Tuesday, September 08, 2015



We caught an early morning flight out of Iceland and kept going east for a chance to experience a slice of Chris’ historic homeland.

Chris’ paternal grandmother is of Norwegian decent and his paternal grandfather’s line is Swedish.

When I first met Chris back in 2002 he told me his family was from a small town in Sweden. You have no idea how much grief I gave him when we found out that the town is not actually in Sweden, but in next-door Finland.

In his defense, Finland was part of Sweden until 1809 and his great grandfather left the country for the lure of the Pacific Northwest not 100 years later. What would you say though? That your ancestors were Swedish? Finnish? Or maybe just call them Scandinavian and leave it at that.

Originally we had hoped to visit his family’s birthplace but our last minute planning threw a wrench in the works. We looked into an overnight boat to Helsinki (Finland) but in the end decided that a pilgrimage was going to have to wait for another trip. It gives us an excuse to go back someday.

Upon our arrival in Stockholm, we gathered up our bags, called an Uber, and headed into the city.

Don’t pretend for an instant that this is a comprehensive what-to-do-when-you’re-in-Stockholm post because we were in the city of a total of two days, which isn’t nearly enough time to mosey around and truly experience a place.

That said, Stockholm was lovely.

I’m not the kind of person that plans vacations around cities; we tend to head out towards the country (and all the natural features contained within). Give me an unpopulated tropical forest, a lonely river to raft, or a beach to lay on, and I’ll be a happy camper.

Cities hold things like museums, palaces, cathedrals, and restaurants; places that don’t rate too highly for most families with small, impatient children. Or perhaps just my children.

Regardless, Chris booked us a family room in a hostel located in Gamla Stan, the historic center of Stockholm. Think cobbled streets, fountains, and small bakeries. Stockholm is located in an archipelago, so the main city is situated on fourteen islands that are connected by a series of bridges and water taxis.

We go to Sweden...and order Italian.

We spent our first afternoon wandering the streets, eating at an outside bistro, and stepping in for a gelato. I’ve noticed that we have ice cream just about daily when traveling.

Life is sweet, kid. Walking down the street on a gorgeous day, partaking in a frozen novelty, with a freshly procured juice box under one arm. Let’s do vacation everyday.

On our second day, we got up early (ahem. 9:30am. We blamed it on jet lag), picked up breakfast at this adorable bakery, and walked over to the quay.

Then we caught a passenger ferry and motored over to another island for our day’s activities. A full map of our Stockholm tour can be found here.

Our first stop was the Vasa Museum, which is described as a “a maritime museum [that] displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged, the 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628.” - Wikipedia.

The Vasa was supposed to be the flagship in the King of Sweden’s fleet; unfortunately it was too heavily loaded with cannons and the king had fiddled with the final ship dimensions, making the vessel unstable. You can tell too: the height to width proportions are visibly ‘off’. The museum has hourly tours in a variety of languages so we enjoyed that and a bit of wandering before it became clear that the kiddos needed some outdoors time.

The grounds of the museum are large and have a few conveniently-located hot dog stands. Our fish and fowl diet falls by the wayside when traveling. :)

This island is also home to the ABBA museum, which we didn’t have time for, unfortunately. But we couldn’t pass up a quick photo. We noticed that the attached cafe played, predictably, only ABBA songs. Do you suppose the waiters ever go batshit bonkers? I mean...that’s a lot of ABBA. 

Instead we were headed to Skansen, Stockholm’s ode to all things Swedish. 

There are historical buildings, folks dressed in period costumes, and a small zoo featuring Scandinavian animals.

And if you’ve met my kid, you know that this was his favorite part:

Emma’s favorite part was the fantastic kid’s museum.

The zoo was ok, but not really anything to write home about. Until I came to the ‘domestic cat’ exhibit. Ha! Quirky but nicely done. 

Weirdly, they also had a special machine you could drop a child’s pacifier into, and it would travel down a chute and land in a giant box (which is barely visible in the picture). I can imagine scores of Swedish parents saying: “Ok Astrid, you’re too old for your binky now that you’re a big girl so let’s take it to the zoo for the kitties”. 

Afterwards we headed off-island for another ice cream and a walk along the promenade. And a post about Stockholm wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the fantastic bicycle culture. Everybody was on two wheels: businesswomen in suits, the plumber, the hipster, the mom with her three kids...And the bicycle lanes were amazing. We were in awe. And a bit jealous. Seattle, WE NEED BIKE LANES LIKE STOCKHOLM HAS.

We almost rented bicycles but instead opted for a boat rental:

The boats were fantastically quiet as the motors were electric. Can you imagine bringing a picnic out onto the water for a party with your best chums on a summer’s day? Brilliant.

It was a special treat and Ben convinced us that his outing would be made better by the addition of ‘that bright orange drink’. He had no idea what it was but he was sold on it, based solely on can color. 

And thus the kid has his first Fanta experience. 

These kids are two peas in a pod. Emma is so observant and will copy Ben’s actions exactly.

These two. They slay me.

I’m pretty partial to this guy, too, even after more than nine years of marriage.

This is as good as it gets (when it comes to family pictures). Someone is always unhappy. 

This kid is in possession of a thirst for adventure and thrills. As his mom, this has me joyful and nervous at the same time. Nothing too crazy, ok kiddo?

Later we walked back to our hostel and stopped to pick up Chris’ all-time favorite meal while in a European city: donor kebabs, also known as (or similar to) gyros. So not European at all, but still delicious. :)



Here are a few additional posts from our Scandinavian adventure with kids:

Sweden: Stockholm 
Sweden: The Lake House

Iceland: Southern Iceland (Part I)
Iceland: Hot pools and waterfalls (Part II)
Iceland: The Golden Circle (Part III)