1st September 2018No Comments

Oslo: Small and mighty

Oslo. What can I say? This city is a special place, because it’s still very young and has so much potential. Lots of regeneration and energy is transforming this city so I’m excited to see its progress. On our short trip here, it rained pretty much every day with one of the days having torrential rain! Not so different from London then…

Oslo is mainly renowned for the Nobel Peace Prize and most recently the Freedom Forum. So lots about humanity and helping others. We got the chance to make our way around and see a bit of old and new Oslo and I have to say we really loved it.

To See

Operahuset Oslo — In other words the Opera house. This was like the Southbank Centre but much bigger and all about the design of the building. Both the inside and the outside of the building can be used — the inside for Ballet and Opera in a clean and contemporary setting with the roof providing amazing views of the city from all angles. We met with someone who led the project of redesigning it several years ago and they explained the thinking behind it all. The design came from the essence of being on a journey, so you can walk all around the roof of the building and have a different experience from each point which will of course be different to someone else. A truly phenomenal place even if it was raining!

Ekebergparken — The national park overlooking the city. Like the other Scandinavian cities we had to explore the outdoors. Ekebergparken was literally on the edge of the city and was a really nice trail to walk around, with lots of sculptures and contemporary art hidden along the path ways. We had the smell of wet woodland at twilight hour and it was really nice. Lots of runners and evening walkers.

Nobel Peace Centre — Of course we had to visit! This world renowned award has a house for all of its beliefs and achievements so I was extra excited to visit. Funnily enough, they had a temporary exhibition on about something that I feel heavily about: Refugees and displacement. Lots of video, photography and installations that reflected their stories and feelings about being torn from home which was actually quite emotional. The history of the Nobel Peace Prize and all that had won it was eye opening to the amazing people and their efforts to better the world. Truly amazing.

Sognsvann — As usual we went on our hunt for the beautiful outdoors that Scandinavia is so known for. It was rainy and drizzly and we’d already got soaked the day before so had to psych ourselves up for another wet day. A place very popular with runners, it’s a massive lake with lots of woodland around it and just a calm and serene view from all angles. There’s a few places dotted around for picnicking and bathing, so you can imagine how nice it is when it’s warm and sunny. Just a really nice outdoor place to walk, talk and get in the way of runners.

Holmenkollen Ski jump and Museum — We don’t ski, neither have we ever tried but we just decided to go and learn about it at the very least. The ski jump is a little bit outside the city by train and quite a hilly walk up so not the nicest thing on a drizzly day.

To Eat and Drink

Stock — This was a random find whilst out and about in the wind and rain. In Oslo, most places will stop serving food between a certain time to separate lunch and dinner and to prep for the evening. We managed to catch this place serving just in time and so glad! I don’t remember anything I ate apart from the Fish soup. It was literally mind-blowing — bite sized pieces of white fish, prawns, squid and mussels in a light soup. It was so fresh and wholesome, just what we needed after being wind chapped! They also do great gin cocktails.

Restaurant Eik — This little place was right around the corner to where we were staying another small plates type of place. The menu changes weekly along with the wine selection that can be paired with each meal. We went for a good mix of food and each was put together really well and equally well presented. We asked a lot about the wine pairings and the lady looking after us was really knowledgeable about which regions the wine was sourced and why it complemented that particular dish. The restaurant was buzzing and quietened as the evening went on, but the overall ambience felt like we were in a slightly modernised restaurant scene from a 90s film.

Fuglen — Breakfast was normally the time to visit specialist coffee places and Fuglen was no exception. A long and thin coffee shop with dark, glossy wood interiors and golden lighting features. It had a classical feel but still contemporary in its design. Of course a strong coffee and cinnamon bun, we were good to go!

Tim Wendelboe — This micro-roastery houses a small coffee shop that serves up specialist coffees and that’s it. You choose coffee by what kind of flavours you like and then how you’d like it made. Their wholesale business is run out of this small space and all coffees are available buy by the bag. Serious coffee at its finest.

Mathallen — Food halls are clearly a thing so we visited this one down the road to Tim Wendelboe. It’s a good 15–20 minute walk so maybe down the road is an understatement. Lots of choice here so we went for Nordic fish and chips, dumplings and gelato to finish off. If you’re a foodie this is yet another haven to try!

Baker Nordby — We kept walking past this place every day and stared at the cakes and pastries in the window. When we did go in we went full throttle and got three whole pastries. Sugar fiends much? Coffee was good, pastries even better. We found it was quite a popular lunch place for nearby office workers for toasted sandwiches and coffee.

Grand Cafe — We came to this place the day before and they were fully booked so booked for the next evening. The food was vary similar to Restaurant Eik in that they served up small plates with unusual combinations of ingredients. The presentation was also similar but a bit more quirky, with a side coming in a tiny saucepan, bread and butter in a wooden box and cutlery stacked neatly in a special holder. We got talking to the lady looking after us who turned out be a Scotswoman living in Oslo with her Norwegian husband. She gave us a really honest insight into life in Norway and how it differed from the U.K — let’s just say she’s glad to be in Oslo!

General tips and experiences

Opening times — Most places stop serving food by 10pm so it’s quite hard to find food that’s fresh and healthy after this time. That’s not to say they’re not open, they just don’t serve food.

People — Again this is a diverse city but maybe not as much as Stockholm and Copenhagen yet. There’s a shared love of the outdoors and quite a homely feeling about everyone we interacted with. The city in general isn’t crowded at all, with most streets free of cars by 8 or 9pm!

The City in general — Oslo feels like a young city in the middle of change and innovation with lots of energy. Yet it has a global status through the Nobel Peace prize and most recently the Freedom Forum.

1st September 2018No Comments

Copenhagen: The great Danes

The next journey was to Sweden’s neighbours and long term rivals — Denmark. Stockholm is the larger city of the two, but Copenhagen still packed a punch!

Whilst the Danes are included under Scandinavia, it’s not their design that comes to mind. Most recently their claim to fame has been for the idea of ‘Hygge’, aka ‘that warm fuzzy feeling.’ I also remember my mum buying those blue tins with the biscuits in cupcake cases when I was a kid — they were the ‘posh’ biscuits that came out when we had guests over. Anyone remember those? No? Anyway, here’s some of what we saw, ate and drank in Copenhagen!

To See

Tivoli Gardens — Never seen anything like this! The gardens house a massive vintage amusement park with rides, game booths, food stalls and restaurants. There’s a lot of different events from children’s dance performances to even Parkour! You could easily spend a few hours here just on the rides and games.

Copenhagen Contemporary — Museum of modern art that is monumental in size and overlooks the waterside. With that much space it was no surprise to see huge works by Anselm Kiefer. There were also a variety of installations by some well known names in the art world. It was just a really pleasant experience to be able to walk around in such a large, well-designed space.

Louisiana — This is probably most similar to Artipelag in Stockholm where it’s a contemporary art centre situated outside of the city. There is lots to see here and each room leads you on to the next, taking you around the entire building. We saw an extensive exhibition of work by south african artist, William Kentridge amongst others. Again we explored the outdoor area with lots of green and the water close by. A really nice place to take in some art, have some lunch and chill by the waterside.

Christiana — Also known as ‘Free town’, this part of the city sits almost on its own little island. We were in awe of this place because it operates as its own town, without any relation or interference from Danish government. The town is made up of a mix of homemade houses, workshops, organic eateries, and art galleries. Everyone just lives there free, no cars are allowed and you can walk around and end up in someones back yard, but they’re not bothered by it. Not only that, the smoking or selling of the green stuff is illegal in Denmark but completely legal in Christiania so you literally have a load of little stalls selling it in the centre! Christiania is somewhere you’ll never forget.

To Eat and Drink

DOP — Hipster hotdogs is the best I can describe these! It’s like a traditional burger van visually but really well designed and branded. Lots of options of sides and hotdog types to choose from, including a tofu hotdog or pickled veg with mash as a side. Great as a snack to refuel whilst window shopping!

Gorrilla — We booked for dinner and there’s lots I can say about this place. The restaurant is situated in what I can only describe is an old industrial area that’s got a mix of cool restaurants and cafés and Cash and Carrys. They’re all single glazed windows and doors, with neon signs, wood and plants everywhere. Wish I took more photos! The food here is all small plates that have a down to earth feel about them. Well put together, with a good wine list.

Mad & Kaffee (Food & Coffee) — It was recommended to us so we rocked up late morning in steady rain and it was bursting at the seams. Full inside and queues outside. Once we finally made it in, it was very cosy and of course the coffee was amazing. Brunch is served slightly differently — you tick the separate bits and pieces you’d like from breads and pastries to vegetables and cakes. Everything comes on a chopping board in various little bowls or just on the board, so you just go for it however you like! Great place but not so sure about the queues.

Prolog Coffee — We had a brief stop here for breakfast and loved the workshop vibe. Just real simple wooden interior, makeshift shelves and old school stools and tables. It’s quite small and is perfectly slotted in, sharing space with a company that makes some pretty cool terrariums. Great specialist artisan coffee with a simple pastry did the trick.

Coffee Collective — There were a couple of these in the city and went to the one in Godthåbsvej. This branch has a micro roastery taking up one side of the shop with the rest made into an open plan café with some nice brunch food. Great place to work from or catch up on emails from. There’s something homely about it that makes you just want to spend a few hours there.

Geist — Oh where do I start. This was a real treat for us and it didn’t disappoint! The atmosphere and decor was moody — black doorways, coves and stairs, with dark neutral walls and a touch of black marble. The light further added to the drama. A lit bit on the bougie side but what the hell. So the food, the food, the food. Literally art from the way it was served on the plate to how the ingredients were used to add shape and colour. Really simple dishes with only a few ingredients but damn they were good. Oh and the wine list is extensive so you have plenty to choose from.

Copenhagen Street Food — Just next door to the modern art museum is a massive Street food market housed inside with an extensive outdoor area. It was a sunny day and heaving with people but the vibe was good. Everyone was just out socialising and enjoying the food and drink. There’s literally every type of cuisine topped with a few bars across the market. We tried a little of a few types of food but my favourite has to be a place called Latienda, serving vegan latino food — plaintain chips with a choice of three burgers that were packed with flavour!

General tips and experiences

G0Boat — If you want to see the city by water, you have the option to rent a little solar powered motor boat to drive yourself around a route on the main canal. There’s a table in the centre so lots of groups were taking their own food and drinks on to have dinner and socialise. It works out to approximately £50 for an hour which is plenty of time to make it round.

Illhums Borghus — This is basically the Liberty of Copenhagen and feels quite traditional but contemporary at the same time. This is also where I found a HAY Design pop up to obsess over and lots of amazing design to be see.

People — We ended up being in Copenhagen on a Danish Bank Holiday (Can’t remember the exact name!) and we got to see the Danes in their true colours. They’re lively, like to have fun and a bit friendlier than the Swedes (Sorry Stockholm). Again we saw diversity with lots of different cultures living and working in the city.

Global events — Copenhagen is the host city for the Copenhagen Fashion Summit that addresses issues about Sustainability in the Fashion industry. It’s got bigger and bigger as interest grows.

Copenhagen has lots to offer and this is just a snippet of our time there!

31st August 2018No Comments

Stockholm: It’s not all meatballs!

Only 6 months in to 2017 and me and the husband had already done a lot of travelling around. Whilst I’m no travel blogger, I’d like to share the experiences through my eyes of places we’ve seen, food we’ve eaten and coffee we drank. So I bring you — Stockholm!

Scandinavia has long been the epitome of minimal, contemporary design that just oozes cool. Stockholm is known for its pared back style with clean lines. They just know what they’re doing. Period. Sweden to me brings images of snowy treetops, oversize scarves and all black ensembles. Stockholm in May however was completely different — but still amazing. Its down to earth and well designed as you’d imagine, just with better coffee and amazing architecture. But here’s lowdown of what we got up to…

To See
Fotografiska — Photography exhibition space that’s known for having some high profile names exhibit there. We caught two exhibitions on our visit; One about the role of Horses through history, their symbolism and importance. Followed by work from artists Cooper and Gorfer, who blur the lines between photography and painting with their ethereal portraits. Using actual people they meet as their muses, they tell their stories in the most unique ways.

Moderna Museet — As the name suggests, museum of contemporary art. The biggest exhibition was on artist and designer, Josef Frank. A retrospective look at his work throughout his career from architecture and furniture design to textile design and paintings. A great place to enjoy the space as well as grab a snack in the outdoor garden.

Artipelag — This was a random find and is accessed by bus just outside the main city. But it was so worth it! Whilst this is a contemporary cultural centre that showcases all kinds of design, we mainly went for the building itself and its surroundings. The clean lines and angles with floor to ceiling windows and brightness we a stark contrast to its surroundings of lush woodland. We just had to go and explore so had a little hike around the entire area before settling on an area right next to the water. It was pure bliss.

Kulturhuset Stadsteatern— The best way to explain this is that it’s the equivalent of the Southbank Centre but with more art. You can find the latest in Art, Design, Dance and Literature to peruse at your leisure. Plus there’s a shopping centre kind of attached to it so you can always go shopping. We caught a small exhibition on the ‘dark side’ of nature — death, symbolism, war. It was different take on things with a mix of fashion, video and art.

To Eat and Drink

Hermans — A great Vegan/Vegetarian buffet place that came highly rated, so we rocked up in the peak of lunchtime and it was pretty packed but we braved it anyway. After climbing some rocky steps we made it to a canteen style area with a load of outdoor seating a few steps down (a load of school benches in rows) and a small buffet room with everything from salads and pastas to noodles and curries. With an ‘All you can eat’ policy, what’s not to love?

Johan and Nyström — This is basically the Starbucks of Sweden but with WAY better coffee. Specialist and artisan but commercial at the same time. There’s lots of these shops around but the one went to had indoor seating all based in the windowsills with cushions and lots of light. The blends have quirky names and sold in beans or can be ground — I bought Bourbon Jungle, dark roasted and a blend of African and South American beans ‘cos I like mine stroooong. Plus they’re all about the Fair trade and sustainability so all round a good’un.

AtSix — I originally booked in advance after doing some searching around whilst planning our trip and we had no idea until we got there, that this hotel had just recently been inaugurated! ‘Tipsy Tea’ is a boozy take on the traditional Afternoon Tea that serves up cocktails infused with tea, with all your usual trimmings. But — even the nibbles are inventive. A milky, coconut rum shot in a ‘glass’ made of chocolate biscuit, blue (literally) raspberry macaroons and homemade nutella.

Hobo Hotel — This is right next door to AtSix and couldn’t be more different. Sustainability and looking after the environment is a key ideal in Sweden and Hobo uphold this at every level. There’s even an urban garden in the lobby that grows herbs that are used in the dishes and cocktails. Plus a seriously good RnB selection.

Aifur — Now whilst we try not to have meat in our diet daily, we do allow ourselves if some dishes come highly recommended. Plus, YOLO right? Aifur is one of the only restaurants that cook up meals from the Viking era. They really set the scene from low candle lighting and faux hide covering the seats, to the staff wearing traditional attire and a horn blown to indicate your arrival to the rest of the restaurant. Yes — it got announced to everyone that we had arrived and where we’d come from with a round of applause. Meat heavy menu but some seriously good stuff — Honey roasted dwarf chicken, Rack of Lamb ribs and the Charcuterie style tasting board are a must!

SMAK — With SMAK translating to ‘Taste’, the menu is unique in that they don’t go by start, main and dessert. Instead they go by flavour — Chilli, Hazelnut, Garlic, Coriander with those flavours being dominant in each but paired with other things. ‘Elderflower’ for example, was grilled chicken and pointed cabbage with a herby, elderflower soup and elderflower jelly. You choose between 3–7 small plates both savoury and sweet — definitely worth it.

Meatballs for the People — In the trendy SoFo area (Southern area of Södermalm) we popped in for a quick lunch with a Swedish classic. Far from the IKEA offering, Meatballs for the People use organic meats and aim to use local produce as much as possible. There’s even a map telling you where everything is sourced from across Sweden. In true hipster style, everything is repurposed and relaxed with cutlery on tables and free crispbread and butter. We went for the classic meatballs with mash and gravy plus a meatball salad for good measure and it was YUM. Great place to walk in for a quick but filling lunch.

Chokladkoppen — In the old town, this little place overlooked the square, nestled between other equally small and cute cafés and restaurants. I saw raving reviews about their Hot Chocolate so naturally, had to try. The classic hot chocolate came in a massive cup the size of a small bowl — a lot of hot chocolate but oh so good! But this is in keeping with the Swedish tradition of ‘Fika’ (explained below). This will easily serve as a dessert or afternoon snack in itself, you don’t even need the vast amount of pastries they also serve there!

General tips and experiences

Fika — This is a Swedish tradition to go for coffee and cake, definitely my kind of vibe! So it’s more to explain the act of going than a physical object of that makes sense.

People — We naturally interacted with lots of people everywhere we went and found the city to be more divers than we thought and saw there’s a few different cultures residing in Stockholm. We spoke to a few that aren’t native to Sweden and one point that kept coming up is how the Swedes aren’t the most friendly or open and so they’ve found it difficult to make friends, find work or generally meet people.

Mosebacke Design district — All things art and design can be found in the western side of Södermalm. This was recently named and founded as part of Stockholm Design week and you’ll find lots of local designers and makers with studios or shops here. Everything from vintage records and furniture design, to a trendy pizza and beer spot and product design can be found here — true Swedish design.

Sustainability — This is something that seems to be ingrained in society and practised through everything the Swedes do. Nothing is wasted, everything is about looking after the environment and is instilled from a young age. Anything recyclable, sustainable and eco-friendly is a thumbs up here.

So there you have it — all the best highlights from our trip to Stockholm!