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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Solstice, Stockholm Style

A few years have gone by now since we've experienced the joy of a Swedish summer.  
I have always said that when weather is good, there's no finer place to be. 
The challenge for the years that we lived here was that often, it was not hot enough for my taste. Now that I have experienced the summer heat of the desert, (often hovering around 45C/115F) and the hot, humid urban heat of Paris, sans a/c, well, these "cooler" Nordic days feel pretty darn good right now!    Swedish colors, represented in wild flowers
And with the cleanliness of the air, the deep green of the foliage, the sparkling clear, clean water that is everywhere, and of course, the endlessly long daylight, well, I am reminded of why we loved summer in Sweden so much.
Additionally, we had developed quite the tradition around celebrating the big midsommar holiday with our dear friends in a small little village a bit south of Stockholm. I have not been a part of this celebration since 2013 because in 2014, I was in CA dealing with the aftermath of my father's death. So it's a real treat to think about renewing our traditions with this fine family and enjoying all of the silliness that accompanies our time there.
It is great to return to Stockholm in the summer. In 2015 we spent 2.5 quick winter days here so to be here now for a few days, savoring time with sweet friends, is quite wonderful.  We're enjoying meals and conversations with dear friends, will attend our former church for the first time in 2.5 years, and will spend some time in the archipelago. We long for our little boat and of course think of all the joy Tanner delighted in when he lived here but are thankful for the memories that being here evoke and for the opportunity to dip our toe in a summer solstice in Stockholm one more time.

Last night we had dinner with a dear friend along the sea front. 
He cooked up some of his Indian cuisine that we adore and have missed.   A bonus was that the sunset put on quite the dazzling show of color and light.
 We were mesmerized and could not get our eyes off of the sky. 
I look forward to enjoying the light, the sky, the long daylight of Stockholm over the next several days as we celebrate midsommar and enjoy the archipelago.
I still feel the same...when the weather is good, there's no finer place than Stockholm in the summertime.   
Last light of the day...almost midnight.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Roland Garros: The French Open

When we moved to Paris at the end of February, it soon dawned on us that we'd be there when the French Open tennis tournament was taking place! I was quite excited as it is a sporting event that I've always wanted to attend. So we jumped in the online queue the day the tickets went on sale and got good seats for Thursday, June 1, 2017.
Of course, since we had to purchase our tickets pre-draw, we had no idea who would be playing on the day that we would attend. Unfortunately, the marquee players who we really wanted to see were not playing yesterday but instead are all on the court we bought tickets for today. Hence the term, it's the luck of the draw. Even so, we were treated to great atmosphere and great tennis. We could get there via metro and it was quite easy.
As soon as you walked in the gate, there were signs displayed showing where the other tennis majors were located and how far away they are! Very cool.
We did get to see Stan Wawrinka, seeded no. 3 play a good match. We had end line seats so could watch the serve come in. It was indeed impressive when it went over 200 kilometers an hour! We also watched women's doubles from very close range on one of the smaller courts and saw some mixed doubles on the smaller courts. It was not as easy to move around the courts as we thought it might be due to the large crowd. We were very happy we had bought center court tickets and that our seats ended up being in the shade for the afternoon. The sun was a roaster. And it was pretty easy to get sunburned while just sitting there spectating!
The first match that we watched was between a young French woman AlizĂ© Cornet and seed no 20 Barbora Strycova. The French woman ended up upsetting her! We saw her later on the grounds after she finished a doubles match. She's a cute girl. Was fun to watch the French get behind her.
Other players that we really enjoyed seeing included Gael Monfils, (15 seed) a Frenchman with a loyal local following. He was playing very well and the crowd enjoyed him! The last match of the day was with the no. 2 women's seed, Karolina Pilskova. At first it looked like she was going to wipe out her opponent in 30 minutes flat but after a dull first set, things got more interesting. Ekatarina Alexandrova charged back to win set no. two, pushing it to a third set. Pliskova was too tough in the end and took the third set 6-3. She had her serve up to 185 kilometers an hour at times. She was almost lackadaisical in her demeanor so I will be interested to see how she does from here on out. The number 1 women's seed was beat in the first round so Pilskova has a good chance to get through. The women's field is dominated by "ovas" from those Eastern European nations. Venus Williams is playing, a no. 10 seed but Serena is sitting this out due to being pregnant. The US need to step up their game. Not too many American players in this field. 
Andy Murray was playing yesterday as well and ended up in a tight set that went 4 games with tie-breakers. Our tickets did not permit us to enter that stadium so we watched on the big screens set around the grounds. 
My dream would've been to see Rafael Nadal play but alas, he's playing today. Oh well. There's always tv.
Clay is an interesting surface. I have played on clay a fair amount here in Europe and it is a different animal. It looks great and it's fun to watch the players slide through their shots. 
The grounds were nice but quite modest. Food options not great and probably not really enough vendors to handle the crowd. They had some interesting displays regarding the history of tennis that were enjoyable to walk through. 
The hosts were dressed in really classy dresses. It added to the prestige of the event to have these young people scattered round the grounds, checking tickets, giving directions. 
I'd never been to a tennis major before and while I would've loved to have seen Rafa and Venus Williams play, it was still a thrill to be on the grounds and enjoy the very fine level of tennis that is played be it singles, doubles, or mixed doubles. Makes me long to get back to the game again one day. And now I know how to say zero, 15, 30, 40, deuce and game in French!