Archive for May, 2015

Working in Stockholm!

May 14, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice week. The past two days have been pretty interesting, and I’ve also been a bit sick. It’s probably because I haven’t been sleeping that much or that well. I had a few late nights the past week, and also my body has not properly adjusted to the late sunsets and early sun rises. WP_20150514_17_08_44_ProYesterday I was wide awake at 4:30 AM so I started working. I went early to a very nice breakfast at the hotel. Then I had two meetings. I walked back from the meetings and visited some of the clothing stores and other outlets. I had lunch at a sushi place in a mall. It was pretty good! I kept working and work took me to a great department store Åhléns.

WP_20150514_09_05_02_ProIn the middle of the market in the basement of Åhléns I started to feel really sick and tired. I knew it wasn’t going to be possible to do any more work, so I left. I went back to the hotel and took a shower, which helped me feel a little better. WP_20150514_16_40_17_ProI had dinner at the hotel restaurant which was okay. I actually think it was good but I couldn’t taste very well because I can’t smell things.

This morning I woke up a little later at 8 am feeling fine but not great. I went to the other supermarket and then to a few hotels. WP_20150514_13_51_54_ProI took tunnelbana, the T (Stockholm also has a T too, like Boston, but it works a little better) to Gamla Stan, the old city, where I ate lunch. It was kind of cool but there were lots of tourists and I was feeling irritable so I didn’t enjoy it that much. After lunch I worked more. The sun came out so I sat outside in the sun, which helped a little. For dinner I had an early dinner at a famous (?) restaurant behind the opera house. I had swedish meatballs. Then I walked back to my hotel and I’m here now. I’m going to get in bed soon. Love, Annie

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Goodbye Stavanger, Hej Stockholm

May 12, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well. Yestrerday was a great day in Stavanger. I went to my meetings and had time to visit the petrol museum in between. WP_20150511_16_05_24_ProIt was interesting to learn all about the industry. Of course, the museum was well done with a 3D movie and great exhibits. I had a really nice evening that included a wonderful meal of melon and ham, gluten free pasta with awesome sauce, and berries and ice cream.

WP_20150512_11_41_04_ProI’m in the hotel in Stockholm, the last location of the trip. I slept in a little today in Stavanger and packed up, had breakfast at the hotel, made some work phone calls, walked around the town, and then took the bus to the airport. The second flight from Oslo was delayed a little, but not too bad.

I took the Arlanda Express train from the airport to downtown Stockholm, which was awesome. WP_20150512_19_47_47_ProIt took 20 minutes and the train goes almost 130 mph. The hotel is close to the train station and in a good location. I also got a room upgrade. I have been craving tapas for a while, so I went to get some tapas for dinner. It was raining and I sat near the window. Tomorrow I have some meetings and then some good old fashioned survey work. Back to the supermarkets!

Love, Annie

Oi Stavanger!

May 10, 2015

Hi Family and Friends,

Happy Mothers Day!! Hope you had a nice weekend. The past two days have been awesome. WP_20150509_12_46_43_ProYesterday morning, I woke up extremely early (4:15 am) to drive back to Palanga airport and catch the flights to Stavanger. It was two short flights with a layover in Copenhagen, which I was happy about because I like CPH.

I drank a green juice and had a sandwich at Joe and the Juice for breakfast. WP_20150509_14_24_52_ProI arrived in Stavanger and took the bus to the hotel. It was a cloudy day. I found the hotel and unpacked and took care of some work things on the computer. The room is better than I expected it would be, a bit bigger.

I walked around the city center a little bit and found very cute stores and live music. WP_20150509_15_36_56_ProIt was jazz and probably had something to do with the Maijazz (May Jazz) festival that’s going on here. Then I stopped for lunch at a cool cafe and ate the special pulled pork sandwich. The woman working there was Czech and she gave me some good tips for Stavanger.

It started raining pretty hard and I didn’t want to leave, so I also had a warm brownie and coffee and read my magazine. WP_20150510_09_51_21_ProIt was still rainy and freezing so I went back to my hotel to get better socks and an umbrella, and went back out to explore. It was so rainy and windy that it was miserable to walk around and fortunately I found the Maritime Museum.

I spent an hour learning about the maritime history of Stavanger, which is fascinating. WP_20150510_12_08_35_ProThen I walked around the old town a little more, but didn’t last long and headed back to the hotel and watched some you tube videos for a while.

Then I went back out to find a drink. I ended up at a bar with some live music. I walked in because it was really crowded. I didn’t love the music but I did make some friends. WP_20150510_12_25_24_ProFor dinner I was invited to join in a lovely home cooked meal! A pretty special treat when I’m on survey and interesting to see how Norwegians actually live.

This morning I woke up early, ate breakfast at the hotel, and headed out to take the ferry and then a bus to Preikestolen for a hike. WP_20150510_12_32_28_ProPreikestolen is also called “pulpit rock”. It overlooks Lysefjord. It was an absolutely gorgeous hike, I was able to refil my water bottle with cold mountain water. I hung out at the top for a while. WP_20150510_12_40_25_ProOn the ferry to the place you catch the bus to Preikestolen, I bumped into some of the friends from last night, two girls from the Los Angeles who work together and also travel together. We chatted for a while but didn’t hike together.

WP_20150510_13_36_24_ProThe hike was hard work but not too bad. The round trip took me about three and a half hours. There were plenty of people on the trail but it was not too crowded. On the way down, I slipped WP_20150510_13_59_05_Proand slammed my toe against a rock in the worst way (serves me right for not wearing the proper footwear) and now part of the nail is already black and I have a hard time walking. It really started to hurt after I finished my descent and has just gotten worse all afternoon. Eek. WP_20150510_15_08_55_ProI hope it’s better tomorrow because it hurt to put on shoes this afternoon.

While I was waiting for the ferry home, I got to see some young boys  fishing. They caught a bunch of fish and were cleaning them out. It was really cool to see.

I got back from the hike, showered, and walked around the town a little bit. I ate a fish cake and wine, and then went to a Thai restaurant with a Romanian woman working there for dinner.

Tomorrow, work!

Love, Annie

Road Trip: Riga and Kaunas

May 8, 2015

Hi Family and Friends,

Happy Friday! Today I drove from Klaipeda to Riga (Latvia), then to Kaunas (2nd largest city in Lithuania), and then back to Klaipeda. It was a very full day. I was on the road from 9 am – 10:15 pm and and drove around 500 mi. (800 km) in a big triangular loop. WP_20150508_11_09_27_ProI used one and a half tanks of gas. I managed to arrive back at the hotel just as it was becoming super dark. This was good because I prefer not to drive on unfamiliar roads in the dark. Fortunately It gets dark very late here. It was an ambitious day and while I would have liked to spend more time in Riga and in Kaunas, I’m happy I made it all around.

The first leg of the trip was the longest, it took almost four hours to get to Riga. There was a lot of construction on the road around the Latvian border that took a while to get through. WP_20150508_12_41_38_ProThe drive, not just on this leg but on the next one too, had long stretches of road with only two lanes, one lane for each way, and a lot of trucks. There was a lot of truck dodging and passing. There was also a lot of traffic on the road leading into Riga. But when I finally got to the city, I got an amazing parking space in the old city and walked around and then ate local fish. WP_20150508_13_55_54_ProIt was very pleasant! At 2 pm sharp, it was time to head to Vilnius, another three ish drive.

But by the time I got back into Lithuania, I realized that Vilnius might be a little far, especially after hitting more construction and delays, so I decided to revise my plan and instead headed to Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. Vilnius is three hours away from Klaipeda, while Kaunas is only two hours away. WP_20150508_17_55_15_ProI figured, correctly, that I wouldn’t want to drive another three hours in the evening. I arrived in Kaunas at 5:30 pm, and had a coffee near my parking space. You don’t need to pay for parking after 6 pm in Kaunas, so I decided to risk not paying. I didn’t get any ticket!

Kaunas doesn’t get too many foreign tourists so the women in the coffee shop were interested in what I was doing there. WP_20150508_18_59_59_ProI was told to walk down to the old city and that’s where I could get the best drink and snacks and view. I was told it would take 20 minutes. I’ve heard this before in Lithuania a few times. It’s funny, when you talk to a Lithuanian person, and they tell you “it will take 20 minutes” it really takes 10 minutes, maybe 15. This was true today also. It’s the opposite of what happens with one of my friends who tells me all the time “oh it will take me just 20 minutes to get there” but I know I shouldn’t expect him until at least 45.

WP_20150508_19_44_57_ProIn Old Town Kaunas I enjoyed two (not very strong, and also small, but still delicious) beers, some snacks (dinner), and sat in the sun and enjoyed the late afternoon. I really liked Kaunas.

Then I walked around the regular city center and down few other streets, and then back to my car and drove back to Klaipeda, where I am now. I left for Klaipeda at 8:15 pm, and arrived at 10:15.

Have a nice weekend! Love, Annie

Working in Lithuania

May 7, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Not too much to report for today – it was just a working day. Breakfast is included at the hotel so I had a nice breakfast and read the news. Then I went to two meetings. WP_20150507_12_13_53_ProBetween the meetings I had time to visit a cool store with cork shoes and bags from Portugal. I didn’t buy anything but chatted with the store owner for a while. The store owner is a lady from Klaipeda who had spent some time in Portugal. Now she sells products from Portugal in a store in Lithuania. I don’t know Lithuanian and she didn’t know much English, but we were able to communicate a little in Portuguese!

The second meeting went better than the first. In the first, they didn’t want to talk to me. In the second, I met with a young guy who provided good information and then we chatted about kite-surfing. WP_20150507_15_13_57_ProThere is an amazing spot for kite surfing not far from Klaipeda, near Nida and the Russian border. It’s going to become a big deal in the next 10 years. After those meetings I got my hair washed and dried at a salon. It was a nice luxury and was very inexpensive at less than half of the price for the same service in the United States.

I had lunch and then got stood up for my third meeting. WP_20150507_20_32_00_ProI had a laugh with the receptionist at the hotel where my meeting was supposed to be, and then she helped me figure out alternative businesses to meet with. I ended up having a productive afternoon. Then I went to the new mall to check it out and got gelato, and went back to my hotel to relax. For dinner I ate at a cool restaurant called Momo Grill. I had delicious steak and wine.

Now I am back at the hotel and intend to watch Parks and Rec. I’m planning to wake up early for a fun road trip to Latvia tomorrow.

Love, Annie

Sveiki Klaipėda!

May 6, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well. Today was a great full day. I took the metro to the Copenhagen airport in this morning. It was so easy and cost only 36 DKK, which is around 6 dollars. WP_20150506_16_35_37_ProI just walked from the hotel to metro, got on, and in 20 minutes I was checked in. I got a nice pat down at airport security. I was at the airport early, so I had a coffee and then a green juice and sandwich at Joe and the Juice (a Danish chain I’ve come to enjoy) and walked around the airport.

I got some Lakrids (liqorice) as gifts to give during my meetings in Lithuania.WP_20150506_16_42_21_Pro Danish people (Scandinavian people in general, I think) really seem to like licorice. There are designer licorice companies that sell licorice and other things with chocolate around them alllll over Copenhagen (and Reykjavik too). They also have salted licorice. WP_20150506_16_58_43_ProThe chocolate ones are pretty good. The salted must be an acquired taste.

I was one of 5 women on the flight to Lithuania, which was pretty interesting. At the rental car desk at Palanga aiport, I got an upgrade so I’ll be cruising around in a sweet Jetta.WP_20150506_17_26_49_Pro The guy at the rental desk had a really great pen – it was one of those cheap cvs-type ones, but really good. He said he didn’t know where you could buy it, he got it from his friend. WP_20150506_15_28_55_ProJust as I finished gushing about how awesome I thought it was for 5 minutes, I clicked it the wrong way and the top flew off and the spring flew across the room. Noooo. We had quite a laugh about it, but I felt so badly.

WP_20150506_16_35_05_ProWith GPS, the drive to the hotel was easy and took about half an hour. The radio stations were totally on point! They had some nice vocal trance. I felt like I was back in high school driving around to vocal trance. The hotel is pretty good and my room is larger than both of the other hotel rooms I’ve had so far put together, x2. WP_20150506_18_48_06_ProThis says less about the hotel room here, and more about the tiny closet rooms in Reykjavik and Copenhagen. It’s nice to have some space to dance around. There’s also a nespresso machine.

WP_20150506_18_39_03_ProI settled in and set up the meetings for tomorrow and then set out on a walk around Klaipeda. The city is really awesome. By the time I got to the old city area it was 5ish so I drank some Lithuanian beer(s) and ate a beer snacks assortment. I liked the cheese, enjoy like the smoked pigs ears. WP_20150506_18_52_25_ProWP_20150506_19_08_30_ProAfter that I walked around more and every street was cuter than the last one.

My first impression of the city is extremely good. It’s a small port city, and a few times a month cruise ships stop there. There is a cruise ship here now but still I did not notice big crowds. I found a great park and saw an adorable puppy that was too frightened to come over to me, and found a bar on a boat and had a beer on the boat while people rowed by. WP_20150506_19_34_52_ProI told one of my colleagues that it was like the Santa Cruz do Sul (little town in southern Brazil) of Eastern Europe. Then I got some waters at a supermarket and walked back to the hotel.

It didn’t get dark until about 10:30! Tomorrow I’ll get up early to get to my meetings.

Love, Annie

Work and fun in Copenhagen

May 5, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope your week has started out well. Just as the title of this post describes, the past few days have been filled with work and fun. To be honest there has been some moodiness as well. I’ve come to realize that the weather heavily influences my mood. Yesterday WP_20150504_14_15_14_ProI slept late and biked to a cafe where I worked and ate smørrebrød for brunch. I liked the one with fish the best. In the afternoon, I made my way to the Carlsberg brewery, also on the bike. It was pretty interesting and I drank Jacobson beer, which is not sold in the United States. WP_20150504_15_28_16_ProIt’s brewed on the Carlsberg property. I didn’t drink all of the beers that came with my ticket to the brewery because I needed to bike home and didn’t want to be too drunk for that. After the brewery, I returned my rental bike (sad but actually kind of a relief as I was starting to get pretty sore) and walked around the neighborhood near my hotel. WP_20150504_14_56_57_ProI wasn’t feeling that great, probably because I had a beer at lunch and then it was raining out. I bought some shampoo (the hotel didn’t provide good stuff) and went back and did a spa afternoon. That made me feel a lot better.

I went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant and ate green salad and some extremely rich gnocchi with slow roasted pork and so much cheese. WP_20150505_14_16_38_ProYummm. It was incredible. At dinner I played on my iPad and thought about a great kickstarter idea. I can’t tell you yet though.

This morning I had a big day. I woke up early, ate breakfast in the hotel, and went to three meetings that were all finished by 2:30 pm. In the middle of the meetings I did some work at a bakery where I drank coffee and tried a marzipan bakery treat. Yum. WP_20150505_16_22_28_ProAfter the meetings, I went back to the market area Torvehallerne to get some tapas and a glass of white wine (because that’s what you do). The chorizo was my favorite. I ended up sitting for a long time talking with this old Danish guy who was a regular at the tapas bar and we drank more glasses of wine and I was pretty plastered by 4:30 in the afternoon. We philosophized and really enjoyed life together at the tapas bar. WP_20150505_18_09_42_ProI learned that there’s a Danish word for the concept of wanting to eat something delicious even though you are not hungry. Seems like it’s different than just a craving. It’s cool to learn these kinds of concepts in different languages, and it’s cool WP_20150505_18_21_35_Pro(and discouraging, but also hopeful) to consider that our thoughts and the way that we understand the world are both dictated and limited by the languages we speak. That’s partly why I’m jealous of multilingual people. They are equipped with more ways in which to make sense of the world.

I parted ways with my new friend, super happy about the whole experience, and wandered around Torvehallerne for a while longer and got a ginger juice/ smoothie for the vitamins. WP_20150505_19_17_34_ProThen I wandered around the old streets of Copenhagen looking in the stores and also trying not to be a drunk idiot and of course got kind of lost. I finally found my way back to the hotel and that’s where I am now. I had a headache, which was to be expected, but I ate some crisps and drank water and took some Excedrin, which is just now kicking in and I am back to 85%. I checked in for my flight tomorrow to Lithuania and now I am considering where to do for dinner. It’s raining pretty hard and I’m not hungry even though it’s after 9:00 pm. I think i’m going to stay in and eat my fruit and nut bar, pack, and try to watch the last season of Parks and Rec.

Love, Annie

Sunday in Copenhagen

May 3, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Sunday! Last night turned out to be really fun. I ate at a sushi restaurant and then headed to a cocktail bar that was recommended by the bartenders at the sushi place. WP_20150503_16_18_23_ProThe cocktail bar was one of those “concept” cocktail bars – very fancy. I intended to have only one drink but then I made friends with the bartenders and started talking to the people around me. One of the people there was very important in the Copenhagen drinking scene – he owned a gin company! WP_20150503_12_42_16_ProHe knew Boston because he had lectured about gin at Harvard. I got back to the hotel and all they had were BBQ flavored chips. They had sold out of the sea salt ones.

This morning I got up feeling surprisingly good and rented a bike. I got some coffee and then explored on the bike looking for a brunch spot. I ended up at this really cool market area called Torvehallerne where I ate some fish cakes and fancy juices. I encountered a super organic lotions store with great packaging and when I saw it I thought to myself “ooohhhh shit” because I am always tempted by that stuff. WP_20150503_16_15_00_ProThe lady who worked there saw me sigh in dismay and started to laugh because usually people don’t have such a negative reaction to this store. Anyway I spoke with her for a while and she washed and scrubbed my hands and I bought some body oil lotion. Of course.

WP_20150503_15_13_25_ProAfter that I went to the Danish Jewish  Museum, which was fantastic. I learned a lot. Then I went to Tivoli, and I’m not sure what all the fuss is about Tivoli. It’s an amusement park, and it seems like a cool place to bring little kids. I biked around more and then went to the hotel to relax.

For dinner I walked into a restaurant called Geist, which was very swanky. I went in because it was crowded and a lot of the other places I looked up were either empty or closed. WP_20150503_16_37_42_ProI definitely didn’t understand what I was getting into – I was really looking for a burger and some interesting beer – but it turned out for the best. I sat at the bar and drank nice cocktails and ate spinach and then some fish with ravioli made from Gruyere cheese and fennel inside. It was delicious. I sat next to a girl Sara who works at the restaurant but it was her night off. We had an awesome night and drank and chatted about life.

It’s drizzling out and I’m a little concerned about the rental bike, which is outside. I was told to just leave it on the street though, so i’m trying not to think about it.

It’s been an awesome few days off and I am excited to do some work tomorrow. Love, Annie

Goodbye Reykjavik, Hej Copenhagen

May 2, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

WP_20150501_16_32_37_ProHope you are having a nice weekend. This morning I woke up at 4:00 am and flew from Reykjavik to Copenhagen. The flight was about three hours. I arrived in Copenhagen at around 1:00 pm and took the train to the center station. WP_20150502_15_55_29_ProI got a little lost trying to walk from the train station to the hotel, so I jumped in a cab. I unpacked at the hotel and went to Nyhavn (pictured) for lunch. Nyhavn is the iconic colorful canal street. WP_20150502_18_55_49_ProIt was a beautiful sunny day and I was lucky to get a table outside. I had salad with salmon on it. Just as I was finishing lunch some live music started. It was three guys with two guitars and drums and they were WP_20150502_18_57_55_Proreally good!! They were Danish but played covers of mostly songs I knew. I got some wine to go (you can do that here) and hung out outside and listened to the band. Then I walked around a lot more WP_20150501_12_45_27_Proand thought about what it would have been like if I were a little girl here in 1943 like in Number the Stars. When I was finished doing that, I wandered over to Christianhavn, and walked WP_20150501_14_12_35_Prothrough Christiania, where drugs are “allowed.” I didn’t intend to do any, I was just curious. They do not allow pictures so I didn’t take any, but sure enough, the “Green Light District” was full of WP_20150501_19_08_07_Prosmoke clouds and people chilling outside. I couldn’t tell if it was mostly tourists … probably was. Now i’m back at the hotel. I tried to watch the news but the only story CNN was covering this hour is the royal baby. Now I’m going to go get some dinner and a drink.

Love, Annie

West Iceland!!

May 1, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are well. Today was really nice. I took a 10.5 hour excursion and it was hands down the most beautiful drive I have ever done in my life. Unfortunately my phone internet isn’t working properly so I don’t have all the pictures to show. Only some teasers like this one and the one below, both of which were taken from an access road in the middle of the West Iceland peninsula. IMG_3289I woke up and picked up a Ford Fiesta from a nice rental place and then set out for West Iceland. In one of my meetings yesterday I was told to forget the “Golden Circle” and head to Snæfellsjökull, a glacier in West Iceland. With each turn, the scenery was more beautiful. I never made it up to the official glacier, but that was okay. I drove most of the way up, but then I didn’t trust my car to be okay in the conditions. You really need a four-wheel drive to do it and the Fiesta, while awesome, was having a hard time on some of the parts of the road. I walked around the glacier area but didn’t see it officially and that was fine. I didn’t want to push my luck as I had many other things going for me today.

Here are some of the things I did: Leaving Reykjavik, I went trough an undersea tunnel (on the way back, I drove around the gulf that I avoided by taking the tunnel. The gulf is very beautiful and great for motorcycling. I stopped for coffee on a roadside stand. I stopped a lot actually to take roadside pictures. I found an icy waterfall and climbed up near it. I passed this big crater and climbed up it and looked inside. It was very much a volcano and felt like it might have been Mars. I used to be terrified of volcanoes but you can’t be if you come to Iceland. I drove around the tip of the West Iceland peninsula and visited the towns of Ólafsvík and Arnarstapi. In Arnarstapi I had some Icelandic soup with lamb and a beer at a little home/restaurant.

IMG_3292I passed this roadside thing where some cars were congregating. It turned out to be a cool cave. I took an impromptu tour of a lava cave that went over 100 feet down. They gave us helmets and flashlights. I didn’t mention that I had my own flashlight in the car. It was actually pretty terrifying and I hoped that if the cave collapsed it would kill me immediately. There was a family from Toronto on the tour, and the kids kept trying to stop the mom from making annoying comments, which I found amusing. The guide, Thor, was a badass. Of course.

When I stopped for gas at the N1 in a town closer to Reykjavik called Borgarnes, I was immediately helped by a man in a bleached hair wig wearing a borat-style bathing suit. He started washing my windows with a spray bottle and rag in a very flamboyant style, and he wanted to pump the gas for me. okay. He was surrounded by a bunch of other guys and they were all filming. Hmmm. I asked him what kind of bet he lost but it turns out he was getting married and i guess this was a bachelor party of sorts. He said he used to work at the gas station. He literally kissed the gas dispenser tube when he took it out of my car. Ughghhh. They made me wave at the cameras. All in all it was pretty hilarious but amidst the sillyness I forgot to get a receipt. Probably can’t expense the gas anyway, so oh well.

I tried to go to Þingvellir, where the tectonic plates are diverting but the road from Borgarnes was impassable, so I didn’t go. Hope to share some more pictures soon. I probably took 100 today. I was too tired to go out again so I ate a smoked salmon thing for dinner at the hotel.  I packed up for the most part and now i need to go to sleep. The flight to Copenhagen is very early tomorrow.

Love, Annie