Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yes, it is true, we have a caravan in Wales!

In spite of endless ridicule and incredulous comments the caravan in Wales is now ours. Because I neglected to take my camera on my first visit (post-ownership) I downloaded some photos from the web instead.

The first shot is from Rhossili toward Llanngenith. The caravan park is where the hill ends as you look from the right side of the photo towards the middle. Not surprisingly, the caravan park is called "Hillend".

The next photo is from the midway up the hill out toward the Worm's Head which is accessible at low tide. The wildlife includes an abundance of seals which you typically see playing in the water on a walk out to the end.

The middle photo is also of the Worm's Head with the village of Rhossili visible to the left.

Pentultimate photo - surfing the Gower.

Final photo - a photo of a tidal pool in the Gower.

To set the record straight:

- The Gower (where the caravan is located) was the first place in the UK to be named a place of outstanding beauty.

- The Lion's Head pub is an enjoyable one mile walk up the road.

- The surf, while not in the league of pipeline or other "epic" surf spots, is consistently in the 3 to 5 ft range. I'd venture that the average surfer would prefer that to 10ft to 20ft range as death isn't always at your side in the former class of waves.

- There are walking trails throughout the penisula.

- Yes, it does rain there. Though Aug/Sept tend to be sunny and splendid.

- I am unrepentant!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New House in Sweden!

After we returned to a happily snow-free Stockholm, it was time to go out to see what progress has been made on the new house we are building here.

They got the site prepared very quickly. Esp. considering part of the prep work was blowing away a large area of granite (where our backyard will now be).

The house goes up quickly since they build pieces of it in rural Sweden (cheaper labor and some tax breaks), and then ship the whole thing to the site along with a large crane which lift the pieces into place. They went from a poured foundation to having the tar paper on the roof in one week. Nice.

The house we live in now is great and the location is amazing, but has some obvious areas that need renovation, which given my eye for detail drives me a little nuts. The idea of a nice new house where everything works properly has me a serious countdown mode. (Roughly 195 days to go)

Kids in the City

We had never been anywhere quite like NYC with the kids. Thus, we were apprehensive about how things would go in the hotel, as well as when we walked around the city. We were only there for about 24 hours, so we thought "what could go wrong". Gotcha, this time things went perfectly. The photo was taken at Rockefeller Center.

We got to our room at the Affinia 50 in Midtown East (highly recommend it by the way) and checked into a nice suite with an decent size outside terrace. Went around the corner and got some sandwiches and milk for the kids, and some wine for Mom and Dad. After the kids ate they dozed off, having been on the go the entire day.

Sofia and I quickly accessed the internet and found a highly rated Indian restaurant that delivered. We took a table and chairs and set up a little dining al fresco area on the terrace. Ten minutes later we were nibbling away on great food, enjoying good wine and taking in the sight and sound of NY. It was a nice reprieve from a very "kids" oriented trip.

The following day, we took the kids to Times Square, to Toys R' Us. (the transformation of NYC over the last twenty-five years is remarkable - who would have thought of a family outing to Times Square back then???) Upon arriving we informed them that they all had $50 to spend, and they could get whatever they wanted.

What a study in human behavior. They really got the idea of prudent allocation quickly. While their styles varied, I was impressed by how they thought through their choices. Karl went more for a couple of more expensive things that he really liked. Alex got a couple items which were somewhat expensive and mixed some small items with that. Erika was all about quantity. She didn't buy anything over $10, and she had the most items by a wide measure. Nonetheless, they all left very satisfied with the outing and have high hopes this will be an annual event.

The rest of the trip was running around trying to make sure that anything we needed back in Sweden could be bought in NY. Even leaving aside value added tax, Sweden can be stunningly expensive for some items. Our shopping trip concluded with the purchase of an additional piece of luggage to haul the goodies back to Scandanavia.

Easter in Ohio...

After our memorable journey to Florida, we next headed to my father's house in Akron, OH. We were met by some truly remarkable spring weather. Temps were in the low 70s every day, and there was hardly a cloud to be found in the sky. Nice.

The highlight of the Akron trip (according to the kids) was the Easter egg hunt we had for them in my dad's backyard. They thoroughly enjoyed the initial "hunt" and proceeded to rearrange the eggs several times in the backyard for each other and even put some eggs around the house so Sofia and I could have our own Easter egg hunt.

We had a nice relaxing time and it gave us a chance to rest up after the, well you've already heard enough about it.

Next stop, NYC!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fun, and Not So Fun in FLA...

On April 3rd, my 45th birthday, the kids and I flew to the US to join Sofia, who had already arrived. As with any vacation, hopes ran high. We began our trip with a misunderstanding.

I thought Sofia knew when we were arriving, well she did too actually. Guess you know what is coming. We arrived, and Sofia was not to be found. At one point I figured she had taken her newly minted Master's degree (USF - Poli Sci) out for a drink, or several. Given the exhaustion of myself and more importantly the kids, we adjorned to an old neighbors house, so we would at least have more comfortable surroundings.

Finally, after a few scotches (me) and calls to the area hospitals and the morgue, Sofia arrived. We wasted no time in departing for our waterfront condo, which we would call home for the next ten days. Sleep came quickly for one and all, and we were all glad to be out of the Swedish snow.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast, departed for the pool for a couple of hours, and then returned to our old neighborhood for a bbq and party. The time and libations passed quickly. When our daughter Alex informed Sofia and I that we needed to go at 10pm we figured we better head out. Once again, we returned to our cozy condo and tucked in for the evening, with no harbinger of the day which awaited us.

The following day began much the same. Pool activities, a big breakfast, the usual vacation fare. Later in the day at around 2pm, Alex complained of an upset stomach and shortly thereafter drifted off to sleep on the sofa. I was nearly asleep myself, when Alex violently awoke by vomiting across the sofa and floor. A first we put this down to a little too much over clorinated water being swallowed at the pool. But it quickly became apparent that there was more to it than that.

She had gotten the rota-virus, which I suppose most parents have encountered. But given the symptoms, which include the body pretty much rejecting anything new coming in and giving short shrift to anything still inside, along with Alex being particularily wore out from the trip, by evening she was so dehydrated she could no longer stand. Off to the hospital she went with Sofia, where she remained for the next thirty-six hours on an IV.

It merits mention that this virus is highly contagious. Though we were lucky noone else got as severely ill, we had quite an interesting week after that. Its been quite a while since I was so happy to reach the end of something.

The trip had a superb ending though. On the final full day, everyone was back in fighting form. We thus proceeded to Busch Gardens for a whirlwind tour of the facilities, then to our old house (where the new owner had graciously invited us to use the pool) where the kids met up with friends from their kindegarten class for a little pool party. The evening was topped off with another bbq party with our former neighbors. In spite of our recent maladies, we carried on until nearly midnight, when the kids (OK - maybe it was me) had reached the end of their energy.

The best part is how the kids describe the trip. "We were a little sick, but we still had fun." Amazing how the brain is programmed to keep us focused on the fun in life. My memory of it is a little different, but on the whole, I'd say that description captures it.

Two notes. First, the photos are "after shots". Second, if you our ever fortunate enough to have great people as neighbors - treasure it. Many of our best friends live within the few blocks surrounding our old place in FL. It would be hard to find as nice a group of people within such a small geography anywhere. Here's to all of them.