Top things to do in Stockholm, Sweden

Top things to do in Stockholm, Sweden

Things to do in Stockholm, Sweden

I visited Stockholm in October 2016, it was my first time there and there are some highlights you should not miss.

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is part of a Baltic archipelago which has about 24,000 islands. Stockholm itself only stands on 14 of these islands. The city has over 50 bridges with cobblestone streets, multi-colored buildings and amazing architecture.

The Vasa

This is one of the Top Tips on TripAdvisor for Stockholm. The Vasa was a Swedish warship built between 1626 and 1628. The ship sank after sailing about 1,500m into her maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. The ship was built on the specifications of a previous ship which had a row of guns. The King at the time wanted 2 rows of guns on the Vasa, This made the ship very top-heavy without any changes being made to the design. In the 1950s and 60s the ship was raised and the museum today shows how this was done. The Vasa now sits on full display, restored to its original glory. When I was visiting I thought this was just going to be a ship and a story… I was very wrong. It is so impressive to see and you could easily spend a few hours here.

If you are at the Vasa when you are in Stockholm, you might want to visit the ABBA / Swedish Music museum which is also nearby.

Djurgarten

Djurgården or the Royal Game Park is one of the mentioned islands in central Stockholm. It is easily accessible and you could easily walk it from the central train station in about 25 minutes. Djurgården has historical buildings, statues, monuments, museums, galleries and so much more. There is even an amusement park Gröna Lund. The walks through the area are very impressive and you get good views of the city from there also. It is extremely popular as a location and over 10 million visitors per year visit Djurgården.

Try Herring from a street cart

When I heard that there was a cart in Stockholm selling herring and that it was very popular I was sceptical. Firstly I had never actually tried herring. Secondly, it was from a cart. So, on trying the first bite I was hooked (excuse the pun). It is served with a type of mustard sauce and is on toast. Within a few minutes it was gone but worth trying. Since tasting the herring in Stockholm I managed to get it in Ireland, more or a Polish version, but still as tasty. If you are in Stockholm you must try herring.

View from Skinnarviksberget

In every city you will have a good viewing point. Paris has the Eiffel tower, London her the Eye and Stockholm has Skinnarviksberget. To get to Skinnarviksberget by metro you will need to get to the Zinkensdamm metro stop and from there it is only a short walk to the viewing point. There is a small climb so having decent shoes will help – heels, probably not a good idea !

Skinnarviksberget will give you wonderful views over the city and if you are a photographer, it’s very good near the blue hour!

Visit Old Town

The Old Town in Stockholm is also known as Gamla Stan. This is the historic heart of Stockholm. The Old Town is one of the favorite areas of Stockholm with it’s medieval streets and the Royal Palace. Much of this area is car free so it is a joy to walk around and enjoy. Gamla Stan is actually 3 of Stockholm’s islands, namely Stadsholmen, Riddarholmen and Helgeandsholmen. Stadsholmen being the largest of the three islands. This was one of my favourite parts of Stockholm.

It is a great place to enjoy Fika which is a concept in Swedish culture basically meaning “to have coffee”. Best when accompanied with pastries. In Sweden these pastries such as cinnamon buns are often referred to as fikabröd or “fika bread”. One of my favourites was a cardamom bun or Kardemummabullar. Delicious!

Place to Stay

If you are looking for a hotel in Stockholm I highly recommend the Radisson Blue Viking Hotel. It is very central, right by the train and bus station. It also has excellent staff and the very best breakfast – a real Swedish style start to the day.  The Radisson Blu Viking is also only minutes away from all the major shopping areas such as Drottninggatan, Bibliotekstan, Stureplan and the iconic NK department store.

The Radisson Viking also has a wonderful Skybar with great views of the city.

If you have time you can also take in a ferry cruise, which will bring you around the many areas of the archipelago.

Stockholm is a wonderful city with so much to see and do. I will certainly be back and I would love to see the city during the summer as it gets quite chilly in late October.

Pre-flight Airline Safety Announcements (Should the Truth be included?)

Pre-flight Airline Safety Announcements (Should the Truth be included?)

Everyone knows the pre-flight airline safety announcements…. What you should and should not do on the flight, as well as what to do in an emergency. But would it not be better if the truth was thrown in also for a more realistic airline safety announcements.

As a little bit of fun, it just might go a little like this….

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are very welcome abroad your flight today, on board this (insert aircraft type here) series aircraft.

To fasten your seatbelt …. In fact if anybody by now does not know how to fasten their seatbelt please leave the plane now, as you don’t deserve to be on a plane.

This aircraft has 8 emergency exits – 2 at the front , one left , one right , 2 at the rear , one left , one right and 4 over wing exits 2 left , 2 right. It should be fun watching all 300 of ye scrambling for a gap barely able to fit one person , especially if the wings are on fire and you have to find an alternate exit.

In the sudden loss of cabin pressure, at about 39,000 feet, your lungs may puncture and blood vessels on your skin will burst almost immediately being exposed to a huge pressure difference no to mention temperatures as cold as -50 C. Oxygen masks will drop from the panel above your heads.  If you are still conscious , pull on the mask to start the flow of oxygen.  Stop screaming, place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.  Oxygen will continue to flow even if the bag is not fully inflated. Oh by the way, there’s only about 12 minutes of oxygen in those passenger tanks, sorry!

In the unlikely event of us landing on water (very unlikely as our journey today is 90% over land today and in all probability we will be landing sideways in a field going at 670kph) … your life jacket is under your seat.  Plunging at speed towards the ground, the G Forces of 8 G mean the in all reality you will not even be able to reach for your lifejackets as your body will weigh 8 times its normal weight.  If you do manage to get them place it over your head, tie the straps at the front.  Do not inflate the lifejacket inside the aircraft as this will jam you into your seat and you will just have to watch all the sensible people leave the aircraft from your seat.

The lifejackets has a light and a whistle to attract attention …. as if 3 miles of burning wreckage won’t get you enough attention.

Please read the safety card in your seat pocket for further reassurance.

We hope you enjoy your flight.”

I don’t think this new style airline safety announcement will take-off (excuse the pun).

In truth, the airline safety record these days is very good and millions of people travel on aircraft without incident. I love flying and I never fear going on a flight, quite the opposite. The above actually came to me on a flight so it is actually dark humour on my part.

 

Top 5 Things to Do in Christchurch, New Zealand

Top 5 Things to Do in Christchurch, New Zealand

My Top 5 things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand has had it’s share of troubles in the past few years and I visited here in 2011 and 2014. In 2011 we were not able to access the city due to the damage. In 2014 we were able to access the city centre and we found that the residents of Christchurch were Most welcoming. Although certain parts of the city were restricted during our visit, we still had a busy three days here. You should find a lot more than 5 things to do in Christchurch and we would have loved to extend our three days visit.

Even after these huge events there are still plenty of things to do in Christchurch, and these are my Top 5 Things to do in Christchurch, in no particular preference…

Take a Tram Ride

The ticket shop for the Christchurch tram was located only a few minutes around the corner from where we stayed, at the Novotel Christchurch. The Tram actually drives through the shopping mall where the tickets are sold, which is an ingenious feat of engineering when you see it.  Much of the tram infrastructure was damaged in the earthquakes but this line from New Regents Street to the Botanical Gardens.

Christchurch Tram

There is excellent commentary on board and you certainly learn a lot about Christchurch and it’s history.  The ticket is hop on, hop off and is great value for the day – this should certainly be one of your 5 things to do in Christchurch.

 

 

See the Botanical Gardens

At the end of the Tram trip we arrived at the botanical gardens. The gardens are located on the River Avon and welcome over 1 million visitors per year. There are many walking trails and you could easily spend a few hours here. One of the highlights is the Native New Zealand gardens with stunning ferns and native plants. Also, don’t forget to take a trip to the Visitors Centre which was opened in April 2014 and encompasses a cafe with delicious food and botanically themed gift shop which has lots of very nice gifts to bring home. The visitors centre is also a hub for the operational side of the Gardens, with a working nursery, potting shed, herbarium and reference library. If you enjoy plants, nature or just seeing something different then the Christchurch Botanical Gardens should be one of your 5 things to do in Christchurch.

Go Punting on the Avon

Of all the items on my ‘5 things to do in Christchurch’ list, this was one of the most relaxing. We noticed a few signs along the river for Punting. Now, I never punted in my life, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turned out to be a relaxing and a memorable experience. On a chilly July afternoon (it’s New Zealand’s winter), the temperature was about 8C. We arrived at the offices for ‘Punting on the Avon’ and we were welcomed by a gent in 1920s style clothing. Having paid a small fee, which I felt was great value, we were welcomed on-board and we were supplied with a nice warm blanket and 2 hot water bottles, which was a really nice touch.

Punting on the Avon, Christchurch, New Zealand

The punting trip was about an hour from the time we arrived and we got to see the River Avon at a very relaxed pace, while listening to some local history along the way. This was one of the highlights of the trip to Christchurch, as well as being the most relaxing.

Visit the ReStart Mall

One of the terrible outcomes of the earthquakes were that many of the buildings in Christchurch were damaged or demolished. These included shopping malls which were unsafe or unusable. Therefore retail outlets used an ingenious method for getting back info business. Using huge steel shipping containers, shops and outlets have been able to re-open with great effect.

Restart Mall, Christchurch, New Zealand

Not only is the ReStart mall a colourful and enjoyable place to shop but the stores which are there give great value. We did some of the best shopping in the ReStart mall. You can find great value in shoes, clothes, and souvenirs. The shops here are also different ; not the usual stock you see elsehwere. Also, check out the Hummingbird Café for great coffee and food. The breakfast is very good!

Eat at Cafe Valentino

After the walking, shopping, exploring and punting you will be hungry. If you are looking for good food in Christchurch, you have to eat at Cafe Valentino. Great food, extensive menu and great staff. The mussels were on special on one of the evenings and on the other it was a chicken dish.

Christchurch in conclusion

Christchurch, New Zealand is one of the places which, before I went, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Furthermore, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it due to the sad events of the earthquakes. To me it was just the place we were flying into. But, having been there, having seen the city, having met the friendliest of people… I look forward to returning.

It is a great place to visit and I wish I had more time to spend there and with the great people of Christchurch!

 

POI Map for Christchurch, New Zealand

The map below shows the above 5 locations which may help with your trip to Christchurch.

Re-start Mall

Re-start Mall

Botanical Gardens, Christchurch

Botanical Gardens, Christchurch

Punting on the Avon

Punting on the Avon

Cafe Valentinos Restaurant

Cafe Valentinos Restaurant

Christchurch Tram

Christchurch Tram

A Day in London

A Day in London

I recently had a full day in London with no plans other than to explore areas I had not been to before. The city is a wonderful spot to visit and I have been there about 15-20 times before (not really sure to be honest).

This time I wanted to see parts of the city I had not seen so I started with a walk.

Kensington Gardens

I had been to Hyde Park before but this time I entered from the Queensway side and on this entry you get to see Kensington Gardens. It is a really nicely laid out house and gardens, with cafe and a tour of the house. At times you would hardly believe you are in London or for that matter a capital city as the pas is very much reduced. The the gardens with fountains are well worth seeing as they would be in full colour during the summer, even in Mid April they were impressive.

Kensington Gardens
Coffee and Cake in Harrods

Harrods

A friend told me about the cafe at Harrods, saying that they served Arabic Coffee (something I have only had once but wanted to try again). I entered Harrods and was bombarded by an air of opulence and I could feel the money in my wallet shake with nervous tension. I made my way to the first cafe I could find, on the 5th floor, couldn’t see Arabic Coffee so ordered cake and a cappuccino. It was only afterwards I found out that there are 5 cafes in Harrods and the one I was looking for was called the Mezze Lounge … so maybe next time!

What to Eat

London has many find eateries, with thousands of restaurants to choose from. Below are 3 of my favourites which I tried on this trip.

Joy King Lau

Located just off Leister Square this authentic restaurant is normal full of local Chinese families enjoying lunch. The selection of Dim Sum and authentic Chinese dishes is excellent. The service can come across as abrupt but in reality it is just the level of efficient service required with the level of business they get. If you are going, try the grilled Cheung Fun or the Steamed Pork Buns – delicious.

Eat Tokyo

I discovered this place by accident on the way to a West End show. The menu is very authentic and covers everything from ramen to sushi and sashimi – if you are enjoying a meal here, ask for the recommended plum wine which is all the way from a small town in Japan.

Pho

I last tasted good Vietnamese cuisine in Melbourne and finding Pho was a really enjoyable experience. The dishes are very enjoyable whether in a broth or as a stir fry. Before you leave you have to try a Ca-Phe (or Vietnamese coffee) it is a real eye opener and now my absolute favourite coffee.

Cocochan

This restaurant is located in a really trendy part of town, James Street just off Bond Street. Cocochan serves asian fusion and has a wide range of Dim Sum and main courses. if you are eating here, try one of the amazing cocktails or cocktails as they really compliment the food. I love the duck spring rolls here.

Cocochan

Map

I have outlined all the places in London which are mentioned above on this interactive map.

Joy King Lau

Joy King Lau

Address: 3 Leicester St, London WC2H 7BL, United Kingdom
Phone:+44 20 7437 1132

Pho, Covent Garden

Pho, 65A Long Acre, London WC2E 9JD, United Kingdom

Eat Tokyo

Eat Tokyo

Address

27 Catherine St, Covent Garden, London

Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, London

Harrods

Harrods

Address
87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL, UK

Cocochan

Cocochan

38-40 James St, London W1U 1EU, United Kingdom

Cockpit view of Boeing 747 Landing at Kai Tak, Hong Kong

Cockpit view of Boeing 747 Landing at Kai Tak, Hong Kong

This is a great video of a Boeing 747 landing at the now decommissioned Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong.

I actually flew from Hong Kong International (Chek Lap Kok) to Kai Tak and landed a 737-800 back in April 2011 which was brilliant and in this video I recognise Chequerboard Hill where I started the turn in to land at Kai Tak flying over the buildings. … my flight however was in a fully equipped 737 simulator and not the real thing, but the flight sim experience in Singapore was realistic enough.

This video shows the full view from approach, turn, and finals.

5 Things to do an see between Christchurch and Dunedin

5 Things to do an see between Christchurch and Dunedin

Timaru Gardens

Timaru is a great stopping off point between Christchurch and Dunedin. We ate in a nice cafe on Stafford Street – the only place open on a bank holiday. One of the points mentioned in the Rough Guide was Timaru Gardens. These botanical gardens are splendidly maintained, with a good few walks around a lake and tree lined hillocks.  There are also some roses to be seen during the summer months and Timaru also has an annual rose festival. It is certainly worth stopping in Timaru for these gardens – great for stretching the legs en-route to Dunedin.

 

Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are located about 76km north of Dunedin. These huge spherical stones are located on a stretch of Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on New Zealand’s Otago coast. These large boulders are what are known as septarian concretions exposed through shore-line erosion. They originally formed as ancient sea-floor sediments during the early Paleocene, over 60 million years ago. They are amazing to see and worth visiting – best though if the tide is out!

 

Accommodation in Dunedin: 315 Euro Hotel, Dunedin

Once you arrive in Dunedin, you may need accommodation. The 315 Euro Hotel is a nice hotel located up an alley, so might be hard to find. The checkin was handled very well and we checked into a studio room which was nice, bright and airy. It included facilities such as hairdryer, tea coffee facilities, and a small kitchen area. There was lots of space in room and it had Sky TV which was nice. Other facilites in the complex included a sitting area just inside the main doors and a laundry (handy when travelling). The only negative is that the curtains in the room could be a bit thicker!

Link: http://www.eurodunedin.co.nz/

 

Monarch Wildlife Cruises – Peninsula Cruise

One of the best ways to see of the Otago Peninsula and it’s wildlife is by taking a cruise on the Otago Harbour. We went with Monarch Cruises – located on the wharf just behind the chinese Gardens in Dunedin. This Wildlife Cruise includes the spectacular Taiaroa Head and a scenic Otago Peninsula bus tour. You should also pay the extra few dollars for the guided tour of the award-winning Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve, Penguin Place. Worth Doing !

Link : http://www.wildlife.co.nz/tour_two.html

 

Chinese Gardens Dunedin

The Chinese Gardens in Dunedin are of an authentic Chinese design and was built by the Dunedin Chinese Garden Trust has built the Garden and upon its completion, handed over to Dunedin City Council.  The Garden is an example of a late Ming, early Ching Dynasty Scholar’s Garden, surrounded by a four metre perimeter wall and features a lake with traditional walkways and stonework. The design of the Chinese Garden was laid out to use authentic Chinese materials and was built by a team of craftsmen from Shanghai. Hand-made wooden buildings, hand-made tiles, lattice-work and hand-finished granite paving stones adorn these authentic exquisite gardens. The Chinese Gardens are open from 10 am to 5 pm, 7 days per week and 7pm to 9pm on Wednesdays.

Link : http://www.dunedin.govt.nz/facilities/dunedin-chinese-garden

The Beautiful Timaru Gardens

The Beautiful Timaru Gardens