You may remember my post on “staycations” and how awesome they are. However, when you have family in Sweden, you cannot always make do with staycations. And while you’re in Sweden, you might as well go to Paris (at least that’s what we figured!). So without further ado, here are some highlights, thoughts, and pictures from my family’s recent two-week trip to Sweden/Paris.
As you can see, we packed too many bags. Well, two of those contained mostly gifts (like peanut butter, an eco-friendly puzzle, and baby clothes) and we were actually able to leave one behind (it was my mom’s bag anyway). So between the three of us, we had nine bags to keep track of. Yikes! This was partially due to the fact that Sweden can be anywhere from rather warm to kind of cold in the summer and we didn’t want to risk having to buy new clothes while we were there (aside from my teenage daughter, of course). Plus, we didn’t exactly know what the dress code would be in the Paris restaurants, so we packed some nicer clothes than we normally would bring.
Anyway, we made it to Stockholm, Sweden on July 2 with all our bags intact. Non-stop flights are the best! My parents had bought train tickets for us to take the train from the airport to the train station closest to my parent’s home. Seems like a pretty obvious solution to have a train station at the airport, but this was sorely lacking on the US side… Otherwise we would have definitely taken the train rather than parked our car at the airport for 15 days!
The first couple of days were spent trying to adjust to the time, singing in church (I got to sing with my lil’ sis, which was awesome!), and celebrating said sister’s 25th birthday with a lovely picnic by the ocean with home-made Greek pasta salad followed by cake back at the apartment. I also got to see one of my brothers and talk to my other two siblings on the phone and make plans for upcoming adventures.
On the 6th, we packed a couple of bags for Paris and boarded the super cheap Ryanair flight from Skavsta airport in Sweden to the Paris Beauvais Tillé airport. From there, we took a shuttle to Porte Maillot and then the Metro to get to our hotel in the Montparnasse area. As much as we didn’t splurge on the travel from Sweden to Paris, we did splurge a bit on the hotel. Meaning, we got a decent size room with A/C. And thank God for that. It was hot!
The first evening in Paris, we went to Rue Cler and gathered food like bread, cheese, some calzone-like food, and the best strawberries ever (yes, even better than the Swedish ones). Then we sat in the park in front of the Eiffel Tower and just enjoyed life. We had purchased tickets online to go up in the Eiffel Tower. This was a good move and recommended if you go to Paris. The view was just amazing. I don’t think I’ll go up there again, but it was definitely worth the one time. However, I could have skipped going all the way to the top. The middle level is just perfect, as far as I’m concerned.
Unfortunately, our daughter got sick at this point and missed most of the rest the sightseeing. However, Todd and I got to go out both separately and together and enjoy some of the following: Notre Dame, Ile Saint-Louis (so awesome!), the Great Mosque of Paris (my husband is into the influence of Islam in Europe – in fact, he has an article coming out on the topic later this year), the Holocaust Museum (I didn’t get to go in, because I didn’t have a way to cover my shoulders, but my hubby said it was powerful), the Louvre (enter after 6 PM for cheaper tickets), traditional Boeuf de Bourguignon at a cute little restaurant, a nice stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens (as well as some time on a park bench with a book – yay!), and eating crepes (there were at least 10 crepe restaurants on the same street – weird).
The last day we were there, Rebecka felt better and mustered up some energy to go shopping at a nearby mall. She was pretty excited about her “Paris fashion.” I think it added up to about $50.
We came back from Paris fairly tired, but that didn’t stop me and Todd from jumping on the commuter train to Stockholm the following day for some fun-filled people watching and random strolling. We went to the “Old Town” section of the city and enjoyed the diversity of tourists and the quaint stores and narrow streets. We also visited an old college friend and partook of a fabulous meal of marinated and grilled veal. Aren’t the best meals cooked at home??
Back in my parents’ town, we switched gears again for an overnight trip to the Stockholm archipelago. This may be one of the most beautiful places on earth. This picture does not do it justice. We enjoyed the boat ride and spending time with my brother and his family as well as my sister and her beautiful baby. It was a lot of sitting around and just being together. Perfect. We stayed at a youth hostel, so the trip didn’t break the bank, but it did mean we had to bring our own sheets and towels and clean up after ourselves. It was kind of refreshing, actually. Extreme comfort can make you lose your sense of being alive.
Back “home” again, it was time to prepare for the primary purpose of our trip, my mom’s 70th birthday party and concert. Yes, her birthday wish was that her children (by birth and marriage) give a concert for her and the rest of the guests. And we did so with pleasure because we love to sing together! One of my brothers had the spectacular idea to make it a musical journey through the decades of her life, and that’s what we did. We started in the 1940s and ended up in the 2000s. Of course, we ended the entire concert with How Great Thou Art (I bet you didn’t know that’s a Swedish song!). My mom was happy.
The remaining couple of days we tried to hang out as much as possible with my family, make those obligatory “food” purchases (think chocolate and salt licorice), and be in nature as much as possible. I spent the last afternoon with my mom, sister, and daughter on some cliffs by the water nibbling on home-made sweet rolls and cookies. Nice.
I am pretty proud to say that we only brought back around $250 worth of “stuff” (per the customs form). Half of that was books and the rest clothes and “food” (oh, and a new rolling pin – very important). However, no silly knick-knacks and such. (OK – we did buy two magnets, but that’s it!).
The trip home was smooth. All our stuff was intact (including a framed original illustration that my sister made for Todd’s upcoming book!). It was a busy trip, but it was awesome at the same time. I didn’t check work email at all. I barely used a computer. I spent time outside. Our family spent time together. I snuggled with babies. We sang. And we ate lots of good food (although some not so good for us!). That’s what I call vacation. Simple or not.