December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

We are wishing all of our friends and family a

Very Merry Christmas
and a
Happy New Year

Jo and Lucy with Santa
Jo and Lucy with Santa

Posted by bill at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2010

Our Last Days in Europe

We took the over night ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg and arrived on Saturday, the 27th of November. We drove about four hours north, through snow and wind, passing by Aarhus and Aalborg, and finally got to Hjørring about 6:00 PM.

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of Christmas in Denmark.

In a Frozen Hjørring Alley
IMG_2491: Betty in a Frozen Alley
Birte and Ole
IMG_2504: Birte and Ole

Our main purpose for coming to the north of Jutland was to visit our old friends, Bet and Niels Simonsen. We met them 16 years ago on the Playa del Carmen beach in Mexico. We have been friends ever since then and have visited them several times. Niel’s brother Kurt and his wife, Ulla, are also out friends. We certainly did not come for the snow and cold, but it has been here, none the less. More than eight inches have fallen in the past week.

Beyond cooking and talking with our friends we have not been doing much. Niel’s primary job is farming. He is a very successful strawberry grower. In the winter he works one day a week for Det Grafiske Værksted, a graphic arts workshop where artists can get their lithographs printed. We liked the some prints enough that we will probably buy a set. While I am on the arts, we also visited the local art museum, the Vendyssel Kunstmuseum. There was a good exposition but the best pieces were by Berit Hjelhot. The tapestries she made are really fantastic.

On Wednesday Niels and I traveled more than two hours south to Herning. We came to see the annual farm and agriculture exposition, called Agromek. There I saw a lot of the new machinery used by farmers in Denmark. The size and diversity of the machinery was unbelievable. The only company missing was John Deere, who sells more tractors than any other company in Denmark. When I was a boy and teenager, I spent every summer on my grandparent’s farm. So, I had a lot of catching up to do. Niels was kind enough to explain what the machines did and how they worked. I really enjoyed this show. I might even have to go to Farmfest next summer in Minnesota.

On Saturday, Niels and I attended the Christmas luncheon at Nordjyllands Ultra Light Flyveklub. The last time that I visited, some six years ago, I told Niels about my learning to fly and how much I enjoyed it. He decided to give it a try and now he too is a pilot. The club rents a nice grass strip and has two hangers where they house their two planes and the planes of its members. We had a great lunch. We started with herring, the we ate Rødspætte fish, followed by pork and brown potatoes. Like all Danish get-togethers their were musicians and songs that they sung and we all sang together. And aqvit. We had a wonderful afternoon.

Bet had to work on Sunday, but when she got home she still had energy for a hike. The snow was coming down and the visibility was less than a half-mile. Still Bet, Niels and I drove to the coast to hike on the Lønstrup sand dune mountain, called Rubjerg Knude. It was good exercise and it was beautiful out. I can say that, even though I am no longer a winter person.

In the evening we had a wonderful diner with Bet’s parents, Ole and Birte Breyen. They have lovely home in Hjørring. We had lamb for dinner, a rare treat for me. We had a good Italian wine with dinner. We talked for hours. During WWII Ole was a teenager living in Rome, where his father was the chief engineer for a battery plant. In 1944 the Allies bombed the factory and Ole’s dad survived when a air pocket formed around him as the walls collapsed. They returned to Denmark and Ole started medical school where he met and fell in love with Birte. The two doctors had a rich life together and eventually settled in Hjørring. Betty and I totally enjoyed the evening.

Tomorrow we will drive to Fredrikshavn, then we will take the ferry to Goteborg in Sweden. The next day, Wednesday the 8th of December, we will drop our car off at the Volvo factory and get a ride to the airport. Our flight leaves midday for Copenhagen. From Copenhagen we will follow the sun to Chicago. We will catch a flight from Chicago to Minneapolis. We will be home by about 10pm and be there for the holidays.

Bet and Niels Simonsen
IMG_2507: Bet and Niels

Posted by bill at 12:15 PM | Comments (2)

December 03, 2010

I Love Couchsurfing

Our Couchsurfing Hosts

Mathias and Nia Lindstrom in Jonkoping, Sweden
Gerard and Karin Muguet in Montignac, France
Jean-Marc and Juliette Lagniel in Boulazac, France
Casey and Asier Ruiz in Bilbao, Spain
Rodrigo Lobo in Burgos, Spain
Martin in Pontevedra, Spain
Rety and Bruce Fuller in Porto, Portugal
Miguel in Vilamoura, Portugal
Elena Munoz in Jerez, Spain
Jean Pierre and Pat in Barcelona, Spain
Catherine and Etienne Daure in Beziers
Sylvie and Christian Loeillet in Aix-en-Provence, France
Philip in Venelles, France

Let me begin by saying THANK YOU to all of our hosts in Europe. And I convey a special THANKS to our couchsurfing hosts, who knew nothing of us and yet they kindly made space for us in their homes and lives. You can see a list of them on the right side of this page with links to their couchsurfing profiles. I encourage you to look at the profiles of these wonderful people.
While your are at looking at these profiles, take a look at our profile too.
Just click HERE to view our profile.

And I want to thank my friends and family who let us stay with them: my cousins Birgitte, Per-Erik and Anders Amnèus; my friends, Heike and Björn Günther, Pinu and Nilu Swami, Guille and Javier Burgos, Kurt and Ulla Simonsen, Niels and Bet Simonsen.

I LOVE and here is why.

Couchsurfing brings you much closer to the culture and people when you are traveling. When we stay with someone and their family, we get a special insight into who the people of a region or country are. We learn about their daily lives, from the food and wine they consume to what they think of their government and the region they live in. We learn about their families and often their histories. Often we find so much in common that we depart as friends.

Cousurfing hosts are a fount of information. They can tell you were the most interesting sites are, where to find fun places to spend a day or an evening, where to find good places to eat, and where there might be a good cultural event to see. Sometimes they bring you to a party. If you decide to settle in a town, they know where to look for an apartment. Information is gold when you are traveling and they have all the information that you could ever want - or know where to get it.

Couch surfing can make travel possible for those without lots of money. A place to sleep is often the most expensive part of travel. Of course, couchsurfing can reduce travel expenses greatly. For example, we have just spent three months in Europe and we have spent just $1000 for accommodations, where the average cost for a room is well over $60 per night or $1800 per month. This opens the door for many more people to see the world. The rich experiences of travel can be shared with a much wider circle of people.

These positive experiences are not just limited to the traveler, or - as we call ourselves, surfers. We have met many a couchsurfing host that never surfed themselves. We asked about what motivated them to host. The answers were clear: visiting surfers provided them a chance to get to know folks from the world over and very often they provided an opportunity to practice their English.

I encourage all my friends and readers to consider joining the couchsurfing collective. It is easy and it is free.
You can sign up for couchsuring by clicking HERE.
If you cannot bring yourself to join, please, tell your friends, who might like to join, about couchsurfing.

Posted by bill at 09:19 AM | Comments (2)