Days of the Week

Today I learned the most interesting fact. Some of the days of the week come from Norse mythology. Just another reason Norway is pretty neat, I guess. I shouldn’t be surprised. Over the weekend, I was on a walking tour of Old Town Stockholm, and the guide told us that one of the greatest lasting contributions the Vikings made to the world were words that are used in today’s English language.

Stian and I were talking about the day’s of the week during lunch. He told me that “Thursday” or “Torsdag” in Norwegian means “Thor’s day.” Ahhh. Fascinating!

Thor gave us the name for Thursday and a sexy role for Chris Hemsworth
Thor gave us the name for Thursday and a sexy role for Chris Hemsworth

Then we kept talking about the meaning of other days of the week. Tuesday, or Tirsdag, is Tyr’s day. Another Norse god, though lesser known. Onsdag (Odin’s Day) somehow got translated to Wednesday, though that one is a mystery to me. Apparently the Anglo-Saxon translation/version of Odin is Wodan and that somehow made Wednesday. Freia is the Norse goddess of love, fertility, sexuality, gold, and all other good things it seems. Anyways, that’s where Friday derives from. Neato!

Want to learn more about the origin of the days of the week? Read this.

Want to learn about other cool Viking words? I did, so I read this.

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Copenhagen – Arrival, Biking, Hyggelig, Free Walking Tour #1

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark with a few friends I have made from Melbourne (Australia), Nebraska (USA), and Bognor Regis (England). It was funny traveling with native English speakers from around the globe – we all learned a lot about the differences in accents and funny words each country uses. I practiced my British and Australian accents but, unfortunately, they sound exactly the same. The only difference is my “Australian” includes “g’day” “mate” and “Sheila.”

The other girls arrived in Copenhagen the night before I did and they were so kind to meet me at the bus stop when I arrived. After a very satisfying falafel stop at Dürüm Bar, we had a quick walk through our neighborhood of Nørrebro before arriving at our accommodation.

Our Airbnb rental turned out to be perfect and it was fun to get settled in and make a plan for the rest of the weekend.

We researched bike rental places and made a plan to find bikes to rent and do a walking tour the next day. In the morning, we woke up and started walking to the nearest (cheapest) bike rental place we could find. Luckily, we stumbled across this one just 4-5 blocks away! The owner gave us a great deal of 70DKK for 1 day or 50DKK ($8.50) per day for more than 1 day. We rented the bikes for 2 days and headed into central Copenhagen.

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Sorry I have no idea what this place was called.

The next part of our adventure included finding the Copenhagen City Hall Square, Radhuspladsen, where our free tour began before trying to find a quick bite to eat.

Biking in Denmark

Everyone traveling to Copenhagen should rent a bike to get around. Not only was it much cheaper than taking public transportation, it also gave us complete freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted to go, with the added perk of making us feel like we were experiencing Copenhagen like the Danish. The streets are extremely bike friendly and most of the major streets have dedicated bike lanes. In fact, throughout the weekend I heard different facts like “52% of Copenhagen-ers have a bike” and “there are more bikes in the city than people.” The math doesn’t really add up there unless there are a lot of un-owned bikes (there are) or some people are so enthusiastic that they own more than 1 bike (definitely possible). Either way, if you ever go there you MUST rent a bike! We tried using this free service called Copenhagen Free Bike Rental, but they didn’t have any bikes available for us during those dates. They are actually a really cool group started by graduate students who work on a volunteer basis to fix old, abandoned bikes so people can use them to explore the city. Neat! If you want to read more about them, click here. This is my favorite exerpt from the article:

One of the best aspects of Copenhagen Free Bike Rental is how it works on trust. Trusting strangers is very important in society, especially in a cities, where we pass hundreds if not thousands each day. People who are more trusting are happier. We’ve rented out bikes over 200 times since October, and every single time they have been returned to us. Aside from everything else, we feel this in itself is some sort of small but not insignificant human triumph.

Again, so neat!

Hyggelig Hygge

In Denmark (and also Norway, but mostly Denmark), there is a word with no direct translation. We were told the closest way to describe it is cozy/intimate. In Norway, I’ve been told it’s a way of saying “nice.” Anyways, it is my favorite Nordic word I have learned so far – it’s just so hygge!

Seriously, I LOVE THIS WORD.  Hygge. Hyggelig. You are so hyggelig 🙂 See, isn’t that nice? It’s just so happy. Oh yeah, it’s pronounced sort of like “higg-ell-ly” = hyggelig or “hooga” = hygge. The Visit Denmark website describes it like this:

Hygge is as Danish as pork roast and cold beer and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence, hygge means creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. And let’s not forget the eating and drinking – preferably sitting around the table for hours on end discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps the Danish idea of hygge explains why the Danes are often considered the happiest people in the world?

Copenhagen Free Walking Tour

It seems like free walking tours are popping up in all of the major European cities. Or at least all 2 of them that I’ve been to (Paris, Copenhagen) and the 3rd that I’m going to next weekend (Stockholm). This tour was fabulous. Rikke, our guide and founder of the group, was informative, funny, and most importantly, she took us all around central Copenhagen. I think it gave us a good framework to plan the rest of our time and I would really recommend it as a starting point to anyone traveling here.

We met at Radhuspladsen, the City Hall Square, like I mentioned. Adjacent to the square is a long pedestrian-only street called Strøget with about 10 H&M stores, many restaurants, and other attractions. We got Danish pastries and falafel (Tilly – I swear she ate falafel at least 2x each day, no joke) before meeting up for the tour.

Delicious Danish pastries. They looked so good I ended up getting 2 because I couldn't decide. It was the right choice - they were both delectable.
Delicious Danish pastries. They looked so good I ended up getting 2 because I couldn’t decide. It was the right choice – they were both delectable.

During the tour, we learned:

  • Everything in Copenhagen burned down over and over and over again throughout the centuries.
  • The amusement park, Tivoli, is the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world (the oldest is also in Denmark!)
  • The royal family is pretty cool. Their kids are enrolled in public school and they like to do normal things as a family, like going on afternoon bike rides. One of the Princes has decided to relocate to the suburbs to a “normal house” rather than living in the palace. He will be moving sometime in October.
  • Copenhagen is trying to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. They have already cleaned up the water in the canals and biking is the main form of transportation for the majority of its citizens.
  • Denmark is considered the happiest country in the world! I think it rubbed off on us during our visit. Interested in learning more? Check out the official 2013 World Happiness Report. Spoiler alert: Norway is #2! (I’m so lucky, I love Norway)
  • Can you guess the wealthiest family in Denmark? It used to be the shipping conglomerate Maersk family, but then the main dude died. Only after building the Copenhagen opera house. There’s a really interesting story behind the relationhip of Mr. Maersk and the chief architect. Let’s just say they weren’t the best of friends by the end, and now there is lasting evidence in the building design. Anyways, the wealthiest family is now the Lego family! I love Legos!

Kjeragbolten

Megan and I decided to take a roadtrip south of Bergen to Stavanger for the weekend so we could do two of the iconic/tourist must see attractions in Norway.

We left Bergen around 5:45pm armed with snacks for the road and caffeine to keep us awake. After a little bit of white knuckle driving (many of the back country roads are only slightly wider than one lane, don’t have a median line, the roads are full of hairpin turns, and we narrowly missed hitting an elk) we made it safely to the trailhead. We rolled in around 1am, paid the parking fee, and settled in for the night in our “RV.” There were no other cars in the parking lot except for the lone car parked in front of the information booth.

Our motor home for the weekend.
Our motor home for the weekend.

In the morning we awoke to a lot full of people and were greeted by the friendly parking lot attendant. He even gave Megan free coffee before our hike! I think she was pretty happy about that.

Here we go!
Here we go!

The hike itself was fun and a nice length and challenge level. The trail markers take you straight up these large smooth rocks. It didn’t take us long to start looking for our own trails.

When we hike in Bergen, it feels like we are passed left and right by Norwegians who grew up climbing the mountains. In contrast, on these tourist hikes WE felt like the pros who were passing people. That’s a good feeling!

The wind today was unreal. There were a few times I thought I was going to blow away, it was that strong. I was really worried that it would be too windy to climb onto the rock but luckily that area was a little more sheltered from the wind. It also rained on and off during the first part of the hike. THAT did make the rock so much scarier for me because I was afraid of slipping the whole time. The rock itself is around 5m wide and there’s a small ledge that goes out to it behind the big rock it’s wedged behind.

Kjeragbolten
Kjeragbolten

The first time I went out on the rock, I was too afraid to stand up. It was really hard to even get the courage to climb onto the rock as it is nearly 1000m above the ground below! I had to remind myself to keep breathing. Megan climbed on behind me and we took a few romantic couple photos.

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When Megan got the courage to stand, I knew I had to try too. We are both afraid of heights so this was a good exercise, right? So, I got in line and tried again. Once I was on the rock, I spent quite a while in “frog pose” trying to will my shaking legs into a standing position. Finally I did it! And it was terrifying!

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The Unforgettable Journey

On Friday afternoon, me and 9 other adventurers met at the train station in Bergen. We hopped a train to Bulken where we were met by a party bus style taxi. We rode up to the trailhead and had a short, fun, rainy hike up to the cabin in mild rain with some tiny hail and driving wind right at the end. That weather really set the stage for the whole weekend. It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that we saw the sun and even then the rain was spotty. The highlight of my weekend was easily dinner on Friday night. Our tour leader, Lise, cooked the most perfect traditional Norwegian stew with reindeer meat, onions, mushrooms, cream sauce and cranberries over mashed potatoes. It was so so so delicious that there was nothing left! We played a couple of group games with all 10 of us before hitting the bunk beds.

Saturday morning started with breakfast, preparing for the hike, cleaning the cabin, and hoping the weather would improve. Spoiler alert! It did NOT improve. After a scenic, wet, cold morning hike stopped for lunch in a little cabin. There were some older Norwegian hikers already there so we briefly talked to them before they left to brave the weather again. We couldn’t all fit inside the tiny cabin so it was nice of them leave so we could get a break from the rain. I think this is where everyone got really cold from sitting still too long. After a group discussion, we decided to abandon our original plan to hike to a new cabin and instead decided that it would be safer/nicer to turn around and go back to the same cabin. At this point we were only 1/3 of the way to the next cabin so i think it was a good choice. The scenery was pretty when you could see it but mostly it was very foggy and even more rainy.

I wasn’t able to take very many photos during the trek since it was so rainy. Here’s the few I did get:

On Saturday night, I learned a super fun new game for a group of people called Werewolf.  I seriously recommend playing. All of the Germans knew the game, though they didn’t all know each other previously, so it must be all the rage in Germany. After a few exciting rounds, some people went to sleep while other of us stayed up to play a rousing game of Spoons! I came in 2nd place! Wooo!

We changed our Sunday plans and hiked to Voss to catch the train. It ended up being 21km total over an incline up from ~600m to 1200m and then down to 70m above sea level.  I am still sore more than 24 hours later, so you know it was a good weekend of hiking!

Bergs in Bergen, Part 2

I’m so terribly behind on blogging. I have actually written this post once before but then something happened and it all got deleted 😦 So here it goes again:

Monday, September 8th was Mom’s birthday! We started our day with an amazing hike up Mount Floyen, right behind the apartment we rented. The day was clear and sunny and the air was fresh. We made it to the top after many stops for photos taking (ahem, Dad). Mom and Dad got a kick out of the troll themed park!

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Dad and I went to school Monday afternoon and he met some of my teachers. He was really impressed by the facility. And he should be! It is nearly brand new and feels very state-of-the-art. The cubicles have this nice frosted glass around them and the chairs are a different pastel color in each clinic.

A Dinner out At Egon

We went out for dinner to celebrate Mom’s birthday on Monday evening. After looking around at different places to find somewhere that suited everyone’s culinary desires (Mom didn’t want to be limited to fish, Dad wanted fish) we settled on a restaurant that seemed affordable-ish and was mutually agreeable. Egon was sort of like the Applesbee’s of Norway, it turned out. I don’t know that I would recommend going there again, as Dad’s fish was cold and it was spendy for what we ate. However, I think that’s just the way of eating out in Norway. You just have to plan to spend way more than you would in the States for the same amount/quality of food. My fish soup was fabulous, by the way, and Mom’s arctic char was pretty good as well.

Attempted Vidden Hike

On Tuesday morning, we woke up and got ready to hike one of the most popular routes in Norway, called Vidden. I had the day off of clinic, so we thought we should take advantage of the time together. After a quick breakfast, we ascended Floyen and continued on to Rundemanen. There is this really tall radio tower at the peak of Rundemanen. Sadly, it was so foggy that we couldn’t see it when we were standing at the base of the tower! After some older Norwegian gentlemen cautioned us about continuing in the fog, we decided it was best to listen to their advice and head back home. Luckily, the weather improved on Thursday and Mom and Dad went without me! I STILL have yet to complete this hike. I must find time to do it before I leave here in less than 4 weeks!

Bergen Culture Night

We spent the next few days just enjoying the time together, hanging out, cooking, and walking around Bergen. During the week, one of my classmates told me that it was Bergen Culture Night on Friday and that many of the museums would be open after hours and free to the public! We took full advantage of the evening.

Our first stop was to the Hanseatic Museum at Bryggen.  This area dates back to the early 1400s when German traders set up shop in the port of Bergen. Fisherman from northern Norway would bring preserved/dried fish called stockfish down from the coast and German merchants would bring grain from the fertile lands of their country for trading purposes. The German traders also had apprentices that would live there for 6 years, learning the ways of the trade and how to classify the fish into 26 classes of quality! Can you believe there are 26 classes of the same kind of fish? Anyways, this museum was really cool since all of the pieces are original from the time and were collected by one man and his son in the 1800s. One of the things he collected was a wooden peacock. It was used in archery competitions back during the height of the trading period. The Hanseatics would host competitions where the winner “got” to buy beer and food for everyone. Obviously, most people couldn’t afford to win so they would save the competitions for when a rich visitor would come, like a king or other nobleperson. Then, they would all shoot a little worse than usual on purpose, so the person with all the money would win. Everyone won this way because the “winner” got a little pride boost and everyone else got beer and food!

Hanseatic Museum Tour. I know this isnt the best photo but it is of a headless peacock. The story is that they would have a shooting tournament with bows and arrows. Whoever hit closest to the center of the peacock had to buy drinks for everyone else. Because of this, the trading men would only hold the competition when a King or some other rich person was visiting and then they would let them win. Everyone benefited from that deal because the workers ate and drank for free and the nobility felt good about themselves!
Hanseatic Museum Tour. I know this isnt the best photo but it is of a headless peacock. The story is that they would have a shooting tournament with bows and arrows. Whoever hit closest to the center of the peacock had to buy drinks for everyone else. Because of this, the trading men would only hold the competition when a King or some other rich person was visiting and then they would let them win. Everyone benefited from that deal because the workers ate and drank for free and the nobility felt good about themselves!

The next stop was Rosenkrantz Tower in the Bergenhus Festning. This was really neat to see the seat of power of the old country of Norway, dating back to the 1270s! The views of Bergen harbor from the roof are to die for and the history of the tower is interesting.  There was even a witch hanging there!

Rosenkratz Tower. This was a super interesting tour because this castle was the seat of power in Norway when it was built in the 10th century. Bergen used to be the capital of this area of the world, and so everything was controlled from inside those walls. Neato!
Rosenkratz Tower. This was a super interesting tour because this castle was the seat of power in Norway when it was built in the 10th century. Bergen used to be the capital of this area of the world, and so everything was controlled from inside those walls. Neato!
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Onion spire on top of Rosenkrantz Tower

Our last stop took us through the art museums in Bergen, called KODE. We toured a collection of traditional Norwegian decorative art, including an exhibit about art metals spanning a 600 year period of time. My favorite pieces were soup spoons from the 1600s. The next museum featured an abundance of strange modern/contemporary art. There was a whole gallery dedicated to this famous Norwegian artist with many pieces that I didn’t understand. Maybe someday modern art will be my thing but today, it’s still not my favorite. The best exhibit in the museums, in my opinion, is the collection of pieces by Edvard Munch. You might know him from The Scream.  It was really interesting to see how his pieces changed throughout his life. The Scream is from a period where he was having a psychotic breakdown. Any surprises there? There are 4 museums but we only made it to 3 of them. By the end of the night we were exhausted and Mom and Dad had to leave in the morning so we decided to call it a night.

I am so lucky my parents came to visit me in beautiful Bergen! I can’t wait for our next family adventure, wherever it may be!

Bergs in Bergen, Part 1

My parents just returned home after a 10 day visit to Norway. We packed a lot of fun and adventure in to their time here. Highlights of the trip include hiking around the Bergen area, Norway in a Nutshell fjord tour, and evenings spent cooking in our apartment kitchen.

Mom and Dad arrived on Friday morning. They weren’t able to sleep at all on their flight from MN to Amsterdam (thanks to 3 screaming babies) so they were exhausted by the time they arrived here in Bergen.  After a brief mishap with them getting off the airport bus at the bus station (they got off at the fish market – random!) and them getting up to where my dorm is, we got them settled in.  I got done with my morning patient early and tried to go meet them at the bus station to welcome them here but alas, they didn’t get off the bus. As I was getting off the city bus (Skyss), I saw my parents outside walking up the sidewalk! I have never been so surprised to see my parents!!! I had been wondering how I was going to try and find them since I didn’t see them get off the bus but there they were! We couldn’t check into the apartment we rented until 4-5pm so they napped in my “dorm” room while I went back to clinic and did my first crown prep here in Norway. The crown prep was interesting and totally different from how we would plan in the US but a good experience nonetheless.

The apartment was awesome. Check it out here if you are curious: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/503605?s=2Q7u. It fit all of our needs for the week.

Exploring Bergen

Saturday was Mom and Dad’s first full day here so we decided to explore the city center a little bit and help them get oriented to the area.  The tourist information shop was nearby so we started there. After stuffing our bag with brochures, we walked through the fish market and through some souvenir shops. We stumbled upon the Bergen Food Festival but unfortunately we had just eaten. We sampled some Norwegian cheeses (yummo!) and checked out the other food items. Norwegian food culture is very bread-based and maybe not a great reason to travel here.  We continued on to the Bergenhus Festning and into sort of small scale Ren-fest type gathering.

We went to the grocery store to get dinner items. Here’s what approximately $50 will buy you in Norwegian groceries at KIWI:

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Spinach, potatoes, frozen blueberries, muesli, Norwegian white cheese, Feta cheese with sundried tomatoes, salmon, bananas, soymilk, orange juice, yogurt, and eggs

We had salmon and potatoes and it was delicious. And much cheaper than going out to eat.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Paris Highlights

Josh and I had an amazing and fast weekend in Paris last week. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had any time to blog about it. We stayed in the perfect location, just 5 minutes walk from Notre Dame Cathedral.  We did a daytime walking tour and also visited at night.

The first night we were there, we took a tour of the Eiffel Tower. I obviously knew what it looked like in advance, but that didn’t stop me from being amazed at the size of it in person.  It was a fun start to our trip together at this iconic spot!

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Hi from Paris!
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These beams are huge!
Oh Eiffel, you did such a brilliant job mixing engineering and art.
Oh Eiffel, you did such a brilliant job mixing engineering and art.

We had a lot of really amazing food during our trip. On Saturday, we stopped in to a great French bistro for lunch called La Petite Périgourdine. Josh was brave and ate beef tartar. The waiter double checked to make sure he knew it was raw and was so excited when he liked the food – “The American likes world food!” It was extremely delicious but very much raw. I had smoked salmon toast and it was super tasty.

Saturday night was my favorite meal of the entire trip. We went to Chez Janou in Le Marais, thanks to a reservation made by Danica. Thanks Danica!!! I had a unique “cereal” risotto with scallops and Josh had a steak.  Dinner was good but the desserts were out of this world! I would be enormous if I had access to that chocolate mousse every day. I can’t even explain how perfectly sweet (but not too sweet) and creamy and light it was. Yum yum yum! Oh and it was Josh’s dessert but I enjoyed quite a bit of it. I also had an apricot tart that was fabulous.

Sunday night was great fun too. We walked around St. Germain du Pres until we found a cute little French restaurant. We had appetizers of escargot and mussels and loved both.

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Escargot! (Snails)
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mmmMussels

I also made a point of eating pain au chocolate every day. Best decision ever.

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On Saturday, we walked around the area off of St. Germain where we were staying, up the Seine, and to the Louvre. Again, I knew what the Louvre was but wasn’t prepared for how amazing it would be. Even if there was no art in it, I still would have been impressed because the building itself is so impressive and beautiful. The exterior walls, interior ceilings and floors are so detailed and spectacular. The art inside is not so bad either.

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The art, the walls, the floors, oh my.
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The ceiling is a work of art throughout the museum.
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The Mona Lisa was cool and all, but while surrounded by so much other great art, it was hard to understand why she is so much more popular.
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Michelangelo – “The Slave”

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I was so inspired by the Louvre that I made my own art piece:

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“I have to go”

I’m such an art-ist 🙂

We really enjoyed walking around, seeing the city at our own pace. Here’s some of our random sightseeing photos:

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One of the several Love Lock Bridges
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Notre Dame spire peeking through the streets
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Beautiful Paris and the Seine river
Love Lock Bridge crossing the Seine. Our tourguide told us that the bridge railings werent designed for the weight of the locks and sections are breaking because of it!
Love Lock Bridge crossing the Seine. Our tour guide told us that the bridge railings weren’t designed for the weight of the locks and sections are breaking because of it!

On Sunday we woke up, grabbed our morning pastries and walked through the city to Jardin du Luxembourg. This was one of my favorite surprises of the trip. There were people of all ages, physical fitness levels, and hobbies in every direction throughout the park. We brought wine and relaxed among the French doing various sports like fencing/sword fighting, tai chi, pony rides, tennis, basketball, jogging, and many other activities.

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Tai Chi in the park
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Luxembourg Palace
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Pretty flowers of Luxembourg gardens

Our hotel was perfect for what we needed but was certainly for the “budget” traveler. We stayed on the top floor of the building and had to climb many, many levels of fun-house stairs to get to our room. We got great exercise on this trip!

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Peek through our window
See!? Fun house stairs! I tripped almost every time.
See!? Fun house stairs! I tripped almost every time.
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Our street view
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Home for the weekend

Until next time, Paris! We loved our visit.

 

 

 

Memories from dental exchange