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Swedish Home Exchange: A Trip Report as it Happens

Swedish Home Exchange: A Trip Report as it Happens

Old Aug 6th, 2005, 01:14 PM
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Swedish Home Exchange: A Trip Report as it Happens

I thought I would report on our vacation while it happens. We are participating in a home exchange with a Swedish family. They live in a suburb of Stockholm, we live in a suburb of Washington, DC. We found them advertised on www.homeexchange.com in Jan., when I was fearful we could not afford a summer vacation. We thought it odd they would want to spend 3 weeks in DC during August (possibly the hottest place on earth), and I am sure they thought we are crazy for wanting to come someplace with freezing cold water (as my son keeps pointing out). We agreed to swap cars and that seemed to be pretty fair, they left us an old Saab, we left them an older Volkswagon. This is the first home exchange for both families.

We are a family of 4, with two boys (5 and 8), plus my mom. Our exchange family also has two boys, although they are a little older. We came to an agreement to swap houses pretty quickly and by mid-Feb. we had both purchased tickets. They wanted to swap for three weeks which was fine with us as we usually prefer longer, slower vacations anyway. After getting the kids use to a place it is too hard getting them to transition again. After that we had very little contact until July when we worked out specific points about the house and car, so both families knew what to expect. We also left detailed instructions for running appliances, chores, and information about our favourite restaurants and sites.

Most of our friends are rather wary of the whole idea. We talked to a lot of people who �knew someone who exchanges frequently� but we didn�t talk to many people with much first hand experience. We got lots of questions about what if they trash your house, or steal stuff � we just assume they want to travel as much as we do.

In future posts I�ll report on how it goes and what we are doing with our time in Stockholm.
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Old Aug 6th, 2005, 01:23 PM
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Thanx, S.

Look forward to your reports.

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Old Aug 6th, 2005, 01:40 PM
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I'm looking forward to more too sprin2.

I had a great time in Sweden for a week in 2002. It'll be fun to reminisce as you post of your adventures.
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Old Aug 6th, 2005, 02:04 PM
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We flew out on the day the Swedish people landed so we did not meet each other. They landed at BWI at 7:00 p.m. on a Sunday, I thought a jaunt on public transportation was asking a lot so we arranged for someone to pick them up. We also decided against (cheaper) public transportation because it was going to be two buses and a commuter train. They scheduled a taxi for us. Mr. Sprin convinced me that was too much for grandma and two boys with jetlag. When I saw the driver with our name I knew he was right.

We flew Continental from Newark. The kids meals came, they were nasty looking, chicken nuggets on top of tater tots. Neither looked well cooked. We were on a 757, no individual tv screens, bummer for the kids. The movies were super old, Miss Congeniality ONE, and Die Another Day (succeeded in turning the 8 year old onto James Bond).

This was our first trip without a stroller, diapers, or car seats. The Swedish people borrowed booster seats for the boys so we didnt have to bring ours. It is great to be travelling light again. We have three bags small enough to carry on and our backpacks. Replacing the stroller and diapers are gameboys and comic books. We have a car charger for the gameboys and hope it works. Last summer in Italy we had a long fiasco trying to get a converter to work and ended up purchasing an English gameboy charger when we got to London. Guess you could say we are somewhat challenged in electrical matters.

The Swedish people arranged to have someone meet us to let us in their house and show us around. The house is really nice, spacious and clean. I cant believe how much room we have, it is great! We spent the morning making beds and unpacking. The boys were happy to find a room of video games and toys, seems the Swedish boys had gotten some of their old toys down for our boys to play with. Dont know if our boys will leave this room.

They left us coupons for lunch at their favourite restaurant so we walked to town. We bobbled in and stood in the entrance and after about a minute people began to walk by us. Seems at lunch it is cafeteria style, but since we dont speak or read a word of Swedish, and were all a little groggy, we missed this fact. We quickly regrouped and feasted on pasta, veggies, and salad. Stopped by the market and went home to hang (and of course play those video games).
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Old Aug 6th, 2005, 03:51 PM
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This is a lovely report. I'm so happy for you that you are having a great first experience with a home exchange. Your hosts seem to have been extremely thoughtful in preparing the home for you.

Looking forward to more!
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Old Aug 6th, 2005, 03:58 PM
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Sounds like it's going really well and I'm sure your Swedish exchange family are equally grateful for your care in preparing their stay in your home...

Look fwd to reading more...
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Old Aug 6th, 2005, 04:24 PM
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Hi sprin2, it is fun to read your trip report while you are living your trip!
I have always wondered about home exchanges. Except for one woman I know who reported nothing but misery with the house she got in Italy (but may I add nothing ever pleases this woman, LOL) I have heard nothing but good reports. Sounds like your Swedish family are kind and thoughtful as you obviously are also.

I sure look forward to more post from you. Have fun!!!
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Old Aug 7th, 2005, 01:40 PM
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The hours of daylight are certainly interesting. The sun goes down about 9:30 and it gets light about 4:00. Mr. Sprin is getting extra time to read Harry Potter. Our boys always sleep very late their first morning overseas and we planned an easy day. At breakfast the younger one complained of an upset stomach and sure enough he threw up a little later. Over Christmas he threw up as the plane landed, guess this was better. I know well use the washer lots.

We seek sites that combine my moms interest in art, our interest in history, and something active for the kids. Thought wed visit Sigtuna and while going through literature I realized the Åberg Museum was nearby. This museum advertises as the only art, comics and toy museum and it was really interesting. It was created by Swedish artist / director Lasse Åberg and showcases his amazing collection of early Disney memorabilia, his art, and his collection of works by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Hockney, Picasso, all with a comics theme. Its not big and was really interesting. There is a kids Tarzan playroom with since hes well known to Swedish kids. We had lunch in the sunny courtyard along with many other families. Ate salmon, ham and great fresh salads. All generations loved this museum.

Sigtuna was crowded, but it was a nice sunny day and we didnt have much trouble finding a parking place. We strolled through town, peeked in the church, and fought monsters in a couple of church ruins, got ice cream at the harbour, walked along the water and played a rousing game of mini-golf by the lake. Each golf hole was sponsored by a local business and it was fun reading their signs. Grandma is a mean putter and soundly beat us all. There is a small sandy beach at the west end of town, but we opted for no swim today, trying to make sure no one was really sick.

On our way out of town we stopped at Viby, an undeveloped crofters village. You park at one end and walk down a lane. It was really tranquil and interesting to see the architecture and arrangement of the houses and support buildings.

Thank goodness there is a pizza place about two blocks from our house. It was nice to get home, eat our pizza and salad and relax. Oh, and the games had not been played all day so we had to give them a work out too.
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Old Aug 7th, 2005, 02:15 PM
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The weather report calls for sun so we opt for another easy outside day. Millesgarden and Vaxholm was the decision. Being from DC we are always amazed at how easy it is to drive in Sweden. We were here two years ago to pick up a Volvo and still laugh about driving into Stockholm during afternoon rush hour. Mr. Sprin says the drivers are very courteous and actually acknowledge the speed limits. It is just a couple of minutes to Millesgarden and there is a small parking lot across the street.

Millesgarden, located on the island of Lidingö in northern Stockholm, has a wonderful setting on a cliff overlooking the water. It was the home of sculptor Carl Milles, his work is displayed on terraces and around fountains as you walk around the property. You also walk through parts of his house and workshop. We didnt know much about him before we went, but loved exploring the sculpture and it was a good fit for our divergent interests. The kids especially loved his work and they got really excited picking out postcards of what they seen.

We decided to head to Vaxholm for lunch. It was a short drive and again we were able to park in town on the main street. There are lots of cafes and restaurants along the harbour and we chose one with self-serve sandwiches and salads, nothing special. After lunch we walked about and contemplated some pottery purchases. Vaxholm is quite nice and Im sure well return for dinner one night.

There are two swimming areas marked on Vaxholm island on our map and we look at both, but the boys arent ready to swim from rocks or a pier, without a beachy area. We couldnt find that. So we spent about an hour driving around and finally found a park near Täby on a lake with a small sandy beach. The older one walks out on the pier, jumps in and is back out in a nano-second declaring it is really cold water. The younger one opts to play in the sand and barely gets wet. The park has a large tree stump that is carved like a climbing wall. It is about 10 tall and very fat. Both boys spent a long time going up and around it it is really cool.

The car charger we brought for the gameboys does not work. The lighter in the car is too large. We are now on a quest for a European charger to join our collection. We are going on the ferry to Visby tomorrow and they rent gameboys so hopefully they will charge ours, or who knows what will happen.
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Old Aug 7th, 2005, 02:18 PM
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Hi sprin,

>...there is a pizza place about two blocks from our house.<

So, what's a Swedish pizza like? Wood burning oven?

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Old Aug 7th, 2005, 02:34 PM
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Thank you so much for sharing your Swedish trip reports. I am enjoying reading all about your experiences and impressions. I love the idea of a home exchange - what a great way to settle into a vacation and really absorb the local sights, the people and culture.

I have recently met a cousin of mine from the Stockholm area while he and his son were visiting our part of the world (Pacific Northwest), so your story is of particular interest and I'm looking forward to more!
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Old Aug 7th, 2005, 02:52 PM
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This is fascinating...and I'm dying to know how they're enjoying YOUR house!
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Old Aug 8th, 2005, 12:28 PM
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Our little pizza place is nothing so fancy and offers Iialienska, Mexicanska, and American pizzas. It seems every tiny Swedish town has one of these pizzeria and salladsbar - grill and kebab spots. I'll keep my eyes open for an authentic Swedish pizza, we flipped for tarte flambe years ago in Alsace.

Having pizza so close is a good thing since we use it as a comfort food when traveling, especially good when we are just too tired to negotiate a foreign menu.
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Old Aug 8th, 2005, 12:57 PM
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Have you heard from the Swedish Family at all? It would be fun to hear how they are settling in too!
 
Old Aug 8th, 2005, 02:17 PM
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We have just started emailing. They settled in fine and have visited the White House, Spy Museum, and Potomac Mills mall. They also went to a Nationals game, which they loved, Nationals won! I'll let you know more as we hear from them.
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Old Aug 8th, 2005, 02:34 PM
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Two Nights in Visby

We got up early this morning to make the 10:30 ferry to Visby. We had a reservation, but have not paid yet which makes me nervous. The ferry company requires check in 90 to 45 minutes before sailing. We arrive in Nynashamn, about an hour south of Stockholm, in plenty of time and they have the reservation. Once you check in and are in the ferry line there is a waiting area and café, we settle in, playing War and Uno. We sailed on the smaller of the two ferries, the SF 700. All seats on this boat are assigned and the same price. Naturally it takes us a while to figure this out, and were sitting in someones seats. OUR seats are near the play area which allows the boys to go back and forth by themselves. They show cartoons there and the Flintstones really doesnt need words. Another American family (actually Swedish-Irish from California) is in front of us and their boys happily play with our boys. Theyve been visiting family above the Arctic Circle for a month and are starved for English speakers. It is a quick ride, about 3 hours, and yes, the gameboy rental booth kindly charges one of ours for free.

The train station is right by the ferry terminal and public transportation to Stockholm is very simple for those without a car.

Unloading is fast and we are quickly on our way to the Hotel St. Clemens. Im surprised Visby doesnt have many pedestrian only streets and we are able to drive through the old town to the hotel with no trouble. The hotel is in a series of old buildings, beautifully renovated. The buildings ring two gardens and the garden backs up to the St. Clemens ruins, one of the many church ruins on Visby. It is also across from the Botanical Garden which we can see from our room. We are in a family room, upstairs in what looks like an old barn. We have a sitting room with sleeper sofa, bedroom and spacious bathroom. It looks like it was redone very recently. Grandmas room is very small, but only $80, just a little bigger than her single bed and a small bathroom.

It is a beautiful warm day so we walk to the small beach by the harbor and hit the crowded playground in the Almedalen. After playing on the dock and jumping in the cold Baltic we walk through town. The hotel has beer and wine and it is breath-taking to have our drinks gazing at the ruin. Of course the kids are gazing at the tv, although they did remark they like the room and the hotel. We have dinner at Isola Bella, an Italian place not too far from the hotel. On the way home the older boy and I race up the stairs by St. Marys Church. At the top we turn back to the water and even my blasé 8 year old gasps and says how beautiful it is with the sun setting over the ocean, and the ruins and city. For those of you going to Visby without kids this is a great spot for a romantic picnic as the sun sets.
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Old Aug 8th, 2005, 02:44 PM
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What a nice, unusual, and exciting report! I've stumbled over it today while at work, and just can't stop reading!

Who cares for Harry Potthead, give me the Home Exchange
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Old Aug 8th, 2005, 03:07 PM
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Wow, what a neat experience!! Thanks for posting. This is a very interesting trip report!
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Old Aug 8th, 2005, 04:20 PM
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Thanks for sharing as you go along - it is great.
Happy travels!
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Old Aug 9th, 2005, 07:28 AM
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I love reading your report. We just returned from a 5 wk exchange to Germany. It's great fun to read about other people's experiences and you do it so well, too!
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