Exploring Stockholm

We spent today exploring Stockholm, its history, its food and its drink.  Our day started with a wonderful and real authentic continental breakfast.  It wasn’t the paltry continental breakfast every hotel at a hockey tournament tries to sell you.  This breakfast was legit.  There were no watery eggs or overcooked bacon to be had.  The only similarity is that this breakfast also had a waffle maker, which we definitely enjoyed.

IMG_5736

Our time here in Stockholm is short, so we wanted to maximize our time and see as much of the city as possible.  The best way to do this, especially in the winter, is the hop on and hop off buses.  They run continuously throughout the day with several stops and a narrated tour to boot.  If the weather were a bit warmer and my ankle/foot completely healed, this would be a perfect walking city.  Truly, if my foot was better, we’d probably have walked most of the city.

IMG_5860

We grabbed the bus at Stockholm’s Central nation, which is super nice.  We somehow managed to missed it twice.  Once it was our fault, the second time it just drove by.  When the third bus came by, we were sure to be first in line.  We sat atop the bus and rode for about half the tour before realizing we should have grabbed the headphones downstairs.   The bus takes you through all the major neighborhoods in Sweden and provides a lot of great information about the sites.

IMG_7706.JPG

We rode the thing throughout the complete loop before deciding to hop off at Gamle Stan near the Royal Palace.  As soon as I exited the bus, I was cold.  We were dropped off right across from the palace and not far from the water.  The wind was whipping off the water with no buildings to slow it.  I was getting cold fast!  We made our way up the palace stairs to check it out.   Our timing was sublime as we entered the courtyard right before they started the changing of the guard.   I filmed it in its entirety, but I almost froze my fingers off!

As soon as the ceremony ended, we made our way into the Palace to check out the Royal Apartments, the museum and find a bathroom.  The Palace is stunning and a beautiful example of the baroque design style.  Throughout the palace, the artwork was sublime.  At every turn, every room there were a myriad of paintings, sculptures and tapestries.   There was one drawing room in particular that was full of portraits of the royal family.  It reminded me of Harry Potter and a couple of other movies where the eyes in the portraits follow you as you move through the room.

After exploring the palace grounds, we headed to find food.  We explored the palace while past the lunch hour, so we decided to go for dinner.   At the recommendation of our bartender last night, we headed to Aifur.  It was an adventure through Gamle Stan to find it with two pit stops at Stortoget, the oldest square in Stockholm, to get coffee and mittens.  Finally, we headed down the hill to Västerlånggatan, the main thoroughfare, to find Aifur.   I tried to behave, but couldn’t help perusing a few of the stores along the way.  Humorously, when we finally found the restaurant it wasn’t opened yet.  Naturally, we killed the half hour at Corner Bar enjoyed  a few drinks.

Dinner at Aifur was quite the experience.  The restaurant is an homage to Scandinavia’s Viking heritage in its decor, its food, and its staff.  Consequently, the dining room was set up with several long tables with benches on both sides.   On the tables, there were candelabra, silverware and glassware in keeping with the theme.  Each of the dishes on the menu were inspired by the Vikings.

We started our meal with a charcuterie board inspired by Ragnor himself.  Largely, it was compiled of different types of sausages, including reindeer heart.  Surprisingly, the reindeer heart sausage was tasty.  I enjoyed the reindeer sausage with some cheddar chess on a cracker.  While I had the elk sausage on bread with cheddar and boiled apples. It was a nice exploration of the different types of sausages from the region.

IMG_5815

Our main courses were just as yummy.  Jon and I enjoyed venison with hash browns on root vegetables served on a creamy mushroom sauce.  Jake had the porcini risotto, which he thought was okay.  I really enjoyed it!  Brandi had the dwarf chicken also served with the risotto, which was also quite tasty.  We accompanied our dinner with Mead from Poland.

The best part of dinner, aside from the company and the food, was the atmosphere.  Every time new guests would arrive, the host/hostess would announce them to the dining room sharing both their party name and where they’re from. It was fun to guess where our other dinners guests hailed from.  I’d be lying if I said we were good at that game.  Nonetheless, it made for a fun night.  Lastly, as we ate, we enjoyed live traditional Scandinavian music keeping with the restaurant’s theme.

Post dinner we walked back to the hotel and then headed up to The Capitol Bar at the Scandic for the first of two night caps.  I ended my night out at the bar downstairs with a great apple beer from Belgium.  While I got ready for bed, the rest of the party closed down the bar and went on a fast food run.  Sadly, there were no Doritos burgers tonight only zombie burgers from Burger King.

Tomorrow we’re off to Helsinki for several days.  Stockholm has been a blast and we’ll definitely be back!

If you go:

Sightseeing bus: Hop On Hop Off Bus

The Palace: Royal Palace Complex: 

The Dinner: Aifur

Advertisements

We Made It

After two flights and a pit stop at MacDonald’s in Detroit, we finally made it to Chicago! This was my first time back in O’Hare since middle school. I remember the terminal walkways looked much bigger and much newer back then. Now it’s not so big and fancy compared to some of the newly remodeled airports.

Admittedly, I don’t eat MacDonald’s often. If I’m eating MacDonald’s, it’s either a desperation play or vodka made me do it. Today it was a desperation play as we didn’t have too much time between flights.

What a freaking mistake that was! I’m still feeling it! I ordered the artisan grilled chicken sandwich because calorie wise it was semi reasonable and it looked more gratifying than a single cheese burger. Wrong!

I was so hungry having totally forgotten to eat breakfast as we rushed to the airport. Despite this crazy level of hungry bordering on hangry, I couldn’t finish the sandwich. It was truly the one of the most vile things I have ever eaten.

Honestly, I would have been better off eating the soles of my shoes because they would have been less rubbery. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure they stole the rubber chicken from Carrot Top’s prop box and made into my sandwich. If I were him, I’d be mad that his prop was sacrificed for a subpar imitation chicken sandwich.

Now here we are in the Marriott seven hours later and my stomach is still angry with that sandwich. This is why I’m not going to be eating at Macdonald’s again sober. My sandwich today evoked memories of the horrific school lunches they served in elementary.

Meanwhile, my boys feel that the current Chicago weather is nice and comfortable. It’s been a battle since we landed to get them to put on jackets, pants, gloves, etc. “It’s not cold mom.” Yeah, my arse it isn’t cold. I’m looking forward to rehashing this argument tomorrow as we leave for the rink bright and early.

Tomorrow will be a busy day with three games and two team functions. Fortunately, the games are all at the same arena tomorrow. Sunday on the other hand will be a complete disaster. It should be an interesting day as I attempt to make all games in different arenas across town! I’m heading to bed hoping that the nausea caused by that blasted rubber chicken sandwich will be gone tomorrow. Over and out from Chicago!

Norway is Calling

Norway is Calling

Norway is calling (so is my bed p.s.) me back.  There’s no way around it and the kids feel the same way.  As a family, we cannot wait to go back and explore it some more.  For my kids, the city of Bergen was particularly memorable.  They’ve even started planning how they can study their in college or move their as adults.  I’d say the city left quite the impression on them.

The most beautiful part of Norway, and there were so many, for me was being able to spend time with my family.  There were no distractions of work, school or hockey.  It was just us enjoying our time together as we discovered our Scandinavian roots.  In addition, it was even more special because my entire family was there together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As we approach the holidays and I put out the Christmas decorations I bought in Norway, I long to go back.  One of my goals is to spend Christmas in Norway to enjoy the Scandinavian customs and celebrations.    It would be nice to enjoy a white, snowy Christmas versus our tropical Christmas.  Additionally, I’d like to explore the Christmas markets in Germany some time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh the serenity of my house was broken as the boys returned from hockey practice.  Goalielocks some how managed to knock a grocery bag with my brie baker off the table.  Consequently, my nice pampered chef brie pan has seen its last day.  Ugh… This is why I can’t have nice things.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I leave you tonight with some of my favorite pictures from 2017.  There were many memorable moments this year, so picking my favorites was quite difficult.  Nonetheless, I think you’ll find a theme in my pictures.  Hint, hint my favorite moments are all about my family and friends that have become family.

IMG_1773

 

Tonight’s song performed by Offspring is “The Kids Aren’t Alright.”  I know, I know it is a departure from the Christmas music.  However, I was jamming out on my way to Barre tonight to this song, so I thought I’d share it.  Plus, it seems to fit with the brie, football/invisible hand calamity.

Vikings

Tonight’s the night Vikings returns for season 5 on the History Channel.  I love this show, so I’ve been looking forward to tonight.  For the last several weeks, snippets of the 5th season have been showing up in my Facebook newsfeed.  I’m not into many shows, but Vikings is definitely one of them.  Fortunately, its also a show my kids love.   In fact, when we traveled to Norway this summer I made sure we incorporated some Viking themed scenery in our trip.  Although it would have been hard to avoid Viking related sights in any trip to Norway.

IMG_1969

Serene
Serene Fjord

In Flam, we took the boat out on the Aurlandsfjord.  This Fjord deep in the heart of Sogn Og Fjordane is sublimely serene and overwhelmingly beautiful.  As we boated around the fjord, we approached an outcropping from the cliff.  There was a grassy area on this outcropping, which was home to a Viking Burial.  It was pretty cool to see.  As an aside, Lagertha according to legends is from the Gaula Valley, which is in the northeastern part of the Sogn Og Fjordane region.

Now that the show has started, I’m writing during the commercials.  How fitting that Ikea is one of their advertisers, but I digress.  As an American of Norwegian descent, I enjoy watching a show about Norwegian/Scandinavian history.  My dad’s family emigrated to the US from Sogn Og Fjordane the very same region that Lagertha is thought to have come from.  Clearly, I was born to be a modern day shield maiden or Viking queen.

Our trip through Norway gave us a deeper connection to our Norwegian roots, heritage and Norway.  Now as I watch the Vikings, I long to go back and explore the Norwegian Countryside.  Additionally, I’d like to explore Ireland, where the show is largely filmed, and the U.K. retracing the Vikings travels.  While in France in 2011, we ate lunch at a small seaside Norman town.   As we enjoyed our crepes, our view was a replica Viking ship moored in port.  It was beautiful and imposing much like the authentic ships housed in the  Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

Finally, tonight’s song, in keeping with my Norwegian theme, is “Take on Me” by Aha.  I know a collective sigh of relief went out as you realized I wasn’t gonna torture you with “What Does the Fox Say?”

my world

My World

For tonight’s blog, it’s all about giving you a glimpse in my world through the share your world challenge.  It’s one of the challenges run here in the blogosphere that make for fun and interesting reads while also connecting you to others bloggers.  So here it goes.

If you were having difficulty on an important test and could safely cheat by looking at someone else’s paper, would you do so?   I’m not good at being bad. So no I wouldn’t cheat because know I’d get caught.

source.gif

What things in nature do you find most beautiful?  I love the beautiful sunsets that light the Florida sky.  Also a top the items I find to be most beautiful are flowers, the beach, the fjords, mountains and waterfalls.   The Norwegian countryside was beyond beautiful.  Neither pictures nor words can adequately describe its beauty.

Complete this sentence: When I travel I love to…  I love to stay in the neighborhoods and experience the city or country as a local.  Consequently, we stayed in AirBnB’s in both Bergen and Oslo while travelling throughout Norway.  These accommodations were in the neighborhoods away, but not too far from the tourist sights.  In Oslo, our apartment had the cutest nest like area over the kitchen where the younger two boys could sleep.  Fortunately, they loved their little area.  Goalielocks had a similar room when we were in Bergen, which he also loved.  Nevertheless, the point is I want to be immersed in the culture of where ever I have traveled to.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  This week I was heavily inspired by my dear friend Debbie, here family and our friends.  Months of hard work culminated with the Purple Stride event Sunday morning.  After the event, I was looking to see updated fundraising totals on the site and noticed a quote from Debbie. Here’s here quote that as a part of her keynote speech at the 2016 Broward Palm Beach Purple Stride event.

31321002282_1c22ec0560_o (1)

My first PurpleStride was in 2015. I wanted to complete the 5K as my own personal challenge. Being able to attend my second PurpleStride this year in 2016, was about showing that patients can live, cherish the moments they have in their lives, teach others to celebrate their own lives and to remember the gifts of those lives that are no longer with us.”

Tonight’s song comes to us courtesy of Tom Petty.  Enjoy “Learning to Fly!”

Mount Floyen Friday

Mount Floyen Friday

It is a Mount Floyen Friday, can someone please take me back to Bergen?  I’ve been good this year, so pretty sure they’ll be no coal in my stocking this year. In lieu of coal, feel free to stock my stuffing with tickets back to Bergen.  Although I’m sure the beautiful city and mountain look a little bit different in December than they do in July.

IMG_1500 (1)

We took the funicular up to the top of Mt. Floyen first thing one morning, so we could hike and explore the mountain.  Fortunately, Mt. Floyen offers a lot of activities to those travelling with families.  There are number of different trails, a ropes course, a play ground and some other activities.  Moreover, if you’re really ambitious, you can do the day long hike from Mt. Floyen to Mt. Ulricken.  In addition, there is also a cafe, gift shop, a restaurant and bathrooms atop the mountain.

IMG_1518

The hike on Mount Floyen is significantly easier than the hike at Ulricken.  There are several walking trails, appropriate for all fitness levels)  along with rockier hiking trails through the woods.  Additionally, there are no significant drop offs around the trails (at least the trails we explored at Mt. Floyen), which makes it a little more child friendly than Mount Ulricken.  Truly, it is a good hike for all ages and all abilities.

IMG_1537

Fortunately, when the kids tired out from hiking before we did, they had activities they could do while we hiked.  Consequently, when the kids got bored and the grandparents got tired, they headed back towards the funicular where there was a nice playground.  While the kids played on the playground, Jake, myself, my brothers and my sister-in-laws decided to hike into the woods and off the paved path.

IMG_1534

The paths through the woods were incredibly beautiful.  In some places, it reminded me of the Valley of the Living Rocks where the trolls resided in Frozen.  You could easily imagine that trolls, witches and fairies inhabited these magical woods.  There was moss on the trees, delicate mushrooms carpeting the forest floor, little structures and fallen trees.

Unquestionably, it was a magical, beautiful place that was also peaceful and serene.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that once we finished our hike we were able to get a nice, hot latte before heading back down the mountain.  We headed back down the mountain to make our way towards Bergen’s tallest mountain Mt. Ulricken. That morning we hiked off the beaten path and were transported into a magical woods that was reminiscent of Narnia. Needless to say, if you’re in Bergen, make a trip to both Mt. Floyen and Mt. Ulricken a priority.

Tonight’s song comes to us from Nirvana and it is “The Many Who Sold the World.”

Ice Hotel

Ice Hotel

For our Florida kids, the ice hotel in Quebec City was a modern marvel.  Their marvel was short lived as there weren’t a ton of activities for them to do.   Consequently, they ended up having a snow ball fight as the parents traipsed through the ice hotel and its bars.  They served wonderful drinks in glasses made of ice.  Both the hotel and our glasses were only temporary fixtures of the Quebec Countryside.

IMG_3792

While the ice hotel melts as winter transitions to spring, it is sure to be back as the arctic air reclaims the region the following fall.  I’m hopeful that my youngest will have the opportunity to play in the Peewee Quebec tournament.  If so, we’ll have the opportunity to return to this beautiful hotel.

If you’re thinking about taking a trip to beautiful Quebec City, which I would definitely recommend.  The hotel offers tours, over night stays and will even host your wedding.   You can book a room or a tour of the Ice Hotel (Hotel de Glace) here.

I am a neophyte to the daily photo challenge, but I look forward to posting more photos in the coming weeks.

On Top of the World

On Top of the World

On top of the world in Bergen, high upon the city’s highest peak of Mt. Ulriken, the boys and I hiked with their aunts and uncles as the Mayor, the grandparents and my hubby waited at the overlook.  The Mayor, who had injured himself on Mt. Floyen, reluctantly sat out the challenging and rigorous hike to the peak.

IMG_1569 (2)IMG_1610

The hike was challenging, but rewarding.  As we neared the peak, a Norwegian Air flight soared closely over our heads as it approached Bergen’s main airport.   On top of the world in Bergen, there were running trails, multiple hikes and even a farm with sheep.  It would be wrong to be atop a mountain in Norway and not see sheep or goats.  Truly, it would be unnatural.

From our vantage point, we could see all of the beautiful city of Bergen. Far in the distance, you can see where the Norwegian land meets the north sea.   The city of Bergen is nestled between seven mountains on the Byfjorden (also known as the city fjord.)  Between the beautiful city and the North sea, there are several islands that protect Bergen from the harsh North Sea.  Undeniably, I cannot wait to explore those when we return to Hordaland.

There’s something soul cleansing about being on top of a mountain.  2017 has been a devastating year of unfathomable loss, but here atop the mountain we found peace  Moreover, in the peace and solitude of the moment, the beauty of our surroundings became a profound reminder of the beauty of life.  Unfortunately life, as much as we would like it to be pain free, is not without its rocky patches.   However, it is these rocky patches that made our time in Norway together so richly rewarding.

Albert Einstein, thanks to the internet and memes, has been credited with some great quotes.  In this instance, one of his quotes (and it is actually his) comes to mind.  “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”  From atop the world in Western Norway, I sat amazed at the symbiotic relationship between the Norwegians and their land.

It is experiences like this that I love sharing with my kids.  These are the types of experience that broaden their world by exposing them to new worlds.  While they enjoyed the hike and the time with their family, they unknowingly broadened their circle.  Moreover as a mom, there’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing the beauty of our world with my boys.  I cannot wait to explore new places with them.

Vacation Planning

Vacation planning for families is no joke.  With a trip like that you can’t just plan things willy-nilly.  When planning a big family trip, especially overseas, a lot of careful planning and consideration must go into it.     We took over two years to plan the Norway trip given the cost, length of travel and number of people going.  My brother took point on the itinerary booking the Norway in a Nutshell tour.  Meanwhile, we booked a car and mirrored their stops.

enhance (2)

Renting a car in Norway was fairly easy and was reasonably priced through Hertz when booked with our AAA discount.  Driving in Norway was fairly easy and straight forward.  The roads were significantly narrower and full of roundabouts.  In stark contrast to South Florida, Norwegian drivers were adept at the roundabouts and very congenial drivers.  I didn’t hear a horn once.  Norwegians are serious about their speed limits with speed cameras littering their road ways.  Thank God for Waze and its speed trap warnings.  Waze and Apple Maps worked perfectly in Norway.

enhance (5)

Food is ridiculously expensive in Norway no matter which route you take. MacDonald’s set us back $60 in Bergen and that was fast food.   The lodging, however, was reasonably priced.  Hotels were nice as they often came with a complimentary breakfast that was quite impressive.  Our hotel in Trondheim, the Radisson Blu, had one of the most incredible hotel breakfasts I had ever seen.  The Air BnB’s worked perfectly for our family in Oslo and Bergen.  It was great to stay in the neighborhoods of these cities and away from the tourists.   Near our Air BnB in Bergen there was a great local coffee shop that had the most incredible coffee and treats.

enhance (4)

As I look to our next big trip, a couple of things I will keep in mind.  First, under no circumstance will I accept a compact car at the rental counter- no way, no how.  Secondly, the car was nice as it gave us a great opportunity to see the Norwegian countryside and cities, but it was slow going.  Next time, I think we will look to combine car, train and boat to see more of the country.  Thirdly, I will take out a second mortgage to cover the cost of food.  Lastly, when abroad it is not necessary to eat enough pastries to make up for the last two carb free years.  #lessonlearned

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Last Night in Bergen

We had a brilliant lunch post Bergen aquarium near Bryggen with our family before J&B headed to catch the bus for Stavanger.  Tomorrow they’ll be on the hike of their life making their way up to Pulpit Rock.   Our waiter was incredible and bought us a round when the fryer broke and our food took longer than normal.  This was a great gift as beer and cider are extremely expensive in Norway even by South Florida standards.  The food was worth the wait and I enjoyed my fish an chips along with my cider.

 

Post lunch we hit the shops to find some useful souvenirs.  The Mayor found a nice knife he can use for fishing while Goalielocks selected a viking horn that sounds a bit like a kazoo.  The kazoo piece wasn’t intentional, so we’ll be looking for another viking horn for the house.   Jake got a nice Norwegian flag he can hang in his room.

IMG_9234

 

After two ciders at lunch, my favorite local coffee shop Dromedor was calling my name.   Not too far geographically from the tourist hub, but miles away in terms of its customer base.  This is a great local spot with quality coffee and pastries.   I have quite enjoyed their lattes these past couple of days in Bergen.

For dinner our kids wanted frozen pizzas, which was a complete godsend.  Food is extremely expensive in Norway and this was a perfectly economical way to feed the kids.        Post Pizza we headed to the wold famous fish market to meet J&M (my older bro and family), my grandma and my parents.

They were finishing up their dinner and afterwards we headed for dessert and shuffleboard.  We ended up at the same restaurant where we ate and drank yesterday as it had several shuffleboard tables where the kids could play and not interrupt all of the diners’ dinners.

FullSizeRender 11

After two rousing shuffleboard tournaments, Priya and Zak and I emerged as champions.   Somehow I managed to figure out how to score a couple of points, which was enough for me to be successful.  The kids had a blast and enjoyed their desserts throughout the tournament.

After shuffleboard, we said adieu to our favorite spot, Bergenhus Bryggeri, and headed out to walk the city.   For the first time, we headed up Kong Oscars Gate where X&P found an awesome and cheap hot dog stand.  The group continued to make friends with dog owners and their dogs.   Norwegians love their dogs and take them everywhere.  Their dogs are meticulously groomed and extremely well behaved.

IMG_9247

As the sun started to descend in the sky, we headed back to our AirBnB to pack for our trip to Stavanger.  We have absolutely loved our time in Bergen and will be returning to this wonderful city hopefully soon.