Sunday, July 5, 2009

Two days in Stockholm.

For July 4th this year I left Belgium to come back to the USA. I couldn’t really care less about the 4th, but this year was a special occasion. My family has come together to celebrate my grandmothers 80th birthday. Traveling 2000 miles for a 3 day weekend might seem a bit absurd, but my grandmother is part of my inspiration for living abroad. Through most of my youth, trips to my grandparents meant sitting in front of a slide projector seeing hundreds of images of worldly trips my grandparents took. After my grandfather passed away, I learned that in all my grandmothers’ travels, she never made it to the country of her heritage: Sweden. Later that year, I went on a trip with an aunt, an uncle and my grandmother. So this will be a special blog post, a description of two great days in Stockholm.

We stayed in Stockholm for about 10 days, and the trip ended almost exactly 2 years ago. I’ve written about the extended summer days in Brussels, but Stockholm is a completely different story. The sun doesn’t even start going down until 11 or 12pm, but even then it never fully sets. Two in the morning seems like dusk. We just barely missed the solstice parties that go on, but we got the benefit of the late nights. We celebrated July 4th by ourselves and it happened to be two of the most memorable days on the entire trip. These were days that my grandmother showed me that she was game for anything, and really showed me genuine interest in learning about her heritage first hand.

The morning of July 3rd we went through our normal routine of delicious Swedish breakfast: small pancakes (not pleta, but just small pancakes), a bit of muesli with yogurt (mine was lingonberry yogurt), and some cheeses and cured meats. I was accustomed to eating a large breakfast, but we ate so much filling stuff that we usually only needed a small lunch. My grandmother mentioned something about taking a ferry outside of Stockholm proper into the archipelago. We planned to stop at a small public island about an hour away at an island: Grinda. It seemed a bit like a local destination for beaches, and there was a school of kids going to swim. No cars are allowed on the island and they have to farm and tend to livestock for a small portion of their food. I’m not sure if there are any private residences, but there was a hotel on the island. This hotel served us one of the best meals I had eaten on the trip, which is impressive as my chef uncle was also on the trip as a culinary guiding force. Grandma downed a glass of champagne with us and we ate foie gras… at this point I can’t remember many more specifics. It was strange, the meal was memorable for its quality but I cannot remember for the life of me what I ate. We walked around for a good while, enjoyed some beautiful weather and got a little sun burned.

On our trip back we sat on the top of the boat in the sun, and got more sun burned. For the sake of comparison, I basically got sun burned north of Anchorage. This may come up in more blogs in the near future as I am a professional sun burn receiver, and have yet to receive a sun burn in Brussels. When we got back, Grandma needed a Fika. Fika is a late afternoon snack of a pastry and some coffee. I have no problems obliging to more delicious pastries with cardamom. During our Fika on the waterfront we discussed what we were doing that night. My Grandma seemed tired, but when we suggested seeing a Football game, her eyes lit up and she was ready to go. We went back to our hotel and changed, maybe I took a nap… and we headed out for the football match. We had an infamous “French hotdog” which I can guarantee is as French as I am. Getting to the game wasn’t easy, we had to take a metro… which was PACKED because of the game. Grandma had no issues sassing people if they ran into her, and she got much respect from the rowdy crowd. The game was great, but at the end of the night… we all just passed out from exhaustion.

The day before we left (July 4th) we all did a bit more relaxing, we just showed each other some of the things we discovered when we were on our own. Grandma showed us around Gammel Stan, or Old Town, again because it was her favorite spot. I took everyone out near the end of a metro line to see a Gunnar Asplund designed cemetery. We also spent a bit of time in the posh shopping district where we all got open faced sandwiches famous in Sweden. The most important event of the day was going out for drinks! We decided to go out to the Ice Bar, a small bar comprised entirely of… well ice. You may have heard about the Ice Hotel in Sweden, and this is an urban extension housed inside of a hotel. We were required to wear big silver parkas and gloves, and we each got one speciality mixed drink in a ice glass. We sat on deer skins on ice blocks, and my uncle convinced the bartender to give him a copy of the drink menu. This is the first time I was really able to drink with my grandmother, and we all enjoyed it for about… 15 minutes. After that we were so cold from sitting on ice we were ready to go. After settling on a nice Italian meal we all settled on a nice walk until it got dark (a few hours) and saw some new areas of the city. A good end to the trip.

Since that trip I have also seen my grandmother in Dublin, but I don’t know the next time she’ll cross over the Atlantic again. I know she’s got a bunch more trips in her, and there are still a lot of grand kids that need to see a small part of their own heritage as well, so I expect more Sweden trips in the future.

I dedicate this blog post to my grandmother: Happy Birthday! Thank you for giving me a great reason to go to Stockholm and give me the travel bug, I love you.


  1. This was a touching update. Also, I think it's the first time I have ever heard the world love come out of your mouth.

    Glad to finally see the human side fella.

  2. this was very touching. happy bday scott's grandmother!

  3. I hear you went to Amsterdam... but I don't see it on your blog.

  4. I heard you had a birthday yesterday but didn't see anything about it in your blog.