salutations!

Nous sommes ici à Paris! I appreciate night hours with darkness but still wake up in the middle of the night and feel like I lay awake for hours. It will be nice to be here for more than a week. Here’s a video of our current home away from home.
We had a great visit with my parents in Iceland. Good to have time with them.  Good for my dad to see Iceland again after 60 years.  It worked out really well meeting them at the airport. We all arrived at the baggage claim at the same time after breezing through customs. Almost seemed too easy. Finding a place open for breakfast in Reykjavik proved more challenging. Navigating unfamiliar winding streets with long difficult to pronounce names was sort of comical –a scene sure to be repeated many times on this journey. Fortunatley for us, most Icelanders also speak English. The Icelandic language (Íslenska) humbles me. Although spoken by a very small percentage of the world population, (the population of Iceland is only ~ 320,000 and apparently sheep out number people) the Icelandic language is a defining aspect of the culture.   And such lingustic purists!  My mom read somewhere that the Icelanders spent more time discussing how to refer to HIV than how to prevent it.

If interested in learning about Icelandia, I highly recommend reading The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley. Fun, informative fiction.  Great passage about the hundreds of ways a noun can decline: “A horse is a hestur.  Unless you’re riding it or hitting it or even just looking it at it, in which case it’s no longer hestur but simply hest.  Take something from a horse and suddenly it spells itself hesti. Walk over to it, presto change-o you’re looking at hests…..Horses in plural are hestur, unless you’re talking about them, in which case they’re hesta.  Sit near them and you’ve got to start calling them hestum.  Bring some hay to them, they turn back to hesta.  And that’s just if they’re horses in general.  The horse in particular is hesturinn.  (You attach the the to the back of the horse like a tail.)  But try to pet the horse, it’s hestinn.  Take something from the horse, it’s hestinum.  Bring water to the horse, it’s hestsins.  Once there’s more than one particular horse, you’ve got hestarnir.  But watch out: touch them, brush them, look at them, say anything about them, even one word, they turn into hestana.  Stand opposite the horses and you’ve yourself hestunum.  Bring them water….”

The first three nights we stayed on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula at the base of the magnificent Snaefellsjokull Glacier in the small ‘town’ of Hellnar.  We were lucky to have beautiful sunny weather while there.  Near our cabin was a little cafe (with yummy waffles) overlooking the Badstofa cave which has an opening and is filled with birds.  The rock formations along the coast in this area are amazing.  We went to Songhellir, a good cave for singing.  My favorite place was the beach at Djúpalónssandur/Dritvik where scraps of a fishing trawler wrecked in 1948 still remain.

 

We had a lovely lunch at the Budir Hotel one day.  I tried a few bites of lamb at dinner one night at Hotel Hellnar.  Never had lamb before, pretty good for red meat.  The sheep roam and graze freely and supposedly their moss diet makes them especially tasty.  Went out for a run one morning and saw three sheep huddled at the front door of the church, desperate to get it in, I suppose!

For the remainder of our time in Iceland, we stayed in a house in Reykjavik.  Close enough to walk to town but far enough out to hear only one drunk group of late night singers.  The house was filled with light which was nice during the day.  The sun never set but only hovered at the horizon for about four hours each night.  The boys slept well in ‘Narnia’, a dark cozy enclave accessible through, of course, a wardrobe in one of the bedrooms.

We ventured to the sites of the Golden Circle one day and relaxed at the Blue Lagoon another.  My hair still hasn’t recovered from the ‘healing’ waters though.

More about Paris soon….

photo credits: really cool pics of iceland are probably from nordica photography, house photos from owners’ sites

days of leisure

We haven’t been able to do too much as Aidan has not been well. Yesterday was Willem’s 10th birthday and rather than be able to celebrate in the grand fashion we had planned….Willem and I went to a movie theater while Aidan rested.  We saw Moonrise Kingdom, an utterly enchanting film and even more so with French subtitiles!  Superb acting.

We then ventured to an Italian restaurant who’s backdoor is in our courtyard. Willem at least had some tiramisu, no candles but some sad singing – happy birthday, eh bien!
Today we dragged les enfants charmants à la cité des sciences. Cool place, wish we had more time and energy.
I went to the market on Rue Mouffefard, one of the oldest streets in Paris (5e arr.) J’ai pris quelques photos et j’ai acheté un poulet rôti et des pommes de terre pour le dîner.

C’est tout!

au revoir paris, dobrý den praha

Yesterday we left a hot sunny Paris and arrived to a warm rainy Prague.  A very friendly American-born driver met us at the airport and brought us to our apartment. There we met  the owner who showed us the apartment and a map of the area marking places he recommended for shopping, eating, and where to catch the tram. We went to Café Louvre for a nice Czech dinner. We figured out the exchange rate for the koruna. Prices here are much cheaper than Paris!

Aidan recovered and had more energy so we were able to venture further and longer our last few days in Paris. We went to the flea market (‘les puces’ or ‘the fleas’) where walked through a large area of stalls playing loud music and selling food, African goods, sneakers, t-shirts and other clothing all targeted to those who aspire to look like a ‘gangsta’. We kept walking and eventually found the more Parisienne, charming, vintage, antique markets that we envisioned. For clear directions, here’s a link to an adorable blog, Oh Happy Day.  It would have been reassuring had I read this before we went.  We were there on a Monday when many stalls were closed but since we were there to just browse, it was nicer for it to be less crowded.

After lunch, we went to Centre Pompidou and breezed through the exhibits of modern art from 1905-1960. The 1960’s – current day exhibition really captured the boys attention. They spent quite some time taking photos and videos.  Willem was enthralled with a video installation titled The Dome.  He made Aidan and I come watch it but Aidan didn’t share the same appreciation. It was after six when we were ready to leave. I really wanted to see the Brancusi Atelier but it was already closed.

We were tired and cranky but pressed on to the Tuileries where we had a nice dinner nearby. Three Frenchmen who sat next to us complimented Kevin on how well behaved and integrated in our conversation the boys were.  So good to hear as we’ve had our share of exasperated moments where we have showed each other (and others) our ugly sides.

The boys and I went to an amusement park in the Tuileries and rode the ferris wheel just after the sun set. The Eiffel Tower was lit up and had the same golden glow as the crescent-shaped moon that hung just above it.  It was an amazing view.

The boys then had a blast floating, running on water in plastic bubbles!

Tuesday we attempted to go to Les Catacombs. It was a hot day and a cool underground stroll among piles of bones seemed refreshing but instead we wandered around misled by a sign pointing to the wrong direction. We were asked by others for directions so we weren’t alone in our confusion. Of course, by the time we found the entrance, it was closed.

Spent a quiet afternoon reading in the shade at Jardin du Luxembourg. Willem enjoyed the playground where he made friends and played tag.

After a very hot and crowded ride on the metro, we had dinner along Canal Saint-Martin. Enjoyed watching people ride by on bikes and groups of friends sitting along the quai having a picnic.

Prague

Here’s some photos of where we are staying Prague.  We are close to the Vltava River between Staré Město (Old Town) and Nové Město (New Town).

Yesterday we headed out early and had a lovely breakfast at the very elegant Café Savoy. Nice of the NY Times to review it today in their article 36 Hours in Prague.  The ceiling, which was wisely covered by the owner in order to protect it from the Nazis and Communists, is just one example of the many incredibly intricate details you can see it this city. The cafe also boosts the most extensive and expensive lists (a whole menu actually) of white teas I’ve ever seen.  I opted for their special latte with cinnamon and sugar though and had no regrets.

We then hiked up to the Castle Quarter (Hradčany) to see the Prague Castle that looms above Prague.  It is the Gothic spires of the Saint Vitus Cathedral that prominently stands out as you view up at the castle.  I was impressed by the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk made from over a ton of shiny silver – pretty modest for a martyr.

Saw many stained glass windows including the Art Nouveau window designed by the famous Czech artist, Alfons Mucha (Moo kah). Prague is a beautiful blend of many different styles.

We saw the changing of the guards at noon which is more ceremonious than at other hours.  That’s a hot and boring job. The boys were inspired though and are my guards at the gate when we leave our apartment building.

There wasn’t too much to see at the Old Royal Palace.  Hopefully one of the boys will post about defenestration.  The vaulted ceiling in the vast hall is spectacular.  We quickly traipsed through the Basilica of St George, where lots of Czech royalty are buried, and the recently renovated Golden Lane, a cobbled-stone row of small houses along the castle wall.  At the end, we saw the dungeon with just a few small cells and torture devices at the bottom of Daliborka tower.  The boys ventured further down to see a pit of bones.