His Travel Weakness

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Phong is a delight to travel with. He makes me laugh, is willing to play the same card game with me for upwards of four hours, always lets me have the window seat, and never eats the last cookie, chip, or piece of candy.

We’ve traveled by car, plane, train, boat, and bus and over the years I’ve noticed his one travel weakness. Phong always falls asleep.

I’m not sure how he takes the city bus on his own because I’ve seen him fall asleep on a five minute bus ride before.

20140327_183107On a train.

IMG_4374In the car heading home after camping.

20150313_145026On a bus for all of five minutes.

20150925_101046Train. And taking these pictures isn’t easy either. He has a sense for when a camera is pointed at him. Quite often he’ll wake up abruptly and pose.

20150911_153953Train. Repurposing his jacket and my scarf for a neck brace.

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Car in California. The first sleeping travel Phong picture I ever took, about 10 years ago.

He might not always stay awake while we travel but he does hold my hand while he sleeps so it evens out.

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-cheryl

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A Boy And His Statues

IMG_1577(Helsingborg, Sweden 2012)

While going through the last handful of years of pictures on my computer I noticed something curious. Over all those years and trips, Phong has interacted with more than ten statues/sculptures and I have photographed him.

IMG_3933(Helsingborg, Sweden 2011)

moose(Lycksele Zoo, Sweden 2009)

IMG_1550(Garden in Malmö 2012)

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IMG_1537(Turns out Phong likes kissing)

IMG_0512(Trying to move the turtle in Umeå 2010)

z3(Riding a lion at the San Fransisco Zoo back in 2009)

z2(The lions won)

IMG_1480(Becoming a seal in San Fransisco 2009)

castle(Royal Castle in Stockholm 2014)

As you might imagine, life with Phong is pretty fun.

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Riding Trains in Sweden

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I’ve taken the trains up and down Sweden, from Skåne to Umeå and Umeå to Kiruna and a number of stops in between. Usually they’re pretty great but every so often there’s a mishap with delays, power outages (which can get pretty chilly in the winter) or that time we had to stop for reindeer on the tracks.

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Not all trains are created equal. Above is a picture of one of my all time favorites! It was a Norrtåg going from Umeå to Boden. No assigned seats but super new, tall backed chairs, space for luggage and a little tv that kept you updated on news and the time. This one had such a great vibe that I actually wrote the train number down somewhere in hopes of taking it again.

It is only in second place because of an SJ train we took from Stockholm to Umeå last summer. That one was not only a new train but it zipped along the rails, keeping us informed on the time, the upcoming stops and the speed at which we were traveling above each doorway. AND on that train I had booked us in first class. It’s not always an option but when it is I take it. It usually doesn’t cost much more but is so worth it! A lady came by with a trolley to offer coffee and tea and there was a kitchenette with fruits and tiny brownies to take. I am, admittedly, a sucker for free things- especially when those free things are sugary.

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Things to keep in mind.

Seats with tables. These are the ones where a row faces another row of passengers with a table in the middle. Unless you enjoy making conversation with strangers, other people’s legs in your space, or are traveling with a group large enough to book all (normally four but sometimes six) seats, I would avoid these. These are usually where we get stuck when we book late during a busy season.

Food. Bring your own! Why? Because you can! You can bring whatever food you want on a train. Phong and I usually make a date out of our train travels. We bring dinner and snacks, not to mention cards and sometimes the little laptop with headphones to watch movies. Many trains do have a “dining car” but in my experience they have not been impressive. The food is pretty much muffins and microwave dinners. And, most importantly, depending on when you’re traveling and where that car might be closed. So at the very least, always have a bottle of water and something to munch on in your bag.

If your seat is terrible, or the person next to you is. Find a new one! You could check out the dining car and take a seat in there if you want or  you could just hop into an open seat nearby. The only reason you have to sit in your assigned seat is if all of the other ones are filled. Of course, if someone arrives who has a ticket for the seat you’re now in, you should move. Just move. Don’t give me that pouty “but I’m sitting here” face because I’ll still make you move if that’s my seat and you would do the same to me if our roles were reversed.

 

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Most important tip? Travel with a friend because they do hilarious things like this and, if you’re two, you probably don’t have to sit by a stranger. Well, no stranger than you’re used to.

 

-cheryl

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Chandeliers – Drottninholm Castle

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After our visit to Drottningholm Castle in Stockholm, I realized that about half of my pictures were of chandeliers.

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It took me a while but I whittled it down to a large handful to share here. I have not gotten over how much fun it was to visit this castle or how incredibly delightful it was to find out that we were allowed to take pictures inside. The last castle I visited in Stockholm had a no pictures policy that was rather disappointing. There was a throne in that one that was breathtakingly dwarfed by the room in which it sat and I have no picture of that.

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You might notice that some of the pictures are dark. Drottningholm allowed picture taking but no flash using, although we totally saw a guy using flash anyway and gave him a stern glare for it.

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I’d really like to have a loft someday that looks like one of these rooms. Just a small apartment with crazy tall windows and doors, gilded everything and a chandelier.

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Or maybe a few chandeliers… How many chandeliers would be too many?

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All of these were from Drottningholm. Just about every room we visited had at least one and I’m sure I took a picture of nearly all of them.

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The last picture of me was taken by my beloved travel buddy/favorite photographer, Linn.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you ever find yourself near Stockholm, you should definitely check out Drottningholm castle. All of these pictures are still only a handful of what we got to see here.

 

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Sunday Tea in Umeå – Stora Hotellet

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Linn and I finally made it to Sunday tea at Umeå’s Stora Hotellet. This hotel is definitely something to check out even if you’re not lucky enough to stay there. They recently remodeled and have this great nautical theme going on with squids abound. They even had their own floor tiles designed with squids on them.

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They have a fancy restaurant (I have not yet tried) but they also have a cafe where they serve tea on Sundays. It’s located in a corner of the indoor (but outdoor feeling with a glass ceiling) square attached to the library. I do so love feeling like I’m outside without actually having to be outside. To make a long complaint short, the wind and I do not get along.

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You’re  given the choice between tea or tea and champagne. We went tea and vegetarian with our sandwiches.

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I heard that they had their own china printed. It was all very pretty.

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And they had two home made marmalades. One was orange and one was blueberry. If you visit Sweden, you’ll find a great abundance of blueberry going around. If it’s blue, it’s likely blueberry in flavor.

We started with the scones. Two different kinds, both yummy.

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Then we moved on to the sandwiches. I think we started with the artichoke, then the white asparagus and then the cheese. We decided to do the cheese one last because, well, cheese is pretty much always good.

 

The only downside to this entire visit was that we didn’t get out own pot of tea. The waitresses were really good about coming around to refill cups but I don’t think they were at all prepared for the amount of tea Linn can drink in one sitting. She was pretty much flagging them down between each bite until the waitresses would just smile and come over to check her cup.

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Desserts! The best part of anything. We had quite a conversation in deciding where to start and end with these. If I remember correctly we did the mini croissant first, because sometimes those can be terribly dry and we wanted to end with the best. And then we went for the chocolate macaroon because, despite their popularity, they just aren’t that good. Yes, I did just say that. This one wasn’t bad, it just, like all macaroons, was not amazing.

The mini cinnamon bun was third. I thought it was pretty classic to have a cinnamon bun in some form on the plate since this is Sweden after all. And that beautiful little lemon custard bit on the crunchy wafer was last. It was pretty great.

tea20150517_131248This was a really great experience and I would definitely take people here in the future or suggest it to anyone visiting Umeå. It wasn’t very pricey at all, but it is a Sunday thing so check the times if you’re going.

You got to choose between black, green or red tea and we switched somewhere in the middle from black to green I think.

Great experience and super cozy location on a calm Sunday.

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