Monday, August 16, 2010

Another escapade to southern Europe

Mid-August... beginning of the Fall in Denmark ;-)... time to head out to the South of France again!

We hopped on a low-cost flight from Ryan Air (visit ), which for about $280 took us both from our airport in Aarhus to Girona-Barcelona on the Spanish Costa Brava in two and a half hours. Good idea to purchase the “priority” option for a few extra bucks, because since there is no assigned seating, we got priority to choose our own seats: 1A and 1B, with plenty of leg room.

We arrived in Girona on Thursday August 4, around lunch time. We drove right away to the very picturesque town of Tossa de Mar where we had some fish and seafood, washed them with some fresh rosé, before spending the beginning of the afternoon to wander around the old town wall up on the hill overlooking the bay and through the back streets paved with cobblestones. Later, we went to the beach in one of the nearby scenic coves, appropriately called Rosamar since the sand and the rocks are pinkish yellow, Utah-style.

Tons of tourists at what is probably the busiest time of year, but what the heck! it did not make the sights less enjoyable and anyway we were only passing through. Q enjoyed being again in this place where he spent most of his summer vacations as a kid and a teenager, and C agreed that this was yet another version of paradise on earth, albeit one within reach from Aarhus. Now we only wish Ryan Air would keep flying down there during the winter time, because we feel we’d use it!

Our final destination for the remainder of our stay was Q’s parents house in Vinça. Vinça is a village located about halfway between the Mediterranean sea and the Pyrénées mountains. Q’s family has been in the area at least since the 17th century and probably before that... The house has about 10-12 bedrooms and stands by a lake. For those who remember, that’s where we went two years ago for the French part of our wedding celebration.

This time, we celebrated Q’s mom turning 60 on August 7 (and trying to avoid it...) and Mila’s birth in May. So the whole crowd of family and friends was invited and it looked just like two years ago. Like for C’s sister wedding a few weeks ago, we had not seen most of these people since our wedding celebration. It was nice to hear people still call us les amoureux or les tourtereaux! which means something like lovers or lovebirds. Not quite that old couple yet, so that's good! People were blown away by C’s progress in speaking French and kept complimenting her! Mais oui !

Other highlights from our long weekend included a lunch in the medieval town of Castelnou, which sits atop a hill. We ate some catalan specialties like snails in a red spicy sauce and goat cottage cheese with pine nuts and honey. Another great lunch that lasted for hours took place at some dear friends’ house, where they have this insane view on the plain, hills and mountain, New Mexico-style. C also shopped for some leather sandals in Perpignan, which was taken over by people even more than the coast, due to a special 3-day long sale. Q also had some great bonding time going to the beach with his sister Sigo and cousin Vincent, as well as to a concert with his mom to listen to the renowned jazz pianist and composer Michel Legrand (a French guy who has won three Academy Awards).

Stay tuned for another adventure in the South of France (there will be more)!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When in Denmark... (we do as the Danes do!) – Part IV: We pick up strawberries

Colorado we liked to pick up our own raspberries at a nearby farm in Niwot. So when we heard here that we could go to pick up our own strawberries, we felt just like home. Berries are one of those things that grow quite well here in Denmark, although naturally they don’t reach ripeness as early as the ones from Spain or Italy.

On Saturday July 10, we actually went to the Holger’s Jordbaer farm North-West of town. Among those lovely rolling hills (woods and wind turbines in the distance) they had this gigantic field covered with four varieties of strawberries. We started of course by testing them all... mmmm... several times... until we settled for the two sweetest and most flavorful. We ended up our harvest with about 13 pounds of awesome strawberries!

As these had not been selected for superior shelf life, we quickly rinsed them, dried them, and froze them for our upcoming dark, cold and rainy winter. It’ll be like opening the freezer to get sunshine ;-) We also used about 2 pounds to make a most tasty strawberry jam that we enjoy every morning.

Life in Denmark does not come without any challenges, but there are some pleasant compensations!

When in Denmark... (we do as the Danes do!) – Part III: We go to the beach in town

Finally, in July, temperatures rose to about 25°C (about 80 F), occasionally to 30°C, so it could get quite hot to walk up the hill to get to work. Hence, when the heat reached its peak around mid-July, we decided to explore some of the various beaches Aarhus has to offer (see a description here: ).

In early July, we went to Ballehage, which is in the forrest on the south side of town, close to the hotel C stayed at when she first visited Aarhus. There were many people there, so it was equivalent to being on the Mediterranean. But it sort of faded out as we’d walk away from the main access point, until a different crowd of people would be found: the kind that do not wear any swimsuit... You know, those crazy and scandalous Europeans, pardon, Scandinavians ;-) But it's OK: C had seen one of these unknown naked guys before in Montpellier. Fortunately somewhere in the middle of these two crowds was a nice piece of beach that was not jammed with people and still had some sun shining on it.

The water was too cold for C, but for Q it seemed about equivalent to the Mediterranean last May... Actually now the water’s warmed up a bit (to about 21°C) and is about as warm as the water is in South of France, as Q could tell from a more recent trip down there that will be for another posting. So it’s not bad!

Q actually went swimming for a couple of times on the North side of town, a beach named Bellevue about 15 minutes from home by bus. The water is more shallow up there, and hence, the warmest! Awesome swimming, great views over the bay, the coastline and the town of Aarhus. The pictures at sunset were taken there (which still required some type of sweater+jacket to stay warm, once the sun was about 11 pm...).