Moving right along in chronological order… we are [were] in Sweden!
Ahh Sweden. I just love it up there. It’s usually cool weather, the air is clean and crisp, and the complementary breakfasts are great! I like most everything about Sweden. I’m very glad that Casey gets to come here for simulator training.
But first, we had to leave Spain, and that was a trip in itself! We took a bus to the train station in Valencia, a high-speed train to Madrid, another bus to the airport in Madrid, and then a plane to Stockholm. It was a long day of traveling, but we had a good time. I guess we didn’t take any pictures on our first bus ride, but it was uneventful in a good way. I don’t know why I thought the buses would be unpleasant in Valencia; in fact, they are very nice. They are modern and as clean as possible. Public transportation is huge here, so I guess that makes sense that they keep the buses looking decent. They are very similar to the buses I used to ride in Chicago.
That bus ride was only about 15 minutes. We got to the train station and printed out our tickets! We decided to take the train instead of flying from Valencia because it was much cheaper. And we thought, “Why not?” We have the time and it would be a fun experience. Which it was.
The train ride was two hours and we got to at least 180 mph! Impressive. (To compare, driving in a car takes about three hours.) There were two additional stops during our route, but it was very quick. The seats were comfy and spacious. Much better than airplane seats! I’d gladly take the train again because you can relax and it’s quick. The bathroom onboard was really cool too. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, but you press a button to open the door, you press another button to close the door, and then you press another button to lock the door! Everything is automated and it was huge. Casey informed me that I was in the handicap-accessible bathroom, which was the only reason it was so big. Actually, maybe that was why there were so many buttons. Hmm. Either way, I enjoyed my time on the train.
On the way to Madrid, we had a table in front of us, so Casey used his laptop and had plenty of room. At one point, we passed a huge, beautiful water reservoir or lakes or something. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but there were many small bodies of water with a gorgeous blue dark hue. I tried to snap a quick photo which is what you see above. Technically, our seats were next to each other, but no one was sitting in front of us, so Casey moved just for this photo. The rest of the seats are normal and face forward, but they have four seats in front, with a table, which face each other.
There was a small bar area on the train as well where you could buy drinks and snacks. We got the “breakfast special” that came with a coffee, orange juice, and a pastry. We chose a donut. It was cheap and didn’t taste all that good, but we needed some food. After we arrived in Madrid, I needed to use the bathroom and discovered that they only had pay toilets! Wow! It cost €0.60 ($0.75) to get in. The machine prints out a little voucher that you can spend in the shops in the station. It’s nice that you get your money back, and the voucher is good for a few months I think.
We then took another bus to the Madrid airport. That was a special airport bus so it had more room for luggage and whatnot. That ride was about half an hour or so… super quick and easy. Upon arriving to the airport, we found our check-in area with Norwegian Airlines. They are a fairly new company. As you can see in the photos below, our line did not have any red ropes, but the line next to us did. Casey said, “They must have ran out of money and figured one rope is good enough.” He makes me laugh!
We got Burger King for dinner. I didn’t like any of the Spanish food options, so Casey agreed to have BK. Lucky for him, he enjoys many more Spanish dishes than I do. I mean, I enjoy them for the most part, but they’re not something I want to eat every day. And when I’m traveling, I like good, old-fashioned food that tastes good which means it’s probably unhealthy but at least you’ll eat it and be satisfied. That’s a mouthful.
Now this just cracked me up!! On the back of every seat, there was this red cloth with a message. Other ones were very boring like “We’re a green airline” or “Enjoy our cheap rates,” whatever. But this is unique and clever! How simple and vaguely philosophical. I enjoyed it. Norwegian Air wasn’t bad either. There was a decent amount of seat space. You had to buy food and drinks, but that was the only downside that I can remember. Oh we got stuck with seats that didn’t recline, but that was ok since we didn’t need to sleep. The flight was four hours though! That’s the same distance as Portland, OR to Dallas, TX. Both Casey and I had the misconception that Europe was much closer together, but it’s still quite big and certain countries are still quite far away from each other. In our minds, Spain was much closer to London and London was much closer to Sweden. But no, that’s entirely untrue. Hmm.
So we finally landed at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm, Sweden. YAY! Next to Disneyland, it’s the happiest place on Earth! Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it does make me happy to be there nonetheless. This next photo deserved to be large because Casey is so darned cute! We were going up a moving ramp and you know how they have those black bristles at the bottom, like a brush? It’s hard to see in this picture, but the bottom is lined with bristles. I don’t know why. Anyway, Casey exclaimed, “This is nice! I can clean my shoes.” He is so funny sometimes!
We left our apartment in Valencia at 9 AM and arrived in Stockholm at 7 PM. It was a long day, but worth it for the money we saved and for the new experiences. We decided to eat at the airport instead of going to our hotel first, since we’d have to come back to the airport to eat anyway. I ordered beef stroganoff and Casey ordered a ham and pineapple pizza. It was satisfying! We even had leftover pizza which became a decent dinner for the next night.
Casey’s simulator training is with a company called CAE, and they are very close to the airport. Luckily, our hotel is across the street from CAE, so everything is in close proximity. We hopped on a free bus that stops at a couple hotels, the rental car area, and our hotel. It’s such a nice system. Our hotel is called the “Nightstop,” and it’s not like a typical hotel with a front desk and all that. It has the vibe of a college dorm building actually. But it’s quiet and, needless to say, super close to CAE. Perfect.
I realize now that I took a lot of pictures in Sweden. I’m glad! Casey had ground school on day two. They allot eight hours to complete the lessons (9 AM – 5 PM), but he and his captain were done in two hours. It never takes longer than that unless they’re visiting or something. That meant we had the whole day to ourselves! We decided to go to the market so we’d have food during the week. His simulator spot was in the evening this time from 4:30 PM to 11:30 PM, so we would we able to have lunch together, but then he’d need to take dinner with him and I would have dinner in our room. That seems like a long time for sim, but the beginning and the end consists of a briefing and debriefing with their instructor, so sim itself is only four hours (6-10 PM). Now you know all about sim training!
Back to the morning: we waited at the bus stop near our hotel, and we saw this cute little stick-figure drawing. The description next to it said that the buses come at regular intervals during certain hours, but you are supposed to press that button during the off-hours so the bus drivers will know someone is waiting. It’s a cool system. The buses are also nice and modern, which we’ve come to expect from just about everything in Sweden. Don’t get me wrong; they have a lot of history and old things, but they are a modern country as well.
We got off the bus and walked a short ways to the nearest town called Märsta. At least I think it’s a town. Maybe it’s a township? Anyway, autumn was in the air and the trees were turning colors! Did I mention that Valencia is still really warm (in the upper 80s), so we were loving the cool winter days in Stockholm! It was beautiful. We were happy to wear jeans and long sleeve shirts (me at least), as well as Patagonia down jackets and raincoats. It was quite cloudy and rainy that day.
It was lunchtime by then, so we went to O’Leary’s for a quick bite. It’s a completely Boston-themed restaurant with food and an environment like Applebee’s or Chili’s. Apparently the owners went to Boston and loved it, so they decided to open up a restaurant in honor of it. The walls are covered in sports memorabilia from the Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics. We managed to arrive in time for the lunch special, so Casey ordered salmon with potatoes (a traditional Swedish meal), and I ordered pork loin stuffed with ham and cheese with a red wine demi-glace. Now that was a strange dish, but it was good! Who would have thought to stuff pork with ham. Interesting.
And then we finally made it to the market. They had a lot of photo-worthy displays! This potato dispenser is very rustic and intriguing…
I’ve never seen such small pineapples before! They were soooo cute! I wanted one. They also had tons of exotic fruits like persimmons, star fruit, and maybe cactus fruit. Sadly, I could not read the Swedish signs…
Sweden has the best yogurt in the world! It’s called Risifrutti, and it’s like rice pudding with yogurt. It’s one of my favorite foods! I’ve tried a lot of them and I like strawberry the best. Mmm.
Casey found the huge wall of tubes. The Swedes like putting sauces in tubes for some reason, and they have a plethora of flavors. Maybe they stay fresher in tubes during their long winters. I wish I took an up-close picture, but they have many different shrimp flavors, salmon, cheese, garlic, onion, etc. They spread these sauces on very hard crackers for breakfast. They have lots of different types of mustard in tubes as well.
The next few pictures are what we saw on our walk back from the bus stop to our hotel. It’s just so picturesque, even on our relatively boring one-road street. The rental car lot is at one end, then the Radisson Hotel, then CAE, and then the Nightstop.
There are only two floors at the Nightstop and, I would guess, about 60 rooms in the whole building. There’s a super steep, spiral staircase and then a long hallway. They also have a small lounge area with couches, a water dispenser, a TV, and two microwaves. I just love the Nightstop. It has an odd, old feeling, but it’s comforting at the same time. Casey agrees with me. Maybe it just holds happy memories for me. I don’t know. There is also a very unique scent to the building that I can’t put my finger on.
We packed up our refrigerator and opened a new Risifrutti flavor called Yummyfrutti. This one was “lemon pie” and it came with a pie crust/crumble topping and a mini folding spoon! Too cute!
We slept in and decided to be good to ourselves by going on a run in the morning! There aren’t many places to run nearby, but Casey knew of a nice road with minimal traffic and lovely trees. It was as pleasant as a run can be. It also cleared up and was just warm enough to be comfortable in the sun. We walked half a mile to get to the road. I ran two miles and Casey ran three and a half miles. Then we walked half a mile back together. We try to plan it so he can run farther but we both end at the same time.
We went to the airport for lunch. The huge food court/restaurant/shopping area is aptly named Sky City. These three men reminded us of movie characters with their gruff exteriors, thick accents, and gear. Oh and the hats. Can’t forget the hats.
We treated ourselves to some ice cream, and I was so proud of myself for being able to read all of the flavors! In case you’re wondering, they are: hazelnut, rum raisin, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate chip, pistachio, blueberry, coffee, coconut, melon, cherry/chocolate/vanilla, and chocolate. Yay! I guess you know you’ve spent enough time in a country when…
More funny Casey pictures! He was reading a manual about his plane, the Q400, and I was watching him :)
Above is the view out our window to the CAE building. It was SUCH a beautiful day that we had to open the window. We were also trying to air out our workout clothes. And then I had cereal for dinner. Of course, I had the option of taking the free bus to the airport for dinner, but I’m not one to eat alone. So I was content having cereal and my favorite yogurt! The night before, we learned about milk the hard way. We had bought Lättfil at the market but discovered that it was like greek yogurt – very thick and bitter. Definitely not something you’d want with cereal. Luckily, we found Mellanmjölk at a convenience store inside the airport and that was regular milk. These are both lactose free as well – hence “laktosfri.”
And then my favorite yogurt. Strawberry. Rice pudding. Yogurt. Why didn’t I take a picture without the top? How silly of me not to. One side had the rice pudding, and then there was a small partition for the strawberry sauce. It’s so good! I wish this was in the US. I already checked and Ikea does not have it. Sigh. Well, in my book, this is reason enough to visit Sweden. Just like Casey will go to Spain for his jámon. Lucky for him though, we can find jámon in the US in specialty meat stores. It’s just pricey. I’d pay good money for this yogurt. But I digress.
Casey’s last day at sim! Today was rather uneventful actually, at least picture-wise. We had breakfast, relaxed in the room, and then went to Sky City for lunch. Casey found a new Swedish sandwich that he really enjoyed. It’s called “Skagen” and it’s basically shrimp salad. It’s quite an odd choice for him since he doesn’t really care for shrimp, but this salad was good. It was mild in flavor and had a good tartar sauce zing to it. I ordered a chicken and mozzarella cheese panini on focaccia bread and look how much I got! Four pieces and a side salad. Who knew. I saved half for dinner as well. We also picked up a slice of raspberry cheesecake and chocolate cake for dessert that night. Yum.
I should give you an update of what we do all day, in general. During the day, Casey and I would run errands or relax in the room and play games on the computer. Then he would go to sim and I would stay in the room and blog about Spain! That was it. It gave me ample time to finally get some blogging in. We both find it hard to write when the other person is around because we’d rather be doing something with that person. So it was easier for me to blog while he was busy all evening.
I guess day five/the end of our trip had to come eventually. We had a relaxing morning with breakfast at the Radisson. I should mention that since the Nightstop doesn’t serve breakfast, we get complementary breakfast coupons to use at the Radisson next door. (We’re probably paying for this in our hotel rate too, but alas.) It’s a much nicer hotel, so the food is quite good. We always treat ourselves to Swedish pancakes (thin, crêpe-like pancakes) with unsweetened whipped cream and some type of berry compote. I would guess that it’s lingonberry, which is probably the most popular Swedish berry. Mmm! So good. Then there are eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, bacon, sausage, beans, danish, cookies, fresh fruit, dried fruit, yogurt, granola, and traditional Swedish items like crackers, sauces from tubes, and salmon. And of course fresh-squeezed juices like grapefruit, orange, apple, and pineapple. I love the grapefruit juice!
They had adorable pots with fresh, pink flowers too. Casey was a hand model posing to show you a size reference. Our flight didn’t leave until the late afternoon, so we went by the front desk to ask for a late checkout. Their simple sign reading “Back Soon” made me laugh.
Oddly enough, we JUST noticed this giant potted tree on the way out. How cool is that?! I’d love to have one of those in my house. If my foyer was as big as that building too, of course. The pot was made of plastic so it was probably very light, and the tree was real. Clever design. It’s just probably very hard to replant.
The day before, I read in a book that there are Viking runes made of stones that are in various places around Sweden. Coincidentally, the book mentioned that one of them sits in the middle of Arlanda airport! On our run, I remembered that we passed by a strange looking stone that looked out of place, so I deduced that that must be the rune! We had a little time to kill before our flight, so we decided to go on a walk back to that road. Casey would have made a good Viking, don’t you think?
That is it! It looks old enough to be a rune, right? The engravings were extremely worn down and hard to read, but you can kind of make out a symbol at the top that looks like the number 4. I surely hope this is a real rune, but it’s still cool either way.
After that, we packed up our things and went to the airport. We found a neat little room with a strange lamp to eat our leftover snacks before going through security. This time, we flew with Iberia. We did not like this particular plane because there was hardly any leg room. Even I was complaining, so you can imagine how uncomfortable Casey was. Airlines just aren’t going for comfort these days. I think they could design planes so much better and still make enough profit. Alas. We both had our Bose headsets, and Casey played some games on his computer to pass the four hour trip. I just watched him.
That is when we landed in Madrid. In one of my other posts, I showed you a picture of the inside of the Madrid airport with yellow columns and explained that the columns gradually change color, like a rainbow. In the photo above, you can see the outside of the building is red, and the inside of that area will be red too. The outside color corresponds to the inside color. In the photo below, our gate was in the green area.
And then baggage claim was back in the yellow area! This design was really unusual with all the lights on the ceiling and the weird things on the baggage carousel. What are those? Big hair dryers or something? Who knows. We got our bags very quickly and then proceeded to the train.
We thought we could take the Metro (a regular train) to Renfe (the high-speed train), but for some reason we didn’t have enough time, so we took a taxi instead. We’re glad we did though because it was super convenient and not too expensive in the long run. We made it to the train in plenty of time and found our seats. You get assigned seats when you book your ticket, so that makes it really nice. We settled in to eat our dinner. Of course, I wasn’t happy with my sandwich, but whatever. Back to Spanish food! Per se. We couldn’t find very much to offer in the train station, so we had to make due.
Casey relaxed again and played games. I guess I didn’t do anything much besides eat and watch him play. It was enjoyable enough, and the two hours went by quickly. We couldn’t see anything out of the windows since it was nighttime already, so it was nice to have seen the view during our first train ride. The countryside is fairly dry in between Madrid and Valencia. There are rolling hills with farmland and some buildings/farms at certain intervals. There aren’t too many huge trees or forests; there are mainly low bushes and whatnot. Some parts look similar to southern California too, like the drive from Barstow to Riverside.
And that was our trip in a nutshell! I enjoyed reminiscing about it and am glad it’s finally on paper. Now I can continue catching up and hopefully write about present-day activities pretty soon.
In reference to the title, “Hej Hej” is what the Swedes say as a greeting. It sounds just like “Hey Hey.” And the Swedish name for Sweden is “Sverige.” This post could also be called “A Trip to Sweden with Pictures of Casey.” I would read it.
Until next time!