Exploring our Neighborhood

30 March 2017: We didn’t plan much for today since we needed to spend some time cleaning up and packing. The kids requested that we visit a toy store, so I got online to see if there was one closer to the apartment than the main/big toy store downtown. Sure enough it turns out that there is a branch of that same store nearby — just a few stops away on the #4 bus. This particular toy store is located inside a small mall, so I thought perhaps we might browse a bit and get some lunch as well.

The bus was quick and easy and it dropped us off just across the street from the entrance to the mall. This particular mall is definitely not a big place, but it has many of the popular stores that you find elsewhere. Although not that big, the toy store had enough of a selection that the kids found a few things that they wanted — a couple of small Lego sets and a package of 6 bouncy balls. After we paid for our purchases, we found a pizza place in the food court. We all split a margarita pizza, which was incredibly tasty and one of the best pizzas we’ve had in the city.

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The perfect size for the three of us for lunch — everyone got 2 slices

The kids purchased their own smoothies from a separate stall. Then they picked out a table, way up high. Some of the seating is stadium-style and every table has a little lamp on it. Truly it is the most deluxe food court I’ve ever been to.

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The view from our table

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The window at our table, looking down into the shopping area

Later I found out that this food court is quite highly regarded, as many of the restaurants are operated by famous chefs. It’s open for lunch and dinner, so I’m sure that we’ll return again soon.

After lunch, we dropped off our bags in the apartment and then went out to a playground nearby. It was fairly crowded with families, a preschool class, dogs, and some people grilling out, but it was still quite easy for the kids to run around and have a great time.

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Leaving the slide for another section of the playground

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One happy moose

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Swinging as high as possible on the basket swing

After we left the playground, the kids stayed outside playing with their bouncy balls for more than an hour. I gave them the apartment key so that they could let themselves in. We will definitely have to run them through the shower tonight — they played hard today and they ended up rolling around on the ground in the gravel and dirt from time to time. I just hope that I can get their coats in decent enough shape to be able to travel home in them tomorrow.

We hate to have to leave in the morning, but we needed to book our return to be home in time to pick up Thomas from his Italy trip. Hopefully we’ll be back again soon — our stay in Sweden is always too short!

So we ended up eating dinner at the same place that that Lucy, Isaac, and I had lunch. By the time we were heading to our evening meal, it was snowing quite a lot. Happily, it was easy to take the #4 bus to the fancy food court.

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Walking to recycle our plastics on our way to the bus stop

Three of us ordered ramen soups for dinner while Lucy had fish and potatoes. That’s the great thing about a food court — everyone can get what he or she wants. We will definitely return with Thomas since he can choose anything he’d like. He’ll love this place.

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Reading and waiting for our food at one of the best tables

On our way home, it was snowing even harder. Hopefully it will be the last snow here, since all the Swedes we know really want spring to arrive soon.

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Snow accumulating on the windshield of a car

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It’s tough to see, but the snow was really coming down

We’re home now, trying to get up the courage and energy to pack up tonight. Tomorrow morning we won’t have much time, so everything really needs to be done now. Wish us luck, as we prepare to leave and long for the next time we all get to visit. Until next time!

Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet

29 March 2017: Today it SNOWED. Sometimes there were very light flurries and sometimes huge wet clumps of snow came down fast. The ground was far too warm for anything to stick, so it was simply a beautiful (but damp) event that didn’t cause any trouble.

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Catching snowflakes on their tongues

We got another late start today. The kids are sleeping so long each day that their breakfast is really more like lunch. Normally we’d try to get them onto a better schedule, but staying up late and sleeping in will make it easier for them to adjust back to the time zone at home. Another added benefit is that by the time we get to the museums, many people with younger kids have already come and gone and the school groups on field trips are on their way back to their campuses. We’ve practically had some of the museums to ourselves.

Today we visited the natural history museum, Naturahistoriska Riksmuseet, located near Stockholm University. We hadn’t been there in six or seven years and we were quite impressed with all the upgrades and new exhibits. It was a very good choice for the wet, snowy day since everything was indoors.

Before we set out on the red line train to the museum, we walked over to the playground where Isaac had lost his bouncy ball the night before. We looked around as best we could, but we didn’t see it anywhere. Then, just as we were about to give up, Isaac announced that he was going to check in a clump of bushes one last time and he found the ball! We were all pretty amazed.

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He found the lost bouncy ball!

Once we got to the museum, we discovered that admission is free (something I’d forgotten). The first thing we did was shove our coats into a locker and pick up some maps. Then we made a plan to start at the top floor and work our way down. The kids wanted to see every single exhibit and I’m happy to say that we did.

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Outside the main entrance to the Natural History Museum

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Picking up a guide to the exhibits

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Reading each and every plaque

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Some of the older displays

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We all remembered seeing this giant squid in 2009

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Lucy the explorer

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Posing with a penguin

As I mentioned, the exhibits in this museum have undergone comprehensive renovations and expansions. The curators have managed to interweave some of the oldest parts of the museum’s collection into logical thematic sections with modern interfaces. The pace is just about perfect for kids of all ages (and adults, too). Some of the oldest specimens in the collection date back to the 1800s. This trip we made it into the mineralogy section, which influenced the kids’ choices in the gift shop — both of them wanted a small gem on a cord to take home with them.

We stayed until the museum was closing at 18:00. Then we took the red line train back to our neighborhood, stopped off at the COOP grocery store to get some dinner supplies, and carried our bags back to the apartment. David had a work dinner that evening, so the kids and I cooked up some leftovers and other dishes and ate at home. It was another great day full of adventure. Sadly we have just one more day left before we have to head home.

Something Entirely New and An Old Favorite

28 March 2017: The weather forecast is a very handy tool. Yes, Stockholm weather can be incredibly hard to predict and it can easily change on a dime (or crown, as the case may be). Yet we still rely on the good folks at Weather Underground to help guide our daily activities. I’m happy to report that the forecasters were right on the money today — it was as much as 20 degrees cooler than yesterday, but it was bright and sunny. Thus, the kids and I decided to venture to an entirely new part of town (new to us) to ride in a glass gondola up the side of Eriksson Globe (Globen).

First, we took a #4 bus (an express) a couple of stops, and then we took the green line (subway) just one stop. Even that was an adventure for us, having never traveled those exact routes before.

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On our way to Globen

Normally in the high season Globen is absolutely packed — it’s a very popular tourist attraction. Today, however, there was no one else waiting for a gondola when we got there. By the time our turn came, only six others had bought tickets. Each gondola holds 14 people, so we had plenty of space and we got to see the views from all angles.

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Waiting for the 13:30 departure, playing with a new bouncy ball

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Looking up the side of Globen as we begin to ascend

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All the way at the top now — we can see incredibly far in all directions

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Looking for familiar sites (we saw several!)

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Recording the tracks and the pulley system in her journal

We saw all the major sites, including our old apartment building where we lived in 2009. It was quite a distance away, off in the horizon (as Isaac observed). The ride was pretty nice and just about the right length of time. Lucy managed to stave off her motion sickness and vertigo until the last couple of minutes. We descended in time for her to feel normal again pretty quickly (hooray!).

For lunch we wanted something very, very fast. It was late for lunch (14:00). Plus we wanted to visit a museum that afternoon as well. We chose to eat quickly at the McDonald’s right next to Globen. Lucy and I split a McVeggie wrap (not available in the U.S.) and Isaac chose a Happy Meal (something he hasn’t done in a long time). They both got strawberry banana smoothies as well. It was speedy and relatively inexpensive (win-win!).

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We managed to eat most of the meal, but saved the apples for later

We then took the green line to the downtown area and switched over to bus #69, headed towards Tekniska Museet. I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve been to that museum — the kids love it. They always seem to have an interesting traveling exhibit and their permanent exhibits are fun as well.

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Smoothie-induced brain freezes while waiting for the subway

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On our way to Tekniska Museet

We arrived at 15:00 and the museum was only open until 17:00, but that was plenty of time for the kids to enjoy their two (current) favorite spots — MegaMind and Brain Games.

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Trying out the screaming booth

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Lucy experimented with everything in MegaMind

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The last time they can do this — the scooters are for kids under 12 years old only

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Making up their own obstacle courses in Brain Games

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The augmented climbing wall — one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen

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Running around outside before boarding the bus

We left the museum a little early so that we’d have time for the kids to run around outside before heading back to the apartment. They certainly had fun, although Isaac managed to skid in the gravel and hit the ground hard on his shoulder. Luckily he recovered quickly, which gave him time to play a bit more. Then we headed across the street to catch the bus.

I could see on the SL (transit) app on my phone that something was up with our bus. There were delays, but we couldn’t figure out why. We boarded a really crowded bus (not necessarily odd for 17:00 on a week day) and made our way into town. Once downtown, we got off the #69 and walked over to the stop for the #55. By that time we realized that something was not working correctly. There were loads of people waiting for buses, including our bus. Yet our bus schedule wasn’t showing up on the electronic sign. Finally a #55 showed up and many people packed it full (very full!). It crept along towards Slussen. At one point the driver spoke for several minutes on the loudspeaker, but we couldn’t make out most of what he said.

When we got to Slussen, everyone was told to exit the bus. We waited until another driver showed up (normally they change drivers at that point). Something was also happening with the biogas (fuel), but that seemed to be solved pretty quickly. Finally I broke down and asked a mom with a young child what was going on. It turns out that a couple of train lines were not running. Later we found out that there was a technical problem on the red and green lines, during the busiest time of the day (rush hour). Thus, the buses were packed even more full than usual.

Eventually the relief driver showed up, the bus got packed full again, and we were on our way. We got home with just enough time to wash our hands and faces before it was time to meet up with a friend for dinner. We all had a lovely time and the kids got to be excused from the table early in order to play at a nearby playground. It would’ve been a perfect evening had Isaac not lost his new bouncy ball in the dark while playing after dinner. We told him that we’d try to return the next day to look for it in daylight.

Skansen in the Off-Season

27 March 2017: It’s a Monday and that means that it’s a work day for David. He’s planning to work full days at the office all week, while Lucy, Isaac, and I enjoy our spring break time here in Stockholm. The kids slept late again–I finally woke them up at 10am so that we could get a start on our day. Many places keep shorter hours this time of the year and Skansen (our plan for the day) is no exception. Opening times there are only from 10:00 to 15:00 this week.

Once the kids got up and ate a little breakfast, we walked down the street to catch the #55 bus to the ferry. It was an easy trip and the ferry wasn’t crowded at all — there are some definite benefits from it being off-season.

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A gorgeous day to be out on the water

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Stunning views from every angle

Lucy decided that it might be fun to enter Skansen via the funicular, so when we exited the ferry we hiked over to that particular entrance to the museum. Unfortunately the funicular entrance only operates on the weekends in the off-season, so we had a bit of a walk back to the main entrance. Our next bit of bad luck was when we lost two 10 kr coins trying to operate the lockers (to store our coats–it was warm enough in the sun that we didn’t need them). The particular locker we chose simply wasn’t functioning, so we ended up carrying our coats around all day. When you’re next at Skansen, beware of locker #12 to the left of the main entrance!

When we finally got ourselves all sorted out, we headed to the children’s zoo first. Usually that area is far too crowded and the kids don’t get to do some of the things that they like. Today, however, it was practically empty. That meant that even the snake slide could be enjoyed.

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Shedding shoes and sliding down the snake slide hill

But the off-season also meant that the goat enclosure — our main reason for visiting Skansen — wasn’t open for visitors. Poor Isaac had to view his beloved goats from afar.

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Sadly it wasn’t possible to pet and be with the goats

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Watching the goats, geese, and ducks from afar

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The goats were busy eating the whole time we were there

There were definitely some pros and cons to it being the off-season. Another pro was that the kids could play hide and seek to their hearts content inside as well as climb around underground in the bunny section.

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Hiding from Lucy

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Climbing around inside the children’s zoo

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Rats are one of the indoor exhibits

Eventually we got hungry for some lunch. Again, being the off-season, the nearby cafe where we typically go in the summertime was completely closed. I studied the map and quickly realized that we needed to walk all the way back towards the entrance in order to find a restaurant that was open. We ended up dining at the same spot where we go for New Year’s Eve. I say dining, but the kids chose ice cream treats on sticks and smoothies as their meal. I figured why not? They spend so much of their time at home and at school with people telling them what to do that they ought to be able to make a crazy lunch choice during spring break.

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A liquid and frozen lunch

After lunch, they had a plan. Return to the underground bunny climbing area, seek out the wolverines, and finish up the day at the squirrel playground. We managed to do all of that before closing time, plus we had time to watch the seals swim around.

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Watching the wolverines

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Having fun in the squirrel playground

Along the route to the exit we managed to get separated for a few minutes.  The kids wanted to run ahead and that was fine, but they accidentally ran past the doors to the extremely long escalator that runs to the main entrance. It wasn’t entirely their fault since that area is under construction and part of it was covered up by heavy material. Smartly, they spoke with a staff member who recommended that they go to the main entrance. I waited by the escalator and eventually they came around the corner, looking quite relieved. After a final stop in the restrooms, we walked back to the ferry.

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Watching the video for this coming season’s new ride at Gröna Lund, on our way back to the ferry

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On the #55 bus back to the apartment

After we got back, Isaac and Lucy wanted to keep playing outside, so they filled up some water bottles and packed a bag to take outdoors with them. I gave them the key with instructions to return at 18:00. I could see them through the back window occasionally, running around in the park area. They had a great time and they enjoyed their freedom.

For dinner we made pasta and veggies in the apartment. It was quite nice to relax at home. We were extra lucky in that Thomas finally contacted us that evening. We made a group text so that we could all read what he had to say, see his photos, and reply. We were all very happy to hear from him and jealous of the amazing places that he’s already visited during his trip to Italy. We can’t wait to see him on Saturday and hear more about his experiences.

Sunday with Friends

26 March 2017: We slept late, embarrassingly late. Adults got up around 11am and the kids had to be woken up at noon. Still, that was in plenty of time to take the train to meet some friends of ours for a 13:00 lunch in Central Station.

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Waiting for our friends at Luzette

The kids were incredibly patient throughout the two-hour lunch. It helped that they had brought along some Archie comics. Once they’d finished their books, they switched books and read some more. That gave the adults plenty of time to catch up and chat.

After we saw our friends off to their train, we walked around downtown and popped into a couple of department stores (Åhlens and NK). We didn’t linger too terribly long, though, since we wanted a bit of time back in the apartment before we needed to turn around and go out again to meet some more friends for an early dinner. We picked up a few odds and ends at the stores as well as a couple of pastries for later, then we window shopped at the Volvo dealer and headed towards the #55 bus.

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Climbing on the really nasty snow/ice downtown

It was such a nice day again that we actually got little too warm while riding the bus. We had to shed our coats several times throughout the day, in the stores, in the bus, and even walking along when the sun was shining.

Once we got back to the apartment, we rested for a bit, got ourselves organized, and packed up a bag of things for the kids to do with their friend after dinner. The kids also snacked a bit, since they hadn’t eaten much at lunch.

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Snacking on giant meringues from the NK on the balcony

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Buying travel cards for the kids (they’re free on the weekends)

Once again, we had a fine meal with good friends, including their dog! He lay nicely under the table most of the time and he was quite good at cleaning up any french fries that were accidentally dropped by the kids. After the kids ate, we released them to the park across the street. All three of them (L&I and their friend, Dennis) ran around and played until it got dark. We then said our goodbyes and headed back home on the train. The next day was a school day for Dennis, so he needed to get back home. With any luck, we’ll have another chance to seem them all this week.

Spring Break 2017

24 & 25 March 2017: Four of us traveled to Stockholm for the week of spring break this year. Thomas isn’t with us this time around–he’s traveling in Italy with about 40 other Latin students. We haven’t heard from him at all, but we’re sure he’s having an excellent trip. Thomas and his group left on Friday afternoon, around the same time that we boarded a plane for Newark and then took another jet bound for Stockholm. Our travel was pretty easy and straightforward except that we didn’t sleep quite enough on the overnight plane.

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First plane ride of the day, short and sweet

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Getting kooky while waiting for Plane #2

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Finally in Stockholm, waiting for the Arlanda Express

By the time that we exited the express train and walked into Central Station, we realized that we desperately needed two things: food and sleep. So we stopped at a cafe in the station, had a quick bite to eat, and then boarded a local train that took us just a short walk from our apartment. We didn’t even bother to unpack–we quickly made up the beds and then had a mandatory napping session.

Several hours later, we felt revived and ready to go out exploring. We took a long, beautiful walk to our favorite shoreline cafe. At first we sat outside on the dock in the sun. It was cold when the wind blew, but not too bad. However, once the sun went behind the huge bridge, we moved inside where we were much more comfortable. It was a very nice day–in the mid-60’s Fahrenheit and sunny. It was perfectly lovely when the wind wasn’t blowing.

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Our first table at Loopen, outside and in the breeze

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Warming her hands over the candle at our second table

We had a very tasty snack and some warm drinks, then we headed back to our apartment via the giant playground that the kids love. Along the way we happened upon a new, very rustic cafe that was operating out of a shed. It turned out to be their very first day in operation. We tried their coffee as well as some incredible falafel and a bit of some cauliflower spread on fresh baked bread. They were very nice folks–we talked to them for quite awhile. It was truly an idyllic scene, like some sort of 1960s commune/Eden-esque time warp. No one was in a hurry, the ingredients were freshly gardened, the food was made with great care, the sun was shining bright, the air was crisp and clean, and children were playing happily in the background. Truly paradise.

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Swinging and holding hands (if only they’d stay this age!)

After the kids enjoyed the playground, we stopped for more lemonade and hot tea at a quaint hotel. We’d walked past it many times, but had never gone inside. We’ll definitely stop in there again–it’s quite a nice little place.

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Making wacky movies and having a lemonade

Once we got back to the apartment, we unpacked, tidied up, and got ourselves cleaned up. We had made a late dinner reservation (8:30pm) at a very fine Italian place a few blocks away, so we had plenty of time. Our evening meal was incredible, as the food there is truly outstanding. It was a truly fantastic first day. During dinner we all agreed that if we had to return home the next day, we would feel perfectly content.

Our Journey Home

1 & 2 January 2017: Since we were on the afternoon flight from Stockholm to Chicago, we didn’t have to rush around too terribly much in the morning on New Year’s Day. That’s a positive thing no matter what, but it was especially important this time around since I was feeling very, very unwell. I started feeling a bit ill two days prior and when I woke up on January 1st, I was a real mess. It felt like some sort of flu-like illness. It was a real struggle for me to finish packing and get out the door.

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Choosing snacks from the vending machine while waiting for the train

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A gorgeous day in Stockholm – we were sad to be leaving!

We got to Arlanda airport extra early, in the hope that we could use some of our airline mileage points to upgrade our seats. After several attempts with various airline desks, we’d all but given up when we finally found an employee who had the authority to do the upgrade. He was also incredibly knowledgable and helpful. In the end, due to a silly policy about pre-ordering special meals, three of us were allowed to upgrade and two stayed in our original seats.

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At the gate, waiting to board

Both Lucy and Isaac were willing to sit in their original seats, which was an absolute blessing for me. I slept most of the 9-hour flight back, while they entertained themselves. They played some video games, I think, but mostly they thought up clever sayings, which they recorded in a notebook, and had fun playing with hand goats.

Another stroke of luck for me given how rotten I was feeling was that we had planned to stay over the night in the Chicago airport hotel instead of flying on to RDU and arriving home after midnight. Once we deplaned in Chicago, got through customs, and checked into our hotel, I simply went to bed while the others went downstairs to a restaurant in the hotel and had a nice dinner. More sleep always helps with viruses, it seems.

The next morning, we all woke up on the early side, checked out of the hotel, and had our breakfast in the airport club. Our flight was delayed, but not for too long and it didn’t matter much to us since we weren’t in a rush to get anywhere. By then, Lucy was starting to feel unwell herself. Hers was headache and a sore throat, though, with a slightly elevated temperature. By Tuesday morning, she had a high temp so she missed school and went to the doctor instead. It turned out to be strep, so after a couple of doses of antibiotics she was back on her feet.

All in all, it was an excellent trip. It would’ve been magical and wintry to have had some snow in Stockholm and of course it would have been better had none of us been sick, but we truly had a wonderful time and it was the perfect start to 2017.

New Year’s Eve, 2016

31 December: We were bound and determined to see a movie in Stockholm this trip and we had the perfect one in mind – “Rogue One.” We knew that since it is a movie for adults, it would be shown in English with Swedish subtitles (children’s movies are dubbed into Swedish). Also, David hadn’t see the movie yet, so we thought it would be fitting for him to see it for the first time in his second home.

The ticket machines, however, had another idea. We tried multiple times on a couple of machines to purchase movie tickets, but none of the transactions worked. David even tried to buy the tickets online via the movie theater’s app, but he wasn’t successful. At this point everyone was frustrated and willing to give up and go home, but we decided to try a different avenue. Perhaps we could purchase a gift card and gain entrance that way? We went to ask the sales clerk at the refreshments counter to find out. As it turned out, we were able to buy movie tickets (and candy and popcorn) directly from her. Problem solved and we were so glad that we’d persevered!

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Refreshments for the movie

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Happy moviegoers

That evening we had our third dinner in a row in the apartment. It worked out well since we were able to cook our New Year’s black-eyed peas early. Plus we had time to do some laundry and pre-pack so that our Sunday departure for the states would be a little easier.

We had plans to visit friends after dinner, so we headed over to their house on Djurgården before continuing on to Skansen for the New Year’s Eve festivities. It all worked out perfectly and we had an absolutely delightful time.

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Surfing the benda-benda on our way to Djurgården

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Festive moose

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Waiting for the tram to take us to Djurgården

It rained off and on throughout our journey. Unfortunately for us, we’d opted not to load up the backpack with umbrellas. We did get lucky, though – most of the heavy rain occurred while we were warm and dry inside our friends’ welcoming home. By the time we left for Skansen, the weather had improved a bit.

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Ascending the very tall escalator at Skansen’s main gate

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The stage this year

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Enjoying their noisy blow-out horns

Lucy and Isaac could not resist blowing their party horns constantly and very much prior to the new year. This drove Thomas batty, so we split up into two groups for awhile. We all stayed outside until we got cold (even in the unusually temperate weather, we eventually got chilled). Then we went inside for hot chocolates and to warm up before the final countdown.

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Using the party horns quietly inside the cafe

About 10 minutes until midnight, it was time for Tennyson’s “Ring Out Wild Bells.” This year the poem was recited by Pernilla August, a famous Swedish actress who played Anakin Skywalker’s mom in two of the Star Wards movies. Then it was the countdown and 2017, complete with fireworks.

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Fireworks out over the water on a cloudy, misty, warm NYE

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Pulling open the New Year’s crackers

We had an easier commute home than in previous years, although our initial tram ride was pretty crowded. Back in the apartment, Lucy remembered that we needed to open the New Year’s crackers. They made made little popping sounds and yielded each person a small toy token (paper dominoes, plastic frog, etc.). It was a big day for us, one during which we learned the benefits of perseverance and patience, among other things. We hope to remember these lessons into the new year. Gott Nytt År!

A Visit to Hagaparken

30 December: We tried something entirely new today – we visited Fjärilshuset, the Butterfly House, in Hagaparken, near where we used to live in the spring of 2009. We’ve always meant to see Fjärilshuset, but we simply have never managed to get there. There were ads up in the subways about a new section of the museum, one devoted to dangerous marine animals.

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Waiting with hand-goats for the #515 bus to Hagaparken

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Oh joy–the bus actually had seats in the benda-benda section!

As usual for us this trip, we got a late start to our day and we needed to get brunch right away. Luckily the cafe at Fjärilshuset was still open, so we had a small meal there before investigating the rest of the museum.

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Fun with straws after brunch

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Looking for butterflies

 

From the ad hype plus all we’d heard about the place, we were expecting a bit more. It was smaller than we thought it would be and geared more towards younger kids. Too bad we didn’t visit years ago! Still, we managed to have quite a nice time overall.

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One of the highlights of our visit was when a large butterfly landed right on Isaac’s leg just after he’d confessed to being slightly afraid of them. If only I could’ve captured the look of absolute surprise + wonder + fear on his face – it was unbelievable. We all laughed heartily and talked about it for hours. Truly an exceptional experience.

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Just before the butterfly on the leg incident

We wandered through the new exhibit of dangerous aquatic animals as well.

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One of the sharks

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No one wants to lose two fingers!

After we’d had our fill of butterflies and marine life, we got coffees and snacks in the gift shop cafe as well as a few trinkets. Then we trekked through Hagaparken to find a bus back towards the other side of town. While the unseasonably warm weather was appreciated in terms of how little winter gear we had to wear, it also meant that the ground was soft and muddy. We had to be quite careful where we stepped as we trudged along in the dark.

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Photo bomb by Isaac’s hand-croc in Hagaparken

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Back on firm ground, heading towards the #2 bus

We ate in the apartment again, take out pizzas plus pizza salad and a few leftovers from last night’s dinner.  Yummy!

Some Holiday Time Downtown

***Note that the remainder of our trip blog has been delayed by two weeks. Both Lucy and I managed to return from Stockholm ill (me with a horrible flu-like illness and Lucy with strep throat), so we limped back home, recovered, and then got hit by a snow/ice storm for several days. So far, 2017 has been full of surprises (mostly good, thankfully!).***

29 December 2016: Yes, we slept late. Very late. And we were slow moving. By the time we left the apartment, we had only one hour of daylight left. One hour! No matter, Stockholm is lovely and well lit by festive lights this time of the year.

Once we got ourselves going, we took the tunnelbana to T-Centralen so that we could walk around downtown, take in the holiday window displays at the NK department store, and perhaps do a little ice skating.

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Riding on the subway, above ground near Gamla Stan

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Everyone was a little tired in spite of sleeping quite late

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A wintry display full of lights outside the Kulturhuset

We had intended to eat brunch at a Japanese restaurant in the Gallerian Mall, but when we got inside the mall we realized that there is still a large renovation taking place. In August, one side of the mall was completely blocked off, with renovations taking place behind colorful partitions. Now it is the other side that’s blocked off, including the restaurant to which we were headed. The restaurant has a temporary kiosk in the middle of the mall, but they aren’t able to offer much variety in such small quarters. Thus we quickly made a Plan B, headed to the area underneath the Kulturhuset, and found a Japanese restaurant that suited us just fine.

After our meal, we walked back through the Gallerian to a party shop across the street. We didn’t see much that we wanted in the way of New Year’s items, but we did purchase some New Year’s crackers (the kind you pull apart, that have a hat and teeny toy inside) and some blow-out horns (noisy!). Then it was off to the windows at the NK.

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The window displays were as detailed and quaint as ever. Simply enchanting. I always enjoy the NK’s holiday windows and every year they seem to outdo themselves. Then it was off to the ice skating rink.

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Just getting started

This year only Isaac, Lucy, and David skated while Thomas and I got hot chocolates at a nearby cafe from which we could watch the skaters. Lucy gave it her best shot, but ended up sitting on a bench and watching most of the time. Eventually she, Thomas, and I headed back to the apartment by bus, while the other two skated on the extra slippery ice (it was so warm this year!) for quite a while longer.

That night after a nice dinner at home, we all played a game called Beat the Parents. It was a fun trivia game that resulted in much laughter. As I recall the kids won!

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Watching some Swedish tv while setting up the trivia game