Sort of Like Ballard only Bigger

I was trying to think of something funny to write about Stockholm. But there just isn't anything funny about it - it's too perfect. Even the rain behaves. Everything runs like clockwork, the streets are clean, the the people are beautiful, the food is really good, and everyone (even babies) speak English. So instead of finding humor, I will acknowledge the near perfection. If there was a fault, it was the cost of living. Everything was very, very expensive. No wonder they use crowns for currency!

On time - every time. Just like everything else!

This is one of two stops where we will only spend a week. Otherwise we have been trying to do two week stints so we can get settled and really explore at a leisurely pace. But in this case we packed in the best of the city and enjoyed it very much. Once again we took the free walking tour. Wherever you travel, if that's on offer, do it! In this case we took two. One in the center of the city and the other in historic Old Town. Both gave us a heads up on where to revisit in-depth. 

We arrived in Stockholm by train from Copenhagen. A lovely, five hour journey through miles of countryside filled with farms and lakes and small villages. Most every home in this country is painted a deep red with white trim or mustard yellow - my two favorite colors! Lots of time on the train for reading and a packed lunch. Our airbnb host, Hanna picked us up at the station - she is a delightful dental student who had everything in order for our stay.

The apartment itself was, once again, really great. Small but clean, well laid out and furnished with everything you need to cook-in and be comfortable, thanks to IKEA of course. Here's the link:

The apartment was a little further from town than we anticipated - but the metro system was really easy to use and the town where we stayed was small and quiet with an excellent grocery store, a pub and the metro station just two blocks away. It was called Middsommarkransen (we're still in the land of many letters*) and was just a few stops from the center of Stockholm.

The Tour Guides are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They work for tips so they need to be!
We walked from one end of Stockholm to the other several times. Rain or shine! As I mentioned this city is so easy to navigate and so beautiful. We add to our miles by often heading the wrong way with purpose when we get confused by Google Maps directions. All part of the fun - yesterday was a seven miler. We have both lost a lot of weight on this trip!

On the third day I made a new friend who happened to have an almost new iPhone4 for sale so I snapped it up and feel reconnected with the world! Next on the agenda will be to replace my Kindle. And to remind myself to keep track of our backpack at all times (it was stolen in Copenhagen but we got it back - just missing some of the essentials).

Chanterelles anyone? There were a dozen more mounds like this!

My $8.00 Flea Market find just in time for colder weather

Lots of ways to make a living! I'd love to be in his head

Highlights include the outdoor food market (of course) and the adjacent food emporium in the city center. The tiny alleys and buildings that oozed history in Old Town, the Nobel Prize museum and the Vasa Museum.

The Vasa inside the museum

Down she goes. And of course in this kind country no blame assigned.
The Vasa was a war ship built in 1628 that sank in Stockholm's harbor just a half hour after it left the dock! It was a glorious ship that had one design flaw - a third level of cannons that the King insisted on but in the end made the ship top heavy. One big puff of wind and down she went!
It was recovered 330 years later and is incredibly intact since it settled in the brackish silt of the harbor. The museum is build around the reconstructed boat and we spend hours looking at it and all the items recovered from inside.

And I thought I liked IKEA meatballs. These were sooo good.

Second Vasa highlight had to be absolutely delicious Swedish meatballs served with potatoes, gravy lingonberry sauce, and caraway cabbage for lunch in the museum restaurant! All this walking gives us healthy appetites.

Old Town

We've attended a variety of church services along the way. All different denominations and experiences. Hillsong Christian offered headphones for little ones since the music was very 'Mars Hill' in exuberance and volume!

She'll be rocking to the praise someday!
We spend a good deal of time researching our next destination and the airbnb options. That is a fun part of the adventure - and builds anticipation for moving on. Otherwise we have been reading like crazy and playing games, resting our feet and enjoying each other. I wondered how it would be spending all day, everyday together, but we are happily in love in a whole new way. 35th Anniversary coming up on the 14th!

The lovebirds will be in Milan for the big day.
The week flew by and now we are in Berlin. The second one week stay - so far so good.

*In my career in graphic design, I was a real stickler for creating enough room on forms that required personal information to allow for complete names, e-mail addresses, etc. I don't know how designers do that in Scandinavia!

Coffee and a Danish

This blog is a little late considering we leave for Stockholm  tomorrow! Here's the latest:

We flew from Amsterdam to Copenhagen on Wednesday the 11th. We took the city bus completely across town to our new neighborhood - about a 45 minute, very affordable sightseeing tour.  Our owner was here to great us. She's a character!

Once again, served us well. We are in a great apartment in the 'hip' part of town. The entire street we live on seems to be one unique coffee shop ethnic take-out, vintage clothing store, bar, bike shop or funky boutique after another - and just a beautiful 20 minute bike ride into the center of the city. Great weather most every day.

Here's the link to the apartment:  It's even better than it looks - and the kitchen is loaded with every thing a girl could want to cook with.

We have committed to taking things easy on travel days. No rushing around to catch trains and planes! Plus after lugging our two big suitcases, backpacks and other bits and pieces up and down and all around we are ready for a rest. We usually find the closest store and get a few basics for breakfast or snacks and then find a place to eat. We had delicious take-out salads that first night.

We are also out of the Euro zone so we're back to doing some good old fashioned currency conversion. At first I panicked when I saw things priced in the hundreds until I realized 100 Danish Krone was about $20.00

We've done lots of walking and biking and feel we know the city fairly well after two weeks. It is truly beautiful and stately with many parks and lovely open spaces dotted throughout the center. We took a three hour walking tour that helped us get oriented and get some sense of the history.

Michael advertising Nephew David's record store!
Standing in front of just one archway that leads into an extensive labyrinth of 2 x 2s in
the middle of The King's Park. It is a temporary sculpture that encourages people to find
space within the wooden swirls for music, picnics, and contemplation.
What do you do with feet that have spend days dodging cyclists and wobbling along cobblestones? I chose to indulge my inner Pisces and gave my peds a lovely going over by two hundred hungry little fish. They feverishly nibbled away my dry skin and apparently excreted some sort of 'magic fish spit' that cures foot fatigue. And that was true ... but they had me at putting my feet in a fish tank!

fish meet feet
Michael was able to attend a football match nearby to watch the Kobenhvn Football Club take on another Danish team. He made new friends and really enjoyed the night. Later in the week we went to an Irish Pub to watch the same team play against Juventus of Italy in a Champion's League match. Fun night complete with Guinness Beef Stew with Mash.

A beautiful night for a local match

A Danish beer run!
Later in our stay we were ready to slow down so we bought a jigsaw puzzle. Great therapy at a great price. We are going to try and do puzzle in each destination. This must be the 'Senior' part of Nomads!

I got my market fix. Copenhagen's wonderful indoor / outdoor marketplace reminded me of Granville Island in Vancouver. It's open everyday and late into night on the weekends for shopping, coffee, cocktails and great food truck fare. I never really got a handle on Danish cuisine (a fear of pickled fish perhaps?) But we ate some great Pakistani, Turkish and Indian food.

Delicious Pakistani Samosas. Full of 'just right' spice. 
We finished our last day with a beautiful evening bike ride along the waterfront. It was cold and crisp and lit with a full moon. Where the bike trail ended we were very close to a HUGE cargo ship.  Michael looked it up on his Shipfinder app and found out it was the Majestic Maersk - a Danish ship running 1300 feet long and 190 feet wide!

Michael is 1/2 Danish and 1/2 Portuguese so it was interesting to be in Denmark - but Michael was not among his people. He did not get the good looking blonde, blue-eyed, tall genes from his father's side, although he is very handsome and has some Viking tendencies. He will fit right in in Lisbon with the other 1/2.

Sorry for the lack of photos ... my iPhone was stolen along with my Kindle last week, but that's another story.

Farewell to Amsterdam

We had a full two weeks of living like the locals here. I could stay here forever ... such a great city. We were able to get around by bicycle most of the time - that really helped get us acclimated to life here. Even though our lives were in danger at all times,we persevered and by our last ride into the center of town yesterday, we were bobbing and weaving and ignoring red lights with the best of them.

We did have a couple of near misses - but the best one was on our way to Haarlem for a day trip. We got off the train a stop too early, and realized we had just a few seconds to get back on the train to make our destination. Michael stuck his bike wheel in the doors to stop them from closing so we could get back on. The doors had other ideas and locked Michael's front wheel in a vice like grip! Whistles are blowing and this train is leaving ... at the last minute a fuming conductor stormed down the platform and was able to push enough buttons that the doors opened. The bike was freed, the Campbell's admonished and the train moved on with us sheepishly, but safely back aboard. 

      Outside a bakery near Al & Jenny's old house

Mayor McGuinn would swoon!

We've had some great highlights during our stay here. A trip to The Hague, the Haarlem bike outing, dinner with friends at their home in Leiden, tons of walking and riding the city. Cooking local. Eating cheese. A day at the Rijks museum and some great stops for coffee.Michael had a great evening in a smoky pub watching the Netherlands National Team play Estonia in a World Cup qualifier. He had a blast and made some new friends. Of course.

A great city for meandering walks

The weather continued to cooperate for most of our stay with plenty of sunny days. The rains arrived yesterday and now it really feels fall like outside. Makes me think Copenhagen will be a bit on the cool side, but that's our next stop starting today. We are packed up and ready for our next adventure!

Let no Wall go Uncovered!

This post is a little out of sequence, but as I was reviewing the 1,467 photos on my phone I came across these images that I'd meant to post earlier. Now I need some serious delete time!

When we were in Quiberon on the Brittany coast with Greg's family we stayed in the guest wing of Mary's mother-in-law's mother's home. It was a spacious apartment above the garage that was added in the early sixties - and near as I can tell, rarely touched since.

Every room had a different wallpaper! I took some shots of the various patterns both in our apartment and in Madame Gottchalk's. The place was great and had a lot of character.

The entryway

The staircase to the apartment

The bathroom glass tiles

Our bedroom - I still see this pattern in my sleep

Entry way to the main house

Main house living room

Apartment living room

Kitchen tile

Goodbye Beaches - Hello Barges

On Wednesday the 28th we left Paris and struck out on the first 'unassisted' leg of our journey. The seven weeks in France were made easier and more enjoyable with friends and family to help us get acclimated. The time spent in Quiberon with the grand kids was especially precious.

One last walk on the beach in Quiberon

But onward and upward we go! Our goal for this adventure is to stay in each city for two weeks in an apartment we've found on - and then 'live' there in the spirit of the local culture. We have a modest daily budget and will cook most meals at home. I have been having a great time poking around in local markets, grocery stores and specialty shops.

The ledger! A daily tally of spending and activities

Tourist attractions will be a special treat but museums for me, and soccer games as we find them for Michael are definitely in the budget.

We left for Amsterdam on the 2:30 train in the afternoon with a picnic, USA Today, The International Herald Tribune and Kindles in hand. After a three hour journey we arrived at the bustling train station in the center of the city. And with our 'live like the locals' goals in mind, we figured out how to purchase Dutch sim cards for our phones and then loaded our bags on a local bus and headed to our first apartment.

Such a wonderful city. Great for walking and gulp, biking.

If you haven't heard of you should take a tour of the site. It's fun to just fantisize about where you could stay anywhere in the world. We had the following criteria as we searched; stand alone home or apartment (no shared space or common areas), access to fresh air (deck, yard, balcony), wi-fi, a 'real' bed (no futons or pull-outs please), close to the city or within easy access to pubic transportation, and of course price. Here is the link to where we are staying. scroll through the images and picture us playing scrabble at the picnic table.

Our front door

Speaking of Scrabble ... I'd love to see the tiles in the Dutch version. There would need to be at least ten Ks and a dozen Js and a few extra Zs because most every Dutch word worth its ZOUT has a few Js and Ks and often a Z in it for good measure.

90% of the population speaks English so we are fine on the communication front. Dutch is a tough language to learn so we are forgiven for not trying beyond the niceties.

We rode the bikes that came with our apartment
today. It was a bit harrowing to jump into the bike lanes and mix with the cycling throng (there are 700,000 people in Amsterdam and 850,000 bikes!) I am sure I was wreaking havoc behind me - but I didn't dare look back. Vespas can also use the bike lanes so you can be buzzed by flying commuters on either side for added excitement.

Our first outing on the bikes

Yesterday was the big Organic Farmer's Market - I bought some lovely Dutch cheeses, fresh vegetables, freshly made jam, and a few cookies for Mr. Campbell.

Cheese, cheese and more cheese.

We found a church nearby that is similar to our home church, Bethany Community Church in Greenlake. Same great music and an interesting service with the added bonus of cookies and coffee at your seat. A great start to the day.

Michael headed off to a soccer match out of town and I finally started a little sightseeing. We are here until the 11th and then off to Copenhagen. If you have any suggestions for things to see and eat here or there - send a reply.

PS - Butterscotch has new owners! We are so thankful that she sold before the weather changed. And thankful she has gone to a good home. The new owners will be keeping her at Elliott Bay Marina - so you will see her again. Not sure if they will keep the name, or have the courage to fly a spinnaker with an 18' tall Tip Top Girl on it. Let us know if you see her fly by!