Friday, July 2, 2010

Vacation Diary - Day 7

This time Ally spent an hour awake during the night and I slept straight through...we'll both get it right eventually. The woman in the hotel seemed very perturbed that we didn’t eat any breakfast, and also seemed reluctant to believe we had no complaints about anything at all…maybe that speaks to her past experience with English-speaking visitors. Anyway, we walked up along the coast from Visby, which you can do for 3 or 4 km until ending up at Snack, consisting mainly of a hotel and campground (and, sure, some snacks). Along the way we saw many tents and caravans and little holiday chalets – it really does seem to be a place offering something for everyone, regardless of their budget. It actually makes me think quite vividly of 60’s and 70’s Britain when hoards of “working class” families would take their summer break in some seaside “holiday camp,” crowding for a week onto whatever little patch of sand they could find and praying it didn’t rain. Visby has somewhat better beaches than that, and (presently at least) better weather, but there might be some broad similarity in the place it occupies in the Swedish scheme of things.

Pleasing to note by the way that we have not had a single drop of rain on the trip so far, and never a night when it wasn’t warm enough to sit outside, if we wanted to. Sweden has been a few degrees cooler than Paris, but you could hardly detect that today. The trail along the coast is unbrokenly scenic, and very well-used both by walkers and cyclists – the only minor drawback is that it doesn’t actually smell all that good. I imagine it’s a natural phenomenon and you probably get used to it, but it certainly counted as an imperfection today. On reaching Snack we walked up a bit and then came back a different way, mostly along “nature trails,” although of the common variety where you’ll succumb to the illusion that you’ve wandered far from everywhere, and then you come round a bend and realize you’re right next to the road. We saw far fewer people on this route than we did along the coast, which helps the illusion of doing something rare and far removed.

Arriving back in Visby, we got some ice cream from the magnificent ‘Visby Glass,’ which has just about every flavor you can think of (well, no apple) and all locally made…it seems to have the advantage over its next door neighbor and competitor “Skopglass,” although Skopglass does offer Ben and Jerry’s. I had crispy chocolate and mandarin, Ally had passion fruit and blueberry. We then walked fifteen minutes or so to the windmills we’d spotted last night. Unfortunately they are pretty much derelict now and not in particularly good condition, although the sails are still there. Windmills are strange and gorgeous creations: through modern eyes, they're a ridiculously unwieldy way of accomplishing their designated task, and yet they're oddly progressive - not just in harnessing natural energy, but even embodying a living space explicitly dependent on it...

From there we made our way back to the hotel for our afternoon break. What a great rhythm it is we have on vacation. Year after year on vacation I find myself thinking, I need to find a way of integrating this better grasp of how to live into normal life. I don’t really have that feeling this time though, because with my job change and better control over my schedule, I’ve actually made some progress to achieving it. Ally is still more tied up in work-related logistics, especially the commute, but she's content nevertheless. So we are in good shape. At least until September, when our new puppy Ozu comes to live with us and disrupts everything (but then, it’s not like anyone held a gun to our head and forced us to take him).

A poster informs us British rock legends Status Quo are soon touring this region of Sweden…so that’s where such groups go to die. And appearing in Stockholm this very night – John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Rival fame, which might actually have been tempting for the sheer oddity of it, if we were in Stockholm. Swedish TV appears to consist in large part of American imports - it would work quite well for us, if we cared, since it's all subtitled rather than dubbed. When we came back last night, only one of the five main channels was carrying something in Swedish - the others had Spider-Man 3, The Sopranos, CSI New York, and a reality cop the hearts of the cultural guardians must swell with pride...

Anyway, since I'm more than adequately supplied with my own viewing, I finished watching The Ascent; I've also kept on top of all my designated websites, and done a tiny bit of work; Ally has finished one book and is tearing through another. We went back out and explored some more. Like Dr. Who's Tardis, Visby has the feel of being smaller than it is - once you start walking, it keeps opening up new side-streets and angles and squares and look-out points. It also has a ton of restaurants, and many of them were busy tonight, but then it's a vacation spot, and it's Friday night! We decided to do Italian, and split a pizza and a pasta, both good, although heavier than they would have been back home based on the same menu descriptions. Then we drank our wine, and the streets gradually thinned out...most likely the old-timers went home, and the others congregated and danced till dawn (a feat demanding fewer hours here than in most other places). We did not dance till dawn.

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