More excursions

I keep expecting life to slow down as we settle in on Spolegatan, but it never really does. Lund, like most Swedish cities, is putting up winter lights, replacing water in the fountains with greenery, and adding seasonal decoration. I joined two international organizations for tours in Helsingborg and Malmö this week.

In Malmö we saw a few of the oldest buildings which were near the harbor when they were first built. As the city grew, more town squares/ marketplaces were built to facilitate trade. A few interesting details… about the millstone embedded in stortorget, the big square and the name Malmö, probably just a story since the name Malmö had been used since at least 1170 and the millstone was added much later.

Digging a well in stortorget would have resulted only in sea water, of course, so they piped in fresh water from a lake 3 km away using oak pipes., The well remained in use from the 1520s until the 1850s, when a cholera outbreak was linked to the wooden pipes.

The well in Stortorget, the main square (not the original torg!)
Back in August we celebrated Bryant’s Birthday at Årstiderna (The Seasons restaurant) in the lower level of the Kocksa House, built in 1522

A curious recent addition is this plaque calling out Gustav Vasa for his bad behavior during the peace talks of 1524, when he drew a knife against one of the participants after failing to get his way… an odd detail that we step right over when entering the Espresso House for a post-orthodontist treat!

Raven carefully cleaned up a pool of water to drink from

The Logic Pit

Lily’s ultimate year of Twin Cities Theatre Camp was this past summer. The show was the world premier of an original work by Tim Kraack (who is also the music director of TCTC). I saw every showing and it hit me hard every time. Lily is the character “Charlie”, who leads the engineering team at a tech company. Check out the song “Work” starting around 17:40. Ooof! Here is the show in its entirety, available here as Tim approved it. And “Charlie” is intense!

World premier of The Logic Pit

We are so impressed and proud of Lily, the TCTC team, and the whole cast!

The Celtic New Year

The old traditions of Samhain, All Hallows Eve, Día de los Muertos, All Saints and All Souls have melded into an interesting mix of religious and cultural celebrations here in Sweden. It makes perfect sense that people mark the transition from summer-harvest-abundant life to winter-dormancy-death. And many cultures believe that “the veil between the living and the dead is thin” during this time, so it is common to visit the cemeteries and hold ceremonies of remembrance. The shift to darkness seemed sudden, but the weather has been warmer than normal and there have been a few hours of partial sun to break up the “höstrusk” or autumn rain and gloom.

Halloween is growing in popularity, though Swedes insist on celebrating it over the period of several weeks, rather than only on October 31st. Trick or Treating, if it has been adopted by ones neighborhood or community, typically happens on the Saturday closest to the 31st. Costume parties are also popular during these several weeks, based on my observations of people around town and at the train stops.

We were invited to two such parties this year and went with the relatively simple Alice in Wonderland theme. There were some uber creative costumes such as The Øresund Bridge, Picasso and his Painting, the Oreo Trio, The Addams Family, the Heathers, and many more!

There were lots of fun seasonal treats!

On Friday I went to an All Saints Day hike with Stephanie and Carole in Malmö. It was organized by the Church of Sweden’s Pilgrim’s Walk but I didn’t know what to expect. It was more religious in nature than I thought it would be. It was led in Swedish, starting with a lantern lighting ceremony, after which we walked single file in silence to various locations between the two main churches. Along the way we stopped to hear readings on the theme of light (Matthew 5:14) which was good practice for my Swedish. There was a lot about angels and connecting with each other and with memories of the dead, I think. It was clearly more emotional for many of the participants and I felt a bit out of place, but it was peaceful and quite interesting. Hil actually passed by on the bus after the last session of Model UN in Malmö and saw our group as we carried lanterns through the cemetery.

The actual cemetery part of the walk was much too dark for photography. Here we are emerging near Sankt Pauli Kyrka. There was a prayer service after the hike but we made a quiet exit and managed to get tea at Hollandia just before closing!

About 50% of people in Sweden visit the cemetery or attend some All Saints/Souls celebration. The majority of cemetery visits, services and concerts happen on the first Saturday in November, the official church holiday. We were invited to dinner with the Westall Lundqvist family (my Danish Swedish relatives, Anne is my third cousin according to the Ancestry family tree) here in Lund. Before the dinner I thought it would be fun to take a quick walk through the cemetery just 2 blocks from our house and sure enough it was a big deal! Most graves and pathways were lit with candles and lanterns and there were people cleaning the graves and placing flowers. It was more solemn than what I’ve seen of the Day of the Dead but had a similar, if less colorful, vibe.

A Giant hare at Norra Kyrkogården scared me! Lots of Fall activities at the orchard, botanic garden etc.
brunch at Solnäs Gård -Kiviks orchard

Autumn in Spain

Our plans to visit my Spanish friend, Laura, had been on-hold since 2020 due to covid concerns and other circumstances. So I decided to take a solo trip. Even though it was not ideal to travel so soon after moving, I was tired of waiting for the perfect time. Laura’s daughter is spending a year as an exchange student in Golden, CO (where I taught for a year before moving to Denver Public Schools!) so she had the extra room available for me to use at her apartment in Valladolid, overlooking the Pisuerga River and most of the city. Spanish workers had Oct 12 off for National Day so Laura had more time than usual for leisure. She was able to do a bit of work from home and take some time off from her job as an engineer at Renault.

Pisuerga River from Laura’s apartment

We spent a day touring Valladolid and doing a few things that were new to Laura or that she had forgotten over the years. The cathedral tower guided tour was worth the scolding we had to endure for being 5 minutes late, which is not typically a problem in Spain! At 70 meters high, the views were fantastic and we could see Laura’s building- marked with a blue X sticker over the photo. The bells and clocks used to be run entirely by hand, of course, quite an important job and difficult as well. The original wooden spiral staircase still exists in usable condition but the elevator is much easier 🙂 The bells were extremely important to the community…each neighborhood had its own fire “code” and there were other general signals that everyone knew. The announcement of births, deaths, floods, etc all had their own tones. Now everything is run by electrical impulses that are programmed. When Valladolid was the Spanish capital, plans were for the cathedral to be the biggest in the country. But as politics and funds shifted over the next century, construction halted after only 2 towers (one forth of the original plan) had been completed. The missing tower on the left collapsed in 1841 (due to seismic and earlier structural damage)

I follow Laura’s Zumba (pronounced thoomba) class on FB and she didn’t want to miss her weekly session so I tagged along and did my best to keep up with the dancing, and it was really fun, but my favorite part was the table reserved at the cafe next door for “The Zumba Girls”. Really cute decor and antiques for sale, too.

coffee break en route to Laguardia, along the Camino de Santiago, busy with travelers

It was great to spend time with Laura, especially since her mother died shortly before our move to Sweden. Returning to Portillo without Chelo there to greet me was sad, and at the same time it rekindled wonderful memories and stories that made us laugh. We spent an afternoon in her hometown of Portillo, checking on her parents’ house while Laura’s dad was away. Laura knows everyone so a walk around Portillo is quite a social experience. We stopped every few minutes to chat with a friend or relative and eventually made our way to Laura’s aunt and uncle’s house. Laura wanted to show me the Pino Pinilla, tallest of the area’s pine trees, so her aunt went with us to teach us about pine nut harvesting since her father used to harvest them. We gathered fragrant herbs, the only one of which I could identify was thyme and wandered the pine and herb scented trail where the town holds its annual New Year’s Day 5k run. This year’s pine cones had already been harvested so Laura’s aunt gifted me one of the giant cones her father had saved, complete with seeds. Back at the house she showed us how to extract and crack open the seed shells and the nut was still fresh and tasty even though the cone was many years old. She fed us the best tortilla española and gave me some tips for making it turn out so well. But I don’t hold much hope of that. It’s truly an art to get the consistency perfect.

The bench reads “Portillo at my feet, you by my side” We were laughing because I had just pointed out to Laura that we would look like a couple in this photo. Laura’s childhood home is just off to the left.

La Vendimia, or grape harvest, had just finished up in the region. It should have gone through mid-October but climate change is pushing it earlier. This year was the earliest harvest on record, according to one of the bodegas we visited. Grapes were still being moved in from the fields and we would see grapes spilled here and there along the roads. In many places, the only vehicles allowed near the bodegas are those small tractors, a precaution to protect the caves from damage.


We were able to book tours of two wineries and visited several others without a guide. Since we didn’t have reservations during peak season we were quite lucky to find last minute restaurant availability most of the time, and when we didn’t, the Spanish tradition of Pinchos, small portions of food and drink served at a counter, suited us well. It gave me a chance to try many foods that didn’t appeal to me when I was younger and it was less expensive than a restaurant meal.

The 2 wine tasting experiences (cata de vinos) were very different from one another and both amazing. At Otañón el templo de vino we learned about tasting the wines and toured a modern winery with art installations while in Haro’s CVNE bodega, the tour was focused more on how wines are produced and featured exploration of the penicillin covered wine caves and their history. The old wines stored there, from as early as 1884, are completely encased by penicillin mold that is allowed to grow as it forms a protective barrier against harmful microorganisms.

We ate a few really nice meals, one at a bodega in Rueda and another in Laguardia, the 13th century fortified town on a hill, with much of the original wall, buildings and wine caves completely preserved. We ate lunch at a 400 year old palace and toured the bodega beneath it. They offered Laura their collection of readers to borrow, the better to read our wine list, my dear! And we had a good laugh. The tomatoes were so tasty that we asked where they were from and the server sent us to a nearby market that was stocked with vintage charm as well as fresh produce. In Haro we found a restaurant that did not require a booking and we waited in line for an hour, passing the time in conversation with locals who come nearly every Sunday for the house special, roasted lamb. In Valladolid we ate at the Red Tuna where we had 6 different preparations of tuna and dined al fresco, enjoying the amazing weather.

We enjoyed the evening in Logroño, partaking in the ritual of Pinchos sampling along Laurel Street, as mentioned in The Wine Lover’s Guide. And on the way back to Valladolid we managed to squeeze in a visit to one of Spain’s most famous cathedrals in Burgos.

Though we didn’t go inside, we passed by the palace in Burgos where Ferdinand and Isabella bestowed upon Cristóbal Colón his “privileges” in 1497.

And then suddenly it was time to make the trip back to Sweden. The high speed train was amazing- so fast and comfortable. Changing to the local airport tram was a bit harder, mostly due to the ticketing machines which were not working properly, and it took a few nerve wracking tries and lots of conversation in Spanish to finally get the correct ticket. And then they never even checked it! But I was at the airport with plenty of time for one more bocadillo and a bit of duty free wine shopping! I can’t wait to take Bryant on the next wine tour of Spain. Tusen tack och saludos a mi amiga Laura. Hasta la próxima!


The Castles of Outlander

Outlander is a series of Historical Fiction/ Fantasy novels by Diana Gabaldon, which was introduced to me in 1996 by Sandy Katz, a teacher colleague from Poquoson HS in Virginia. I remember that she gave me the first book on a Friday and on the following Monday morning she had the second book waiting for me because she knew I would need it! I was immediately hooked, and from then on waited eagerly for each new book in the never-ending series. Way before the TV show all we had was the Outlandish Companion and Fan Conventions to sustain us between books. I even bought my first graphic novel and had it autographed by DG at a Fan Convention. I have never cosplayed Outlander like many fans do, but I do own a coat that I consider Outlander style, and I wore it to the standing stones in Sweden

for a bit of fun. So for me the highlight of the Edinburgh trip was the day trip to see several sites used in the filming of the TV show. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and I now aspire to the week-long version all across Scotland someday…

Lallybroch, Culross and Blackness

We were super lucky to see Lallybroch (Midhope) as it is currently filming and was scheduled to be closed to the public. But we were able to see it from the outside. It is the Fraser family home in the TV series.

BLACKNESS CASTLE, lower center: a bathroom fit for royalty. It was heated and well equipped
BLACKNESS CASTLE, Wentworth Prison
“The ship that never sailed” built on the south side of the Firth of Forth in the 15th century, on ruins of a 1440 fortress
Linlithgow’s wall listing rulers of the United Kingdom, with memorials to 2nd Queen Elizabeth
Statue of Mary Queen of Scots born here 1542- The Royal House of Stuart LINLITHGOW PALACE

Lunch break was in Linlithgow and there was no guided tour since it’s under renovation due to falling rock. I had lamb shepherd pie for lunch with root veg soup. Both were delish.

The gardens on this hillside behind the palace were used in the Cranesmuir garden scenes
The hanging gardens of Culross used as Geillis Duncan’s Garden
LEOCH and LALLYBROCH – Bridge over the River Teith

Hard to believe we saw all this in one day! And the rain held off until the very last site. We didn’t get to walk along the river Teith, but the views were stunning even in the rain.


Flag at half-mast for QE2

Another long-weekend adventure with my friend, Stephanie. We headed to Edinburgh in that small window where the crowds have gone but the weather is generally still pretty good. Of course the death of Queen Elizabeth put a twist on our plans so instead the city was fairly crowded, with nearly all the typical tourist sites closed. The road closures didn’t impact us too much since we had booked a tour outside of Edinburgh to see some of the castles and villages. Our guide said she had to make only a small change in the route back into the city so that was fine. It ended up being a fantastic trip, really, once we adjusted our mindsets and made the best of the circumstances. In fact, I’m glad it worked out as it did because we had the chance to be in on an exciting bit of cultural history. And because we missed the usual sites, I can go back again with Bryant and see everything. I think he’s going to love it, and he’s the one with Scottish ancestry. I found this serendipitous book at the library in Lund called “111 places in Edinburgh that you shouldn’t miss” so we will have plenty to do.

We packed in so much during 3 days that I can’t fit it all in one post so here are some highlights from Edinburgh proper… Old Town, New Town, The Royal Mile and the area around our hotel which ended up being amazingly convenient with a bus stop right in front, on a route that took us directly to the center of everything. The people were extremely friendly and helpful, though accents were a bit of a bother and we had some fun trying to communicate. Folks on the bus or street often wanted to chat and that’s how we learned what was going on with the Royal Processions, transportation cancellations, street closures etc. We were a bit slow on the uptake, not realizing what a big deal the Queen’s passing would be for Edinburgh. At one point we were “trapped” in a small area near the procession route, unable to cross in any direction. That’s when we tried haggis, neeps and tatties washed down with a local ale and followed by a leisurely afternoon tea at another restaurant in the closure zone. Not a bad way to pass the time considering that the crowd was so dense that we didn’t stand a chance of actually seeing much.

The Queen’s image was EVERYWHERE

The vibe in Edinburgh was certainly different due to the royal events. It seemed like every shop, and public space had some sort of tribute, some quite elaborate, to the queen. Some shops had signs indicating that the muzak was specially chosen to convey sympathy or otherwise demonstrate respect, solidarity or solemnity. Another strange happening was the seemingly unannounced minute of silence at the airport while we were in the middle of security. An intense Brit literally shushed us!!! While only one guy, as far as I could see, chose not to cooperate. He went boldly on his way without pausing. I felt a tad rebellious about being compelled to honor the queen, but I didn’t have the nerve to do anything different.

Dean Village and the river Leith
Dean Village and the Water of Leith
Armchair books, the national library and University

On the last morning we got up early to catch the sunrise over the Firth of Forth which is a fjord and estuary or “firth” where several rivers meet the North Sea. Our hotel was a 20 minute walk from Portobello Beach. Again we really lucked out on the weather!

View over the Firth of Forth

Because the weather was so perfect, we focused on nearby outdoor attractions such as Calton Hill, Dean Village and the Royal Botanic Garden. We even managed to squeeze in High Tea of salmon dill sandwiches and cream scones. The whiskey tea had a wonderful aroma, being barrel-aged in a whiskey cask.

Cykeläventyr: Tirups Herb Garden

The weather has been so nice lately, and I can only hope that Autumn continues this way! Erin and Melissa rode their bikes from Malmö to Lund, where Carole and I joined them for a cycling adventure! I am still not confident about biking except under the most perfect of conditions, so it was a great time to get out of my comfort zone. We were mostly on dedicated bike paths and there was little traffic for the sections that were on the road. The route took us through picturesque countryside to a garden inspiration center (see previous post of the visit with my American friend, Brandie, who has since moved back to USA) with gift shop, cafe, and creative displays of plants and garden art. It’s quite charming. We enjoyed lunch al fresco followed by leisurely strolls around the grounds to soak up inspiration.

I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home and crashed around 7pm, but still I agree with the group that we should make biking a regular event, at least in fair weather. Next time we’d like to try biking out to the Long Pier and/ or the beach.

Another birthday in Sweden!

Our 14 year old (yikes!) says we need to do something different for her birthday this year to distinguish it from the photos of previous b-days in Sweden. She’s right- it’s hard to tell since she requests the same cake, gets similar gifts in more or less the same setting. So this year we changed a few details and though Bryant had to work the 3 of us headed out on a little adventure to Malmö by bus rather than train. It was easier than train and more pleasant except for the lack of AC on an 80 degree day. I think this was largely due to the kids choice of riding in the upper deck which they deemed more exciting. Luckily we had an abanico (Spanish fan) with us and I tolerated the heat.

I made the Birthday Girl’s favorite breakfast and after hearing about a bunch of cancelled trains due to an accident, we decided on the bus option. The bus stop is out on the highway entrance, which seems odd, but is really quite practical and safe for pedestrians due to thoughtful planning. There are speed bumps, sheltered pedestrian lanes and crosswalks. And of course the round-about keeps traffic flowing but at low speed. Even with all train traffic being diverted to bus, it was on time with plenty of space. Our new place is close to all bus routes and the train so I plan to start using the bus options more often. I think they might be more practical for certain trips.

We strolled though Malmö, stopping at the Saluhall (food court) for picnic lunch and continued on to the King’s Park where the kids played a new card game after our picnic while I took a quick spin through the botanic gardens and castle grounds. This time I noticed a new AnonyMouse installation and some pigeons nesting inside one of the arrow loops in the barbican (Barbican: an exterior defense or small castle defending a gate or approach to a castle).

Then back to Lund for sushi and beloved Dark Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake. The Birthday Girl played a new video game all evening and has already made plans to celebrate her day with a school friend next weekend by doing some “tree walking” at an obstacle course near Lund. Fingers crossed for a continuation of this gorgeous summer weather!

Twin Cities Theater Camp 2022 plus

Now that we are back in Sweden I’m making time to elaborate on the TCTC experience which has been a focal point of our last 5 summers. It’s been a joy to see how much the kids grow in their performance skills, leadership qualities, and so many ways. This year was special because it was the last for lil’s age group and also the world premiere of a new musical for which they will always be part of the Original Cast! Because it’s brand new we couldn’t take photos and recordings of The Logic Pit but here are a few from before and after the show. We’re all very proud and impressed at how hard our kid worked on this production, singing and dancing while wearing a mask all day and making constant improvements, a high energy endeavor! She was willing to take big risks, push herself to find new abilities and build on her strengths! That hard work paid off in a big way. It was another extraordinary production for lil and the entire group. Many of our friends and family were there to support lil and co. and for those who couldn’t be with us we hope we’ll be able to share it soon!

It was awfully hard to say goodbye to camp friends and staff. The cast pool party was a nice way to spend a bit of down time together. There were lots of tears as the graduates said farewell to TCTC with the mix of sadness and excitement that growing up brings. How can it be that our baby is starting high school?

There will be more on The Logic Pit once they give us access to the professional photos and I can post a link to the show when that happens.


Here we are at the Anderson’s new place in SP where they hosted a BBQ. It was very nice to catch up with everyone and the good weather held for most of the evening. We played a fun music trivia game which was well -fought by most of the gang, even the youngsters, and though we didn’t keep score I think everyone would agree that Allison is the reigning Queen of Rock. It was nice having my brother’s family in the neighborhood. They have an awesome location near lots of great places where we have fond memories.