An afternoon with the Greeter

Living in Paris means that everyday you walk near historical monuments and wonderful buildings you get to ignore just because it’s the routine. A city has more to tell you than you expect, and that’s why I decided to visit Paris with a Greeter.

A Greeter is a person who perfectly knows the city and offers you a walking tour for free.

I had already heard about voluntary guides when I was in Sweden and I wanted to visit the Scandinavian cities, but this was the first time I tried.

I found the Greeter on THIS website where I subscribed. He wrote me back deciding which neighborhood we will be visiting. And the choice was: the 16ème (16th) arrondissement, not far from where I’m working.

We met at Trocadéro. He is a retired American form Philadelphia but knows a lot more than I would have expected about French history and culture. He also gave me some useful little tips to survive the city (for instance, did you know that you can drink without worries from green fountains but you have to avoid grey ones? And did you know that the best free toilets without queue are those of the cemeteries and museums?).

And then the visit began. We went to the “Cimetière de Passy” in front of the Trocadéro, where many famous people rest, among them, a ukranian princess. She rests in the biggest chapel of the cemetery. The inside of the chapel looks like an artist atelier because she was a painter. The greeter told us that there is a huge space problem in Paris cemeteries. Once in a while, if the family doesn’t show up, tombstone are removed. To keep their place, beautiful statues are built over tombstone or the corpse shares the chapel or tombstone with a more famous or prestigious family. I didn’t know so much about cemeteries and how hard it is to keep the memory alive.

But the visit was not just a walk along forgotten tombstones, we also saw beautiful buildings where famous people such as Edith Piaf and Maria Callas lived. We also stopped in front of the most famous butchery of the city, the house of Balzac and the hidden passage behind it (Balzac had many debts to pay and he used to runaway by the little passage, large enough for a carriage to pass!), an ancient monastery where monks used to store wine, Benjamin Franklin’s house and an ancient train station which was transformed in a restaurant.

I was rather surprised to discover that common buildings and streets hide mysterious stories and I would advise anybody to walk and discover even their own city with a greeter.

Little things I forgot to write about Sweden

I suppose it happened to anybody, while cleaning their room or flat, to find a particular object they had forgot since the dawn of times.

It happened to me yesterday. Don’t ask me why but I found a little diary that I had started writing while in Sweden. At the beginning it was a serious project: keep a diary of my special erasmus experience, then many things happened (basically I started this blog) and my beloved diary became more of a notepad.

In the last pages I had written some article ideas for my now-beloved blog and, reading these little notes now, makes me really nostalgic. I feel like I have lost a huge opportunity to write more about Sweden because obviously I had these ideas but now it would be completely impossible to write down structured and complete articles mainly because I am not in the swedish “habitat” and therefore in a swedish mood.

So I have decided to write down a short list of what were my article ideas and what you will never know about Sweden (even though travel guides or other blogs may contain more detailed information).

  • “Odd things you can actually find in a swedish supermarket”: this article should have contained a list of strange stuff to buy for a foreigner. I had already started a list including caviar cream, the huge amount of “Wasa” (crunchy bread), herrings with sugar (disgusting!) and the difficulty in finding butter without salt.
  • “Christmas in Sweden”: besides Christmas markets (remember my pics?) there is so much to say about Xmas: traditional parties, typical songs and the special beer (yes, in december every brand launches a new beer: the Xmas beer).
  • “People I’ve met in my Erasmus semester”: this was my biggest dream!
  • “Funny things about the Swedish language”: last semester, I took some swedish courses for beginners…of course I made improvements (starting from 0 it’s almost impossible to avoid improvements) but I have not a good level of Swedish and I won’t be able to have a conversation…but I discovered funny facts about this language and, more generally, about the swedish culture.
  • And at last…don’t laugh but I wanted to write a full article about the love of my life: Persilio (for those who don’t know him: a little plant/roommate) but “Alas!” Persilio died ages ago.img_1350

Twin Peaks: “My (B)log does(n’t) judge”

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Breaking news: I have decided that since my Erasmus is over and I have less trips in program, I will start writing about series or books I’ve watched/read. I promise I will try hard not to spoil anything (in spite of my “spoiler” nature!).
Name : Twin Peaks
Episodes : 8 (season 1)
Produced in the US by David Lynch and Mark Frost (1990-1991)

Dear all,

it’s true I am in Paris and I am supposed to enjoy the rich cultural life this city is able to offer. However, in these last days the weather was depressing. Believe me, when there is just a glint of sun I’m ready to leave the flat and walk in the streets (and take many pictures) but these moments are rather rare.

Instead I’ve discovered Twin Peaks. I’ve not really discovered it because I knew about it before, I had even started to see the first episodes two years ago…but then I promised eternal loyalty to my twin-peaks-buddy so I had to stop. Now I am with my twin-peaks-buddy again and we have plenty of time to watch it.

Little advice: many of you have already watched this masterpiece, but for those who haven’t yet…please find a twin-peaks-buddy. Firstly because some scenes are a bit scary. Secondly because you inevitably become a detective: too many stories disclose in front of your eyes and, it may seem strange, but you actually get to know more than what fiction-detectives are actually aware of.

But let’s get to the point: the series starts with the discovery of Laura Palmer’s corpse. She is obviously dead and wrapped in plastic. At the beginning we are shocked, just as the Twin Peaks inhabitants, by her murder. She was loved by everyone, was there any need to kill her? But as the story is unrolled, we are less shocked and many reasons arise to murder her.

Is it a common murder? Not at all, since also the FBI is involved (Agent Cooper) and many inexplicable events are directly linked to this homicide.

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You may have already heard or seen the famous red room!

It’s impossible to avoid getting involved. From a rather simple beginning the series gets more and more complicated and opens many secondary stories which are in some way all linked.

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These are the main characters and their bonds!

I watched only the first season who ends with no answer and even more questions. I hope to start the second season as soon as possible!

What I liked about this series is the fact that many genres are mixed together: soap opera, detective story and horror. The soundtrack is amazing: in just a few seconds it can change from a love theme to a horror one! The thing I mostly appreciated is the filming. The camera always focuses on objects: dominoes, mirrors, jewels and other stuff which doesn’t make sense at a first glance but then acquire meaning the more you watch.

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Twin Peaks plays on your perceptions: of course the stuffed bear does not represent a real danger but we can feel that Josie is or will be in danger!

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Vintage Mood!

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If you have already seen the series comments will be appreciated, otherwise have a look and let me know if you appreciated! No spoilers please.

My Erasmus Wall

My Erasmus has now totally ended (sigh!)…but I still have a picture to show: my Erasmus wall! I’m so proud of it but I also have to warn you: it doesn’t exist anymore…yes, this was my personal wall in my swedish flat and, a month ago, I had to clear out everything. Saaad.ricordi

I tried to recollect all the stuff in it, so: a) maps of Stockholm, my adventures are narrated HERE (but maybe you have already read them…and in that case…I’m a proud blogger). b) These maps remind me the beautiful week-end spent in Copenhagen (read and have a look at my pictures HERE ). c) The map of the cutest place ever to spend an erasmus semester: Göteborg (and sorroundings). d) instructions for voting for the Italian referendum…I have to say I felt very proud to vote in Sweden and to send my vote to the Italian embassy! e) Oslo: read my flashback HERE. f) HERE you find out more about the “not-so-northern-lights” and how in Sweden it can rain and snow at the same time. g) Still now, I can’t really pronounce or write the name of the castle we visited. I was brave enough to write the full name in THIS ARTICLE ! h) This recalls my day in Liseberg. Liseberg is the biggest theme park of all Sweden…and it’s in Göteborg! I spent a really lovely day there and I’m so proud to announce that I have survived to this crazy roller coaster:

I screamed so much that most of my friends in Italy could totally hear me. I really recommend it…mostly because you don’t have a clue of what’s going on when you are on it and then you feel proud for the whole day (not ready to do it again though!). i) This recalls the “true” story of the pig who luckily escaped the Vasa ship before the drama. If I got half of the story, this is thanks to the best interpreter and travel buddy ever: Hanna :-). j) This is a cinema ticket I bought for the Göteborg movie festival (which occurs in September). Movies are usually in English (sub Swedish) and I saw for the first time “The Shawshank Redemption”. It’s quite an old movie, I loved it and if you haven’t yet seen it…I have plenty of resons to push you to see it…but I think a trailer is enough to motivate you:

k) My big plan, during my semester abroad, was to learn a bit of German. Crazy idea since in the meantime I was also studying Swedish, but I still hung on my wall a nice drawing of a human body with all body parts written in German. l) this piece of paper is a game we played during the loooong bus trip from Abisko National Park to Göteborg Central Station: 25 hours of games (and difficult sleep). m) I also had time to go to the Opera (read HERE) ….but well, not the time to see the whole show ;-).

So, this is pretty much it. My Erasmus semester. Over in the blink of an eye but impossible to delete. I learnt really a lot: not just language-wise but also life lessons.

Most of all, I met new people that made me richer than I was, so thanks to my best Erasmus buddies and good luck for your next adventures (we will meet soon, Europe is a cosy little place, after all).

And this is also the only use I see of a wall. #MyErasmusWall

Smells like Xmas spirit…

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Now I can totally feel Christmas. Gothenburg is in the most complete dark (sunset at 15.30) but lights and decorations are everywhere. I was desperately looking for a Christmas market, and I found nice shops in front of Kronhuset, one of the oldest buildings of Gothenburg.

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This is the Christmas fika. (for those who don’t know what fika is, click HERE). Lussekatt is the typical pastry that you can eat during the whole Christmas period, especially the 13th of December, to celebrate Lucia. I found this pastry rather peculiar because it is made with saffron…I still have to decide if I like it or not.

11 reasons you might be experiencing winter like a swede

Hej Hej, dear all! Recently I’ve been studying hard…and wasting a lot on time on the internet, especially on newspaper websites (yes, many surprising things are happening in the world). And I found the perfect article: “Eleven ways to act like a true Swede in winter”.

Two premises: a) I am perfectly aware that we are not experiencing winter yet. But remember, I am talking about Sweden. b) I have decided that I really like lists so I’ve created a new category: MyLists

So now, let’s have a look at the tips to act like a Swede:

1. Say the sentence “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” every time someone says it is cold outside

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I already said this sentence! Now it is my new religion, before going to Lapland I was really scared that my frail Italian body won’t be able to cope with the cold and I was not the only one, many Swedish friends lent me lots of clothes. One of them was particularly concerned and gave me: two shirts for skiing, a fleece sweater, a jumper and a pair of shorts!

2. Complain about Stockholm complaining about the snow

Nope, never done. It snowed in Stockholm two months ago, when I went there the snow had already melted 😦 . But, when I’ll be back, I’ll surely complain about Parma complaining about the snow (if we are lucky enough to have snow this year).

Of course Stockholm complained about the snow also this year, how? Well, Swedes want more gender equality and snow as well can be seen as a mean of inequality. Women suffer more of the harshness of the snow because they use sidewalks more than men who use highways. Until last year, highways were cleared from snow before sidewalks…now it’s not the case anymore. If you know French and if you want to know more about it, click HERE.

3. Have a discussion about where the north of Sweden starts 

No discussion but facts. Since I’ve travelled from the Southern city of Malmö, to the Northern city of Kiruna… north starts…in Denmark! Sorry guys but Sweden is too north to claim to have southern parts.

4. Drink even more coffee than usual 

You don’t have to mention coffee in front of me. Swedes do not drink coffee but a sort of brown beverage which costs at least 15kr! No, I’m sorry but this tip is totally wrong and I won’t consider it. I miss coffee more than anything else. When I made the choice of not bringing my moka with me I was just a fool little girl…since then I’ve grown wiser…and coffee-less.

5. Plan everything with the weather and daylight in mind

Of course I do that. If I oversleep on Sunday I feel guilty for the rest of the “day”.

6. Jump into a water ice hole – no really +/-

I’ve not jumped into a water ice hole but I’ve jumped in an Arctic lake and in the snow (after the sauna)…if it can be of any help, I’ve also drunk into an ice glass.

7. Go ice-skating or skiing – followed by hot chocolate, coffee or glögg

No skiing (where are the mountains?) but ice-skating. Well, I’m terrible at ice-skating but I did not fall! For what concerns the beverages I don’t like hot chocolate, for coffee please read again (and AGAIN if you are not Italian) point 4, for glögg…I tried it and I really liked it, it keeps you warm especially if you are in Kiruna and you have to cross the city to go back to your hostel.

8. If the temperature gets over 5C degrees, take off your jacket

I took off my jacket at -3C…no problem.

9. Complain about ‘datumparkering’ – a law that limits parking spaces during winter.

I have no car here.

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10. Sit and look at the sun, when it comes out

Yes, thanks a lot for the tip mr I’m-giving-you-nice-advices-to-face-winter-like-a-real-Swede. So, since you are so intelligent…where is the sun supposed to be? I don’t see it anywhere.

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Where are you Mr Sun?

11. Go to Thailand 

I have to say, this is a more useful way to face the winter…is it ok if I go to Italy? It’s not the same place but, believe me, there “comes the sun”.

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Postcard from Abisko

Let’s continue our trip north. Our new destination was Abisko. But we had a charged program so we left in a hurry.

The first stop was a visit to the Ice Hotel. Maybe you have heard about it, it is a very expensive (min. 3000 kr per night) hotel completely made of Ice (well, only the rooms). Some of the rooms are beautiful, whoever can get in touch with the ice hotel staff and submit a project of room design. If the project is accepted, the artist has 14 days to build the room.

But be careful….the hotel is made of ice…that means that in summer it doesn’t exist…that means that it is built every autumn, when there is at least -5 to conserve the ice… the result? When we went there it was a big deception: the hotel was almost completed but it was still unaccessible to visitors! So all we could see was the refrigerator which kept the ice during summer and some slides with pictures of the last years hotel. Quite sad. But at least, the staff offered us a cold drink in an ice glass.

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Then we went visiting one of the oldest churches in the region which was built in the 17th century. What I realized is that even though the religion is supposed to be lutheran, inhabitatnts are worshipping nature. In this chuch there were beautiful painting of flowers and in Kiruna’s the windows were made of green glass to create a northern light effect inside.

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Near the church, there was a frozen lake. We run on it, and took plenty of pictures. I felt like in an icy desert…and I think I’ve never seen a scenery like this one. I mean, I saw snowy mountains before but I never saw a plain of snow and ice that wide.

We all grouped together on the lake to make a picture.

“say cheese”

“cheese”

CRACK

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Under the weight of 50 people, the ice broke. I’m not joking. So we all started running very fast, ready to kill each other when one second before we were all smiling and hugging!

Nothing happened, the ice obviously broke but the ground was still stable and there were no holes. But we were scared enough to stop and to go back to the bus.

Later, we met the Sami people. The guide told us a lot about them: they live thanks to the reindeers, they go moose and bear hunting and they sing when they see the northern lights.

Two old Sami welcomed us to their tent, they spoke a perfect english which they had apparently learned from the TV. They showed us the reindeers they had and we could feed them. Then, he got enthusiast and started to feed …also us! Yes, I ate moss.

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Then, we entered in the tent, near the fire and I felt so warm and cosy that I really wanted to sleep. The old sami talked a loooot. He had two favorite arguments: reindeers and women, he felt old enough to give to the boys some advice and some warning about girls. He also gave us some reindeer meat to eat and some hot beverage (hot water where reindeer meat had boiled). Both the beverage and the food were really tasty!

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We could also buy…guess what? Reindeer horns and skin as souvenirs.

Finally we reached Abisko, with a marvellous hostel waiting for us.

For dinner, we had a big barbecue in a tent outside. It was very nice to seat by the fire again.

After having stared at the sky a couple of minutes, I realized that I would not have the chance to see northern lights even tonight.

People went to bed  rather early.

But the night was not over. At 1.30 some rumor spread that a tourist had spotted northern lights near the lake. In some minutes everyone (also those sleeping) was aware of that. Everyone started dressing hurriedly (I put my ski trousers and jacket above my pijama) and left to see the lights. The hunting started! We left the hostel in a big group and little by little we spread. I bet that some people got lost before reaching the lake.

Obviously, not any kind of light could be seen but, if you tried to take a picture regulating your camera to take most of the light, you could see some green spots in the sky!

I cannot say that I saw northern light but I had a very funny moment in the wood of Abisko and I saw plenty of stars.

Next episode: Narvik…a rivedere le stelle

Postcard from Stockholm

Temperature: around 2° but windy.
Price of a coffee: 25kr
Book read: Le rouge et le Noir
I went with my Swedish friend Hanna and Ugglan (our new mascot)

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To go to Stockholm from Gothenburg there is no other way than the train. By bus the trip lasts ages, the train goes fast and if you travel during the week (avoid the weeks near Lucia and Christmas) it costs less (I spent 350kr back and forth, for more info, click here for SJ or here for MTR).

Unfortunately, as for Oslo, I stayed around 24h and it’s not enough to get to know the city. And we also have to consider that you enjoy the city only during the sunlight, which lasts until 15, then the best is to visit some museum and, of course, have a fika.

So, I arrived at midnight in Stockholm. The following morning I was ready to enjoy the city. But I have to say, it wasn’t the traditional city sightseeing tour…it was a Christmas tour (shopping)!

Some advice: I like to walk in cities and see them without taking buses or the subway but with Stockholm it’s a bit different because this city is spread on several islands. So, if you have not so much time, just take the 24h subway card.

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besides, the subway is stylish!

We started our tour in Södermalm and we went to the chocolate factory.

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Then we walked along the coast of the island and we could see Gamla Stan (the old city) from there. The weather was very nice if you kept walking…otherwise it was freezing.

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Then we went to the Pen Store (crazy stuff in there!)

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After lunch, we took the subway and we went to Gamla Stan. It is a very nice place, with narrow streets, sweets’ and comics’ shops.

img_1605img_1604img_1602img_1601img_1599img_1598img_1561img_1597img_1539img_1560img_1567img_1548And then, we stopped in front of the Royal palace and the Parliament. Not far from these imposing palaces there was a lion statue. This statue was apparently much appreciated by a tourist who was taking pictures of her puppet sheep (new fashion). We both thought that this was the perfect place to take a picture of our dear Ugglan as well, so we waited. She spent a lot of time taking pictures to the sheep but she felt a bit stressed because we were watching her. She left as soon as she could. Hanna started taking pictures straight away and, when the tourist turned around she was shocked to see that we were copying her! In the meantime a lorry stopped near Hanna, inside there were three passengers dressed in the same way (green uniforms) staring at her and trying to figure out what she was doing. They started waving their hands at me and then they left again. Funny episode.

By the time it was 2 p.m., our program was to stop at the Vasa museum…but we lost the bus twice. When we arrived it was already the sunset. I enjoyed the sight of the city with this beautiful fading light:

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Now let’s talk about the Vasa Museum. Before leaving I had studied my guide and I had found out that this was the best museum to see in Stockholm. So what is it about? It is about a war ship that was built at the beginning of the 17th century. It was inaugurated in 1628 and the same day (just some meters away from the coast) it sank in the cold Baltic sea. It was a beautiful ship painted in red and with statues everywhere. It had lots of canons and mariners on board. And for centuries it became an urban legend. People knew there was a ship underwater in the harbour of Stockholm…but where? Only in the 1950s they could locate it. For months they explored the ship under the water. I can’t imagine how it must have been…you are scuba diving in a 17th century boat: it must be scary but at the same time it must be a perfect travel back in time. Anyway, after a lot of work, the ship could see the sunlight again. A museum was built for the occasion and you can still see it today. The museum explains everything you need to know about it, from the mariner’s life, to the archaeologists’ job.

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When we left the museum we found a city with plenty of lights, there was a Christmas spirit that was contagious.

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After a long fika, it was time to go back home.

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Little Ugglan went ice-skating!

That time we went to Tjolöholms Slott or how I literally learned to seize the day

The problem with the Swedish winter is that you really need to get organized. Days are so short that even if you wake up at 10 you feel like you’ve lost your day. I know, this is not the first time I complain about the (missing) daylight and you have all the rights to ask me “So why did you go to Sweden?”.

And the answer is “I’m learning about what we call SEIZE THE DAY”.

So I signed up for a University trip to the nearby castle of Tjolöholms. We left from Göteborg at noon and we had to start our trip back at 15.50. Consequently we had just 3.50 to see:

  1. A wonderful Tudor-style castle (even if it was built in the 20th century)img_1473
  2. A beautiful seashore with a dramatic Swedish skyslott 6.jpg
  3. A garden that seemed a bad representation of Versailles
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    The garden was not the best…but look at the view!
  4. A Christmas market with very typical Swedish product i.e. wool, wool and wooljul market.jpg
  5. Have some free fika (snack)
  6. A weird guy that was singing something that (as always) I wasn’t able to understandweird guy.gif

We managed to see everything with the short time available. When we finally seated on the bus it was starting to get really dark and we felt really tired with all the running…so apparently at 15.50 the day was over.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, bad news for you…Sweden has already started with the yearly torture of Christmas songs.

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Yes, I also forgot to tell you that I also met Santa. One second before, the blond kid with the light blue jacket was trying to understand if he had a real beard or not simply by pulling it. Santa was a bit fed up.

Alingsås or how to see the Not-So-Northern-Lights with a “nice” weather

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon. I really want to highlight the fact that it was a RAINY Saturday afternoon…so we decided to defy the rain, the cold and the dark and see the lights of Alingsås.

Not far from Gothenburg (20 minutes by train), from the 30th of September until the 6th of November, there is a light festival in Alingsås. Nothing special, there are just coloured lights everywhere. Alingsås is a sleepy (at least when we were there) but really cute little town. There is also a small river crossing it. For more info click here.

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I went there dressed more or less like this:

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And it was a smart choice since the moisture and the cold were extreme.

And now I will quote a quite well-known movie:

‘It could be worse’

‘And how?’

‘It could be snowing’

And of course the rain magically turned into snow.

(for those who don’t know, I’m talking about Frankenstein Junior)

img_1343I was brave enough to take some pictures but they are blurred and it is obvious that my camera was too wet to cooperate.

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They are so brave!

After a little walk (that seemed a long journey to us) we ended up in a Mexican fast-food and we warmed our hands with Mexican wraps.

I spent a lovely time in Alingsås (and I’m really sincere)!