travel comments edit

UK is set to leave the EU and we probably won’t have the luxury of travelling anywhere in Europe by just buying a train/plane ticket. I wanted to take advantage this luxury before the self-destruction starts and decided to take the day off and take a train to Paris.

Preparations

As this is a daily trip I didn’t plan too much about it. Here’s all I did:

  • Buy a return ticket from Eurostar (from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare Du Nord and back). This set me back £88 which is not too bad for international travel.
  • I only packed my iPad Pro and a couple powerbanks. The idea is to balance functionality with weight.
  • As proven in Norway and Sweden trips, roaming works well with GiffGaff. There’s no additional charge and I was able to use my phone just as I could in London.
  • No need to buy Euros as planned to use card for all the transactions. Might cost some extra bank charges but at least eliminates the hassle of buying cash and selling it back.
  • Found a blog post called Paris in a Day and planning to visit the places mentioned in that post. Let’s see how many of them I’ll manage to actually see:

    • Notre Dame
    • The Louvre
    • Champs-Élysées
    • Arc de Triomphe
    • Eiffel Tower
    • Seine River Cruise
    • Tour Montparnasse

The Trip

  • I arrived at St. Pancras International about 1 hour earlier. I didn’t know there were security checks and passport controls but apparently there are checks carried out by the French police so I’m glad I didn’t treat it as a commuter train and tried to board at the last minute.
  • 15 minutes after departure more passengers boarded at Ebbsfleet.
  • A message on the screen said we were travelling at 295 km/h

  • On return journey, it also stopped at Ashford International station.

Paris

It was a nice sunny day and I walked around all day. Spent most of the time going to The Eiffel Tower and a 2-hour hop on/off bus tour. Here’s some pictures from the trip:

Lessons Learned

  • I didn’t buy any Euros for this trip assuming I could pay for everything by card. It didn’t quite work out that way. They don’t accept card in public toilets which may be a very important issue depending on your liquid consumption! Also in a convenience store minimum amount to use card was €6 so had to make some unnecessary purchases just to meet the minimum.
  • In a daily trip time is of essence so there’s a feeling of rushing everything. For example I skipped going up The Eiffel Tower becasue the queue was too long.

Resources

travel comments edit

I sold my old camera on eBay and while checking out its SD card I found some old pictures I took when I visited The Shard, probably in 2013.

trivia comments edit

From Twitter, tweeted on 28 May 2013: “3 days to June and another sunny London day!”

trivia comments edit

From Twitter, tweeted on 11 July 2013:

‘Nuff said!

travel comments edit

In an attempt to bring some of the photos I published on Twitter I’m going over my timeline.

This one is from 1 November 2014, Blackheath Bonfire Night:

A bad-quality picture but it’s the memory that matters!

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Any body of water makes everything look more beautiful. They have these small waterfalls in Pancras Square which I like a lot:

To make things even better, today I saw this cute little family of ducks in the same area:

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I’ve been living in London for more than 8 years now and until today I never saw London Eye from the inside! That has changed now. I booked a ticket for a ride in London Eye which comes with a discount for the River Cruise which starts from the pier right next to the London Eye.

I was planning to sell my Sony NEX-5 camera and took some pictures from it too to say farewell:

travel comments edit

At the end of the day, it was a great trip. Some observations and final thoughts in no particular order:

  • I think I overshot souvenirs this time. I now got 2 shelves full of stuff as opposed to one from Norway

  • Stockholm is a really beautiful city. It’s built on 14 islands and wherever you go you come across a body of water.
  • Museum-wise I was more impressed with the ones in Oslo. Some museums are very small (The Viking Museum) or full or trivia (Tekniska)
  • The room with fully-equipped kitchen was great. I didn’t have to spend any money for eating/drinking out. Some people might like it but I generally prefer spending my money on more long-lasting stuff.
  • I think I may need to reduce the number of photos and videos. But the places are so captivating I generally get carried away and keep shotting. Later I eliminate some of them anyway but it just takes a lot of time to sift through all of them!
  • Internet access was fantastic throughout the city even in underground. Even better than I have here in London!
  • So the verdict on Stockholm Pass. Here’s a breakdown of all the money I would spend without Stockholm Pass:
Day Attraction Price
1 SEK 0
2 Hop On/Off Bus Tour SEK 330
2 National Museum SEK 0
2 Hop On/Off Boat Tour SEK 230
3 Vasa Museum SEK 150
3 The Viking Museum SEK 159
3 The Nordic Museum SEK 140
3 National Museum of Science and Technology SEK 150
4 Guided Stockholm Old Town Walk SEK 220
4 The Royal Palace SEK 180
4 Archipelago tour with guide SEK 305
4 Casino Cosmopol SEK 60
5 Hop On/Off Bus Tour SEK 330
5 Hop On/Off Boat Tour SEK 230
  Total SEK 2484

I spent SEK 1331 for Stockholm Pass and looks like it deserved its money and it was a good bargain.

  • Places to visit next time: My biggest regret about this trip is that I failed to take Birka tour. It’s a 7.5 hour tour to Viking city Birka. Apart from that there are more boat tours and also a place called Ocean Aquarium which apparently has sharks in it! Just to visit those place I can arrange another trip!
  • Most useful apps: Flygbussarna coach app, Linjekartor metro and train map, SL official public transportation app.
  • I didn’t need to use offline maps that I had downloaded as I had excellent Internet connection everywhere.

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Day 5 - Wednesday, 24 July 2019:

  • Final day: My flight was at 21:20 so I stayed in the hotel as late as I could. Because I had to lug around my bag all day long I tried to be plan the day strategially: Museums and most places wouldn’t let me in with a carry on bag and backpack so I thought best place would be hop on/off tours! Even though I took the tours before I thought it wouldn’t hurt to say goodbye to the city with more sightseeing tours.

  • First took the hop on/off bus. This time it made a small diversion so that helped me to see other parts as well.

  • Next stop: boat tour. This one was much longer and I also got to stand at the back out in the open so I’m glad I took this 2nd round.

  • After the boat tour I decided to head to the airport as I didn’t have much to do at that point. Also I don’t like getting stressed with the fear of missing flight which takes away the joy from everything anyway so took the coach to Arlanda airport. But first took some final shots of the city on my way out:

  • Final step: Arlanda airport. Noticed that little pilot bird ornament in the bathroom of the airport! Fortunately the plane was empty and I had a pleasent journey on the window side which allowed me to take a few more pictures of the city from above

  • Goodbye stockholm!

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Day 4 - Tuesday, 23 July 2019:

  • On this day I decided to go to Gamla Stan early when there was not too many people around. So that I can take a better look and shop some souvenirs too.

  • Then I took a guided walking tour. It’s nice to walk around on your own but you learn a lot more with a guide.

  • Next stop I decided to walk around a bit more and visit the Royal Palace.

  • Going over the Stockholm Pass guide book I noticed a 2.5 hour archipelago boat tour. It’s free with Stockholm Pass and I took it as well. It was truly beautiful!

  • In the evening I decided to go to Cosmopol Casino which is run by state and the only official casino in Stockholm. The security is very tight and you have to have your passport with you. After a few hours and losing around SEK 200 I realized that it’s not my cup of tea!

  • To explore nightlife I stopped by Sodermalm which is said to be rich with clubs and bars. I just walked around and I completely agreed with that statement! It was full of pubs and bars all along the road. I was tired to stop by for a drink but it looks like a nice place to do so.

  • And with this I concluded Day 4. Went to bed to prepare my final day and leave this beautiful city behind!

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Day 3 - Monday, 22 July 2019:

  • Plan for the day is to see the main museums: Vasa Museum, Viking Museum and Technology & Science Museum. Took the usual commuter train and metro to city centre and walked to the museum area.

  • First museum I visited was Vasa Museum. Vasa was built to impress at the time. It was meant to be the mightiest ship in all Europe. Unfortunately it only managed to sail for 20 minutes and sank in a few minutes. Apparently, according to our guide, the reason for the sinking was that it was too high and it was very top-heavy because of the double gun decks.

  • Next museum was The Viking Museum. I was especially excited about this one as I’m fond of Viking history. This museum is a bit smaller than I anticipated but had a very nice exhibit that you get on a amusement-park like car and go through a tunnel where a story is told in with vivid animations. I don’t know if they change the stories eveyr now and then but I’ll check it out again even if it’s the same story it’s worth a second ride.

  • Next museum was The Nordic Museum which has exhibitions and items about Nordic life in general. There was a nice park and cemetary between the two museums:

  • I was expecting more about Vikings in the Nordic Museum but generally it’s much broader than that specific era.

  • Next and final stop was The Science and Technology Museum which was a bit far away. I decided to walk anyway and took some pictures along the way

  • I was expecting more “serious” scientific information from The Science and Technology museum but it looked like it’s tailor towards children as evidenced but lots of playgrounds to experience robots and the abundance of kids! Even so it was a nice museum to visit anyway.

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Day 2 - Sunday, 21 July 2019:

  • Didn’t start early today. Now that I knew where to change trains and how to get to city centre, I took the tram from Sickla Kaj, changed to metro at Arstaberg. Easy peasy!

  • One advantage of Stockholm Pass is that it allows free access to lots of transportation and activities. There are Hop On/Off buses and boats which you have unlimited access with Stockholm Pass. I think having a general overview of the city is a good idea before going into detail. So I hopped on one of those busses and spent a few hours around the city.

  • The hop on/off bus made a whole circle around the city and returned to its departure point.
  • Next I decided to visit National Museum as it was the closest attraction at that point.

  • After the National Museum I decided to take another hop on/off tour but on boat this time. Stockholm is built on 14 islands and there are a lot of different boat tours. Hop on/off ones are the shortest and most frequent ones. It’s a bit short but it is a nice sightseeing experience especially when the weather permits.

  • After the boat tour I was feeling tired. I got off the boat at where Vasa Museum is located but it was around 16:30 and I didn’t to rush my visit (It closes at 18:00 and Stockholm Pass is valid for a single pass only for any given attraction except hop on/off tours). So I just walked around took a few more pictures and headed home.

  • I was glad I got home early as it started to rain quite heavily.

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Day 1 - Saturday, 20 July 2019:

  • Started the day early as flight was at 08:30 at Stansted.
  • Took the train to London Bridge and walked to Liverpool Station and caught a Stansted Express

  • Resistance bands in the bag caused a search in the bag which caused delay. Had to run 5-10 minutes to the gate. But it wasn’t necessary after all as had to wait for the boarding to begin.
  • Flight was pleasant despite the middle seat. Thanks to Archer and iPad!

  • Flight took 15 minutes less than estimated.
  • There were no e-passport gates which was a bit disappointing. Had to wait about 30 minutes for passport check.
  • Finding the Flygbussarna coach to Stockholm City was quite easy. Using the app is easy as well. You can also add the coach tickets to Apple Wallet so very convenient to use.
  • Coach from Skavsta airport to Stockholm City took 1h 25m (The flight from England took 1h 40m!)

  • 2 important tasks of the first day: Collect Stockholm Pass and Travel Cards and check in to the hotel
  • Visitor center is very close to the central terminal so within minutes I was able to collect my Stockholm Pass.

  • For hotel, I underestimated walking 6K with 2 bags. It took about 1 hour. Had some trouble with a road begin closed and Google Maps trying to send me go through the fences but thanks to a nice lady who showed me a way around it I managed to find the hotel.
  • I had forgotten about 3pm check in time but fortunately when I arrived at the hotel it was 3PM on the dot!
  • Hotel was everything I was looking for. The only negative thing about it is its location. In order to get to the city centre you have to take tram first then change to metro. It takes about 30-40 minutes to get to Stockholm City. It wasn’t that bad after getting used to it. It can be an issue if you’re planning to stay up late as the latest tram to Sickla Kaj is at 01:12 but for me it wasn’t an issue.

The hotel room had a fully-equipped kitchen including a fridge and even a dishwasher! There was a Lidl in 2-minute walkiong distance so I first took a trip and filled the fridge.

They also have a laundry which was helpful because I ran out of clean clothes at some point.

Another good thing about the hotel is the information leaflet which includes all the useful information you need such as nearest stores and public transportation.

  • Right across Lidl there was Sickla Kaj tram station. On my first day I made a rookie mistake and forgot the Stockholm Pass guide which has a map for public transportation.

  • I took the tram to Solna Station but instead of changing where I later started to change, I kept going until I noticed I was going further away from the city centre. I decided to get out at Lilje station which happens to be next to a fantastic park and lake called Trekanten.

  • Spent a few hours around the lake took the train to Stockholm City.
  • As I consider my first day general reconnaisance mission, I just walked around the city.

Stockholm Pass usage

I’m going to calculate how much I would have spent individually and will compare the total to Stockholm Pass & Travel Card prices to see if I had a good deal or not.

For Stockholm Pass I paid SEK 1331,1 (normally SEK 1,479 but there was 10% discount at the time) and for travel cards paid SEK 520.

At the end of the trip I’ll compare to what I would have spent without the Stockholm Pass.

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Cotinuing my Scandinavia trips I’ll be visiting Stockholm, Sweden next. Here are some notes on my research and preparations:

Preparations

Hotel room with a kitchen

I don’t want to eat out as it’s unnecessarily costly. I booked a room in Biz Apartment Hammarby Sjostad. Looks a bit outside the city centre. The main advantage is its quite affordable and it has a kitchen with a small fridge and microwave. As long as there are some convenience stores in the neighbourhood I should be able to feed myself without eating out.

Stockholm Pass

Just like Oslo Pass, Stockholm Pass has a similar scheme. It offers a 5-day pass which is the exact duration of my stay so works great for me. You can add a TravelCard as well which goes up to 72 hours. So for a 5-day Stockholm Pass it adds 2 x 3 day travel cards. I selected to collect it in Stockholm in which case they send you an email with a voucher. It needs to be printed and used at collection point.

Download offline Google Maps of Stockholm

As in Norway, I expect to have good mobile Internet coverage in Sweden but it’s always a good practice to prepare. I’ve downloaded entire Stockholm area and it only costs 170 MB so it’s just a matter of minutes to download it all.

Apps

Just searched Stockholm in the App Store and downloaded all related apps. It’s hard to prepare for everything for a city that I’ve never been before but I’m sure they will make more sense when I’m there.

Cash

Before my Norway trip I bought £1,000 worth of Norwegian Kroners which was way too much because I used Apple Pay everywhere. The problem with that is my local bank charged me quite a bit for each and every transaction I made in Norway. So I think a better approach is to buy less cash and make sure to spend it all in.

In Norway, I spent £380 with Apple Pay and my bank charged me £15 in total for all the transactions. This time I already paid for hotel so I don’t expect major expenditures.

This time I bought 2800 Swedish Krona which is about £246 worth. My goal is to sepnd it all but not need any card transactions.

Places to Visit

It helps to do some research prior to landing to your destination especially if you’re on your own. This way you can have some guidelines and still have some room to improvise.

Here’s an initial draft of places I’m planning to visit:

  • Vasa Museum
  • Tantolunden Park
  • Tour: Old Town (Gamla Stan) & Riddarholmen
  • The Royal Palace
  • Vikingaliv

Resources

hobby comments edit

A while back I posted the state of Jasmines and they looked like this back then:

Most of them didn’t make it but one seems to be going strong and now looks like this:

I think it helps to cut back water a bit. I’ll try to put less water in the pot from now on and see whether it helps or not.