A Travellerspoint blog

Stockholm

A little late but still good as new!

sunny 24 °C

As you can tell from the photographs we've already gotten to Stockholm and spent a few days. Unfortunately, internet has continued to be somewhat spotty which has limited my ability to update the blog. However, we've had a great time in Stockholm (and Tallinn, Estonia which I'll get to in the next post).

Our first day we arrived via plane, train and feet both tired and sweaty from the surprisingly warm weather in Stockholm. Following the previous two weeks of mediocre-at-best weather in the UK we expected more of the same but came in to bright, sunny days.

When I whipped my backpack off at the hostel Laura exclaimed something to the effect of "EWW GROSS!" at the fact that my back was virtually a pool of sweat. Needless to say, jumping in the shower was priority #1. (Of note: in Stockholm there tends to be no demarcation between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. The shower just drains into a hole in the floor.) After getting cleaned up we gave Anne, Daryoush and Ella a call and had a nice picnic with them at a park in the center of Stockholm. Then we walked through the old town and eventually back to the Hostel where Laura and I gave Ella the present we bought for her in London (a tomato that squishes when thrown against a hard surface and then regains its shape after a few seconds). It was great seeing them.

One of our top priorities upon arrival in Stockholm was doing laundry. To our pleasure and gratitude we discovered that our hostel offers complementary laundry service. The downside? There's only one washer and only one key. Throughout our first day in Stockholm we repeated checked back with the front desk to see if the key had been returned but by midnight we figured that it was a lost cause for the day. First thing in the morning we got the key and started our laundry. It wasn't the best timing but we figured that being a couple hours late start to our sightseeing wouldn't hamper our enjoyment too much - especially considering we'd have fresh clothes afterward. 7 and 1/2 hours later our laundry was finally done. Just in time for all of the sights and museums to close. Who knew laundry machines could be so slow?!

Anyway, we still managed to walk around the old royal hunting grounds (now called Djurgarden). It's basically just a huge green park in the north-east of central Stockholm that reminded us of the forests in the Pacific Northwest.

The following morning we checked out of the hostel and went to collect our tickets for the cruise to Estonia. Then we headed back toward central Stockholm to check out the Vasa museum. The Vasa was a massive warship constructed by the Swedes in the 17th century. Unfortunately, the sheer size of the Vasa was also its undoing - it only sailed for 20 minutes before sinking into Stockholm harbor. After 350~ years the Swedes pulled the Vasa from the bottom of Stockholm harbor surprisingly intact and spent 25 or so years restoring it. Now it's a fantastically preserved wreck of an incredible and old battleship. Among the rescued treasures were the worlds oldest surviving sails. While at the museum we stopped by the on-site cafe to try their "reasonably priced" (in quotations because Stockholm is amazingly expensive) Swedish meatballs which were great.

After the Vasa museum we headed back to the hostel to pick up our bags and made our way back toward the harbor to disembark on our voyage to Tallinn.

Posted by DavidJFabe 12:10 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

I have Stockholm syndrome...

Or something....

semi-overcast 18 °C

Laura and I are in Terminal 5 of Heathrow awaiting our plane to Stockholm at the moment. We got up much too early to catch a bus from Oxford to Heathrow this morning. At least we made it with plenty of time. Surprisingly, security is much more strict here in Heathrow than I've ever experienced in the US. By the same token all of the security seems more like intimidation than actually secure. This is because Laura and I noted numerous methods that could be employed to completely undermine the process - somewhat worrisome. As psychologists will tell you, psychotic behavior is usually driven by a desire to "beat the system". The more challenging we make "the game" the more likely people are going to try to beat it.

Well, our gate has just been called - we'll check in soon!

Posted by DavidJFabe 02:35 Tagged preparation Comments (3)

COR BLIMEY! Yorkshire!

all seasons in one day 16 °C

Not a huge amount to report. Laura and I drove down from Edinburgh to York this morning and explored the city which included Yorkminster, the old walls of the city (we walked about half of the way - 1 mile) and the old town. We started out by having afternoon tea at an old shop called Betty's. The clotted cream and jam on the scones was fantastic.

Following our tea/snack we visited Yorkminster. We started by climbing the tower and checking out the views over the city then finished in the choir room watching Evensong. The Evensong was spectacular and we had seats directly behind one row of the choir men. The deep bass notes rumbled the ancient cathedral in a truly spectacular way. I also learned while visiting Yorkminster that Constantine the Great was crowned emperor of the Roman Empire in York back in 308 AD. This is particularly interesting because Constantine was born in Nis, Serbia - where I'll be staying next month for some weeks.

First thing tomorrow morning we're heading back to Oxford to hang out with Chris and then on to Stockholm on Saturday! More photos to come tomorrow PLUS a description of our awesome time climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh!

Posted by DavidJFabe 14:08 Archived in England Comments (0)

Business at hand

Just a note

I want to reiterate that most of the recent entries are entirely out of order - just examine the date under the title of the entry to see the dates that the post describes. For instance - the Cotswolds happened before St. Andrews. St. Andrews happened before Edinburgh. However, the most recent blog entry is for St. Andrews, the one before that is from the Cotswolds and the one before that is from Edinburgh. I will be adding a post about Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon shortly as well.

Man, my blog is getting messy and requiring a lot of these posts....

Posted by DavidJFabe 09:52 Tagged educational Comments (0)

Partying in Saint Andrews

The Mustache Cometh!

overcast 14 °C

Ever since arriving in Saint Andrews it's been an almost non-stop party with Claire and Laura. Our first evening in town on Sunday, the 14th, it's been a whirlwind of people, alcohol and sightseeing, not that I'm complaining at all.

Laura and I arrived in Saint Andrews, Scotland following a lengthy (read 7 1/2 hour and nearly 400 mile long) drive. We were excited to see Claire (who I've been friends with for about 9 years) and some of her Scottish friends. However, when we saw Claire she explained that almost everybody in the town of Saint Andrews is from America. This fact was very apparent in the prevalence of coffee shops and American accents heard around every cobble-stoned corner. This fact was again made plain to us by the fact that everybody who Claire introduced us to came back with a very American-tinged "nice to meet you".

The town itself is very old-worldy and gorgeous. The sandstone (I believe) buildings that predominate the whole of the tiny "city" (probably no larger or only slightly larger than Port Townsend) and it's setting on the North Sea is endearing. Actually, at times it felt as though I was back in Port Townsend.

On the first night Claire introduced us to her friend Dave who had grown a formidable mustache that despite his status as a student in a art master-degree program made him look like the quintessential American police officer. Claire also introduced us to her good friend Chelsea and some others from the university population.

Once assembled we headed into town to a small pub where two old men with guitars repeatedly played the Bob Dylan song "How Does It Feel?", each old man took turns playing the song. It was a very odd spectacle and we weren't sure what we were witnessing.... Anyway, we had a great time over drinks.

As the evening wore down Claire headed into the bathroom. One of the bartenders came over to our table and said "bottoms up!" indicating that closing time was minutes away. Sensing our impending eviction I instructed Mustache Dave to finish up Claire's beer. Hesitantly he did so stating that it would invariably get him in trouble. When Claire returned we resumed joking around and again one of the bartenders approached us, this time an attractive young woman. Dave began chatting with her and after about 45 seconds Claire became aware of the fact that Dave had finished her beer. Upon the revelation she shot her hand out and slapped him hard in the face. The female bartender with not a second hesitation stopped mid-sentence and walked away from the table, obviously thinking Claire and Dave a couple and the flirtations unappreciated by Claire. It's fairly hard to describe just how perfect the moment was but suffice to say the comedy of that moment was fresh for the next 48 hours.

Posted by DavidJFabe 09:24 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

The Cotswolds

Continuing to be horribly out of order.

sunny 20 °C

The internet interruptions (along with the fact that Laura has nothing to do while I spend the requisite hour or two every day to keep up with the blog and photos) has led to this blog getting horribly off track. As such, I'm updating when possible when things are fresh in my mind and then going back and filling in the gaps when I have a chance. I just uploaded a bunch of Cotswold photos. So much more to do! Laura and Claire are out shopping in Edinburgh at the moment so I found a couple hours to do some tidying.

The Cotswold Villages:

Because of the rental car woes we didn't get up to Warwick in time to see the castle on the 12th of June as planned. We instead spent the morning of the 13th at Warwick castle which in turn drastically impacted the amount of time we had to spend in the Cotswolds. Regardless, waiting to go to Warwick was a very good idea and we still had plenty of time to see most of the villages that we had hoped to see.

First some history (you'll forgive me if I don't know actual dates...): The Cotswolds are old English villages that experienced extreme economic growth during the wool boom in pre-industrial-revolution England. With the new-found wealth most of the locals invested in stone houses and churches which are still very impressive to this day. There are numerous mentions to the "blessing of wool" to be found throughout the region. With the end of the wool boom and the rise of industrial cotton much of the wealth evaporated and many people moved away. However, because the buildings were all built of stone they remain in-tact and in great shape to this day. The name Cotswold is derived, in some way or another, from wool or sheep or something along those lines... I can't remember exactly at the moment.

Driving south from Warwick into the Cotswolds region we were greeted by unbearably quaint landscape, forests and little villages - exactly what we came here for. Our original itinerary included heading a little west to Broadway, Snowshill, Stanton and Stanway but those four places were cut out in favor of a more direct route (if a little meandering by necessity and for pleasure) between Warwick and Oxford.

With a reworked itinerary we started out in Chipping Campden which was a pretty village with an impressive church. We sat for afternoon cream tea at a lovely little shop with quite the spread of cakes. Laura ordered the apple cake and I just got the standard scone with clotted cream and jam.

After our afternoon "lunch" we headed on to Stow-on-the-Wold where I stayed with my dad back in 1999 at The Royalist Hotel (photo included). The Royalist hotel has been in operation for more than 1,000 years.

Then on we went through a bunch of other villages including Upper and Lower Slaughter whose names derive not from the slaughter of animals but rather the middle-English term for a wetland.

Then we headed on to Bourton-on-the-Water which is sometimes jokingly referred to as "The Venice of the Cotswolds". Bourton is a larger market town that originally hosted the wool-sellers from the surrounding minuscule villages.

My favorite of the villages is Bibury in the south of the Cotswolds. Even after the impressively pretty qualities of the other villages Bibury manages to really blow your expectations out of the water. It's hard to explain why and the pictures simply do not do it justice but it couldn't feel more quintessentially British if it tried (which, due to the tourist nature of the thing, I'm sure it does): the hedgerows, the two(-ish) rivers (streams), the row of thatch-roof cottages, the stately manor-home-cum-luxury-hotel, the predominance of swans everywhere, the gorgeous gardens, etc.... stop me if I'm ruining it for you.

As we lingered in Bibury it became apparent that we were going to be late to Chris's house and that we needed to get back on the road quickly. We made it to the Oxford ring-road just shortly prior to night-fall and that's when everything started getting a little tense as we proceeded to get lost.

The concern was that the motorway signs aren't lit up, we lacked a map that I thought for sure we had and we could not for the life of us find a pay phone. After an hour or more of driving around in semi-panic we ran into a Sainsbury (local supermarket) and I ran up to discover that they were already closed. Thankfully two of the employees were standing out front, moments from departure. I ran up to them and in my desperation asked directions/if I could use their cell phone. Thankfully, the young woman was happy to oblige and I called Chris who walked out to meet us at the football (soccer) stadium. An evening of near-misses worked out after all!

Posted by DavidJFabe 08:49 Archived in England Comments (1)

Haggis!

Neeps and Tatties!

all seasons in one day 15 °C

As with my other travels I've made a point of trying all of the folk dishes here in the UK. For the most part these have been at least somewhat recognizable to an American's palate but there was one formidable dish that I was somewhat hesitant to try: haggis! But I did it today. Dinner time was haggis time. The results? Delicious! It helped that I was quite hungry but it would've been edible regardless. It had a gooey and extremely greasy consistency and a nice sausagey flavor with a strong pepper aftertaste. The neeps and tatties (mashed parsnips and potatoes) were really good as well. See pictures (yes, they're there already!).

PS - As an aside, the weather in Scotland has been very strange. Every morning is cold, rainy and windy but by the time the evening rolls around (6 or 7) the sun has come out and there are relatively (for the UK) few clouds in the sky. Oh, and it never fully gets dark, either. The sun sets completely but at 12:30 last night it was still twilight on our walk back to Claire's from the pub. I'm excited for next week when we'll be in Stockholm - a few degrees further north and a few days closer to the summer solstice!

Posted by DavidJFabe 12:16 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Edinburgh arrival!

Navigating the great north.

rain 13 °C

Laura, Claire and I drove down to Edinburgh from St. Andrews today. Lovely drive and fairly close - only took us a little over an hour. Claire had to be down here early for a job interview so we took off early and are currently awaiting her arrival at the Hostel. I hope she hasn't gotten lost but I'm about to find a phone to give her a ring.

Edinburgh is every bit as beautiful as people say - the whole center is very stately (and our Hostel is directly between the Old Town and "New Town" [which was actually built in the mid 1700's]) though, as with recent updates, you'll have to wait for photographs. I still haven't found time to examine our photos from the past week to upload. I will do so soon. I promise. But the process is fairly involved so until I have a little down time I don't want to force everybody around me to wait for 30 or 40 minutes. Tonight it should be easy though because Laura and Claire can hang out while I take care of business.

Stories of Warwick, the Cotswolds and St. Andrews to come!

Posted by DavidJFabe 06:20 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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