Now we have been in Paris for about five weeks and some things are becoming clearer to me. This is a city. It isn’t Austin. It’s bigger and it’s older. And I can have a hard time adjusting to city life. New York I know. I’ve been there a bunch, lived there a bunch. Paris, I don’t even speak the language. It is inherently foreign. So, a month plus into this stay I’m starting to get what my problem is and am addressing it appropriately and “shazam”, I’m enjoying the experience more.
We went to Stockholm in February and had a great time. It’s a water city, water, water, water everywhere. Gorgeous. It was freezing cold but still so beautiful. I loved the food very much. Delicious, hearty bread. I shouldn’t really eat very much bread, it hurts my stomach. But this stuff was soooo tempting. They also love their muesli covered in crazy Swedish berries and many different types of fermented milk products. I had great coffee and also very tasty teas.
We were staying at an old hotel right on the water called Hotel Diplomat. I highly recommend this hotel if you’re staying in Stockholm.
Normally when a hotel offers free continental breakfast that is not a selling point for me. And I was, as always, skeptical when I went down that first morning. But my skepticism turned to ecstasy with my first cup of the special house blend Hotel Diplomat tea with an earl grey base supplemented with other mysterious but fantastic flavors. Oh, why didn’t I buy some while I was there? I could have taken some Hotel Diplomat home with me.
Anyway, Stockholm speaks more English than Paris does. Which is good for me because I haven’t bothered to learn anything but English and some Spanish. I walked around in the freezing cold every day, looking at textile, ceramic and furniture design. They have a gorgeous park filled with really cool museums. At one museum I bought a Swedish carving knife, inspired by an account in James Krenov’s A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook about the importance of owning a good Swedish carving knife. Now I own one.
They also have a lot of department stores, as does Paris. I grew up going to department stores in Houston and I have a lot of fond memories of them. And these European department stores are much more like the ones in my memories than the malls that have replaced them in the US. I wandered all around in them, looking at the furnishings and the fancy foods and the pricey but handsome clothes.
Did you know that Stockholm really loves their 7-11’s? I feel like Texas has way fewer 7-11’s than when I was growing up. It was really my first convenience store. 7-11 and then U-Totem and then Stop & Go. Anyway, it looks like they just moved those Texas 7-11s over to Stockholm and sortof snazzed them up. They sell incredibly good-looking packaged sandwiches and an assortment of fancy baked goods, the likes of which we would never see in a 7-11 in the US.
They sell a lot of candy in bulk at the 7-11. Weird things like gummy teeth and licorice covered in salt. They have bins that are just open right in the middle of the store where everyone just puts their grimy hands in to get their candy. Personally, I was not tempted. But my traveling companion was. And she never got sick, so I guess it was ok.
Stockholm also loves to put their food in a tube so that you just squeeze it out on that wasa cracker, or onto their delicious bread. Our US dollar doesn’t go very far over there and we were looking for something to eat in a grocery store that was under $15 and came across these tubes of vegetables that looked promising. Then Ann figured out that it was baby food. We didn’t buy any. But I swear I saw a woman walking down the street in Paris the other day sucking on one of these Swedish tubes of pureed vegetables.
Sweden somehow kick-started something inside of me about this European adventure that I’m on for five months. Last year my beloved and old(ish) cat stopped grooming herself. Her hair got all matted and dirty and the vet informed me that sometimes cats do this and that I needed to have her shaved. Shaving her was a traumatic experience as it reminded me of when my dad had his glorious Santa Claus ‘fro shaved due to his chemo. But actually, my cat’s fur felt amazingly soft once she was shaved. And she looked very sleek, and kindof like a cross between a dog and a lion. And of course her fur grew back. And then it was like the shaving had just hit the re-set button and she was right back to grooming herself all the time like she always had before.
That’s how the Stockholm trip was for me. It hit the re-set button and now I’m really into being here in Europe. I’m looking at the textile, ceramic and furniture design of Paris. Because, hell, they have a ton of it! There is plenty to look at here! I’m eating out more. I’m walking more slowly thru the city streets. I’m accepting that I’m here in a foreign country, freezing, while it’s spring back in Austin. I miss the cats and biking and woodworking and my Austin friends and family tremendously. But there is some reason why I’m over here. And I just need to slow the hell down and let it reveal itself. I get anxious when I don’t know the answer to everything. But I just don’t know the answer to everything, so it’s time I started getting used to the fact of that.