Train Travel in the Rain, With Children

8.9.2017

“You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So get on your way!”
― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You’ll Go!

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Traveling with children is not one of the easier things in life. Our entire trip so far had been a mixture of hard, harder and hardest in terms of getting around with Natasha (age 7) and Lincoln (14 months). Natasha woke up the morning we left Chicago with a sore throat and Lincoln soon had a fever on top of teething for our sight-seeing days in Oslo and Gothenburg. Not how any parent wants to experience new countries, but these things do happen.

Melody pointed out that it was a good thing we had the baby carrier and I could cuddle Lincoln so much during this time. That got me to thinking how true that was: If I was at home, I’d probably be pretty perturbed that I wasn’t able to get anything done and that I couldn’t put him down. Instead, all I had to do was carry him around. He only wanted to be held {by me} anyway, so I got to cuddle him, love on him, soothe him and sight-see Norway and Sweden all at the same time.

That sounds all romantic and motherly, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t all that glorious, trust me. The bus ride from Oslo to Gothenburg was pretty stressful. The train ride from Gothenburg to Bergen wasn’t the relaxing journey one imagines when you see a train travel poster. Children get bored. They get hungry. They cry. They want down when they can’t be down but won’t sit still when they’re being held and won’t fall asleep when they’re beyond sleepy. I had this idea that I might get to do some journaling while riding along, maybe when Lincoln was sleeping peacefully. That was a very nice thought, but not reality. By the time Lincoln was sleeping soundly, I was so worn out, I didn’t feel like digging in the bag to find my notebook.

Thus, Daniel and I traversed the ups and downs of parenting while making our way across Scandinavia. The train ride from Gothenburg, Sweden to Bergen, Norway has over 180 tunnels. When you’re not inside darkness waiting for daylight again, the views are fantastic.
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That is, when you can actually see them. I spent a fair amount of my time pacing and standing at the back of the train car trying to bounce Lincoln to sleep. The windows are just low enough that when you’re standing, you can’t see anything outside.

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It did give me plenty of time to admire this premium baby pram by the Swedish company, Emmaljumga. I think you could purchase this exact one for approximately $600 USD. As you can see, below the bassinet is a sheepskin. I asked the mum about these and she said they’re quite nice to have; warm and cozy for the baby. She kindly gave me the name of the store, Nøstebarn, where I could find one in Bergen. Oh, how I wish I could afford to bring one home with me.

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Once Lincoln did fall asleep, I could sit and enjoy the scenery a bit. But don’t get the wrong impression here: This was NOT how I spent the majority of the trip.
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7+ hours later, we finally arrived in Bergen and stumbled out of the train. The sun was shining, we were at the gateway to the fjords of Norway and we felt fantastic.

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We had a lovely AirBnB apartment awaiting us, soon food was being prepared and spirits were definitely on the rise. They rose even more when our landlady sent up fresh, homemade bread. To say we were delighted is an understatement.

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Photo by Melody 

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Scenes From our Last Day in Gothenburg

8.8.2017

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Getting some work done at Da Matteo, this time at Victoriapassegen

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Photo by: Melody

For lunch we had Swedish Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce at Café du Nord. Truly, we ought to eat more lingonberry sauce in the states. The sweetness combined with the savory meatballs could easily become a staple in our house.

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Sorry my food is slightly sloppy looking; I’m not a food blogger and it’s hard to get tip-top pictures when you’re holding a toddler and starving at the same time.

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We purchased postcards at Akademibokhandeln (a bookstore Melody discovered by serendipity) where we oohed and ahhed over the cute artwork featured by Elsa Beskow and illustrations from Astrid Lindgren’s books such as Pippi Longstocking and The Children of Noisy Village.

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Photo by: Melody

While the girls wrote postcards, I supervised children at Plikta Playground, which is what I consider one of the best playgrounds ever. They even have little trikes and bikes to lend out for children to ride.


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Last stop of the day was for the famous cinnamon rolls at Café Husaren Hagabullen. They have a gluten-free menu as well, although cinnamon rolls aren’t included. However, we had a large chocolate dessert similar to a no-bake cookie, which was quite tasty and I did sample the huge cinnamon rolls.

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They truly are as big as your head.      Photo by: Melody

 

 

Fika in Sweden

8.7.2017

When in Sweden, one must eat Swedish food. It can be costly to eat out in Scandinavia, so whenever possible, we look for cheap, but tasty, local fare. Food trucks can be the answer to both of these criteria and we found a good one in the center of Gothenburg.


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Our choice from the little black food truck pictured above, was fried herring, mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce. We enjoyed every bite. On our walk through town to get lunch, there was a Red Bull vehicle parked by the street with several blonde Swedish girls handing out Red Bull’s new Simply Cola. Now, how fun is that? A free cola to have with our fried herring.

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  • You can have this traditional Swedish meal for yourself for around 60 SEK ($7.55 USD) from the Strömmingsluckan food truck. Located just off of Magasinsgatan 17, 411 18 in the center of town. No guarantee if the free colas will be there when you come through town though.

Somewhere along the line, the concept of fika was brought to our attention and soon it became the main thought on everyone’s mind. Fika is the idea of a coffee break accompanied with a sweet, but most definitely done with friends or family because conversation and quality time together is highly regarded. We picked up some cinnamon rolls at a cafe near the food trucks to take with us for an afternoon fika and headed off to Gothenburg’s archipelago. Public transportation includes ferry rides to these so that was very convenient.
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We chose to go to Asperö first. There is a short walking path across the island, with more heather growing on the rocks which proved to be delightful.
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Photo Credit: Lynette

Cars were not to be seen anywhere so bicycles are the mode of transportation. If you need to haul more than will fit in a bike basket, there are “truck” versions to carry your stuff.

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Natasha discovered a jellyfish and was super excited.

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To have a proper fika, we needed coffee. Or at least tea. There wasn’t a cafe on Asperö so we took another short ferry ride to Brännö. We weren’t completely sure if had found a cafe since the establishment was rather…eccentric. I thought it looked like a junkyard in the Caribbean and it was a little disconcerting since I thought we were in Sweden.

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If you can spot Natasha below, her questioning pose perfectly describes our feelings of the place. This boat was the playground.

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The cafe seemed more like a bar to me, but the girls ventured up to inquire about tea. It was simple Lipton, but it was hot and once procured, we could have our fika.

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Photo Credit: Lynette

  • Our cinnamon rolls were from Da Matteo, the cafe right in the courtyard where we had lunch at the food trucks. There was a cardamon version and a cinnamon version for 30 SEK (approximately $3.75 USD). If you go there, the cafe has seating inside for cozy conversation, as well as free wifi. Very handy if you’re engaged and your fiancé is hundreds of miles away back in the States and you want to chat, as Maria did.
  •  Also there is a free restroom right inside the door. Always on the lookout for those.

The first roll I was given had a rather burnt top. Now, it’s not normally my habit to return something I’ve purchased just because it may not meet my expectations, especially food. However, I’m not always in Sweden, selecting a Swedish pastry to have a proper fika on a dreary, wet day. So I was bold and kindly asked if I could have a different cinnamon roll that wasn’t quite so brown on top. The gal behind the counter quickly exchanged my roll and I left a happy customer, feeling rather empowered by my confidence.

The shelter we dined in was a hodge-podge of a structure; held together with tarps, old metal frames and even duct tape. It made me think of our time in Bocas de Toro, Panama and Red Frog Island.
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While eating, we were entertained by a cell phone conversation overheard while having our little snack. Apparently an English fellow was trying to help his wife (or girlfriend) with a lock and key issue she was having back at their apartment, which proved to be quite humorous. Poor guy, he tried numerous times to figure out how the key was positioned in the lock and things just weren’t working. We were probably a little too amused at his (and her) lack of communication and the entire predicament.

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Photo Credit: Lynette

To the Seaside on a Sunday

8.6.2017

It was a quiet Sunday morning in Sweden, that found us relaxing, giving children baths, lingering over breakfast and lunch and planning a walk for the afternoon.

What a walk it turned out to be. Not far from our AirBnB house we happily ambled over rocks with wild Heather, meadows with sheep grazing in the distance and the anticipation of the sea ahead.

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I had no idea I would find Heather in Sweden, growing out and about on our walk. It will always make me think of the song, “The Heather on the Hill” from the 1954 musical, “Brigadoon”, sung by Gene Kelly.

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After several days of travel and city sight-seeing, green grass, wind, sunshine and water was just what we needed. I felt like all the city grime just washed away and my soul was revived.2-024

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Part of the reason I particularly loved this little seaside visit was…no sand. It’s just not my cup of tea and this was ideal. We watched the wind-surfers, got our toes wet in the North Sea and generally admired the view.

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How We AirBnB

I started listening to the podcast “How I Built This” back in June when I was taking Lincoln to and fro baby survival swimming lessons. Finally I had discovered a podcast that was interesting to me and that I could glean an unknown tidbit to share with Daniel (who seems to have already heard about everything) at mealtime. One of my favorite episodes was when the host, Guy Raz, interviewed the founder of AirBnB. We have been using lodgings from AirBnB since our first time to Europe in 2013 and the story of how Joe Gebbia and his business partner first started this slightly unusual and strange idea of renting out your own room/apartment/home was fascinating to me. Their idea was originally based around renting a bed out during conferences when hundreds of people would be flooding a town for an event. Never did they expect it to grow as it has. Remember, this was back when staying with strangers you met online was a little shady and plain…weird. But somehow, it has become common place and a growing venture all around the world.

Some of the locations we’ve stayed at are apartments attached to the owner’s home, or are completely separate apartments, or full homes as in the case here in Sweden. It was a spacious house in a quiet neighborhood and we felt right at home.


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One of the main features an AirBnB offers is the ability to cook our own meals. When doing serious site-seeing during the day, we do breakfast and supper at the apartment/house and try to keep our dining out to one meal a day which would be lunch.

However, AirBnB’s are consistently inconsistent with how well their kitchens are stocked. As an example, the apartment we stayed at in Paris had the best knives we’ve ever used. In fact, Daniel bought the exact one they had once we got back to the States to have for ourselves. We credited the fine cookware in the Paris apartment to it being…Paris! But the apartment our friends stayed in Paris just last year was quite the opposite and they had to go out and purchase a paring knife for their stay!  So over the years we’ve learned to bring a few of our personal kitchen’s favorites if possible.

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Tips for Making your AirBnB even more like home:

  • Bring your favorite kitchen utensils if possible. Daniel brought his own coffee grinder (similar one here) and I brought two of my favorite rubber spatulas. If we weren’t packing so minimally with carry-ons only, we would have brought our chef knife and a vegetable peeler. That was a plus about driving to Canada last fall: we could take otherwise hazardous and sharp objects along with us.
  • I’m not sure what it is with Europe, but in my experience, they don’t have washcloths. Take note, if that’s what you typically wash with or use in the States. There may be a larger sized towel-ish type of cloth, but nothing similar to a typical washcloth, in a reasonable size, ie: not hand towel size that slaps across your back like a beach towel. If anyone has any insight on this fact, I’d love to know about it. Let me know in the comments: What do Europeans use to wash their face with?! Why are there no hand-sized washcloths in the bathrooms?
  • Netflix is our main entertainment in the evenings if we aren’t tuckered out at the end of the day. Currently our show of choice is “Anne with an E.” We sometimes have to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or a SSH (Secure Shell) connection to make Netflix think we’re still in the States. If we want to use the larger TV screen at the AirBnB, Daniel likes to bring along an HDMI cable to connect the laptop to the TV.
  • Most grocery stores in Europe do not provide grocery bags for free. So it’s nice to have a largish bag of some sort that you can take empty to the store and fill it with your groceries after paying.
  • Speaking of groceries, enter, our go-to AirBnB dessert recipe: Decadent Flourless Brownies. We often want something sweet in the evenings, but may not have an entire cupboard full of baking ingredients. Cocoa, sugar, butter and eggs are all you need for this recipe and are typically items that don’t cost much and can be used up fairly quickly.
  • For us Americans who use Fahrenheit, remember that 176° Celsius is approximately 350° Fahrenheit.
  • Supper meals are kept pretty simple when we’re gone during the day and come back starving because we walked 6+ miles. Basically it’s a meat, a starch and a vegetable. We like to buy groceries day by day so we can keep track of how much we have and don’t overbuy. I hate wasting food and having to throw it out on our last day because we didn’t eat it all. It’s best to buy things that will for sure be used in one meal and be very realistic with how much food you and your group will eat. #noleftovers
  • Meal ideas include:
    • Ground beef with spaghetti sauce, instant rice (or pasta, if you prefer) and a frozen vegetable such as broccoli.
    • A new meal we loved with the girls in Norway and Sweden was Thai Curry. We used chicken or ground beef and made a sauce with a can of coconut milk and a couple spoonfuls of Red Thai Curry paste. We served it with sliced cucumbers, shredded cabbage (find the smallest possible!), green onions, cilantro and lime over instant rice.
    • If you have extra of those fresh items, you can use them for a taco flavored meal the next evening. Just add cheese, salsa and fresh tomatoes. Maybe even a bag of chips if you can eat them all.
    • We also like chicken thighs, cut up and served with a butter/white wine sauce and fresh sauteed mushrooms. Again, served with instant rice. (It’s fast, what can I say?)
    • Sweet potato hash with some sausage and a fried egg on top is divine. One of my favorite dishes ever.
    • Fish doesn’t require a long cooking time and is very tasty served with rice, fresh lemon juice and a side veggie. OR, try fish tacos with leftover green onions and cabbage. You can make a nice sauce with some yogurt and lime juice.
    • We use a lot of frozen vegetables since they don’t require any washing, chopping or dicing come supper time.

 

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The granola pictured here wasn’t used in the brownie recipe I mentioned. Just to clarify. It makes a simple breakfast paired with some thick, creamy, Turkish-style yogurt though.

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Check out the fridge (on the left) and the freezer (on the right) in our Swedish kitchen.

  • If we’re staying somewhere more than just a couple nights, we always try to get a house with a washing machine. A dryer isn’t as important for us since we seem to be pros at shrinking all our clothes when we get too close to one. But yes. Look for washing machines when searching for a good AirBnB.

This particular washing machine (on the bottom in the picture below) had us all stumped for a while. We searched high and low, literally, for detergent and could not find any. There were no boxes or containers in the cupboards and I couldn’t imagine our host not having any on hand to wash their own clothes. Eventually a little door near the floor on the washer was discovered and voilà! Detergent already IN the washer. Daniel then used a YouTube video from the company, explaining how to program it using the pre-loaded detergent and we started our first load.

This upright freezer looking box was a clothes dryer as well, but one where you just drape the clothes over the rods and hot air blows down from the top. Just close the door and let it heat.
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My laundry helper.

Any other tips you would include for staying at an AirBnB?