Two years in Europe - 17 December 2009 to 4 January 2010
Mary and Gordon visit Lund in Sweden, Frankfurt in Germany, London, Slindon and Ossett in England

Mary's narrative: January 10, 2010 [with italicized editorial additions]
Now that Teagan, Carmela, and I have just had happy birthdays (and we trust Mia’s will be just as good in a day or so) , I just want to say that for both the Bday and Xmas, the most wonderful of presents was the intertwining presence of a lovely sampling of loved ones.

We both are so glad we started off the European tour in Sweden [Ed: flying in to Copenhagen on the 18th as Barack was wheeling and dealing nearby, and taking the super bridge over to Sweden; but the train stopped just beyond Malmo, backed back, and we had to take a cab in the snow to Lund]—Evi clearly appreciated having us come to Indrek’s funeral but just as much we appreciated how rich our lives have been with friendships that date over decades.[Ed: see pics of snow at the Huldt's home - Sven generously drove us all the way to Copenhagen airport on the sunday morning in 30 cm of new snow]

Our few days there and the first in Frankfurt with Daniel and Anita drifted by with picture postcard snow scenes outside and such warmth within—actually within our tummies thanks to glühwein at the traditional Christmas markets [Ed: see pics of the Weinachtsmarkt at Homburg (a suburb of Frankfurt) and its castle - the origin of the Homburg hat]- in Germany. [Ed: the second day, while Anita went to work, Mary, Gordon and Daniel took the train to Würzburg - another splendid Weinachtsmarkt, several old churches, and a guided tour around the big palace - those bishops lived life in style...] Christmas day itself was little gloomy outside but D&A’s apartment sparkled with their first home Christmas—blue lights on the tree, lots of fun giving and receiving [Ed: I think the Pandas enjoyed the new Christmas stockings and the presents as much as anyone] and a glorious fresh duck a l'orange that Anita and I had great fun preparing (the trick is to pierce the skin and then pour boiling water over it to get the fat running). It was good to know that Geb and his girls were joining their English cousins (Andrew, Natalie, Chyra and Jack) in an old fashioned English Christmas while Sebastien, Mia and their girls were cruising to the Bahamas with David and Chong Cha; Nico, Sarah, and Simone were afloat with the frisky Frisches—though they moved onto a great weekend in Mendacino.

Eventually [a reunion of] GoGo, GaGa, GMS, A&D at Carmela and Paul's place in London—we had a gratifying glimpse of Rachel before she took off for a Norwegian New Year!! Over the next week, we had many alternate plans but did get in memorable 3+ days with the Treasures in Slindon—complete with [a lasagna and liquor] lunch at Lady Caroline's. It was crispy cold but on New Year’s Day the first sun we'd seen since before leaving Chicago picked up the green green of the hills dotted with white sheep (Gordon and I actually spent our nights at a local sheep farm B&B down the road. It was good to see how much progress John Clark has made since his stroke on our visit exactly 2 years ago, but age has its way of slowing down those of us who are aging [Ed: although we did all get to walk through the woods around the Slindon school grounds, and the following day splash thru ice and mud to the Folly on the hill] --.that includes Mireille and Savannah who also made fairy houses in the back garden and forward and back flips in between. [Ed: only GEB could do them too] We all had a killer game of Monopoly [Ed: well-played JC!] waiting for the New Year to come in—watched [on TV] the spectacular London fireworks shooting off from the London Eye and then an impressive set booming from next door. Geb, the girls, Anita and I got an extra day in at Slindon while Gordon and Daniel travelled North to visit Uncle John and attended the Huddersfield [football/soccer] Match—we felt like too much of an invasion to all go—John is approaching his 77th year and like some others, really struggling with type 2 diabetes. Of course that didn’t stop him from being the perfect host.

Since Phil and JC are seriously looking for a smaller place, probably nearer to Chichester [They don't seem to want Mum's old place "Seacote", now on sale for 1.5 million pounds], there was a certain bittersweet quality as this visit had us revisiting decades of wonderful times at St Richard’s House. However, there is one triumph—we fixed dates in early May for John and Phil to pay the long overdue American Tour—Chicago, South Bend and perhaps a weekend in NYC or Washington DC—we count on everyone making sure it comes off as planned!!

When we got back to London, Carmela and Paul had returned from their Stateside tour—much of their time in San Francsico but it was splendid to hear our house exchange with them was packed with relative fun on both sides of the pond. Jo, Bob, Izzy, Denis, Susannah, and Carmela’s brother kept the [5411 South Harper] house warm despite the Chicago chill. Carmela and Paul were totally gracious about their [London] house invasion with Berries underfoot in every nook and cranny. We got in some good visiting as we slowly straggled off-Anita and Daniel back to Frankfurt on Sunday [3 Jan], Mary and Gordon to Chicago on Monday [4 Jan] and Geb and the girls had time for another play in the park with Rachel and Paul (Carmela had to go back to work—which might have been a quiet relief) before they left on Wednesday [6 Jan]. While the lines were long and the baggage searches many, we all got back without too much trauma—before the next big storm hit London and kept Slindon snowbound. Given the continuing storms all over Europe, I guess it was a good thing we didn't wait for the New Year for our tour!! Though it is not especially hot today in Chicago--6 above, and a foot or so of the white stuff [and double that at South Bend] (still white so really quite lovely).

For pictures of Sweden and Germany, click HERE         For pictures of London and Slindon, click HERE