Stockholm is an amazingly beautiful city. Once again, we hit it right with the weather, just like in Sunny Scotland. It reminded me quite a bit of Amsterdam, but without the trashiness. It was clean, a great walking city, interesting architecture, lots of waterways, and fantastic restaurants. It was also the most expensive city I’ve ever visited. I’m thanking Skype for the opportunity to visit, as well as have it paid for.
I had to be in the office for work Monday through the following Tuesday. Because that was such a long time away from Dave and the boys, we decided to have the whole family visit Stockholm together for the weekend in between.
The first workweek I was there, I put in seriously long hours. I was in the office by 9am and didn’t leave before 10pm. Pizza was delivered to the office or we grabbed dinner and returned to work. That said, my team had a great time together and got a ton done. We are normally located in 4 geographic locations spanning 10 hour time zone differences (not the most efficient of working conditions). We were extremely productive once all in the same spot.
The Skype office is situated in a massive red-brick building that was once the home of the Munchen Brewery. Right next door was a ballet dance school for young women. And next door to that was a “kitchen” that served awesome chicken Caesar salads (I had one every day for lunch).
Dave and the boys flew in on Friday about noon. They had to leave Heathrow airport at 7:15am, which required a 4:30am taxi ride. Dave is a hero for getting both boys (likely very grumpy at that hour) dressed and out the door, to the airport, luggage checked, through security, and onto a plane. Ryan is 20 months, so he’s still a lap child (we’re too cheap to buy him a real ticket) so the flight was uncomfortable, but thankfully just 2.5 hours. He squirmed and cried and whined. Kevin was a stellar traveler and a trooper. Kevin pooped once during the flight; and since he still requires “help” wiping, all three of them were crammed in an airplane bathroom. Imagine that, will you? Again, Dave = hero.
We stayed at the Hotel Diplomat, one of the nicest hotels in the city. The hotel staff mismanaged my reservation, so they gave us the Executive Suite for 3 nights at a standard room rate. It had two rooms – perfect when accompanied by 2 children. Ryan had a real crib and Kevin had a lumpy and bumpy sofa bed (which, by day, was an outstanding trampoline). The hotel celebrates its 100th year of service in July. The elevator was an original. A brass door on the outside, and a sliding door on the inside. Kevin quickly got the hang of the doors and became the “elevator door man” for the building. He’d stand outside and say, “Everyone in please.” Then he’d close both doors and nod his head like he approved.
For dinner, we went to Ciao Ciao Grande, a pizza/pasta place near the hotel. The hotel staff said it was kid-friendly. [Side note: most restaurants in Stockholm are not kid-friendly. The wait staff are generally, um, how shall we say this? Unfriendly? Snobbish? They seem to sneer at children. Sometimes the boys can be a bit loud, dirty, and messy.] The boys got quiet when the pizza arrived. As you can see below, Ryan approved.
After dinner we ran around a church cemetery. Funny, cuz that’s what we do all the time in London too!
Hotel Diplomat is in a perfect location. It isn’t far from Gamla Stan, which was mentioned often in the Girl with the Dragan Tatoo series.
View Stockholm in a larger map
Djurgarden, which is an island mostly made up of green parks and running paths, is also a stone’s throw away. Dave and I took turns running in the mornings along these fantastic paths through the park.
Breakfast in the hotel was included (and at a price tag of $30/person, we were glad). Kevin and Ryan ate 1 pound of bacon each morning between them, and drank 10 “shotglasses” of smoothies. They also ate eggs, pastries, fruit, and cereal. They offered hard boiled eggs. As it turns out, that is time-consuming for children – perfect activity to allow a parent to actually eat.
Saturday was our first full day of site seeing. We went to Skansen “the world’s oldest outdoor museum.” It was an awesome place for kids. Lots of animals to see (some to pet), a funicular train car (although, a very short ride), old Swedish houses up on stilts, men and women in traditional Swedish garb, and bumper cars! Kevin and Ryan played hard and wore themselves out. You could spend a few days there and never see it all. The views from the top were fantastic. Kevin had some trouble reconciling the live reindeer we saw. There’s Santa’s reindeer, then Daddy ate reindeer for dinner, then there’s these reindeer? Hmm….how does this all work?
On Sunday, we went to the Vasa Museum. A co-worker of mine told me the story of the Vasa. The Swedes are a proud bunch, and wanted to show the world of their riches. So, King Gustaf II Adolf demanded that the Vasa (a ship) be built with two rows of cannons on each side instead of one. In addition, every inch of the boat was decorated with fancy wood carvings. In 1628, the Vasa made her maiden voyage. 1300 meters into the Stockholm harbour, it sank. The Swedes were so embarrassed, they pretended it didn’t happen. They ignored it for 333 years. Finally, in 1961 the Vasa lifted out of the water, excavated, and restored. It is a beautiful site to see. (Unfortunately it’s very dark in the museum and hard to capture properly)
We packed in the activities. Some other highlights from the weekend included a boat ride around Djurgarden, a trip on the Tunnelbana (Stockholm’s subway), a trip up the external elevator on the Globe (which is affectionately called “the boob” by the locals), and an unexpected glimpse of the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace.
Monday morning came early after all the fun we’d been having. I had to go to a full day of meetings at work, so Dave and the boys headed to the Science and Technology Museum. The museum featured a travelling NASA exhibition – Saturn V rocket, lunar lander, shuttle cockpit, etc. Kevin’s obsession with astronauts continues, so he really enjoyed this. They also had a hands-on kids’ area and a place to sit in.
Outside the museum, the boys found lots of things to play on. Here they are on a cannon at the Maritime museum next door. Ryan also found these cool police motorcycles on a playground outside the neighboring police (Polis in Sweden) museum. He loves motorcycles at the moment and yells “cycle” everytime he sees on go by.
We all headed home together on Tuesday morning. We took a cab to the airport, breezed through security, and got on the plane. I had a business class ticket with Ryan on my lap. [Side note: only stuffy old men fly business class. And none of them will make eye contact with a baby. They fear responsibility to entertain my son or something if they smile. It’s funny to observe.] Dave and Kevin were in the rear of the plane. The flight home was uneventful and everybody was tuckered out when we got home to London.
I’m starting a new role at Skype and will be working with the Stockholm team more often. I’ll be returning there every other week for 1.5 days. I look forward to going back again – there is more to see (if I can ever get out of the office) and explore.