If Porto is any indication, humans have been working on the proper stair height for more than 2,000 years, and only just recently agreed upon a standard.
I never appreciated that standard until now. In this ancient town, you’ll find differences in height between flights located in the same building, and even stairs in the same flight. Aaand, fun thing about bifocals, they make me a lot more clumsy with stairs. Introduce a mask into the equation (which can make said bifocals easy to slip off), I’m a walking disaster waiting to happen.
Most days we’re averaging 40 to 50 flights a day, and while I’m glad to have the stamina, I feel like I’m missing a lot because I’m concentrating so hard on not falling to my death. Good thing I’m traveling with some patient people….
You guys, I just noticed the 10th anniversary* of this blog has quietly come and gone and I did nothing to make note of it. What started as a simple task to keep family from freaking out while we traveled, burgeoned into an up-to-thrice weekly effort to build an audience platform that might make me more attractive to publishers, and then waxed and waned according to how funny (or pissed off, embarrassed, caustic, or inspired) I was feeling week by week has really atrophied as of late. And I feel terrible about that.
Someone asked me recently “are you evenwriting anymore?” as if it’s something like a tree falling in the forest: not really there unless someone is able to respond to it in some way.
In short, writing? Yes! Pushing pithy material out on this poor blog? Not so much.
First of all, don’t come at me about the title, you guys. I know teens does’t rhyme with the way you’re supposed to say New Orleans, but it’s cute and kitschy and SEO friendly, and y’all know I’m all about the market.
Secondly, you should know this trip just about didn’t happen, even though we’ve been planning it for months. We were going to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon as Mike’s official 50th half before age 50, and show our son, his girlfriend, and our exchange student one of our favorite cities in the world, which we’ve been unable to visit since before Hurricane Katrina.
“I’m a weed detector,” Jack said as a distinctive acrid aroma filled the foyer. From the living room we heard the front door open and then close not one second later, followed by a chorus of giggles.
Apparently our Weed Detector had been successful in locating the enjoyer of said aromatic herb, standing in her own little fog on the front porch about five feet away from our entry.
I don’t know if most towns would appreciate a travel blog starting out with an anecdote about pot, but if you’re planning a trip to Seattle with adolescents, it’s probably helpful to come to grips from the outset with the fact that that Seattle is one of the most weed friendly towns in the US. If you happen to hail from a conservative state like ours, and you’re traveling with a small gaggle of teens, you can probably expect a little fascination with the topic, as well as someone pointing out the head shop on just about every single corner.
If nothing else, we established right off the bat this weekend that our sophisticated older kid is quite the bloodhound, able to suss out cannabis smoke within a radius of little more than arms length. Nothing gets by that guy.
We returned from Germany on Sunday and dropped Jack off at his host family home in Sønderborg (he’ll finish out the last week of his exchange and then travel home from Billund. Our tickets are outbound from Copenhagen), and continued on to see a couple of other points of interest in Denmark.
One of those was the town of Haderslev, not too far north of Sønderborg. Mike picked this place out because he thought it would be a quiet stopover on our way north, and also because at least one of my ancestors is from here: my grandmother Betty’s great grandfather Nis Jensen Krough, to be exact. Nis was born in 1849 in Haderslev, and died in 1908 in Des Moines, Iowa. He married Gertrude Marie Christiansen, also of Denmark (although her birth city is unknown to us).
It has happened before: regardless of what Einstein said about the definition of insanity, we’ve done the exact same thing we’ve always done and had something totally unexpected happen. Take this trip, for example. We’ve had such good luck finding lodging with minimal knowledge about where we were going or extra wads of cash to spend. Even when we were in Copenhagen, and I’d made our airbnb reservations after reading exactly one article on how cool the Nørrebro neighborhood is, we ended up getting a hip, little flat in what turned out to be the neighborhood about which everyone we’ve talked to since has made that sucking-air-through-your-teeth-sound at, even then we had good luck.
That luck-with-the-lodging thing kind of went pfhht in Hamburg.
Our oldest son is a young man of many talents, but I must say, he’s got a ways to go if he wants a future in the travel industry. When we’ve talked about the town he’s called home this past year, he totally undersold it. The impression he left us with was: safe, small, and rainy. There’s a rocky beach and a harbor, a decent mall, and a great kebab shop within walking distance.
We weren’t really prepared to be blown away by Sønderborg, a seaside town of around 30,000 that straddles the narrow straight of Alsslund in southern Denmark.
It’s obvious how much thought Joona and Saara and others have put into planning our stay in Finland. On our first full day, Saara had to work for part of the day, so Joona took us on a short walking trip around Pori and to visit a natural history exhibit in the town museum. That evening Joona’s parents, Matti and Pirkko, fixed another meal for us in their home in town.
Pori is a town of about 85,000, with a university, and lumber and manufacturing as major industries. Established in the 1550s, it has burned down and been rebuilt nine times until someone got the great idea to install wide esplanades as firebreaks.
Next week, it will host its annual Pori Jazz Festival, and organizers were setting up tents and platforms in the streets while we were exploring in the drizzly weather. I don’t know a lot of the artists on the bill, but Chaka Kahn and Grace Jones were two I recognized.
In Finnish there are, apparently, a number of different words for “mosquito,” and one that in certain dialects, also means “cow.” I don’t know what that says about Finns, the complexity of their language, the mosquitos around here, or cows for that matter. I haven’t seen any cows, but the mosquitos are prolific.
For the most part, they’re also thankfully disinterested in our party. I think if one of those words is for “polite mosquito,” that’s the kind we appear to be dealing with this week.
We arrived in Pori yesterday via Onnibus, a low cost transit service that features double decker buses, with free wifi and chargers. For about 30 Euros per round-trip ticket, plus a small charge for seat reservations, I was able to secure the front row on the top deck for our party. It’s about the most fun and lowest cost way to travel the three and a half hours from Helsinki to Pori I could imagine. The scenery was fantastic, and the chance to sit and watch the landscape go by gave us a nice respite from the crowds and cobblestones of Helsinki (although that is one of our favorite cities).
Last month, Grant Feller of The Telegraph published an article admonishing parents to wait to travel with their children until they’re teens. To do otherwise, he says, is a waste of money, and the only reason anyone would do so is to assuage guilt about expensive vacations, and rack up bragging chits about their little ones’ ability to tick countries off lists before any of their friends.
Feller points his own childhood travels as “supreme indulgences” on the part of his parents, who dragged him along when he was too young to appreciate or remember anything of significance.
If all that wasn’t enough, he says, traveling with kids is distinctly no fun.
“Children are always inconveniently tired, have very little interest in culture, can’t walk longer than 45 minutes without needing sustenance and moan if burgers aren’t on the menu.”
As part of a parenting team that has brought one or more young children along on a number of regional and international trips, I have a different perspective.