Working on the Train

This morning I am taking a train from Norrköping to Lund. I spent the weekend hanging out with my cousins and am headed back to “real life” (i.e. work). I love traveling in general but especially via trains. I know that this is a minority opinion so why do I love riding the rails? Well I find that a train or an airplane is a great place to get work done. Now obviously not all kinds of work but very specific types of work that I can often put off for more pressing issues.

I tend to procrastinate writing. Somehow the blank page mocks me and at times I hear my computer laughing at me…haha you can’t write…haha….

For me the first step to overcome writing is always just getting something down on the page. I am much better at editing once I have something written. This is exactly what a train or plane ride is perfect for. Just typing directly and not editing much. I have already started a work paper that I need to write. I have written an outline, copied all the common information from old papers, rearranged the information and started writing the new sections the paper needs. I am now in the part of writing where a larger computer with a better mouse (than my 10in/25.4cm computer with its travel mouse). SO with less than 30 min on the train I have achieved the goal I had set for today’s trip…no problem…I am way way behind on my blogging.

With blogging I have head the opposite problem. Something happens and I want to write a post. I set up the post on my smart phone and make a few notes and then save the post under private. Then the post sits there for a long time and I don’t go back and update it, flush it out and finish posting it. So now I have tons of half started posts that see overwhelming. I wonder how many I can get written and flushed out in the 2 more hours on the train today.


Extra Note: When we arrived at the next train station and a young woman sat next to me on the train and is editing/responding to reviews on a journal of physiology paper. See all kinds of scientists can use travel time efficiently.


Walking Tours…

one of the best ways to see a city is too do walking tours…so today I did 3…

First thing this morning I walked through “The City” using a Rick Steves Audio Tour. It was amazing and I realized that one of my favorite things about any city is walking quietly early in the morning and late at night.

City Walk audiotour

City Walk audio tour

Next I met up with a London Walks Tour to hear about Dickens’ London. Dickens is one of my all time favorite authors and the holiday season is never over for me before reading some Dickens Christmas stories. This is one of the special tours that London Walks does but all of their tours are really amazing!

London Walks: Dickens Walk

London Walks: Dickens Walk

After meeting up with my friend and buying tickets for the London Eye later in the week I did Westminster walking tour on my way back to the hotel for the evening…

Windsor Walk audio tour

Westminster Walk audio tour

poor feetsies

poor feetsies

Good tired, with tired feet or as Rick might say u-feetsies.

“Ugly Americans”

The time old tradition for any American headed abroad is to be reminded to not be an ugly American. So what is an ugly American?

It is being too self centered.

When you travel people are tired, people are whinny and people/tourists are not always polite.  There are three simple steps to not being an ugly American:

1. Take a deep breath, the world is not out to get you.

No Americans the world doesn’t revolve around you. Yes everyone in tourist areas speaks English but just assuming they will is rude. Better to ask “can I speak in English?” If something goes wrong it is just luck not a conspiracy. Take a deep breath and figure out what you can do next, not what you wish had happened.

2. Think before you ask questions, does the person you are asking have time to deal with you.

Today I watched a fellow tourist ask a walking tour guide questions for about 5min and then not even buy a ticket to the tour. While she was asking all these questions, others were waiting to ask questions and the guide was taking tickets from others and giving out change as the woman continued to ask question. Was this tour guide really the best person to ask so many questions to, before you and your group had even decided what you wanted to do…probably not.

3. Travel more. You will be less stressed the more you are used to travel and the more problems you have traveling the easier it will be to take the setbacks in stride.

The more you travel the better you will become at going with the flow. Yes trains are late, buses take time, and you have to read a lot of signs to get to the right underground platform but just like languages cities are very similar. Subway systems work the same all around the world. The more often you travel the more you will know to look for the signs to certain types of trains, attractions or construction.

See if you can spot them. And try to avoid joining their ranks.

the fab food find

Every trip I take I am on the lookout for the fabulous food find. I have listened to some podcasts and done some research online about the food and food culture in London. I was looking forward to the spicy middle eastern food and was hoping to try something I haven’t had before but most often the fabulous food find comes where you least expect it and when you are not looking. Today I had a very long day and was not feeling up to exploring much tonight. I decided to head back to the hotel and after dropping off all of my stuff I seriously considered buying a boring sandwich and crashing early. However I decided to brave a few block walk to a place that had really good reviews in my restaurant app.


The Fab Food Find: Casa Malevo, Cocina Argentina

Ordered: 1 glass Malbec, 2 empanadas: 1 beef, 1 corn, Lamb chops with “anchovies” salsa verde and flan

The anchovies salsa verde was really amazing. As someone who is not fond of overly fishy things and who doesn’t really like anchovies in particular it was really a great mix of spicy chilies, sweet/smooth olive oil and meaty/slightly smoky anchovies. Plus flan…

The next time you take a trip try to be on the lookout of the fabulous food find. If you are on the lookout you just find more than one.

London Day 2-books & British comedies

As Eddie Izzard says “they say that the US and Britain are the two languages that are divided by the Atlantic ocean … you say ‘erb and we say Herb, because there’s a **** h in it.”

While I know a lot of Americans that like Monty Python, most I know don’t “get” British humor. Now I have a weird sense of humor. I have always liked British comedies that are a little more off beat. I have watched BBC news and TV programs for years because I love the subtle humor. The comedians I like tend to be in your face or more subtle story tellers. I don’t often laugh out loud but instead a small sarcastic smile from me is a huge win for someone telling a joke at a party. One of my goals for this trip to London was to try to get half price tickets to a ton of shows, especially some that were well regarded, and to try a British comedy live. Today I did both, twice.

This is my second day in London but the friend I am meeting from the US arrived today. Her flight landed around lunch and I was anticipating receiving a message from her after lunch. So I decided to start the day in the British Library and then hopefully meet up with her later in the day. I love Libraries. I love reading and I really love the smell of old books. I started at the library by going to the treasure room and learning about the Gutenberg bible and other beautiful old historic pages. Using the first of my Rick Steves Explore London podcasts I had a great, very informative walk through the journals of Newton to modern British novel writers.

I love Rick Steves podcasts. They are my newest cheap travel tip. When I visited Italy in 2010 with 2 friends we downloaded Rick Steves podcasts for all of the major sights (they are free in iTunes). Then using these podcasts we were able to save the 10+€ at each major museum and sight by not paying for the audio tour. In London a lot of the museums are free but having a guided audio tour is really a great way to get an overview of any museum.

Ok so done with sales pitch. After finishing my tour I got a cappuccino and sat next to the King’s Library reading my current book on Kindle. I had a very relaxing morning. But at this point I hadn’t heard from my friend so I decided to head back to my hotel so I would be close to her hotel so we could meet up. Now neither of us has a British phone. My Swedish phone has working GPS and connections to wifi but I didn’t pay to be able to use the phone out of range. I have an app that I use to txt with people who have US phone numbers and it works via wifi so my plan was that we would be able to txt via wifi. Unfortunately I forgot that my friend was staying in a Hilton (i.e. didn’t have free wifi in her hotel). After finally getting in touch with my friend we met up to discuss planning. She is in London on a trip with her old university to march in the New Years day parade and they had some planned trips/tours etc. Of course they had changed the times of the meetings, and the tours and …. After chatting we decided that I would swing by the hotel again around dinner since she didn’t really know any of the answers about the group schedule yet.

So after £4 of underground trips (to hotel and back out to the old city) I got a ticket to a well regarded comedy show (The Boy with Tape on His Face) for the matinee and then I went wandering through covenant garden’s market until the show started. The show was great. Definitely would recommend it but the best part was that the family sitting behind me. As I came in to sit down the mother said “Sometimes I wish I could come to a show with lots of shopping bags like a tourist.” Ouch. Then the mother sent the son to buy some bottled water and they had a long discussion about if the candy he got to eat were jellies, gummies, or something else. After this long conversation the son turns to the daughter and complains about the mother and the sister says “she is your mother, and besides you started it by correcting her.” OMG I have found the British copy of my family.

After the show I grabbed the underground back to my friend’s hotel and we had a quick planning meeting while I ate some “Texas Nachos” which were neither Texan nor nachos but were the only thing that were not deep fried on the sports bar menu.

So again after £4 of underground trips I was back in the theater district for another show. I saw Yes, Prime Minister. Which I think that if you know nothing about British politics (ahem, Americans) would be slightly funny, in a slapstick comedy way but wouldn’t be actually funny. It was really hilarious and incredibly well acted.

Overall a great day in British comedy, with a few too many underground trips.

London Day 1/Show 1

Arrived in London. After searching out the many options for taking a bus/train/cab to the city I just randomly chose one which took quite a while to get to my hotel. I ended up with a bus to a major underground station to buy a underground pass, then taking the underground to my hotel. After finally arriving I started to head out to the half price ticket counter to get a ticket for a show that night. It happened that my hotel also offered half price tickets through the TKTS. I was able to buy a ticket without even leaving my hotel. This allowed me to slowly unpack and get settled before heading out for a quick meal and the always crazy search for the theater. I decided to take the underground but there was a problem at one of the train platforms and I ended up walking down Regent Street. I didn’t have much time to make it 4 underground stops so I had to walk quite quickly, however it was great for getting a good outline of where things were.

I ended up getting a ticket to Dreamboats and Petticoats mostly because I wanted to go to the Playhouse Theater. When I was looking at the current shows in London, online I realized I had never heard of this show. I love musicals and love love love to go see them live. One of my favorite trips in recent years was to NYC with my best friend where we went to see multiple shows. In Chicago, I was a constant visitor to the traveling Broadway shows, the ballet, and the symphony. By looking at the information about Dreamboats and Petticoats it was obviously not a new show and was a British classic so I thought it would be a great introduction to London Theater.

london2012 006

The theater was gorgeous. The show was so much fun. It was cute and campy. It was the British equivalent to Grease. The staging was good and the singers were really talented.  A good first night!

Side Note: only buy discount tickets from TKTS…all others are just like the guy selling tickets on the street…no matter how fancy they look.

London’s Calling!

An old friend of mine (we had our first sleep over in 7th grade) was headed to London to march in the New Years Day Parade. We had casually talked about the possibility of me coming to London to meet her. After looking at their group itinerary I decided to go for it. Buying a plane ticket and booking a hotel room in about 2 hrs I am set to head out to London for New Years!

London is calling! Many posts about the trip to come after I get back.


Tivioli! and the rain…

Every year while living in Chicago, I would go to the the Christkindlmarket with my best friends. We would show up early in the morning as soon as the market opened (11am) and browse the stalls. After getting cold enough we would have a glass of Glühwein and keep shopping. Around 1pm or so as the market got busy we would have finished and would get a bratwurst with sauerkraut to go.

When I got to Sweden just a few weeks ago, I was discussing the holiday schedule with my aunt and uncle. I told them about an article I had read in one of those “plane magazines” on the 5 best Christmas markets in Europe. Number 1 was in Prague (where I totally want to visit) but 3 or 4 was Tivoli in Denmark! So close…my aunt couldn’t remember how long it had been since she had been to Tivoli but years was the answer. We started to looking at calendars (3 adults at the kitchen table with their smart phones ;). Finally we found one of the only days we could go….

I had 3 goals: (1) have fun, (2) find some fun holiday decorations or Christmas presents, (3) get a picture for my holiday card!

So the day was finally here and it was rainy and cold (traditional Skånes winter I am told). We decided to go for it and took the train over the bridge to Denmark to avoid driving and parking in the city.

entering a "winter wonderland"

entering a “winter wonderland”

Continue reading

4 hrs in Dublin! oh crazy flight schedules…

Like most I bought my plane tickets based on timing and cost. After discussing arrival times with my family in Sweden and deciding that I would stay in Chicago for the first weekend in Nov to say goodbye to some friends I picked the flight that was cheapest and most convenient (also the shortest trip that was not a direct flight). After excitedly forwarding my itinerary to the parents, my aunt in Sweden, and my best friends I got a cute email back from a friend asking what I was going to do in Dublin during my layover.

Now you never want too little time between flights so that you miss your connection but 7.5 hrs is a long time. I began researching what I could do if I left the airport. Note: Dublin airport is a 30min drive from downtown Dublin City. So I found a bus that took you to Dublin or one that took you to a smaller near by town. I hadn’t really decided what to do or if I would even leave the airport but after some encouraging from my neighbor on the plane who told me some no fuss, easy, relaxing places to go I decided to just go for it…4 hours in a new country I had never been to! it is an adventure!

After leaving the airport and easily finding the bus to downtown (aircoach-12€ for round trip), I arrived at Grafton Street (Trinity College stop on the bus). Grafton Street is a famous shopping street and as it was just 10am the stores were beginning to open but there were very few people other than the locals cutting through on their way to downtown. I meandered slowly enjoying the wonderful Christmas window displays (barring the fact it is the first week in November and that the Christmas season is already in full swing is ridiculous, they were very pretty and fun to see) and drooling over all of the amazing shoes in the windows (shoes are my biggest weakness which is difficult because you feel guilty packing more shoes and less underwear when moving around the world ;). I was slowly making my way to St. Stevens Green at the end of Grafton Street which I had been told was really beautiful and very peaceful in the mornings.

Using my powerful deduction skills (i.e., following the local girls with good shoes) I found a cute little local quick coffee shop off the main street with no seating but a long line of locals getting morning commute coffee. With my cappuccino (no foam) I approached St. Stevens Green:

ImageAfter wandering for while I found a bench overlooking a small pond to sit and relax on:

Image and a minute later….Image

INVASION!!! However with no food to share I decided to walk on. I had a wonderful ramble through the park, randomly picking many benches to sit on for a few minutes at time. The best was one I found in the SUN! Warming up from the sun and my coffee, I did some people watching and enjoyed the many shades of green:

ImageAfter thoroughly chilling my self by staying outside and not moving, in my probably inappropriate sweatshirt (all my winter coats are already in Sweden because I was supposed to move 2 months ago), I decided it was time for more coffee and maybe some internet. I tried to find a local cafe with internet but found a Starbucks first and decided that a Gingerbread latte sounded good. Sitting in the warm cafe with a cranberry orange muffin, I logged on to post the two blog posts: one I had finished just before the cab came in Chicago (and not had time to post) and the one I had written at the O’hare airport.

ImageAfter this fortification I headed back out into Dublin…I had decided I wasn’t going to try to go to any museums but just get a feel for the city. I started in the direction of the other major downtown bus pick up and just started wandering, letting myself be pulled in what ever direction I felt like. In the back of my mind I knew I wanted to get a Christmas ornament (I collect things I can make into Christmas ornaments from the places I travel) and maybe even birthday gifts for two of my best friends with birthdays in November. As I wondered of course I got lost but it didn’t feel that way because I had decided to not pre-decide and therefore there were no “wrong” directions…when it got to after noon I decided to look at the little map I had gotten from the bus company (which was missing lots of streets) and begin moving toward the bus stop more directly while looking for a pub for lunch.

Because where else can you eat in Dublin but a pub?

ImageSitting in the upstairs window, looking out onto the corner of O’Connel Street, this Victorian Pub was a great find for lunch. The menu was full of traditional cuisine but the fish and chips caught my eye. I have eaten my french fries with lots of salt and mayo since having them this way on the streets of London in 2002.


It was an amazing choice! So yummy even the greens salad with homemade spicy mustard vinaigrette was great. With a glass of cider (I couldn’t bring myself to be up for Guinness which I normally love but didn’t sound exciting in my by this time extremely tired state), I ate slowly, savoring the wonderful food and atmosphere. After I caught myself falling asleep at the table I new it was time to head back to the airport.

A quick stop in few shops on O’Connell Street and I found presents for the birthday girls, my Christmas ornament, and a necklace for myself. As I waited to take the bus back to the airport I watched the line of cabbies across the street try to talk airport bus riders into skipping out on the wait for the bus. After I had waited 13 min for the bus I felt compelled to tell the others that the bus was supposed to come every 15 min and it had already been 13. The nice eastern European couple who’s language I had been trying to place as they talked to each other piped in that they just lied to the cabbies and said they had a return ticket already so as not to get bothered 😉 Less than a minute later the bus arrived and the group who had been debating on taking a cab were grateful for our noisiness 😉

A wonderfully relaxing day in Dublin City and one quick bus ride back to airport and no line at security I was on my way to Sweden!