IKEA!

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After living in Sweden for six years I finally, for the first time ever, went to an IKEA!

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I had no idea IKEA was so much fun! I did, although, know that Phong would be crazy entertaining wherever I happened to take him.

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Here he is trying out the stability of a bed for pull ups. He still talks about this bed, by the way.

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He leafed through magazines, lounged on couches and even tested every tablet he came across–just in case it actually worked.

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He spent a couple minutes tidying up the umbrellas. We were here for hours!

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Lunch time at IKEA! I had no idea how great this place was.

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Do all IKEA cafeterias have these adorable tray carts? I love them so much! We didn’t really need to take a cart, we were three adults, but come on!

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I also loved the conveyor belt that takes away your dishes! I wish my kitchen had one of these..

Phong and I are playing with the idea of an IKEA weekend, like a vacation, but we’ll go to IKEA instead of the beach or a cabin.

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Sagami ~ Umeå

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I’ve been meaning to drop a review of this restaurant for a while. Sagami is our favorite sushi places in Umeå. Keep in mind, I don’t like sushi at all but I still love this restaurant because they have plenty of other amazing dishes to distract me.

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For this visit we rented the private tatami room. It seats up to 10 people at two of these tables and we were 9 so it worked out perfect! Sagami also has a lovely seating area in the front room where we usually are when we visit, but it was our wedding dinner so we decided to get fancy.

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Okay, so I don’t like sushi. I’ve tried it, but I’m not a fan of cold rice or seaweed so it’s pretty much lost on me. BUT I do appreciate how pretty and dainty sushi is. I like to see it, but not eat it.

They do have a bunch of vegetarian sushi; Phong does not share my sushi opinions and likes it a lot.

I’m more of a dumpling fiend myself and luckily for me, Sagami has vegetarian dumplings too!

 

 

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Linn is a huge sushi fan so I get to take pictures of hers and her love of this restaurant introduced me to the magic of okonomiyaki.

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Okonomiyaki is on the left. It’s basically an omelet with veggies and some sort of japanese mayo on top. It is amazing! The not vegetarian version has bonito flakes on top. The other dish directly in front of me is kimuchi, behind that is some veggie tempura, and to the side is the dumplings. As you can see, I do just fine without eating sushi and this is just the vegetarian stuff at Sagami.

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Linn and I got a little bold this time and tried their sampler ice creams. The flavors were matcha (on either side because they were out of the sesame ice cream) and then wasabi ice cream in the middle. Now, I have had a number of really good desserts here but this one was purely experimental. I don’t even like wasabi so it was no surprise that we didn’t like the wasabi ice cream either. It does taste exactly the way you’d imagine.

If you find yourself in Umeå, try Sagami. They have a great buffet, a friendly staff and amazing food! Next time we’re in town we’re planning to order ahead and get the sukiyaki!

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We got married!

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On June 23rd Phong and I got married!

We’d been together for 11 years. 5 years in a long distance relationship, he in Sweden and me in California, and then 6 years together in Sweden.

We met on a writing website and I just adored his work! I was so in love with his writing that I started an msn (that’s how long ago it was) just to talk to him. We talked every day since.

We spent quite a bit of time trying to decide how to go about our wedding since most of his family lives in the south of Sweden and we live in the uber north. And, of course, my family lives in the States.

We didn’t want anyone to have to travel for us so, instead, we decided to do the traveling! We got married in Umeå; a small ceremony with our close family there. Later we went down to Skåne to celebrate with the rest of Phong’s family and in December/January we’re going to California to celeberate with mine!

 

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The ceremony wasn’t until 4 in the afternoon so Linn and I went out for a morning fika, bought flowers at the market and came home to put my bouquet together.

Linn was amazing! She did my hair, spraying each and every curl so that they were solid and curly for days. She made sure I got there on time and took a million beautiful pictures! Pretty much all of the ones in this blog. Except for that one to the right. That one was mine! Oh, and when we took one of these pictures together, her hair got stuck in my headband.

Phong and I had a civil ceremony at one of the city buildings in the center of Umeå, my very favorite city.

It was beautiful out! It had rained just before, which I was told was good luck, and a pigeon pooped on my father-in-law’s bag, which, turns out, also good luck! I’m starting to suspect that some very clever person just started telling brides and grooms that bad things were good luck to calm them down.

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It was perfect. It was small and stress-free and happy and we had a wonderful day.

Phong’s jacket was AMAZING. Let’s all just take a minute to consider his outfit and how fantastic is is. Those shoes!

After the wedding we had dinner at Sagami in Umeå. I’ll do a post about that next followed by the rest of our travels this summer!

And, of course, here’s a cake picture because how often do I post something without a picture of food?

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Travel – London

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First travel tip: Choose your travel buddy well. Yeah, it’s all smiles and giggles when you take pictures but sometimes travel gets stressful and you definitely want someone you can count on and get along with. Linn and I are excellent travel buddies! We tested it out on a Stockholm trip last year so it wasn’t a surprise.

Second: Know your travel buddy. Are they a morning person? Do they need coffee to survive? Do they get fussy when hungry? Sleepy? What stresses them out? What are they looking forward to about the trip? Museums or clubs? Plan this stuff.

It’s also important to know which one of you is the navigator. Linn is an excellent navigator. She loves maps and she’s not afraid to ask questions. BUT she can get peeved when hungry and has a sweet tooth, so I carry candy when we travel together just in case. (Phong gets particularly fussy when hungry but doesn’t respond well to sugar dips, so I carry protein bars for him when he’s my buddy. Oh, and if you have a friend/loved one that gets angry when hungry, don’t ever tell them until they’re well fed and happy again.)

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Our hotel! We stayed in Earl’s Court. We were just around the corner from a subway station and a block of restaurants and cafes. It was a great location! The staff was about a 50/50 split as far as helpful went. Half of them were great and cheerful and the other half we weirdly offput and barely looked at us let alone spoke to us.

The only real problem with this hotel, and it was a pretty big and odd problem, was a mysterious puddle that would bubble up from the drain in the ground to fill that concrete space between the step and the door in the right hand picture. It soaked the carpetting inside the hallway and smelt bad. BAD. We, unfortunately, had the room to the right of that picture on the other side of the puddle. I didn’t get a picture of the actual puddle when it was full. It was dark and I was peeved.

There was no way around it and because of the angle, we couldn’t jump over it either. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it was gone. Some of the staff would be helpful and come down and make it go away and some insisted they had no idea what it was or where it came from (yeah, we totally believed that) and that there was nothing to be done about it.

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At least the room was nice. The TV didn’t work but we didn’t really have time to use it anyway. We really just came back at night, showered, and fell asleep and then were back up and out as soon as we could muster it.

Oh! Showers! The showers (not sure if it’s an English thing or not) were on a platform. You stepped up into them. A little odd, as I’d never seen that before.

Breakfast: I’m not sure how hotel breakfast works in your country, but here in Sweden it’s included in your stay and it’s amazing. It’s one of those things that hotels compete over and Swedes take very seriously in their ratings of hotels. Everything else could be great but if you have a shabby (or non-existent) breakfast buffet, you’re not going to get a good rating. And we’re not talking a few pastries and some cereal. Hotel breakfast in Sweden is a beautiful thing.

Alas, fantastic included breakfasts does not seem to be the way of things in London. Our hotel had a breakfast included in the price of our stay, so we dropped by the first morning to check it out. Luckily, Linn had been in London before and we had already lowered our expectations. It was a dungeon with toast. Seriously, just toast and cereal. So, being the spoiled Swedes that we are, we left in pursuit of cafes.

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Oyster card. Get one! We used the subway constantly on our visit and it worked out great. We took it from Heathrow in to London central when we arrived. There were machines to get your card and load it with money right there at the first platform in Heathrow and personnel to help explain if you’re confused. We put £30 on our cards, plus £5 for the card itself. We used them a lot to get around in London and after four days, we still had money left on them when we came back to Heathrow. And we could return them and get a refund on what was left, including the cost of the card!

The subway was easy and fast but if you have a problem with crowds or tight spaces, probably try to avoid the weekday morning rides. There are lots of signs to show you the routes, plus personnel at the entrances and even these nifty help boxes on the wall on the actual platform. You push a button and an actual human person answers your questions about how to get where you’re going.

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It was our experience that the people in London were very pleasant and helpful. We didn’t have any bad experiences except for some of our own hotel staff (Weird right? Hotel staff are usually so delightful.) and one very forgetful waitress who was still quite nice.

Tip: Trashcans seemed to be far and few between. If you’re taking your coffee to go, be prepared to hang on to that cup for a while.

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As you might have gleamed from my previous posts about our London trip, Linn and I are daytime tourists. We’d rather go to museums, cafes, parks and shops than nightclubs so we didn’t see much of London after dark.

We did a lot of walking and found London to be delightfully flat and full of cafes.

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This trip was a great experience. Hopefully it won’t be my last visit to London. We barely scratched the surface of things to see.

All pictures of me were taken by the amazing Linn– photographer/travel buddy extraordinaire!

This should be the last of my photobomb blog posts about our trip.

On to this months adventures! Getting married and visiting Phong’s family!

 

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The POD

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pod2Despite all of the fun things we did on this trip to London, the POD might have been the most fun!

Our flight back to Sweden was leaving Heathrow around 6 in the morning on Sunday, so we stayed at a hotel by the airport on Saturday night.

We took the subway out to Heathrow, knowing that our hotel was close to Terminal 5, and from there asked someone what the best way to get to our hotel would be. They suggested the elevator up to the POD. We kind of assumed this was the name of a bus or train but it turns out it’s an actual pod.

They’re not on tracks like trains. Both sides have seats like the picture to the right, fitting up to four people. And it drives itself between the terminal and a special parking lot. IT DRIVES ITSELF! On it’s own cute little road!

I want one of these to take me everywhere! It only took about five minutes and costs five pounds and is incredibly cool!

 

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