Thursday, April 19, 2012

Minor Miracles

Today I (Carla) experienced two minor miracle. Number one: the scaffolding has finally been taken down from the front of our apartment building! We now finally have access to our balcony. Granted, it's not the best balcony in the world and we probably won't use it much, but I am really looking forward to using the south-facing space for growing some herbs!

Minor miracle number two: our key to the bicycle storage room (cykel kælder) has finally been delivered! Mind you, we first requested this key in the middle of December. Four months, many angry phone calls, and one funny angry-letter-written-in-Danish-by-Bobby, later, we finally have received the key. I cant wait to put all of our bikes in the basement tomorrow. The poor things have had to stand outside during the entire winter. Rust, frozen gears, and soaking seats have been the bane of our bike existence for the last 4 months.

In other news, Bobby left on Monday for her 10 week stay in London. He's doing research at Queen Mary University and is so far enjoying his time. My weekdays are quiet and lonely, but fortunately I'll be able to see Bobby most weekends (it's especially nice because April-June is when all of the long weekends/state holidays occur in Denmark). I fly to London tomorrow night and can't wait to explore the city with Bobby.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter Visit (and snow)

Bobby and I have spent the past three Easters in Paris with our dear friends Kate and Olivier. Three years ago, we had recently moved to Paris. Two years ago, we flew back to Paris from Copenhagen to visit the newly born Iris (she was just three days old when we arrived!). Last year, we went back to France and spend the holiday in Lille (Northern France) with Olivier's family. This year, though, we broke with tradition. Kate and Iris visited us in Copenhagen and spent the Easter holiday enjoying the lovely Danish weather (a lot of sarcasm here, but we'll get to that later in the post). As usual when we get together with our best friend Kate and the lovely 2 year old Iris, we spent much of the long weekend eating, drinking, and having a great time. Iris is old enough now to help Auntie Carlita in the kitchen. Here Iris is whisking the eggs for our breakfast.

So, lovely Danish weather, eh? On Saturday morning, it snowed pretty hard for 4 solid hours! We haven't had any snow since February and it decides to snow in April?

After the 4 hour snowfall, the weather decided to clear. We took a walk around downtown Copenhagen, where the sky was beautiful, but the wind was arctic (literally).

We finally saw the Little Mermaid (lille havfrue in Danish) statue. Sorry to say, it was as disappointing as we were expecting.

Oh well, at least we've seen it, and Kate and Iris got to see a new part of Copenhagen.

After visiting the Little Mermaid, we took Iris to a park. The entire trip she kept asking to go down slides. She finally got her chance! Uncle Bobby, in true uncle fashion, showed her how to make it more fun by going down the slide head first. Of course Iris, who absolutely loves her Uncle Bobby, had to try it.

It didn't go well. The adults had a good laugh, but the crying that ensued after this photo was taken (by the mean Auntie Carlita, who laughs at every fall) was the end of the fun in the park.

When Easter day finally arrived, Iris got to go Easter egg hunting in the apartment! She had a lot of fun finding all the chocolate Easter eggs that the Easter Bunny (aka Uncle Bobby) hid. After her nap, she awoke to discover that the Easter Bunny had come back and re-hid all of her eggs!

After re-finding all of her eggs, we all went to outside to play on the play-set in our common yard.

Iris even found a few little flowers to pick and give to us. We last saw Iris in early December, when she and Kate visited us for a mini-Christmas. Seeing the developmental difference in Iris from just four months ago was amazing! In December, she was talking a bit, but it seems like she was just repeating sounds. This trip, she was actually communicating! She was playing in a very different way, she could better understand the things we said to her, her memory was 1000 times better (after showing her where the trash can was on the first day of the trip, she knew where it was and would put trash in it throughout the weekend!), and you could actually see her sitting and thinking. It's such a fantastic experience to see her grow, both physically and mentally, and to continue to be a part of her life.

Friday, April 6, 2012

More painting

Since returning from Leuven, Bobby and I have been busy with more painting! We started with the guest room, or Mom's room. It used to look like this.

But now it looks like this! I really love the green color, which we choose to match the quilt Mom brought on her last visit.

Complete with new curtains, the room is warm, welcoming, and soothing with it's new paint.

We also repainted the music room. We originally painted this room back in January with a light blue color. However, I wasn't happy with the color. The room, which is quite large and has a lot of windows, looked too washed-out with the light blue. The music room is next to our dining room, which is a lovely bold blue, and it just didn't fit with the dining room. So we repainted!

With the gray color, the room looks much better next to the dining room.

I really love the cool gray. It reminds me of foggy winter days in Santa Barbara. You can almost taste the salt in the air (then again, maybe it's just the salty licorice we eat all the time...).

We decided to keep the nook the light blue color. We'll see how we feel about it over the next few weeks.

Do you see that patch of brown? That is what Bobby calls 'art'. He thinks this room should be our music and art room, so he decided to create the first art work for the room. We'll see how long it lasts once he leaves for London next week!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Weekend trip to Leuven, Belgium

Two weekends ago, Bobby and I got to explore the Belgian town of Leuven. Bobby had been at the university there for a week of research, so I flew out on Friday afternoon to see him and explore a new town with him. Leuven is a university town and has been since 1425, when the university was established!
We stayed at a really lovely hotel, which was a converted stable. Our room is the arched doorway on the left. The hotel was right across the road from the university.
This is what the hotel used to look like when it was still a working stable. Sadly, Leuven is the town where those 12 year old school children died on the bus crash in Switzerland while on a ski holiday. The hotel was just a block away from their school, and all around town there were reminders of the city's grief over the tragic accident.
Castle Arenberg, which is a part of the university, was right across the road from our hotel. Here's a random factoid: the first manned gas-filled balloon flight in history took off from the front lawn of the castle on 21 November 21 1783.
The city was filled with beautiful buildings. Here you see the university's Library (I think the balloon sculpture is in commemoration of the above mentioned flight, but I can't be sure because I can't read Dutch). This building was actually a gift from American to Leuven to celebrate the end of World War 1. The German burned the original library during the war.
In the background you can see the spires of City Hall.
And here is City Hall by night. The building dates from the mid-1400s and is quite Gothic-bedazzled!
In the middle of the city is the UNESCO World Heritage site Grand Béguinage. This area, which dates to the early 1200s, was a community for unmarried (or widowed), semi-religious women who wanted to dedicate themselves to the Catholic church but not take a vow of poverty. The majority of the buildings are owned by the university. Many students and international staff now occupy the buildings. Can you imagine having a dorm built in the 1200s?!?
An old water pump inside the Grand Béguinage.
Aside from beautiful Gothic and Flemish buildings, Leuven also hosts some lovely art. This painting, The Last Supper, was located inside St. Peter's Cathedral. The painting, dating from 1464, was painted by Dieric Bouts, and it a wonderful example of early Netherlandish art.
We didn't only see old art, though. This huge work was in the square right outside of the university library. We rather like it.
One thing I always look forward to when traveling is exploring new foods. We've eaten some fantastic meals over the years and I'm always excited to try new things. Unfortunately, the food in Leuven was disappointing. Not only was the food bad, it was really expensive. We ate at one Greek place, where we had a meal that would be bad by take-out standards, and it cost over 60 euros! Thankfully the hotel's provided breakfast was decent, but every other meal we had was just not good. We even had bad ice cream (seriously, how can you mess up ice cream?!?). Oh well, at least the waffles were palatable.
And, of course, the chocolate was good. Bobby assures me that the beer was good as well, but I can't comment on that myself.