Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chocolate souvenirs

In a box in the basement, there are four baskets. Easter baskets. Each of my children has had their own basket since their first Easter. Always filled on Easter Morning with the usual fare: chocolate bunnies, Peeps, stuffed animals, trinkets and treasures.

The children are grown now. Well, almost. The only one left at home is the "baby" and she is 15.
I don't stay up late stuffing plastic eggs to be hunted the next day. I don't buy stuffed animals. No one wakes up at dawn ready to go outside to hunt for the basket left by the Easter Bunny. No one relishes the idea of chocolate before breakfast because for all I know they eat chocolate for breakfast - or cold pizza and leftover beer - every day. They are on their own, after all.

Last year I filled a big basket with all kinds of chocolate and candies and then let my children pick what they wanted to take away with them when they returned to their own homes or went back to school. I decided to do it again this year.

I woke up this morning to find my son asleep on the sofa. He'd slipped in in the wee hours without saying a word. While he slept around the corner of the doorway, I pressed a pot of coffee and filled the basket with chocolate eggs, gummies, licorice, toffee and milk chocolate bars from Iceland. It was all hand-carried on the plane and tenderly transported home.

To me, there is great significance in the basket on the table today. It marks the changes in the way we live. They make their way home to me and I welcome them with souvenirs of places I wandered off to while they were gone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Delta Blues in the Land of the Midnight Sun

I haven't had this much musical fun in another city since the jazz band in Budapest found out I can sing St James Infirmary.
American music is big all over the world. But uniquely American music is a passion for some in other countries. Particularly Jazz and the blues.

While I was staying at the Hilton Nordica, just out of the main city area, the hotel was hosting Bluesfelag Reykjavikur. The Reykjavik Bluesfest.

Each night the hotel bar filled with the sound of the blues - done with an Icelandic twist. Men dresses as Jake and Elwood walked around in shades and fedoras. Long vintage Cadillacs were parked out front, some decorated with American flags. They advertised than an actual Mississippi Blues singer Marquis Knox would be appearing. I watched the Lame Dudes rock out to the Reykjavik Boogie. (Video on YouTube.)

Of all the things I expected to see, the annual Reykjavik tradition of celebrating an oh-so-American musical style was totally unexpected.

And that kind of lagniappe is exactly what keeps me flying.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sea Baron lobster soup. Perfect.

Tonight, after a tip from another tourist who'd read about it in the New York Times, I made my way down to the Sea Baron. The little shack on the harbor is the place for authentic Iceland lobster soup.

The place is tiny, with seating for no more than 20, if everyone gets very friendly. The choices are slim. Lobster soup or whale and fish kebabs.

I ordered the soup, pulled one of the small barrels with cushioned tops that serve as stools, and sat down at one of the three long single-plank tables.

In a minute my food was delivered. One bowl of soup. One basket of bread and butter. One ubiquitous Egil's Gull beer.

It will go down on my list as one of my favorite meals. Nothing fancy. Just delicious food served simply.

Monday, April 18, 2011

There are benefits to traveling alone. You set your own schedule. You set your own pace. But there are disadvantages, as well. It can be lonely at times.

There is no one to share a picnic with or point out interesting things to. There's no one to take a photo of you. If you want a souvenir, you have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

Today, walking along the waterfront in Reykjavik, Iceland, I watched a family with teenagers stop and take photos in front of the magnificent stainless steel "Solfar" or "Sun Voyager" sculpture. I finally asked a woman I assumed to the be the mother if she'd take my photo. She was happy to and seemed to enjoy it. She took several and while the wind whipped our hair and we took turns with our photographs, we chatted. She was there with her children. I was there without mine and I missed them.

It was the first time to Iceland for both of us.

A snapshot of yourself done on your cell phone is fine now and then, but it's hard to get any distance or scale. I admit I do have qualms about handing over my camera to a stranger, always imagining someone taking off with it. So, I choose carefully. Like today. The bonus is I met and lovely woman. And I have a photo to remind me of a lovely day.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Solo Flight

There is a certain grace to growing older. It brings opportunities that were lost in the day-to-day commitment to parenting and work. After years of staying home with small children, and the boundaries of my work, I am free to fly again. Within reason, of course.
So I do. Whenever I can.
Tomorrow I'm off for a week alone in Reykjavik, Iceland.
I can't wait.