By Gabrielle. Photo here.

Oh my. I am laughing while I write this post. I am still in the middle of stacks of post-roadtrip laundry, and at the same time making a packing list for our next trip. We are going to Sweden!

This trip is just for me and Ben Blair. No kids. Just us as a couple. I keep thinking about that line, something about what parents really need after a family vacation is a vacation. Hah! There’s definitely some truth to it — a family vacation isn’t much of a vacation for the parents. So I’m delighted to have a getaway on the schedule just for the two of us.

But that’s only one part of why we’re going. We didn’t come up with this plan for a trip to Sweden, though it’s been on our travel wishlist for years — this is one of those opportunities that came to us via blogging (and yes, I’m completely aware of how crazy lucky we are!). Sweden’s Tourism Board reached out with a fantastic promotion. They’re sponsoring 4 different bloggers on 4 different trips, each one with a specific theme — The Explorer, The Foodie, The Eco-Tourist, and The Curator. Our trip’s theme is The Curator, and the itinerary is fantastic. It takes us up and down Sweden’s West Coast and includes things like art museums, historic neighborhood walks, famed restaurants, sculpture parks and charming hotels.

The board wants us to see as much of the West Coast as we can, so instead of checking into one hotel and using it as a base, we’ll be checking into a new hotel every night, each one in a different town. In fact, one of the trip sponsors is Volvo. When we arrive in Gothenburg, we’ll be touring their factory and they’ll loan us a car so we can drive to destinations up and down the coast. Should be amazing.

For sure it feels like a wild time to be taking a trip. August is crazy at our house. There is back to school prep, two birthdays, house guests, kid camps, etc. Not exactly prime vacation time for us as parents. But the ultimate reason we said yes to this trip to Sweden, even in the midst of August chaos, is our wedding anniversary. It happens on August 19th — right in the middle of the trip. We are awful about celebrating our anniversary. We almost always let August busy-ness push the day to the bottom of our priority list. So saying yes to this trip felt like intentionally carving out time to celebrate our marriage and carving out time to be together, just the two of us.

Oh man. I could not be more excited about this trip. Every time I look at the itinerary I get goosebumps. Even hanging out with Ben on the plane ride sounds dreamy as can be. We fly out on August 13th — that’s a week away. I’m giddy just thinking about it!

And now I’d love to know, have you ever been to Sweden? I’d love to hear about your favorite spots. Also, I’m curious how you handle trip itineraries. When we travel as a family we tend to keep things pretty loose and plan the next day’s activities the night before. But for this trip, our schedule is set and we essentially won’t need to make many decisions about the day’s activities. Kind of refreshing. How about you? Do you travel with a plan?

P.S. — Of the 4 bloggers participating, I’m the last to travel, so you can already see their reports when you check out #inavolvo and #westsweden on social media. I’ll be adding to the hashtags when I get there!

59 thoughts on “Sweden!”

  1. How exciting! I don’t have any tips or favorite spots, just a wonderful memory of spending my oldest daughter’s first birthday in Stockholm. In January…brrr. At her birthday dinner, I can remember two things: trying reindeer, and our lovely waiter surprising us with a crème brulee topped with one sparkler for our one year old. Have fun! I’m sure Sweden is beautiful this time of year.

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever tried reindeer, though I have had venison on numerous occasions (I grew up in a town where the annual deer hunt was a holiday weekend). I imagine they are similar in taste and texture but I have no idea.

      1. I have never been to Sweden but it has been at the top of my list of places to visit for such a long time – along with Norway, Denmark and Finland. Scandinavia just seems like such a magical, fairytale place :)
        To get an idea of what you’ll be in for food-wise you should check out Nordic House on San Pablo in Berkeley. They have lots of yummy (but gross sounding!) things like pickled herrings, fiskeboller, liver pate, caviar, brown cheese…
        Looking forward to seeing your photos. I’m sure it’s going to be an absolutely amazing journey!

  2. Sweden is amazing! My family is from Gotland, and we visited my relatives that still live there when I was in sixth grade over Midsommar. These days I throw a huge potluck with all the fixings (and make 36 pounds worth of meatballs), and it’s such a fun night…friends, family, food, all the good things! Also, wild strawberries are called smultron. Such an awesome name. And be sure to try cloudberry jam! It should be close to in season right about now.

      1. It’s about the equivalent of twelve full 9×13 pans. It’s a lot! The key is baking them in mini-muffin tins instead of frying on the stovetop. It is the summer, after all! They also freeze well, even with the gravy, so making more than you think you’ll need is a great idea.

  3. I have never been to Sweden but we had sardines for dinner!
    (Seriously. My kids love sardines! And they are an excellent source of calcium and Omega-3.) Also, I enjoy the lingonberry crepes on my rare visits to IHOP. Do you feel more prepared now?

    Seriously, can’t wait to hear about your trip and ENJOY the one-on-one time with your sweetheart. Happy Anniversary!

  4. Holiday to recover from the holiday! Love it. Suppose to be having a special hubby and me holiday for a ‘significant’ birthday coming up. Nothing organised…might throw Sweden into the hat!

  5. I’m so happy for you! I love seeing great opportunities like this come to awesome, hardworking, genuinely nice bloggers like yourself. I’m so glad you were able to find a way to say yes! Enjoy it SO much!

  6. No advice on trips, Sweden, or otherwise, just wishes to have a big time and enjoy each other! So happy for you! And thanks for the reminder that it’s ok to say yes for ourselves sometimes.

  7. So happy for you! I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time! When I’ve traveled in the past (sans children) I would have a list of things I wanted to see in each city and then I would plan one or two major things each day when I got there and I would try to keep one day totally free to do anything. Looking forward to seeing your upcoming post about your trip!

  8. Ah, we left for Sweden last year on August 13, and spent the first 10 or so days of our two month adventure on the West Coast! My husband’s family is from there, and we camped out in their little cottage and explored. It was wonderful.
    We are from the SF Bay Area (we should meet up and exchange photos!) and found the coastal areas of western Sweden to be a lot like Pt. Reyes. Rocky, cool, beautiful. Head to Hov’s Hallar if you can.
    The town of Bastad is charming and lovely, as is La Holm, and there are some lovely little fishing villages.
    Ice cream and coffee are both yummy in Sweden. We ate amazing smoked salmon on bread, too.
    If you check out my blog (especially August ’13) you’ll see my post about our time there exactly one year ago. You are making me want to go back!!!!
    Have a lovely time!

  9. Hi!
    Here’s a reader from Sweden :) I live on the west coast, down in the south, in Helsingborg. It sounds like you will have a great trip.

    In Sweden we (well if you live on the west coast anyway) call the west coast “The frontside of Sweden”. We think we have the best seafood, beaches and friendly cities. So the best tip is to enjoy the sights, bring the bathing suites and eat lots of prawns!

  10. Hi Gabrielle,

    this is Lasse’s (Elder Hoge’s) sister. You are going to love Sweden, especially the west coast is so beautiful and exciting to explore. Göteborg is also my favorite city here.

    We live about 1,5 hours south of Göteborg (http://www.senjaandco.com/search/label/g%C3%B6teborg) and if you have time (I read that your itinerary is already packed) we would love to show you around a bit (we live on the countryside close to Halmstad and Laholm (one of the oldest towns in Sweden), very close to the Skåne region). We could show you Halmstad, Båstad and Torekov (http://www.senjaandco.com/search/label/torekov), one of my favorite places here in the south. And the most popular beaches are around where we live as well.

    I blog a lot about Sweden (http://www.senjaandco.com/search/label/sweden).

    You definitely need to eat Swedish bread, eggs with “kalles kaviar” (you should get that at the hotels you are staying at), Fazer’s blue chocolate plain or with daim, licorice, smoked salmon and experience some really yummy pastries in a café. Best would be in Göteborg, they have the best cafés. :)

    And everybody speaks really good English here, you won’t have any problems getting around.

    Anyway, I can’t wait to read about your Sweden adventures and I’m excited that you are experiencing my beautiful country (I’ve been here for 7 years and call it home already..)


  11. Welcome to Sweden! Gothenburg is my home town and I´m sure your host will make sure that you visit all the best spots. Just remember – the West Coast is the Best Coast ;)

  12. I lived in Sweden for two years during my college years, and I still visit at least once a year if I can find the time. You definitely have to try their cinnamon buns (kanelbulle), and they also have this amazing sticky chocolate cake called “kladdkaka”. Otherwise I second the Kalle’s Kaviar comment above – it doesn’t get any more Swedish than that! And go for a swim at sunset!

  13. welcome to scandi! if you’d like a side trip to CPH, you’re most welcome here! we don’t really know sweden yet but if you get a chance, try to observe a preschool or kindergarten here, i think you’ll be surprised at how much freedom kids are given to explore. have a great time! ps – also definitely get bicycles for part of the trip if you can!

  14. Hi Grabrielle,

    I am so looking forward to the posts from this trip. I am sure you will absolutely delight us and make us collectively want to move there! I know Stockholm–which is lovely of course–but that’s about it. I have long wanted to make a trip in winter actually to do some cross-country skiing. We have a toddler though so may have to wait a bit longer. I have heard that the trains are amazing though and some even have a kids carriage with some space to play and games. I will be looking forward to all your recommendations and observations about the Swedish lifestyle. As for a packed itinerary set by someone else I can see how that might put some people off but I think it will be a refreshing change for you and Ben not to be in charge after all the trip planning you have been through this summer. Have a wonderful time and a very special anniversary.

  15. Can you do a grocery store trip? I loved the tidbits you’ve told us about French stores. It would be great to hear a Swedish version as well.

  16. Aaargh! I can’t believe you will be so close, but so still so far away! ;-)
    I’m on the west coast of Norway, but we go to Sweden at least once a year, since we belong to the Stockhom Temple district. (14 hour drive one way!)
    I’m sure you will love it! The west coast of Sweden really is beautiful, and the roads are great for driving – but next time you come to Scandinavia – make it Norway! As we say in Norwegian: Kos dere! (it kind of translates into ‘enjoy’. You and Ben deserve a fun anniversary trip! Just curious though: who steps in and takes over the kids while you are gone? Or will you let them fend for themselves?

  17. My husband is a Volvo salesman and we had the opportunity to go to Gothenburg and tour the Volvo factory a couple of years ago. I do graphics and marketing for a Community College and this trip to Volvo headquarters was by far the best professional development I have ever had! Their branding center and how the cultivate Volvo loyalty is amazing!

    Gothenburg is beautiful, too! We had no problem with people understanding our Texas English. (We went to London earlier that year and had more trouble with people understanding what we were saying and asking there than we did in Sweden.) We had Reindeer BBQ with out even knowing it. The meat is just so prevalent that they don’t really advertise it as being a special item.

    We were able to spend something crazy cheap, like $9 each round trip to take a trolly/tram from the center of the city to the coast, hop on a ferry and get off on one of the archipelago islands and walk around it for a day.

    To us, Sweden was the quintessential European experience without all the tourists.

    Have fun!

  18. Wow. Sweden is high on my bucket list! I hope you have a fantastic getaway. On a practical note, I am curious how you manage family life while away. We have three kids and my husband and I have been trying to get away alone forever. It’s so hard with all the kids activities to find someone who can stay with the kids and manage things. Happy Anniversary!

  19. We spent a night in Sweden last month! Malmö is just over a long bridge from Copenhagen. I must warn you – I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed – we went to a few Candy shops and did not find Swedish Fish anywhere :)

    1. We followed our trip from Sweden up with Denmark. Alas, no danish there either. ;) They had breakfast pastries, but they didn’t call them danish! Marketing disaster, I say! ;) :D

  20. Sweden is the best, you will enjoy everything. The scenery will be so different from your epic road trip, which will be fun too. I’ve visited many times and lived there for awhile in college, but always on the eastern side. Most people admit that the Western side is much more friendly, which you ought to enjoy. I totally agree with all of the food suggestions everyone else has come up with. I would emphasize the necessity of trying some cloudberry jam on some fresh bread with some yummy Swedish cheese. Enough, too wonderful to think about! Enjoy the land of the midnight sun!

  21. Wow, what an incredible opportunity! I am going to be in Stockholm for a conference the first week of September and am thrilled. It’s the longest I’ll be away from my 2 year old but I just couldn’t miss the professional and personal opportunity! If you get any time in Stockholm and have suggestions I’ll be all years. While I love going on family adventures, travel without kids seems like such a thrilling luxury:)

  22. I too had reindeer there – definitely worth trying! Alas, I was just in Stockholm (with a train to Denmark) so nothing I can recommend on the west side. All the best (and I bet August will be lovely there!)! Oh, and happy anniversary, Mr. & Mrs. Blair! :)

  23. We just bought a Volvo (my husband has dreamed of owning one for years). My husband has family in Denmark and we lived in Norway for a part of a year and love scandinavia….so we are really looking forward to your posts about your trip! My son is hoping you will write about the Volvo factory. Have fun!

  24. What a great way to celebrate your anniversary! I grew up in southern Sweden, lived in France for 5 years and now live in the US, so I’ve been enjoying reading about your experiences. Anywhere along the west coast is a great place for delicious sea food! Gothenburg has an amazing indoor fish market. The building is reminiscent of a church, so it’s called “The Fish Church”. Enjoy Sweden, I’m looking forward to reading about it!

  25. You will really enjoy Sweden! Our family returned from Gothenburg three weeks ago – the city is a wonderful mix of old and not so old, all beautiful. Make sure to visit Haga and the charming shops and cafés that are there. And wear comfortable shoes – those cobblestones can be tough to walk on! Have fun and happy anniversary!

  26. Sweden is wonderful! Next time, you should take your kids. We took our 4 kids to Sweden and Denmark for vacation. I always recommend it to families. It was very kid friendly, lots of discounts for children and the people were really lovely. Great amusement parks and natural beauty too!

  27. My husband is swedish and we just wrapped up our summer trip to Sweden! In a funny coincidence, our anniversary is aug 19th as well!

    Sweden truly is dreamy. Just when you think it can’t get any more idyllic, it pulls up its sleeves and reveals more serenity, beauty, and calm. We spend most of our time on the southern and southeastern coasts, and love poking around the college town of Lund and the quaint small town of Ystad.

    If you have time, try to get to some of the islands! The Southern tip Öland has the Raukar, amazing stone rune stones. Fårö, an Island off of the Northern tip of Gotland is beautiful as well. We love exploring the archipelago of Karlskrona (my husband hometown )by boat or kayak, and bring a picnic to enjoy on one of the Islands! Embrace “Fika,” a national customer of enjoying coffee and cake throughout the day — its simply fantastic. If you like dark coffee, save room in your bags to bring Zoegas coffee home — we brought 9 packs home this time! Marabou chocolate is divine, and make the obligatory trip to Polarn o Pyret!!


  28. Christine Kondrat

    So excited for you and Ben. So great that you get to spend your anniversary there.
    I look forward to hearing about your experiences there.

  29. Lovely that you are going to Sweden! My family is in Sweden so I make frequent trips, and while Gothenberg isn’t a city I’m as familiar with, here are some foods/products you should definitely try:

    Frödinge Ostkaka – a ‘cheesecake’ that really isn’t like cheesecake at ALL. Tastes more like an almond-flavored rice pudding. SO yummy and tastes really good with some strawberry jam on top. You can find it at any grocery store in either the refrigerated or frozen aisle. A must!

    Lösgodis – you will find bulk candy stations at every grocery and convenience store. A common Saturday ritual (lördagsgodis = “saturday candy”) – this is when kids will fill up a bag for their one day of the week treat! Make sure to try punschknappar (they look like nonpareil chocolates but have a distinct ‘arrak’ flavor that is delish. Also some soft chewy cola bottles (different from the US ones) and salt licorice if you dare! It’s a unique and acquired taste but most Swedes love it – myself included.

    Another acquired taste but 100% Swedish, and a kids’ favorite is blodpudding (= blood pudding). Served sliced and pan fried with lingonberries on top.

    If you stop by a bakery, be sure to try a ‘mazarin’ and chokladboll. A slice of Princess Cake is probably a good idea too!

    You will also be there during crawfish (or crayfish as the Swedes usually sway) season. This is a BIG occasion and if you can find a crayfish party to attend, you should!!! Different than US crawfish boils, Swedes use a ton of dill and the flavor is spectacular. Be prepared for some schnapps as well!

    ENJOY! I am going home to Sweden the same exact date, but will be in the South in Malmo :-)

  30. My dad grew up on the west coast of Sweden and his side of the family still lives there so we grew up visiting Sweden during the summer! My grandmother lived on the island of Tjorn. I loved it! I’d suggest visiting Marstrand, tour the fort and check out the beaches!

  31. Jeannekellyireland

    Vasa Museum if you get a chance and the gorgeous P.op clothing range which you’ve blogged on before I know. And egg white facial soap they sell there, beautiful old school beauty product that costs v little and is packaged beautifully.

  32. So happy you and Ben get to go on this fabulous trip together. Have a wonderful time and Happy Anniversary to both of you.

  33. Another Swedish reader here. Welcome to my country! I am sure that with such a packed itinerary you will be kept busy, but should you be left with some free time and want suggestions on what to do I’d be happy to help out. I live on the west coast, but in Malmö in the very south. If Malmö is on your list of stops then try and get Copenhagen in too. It is only half an hour away by train – I commute across to Denmark every day for work. Enjoy your trip!!

  34. We lived in Lund, a charming university town, for a summer and explored the west coast. My favorite west coast destination was Ven. It is a small island that is a primarily nature preserve and was the home of Tycho Brache. You can rent bikes for the day, ride though wheat fields to secluded beaches. The perfect romantic summer destination. http://www.landskrona.se/Pages/Page.aspx?pageId=16531

  35. Chelsea Walkenhorst

    Hi Gabrielle!

    Been reading your blog for years, always love it! Congrats on the anniversary!

    I went to Sweden a couple of summers ago with my Mom and brother when his soccer team went to the Gothia Cup which is in Gothenburg. It is a really charming town! You will love it. Take the train around and rent bikes if you can, so much faster then walking.

    If you get a chance to go to Stockholm there is an amusement park that you take a ferry to that has amazing roller coasters, we went at night when it was all lit up and it was great.

    I had a friend from Sweden growing up who was tall, tan, blonde and I thought she was just a lucky girl, turns out that is basically what every girl looks like in Sweden. So next time I go I’m getting a spray tan before I leave :)

    Everyone was super friendly!

    Have fun!

  36. They are having the best summer weather ever this year!! hope it keeps up for you, We loved a two week trip there two summers ago. Enjoy!!

  37. I spent 2 weeks in Gotenburg on a school exchange program (I am a teacher). I loved the city but what impressed me most was our visit to Tanum. A guide will tell you how to understand the paintings and you’ll see it´s very moving, I felt really emotional ! Looking forward to seeing your pics on instagram. Bon voyage !

  38. A few year ago we visited a good friend in Stockholm. We spent a week at her summer house on the west coast. We were actually there for Midsommer! The town was called Hovenäset. It’s the cutest place ever.

  39. Oh, my goodness, I’m speechless!!! And so delighted!!!!
    Remember, Ben is part Swede. His great, great Groberg Grandparents joined
    the LDS church there and came to Utah. What an amazing and wonderful opportunity for all of you. Eager to learn how things will be managed at the tree house but know they will be marvelous and totally good. HUGS!

  40. Imagine my excitement when I saw the photo of Läckö Slött castle–my mother’s family is fro just that area on Lake Vänern. I was born in Göteborg but have lived in the US for a long time. Of course, we go back to Sweden as often as possible.

    I imagine you will have a packed itinerary, but one thing I’d recommend experiencing is something called Every Person’s Right (Allemansrätten), which is a legal right to public access. You can read more about it online, but basically, it allows you to walk freely on any land except that which is next to someone’s house. You may camp for 24 hrs there, picnic, pick wildflowers (except endangered ones, of course), gather berries and mushrooms–whatever you want as long as you cause no damage. My American friends are shocked by the idea that someone could walk on your private land, but because I grew up with this philosophy, I find ‘No Trespassing’ signs shocking! So, when you’re traveling up the beautiful West Coast, get off the beaten path, stop in a grocery store (a common one is ICA), pick up some stuff for a picnic, and explore the countryside to your heart’s content. Signs indicating something of historical interest (the symbol looks like the swirly “apple” symbol on an Apple keyboard) are always a good bet. You’ll be doing something very Swedish! Enjoy!

  41. I’m a New Zealander living in Sweden and it has definitely stolen my heart, you will have an AMAZING time I am sure. The weather has been fantastic these past few weeks so I hope it carries on for you. Get prepared to eat! My mum bought her
    ‘Big jeans’ the second time she visited in preparation for all the cakes. Swedes have a daily tradition called Fika, which is basically taking a moment to eat something, usually cake but can be a sandwich and have a cup of coffee.
    This is my favourite Swedish tradition.

  42. Gabrielle, I lived in Gothenburg (actually on an island in the southern archipelago) for 2 yrs in my late twenties. For the task of “curator” you could not be going anywhere better. As much as possible, ditch that car and walk around the center of the city. Then, the historic parts, and Slottskogen, and Botaniska Tradgar’n. After all the travel you’ve done in Europe I’m sure you have good instincts and will gravitate to interesting areas. There is an old bathhouse in the heart of Haga, that I cannot remember the name of, but has beautiful frescoes inside. You should poke into as many alleys and corners as possible – there is so much art and craft tucked away, as it really is a university town as much as a world-class city with excellent industry.
    We lived on an island called Branno, which is super simple to get to on public transport, it is also beautiful and historic – Viking leaders used to meet there annually, and I can’t recommend enough that you take a half day or so and make that visit. The tram from the city to the shore also goes through a residential neighborhood called Majorna that had some of our favorite little cafes and restaurants. There are excellent museums, including “stadmuseet” a historical museum of the region. The whole place is a designers dream. Don’t miss the big department stores and even the mall either – I’m serious! Its nowhere near as annoying as American malls!
    Really, its a city that can keep you PLENTY busy. Avoid the car. I’m so jealous. And happy anniversary.

  43. You’re lucky, the West Coast is absolutely wonderful and the archipelago is stunning! There are plenty of idyllic small towns (Smögen for instance). Make sure you eat crawfish, you’ll be there in the middle of the season.

  44. Another swedish reader but living in south of France. Crayfishparty in August is à must, get yourself invited to the Volvopeople ones but beware of the snapps and ridiculous songs. You will enjoy Sweden, the food and the people!

  45. Oh, happy, happy wishes! I am so very sorry to miss this. I love the Swedish West Coast, called the Golden Coast and wish you a wonderful, wonderful trip! I’ll cross fingers for you that the weather stays this nice! I’m sure the Swedish tourist board has given you a great itinery and wonder if it will include Smogen – lovely! Huge wishes! So, wish we could have been there at the same time!

  46. I hope you have a wonderful time! I am married to a Swede and have completely fallen for Sweden and its people. We are spending our summer here this year and it has been nothing short of glorious. I am happy to see you posting about this place that is close to my heart. You have to experience a fika while here — the swedish tradition of coffee and a sweet treat — often a kanel bulle (cinnamon bun). You can fika any time of day and its best done with others. Its one of the greatest swedish traditions. Jag älskar Sverige :)

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