Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tour d’Omdal 2009

We went to Europe for two weeks at the end of August, starting with Morgan’s cousin Helena’s wedding in Sweden (we spent most of our time in Stockholm, but the wedding and reception took place in Vaxholm and Finnhamn); followed by stops in Paris, Brussels and Munich. It could not have been a better vacation and I'm so excited to tell you all about it!

It was great to see Sweden first-hand and experience some of Morgan’s heritage. I failed to meet one Swede who didn’t speak near-perfect English, which amazed me and made it much easier on my end — props to that socialist education system. Although, I have to say I choked a bit on the 25 percent tax. At least my money is helping contribute to an easy English-speaking tourist experience, though, right? Morgan was able to speak / practice quite a bit of Swedish in restaurants and asking for directions, too, which was nice and the Swedes were all very patient and helpful. One waiter even taught us how to be “cool” and ask for another beer without sounding like we were ordering from a 1960s Swedish grammar manual. Don’t ask me how, because I already forgot. I think maybe we ordered too many.
Helena and Daniels’s wedding was absolutely gorgeous and the reception was held on an island in the Stockholm archipelago. We took a chartered ferry to the site and spent the night in a large youth hostel. Dinner was held in an old, rustic barn that was decorated so beautifully — like something out of a magazine. We feasted on crayfish, a summer delicacy that as far as I can tell every citizen is required to love, lest they be deported. Now, don’t get me wrong, crayfish are tasty. They are similar to mini lobsters, but man, (and please pardon me in advance for sounding like a gluttonous American), it is a seriously long journey to satiety. You have to work very, very hard to get a full belly on these little guys and slurping on claws so energetically that your eyeballs may pop out just really isn’t my thing. After three, I moved onto the roast beef option, which was delicious and filled me up enough to continue throwing back the obligatory schnapps and attempting to sing traditional Swedish drinking songs in my best Greta Garbo-inspired accent. It. Was. Awesome. (And by “it,” I mean everything.) Paris
Next up was Paris, which we arrived in the afternoon following the wedding. A little more of a language barrier, but I was able to bust-out enough of my now anciently-learned French to get by. We took a taxi to our hotel from the airport and the sight of the sparkling Eiffel Tower literally brought tears to my eyes when we rounded the corner into the city (it’s rigged with lights that make it shimmer for 10 minutes twice each evening). I can't fully describe the magic, but Paris is every bit as romantic as fabled. We only had three days there, unfortunately, which was way, way too short. I’m already longing to return and immerse myself in food — and by food, I mean wine and cheese — history and ambiance. It’s truly a dreamy place and I think everyone should go there at least once. Brussels
Paris was followed by Brussels; a quick one-day stop via the Thalys train. Morgan’s cousin Helena and her new husband, Daniel, were gracious enough to let us stay in their flat (they’re currently living in Belgium), since they were still away for the wedding and associated activities. Brussels was filled with eating, drinking, more eating and then a little more drinking. The food here is good, folks. The scenery is just OK and can be done in a day (someone told us the Mannequin Pis, along with the Glockenspiel in Munich, were only famous because of Rick Steves and I now tend to agree), but it was definitely a good thing we didn’t stay longer or none of my pants would have fit for the trip home. Street waffles, chocolate, beer, lambic, more beer … you get the picture. A foodie heaven, for sure. I discovered stoemp served with Belgian beer-beef stew and my quest is to find and master a good recipe this winter.
Our final stop was in Munich to visit Morgan’s friend, Natalie, who lived with his family in the early 2000s while completing an internship in Redmond, Wash. She has a terrific flat near downtown and was nice enough to put us up for four nights in her bed, while sleeping on the couch. We owe her in a big way and hope she will visit us in Seattle so we can repay the favor. Although Paris was the most “romantic” stop on our trip, Munich wins the most fun award without so much as a challenge. Natalie was a great host and kicked off our time in Munich with an authentic beer garden stop on our first night. The next morning, we went on a really entertaining bike tour — mostly entertaining because my bike didn’t fit during the first half of the ride and I almost crashed into a delivery truck. It is really hard to get started on and skillfully ride a bike when your feet can’t reach the ground. FYI. Thank God, a very kind and generous woman whose bike didn’t have a high cross-bar traded me and the rest of the afternoon was much more successful. The tour also included Morgan jumping into the Isar River (wearing his shorts) with a bunch of naked locals watching from the shore (those Munichians really like to take their clothes off), trying to ride the bikes through traffic after yes, you guessed it, another beer garden stop and making friends with some Americans from Florida over more beer. We also bought some stylish European clothing (I'm in the process of getting my items hemmed since no European women are apparently shorter than 5'9") and finished off the trip with an afternoon at Hofbräuhaus (more beer).

No self-respecting local will set foot in Hofbräuhaus, so Natalie didn’t join us there. She is very proud of the fact that she has never once visited and didn’t want to break her streak. That’s OK. More beer for us (like we needed any more at this point)! There is a lot of beer in Munich if you haven’t already gathered. They need help drinking it, so we obliged. Don’t judge. When in Rome … or Munich … or Belgium … or Paris … or Stockholm.
Europe, I ♥ you.


Jen said...

I love all your stories and pictures! It sounds like an amazing time! :-)

Missy said...

I've never wanted beer MORE! What an awesome trip, great post!

Emily said...

Perfect recap... and now I'm hungry and THIRSTY! Can't wait to get your Munich treats at Taps n Apps!

Jenny said...

Oh, I love Europe! Great stories! Isn't Paris just perfection? I crave that city on a regular basis! Now- you absolutely must read, "My Life in France" by Julia Child. Adam and I spent 10 days in Paris and then when I went back - I spent another 3 days there. It is by far my most favorite city in the world... so far.

Mikki Stazel said...

How wonderful! Looks like you had so much fun and made some great memories.

jenny goodman said...

How fun! I would never judge you for your beer drinking. Where would that leave me? Thanks for sharing your adventure!