Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Nobel Day


December 10th is the Nobel Day in Stockholm and Oslo with the Nobel Peace Prize being given out in Oslo and the other prizes given in Stockholm. In Stockholm the prizes are handed out at a ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall.
Dale and I decided to make an event of the afternoon and we went to the Concert Hall to watch everyone arrive. I didn't have high hopes of recognizing anyone but I was excited to see the Royal Family, well mostly Prince Carl Phillip but Dale has banned me from talking about him so yes I really wanted to see the Royal Family. :)
We watched lots of fancy limos drop people off, some of them even marked with the Nobel Prize Foundations logo. 
But mostly it was too dark to see anything more than the silhouette. Finally we saw a stream of police cars and I knew it must be the Royal Family. Through the Royal limo window I could see Princess Magdalena but unfortunately the family went in a different entrance so my chance to meet Prince Carl Phillip and run away, err . . . see the Royal Family was swayed for now.
After everyone arrived we scurried home to watch the event on Swedish television. The prize giving was in Swedish so we didn't understand much but it was still interesting to see the whole event. After that all the attendees head to City Hall for a banquet which is also televised and a rather strange Swedish phenomenon if you ask me. It's literally just watching everyone eat and occasionally there is an art performance or something going on, but mostly just eating. After that, the attendees supposedly get invited to super secret no cameras allowed dance parties, but I guess I didn't make friends high enough up yet because I can without a doubt confirm I was not invited to any such party. You can watch the video of the ceremonies and banquets, see the menu, find out the designer of the Queen's gown and so much more at the Nobel Prize Website:
Love Always,
P.S. Happy New Years Eve all!! Be safe however you celebrate! Dale and I are celebrating New Years in Bangkok this year and you know I'll be sharing that adventure as soon as I can.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gamla Stan Christmas Market


Being American I had never been to or really known anything about Christmas Markets but they seem to be a big deal in Europe. From what I've learned about them they began in Germany and have grown popular in many European countries. I put off going to the market as long as I could, hoping for a snowy day to explore in. But alas, no snow in Stockholm so I had to cave. Arriving in Gamla Stan I was immediately in the Christmas spirit seeing all the lights and garlands.
The market its self was full of little red shed booth thingys (pretty sure that's the technical term) selling many Chrismtas goodies like gingerbread  . . . 
and Moose, Wild Pig, or Reindeer sausages . . . 
Mistletoe and evergreen wreaths . . . 
and of course Glögg, which is a little cup of hot mulled wine with raisins and blanched almonds. I was too busy drinking my cup to snap a picture of it but it was delicious and it definitely completed the Christmas Market experience.
I know the Stockholm Christmas Market isn't as famous as those in Germany but I can't imagine a better one - except maybe with a little snow!
Love Always,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Social in Southern Sweden


A couple weeks ago Dale and I took a quick weekend trip down to Lund, Sweden to visit our friends Fer and Lu and see their two adorable kiddos Fede and Hele.
It was a whirlwind weekend but we really wanted to make it down there before the holidays - and we just barely did that! We mostly just hung around enjoying chatting with friends. 
But we did take a quick walk around Lund and Malmö. Both cities are much smaller than Stockholm, although Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden. 
Lund is very much like our former residence (where we met Fer and Lu) Fort Collins, Colorado. It is a small college town with a nice city center. Malmö has a bit more going on, although I'm not sure why they have a giant lamp in town. It does happen to look just like a lamp I bought at Ikea so Dale made me pose with it.
In Malmö we took a nice walk around Malmö Slott (castle) where we passed by a pretty windmill. It was a windy day and Fer says they get lots of those in Southern Sweden so I guess now I know why they have so many windmills in the area! It is hardly ever windy in Stockholm.
We also got a good view of the Turning Torso, the tallest building in Scandinavia. Living in the 'old world' without skyscrapers has made me realize skyscrapers can be beautiful in their own way. Although, I prefer them with others to make a skyline more than just the one.
In Malmö Christmas cheer was in full force and we passed by some carolers in the main street and a christmas market too.
My favorite thing about visiting the smaller towns of countries is getting to feel the country more than you do in the capital. Being from Colorado I resonate more with small town America than New Yorkers. In Europe my experience has been just the opposite since I live in the capital of Sweden. It's a funny juxtaposition. But more than anything we were just happy to spend some time with friends and reflect on our experiences in Sweden. Thanks for having us Fer and Lu! Hope you have a nice holiday!
Love Always,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!


Hello dear blog readers!
    As a special holiday treat from me to you I have put together a season playlist just for your listening enjoyment:

Some of the videos aren't the best but the tunes can't be beat! Hope your holiday is wonderful no matter how you spend it or what you are celebrating! We have a special visitor from Berlin - Fede! But more on that later. :)
Love Always,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Jam


A company here called Stadium (which sells sports goods) hosted an event called Winter Jam and it piqued Dale and my interest enough that we decided to attend. I was excited the event was at Stadion, Stockholm's  Olympic Stadium which was built for the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics. I hadn't been inside yet and I was interested to see the inside. Dale was, of course, interested in the skiing and snowboarding.
It turned out to be a beautiful day and it reminded us a lot of Colorado to watch the snow sports. As the events began we weren't terribly impressed. No one was landing their jumps and the tricks were lacking. But as the evening continued things got better and the audience really got into it.
Dale gave the event a thumbs up. By the finals people were landing most of the time and sure enough a Swede came in first making the crowd go wild. From where we were sitting in the stands we were next to some British girls who kept talking like they knew everything about skiing and snowboarding but Dale and I were pretty convinced they had never been down a mountain. They provided good entertainment for us though!
When things were all said and done they brought out the top three's prizes and of course a throne for first place.
And then, because how could you have a winter event without it?, they brought out the motor cross event. Ha! Silly Swedes! But it was fun to watch the 'winter' bike jumps too. I think they are trying to get people in Sweden into the sport.
It did our little Colorado hearts good to feel a bit of home and see some of that white stuff. You would think being so much farther North we would have tons of it but nope. It's Dec. 23rd and we've had one snow storm which left maybe an inch of snow and that quickly melted off. It's been one of the hottest winters in Stockholm history! Insanity!
Love Always,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bar Life


For my last post about Dublin, it has to be about the Bar Life for which the Irish are so famous. Here I present a mishmash of 'Bar Life' events from our trip to Dublin. For this experience Dale and I toured Jameson. It's no secret to you all the Dale loves Whiskey (remember he got to tour the distilleries in Scotland for his birthday this year?). Well, he somehow talked me into touring yet another distillery.
It ended up being pretty interesting to learn the difference between Irish Whiskey and Scottish Whisky. The main difference is Irish distill a third time while the Scotts distill twice.
Dale got chosen to be a special Whiskey taste tester and that entailed trying three different Whiskey's to detect different flavors. The tour guide didn't say which was which and let every taster decide their favorite before he announced that they all had picked Jameson. I thought that was surprising and pretty cool! But, I'm not a whiskey drinker so maybe Jameson is easy to detect or something.
We also visited The Stags Head, of which I've included a picture of the namesake above. Luckily I had printed off a Dublin guide from a local Dubliner posted on Design Sponge and the guide had suggested The Stags Head is the most traditional and authentic pub in Dublin. With a description like that, how could I not visit?! From my experience, The Stags Head is indeed everything the Dubliner said it was. I definitely recommend this spot to rub elbows with the locals and the live music doesn't hurt either!
As fine as The Stags Head is, we wouldn't have been proper tourists without stopping into The Temple Bar. The Temple Bar is quite famous for it's lively atmosphere and live traditional music every night. The night we stopped in was no exception and we happily sat for a while listening to the music.
For our farewell to Dublin at The Temple Bar Dale enjoyed a Guinness and Jameson while I finally tried an Irish Whiskey. Boy was that the finest Irish Whiskey I've ever had. Between that and the hot chocolates, I am convinced there is something magical in the Irish cream. (That would probably be fat! Ha!)
And in case you drink too much at any of the abundance of pubs all the cross walks remind you which way to look before crossing the street. A tool I found useful since there were so many one ways, I never was sure which way traffic was going to be coming at me! 
One last stop of note is Leo Burdock's, a traditional fish and chips spot. There is a small seating area but after hours it's just take away. No matter where you choose to eat it, these fish and chips are quite tasty! They even made a malt vinegar on chips fan of me. I can't get enough now!
And with that we bid farewell to Dublin. I had a fantastic and relaxing time in Dublin and cannot tell you enough how friendly everyone was (or maybe I've been living in Stockholm too long). I hope to return to this friendliest of cities some day!
Love Always,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dublin Tourists


With all the news about the economy in Ireland, I wasn't too surprised to find they have an Occupy going on. Occupy Dame Street has the following statement:
"#OccupyDameStreet is a people’s movement, which stands in solidarity with and is inspired by over 1,400 ( 15/10/11) sister occupations in the evolving global movement initiated by the people of Iceland, Greece, Spain, and the Arab Spring. We use tactics of non-violence akin to scenes of peaceful resistance in Tahrir Square and Wall Street. This is a diverse people’s initiative, unaffiliated with any political parties. We are the 99%. We stand together against political and economic corruption. We stand for equality and social justice. This is a "leaderless resistance movement" with people of many nationalities, backgrounds, genders and political persuasions."
I haven't seen any Occupying in Sweden so this was my first firsthand experience with the movement. Pretty interesting to walk by and see a library discussion group taking place, or a police man checking in on everyone on site, or even just the tent structure.
We visited Trinity College in Dublin which is a beautiful old campus. Trinity College is particularly famous for housing the Book of Kells and the Long Room. The Book of Kells is a 9th century Latin Gospel book. It is world renowned for it's calligraphy and Celtic illustrations. The Long Room is a part of the Trinity College Library housing over 200,000 of the Library's oldest books. I almost thought the Long Room was more impressive then the Book of Kells. Although the exhibit to get to the Book of Kells which described the making of the book was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside the building so I don't have any pictures inside to share, just this picture of the campus. (Note: you have to pay several euros to go inside the library and see both the Book of Kells and the Long Room)
We also walked around Dublin Castle but we didn't pay to go inside this one. I was most impressed with the Royal Chapel, shown below, which was built in 1814.
Within the Dublin Castle grounds is also the Dubhlinn Gardens and the Coach House. The green area in the picture below is the Dubhlinn Gardens from 1680 and the name sake of Dublin. Behind the garden is the Coach House which used to be where the horses were kept. Not a bad life for them huh? Now it's conference facilities and a dining hall.
Through Dale's conference we got a free guided tour of the Chester Beatty Library on the Dublin Castle grounds. The Chester Beatty Library is more of an art and manuscript collection with their prized pieces being uniquely decorated copies of the Qur'an, Bible, and other manuscripts from as far back as 2700 BC. Pretty interesting! We rounded out this day of Dublin tourism by watching the sunset in St. Stephens Green, a nice park in the middle of Dublin.

Love Always,

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fallon & Byrne


As previously mentioned, here is my ode to Fallon & Byrne. Fallon & Byrne is the kind of place you are happy to get lost in even though it's tiny and almost impossible to actually get lost in. Everything is delicious and I wanted to try it all. I visited 3 times while in Dublin so I did make a valiant effort towards trying it all. 
Ok, so what is it? Fallon & Bryne is a food hall, restaurant, and wine shop. In Sweden there is a definitive lack of English sandwiches so I was more than excited to pick up a sandwich for lunch. I got one of my favorite sandwiches of all time, a Reuben, and it was delicioso. 
The next day Dale was busy so I snuck back for an unbalanced dinner of cheese and crackers a la Fallon & Byrne.
I had the lady behind the counter pick out her two favorite Irish cheeses for me and oh. boy. Yummmmy! 
The third visit was because while picking up my cheese and crackers I received an invitation to a Christmas open house they were hosting a couple days later. It was in their private party area upstairs and their were banquet tables filled with tasters of chocolate, wine, sausage, cheese, mince pie, and many other glorious things, even bacon jam! What a cool event and a great way to try food from local companies.
Ok, I'm sure you all get it by now. I heart Fallon & Byrne. I live for finding places like this. If ever in Dublin, this is a definite stop!
Love Always,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Grafton Street


While in Dublin I probably spent 2 whole afternoons just wandering around the Grafton Street area. First of all because it's a beautiful and nice shopping area. And secondly, because I recognized some of the shop and street names from the Nanci Griffith songs of my youth. 
One chain that Nanci never sang about but I quickly discovered is the purveyors of happiness themselves, Butler's Chocolate Cafe! This place is happiness in a cup. Not only do they have the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted but you also get a truffle of your choosing with purchase. Whaaat?! I know. Insanity. I visited almost every day on my trip. It's that good. But, I digress.
At the beginning of Grafton street lies a statue of Molly Malone of the song by the same name about a fish seller in Dublin. Many an Irish-style pub around the world is named after Miss Malone.
In the Grafton Street area you can find upscale chain shops as well as 'normal' shops and local boutiques.
I enjoyed walking around the area checking out all the mix of shops and looking at the architecture, while drinking my hot chocolate!
Of course, I stopped for coffee at Bewley's and just outside this picture there were buskers singing, but not by candlelight. Oh Grafton street. Oh Nanci Griffith.
Love Always,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Howth, Ireland


One of the days in Dublin, while Dale was busy with his conference, I decided to hop the DART and head up to the small coastal town of Howth
I'm still infatuated with trains and subways and such. I guess growing up without them, I'm now overcompensating. So, I was halfway just excited to take a ride on the train and check out the view through the window. The other half of me was excited to take a stroll through small town Ireland. 
Howth is a beautiful little town North of Dublin and right on the coast. It's a fishing village and there are a ton of restaurants which I am sure serve amazing fish meals. I, unfortunately, did not think about that before hand and went in the morning at which point I was not feeling like fish. I'm kicking myself for that mistake. Maybe someday I'll return to try them out!
I had heard the seals hang out here. Maybe I was off season or something but I only saw one seal feasting in the harbor who would poke his head out now and again. I still had a lot of fun sitting for a good while and watching him (or her).
Then I took a nice stroll through the harbor taking in all of the views. I loved the lighthouse and the Island in the distance. And I couldn't believe how murky the water was.
In Howth there are several trailheads to hike/walk several kilometers and up. I had planned on this as my activity for the day. But, of course, as I was about to embark on the trail it got really windy and rainy. Not wanting to spend my day in the elements, I finished walking the harbor before heading back to town on the DART. 
So, now I have to return for the hike AND the fish. At least I got some quality time by the ocean and some beautiful views too.
I definitely recommend this day trip from Dublin, it's only 20 minutes away on the DART. Well worth the piece of mind you will gain in this beautiful little town!
Love Always,