Baby’s 1st Plane Ride

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As new parents, you tend to hear a sorts of different advice. Advice on travel always seemed to be, that the best time to do it is before they can move around because then they will stay in one place.

Well, we decided to see what it would be like to take a long weekend trip with our then 4 and a half month bundle of joy. I’m writing this post a bit late and the little one is now 7 months.

The co-pilot and I love to travel. When we found out we were expecting, I was worried our traveling days were over. OK, we don’t have as much freedom as before and it’s not easy, but it is possible to travel with a baby. You just need to take a few precautions, give yourself lots of extra time and plan in advance.

If you have time off – Sweden gives a generous amount of “Mamma och pappa ledig’ (parental leave) – it’s nice to plan a trip or two during that time ūüôā

Lucky for us we live in Europe where there are inexpensive flights to different countries. Rome has a direct flight with Norwegian Airlines and it’s one of our favorite European cities. We had a really memorable first trip with the little one!

Here are some tips for your baby’s 1st plane ride (from our own experience and from other friends with kids)

*Call the airlines so you can check what exactly you can check-in and bring on with you.

*Give yourself lots of time to make it to check in. They make you wrap your stroller and car seat in plastic. But don’t expect that to protect it, our stroller cot hood fabric was damaged and Norwegian airlines said they weren’t liable. Somewhere in the fine print, it says something about it.

*Going through security, if you don’t want to carry your baby, bring a carrier.
Some airports allow you to take your stroller all the way through to the gate. Check if that’s possible when you check in.

*Depending on how old your baby is, bring something they can taste. Our little one was allowed tastes at 4 months, we let her suck on a piece of dried mango on landing. She also breastfed on takeoff.

*Bring a change of clothes for baby, and possibly a change of clothes for yourself.

*Bring a water bottle and just fill it up after security (a good travel tip even without a baby)!

*Keep all the passports and boarding passes together so it’s easier to show it when needed.

In Rome

 *Now for taking your baby around Rome, a stroller is OK for the city streets.
*For restaurants, I asked my Roman friend about a stroller. She told me just bring it and don’t worry they will find a place for it, and its true! One rainy evening, we stopped in at a pizzeria and we kept asking what to do with our stroller, one server said to leave it and he took it to the other side of the street where the restaurant had their freezer stuff. It was very nice of him.

For different sights in Rome
Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel

Glorious ceilings are best appreciated lying down.

There were a lot of steps getting down and around the museum. It is nice for the baby to look up and get to see the ceiling, so if you don’t mind carrying the stroller to get down to the Sistine Chapel then bring it, otherwise you can check it at the coat check area and use your carrier to get around.


St. Peters basilica – no strollers allowed, you need to leave it at the check-in desk before you can go inside. So bring a carrier!

For the Colosseum and Roman Forum, we left the stroller at the hotel and took the carrier switched between ourselves.

Panthenon РThis is OK with a stroller!
Best to avoid using a stroller at the Roman forum

Traveling with a baby has a challenges but it can be done! Make sure you take lots of breaks at a cafe or gelato place (I highly recommend gelato at Giolitti)! Pack some water and snacks for you and baby and of course, try to enjoy yourself ūüôā

Cappucino and chocolate cornetto make a great breakfast or snack ūüôā

Happy travels!

Giolitti
for delicious gelato!
Via Uffici del Vicario, 40
Rome, Italy
website

The Hunt For The Perfect Diaper Wipes

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There are so many diaper wipe brands to choose from. Some babies are more sensitive than others and we often want to give them the best of anything.

As new parents, we’ve tried quite a few different brands since our¬†bundle of joy arrived. My co-pilot already a natural with holding and changing the baby, was also the one who decided to grab different diapers and wipes to test out since I was busy with the new arrival. We also had some wipes we can’t get in Sweden, sent to us as early baby gifts from home.

Gone are the early days when she was just a few days old and we didn’t need to use diaper wipes. In the hospital ward, they told us to just use paper and water, especially since it was the first poop, and sticky.

From Libero to Pampers and Seventh Generation to Honest Co., there are soo many choices! No one type is perfect but a few are pretty good.

Here are our favorites:

Libero – Swedish brand available at Swedish grocery stores. We use their diapers too and they are great. Affordable. Thin, Soft, Non-perfumed wipes. They come out of package one at a time.
Parent tip: Libero Touch One is perfect for a 5kg newborn.

Honest Co. – Made with Organic materials. Come out one at a time. Not available in Sweden so we brought from North America.

Water wipes – Really smooth, big sheets. Free of chemicals. Sometimes comes out one at a time but most of the time I need to separate it myself. Not available in Sweden but can order from Amazon.de.

Seventh Generation – Wipes have prints on them which make them a bit rough. Organic. Available in North America but not available in Sweden.

Naty – Another Swedish brand available at Organic stores in North America and in Sweden of course. Organic, unscented sheets.

Diaper wipes can get expensive and you do go through a lot, especially early on when it feels like you do 10-12 changes a day. One bonus to signing up for the babyboxes – you get signed up for different companies like Libero and Pampers and they send you coupons for their diapers and wipes.

As yu can see from our favorite wipes, Libero and Naty are the only ones we can buy here. Libero brand is the cheaper of the two. Overall, we prefer Libero and Honest Co. (which we bring from home whenever we visit).

Hope this post helps! Good luck with your hunt for the best diaper wipes for your little one!

Bring Your Baby to the Movies!

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Image courtesy of SFBio.

I’ve always enjoyed watching movies at a theatre. I used to go a lot, pre-baby, and when I was back home – since movies in Sweden are pricey. I love watching movies from the comfort of my home too, but going out to the theatre is always a treat. Now that it’s the post-baby chapter of my life and I am enjoying Mammaledig (maternity leave), I wondered if it was possible to bring your little one to the movies.

After searching, I found that in Sweden this DOES exist and the theatre is right in the centre of town. Note: It also exists in Canada, but theatres that offer this seem to be mostly outside the centre of the city.

Walking to the movies on a beautiful winter day

I took my daughter to a Barnvagnsbio or ‘Stroller movie’ of the film, “Hidden Figures”, on International Women’s Day. She was very well behaved compared to a few other babies who cried.¬†She was watching at the beginning of the movie and after a change, I rocked¬†her to sleep and she slept soundly until the very end of the film ūüôā

One ticket for me and one for baby

At a “Stroller movie”, you can feed them, the volume is quieter, and the lights are just dimmed¬†so you can see the stairs if you need to step out. They also add a short intermission, if needed (they ask before the movie starts). It was funny watching a movie and hearing babies crying or making cooing noises. While I was standing, one baby was staring and talking to us. His mom turned around and saw us and realized he was just trying to chat with us haha. Too cute!

If you’re on mammaledig or pappaledig (parental leave), and your bundle of joy isn’t too fussy, why not check out a movie? Nice to take advantage of this activity while your little one isn’t walking around yet ūüôā

Popcorn is already pre-boxed here. Not as fresh as theatres back home?

Tips for going to the movies with your baby:

  • Come early so you have some space to park your stroller and change your baby if needed. There was only 1 change table in the main bathroom, the other bathroom¬†that was labelled with sk√∂tbord (change table) didn’t have a change table in it anymore – guess they were renovating it.

“Drink is best at the movies” but you can bring your own milk for baby of course ūüėČ

  • The movies change each week, check if it’s in English, otherwise the subtitles will only be in Swedish and that’s hard if you aren’t fluent in Swedish yet.
  • If you baby is eating snacks already, bring some for them.
  • Choose an aisle seat so you can get up easily.
  • Invite other friends to join!
  • Don’t forget to get a ticket for your baby – which doesn’t cost anything and is just for safety so they know how many people are in the theatre.

In G√∂teborg, there are 2 movie theatres that offer Barnvagnsbio or ‘stroller movie’. One is the Biopalaset right in the centre of town and the other is the Bio Roy on Avenyn.
Check out the theatre websites for more information on cost and movie times

BarnvagnsBio at Biopalaset
BabyBio at BioRoy

“Movie together with your baby”. Image courtesy of SFBio.

Enjoy your movie!

A Goodbye to Malta’s Azure Window

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We visited Malta in the summer of 2014, it was the summer of our wedding and honeymoon and the archipelago of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea was the first stop on our 5-week trip.

We had heard that Malta was not only beautiful but also that it has a lot to see and do. There’s the old historic sites, fortresses and grand cathedrals, the capital Valletta, beautiful beaches, diving, and even a ‘blue grotto’. The Maltese culture is it’s own and it’s cuisine is delicious. I especially enjoyed trying Maltese style pizza, rabbit pasta and fresh baked pies.

On the island called ‘Gozo’, one of 21 that make up the Maltese archipelago, Malta’s Iconic Azure Window stood. I didn’t know what to expect when my co-pilot said we were going to see something called the ‘Azure window’. It was recommended to us by some friends who used to live in Malta and some of their friends, one of which was from Gozo.

I remember when we arrived by bus and seeing how huge it was. It was beautiful.
I was in awe at how gorgeous a place this was, with the crashing waves against the cliffs and the window.

You could even go up on top of it, which we did. We were up so high and I remember seeing cracks in the top.

My co-pilot and I at the top of the Azure window. What a spectacular view!

 

I was saddened to learn about the collapse of the Azure window this week. A unique and beautiful rock formation crafted by the ocean was lost. Things like that don’t last forever so I’m glad we were able to visit.

Malta’s gorgeous Azure Window

There was one restaurant, a pizza place where we ordered takeaway veggie pizza. We took the pizza to go and sat and ate it at the bus stop, just in case.

That was one of the most memorable parts of our trip to Gozo and to Malta. It’s my profile photo because it deserves to be. We have seen a few other similar windows around Euripe, but Malta’s really stood out as something special.

Sitting back and enjoying the view.

The next time you are visiting something like the Azure window just remind yourself to enjoy it. After you are done snapping your photos, put your camera down and just really enjoy it with your eyes. Who knows, maybe one day what you were looking at will vanish…just as the beautiful Azure window did.

Feel like a real treat? How about a Cake Buffet!

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My co-pilot mentioned a¬†Cake lunch buffet to me awhile ago. I was always curious about it but felt like I needed to save it for a real treat. When I was pregnant, I decided I would wait until after the baby was born as didn’t want to have too much sugar. I finally tried this so-called “Cake Buffet” when the baby was almost 2 months old ūüôā

So it’s really a soup and cake buffet (soppa och t√•rta buff√©) but unlike other soup buffets in the city, there is only 1 type of soup available. The cakes are the real star, with about 5 different ones on offer, and¬†all pretty delicious.

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The cakes that are in the buffet typically vary on what’s available. I’ve only been to cake buffet twice in my life and I remember trying 1 really good passion fruit cake and another delicious chocolate one. But the next visit they had different cakes, and I still found something I liked.

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Where is this amazing cake buffet lunch?

At  several Steinbrenner & Nyberg locations in Göteborg.

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Steinbrenner & Nyberg – this cafe/bakery has a few locations in the city but only a few actually offer Cake buffet. The ones I know of are the bigger cafe near Centralstation, the Lindholmen location and the Steinbrenner & Nyberg in Saluhallen (The Market Hall).
They do have other Dagenslunch items available too, but if you want cake it’s extra.
The Soppa och tårta includes different crackers, bread, butter and cheese, and coffee.
For more info check out their website

So the next time you want to Treat yourself, why not All-You-Can-Eat Cake?

Happy Eating!

Thursday Only Means One Thing…

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…Pea soup and pancakes!

During the colder and darker seasons of Fall and Winter, when it’s Thursday, the lunch option (Dagenslunch) in Sweden includes¬†Pea soup and Pancakes (√§rtsoppa och pannkakor)!! This comes from an old Military tradition of eating both the soup and the pancakes.

Most of the time the pea soup is made from yellow peas and includes pieces of pork and ham. At some restaurants and even the grocery store, you can get vegetarian pea soup. If you get it at the grocery store, it will come in a tube shape like many other food items in the grocery store.

I’m not really a fan of the pea soup but I do enjoy the pancakes! Just a dollop of whip cream and some raspberry jam and you have yourself a tasty treat ūüôā
20170216_123836Pancakes and coffee make a great combination!

Dagenslunch or ‘Today’s lunch’¬†usually has 3 options, a meat, a fish dish and a vegetarian dish. Lunch at most places in Sweden, includes salad and coffee and cookies (dessert). When it’s Thursday, the dessert is replaced by pancakes!

Note: Swedish or European style pancakes are thin like a crepe but doughy unlike the thick American kind.

Instead of topping with butter and maple syrup, these pancakes are topped with whip cream and some kind of jam. Strawberry and Raspberry are popular choices.

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When it comes to All-U-Can-Eat, ‘serve yourself’ pancakes, it’s not unusual for people to skip right to dessert!

20170126_125633Happy Thursday and enjoy your pea soup and pancakes today!

Fettisdagen!

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Fettisdagen or Fat Tuesday is here! It’s the day before the Ash Wednesday fast and in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, it’s the day Swedes enjoy¬†Semlor or Whip cream buns. Those little (or big treats) can be found at cafes all over the city. Similar to a Hamburger but instead of a beef patty, it’s a bunch of whip cream and almond¬†paste in the centre of a cardamom bun. This treat can be quite filling.

20170126_133714There are different ways to eat this bun. You can take the top off and use it to scoop up the whip cream then bite it. I’ve also heard that you can soak it in milk before eating it.

Fork and knifing it or just pick it up to eat like a burger although I haven’t seen this one as the majority of Swedes I’ve seen still fork and knife their hamburgares (hamburger in Swedish)

There are few different Semlor or semla singular that I’ve noticed this year:

The Muffin Semla

20170204_114802The Muffin semlor are on the second to last level of the desserts above

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More muffin semlor with different flavors – instead of whip cream it’s cream cheese.

Semlor with colored buns

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7-Eleven in Sweden has an impressive baked goods selection compared with the 7-Elevens back home! With brownies, swedish cinnamon buns or Kanelbullor and even different chocolate cookies. They also offer a new Nuts semla.

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But the Traditional semla of course is a soft cardamom bun dusted with a little powdered sugar.

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Mini semlor are also available!

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You can even get them at a grocery store! Dahl’s is a bakery that sells their semlor in various Hemk√∂ps around the city.

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Happy eating and enjoy your semla or whatever huge meal or dessert you will eat on Fat Tuesday!

I cannot believe it’s our 4th year in Sweden. Here’s a look back at a previous Fat Tuesday blog

Weekend Brunch in Sweden – UPDATED

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√Ąr du hungrig? (Are you hungry?)

Summer might be over, but brunch dates don’t have to end. Here in G√∂teborg, Sweden, Weekend brunch can mean an extravagant buffet offering delicious Swedish fare or just a quaint little spot in one of the cafes of Old town with some coffee and Swedish pastries.

Since moving here, my co-pilot and I have made it a habit to treat ourselves to brunch every once in a while. When it was warm and sunny, we would sit on the patio and catch up from the week’s events. Now that it’s winter, sitting¬†indoors with a hot drink is my preferred choice, but if you’re a Swede and it’s cold but sunny¬†then sit outdoors on the patio with a warm blanket!

And whenever have guests, it’s a must to take them for a nice brunch as a welcome to the city. Some brunch buffets are only offered on Sundays and start at noon, while other brunch places around the city end at noon. Check before you go. Swedes are very plan-y so if you want to try a brunch place, I would recommend booking a table ahead of time or going early.

We have been to a few really nice brunch places here in Göteborg. Here are some of our favorites.

Park Avenyn Cafe

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For a fancier brunch place, I’d recommend Park Avenyn Cafe. We discovered this place a year or so ago and it was unfortunately on break during the summer! Brunch buffet features some delicious typical Swedish dishes such as warm and cold smoked salmon, pickled herring, Swedish Kaviar and even thin European style pancakes. With a good selection of¬†cakes and pastries, the dessert is a plus. Coffee and tea is included and the ambience is nice. Only indoor seating available.

Ritz Hotel

20150816_123123The Ritz offers dagens lunch(daily lunch) but on weekends they offer more smoked salmon, many different types of herring and traditional shrimp salads. They also have a hot food section with the usual breakfast items like scrambled eggs and sausage, but they also have roast veggies, bbq chicken and pannkakor. The buffet includes a large salad selection with many different potato and veggie salads. For dessert, they have some really good brownies with shredded coconut on top(I remove the coconut), apple
crumble.¬†and fresh fruit. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but well worth a visit. Outdoor seating is available.

We have also tried the Casino Cosmopol brunch that offers an American style brunch.Of course, it’s Sweden so it’s Swedish American style. They had a few good dishes like the smoked salmon with cream cheese and they offered American Style pancakes (althought they kept running out).

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Smaller brunch places

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Most of the cafes in old town, ‘Haga’, offer a frukostbuffe (Breakfast buffet). They give you a plate that usually includes Yogurt (sometimes Turkish) and maybe a protein and you add muesli, nuts, fruit and scones, croissants, hard boiled egg, and whatever else they have that morning. Coffee is an additional cost. Frukostbuffe is usually served until 12pm and then they switch over to Lunch which is soup and various salads (Salad bar with lunch is common here).

Kafferosten

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Le Petit Cafe

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Haga and the surrounding area is a great location for brunch because afterwards you can wander over to the city park for a walk or the botanical garden and it’s a lively area already.

Eva’s Paley

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Cafe Kringlan

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Around here it seems like mostly couples or groups of girls go for brunch, but I think it’s perfectly fine to go for brunch with guy friends and/or alone. Why not treat yourself if you feel like it?

We are so lucky to be surrounded by so many awesome choices for brunch ūüôā

Note: If you are a new parent (like me!) – you can still do brunch. Check out my Parent Tips below.

Happy eating!

Park Avenyn Cafe
Kungsportsavenyn 36-38 ‚ÄĘ 411 36 G√∂teborg
website
Parent tip: Make a reservation and mention that you need space for a stroller.

Ritz
Bastionsplatsen 2, 411 08 Göteborg
website
Parent tip: Make a reservation and mention that you need space for a stroller. They are pretty accommodating.

Casino Cosmopol
Packhusplatsen 7 411 13 Göteborg
website
Bring Swedish ID or your passport as they check before you enter the casino.
Parent tip: Sadly, no babies or kids allowed at the casino even if it’s just to the restaurant.

Le Petit Cafe
website
They have a few locations around the city. The Haga location is a bit smaller so if you want more table room visit the Linné location which also includes a patio. Their brunch includes Turkish yogurt and now includes a hot drink, a smoothie, and unlimited scones/bread.
Parent tip: The Linné location is much better for strollers as the other location is cramped.

Kafferosten
Linnégatan 62 413 08 Gothenburg
This place remains our favorite frukostbuffe with it’s unlimited freshly baked croissants and a choice of salami and brie, Turkey or Ham. The breakfast is available all day, but if you get there before 13:00 they have everything out so you can¬†assemble the plate yourself. On a nice sunny day, it’s nice to sit out on their patio!
Parent tip: It’s a small cafe so strollers must be parked outside. If you have a smaller baby, try to sit in the couches so you can bring the cot or bassinet in and put it on the floor.

Eva’s Paley
Kungsportsavenyen 39, 411 36 Göteborg
website
This cafe offers brunch on both Saturday and Sunday. You get a small hot drink of your choice, but you can upgrade it to a large for an additional cost. It also comes with a smoothie, All-you-can-eat flavored yogurt (Mango or raspberry), hard-boiled eggs, bread and cheese. They make delicious bread and sometimes they even have shrimp salad (called skagenröra in Swedish). Get there before 12:00 as they clean everything up promptly at 12:00.

*Pro-tip* It is a pretty popular cafe so get there early to avoid missing the brunch. One time we were waiting in line and it was 10 min to 12:00 when we finally got to the cashier and they almost told us it was too late..but we complained we were in the long line for at least 10 minutes..
Parent tip: Strollers can be brought it, but there are a few steps to get to the main eating area. There are also 2 small tables on the same floor as the Cashier so they are perfect if it’s just you and your baby.

Cafe Kringlan
Haga Nygata 13, 413 01 Göteborg
Göteborg Tourist website
Recently, we tried this Cafe in Haga and it included Pannkakor, or thin Swedish pancakes, and Eggs in a bun (similar to ‘Toad in the hole’). It also included a hot drink of your choice and a smoothie.
Parent tip: It’s a small cafe so strollers must be parked outside

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‘Toad in the hole’

Baby Boxes For the Baby On the Way!

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Hej! When you are an expectant or new parent, it’s always nice to get advice and tips from friends who have already been through the same things.

One of those friends shared a tip with me about ‘Baby boxes’ that are available for parents-to-be. Swedish ‘Baby boxes’ are literally boxes full of different baby items and samples and are offered free to residents of Sweden, not to be confused with the Finnish baby box that babies can sleep in. You only¬†need to register online and then the Babyboxes are available to pick up at various locations around the city.

During my pregnancy, I made sure to order the babyboxes from babybox.se and another one I found on Libero.se.

I ordered 4 baby boxes total and each came with different items for baby AND mom.

Here’s a quick look inside each box.

Babyboxes from babybox.se:
Babyproffsens Babybox can be picked up at any location of Babyproffsen
Lloyd’s Apotek Babybox can be picked up at any¬†Lloyd’s Apotek location
Apoteksgruppens Babybox can be picked up at any Apoteksgruppens location

Just give them your person number when you pick it up.

The Libero Startbox can be ordered here and picked up at any ICA Maxi location.

When I went to pick up my Libero startbox, they told me to put my name on a waitlist
and come back when they had more stock. But just before I left the store, they told me they had found a startbox for me, so I didn’t need to come back ūüėČ

It only takes a few minutes to sign up and you should receive a confirmation email afterwards that you can also show when you pick up the babybox.

You may not use everything in the babyboxes, but it is nice to have little samples and coupons. You can see what you like when your baby is around and the boxes are FREE afterall!

Hope this post was helpful, especially for the English speaking Parents-to-be in Sweden. Enjoy your babyboxes and the special time before your little bundle of joy arrives ūüôā

Weekend in Glorious Rome

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We met some family for a long weekend in Rome recently and although short, it was filled with some good eats and visits to all of our favorite spots!

Having visited Rome twice before, we had already seen most of the famous tourist sights. We were there mainly to spend time with family and show them what makes Rome so amazing. Whenever we visit a city, one of our favorite activities is to¬†walk and explore. When we say ‘walk’ we mean walk all day haha.. Sometimes we actually tire out whoever we are with ūüėČ

We got lucky with the whether that weekend as the sunshine kept us company for most of the weekend, except for a bit of rain that didn’t last very long.

What makes Rome so special and why it’s one of my favorite cities to visit? Rome has so much to¬†offer. It’s not just the history, the museums, the squares or the food. It’s all of those things together. One can easily spend days just walking around to different neighbourhoods and there is always new things to see (and eat) when you come back for a visit.

Here are some of my favorite places in Rome:

Good Eats!

Giolitti
Offering some really delicious and inexpensive Gelato.
How can one say ‘No’ to the whip cream on top?
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Walnut, Dark Chocolate with a dollop of whip cream.

Pizzeria Ai Marmi
Located in the Trastevere neighbourhood, it is well worth the visit. It was full right when it opened with mostly locals. The Napoletana pizza is cheesy and salty and has to be my favorite. In addition to the pizza they offer other Roman/Italian snacks like Fried Zuchinni flowers, and Arancini (rice balls).

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Dolce Maniera
We stumbled upon this bakery on our first trip to Rome. It’s open 24 hours and popular at all times. They offer a multitude of desserts and snacks. Be sure to try their Tiramisu which they give you a generous portion.

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Nice views
The top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome offers an amazing view of the Vatican and the city.You can stop along the way up at a cafe to take a break and take in the sight of the immense city below you.

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Roman Forum
Included with the Coloseum ticket, there’s a great view spot of the Roman Forum.

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“Typewriter building”
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (locals compare it to a wedding cake or Victorian typewriter)
It does cost extra to take the elevator higher, but you can still get a nice view in the ‘free’ area.

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Remember, when in Rome…¬†

Don’t forget to enjoy an Italian coffee at one of the cafes and people watch. Take it easy and walk around. You may be surprised by the beautiful square you find after walking down a random street. Walk into any random church and you’ll be surprised by how beautiful it is on the inside! And as in all countries you travel to, it helps to try to learn a few words in the local language, the locals will appreciate it:)

Happy Travels!

 

A Visit to the Beautiful Danish Capital

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The Danish capital overlooking the √ėresund strait and only a few minutes from Sweden across the bridge, Copenhagen is a great weekend gateway! Hans Christian Andersen, who “wrote a couple¬†of fairy tales”, must have truly been inspired by the beautiful city of Copenhagen with it’s beautiful harbor, viewspots, and castles.

It’s a lot more international than the other capitals and the cultural and geographic link between mainland Europe and Scandinavia. Traditional architecture blends with the modern, the pastries are divine and it’s a city full of character, colorful houses and unique areas like Christiana new town.

Copenhagen is my favorite Scandinavian Capital and although I’ve been a few times before, there is always more to discover and our recent Valentine’s weekend trip was wonderful!!

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Woke up to a little snow sprinkled over the city. 

We walked along the waterfront to the palace and the marble church where all the tourists were checking out the changing of the guards.

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Perfect guard formation at the Amalienborg, the winter home of the Danish Royal Family.

There are a couple boat tours you can choose from at Nyhavn, but we went with the one that was only 40 Danish Kroner for a 45 min ride around the canal. We were surprised that the tour is still running in winter but there is a covered area. Although, I don’t recommend sitting in the covered area¬†if you want to take some photos as the cover seems to obscure the view. The tour was in English and Danish.

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You can choose to sit in the covered area of the canal tour boat or in the back. It is a bit chilly sitting outdoors so make sure you are well covered.

I always look forward to a visit to Denmark for the delicious pastries that don’t have cardamom ūüėČ Danishes as they are known in North America were brought to Denmark by the Austrians (Weinerbrod) but became a Danish specialty and boy are they good!
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There were raspberry and apple pastries with the raspberry one being sweeter. I liked the apple pastry best.

20160213_163321…and of course the chocolate pastry found at various bakeries around the city were heavenly. Pair it with a coffee and you have the ultimate coffee break snack (or “Fika” in Sweden)

Hungry for lunch, we tried one of the Hotel recommended restaurants close to Nyhavn and the hotel, for an open faced sandwich or Danish¬†Sm√łrrebr√łd. Believe it or not, there is a slice of rye bread under all that delicious shrimp and egg!

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This brisket sandwich included some horse radish butter for a little extra kick.

Our favorite viewspot in the city has to be from Church of Our Savior steeple but this was my first time up the Round Tower (or RundeTaarn in Danish) so that was pretty cool!

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One guy was walking round and round with his selfie stick in the air lol

There is a little doorway that leads into the centre of the tower. That can be scary if you think that only the glass you are standing on is stopping you from dropping down the tower.

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When we¬†moved to Sweden, our very first trip in Europe¬†was to Copenhagen. After that, I realized how easy it was to get out of town and explore a new city or country and we have been traveling since ūüėȬ†Our first visit to Copenhagen was¬†in¬†April and we were lucky to get some beautiful Spring weather complete with blue skies and sunshine. Check my blog post on our¬†Easter trip to Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Admiral Hotel
Beautiful old stone warehouse converted into a hotel, in a great location
right next to the waterfront and near Nyhavn! We had a nice loft suite here.
The Admiral Hotel on Tripadvisor

Cafe Fremtiden
For some delicious¬†Danish¬†Sm√łrrebr√łd.
website

Lagkagehuset
Stop at this cafe for some delicious pastries and bread.
website

Holms bager
There’s a nice location on the walking street and it
was nice to tuck in here to warm up and take a break from the shopping
and exploring
Bakery’s FB page

Thanks for reading!

How Swedes Celebrate Fat Tuesday

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It’s that time of year again, when the Swedes celebrate Fettisdagen (The Fat Tuesday) or should I say, when Swedes stuff their faces with whip cream buns called ‘Semla’! They always make sure to have a bunch of Semla at work on Fat Tuesday and then everyone tries hard¬†not to fall asleep right after Hahaha..

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“Celebrate Fat Tuesday with us! Order already now!” Beautiful window displays of Semlor all over the city!

Semla or Semlor (plural) are available at one of the many bakeries or konditori around town, at grocery store where they are usually sold in packages of two or even at the
7-Eleven, which has some really nice desserts btw. Nothing like the 7-Elevens back home.

My first couple of years in Sweden, I always made sure to have one (or 2)… but I have since learned my lesson. Those buns can¬†be quite filling!

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They come in different sizes from mini to huge and they are all pretty delicious (and fatty lol)

Aside from the delicious whip cream, semla also have¬†some vanilla and almond paste. The bun itself, of course, uses the spice, cardamom. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Swedish pastries…most of them use cardamom..which I and a few other expats decided we aren’t so fond of , now that we’ve realized how much Swedes like it in everything ūüėČ

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“Cream with love” Coffee and Semla only 30sek (which is about $4.50)

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An evening view of the Göteborg canal on Fettisdagen

Happy Eating!
(Hope you enjoyed Fat Tuesday and celebrated with whatever food your heart desired!)

Island Life: Gili Air

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IMG_3901As soon as we arrived on Gili Air, our Dutch friend who now lives on the island, said “Welcome to Paradise”.¬†This little island, about 45min fast boat ride from Amed (on Bali), can really be described as paradise.

Complete with white sand beaches, beautiful sunset views, great snorkeling and scuba diving, the island is also car-free, with only bikes, electric scooters or horses, ‘Cidomo’,¬†to travel around on the island. It’s a beautiful place and I was lucky to spend a week here during our recent trip to Bali.

IMG_3818From the port to the dive shop the Cidomo ride cost us 100,000Rp (for 2 people and our bags) and saved us from lugging our bags all the way there. You can also bargain with the driver about the price but with our luggage we thought the price was reasonable.

20151126040944First few minutes on the island and we were in a horse cart lol. What an adventure!

There is one main road around the island with guesthouses and hotels running along it. Most places have their own restaurant or cafe that serves guests breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner too – local Indonesian dishes and some Western dishes are available. The restaurants are often right on the beach and if you buy food, you can use a sunbed for free.

20151202_155715This is the cafe associated with the dive shop we dived with, Blue Marine Dive. They had great smoothies and mozza sticks! A few places also started putting out their Xmas decorations.

There are a couple of really fancy hotels on Gili Air with fancy restaurants. We stopped to have cocktails at one of them, the Grand Sunset. The views were amazing and the mango cocktail was pretty delicious.

20151130114725Gili Air is a Muslim island with a mosque and calls to prayer during the day. The island is Pork-free and having a dog as a pet is forbidden, although we did see a couple of dogs who most likely belonged to expats on the island.

20151130125655No pork around here! Beef bacon and pineapple fried rice.

Gili Air is one of the three Gili islands and is the closest one to Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most developed and considered the party island. Gili Meno is the least developed and Gili Air is quiet with some nightlife, great for families and snorkeling and diving among other water activities. During our stay on Gili Air, the volcano on Lombok wasn’t visible because it was still steaming.

IMG_3960Gili Meno being the least developed of the 3 islands, this was one of the only restaurants on this side of the island. We stopped here during our snorkel tour.

I had a wonderful stay on Gili Air.¬†The locals were always friendly especially to me (since they kept thinking I was also Indonesian). Many people working on Gili Air live on Lombok and commute daily. We saw boats full of locals head out at the end of the day. They told us Lombok didn’t have as many job opportunities. Aside from lounging around at a cafe for WiFi, I spent time at the hotel’s pool, scuba diving and snorkeling right in front of our bungalows. It was one of the most relaxing weeks of our vacation.

20151127_11383220151127_113828Our hotel, Kaluku Bungalows, served us some really nice Balinese breakfasts. Our favorite was the banana pancake with fruit plate and Bali coffee. Kaluku started getting really busy during the end of our stay and the kitchen was slow. They did only have one girl, Sophie, making all the breakfasts and their restaurant was still under construction. Hopefully, they can hire a few more staff to help with the breakfast rush.

20151202_130447Locals hard at work trying to build the kitchen for the restaurant. They told us that they hoped to finish it before high season in Dec 2015 (so it must be done by now!).

IMG_3876Beautiful Kaluku Bungalows with a king bed, tv, and really great AC.

IMG_3852Our bungalow had an outdoor bathroom with a rainshower.

We dived with Blue Marine Dive for a few days during our stay. They even let me borrow fins on the days I didn’t dive so I could snorkel. I had a few really amazing dives where I saw so many turtles, a huge wrasse, and baby reef sharks sleeping under rocks. Awww!

FB_IMG_1454027343146Photo credit to my co-pilot for this shot of the baby shark sleeping.

IMG_3891Kitty supervising the scuba gear preparations.

We signed up to do snorkel tour one of our days on Gili Air which was 100,000Rp/person. The snorkel tour started around 9am and took us to 4 different spots for snorkeling around the Gili islands. We stopped on Gili Meno for lunch and were back in Gili Air around 2pm.

20151130052722There were a couple of turtle sightings during the snorkeling and beautiful coral around the islands. One turtle was chowing down on his lunch not caring about us snorkelers swimming above him. I guess they are used to people or maybe he was just too busy eating.

Although, I must admit it wasn’t the best snorkel tour, they did have one guide in the water and he directed us to where the turtles and fish were. We ended up swimming with him the first couple of snorkel spots but after lunch, he stayed on the boat and we just snorkeled around and when they called us back we all had to return to the boat.

IMG_3985A few from our group who were still snorkeling after they called us in.

Noone was left during this time luckily although it was low season so there weren’t as many boats out there. In high season, I can imagine how confusing it can be, you really need to remember the color or name of your boat and stay near to your group!

20151130061746Our group almost at our Red and Blue snorkel boat.

IMG_3955One of the other snorkel tour boats and their snorkelers.

There was also that incident with one of the girls who was boarding the boat from the other side of the island. It was low tide so the boat couldn’t get close enough to shore, so she ended up having to walk out onto coral to meet the boat. The problem was she had a bag with her that she refused to get wet, so she couldn’t swim toward the boat, and it was hard to reach her with the waves. She finally made it onboard and we all clapped but her feet and legs were cut up and the snorkel guide and boat captain could only say sorry. We gave her some bandaids and disinfectant after the snorkel tour but she didn’t let that stop her from enjoying the snorkeling.

IMG_3950Walking back to our snorkel boat after lunch. Long way to go since it was still low tide.

IMG_3972One of the residents of Gili Meno. I was admiring his cool bike so he let me take a photo.
IMG_3978This was someone’s ‘pet’ on the Gili Meno at the restaurant we stopped at for lunch. This looks like an eagle. They said they used him for hunting.

Gili Air is a great place to chill and spend some time relaxing in paradise. If you want to just relax and sit on a beach or sunbed you can. If you are interested in doing more activity, you have snorkeling, scuba diving and other water activities to choose from.

It offers something for everyone which is why it’s great for families. There are also fewer people trying to sell things to you when you are just sitting on the beach. This makes it much quieter than the beaches on Bali and a nice break from having to say “No, Thanks!” to people offering to sell bracelets etc. Island life is marvelous when you find yourself on an island like Gili Air.

20151127014439Kaluku Bungalows
You have the option of staying in one of their front bungalows or their new modern rooms in the back (next to the swimming pool) Wifi is much better by the pool. Breakfast is included.
Rooms from 350,000RP and up.
Website: Kaluku Bungalows

Blue Marine Dive
New dive boat and new equipment. Guides were great and very knowledgeable about the dive sites. We were often in our own small group when diving.
Website: Blue Marine Dive

Travel Tips

*To get to Gili Air you can take a fast boat from Amed or Padang Bai. The fast boat stops at Gili Trawangan on the way to Gili Air. They can get full, so it’s best to book it a day ahead. If you show up in the morning and expect to get on you may be disappointed. Be prepared to get wet, as you will need to walk into water to get on the boat.

IMG_3815Waiting patiently for our bags to be offloaded from the boat after arriving in Gili Air.

*Make sure you see the sunset at least once. Seeing the sun sink into the ocean as the sky turns to pink and orange is a beautiful sight.

IMG_4002Sunset walk to get some dinner

*Snorkel! (be sure to rent fins as well it will help you cover more distance and swim stronger if there is current)

*Have a massage it’s a bit more on this island than on Bali but still much less than back home and so worth it. Walk around and check prices at different hotels around the island. If they aren’t busy, they might also offer you a discount.

*Walk around and see the island. There is a ship building area near the port and many restaurants as you walk along the road. It’s also nice just to see where the island residents live. It’s one thing to sit and enjoy the beach, but it can also be interesting to see what the residents live like. Everyone is friendly there and saying Hello or greeting them in Bahasa Indonesia (Apa Kabar? or How are you?) is always a nice thing to do as you explore the island.

20151127054546There were so many cafes and bars along the sandy main island road.

20151127055016Some land for sale, with cattle just hanging around in the middle of the island.

20151127063619Fish drying in the sun behind some local’s home.

*Wifi is hard to find on the island so be prepared to disconnect for a few days and enjoy it!

*There are 2 atms on the island so don’t worry about having to bring a lot of cash with you when you go to the Gili islands.

*During rainy season the torrential downpour can come down for hours and it can be really windy. The sandy main road will likely be flooded so stay close to your hotel/bungalow.

*Don’t order ‘American’ food and expect it to be good… Just stick with the local cuisine. Mozzarella sticks are the exception though. They were crispy, cheesy and delicious. The nachos I had on the other hand was the most disappointing meal and something I really didn’t need to order.

20151126044113For really delicious food, be sure to visit Chill Out Bar on the island! They offer some incredibly delicious grilled skewers and grilled fish dishes. Check out my Trip Advisor review for more details.

*PLEASE DO NOT harrass the turtles. We had a few run-ins with idiots touching the turtles. One girl was completely rude about it and another guy was pushing the turtle up. Poor turtles are at risk for infection or bacteria when people leave their oily hand prints all over their shell. Touching turtles is illegal in many places around the world and dive shops often enforce this. Just let them be and take your photos and video without getting too close ūüôā

FB_IMG_1448754980809Happy Travels!

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Island Life in Bali: Amed

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20151125_140728Our first visit to Amed, the easternmost point of Bali, was during our big trip to Southeast Asia about 3 years ago. Amed is one of a group of fishing villages in the area – Amed, Jemeluk, Bunutan, Lipah, Selang, Banyuning and Aas. I remember how much fun we had relaxing in our 2-storey brand new modern guesthouse, where we stayed on the second floor. We saw the most gorgeous sunsets with Mt. Agung from our private balcony and spent the day snorkeling and swimming.

IMG_8262We even did a road trip from Amed to the north of Bali and left our bags at the guesthouse. We have such amazing memories from our time there where, Wayan, the guy who owned the guesthouse used to tell us not to rush ‘Slowly, Slowly’, we were on vacation after all. A lot can change in 3 years, and as soon as we arrived in Amed this time around, we noticed just how developed it has become compared to our first visit there.

IMG_8299  Our motorbike helmets IMG_2679The main road through Amed

We used to have to walk on the road for a few minutes until we reached a store and restaurants. Our guesthouse was right on the black sand beach but now there is another guesthouse next to it, even closer to the beach. There are even more restaurants and guesthouses on the right and left , where there used to only be a pen for pigs, goats and a small hut. I remember saying ‘Good Morning!’ or ‘Selamat Pagi’ (Bahasa Indonesia) to our neighbours each day.

IMG_2558The neighbour’s piglets, back when there weren’t other guesthouses next door.

IMG_2532IMG_2758Our old Guesthouse ‘Buburacok’ 3 years ago when it was the only guesthouse standing there. On our current trip, another guesthouse had been built infront and there was a restaurant as well.

IMG_8329There are also so many dive shops now. 3 years ago I remember only a handful but now just walking along the main road it seems like 20+ dive shops have sprung up probably because of the Tulamben wreck but also the fantastic diving in the Jemeluk bay and a few other bays in the nearby fishing villages.

I did my first Night Dive here in the bay just by the dive shop and I will always remember coming up to see a gazillion stars in the night sky. It was absolutely phenomenal. There are even a couple shallow wrecks you can see snorkeling very close to shore.

It’s great to see that our old favorite spot in Bali is doing well. It is busier than before (There are a few places playing live music but it’s nowhere near as crazy compared to some other places in Bali) and it still retains that chill feeling that it always had.

IMG_8251On our trip 3 years ago…My co-pilot taking in the view.

If you are looking for a quieter, less crowded place away from the busy south of Bali, Amed is a wonderful option. There is excellent snorkeling (beautiful coral, and lots fish), beautiful black sand beach, and really friendly locals. Amed remains a nice, relaxed place to visit, but it really was special during our first visit 3 years ago…

IMG_2755Mt. Agung, some outrigger boats and the black sand beach.

IMG_3783Delicious grilled fish served at the local cafes was a real treat.

20151125_075712When in Bali, one should try the balinese breakfast which consists of rice flour pancake (plain or with fruit often banana or pineapple), fruit and bali coffee (similar to turkish coffee, where you stir it and let it settle making sure not to drink that sludge on the bottom)

20151125_154611The dive shop let us borrow sit down paddle boards. After our morning dives, we decided to try them out.

Roosters were all over our beach area. They belonged to the guest house we stayed in.

IMG_2761Beautiful black sand beach and lots of outrigger fishing boats.

Getting to Amed
We hired a car to take us from Ubud to Amed. This takes about 3 hours with traffic. We paid around 400,000Rp for 4 of us but no stopping at any sights on the way. On our first trip there we paid about 300,000Rp for 2 of us and we stopped at the Water Palace and a few other temples in the way.

Ask your guesthouse in Ubud or wherever you are in Bali if they can help with transport. Otherwise, there are drivers asking you about transport all over Ubud and Bali. Be sure you negotiate to get the price you want.

Where to Stay
There are many Guesthouses to choose from when you come to Amed. You can either book ahead or you can get to Amed and then walk around and see what’s available. The latter option allows you to negotiate a price after you see what the accommodation looks like. This is something we often did in Bali and it worked out quite well. We ended up staying in Jemeluk bay which has some fantastic snorkeling (rent some fins with your snorkel and mask!). Our guesthouse was called ‘Warung Ombak’ – Warung means ‘cafe’ as most guesthouses also have little cafes on the beachfront which serve their guests breakfast and offer lunch/dinner. Make sure to ask whether breakfast is included in your nightly rate.

Scuba Diving
Amed has some really great reef wall diving right in Jemeluk bay but also as I mentioned above at the Tulamben wreck. Bali has a few different areas for diving as well such as Nusa Lembongan and a couple places in the North of Bali. We decided to go with a French dive shop next to the cafe we went to when we first arrived in Bali. They were really nice and knowledgeable about the area and they offered us a discount on the boat ticket to Gili Air as well. We did a day of diving BLD divers. Check out their website here

Remember to really enjoy the place you are traveling to. Take in the sights, sounds and enjoy each moment. In a few years, it will likely be a much different place than you remember, but hopefully you will always have wonderful memories from your time there. I know we will always cherish the memories we have from our special time in Amed 3 years ago, and the new memories from our most recent trip in December 2015.

Happy Travels!

A Little Taste of Bangkok

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20151115045641 On our way to Bali we stopped in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, to tour a couple temples, take advantage of the cheap and excellent back/body massages and of course, try some delicious Thai food.

Our super cheap flight was from Oslo to Bangkok and at under 2000sek it was a decent flight. OK, so the flight does not include any food or a check-in luggage, costs extra. You also can’t check in online so add some extra time for that at the airport. It was, however, on a 787 Dreamliner and we had in-flight entertainment with movies, music and TV.

As soon as I boarded, I was greeted in Thai. side note: It’s great that Norwegian airlines hires so many Thai people. There were both Norwegians and Thai passengers on the flight and it’s nice that they can communicate with the Thais onboard.

We arrived at 7am Bangkok time and we made the most of our day operating on little sleep and jetlagged. This was our second visit to Bangkok and the first visit since our big Asia trip a few years ago. We weren’t here to see all the touristy sights. We knew that we were just there for a day stopover to enjoy some of our favorite Thai street food and walk around.

Before walking around and checking out a couple temples we didn’t see last time, we had to stop to grab a bite to eat.

20151115044800Pineapple fried rice

Mmmmm, I really love fried rice and don’t get to eat it very often. Notice how the portions are smaller. It is Asia afterall.

20151115044936 Spicy Papaya salad made with Green Papaya.

There is Thai food in Sweden because Swedes are obsessed with Thailand, but they don’t always have green papaya for this dish. It also isn’t usually very spicy as Swedes don’t like spice. This one had lots of chili and we added even more chili flakes. We also ordered Green Curry and a couple of Ice Coffees (another favorite).

We started the temple touring with a visit to Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha) and it started to downpour so we took a little break for some massages.

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After that we visited the Wat Po Temple with the huge reclining Golden Buddha and then took the ferry across to Wat Arun.

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20151115083424 Noodle soup chicken with lots of chili. This bowl of hot spicy broth really hit the spot and was one of our favorite dishes from our first trip to Thailand. We even found a place with locals and sat down on the plastic chairs to consume our deelish meal.

We didn’t spend any time on the tourist street, Khao san Road, the first time we visited Thailand but we did visit it this time as we stayed just a few streets away.

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Taking a River Taxi is good way to see Bangkok. It’s low cost option of travel and you get to see the city from the river. Beware as it can get crowded. People don’t like moving down into the boat and prefer to stay by the exit which can be annoying. Be sure not to wait on the floating platform as some boats can hit the platform (even lightly) when they dock and that platform isn’t very stable. Keep an eye out for the flag color of the boat you want and get ready when you see it approaching. The different colors represent the different ferry lines. If you aren’t sure which to take, there are maps at the ferry stops and you can always ask the ticket people.

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We ended our perfect day in Bangkok with some dinner and drinks. We ended up chatting with other travelers at the shared table and found many were just starting their travel in Thailand, while another couple was just ending it. Ah it brought back memories of when we started our big SE Asia trip in Bangkok a few years ago.

20151115141051My co-pilot enjoying our Pad Thai dinner and Beer.

20151115_205202Chocolate Banana Roti

We used to eat this snack all the time during our last visit to Thailand, it’s like a folded crepe and you can choose the delicious flavor/fruit you want.

Being Bangkok just for a day reminded us of how much we enjoyed Thailand. There is a lot to see, a lot to eat and the weather although humid was a welcome break from the winter in Sweden. Even after traveling all over Europe the last couple of years, this most recent trip which included this day in Bangkok, trips to Indonesia, and Malaysia, it made me realize that SE Asia will always hold a special place in my heart and remains one of my favorite places to travel to and live like kings while doing it! Cannot wait to visit Thailand again sometime soon!

Travel tips:
-If you are planning a trip to SE Asia, many start in Thailand because it is a good way to slowly adjust to SE Asia as it is the most developed for tourism than the neighbouring countries. We started in Thailand during our 5-month SE Asia trip and it was a wonderful place to learn to scuba dive, and get acclimated to traveling.

-Thailand allows you to stay in the country for one month, and often the airlines will ask you to show your departure flight out of Thailand before they let you board your flight. So it would be a good idea to book your onward flight before you fly to Thailand. If you over stay your Thai visa, you need to pay some fines on your way out.

-If traveling from Scandinavia, Norwegian Air is a great option offering low budget long haul fares to Bangkok.

-Thailand has removed the old visa requirement for many countries, we used to have to pay for a visa on arrival, so be sure to check if your country is on this list.

-When traveling in SE Asia it might be a good idea to check whether it is rainy or dry season. If it is rainy season, the torrential downpour will likely stop after 10 minutes.

-Don’t forget your mosquito repellant and pack at least 1 long sleeve shirt and leggings or pants. Mosquitos can be really annoying and they can carry dengue and malaria. Depending on where you are traveling you may need to bring malaria pills.

-Add antibiotics to your checklist. You will likely need to see your doctor for a prescription first.

-Check your government’s travel advisories:
Country travel advice from the Government of Canada

-Want to save money on your transport from the airport (if flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport) into the city? Take the train first to Phaya Thai and then grab a cab to continue your journey. It is much cheaper transferring to a cab afterwards. Note: Bangkok has another airport (Don Muang airport) where all the Air Asia and budget airlines fly from.

Check out more travel tips on wikitravel

Happy Travels!

Weekend Getaway to the Scottish Capital

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With a medieval old town, the Edinburgh castle, spooky history, delicious food and even an extinct volcano within walking distance of the city, this hilly Scottish capital has a lot to offer the weekend visitor and we took in as much as we could on our weekend getaway.

We’ve always wanted to visit Edinburgh, Scotland after we heard about the low-cost and short flight between Gothenburg and Edinburgh with Ryanair. Just hop on a plane and under two hours you can find yourself in Scotland!

Being our first time in Scotland and we had to try the Scottish cuisine. Haggis, a traditional Scottish dish is made with Set of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver and encased in the stomach. It may not sound so appetizing but it was delicious. We also tried black pudding which I mostly ate with my ‘Full breakfast’.

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My first Haggis!

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Full breakfast w/ black pudding, beans, sausage, bacon, toast and a fried egg

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Black pudding stovie with butternut squash, and some biscuits on the side that we have only tried in Scotland.

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A quick fish & chips bite before the Ghost tour

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Pre-dinner beers, cheers! 

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Delicious scones, and so many flavors at Mimi’s cafe

The Edinburgh Restaurant Festival was going on the weekend we were in town, so we treated ourselves to several set dinners around the city.

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Dinner at Hadrian’s

The Edinburgh Street Feastival was also on at St.Andrew’s square. Where you could try some food from different restaurants participating in the Restaurant festival.

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“Wee taste of Scotland” Haggis from The Rosehip

20151018_140604Whisky tasting at the Feastival

We did a few tours during our weekend including a free walking tour with our hostel, a free castle tour (not including the ticket to the castle but at certain times, you can join a free 30min tour around the castle grounds) and an evening ghost tour!

It’s always a good idea¬†to learn a bit about the city and it’s history from the walking tours. It’s also a great way to familiarize yourself with the various areas of the city.

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The free 30min Edinburgh Castle tour gives you some history of the castle and gives you an overview of the museums on the castle grounds. Our tour guide told us that the castle is not the fairy tale kind but more of fortress that is still being used today as a base for the military. After the tour we visited the gift shop which was doing free whiskey tastings that day that we gladly partook in.

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The historic Edinburgh castle on castle rock

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Cool view of the old historic castle fortress with modern buildings in the foreground

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The view of Arthur’s Seat from the castle

The ghost tour didn’t include going underground tunnels but instead took us through some of the creepy alleys and streets, ending at a cemetery. A cemetery during the day is already creepy but at night is even creepier. I’m glad we had such a big tour group with us. The ghost stories on the tour were pretty interesting, however the tour itself wasn’t too scary except when the guide would hide and jump out at people. Hahaha..

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During the walking tour with our hostel, we walked up Calton hill which offers brilliant views of the city and Arthur’s seat. Apparently, Calton Hill was also where witches used to congregate at night.

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Calton hill and some monuments at the top
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Hiking up Arthur’s seat or even the hill just in front is a must. It was a short 15 min walk from where we stayed, near the Edinburgh Castle. The hike up wasn’t too difficult and takes about 45min..might be a little longer depending on how many times you stop for photos along the way ūüôā

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Beautiful lake along the way with a bunch of swans!

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We hiked up just before sunset and caught an incredible view of the city.

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A stroll¬†along the river Leith which passes through Dean’s village was another nice Sunday activity

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This area seemed more for the locals and we even found a random farmers markets with delicious eats like these delicious little apple tarts which provided us with a nice snack on our walk.

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Leith is a nice area for bars as well. We went there after the walk up Arthur’s seat and had a well deserved dinner at a local bar, Roseleaf.

The National Scottish Gallery is free to visit the permanent exhibitions (including work from Scottish artists) and we spent a little bit of time there.



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Autumn is a beautiful season to visit the historic city. Being October, we thought it was low season, but our hostel was surprisingly full. It also seemed like there were many tour groups around. We also really lucked out with the weather, it only drizzled once late at night after dinner but otherwise it was sunny or cloudy and dry.

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With all the delicious Scottish food, walking tours, and exploring on our own, we left with full bellies and exercise soreness from all the walking and¬†the hike up Arthur’s seat. We had a lovely, long weekend in Edinburgh and really enjoyed our first visit to Scotland!

Cheers!

Restaurants

Breakfast
Edinburgh Larder

Snax cafe
website
For delicious Haggis rolls

The Beer Kitchen by Innis & Gunn
81-83 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9AW
website

Hadrian’s Brasserie
1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH22
website

Roseleaf Bar Cafe in Leith
23/24 Sandport Pl, Edinburgh EH6 6EW
website

 

Cold, Rainy Weather? Head for your nearest Swedish Sauna

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IMG_-e0eru8An apartment building with facilities that include the sauna, isn’t so unusual in a place like Sweden, where they love their sauna time.

Our building is a great example of a typical¬†Swedish apartment¬†with a courtyard, several community laundry¬†areas, neighbours who only exchange a ‘hej hej’ as they go about their way and of course the Sauna (or ‘bastu’ in Swedish).

The sauna area is private and you must book your timeslot. It includes a big jacuzzi tub and it’s actually pretty nice.

When we first moved in, almost a year ago now, I never thought I would use the sauna. The jacuzzi tub yes, but the sauna… that was too Swedish for me. Haha. Fast forward to now and it has really grown on me.

I can see why¬†Swedes love their saunas. It’s great for your muscles, good for blood circulation and clears¬†your sinuses. Even just 15min is enough to relax and unwind from the day.¬†It’s also quite nice to go from the rainy and cold outdoors to sitting in the hot room to sweat. I think we’ll be using the sauna more often now that the temperature has dropped and winter is just around the corner.

OK, so this isn’t a public sauna and you don’t have to go nude. But this is even better in my opinion because it’s private haha.¬†When in Sweden, one must try the sauna. Maybe you will actually grow to like it too.

The Beautiful Swedish Archipelago

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One of my favorite things about living in Sweden is being so close to Gothenburg’s southern archipelago. Here’s my first blog about visiting the archipelago when we first moved to Sweden.

The islands are easily accessible by ferry from Saltholmen (which from the city centre is a tram ride away). The ferry operates under the same transportation company as the trams so you can use the same ticket. In under 30 minutes, you can be on an island of your choice.

20150927_133636¬†There’s Styrs√∂ and Dons√∂, the most developed islands which are connected by a bridge.

IMG_6583IMG_6597Vrangö, the island furthest south that has a great little cafe with crayfish(when in season) and nice rocky beaches.

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Then there’s Br√§nn√∂ with some really nice beach areas as well and G√§lter√∂ which is where the sheep are left to graze. G√§lter√∂ is connected to Br√§nn√∂ by a foot bridge.

20140621_175728 20140621_190956There are also smaller islands that are mainly residential. We once got off on a smaller island and the ferry staff asked us if we knew where we were going! The majority of people only get off on that island if they live there haha.

Except for maybe an island van, all of the islands in the southern archipelago are car free and residents get around by biking, walking or using these island vehicles.
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We decided to take advantage of probably the last somewhat warm and sunny day a few weeks ago and visited Brännö and Gälterö.

We had a great lunch at one of the 2 cafes on Brännö, which was actually closing up for the season that day so everything was discounted.
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The smoked mackarel was delicious!

20150927_143747 20150927_144445This was a summer comedy theatre production. The Swedish guy with us said that translated to¬†“Good Screws in the Archipelago” Hahaha

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While exploring the island, we found ourselves at this ‘Bad’ or bathing spot. We climbed up a rocky hill to get this fantastic view of the beach!

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It was a sunny day, but had previously rained and Galtero’s hiking path was pretty muddy. I think everyone left with wet shoes that day.

Visiting the an archipelago is on the must/do list if you are visiting Gothenburg or even another town in Sweden. Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, has it’s own archipelago as well. It’s hard to believe how close Gothenburg’s southern archipelago is to the city. Once you are there, it’s like you have been transported to a completely different place, a remote quiet island town.

It’s busiest in the summer of course, when there are many Swedes living in their summer houses and tourists visiting for the day.¬†Which island you choose is entirely up to you, but they are all similar so you don’t have to visit each one.¬†With traditional Swedish style houses, quaint little cafes, beautiful landscapes, lots of nature, and even swans, whenever we have out of town visitors, we make sure to recommend a visit to the beautiful Archipelago.

More information about the islands of the Archipelago can be found here.

Note: There is also a Northern Archipelago with it’s own islands. To get there from the city, one must drive or¬†take a bus and then a car ferry across to the islands. We have visited the Northern Archipelago once and the islands we went to were¬†much larger and more developed with cars and a bigger town centre. However, there are also some little islands near them too.

Extra Large Swedish Cinnamon Buns

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20150922_213808The Swedish version of a cinnamon bun is called “Kanelbulle”. It’s a bit different from the cinnamon buns in North America.

For one, it has cardamom, which after living here for a couple years now, isn’t my favorite thing (but only because it’s in everything).

Swedish¬†cinnamon rolls also have bits of sugar on top, like salt on pretzels, instead of icing. They aren’t as gooey as North American cinnamon buns either but the centre is pretty soft.
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Kanelbulle can be found at convenience stores like 7 eleven and Swedish Pressbyrån, IKEA, and cafes and bakeries around the city.

A “Hagabulle” is an extra large version of the kanelbulle. It’s a special pastry found only in old town of Haga. It’s definitely something that you can share and when this pastry is baked really well and it should still be soft and easy to rip apart.

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One of two cafes that I know of that sell Hagabullar in Haga, is Cafe Husaren. They have an amazing window display of the hagabullar and it always draws people in. It’s nice to bring visitors¬†to the cafe and let them try this extra large Swedish cinnamon bun.

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Look at all those Hagabullar

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An old photo from one of our first visits to Haga in the winter.

Hagabulle is pretty delicious but it goes fast. If you visit the cafe in the afternoon they will often be sold out. It’s best to grab as a morning snack or for early afternoon fika (Swedish coffee break).

Cafe Husaren
Haga Nygata 28, Göteborg 411 22, Sweden
website

Chocolate, Gummies, Licorice and More

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When we moved to Sweden, it was hard not to notice all the Bulk candy or Smågodis(small goodies) everywhere Рthe grocery store, the gas station, the 7 eleven or Pressbyrån (Swede convenience store),  even at stores that ONLY sell bulk candy like 4-gott and Sega Gubben. Swedes absolutely love their bulk candy.

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A colleague once told us that when his wife was pregnant he got her a kg of candy and it was gone in a couple of days.¬†But it’s not just pregnant ladies or kids either, you’ll see adults and teens in the bulk candy aisles too, filling their paper bags with whatever candy they crave that day.

Saturday Candy or ‚ÄúL√∂rdagsgodis‚ÄĚ is apparently a Scandinavian tradition where kids get treats on Saturday. They are permitted to visit a local store and buy a bag of this sweets. It was thought that one day a week as a treat is a way to keep kids from getting cavities.

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A whole store dedicated to sweets!!

You can find all sorts of candy at a bulk or pick & mix candy store. At a place like¬†Sega Gubben, one¬†can find an amazing candy selection. You can find different chocolates, sours, gummies and more. Of course there are also many types of licorice candy to choose from – a Swedish favorite but not for me. Sega Gubben is also in our neighbourhood so it’s a bit dangerous if you love candy.

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Sega Gubben also offers candy from different countries
and often prices are cheaper than other stores. 

Just being able to get a few pieces of candy to satisfy your sweets craving is actually a great idea. Pick & Mix is the perfect snack for movies at home or just whenever you want. You won’t get bored if you have a variety to choose from and you don’t even need to buy too much.

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Sega Gubben even offers self-serve frozen yogurt! Heavenly good for sure!

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I’ve heard that Gubben¬†is a nickname for an old man and Sega of course I know as a Japanese video game company lol. We were really surprised when we discovered a store with this name. However, in Swedish, Sega means ‘chewy’. So Sega Gubben translates to ‘Chewy Old Man’. What a name for a candy store! Let’s just say it’s referring to a gummy candy man like in their logo hahaha.

Note: There is also Pick & Mix¬†nuts at grocery stores that can be a healthier option if you just feel like snacking and don’t want candy.

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Sega Gubben
website

Enjoy your godis (goodies)!

 

 

 

Summer in Spain: Tapas!

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Delicious little portions for you to snack as you enjoy¬†your drink, the word Tapa is derived from ‘Tapar’ (to cover) and was originally a piece of cheese or ham to cover the wine. Our guide for¬†the walking tour also told us another tapa origin story that many farmers when choosing what to choose from after a day of hard labor between food or drink would always choose drink and the productivity of the country went down. After the law was introduced, that a small portion of food should be served whenever anyone ordered a drink, the farmers could enjoy some drinks and still be able to work the following day.

We spent about 2 weeks of our month long summer vacation traveling from Madrid to the South of Spain and then along the coast to Barcelona. The scenery was absolutely stunning. Aside from walking tours, seeing the beautiful beaches, visiting many different mosques turned cathedrals, and touring a few Alcazars like the amazing Alhambra, we tried as many tapas places as we could find!

The first stop on our Espa√Īa trip was the capital city, Madrid. On our first night, we went to a random bar right conveniently located next to our hotel near Plaza de Espa√Īa. We ordered beer and they brought¬†us whatever the kitchen had, which included, chicken wings and bread w/ jamon (free included with our drinks!). We wanted a bit more and ordered a plate of green peppers (pimientos) which wasn’t spicy just delicious.

Then there was another random tapas place we tried on the recommended ‘tapas’ street.
The boquerones, fried anchovies, were deelish!! I think this is when we started getting addicted to these things. Fried little fish, nice to snack on and quite satisfying.
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We celebrated one of our anniversaries in Madrid. For our anniversary dinner we went to a restaurant near Calle San Simon. There you could order tapas size portions as well. The grilled squid was one of my favorite dishes during our time in Spain.

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Fried egg, with eggplant and tomatoes on a bed of homemade fried potato chips

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Delicious grilled squid mmmmm

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Beef and potato chips

Seville
From Madrid we made our way south by train to Seville. This city is an amazing place to visit not just for all the tapas but also for all the different things to see including the Alcazar where they filmed Game of Thrones and the beautiful grand cathedral.

One great place for tapas in Seville is Las Columnas. The tapas were around 2 or 3 euros and the menu was on the wall in chalk. As soon as something was gone, it was scratched out. You could stand at the bar, at a table outside or find a seat in the corner area of the bar.

IMG_4256The co-pilot’s turn to order!

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Atun con tomate (Tuna and tomato sauce. It was so delicious we had this a few times)

We tried a fanicer tapas place where we met a Swiss guy who is now living in Seville. He gave us some great recommendations for places to visit in Andalucia.
IMG_4293 IMG_4291 La Bartola, is a Tapas place that was near our hotel in Seville. It doesn’t stay open as late as the other tapas bars but the food was excellent and reasonably priced as well.

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IMG_4001Zuchini flowers, Jamon Iberico, grilled fish

IMG_4002 These boquerones in were sprinkled with lemon rind adding some extra zest to the anchovies. Mmmm so good.

And of course we had to stop in at the oldest tapas place El Rinconcillo. It was pretty crowded and we stopped there for a few more drinks and tapas.

IMG_4307Our last tapas bar of the night for a few more snacks and dessert!

IMG_4297Lambchops, anchovy on a fresh tomato, and tuna and tomato

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We even tried a flan dessert that was similar to Filipino Leche Flan but more creamy, really thick and heavy. It was one of the most delicious desserts we tried on our vacation!

Granada
A few places we wanted to try were unfortunately closed while we were visiting Granada. On our first evening we found two tapas places right next to each other. One was full of locals and the other was full of brits. Guess which one we chose hahaha. This tapas bar was full and everyone was standing enjoying their drinks and tapas. You had to shout your order to the bartender and he brought you whatever tapa the kitchen prepared. And it was free with your drink!
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One place we visited was well reviewed for the tapas but when we finally found the place, they weren’t serving tapas. I can’t remember why exactly, but we got a drink anyways and they gave us some candy and peanuts to go along with it.

During our time in Granada we had some laundry to do. We decided¬†not to let our hotel to do it in order to avoid the¬†the ridiculous hotel laundry prices which included 3 euros a shirt…

While waiting for our laundry at the self serve laundry mat, we wandered in the area nearby. We found a park but it was mostly pavement and hardly any trees. It was also quite hot and we wanted to go indoors with AC.

Most of the restaurants in the area were closed for Siesta, but we found one bar that was open and serving nice cold beer and tapas! Free tapas does exist in Spain but it’s not everywhere. It was great that we found a few places that served them but we were expecting many more. I got a tuna sandwich and Yoni got fried egg over potatos. Really nice sized portions.

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From Granada we made our way through Andalucia and Almeria and we stopped whenever we pleased.¬†That’s one of the advantages of renting a car and going on your own. Here are some photos of the¬†other tapas we tried along the way.

Cadiz

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La Bodeguita de Plocia

IMG_4704Toro del toro

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Meatballs and potatos, and tuna belly

Valencia

We went on a tapas tour with the same guides who held the free walking tour. For 10 euros we visited 3 different tapas places, for one beer and a tapa. We also tried the Agua de Valencia drink which was pretty strong. Haha

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The Bartender preparing the Aqua de Valencia

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Spanish omelette on toast with salsa (Look at how mini our beers are)

Barcelona

One tapas bar we visited was recommended to me by my aunt who traveled in Spain. This place was very popular. A bit of a fancier tapas bar, the unique sandwiches and delicious offerings made it well worth the trip out here.

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Foie gras and beef sandwich

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Mmm keep those tapas coming!

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A Korean tour group came in while we were there. Sooo many people, this place¬†sure gets crowded but it’s not a surprise, the tapas were fantastic.

Full of history, gorgeous beaches, amazing scenery, incredible palaces (Alcazars), beautiful cathedrals and of course, delicious food, Spain is a wonderful place to visit and there is definitely something for everyone.¬†Our trip was everything I hoped for and more and I discovered even more of my favorite Filipino things¬†were influenced by the Spanish. We visited Spain in early July and the weather was extremely hot averaging 40C most days. It was nice to sweat after the cold, rainy weather in Sweden so we didn’t complain too much. I would love to visit Spain again!

When you visit Spain be sure to practice ordering your tapas in Spanish! You will soon get the hang of it and sometimes it’s easier than trying to make them understand what you are saying in English. There were tapas menus in English in some places but after awhile, it’s just easier to order the daily tapas on the menu written in chalk. Who knows, you might even end up enjoying ordering in Spanish ūüôā

Happy travels!

Tapas places we visited in Spain!

Madrid

El sur
Calle de la Torrecilla del Leal, 12, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Tripadvisor

Seville

El Bartola
Calle San Jose 24, 41004 Seville, Spain
Tripadvisor link
We stayed just down the street form this place. Unfortunately it doesn’t¬†stay open that late.

Las Columnas
Plaza Alameda de Hercules, 19, 41002 Seville, Spain

Cadiz

La Bodeguita de Plocia
11006, Calle Plocia, 9, 11006 C√°diz, Spain

Granada
Taberna la Tana
Placeta del Agua, 3, 18009 Granada, Spain
Tripadvisor

La Bodega Vinny
18002, Calle Sol, 13, 18002 Granada, Spain
Tripadvisor

Barcelona
Quimet y Quimet
Poeta Cabanyes 25, 08004 Barcelona, Spain
Facebook page

Summer in Spain: Churros and Horchata

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When in Spain, one must try the churros!

It was my first time trying Spanish-style churros. I do have fond memories of my brothers and I eating Mexican-style churros when we visiting LA though. It was always the best when I could get my very own churro…instead of sharing haha.

Our first stop on our summer adventure this year was Madrid, Spain. While we were there we visited one of the oldest churro places, Chocolatería San Gines. It was really popular even when it was late on a weeknight.

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From these huge spiral churros, they cut a generous number of pieces. The churro on the left is the spanish-style churro and the one on the right is another type of churro which reminded us more of a Chinese donut. Haha

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The churros are served with some really thick, warm drinking chocolate, which was good because the churro itself wasn’t hot or crispy.¬†The drinking chocolate was as if someone melted down a dark chocolate bar and added oil to it. The oil part I didn’t like so much.

I have no idea who would actually finish all of the chocolate they give you, but hats off to anyone who does. It gets really sweet after awhile and we were full of churro. Lucky for us we could walk back to our hotel to digest the delicious meal.

From Madrid we made our way to Seville by train. On our first night, I remember going to¬†a¬†random ¬†bar for a¬†drink and snack¬†and we ordered some churros here too. They were nice, hot, and crispy, but the chocolate wasn’t as thick as the one served with the churros at the oldest churros place in Madrid.

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Nice circular churros loops.

Ok, so for the record, I think I prefer Mexican churros with the sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar minus the warm drinking chocolate. The Spanish-style churros were also delicious but they weren’t as thick or long and I missed the cinnamon and sugar. However, if you are in Spain, and feel like dessert, be sure to try the churros!

Horchata

We tried Horchata a few times¬†while we were in Spain. I guess we thought the more we tried it, the more we would actually grow to like it haha. Don’t think that worked. We found it too¬†sweet and chalky. Made from a special tiger nut. It’s something that one drinks cold, at the beach or at a cafe. The more chilled the drink is, the better in my opinion.
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Our tour guide explaining how horchata is made and showed us the nut that Horchata is made from.

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The donut pastry things called ‘farton’ which you dip in your horchata.

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Getting the horchata and farton ready for the tour group. Everyone wanted to try!

There is Mexican horchata as well and that one tastes more like almond milk, I think it might be made with almonds. On a walking tour in Valencia they instructed us to dip a pastry in our cups to soak up some horchata and then take a bite. The pastry with the horchata was pretty nice. However, after a few bites it became way too sweet as well. Definitely the perfect thing to share.

Churros and Horchata (with or without the farton) are just a few things to try while you are visiting Spain. Happy eating!

Chocolatería San Ginés
Madrid, Spain
Visit their website here

Chocolates Santa Catalina
Valencia, Spain
Visit their website here

Cats of Greece

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For a cat lover like myself, seeing cats during my travels is pretty exciting. I love snapping a photo or two and petting them if they are friendly. I remember feeding a lot of the stray cats in Asia too. The cats we meet are mostly stray cats,¬†which we don’t see at all in Sweden. It could too cold for cats to be out homeless, but also, maybe stray cats are usually reported and then picked up to be brought to a local animal shelter. I volunteer a few times a month at a local cat shelter and there are quite a few kitties looking for a permanent home there.

During our recent trip to Greece, we saw so many cats. They looked like they were mostly well-fed but still homeless. We read that Greeks feed and take care of the stray dog and cat population. Souvenir postcards even have cats in the photo and when I mentioned to a colleague that I was in Greece this summer, she said, there must have been lots of cats! I guess people just associate cats with the beautiful towns of Greece?

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During our stay on Paros island, an island in the Cyclades area, we saw an organization that takes care of stray animals called PAWS – Paros Animal Welfare Society. I think it is wonderful that there is an organization like this in a country where there are so many stray animals.

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Paws Paros Animal Welfare Society is located in the center of Parikia among the boutiques and restaurants.

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They have boxes all over town where you can drop a donation which goes to provide food for the cats in different areas of the island. They also encourage neutering of strays and arrange adoption or temporary homes for the cats and other animals as well.

IMG_8862 Do Greek cats speak Greek? ūüėČ

IMG_9989 These cats were at the guest house where we stayed on Santorini island. Two young kittens and the mom, super cute and loved Greek Yogurt and my spinach pastries. The lady at the guest house said as long as we don’t let them in our room, they were fine to hang out around our place.

Now that summer is coming to an end, there won’t be as many tourists on the Greek islands. Many of the shops and hotels will be closing for low season and the cats won’t have as many people to feed¬†them.

Consider making a donation¬†to Paros Animal Welfare Society. Help them continue to take care of the Cats of Greece. And always be sure to support your local animal shelter! Adopt don’t shop!

My full album of the Cats of Greece

Paros Animal Welfare Society
Paros island, Greece
Visit their website here

There’s Always Room For Dessert!

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20150704_135102One of my favorite desserts when I want to treat myself is self-serve frozen yogurt. And it has to be self-serve, so I can put what I want in it and get as much yogurt as I please. Aside from froyo though, I love gelato!

Living in Europe has it’s advantages like being able to fly on the cheap to a completely different country and having the chance to try some really great¬†food and dessert. During one of our summer adventures, we visited Rome and discovered an amazing Gelato place, called Giolitti. Recommended to me by my cousin and a place we go to every time we are in Rome.

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The nutella was so rich and creamy and the pistachio was just amazing.

A new Gelato place opened up in my neighbourhood and it was hard not to notice¬†how popular it was. Swedes love ice cream, even if it’s cold out! A few weeks ago, we decided to try the gelato and it reminded us of Giolitti gelato in Rome!!

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One scoop of Dark chocolate please!

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This was the cup for 3 scoops, and those were some generous scoops. Mmmm deelish!!

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Still not sure what’s with the upside down sign, but it definitely stands out!

The flavors we tried were, dark chocolate, cookie and pistachio. We also got a tasting of the strawberry sorbet made from Swedish strawberries. The sorbet was really good and I’m not a huge fan of sorbet.

It’s always nice to support local neighbourhood places. We are really lucky that this gelato place opened up right in our area! It¬†has to be the best gelato we have had outside of Italy. A¬†must try if you love ice cream and judging by the usual queue at the place, people have already discovered just how delicious it is. The gelato shop is open until 10pm everyday so it’s¬†perfect for a late night gelato craving.

Gelato da Luca
(Gothenburg, Sweden)
Check out their Facebook page here

Giolitti 
(Rome, Italy)
Check out their website here

Bizarre Foods Sweden

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Summer is meant for picnics in the park! In Sweden, that means there will definitely be some potatos and some herring.¬†Swedes are all about pickled herring but it’s not for everyone.¬†After living in Sweden for over 2.5 ¬†years now, I’ve tried many different types of herring and it’s not bad with a cracker and maybe some cream cheese. But I like anything sour ūüėČ

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Pickled herring or ‘sill’ at a Christmas buffet back in December.

Often¬†people back home ask me what the weirdest thing I’ve eaten in Sweden is. Before last weekend, I’d say pickled herring was one of the things. Maybe the tube caviar ‘kalles’¬†as well. But really, after traveling in Asia, pickled herring or sill (in Swedish) is not too bizarre.
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Kalles, caviar in a tube.

Surstr√∂mming, however, is herring that has been fermented and canned. There are apparently 2 types you can eat – one is from last year (slimy texture) and the other is ‘new’ prepared (canned) in August which is more firm.¬†Usually it’s more of a tradition in the North of Sweden and many Swedes who live elsewhere haven’t even tried it!

Yes, there are a few videos of people trying surströmming and even puking it out, which is gross and when I heard that a Swedish guy was having a picnic to try it, I had to tag along.

This was my first introduction to Surstr√∂mming and that was enough. We were fortunate to miss the opening of the can – apparently the smell was 10x worse, but even when we got there a bit afterwards, it still stank. Actually it was only after the wind started blowing in our direction that we were all like…”WTF is that sh*t smell?!?” It smelled a bit like the garbage room actually. And they said they had even rinsed the fish in water after opening the can haha…

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That rotten, stinky fish they call Surstr√∂mming!! This one is ‘new’ prepared in August. This type you need to remove the fish bones and skin before eating. There was a surstr√∂mming ‘expert’ at the picnic who showed us how to do that (She was from the North of Sweden hehe).

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Removing the bones while trying not to touch the fish, otherwise your hands will smell like nasty garbage.

20150822_171024When you remove the bones and the skin, there isn’t really much ‘meat’ which was great for us since we really just wanted to try a tiny bit.

20150822_171859 Time for a bite!

“It’s so oniony”

The tradition is to put the surstr√∂mming on a cracker with a ton of other things – honestly if you have to eat something covered by so many other things, you know something’s wrong. This cracker or tunnbr√∂d was covered in boiled potato, creme fraiche, tomato, chives, red onion and of course bits of surstr√∂mming.

We also tried it by itself and it really was NOT something I need to try again haha.¬†It wasn’t the texture really, it was more the combination of the smell with the flavors of saltiness, and strong onion that wasn’t very pleasant. But hey, we were willing to try it and I’m proud of how adventurous we are. It’s just something you have to do when you are in a different culture – try different things that may seem strange and bizarre to us ūüôā and who knows maybe sometimes you might¬†enjoy it (not the case with the¬†surstr√∂mming though).

Happy eating!

Road Trip Norway!

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We’ve always wanted to explore more of Scandinavia since moving¬†to Sweden. A long weekend in May turned out to be the perfect opportunity. We decided to hike Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) in Norway and turned it into a Road Trip from Gothenburg, Sweden.

Driving along little country roads, through the fjords on the tourist road, and even through the snow which felt like we were suddenly transported to the arctic, our 4 day road trip was FANTASTIC!

Norway is a gorgeous place to visit and driving through, offers some brilliant views of the fjords. Oh how we missed the mountains from back home. Seeings all the nature in Norway, the cliffs and rocks, I can understand why Trolls come from here. When we looked at some of the rock faces we could imagine a Troll’s face!

Friends told me they took a train when they visited Stavanger and hiked Pulpit Rock. So yes, it is possible to fly or train to the area. The views from the train are also supposed to be quite stunning. However, we decided to be a bit more adventurous and drive there.

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Day 1: Gothenburg (Sweden) to just outside Flekkefjord (Norway)

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Breakfast with an amazing view (somewhere outside Flekkefjord)

Day 2: Flekkefjord to Preikestolen, hiked for a few hours, and spent the night in StavangerIMG_2145Hiking Preikestolen!

Day 3: Stavanger to Bergen via the tourist road. One part was closed after 7pm, so we had to turn around and go through a different road.

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IMG_2457 View of the mountains from one of the many ferries we took during the road trip.

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We stopped by this waterfall at night! And you can actually walk right behind the Waterfall!!

Day 4: Norwegian National Day May 17 celebrations in Bergen. Then drove back to Gothenburg. It was a long last day but it was also quite fun.

Unlike Sweden’s National day on June 6th, Norwegians go all out on their National day, even dressing in their finest traditional clothing.
IMG_2736 IMG_2744 It was hard to tell who was in the parade and who was just watching.
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There is still more of Norway to explore and we’ve already planned our next Road trip: Trondheim!

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Tips for a successful Road Trip:

– Music playlist (preferably more than 1 depending on how many are in the car)
– Pack a good snack bag, you don’t know whether the stores along the road will be open or not.
– Pack your own pillows
– Don’t be afraid to get lost, you will likely run into something amazing (like a waterfall!)
– Don’t forget your map/GPS (but if the road looks too small, don’t take it!)

Thanks for reading!

A Visit to the Swedish Arctic

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Photo from the Ice Hotel (Kiruna, Sweden)

Last year we ventured to Troms√ł, Norway to hunt for the Northern Lights. Unfortunately,¬†we didn’t see a thing because of the weather. That didn’t stop us from enjoying our Arctic adventure, trying dog sledding for the first time, snowshoeing on a random island where we also saw Icelandic horses and just exploring the city (including taking the gondola up to see the view of¬†Troms√ł).

This year we decided to¬†try our luck again…this time in Northern Sweden. Kiruna isn’t as far north as Troms√ł, but it is still further north than most places in Northern Canada. Just a short flight from Stockholm, we treated ourselves to a long weekend and met some friends from Germany there!

It’s really surprising how developed the towns in Northern Scandinavia are. You would think because they are so far north they would be more isolated and much smaller. Kiruna and Troms√ł were similar in size although it felt like Troms√ł was bigger. Maybe that’s why many people from around the world travel all the way to Scandinavia for a chance to see the Aurora instead of to Northern Canada, where it gets much colder and is much less developed.

Kiruna is a mining town and it’s one of the first things you notice when you arrive. The mine looks like a huge cruise ship haha. there are plans to move the town way from it’s current location because all the mining makes the whole town shake.¬†Maybe the next time we visit, it will be at it’s new location a few km away.

We had an amazing weekend hanging out with the snow dogs (and our friends!), hunting for the Northern Lights, visiting the Ice Hotel and just exploring Kiruna and a nearby town Abisko.¬†It’s not often that we travel within Sweden as we usually travel from Sweden on our long weekends and vacations. So, it was nice to see more of the country as well.

We were so lucky to see the Northern Lights from the plane as we landed in Kiruna on Friday evening.

IMG_7873 Now that’s a beautiful sight. It was as if the Aurora was welcoming us to the North!

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Walking up to visit the Kiruna church

IMG_7954Thick winter coats were perfect for the north! Behind us is the Kiruna Church

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We were ecstatic to Moose on the side of the road! This is a baby moose with it’s mom. They were both sitting at the side of the road, probably waiting to cross, which they did after we had pulled away. Moose are sooo cute.

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Such a beautiful day for some dog sledding. We went with Husky Tours Lapland but it wasn’t as active as the dog sledding we did in Norway.

After Northern Lights watching, we had to get indoors! We had a couple of really nice fancy dinners, this one was at Camp Ripan. We didn’t stay here, but it was pretty close to our hotel.

IMG_8433 Appetizers included root chips and butter with ash

IMG_8434 Arctic Char (which is similar to Salmon)

IMG_8435 Moose kottbullar (Swedish meatballs!)

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Ice Hotel straight ahead! It may look sunny, but it was pretty chilly

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This is what an ice bar looks like!

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Our trip in early March was perfect because you get daylight again instead of total darkness like in early January. I consider ourselves extremely lucky to have seen the Northern Lights every night while we were there.

When planning a trip to the arctic to hunt for the Northern Lights, I would recommend checking the weather and cycle of the moon. It can be quite difficult to see the lights when it is full moon.We actually were there during a full moon but we spotted the lights before the moon was out!

  • Don’t forget to bring your winter clothing with you during your trip!
  • Plan to do an activity during the day, what else will you do while you wait till the evening to see the lights?
  • Plan more than 2 nights to stay in the North. That way, you get more than 2 chances to see the lights.
  • We were also told that Kiruna is also apparently nice to visit during the summer because of the numerous hiking trails. But remember, in the summer you have the midnight sun!
  • Husky Tours Lapland¬†is just one of the many dog sledding companies in Kiruna.
  • For a delicious meal and some great Northern Lights view spots,
    you must go to Camp Ripan
  • Check out the¬†Kiruna Tourism¬†website when planning your trip!

Thanks for reading!

The Snowy City of G√∂teborg

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Photo from Jan 24, 2015 although it looks like it could be from the 1800s lol

(Catching up on some old posts)

I’d say we’ve been pretty lucky to have some mild winters in Sweden. Everyone has always warned us of the crazy temperatures of -20 below, but somehow it’s only ever been between -5 to -10 at the lowest for us.

It is nice to get some proper snow this winter and not have it washed away with the rain the next day (which is typical weather back home).

Here are some photos from snowy Göteborg:

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Snow kitty!

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There must have been a Trekkie around (me hahaha)

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Snow can be beautiful, but I’m ready for spring! Just this weekend we had more wet snow and windy conditions…when spring will arrive remains to be seen. At least it is getting brighter with the sun setting around 5:30-6pm now ūüôā

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A Visit to the Tandl√§karen

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What’s it like to go to the dentist in Sweden? I’ve always tried to avoid things like massages,visits to the doctor and dentist¬†appointments while living in Sweden. For one, I can always get this down back home, and I always thought it would cost a lot more (massages definitely cost more than back home actually).

Just my luck that my dentist back home cancelled¬†my appointment and I wasn’t able to check that off my to-do list.¬†I would have put it off until the summer, but I started feeling like I might have a cavity.¬†It was just the holidays and I had been eating quite a few sweets recently.

I decided to select a dentist that was in my area so it would be easy to get to from work. I sent in a question via their online contact form asking if they were accepting new patients and got a reply the next day. They had an appointment that same week and just in case something was seriously wrong with my teeth, I decided to take it.

When I got to the dentist office, I had to fill in the usual forms when¬†you are a new patient. Medical history, current health, allergies and any concerns¬†or medication. Filling out forms in another language is a bit¬†tricky when the medical terminology used aren’t words you have heard or¬†learned before. There was also this beautiful view of a church outside that was pretty distracting ūüėČ

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View from the dentist waiting room

Once that was done, they called me into the room and asked me what I would¬†like to have done today. This was somewhat of a surprise but one I appreciated. Back home, I am so used¬†to having to tell them what I do not want to get done. They always have their own list of procedures each visit, which includes things that I¬†don’t believe to be necessary every 6 months – like X-rays or the fluoride rinse.

I was impressed with how fancy and new all the equipment looked in this dental office. I thought for sure this is going to cost me. But I ended up paying around the same price as I pay back home, and this visit even included X-rays because of my concern that I may have cavities.

The next thing that surprised me was, after the X-rays were finished, the hygienist left¬†to call the dentist in. I thought ok, he’s going to do the quick exam¬†before the actual cleaning, but after he did the exam he said he would¬†begin to remove the tartar or ‘Tah Tar’ as he pronounced it off my teeth. And the hygienist was just¬†there standing by with the suction during the cleaning.

Flossing really does help, and the removal of the tartar wasn’t as bad as¬†some visits. At the end, he said that coming back in 6 months wasn’t¬†necessary and next year is probably best. Next year?! They always automatically book dentist appointments every 6 months back home. Do we just care¬†more about our teeth in North America or do they want more money from us??

teethvackra tänder! (beautiful teeth)

There are some differences between visiting a dentist in Sweden versus¬†visiting one back home, and one is not necessarily better than another. I’m just glad I got it taken care of.¬†No free toothbrush or toothpaste though.

Happy to be Cavity free and have beautiful clean teeth.

What the Pho?!

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20150122_170416Living in Sweden, one of the things I miss most is all the delicious and cheap Asian food. Sure you can get dagens lunch with salad bar included, but if want some BBQ pork fried rice, you will likely be disappointed.

If you want a good bowl of pho for under $10, you can forget it. Pho is so good because it’s cheap! Usually when you go out for ethnic food here in Sweden (except for Thai, Sushi or Indian) it can be pretty pricey. Asian places aren’t your usual hole in the wall places here. Instead they try to make them fancy, but don’t even include free tea or water :/ A good bowl of pho would cost around $21!

When I was craving some pho the other day, I saw someone posted about a Pho Ga recipe. Pho ga is the shredded chicken version of pho, which I always order at the restaurant. With this winter weather and the snow/rain we’ve been having the last couple weeks, a hot bowl of Pho ga was just what I needed. The recipe seemed easy enough to follow, and I was able to get most of the ingredients. The result was absolutely deeelish!

20150122_194637 Home made pho ūüôā More please!

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Didn’t find Thai Basil so I opted for regular basil instead. Cilantro, lime, chili, bean sprous, siracha and hoisin sauce were all available here.

Just as the article¬†said, 20min into the cooking process and my kitchen was filled with the smells of delicious pho ga. Mmmmmm…

20150122_170554Delicious vietnamese pho ga

So the next time you are craving pho and don’t have a cheap pho place nearby, why not try to make it yourself? You won’t be disappointed.

And the great¬†thing about making things at home is, you can have as much as you like ūüėČ

Check out the Pho Ga recipe:
http://www.rusticgardenbistro.com/vietnamese-chicken-pho-ga-recipe/

Thanks for reading!

Rainy days call for a movie night!

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The 38th annual G√∂teborg Film Festival(GIFF) has once again descended upon the city of Goteborg. This year, in addition to continuing to promote Nordic film, the festival will offer a number of Japanese selections including the Studio Ghibli documentary “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” in the ‘Japan in Focus’ category.

I was pretty impressed with the lineup of the festival last year (which was my first year attending the film festival). So far, it looks like GIFF continues to show a great selection of international and Nordic films.

Visitors to GIFF can take advantage of seeing movies in some beautiful venues around the city.

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Draken theatre is one of the main theatres for the festival!

The¬†G√∂teborg Film Festival¬†offers more than just movies, with workshops, music and more. It’s nice to have a festival in town in the winter. It brings some life into the sleepy town and it’s just perfect to duck into a movie on a chilly day.

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Snowy weekend as GIFF begins

GIFF takes place Jan 23rd-Feb 2nd. For tickets, check out their website:

http://www.giff.se/
http://filmweb01.filmfestival.org/filmfestival/info/en/festivalprogram/filmer

If you are in Göteborg during the festival, be sure to check it out!

Geronimo Bie Canadian Boxer Documentary Movie

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Before there was Manny Pacquiao there was Geronimo Bie, a Filipino Canadian boxer from Vancouver, BC…

I am very excited about my bro’s upcoming boxing documentary. Global News first aired his story: A local kid, the first Filipino Canadian boxer to box for the Canadian National team in the 1980s.

Help finish the movie by making a donation!

Check out the Indiegogo campaign:

OFFICIAL WEB http://www.geronimo-movie.com/
TRAILER http://youtu.be/llu4Jrf_K08
INDIEGOGO http://igg.me/at/GeronimoMovie/x/9318497

Thanks for reading (and thank you for donating!)

Two Days in Paris

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IMG_6708 Paris was on our list of places to visit for a weekend trip. One of the advantages of living in Sweden is you can travel from Sweden and be in a completely different country in a couple of hours. If you are like us, and enjoy exploring a city, Paris is perfect for a last minute weekend getaway!

If it’s the first time you are visiting a city, I would recommend a free walking tour to get acquainted with the area. There are many different walking tours to choose from. At the end, you can choose whether to tip your guides (and how much you would like to tip).

Do get lost and find delicious cafes like this one…

IMG_6684 The cheesecake here was delicious as was their kosher sandwich. 

IMG_7007 Delicious croissants and bread everywhere around the city.

Croissants at cafe Gérard Mulot were excellent, but like my aunt who used to live in Paris told me, they are delicious at any cafe in the city and that seemed to be the case. Different cafes, they were more flaky, more soft than others.

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We stopped by the Marche des enfants and tried the croissants as well. They were also very good. We also took a couple baguettes with us for our snack bag ūüėČ

Look up some places for a nice dinner –¬†we found a couple of great ones around the city but like all cities, quality seems to be best outside of the touristy areas.

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Another great way to see the city is on the city bikes. Paris’ city bikes that are exactly the same as the ones in G√∂teborg, just grey instead of blue! They are perfect for going from one place to another and actually seeing Paris as you go.

Unlike riding the metro where you will end up where you want to go, but you are underground the whole way. For 1.70 euros, you get to use the bike for 24 hours. 30min rental time, but you can always just return the bike and grab another one.

Biking by the Seine river and then coming up a hill to see the Eiffel Tower was one of my favorite moments of the trip.

IMG_6648Bike racks were all over the city and the bike paths make it easy to get around. Although at night, watch out for the people on the bike paths
and those pesky fallen leaves!

IMG_7003A shot of my co-pilot while we bike through the streets of Paris on our way to find brunch!

It was our first time in the city so we had to visit the major attractions like the Eiffel Tower.

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Parisians are totally OK with allowing dogs in the cafes!

Of course, you can stick to the touristy spots when visiting Paris (The Eiffel Tower, Champs√Člys√©e, or¬†Arc de Triomphe de l’√Čtoile among others) but you can also just take it easy and wander¬†(which we also did a lot of).

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Luxembourg Gardens

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The back of Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris has so many parks and, because it’s the¬†Christmas season, we also¬†stumbled upon a few Christmas markets.

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We had a wonderful weekend in Paris. The French people who we did meet weren’t at all like the commonly described stereotype. The food was delicious and the weather that weekend was mostly sunny and mild for winter making it just perfect to walk or bike around the city.

Would love to come back and visit again!

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Sacha Finkelstein cafe in Paris: http://www.laboutiquejaune.com/

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

Tis the Season for a Julbord

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Julbord, or “Christmas table” – A Christmas buffet with traditional Swedish offerings is a must in Sweden during the holidays. Many different restaurants, from the fancier places in the city¬†to IKEA, offer a Julbord. It’s a nice way to taste traditional Swedish cuisine¬†like pickled herring (sill), different Swedish cheeses, Crisp bread (kn√§ckebr√∂d), and desserts like rice porridge (Risgrynsgr√∂t).

A friend was visiting from Canada, so we decided to treat ourselves to one of the Julbords at Liseberg. Liseberg is the amusement park here in Göteborg. They have a number of restaurants in the park, and one that was highly recommended to me was Hamnkrogen. We made a reservation for Sunday lunch and it was fantastic!

20141214_150932We asked for directions to the restaurant and they told us to go straight until storgata and then look for a sinking boat in the water lol.

They had an excellent variety of foods to choose from. The starters included lots of pickled herring, mussels, shrimps and sashimi among other things. There was the main food section with hot and cold food. Lots of seafood to try and a good selection of meat options Рlamb prinskorv (little sausages that Swedes eat during the holidays), Beef Carpaccio, Reindeer and of course they had köttbullar (Swedish meatballs too).

20141214_130101Quite the selection of Sill or Pickled Herring a traditional Scandinavian food that you can have by itself or a cracker

20141214_132157 10 different types of smoked salmon! Warm smoked, cold smoked, smoked salmon with cream cheese, with dill, with tomato sauce… it was all so good. Smaka bra!.

20141214_133201A full plate of deliciousness.

We definitely ate well that day. When we reached dessert, we were so full, but had to try a bit of what they offered. Drinks other than water were not included in the brunch price (even if it wasn’t cheap) but we decided to try the Gl√∂gg, Julmust and a Christmas beer too.

20141214_142636 Cheese at the dessert table
20141214_142554 Different Swedish style pies and cakes like, chocolate (kladdkaka) and cheese cakes (ostkaka), tiramisu, pannacotta and more with coffee and tea included.

Dessert was pretty good, but I wasn’t as impressed as I was with the main dishes. The cheesecake I tried was ‘Blue cheese’ which I’m not a fan of hahaha. There was also a¬†bulk candy section (Swedes love their bulk candy and it’s everywhere in the grocery stores and they even have their own bulk candy stores like Sega Gubben!).

20141214_155212 A view of the swing ride in Liseberg

The brunch price included admission to the amusement park, Liseberg, which is another reason why we decided to go to the Julbord there. Since moving to Sweden, we haven’t visited Liseberg. After the late lunch, we walked around to digest and take photos. There were reindeer on a little island, market stalls and little shops. It reminded me a bit of Knott’s Berry Farm in California. Everything was decorated for Christmas.

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We also really wanted to try to win the large candy bars. It turned out that they were basically gambling games where you bet on numbers, they spin the wheel and you win the chocolate bar if it landed on your number.

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This was the Geisha and Dumle wheel. It seemed like they had all of my favorite Swedish chocolate bars at the wheels
and then a few other Non-Swedish ones like Geisha and Toblerone etc.

¬†We tried a few different ones, the Tolberone, the Anthon Berg wheel and my favorite, the Kex. At 5kr per number or 20kr for 5 numbers, People can spend so much trying to win. It’s also apparently easier at Liseberg to win than at other parks. No wonder Swedes love gambling, it starts when they’re young (we have seen so many commercials on online casino games on tv).

I have been obsessed with those Humongous chocolate bars since we moved here, after seeing people carrying them around. And lucky for me, my co-pilot actually won a GIANT Kex bar!!! Perhaps we have figured out the strategy for at least one of the chocolate bar wheels ūüėČ

20141218_002922Grumpy isn’t very impressed with the chocolate bar box – as for what was inside, that’s for me to know and you to find out ūüėČ

That was definitely a perfect ending to a great day at Liseberg and a really wonderful Julbord! Tis the Season!
God Jul!

Doing Caturday right

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“I think I smell food. Yeah me too.”

Recently, I have¬†started volunteering at a cat shelter on Saturdays (Caturdays). It has been one of the most rewarding volunteering experiences I’ve had and I’ve done A LOT of volunteering.

Cuddling and snuggling with the cats and kittens is on the ‘Volunteer checklist’¬†along with feeding them, giving them water and cleaning their litter boxes.

I’ve missed having my own cat at home since moving to Sweden. Yes, I’ve¬†thought about adopting a cat, but because we are traveling so often here, I decided against it. I am considering fostering a cat if they need a foster home though. Otherwise, spending Saturday mornings with the cats and kittens works out just fine. I also get to practice my Swedish with the other volunteers.

Caturday!

It definitely beats the Neko cafe we visited in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Those cats were so spoiled they wouldn’t even let anyone pet them.

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If you’re thinking about getting a cat this holiday season, think about adopting one from your local cat shelter and not your local pet store.

Gl√∂gg, Julmust and Lussekatt

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A saffron bun shaped in an S with 2 raisins, Swedish lussekatt is traditionally available during the December.

The Advent season has arrived here in Sweden! First thing’s first, do you have your advent calendar???

Growing up, we always had chocolate advent calendars. Each day you open a new window to reveal a piece of chocolate in a Christmasy shape like a stocking or santa claus and then you fight to see who gets it haha. I wanted to get the Valrhona Advent Calendar but it was $30 at the neighbourhood candy store. I settled for making my own instead ūüôā

In Sweden, they first celebrate the first of Advent. After that Sunday (which occurred on Nov 30th this year), all of the decorations and candles for the windows are put up. The tree, they leave until a few days before Christmas.

Now that we are in our new place and our living room and kitchen windows face the busy street, it would be nice to put up some Christmas decorations as well. Contributing to ‘beautifying the neighbourhood’ hehe. Although, the winter season has been pretty mild around here so far, it does get really dark…early. Lights at windows just make the streets a bit brighter as well.

So far, we just have our German Christmas Pyramid set-up which we bought at a Christmas Market in Germany last year and of course our mini Xmas tree.

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Christmas decorations are up all over the city, especially around all of the shops.

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¬†One of the shopping streets in town after the work day has ended. Much busier during a Saturday I’d say.

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A Christmas window at the fancy dept store in town. Apparently, they have more than enough of a budget for animated window displays.

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We were told Julmust is the same as påskmust (which is the Easter drink). They both taste like a really sweet Dr. Pepper. Delicious snacks (except for the Cardamom bread) are a must for a Christmas Fika! 

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This gl√∂gg (or mulled wine) sample at IKEA, tasted just like apple cider. Add some nuts and dried fruit, if desired. Don’t forget the pepparkakor (Thin Ginger bread biscuits). After walking around the store, it was a welcome sight.

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One can buy glögg at the grocery stores (alkoholfri) or the alcoholic version at the liquor store.

The next few weeks will be full of get-togethers like Christmas fika and hopefully a Julbord (Christmas buffet) or two before heading home for the holidays! Santa Lucia Day is also coming up soon. Each year, a new Lucia is selected and that Lucia may appear in a parade or different concerts that people can attend for free.

For more information on Holiday events in the city, be sure to check out:
http://www.ilovegoteborg.se/goteborg_christmas_events.asp

God Jul!

 

That thing they call “Dagens Lunch”

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Har du lunch låda?

After an incredible wedding and 5-week honeymoon, I was definitely feeling the holiday blues when I got back to work. Don’t get me wrong, in this country where you must speak Swedish to work in most other fields, I am grateful to be employed. I did miss hiking all over Italy though (most notably the Cinque Terre – blog post coming soon).

Is it me or do Swedes take their lunch break super early? Well at my office anyway, most people take their lunch around 11:15. Restaurants around my area are busy from 11-1pm and then it’s pretty dead.¬†During that busy lunch period,¬†restaurants have queues for everything. A queue for paying, a queue for picking up food, a queue for getting coffee etc. So very Swedish!

Usually, I don’t have time to bring a packed lunch (lunch l√•da) so I go out with coworkers to try the local fare. In Sweden, lunch time on a weekday means “Dagens lunch”! Everyday, restaurants¬†offer a meat, fish or a vegetarian option and sometimes even a lunch buffet. The salad bar is included of course, but people only get salad once (even if it is All-You-Can-Eat). If that salad bar was in North America, I’m sure people who go back as many times as they wanted.

The meal is followed by coffee and a cookie that you can either have at the restaurant or take away.¬†My coworkers like to joke that the restaurants that charge for coffee during lunch or don’t include a cookie are lame and get minus points in their books.

Back to the subject of “Dagens lunch”. After working in the same area for over a year and just coming back from a summer eating delicious Italian cuisine it was hard to bring myself to eat Husmans mat. “Husmans” is another term you will see around on the menus, which I was told means “local” or “traditional” swedish food.

There are a few different restaurants in the area where I work, which we¬†alternate between. Our company also treats us to lunch twice a month (but it’s usually at places we would only go to if it was free haha).

Lunch time remains one of my favorite times of the day aside from Fika (or Swedish coffee break).

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Even if it does get boring, Lunch is definitely the cheaper meal when dining out in Sweden. So next time you are in Sweden, be sure to try the Dagens Lunch!

Köttbullar or meatballs is a classic Swedish meal.

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Pea soup and Pancakes is commonly served on Thursdays, ‘Peasoup and Pancake day’. I’m not fond of the Pea soup, but the pannkakor are delicious.

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F Cancer and Run!

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A few weekends ago, we participated in the “F cancer and Run” 10K here in G√∂teborg, Sweden. Also known as “Fight” or “Fuck” Cancer and Run.

This year we have been running quite a bit and wanted to push ourselves to try for an organized run. We signed up for this one before the summer and didn’t think about it until a month before (while on honeymoon). We were able to do some training runs a couple weeks before the race but we were also just returning from a summer of eating our way through Italy, so I was a little nervous. It was my first organized run since moving here and my husband’s first ever 10K. He actually did quite well!

The ‘F Cancer and Run’ 10K is a much smaller race than say, the Vancouver sun run or the Half Marathon in G√∂teborg, but there was still a good turnout. It was also a little different to be doing a run in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning like other runs.

A funny thing about the race route was it took us right by the area where I work. Weird to be there on a Saturday. Hahaha but it was worth it!

Some thoughts on the race:
Good
-Snacks were provided at the end of the race which included KEX Swede Chocolate bars!
-Not too many people so it wasn’t super crowded during the run.
-Beautiful sunny weather.
-Nice race route.

Improvements
-There was just 1 water station at the 6K mark.
If you didn’t carry a water bottle with you, you could get really thirsty.
-The end of the race route could be improved.
It was a bit confusing whether we were done..and having to run around the race track again like we did at the start felt long and slow.

I did this run in memory of my mom who passed away from Breast cancer when I was younger. This was also nice to do in lieu of running the CIBC Breast Cancer Awareness run in Vancouver this year. We will definitely consider doing this run again next time!

20140920_152214The Race started here at the city arena

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Pre-race vew. Usually this is used as a Go-karting race track.

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A better view of the race track from the Göta älvbron (bridge)

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Walking back to the city centre across the bridge exhausted,
but extremely proud of ourselves. 


Glad Kanelbullens dag!

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Oct 4, is just another one of the food holidays in Sweden. It is kanelbulle (Swedish Cinnamon roll) day! A Swedish Cinnamon bun is not as gooey as a North American Cinnamon bun. Instead of the icing found in North American cinnamon buns, Kanelbullar are sprinkled with large sugar bits (similar to pretzels sprinkled with salt bits). Swedes of course, must add their favorite spice to the kanelbulle… Cardamom!! which after living in Sweden for over a year, you start to tire of. Swedes, however, have become immune to the flavor, quite simply because it’s in everything!

We learned in Swedish class this week that Sweden celebrates 4 different food holidays:

  • Kanelbullen dag¬†(Cinnamon bun day) which occurs on Oct 4th
  • Fettisdagsbullar (Fat Tuesday Buns) or “semla” day (Just before the start of lent)
  • V√•ffeldagen (waffle day) occurs 9 months before Christmas, ¬†from “Our lady’s day” or the annunciation.
  • Lussekatter dag – during the month of December or the season of Advent to celebrate St. Lucia’s day. It’s a saffron bun that comes in many shapes but he simplest one is in an ‘S’ shape.

They all occur at different times of the year and during that time, that particular pastry is everywhere in the city. Every bakery is selling them and everyone is eating them too.

It’s the best when the food holiday occurs on a work day. Then you’re bound to get something delicious for fika that day.

For semla day this year, I think I ate about 3 buns…mmm the cream.

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In December last year, we tried both the saffron and the cardamom lussekatter.

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The bakery near our place, Dahl’s, had a huge stock of lussekatter every weekend.

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I have yet to try waffles for waffle day here in Sweden, but I have tried waffles in Norway with brown cheese and boy were those deelish. I know they are probably not the same as Swedish ones (but like a lot of things Norwegian, they are quite similar) ūüėČ

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I guess there are some Swedish pastries I like after all, just wish they didn’t have to add cardamom to everything.

Tack för läsning and remember to eat some Cinnamon buns today!

One Year Anniversary!

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What a year!
It’s hard to believe that we have been living in Sweden for just over a year now. This year has been one full of change, surprises, challenges and accomplishments. How many people can say that they have lived in another country, let alone in Europe? I am so proud of ourselves that we have been able to survive in Sweden for a whole year!! We deserve a pat on the back, or maybe some kanelbullor (Swedish cinnamon buns) and kanelmandellors (chocolate covered almonds with cinnamon).

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When we first moved here, I wasn’t working and I didn’t start taking Swedish language classes right away. I had lots of free time to explore my new town. Months went by and I started SFI – Svenska for Invandrare. I met more people and developed a routine. I started learning some Swedish and I discovered how challenging it is to learn a language which is very melodic compared to English. Fast forward to now, and I’m busy working, learning Swedish and traveling as much as we can while we are living in Europe.

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Recently at a friend’s party where most of the guests were non-Swedes, we were all talking about how hard it is to work in Sweden if you don’t have the language or if your certification isn’t recognized by Sweden. Gothenburg is a nice little city but it can be boring. I can sympathize with my colleagues about the challenges they face after moving here. If I didn’t have a job, or go to school and couldn’t travel it would be a different story. The best thing about living in Sweden is the opportunity to travel in Europe.

Although many say that there are similarities between Sweden and Canada (like the nature), living in Goteborg, Sweden isn’t ‘home’. Here are some things I’ve learned a little more about while living in a foreign country: 1) What it’s like to be an immigrant 3) Working culture in Sweden 4) Swedish culture 2) How easy and fun it is to travel in Europe

Välkommen till Sverige
Being an immigrant is difficult! Growing up in Canada, I don’t think I ever realized this. Immigrants have to face so many challenges including the language barrier.In my old Swedish class, things we all complained about was learning Swedish and trying to find a job. We are lucky that there is a lot of English in Sweden (one of the reasons why we decided moving here as it wouldn’t be as hard as moving to another country like France or Germany). But saying that, the job situation is Sweden is difficult. More later in my job-hunting blog.

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All of the correspondence is in Swedish here. In Canada, they translate more documents into different languages. I don’t read the daily paper or watch the news on TV (luckily there’s the internet). I can see how it must be hard for immigrants to try to communicate in English back home.

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Becoming familiar with the different areas of the city is still tough. People tell me it’s near this place on this street. First of all, it’s hard for me to understand what they are saying and second, I don’t know what area they are talking about. At least I have Google Maps.

Trying to find things in the grocery store is another thing that could be a challenge. It depends on the grocery store of course, but now they have opened a big Asian store in the mall and some grocery stores actually have an ‘American’ aisle. I still use Google Translate to check ingredients and descriptions of grocery store items as well.

1389475613165Which one is the yoghurt..?

Plenty of vacation, meetings, fika and more fika
One of the things we wanted to get out of living in another country was the experience of working in another country.

Now that I have been working in Sweden, I have noticed quite a few things that are different from working in Canada.
– Consultants are more common here.
– We get paid once a month.
– There are so many more meetings.
– Swedes take more fika or coffee breaks.
– Lunches include salad bar and coffee.
– Vacation is plentiful.
– Family is the most important. If a co-worker is in a meeting but he’s on ‘kindergarten duty’ he just leaves the meeting.

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Delicious weekday lunches beats the dinner price any time.

Swedes, noone wants to stand out
Lagom is a phrase that is entirely Swedish. It’s a little hard to explain but basically means, ‘enough’. Not first place but just after is good enough. My boss joked that they often like to use it as a verb and say they will try to “lagomize” the process.

It’s hard to¬†meet Swedish people. My Swedish teacher actually said Swedes are like an old glass Ketchup bottle. It’s hard to get them to flow but when they do, it all comes out at once. Also, when Swedes are among Swedes they converse in Swedish. When an English-speaker comes around they do switch to English but it’s hard to relate if they have to think about the proper English word to describe what they were talking about.

So many low-cost airlines and so many places to go
Budget airlines like Wizz, Ryan Air, and Easy Jet, make flying so much cheaper, sometimes even cheaper than taking the train! Lucky for us many budget airlines fly out of the city airport in Gothenburg. Since moving here, we are traveling as much as possible taking advantage of our time in Europe.

There’s just nothing like ‘going away’ for the weekend to another country. We are really lucky to have that option.

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Enjoying ice cream on a long weekend trip to London which included a day in Cambridge.

20140505_064327I’m always asked about weird things in Sweden. Here is a short list of a few things I have encountered during my stay in Sweden. Please note, I have not tried all of the things on the list (referring specifically to the¬†Surstr√∂mming).

1) Kebab pizza.
2) They put everything in Cartons and ‘juice boxes’ apparently a Swede created the ‘Tetra pak’.
3) When people move out of their apartment, they take the light fixtures with them.
4) Bedrooms in apartments don’t have closets in them.
5) Surströmming.
6) They make special drinks for special holidays like Easter (Påsk) drink.
7) How often guys where skinny pants and often they are red.
8) Swedes don’t take leftovers home (why not? I love them).
9) The majority pay with cards and not cash.
10) They celebrate so many food days – for fettisdagen ‘Fat Tuesday’ it’s Semla day. On Thursdays it’s Pea soup and Pancake day. There was even a day of waffles a few weeks ago.
11) Swedes love sauce and put it on everything from meatballs to a piece of fish. Hollandaise, Bernaise, Hamburger sauce, you name it and they eat it.
12) They sure love their coffee here.
13) Public toilets aren’t free.
14) Noone talks to their neighbours.
15) Swedes are all fit – they wake up early to exercise and then go to work.
16) Swedes love all things American.

20140301_184724Sauce!

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Semlor!

Want to know more about what life is like in Sweden?¬†Watch Welcome to Sweden! It’s pretty hilarious.

I’m not sure how much longer we will be in Sweden, but I do know that there have been things I’ve enjoyed and things I haven’t about this experience but that’s all part of the adventure! I’m looking forward to seeing what the coming year will bring ūüôā

Tack för läsning! (Thanks for reading!)

An Arctic Adventure in Dog Sledding!

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Huskies + Sledding + Norway = AMAZING!
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One of the highlights of our recent trip to Troms√ł in Northern Norway had to be the day we spent dog sledding!

After contacting 4 places in Troms√ł, and looking over the options, we decided to go with Active Troms√ł. They were the cheaper option and they would allow you the chance to drive the sled. The others were more expensive and we were told you only got to ride in the sled. Even the place which seemed to be the most popular, didn’t allow you to drive (that company was closed to day trips for the season anyway).

We enjoyed our day with Active Troms√ł and were happy that they stayed true to their name, as it was a very ‘active’ day. The instructor, Tore, was very experienced with the dogs and sledding and his girlfriend, Sandra, was also very helpful.

The day began with a pick up in the town at the Radisson Blu hotel. They were running a bit late so we were picked up about 10-15 min after they had said. Even so, Tore stopped at a supermarket along the way so the others could pick up some lunch (Yoni and I were already prepared, packing our tuna sandwich lunch that morning) which was very nice of him.

When we arrived at our desination, we heard the dogs howling below at their kennels. It was an amazing sight to see from the top of the hill.

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We were also quite lucky to see some new 5 week old husky puppies. They were caged when we first arrived but later Sandra let them out to play when the the other group arrived.

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So adorable!! In just 1 year, he will start training to join the dog sled team!

With Active Troms√ł, you don’t need to worry much about bringing the right clothing. They had great snow proof clothing that was included. You just had to make sure to wear some long underwear and long sleeve fleece top.
Pants, boots, hat, neck fleece, and gloves were all included – and it took a while to get all of the layers on. When we were finally ready, we headed down to meet the dogs!

The dogs were so excited that they were going to go out on a run! After a brief overview where we learned that the dogs didn’t get to go out the day before so they were full of energy and the word for stop in Norwegian ‘st√•’, they showed us how to put the harness on our dogs. We split up into our teams and put the harness on each of our dogs.
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Even if they were so hyper running around and howling, as soon as it was time to put the harness on, they stood there so still and obediently.

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Harnessed and ready ūüôā

I sat in the sled first with all of our bags, the camera, our water and the emergency anchor (which you throw out of the sled when you want the dogs to really stop)!

IMG_6336View from inside the sled!

Having the opportunity to team up with 5 husky dogs and drive the sled was quite an adventure and harder than it sounds. You need to be aware of the team ahead of you, if they slow down, you need to follow suit and stop well before you think you should or the dogs will try to get ahead of that team. You also need to be careful of the hills as going downhill you could lose control of the sled, and of course avoiding trees on the turns is difficult.

Steering to the right or left requires you to put your weight on the correct side. I was literally standing on one side with all my weight to make the turns. At the beginning the sled did topple over once or twice..but after we learned how to control it better it was fantastic.

The dogs needed some help pushing the sled on the uphill and in the deeper snow, so it was definitely a great work-out for the dogs and us! Driving the sled with someone sitting in it is a hard job, so we were both really happy that we could alternate drivers along the journey. The guy in front of us was the only driver and his passenger didn’t want to drive, so he had a much harder time.


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Action shot with the dog teams behind us! Look at those husky dogs go!

During the first part of the sledding it was snowing quite a bit which made it tougher. After putting on all that Arctic clothing, we actually were pretty warm after driving the sled. We didn’t end up using the hat, gloves or goggles (I brought my own pair).

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The second half of our journey, the clouds started parting to reveal the beautiful blue skies. Northern Norway is seriously one of the most beautiful places on earth. Seeing a bit of the mountains by dog sled is just unforgettable.

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Winter wonderland in Northern Norway

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Taking a break to take in the view and
reward our dogs with lots of petting for their hard work.


Howling huskies!

IMG_6429Our dog team!!

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Everytime we stopped and the team in front started to get going, the dogs would turn around to ask “Are we going yet???” ūüôā

Well deserved nap after their hard work

20140322_144908Hard not to get attached to your dogs! 2 of the dogs on our team, brothers, Ford and Mitsubishi

If you are planning a trip to Northern Norway or anywhere in Lappland, I highly recommend including Dog sledding in your activities! I was glad my coworkers mentioned it to me when I told them of my trip up north. It was an incredible and unique adventure!

Active Troms√ł
http://activetromso.no/dog-sledding/

Thank you to the dogs and the staff at Active Troms√ł¬†for such a fantastic and fun¬†day!

Saying Yes to the Dress in G√∂teborg

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I have finally found my dream dress and it only took a year ūüėõ

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When I first moved to Sweden, I asked about the cost and options for wedding dresses. I heard that wedding dresses would be way too expensive to buy here so I didn’t bother looking around until recently. I was glad that I did though, because after months of hunting, I have finally found my dress! I’ve also found that there are actually quite a few options here. I hope this blog post can help others who may be searching for their dream dress in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Learning Swedish is difficult in Sweden because so many Swedes speak good English, that means as soon as they know you’re a foreigner, they switch¬†to English! Most of the bridal shop staff spoke fairly good English and only stumbling over words like ‘seamstress’ or when discussing the dress material.

The level of customer service varied at different shops. One thing that was a little frustrating was the business hours of the shops. If you are like me and work Mon-Fri, then Saturdays are the only day that works. Saturdays, unfortunately, are also the busiest and you may have to wait to get a change room or any help from the staff.¬†I didn’t need to make appointments to try on the dresses so that was a plus.

Note: Many girls are shopping not only for bridal gowns but also for Prom dresses as the Prom season is in May. Expect the shop to be busy in the months leading up to Prom and wedding season.

I wanted to stay in budget as much as possible but I noticed many women looking at the more expensive rack. There were a few stores that had sale racks. Apparently ordering dresses can take up to 4 months. I didn’t want to risk it, so I bought a dress off the rack. The majority of the stores will not allow photos to be taken, I’ve marked that in the list below.

One thing I noticed was there were quite a few men accompanying their fiances for the dress shopping! I think they also paid for the dresses perhaps. In my opinion, it is strange letting them see the dress before the wedding.

Some tips

  • Put your dream dress on hold or you may lose it!
  • Get a card from the shop and ask them to write down the styles you tried on and liked.
  • Try on different styles, even styles you may to have thought you liked at first, you may change your mind about it.
  • I was initially looking for dresses with a little lace and some detail on the dress but after trying on dress after dress I realized I didn’t like that style and ended up with something more simple but elegant.
  • Take a break from the dress shopping, fika pause or coffee break does wonders
  • Bring a friend, it helps especially if you can’t take photos in the shop.

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List of Bridal shops
Atelje VIP
http://ateljevip.wordpress.com/
Dresses from 3700 sek.
There were also dresses that were two pieces, top and skirt, which you could mix and match. Not my style although it is a cheaper option. No photos allowed in the shop.

My experience: Lady was really nice and helped me try on the dresses in my price range. One of the dresses I was interested in got snatched up by another lady right infront of me, and the lady even had the nerve to ask if I would still be interested in trying it on. I was looking for something off the rack, as I mentioned above, so I really did not see the point of trying it on.

Remann’s
http://remanns.se/
Dresses from 3000 sek.The dresses here were arranged by price. No photos allowed.

My experience:¬†They had many different options but the dresses were hung on a pretty crowded rack making it hard to see what each dress¬†looked like. I didn’t find many dresses I liked in my price range. Many dressing rooms here, so I didn’t have to wait to try on dresses.

Wedding Square Brollop & Fest
http://www.weddingsquare.se/
Dress prices started at 4700. Photos were OK at the store. There are only 2 dressing rooms at the Järntorget location.

My experience:¬†I initially found 2 dresses that made my list. This later changed to 1 dress, but¬†It was unfortunately too good to be true! The girl who was helping me that day had written the price down for the dress that I was interested in on the card I took with me. I came back to the store and was all set to buy the dress, but I find out that the price that was written on the card was wrong! The dress was actually 2000 sek more, way over budget. I would not have been back if I had known it was out of my price range. What bothered me most was they did not¬†even offer to lower the price or to give me a discount on the alterations or anything. Even if they had been the one to make the mistake on the price. I wasn’t happy. I tried on a few more dresses that day, and they tried to convince me those dresses were better.

I was told that the Gamlestan location had more selection but fewer dresses in my price range. I decided not to look or buy anything from this store after that.

Ramona’s
http://www.ramonadesign.se/
Simple chiffon dresses starting at 3000 sek. Good sale rack with lots of selection.
This shop has been around for many years. No photos allowed.

My experience: They were busy on the day I was there. I had to wait a while to get a change room and a staff member to help. I tried on 3 dresses and really liked one of them. They had a really good sale rack but some of the dresses were way too big for me to try on. Staff were helpful but didn’t offer to help me find any other dresses while I was trying on the ones I had chosen.

Tony’s h√∂gtidskl√§der
http://www.tonyshogtidsklader.se/
Dresses from 5000 sek

My experience: I went to this shop near closing just to take a quick look. There was a guy working there and I told him I got an email about prices and that I was looking for dresses around 5000 sek. He showed me the only 3 options they had. Unfortunately, I didn’t like them.

Vasaplatsen Uthyrning
(Couldn’t find a website for them)
Address details
Vasaplatsen 9411 26 GOTHENBURG

Rentals and new dresses that are for sale. 100 kr diff in price for some of the dresses.
Dress Rentals for sale from 3700 sek
Photos OK

My experience: Lady was helpful, even if I was there near closing.
Good selection on both last year and new dresses but nothing in my price range. They had few dresses in my size, but a few of the dresses I wanted to try were too large.

Johan’s Hogtidsklader
http://www.johanshogtidsklader.se/sv/dam
Dresses from 3500 sek and up. Lots to look at some dresses on sale and new 2014 dresses. Can see new dresses online. No photos allowed.

My experience: I found the sale rack to have a good selection. The staff were helpful and let me try dresses on even if it was the last 30minutes before closing. Harder to find dresses in my size on the sale rack at this shop.

There are 2 other shops that are outside of Gothenburg that were also recommended to me:
Svahn’s Brollop
Kungsbacka – No appointment needed **Update, they have moved to Vallda
http://www.svahnsbrollop.se/
Dresses from 3000 sek.
No photos allowed

My experience: This shop is where I found my dress! The girl who was helping me was extremely patient. She did her best to recommend different styles for me to try on. But some of her recommendations were out of my price range. She let me try on as many dresses as I wanted. It was quite busy the Saturday I was there. Around 5 or 6 other brides rushing around to take a look at the mirrors.

*Did not visit
Bridal shop in Nol – unprofessional photos on website, was not interested in making a trip there.
http://www.dindromklanning.se/brollopsklanningar/brudklanningar-i-lager-omgaende-leverans
Can do custom dresses starting at 5000

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For those searching for their dream dress, Good Luck and Have fun ūüôā

Tribute Blog: Bohol

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Bohol
Just a short fast ferry from Dumaguete and you will reach another island in the Visayas called, Bohol. A popular tourist destination, Bohol is known for the adorable tarsiers and a natural phenomena called ‘The Chocolate Hills’. Like much of the Philippines, it also offers some stunning diving.

We arrived in Taglibaran and made our way across the bridge to Panglao island where we would be staying. We found a place near Alona beach at a small guest house.

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This is where we met Lumpi, the little white puppy who lived there with the hotel staff. I also learned how to drive a motorbike here (practicing on the empty dirt road at night, the security guard thought it was pretty funny).

We decided to go diving on one of our days in Bohol. Like many of the other islands where we dived, we saw some amazing coral and some beautiful turtles (my favorite!).

For the tarsiers and Chocolate Hills, we did a day road trip renting a motorbike from the hotel where we stayed. They also lent us a rain jacket for two (it was rainy season afterall).

The first stop on our road trip was the official Philippines Tarsier Sanctuary(the official sanctuary not to be confused with the one in Lombok – where we heard they don’t care for the tarsiers as well). We stopped on our way there to ask for directions from an ‘lolo’ sitting by the road. He gave me a strange look when I got off the motorbike but when I approached and asked him in Tagalog if he knew where the Tarsier sanctuary was, he smiled and pointed in the way we were headed saying we were almost there.

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The tarsiers were so adorable with their huge eyes and much smaller than I expected! They are incredible little creatures. It’s no surprise that ET was loosely based on tarsier. There was a small museum at the sanctuary which displayed some interesting facts on the tarsiers.

Tarsiers are acutally nocturnal creatures. They are active at night when they hunt. During the day, they are supposed to be sleeping. Touring the sanctuary, one can see them resting on trees, their big eyes wide open and ears moving about.

At the sanctuary, a guide takes you around to see the different tarsiers resting on trees. It’s a small area and doesn’t take very long to see all of them. I think there were about 8 including 1 baby tarsier it’s and mom.

After visiting the tarsiers, we stopped for some bakery snacks and lechon manok lunch which we ate in the small town. The town consisted of an old historic church, 2 bakeries, and a lechon place hehe. I love Filipino bakeries! You can find all sorts of good pastries and for just a few pesos each.

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It was quite a scenic drive to the Chocolate Hills. There was even a popular hiking trail we passed but since we wanted to make it to our destination with enough time to look around, we didn’t stop.

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To describe the hills of Bohol as stunning is an understatement. They were absolutely incredible. Little mounds one after another, covered in green (due to it being rainy season). It was so bizarre that it was only in that area. To get the best view you walk up a flight of steps but that viewspot is really popular. You can take your photo with different props and there were some creative groups – like the Korean tour group and their jumping photos.

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There were 2 girls who asked if we could take their photo. But they specifically asked if we could take 4 photos for them. And they barely posed any differently. They were nice to take our photo when we ran into them again as we were about to leave.

This has to be the craziest number of passengers we saw on a motorbike in ALL of our travels in Asia. These kids were sooo cute and excited that I was taking their photo!! I hope they had a safe ride home too.

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Walking along the beach in Bohol there were little restaurants. We had Halo halo at one of them (my favorite dessert).

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After diving I also saw (heard the bell) of a guy on his bicycle yelling Baluuuuut as he rode by. I ran up to him when he stopped to buy one. Mmmmm! Balut in the Philippines (on the beach no less) РCHECK!! What is Balut? Fertilized Duck Egg that is popular in the Philippines. People were eating it everywhere.

I really enjoyed our stay in Bohol. I have such great memories of the sights and the cute dog Lumpi! I remember feeding him my leftovers and teaching him how to fetch a stick ūüėČ He was like my little puppy for the time we were there.

Bohol is a beautiful place and a must-see when you visit the Philippines. It is such a tragedy that Bohol’s old churches and even the Chocolate Hills were damaged during the earthquake.

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Tribute to the Philippines

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IMG_5051Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan, Philippines

First the earthquake and now the Haiyan typhoon…hasn’t the Philippines been through enough!? The devastation left by the destructive forces of mother nature is unspeakable. My heart goes out to all the Filipinos who have lost their homes and their loved ones. It is horrible how many people have died. And so many are still suffering. Filipinos are a resilient people and I know they will rebuild and overcome this.

I can’t help to think about those we met during our travels and the amazing places we visited during our trip. It is so sad to think that the earthquake and typhoon have caused major damage to some of the many places we traveled to.

My first visit to the Motherland was one of my favorite memories from our Asia trip. It was also one of the most memorable moments in my life and remains quite special to me.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a series of Tribute blogs to the Philippines from my trip in 2012.

Where to donate?
Full list found on this NY Times post

Philippine Red Cross
The Philippine Red Cross is accepting donations and coordinating disaster relief on the ground throughout much of the central Philippines. The organization is posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.

World Food Program
The World Food Program, which provides emergency food aid to families and children, is accepting donations online and through PayPal.

Unicef
The Philippine branch of Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, says that children affected by the typhoon need urgent access to drinkable water, medical supplies, food and shelter. It is accepting donations online as part of an emergency typhoon appeal.

Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Relief Services has dispatched a team to the area affected by the storm, but said travel to the most hard-hit cities and towns was ‚Äúextremely slow‚ÄĚ because of damaged infrastructure and debris-clogged roads. It is accepting donations online.

Caritas Manila
The Philippine branch of Caritas, a Catholic charity, is accepting donations online and via wire transfers. It is posting updates on Twitter.

Save the Children
Save the Children is accepting donations online to respond to the needs of children and families. The group said that 10 percent of each donation will be set aside to help prepare for future emergencies.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)
The medical charity M√©decins Sans Fronti√®re(Doctors Without Borders), explains on its website that it has emergency teams in Cebu (the Philippine city with the nearest fully operational airport to the disaster area) and expects ‚Äúto have a medical team on the ground tomorrow, Tuesday, in Tacloban, a town devastated when the typhoon first struck the coast.‚ÄĚ

Action Against Hunger
Action Against Hunger reports that its local experts in the Philippines ‚Äúwere able to mount an immediate emergency response, with teams carrying out initial surveys to assess needs while preparing distributions of drinking water and survival kits containing buckets, soap, and chlorine tablets.‚ÄĚ

Thresher Shark Divers – A dive shop we dived with on Malapascua Island, Cebu
Helping rebuild the locals homes on Malapascua.
Thresher Shark Divers

The Most Northern Point in Denmark

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20131026_174100Where the North sea meets the Kattegat sea…

Just a ferry ride across from Goteborg to Denmark and you find yourself in the town of Frederikshavn in North Jutland, Northern Denmark.

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During the summer season there is a fast ferry, that gets you there in 2hrs. We made the trip in the off season and our only option was the regular ferry (it took about 3hrs).

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Kids ride free and the ferry was full of them. We took ‘Stena Danica’ which had slot machines, arcade machines, and a huge gaming area with chess, air hockey and even a Wii station.

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All the open space means there is less seating area.

Note: Alcohol is apparently a little cheaper on the ferry. We saw people getting the 3 beer special…for breakfast.

I recommend buying your ticket for the brunch buffet if you’re interested in having it. With a ship full of people, the seats for the buffet on our ferry were sold out fast. I was disappointed we missed out on the brunch buffet.

20131026_094129No more seats for us… ūüė¶

The regular meal options are limited. Vegetarian options are pancakes (thin pancakes, European-style) and muffins/pastries. Sandwiches such as the shrimp sandwich was around 149kr, you easily get a brunch buffet for around that price.

We did share a lunch dish of white fish and mash with salad and watched the latest episode of the Walking Dead, so that was good.

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Frederikshavn’s city centre seems catered towards tourists. Shops and little cafes line the cobble stone main street. Located by the Stena Line ferry exit, unloading ferry passengers find themselves right on the shopping street.

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Getting to Skagen and the Northern Point
A 30min train ride from Frederikshavn is Skagen.¬†Skagen is a quaint little town with yellow buildings everywhere. I’m sure it’s crowded during the summers being right next to sandy beaches.

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From Skagen you can take a bike to Grenen or you can walk.
Note: During off season the bike shops close in the early afternoon. Bike rental wouldn’t be possible unless you stay in the town overnight.

The walk is about 3 km from the town through a residential area until you get into the nature park. There’s a sandy beach that runs along the coast. We found some amazing old German bunkers along the beach that we hadn’t heard anything about. Most of them were closed up but a few had little entrance ways to peak into.

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IMG_2044Sunken Bunker

Beautiful lighthouse on our walk

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Also saw this structure along our walk
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It was almost sundown when we reached the parking lot at Grenen. There were people still there, one tour bus and a few cars. But we were the last ones heading to the point while everyone else was walking back to the parking lot.

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After enjoying the view for a few minutes we decided, no more photos, we would speed walk back in order to make our train back to Frederikshavn in time.

We had been walking around since we arrived and were a little tired. It was also getting dark but I was trying not to let the cold or wind bother me too much. At least it wasn’t raining.

On our walk back, I suggested we run a bit to speed things up. A car drove by us, then stopped and backed up. The driver, an older Danish lady, said we looked like we were trying to get somewhere fast and wondered if we needed a ride. We gladly accepted and told her how much we appreciated it! She was from 11 km outside of Jutland and was staying in Skagen for a few days.

The ride was less than 10min but it really saved us the walking and we were so grateful we didn’t have to rush to make the train. We had a chance to grab some coffee and a snack before we boarded the train back to Frederikshavn.

1382806510790Quiet Zone of the train

Back in Frederikshavn, before we headed to the ferry, we walked around the centre of Frederikshavn and took a few more photos.

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IMG_2071¬†LLAP! ūüėČ

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IMG_2077 Walkway to the ferry back to Göteborg

For the ferry ride back we decided to do the dinner buffet but alas, thanks to the high waves and winds I wasn’t feeling very well on the ride back. I ended up losing my appetite and didn’t even eat dessert!

20131026_203014Ate a bunch of shrimp and smoked salmon before I started feeling seasick.

Taking a walk outside helped a little but what made me feel better was when we found a place to sit and I napped. Even though there were some loud swedes who had too much to drink yelling and stuff while everyone else was trying to watch TV or sleep.

Duty free on the ferry buy 3 beer flats and get a free trolley… there were more than one of those trolleys when it was time to disembark from the ferry.

We had a wonderful time on our day trip to Denmark!! Exploring a new place is something we always look forward to. It was definitely a long day, but one full of good exercise. Think we shall return when it gets warmer and perhaps then we will ride bikes ūüôā

More info on the Stena Line Ferry
Wikitravel Skagen and Frederikshavn

A Visit to the Beautiful Swedish Capital

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Escaping to the nation’s capital for the weekend, we were greeted by sunny weather and the most gorgeous Autumn colors. It’s nice visiting a city like Stockholm in the Fall season. With so much nature around the city, it’s so picturesque and makes for some beautiful photos.

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This was our very first visit to Stockholm which is just a 3 hr train ride away from ‘Goteborg C’ (or Goteborg Central station). The scenery along the way included green pastures with grazing animals and a few lakes.