I’m On A Boat! Our Hotel Boat In Stockholm

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He travels a lot for work so he appreciates hotel amenities.  I really don’t care too much about my accommodations as long as they are clean and centrally located.  I’m so cheap that I’m bad.  Very, very bad.  I’ve stuck him in all kinds of hovels.  Stockholm isn’t a cheap city, luckily there are some great places that are easy on the budget, centrally located, have great views (see above and below), have a great on site pub and provide a unique experience.  You can stay on boat hotels in the Södermalm neighborhood (both on the Riddarfjärden and the Stadsgardsleden sides of the link to Gamala Stan).

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They had bikes you could borrow and cool lounges, but the best part was the amazing view from the seats (some of which were in lifeboats) on the upper deck.  We sat there taking in the views, enjoying the sunset and singing The Lonely Island‘s (with T-Pain) “I’m On A Boat” from the movie Stepbrothers.

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I give mad props to people in the Navy who live like this on a long-term basis.  The room was tiny, but had everything we needed.  We even had our own bathroom (It is something that he appreciates, but I have no problem foregoing.  Just ask him about the hovel I stuck us in when we visited Dublin).

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We had some new experiences in the bathroom.  I’d never showered in a place like this.  It was tight (so tight that you can see my toes standing on the toilet lid), but workable.  Everything fit in there like a masterful game of Tetris.  It was impressive and surprisingly easy to use.

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The best part of the room itself was the view from our porthole.  Amazing!

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For When You Really Need To Go

Sometimes you really need to go.  I’m sure you can see the good at home (unless you clean house like he and his housemates did in college). Here are some photos of the bad, the ugly and the just plain interesting toilets we have seen.

Metal toilet, just like in the slammer

At a rest stop on the side of the road in France

I swear that wet stuff is how I found it and not from me.  I wasn’t about to clean it for the picture though.

When you see this, you know you are in trouble because it means that there isn’t any in the picture below

You should have grabbed your toilet paper at the entrance. Don’t learn this lesson the hard way. If you are a woman, pray that a woman comes out of the one you are entering. The men only use them for one reason. See below.

Sometimes they are more permanent like this one in London. It seems as though there are way more of these than toilets for women around. I would love a little bathroom parity. By the way, those aren’t his feet.

I guess it could be worse. This is the one in Chateau de Chillion. It just went down to the lake. Not great for swimming.

Can you guess what these holes were used for on the Swedish warship Vasa?

Along the same lines, the “throne” in the Tower of London

After seeing all of these, sometimes you will gladly fork over some money for a clean bathroom (which is a lot easier with the Euro).

Whether you call it privy, can, potty, flush toilet, bathroom, porta potty, washbasin, toilette, toiletten, lavatory, commode, throne, pot, outdoor restroom, crapper, john, wash-room, rest room, convenience, powder-room, the gents, water-closet, the lav, outhouse, latrine, the netty, the porcelain god, chamber pot, little girl’s room, the breakroom or something else, we all need them.  Hope you’re always able to find one when you need one.  Happy weekend!

A New Low… Public Toilets

I’ve seen my fair share of fluorescent lighting in bathrooms, but black lights?  I wanted to look around for the black light poster of Lil Wayne.
You can get your own one for $4.99 on Amazon.com
The Swiss love a clean bathroom.  I commend them on the nice state of their public toilets.  In addition to being clean, almost every public bathroom has disinfectant next to the toilet.  This is so you can personally disinfect the toilet seat before and after use. What a country!

I admit to being a bit puzzled by the black light fixture. It made the toilet paper glow.  Maybe people use black lights in bathrooms to find “spots” they missed when cleaning?  Was this store was so proud of their bathrooms, they invite you to take a look? I wonder if they make a black light flashlight version?  A hand-held black light would probably be handy on cleaning day.  Or not.

Actually, the black light is to prevent junkies from finding their veins.  If they can’t find their veins, addicts can’t shoot up in public restrooms.  Tres practique!

 

Jailbreak! What? Who? Me?

While we were home over the holidays, we got to see one of our dogs.  He is doing well and clearly loves his new family.  Being sweet, affectionate and very attached, he wants to be near people all the time.  He isn’t, however, the most trustworthy when left unsupervised. When no one around his new home, he gets to stay in the bathroom. He doesn’t seem to mind and willingly trots inside.
 
His new parents painted the bathroom before hosting Thanksgiving.  Since they couldn’t put him in the bathroom with wet paint, they put him in a crate.  He’d never really been crated before.  Let’s just say he wasn’t a fan.  The crate was a plastic one with a metal closure that you have to pinch.  When they returned home, he was bashful… and outside the crate.  He ate through the metal closure to get out!  Jailbreak.  No more cute bandanas, it’s orange jumpsuits for you.  No shoelaces either.
Unfortunately, in busting out, he broke one of his incisors.  The vet said it would continue to get infected and recommended removing it.  He made it out, but it is now down a tooth.  We’re trying to get his new parents to replace it with a gold grill.
 

What The Heck Is A Bidet?

Although we (unfortunately for our visitors who want to take one for a test drive) don’t have a bidet in our apartment here in Switzerland, we had one at our hotel in Prague. It occurred to me that are unfamiliar with bidets and it’s probably about time to for Bidet 101.
Until I came to Europe for the first time, I’d never heard of a bidet.  I saw this perplexing contraption between the toilet and the shower and couldn’t understand why you just wouldn’t use one or the other.
A bidet (pronounced bid-day) is a low-mounted plumbing fixture, similar in size to a toilet, or type of sink intended for washing the bits that rub together when you walk.  In other words, it’s a mini-shower for your undercarriage.

Theories about as to why Americans don’t have or use bidets:

  • They don’t come standard and cost extra money.
  • Saving water and energy (which is expensive here) isn’t as much of a priority for Americans.
  • Americans shower more frequently.
  • We don’t know how to use them.  Wikipedia says that bidet is an old French world for pony and that helps you imagine how you would use one. Without go-go gadget legs, it’s next to impossible.
  • When the Ritz Carlton hotel in New York installed bidets, the puritanical League of Decency immediately compelled their removal.  Perhaps bidets are still morally objectionable?
Now that you know how to use a bidet, it’s time to get creative.  Possible other uses for your hotel room’s bidet include:
  • Baby Bath
  • Storage – It’s useful for storing things, kind of like a medicine cabinet.  You could also store your reading material or extra toilet paper in one.
  • Wet bar – Filled with ice, it makes a great ice bucket.
  • Doggie water bowl

  • Water fountain
  • Vomitoir – It is handy for throwing up in the case of flu or food poisoning.
  • Foot bath – Soak your feet after a long day of walking
  • I’m sure Cosmo Kramer could find another use.  How do you follow up installing a disposer in the shower?  Just imagine what Kramer could do with a bidet…
  • Children’s toy? Fishing Pond?  Barbie bathtub?

Sorry, it appears that some of my suggested uses for a bidet are not permitted.
 

 

B.Y.O.K. – Bring Your Own Kitchen

Here, “unfurnished” apartments can be a different sort of unfurnished than we are used to in the US.  There are usually no light fixtures (just bulbs with bare wires). Most of our friends have hired electricians install light fixtures. I am (a) lazy, and (b) cheap.  As a result, we still have bulbs hanging on wires.

We had to specify whether or not we would be bringing our own kitchen. Given that we were coming from the US where the voltage is different, I felt pretty confident when I stated that we would not be bringing our own kitchen.

Everything is relative.  Forget the idea of an apartment coming with a washer and/or dryer.  Sometimes, you don’t get curtain rods or toilet seats

The After

Please come visit

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday, it was a very busy day. I had my German lesson and went to Swisscom to get a phone (I waited so long that I got to watch a good part of the All Blacks-Tonga Rugby World Cup match). In the afternoon, I frantically tried to get ready because we had a housewarming party for last night. Pretty much, we invited everyone we know in Geneva outside of his work and everyone in our building. I hadn’t done enough preparation for a houseful of people so I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

Here are some pre-party pics of our place (otherwise known as “the after”):

We’e not vampires, but if we could make it any darker in here we would.
Want to visit us?  You will sleep here.
Another pic of your new room
Alcove in the entry – I swear I stored most of my books back in the states.
Note the fruit bowl from an earlier post (to prevent exploding bananas) 
Living Room
We can pull off the back cushions and sleep more people (it becomes a twin)
Dining room – 
Like our Swiss flag napkins?
Prepared for rain with an umbrella stand by the door
We call this our locker room (additional shoes not shown)
Bathroom
#2 gets its own room
Kitchen
My nemisis, the stove, tried to foil my baking chocolate chip cookies, but did not succeed. 
Our map board so we can find our way around 

 

Before

 
Dining Room

We have been very lucky.  Apartments are hard to come by in Geneva.  It is on a lake and surrounded on three sides by the mountains.  This makes land scarce. None of the buildings are taller than six or seven stories tall (preserving the mountain views).  It has made a perfect storm for a housing crisis of epic proportions.  I have heard that there is .5% vacancy (it may even be less). When we only put one offer and got our dream flat we were extremely lucky.  We were even luckier that we could get the keys within hours of landing!

Every makeover show has a before and after.  I decided to show our apartment the same way.  Plus, I am still putting things away.  Here are the before shots of our place:

Living/Family Room
Entry/Main Hall
The Number Two Room
Guest Bedroom (Washington did not sleep here)
Our Bedroom (insert cheesy “Cribs” reference joke here)
Bathroom (sorry about the toilet seat and notice the showerhead)
The kitchen with my nemesis (the stove)
You shouldn’t have to wait too long for the “after” photos should not take too long. I have invited everyone in our building over for a housewarming party on Friday (not a very Swiss thing to do).  I am frantically trying to get pictures up and get the apartment ready.
 

 

House Hunters International, Geneva Edition – Part One

We are about to become residents of Geneva. We have not yet seen the city.   On Monday, that will change for me.  He has some meetings for work, so he will not be able to go until later.  This means that I will be picking out a residence in one of the world’s tightest housing markets all by myself. Strangely, he seems unconcerned.

The housing market in Geneva is in a state of crisis with a .05% vacancy (of course, half of all statistics are wrong).  The city is wedged in between a lake and the French border so there is not much room to expand.  Therefore, finding an housing in Geneva is notoriously difficult.  Here is my understanding of how it works:

1. Being me, I would have liked to stalk properties online before going.  This has been strongly discouraged because anything that I see online, even mere days ahead of my visit, will no longer be available when I arrive.  As a result, I am merely looking places online to determine how little our money will get us (although it still looks like a great place to live).

2. Fill out questionnaire for realtor. For an American, this contains some unexpected questions.  Those of you who watch House Hunters International should not be surprised by this.  I had to check a box that said whether or not I wanted to bring my own kitchen.  I love my house, but for me this is a no brainer.  We will not be bringing our own kitchen.

3. A Régie is the Swiss version of a realtor/estate agent.  Property owners use them to rent their apartments and handle the complex paperwork.  They show the apartments.

4. After viewing apartments, I should be prepared to put in multiple offers immediately (before the end of that day).  We know people who have put in four; we know of people who have put in over ten.  This step includes signing a paper that we are not delinquent on any local debts.  By the way, that paper costs $20-25. Even putting in an application can carry a fee.

5. We wait a few days to see if any of our offers have been accepted.

6. If unsuccessful, start again at step one.  Cross your fingers.