Been meaning to post about our trip to Europe since October. I havent yet completed going through the photos from the trip as yet.

Let me start with Stockholm.

We departed from JHB on the 29th September, a 10 hour flight via Frankfurt to Stockholm. The flight didn’t feel as long as it has on past trips. Maybe because of the sleeping tablet and it being an overnight flight.. and we had comfortable seats with no one in front of us.  We took the Arlanda express train from Arlanda airport to Stockholm central. There was a lot of information available at the airport for visitors and things were fairly easy to figure out. However once we arrived at Stockholm central, we were a bit lost on where to buy bus tickets and catch the ’65’bus to our hotel.  After checking a map at the station, I decided that the hotel didn’t look too far away, so we should walk. It wasn’t far away, only 2km or so, but with the luggage and cobble streets, it felt longer.  We reached the hotel with still 2 hours to check-in Hotel Skeppsholmen – an old army barracks which was rennovated and is now a hotel on what felt like it’s own little island across from Gamla Stan.  With some time to check-in we ventured out in search of food. Found an interesting vegetarian/chinese/swedish place with a Sunday lunch buffet special, above Ostermalm market.  A lot of the restaurants that we ended up eating at was because of research that I did prior to our trip as well as recommendations from trip advisor. Main meals on average were 200-300 SEK per person without drinks.  After lunch we wandered around and explored some of the design shops in the area. Checked in, showered, rested a bit then ventured out again for supper. Decided to look for Sonya’s Greek in Sodermalm, half price on Sundays. Took a number 2 bus there.  Our half price meal with a couple drinks was about 600SEK. The drinks alone was 360SEK-a glass of red wine and a double whiskey.  We took a number 3 bus back, but ended up walking much further. I didn’t mind as I got to take some lovely night photos along the canal water ways. It was interesting to see people fishing around midnight.

Here are some of my fb updates:

30 September “Stockholm is expensive. The Arlanda express train, equivalent to Gautrain from airport to Sandton is 280 swedish krone, one way from the airport, R360. Food, a main meal in an average restaurant is 200 krone. The tap water is brilliant, tastes like Valpre. It has been fairly easy getting around, without getting lost. I think I have my bearings on this city. I like where we are staying, Hotel Skeppsholmen, looking out to Gamla Stan. So far people that we have asked for help or just spoken to have been quite friendly even if they don’t speak English very well. There is a lot to do, wish there was time to explore a bit of the country side.”

1 October “Love the hotel breakfast. the swedes love bread. Hired bicycles today, rode around the city. There was a fine drizzle for most of the morning. Had a delicious lunch at the Ostermalms Saluhall. Went on a walking journey tracking down a table tennis shop in Vasastaden, spent lotsa money on bats and rubbers. Picked up bikes and rode through some really busy shopping streets in Norrmalm (a bit like Piccadilly circus). Very intimidating riding through the busy streets, with experienced Stockholm city cyclists. Also visited the Vasa museum, an impressive over the top 400 yr old ship that sank 1000m into its maiden voyage because of poor ship design. It has been restored and preserved after it was retrieved from the bottom of the harbor in the 1960s. Wish I could post some pics…”

The day that we arrived in Stockholm, the sun poked out a bit in the afternoon, which was lovely.  The following day it rained and stayed cloudy.  We bought an SvD bicycle pass from the hotel, which gave us access to bicycles around the city at various bicycle stations.  The bikes are quite nifty, 3 speed. It took me awhile to get used to riding ín town, learning the traffic rules. We rode from our hotel to Djurgarden, visited the Vasa museum (100SEK pp). Watched a short film about the history of the Vasa ship. From the Vasa museum we walked to Ostermalm, took photos, wandered into random stores, had lunch at the Saluhall. The prices of meals there were reasonable and the food super fresh. I bought some delicious smoked salmon for 35SEK.  Carried on walking west, stopped at the Stockholm library (mostly to use the toilet but also to see what the library looked like inside). Headed to Norrmalm/Vasastaden to the TTEX shop on Upplandsgaten. Walked through residential type streets, people walking their dogs (large and small). Dogs are quite common in the city. Somehow people make it work.

Bought some great tt rubbers and blade. Stiga Calibra LT Spin, Stiga Magna TC II, Stiga WRB Kevtech, Stiga Mendo, Yasaka Rakza 7 soft.

After spending a lot of money at the table tennis shop, which was just amazing, we picked up some bicycles and rode back to the hotel which was quite a distance away. Ended up going through some busy shopping streets during peak traffic time (bicycle traffic). Kungstengatan, Birger Jarlsgaten, Kungsgatan. The ride was scary and exciting. We were back at the hotel by 6:30pm. Exhausted and hungry, we had supper at the hotel restaurant. The food was pricey but good and at the time, most conconvenient. I had duck breast which was cooked perfectly – 300SKK. Ended off the evening watching episodes of Nurse Jackie on the laptop. :p

I’ve said it before but let me say more, the hotel skeppsholmen breakfast is so good! I ate so much each morning. Started off with delicious african tea (you mix your own leaves in a filter tea bag), swedish toast sweet and buttery with a sort of filling, scrambled eggs cooked with cream, bacon and sausages. Smoked salmon, cheeses, fresh breads, fresh fruit. Boiled eggs (choice of 3min or 8min) kept warm in a sack type bag all ready and waiting. Freshly whipped butter, delicious preserves. YUM!
The hotel itsef was an old army barracks dating back to 1699. The building is now very well insulated, good clean designs, heavy doors, triple glazing, self regulated temp control.

At shops when purchasing things, i love that you always have control of your bank card. You do everything yourself, never handing it over to anyone, reducing the risk of fraud. The city seems so well organised, trains and busses run smoothly. Everything just works as it should. Clean in most areas, lots of green spaces, beautiful old buildings, modern clean designs for the new buildings. Bicycle pumps and recycle bins dot the city.

Visited Gamla Stan which was just across from the island we were staying on. Lots of narrow cobble stone street, old buildings, tiny cafes and coffee shops. Wandered into the Nobel Museum but didn’t stay long. From Gamla Stan we walked across to Sodermalm which wasn’t as pretty as the other areas we visited. Seemed residential, community centres, little playgrounds, lots of schools, art students. Had some great views. Rode our bicycles back to Skeppsholmen. After walking for most of the day, a nap was in order, before supper. Decided to check out Lao Wai, a vegetarian chinese restaurant on the other side of the city. It was well worth the trek. A popular, tiny little place, so be sure to book. We were lucky as a table opened up just as we arrived.

FB update 2 October “Too tired…walked and walked. Today, booked tickets to take a boat to one of the small archipelago islands which is what we will do if the weather is good tomorrow. explored Gamla Stan ‘the old town’, narrow cobble stone streets, tiny cafes and delis, chocolate and coffee shops, nobel museum. From old town to Sodermalm and some residential areas. Back to the hotel at 4pm, passed out for 2 hrs! Rode bikes all the way to the other end of the city to have supper at a chinese vegetarian restaurant-Sichuan taiwanese inspired. The food was amazing and it was heaven for carol to be able to eat every/anything on the menu from starters to desserts. Walked back part of the way until we spotted some city bikes to get back to the hotel. It’s good riding off a big phat meal. The rent -a -bikes are dodgy. One had no brakes, the another completely wonky. But it’s easy to swop out for a safer one.”

We bought ferry tickets to visit the archipelago. Not the best time to visit the islands as most lodges and stores are closed down for the winter. We went anyway. I can imagine how stunning it is in the summer. We were supposed to go to this very tiny island (recommended by the tour office lady). Thankfully, I asked one of the people on board the ferry and he said there is nothing on that island, nothing but nature. And that the next ferry will only depart late that afternoon. He recommended that we disembark at Grinda which at least has a shop and hotel with restaurant. The weather was great when we left the city, but by the time we reached Grinda about 2 hours later, it was cold, wet and mizzy. Didn’t matter too much as the hotel was  lovely and warm and after having something to eat, we headed out and explored the island. So so beautiful! In Sweden, you can camp on almost any country side land, without needing permission. It is quite amazing. So if you live in Stockholm, and feel like going camping for a night or two, just buy yourself a regular ferry ticket and stop at any one of the beautiful islands. Camp, hike, do your thing and back on the ferry when you are done.

FB update 3 October “Woke up early to get to the harbour early. Most places in the archipelago are closed for the colder season but we wanted to see some of it. The sun was shining and there was a bright blue sky. A huge contrast to the grey wet days we’ve been having. The boat ride had an overwhelming sleeping effect on me. The rocking motion and sound of the engine. After 2 hrs on the boat we decided to get off at Soder Grinda instead of going all the way to an even smaller island Husaro, one of the many beautiful archipelago islands. Side note: besides expensive food, booze is also crazy expensive and we were not able to get any duty free at the airport. 🙁 at some places a ‘glass’ of an avg wine is 90 SKK. We had 5 hours on Grinda island before the boat would pass by to get back to Stockholm. Thankfully there was some beautiful weather when we arrived. Had a satisfying lunch at the hotel. We hiked all over and around the island for about 2 hrs (did I mention small island) green lush forests, cool crisp clean air, giant mushrooms. The weather turned quickly, light rain started. A gorgeous fox started following us which really freaked Carol out. A genuine Fantastic mr fox. These islands must be amazing in summer. Arrived back in stockholm at 6:20pm, starving. Had spicy hot thai supper in Gamla Stan-just what we needed to warm up.”

To view more photos from this trip visit my Flickr page.