There is a unique thrill wrapped within a trip abroad. The joy of meeting new people and sharing a peek into their values and customs, the fascination of new surroundings, and the satisfaction of being treated as you would treat a guest in your home. At the end of the adventure, there is also the comfort of returning to a comfortable abode. We are happy to be back in Bayfield and have endless experiences to share.

We packed our two small bags, added the packet given to us by Jet Travel (necessary documents), and dropped Oliver off at Muddy Paws in late June. (Our cavapoo had a wonderful time with new playmates as well. Wendy Olby is a loving caretaker.)

Iceland is barren but beautiful. Its lava-created terrain is covered with moss. We stayed in Keflavik where the airport and good fishing exist. It was a comfortable introduction to a new land. We went whale watching and spotted pods of orcas, also known as killer whales. A friend of the hotel owner took us on a private tour of Reykjavik, the nation’s capitol. He took us to Fridheimar Farm for lunch. This was so unique! They grow tomatoes on vines that reach to the tall ceilings of the greenhouse. They pick them via pullies that make them accessible. We had tomato soup that was divine and tomato ice cream that was delicious (bits of tomato in vanilla ice with tomato sauce atop). We observed many geysers erupting and large waterfalls. The prime minister, incidentally, is a young woman.

Sweden is filled with tall, blond folks who are most friendly. Stockholm reminded us of Chicago with more bodies of water plus hundreds of bicycles. We stayed on a ship in the harbor of a city known for its top-quality museums. The Vasa Museum houses a 130-foot-long Viking ship, all hand carved. When it first was launched in the 1600s, it sank within 20 minutes (overladen with military devices). Some 230 years later the intricate ship was brought to the surface and repaired - an amazing sight!

We toured Skansen, an old town, and observed homes, customs and furnishings. None was as “fussy” or “congested” as we are used to in America. Both the sleek lines and simplicity reflect in all their buildings and clothing. It is refreshing to the eye. We entered a spirit museum, thinking we would observe witchcraft. Instead we learned about the making of Absolut vodka. There are Hop-On-Hop-Off buses everywhere in Sweden and Finland. We found these to be a bit unreliable so opted for the river or canal cruises. There are 35,000 islands in the archipelago! There we saw many of the wealthy cottages, like the one tennis legend Bjorn Borg once owned. Most cost $2 million in American money.

In Vaasa, Finland, we were welcomed by two of Mike’s second cousins who treated us like royalty. Goran introduced us to several relatives, many of whom had run off the ancestry chart in anticipation of meeting Mike, whose grandparents were born there. Goran took us to a war museum. The elderly director happened to stop in, and we discovered he was also related, Per-Erik Fant. Cousin Jenny took us to her parents’ lovely home and to their cottage on the water for a true sauna. (Yes, we jumped in the lake afterwards!)

Helsinki was fascinating. We learned that school there starts later in the morning than here, has shorter hours, and allows much time for play. Their education system is still ranked No. 1 in the world. The Sibelius Monument is stunning. We often heard the term “sisu,” a reference to the feistiness that helps Fins to endure hard winters and, previously, many Viking battles.

Returning to Bayfield, we were pleased that winter had disappeared. However, the sun soon took over. Thanks to our neighbors, our gardens survived.

As usual, there are many local events to report. Washburn will hold its famous Brownstone Days July 27-29. The Board Across the Bay is the 28th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. You may still be able to register at 373-5017. We hope to escort the boarders as we have done in the past. At 5 p.m. on the 27th there will be a Tom Blake Paddle from Memorial Park to Houghton Point. Bring your boat. It is free.

I was pleased to resume my swim schedule at Bayfield Rec Center. Its North Coast Sailing

School youth class is almost full. Adults can learn to sail any weekend. Swim Team Camp and Skate Camp are planned. Then on Aug. 4, the Point-to LaPointe Swim takes place. Their first cool-down party will take place at Joni’s Beach afterwards. I love that Rec Center! The Bayfield Festival of the Arts will be held at the waterfront July 21 and 22. To top it off, the Bayfield Fruit Loop reports that you can pick raspberries at Blue Vista now, and the sweet cherries are almost ripe at Apple Hill Farm. Life is good!

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