Archive for the 'Europe' Category

Sláinte!

May 20, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well! Sláinte (pronounced like “slawntcha”) means cheers in Irish, or Gaelic. I’m heading home tomorrow. Today I worked, had a bento box at a Japanese restaurant for lunch, and in the late afternoon got a manicure and massage :)! Feeling really good. For dinner I tried Irish stew, which is also great. It has lamb with potatoes and vegetables.

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Though I always want to explore more, I’m excited to go home after two weeks. It feels like I’ve been on the road a while because I’ve done a ton and learned a lot. It’s been a great reminder of the ups and downs that happen on survey and how exhausting (and rewarding) the work can be. Now I also have a better, fresher understanding of where we can make the data collection more efficient. All great.

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Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Love,
Annie

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Work and Guinness

May 19, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Today was a good working day in Dublin. I had an early morning meeting and then worked in hotels and supermarkets the rest of the day.

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After work I went to the Guinness Storehouse because it’s a thing to do. There’s a Jameson distillery in Dublin as well, but I’ve had enough of whisky distilleries.

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At Guinness, it’s a huge operation. It’s a lesson in brewing the beer and the history of Guinness where you go up and up, and each floor has something new, and ends with a drink at the rooftop bar. Then you walk out through the merchandise. Great model.

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It was cool, but I wasn’t having so much fun because I had a hard time relaxing and enjoying because of the heavy crowds, and was carrying around a heavy laptop bag. Should have expected this on a late Friday afternoon but was still was in a very irritable mood. But then I drank the pint that was included in the cost of admission, then everything turned really awesome all of a sudden.

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After that I walked around Dublin 2 area, had a much-craved burger for dinner (it happens sometimes!) and a nice glass of red wine, and walked home. All in all, a pretty good day! Happy Friday.

Love, Annie

Sligo, Sliabh Liag, Northern Ireland, and Dublin!

May 18, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well, happy Thursday, and hello from Dublin! My hotel is in a good location, and though it’s not a luxury hotel, it’s very well suited to business people with clean, practical rooms, fast internet, and long high top tables in the lobby with outlets that are so well suited for working. High tops are my fave. Here is the River Liffey that runs through Dublin:

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Here’s what’s been going on the past few days. I’ll work backwards. Today was incredibly productive. I sat down for breakfast at 8, started working, and before I knew it, it was after 4. I barely moved. I was in the survey zone, making calls, doing internet research, really killing it, and I also managed to answer a few normal work emails. I am no longer nervous or overwhelmed about the amount of work in front of me here.

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I left my hotel and wandered over to the restaurant through Trinity College campus. The library, which is apparently super, was closed for a book launch, so I’ll visit another time. I ate dinner at The Pigs Ear, which was phenomenal. I had a scallop appetizer and then short ribs. The short ribs dish was so decadent. I also has a glass of delicious light red wine from Cotes du Rhone that was recommended, read my philosophy book, thought up some new rhymes and made myself laugh, and thought about the Social Contract.

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Starting today, I feel like I’ve finally hit the “survey stride” point in the trip (the second through fourth week were always the easiest) so now I’m a little sad it’s almost over. But it will be nice to get back. Yesterday was also productive. I had meetings all morning between the meetings I had quiche, my favorite food, and salad and Matcha tea from a super healthy modern food places in the techie expat area, and then worked all afternoon from a different hotel. In the evening I walked around the city centre, made a reservation at The Pigs Ear, and ate dinner at a place called The Farm, where I had Fish Pie, which I didn’t completely realize was anything other than a joke from the Beatles song Penny Lane. Turns out it’s cooked salmon and mashed potatoes, baked with cheese on top, and a specialty at The Farm. Really good!

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Then I went to meet my friend Angela, who was also in Dublin, but went to the wrong Slattery’s bar! Oops. It was okay though, I had an after dinner drink and chatted with the bartender and an Irish army officer, who had traveled a bit as well and was pretty excited about the Giro d’Italia bike race that was on tv. We talked about politics, of course. Here, people ask me all about Trump and what it’s like in America. In other recent travels after the election, It’s come up less.

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Tuesday, I began in Sligo and ended in Dublin. It was a day of work, travel and fun. I got up super early, finished work, and drove up to the Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland, a detour on my way to Dublin. The distillery tour was great. After Auchentoshan and Bushmills, I now have an excellent understanding of how whisky is made. On the tour there were some older guys taking a morning off from their golf trip. I noticed I gained their respect and interest after explaining to the group why Bourbon barrels from the US, one of the types of barrels used at Bushmills, are so popular for ageing whisky. One reason is that they give a delicious flavor and color to the spirit, and another is because they are inexpensive due not due to low quality but due to high supply.

WP_20170516_009Bourbon barrels cannot be reused so distilleries in Kentucky sell them off more frequently than, for instance, sherry wineries in Spain might sell their barrels. It also helps to explain why the whiskies aged in sherry barrels or French wine barrels are often more expensive. So I chatted with these guys, one pair of brothers and their friend all from Seattle. One of the brothers is apparently a famous NFL referee who has done the last 4 Superbowls 🙂 And the other brother traveled all his life for work. Cool! So we discussed travelling, work, and Bill Belichick. I only had a tiny taste of whisky there because I was driving, but got to pick up some bottles you can only get from the distillery.

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Then I went to Giant’s Causeway, which is also in Bushmills, Ireland, on the coast about 6 minutes away from the distillery. Giant’s causeway is the outcropping of pentagon-shaped rocks on the coastline. It’s pretty wild. There’s a walking route that takes you up a cliff and wow, it’s so beautiful. I also lucked out with the afternoon weather.

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Then I drove to Dublin airport, dropped off the car, and taxi’d to the hotel. The driver was called John F Kennedy and he was cool! I walked around, had a Guinness (it’s good – I’d never actually had one before), learned how in Ireland you have to let the Guinness settle and then the bartender tops it up. Then had okay tapas for dinner.

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On Monday I went to meetings all morning and it was very productive. Later in the afternoon, I visited Sliabh Liag (pronounced like “Sleeve League”). Since it gets dark so late in Ireland right now, it’s possible to do awesome things even if you start late. Great! I was interested in a gin distillery there (rounding out an education on spirits) and got a tour and explanation of how to make gin from a company that wasn’t even in production yet because of working out tax stuff! I learned if want to make gin, you need juniper berries.

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On the drive there I stopped at a roadside restaurant/bar to use the toilet, having consumed a lot of water and coffee. I was in and out and the owner of the restaurant said to me “you have a hard time relaxing, don’t you?” Yes. So then he said, just sit back and relax. And we sat together outside at some tables, chatted, and appreciated the scenery for 15 minutes. Then I was on my way.

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They said there would be cliffs at Sliabh Liag. They weren’t kidding. These may have been more amazing than the Cliffs of Moher and hardly anyone there. I walked up a huge cliff face and it was soo windy at the top. In jeans and the silk shirt I had worn for work, I was not expecting such a hike! But it was okay. There were sheep grazing around the cliffs area and I stepped in so many sheep poops, but cleaned my shoes after.

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I drove back and ate fish and chips for dinner in the town of Killybegs, and felt very at home in the small maritime town. Back at the hotel I had planned an early night in, but then I went down to collect laundry at reception, visited the bar to get a bottle of sparkling water, and somehow that turned into a few glasses of whisky and interesting discussion with an adorable younger bartender and a pretty drunk businessman who seemed to have some interesting stories, but wasn’t able to tell them properly. The last pic is Killybegs.

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I’m very excited for another working day in Dublin tomorrow!

Love, Annie

Limerick and the Cliffs of Moher!

May 14, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well. Happy Mother’s day to the mothers reading this. Today was a fantastic day. I woke up early, but not too early (sometimes I get very aggressive about waking up early and didn’t want to go crazy today) to set out on a journey to the Cliffs of Moher and then Limerick.

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After a nice breakfast, I left the hotel at around quarter to 8 and arrived at the Cliffs of Moher just after 10. The drive was fabulous. The car is fun to drive and there were winding roads and beautiful scenery along the way. There were no big freeways on this leg.

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There are main thoroughfares, and every so often you slow down because there’s a town. At one point, a storm came through and it poured, then got sunny again. The cliffs were awesome as you can see from the pictures. The jumping pic is real!

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After spending an hour and a half walking around the cliffs, I drove to Limerick, to visit the headquarters of Limerick poetry because i love it. I had a nice lunch of fish and chips and cider, and walked around towards the “Limerick Writer’s Center” but when I got there saw nothing.

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I went to the Frank McCourt museum nearby (the Author of Angela’s Ashes). I saw Frank McCourt speak at my high school many years ago and read the book around that time. I’ll need to revisit the book because I was undoubtedly too young to understand everything. The museum is within Frank’s old school.

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In the museum I met the owner and founder, Una, an artist who knew Frank McCourt. I let her know that I had actually come to Limerick to learn more about poetry and rhymes! She recited some Limericks she knew, and I recited some of my own and she liked them!

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And then she called up the head of the Limerick Writers Association and I was able to speak with him a bit about Limericks. 🙂 I asked his advice, what’s the most important thing to think about if you are writing one… ssoooooo cool. He said that for a good limerick most important parts are the rhyme scheme, the wordplay, topicality, and funniness. Mostly, it has to be funny. By inductive reasoning, I believe Irish people value humour quite a bit. BTW that tent below in Limerick looks like a mini Khan Shatyr (the big tent in Astana).

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Then I chilled with this woman for a while and she took me on a tour of the museum. We ended up having a long discussion about languages and cultural terms, then politics, then religious extremism. I explained the American Electoral College, and why Hasidim wear those curls around their face.

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Una taught me more things about Irish culture, so between last night and today, wow. The word Flahulach, “flaw-ho-loch” is describes someone who throws around money, maybe buys everyone a drink at the bar! “Tight” means “mean” or stingy, not a spender.

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She also said that people in Ireland use Gaelic words in everyday speech. like if they want milk at the store, the Gaelic word for Milk might come out. That guy is flahulach! It’s kind of like the way we may use Yiddish words in every speech “stop kvetching.”

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That was all very special. then I drove another 2.5 hours back to Sligo, did some admin/housekeeping things, and had a nice dinner of beet soup (wonder if it will make everything a beautiful purple like those Trader Joes chips 🙂 : ) and chicken and vegetables. Tomorrow will be a day of work!

Here is one Limerick I wrote about Auchentoshan distillery. A Distillery called Auchentoshan / Has a great staff and marvelous potion / This Lowland supplier / Amended my tire / And set a fun Tuesday in Motion! Its not that funny, so I’ll do better to enter one into any limerick contests.

Love, Anniee

Czech this out!

January 7, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday was great and I’m so happy about the decision to visit Prague.

wp_20170106_10_25_12_proIn the morning I took the tram from the hotel past Prague Castle and walked down the large hill past the castle, over the famous Charles Bridge, and through the Jewish Quarter and Old Town. As I walked I drank more gluhwein (mulled wine) which is sold all over the place and stopped in stores along the way because it was so freezing. Prague is extremely beautiful!

wp_20170106_11_34_41_proEverywhere you turn there are buildings with details on them. I had lunch in the Old Town, traditional Goulash and beer. Also, being in the Czech Republic allows for great puns. I ask for the bill at restaurants because I couldn’t ask for the Czech with a straight face. In the afternoon I took the Metro and a bus to the Airport for my flight to Brussels. All very easy. Seems like Prague is very user-friendly, easy to get around and currently pretty inexpensive as well.

wp_20170106_11_29_36_proNow I’m in Brussels, visiting one of my best friends from college! He’s lived here for almost three years but we missed each other when I came here for work last June. We stayed in last night and chilled but will go out tonight. I’m really excited to drink Gueuze, which is kind of like a sour beer!

wp_20170107_10_58_44_proI’m sitting at a real kitchen table writing this blog, which is fantastic. My friend is still sleeping so now I’m going to go out for a walk and get some coffee! Tomorrow I’ll wake up to take an early train to the airport and head home. This has been an incredible vacation and I’m also excited to see you (family and friends 🙂 and go back to work on Monday.

Love, Annie

Auschwitz, Katowice, and Prague

January 5, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Today has been a big day. I woke early to pack and got picked up from the 8:15am to visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration and death camps. My driver was Patrick, a really sweet kid from Krakow and on the hour long drive we discussed funny things about the Polish and English languages, and the weird things different people do in his car. Polish is known to be the most difficult language to learn (for English speakers, maybe for everyone).

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We drove through some pretty tough weather and after an hour arrived in Auschwitz, “Oświęcim” in Polish, which is not just the site of over a million murders, but also a town with a mall, a cinema, houses, etc. I had the tour of the camps Auschwitz I and then Auschwitz II and Birkenau. 

wp_20170105_11_15_25_proIt was interesting to finally visit after learning about the Holocaust and especially this site all my life. The heaviest places on the tour for me were the Birkenau death camp with its wide open spaces and train tracks running into the camp (pictured below), and the only remaining gas chamber and crematorium in Auschwitz, where I saw the very distressing evidence of torture on the walls (not pictured).

wp_20170105_12_08_23_proI already knew about the atrocities, so most of what I learned from this tour aside from what it was like to physically be there were things about logistics and history. Which people went to Auschwitz and when, what parts were built when, what was different about the attitudes of the SS officers towards the prisoners after the Red Army victory in the battle of Stalingrad in 1943, and what happened to Polish people and Jewish people after the camps were liberated. It was freezing on the tour and very windy and snowy at times, but it was obvious that whatever discomfort we felt was nothing compared to the cold the prisoners had to deal with for months on end.

wp_20170105_16_09_46_proAfter the tours, which lasted about 4 hours, Patrick drove me to Katowice, a town about an hour away from Auschwitz and the departure point for my late afternoon bus and train journey to Prague. I had about two hours in Katowice, so walked around a bit and found a family-run pierogi restaurant.

wp_20170105_18_27_46_proI had not tried real pierogis yet in Poland so it was time. I had a nice glass of mulled wine, a mix dish of pierogis (mushroom was my favorite) and then it started snowing really hard so I had another glass of mulled wine and read in the restaurant until the bus.

wp_20170105_21_49_04_proThe bus was more like a little van and the ride to Ostrava, Czech Republic, was about an hour away. At the station in Ostrava, I found an earlier train to Prague. and arrived at 9:30 instead of 11:30 pm. on the train I wrote most of this blog and cleaned out some computer folders. I walked to my hotel from Prague main station and “Czeched” in. The room is very comfortable.

The guy at reception told me a little bit about Prague, helped figure out a plan for walking around tomorrow, and gave an awesome recommendation for a “beer and snacks” place in the old town called Lokal. I walked over there and had a Pilsner beer and one sausage with mustard and rye bread, and cabbage salad.

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So Czech food is very similar to Polish food, maybe even heavier. I noticed on the walk through the town that Prague seems a little “shadier” than Krakow or Warsaw with some people on the streets doing strange things. There are also a lot of drunk students. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep and another big day tomorrow.

Love,

Annie

Kraków!

January 4, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are doing well!! The past two days have been really fun and unexpectedly social!

Yesterday I took the train from Warsaw to Krakow. Took about 3 hours, and was a nice train. I read and dozed off. We passed a lot of trees and farmland. The hotel here in Krakow is nice and the location is fantastic.

wp_20170103_15_16_43_proAfter unpacking, I walked up to Wawel castle area to get some views and that was freezing, windy, and snowy. Then walked around the market square area and drank mulled wine, had some snacks, and went back to my hotel. Then went out to dinner at an iconic and historic restaurant with the guy I met on the train from the airport in Warsaw and his friend from business school. It was a great time!! After dinner we went to a vodka bar and tasted 12 vodkas and shared stories. I’m happy to have these new friends!

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This morning I took a walking tour of Jewish Krakow and learned all about the Ghetto in Krakow and what happened here during ww2, about Oskar Schindler and his factory, and about Jews and Judaism in Krakow and Poland throughout history and today. The guide, “Golden,” was fantastic. The tour company was “Free Walking Tours.” I’d recommend them for sure. I almost quit the tour after an hour because it was so cold, but am so happy to have stuck with it.

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Then I went to a hair salon to get a hair wash and dry 🙂 it was time. Very good quality and Poland is inexpensive for me, so the whole thing with a good tip cost $15! Then for an excellent lunch at a Polish restaurant. I got more hot wine and cabbage rolls kind of like the ones my Bubbie made 🙂 The tastes from Polish food are very similar to the ones we have at Jewish family events. I really love it!

wp_20170104_11_39_14_proI walked around the rest of the afternoon and then met up with a friend of my colleague’s for drinks, dinner at another great, traditional restaurant, and then more drinks! He’s from Poland but lives in Boston so I’m very excited to have another friend in Boston 🙂 I laughed a ton tonight, and deeply, which is pretty rare when I’m on the road (rare enough that I immediately take note when it happens) so that was really special.

wp_20170103_15_57_16_proTomorrow is a big day. I’m heading to a tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau, then to Katowice, where I’ll catch the train through Ostrava, Czech Republic, and finally to Prague for the night.

Love, Annie

Magical History Tour

January 2, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a great day. First stop was the Palace of Culture and Science. I arrived before it opened so went to get a nice espresso and sandwich for breakfast. Then went back to go up to the 30th floor to see Warsaw from above. It was snowy and foggy so there wasn’t much to see but I’m still glad to have went.

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After that I took the metro to the Museum of History of the Polish Jews. I found it informative yet very busy. It wasn’t crowded, but the exhibits were not simple, somewhat hard to follow. Jewish people have lived in Warsaw for a long time. wp_20170102_11_20_34_proBefore WW2 Warsaw was 30% Jewish. Now most have either been killed or left. There were about 400 synagogues, but now there are 2. I also learned that Lodz became a major textile industry hub in the late 1800s. Now it makes sense that my ancestors (and a lot of others) worked in the textile industry when they migrated from Poland to the United States in the early 1900s. wp_20170102_13_08_41_pro

After the museum I walked to the Old Town and for a walking tour of “WW2 Warsaw.” It was freezing but great, very informative. I learned more about how the city was leveled, the two uprisings, and the reconstruction. Then ate a late lunch of sour rye soup and sausage. Really delicious!

wp_20170102_10_39_23_proThen I went on a Polish Vodka tour which was fantastic. We tasted seven kinds of Polish vodkas, a few rye, potato, herbal vodka “for your health” a infused, one made with a medieval recipe, etc. I learned about the history of vodka, history of vodka in Poland, and about drinking customs. Our guide was a real badass. wp_20170102_15_52_50_pro

Also learned that the cabbage and sausage dish I ate yesterday is called “bigos” and each family has a different recipe. And that bigos pairs well with vodka.

Tomorrow I’ll go to Krakow, try pierogi, and am not sure what else!  Hope you are great!!

Love,
Annie

 

“Cześć” and “Dziękuję”

January 1, 2017

Hi Family and Friends,

Those are two Polish words learned today. “Hi” (cheshch) and “Thank you” (jen koo yeh). They are hard to pronounce. I’ve wanted to visit Poland for a long time and am finally here for a personal vacation! The flights were easy. The first one was in the air when it became 2017 and Swiss Air gave everyone a champagne toast. And no one was sitting next to me so it was comfortable.

wp_20170101_17_12_37_proZurich airport was as I had remembered, nice, easy to tell the time, but none of the bathrooms have enough stalls so there is always a line. The second flight from Zurich to Warsaw flew next to the Alps for an hour, which was a fantastic feast of the eyes. The plane landed in Warsaw in the early afternoon and it overcast but not raining.

On the train to the city, I chatted with a guy I met at the ticket machines who was also having an issue buying a ticket. The train tickets are inexpensive and the machines don’t like large bills. One of the train stops is across the street from my hotel. It was really lucky.

Late afternoon I took the tram to the old town to walk around the Old Town. I ate real grilled cheese (literally grilled cheese only, with cranberry sauce (see picture), walked around while drinking hot wine, and then had an awesome bowl with cabbage and sausage. It was really crowded downtown. They had new years fun things set up like a skating rink, craft shops, local foods.

wp_20170101_19_02_15_proIt was beautiful but really cold. I went to get a cappuccino and almost nodded off while drinking it so went back to the hotel. Tomorrow I’ll do a free walking tour of the old city (to see it in the light this time), almost definitely try pierogis and zurek (sour rye soup), and other things are up in the air.

I contacted an informal group that puts on “vodka tours” so hopefully that will work out. It wold involve learning about vodka culture in Poland with some tastings and food pairings. Just last week I learned that broke students from this area of the world may drink vodka+beer+seltzer because that’s a great way to get drunk when money is tight.

Happy new year and hope you have a fantastic, fun, and productive year. “Na zdrowie!” (cheers!)

Love, Annie

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