Travel

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 37 (Paris, London, Vancouver, Victoria)

I’ve been awake for 21 hours now, and travelling for 19 of them. Yes, it has been a long day. On the 10 hour flight from London to Vancouver I watched five movies: Hugo, Little Women, Arthur Christmas, White Christmas,  and  The Grinch.

In the course of my travel only two things broke and both of them were things I bought for myself, not gifts for other people. So yay I guess?

Honestly, I am so tired that the world is spinning right now, so I’m going to go to sleep and we can catch up on the end of the trip when I’m more awake. Deal?

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 36 (Paris)

At the Moulin Rouge

At the Moulin Rouge

This morning I left the hotel with a plan: head to the Eiffel Tower early to go up it before the line got too long. When I was about halfway there I realized that I’d forgotten my camera on my bed, so I turned around and headed back, stopping at the mall across from the hotel for one final dress shop. And behold, I found a dress! It’s not what I thought that I would buy, but I like it and it will be great for all the upcoming openings.

After dropping my new dress off in my room and freshly armed with my camera I decided to take a new approach to the day and jumped on the metro to Montmartre. I explored Sacré-Cœur and happened to be in the basilica during a service, so the nuns were all up there singing in some combination of Latin and French. It was beautiful. But of course it was another “no photos” zone, so alas I have no photos from it. I walked through the Montmartre district, past all the artists selling their work in the square, and down the street to the Moulin Rouge. I didn’t go inside, mostly because the cost of lunch and a show is WAY out of my price range, but it’s good to be able to say that I’ve been there. Adventure on!

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Looking down the Eiffel Tower

When I arrived at the Eiffel Tower (after finally circling back to that part of the to-do list), the line up was huge. And there was a big sign saying the top – the summit – was closed. Was it worth going up if I couldn’t go to the top? Who knows, but I knew if I didn’t go up at all I’d be kicking myself (once everyone else finished kicking me). So I joined the long line and enjoyed my time watching the people around me. The two little boys in line with their parents in front of me were very VERY excited and that was a joy to watch. Finally (after about 40 minutes) I got up to the ticket booth. To my surprise and delight the top was open again. I could choose to go all the way up. Which of course I did. I immediately went all the way to the top where you could feel the tower moving the wind – no wonder it had been closed before. Surprisingly I did not witness any proposals. I kind of expected I would because it’s Christmas Eve at the Eiffel Tower, but maybe that’s more of an after dark activity.

I adventured around all three levels of the tower, popping into every little shop and restaurant just to see what you can see up there. It’s a total tourist trap, but it is a cool piece of architecture. I can’t imagine when it opened in the 1860′s having to climb stairs all the way to the top. Or being like Mr. Eiffel and having an apartment up there. It would freak me out in the wind! I only climbed from the second floor down to the first and that was more than enough. By the time I came back down to the bottom (via elevator), the summit was closed again – I can only assume it was once more due to the wind. I kind of lucked out there and snuck in just at the right time.

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Paris Santa

Then it was back to the hotel again to deposit the treasures I had accumulated throughout the day. But the way back to the hotel was lined with many Christmas markets, and I couldn’t resist taking my picture with Santa. It was the sunniest of all the days I’ve had in Paris and it was beautiful.

And off to the area around Notre Dame where I had dinner at a little cafe, sitting on the patio listening to the church bells ring as I wrote post cards, drank hot cocoa, and ate my supper. I felt like I was living in a movie set.

The big TVs outside the cathedral while the police control the line up to enter the building.

The big TVs outside the cathedral while the police control the line up to enter the building.

As 8pm rolled around, I walked across the street to the Cathedral to try to get inside for the International Mass. Although various Christmas Eve Masses were happening all night, I wanted to catch part of the one that I might actually understand. I was able to get inside the building, but I watched the last seats get filled by those who entered with me. I waited inside until the clergy made their grand entrance and then I took my program and ventured back outside to the large grandstand that had been set up where I could watch on the big TV screen.  I lasted about 40 minutes until the wind was too cold to sit outside any longer.

Back at the hotel I was able to Skype with the family in Edmonton for about 45 minutes. I won’t get a chance to talk to them tomorrow because I’ll be on the airplane all day.

And now? Now I’m re-packing my suitcase, trying to get it under the weight limits, trying to protect my purchases, and listening to Christmas carols.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 35 (Paris)

I’m too tired to write much tonight, but here are some photos of what I did today. And before you get upset about the photo of the curtain call, at least I didn’t use a flash like at least 300 other people in the audience. Also, any Christmas music CD that follows “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with “YMCA” is bizarre. Also, dress shopping is difficult in every country. Also, The Palais Garnier has a Chagall ceiling and La Cenerentola had one of the best set designs I’ve ever seen.

Cue at the Palais Garnier

Cue at the Palais Garnier

At the Palais Garnier

At the Palais Garnier

On a Christmas lights tour of Paris!

On a Christmas lights tour of Paris!

Eiffel Tower at Night

Eiffel Tower at Night

Curtain Call

Curtain Call

Side note: I’ve officially been gone for five weeks now.

Now listening to: Me Party – Miss Piggy & Amy Adams

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 34 (Paris)

A visit to the Musee d'Orsay

A visit to the Musee d’Orsay

I woke up this morning with the aches in my legs and feet of someone who walked for 10 hours the day before. I lay in bed fighting with myself: “Just stay here and rest. It’s comfortable and your legs hurt.” “You’re in Paris silly! Stop wasting the day! Get up, get out there, and get adventuring!” I compromised with myself and stayed in bed until 11 before beginning my adventure via the metro (instead of walking) over to the Musee d’Orsay. And stopped for a croissant on thew ay.

The Musee d’Orsay is another one of those amazing buildings that is a piece of art in itself. The light in it is amazing since the whole roof is glass. Once more I was drawn to the work of the impressionists and post-impressionists, spending most of my time looking at Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone. The special exhibit on there right now is about the fashion of the impressionists where some of the actual clothing items depicted in the paintings are on display next to the paintings. It was kind of cool to look at the details on the garments and then look at how they were rendered on the canvas. Oh! And! They have a miniature of the main opera house that is as if the building has been sliced in half and you can see a cross section of the building. So cool to see that before I go into the real space tomorrow. Also, in the same area as that were maquettes from various productions. I love how respected the art of set design is here.

Taken in the crypts under Notre Dame

Taken in the crypts under Notre Dame

I walked from there back to Notre Dame where I picked up the Christmas ornament that I neglected to buy yesterday. I also ventured down into the crypts under the Cathedral and got to see some of the old ruins. They’ve built up walkways around the ruins so that they can be seen without being damaged in any way. Again, its the kind of thing that you just don’t find in Canada. We don’t have that kind of history to explore.

And then it was time to do some shopping. I popped into a bunch of the little touristy shops near Notre Dame where I found another Christmas ornament, but eventually found my way to a giant department store. It was there that I found the Christmas present for my best friend. I told a friend in Zurich that as soon as I saw the right gift for Jaime I would know, and that’s exactly what happened. I can’t wait to give it to her in February when we have our fake Christmas in Edmonton night. It will also have shortbread because she promised we could make Christmas cookies.

First French Croissant.

First French Croissant.

I also made my way to a giant shopping mall. But the mall was unfruitful and by the time it was 4pm my legs were tired again, so I decided to head back to the hotel for a rest before going out again. During that time I did some research because I really want to buy a dress while I’m here, but I know that sizing is very different and large sizes are hard to come by. Well according to my research two of the best stores for finding larger sizes in Paris are right across the street from my hotel. So that’s an adventure for tomorrow! And apparently one of the has the most amazing stained glass ceiling, so that’ll just be a bonus!

A night at the theatre.

A night at the theatre.

After a rest, I headed back out to Théâtre de l’Odéon de l’Europe for my first attempt to see theatre in a language other than my native tongue. This was Le Retour (aka Pinter’s The Homecoming). I purposefully didn’t do any research about the play before I went to see how much I would get about the story from the production. After getting back to the hotel I did some Wikipedia-ing (how does that work as a verb?) and discovered that I got pretty much everything except the discussion of sexuality as profession. Which is probably one of the hardest things to get from a play – discussion of something. Because when it’s just talk there is no action to follow. Interestingly, this production was a new French translation and according to my research it changed the ending a fair amount compared to the original. Although the next step is to actually read the original and find out if that is true. But that’s a project for back in Canada.

Back in the hotel room I’m starting to feel ready to head back to Canada. No, I won’t be “home” in Vancouver for another three weeks yet, and I don’t really have a home to go back to, but just being in an English speaking country will be a nice change.  Only a few more days left on this grand adventure, but I head straight out on the next one.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 33 (Paris)

In front of the Pantheon (and it's Christmas trees)

In front of the Pantheon (and it’s Christmas trees)

I didn’t have a specific plan in mind when I left the hotel this morning. I figured I’d go for a walk and see where it took me. Which is a great way to start an adventure.

I walked all over central Paris until I found myself in front of a great big building with a lot of Christmas trees. Turns out it was the Pantheon, so I figured I might as well go in. And then they were selling the Paris Museum Pass, so I picked up one that is good for a couple of days so that I could just go into any of the cool places I came across as I adventured. I wandered through the Pantheon for a bit, mostly down in the crypts where I found the burial places of Marie Curie and Victor Hugo. I also found the vault for Voltair which had extra fancy sculptures. I didn’t stay very long, but I’m glad I went in.

Clown vandals

Clown vandals

As I walked I found a park where someone had “vandalized” a bunch of the statues by adding clown noses to them. It was one of my favourite things I saw today! Sadly what I didn’t do as I walked was stop somewhere to get a croissant. I will remedy that tomorrow.

Next I found myself at Notre Dame Cathedral.I plan to go back for mass on Christmas Eve, but I was delighted to have time to walk through the building as a tourist as well. The stained glass windows are stunning and they had one of the most elaborate nativity scenes I have ever seen before. As I was browsing the gift shop I saw a sign that said, “How do I get up the tours? Get outside and around the corner.” This piqued my interest so I made my way outside and joined the line. The line was long but it moved quickly and soon I found myself climbing the nearly 400 steps to the top of the bell tower. There were a handful of stops on the way up, and I think if there hadn’t been I might have had an asthma attack. That is a lot of steps to climb! But I’m so glad I did it. I didn’t get to see the bells because they are doing some repairs and the bells can’t be seen again until March, but I did see gargoyles and the entire city of Paris stretched out in every direction, and the spire on the lower level of the Cathedral.

Gargoyles watching over Paris

Gargoyles watching over Paris

I did get some people to take photos of me, but with the screen on my camera not working none of them turned out. This means there aren’t many that I’m actually in, but I did take some decent ones of what I could see. The climb down the tower was easier than the climb up. I counted 389 steps on the way down (200 more than GrossMunster in Zurich), but the brochure says there are 400. I may have to go back there tomorrow in order to buy one of the Christmas ornaments from the giftshop in the main part of the Cathedral. I didn’t buy one today and I’m kicking myself about it now.

At the Louvre

At the Louvre

I continued my adventure past more fountains and statues than I could count and realized just how pathetic our North American cities must seem to folks from Europe. These cities are built around art with fountains and statues and parks and beautiful buildings and the glass of Vancouver’s skyscrapers seem somehow less. They’re still pretty, but they’re not…rich in the same way that these cities are. There is more history in one brick of the sidewalk here than in blocks of Vancouver.

I found myself next at the Louvre. Now there’s a beautiful building that is overwhelming by sheer scale. I’d say that it is larger than all the buildings at my university put together.

Obligatory Mona Lisa photo.

Obligatory Mona Lisa photo.

I walked through a lot of the building at an alarming pace. It is hard to take in that much art in a short period of time. I made my way to the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo and took my obligatory photos with them. It was interesting to me because those two rooms – room 6 of the Italian paintings and the second room of the roman sculpture collection were by far the busiest rooms in the museum. I think that many people, like myself, feel a sense of obligation in a building with such masterpieces. When there is so much and you don’t know much about it, it is easy to gravitate to the masterpieces that you know of – the pieces that have arrows directing you through the building to find them. But at the same time it makes me sad that people (myself included) don’t spend the time to find the pieces instead that speak to them. I think my two favourite parts of the Louvre were the medieval ruins in the basement from the original Louvre and the courtyard of French sculpture. The courtyard almost had me in tears as I looked around, overwhelmed by the fact that this is my life and this was how I was spending my afternoon.

When my brain could no longer handle being in halls with hundreds of paintings, I left the Louvre and decided to venture in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. After all, this is Paris and that is what you’re supposed to do here, right? But I came across an interesting looking building and discovered that it was included on my museum pass so I decided to go in. I had no idea what I was going in to see. The building was the Musee de l’Orangerie and I walked into the Les Nymphéas room with no idea what I was about to see. I had to sit down. At the Tate Modern I saw one of Monet’s Water Lillies paintings and thought it was beautiful. There was another at the Hermitage Amsterdam. But seeing both of those did not prepare me for the rooms. The eight paintings from Monet’s Water Lillies series that are on display at the Musee de l’Orangerie are approximately 6 feet high by 40 feet long. They completely took my breath away. They are displayed on curved walls, one per wall, surrounding the viewer. Absolutely amazing. After spending time in those two rooms, I made my way downstairs to see the works of Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Rousseu, Derain, and Matisse. I got more out of the four or five rooms in the Musee de l’Orangerie than I did in the grand halls of the Louvre. These paintings spoke.

I found it! One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

I found it! One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

From there I really did make my way to the Eiffel Tower, stopping only long enough to buy a passionfruit macaron as big as my hand. As I stood at the Eiffel Tower eating my macaron I had another one of those moments of awe at how amazing my life is and how it is nothing like I imagined it would be and that I can’t wait to see what will come next.

My final destination before returning to the hotel was back on the other side of town – closer to Notre Dame than the Eiffel Tower and by this point – having walked more than 10km – my legs were starting to feel like jelly. With all of those factors, I decided it was time to figure out the Paris Metro system. I made my way to a station, purchased a book of 10 tickets, and found my way by train across town. Not so difficult! My destination was the Opera National de Paris’ Bastille location for an evening performance of Don Quixote by their resident ballet company. I had supper at a little cafe across the intersection from the theatre and then headed inside. I didn’t take any photos of the building because its not that interesting. It has fantastic acoustics (based on how well I could hear the dancers breathing) but it is a modern opera hall without much decoration. The ballet itself was quite good, though unfortunately I fell asleep for part of the first act. All of my walking had caught up to me and I was in a comfortable seat in a dark room with beautiful music. I just couldn’t stop myself! But I was awake for all of acts two and three and enjoyed them very much.

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With a Parisian Christmas tree, all decorated with brightly colored bows.

After the show I took the Metro again back to my hotel. The Metro system is easy to figure out with a map, but I need to figure out which exit I should use at the nearby station because I ended up not at all close to my hotel, where there is one exit that comes out within a block!

And now it is two in the morning and my jelly legs need to sleep before the adventure continues!

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 32 (Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Paris)

Trying on the 18th Century hair style

Trying on the 18th Century hair style

This morning I woke up fairly early, but I wanted to be able to say good-bye to Peter before he left for work. We had tea on the couch and then when he headed to work I got busy packing my suitcase and making sure I was ready to go. Once everything was good, it was time for one last adventure.

I made my way by tram to the Gothenburg City Museum, a beautiful building with four floors of exhibits. While I wish they had more to display (more than half the building is offices), I was very impressed by what they had and how they displayed it. In the room focused on the 18th century there was a dress up room for kids to try costumes patterned on 18th century clothing. I, of course, had to try on the wig!

With the Christmas tree through a pretty door

With the Christmas tree through a pretty door

The museum also had the remains of a Viking ship, and up on the top floor a small room dedicated to the work of a local theatre producer/set designer/costume designer. The room was full of renderings, maquettes, costumes, and show photos and was a delightful tribute. It was also the first museum I’ve seen possibly ever that had a special exhibit that was theatre related (other than Shakespeare). The museum also had a very beautiful Christmas tree out in its courtyard, but it was much too cold to go out and see the tree up close.

FROZEN

FROZEN

Speaking of how cold Sweden was today, as I was walking from the museum to the next part of my adventure, I saw that the canals were frozen over. In my head were images of skating through Gothenburg, but I’m sure the ice was not yet thick enough for that. I walked all through the commercial center of town, doing a little bit of shopping, but mostly just adventuring. It was through this that I found the city Cathedral.

Courthouse or Cathedral?

Courthouse or Cathedral?

The Gothenburg Cathedral is a Lutheran church right in the middle of the city. It reminds me more of a courthouse or state building than most of the other churches I’ve seen in my adventures, but inside it is truly beautiful.

From there I walked down to the art museum, which is located in a public square along with the city theatre, the music hall, and another art gallery. They were in the middle of setting up because tonight they were going to project a free movie onto the outside of the gallery for Christmas. I can’t imagine sitting out there in the cold, but as I left town on the airport bus I saw people starting to gather. The art museum has six floors of painting, photography and sculpture, including a special exhibit of August Strindberg’s paintings & photographs. I found that I didn’t spend a lot of time in the art museum. I stopped at pieces that intrigued me (like the Chagall with the flowers and the unicorn) and moved past the things that didn’t strike my fancy.

That has been one of the real benefits of the Go Card that I purchased – because everything was already paid for, I felt no guilt about only spending half an hour or so in a museum. There were other museums to go to and it wasn’t going to cost me anything extra to give up on this one and go see something else.

My flights were uneventful, but in the midst of my taxi ride into Paris I was struck by the fact that this feels like the first big CITY since London. Amsterdam (at least at the centre) is all old houses not more than five levels tall. Zurich has laws about no building being taller than the local church spire. Gothenburg is not a big city and has mostly older buildings. But Paris is big. Even at 11:30pm the high way was busy – to the point that traffic was stopped in all four lanes simply due to volume. There are also skyscrapers again and nightlife. That was one of the big challenges in both Zurich and Gothenburg – what do you do after 8pm? Nothing’s open! In Zurich the only food available after 10pm was dominoes pizza delivery. Here in Paris my hotel is on a busy street corner and although it is after midnight I can still hear the hustle and bustle of city life. This might get annoying after a few days, but that’s what earplugs are for!

Tiny tiny hotel room

Tiny tiny hotel room

My hotel room here is one of the smallest I’ve ever seen. The bed barely fits, but it’s all I need. I don’t plan to spend much time in the room other than for sleeping and it will certainly do for that. Besides, I chose it for location and price, not quality. It does, however have a safe in the closet, a decent looking shower, and an elevator for hauling my suitcase up to the top floor! Small mercies.

I’m finding that already my French is coming back to me here. We’ll see what that looks like three or four days from now! Alas, now I must to bed as there is much exploring to do tomorrow. My map is circled and I’m ready to go!

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 31 (Gothenburg)

New rule: Three museums in one day is too many and leads to brains melting.

Inside the shark tunnel at Universeum

Inside the shark tunnel at Universeum

I started the day at Universeum, the Gothenburg science centre, which is unlike any other science center I’ve ever been to.  Well, that is only half true. Half of Universeum is a traditional science center with rotating exhibits that kids can play on and learn about science things like criminology (finger prints, DNA, thermal imaging, etc), space, velocity, bubbles, and all those science-y things. The other half of Universeum is kind of made of awesome. You get into a glass elevator that moves diagonally up a hill. When you get off you are instructed to wash your hands in order to protect the plants and animals and are told that you are entering the Swedish ecosystem. It’s not so much a room that you enter as a walled forrest, complete with rivers, lakes, trees, etc. Throughout it there are animals and plants indigenous to this part of Sweden – fish, birds, rabbits, etc. Some of them are in pens but others are just free to move throughout the building. Anything that is poisonous or otherwise dangerous is clearly marked and in a contained tank.

Pink Christmas Tree fish tank decoration.

Pink Christmas Tree fish tank decoration.

From there you enter “Ocean Zone” which is basically a giant aquarium. In one big tank a sting ray swims round and round. In another there is a pink Christmas tree among the giant fish. In a smaller tank a light measures how much electricity the electric eel is generating. And in the big tank, at least five types of sharks are swimming. I spent a bunch of time hanging out in the tunnel through the shark tank. It reminded me of snorkelling in Mexico.

After the Ocean Zone you enter the rainforest, a four storey area where the animals all roam free unless they are poisonous. The signs as you enter warn you to not leave food in the baby stroller because the monkeys will eat it. I am not joking at all! There are all sorts of tropical birds and animals, and even a pirhana pit. I even saw a red-eyed tree frog – one of my favourite rainforest animals when I was nine years old.

Swedish meatballs

Swedish meatballs

All in all it was a really cool experience.  I had lunch in their cafe – Swedish meatballs of course. I figured I only had so much time in Sweden to enjoy some traditionally Swedish food!

When I left Universeum I made my way over to the Maritime Museum on the other side of town. I didn’t realize that it ALSO houses an aquarium, though I’d bet money that it has been losing patrons to universeum because the aquarium at the Maritime Museum wasn’t very exciting. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

model boats

model boats

The Maritime Museum is one of those museums that has found a great balance between exhibit, artifact, and interaction. They had a simulator where you got to drive a large ship through the Gothenburg harbour and if you turned the wheel too hard the floor actually shifted to reflect how the boat would shift. It had more model ships than I have ever seen in one place before. It also had old maps, navigational instruments, uniforms, and cargo. For kids there were smaller boats to climb all over and videos about how the sea works. Or something. It was in Swedish.

The first floor of the Maritime Museum is also an aquarium, but it is currently under construction which will hopefully make it more interesting. It had only six or seven tanks, all of which were quite small and didn’t have that exciting of fish in them. Or maybe they just seemed really un-exciting because I’d just been at Universeum with all of its crazy fish and sharks and sting rays.

The Back Stage room.

The Back Stage room.

Now it was time for a change of pace and a visit to the Museum of Art, Design & Architecture.  This one was pretty cool, though my brain was starting to be mushy.  One of my favourite parts of this museum was the Back Stage room where they gave visitors a peek into the restoration projects underway, the archives, and information about where their collections have come from.

Tonight was a little more low key. Peter and I went for Indian food just down the block from his apartment and then decided to go on a tram adventure and just rode around town for about an hour before heading back to the apartment to watch The Snowman. Apparently The Snowman is a British Christmas tradition and Peter couldn’t believe that I had never seen it before. It was very sweet, but I kept having moments of disbelief because seriously people SNOWMEN CAN’T FLY.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 30 (Gothenburg)

IMG_3768When I woke up this morning it took me a few minutes to remember where I was. The walls weren’t  green, there was no light outside, and there were actual rooms. Oh right! I was in a real apartment and not a hotel room. And I could do laundry! I lazed around for the morning, doing laundry (YAY), catching up on emails, watching bad tv, and just relaxing. It felt good. Right up until I jammed my toe in the bathroom and thought I’d broken it. Yes, I stubbed it that hard. It was bleeding, and it still hurts 12 hours later, but I’m pretty sure it’s not broken. With the laundry complete, I was off on my first adventure of the day.

I made my way to the Natural History Museum because it was included with my Go Card (Gothenburg City Card for tourists) and because their website made it sound pretty great. However, my experience of it was less exciting. First of all, in an effort to save electricity the lights for the museum are on motion sensors and today was a quiet day at the museum (go figure) so all of the rooms were dark when I walked into them. But the motion sensors weren’t focused well and the rooms would often stay dark for a while, so all you could see were the shapes of taxidermied animals with little tiny bits of light in the background which was FREAKY. Also, the exhibits were poorly laid out, but it looks like they are doing some renovations so maybe they are fixing up the exhibits. Among the funnier things I have seen on my trip was the Rhino in the museum missing its horn. There was a sign up in the display case in Swedish, but I think it said something about repair. Either way, it was very odd.

IMG_0068From there I ventured to the Museum of World Culture (also included with my Go Card) and was much more interested in what I found there. It’s kind of a combination art installation/museum space. I started my exploration on the lowest floor with an exhibition called Destination X that focused on travel as entertainment as compared to travel out of necessity (ie – refugees). It was really interesting in the context of my current adventuring. One of my favourite parts was when you had to spin a wheel and it would tell you where to travel next. I got  ”Gold digging in Karelen” and didn’t even know what it meant. I had to wikipedia it to discover that Karelen is a province in Finland that borders on Russia. I don’t think I’ll be heading there any time soon, but it’s fun to know that it exists. There was also a giant globe made out of suitcases and some sound tunnels that gave travel sounds a whole new meaning.

From there I went up to the top floor where there were a series of exhibits. The first one looked at the way museum cataloguing has changed in the past forty years as we learn about other cultures, and items that were once catalogued as “bag of yarn” are now known to be priceless 1000 year old flags calling for peace. The second exhibit on that floor was about the role of the bystander in times of violence and focused on nazi occupied Vienna, the lynchmobs of the American south, and a couple of other eras that I have forgotten. The third exhibit on the floor was all about the way that items are exhibited and how interaction changes our experience of the objects. There were places set up to handle things, leave notes, select favourites, see only portions of objects, etc. It was interesting to see that as a museum they are looking to update the way in which the public interacts with and sees the objects. Then down a floor to the “A Day in the Life” exhibit. For this exhibit people all over the world took photos and submitted them from the same day. There were photos from space, photos from Fort Langley, photos from Gothenburg, photos from all over spanning all sorts of subjects. As near as I could figure out there was also a book of the photos submitted, but it was fascinating to look at all the different lives that people live over the course of the same day. Also on that floor was a kids exhibit designed as if it were introducing aliens to the beings who call earth home. Very cute and it had a black light tunnel which is always fun.

Hotel wrapped with a bow of light

Hotel wrapped with a bow of light

I walked from the museum back up to the central station. It took about 45 minutes to an hour and took me up the main drag of Gothenburg. I didn’t really consider how little daylight there is here right now. It is nearly the shortest day of the year, and in Gothenburg that means just over six and a half hours of daylight. The sun sets before 3pm these days. So I walked in the dark up to the station, taking in all the Christmas lights. There are a lot of decorative lights in this city. Of course it is also less than a week until Christmas! I met Peter at the central station and we found our way to a Malaysian restaurant for dinner where we ate delicious curry. However, I felt the need for dessert so Peter took me to a local coffee chain because he said I had to try the local Christmas cupcake. And who am I to say no to a cupcake?! It was delicious. It was a spice cake with cream cheese frosting and dried cranberries on top. Apparently they are a traditional Christmas dessert. I might have to find a recipe for it because it was TASTY.

Delicious cupcake

Delicious cupcake

We then made our way over to the Gothenburg Opera House for Julitrad-i-tion, a family Christmas concert featuring the opera orchestra, chorus, and a handfull of solists. It was a lot of fun, despite the fact that it was all in Swedish (except for a rendition of “All I want for Christmas is You” which is surprisingly popular here). One of the most random moments was when two women were singing “I need a Hero” in Swedish while Santa came down from the ceiling on wires. Of course, the lighting designer missed his big moment as there wasn’t even a followspot on Santa to herald his arrival. There also was a sing-a-long portion that they gave us lyric sheets to, so when we got home we ran google translate over Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and found such gems as, “But a dark Christmas Eve Santa’s father, he said: Do not want to say Rudolph,With your mule illuminate me.”

The show ended around 8:30 and since it was still early we decided to go walk through the grocery store to make fun of the weird food names. Sadly we did not find any weird food names, but we did find a bag of chocolate covered marshmallows which are apparently one of the traditional Christmas candies here. So of course we had to have some.

It was another grand adventure, but now I’m tired and there’s still so much more to see and do tomorrow!

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 29 (Zurich, Stockholm, Gothenburg)

Sunset from the airplane between Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Sunset from the airplane between Stockholm and Gothenburg.

When I left Zurich this morning it was dark and pouring rain. Hearing my alarm go off at 6:30 was painful, but I was grateful that I had packed last night and I knew that if I dragged myself downstairs there would be one last breakfast buffet. Now I can admit how sick to death I am of salty scrambled eggs, undercooked bacon, croissants (no matter how delicious), muesli, and yogurt. Some days the food was better than others, but it was just the fact that it was the same food for more than 3 weeks straight that made it so tiresome. After breakfast it was into the cab and off to the airport. I feel that I am becoming a very good traveller now. By the time I reach security my belt is off, electronics are out, and I always have my liquids and gels in a plastic bag. I fell asleep on the plane before it even took off and have no recollection of take off. But I’m glad I slept then so that I could enjoy the rest of the day without being too tired.

I had a couple of hours to kill at the Stockholm airport, which I mostly spent checking emails and chatting online. I thought about shopping but decided against it because, well airports are pricey and what’s the point of buying souvenirs from a city you didn’t really visit?

Then it was off to Gothenburg. One thing you need to know about Gothenburg is that it doesn’t know how to spell its own name, and neither does anyone else. In various places it is Gothenburg, Gotenburg, or GÖTEBORG. So many options!  I took the bus from the airport to the main train/bus station in the city where I met Peter at the only Starbucks in town. He says its the best place to meet someone because if  they get lost its not like there’s one on every corner and everyone knows where it is.

Isn't it Christmasy!?

Isn’t it Christmasy!?

We ventured back to his apartment long enough to drop things off and then made our way to Liseberg. Liseberg is basically the Playland of Gothenburg, but in December it re-opens (with only some of the rides operational) and hosts a Christmas market, skating rink and ice show, and other Christmasy things like oodles of Christmas lights. Very very cool. We spent the evening walking through the shops, having some food, watching the world’s most ridiculous ice skating show which featured green rabbits in Santa suits dancing to a bad remix of “When you Wish Upon a Star.” It was kind of amazingly cheesy actually. Cheesy enough that I bought a green rabbit in a sant suit Christmas ornament. I had my first cup of grog, complete with raisins and almonds, tested many flavours of fudge, and attempted to win a 2kg toblerone.

Ferris Wheel!

Ferris Wheel!

We only went on two rides. First was the big ferris wheel type thing. Giant and blue you can see it for miles around the park and from up top of it you can see for miles around the park. It was really lovely. Of course, our mistake was accidentally buying too many coupons for the ferris wheel, so we went on a ride that was like of Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World, and Swedish Fairy Tales all fell in a blender. We rode in flying pirate ships through a world of Swedish interpretations of Fairy tales while small robotic dolls shouted things in Swedish. It was totally bizzarre, but also kind of perfect.

Tomorrow I continue the adventure, using my handy Gothenburg City Card – a pre-purchased tourist card that gets me free public transit and free admission to most museums, attractions, etc in town. Amazing.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 28 (Zurich)

A day at the Zoo

A day at the Zoo

Zurich Zoo

Zurich Zoo

Today was the day I had been waiting for – finally a chance to go to the Zurich Zoo.

But first, Lexi and I made our way back to the Christmas market to do some final shopping. No matter how many times I walked through there I always found something new on each trip. Lexi bought me a beautiful pair of blue glass earrings from Italy and bought herself the matching necklace. It’s like we’re friends or something. I managed to get out (this time) without buying anything new. Cancel that. I totally bought a Christmas present for someone and it is so perfect and I can’t wait to give it to that person. I can’t say anything else in case they are reading this :)

And then we were off to the ZOO. Now, going to the zoo in winter can be a bit sad. The large outdoor enclosures are mostly too cold, so the animals are in their much smaller indoor enclosures. This was especially sad for the rhinoceros. We called him Albert and watched him contemplate getting up, but only when the birds flew too close to his head.  One of the cutest things we saw all day was the momma and baby hippo playing in their indoor pool. At one point the momma swam up to the little one and blew on his stomach – much like humans do – to make fart noises. We couldn’t help but laugh!

Do you see the monkey(s) in the background?

Do you see the monkey(s) in the background?

Then it was off to the monkey house. Now for some reason the Zurich soo has this fancy chairs and lamps in the monkey house. i won’t pretend to understand it, but it was kind of fun. We spent a long time watching the monkeys. There was one bigger one that had a perch that he liked to just sit on and watch us. I think he found us to be the entertainment instead of the other way around. There was a spidermonkey that kept swinging around. There were giant gorillas and baby orangoutangs. We probably would have stayed longer with the various monkeys, but it was time to find the penguins. The first penguins we found we not the King Penguins, but rather a smaller variety that was kept indoors. I was starting to get nervous that we weren’t going to find the King Penguins before the parade started, but Lexi used her little big of German to ask someone where we should go and soon enough we were part of a large crowd gathered around an outdoor penguin enclosure. And then they opened the fence, and out came approximately 16 King Penguins – two of which were still young enough that they were covered in their brown feathers.

I'm just a little happy to be among the penguins.

I’m just a little happy to be among the penguins.

We followed the penguin parade for about half an hour, crowding out small children to take photos of ourselves with the penguins. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration  but we were really excited and wanted to get up close to the penguins. The reality is we could have reached out and touched them we were so close, but we figured the zoo keepers would look down on that and decided against it.  Seriously, the penguin parade was pretty much the highlight of my day and was completely worth the price of admission.

After that we visited the zebras, elephants, lions, more monkeys, goats, racoons, antelope, llamas, and random peacocks that just walked around the zoo wherever they wanted. We discovered that the zoo is building a huge new elephant area where the zoo keepers will only interact with them from outside the area. I think that’s probably smart. It was at this point that we looked out and realized that fir the first time since arriving in Zurich we could see the mountains. It was absolutely stunning.

And then it was into the Masola Rainforest – a giant botanical garden that happened to have giant tortoises, monkeys, and birds running around in it. Very fun. Also very warm and required the removal of winter jackets.

On our way out of the zoo we tried to buy penguin Christmas ornaments, but there were none to be found. I’d say the zoo really should get on that – it would be a great piece of merchandising! But we went back to the Christmas market and I found a beautiful blown glass ball with a penguin inside it. So for this leg of the trip both of my ornaments are blown glass balls from the same place.

After taking a nap back at the hotel, I made my way over to the Zurich Opernhaus for DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL. I didn’t really care what was showing though, mostly I wanted to see that building. It was one of the most beautiful spaces i have ever been inside. While I thought that the production was kind of so-so (though don’t ask me why since I do not yet have the opera vocabulary to explain why), I was delighted by the building. My seat was up in the highest (THIRD) balcony, but from there the view of the painted ceiling and grand chandelier was fantastic.

After the show it was back to the hotel to pack and say goodbyes. It was very hard to say goodbye to the new friends I’ve made here, but I already have plans to see some of them in the new year.