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KTLou82 Sep 27th, 2006 10:13 AM

Wonderful trip report, travelgirl. I am really enjoying reading it. I have been thinking of going abroad (Spain or Mexico..) to learn Spanish so reading about your day by day experience with this was very informative.

TurnstileTraffic Sep 27th, 2006 10:26 AM

Hi travelgirl! I just wanted to tell you that I'm really enjoying your trip report though I admit that I started reading it just recently and I keep doing it from the bottom in rewind.

The language school you attended with your kids sounds so interesting. What made you want to enroll in the first place?

It's funny where we find inspiration to travel--- I'll have to say that I'm sure many of us are pretty inspired by your postings.

travelgirl2 Sep 28th, 2006 04:02 AM

marigross - Congratulations! I am so happy for you! What wonderful news.

travelgirl2 Sep 28th, 2006 04:08 AM

Day 57 – Stockholm

Today we get up and have a nice breakfast with our Dear Friends (MR. DF and MRS. DF). The typical Swedish breakfast seems to be dark bread with cheese and ham. There is a toothpaste tube full of shrimp cheese, which I really like. MRS. DF eats crisp flat bread with liverwurst and salty sour pickles for breakfast. She offers me a bite. No thanks. Everyone eats a lot of butter on everything.

The kids and I all enjoy getting back in touch with our friends. MR. DF is an old friend of DH’s, from grammar school in the US. MRS. DF was a Swedish exchange student at their US high school. They got married right out of high school and lived in the US for about 10 years, then Sweden for 8 years, then France for 8 years. In France, they have just received generous retirement packages from their company, with no taxes owed due to France’s protective employment laws. Now, they are in the process of moving to Sweden and will soon be starting new jobs. They have a daughter who is 14 and a son who is 12.

For the next couple of weeks, until they can move into their new house, they are borrowing the house of a friend’s father. The friend’s father is at his vacation home, so his house in Stockholm is not being used right now. The house is a charming old Swedish-style home in a lovely suburban neighborhood. The man who owns this house used to be King Gustav’s personal physician. In the library are pictures, autographs and personal notes from King Gustav and Queen Sylvia of Sweden. There are also pictures of various other royals, who we do not recognize. This is so cool. Someone in the family must be an artist, because there are lots of original paintings all over the house. One great thing about this house is that it is just down the street from the train which runs into the city. MRS. DF says that it is officially a Swedish house because there are 3 different cheese slicers in the kitchen.

After breakfast and touring the house, I call the airline and they keep me on hold for a long while, then they tell me that my luggage should be coming to Stockholm tonight. They will be in touch tomorrow about delivering it.

My next job is to rent a car. I thought DH had done this from home, but he thought I was planning to do it. As a result, we haven’t reserved anything. Last night, after our luggage trials at the airport, the rental car agencies were closed. So, today I go online and arrange to rent a car. We set out to the city to pick it up. When we get to the rental office, we find out that I have made a request, but my receipt is not actually a confirmation. It turns out that no cars are available. So we have to go all the way to the airport and pick up a car. MRS. DF is a saint to drive me all over Stockholm. (Can I put in a plug here? – to learn to drive a stick shift, if you plan to travel in Europe. In cases such as this, it would have been impossible to find an automatic. Luckily, both DH and I can manage a manual, so we were able to take the last car they had available at the airport.)

After our car rental adventures, we go to the train station to pick up DH. But, he is nowhere to be found. It turns out that there is no train from the Skavsta airport, so he has taken the bus. The bus comes in near the train station. Eventually, we all find each other.

DH looks so tired and haggard from his difficult trip. We are so happy to see him, after nearly a month.

We walk around Olde Town for a little bit. For dinner, we go to SJATTE TUNNAN, a restaurant in Olde Town (Gamla Stan), which serves medieval (traditional) Swedish food. For appetizers, we have mushroom soup, saffron soup and cheese and meat platters. For dinner, we have ribs, elk meatballs with mashed turnips and lingonberries, stuffed cabbage with root vegetables, saffron fish stew and wild boar stew. They serve mead (mjod in Swedish), a type of Viking beer, in ceramic mugs. The atmosphere is fun, lit by candles and we are served by waitresses in costumes. The adults enjoy their meals more than the kids do, but we all agree we probably wouldn’t go back. The food is expensive and very exotic, especially for the kids. No one orders the reindeer though. By the end of the meal, all four kids are lying on the benches, waiting to go home to sleep.


travelgirl2 Sep 28th, 2006 04:19 AM

About journaling - I tried to write something on our computer every day during the trip. If not a whole story, at least notes about what we did that day. Sometimes I would write 2 or 3 days at a time. In a few cases, I am having to go back now and write from my notes. It was much easier to keep current as we went along, but sometimes I didn't have the time and/or motivation.

About adjusting to home - Everyone has adjusted great to being home, thanks. Will write more about that around day 77 and 78.

About Spanish school - I got the idea for Spanish school from kybourbon and others, here on Fodor's. We were looking for things to do when DH had to leave us to work, so it seemed like it would be a good activity we would all enjoy, plus allow us some time apart from each other (which I figured we would need midway through the trip). And the idea of staying put for 2 weeks really appealled to me.

Thanks everybody, for all the encouragement!


travelgirl2 Sep 29th, 2006 06:53 AM

Day 58 – Stockholm

DH and friends went jogging this morning, by the water. The kids played monopoly and knock hockey and computer games all morning. Then, we all took the subway to SALUHALLEN, which is an indoors farmer market (similar to Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia).

We ate lunch at TYSTA MARI, a food stand, where most of the adults had skagenrora (a cold baby shrimp, crawfish, mayonnaise and dill salad) served over hot baked potatoes. It was delicious (I tried it three times and this version was the best of our trip). MR. DF had vasterbottenpaj, which is a cheese pie, similar to a quiche, from the area of Sweden called Vasterbotten. It was served with roe, onions and sour cream. For dessert, we sent the kids to the bakery to get princesstarta, which is princess torte. It is MR. DF’s favorite Swedish dessert. It is a white cake layered with whipped cream and vanilla pudding, covered in green marscapone. Yummy.

After lunch, we walked around and toured Gamla Stan (Olde Town). We walked past the opera house, palace and parliament. While we were not there in time to observe the changing of the guard, we did watch a soldier who was guarding the palace. We have still not seen a changing of the guard ceremony, in Athens, London or Stockholm!

We also did some shopping. Iberia has told me that they will reimburse me 60 euros per day for my lost luggage. The luggage has been lost for 2 days. I’ve spoken to them 3 times already, including this morning and this evening. Still, no luggage. It is at the Stockholm airport, but hasn’t been delivered yet. The lady I spoke to the third time, after being on hold for 20 minutes, had the nerve to ask me for my phone number again and also if I wanted to come to the airport to pick it up. I think I yelled at her and told her that I had already spoken to someone, already given my phone number and already asked to have it delivered. I told her it had my prescription medicine, camera and phones in it, in addition to all my clothes, and I really needed that bag. She said she would try to have it delivered tonight. But, I am not surprised later when it doesn’t come.

After shopping, we went to the Nordic Sea Hotel. We had a reservation at the ICE BAR. At your appointed time, you don a parka and gloves and go into an airlock chamber. When the outer door is shut, you enter the Ice Bar. This is an offshoot of the famous ICE HOTEL, in northern Sweden. Everything is made out of ice. Well, not the floor. For 45 minutes, you hang out in the bar and have a drink served in an ice glass. This was fun because it was so unusual. The bar, however, was much smaller than we expected and everyone just kind of stood around holding their drinks and taking pictures. I would like to visit the ice hotel one day. There are ice bars in London and Milan also, with one opening soon in Tokyo, I believe.

Personally, this was kind of an off day, where everyone in our family was misbehaving, whining, complaining, or just generally arguing with everyone else. Travel nightmares, long travel days, lost luggage, being 13, and exhaustion from two weeks of camp from 9 am until 11 pm didn’t help any of our moods too much.

By the end of the day, we were all feeling better. Although we’ve all been on our good behavior while traveling, there are some days where we are just off-kilter. Just like at home, only now we don’t have the luxury of going off to our rooms for a little alone time.

In the evening, we had take-out Indian food from TANDOORI MAHAL, in Enebuiberg. It was excellent. We sat around talking and planning our day for tomorrow.

escargot Sep 29th, 2006 08:17 AM

Travelgirl: I have not posted in awhile, but continue to enjoy your entries - what an experience, and it has brought me, and obviously many other readers, laughter, sentimental thoughts, joys as well as those tiny moments of feeling your frustrations that come with travels - an amazing report. thank you.

and who would have dreamed - an engagement proposal blooms from a discussion of your travels, values, etc.....congrats marigross!

love this report, many thanks!

LCBoniti Sep 29th, 2006 09:37 AM

Frankly, I am impressed that you all seem "off-kilter" so seldom! Travel is wonderful, but it does have its stresses and this kind of trip (length, so many locations), while absolutely fabulous, has to have more than most.

Good job!
Linda

travelgirl2 Oct 2nd, 2006 04:57 AM

Day 59 - Stockholm

Today we take the train into Stockholm then we switch to the subway and finally take the ferry over to VAXHOLM. The ferry ride takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. It is on a charming older-style ferry, with wooden decks and wooden seats outside. There is also a more modern ferry, which takes 50 minutes. We plan to take that one home.

Part of Vaxholm is a tiny island which has played an important role in Sweden’s naval history. We take another ferry ride over to the tiny island, which has a large fort on it. We walk around the perimeter of the island first. Along the way, there are various cannons and guns on display. The kids enjoy climbing all over them and simulating military battles.

Then, we go into the VAXHOLM (WAXHOLM) FASTNINGS MUSEUM. Inside the fort is this great museum. First, we see the movie. It is very well done and illustrates Sweden’s history as a naval power, taking over Norway and Finland at various times. The museum is very interesting for all of us. The explanations at each display are in Swedish, but there is a booklet with English translations which they give us. The kids, Swedish and American, all love this museum.

After the museum, we head back to the house. My luggage has arrived! Yeah. It has been 3 days. I am not too happy with Iberia. It has been such a pain to keep calling them. But at least my luggage has finally arrived safely.

We get pizza and a movie for the kids. Then the adults head back into Stockholm for dinner. We walk from the house to the train and take a quick ride into the city. Public transportation is great. It is so easy. And our friends tell us that it is much better not to drive for an evening out, because the legal drinking limit is very low (0.02%) in Sweden. You may be able to have one very low-alcohol beer during an evening, accompanying a meal, but that is pretty much it. They are very strict about drunk driving here.

The grownups go to dinner at CLAUS PA HORNET in Stockholm. This is a charming restaurant. DH and I want to sample some Swedish specialties. For the appetizer, DH has a herring platter. I have toast skagen, which is toast covered with shrimp, mayonnaise and dill. For our entree, we both have Swedish meatballs in cream sauce, mashed potatoes, lingonberries and marinated cucumbers. It is delicious and very Swedish. MR. DF and MRS. DF have saffron fish stew, which they both like.

When our bottle of wine arrives, MR. DF asks the waitress where it is from. He has just been living in France and the wine is French, so he wants to know which part of which region it is from. She doesn’t really know. Later, she disappears for a while. When she returns, she gives him a printout. She has gone on the internet and researched the winery!

Too funny. MR. DF is like that. He is intensely curious and always asking detailed questions. It often embarrasses us. For some reason, though, people seem to like to find out things for him. I’ve seen that happen over and over. We get a kick out of him. He’s glad he can amuse us. And we always learn so much when we travel with him (whether we want to or not). Over the years, our families have gone skiing in Colorado, visiting in Washington DC and Philadephia and New Jersey, rented a villa in Tuscany and visited in France and now Sweden.

MR. DF is also extremely active and has interesting hobbies. Needless to say, DH will be running with him every day we are here. MR. DF is a pilot, likes to ride motorcycles, sky dive, mountain climb, sail, scuba dive (with some sort of deep sea certification for investigating wrecks), run marathons, etc. We like to tease him about the time we were in dangerous Tuscany and he walked into the open car door and needed stitches to repair the gash on his forehead. MR. DF was out alone with the kids, so he showed them how to operate the emergency brake, in case he passed out while driving them back to the villa.

LoveItaly Oct 2nd, 2006 08:58 AM

Topping for all the fans of this wonderful trip report!!

LCBoniti Oct 2nd, 2006 10:06 AM

Your DF sounds amazing and a good companion for your family of ST's (Super-Travelers)!

Love this insight on Sweden. Please continue . . .

travelgirl2 Oct 2nd, 2006 06:55 PM

Thanks Linda. MR. DF makes me feel like a slug. But we love him anyway.

travelgirl2 Oct 3rd, 2006 04:08 AM

Day 60 – Stockholm

Today we take the train and subway into Stockholm again. We walk to the VASA MUSEUM. It is in a modern-looking building, with 3 ships’ masts sticking out of the roof.

The Vasa was a ship that sunk in 1628 because it was not wide enough to support its height and the weight of all the cannons, etc. It was built by King Gustavus Adolphus in order to show the might of Sweden to Poland. It is a beautiful ship, covered with detailed wood carvings.

On the way to the Vasa, we stop at a kiosk for some Swedish fast food. I have a wrap, made with tunnbrod (thin bread). It is similar to a flour tortilla. It is filled with a hot dog, mashed potatoes, shrimp salad, lettuce, onions, ketchup and mustard. It is very unusual to be eating a hot dog with shrimp salad and mashed potatoes, all in one bite. MRS. DF says she loves these. I can relate to this, since there are foods that I grew up eating that are comfort foods for me.

Once we return to the suburbs, the adults go on a drive to see MR. and MRS. DF’s new house. It is very cute, in a typically Swedish way. MR. and MRS. DF purchased the house while in France, based on pictures on the internet and the advice of two relatives who knew the area and had been inside the house on various occasions. They made an offer greater than the purchase price, before the first open house. They said that in the area, it is typical for people to bid over the asking price during the first few days the house is for sale.

While driving by, the new owner comes out to go to the grocery store. He sees MRS. DF in the car and waves, so MR. and MRS. DF get out and talk with him. He invites all of us to walk around the house and check out the yard. Later, I tell MRS. DF that I am surprised he did not invite them into the house, as MR. DF has not yet seen the inside. MRS. DF had toured the house with the inspector, but MR. DF hasn’t seen the inside. MRS. DF tells us that in Sweden, people do not like to invite you into their house unless everything is perfect, so she did not expect to be invited in.

Once more, we take food out from the Tandoori Mahal. While waiting, there are a couple of scruffy fellows having beer on the porch. You are not allowed to take out beer or wine, but you can have it at the restaurant or on the porch. These fellows seem like they have had more than a few drinks. As MRS. DF walks by the men to get a blanket from a nearby table, MR. DF laughs and tells us they are trying out their best Swedish pick-up lines on her.

After dinner, we have to pack up one more time. Tomorrow, we will say goodbye to our good friends and fly to Rome.

stardust Oct 3rd, 2006 04:18 AM

When I first noticed this thread, I already thought it was too long to start reading, but now that it's at 436 threads or something, I did start and I want to finish, so just bookmarking...

After the Indian gentlemen in London, I can't wait to read more :-)

travelgirl2 Oct 3rd, 2006 04:24 AM

Welcome Stardust.

missypie Oct 3rd, 2006 06:37 AM

Gosh, maybe I can tell people I'm Swedish so I won't be expected to invite them in...my house is pretty much never perfect.

I guess in a city like Stockholm, you're comfortable that the shrimp salad is fresh? I can't imagine eating shrimp salad served from a hot dog cart in the US!

Dejais Oct 3rd, 2006 03:48 PM

Travelgirl...Can't wait to hear what Rome has in store. As always, I am looking forward to more.........

tower Oct 3rd, 2006 04:00 PM

Hi TravelGirl:

Happy you found SALUHALLEN..we loved it..great place for lunch...we stayed two blocks up the street at the Mornington Hotel (Brit)..highly recommend to others heading for Stockholm.
So you're off to Rome with just a few days left (Yeh, I know you're home in Joisey already!..but I like to read the report as if it were real time as do many of the other readers...kid, you've enthralled us all!)
We'll all be anxiousl awaiting the pix!

Stu T.

travelgirl2 Oct 4th, 2006 10:34 AM

Day 61 – Flight to Rome

Today we are flying STERLING Airline to Rome. We will be in Rome for 2 nights. Then, all of the kids’ grandparents will be meeting us for a week in Tuscany and a few days in Rome. While in the airport, we use an internet station and book a historical tour in Rome for later in our trip for DH and DS1. We also inquire about a short language course for our party of 8.

I believe Sterling is a Danish airline. Check-in and boarding go pretty quickly, even though the flight is boarded in no particular order. Everything is very casual. Not too much strict security at Arlanda airport in Stockholm. The flight is underway as soon as everyone sits down. We take off immediately for the 3 hour flight.

Once the seatbelt sign goes off, we all notice the sound of seatbelt buckles unfastening all over the plane. There is a three year old boy running up and down the aisle, dropping his potato chips and eating them off the floor. He gets stuck behind the drink cart and calls out for his mother. Eventually, the steward moves the drink cart and the boy is able to find his mother. She doesn’t seem to be looking for him. He continues to roam for much of the flight.

There is an announcement that food and drinks will be sold, and that only food or drink purchased on the plane will be allowed. I have never heard of that before. We hide our water bottles, bananas and chocolate bars (don’t tell!).

Upon arrival in Rome, we are picked up by a limo driver. He takes us to our apartment, Casa Navona, which we’ve found on www.vrbo.com. We find out that we are in apartment number 4, on the fourth floor. There is no elevator and the stairs are very steep. Even though our Stockholm friends are mailing a package with some of our stuff back home for us, we still have too much stuff. Claudio is very nice and shows us around the apartment.

The apartment is simple and will be fine for 2 nights. Best of all, it is air conditioned. We go looking for a place for dinner and find one just around the corner – RISTORANT PASSETO. The food is okay, but seems expensive. It is packed with tourists at 9 pm. Oh well. We are in the Piazza Navona area, so it’s bound to be touristy. Plus, I’ve heard that in August all the Romans are on vacation. This seems to be the case.

rosetravels Oct 4th, 2006 12:02 PM

travelgirl2 - thanks for continuing to post. It's a wonderful adventure!


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