Monday, July 7, 2014

Sweden: Saving the best for last

I know we are stateside now, but I still have some adventures to catch up on.  As we faced our final year living in Germany, we knew that our last trip had to be a another venture up north to visit Big R's family in Sweden one last time.  They are such incredible people, and we had no way of knowing when we'd get an opportunity to visit again.  His grandmother and her family are all from Göteborg. We visited his family for the first time in July of 2012.  We had no idea what to expect, and it was such an incredible visit we knew we had to go back at least once before we left Europe.

Our first Sweden trip was coupled with a quick side excursion to Copenhagen, and this time we wanted to be sure not to miss Stockholm.  We spent far too much time trying to find the best itinerary for an affordable price.  I think we actually waited until two weeks before our trip to purchase our flights, and I definitely waited too long to book a hotel.  Not only is Stockholm a bit pricey, but it is a popular place in the summer time.  (After having visited there, we now completely understand why that is!)  Since we were going to be in Stockholm for literally 22 hours, I wanted to find a place that was near the action.  The only hotel with vacancies within 30 km of the city center was $4,500/night.  Totally doable, right?  Well, I thought so, but Big R was thinking it might be a tad bit too fancy for our taste and the children having their own rooms probably wasn't a wise choice.  So picky, that man... Haha.

Ok, so we completely lucked out with Air BnB, and I'm not kidding.  We lucked out both because I got rejected more than a dozen times, and also because the place we ended up staying had the most incredible hosts in the most beautiful location and house.  It was quite literally perfect and for a price that was affordable (for Stockholm...).  Anna and Francisco were amazing.  We were sad we didn't have time for a longer stay.  Every once in awhile you come across people you feel like have been friends with you for a lifetime. That's how these hosts were - absolutely incredible hosts that felt we'd been friends with for years.  They invited us to a BBQ and said if we were staying another day, they were going to take us out on their boat.  Man!  But we had amazing family to get to, so it was a quick stay despite the temptations to hang around a bit longer....

Stockholm is an incredible city.  We've been looking forward to seeing it since before we arrived in Europe three years ago, and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately, when you visit a location for a quick 24 hours, the weather dictates the experience.  When we arrived, the weather was not our friend.  I could feel the disappointment oozing from Big R.  After a whirlwind and VERY windy tour through Gamla Stan (or old city), we opted not to do dinner in Stockholm and instead had our airbnb host make us a reservation at a cute little restaurant on the docks a short walk from our flat.  It was a great decision.  We woke up first thing - literally at 2 a.m. - with brilliant sunshine. As soon as the kids were ready to go, we grabbed the tram and headed into the heart of the city so that we could get as much out of our visit as possible.  Stockholm is absolutely incredible when the sun shines.  We were blown away!!!

Gamla Stan - Stockhom, Sweden

phone booth in Gamla Stam, and my little ham

strike a pose, cute lil man

beautiful church Riddarhomen church

we loved the Swedish architecture

another view of the Riddarholm

side street on Gamla Stan

it was crazy windy that day

you can sense the wind if you look at the waves in the water

we decided to have dinner in a quiet restaurant in a suburb port town

up early and ready to go - the sun greeted us at 2:30 a.m.!

Stockholm is even more incredible in the sunlight

the views were breathtaking at every turn...

another beautiful picture of Stockholm's architecture

the ancient Vasar ship - uncovered after 400 years under water

a scene from the boardwalk around Stockholm

too cute not to share - love this little man

the sunlight was spectacular!

more views along the waterfront
one of the many Stockholm skylines

a unique view from the City Hall

such a gorgeous day!

a quick peek into the kitchen of the flat we rented. how cute are those tiles?!

another peek - we seriously want this couple to decorate our house!

It was time to leave Stockholm and head west to visit with Big R's family in Göteborg.  We planned our trip to fly into Stockholm, rent a car, and drive across Sweden to Göteborg.  Big R's family gave us recommendations for the most scenic route, and it really was such a wonderful car trip across the country.  About 5-6 hours later, we found ourselves welcomed by family.  Along the way we enjoyed the Swedish countryside and a little yoga at a rest area along Lake Vättern.  It was such a beautiful day, and the views did not disappoint.

"Tom Tits Experiment" - seriously Tom, what have you been up to?!

gorgeous views of Lake Vättern

so excited to get a break from the car...

i enjoyed my break, too, and was inspired to strike a pose or two

eh, why not one more pose?!

yoga is apparently contagious with these backdrops...

my boys :)

classic Swedish countryside home - red barns are a signature look here

We spent our first day just outside of Göteborg enjoying family to the fullest.  Baby c was absolutely in love with Big R's grandmother's cousin.  It was precious on every level. The boys had a ball.  More family came to visit the next morning, and the little r tried hard to communicate with the boys his age using German.  Hey, if they don't speak English, it must be Deutsch, right?  It was too cute.

proud Swedish family :) 

the boys had too much fun...

and baby c fell in love with uncle bill

porch swings are the best!

i just love those baby blues!

...and this handsome little man

we are definitely proud of our Swedish heritage

little r's favorite was the tree swing

family walk through the Swedish countryside

baby c enjoyed every minute of our walk

...and little r did some serious pondering...

we will miss you, Birgitta!

is it obvious these boys are all from the same blood line?!

he had to get one more hug from uncle bill

We said "good-bye" to one part of Big R's family to meet with another in downtown Göteborg at Liseberg - an old, and incredibly fun, amusement park.  We had promised little r some rollercoasters and fun rides. All told, we had a great time.  Little r enjoyed the flume ride, an crazy rollercoaster "train" ride that was insanely fast (I was blown away by his bravery!), and some other incredible fun. My face hurt from smiling, and most of it was because I loved how much fun little r was having.  We stayed with family again that night a little closer to Göteborg, and we loved every minute of it.  Such incredible people.  Their son, although he was quite a bit older than little r, played with him and put up with his silly antics (including his ability to talk endlessly).  We were impressed and so thankful.  We watched some World Cup soccer, and enjoyed getting to know his family.  I hope we can convince them to visit us in the U.S. soon!

this ride was too much fun!!!

little r loved it and his new friend, Isak!

baby c is quick to find a snuggle buddy...

...and he always wants to be part of the fun!

beautiful architecture in downtown Göteborg

another shot of downtown Göteborg along the canal

It was tough to say "good-bye" to Sweden and our family.  We hope not much time passes before we can see them again whether in the U.S. or back in Sweden.  Our final morning we spent strolling around downtown Göteborg.  The weather wasn't terribly fabulous, and our time was short, but we were able to get a good feel for the city.  Let's just say we were there just long enough to wish we had more time to enjoy what the city had to offer.

Until we meet again, Sweden :)  

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