Europe 2015 Diary Entry III – Stockholm

One year later, I’m finally finding the time to document my memories of our trip. I’m calling them diary entries, because they’re mostly thought dumps to recall as many details as possible – mostly for memory sake. I’m already forgetting little details about our trip, which is sad as it was really a once in a lifetime experience that I want to remember for the rest of my life. So these posts will be long and full of pictures. Consider yourself warned. :)

We spent 5 days in Stockholm. Mike had been before and said it was in his top 5 cities to live in, so he wanted us to spend the majority of our Scandinavian honeymoon there. Cool!

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Who does calf stretches on the train ride to Stockholm? Mike. Mike does.

The train ride from Oslo to Stockholm was interesting. After feeling exploited in Oslo, I convinced Mike that it would be a great idea to make peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch on the train ride to Stockholm to save us some money. So we bought a giant loaf of bread at a food market just before we went to the train station and a few hours into our train ride, we dug in. I normally exercise a bit of restraint with peanut butter and jam on my sandwiches, but for some reason, we both thought it was acceptable to add giant gobs of each onto our sandwich. It was ridiculously indulgent and we were patting ourselves on the back for our delicious and cheap meal.

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Ignorance is bliss. Kids, don’t put massive gobs of peanut butter and jam sandwiches on a moving train. Just… don’t.

Until an hour or so had passed and we both remarked that we were feeling extremely  nauseated. Sitting on the train with peanut butter and jam cemented at the bottom of our stomachs was awful! We laugh about it now, but we couldn’t touch peanut butter for the rest of our trip which is normally unheard of for me.

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Every few weeks, I’d pull up this photo and have a laugh with Mike about this.

Somehow we navigated our way through the subway system to check in to our hotel with our five pieces of luggage and sore bellies. Mike had a really squeaky wheel on his largest luggage which echoed along the subway hallways in Stockholm. We got so many dirty looks for that! I was so glad when we finally arrived to our hotel to check in.

After two icy runs in Oslo, one that resulted in Mike’s phone being smashed, we decided to try running on the treadmill that the hotel gym. We also wanted to take advantage of having access to a gym since the rest of our trip was likely going to consist of AirBnbs and staying with family/friends.

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This was the one and only treadmill run that we did in Europe

It took me a while to get used to the style of showers that we saw everywhere in Sweden. Generally speaking, it’s one of the cleanest countries that I’ve ever been to. But quite a few places didn’t have a separate space carved out for the shower which meant that when you did shower, water could technically cover your entire bathroom floor. It kind of made me dread taking showers in there. I obviously had to live with it, but it wasn’t the last time we saw bathrooms styled like that so I guess it’s a Swedish thing?

This photo of Hotel Birger Jarl is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Due to the lack of day light (the “sun” came out from 9am to 3pm, but the clouds mostly covered it so it went from really dark to just dark), we don’t have too many bright or colourful photos.

But trust me when I say that this city was full of charm, character and vibrancy.

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There are lots of cobblestones and hills in Stockholm. Of course, locals wouldn’t consider this a hill, and one of them laughed at me when I complained about running up this hill.

We loved it.

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I love food markets. :)

It helps that it was a baked goods haven.

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All cafes had delicious, fresh looking sandwiches and pastries displayed for you to salivate at. It was so hard to choose what to eat!

 

 

 

I didn’t mind the snow in Stockholm. Since the window of day light hours was so small, the snow helped brighten up the city once the sun went down.
IMG_0303One of the reasons why we chose to stay in a hotel in Stockholm was because of the breakfast buffet. This was something Mike was particularly excited about (because… food) and I was on board because I’m always up for saving money where possible.  So we did what any self-respecting adult would do – we ate so much at breakfast that we were full until dinner. It was kind of fun to eat without abandon – yes, we had to deal with food comas and extremely sore bellies, but how often in life can you literally eat until you can’t fit any  more food in your stomach? haha. Not often (and no, it isn’t tempting to make this a habit).

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Doing hill repeats with a new friend we made while in Stockholm. We followed up this workout with a solid 30-60 min of breakfast eating. I wish I could tell you that I was kidding.

We managed to do 5 runs in Stockholm, 4 of them outside. I’ll save my running recap for a separate post some day (if I can remember the details!) but those 4 runs included 2 easy runs, 1 tempo run (3x3km with 90 sec recovery – yuck!) and hill repeats in Södermalm (up Götgatan and Hökens gata 8 times), a trendy neighbourhood with some of the best coffee and baked goods we had in Stockholm. We also made a few friends through the Run with Me Stockholm group and went for one snowy run and one hill run with them. We actually ended up meeting Nicky, one of the original members of the group, in Istanbul a couple months later. I loved Europe for making everything – and everyone – so accessible like that!

One of our “rave runs” was the snowy one that we did through the University grounds. I get grumpy around snow sometimes, but this was a run to remember. It felt like we were running through an enchanted forest. We had most of it all to ourselves and I felt like a kid again.

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Mike was really in his happy place.

None of our pictures could really capture how awesome this forest looked while covered in snow.

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Running in the snow is hard! Hence, the unimpressed face. But it’s also really rewarding and Mike loves it which kind of makes me love it, too.

Stockholm is surprisingly diverse as well in terms of food options. This is always something I pay attention to when I visit a European city. Growing up in Toronto, I’ve been spoiled with having endless options and variety in food. So I almost cried for joy when we stumbled upon a Korean restaurant serving bibimbap on our first nights. Bibimbap is one of my all-time favourite comfort meals. It was everything I was craving and we actually went back there a second time because it was so good. I know it seems weird to eat Korean food in Sweden, but I had my fill of Swedish food at breakfast.

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Me and a nice bowl of miso soup.

This was one fantastic bibimbap.

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In my happy place. The only reason why I hadn’t started eating yet was because Mike’s was still arriving.

The coffee scene in Sweden was pretty amazing as well. The money we saved on lunches went straight to oat milk cappuccinos (SO GOOD!) and delicious baked goods. It’s too bad that I only discovered one of my favourite baked goods – cardamom buns – of all time near the end of our trip.

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The oat milk cappuccinos are still some of my favourite drinks of all time. Way better than a soy, almond, or cow’s milk cappuccino. I wish I could have another!

I overlooked these when I first saw them as I thought they’d be pretty plain and boring. I was so wrong!

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Do not even get me started on this swirly Cardamom buns.

I’ve had my fair share of cinnamon buns, but cardamom buns were some of the most uniquely flavoured things I’ve ever eaten. They’re less heavy than frosted cinnamon buns, but full of flavour and have an amazing aroma. If I had tried one sooner, I probably would have eaten multiples of these every day.

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I plan to tackle baking some Swedish style buns some day soon to recreate these at home.

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Not the time or place to be gluten-free.

We didn’t do much sightseeing in a traditional sense. Our main goal was to get a feel for what life could be like in Stockholm. They had a booming tech scene and we wanted to understand how possible it would be to work within it. Every person we met spoke impeccable English. We started poking around on job boards and asked questions about neighbourhoods. We didn’t get so far as to look into what it would cost to rent a flat there, but we did ask around. Stockholm shot up to the top of our to-live list.

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Another one of my favourite cafes. They were part cafe, part boutique. It was so cosy inside and the food offering was small, but delicious.

We did find ourselves a new bar that served one of our favourite Danish beers, Mikkeller (which I just discovered has now closed their Stockholm location :(), and at least two cafes that if we could see ourselves going back to on a regular basis. One was called Snickarbacken 7 (pic above) and the other Johan & Nyström Konceptbutik, which I wrote a Global Cup review about here.

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Loved Mikkeller beer!

It was really hard to leave Stockholm (minus the creepy hotel bathroom). Both of us were sure that we’d be back again in the summer, of course, that was back when we thought we would still be in Europe by then. Someday, I’d really like to return to Stockholm to see it during the summer. It was a bit depressing to have so little day light during the time we were there, but that’s just a Winter thing and I’m sure the summer more than makes up for it.

I could have easily spent at least another week exploring Stockholm properly. It felt like the days went by way too fast (which I think happens when it gets dark so quickly). On the morning of our 5th day in Stockholm, we left for Malmo early on a Friday morning. I know we’ll make our way back there again soon.

alison

Europe 2015 Diary Entry II – Oslo

One year later, I’m finally finding the time to document my memories of our trip. I’m calling them diary entries, because they’re mostly thought dumps to recall as many details as possible – mostly for memory sake. I’m already forgetting little details about our trip, which is sad as it was really a once in a lifetime experience that I want to remember for the rest of my life. So these posts will be long and full of pictures. Consider yourself warned. :)

When we first started to plan our trip, I gave Mike free reign to plan out our first two weeks in Scandinavia. I was going through an incredibly busy time at work and planning a trip in an area that I had never really considered (but was open to) visiting seemed overwhelming. So off he went to plan our very belated honeymoon. I figured it would be fun to be surprised.

We caught a very early train from Gothenburg to Oslo. The idea was that we’d avoid having to find our AirBnb in the dark once we arrived in Oslo. Most things were closed at the train station in Gothenburg when we arrived, aside from 1 or 2 cafes.

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Mike ordered a cappuccino and drank it very quickly. I ordered an Americano which was too hot to drink. Mike told me to finish it before we walked to the train platform. I refused and insisted I’d be fine with my luggage. This is me not being fine at all. I spilled my coffee everywhere and instead of helping me, Mike took a photo. I had to throw out my coffee. :'(

Mike got really excited when he saw Daim chocolate for the first time on this trip. It’s basically like a Skor bar if you’re familiar with those. Hard toffee on the inside, chocolate on the outside. They are delicious, but both of us were too tired to show our excitement on the train. I still needed my coffee.

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Trying to look excited with our Daim. Still very jet lagged at this point.

Once I got a coffee on the train (which was overpriced, and, not surprisingly, not very tasty), I was finally able to enjoy the views. I was trying really hard to stay awake during the day because I wanted to start actually sleeping at night.

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Taking the train from city to city is a pleasure in Europe. :)

On the train ride from Gothenburg to Oslo, I asked Mike why he chose Oslo as our next stop. He said he didn’t know. I asked him what his memory of Oslo was the last time he was there. He drew a blank. In fact, the only memory he had was of him losing his camera that he’d been travelling with – and 6 months worth of photos along with it. Huh…

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We caught the end of a sunrise when we headed out for our first run in Oslo.

After we arrived at our AirBnb, settled in and chatted with our host, we decided to go out for a run. It had just rained and dropped below zero for the first time which mean that the entire city was covered in ice. It was like running through a skating rink. But since we had so little time in Oslo, we wanted to take advantage of our time there and explore. The run was slow, but pretty. We saw some really nice areas and neighbourhoods, while taking it easy to be safe. After making it through almost the entire run, Mike took out his phone to take a photo of me… and it slipped out of his hand and onto the ground. His screen shattered. :(

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This could have been a skating rink.

That quickly ended our run and put a bit of a damper on our evening. The rest of the night was spent researching what our options were and we determined that we’d have to go to the Apple store in Malmo, our next next stop after Stockholm, to get it fixed. Needless to say, Mike was a little stressed over this as we had no idea how much repairing the screen would cost and we weren’t expecting to have such a big expense so early on in the trip.

After we got back and showered, we went in search for food. A few glances at restaurant menus – even food court food – resulted in us deciding that eating in was our best bet. It really is insane how expensive everything was. Meh. We ended up picking up more museli for breakfast, oat milk (THE BEST), some fresh pasta, spinach, tomato sauce and cheese. A good idea in theory, but honestly, it was just okay. A very forgettable meal that cost twice as much as it would have if we had bought the same ingredients in Canada.

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Not the greatest meal, but it was food and just about all we could afford in Norway.

At least we got to cook it in this gorgeous kitchen.

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Our Airbnb host’s kitchen was gorgeous. Small, but functional. They were both designers and it showed – their bathroom was also stunning.

The next morning, we debated whether to go for our scheduled long run or not, and ultimately decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it was still as icy as it was the day before and still goes down as the hardest long run I have done all year. Mike originally was going to run at his own pace, but a few kms in, he realized how difficult it was going to be and stuck with me the whole way. I fell at least twice, but we had fun together. It was one of those experiences that brought us closer together (although I may have been a little grumpy). We even got a glimpse at just how tough the Norwegians are. Most of them were running on the ice in regular running shoes – not trail shoes or with  special spikes for traction – like it was just a regular day. Even Mike, the trail runner at heart, looked in awe. We did see a few of them slip on the ice as well, but they’d get up as quickly as they fell and continue running without even blinking.

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I love the style of the buildings in Europe. I always wondered what it would be like to live in one of them! We got a taste at our AirBnb – sometimes you have to walk up very long flights of stairs. With giant suitcases.

The one positive of stopping so much was that it allowed me to take lots of photos.

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Either a little park… or someone’s backyard.
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Statue bridge in Frogner Park.
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So icy, and the roads had not yet been covered in pebbles (they use small rocks instead of salt).

At least our friends back home thought the below photo was funny. In the moment, I was just so over running in icy Oslo.

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And that was the look of exhaustion after taking close to 3 hours to run 20ish km.

We purposely finished our run near Tim Wendelboe. One of our favourite cafe owners from Toronto was raving about his coffee and told us that Tim was legendary within the barista circles. It was pretty cold and I was exhausted by the time we got there, so sitting down and drinking a perfectly made cappuccino was bliss. We finished ours and ended up getting back in line to share another.

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We each ordered a cappuccino to stay and then a third to share once we left. So good!

On our way back home, we also stopped by a food market hall and picked up a jar of peanut butter. Hey, I was excited to see something “familiar” and also thought it would make a nice snack on the train ride to Stockholm. More on that later. We also ate a few small plates of food, since we couldn’t really afford much more! I also managed to FaceTime my sister using the building’s free wifi.

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A delicious egg tortilla slice on sourdough bread. Don’t even ask how much this tiny thing cost.

We briefly considered going out for dinner, but decided to have a repeat of the previous night’s boring dinner. Norway really is one of the most expensive countries I have ever been to. Apparently it’s common for Norwegians to cross the border to Sweden to stock up on as much food as they can.

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Our host made this amazing foccacia bread. We had to stop ourselves from devouring the whole thing!

Later that night, we decided to go to a local bar for a drink – we figured that would be cheaper than eating out as well. Mike ordered us two locally brewed beers and we almost spat out our beer when we found out how much it was. Sure, it was nice, but at the price they charged us, we made sure we drank every last sip before we left.

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The most we paid for beers during our entire trip. It was good, but not worth the cost.

The iPhone incident, the two ice-infested runs and the fact that we couldn’t afford anything to eat or drink left us with a bit of a sour taste of Oslo. In total, we spent two nights and one full day there, so not enough to really get a feel for it but we still left agreeing that we wouldn’t be in a hurry to return.

Next stop, Stockholm…

alison

More diary entries:
Diary entry I: Gothenburg

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