We slept in on Friday morning — a well-earned lie-in, because ever since Wednesday evening we’d been on the move from YUL through CDG to ARL, not to mention getting into Danderyd via Stockholm (roundabout, to say the least). Our first Airbnb booking for Sweden turned out to be a studio apartment renovated from a basement mudroom off the garage of a quaint yellow family home. Danderyd, being a rather affluent Swedish suburb, offered us quite a scenic walk from our rental to the Tunnelbana in Mörby Centrum. Getting between Central Stockholm and Danderyd was much easier on Friday compared to navigating the system on Thursday, and on Friday once we hit Central Stockholm we walked down from the station into Gamla Stan.
Oh, Gamla Stan! I love the “old town” of cities, and make it a point not only to visit my own in MTL often but to also explore those of the few other places I’ve been to during my shorter travels. There’s something exhilarating about being in such an old place: older than any city I’ve ever walked in, as its earliest strata is somewhere in the 13th Century while most of what’s visible now dates from the 16th and 17th. As Elizabeth Kostova wrote in The Historian, “For the first time, I had been struck by the excitement of the traveler who looks history in her subtle face.”
As this was our first full day in the environs of Stockholm before heading into central Sweden for the weekend, we were quite pleased that the weather blessed us with lots of sunshine and a bit of a breeze for our hours-long stroll through Gamla Stan. After numerous times reminding each other that “we have time – we’re on vacation” my companion and I finally let go of any vague notions of an actual itinerary and just wandered through narrow cobbled streets, popping in and out of stores as we pleased and even picking up a few things on the way.
After walking down and seeing about six or seven “cafés” we clued in that around here, it seems that the word is used to describe a place that serves coffee as well as real bistro menus, we finally settled on stopping at an actual “just coffee” shop. We had our first official Swedish fika at a café at Stora Nygatan 6 — Naturbageriet Sattva — where you can find organic pastries (including gluten-free, sugar-free, and even a few vegan options), pretty good coffee and tea, and a cosy table for two inside or out. We opted for outside, enjoying coffees and a cinnamon roll as we chatted and people-watched during a long, long fika. I myself had nearly forgotten the pleasures afforded by long coffees with old friends, and by the time we were ready to hit the stones once more I felt refreshed and bright.
A little ways down the road, we stumbled upon a boutique selling household linen products that proudly bore the phrase, “Made in Sweden.” Knowing my BigSis is back home planning her future nest with her fiancé, I had to stop in and take a closer look at what was afforded at HAPPYsthlm, Stora Nygatan 36. I ended up buying her two tea towels, both made from a lightweight pure cotton, one of which in a navy-blue and bright tomato-red print of birds and florals that seems to be one of the shop’s signature designs. Not only was it on household linens of all sizes, but also on other products inside including various forms of stationery and ready-to-frame prints.
After lunching on a park bench across from the Riddarhuset, we took a roundabout route back down Stora Nygatan to Skeppsbrokajen, circling up around the eastern side of Gamla Stan past the Royal Palace. Crossing over Strömbron, we strolled through the Kungsträdgården where my knowledge of Swedish kings (gained from the odd mixture of the Sabaton album Carolus Rex and my own mother’s hobby of studying world royalties) came in rather handy.
Nearly 20 000 steps later, we made it back to Danderyd where we passed the evening editing photos, discussing further all the sights we had seen, and planning out our next day’s worth of travelling. In fact, I’m tucked safely into my seat on the train towards Falun, where we’ll arrive soon to spend the weekend with an old, dear friend of mine who I’ve known for literally half my life but have never yet met. I’m excited beyond words to finally make a face-to-face connection with him, as over the years he’s been a loyal and kind soul through my most difficult experiences.
So far this vacation has been so much more than just “time away” from both of my jobs. It’s been about discovering more of my truest and best self, about finally turning dreams into reality, and about bringing the best of what I’ve already experienced in life with me to get the most out of what’s new. It might be rather rainy and chilly right now outside the train window, but my heart is warm and cosy. This trip has been everything I wanted it to be, and more besides, and that bodes well for the remainder.
Good thing, too, as I’m flying home from Dublin on the 14th!
For all the latest on this 2016 Sweden and Ireland adventure, follow my Instagram page @demipinte — and if you want to see it all from the whimsical view of a plush-toy German Shepherd that my boyfriend gave me for the trip, go to Instagram as well to follow @kep.the.shep !