a fika with friends

Seriously, I’m back already.  Can you believe this?!

Up next, a little visit and trip with my wonderful friend, Erin and her hubby (and also a wonderful friend), Tyler.

Unfortunately, the start of their trip was a little confusing.  Lack of communication options meant that I was unaware of their delayed train departure from Brussels, where they had visited while BC & I were still in Oslo.  Also, the train station fails to mention where the trains are coming from, and only describes the remaining stops.  So when a train arrived at the time their train was suppose to, and they were not on it…I went into a little bit of a freak out mode…ooops!  Eventually, they arrived to find a very stressed out me!  But I got over it after a while, and the fun began.

I took them to the adorable little town of Delft, about a 25 minute tram ride from our apartment.  I knew Erin would love the quaint charm of the city.  We walked around for a couple hours, breaking for some Delft blauw pottery and a needed coffee!

Delft canal.

Delft canal.

Welcome to the NL!

Welcome to the NL!

Upon our return, we met BC who had recently come home from a long day at the office.  To celebrate our good friends’ arrival, we headed out to Blauw, a delicious Indonesian restaurant down the street.  Again, we had LOADS of food!  It was really tasty, and we got to try a lot of things!

Yummy, rijst taffel!

Yummy, rijst taffel!  Note: These bowls will burn you…just so you know.

Tuesday was our scheduled Amsterdam visit.  As usual, we first headed to the Anne Frank House, where Erin & Tyler did the tour.  I took this opportunity to catch up on some book reading.  You could tell that the tourist season is over, as the line was quite short this time!

Then the very necessary visit to the Pancake Bakery from some Dutch pannekoeken!  For me, cheese and bacon…AMAZING!  For Erin…this:

Ice cream & cherries!

Ice cream & cherries!

Doesn't that look delicious?

Doesn’t that look delicious?

And of course, we grabbed a stroopwaffel for the walk!  Although this had honey and was slightly less waffel-y than normal.

Erin was happy!  And this cafe had some kitties inside, which helped.

Erin was happy! And this cafe had some kitties inside, which helped.

Then we were on a mission to make our appointment at the Van Gogh Museum.  Again, the line was short…I like this time of year!  The museum has changed quite a bit since I was there last fall.  It underwent a significant renovation, and I felt like it really improved the flow of the museum and it was more interactive than previously.  Plus – it definitely included more of his works.  Here are a few:

Bedroom in Arles

Bedroom in Arles

Self-portrait

Self-portrait

And no Amsterdam visit is complete without this:

Museumplein.

Museumplein.

After such a fun-filled day, we opted for a quiet evening of take-out and watching a movie at home.  This gave us more time to chat anyway!

Next up was a day filled with a picnic in Clingendael park, which is a huge and pretty park!  We had rented bikes first, so we enjoyed our casual ride into the park.

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Stopped to feed the birds.

Stopped to feed the birds.

We continued our tour on bike by heading to a tasty bakery for dessert, the city center, down the pretty Scheveningsweg and over to the Fred.  Again, this was a really fun way to see the city, especially for my bike-loving friends!

That night, we headed out to the beach and ended up deciding on more pancakes!  This time, some of us got a little crazy…BC got thai beef on his pancake.

My favorites!

My favorites!

Having a good time!

Having a good time! (I’m just noticing the nice shot of the man in the background…thanks sir.)

It was so wonderful to have Erin & Tyler here in our home!  I loved showing them around, and it sounds like they thought very highly of Holland.  I’m excited that Erin now has a visual for all my stories!!

Thursday, though, their time in the NL was over…we were Stockholm bound in the morning!  Unfortunately, some of us (BC) had to stay behind to work until the weekend…bummer.  Did I mention that President Obama knew we were going and decided to visit at the same time?!  Too bad his calendar filled up and we weren’t able to get together.  Next time!

We arrived in Stockholm early in the afternoon after a speedy train ride form the airport (I’m talking 125 mph speedy).  After a long walk uphill to our hotel with heavy bags and checking in, we met up with Tyler’s cousin, Gry, who lives in Stockholm.  (Quick side note: Tyler’s family is Norwegian and they are still in contact with the US side of his family today…kind of crazy, but awesome!  We met more of them when we got to Norway.)  She helped us get tickets for the metro and took us into the city center to the Gamla Stan (the original and obviously oldest part of Stockholm) for some lunch.  Much needed, as we were starving!

From there, we swung by the Royal Palace and also checked out the parliament building.  They had US flags flying for the President’s visit, which was kind of cool.

Parliament Building.

Parliament Building.

US Flags with the Swedish Flags.

US Flags with the Swedish Flags.

Walked past this - the most expensive street in Stockholm - pretty outrageous!

Walked past this – the most expensive street in Stockholm – pretty outrageous!

Then also due to the visit of the Pres, Gry told us that the Modern Art Museum had free admission for the day!  (Yeah, I don’t see the connection either, but we took advantage.)  They had a really cool Pop Art exhibit, which featured art and design from the 1950’s-1970’s.  The exhibit included works by Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton and Lichtenstein!  Then we went through another temporary exhibit by an Iranian artist and a small portion of the permanent exhibit, which even had a few Picasso’s!

Outside the museum.

Outside the museum.

No photos in the exhibit unfortunately, but here's a Warhol project by kids and adults!

No photos in the exhibit unfortunately, but here’s a Warhol project by kids and adults!

After the museum, Gry told us about a Swedish tradition known as the ‘fika’, which means a coffee break to chat with friends…sounded up my alley.  So she took us to a small cafe inside of what felt like someone’s home.  It was super cute, had tasty treats and was a cat-lover’s paradise (even had cat in the name).  So we were at a good place for my dear, Erin!  She & Gry had the princess cake, but I settled for a cute, little, heart-shaped cookie/vanilla cream thing.  Lovely!

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

After Gry needed to head home, we decided that we should find a beverage on the water.  We hiked around a bit before coming upon this bar on a boat!  A great place to be at sunset!

Perfect!

Perfect!

Love these two!

Love these two!

The next morning, we enjoyed a big breakfast at the hotel before heading out to be touristy!  We started the day with a bus tour of the city.  After a few sights, we hopped off to visit the Vasa Museum.  None of us had much expectation for this museum, but it had been highly rated on TripAdvisor.  It turned out to be awesome!  The Vasa was a ship from the 1600’s that sank in the Stockholm harbor beginning 20 minutes into its maiden voyage.  After 333 years under water, the ship was brought up from the sea almost completely intact!  Now it has been restored and is on display in the museum.  We took a guided tour and learned a lot about the ship, it’s sinking and the raising of it.  Definitely unlike anything I’ve seen before!

Sorry the photo is bad - it was dark!

Sorry the photo is bad – it was dark!

Replica of the ship.

Model version of the ship.

From there, we boarded the bus again and continued our tour, learning about the city all the while.  At the conclusion of the tour, we headed back into the heart of the Gamla Stan for lunch at a small cafe on a little square.  This is where I had the infamous Swedish meatballs!  They were fantastic!

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A. MAZ. ING!

A. MAZ. ING!

Then we were on a mission to the find the smallest ‘street’ in the Gamla Stan, which was 90 cm at it’s slimmest.  (A tid bit we had heard on the bus tour, of course.)  Unfortunately, we knew neither the location or name of said street, which made for an interesting search.  Luckily enough, we stumbled upon it!  Here’s a photo and a few others of the Gamla Stan along the way.

Cute, right?

Cute, right?

Love the narrow, paved streets.

Love the narrow, paved streets.

Pretty narrow, right?  This is the winner!

Pretty narrow, right? This is the winner!

Then we stopped by a fruit and flower market to pick up some strawberries for our dessert that night.  Erin drove a hard bargain and we got a pretty good deal!  (We were treated to a lovely dinner by Tyler’s cousin at her apartment.  She also served us some local micro-brews and a Swedish liquor called Aquavit.)

They've got nothing against Erin!

They’ve got nothing against Erin!

The brews - great names!

The brews – great names!

After dinner, Gry took us out to an establishment with a name that translates to “Heaven” in English.  The bar was on the 26th floor of the building, giving us an amazing night-time view of the city!  What a great way to end our time in the great city of Stockholm!!

Did I mention that my grandfather’s family was Swedish?!  It was fun to visit the home of my ancestors!

The adventures continued Saturday, as we headed to Bergen, Norway to meet BC and experience some of the most breathtaking views ever!!  Look forward to that post…probably tomorrow!!

Until next time,
-MK-

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