Friday, June 06, 2014

Shaking off some rust: Happier -> Jana

It's been almost four months since I last blogged, my longest hiatus since starting this blog in 2004 (!). That's especially interesting since in one of my recent posts, I was trying to get back into the blogging routine.

The good news is that life has been awesome. I've been away from blogging for the best reasons possible.

I changed jobs, going from Happier to Jana. Both are great companies and I'm happy with the move itself, how it was done, where I am now, and how we've all stayed friends.

A typical Jana user.

Personal life is great. It's been a good, busy blur of a winter and spring, including some travel and other adventures. Can't complain.

Still running around in the early mornings.
The summer promises to be interesting as well, with some events and trips planned. But rather than try to catch up in big pieces, I'm going to try what I tell others: ease into blogging with small, "bite-sized" entries, so they don't take a lot of time or effort to consume.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, February 17, 2014

#rtw2012 - Stockholm

This is one in a series of posts about my recent round-the-world (RTW) trip, all collected under the #rtw2012 label. You may wish to read them in order for context and background.

These posts tend to be detailed and you might find them boring. They're mostly for myself, as a diary.If you prefer just the pictures, all the ones below (and more) are also on Facebook.

Arriving into Stockholm.

Amusing pictures at the airport.

I know those two!
From St. Petersburg I went to Stockholm, Sweden, my first visit to Scandinavia on this trip and in general. It's a pretty quick flight, and a smooth easy train from Arlanda airport to downtown Stockholm. It's also pretty fast: 205Km/h, or 120mph, but quiet and stable. The ride takes about 20  minutes, exactly as advertised. Why don't we have trains like this?


Zoom zoom...

Clear signs everywhere make it easy to navigate.
Stockholm was a hotel town on my trip. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Royal Viking, right in the middle of the city, near Gamla Stan, the old town. The hotel was great: excellent service, spacious room, great amenities.


Hotel buffet breakfast from a higher floor.

Kettlebells in the hotel gym. And a sink?

It's Sweden, after all. A gym must have a sauna, hot tub...

I neglected to use the hula hoops :)

Heart starter?

One of the first things I did was head out for a recon trip, starting with said old town / Gamla Stan. It was a gorgeous day, like most of my time in Stockholm. Warm long days full of sunlight, I couldn't have asked for better weather.

Walking around Gamla Stan.

The changing of the guard in the palace at noon.

Looking across one of the many canals.

Add caption

Interesting tattoo on a busy main street.

But also many empty side streets.

Napoleonic cap?

Crossing the street on the southern side.

Lots of interesting buildings.

The royal palace complex (Kungliga Slottet) has a variety of buildings. I really liked the treasury (no pics allowed inside). While walking around the royal apartments, I ran into a local grandfather who was teaching his granddaughter English, using the museum as a vocab exercise -- what a great idea! We walked around together for a while, and I helped with a couple of the tougher words ;)

Compound map. Note the English, again.


The guard was very friendly.

Awesome treasury. Sadly, no pictures allowed inside.

The various orders of chivalry were pretty cool, too.

One of the palace halls is where they hold the Nobel prize annual gala / reception. The Nobel museum is a short walk away in Gamla Stan, and that was my next destination.

Entrance to the Nobel museum.

Entering as a visitor is cheap. Entering as an honoree, priceless. Nice WiFi password, too.

I really enjoyed the Nobel museum. It's not big, but it's dense and rich with fascinating displays. Besides the picture and bio of every winner, they have a lot of research materials, such as original lab notebooks and pictures and such, all annotated with handwriting from the researchers. Really cool.


Game theory. Loved that movie.



The Penguin man.




Telomerase!

There's a small cafe where I had a snack. Every chair is autographed by a previous prize winner, as I realized while reading about the cafe and having my snack. I flipped my chair around, only to find it was signed by an Israeli winner, Professor Dan Shechtman! Small world...

The bottom of my chair at the Nobel museum's little cafe.

After the museum, I kept on walking south, through Gamla Stan and into an area called Sodermalm. I walked along Gotgatan, a big pedestrian shopping area, with many amusingly-named stores. There's a subway station here called Skanstull, where I boarded the train ("T-bana") to Fridhemsplan.


An unlikely combination...

Yes!

Taking it to the next level...

A casino?

Well-known record store.


I wonder what they sell?

Indeed, why Thai?

From there it's a short walk to town hall, Stadshuset. The town hall itself is fairly small, not the most impressive building around. But it's on the water and has a nice little sculpture park.

That evening was split between dinner at PA & Co, an amazing restaurant that I really loved, and hanging out with new friends at the F12 Terrace afterwards. PA had such a great menu, I wanted to go back every day to try out new things. The Kalix roe stood out as a local delicacy.

PA & Co dinner menu, (mostly) English version.

The aforementioned Kalix roe (orange pile at top left) with traditional local accompaniments.

Afterwards, the terrace at F12 had some great music, and a fun crowd. F12 also has a highly-rated restaurant for dinner, but I didn't try it. On my way to the F12 restroom, I noticed a long line of girls waiting at a vending machine. Turns out it was a chewing tobacco machine. Weird, no?

F12's restaurant, which I skipped.

F12's terrace, upstairs, tent-covered section.

There was a long line of women for this machine. It's tobacco, right? I'm not missing something?

I was pretty tired, so it ended up being a fairly early night, but a good introduction to Stockholm nonetheless. This turned out well as the following nights were late. On my way to PA & Co above, I walked by Stureplan, which looked promising, and indeed the next couple of evenings were centered there.

One of the most popular restaurants, naturally, is a TGI Friday's?

East, in  Stureplan, has good sushi and better drinks.

1900 and Kaken, two good places under one roof.

The outdoors bar in the middle of Stureplan was hopping every night.

Waiting for the first subway train of the morning in a clean, organized, mobile fashion.

Curious tattoo choice.

Yes, that's a McDonald's (the one at Skanstull), packed at 5am.

Stockholm is a beautiful city. It's a pleasure to walk around along the canals and side streets. But I thought it'd be nice to get in the water as well. Thankfully, one of the many meetup groups I joined for the trip, the Stockholm Sporty People, had a couple of good ideas.

One of them was canoe / kayak polo. I ended up playing with another group, but thanks to an introduction from an SPP meetup member. The game is what it sounds like, kayaking around and trying to hit the polo ball with your oar. I wasn't a great player, but I didn't flip over, and my team won, so everyone was happy :)

Walking to the kayak polo meetup spot by one canal. Somebody had to drive...

A bar / resto on the water in one of the canals.

Kayak polo has 5 players to a side, hence 10 kayaks.

For my mom :)

I also went for a couple of jogs around the islands. It's amazing how quickly you can get into wooded terrain, feeling like you're a long way out of the city, even though it's only a mile or two.  The Rosendal palace and its gardens were a nice stop, mostly deserted and peaceful. The Vasa museum, nearby, has a recovered and restored Viking ship, and that was pretty interesting.

All good choices.

Looking for the "you are here" designation...

Another museum in the middle of the park.

The restored Viking ship.

Fun jogging paths feel like you're far away from the city.

In the gardens of the Rosendal palace, there's a cool greenhouse and shop.

Overall, Stockholm was great. I would gladly go back to explore more. I still have a lengthy list of restaurants, bars, and other places to visit.

Early morning at the train station, heading back to the airport.

Nice recruiting, Spotify.