This past late January/ early February my wife and I decided to take a trip to Paris. She wanted to do some shopping and me being the good (and cheap) husband knew that France has two mandated sale seasons annually. It’s sort of like Black Friday deals in the US that lasts for 6 weeks. This year (2016) it’s on Jan/Feb & June/July. Speaking of cheap I also knew one of the cheapest way to get to Paris is via Norwegian Airline. I’m talking SF Bay Area to Paris for as low as <$500 round trip! The only catch is that I have to fly to Stockholm first then Paris. Not a bad deal since I’ve never been to Sweden before.
<Click on smaller images to enlarge or to read the captions. Click on highlighted links in blue for more information.>
Click here for part two of this trip.
Sunrise: 7:45, Sunset: 3:45
Temp: 20-30’s F
My first experience in Sweden was traveling on the airport train at 4:30pm towards Stockholm. It was disconcerting to see the countryside fly by in darkness because of the early sunset. I thought I’d at least enjoy the scenery go by after a ten hour flight.
The Arlanda Express train into town was a wonderful experience but not cheap. The other drawback was that the train ride was too quick. Twenty minutes is not enough time to enjoy the ride. The ride was super smooth and the cabin was super nice with some cars having office/laptop stations. Not sure how much work you can do in such a short time.
I also made a brief visit to the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan. Pretty nice little museum. The closest I’ll ever get to winning the medal is by stopping by the gift shop for the chocolate medals.
After spending a small fortune on the previous night’s dinner, I wanted to find something affordable yet local for lunch. We found it on the food court floor at NK Stockholm department store. You can read the descriptions of the dishes by clicking on the food photos. It came out to be about $15 per entree which included unlimited salad bar and unlimited coffee/tea. Speaking of coffee, it was at this point that I started wondering what the coffee intake of the locals are. This is because my hotel also provided unlimited coffee. Turns out the Scandinavians are the number one coffee drinkers in the world in terms of quantity.
For the shoppers out there, Stockholm is not a (cheap) shopper’s paradise. As with their restaurants, it’s a pricey town. Even the guide books says it’s not a backpacker friendly place. I did find a really nice Swedish branded outdoor gear Fjallraven. Expensive stuff but really nice quality. In general I noticed Swedish shoes and fashion are more utilitarian looking than the more fashion conscious French brands.
On my second stopover in Stockholm as I was heading back to the US, again I arrived on a Sunday. As on my first stopover, many businesses were either closed or closed early.
I stayed at an interesting hotel called HTL Hotel. It’s a cross between an efficiency hotel and Scandinavian design. The location was excellent right in the heart of downtown and was relatively affordable by local standards. This was the first time I ever had to run out of a hotel because of the fire alarm. I don’t recommend doing this in the dead of winter in Sweden.
Breakfast was at the nearby Vete-Katten patisserie. This is one of those times where I just happen to stumble upon an institution (check out their beautiful website by clicking on the patisserie name highlighted above). My wife and I just thought it was a wonderful looking bakery so we went in. We were drawn in with it’s old fashion but timeless interior. I’m a sucker for marble topped tables and bent wood chairs. And of course I can never say no to a bakery. We also bought a couple of sandwiches for our (no-frills) plane ride home later in the day. Yes the food is really good here. And of course there’s the bottomless coffee.
After breakfast I wanted to check out the famed Östermalms Saluhall food hall dating from 1880’s. Fortunately downtown Stockholm is pretty walkable so we walked to the food hall. Although it’s written up on all the guides as a must see, Ostermalms was a bit of a let down. Maybe I had high expectations but my wife and I agreed the food hall in Budapest was more interesting both in terms of things for sale and the building architecture. I think when Ostermalms is written as a “premier” food place, I think it meant expensive or exclusive. I can’t picture regular people coming here on a daily basis.
Paris write up coming next…