Oh, Stockholm: The city that I really like but that has been woefully ignored by this blog. I first visited Stockholm when I was a young teenager and took the overnight boat from Helsinki with my parents, siblings and grandparents. I remember being awestruck at how beautiful the city was. The many islands, cobblestone streets and magnificent architecture was so different from Helsinki–a city that I know and love but is just not as beautiful as Stockholm. (Sorry, Helsinki! You are just as good but different!) The next time I returned was a decade later with Sean. We visited numerous times while we lived in London and would always see (and mostly stay) with our family friends, the Waldenströms. Stockholm was the last place I visited before I had Sofia, so heavily pregnant that the airline refused to let me on the flight back to London until I produced a doctors note proving I could fly. (Maybe there was a reason for their reticence. The cabin pressure affected me so badly that even after we landed I told Sean to just leave me at Heathrow, I couldn’t imagine walking to our taxi, I felt so sick. In typical Sean style he bluntly told me: “You are not living at the airport. Get up and walk and you will feel fine once you get in the car.” And, sure enough I did.)
The Waldenströms live on the island of Djurgårten which is one of the many islands that surround the center of Stockholm. (The city is known as the Venice of the North.) You could not wish to live in a more perfect location. Our friend Niclas takes a short ferry ride to his office in the center of town and their kids walk to their school which is on the island. From one side of the apartment building you can see some of the rides at the amusement park, Grönalund and from the other, the cruise ships going to and from Finland. During the summer, you can hear people screaming on the rides. Caroline’s grandmother owned the building which was built in the 1920’s and now her parents, Anders and Güdren live on the top floor, Caroline and Niclas and their kids live on the bottom floor, her brother lives in one of the middle floor and their sister Anna decided to rent out her apartment and lives on another nearby island. There are several other tenants in the building and Sean has targeted the poor Jacobsen family to evict so we can move in. (Do it Anders, do it!)
Sean has known Caroline since he was a kid and now our kids know (and like!) one another. We have so much fun with them and even if it has been a couple of years since we have see one another, we easily pick up where we left off. So when we were booking our trip to Sweden we knew we had to make time for a trip to Stockholm. In the past we have taken the train from Gothenburg but this year we decided to drive. Everyone told us that it would take five to six hours but Sean decided to ignore all posted speed limits (I’m still waiting for a ticket in the mail) and we made in just about four hours. With one stop.
We met Caroline and Elliot and Andrea (Niclas and their other son Ted were at at soccer tournament in the north of Sweden) for lunch around the corner from their house (delicious shrimp sandwiches) then crossed the street to one of Djurgårten’s many tourist attractions, the open-air museum, Skansen. As I described it to the kids, Skansen is sort of like the Swedish version of Colonial Williamsburg. We saw old fashioned houses, glass being blown, experienced what it would be like to sleep sitting upright on a tiny bed from the 1800’s and even saw a Swedish pop star rehearsing for the evening’s sing-a-long with the ABBA choir. (The ABBA museum is across the street and yes, of course we went the next day!) Sean had to duck out for a work call so Caroline and I walked around with the kids until everyone was tired. We then dropped them off at her apartment and met Sean around the corner at the trendy Oaxen restaurant where he had decided to set up his Stockholm office complete with a glass of rose. We happily joined him. After our drink we went back to the apartment for dinner and more wine on Caroline’s patio. We chatted late into the night while the kids jumped on the trampoline, played ping pong and watched movies. The kids set up beds in the tv room and slept there while Sean and I bunked on the top floor of the apartment building. Formerly the servants quarters, the tiny guest room garret belongs to Caroline’s parents but is used by all family guests (especially the Hayes family!) The tiny room is accessed by a door in the hallway on the top floor outside Anders and Güdren’s apartment. A heavy skeleton key opens the door and you have to go up the steepest, windiest staircase to get to the next door. There is a small bathroom then a narrow corridor into the all white bedroom with its sloped ceiling which overlooks the rooftops of Stockholm and the water beyond. It is one of my favorite rooms.
We were up early the next morning for breakfast downstairs. Caroline is one of the best hostesses I know and had set the table the night before. (She also has the most beautifully decorated apartment and I steal lots of ideas from her.) We had a typical Scandinavian breakfast of coffee, juice, tea, yogurt, cereal, toast, cheese, butter, orange marmalade and ham. Sean went ahead with the kids to Gröna Lund so they could be there when the park opened while Caroline and I cleaned up after breakfast and dawdled a bit. (There is never any rush for me to get to an amusement park!) Gröna Lund is literally in Caroline’s backyard, about a one minute walk from her house. After watching Sean and the kids go on many rides we set the kids up with lunch and left them at the park. (Caroline assured us it was completely safe and her kids had cell phones so we hoped for the best and left.) Oscar said his favorite ride was Jetline which is a roller coaster. Sofia’s favorite was Insane which looked just as bad as it sounds. Sean went on with her and I could hear him screaming from where I was sitting. All the kids agreed that the fun house with its wobbly stairs and tilted rooms was really the best ride.
After ditching the kids, Sean, Caroline and I went to one my favorite stores, Svesnkt Tenn. Caroline was the person who first introduced me to the store and I wish I could buy everything inside. The fantastic interior design shop features furniture, home goods, accessories and the colorful bold fabrics by Josef Frank, the Jewish-Austrian architect and designer who moved to Sweden in the 1930’s. I own about seven trays of various sizes from this store and a bolt of fabric I bought two years and am to chicken to use for anything. This year I bought one roll of wallpaper. (Why?! I have some crazy plans that I’m not sure will be able to execute.)
We then sat outside for lunch at the Hotel Diplomat where Sean and I had Swedish meatballs. With the kids safely at home, we shopped for dinner then went back to the apartment for a short rest before heading back out to the ABBA museum.
The ABBA museum was on Sofia’s list of must-see attractions while we were in Stockholm. I like ABBA just as much as the next person (no less and no more) but I have to say it was pretty interesting. Even if I couldn’t get the songs out of my head for a solid week.
The most fun were the interactive parts of the museum where you could do karaoke or become the fifth member of the group by singing and dancing along with holograms of the band members. Sofia and Andrea stayed so long that I had to go back into the museum and look for them after everyone else had gone back to the apartment. After dinner, we stayed up late enough to say a quick hello to Niclas and Ted who had returned from their soccer tournament.
The next morning we left to spend a few days at Caroline and Niclas’ country house about an hour south. The red sided house is nestled in the woods near a lake where Caroline’s parents also have their country house.
(The old baking house on their property. It still contains the oven that the village used to use for their yearly baking day. It would take days to heat up the oven. Caroline is desperate to restore the building and keep the oven and Niclas thinks it should go.)
We swam in the lake and went in the sauna. The guys and kids went rowing and cast nets and caught tons of perch that Niclas carefully cleaned and we ate the next day. We are berries, lounged outside and slept late. We saw a moose in the field late at night. We had a dinner party with the fun and engaging Spendrup family who have a house nearby. The family has been brewing beer in Sweden since the late 1800’s and Johan now brews craft beers on the island of Gotland. I am obsessed with the after dinner drink that he produces called Gotland Bittar, a complex herby dark concoction that really does settle your stomach after a big meal. Sean and Niclas went boar hunting one night with Johan (who caught a boar. Sean sat in the boar box watching out for the boars.) On the one rainy day, Caroline and I went for lunch while Niclas and Sean took the kids to the exciting but unfortunately named Tom Tits Museum. Oscar described it as an “experiment museum where you could experiment with everything. It was cool and had rides.” Elliot was so desperate to visit he must have mentioned wanting to visit about a hundred times in the 24 hours before the visit.
We left in the rain the next morning to drive back to Nösund, sad to leave our friends who live too far away. Campaign “kick Jacobsen out” starts immediately!