London Calling: 14 Hour Stopover

Big Ben. Scaffolding had been removed just weeks before!

After leaving Bern, I took the train to Karlsruhe followed by the bus to Flughafen Karlsruhe / Baden-Baden. There I said hello to my surly RyanAir friends and took the plane back to London. I took the Stansted express back into the city. Once again, they were checking tickets so make sure you buy the dedicated airport ticket rather than just swipe through the turnstile with your phone/general e-ticket.

I landed mid-afternoon and had decided that I really wanted to see some of the incredible artifacts at The British Museum. I checked my bag in at a local shop via an app so I didn’t have to deal with it at the museum. First, I went to the special exhibit, Feminine Power: the divine to the demonic. What a name! It was a compilation of sacred objects and fine art from different cultures showing representations of the divine/sacred in feminine form. It wasn’t the largest exhibit, but it was an interesting concept. It was manageable for the time I had, but I also could have stayed longer to take it all in.

Other exhibits were calling though, so I went to other galleries. I saw the Rosetta Stone, which was really neat to see in person. It’s amazing what soldiers can stumble across and find!

I saw the Parthenon Sculptures (née Elgin Marbles). I saw friezes that I had only seen in books and were now right in front of me! The Nereid Monument was pretty wild as it’s a small temple reconstructed within the museum.

After taking in the antiquities, I went to the second floor to see other highlights. I was following the museum map that showed where highlights of the collection were located. I saw the monumental carillon clock, the Lewis chessman, the Sutton Hoo helmet (AD 600s, Anglo-Saxon England), and the Lycurgus cup.

Finally, on the way out, I walked through the Parthanon Gallery again. I tend to like double-backing in museums (much to SMS’ delight) and today was no exception.

Theater between British Museum and the Strand Duchy House

The guards herded everyone out and I walked to my hotel (Strand Duchy House via AirBnB), which was a dorm room for a college currently not-in-session. It was quite nice, albeit basic. I quickly headed out towards the Thames, although I did get a nice recommendation to stop at Gordon’s Wine Bar.

I walked along the river. It was a beautiful evening with perfect weather. A heat wave was set to roll in the next day but this day was amazing. I saw a boat turned bar (old passenger ferry) called Tattershall Castle and I went aboard for a G&T. The G&Ts are served in large glasses, which I hadn’t see before. It’s supposed to allow the aromatics to be fully appreciated. I’ve only seen G&Ts in small glasses or cans, but I can learn to appreciate goblet-style!

I was hoping to see 10 Downing St, which didn’t happen. But as I walked towards St James Park, I heard a band performance. A quick internet search showed that it was “The Massed Bands of HM Royal Marines Beating Retreat.” It was super cool and later in my walk, I came upon them again as they marched down the mall from Horse Guard Palace to Buckingham Palace.

Yes, I did see Buckingham palace! Be still, my royal family gossip loving heart!

I went to Gordon’s Wine Bar which, as advertised, had a really neat vaulted cellar that was mostly candlelit. I grabbed some tapas at Port House and then headed to bed. The next day, I took the train to LHR. I left a lot of time, which is unusual for me but I had heard LHR horror stories and I did not want to miss my flight. As a result, I had a few hours before my flight but it was a nice airport. I grabbed a snack and read for awhile. Then it was time to board, head home, and get ready for a major road trip with SMS in just two days!

In Transit: DE -> CH with stopover in Bern, Switzerland

On Monday morning, Dad and I met up for breakfast in the hotel. The buffet was quite good. I love bread, cheese, jam, yogurt, and muesli for breakfast. There was also excellent coffee, which is key for combatting jet lag.

After breakfast, we walked to Tartes Cézanne, a French bakery that Dad swore had the best quiche. We had tried eating lunch there yesterday, but it was closed on Sundays. Today, we had better luck! Initially, I turned down Dad’s offer to buy me a quiche for the road because, honestly, it sounded a little gross. I’ve never thought of quiche as a “travel well” food. Well, chalk another one up for Dad because I did accept his offer and it was delicious! It was so tasty and fresh. I wrote to Dad and said it almost tasted like a health food, which I’m pretty sure quiche is not. I think it’s a “sometimes” food.

I was sad to leave Dad, especially since he was there for another day and our visits are always too short. But, although he would miss me, he encouraged the visit to Wengen since it would otherwise be difficult to experience given my own short timeline. So, away I went!

Eichholz entry point, Aare River

The visit was very smooth. I am going to write a more logistics-focused post (maybe I’ll get more followers!) but once again, Google Maps and its public transport directions option are stellar. I ended up buying a Swiss pass for convenience and the fact that I was traveling pretty far on two of the four days. I don’t think I saved a ton of francs, but I saved a few and again, just getting on the train without the hassle of buying point-to-point was worth it!

My main goal of the trip was to have an extended stopover in Bern and go swimming in the Aare. It was one of the highlights of my last Swiss trip and I definitely wanted to do it again. The train station is pretty close to Freibad Marzili, a complete free pool complex that is fed by the river waters. There is also a path that people walk down to get longer floats in the river. It is awesome, and Swiss taxes are worth it if this is the result!

I ended up floating twice. First, I jumped off the Schönausteg, a bridge known for people jumping off into the river. Second, I walked a bit farther to the Eichholz campground beach (very rocky). It was awesome! In between floats, I stopped for a beer at a riverside bar where about 1/4 of people were in bathing suits, including me. After my second float, I changed at Freibad Marzili and stopped for some gelato at Gelateria di Berna. SMS and I had been there before and it still has delicious gelato and semi-long waits. Worth it!

Then, it was time to get on the road. Even though I love Bern, I knew I’d be back in a couple of days and I didn’t want to get to Wengen too late. I took the train along Interlaken, which is a beautiful train route. Then, I transferred to the train heading for Lauterbrunnen.

Just leaving Lauterbrunnen, heading towards Wengen
Closer to Wengen, view of Lauterbrunnen Valley

The final train was the one to Wengen. I was so excited because I think one of the most beautiful views in the world is from the train window along this route. When SMS and I were here last, I was distracted by getting my ticket out for the conductor so I really wanted to take it all in this time. It was amazing.

Wine and cheese

I checked into my hotel (Bernerhof) and then went to the Hotel Schönegg, where Dad had stayed and recommended it for the view. I had a cheese plate for dinner while the setting sun lit up the mountains. It was a great end to the day.

Tübingen, Germany

Neckar River, the famous boats, and an island in the middle

Tübingen is a beautiful university town in Southern Germany. Dad was there for a few days so I decided to include a visit in my whirlwind European tour. We arrived at 10 pm after our Baden Baden day. I was pretty tired and thought about going to bed. Dad suggested meeting up for a drink, which meant we walked up the hill to one of the main squares where a festival was happening! Stadfest!

We ordered beers from one of the tents, which I found confusing since I was given two tokens instead of two beers. Wait, what does that mean? Dad explained that the tokens for when we turned in the glasses after drinking and got our glass deposit back. Glass and bottle deposits were common in Germany and Switzerland- it’s a great idea to me!

We took our beers and sat down at one of the tables. It was a lot of fun because everyone was in such a good mood! There was a lot of singing along to the music and it felt very happy and carefree. Also, drunk, for sure since everyone else had probably been partying for hours rather than on a never-ending train ride.

We had two beers and left as the party was winding down about 90 minutes later. Dad and I bought the second-most delicious thing I ate on the trip, which was a bratwurst with mustard on a roll from a food tent set up on the street. It was delicious! Late night snacks after drinking, plus a little bit of jetlag-fueled hunger, are best addressed by bad-for-you, tasty-to-eat types of food!

The next day, we walked around historic Tübingen. We went to the Hölderlin Tower, where a famous poet lived for the second half of his life as a boarder renting out the second floor. Some of his translated poetry was very evocative. He really liked rivers, which is fitting since the Neckar flows by right below his window. The back garden was beautiful where there was a statue that had a plaque that said the statue was meant to reflect the emotional state the Hölderlin’s poetry creates, rather than actually looking like Hölderlin. Um, okay. I guess the likeness is pretty poor, then? I thought the statue was nice.

Tübingen, not a fan of the pigeons! This is the pigeon house where the pigeons roost and the city-workers steal the eggs to keep numbers down!

Next, we walked up the steep hill to Hohentübingen Castle, where there’s a great museum overseen by the university. We saw the UNESCO-approved Ice Age mammoth ivory tusk figurines. The most famous one is a little horse (Vogelherd horse), whose legs seem to have fallen off sometime in the last 40,000 years. It’s the first example of figurative art known in modern human existence. Very impressive, especially since 40,000 years later, my own drawing of horses look way worse and less horselike!

Eros, casually riding on a centaur

We also saw other antiquities. It was a really nice museum. The castle itself is on the high ground so once we were done, we went outside and took in the views. Next, we grabbed some lunch from a very limited menu (Sundays), which was two pieces of perfectly toasted toast with cheese. It was okay though because I was saving my appetite for a delicious dinner.

I climbed to the top of the church tower while Dad went back to the hotel. The views were pretty spectacular. Apparently, the bellringer lived up in the loft with his family in olden times. There was a rule that they couldn’t toss their waste from the top of the tower, which, as the sign says, probably means they did it and therefore necessitated the rule being made!

I took a quick nap and then it was time to go to dinner. We walked up the hill again to Restaurant Mauganeschtle. We sat on the terrace on another gorgeous evening. For a started, I had a delicious salad and Dad had a cold soup. For the main, we each ordered a pork dish- mine was with a white wine sauce and his was with a creamy mushroom sauce. Both were excellent! We each had an aperitif to start, followed by a glass of wine. Even though I normally drink reds, I had a riesling since we were in an area known for them. It was very good, very much on the dry side which is what I wanted. I’m not a big fan of sweet rieslings.

After that, we walked back to the hotel. No Stadfest tonight! The next day, I was planning on leaving for Wengen, Switzerland for a two day stay in what I think is the most beautiful place on earth!

Friedrichsbad Spa, Baden Baden, Germany

I flew into Baden Baden to meet up with my Dad, who was spending a few days in Tübingen. RyanAir wasn’t quite as cheap as I was hoping it would be, but I was booking last minute. A convenient airport was Baden Baden (Bath Bath) so there I was.

My first night, I ate dinner and went to bed. The next day, Dad wanted to meet me in Baden Baden to tour the town. It was a three hour train/bus ride for him, so I went to the Friedrichsbad Spa. As the nice check-in woman said, “It is both genders, textile-free.”

The Spa!

So, yes, away I went! No photos so use your imagination (please don’t). I walked into the large locker room where I used my wristband to access. As soon as I went through the turnstile, there was a box that said deposit wristband here. So, even though I thought it was a little weird, I did what I was told. What a dumb bunny! Of course, I should have kept it and deposited it at the end. But now, what could I do? I waited to long so the turnstile locked and now I had no sign that I was even supposed to be there. So, I crawled under the turnstile, went back to the front desk, and got another wristband. By the way, in case you were worried, this entire part took place clothed.

Take two! Off to the locker room and then, to the baths! A person can do any of the baths/steam rooms/saunas they choose, or one can follow the 17-step prescription. I decided to do that, although I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

So, first you lie down on your towel-sheet on wooden loungers in two progressively hotter dry sauna rooms. There are little signs that tell you the degrees centigrade and recommended duration. There are clocks in almost every room, so it’s pretty regimented rather than a “lose all of sense of time” spa experience.

Next, you go into two progressively hotter steam rooms where there is hot springs water directly piped in and visible on one side of the wall. It is out of reach so no one can directly scald themselves, but the rooms are very hot and humid. The first room felt a little rough (10 min!), but the second felt like an endurance event (5 min!). It didn’t feel great, but I told myself to be tough and follow the orders!

After the steam room, there were three baths of successive cooler water- warm, lukewarm, cold. It was nice to bring the body temp gradually and the cold plunge, while shockingly bracing, felt great.

To my surprise, there were no hot tubs! What!? I totally thought there would be at least one onsen-like hot tub. Wrong.

Then, I deviated from the prescription and repeated the steam room and cold plunge (showering in between- I’m not a sweaty savage!). After that, I applied lotion and then went in the rest room where I wrapped myself up in a blanket that was very cocoon-like. Supposedly, the attendant tucks you but I think I blew that chance when I deviated from the order.

Finally, you end in the reading room where you can lie back and enjoy tea, although I was nervous about spilling the hot liquid. Although maybe that could be a mini-hot tub experience?

So, who was there? Well, it wasn’t too crowded. More men than women, but it was definitely a mixed crowd. Some people were on their own, while others were in pairs. The pairs seemed mostly to be guy friends and man-woman couples. Most people seemed to be in their 30-50s, so not filled with old creepers or young kids (min age is 14). I didn’t make any eye contact because frankly, I don’t love eye contact so I often look away and what if it looked like I was looking down!?!?! Awkward!

Roman Ruins

After my bath, I showered, dressed, and headed out to meet Dad for lunch. We walked around the slightly busy downtown. We considered going to the car show, but we decided to go back to the hotel and eat at the beer garden. Then, we went to the old Roman bath ruins, which were pretty neat. Very hot- I could tell we were near the springs!

Also, FYI, if you’re more into bathing suits, there is another spa next door that allow bathing suits in most (but not all?) areas. And maybe there are hot tubs!?!

Then, we went on a never-ending train ride. The power to Stuttgart and the surrounding tracks had been disrupted +/- striking workers (this was harder to verify) caused several train cancellations. Dad and I ultimately went North a bit, and then headed South through Stuttgart which seemed to be an unaffected direction. All in all, it took just under 6 hours to get to Tübingen which was a lot. But I was glad I was with Dad and, our saving grace, Google Maps and my international data plan!

Idle Hands Mean…A Trip to Europe!

The Great Hall, Natural History Museum, London

After meeting up with my former Williams biology TA and his wife, my wheels started turning. She had mentioned her “new” discovery of Google flights. So I got to thinking… Even though I was enjoying my “Real Housewife of Silicon Valley” rest and relaxation, the thought of a last minute trip became very exciting. Mainly because when else, other than after retirement, will I have this much time that is obligation-free from a scheduling standpoint? I can just pick up and go! And so, I did.

Happy in London!

Yes! I went on Google Flights and found out that a trip to London that was relatively inexpensive. It was still quite a bit, but half the price of anywhere else in Europe. I wasn’t super-flexible with dates since SMS and I have a trip planned for the second half of July so really, I was pretty fixed between 7 July – 15 July. I do recommend Google flights map option where you can look broadly at destinations in a specific month for a one or two week timeframe. A person could really score some deals! After unsuccessfully trying to use a travel credit, I booked with points.

SMS wasn’t able to come and really, didn’t have a ton of interest in a long-haul flight. Before I left, we got the Tesla 3 serviced since the tires were super-worn on the inside (very sneaky!). There’s also a weird wheel squeak that they said they fixed, but they are Pinocchio nose-growing liars since it’s there and actually worse.

That morning, I took the train into San Francisco to meet with another Williams classmate who’s an ortho surgeon at UCSF. He had good information about benefits, so it was nice to meet with him over an Andytown coffee. Then, it was off to SFO to catch my flight to London. Although I thought it would be tight, I had time for a quick lunch in the AMEX lounge- yes!

After a long flight, I got through customs reasonably fast. I had no check-in luggage which was nice. I arrived around 7 am and had a flight to Baden Baden, Germany at 1700. That flight was on RyanAir out of Stansted, so I planned a mini-day in London.

I planned on a day in the Kensington Area, since I had seen a picture of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall, a super grand entrance hall with incredible architecture. First stop though: Breakfast.

I went to Sheila’s Cafe and ordered the English Breakfast plate. I did, however, order coffee. After breakfast, I walked through Kensington Park towards the museum. It was gorgeous and had a pond with vases featuring swans right next to a little rest where a few were hanging out. I wanted to rent a bike, but had difficulty with the program and having an international zip code. So I walked. I did use an awesome app called “Stasher” to store my larger carry-on for the day.

The museum was quite cool. I saw the Dippy the Diplosaurus cast, a lot of fossils, some gems, and the great hall. Off of one of the galleries of the hall was a “Treasures” room where they had beautifully displayed some of the highlights of the collection. It was cool to see things in person that I had only seen in pictures- especially since I didn’t even know where the originals were!

Afterwards, I walked towards the Saatchi Gallery where a special Tiffany’s display is being hosted. It was a very nice part of town- Chelsea, I think. There were lots of good looking people in beautiful clothes living a model life. I didn’t look terrible since I was wearing a dress, but I was impressed with how so many people were so well-turned out. At the gallery, a lot of women were very fashionably dressed. The exhibit was good, but it was sort of like a really drawn out commercial. But hey, I saw the “Beyonce necklace” and some other amazing jewels that I wouldn’t say no to so overall, it was a nice event even if I did end up going through it pretty quickly.

Quick Harrods Food Hall Stop

Then, it was time to head to Stensted. The express train was delayed so the trip took longer than normal- 55 minutes instead of 30 minutes. Hot tip: you need to buy Stensted express tickets rather than just tapping through the turnstile with a normal farecard or RFID card or phone. So, I did that but then they were checking tickets on exit which was causing a LOT of consternation since people were late for their flights and the check was really time-consuming. I saw the huge line and figured there had to be another way out (there’s never just one!) and I was right! There was another shorter check by the lift halfway down the platform so I go through relatively quickly. One other hot tip that I have for people in general is that, if you are not ready to show your card/ticket/pass/whatever, please step to the side rather than block everyone else until your entitled, ill-prepared self is finally sorted out.

So, I took my first RyanAir flight. It is hilariously terrible in a “what do you expect, you get what you pay for” sort of way. Mostly in the form of really brusque customer service. But I got to Baden-Baden without trouble, went through customs, and used my 9 Euro card to take the bus into town! Yes, June-August, the German DB transport system sells month passes for all city and regional travel for just 9 Euros/month. Amazing! That, combined with Google maps public transport routes, made traveling really easy.

I checked into my hotel and at dinner at the attached beer garden. It was a beautiful night and very enjoyable, as well as easy after a long, logistically-intense day.

Scandinavian Summer, Day 12: Gällnö

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Breakfast is served!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Guard outside Stockholm Palace

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The stuff of nightmares.

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Kungliga Djurgarden Gate

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It’s a bird’s life, sitting on the head of a Swedish Aristocrat/Composer’s statue.

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.

 

 

Scandinavian Summer, Days 11: Stockholm Part 2

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View from the Terrace- I strongly recommend a visit!

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.

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The hotel.  There have been better pictures, I’m sure.

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).

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Katrina-Sofia

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.

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.

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Park Nytorget

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Mural outside Urban Deli

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Going up the hill towards Sofia Church

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.

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On the terrace, Fotografsika in the immediate background

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.

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Terrace View towards Gamla Stan

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Terrace View towards Tivoli Gorma Land

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The staircase from the cruise dock entrance/transportation hub.  For reference, the fotogarfiska is at the bottom.

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.

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Screenshot of the Terrass.  I put an open circle around the ferry dock icon.  The filled in circle (blob) indicates the approximate location of the staircase.  I know it’s all smushed at the bottom but I wanted to show the islands you can see from the terrace.

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One of the protected old houses, covered in flowering vines.

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!

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I am a sucker for peonies, like almost every other person.

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.

Scandinavian Summer, Day 7: Stockholm

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Embrace the ridiculous!

It was our last full day together so what better way to have couple-bonding time than borrowing a tandem bike from the hotel?  Well, actually, there are probably lots of better ideas since it can be a stressful experience but SMS and I did pretty well!  There were a few initial wobbles but then we were set.  SMS took the lead seat since he is a much more avid cyclist than I am and I just peddled along in the back.

We headed over to the Vasa museum, which was listed as a “must-do” by many sources.  The Vasa is a Swedish warship that sank very, very quickly in 1628 on its inaugural voyage.  It only made it ~1300 m before it heeled and water came rushing in.  Apparently, the center of gravity was much too high and it was very unstable.  This was actually known before the launch but there were time pressures (from the King!) to get the ship battle-ready.  There was an investigation which sort of fizzled out once the council realized the king would partially be at fault for approving the original plans so Henrik Hybertsson, the main ship designer died in 1627, seems to have been blamed and any other culpability assignments were avoided.

The Vasa is very impressive.  We took an English tour and then wandered around.  The museum has a lot of supporting exhibits.  The most interesting one to me was the movie about the ship and the excavation, complete with footage from 1961.  All in all, it was a very cool museum but if you have a really short time in Stockholm and you can’t get to it, I would say it’s ok.  There are so many amazing sights in the city so see what strikes your fancy, rather than being bossed into seeing something because everyone says you should! 🙂

After the Vasa, SMS was hungry.  When this occurs, it can be a quickly escalating emergency.  I talked him into checking out a restaurant a mile away, which we biked in tandem towards, a happy couple!  Forget the suspicious glare from SMS who has, unfortunately, been caught in a situation where I assure him that there will only be a small wait and the opposite occurs.

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A wonderful find!

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But in this case, it was an excellent idea!  I had used Yelp and found excellent reviews for Oaxen Slip , a self-described Nordic bistro.  We were seated on the covered patio and ordered several small plates.  It was all so good.  We also ordered a cocktail made from their housemade rhubarb lemonade and aqua de cedro.  It was amazing.  Our dishes included Norrøna herring with brown butter, warm potato salad, chopped egg, beetroots & hazelnuts and other dishes no longer on the menu but included a mozzarella dish with scattered bread crumbs, a reuben-like sandwich (good but not my favorite), and a delicious salad.

We also saw the Prince van Orangiën, a luxury yacht converted to a small hotel.  It looked very cute and got me thinking for my time in Stockholm after the conference…

After lunch, we cycled back to the hotel to turn in our tandem bike.  Then we walked over to the Fotografiska, the photography museum that had also received rave reviews.  It may have been better to take public transport since, by the end of the day, we had done  a lot of walking but it was still cool to see the city.  The museum itself was ok.  The exhibits were all modern photography and only highlighted the photos, with no technical details or camera equipment displayed.  There is a good snack bar with a great view but overall, I found it to be overhyped for my particular level of interest in modern photos.

After the museum, we walked towards Sodermalm, which I heard was a very cool part of the city.  We didn’t find the cool part on this walk.  I did find it when I returned to Stockholm but this walk was a bit of a bust.  Plus, we were walked out.  So, we hopped on the subway and headed to the Central train station.  We walked to the Smaka for some more food.  We finally got our Swedish meatballs (yay!) and then we sat down to listen to some live music.  I took a few classy crowd pictures (see below).

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Looks like the guy in the glasses caught me taking the photo!

We headed back to the hotel and up to the 9th floor.  This time, it was late enough that the rooftop, which is reserved for spa users during the day, was open!  We relaxed in hammock-like chairs and just chilled out for about 40 minutes.  It was delightful and the views were amazing.  I felt very lucky.  It was a nice way to mellow out after a busy day and enjoy each other’s company on our last day in Sweden together.

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So happy!

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Scandinavian Summer, Day 6: Gothenburg to Stockholm

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Trädgårdsföreningen

Although I loved Gothenburg, we woke up and it was time to move on.  This trip, I booked two nights in each of the cities plus one night in Hven.  I would have been happy staying on the West Coast of Sweden but I had FOMO if I shortened our time in Stockholm.  I admit, there were several travel blog posts from the time Volvo was promoting its European Delivery that made a trip up the coast to the islands very tempting but ultimately, I resisted that particular temptation.

After another A+ waffle breakfast, we walked over to the Trädgårdsföreningen to see the gardens more closely than we had been allowed to during the GARDENfest.  The flowers were absolutely beautiful and I took a lot of pictures.  It was a quiet morning with beautiful light and it was really a delightful time.

Afterwards, I decided we needed snacks for the train and we accidentally came across the downtown Saluhallen, which was awesome because I had actually meant to visit there at some point during the trip but then forgot.  There were multiple stands with the most fantastic looking food.  We bought some nuts, bread, cheese and the world’s tastiest crackers.   The cheese tray also included two macarons for dessert.  Yay!  The merchants were really nice and it was a great stop.  I’m always a little superstitious about buying nice food for the train since I have a childhood memory of when Mom and Dad splurged on a really nice grocery haul for an overnight train to Norway and the bag was left in the train station.  TBH, I think it may have been partially my fault since I was usually entrusted with stuff as the oldest kid but regardless, in the fluster (cluster?) of getting six people with luggage on the overnight train, the food was left behind.

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This may look unattractive in its half-eaten state but it was DELICIOUS!

This time, however, the food came with us.  The train took us through the green countryside and forest across the country to Stockholm.  We walked from the central train station to our hotel, Downtown Camper.  It took about 5 minutes and it was very convenient.  The hotel was great but much bigger than I expected, with big tour groups as part of their main clientele.  It was fine but based on the website, I thought it was going to be much smaller and boutique-y.  No matter, it was still great.

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Happy at the bar

We walked towards the Kungsträdgården where the Smaka food festival was going on.  We checked it out and decided to come back later when we were hungrier.  We headed back to the hotel and had a drink in the 9th floor bar that had an exceptional view of the city.  After our happy hour, we went back to the Smaka and had a few small dishes, including reindeer!

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People feasting at Smaka!

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Reindeer Games

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The most handsome Swede!

We walked towards the Gamla Stan (old town) and walked towards the Riddarholmen Church, which has a beautiful wrought iron spire.  It’s the burial ground of all the Swedish monarchs with the exception of that Catholic convert who went to Rome, Queen Christina.  She will show up again in my Uppsalla recap!  Back to the church, I wonder what it’s like to be a young royal heir and know exactly where you will be in several decades?

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Riddarholmen

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Then, it was back to the hotel and to bed, gearing up for tomorrow’s full day in Stockholm!

Scandinavian Summer, Day 5: Gothenburg and Trollhättan

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Looking up the canal near the Riverfront

In reading these trip synopsis, I would caution you that part of the fantastic-ness of this trip was the incredible weather we were lucky enough to experience.  Apart from one drizzly morning during my conference when I was inside anyway, it was bluebird skies all day, every day and the days are quite long in a Swedish June.

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So, we woke up and ate at the Hotel Royal.  The breakfast spread included a waffle maker station so it got the A+ of the trip from SMS.  Then we walked towards the water to go to the Emigranternas Hus.  The old customs house, now a casino, was the center of emmigration from Sweden in the late 1800s-early 1900s.  1.3 million Swedes, about 1/4 of the population, moved to the US and took over Chicago.  I kid, I kid, they went to a lot of places in the US although Chicago was a huge destination.  The small museum located on two floors highlights the trip between Gothenburg and England and then England to the US.  It is really well done with a few interactive displays, such as walking through a re-creation of a ship’s berthing area, complete with (stuffed) rats :(.  Upstairs, there are more display signs with texts and pictures to give more detail on the movement out of Sweden.  Basically, many people were running out of farmland as the plots got smaller and smaller as they were divided up among the next generation.  Stories were told of little country mice Swedes that got caught up in the city life of Gothenburg and swindled out of the remainder of their passage money.

There was also a slightly perplexing set of poster-board-like displays on racism in America.   So, the text first states how Swedes were treated pretty well in the US for unknown reason (implicit in the text is “Because Swedes are $#%^ing AWESOME” as there’s a lot of understated but powerful Swedish pride!).  Then it point out the contrast between how Irish were treated, which was almost as bad as African-Americans which then leads into a discussion of slavery all the way up to Black Lives Matter.  In three paragraphs.  This seems to give short-shrift to a topic on which there are whole museums dedicated to, but at least they tried?  After pointing out how racist America was/is (and I’m not arguing that this is incorrect), the Swedish author did point out that Swedes aren’t perfect either (*what?!*) because they liken the attitude of Americans to the Irish as similar to the Swedish disdain for “Finnish males in the 1960s migration.”  Sigh, poor Finns. Anyway, it’s a comprehensive but slightly weirdly abbreviated, off-handed addressing of a pretty big topic.

After our museum tour, we met with one of the staff and did some genealogy research.  It was absolutely fascinating.  I may have a new hobby!  SMS didn’t have a lot of info- a name, an approximate birth year, and a departure date.  From that info, we figured out great-grandmother Thekla’s birthday (we were one year off) and found her whole family in the Parrish record.  She had 5 siblings and the oldest fraternal twins were 16 years older than her.  Her mother had her at age 45 in 1870!  This sounds very 2018!  The record showed that one of her brothers left for Amerika in 1885 and then she left with her sister in 1887.  It was really neat to see how records last and can tell stories so many years later.

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It is fun to celebrate in a flatbed truck!

After the deep dive into genealogy, which I think I was more into than SMS even though it wasn’t my family, it was time for lunch!  On our way to lunch, we were passed by a flatbed truck packed with Swedish young people wearing yacht captain outfits (guys) and traditional dress (ladies).  They were clearly celebrating with loud music and sound makers.  I’m pretty sure it was a graduation celebration but I’ll be honest, I’m not completely sure.

We went to the Feskekôrka, an indoor fish market.  There were beautiful displays of fresh seafood and some ready-made options.  We opted for a picnic at the self-serve tables outside.  We bought herring with lingonberries, a shrimp sandwich, and fish soup.   It was very tasty.  It was also a bit cheaper than going to one of the restaurants attached to the fish market but we were able to eat the same things offered there.

On our way to the train station, we passed the Gelaterian Goteborg.  Sorry Hven, I found another paradise.  Oh my goodness.  It was amazing!  It was a super-cute shop with delicious gelato.  I had the licorice which actually tasted like a delicious adffogato.  I can’t get over how delicious it was.  SMS was a trooper and indulged my stop even though I hadn’t thought I was hungry after such a delicious lunch!

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In front of the 1801 locks

After feasting, it was time to continue retracing Great-Grandmother Thekla’s footprints by going to Trollhättan.  Americans may know the place best as the site of Saab headquarters.  There’s now a few museums there but we decided to walk along the Göta canal towards the current (and former) locks, one of West Sweden’s seven wonders!  The Göta canal was completed in 1832.  There were three lock systems to see.  The first was opened in 1801 by King Gustav IV Adolf.  It was a series of eight locks and although too small for exclusive use by the time the canal opened, they were used until 1916.  The second set of locks was from 1844.  Finally, the current lock system has been in place since 1916.

The locks are super-cool.  Each Summer, there are river boat cruise that go along the river as well as thousands of private craft.  In order to navigate the Falls, the locks are used to bring the boats up or down to the necessary level.

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Yum, yum, yum!

After admiring the incredible feats of engineering and taming of the falls, we walked back to Trollhättan to catch the train back to Gothenburg.  I had some licorice to tide me over until we got dinner.  We walked along the Kunsportsavenyn but ended up going a little into the side neighborhood Vasastaden to eat traditional food at Smaka, which was tasty.  We ordered the Smorgasbord sampler, which was a feast!

It was an awesome day, one of those days where we fit so much into it that it makes me wonder why I can’t be that efficient with my time at home!