A Year in Grenoble

I'm a junior at Arizona State and majoring in French and Political Science. I'm spending my third year abroad, in Grenoble, France. You can read about the city here. This site will chronicle my adventures...

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Moose is Loose

The procrastination has been stopped! Or at least momentarily paused. Here come pictures from Sweden (April 26-May 1).

Advised that alcohol prices were exorbitantly high in Sweden, we made a few key purchases in Geneva, including a bottle of Ricard Pastis that included this complimentary blowup pillow... which Penelope promptly lost.

After transferring at Amsterdam, we arrived in Stockholm late Wednesday evening and after taking an airport bus into the city center, wandered around marveling at elegant streetlights while searching for our hostel.

Aha! There she lies! Yes, the most illuminated object in this picture was indeed our hostel... a floating hostel! We stayed at A. Chapman, a renovated English warship anchored in Stockholm Harbor. The boat was relatively roomy and even though most of the other guests were spoiled Stockholm schoolchildren, we had a great time. Breakfast the next day was an enormous feast: 90 minutes of delicious Swedish porridge, fresh fruit, cheese and meat, various cereals, hardboiled eggs, caviar and loads of other goodies.

We dropped of our bags and then received a tour of Stockholm from Sophie, a Swedish friend from Grenoble who we coincidentally happened to run into at the airport!

Sophie and Jenny in front of an anti-violence monument.

I was surprised to see this.

Rachel arrived later that evening. When we went to pick her up, we found scores of yellow plastic gnomes planted everywhere. It was part of some guerilla marketing campaign (but instead of checking out the website listed on the base of the gnome, the girls just played and posed with "TomTom" a la Amelie).

The view Thursday morning from our hostel.

Who's the king?

An apt quote I spotted while touring the contemporary art museum near our hostel.

Rachel enjoyed teasing the palace guardsmen -- we just cringed and hoped he wouldn't bayonet her.

If you look carefully, you might be able to spot the bear-on-a-leash.

In the center of a Stockholm square. We chatted with a nice elderly Australian street painter, until she abruptly switched the topic of the conversation to, "Buy my paintings." We politely declined and let her hawk her wares to other tourists.

Stockholm's spires.

At breakfast we smuggled out loads of sandwiches and later capitalized on our thievery by holding a delicious luncheon on the pier.

Daylight revealed more strange stores.

The rather dull-looking Stockholm Palace.

Sophie chiding the prime minister - in front of his own unguarded, ungated residence! - for alleged financial misdeeds.

Everybody knows that H&M is Swedish - thus, the largest H&M store must logically be in Stockholm. There were actually five different H&M stores within three blocks, all specializing in different fashions. I found the kids section curiously named.

Waiting for the bus to take us to Stockholm Central Station in order to catch a train to Uppsala. We're loaded down with a lot of things belonging to Isabelle, a Swedish friend with a compulsive shopping disorder and who was moving from Chamonix, France, back to Sweden.

Our first view of Uppsala after exiting the train station. Night arrived very late in Sweden, about two hours later than in France... around 10:30pm.

We had a happy reunion with Lina, and Jenny enjoyed speaking with someone who didn't have a Stockholm accent.

Our sleeping arrangements were, uh, interesting. We were given an empty classroom, but after acquiring two couches from the lobby and laying down mats and our sleeping bags, the concrete floor wasn't so bad.

We quickly transformed the living quarters into... a mess.

Tired from all the traveling, we took it easy Thursday night, and started out early Friday on a tour of the town, whose main highlight is the oldest church in Scandinavia.

It took us 10 minutes to realize that the woman next to Rachel, an artist's rendition of a Modern Mary, wasn't real. We outfitted her with sunglasses before noticing the "please do not touch" sign.

Isabelle and I posing in front of the Fyris River rapids where the rafting festival would take place on Sunday.

A look down the other end of the river. Yes, it was as cold as it looks. One night, it dropped down to 32 and a few snowflakes floated to the ground. Brr.

I wanted to sit and read while the girls shopped, but the cafe owner insisted that I buy something if I wished to remain there... so Penelope and Rachel bought me an orange. An orange.

The church spires stretching over the city.

The rallying cry for the week was, "The moose is loose!," a slogan we picked up off t-shirts purchased in a cheap Stockholm souvenir shop.

On Saturday we donned our Grenoble Universities t-shirts and decorated them before proceeding to the festival games. Most of the games veterans, like Lina, wore mechanic jumpsuits emblazoned with scores of patches.

One of the more difficult team exercises. We had to shove our feet under the hoops and race, with five people per set of skis, across the gravel pit. I was at the rear of my team and we lost, mostly because in my enthusiasm, I yanked out one of my foot straps.

At another station, we were duct-taped together as a moose and had to race around a treacherous obstacle course.

The traditional wheelbarrow race was livened up when we learned we had to transport a chocolate-icing filled diaper... with our teeth.

I can't say this is the most flattering picture of me ever taken.

We noticed early on in the day how remarkably similar our outfits were to those of Marxist revolutionaries (my beard, black boots and big sunglasses were key ingredients, too).

The final game was an egg toss. I was elected to participate by my team, mostly because I ran up to the egg distribution first.

My dazzling co-tosser, Jenny pretending to be Swiss.

Jenny tossed, while I caught. After each catch, I'd run the egg back to her. Somehow, I don't believe the distribution of risk was equal. We warmed up with close distances, but finally won after we completed a lengthy 30 yard toss no other team could match. We would've gone even further, but on the last toss, Jenny's aim was a bit off.

She inexplicably threw the egg at Isabelle who, too stunned to move, let it smack into her. Fortunately, we'd already set the distance record and still won.

Team Moose gathered at dinner Saturday night. As the games winners, we were obligated to give a presentation after dessert. We settled upon a rather bizarre skit about a German tourist named Gunther (guess who was cast to play him) who, while searching the Swedish countryside for moose droppings (really, that's what they're renowned for), triggers World War III after he's accidentally shot while trying to protect a moose from Swedish hunters. There's more, but you'll have to buy the screenplay. We concluded with a witty song set to the tune of Frere Jacques (we had to pay some homage to our French background).

The evening, of course, degenerated into a food fight.

This tasted much better than it looks.

On the winners platform, with our prize - 9.2 kilograms (20.2lbs) of preserved potatoes ("Kulpotatis" is literally "fun potatoes" in Swedish).

Early Sunday morning we trekked out to town and reserved choice spots for the raft race.

The Swedish Air Force made an unexpected appearance.

The river was jam-packed with spectators and we had to occasionally defend our territory with force.

Our friends' raft appeared to fare well over the waterfall...

...and then it crumbled. Safety was a high priority for the organizers and several wet-suit clad divers soon followed them into the water.

Penny tried to scare us. We tried to push her farther.

I was the chosen kulpotatis transporter. It was not fun. Note the uphill trajectory. I was quite tempted to let the kulpotatis drop and let it roll over the weak.

Our Sunday picnic lunch consisted of traditional Swedish "sill," various flavors of pickled fish. Yum. At least I can say I tried it!

We queued up for a club Sunday afternoon, intending to enter one with the rest of our friends, but we somehow gained entry to the club next door, for "Stockholm Nation," typically reserved for the richest, poshest kids from Stockholm. I have no idea how we were let in, but we certainly profited from the boisterous mood and champagne-soaked atmosphere.

We didn't have Yale sweatshirts slung around our shoulders like some of our fellow party-goers, but we still had a great time.

Dinner was held at a friend's fourth-story apartment where we had a great view of a sight that reminded us of la France - a burning car!

Our exhausted crew, about to part the last club, early Monday morning. We needed a vacation from our vacation afterwards.

The beautiful Swedish dawn Monday morning.