts. We arrived back in Stockholm last night after surviving our second strike! This one was a general strike in France which just happened to be the day we were getting the train from Avignon to the airport and flying to Stockholm. Luckily with some forewarning it went smoothly despite our train being cancelled.
Before I get back onto Sweden I wanted to share some photos of the local produce market in Uzes which was pretty amazing. I've never seen so many olives in one place!
By the way today is Swedish Midsummer eve, so happy midsummer everyone!
After our short Paris interlude we took the super fast TGV train to Avignon in the south of France. We stayed in the picturesque village of Lussan, about an hours drive from Avignon. Toby's parents invited us along to stay there with them in the most beautiful villa that's no less that 350 years old. Lussan sits on top of a hill with a little castle and a wall surrounding it. The night we arrived it just happened to be the annual village feast which was held in the little village square. It couldn't have been more French with two musicians, three lambs on spits (not really my kinda thing but a cultural experience none the less), plenty of wine to go around followed by endless amounts of cheese and cake of course. Here are some photos of our villa and Lussan.
The first thing we did after arriving in Paris was eat mounds of cheese with baguettes, cakes and drink wine, followed by a boat ride up the Seine to see the popular tourist attractions, which I have to say always live up to expectations. With only one more day to explore the rest of the city we consulted the book Paris: Made by Hand by Pia Jane Bijkerk which took us to some really interesting areas. The book is laid out in chapters that cover different parts of Paris and the interesting boutiques one can encounter. The first one we took led us to a large street that didn't seem to have anything of interest until we stumbled upon a fabric and coat making shop. There were several looms and about 5 people sewing on machines producing the most beautiful coats.
As we continued down the street we came across an umbrella maker, violin maker, sculptors, chair designers and map specialists. The next shop we came to was an embroidery boutique with amazing fabrics and exquisite embroideries lining the walls. It's probably been about 15 years since I cross-stitched and I thought it might be fun to give it a go so I bought a pattern.
The next section we decided follow was through a beautiful, perfectly parisian area full of paper shops. The boutiques had amazing insect prints, rubber stamps, journals, letter paper, basically anything to do with paper.
After our tour of not-as-touristy Paris we took the metro out to the last station to have dinner at a lovely little restaurant with Toby's parents. The desert was amazing! No photos of that unfortunately because I ate it too fast.
Ok so the amount of things going wrong on this holiday is getting ridiculous! This post was meant to be about our day and a half in Paris but that will have to wait because yesterdays events can't be ignored. I'll run through all the horrible things that have happened so far in order..
1. Just before we left, our travel agent noticed that I had booked my ticket under my name Torunn with two 'n's which is the way I've spelt it all my life, but on my Australian passport and only on that passport is it spelt with one 'n'. For some reason this 'n' was a huge problem so it had to be changed and ticket rebooked costing $230!
2. Despite requesting vegetarian meals on all flights, China Air had no record of this.
3. After checking and rechecking with our travel agent that China Air would have accommodation for the two of us in Beijing for the stopover, upon arrival we discovered they only had a hotel voucher for one of us. This left us with half the bill at Beijing 100% Perfect Hotel which wasn't very cheap!
4. When we arrived in Sweden we had to get a large sum of money out to pay for our apartment which could only be done in cash. Upon trying one of the ATMs the little screen told us it couldn't connect with our bank and no money was available. We realised later the ATM had withdrawn $750 from our bank account and so begun the quest to get that money back from the greedy bank.
5. The airline strike
Lastly, quite possibly the worst
6. While having lunch in an idillic town in the south of France our hire car window was smashed and my camera bag with my digital SLR, two lenses and flash was stolen, not to mention two of my favourite brooches!
At this point it's hard not feel a little down, but all you can do is try to put it in the past and enjoy the rest of our holiday. Luckily my little digital camera wasn't in the bag so I can still take lots of photos!
Getting to Paris wasn't as easy as we had planned. It turned out the airline we were meant to be flying with went on strike, so after getting to the airport at 9am we joined what seemed like thousands of people needing their flights rescheduleled. There were only three people serving so we soon realised we'd be queuing for quite some time. Then 'quite some time' turned into 10 HOURS!!!!!! It looked something like this...
After 6 hours we were given food vouchers!
After 10 hours of waiting we were finally served only to find out we wouldn't be leaving for Paris until the following day. The airline provided us with a hotel room in a small Swedish town which was actually really lovely. It was a huge relief to leave the airport and lie down. I had no idea standing in a queue could so exhausting!
So the following day we made it onto a flight!!!!
FINALLY WE MADE IT TO PARIS!!!!!!
During our travels I've been playing around with hipstamatic on Toby's iphone which is pretty cheesy but I'm still really enjoying the results so I thought I'd share some of the photos of Stockholm before we head off to France. The last photo is of my grandpa on his 90th birthday.
Over the last week Toby, Herbert and I have been exploring Stockholm and Swedish culture. We've wholeheartedly embraced the cake and lolly eating culture, blueberry cordial drinking and the patriotism. Herbert invested in a Swedish flag so he could proudly hold it in front of the royal palace where we watched the changing of the guards.
As some of you may have heard there's a royal wedding happening here in Stockholm on Saturday. This has prompted the city to put on the Love 2010 festival with free outdoor concerts, an interactive exhibition based on love and Ikea has put together a tongue-in-cheek mock castle where the newlyweds will be living, it's incredibly well put together and quite funny. Here are some photos...
Everywhere you look in the city there is some reference to the wedding and in almost every shop you can buy postcards, plates, mouse pad, dish cloths, magnets, serviettes, basically anything you can think of with the princess and her fiance printed on it. You can even buy your own set of the official porcelain they will be using at the reception!! Toby, Herbert and I will be leaving for Paris on Wednesday so will miss the big day in question and will return to Sweden the following week.
After a fairly harrowing 38 hour trip over sea and land, Toby, Herbert and I arrived at the lovely idillic land of the Swedes. The most 'interesting' part of our transit was a 15 hour stopover in Beijing where Air China provided us with a room at the Beijing 100% Perfect Hotel, which didn't exactly live up to it's name. We were carted off there at 1am in this lovely van pictured below. The stay was brief but we'll be returning to Beijing at the end of our trip and will definitely be avoiding this 100% Perfect Hotel!
Since arriving in Stockholm it's been a whirlwind of catching up with family and never-ending days. It's light all the time and it's taking a bit of getting used to especially with jetlag in the mix. The first night I woke up at 3am, saw it was light outside so decided it must be time to get up and start the day until I realised the time, went back to sleep, woke up at 6am thinking I must have slept till midday. The evenings are the same, so far we haven't been able to stay up past 10pm when it's still light, I'll have to stay up all night to find out if it ever gets dark.
While we're in Stockholm we're renting the cutest little apartment is a beautiful part of the city. Below are some photos of our place. The third photo is of the feature wall in the living/dining room which has the most awesome wallpaper I've ever seen. It makes me want to own an apartment or house so I can wallpaper parts of it.
Here are Jozz and Lucy, monthly masterpiece #3! I made the characters from Jozz and Lucy's wedding invite that they designed themselves. I gave them to the lovely couple yesterday at their wedding which was a huge success!
Right now it's 6am and I'm doing my last minute packing and then leaving for the airport! I'm too tired at the moment for excitement but I'm trusting the excitement will hit a little later on.
Have a great Sunday!