Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stockholm Syndrome

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Only about 11 months late finally came my honeymoon! And it could not have possibly been better. My husband Freddy met up with me in Stockholm for a long, 4-day weekend right before the end of my trip to Spain. We came right in the middle of a snowstorm and stayed in a cozy apartment in Älvsjö in the suburbs, just a quick commuter rail ride away from downtown. The apartment was charming and our host was very helpful and kind, giving us handy tips for getting around and even leaving some milk, sandwich supplies, and pasta supplies in the fridge for us! Though I always have known I like the snow, not until I arrived in this enchanted wonderland called Sweden did I realize I absolutely loved it! Especially when it does not turn to slush and mud hours after it finished snowing, as it has a tendency to do in Boston.

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We did a lot of things in our days in Stockholm, making up for months spent apart again and really falling in love with the city. Though it is a pretty expensive city, we managed to keep our costs low by cooking in the apartment and taking advantage of some free activities around the city, such as ice skating in Kungsträdgården Park and exploring the many Christmas markets scattered around the city. The old town Gamla Stan had a really lovely one with plenty of sightseeing and strolling to be had around it. There was also one in front of Kulturehuset that had the best glögg and pepparkakor in the world! We went back a couple times just for that. The Kulturehuset itself was also a worthwhile activity as a cultural hub open to the public with museums, a library, cafés, restaurants, shops, and more inside.

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Ice skating at Kungsträdgården Park.

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Gamla Stan.

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The Christmas market on Gamla Stan.

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The best glogg ever is in the cluster of tents in the middle.

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One of our excursions included a visit to the photography museum Fotografiska on Södermalm Island in Stockholm. At this time they were dedicating the entire museum to a single exhibit of David LaChapelle’s work, which they have never done before. I have seen LaChapelle’s work before but always just in passing. I loved this opportunity to get to know him as a photographer and see what his work was all about, the colors, the use of well-known celebrities to hold a social commentary on major issues or showcase the past in a different light, it was all so fascinating. The view of Stockholm from the café up on the top floor was fantastic as well!

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Another was a trip to the Royal Opera House of Sweden, Kungliga Operan. The gorgeous façade was only a precursor to the decadence of the interior. I have never been in an opera house before, so this was a real treat. Though we did not understand the words of the opera we say since it was in another language, we could understand the storyline a bit just because of how dramatic everything was.

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Last of all, my favorite destination was a quick trolley ride from downtown Stockholm on Djurgården island. Skansen is the world’s oldest open-air museum that has everything from a massive Christmas market, a recreated village of the native Sami culture with music and other cultural artifacts, and an amazing farmstead! They had some of my favorite animals, such as otters and foxes, and a lot of unexpected ones like reindeer. In the markets I got some Christmas shopping out of the way, buying some homemade glögg and charming handmade ornaments. Skansen was a captivating place and we spent all afternoon exploring the grounds before heading out with a gorgeous sunset to send us off.

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The entrance to Skansen.

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The Christmas market at Skansen.

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One of the recreated Sami houses.

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This post would not be complete without a photo of a cat. 

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Rudolf.

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The zoom on my new camera is amazing!

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The Swedish flag.

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Beautiful felines. 

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A lone wolf.

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OTTERS! The best animal.

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I really enjoyed coming here in December despite the 3pm sunset and heavy snow. The Swedish people love their Christmas season, which I can completely understand as you need some cheer to deal with a long, hard winter ahead. Also, I can’t get over how great it is being greeted by Swedes. Hello in Swedish is “hej,” which sounds like the English “hey.” It’s just so casual!

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Our sad snowman :( this is what laziness makes!

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Sad to be leaving…

Barcelona, I Belong to You

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I finally found it! My favorite city in the world (of all those I’ve been to at least). It’s perfect: diverse, colorful, exciting, a wonderful landscape with mountains looming behind the beaches, green spaces throughout the city, an artistic vibe and friendly people. Plus, there’s so much weird stuff!

Take Gaudi for example. Pretty much everything he made was really weird, which made it so awesome! Unfortunately, my camera was stolen while I was in Barcelona (first time ever) but even that couldn’t put a damper on all the amazing things Barcelona has to offer. From free walking tours to wax museums, there was no lack of cool places to explore. Two of my favorite places were the Labyrinth Park and Gaudi’s massive Parc Guell.

All I can say, without the wonderful pictures to show you, is to go there and do it. All of it. Or as much as you can. I can’t wait for my next chance to go back!

Tasting Spain: Paella

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Paella is more than just a Spanish tradition, a time-honored dish representing Spain around the world…it’s delicious. A bed of yellow rice slowly cooked in a broth infused with spices, a mix of vegetables and, typically, an assortment of seafood from shrimp and clams to mussels and calamari (paella de marisco). Valencian paella, the original paella, had more land-based meats such as chicken or duck along with some beans. Either way, the result is a rich and savory dish enjoyed by all.

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If you ever are in Spain and looking out for a place to try out some of this delicious Spanish, avoid places with signs with pictures! You can find these exact same signs set up on the street all over Spain and all it means is that this restaurant buys frozen paella, all pre-prepared, and merely heats it up when you order it. I actually tasted a sample of this wanna-be paella when a friend of mine ordered it and they brought it out in 15 minutes. Not only was the rice still hard, but the seafood in the dish was scarce and hard to find.

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On the other hand, if you go to a restaurant and order paella only to be informed by your waiter you must call ahead for it to be prepared, do not be too disappointed! It just means they take pride in crafting their paella from scratch from individual orders and it will be completely worth it when you return the next day. Another hint my program director shared with us: if your paella still has eyes, it’s good.

I’ve been told that paella is a popular lunch to get on a beach day, so when I visited the beach of Salobreña, a mere hour bus ride from Granada, I clearly had to partake in this Spanish tradition. This freshly prepared for the lunch crowd, affirmed by a small sign I saw next to the bar indicating that all the seafood was sourced from the nearby Malaga seaport. (Yes, it was exactly as delicious as it looks, if not better…and it had eyes!)

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Salobreña beach, it’s really quite nice.

The moral of this story is…don’t come to Spain and leave without trying paella! Especially if you’re in the Valencian region of Spain. And since many bars offer it as a tapa, there really is no excuse.

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El Bañuelo

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El Bañuelo is just one of those things that, if you’re spending any time in Granada at all, you don’t really have an excuse not to visit it. It is an old public Arab bath (hammam) located right on Paseo de Los Tristes (or Carrera del Darro) that is free to get into and open from 10am to 2pm on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Keep your eyes out though! It’s quite easy to miss though it’s right on the road.

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It’s pretty small, but a good opportunity to see an authentic Arab bath unchanged from the time it was used in the past. You can easily stop by and check it out for a few minutes and then continue walking up along the road to see a decent view from below of the Alhambra and continue your explorations in the Albaycin or relax in one of the cafés along the street for a cup of tea or some ice cream.

 

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Passeo de los Tristes/Carrero del Darro, El Bañuelo is down this road.

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View of the Alhambra over the river.

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A strange sight in a window…