I recently read a quote- and I don’t remember where, blog/insta/photo caption…who knows! But what the quote disparaged was people who use two spaces after a period instead of one. Wait, what?! That’s a thing to make fun of? I didn’t even know one space was a thing. Ever since learning to type, commas have had one space, periods two. The Atlantic even has an article covering the controversy. Ok, wait, let me read it…hmmm, it seems to imply that everyone is a winner but by the end, the reader can clearly tell the one-spacers are the 1% of intellectual superiority. The author likens people who use two spaces to people who still have their smartphone keyboard sound effects turned on. Rude! Everyone knows that people who have their keyboard sound effects are people who can barely handle the technology of zipping up their pants in the morning, let alone modifications to their smartphone. I am not one of those people (checks pants zipper…ha, ha, I kid. I’m wearing scrub pants).
I am also worried about becoming a bird lady weirdo. Let it be known, my parents did NOT set me up for success on this one. As the birds’ baby-sitter, I have to deal with the fact that there are four birds (which seems excessive to some) AND that they are named after me and my siblings. Fortunately, there’s not much of a competition in the smarts category since these birds are pret-ty dumb. They are, however, very cute. The cutest one is (naturally?) the one named after me. She is also, however, the biggest pig and first to the food. Let’s not talk too much about that factoid.
But I am showing off smartphone pictures of the birds. I know! How can I not, though, when I successfully get all four of them to eat out of my hand at once? It is amazing. Forget my jerk of a co-worker who, upon seeing this marvel said, “What?! Who cares. It’s the trick birds are supposed to do. My dog can do lots of tricks but birds? This is it. This is what you do with birds. Buy birds. Day 1, feed them out of your hand. Day 2, give them away.”
I also put together their wooden playground, which I found very difficult. Although my Mom (my real Mom, I don’t have a bird Mom) said that it was easy and that I should pour myself a glass of wine and do it. Well, I drank a cup of coffee and watched a YouTube video. Some of the supports are a little tilted but the birds like it. How do I know? Because it’s their new favorite pooping spot.
The weekend after an East Coast family trip, SMS and I made our way from Silicon Valley to the Central Coast. First stop? Great-Uncle Al’s 90th birthday party in Arroyo Grande!
Before we went to the party, we stopped at our favorite taco place in nearby Pismo Beach, Papi’s Grill. We ordered a few tacos and they were delicious. The potato taco is always a hit and a few of the meat ones were also very tasty. Then we checked into the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel and went to the beach for a bit.
Uncle Al is SMS’ grandfather’s younger brother. The brothers are both very active and live life to the fullest. Although there was no formal toast, Uncle Al got up at one point to tell us “terrible news:” “I just went to DMV and they renewed my license…for five more years!” It was very funny. Although as I type it, it sounds worrisome- I promise, it was light-hearted!
It was fun to see family members, including SMS’ aunt and uncle whom we don’t see as often. We had tri-tip for dinner, which was pretty delicious. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and watched the sunset. It was a pretty great day.
The next day, SMS and I went to a local bar to watch the World Cup final. I am an unabashed follower of sports when it comes to championship games. The road to the championship? Not so much but when it’s time for the finals, I’m usually there. It was a good game and both teams played with gusto. I was rooting for Croatia as the underdog but France winning was also ok.
After the game, we checked out of the hotel and headed for Paso Robles. We had decided to take a couple days off and go wine-tasting with SMS’ parents. Since we were early for check-in, we headed out to do what we do best- drink wine! Our first stop was at Eos winery, where Rip had a complimentary tasting due to reciprocity from another wine club he belongs to. Our pourer was really nice but the wines were…ok. We enjoyed talking to her and she gave us a tip that was AWESOME (more later) so it wasn’t a bust but we definitely didn’t buy any of the wines.
Rip wanted to try Niner winery so off we went for a tasting and possibly lunch. There, by total chance, we ran into his sister and brother-in-law. We enjoyed a tasting and decided to eat lunch at the on-site restaurant. It was really good and the outdoor seating even better. It was a really nice lunch setting and it was very enjoyable.
Although we had gotten the message that our hotel rooms were ready, we decided to keep going with wine tastings (yay!). Since Justin is an old favorite and a little out of the way from the places we were planning on for the next day, we headed there. We split wine tastings there and I bought a few bottles. We ambitiously thought we’d drink them while we ate S’mores later at the Hotel Cheval but that ended up not happening. So SMS and I still have them. Darn.
We headed back to town to check in and then go to dinner. We went to Thomas Hill Organics, which has excellent food and a beautiful indoor/outdoor covered patio. Afterwards, we went to Hotel Cheval’s famed evening S’mores which ended up driving me crazy. Let me say, SMS thinks I shouldn’t write about this because it does make me look slightly insane. He is probably right but I press on, regardless.
So, first, you cannot make your own S’more. There is a s’more concierge/waiter who takes your S’more order and then makes them for you. He is taking orders from many people who would like s’mores and yet, he can only make two at a time. Not the best system in the world but this is not the part where I lost my mind. What was driving me crazy was his insane level of inefficiency and resulting level of stress. It’s like the scene in August: Osage County when Abigail Breslin’s character states she doesn’t eat meat because she’s ingesting an animal’s fear. Well, I was eating a person’s stress while eating a s’more, which is antithetical to the s’more experience. Also, why could he not move his s’more ingredient wagon next to the fireplace where he was actually making the s’mores rather than running back and forth. Wwhhhhhhyyyy?!?!? Argh, just let me make my own s’more! Except I couldn’t. And the whole experience made me weirdly grouchy because I am crazy. The end.
So, if you’re still with me rather than reporting my fragile mental status to concerned authorities, we had another day of wine tasting the next day! After a delicious breakfast, which featured a buffet and, thankfully, not a breakfast s’more waiter, we headed out to Villa San Juliette, which had been recommended the previous day at Eos.
It was amazing! The wines were really good- I ended up becoming a member! Also, the tasting was $10 and a lot of wines were served. SMS ordered a pizza because his hunger levels were reaching imminent crisis levels and it looked delicious. We spoke to the chef for a bit and he really knew his stuff. I sort of wanted to eat there because everything he described sounded amazing, but we had already made plans for Daou which is another great experience. But before I move on to Daou, if you are in Paso Robles, I give Villa San Juliette my highest recommendation!
Rip has been a member of Daou for a long time and loves their wines. It also sits on top of the largest hill around for miles so the view is spectacular. There is an outside sitting area that is covered so, although it is quite hot, it’s comfortable in the shade as there’s often a gentle breeze as well. We had a great tasting there and lunch.
Our lunch was rather late so we decided to head back into town for happy hour rather than try and squeeze in another winery. We got some so-so ice cream but later, went out for a really nice dinner at La Cosecha. I ordered the seafood stew that was delicious but I wasn’t quite hungry enough for. Still, I ate all the good stuff and tried not to waste any food! Afterwards, SMS and I headed to an outdoor spa at River Oaks Hot Spring & Spa. He made the reservation and it was really a good idea! Afterwards, we still had room for a s’more so we hung out by the fire again. This time, I was more chill. Not uncoincidentally, there was a different s’more guy.
The next day, it was time to go. We ate breakfast and then packed up the car. It was a great mini-vacation and a fun way to celebrate family.
SMS and I visited family over the extended 4th of July weekend. For the 4th itself, we went to the Shook family annual party. It was a little more mellow this year compared to others (no swinging fireballs!), but it was a lot of fun. The company was great and we had an awesome view of multiple firework shows. I also got to run around the beach with my nephew Luca, which was a lot of fun. He’s a spirited kid! He also moves quite fast so no pictures from me although Mark caught him in action.
That weekend, we headed up to New Jersey to see my grandfather and Dusty. It was a quick trip since we arrived on Saturday and left Sunday. We went out to a local restaurant since SMS and I hadn’t thought to bring nice clothes for a dinner at Navesink. Doh! Never fear, the local restaurant was really good and it was nice to hang out with Grandpa, Dusty, and my aunt Maria.
The next day, we went to the Thomas Edison National Historic Part in West Orange, NJ. It’s at the site of his larger, industrial sized laboratory and factory. We saw his chemical lab, production line, office with his huge roll-top desk, and the Black Maria. The Black Maria is a tarpaper-covered video making studio on a lazy Susan to maximize light. I’ve linked to a PBS short that talks about the Black Maria. The current studio is actually a replica since the original burned down. It was really neat to see someone’s idea constructed, from paper concept to large physical structure. The scope of industrial engineering is something I’m in awe of- it’s hard for me to think on that scale. But it is absolutely amazing to behold.
We stopped for lunch at MishMish cafe where we both ordered the Israeli brunch, which consisted of two fried eggs, halloumi, labne, sour pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, and pita. I asked for sliced veggies instead, which also paired nicely. It was really delicious.
Afterwards, we quickly stopped at the Glenmont Estate, labelled “Glenmont Garage” on Google. It’s the estate Edison gave to his second wife (he was a widower) as a wedding gift. Niiiiiiccceeeee! We didn’t have a lot of time but we peaked into an open window in the garage. There, I saw Edison’s DC electric car charger- from 1904! He charged neighbor’s cars and Alma Edison actually drove a 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47. We walked behind the house and saw the gravesite of Thomas and Alma Edison before leaving for the airport. Hmmm, typing that seems a little morbid pre-flight, but we didn’t have time to go inside!
On Friday, I got a few hours of sleep and then woke up to start the journey home. I grabbed my takeaway breakfast from the fridge and walked to the station. The journey home was pretty uneventful although connecting through Brussels was a little nerve-wracking since there was a HUGE line for non-EU citizens leaving the Schengen zone. I also had to run back to the United counter to get a sticker saying I had been through security. This seemed ridiculous because of course I went through security, there was no other way to be at the gate. Anyway, it was a pretty tight connection because of all that but I made it and got home, just in time for Chief’s Dinner.
After a nice dinner with colleagues and some funny roast skits (on video), I went home and slept pretty soundly. The next morning, I got up to…take a plane to NYC. I know. Totally crazy but a friend of mine was having a baby shower hosted by friends with an amazing apartment. So, off I went!
I landed in Newark and took the train into Penn Station. I had made an appointment at the Apple Store near World Trade Center so after a delicious lunch at Sliced. It was delicious and pretty healthy, too. I had an open-faced toast and the counterman was really nice.
Then I walked down to the World Trade Center area. I walked through the memorial, which was pretty somber. It is clear that in the NYC area, 9/11 is an event that affects people daily. I feel that elsewhere in the US, while people treat the date with solemnity, the direct impact is felt less often by the overall population on a day-to-day basis.
Next, I walked into Oculus, a futuristic-looking multi-use space that is impressive on the outside and the interior even more so. I walked through Eatly and then went to the Apple store where they took my laptop away to send it in. Although the girl tried to insinuate that I must have done something by showing my photos of a few spots of micro-rust from water damage, it ultimately turned out that the logic board had failed. I didn’t have to pay anymore than the (expensive) base rate and my computer was returned with memory intact (my last backup had been a month ago!).
After that, it was time to party! Michael and Scott organized a great party with awesome drinks and delicious food. We went up to their deck and socialized while admiring the spectacular views.
Then the party headed downstairs where we ate and drank some more. We played pin-the-sperm-on-the-uterus after getting fairly liquored up (varied from person to person), which was a lot of fun. One of the (gay) guys was right on target (cheater) and very proud of himself. Most everyone else did rather poorly but there were no hurt feelings or broken household items.
The party was still going but I had to leave to meet up with my AirBnB host. I know I wasn’t thrilled about my Gothenburg experience but NYC is expensive! I met up and it was a cool loft, although several units had eviction/condemned notices up for overcrowding violations. So, a little shady but my stay was fine.
Then I met up with Hillary and Karen for Ethiopian food. It was so fun to hang out with them and after dinner, we headed over to Hillary’s to hang out and drink some wine. They were a little mad at me for staying at an AirBnB but both of them were so busy with family and job obligations that I didn’t want to stress them out. But they said if I ever came again, no AirBnB! Stay with one of them!
outside of the lofts
The next day, Karen and I met up for brunch. Afterwards, I walked for a bit and then met two of my aunts for a second brunch. One of my aunts and I had planned to go to the Met but my grandfather really hoped to see me. Well, the Met can wait! Also, it was Father’s Day so it was nice to spend the day with family. We had a really nice dinner at Navesink. I took an Uber to Newark. There was very little traffic and I made my flight without a hitch.
While planning the vacation part of the Sweden trip, multiple blogs and articles spoke of how a visit to an archipelago island was almost a non-negotiable part of a trip to Sweden. This is true of both the East and West Coast archipelagos near Gothenburg and Stockholm, respectively but there seemed to be a greater focus on Stockholm. I suspect this is mainly due to Stockholm being a more popular tourist destination, especially for those on shorter trips just trying to get a taste (or smaka!) of Sweden.
I hadn’t made any plans so after returning to Stockholm, I had an inner debate on what to do on my only full day left before my return flight. I really did want to explore an island within the Stockholm archipelago but I also thought wandering Gamla Stan more, seeing City Hall and going to the Nobel Museum also sounded really cool. And it’s true, staying in Stockholm another day would have been awesome. But, ultimately, I decided that there are always more museums to see and things that stay off the list so rather than do more of the same by staying in the city, I decided to venture out for a day trip to experience the Swedish Island lifestyle.
Once I made that decision, I had to figure out which island I wanted to go to. I was in Stockholm one week before the tourist season starts, aka Midsummer. Once Summer arrives, there are many more ferries and seasonal routes open. I really wanted to go to Utö but in the off-season, there was no direct ferry from Stockholm. My second choice was Gällnö, reachable by direct ferry even in the off season. The ferry that was running was the Cinderella line (no Disney affiliation). It also went to Voxholm, Grinda, and Sandhamn. Voxholm has the fortress and is nearby, but looks like a small town rather than a nature-focused island. Grinda sounded a little too family-friendly but would have likely been fun. Sandhamn was a two-hour ferry ride one-way and that just seemed like a little too much for a day trip. Also, it has a reputation as a nice harbor for luxury yachts so I think it is a little posh.
So, Gällnö. I picked it because it sounded very undeveloped and a great place for biking, hiking and swimming. There is a hostel there that is very popular in the Summer and, when passing it, I can see why. It looks delightful and is in the most idyllic spot.
I had made up my mind the night before, so I timed my hotel breakfast so that I could enjoy the delicious food and then head to the pier without stressing about the time. The breakfast was awesome. I started in the drawing room but after I saw another guest outside, I wanted to eat outside too. It was an amazing morning and the guy was very nice. He was a bariatric surgeon from Chicago, traveling with his lawyer wife for what sounded like their annual big trip. He was well-traveled and she joined us after awhile and they were fun and interesting to talk to over coffee.
I biked to the pier and boarded the ferry. It left about 10 minutes later. I paid onboard, a one-way passage with a small bike supplement since I took the bike from the hotel. After 90 minutes, I was dropped off at Gällnö. All by myself. It was disconcerting to be the only one let off with only a few farmhouses visible as the ferry steamed merrily away. Uh oh.
But don’t worry! Everything was fine. I hopped on my bike and went towards the hostel and store. The store was very small and had limited food, mostly geared towards group campers. I wasn’t very hungry and only bought a snack, but a picnic would have been a good idea.
I kept biking and I’m pretty sure I biked on a hiking trail for a bit. I found a beautiful beach and laid out in the sun for a bit. I also scrambled around on some nearby rocks. It was really beautiful.
Then I hopped on my bike and went a few miles in the opposite direction and found another beautiful spot by the coast. I sat for a bit and really, didn’t think much about anything. I just kind of sat and enjoyed how beautiful it was. I tried to hone in on all the sensory inputs so I could have a vivid mental snapshot to go back to as a memory.
Then, although it had only been a few hours, it was time to bike back towards the dock. There was another timetable listed for another ship, maybe a commuter type ferry? I flipped the dockside indicator to show that I was waiting for the boat. I wanted to stick with what I knew so I waited for the Cinderella boat, which was the first one scheduled to arrive anyway. They put the gangplank across and I boarded. I bought a hearty late lunch (risotto!) that was impressively good for being cooked in a ship’s galley!
I bought my ticket on-board again and word to the wise, if you think you can avoid the ticket lady, they do check your ticket stub as you disembark so no cheating!
I had to leave really early the next morning so I decided to take care of as much as I could the night before. I took the tram to the rail station with my roll aboard, which I locked in an overnight locker. The reason for this is that I was leaving so early the next morning that the tram to the station wouldn’t be open and I didn’t want to drag my suitcase for 1.5 miles. I bought my Arlanda Express ticket as well. On the way back to the hotel, I did some last minute sight-seeing along the way.
That night, I treated myself to a dinner at Oaxen Slip. It was so good. I had the herring dish again. To me, it encapsulated new Swedish cuisine in one dish. I had the rhubarb lemonade again and an awesome strawberry and merengue dessert.
After the conference, I headed into Stockholm. Once I got to the city, I headed to the hotel which was on a boat! Yes, after a less-than-stellar AirBnB earlier in the trip and seeing the boat from an amazing lunch at Oaxen, I had booked a two night stay at the Prince van Orangiën. It is a former private yacht now turned into a unique boutique hotel. I booked a room with a shared bath but had it to myself the two nights.
The boat was beautiful. It was very luxurious with gleaming wood, marble fixtures, and gorgeous furnishings. There were several deck areas to relax in and the central room was relaxing and opulent at the same time. Breakfast was served in the mornings, although I could only partake the first morning since I had to leave super early on the second. I highly recommend it, although I think when I go back in the future with SMS, I would book a room with a private bath just to ensure privacy and access (I sound like I’m talking about a private beach).
So after check-in, I decided to find the cool part of Soderhalm which according to this guide, are south of Folkungagatan. So, really, it seems to be the area of Katrina-Sofia, at least on Google maps. The hotel lent out complimentary bikes so I biked across several bridges to explore.
Clothes at Grandpa
I went to Grandpa and tried on some clothes, leaving with two dresses that will hopefully evoke Swedish cool whenever I wear them. Then I headed over to Urban Deli to peruse their grocery items (does anyone else like wandering through high-end grocery stores, especially on vacation?). The store was awesome, although very Dean & Deluca and slightly impractical for a day-to-day shopping list but for a special treat? An excellent choice.
After eating my snacks across the street in the Park Nytorget, I wandered up the hill towards Sofia Church. The area’s historic name is Bergsprängargränd. Based on the occasional information signs (SE/EN), it used to be the Stockholm slums where shipyard workers, rock-blasters and other day laborers lived. The small red homes are still there but based on appearances, it looks like the real estate prices have climbed quite a bit since then.
Next, I wandered down the hill to Såzargatan. This was also a poor shipbuilder neighborhood now almost completely rebuilt apart from a few protected houses. There are three that are high above the street due to rock blasting that occurred after they were built. #11 has a door that will open to a fairly significant drop so I wouldn’t recommend taking that exit. There was also a box with an angled mirror called a “gossip mirror” so you could see who was on the street without having to actually stick your head out to look. This sounds slightly creeper and antisocial but also kind of awesome.
THEN. I found the highlight of my wanderings and a place that is very high on my list of recommended things to do in Stockholm. Reg Anders Fogelströms Terrass has a fantastic view of the city. Really, you have to go here…and it is not like me to tell any traveller that they have to do anything. The views are exceptional and it just feels like it completely captures a quintessential Stockholm experience.
There are a few ways to get there. In addition to wandering through Katrina-Sofia, there is also a staircase near the Fotografiska which is great for my family taking cruises there later this year because the staircase is right across from the cruise ship docks. Caution, there is a lot of construction there currently (Summer 2018) so it may be hard to cross the busy street. There is also a way through the Slussen subway station and Katarina Elevator but again with the construction, it is still confusing and a longer walk than the staircase. But no matter how you get there (take an Uber if you hate to walk!), I promise you, it will be worth it. Well, at least on a day that you can enjoy the views, aka, maybe not during a storm.
Nearby, there is a small cafe with ice cream in the Summer and warm drinks in the Winter. I wasn’t hungry but it looks like Fjällgatans Kaffestuga would be a great place for a fika!
Then I walked through a small neighborhood garden and another formerly poor neighborhood called Stigbergsgatan. Then I went back to my bike and cycled to the hotel. The evening was beautiful and I took several pictures of the boat. Then, it was time to go to sleep. The bed was very comfortable and I drifted off immediately.
Uppsala is a beautiful university town about an hour north of Stockholm. The whole reason that the Scandinavian Summer trip occurred is that I had a poster accepted to an international medical conference. Since I was traveling, I thought I’d add some vacation time. I didn’t think SMS would come because of his lack of vacation time but when he heard Sweden, he was in!
Since Uppsala is relatively close to Stockholm, I thought it would be a somewhat non-descript Stockholm suburb. I was very wrong! It is a super cute, historic university town. I arrived on Sunday afternoon and checked into my AirBnB. Then I went to a case report presentation at the hospital. As I walked to the hospital after missing the bus due to a detour, I realized that there was a triathlon in full swing (and the reason for the bus diversion).
The hospital was amazingly beautiful, the case reports mostly lackluster. I was worried that the conference would be a dud but never fear, the main sessions were (mostly) excellent.
That evening, I felt sorry for myself and, therefore, treated myself to a nice dinner at Akanten. I had a delicious trout dish and a sorbet dessert. I had a beautiful riverside seat on a perfect, almost-midSummer evening.
The next day marked the start of the official program. On my way to the conference, I found my breakfast spot for the next three days. Forsa Hembageri featured the most delicious kardemummabullar with excellent coffee to accompany it. I had one every day and, ok, two on the last day I was there. The cardamon taste was amazing and the doughy texture with slightly toasted outside bun was excellent! Yum, yum, yum!
The conference opened with a lot of Swedish pride! A physician-pianist played four jazz pieces from a famous Swedish jazz composer. We heard a lot about Professor Barany and then listened to a few invited lecturers.
That evening, I went to a welcome reception in the botanical garden. It was on the smaller side, but very beautiful. I also made a note to check out the other garden in Uppsala, which was more directly linked to Carl Linnaeus, the famous botanist who is the father of plant taxonomy. I spoke with a few people and had a very nice time.
The next day, lectures were in full swing. It was also time for our poster session. Our poster seemed to be well-received. Displaying it definitely means we need to get our rears in gear regarding publishing our pilot study data and finishing up the larger trial!
I walked through Dr. Linnaeus’ garden that afternoon. It was small but interesting to see a little bit of Uppsala history. The museum was closed but that did save me the admission fee!
That evening, there was a reception in the castle where Queen Christina abdicated in 1654. The entertainment program featured a Grand-Prix winning Swedish acappella group followed by…an ABBA cover band. People were initially sitting but, led by our corner with Brazilians (mostly responsible), Dutch, and American attendees, everyone was dancing by the end! It was so much fun and so, so ridiculous. I’m sure there are many patients who would be shocked at the dance moves of their ear surgeons! It wasn’t pretty but it was a lot of fun.
The next day, the conference wound down and I headed back to Stockholm for a final day and a half of vacation in Sweden.
The conference was excellent. There’s a different level of energy at an international conference and I plan on going again. My goal is to have my larger study complete and published by the next meeting in Madrid, 2020!