Returning

Okay, I’ve been away for a while. We did a long vacation in the States to visit family and do a little honeymooning. We were mostly in Northern California but did a little adventure to New York. Expect blog posts to catch up! For the Redwoods, Scandinavain Air with travel tips and my hatred of airplane food, New York, my 8 hour hair coloring experience, the Jelly Belly Factory and Monterey to list a few.

We had a great time and are nestled at home in Kiruna once more!

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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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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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Cafes in London

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That’s a strawberry marange cookie! It was amazing and I don’t even like marange. Oh, and my name isn’t Sharol.

While in London, Linn and I visited a handful of chain cafes for quick sugar boosts and breakfast. England had two of it’s own, Costa and Nero, and then of course Starbucks. Starbucks, we’d expected to be the same here as it is in the States and Sweden. As far as drinks and those fun surprise misspellings of names, it was! A few different treats, of course. But the actual cafes weren’t as cozy. The interior design was a little more like a Subway than a Starbucks as we’ve come to know them.

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Costa was the first one we tried for breakfast.

Tourist note: In Sweden hotels have AMAZING breakfast buffets that are included in your stay. If you’re used to this, you may be incredibly disappointed with London hotels. Ours offered breakfast but it was in a crowded, windowless dungeon and pretty much just a toaster machine with white bread and butter, some cereals and coffee. We’re spoiled, so we went to a cafe instead.

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I mean, look at that! Who would stay in a gloomy room fighting over toast when you could get this?

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Breakfast! We tried Costa twice (two different locations). The food was good but in both cases the staffs were incredibly unhappy and stressed and the coffee wasn’t very good.

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Which is a shame, because my latte was so big it had two handles.

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Nero ended up being our favorite. The staff was great, the coffee good, and they had scones with clotted cream just in time for Linn’s clotted cream love.

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We also tried Nero a couple times in different locations.

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And we really liked their cozy decor. We’re suckers for comfy chairs and wallpaper.

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In the end, for us, it was:

Nero – Yes.

Costa – No.

Starbucks – Drift through for frappuccinos. No, I do not live a healthy life when I travel.

 

All pictures of me were taken by the amazing Linn!

Upcoming posts: The POD and Travel in London.

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