Thursday, 17 February 2011


Paris was fabulous. Totally, completely worth the wait. We should have gone there more than five years ago when motoring in France, but detoured to visit a friend studying near Rennes. We should have been there on my actual birthday, but my poor father in law hurt his back. But the should haves meant that we were there on Valentine's Day instead, so what could be more romantic than that.

Oh, how we walked. And walked. And walked. From our hotel to Montmartre, skipping past all the tourists having their portraits drawn, drinking in the view from Sacre Coeur over Paris, and then moving away from the mass of tourists to the kind of France we love. Just wandering. Stopping and looking up tiny streets, shrugging, and following winding steps up and down, back and forth.

This was our lunch, in a tiny delicatessan which only had two tables (so definitely not a tourist trap). Corsican specialities, followed by lemon tarte and delicious coffee. Feet and stomach rested and filled.

We wandered on, people watching, window shopping and enjoying just being Mr and Mrs MacOlsson. And treated ourselves to Sunday brunch at the most elegant tea salon ever. Ladurée. Not cheap, but incredibly chic, and incredibly French. Did we catch a glimpse of the lovely Audrey Tatou? If not her, a very close likeness.

We had delightful neighbours, very unFrench French, who when they heard us speaking Swedish wondered where we came from. And when they heard that I was from Scotland, became rapturous. Ten years ago, they had camped for two weeks in Bonnie Scotland. It rained every day. And on the last day, on the Isle of Skye, he proposed to her. Scotland has that effect on people. Its not just the French who understand romance!

Finally, the wine. I imagine one would be completely fluent in French after this. Perhaps that is the secret.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Sun and Sweden

When I came here nearly 10 years ago, there were two things which really struck me. One of them was that all Swedes seemed to wander around talking to themselves. It was the weirdest thing. Until I realised that they all had handsfree earpieces for their mobiles. There's a phrase we use in Scotland to describe a country bumpkin. Translated into proper English it goes like this..."Down from the hills with heather in their ears" Well, that was me! Yes, we had mobiles in Culloden, but handsfree? That would just be for people in the Big Smoke.

The OTHER thing which struck me was Swedes and the sun. I arrived in November, getting towards the darkest time of the year. Every single time the sun was shining, a remarkable phenomenon occured. All Swedes were to be found either sitting on a park bench, or simply standing, with their eyes closed and lifting their faces up to the sun. Like a mass of bundled up sunflowers. Surrounded by snow.

Fast forward to today. I was waiting for the MacOlsson kidlets to finish bundling up to go out for a walk in the fresh snow. (Yes, we have more snow). So, I sat on the chair on the front step, closed my eyes and lifted my face up to the sun. And burst out laughing. Yes, its official. I have become a true Swede, appreciating every ray of sunshine which shines during the long Nordic winter. I too am a sunflower.