From the moment we arrived people were incredibly kind. I am a bit embarrassed to admit it but when we landed with Ryan Air (yeah, good times, Ryan Air) we were more than 100km from the city and didn't have a clue. If it weren’t for the lovely blonde woman sitting behind us on the airplane we would have ended up with one hell of an expensive taxi ride into the city. Thankfully she took us under wing and guided us onto the bus that brought us one metro stop away from our accommodations.
Without fail, every person we encountered spoke flawless English. More importantly for me is that they were graciously happy to do so.
I learned quickly that all I really needed to do was respond to an initial greeting by saying “hello” with a smile their language immediately and seamlessly switched over. This happened so smoothly and effortlessly that neither of us would miss a beat. Words can’t express how wonderful this feels after having to take a few seconds (and in some cases minutes) to build up a small ounce of courage before every attempted conversation in both France and Spain.
Strangely, the weather was also a welcomed change. Despite a few seldom blue-sky moments it was grey and drizzly the entire time. I am sure you’re thinking I am crazy for finding comfort in a bit of cool, wet weather but for whatever reason I found it downright cozy and constantly reminded of home.
There really isn’t anything more romantic than the ambiance provided by the gentle, warm glow of a taper candle. Much to my pleasure, Stockholm has them everywhere. I now understand why IKEA has such a large and fantastic candle section.
I distinctly remember the hour I had to myself snuggled into a crowded coffee shop just around the corner from our flat. I ordered a simple cup of coffee and was delighted when a darling French press arrived just as Tom Waits started in with my all time fav song.
As he sang “I hope that I don’t fall in love with you” I gazed out as a heavy downpour pummel the cobblestone street through the glow of a tall single ivory candle. As with most of my most memorable moments, this was what I call a five sensory experience. For a few brief moments my eyes, ears, mouth, nose and fingers were fully engaged and alive … hearing, tasting, smelling and touching life.
Our two-bedroom apartment was absolutely brilliant and one of the nicest places we’ve stayed. It had all the amenities (i.e. a dishwater, washing machine, comfortable beds, nice towels, reliable Wi-Fi, etc.) but best of all, it had filtered water (sparking and still) in the door of the fridge with an automatic ice maker in the door of the freezer. Yes! Ice readily available day or night. Mix this with an abundant supply of Absolut vanilla vodka and elderflower syrup and you have a one hell of a happy hangover. At any rate, we were totally comfortable the entire nine days.
I highly recommend the booking company we used called – City Living Apts. Not only were they helpful and prompt but also referrred us to a lovely babysitter named Roberta who worked with our family for several days. She was a breath of fresh air and delightful in every way. In honour of the Mid Summer holiday she made Ava a crown of pink flowers. It was an impressive work of art and princess worthy without a doubt.
I would suggest Stockholm to anyone traveling Europe with kids. It is just so easy, clean and friendly. It may have been a crazy coincidence but I saw children everywhere. The Swedes seem to be reproducing like crazy on these rainy days and thank God because the world can use more blonde hair, blue eyed babes. (Let's just say the Swedish folk are not ugly.)
The activities available for wee ones are all over the place. We spent two days on Djurgården island where there is a giant amusement park called Gröna Lund as well as the aquarium and the ultimate kid’s activity Junibacken.
The aquarium is actually quite small but it is rustic and funky. I especially appreciated the integration of a real salmon hatchery.
I was also very happy to see a holding place for strollers/push carts/buggies. I'm surprised how many attractions don't offer this. Sometimes the smallest things can make a big difference in your experience traveling with kids.
The amusement park is large, clean and well maintained. There are rides for all ages and numerous activities, games and restaurants. We heard there was a petting zoo are but despite two visits we never ended up there. That's sayin' something.
Despite this, Ava had a great time. Her and Darrin road the boat through a fairytale world and we spun round and round on the pretty tea cups.
Junibacken was also incredible. Apparently the main attraction is a storybook train ride through the house of Pippi Longstocking and other loved characters from Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. I wish I could remember more about the story of that cute little red head with braided pigtails and mismatched socks but I'm afraid I don't. I've added it to the infamous download list.
The funny thing is that we never actually made it to the ride for our scheduled departure. Our time was better spent enjoying the opening activities and exhibits. The cafeteria was like a high-end IKEA restaurant serving a variety of freshly prepared sandwiches and salads as well as meatballs and pancakes (BTW - I adore Swedish pancakes). They also had a selection of baby food with spoons and bibs, etc. I was truly impressed. The gift shop is one of the best I’ve seen at a touristy type place. It sells everything from elaborate costumes to books, puppets and toys.
Another personal highlight was the spirit museum. Less than a month old this installation is cool and modern. It shares the story of everything from the Absolut brand to the simple process of distilling alcohol. I've always thought Absolut nailed the flavoured vodka thing and for a little extra you can enter with a sampler "tester pack" in hand to sample a few drops of each vodka while sniffing away at the scent.
The truth is, you don’t have to travel far to entertain little ones in this sweet city. There are parks with playgrounds in all directions. Where there isn’t a formal park all the apartment buildings have created garden spaces with sand boxes and play equipment.
We joked several times about the frequency of hair salons and 7-Elevens in Stockholm. If you fancy a trim followed by a slurpee you are in luck. We took advantage of the convenience and brought Ava across the street for a Swedish cut.
One of the main inspirations for our visit here was the opportunity to see my dear friend Viktoria and her family. We met 20 years ago in high school while she was on a foreign exchange. We have casually stayed in touch during the years. It was so fun to share an evening catching up at her beautiful home near Hagaparken (where the real princess lives with her new little princess). Any time you have the opportunity to visit a residence for a home cooked meal on the road it is a blessing.
Speaking of meals, I should talk for a moment about the food in Sweden. Fish is the big thing and Herring seems to be the swimmer of choice. There is also a selection of game meat, such as reindeer. We didn’t eat out much but the one meal we did share was charming. We stumbled onto the place totally randomly. Darrin had salmon roe (aka caviar) for the fist time and loved it. For me, well, you had me at the candles in the rain alongside comfort food.
It seems only fitting that in preparation for the next leg of our journey Darrin and I stumbled onto the Ardbeg embassy during a visit in old town. The gentleman behind the bar was most helpful and guided Darrin through a taste of whisky from the year he was born. We also learned that the golden liquid is priced per centiliter (cl), not per shot, and three of these little drips is commonly called a liquid dram. Watch out Scotland, we're armed and ready for you and your distilled oats.
- Meatballs with jam make me happy
- Vodka sales controlled by the government(system bolaget)are silly
- The IKEA brand totally nailed Stockholm (or vice versa)
- Mid Summer's Eve should be on the global list of annual holidays
- Extra hours of daylight make us stronger