Saturday, November 22, 2008

(Business) trip report: Stockholm

This was one of those work trips that I (KT) did on my own -- out Friday, back Monday. And it came 2 weeks after our trip to DC and just as I was getting over a cold that I surely acquired on the flight home from DC. I assure you it was a cold virus with superpowers. So, outside of the work stuff, I didn't do a whole lot of sightseeing and I don't have that many pictures, largely owing to the 3:30 pm sunsets and therefore bad lighting. But: Stockholm was nice, and a nice place to spend a weekend. I felt very comfortable there and would love to go back.

What took me there was a career day my work was putting on at one of the big research institutes in Stockholm. I arrived by very cheap flight on Ryanair, which means that I arrived 100 km from where I was supposed to be. Nevermin
d; Europeans are organized. Walk out the terminal and onto a bus that, in 80 minutes, gets you to the center of Stockholm. My hotel was a bit outside of the center, but it was absolutely fabulous. It's always a good sign when all the ladies at the front desk are absolute clean freaks. I had the sweetest little room that came complete with its own teddy bear. And, the bear came home with me (for a price, of course). This is what happens when I travel by myself.

To get your bearings, Stockholm is here. The city itself is situated on 14 islands, so there are a few boats involved in getting around. I got a slow start on my free day, Sunday, but when I did I went straight for Gamla Stan, the city's old town. It's pretty much a tourist attraction at this point, but that's OK -- it's a nice one. Windy, cobblestone streets cover the island, whose northeast corner is dominated by Kungliga Slottet, or the royal palace. My understanding is that this is where the royals work, not live. I walked around a bit and pondered touring the royal apartments, but couldn't be bothered to stand around and wait for 15 minutes until they opened. I eventually circled back to this area, brought in part by the sound of a marching band. (I have a knack for finding marching bands.) The occasion this time was the changing of the guard and it was quite a show.
From Stockholm

I spent a couple more hours on Gamla Stan, shopping and wandering the adorable streets. I then took the ferry over to Djurgarden to visit the Vasamuseet. The Vasa was a
ship that set out on its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, then promptly sank. In 1961, it was brought back up to the surface and restored, and they built the museum around it. If that doesn't sound like the coolest thing you've ever heard, then I can't help you. The ship was 69 meters long and adorned with incredible carvings, many of which survived. In retrospect, I wish I would have allowed more time to spend here. The next day I heard some exchange students in a coffee shop complaining that the museum had "only one boat." Gads. I also dropped by the Moderna Museet -- modern art museum -- although admittedly I just went to the giftshop. I got there and realized I just wouldn't be able to appreciate it. It's a fantastic space, though, and looked like a great museum.

On Monday I did a couple of work interviews and then headed back into town to drop by the Ostermalms Saluhall -- the food market, of course. It was small relative to ones I've been in around Europe but had a fine offering of food stalls and restaurants. I bought some elk sausage, then had a second lunch of marinated salmon. YUM. I spent the rest of that afternoon working in a coffee shop before my evening flight back to England.

Food: I had some pretty decent food in Stockholm, including, yes, Swedish meatballs. We had a company dinner at Clas på Hörnet, which serves traditional Swedish food. I had herring and another fish dish here. The restaurant was excellent and the food quite good. The next night some colleagues and I walked down to the center and ended up at a place called Drottninggatan 6. I had serious reservations about; it showed all the signs of a tourist trap. But oh, was it good. I had reindeer steak and and two of my colleagues had the Swedish meatballs -- both were fabulous. The following night I took a trip out to Sodermalm to go to Pelikan, a restaurant hyped in my guidebook as great for meatballs and beer. I couldn't get this fabulous combo out of my head, so I took the 12-minute train ride out to it. Indeed the atomopshere was nice and I did have good meatballs here. But, after seeing several places with an extensive offering of Belgian beers, I was a bit disappointed to get to Pelikan and see no Belgian beers, but the likes of Red Stripe and Anchor Steam on their beer menu. Nevertheless, I had a great meal and even better people-watching here.

Photo album here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The little village that could

I haven't provided too many Cambridge United updates this season so far. They're playing pretty well, but I haven't seem many games and they have a lot of new players--plus our favorite player has been absent due to injury. Simply put, they've failed to ignite a lot of enthusiasm so far, and lost a chance yesterday when they lost 1-0 to knock themselves out of the FA Cup.

Now Histon is another story. A small town just a few miles north of Cambridge, Histon fields what many dismiss as a "village" team. i.e. many of the players have other jobs. But Histon has been on quite a run. They beat United last year and also got promoted from their league into the same one as Cambridge United. This year they have even risen above United in the rankings, once making it as high as third place. I also like that their nickname is the Stutes, since they were originally called Histon Institute

Since United's FA Cup game was away, I decided to take the bus to Histon to see them battle Swindon, a team in League One, two levels above Histon. As I walked to the small stadium (see picture), Swindon fans could be heard remarking about quaint the village was. They were expecting an easy victory. The stadium itself was wee, with perhaps a capacity of 3000 at most, and everyone from Histon, and their kids, seemed to be there. The children running around the field even got to request the songs played over the loudspeaker--for the first time, I heard the theme from High School Musical at a soccer game.

Histon was the more aggressive team from the opening whistle and never showed a trace of being intimidated. They scored 1 goal, and had 2 others controversially waved off for infractions, and Swindon never put away its few chances. An amazing 1-0 upset and Histon moves on to the next round of the FA Cup. At this point that means a lot of money to such a small "village" team--they might be able to afford some new players in the spring and give United a battle for promotion into the Football League. I haven't abandoned United by any means, but I'm now a Stutes fan.--J.T.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

President-Elect-of-the-World Obama

The Economist had an interesting interactive feature recently on if the whole world could vote for the U.S. president. England most definitely would have cast its vote for Obama. JT got exactly no work done on Wednesday because everyone wanted to come and talk to him about the election -- conversations we've been having all year. And, given the reaction of the UK media above, I have a feeling we'll be talking about this election for a long time. Proudly.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 2, 2008

October in Review

How is it November?! Sincere apologies to our loyal readers -- if we blogged everything we said we should blog, you'd probably stop reading, unless you've already stopped reading because we haven't updated in three weeks! :)


I love fall (always "autumn" in British). Always have. Maybe it's because my birthday is in October, or maybe it's because nothing lifts my spirits like crisp air and brightly colored trees and falling leaves. I am also a sucker for a festival, so put the two together, and I'm there! On a mid-October Saturday, we hopped on our bikes and rode 3.5 miles to Burwash Manor in the village of Barton for Apple Day. The manor is an old farm whose outbuildings have been converted to shops. The big draw for many was the promise that you could bring apples from your yard and they would press them into juice for you. First they threw the apples into what looked like a chipper, then dumped them by the bucketful into a hand press. We had no apples to offer, but I did get to try a glass of the juice -- taken directly from the press. Mmm, delicious. We tried about nine different varieties of apples and went home with three kinds -- Pippin, Cox, and Blenheim. We enjoyed watching a cooking demonstration by the Cambridge Cookery School (I'm planning to make the apple-scented chicken this week), checked in on a "ploughing" competition, and saw baby piglets and other animals. We will definitely go back to Burwash Manor.

On that Sunday, we headed out to Ickworth House, where we've been before, for their annual Wood Fair (where we've also been before). It was much bigger this year, which was nice to see. they sell wood from trees on the grounds, and there are furniture builders, carvers, and all kinds of craftsmen and women there, too. We bought beer from one of our favorite British breweries, St. Peter's, and sat and drank it and ate a hog roast sandwich while listening to lovely folk music performed by the Floozies. We took advantage of the nice weather to walk the grounds for about an hour. It's a gorgeous estate, and I'd love to go back and walk the 7-mile loop around the entire grounds.


On the 17th, we left for a 10-day trip to Washington, DC. I (kt) haven't been back to DC since last June, and, well, that was hard. So, I was braced for it to be hard again -- but it wasn't. Instead, it was remarkably easy -- almost eerily so. In fact, it was almost like we hadn't been gone, and I found that a bit scary. But, we had a fantastic -- if hectic -- time. The weekends were the most relaxing -- hanging out with friends in the suburbs, doing a little shopping and football watching (I'll let you guess who did what), and hosting a brunch at our old condo. (Big Shout Out to Julia here -- aren't we great houseguests? "Hi! We're coming to stay for a week, and oh, by the way, can we take over the place and invite 10 people over?" Thanks again, J. You're awesome!)

During the week, we both worked at our employer's headquarters. This was weird for me, since I didn't work for The Company until moving to the U.K. It was weird for John, because he was in his old office, which had been taken over when he left for England but is now vacant. We both had tons of meetings and piles of work to do, which we tried to cram into a normal workday before racing off for evening meet-ups with friends and work colleagues. It was well worth the trip work-wise.

We managed to squeeze in meals at places we'd missed -- Vace, Bertucci's, and Chipotle -- and wound down the week with an amazing meal with friends A&C at a new-to-us place, Mendicino Grill in Georgetown. We also managed a trip to Ray's Hell Burger, the newest of the Ray's restaurants, with friends A&J, with whom we've dined at every single Ray's restaurant. We ran out of days before we could hit all our favorites, though!


The day after our return to the U.K. was my birthday, and JT had given me one of my presents months ago: Tickets to a new Annie Liebowitz exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The original plan was to spend the entire week in London. However, our trip to DC changed those plans into just a few hours. No matter -- we made the most of it. We headed down in the morning, went to the exhibit, then had an exquisite lunch in the gallery's restaurant, which has a fabulous view. (The exhibit was great -- but I always, always want to know more about her shots.)


We were asked often while in DC how much longer we'll be here. It's a question to which we only have a general answer. "The work permit expires in February 2010." Nevermind that work permits can be extended, or that we've technically fulfilled our minimum required stay. I worried when I felt so at home in DC, walking around our old neighborhood, strolling through the zoo, riding the Red Line, visiting old haunts, seeing good friends. Would I be able to go back to Cambridge and feel at home there? Shortly after returning, I went for a walk -- nothing special, just the same walk I always take when I need 30 minutes of fresh air. I smiled as I remembered that the low-hanging sun was already at its peak for the day, making even high noon look like dusk. I stopped to admire the firey orange and yellow leaves on the bright green grass of Jesus Green. I took the long way around to catch the 500-year-old skyline formed by Kings College and its Chapel -- a view I've seen 100 times yet never tire of it. I am, for now, home. That's my answer.