Tweets from the Sled

We recently took a four-day dogsledding trip in Northern Sweden as part of our quest to see the Northern Lights. Our number one instruction was “Always have one hand on the sled”, and since I don’t have the talent to tweet with one hand, much less with one hand in winter gloves while cruising along at 10-15 kilometers per hour, I stored all my Tweet-like thoughts in my head and have compiled them here. Overall, they provide some insight as to what the experience was like!

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So here, in no particular order, are some random thoughts from the sled.

  • I love the smell of dog poop in the morning #dogsledding (with apologies to Robin Williams)
  • We followed a reindeer for ages – he didn’t cede the trail, we couldn’t pass
  • Reindeer have an incredibly awkward gait
  • Gorgeous blue color revealed when snow sections separate and sink
  • Knives are incredibly useful tools: poker, potholder, opener
  • Prettiest outhouse I’ve ever seen – or used
  • Love that lingonberry juice, especially warmed at lunch
  • Swedish children begin learning English in First Grade
  • Almond potatoes are a new find – they make great potato chips!
  • Candlelit walkway to the outhouse was a nice touch
  • I’ve never seen Styrofoam seats in an outhouse but they make perfect sense!
  • I can’t believe they let just anybody drive a dogsled
  • Saw the Northern Lights!
  • Sunlight makes the snow sparkle
  • Saw a moose!
  • These dogs are STRONG and they are happy to be home

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What’s an Architecture Fan to Do in Chicago?

Entry at Wilson Station, Chicago's Red Liine. Photo Courtesy Chicago Detours

Entry at Wilson Station, Chicago’s Red Line. Photo Courtesy Chicago Detours

It took me a long time to get to Chicago, a city I’d heard and read so much about in architectural history classes. When I finally made it, years ago, the first thing I did was head to the Chicago Architectural Foundation and sign up for one of their boat tours. We all – child, grandma, husband and self – loved it.

Today I just discovered Chicago Detours, a company offering bus and walking tours of Chicago’s history and architecture. This is is kind of stuff I just love, and so apparently do lots of other people looking to get more out of their travel experience. Next time I get to visit the Windy City, I won’t need to go to an office and sign up…I can do so from their website.

Nice to know that while technology has changed, Chicago’s committment to showcasing its fabulous architecture hasn’t!

Switzerland’s Strada Alta

You take the high road, I’ll take the low road… We were in Switzerland rather than Scotland, but we couldn’t help but repeat this refrain on our recent adventure in Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.

We had friends coming for a visit and knowing how dismal it can be in October in Basel, we decided to play it safe and head to the sunny side of Switzerland, as their very fun ad campaign calls it. The sun is very much a part of the culture of Ticino. It directed the way life developed there. There are vineyards and terraces, beautiful gardens. In fact, if not for the Swiss stores and the prices listed in francs, you would think you were in Italy proper.

We made a good decision: it was grey and rainy in Basel as we departed but when we came out of the tunnel into Ticino, the sky was blue and bright. Hooray!

along the Strada Alta

The Strada Alta (high route) is a trail in the Leventina Valley. To access it, we took a train from Bellinzona to Airolo, and then headed to the hills. The train did most of the uphill for us, so our 17 kilometer trek took us on an undulating path through a few villages. As usual in Switzerland, there are places to stop along the way for snacks and meals, making multi-day hikes a breeze to plan and easy to do, even with kids along.

The woman at the Leventina tourism office was very friendly and helpful. We were clearly not the first people to take this hike, but despite its popularity, we pretty much had the trail to ourselves, seeing just one couple during our hike. And lots of cows.

We spent the night in Osco in a dormitorio, then hiked out the following day. The poor weather caught up with us, but the forecast promised snow at higher elevations, which was extremely exciting for our friends from warmer climes. Of course the thought of it was better than having to deal with is and fortunately we were below the snow.

Back in Basel later that day, we went to the corn maze up in the Bruderholz, and from the platform in the center, we could see the fields of freshly fallen snow in the nearby hills. Winter is on its way!

If you go:

Book accommodation ahead if you’re going in the busy season as options are limited. You can find travel details at the Leventina Tourismo site.