Veberöd Chronicles

(Very) sporadic insights into the life of a family in a small Southern Swedish town

Monday, August 25, 2008

More rain


Unfortunately even on our last day we had to cope with constant terrific rain. We started the day by heading of to the Tsujiki Fish Market but by the time we arrived it was of course too late to see the dealing that makes this such a exciting place. However the little alleys with small shops and tiny fish restaurants (some with very impressive queues) were very worthwhile exploring. I did buy a good Japanese cooking knife in one of the stalls (for vegetable cutting) for Derek's birthday and the knife was carefully sharpened and polished by one of the shop-keepers.

After that we strolled to the Hama-rikyu gardens which are just around the corner. The contrast between the very green gardens and the very modern city that surrounds it are a sight to behold. Unfortunately by that time the rain was coming down in even greater intensity which made it difficult to fully explore the garden. We discovered the waterbus at one end of the gardens but unfortunately for the place we wanted to go to there is no service on mondays so we strolled on. Eventually we were getting hungry and headed for the ultra modern city again for lunch. In the afternoon we spent more time in department stores hiding from the relentless rain. IMG_4617.JPG

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Okadaya, Odakyu and several department stores


A miserable rainy day in Tokyo, but in contrast to Melbourne the rain is at least 15°C warmer! First thing on the agenda was back to Okadaya now to purchase some yarn & pattern books. We spent a lot of time at department stores in various places, which is always a pleasant experience in Japan: strolling through the vast food halls with so many things that just look so delicious, the elegant household departments, the roof gardens and so much more. We had lunch in one of the department stores and indeed it was good again. In the late afternoon we headed for the Imperial Palace, but it turned out that the gardens were closed at the weekends, so there wasn't much to see. Unfortunately the rain became slowly more and more intense and we needed a drier place since we had only two umbrellas to share. Let's hope that tomorrow will be a drier day! It is kind of interesting though to see the seas of umbrella on the streets.

However from the Imperial Palace it was only a short walk to Ginza. We stopped off at a French café called "Aux Bacchanales" that was so hyper-authentically Parisian that I kept thinking "What are all these Japanese people


doing here?" and when the waitress brought us jus des pomme the confusion was complete. Saskia fell asleep and was extremely grumpy when we woke her up. (Actually at the moment she has a daily tantrum at the moment around dinner time.) This made finding somewhere to eat in the icy sophisticated wasteland of Ginza well-nigh impossible so we jumped on the Ginza line back to Asakusa, dropped our bags off at the hotel and ate dinner in what turned out to be not a very good local restaurant which had a bit of everything on its menu. Well if we play our cards right tomorrow this will probably be the only sub-standard meal in Japan!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Finally the pedal boats!

We strolled to Ueno Park again, this time stopping to take in the restaurant wares shops on ***. Saskia and Marit were really taken with the plastic food displays and we bought a couple of souvenirs in a shop that sold key-rings and fridge magnets in the shape of all sorts of Japanese food. The best ones are probably the cups of coffee with milk being poured in from a jug that sits firmly on the top of the plastic stream of milk! Anyway, Saskia got a nori roll. Next we had half an hour in a swan boat on the lake.

We had lunch at a tempura restaurant and wondered if it was possible to eat a bad meal in Japan. Here's Marit practising noisy slurping:


Then we took the Metro to Shibuya to try and find Tokyo Hands, a crafts shop that Marjolein was particularly interested in. Since we didn't have an exact address (and it probably wouldn't have helped even if we had!) we asked a policeman and he put us right. Marjolein was a bit disappointed by the wool selection at Tokyo Hands so we headed for Shinjuku to seek out Okadaya. Unfortunately we got lost looking for it since the station is gigantic with a million exits and a sign system that takes some time to get used to. By the time we found the shop it was 20.15 and there were only 15 minuted to go to closing time but that was enough to see that w had to come back the next day! We had dinner in an excellent sushi restaurant in Shinjuku. Marjolein and I had sashimi that was probably even better than the one in Monterey, and it cost 2000 yen, i.e. 110 SEK. This is something else that I find completely different to 1997: everything seems so cheap now! maybe it's because I'm not a postdoc any more, maybe the exchange rate is better. Probably a combination of both. In any case it seems quite incredible that you can eat such good food so cheaply in a city that once had the reputation of being one of the most expensive in the world. Everything is also so elegant that you would like to photograph it all, at the risk of looking a bit foolish...

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Friday, August 22, 2008

First day in Tokyo

We slept pretty badly on the flight due to Marit's restlessness. The plane arrived in Tokyo at about 7am and we easily found the Keisei Skyliner train to Ueno, but for a reason we didn't immediately understand the lady gave us a ticket for the 9.26 train. We went down to the platform and the guy in charge down there looked at our tickets, tutted and bundled us onto the 7.56 train. It turned out that this was a special rush hour train that you needed a supplement for, and we were prepared to play the dumb tourist, but no-one checked the tickets so it wasn't necessary. With the quantity of luggage we had, transfer to the Ginza Metro line at Ueno wasn't that easy, but we managed. Luckily our hotel, the New Gyominzo, was right next to the Metro exit at Asakusa. We couldn't check in until 2pm but the elderly gentlemen at the reception let us have some kind of small private dining room to change out of our sweaty Melbourne winter clothes into something more appropriate for temperatures 20°C higher!

We left our bags at the hotel and went out to explore the Kamarimanon Temple. For me this was the chance to relive memories from 1997, when I stayed here after the ICBIC conference in Yokohama, but Marjolein was also enchanted, especially by the Edo-era stalls lining several hundred metres from the Kamarimanon Gate to the main shrine. We had lunch at a "sushi-boat" restaurant. Walking down the street immediately afterwards we had the quite bizarre experience of running into Michael Gajhede and Ole Kristensen, well-known faces from Copenhagen University. Of course it was clear that they were in Tokyo for a couple of days before the IUCr meeting in Osaka, but we could explain to them that we were just on holiday! Unfortunately they were being ushered into a restaurant by the waiter, so we didn't have much time to talk, and we were too tired to think of making plans to meet up later on.

Our Japanese-style room on the 8th floor was ** tatami mats in size and even came equipped with a kimono each:


As usual the bathroom seemed to have been fashioned from a single piece of plastic. We had our first experience of an automatic Japanese toilet seat, which flushes water as soon as you sit down on it, presumably to avoid potentially embarrassing noises emanating from the bathroom. Funnily enough I didn't see a single one of these in 1997...

After a short rest we walked to Ueno Park where we were met by a sea of Lotus. Quite a different park! Saskia wanted to take a trip in the pedal boats on the lake but it was a bit too late and it coud wait for one more day. We tried to find a restaurant in the busy streets south of Ueno Station and Saskia got into a flap because she wanted to have sushi a second time. Finally we settled on a Chinese restaurant and ate seafood dishes with lots of scallops - delicious.

Back at the hotel the view from the window was of the Asakusa Metro station and the Matsuya department store:


We slept like logs as we were so tired from the night before.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Last day in Melbourne

Miserable rainy day in Melbourne. Perhaps that makes it easier to leave! Spent most of the day drying a wash at the local launderette, packing, joining Qantas's frequent flyer programme and getting our outward journey registered.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gold mining


We spent our last full day in Australia looking for gold at the "gold rush museum" Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. Very good fun and an excellent place to spend the day despite the cold weather. So much attention to detail, with authentic 19th-century produce made on-site in workshops, foundries etc. and sold in authentic 19th-century shops! No air-conditioning, just open wood fires everywhere. Marjolein found ten flakes of gold in the stream. On the way home we saw a mob of kangaroos, the biggest sighting since we came to Australia.

We had dinner at Alison and Craig's favourite pub in Williamstown. Just for the record I had to try the chicken parmigiana but it was bit heavy...

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A ferry to Victoria Market



Monday, August 18, 2008

Finding dinosaurs


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Williamstown and Family



Saturday, August 16, 2008

Melbourne itself



Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friendly cockatoos


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Aquarium, fishIMG_4259.JPG


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sydney day 2

Australia Museum, Botanical Gardens, Opera HouseIMG_4223.JPG


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Monday, August 11, 2008

Sydney - Marjoleins birthday


We left the caravan park in Narrabeen at 10am but stopped just outside to finish cleaning the camper. The drive to the Maui depot in Mascot was short but required nerves and concentration due to the many choices of lane that had to be made, in particular to avoid using the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, which was a toll road with electronic payment only. Derek couldn't enjoy the potentially spectacular view from the bridge because of having to think about which lane to take for payment at the south end. Despite this we made a wrong choice of lane after the toll booths and ended up driving along George Street, the absolute downtown! However we kept our cool and eventually found the Maui depot.

Unfortunately the drop-off was a long drawn-out affair due to our two accidents, for both of which paperwork had to be done. Even though the broken window was absolutely not our fault we are still responsible for the costs under the terms of the insurance. That will probably only cost a couple of hundred dollars but the slight damage to the side of the camper due to our incident with the wall will probably cost more, since (according to the Maui representative) the whole side panel will have to be resprayed at a special workshop for large vehicles. So we can probably wave goodbye to most of the $2500 excess... Add to that the fact that the Australian dollar has dropped in value by 10% since we paid that deposit, so even if we hadn't had any incidents we would still have lost $250 just on the exchange rate!

Next we had to wait almost an hour for the taxi that was ordered for us, and ended up flagging one down in the street. The taxi driver was very friendly with all sorts of tips for our time in Sydney. After a short rest at the Quality Hotel Cambridge in Surry Hills we walked into town, stopping to buy a new power adapter at the Apple Store on George Street (couldn't imagine how we drove down it earlier in the day!) It felt great to be back in the bustle of a big city after all those increasingly cold and empty holiday parks in NSW. Sydney immediately made a great impression on us. Ate dinner at Wagamama (Saskia's favourite!) on Bridge Street to celebrate Marjolein's birthday, and drown our sorrows over the camper woes.


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Sunday, August 10, 2008



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Saturday, August 09, 2008

One Mile Beach

Today we drove just a short distance from Forster to One Mile Beach on the south side of Port Stephens. We had a quiet day on the beach and Saskia honed her bodyboarding skills:


Friday, August 08, 2008

Coming down from the plateau

We checked out Armidale in the morning but there wasn't much to keep us there considering the biting cold. The drive down through the New England mountain plain was not terribly exciting either. We found a holiday park in Forster and walked back into town for dinner. Unfortunately it started to rain and Saskia suddenly got really hungry, although she had difficulty realising this herself. Anyway it put her in an extremely bad mood and we had to make a very quick decision about dinner. Steak at the Hogs Breath Café was OK, but the wine was better... Forster out of season was not a great deal of fun. In summary, not one of our best days!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

An orgy in Dutchness, Dorrigo and New England

This morning another short spell in the creek with Saskia and Marit, then onwards into Coffs Harbour and "Holland Down Under"! Well it seemed only fitting after our Swedish / Scottish orgy in Logan. It turned out this was a small exhibit of hand-made fibreglass replicas of Dutch buildings, including the Martinitoren in Groningen, made by an emigré from Amsterdam who must have been to Madurodam quite a lot. His son did a clog-making demonstration and we (being those who had travelled farthest to be here) got to keep the "raw" clog, which needs a week to dry and should be OK for export by the time we leave Australia! We had genuine Dutch-style coffee and poffertjes at Big Oma's Café. De Ruijter muisjes were for sale in the shop (blue and white half price - I guess the Australians are suspicious...) and the stroopwafels were really tempting. In fact there were many Dutch things for sale there that one couldn't find in Sweden.


We drove on south on the Pacific Highway but on an impulse decided to turn inland to visit Dorrigo National Park and the Skyway, a short walk on a platform over the top of the rainforest. This was followed by a longer walk down on the rainforest floor, which was different from the tropical rainforest up in Daintree, but in a way that was difficult to define. The last stretch of road up to Dorrigo ascended 750m in 14km. Having come inland we couldn't easily return to the coast so decided to continue down the New England Tablelands to Armidale. This took us through some spectacular scenery and dramatic changes of landscape and climate. Until Dorrigo it was fairly lush, once up at 760m above sea level it turned into a passable approximation of the Lake District (perhaps a bit greener) but by 50km further on the temperature had dropped to 5°C (from 20°C on the coast) and it resembled a British winter, with bare trees. In Dorrigo the magnolias and Japanese cherries we flowering so it felt like early spring, in Armidale however it felt like we had suddenly arrived in another country and deep winter, but luckily we found the way to switch on the heating function on the camper's air conditioning!

Ebor Falls, one of the several dramatic waterfalls on the way today:


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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mooney Beach

Left Ballina this morning. Stopped in Grafton for morning coffee in some kind of ecological alternative café / social work centre / art gallery / ecological information point. Nice and scruffy! Good cakes too. Headed for Coffs Harbour and stopped at a very pleasant place 12km north of the town centre called Mooney Beach. The camp site was surrounded on three sides by water - on the left and right were creeks, one narrow one wide, and in front was a wide sandy delta formed by these two creeks and leading out to the beach.


Saskia got to do some more bodyboarding in the creek (no crocodiles down here...) The main dilemma was here how to find the spot to cross the creek to come to the beach. One almost felt like a scout. Unfortunately we could not spend a lot of time on the beach and in the (quit warm) waves since not good looking clouds were coming in and we had a spell of not so nice weather. However five hours of free wireless Internet were included in the fee so there was plenty of time to catch up on old e-mails.


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Monday, August 04, 2008

Surf's Up

IMG_3977.JPGWe decided to leave the camp site for a few hours to visit Byron Bay and Lennox Head. Unfortunately we had a conflict with the one way system on the camp site and by misjudging the width of the camper ended up damaging a wall which had only been completed two days earlier. The "boss" saw us clash with the wall and was understandably upset, but he was a phlegmatic guy so he didn't let it show much. By the evening he had calmed down. Turned out it was a council-owned site so they just had to get the builders back in... If this guy had been the private owner it could have been a whole different kettle of fish.

Anyway, we had this on our minds in Byron Bay so we didn't enjoy the town as much as we could have, since our thoughts were somewhere else. There were still hordes of 20-somethings milling around after the Splendour in the Grass festival, which made a nice contrast to the "grey nomads" who are all we see at the camps. Saskia bought a boomerang from an aboriginal crafts store (better than the ones at the seaside junk store in Hervey Bay, that were actually made in Indonesia!) In fact the owner of the shop had a fact.-sheet on the artist and it turned out that he came from Atherton Tablelands and was now an arts teacher in Queensland. Derek found a clothing brand with an image he can relate to: "Old Guys Rule". Great slogan too: "The older I get the better I was". Must get one of those... We spend a lot of time trying to find a cheap body-board but alas. Then we headed down to Lennox Head, which is said to have one of the world's top ten surfing beaches. There in a sale-out shop we finally got the bodyboard and Saskia enjoyed it in the waves and we watched a man parasailing, or whatever you call the sport which a combination of paragliding and surfing. The waves are really different here and so impressive! In Ballina we walked to the end of the pier and were met by some very grand waves. At a distance dolphins were playing in them, just exactly right! A couple told us they had seen a whale out there, but sadly we didn't catch it.



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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Finally a kangaroo (or was it a wallaby?)

Since the campsite was rather rudimentary and so near the motorway (i.e. nothing to stick around for) we had a very early start today. The site was right next to the tourist drive to the Glass House Mountains so we drove to the Glass House Mountains Outlook and admired the panorama of these strange things that just seem to erupt out of the landscape. We were not very far north of Brisbane but had agreed a long time previously not to bother with it (we will see Sydney and Melbourne after all) so we just headed south on the M1 (hurray, the roads are actually excellent down here!) and stopped in the late morning at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre in a southern suburb of Brisbane. Unfortunately the centre was closed for renovation and no koalas obligingly revealed themselves in the wild, but we did finally get to see a live kangaroo. Until now we have only seen them dead by, or in the middle of, the road. They seemed very willing to pose for photos and a joey even briefly popped its head out of its mother's pouch.


Saskia spotted a giant IKEA nearby and we thought it would be fun to test the authenticity of their Swedish meatballs. Interestingly the suburb turned out to be Logan. Inside we were met by the disturbing message that Småland was full. What's been happening in our absence? Have elk-loving Germans flooded the whole region? Have American descendants of "Kristina från Duvemåla" decided to return en masse? No, it's the kids' fault. The meatballs were excellent, by the way. Better than the ones they serve in Sweden. The lady at the checkout turned out to be from Scotland, to cap it all. There was also a small bookshop stocked with (only) Swedish books and a food store on the ground floor where you could (unfortunately?) even purchase Kopparbergs Cider. Saskia just had to have a packet of Ballerinakex.


We originally intended to stop a Byron Bay, but there were 25 000 extra inhabitants to contend with there due to the "Splendour in the Grass" festival, so we had to continue to Ballina and a small campsite right down by the sea. It turned out to be an excellent place right at the river mouth and next to a walkway out to the entrance to the bay.


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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Koala spotting

After Hervey Bay we thought we would travel south to Noosa and see how that would be. Noosa was indeed different toIMG_3919.JPG the places we had seen before (very "boutiquey", as someone on a previous camp-site described it quite accurately) and since it was extremely busy we decided to go to the Noosa National Park to have a walk/beach visit there. The beaches were rocky but with loads of rock pools and places to look for sea life so we roamed about in search of crabs, sea-cucumbers and small fish. The park was really pretty too with paths along the ocean with eerie eucalyptus trees making a complete unusual forest (at least for us). The light had this special yellow sheen and it was just all very fitting. And then we saw one of those magical creatures one hears so much about but actually never sees since I can't recall I ever saw one in a zoo. A koala and in the wild too! It was sitting high up in a tree looking over the ocean and occasionally yawning. Even it was quite high up, it looked pretty cuddly but I'm told they are actually quite easily irritated. This one looked as if it was king over its part of the world and as if it was checking the ocean for ships to come.

Until today we always had found a place on a campsite if we needed one so we naturally thought it wouldn't be a problem but now we ran into a problem: No free places at all.. The area is much more build up and loads more people around and apparently the monday is a bank-holiday in New South Wales.... So in the end we decided to try one of the free campsites along the Bruce Highway. It was getting pitch black and for one reason or another we had lost the piece of map of where we were at that moment. We did find it though, made dinner and had a very early night...


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Friday, August 01, 2008

Avian company at breakfast

IMG_3873.JPGAt breakfast we had the company of ducks, coots and ibises. No brush turkeys here, but having the intimate company of so many birds feels quite exotic. After a short spell in the camp site's very nice but Arctic-cold swimming pool we just strolled around today doing pretty much nothing: beach, lunch, postcards, washing, beach etc.


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