Travel Mondays: Stylish Sweden

swedenAs difficult as it is to pull myself out  from under the covers on a grey Monday morning, waking up to a fresh start and brand new week is satisfying, especially when I’m finally starting to feel better. Thank you all for your kind words last week regarding my sweet Grandma. I never ever expected to say goodbye to her so soon. In some ways, none of it feels fully set in…this week’s Travel Monday will honor my Grandma and a country she loved very much: Sweden.

Stockholm's Old Town

Stockholm’s Old Town

My Grandma was one hundred percent Swedish and, with her blonde hair and bright blue eyes, more than looked the part. Although she was raised on a small Minnesotan farm, she visited her Great-Grandparent’s home in Sweden, along with Stockholm, on a special trip with my Aunt Susan. I wish I could go back and ask my Grandma dozens of questions about this trip, but I do know it was momentous for her. Even if she did leave six days early because she missed my Grandpa so much. In some ways, being drawn to Sweden runs in both sides of my family. My Aunt Melissa and Uncle Dave moved from the States to Göteborg when their family was very young and were quickly smitten. My cousin, Leah, moved shortly thereafter to help nanny.

I’ve visited Sweden three times now and would jump at the chance to go back. My first visit was to Stockholm and the next two to Sweden’s second-largest city, dreamy Göteborg.

Stockholm's moody and dramatic bluffs along the Baltic Sea.

Stockholm’s moody and dramatic bluffs along the Baltic Sea.

I think Stockholm-and Sweden as a whole-is one of Europe’s most underrated destinations. Unlike Paris and London, it’s not ridiculously overpriced and with easy to navigate public transportation, getting around is easy. What struck me most about Sweden, however, is its class. My first (and thus lasting) impression of Paris is of crowds and the fume of cigarettes and exhaust, and in Stockholm I experienced none of that. In my experience, the Swedes were courteous and quiet and, true to European form, very well-dressed. Stockholm itself  seems to achieve that rare feat of balancing old architecture and traditions seamlessly with the new. And the shopping! Ask me for my idea of a perfect afternoon and it would have to be fika (afternoon coffee and cake) and shopping in Gamla Stan.  Göteborg, with its wind-swept views and sweep of tiny islands, could easily be among Europe’s most romantic cities.

A view of city center in Gothenburg

A view of city center in Gothenburg

Why else visit Sweden? Here’s my reasons:

The café culture. First off, Swedish coffee is rich and strong…what other country could create coffee as delicious as Gevalia’s? Stopping for a coffee and fikabrod (a sweet) is also central to Swedish culture. When visiting, I found this really comforting. Unlike a tiny cup of espresso or diminutive Italian cappuccino, a mug of coffee was substantial. I didn’t feel like I had to leave the cafe in ten minute’s time.

The museums. I didn’t visit Gothenburg’s museums, but visited as many as I could in Stockholm (about six) and the variety kept things interesting and worthwhile. After purchasing the Stockholm Card, I could get in free to over 80 museums and other attractions and in four day’s time I visited the Abba Museum (!!), the Vasa (amazing!), the National Museum,  the Stockholm Museum, the Skansen Museum and Zoo (where a lemur brushed up against my nose) and the Music Museum.  Many of these museums were interactive and very hands-on–I think Stockholm would be a great destination for those traveling with kids.

The design. By now, Swedish design has been lauded the world over, but it still felt special to stroll through boutiques and furniture shops firsthand…including the original Ikea! Anyone with an eye for design will feast here.

Window shopping. Both in Gothenburg and Stockholm, so many of the shops felt really special. Being on a tight budget on every trip, I really appreciated that I never felt pressured to make a purchase. I could just look and feel comfortable.  The birthplace of H&M, fashion boutiques really seemed to cater to what was practical and workable in day to day life. On my next trip, you can bet I’ll be doing some serious shopping (I have three visits to make up for!).

These are just a few reasons to visit this Scandinavian gem, but there are many others. Those looking for outdoor activities will find them in abundance (think dog sledding in Lapland and fishing in Malmö).

Have any of your visited Sweden? What did you enjoy most? Do you think Sweden is underrated?

 

Travel Mondays: The World’s Most Amazing Street Art

An original Bansky I snapped on Park Street in Bristol

An original Bansky I snapped on Park Street in Bristol

When I was studying in Bristol I had the pleasure of accidentally walking past provocative street art just about everyday.  As the hometown and stomping grounds of world-renowned street artist Bansky, I really couldn’t have chosen a better spot than Bristol for becoming acquainted with ‘sidewalk art.’ Fast forward to my trips to London, Paris and Amsterdam and, once again, I found myself delighted to discover art in the least expected of places.

So, of course, I had to write about this for DPG. See which cities made my list of The World’s Most Amazing Street Art right over here.

Travel Mondays: 7 of the World’s Loneliest Islands

duluthMexico was warm and so indulgent and San Diego was fun and full of sunshine, but my favorite trip of the last year was definitely our anniversary getaway to Minnesota’s dramatic North Shore. The drive along Lake Superior always feels romantic and deliciously remote and once you get outside of Duluth, you really do feel like you’re the only souls on earth. And isn’t that what travel is about? Escaping to find that elusive peace and quiet?

It was with this in mind that I began researching seven of the world’s remotest islands for DreamPlanGo. And as difficult as it getting to some of these places, I can’t help but feel it’d be more than worth it.

Easy to miss but impossible to forget, these seven islands have remained remote, unspoiled and undeniably seductive. Sidestep the masses and indulge in solitude when you plan your escape to one of the world’s loneliest islands…

Keep reading over here

Travel Mondays: Getting to Know Morocco

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A photo my husband snapped while camel trekking through the Sahara Dessert in Morocco.

Four years ago my husband spent a month in Morocco and although I’ve heard all of his stories and insights by now, it’s a topic that never feels boring to us. Maybe because I’ve never been and I’m simply aching to go. Last week I had fun doing more research on this wholly exotic country and putting together a dream itinerary in the below article. I hope it inspires you!

Morocco is many things at once. Bordering Algeria and all but touching Spain, the country officially resides in North Africa, but its cultural core is French meets Middle-East. The souks and medinas smell of spice and mint and monkeys and are reminiscent of scenes from One Thousand and One Nights. The cities are rich, unexpected and diverse. The result is a country which changes from the medieval to colonial to the familiar. Travel experiences are equally diverse. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:

Read the whole article here on DreamPlanGo!

Travel Mondays: 9 Ways to Judge Europe by its Cover

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How stunning is Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-on-Avon? Visited March 2012.

Sometimes I still need to pinch myself over the fact that I survived my MA year at Bristol. So much work, but so many more fantastic travel experiences. Not only was I studying my favorite authors, but I was able to visit many of their former homes and favorite haunts. So of course I had to write about them for DreamPlanGo:

For those who own more dog-eared paperbacks than they’d like to admit, there is no richer travel destination than Europe. Explore the haunts of literature’s most enduring authors and their beloved characters in these nine destinations made for bibliophiles:

Keep reading over here for the full article and let me know which literary destination you’d choose!