Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Swedish Glögg Parties

This past weekend I attended a couple of friends' houses on so-called Glögg parties (glögg is a Swedish type of hot drink, similar to to the Austrian Glüwein for those of you who have tasted this). This is a nice tradition leading up to Christmas to instill some holiday spirit in people's stressed lives.

At the first party hosted by Tomas Chicote & his lovely family in Vasastan in Stockholm, I met many of my old university friends. When I arrived - fashionably late as usual - there was a buzz of activity in all rooms of the apartment: 2 to 37-year olds creating own Christmas decorations in various shapes and forms, 10 or so children playing drums on kitchen-ware and yelling at the top of their lungs in one of the rooms, others helping themselves to hotdogs (all kids' favorite!), Lucia buns and ginger-snap cookies in the kitchen or generally mingling about.

Tomas, his sambo Åsa, their children Stella and Svante, and I formed an improvized Lucia procession (for more info on this strange tradition, read for example here or here) and sang some songs to the other guests. After this, Tomas played the accordion and everyone participated in a ring dance around the apartment, hopping like frogs, pretending to play the fiddle, bass or flute etc...

Quite exhausted after all this playful activity, I continued to the next Glögg party at my long-lasting and best friend Malin's place. Since it was already evening, all the guests with small children had left and my god-daughter Lovisa had already fallen asleep (the photo below is from her christening in October). A few glasses of Glögg and wine later I ended up dancing salsa at Mumbaila on Sveavägen between 1 and 3am. The atmosphere was nice, people happy and DJ Nino played good music.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

La vie est belle à Paris!

I just came back from a wonderful few days in Paris. A press trip through my work was the official excuse for going there, but I took the opportunity to spend the weekend in the French capital and enjoy a shopping extravaganza at Galeries Lafayette and checking out the Parisian salsa scene and say hi to some congress friends.

Hotel lobby and restrooms (gents' / ladies' rooms).

The first two nights I stayed at a cute and modern hotel called Mayet close to the salsa club La Coupole on Boulevard du Montparnasse. Quite typical me, upon arrival to Paris I had still not made any private arrangements for the stay other than sending a couple of SMS's and e-mails to salsa friends to find out where to go dancing on Friday night. In pouring rain I therefore had to spend a good part of late Friday night trying to find a hotel with rooms available at decent rates, the priority was vicinity to the salsa club to not lose too much "dancing time"... Stumbling upon Hôtel Mayet was therefore rather fortunate. I liked their interior design and friendly hospitality, and was also rather surprised of the hotel staff's excellent English.

La Coupole was crowded, smoky and there was no dance discipline - people were dancing Cuban and Puerto Rican style next too each other without paying attention to where they led the lady so I ended up bumping into or even hitting a few people when the man spun me in all directions - so I found the place quite tedious. The upside was that I got to dance with Venance, another Italian guy I met at the Brussels Salsa Congress in June, in Cannes in July and at the UK Salsa Congress in Bognor Regis in September, and a couple of crazy but fun American hispanics that had been living in Paris for years. All in all, it turned out to be good exercise. :-)

I basically spent Saturday and Sunday in Galeries Lafayette - I went a little crazy and spent rediculous amounts of money there! Usually I don't like big department stores - I get a headache from passing through the perfume department, get annoyed when there are too many people and then get lost among all the floors and stores. But Galeries Lafayette kept me mesmerized. It had a great mix of high-quality design stores, jewellry, lingerie and more affordable clothes shops with brands like Clockhouse and Pimpkie (one of my favorites). Evening strolls in the area also took me past Invalides and closer to the Eiffel Tower so I could ensure to see something else than the inner walls of the department store and salsa clubs...

On Sunday afternoon I changed hotel to Radisson SAS at L'Arc de Triomphe. Then I took the métro to Bastille and arrived at the Sunday salsa social at Barrio Latino on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine with only 25 min to go. It was a great place with very nice atmosphere and a staircase inside circling its way up around the dance floor so you could actually see 4-5 floors up like in a theater. I wish I had had more time there. Willy was DJ both at Barrio Latino and later at O'Sullivans next to Moulin Rouge (métro Blanche), so the music was great also at the night club. I had a fantastic dance night and kept dancing till 3am! There were basically only exceptionally good dancers and I enjoyed salsa, cha cha cha, bachata, zouc... A very pleasant experience, and I can't wait to go back!

I went to pass time between the salsa sessions by having dinner at a trendy restaurant and bar close to Place de la Bastille, enjoying champagne, some red wine, Chèvre Chaud and crêpes with nutella. I was thinking to myself that Paris might be a good place to live for a few years - a continental metropol and with easy access to many other European cities. My thoughts were interrupted all of a sudden when a male guest had a grand mal seizure (epileptic attack) in the restaurant - his date got scared and freaked out when her friend displayed some aggressive behavior due to not knowing where he was or why after the spasms, I suspect. Paramedics arrived and it was all rather turbulent for a while until they had everything under control, the guest could breathe normally without oxygen mask and be led out.

Monday morning two colleagues and I met with our PR agency at their offices in Paris and had a number of good interviews with French reporters over the course of the day. Our gaming spokesperson was filmed by Canal Plus for a show to be broadcasted in January and demonstrated games on a number of our phones and answered some questions on camera. It will be interesting to see the results of this press trip and the two previous ones to Munich in Germany and Milan, Italy in November. The purpose of these press trips have been to educate local media about mobile technology, development platforms and mobile content. There has been quite big interest in these topics, perhaps bigger than what our local PR managers had thought.