Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wanderlust - a great travel store in Vancouver

Christmas is almost here and you just might be engaged in some last minute Christmas shopping. I was recently in the Kitsilano neighbourhood in downtown Vancouver, shopping for globes for my kids (sssh! don't tell them!). The store I visited was Wanderlust, an establishment located on 1929 West 4th Avenue, just off Burrard Street. And what a wonderful store!

Yes, they had the globes I was looking for, and they also had enough travel gear and gadgets to satisfy anyone with a hankering for travel. Bags, pouches, suitcases, maps, books, adapters, pouches, water bottles, snack boxes, luggage tags, and every other thing you could think of. It's a regular wonderland for those of us who love to shop for travel-related goods. I saw a lot of stuff in there that I wanted for Christmas too! (One of those cross-body bags, maybe... oh yeah...).

So, if you're anywhere near Vancouver, check out Wanderlust. You can even shop online via the store's website. The staff was friendly and helpful, and the store allows you to browse to your heart's content. Highly recommended!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Visiting the amusement park Gröna Lund in Stockholm, Sweden

On my most recent trip to Sweden with my kids in July this year, we spent a few days in Stockholm and for the first time the kids got to visit the grand amusement park there: Gröna Lund. Like any visit to an amusement park with kids it was both tons of fun, and rather exhausting. The weather was amazing: blue sky and sunshine, and actually rather too hot (something that doesn't happen often in Sweden!). The temperature was around 30 degrees Celsius by midday, and that made it quite a sweaty visit with a serious need for cold drinks and sunscreen!

Gröna Lund is an old amusement park: it was originally founded in 1883, and features attractions and rides ranging from an old-school carousel and bumper cars, to the crazy-looking rollercoaster "Insane" and the 80 meter tall "Fritt Fall" (Giant Drop).

The rides and attractions for smaller children are all found in a separate section of the park, making it easy for families to find their way around. In this section, my kids thoroughly enjoyed rides like the carousel, the Tea Cups, "Lyktan" (Family Free Fall Tower), the Flying Elephants, and the kiddie rollercoaster "Nyckelpigan" (The Ladybug).
The kids going all the way up "Lyktan".
They also had a great time on some of the more "grown up" rides in the other part of the park. The dark and (moderately) scary ride on "Blå Tåget" (Ghost Train) was a favourite, and my son had a lot of fun on the Octopus as well. Since the kids seemed to be enjoying some more "daring" fare, I decided to take them on "Vilda Musen" (Family Coaster), a roller coaster I remembered from my own childhood visits to Gröna Lund. The ride was a big hit with my 11 year old son (he was just mad he couldn't go for a second ride right away), but my 7 year old daughter was in tears afterwards: not one of my better parenting moments. Her comment when I asked her if she didn't enjoy at least PART of the ride: "The first hill up was fun, after that it was all horrible".
Riding the Tea Cups!
We also bought special tickets for the "Spökhuset" (Haunted House) with real, live people dressed up as various frightening creatures and monsters provide the scares. However, we only made it past the threshold before my son decided that he had enough: we had to make a quick exit out the way we came! Too scary for younger kids (just as the signs warned us). Oh well. Maybe next time.

The children also enjoyed the clown's performing in the open areas of the amusement park: juggling and riding unicycles. They had some tasty-sticky cotton candy, as well as waffles from one of the local restaurants.

Since it was such a hot day, spending time in lineups was a bit of a chore, but we managed it. We didn't try any of the games, but my niece managed to win a giant (and I mean giant) box of chocolates. They were a little worse for wear by the time we headed home because of the heat!

All in all, we had a terrific time at Gröna Lund, and I suspect the kids will want to go back next time we visit Stockholm!

  • Gröna Lund is located in the Djurgården-area of Stockholm. It's easy to get to, and on this visit we got there using the "Hop On, Hop Off" boat, which meant we also got a great view of downtown Stockholm. Check out the details for the "Hop On, Hop Off" boats and buses here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Some photos from our latest trip to Sweden

I haven't been posting a lot lately, and the main reason is that I've been on holidays with my kids in Sweden. It was a fantastic visit this year, and the weather was truly spectacular. Sweden experienced a heat-wave: 25-30 degrees Celsius (and more!) day after day after day. I don't think I've ever experienced such an extended period of hot weather while visiting my home country. At times, it was almost too much of a good thing, but hey: I'm not really complaining!

Writeups to follow, specifically on our visit to the amusement park Gröna Lund in Stockholm, but for now, here are some beautiful photos from our trip.

First up: a couple of beautiful kittens from our visit to the farm in Rismyrliden. These playful and friendly cuties kept my kids happy for quite a while.

And here are some gorgeous shots from around my parents' place in Burvik. It's truly one of my favourite places in the world.

Photos by me, and my husband Doug Haskins.

Monday, June 2, 2014

15 summer-reading tips for traveling parents (and young adults)

In a recent post, I listed some books that my kids have enjoyed recently, and other books I am planning to share with them soon. This time, I'm making a list of books for parents, and in some cases for young adult readers. These are all books that I have read and loved recently, and I hope you can find some good book tips here!

Whether you read hardcovers, paperbacks, or on a Kindle (which is how I do most of my reading these days), books are a wonderful thing to bring along when you're traveling with kids. And if you find yourself in a comfy chair, or on a sunny beach... well, a book can come in handy too.

The Warlord Chronicles, by Bernard Cornwell
The Winter King, Enemy of God, and Excalibur, are the three titles in this trilogy by prolific author Bernard Cornwell. This is his take on the King Arthur-story, and it is an excellent, and in many ways very original version of what might have happened. A real page-turner, and a great peek into life in ancient Britain as well.

The Iron King: Book 1 in "The Accursed Kings"-series, by Maurice Druon
Druon's books about the medieval French kings are solidly based in history, but they are also very much page-turner-fiction. I first started reading them because George R.R. Martin, the author of A Song of Ice and Fire (AKA Game of Thrones), recommended them and cited them as inspiration for his own stories. Murder, intrigue, love, war... it's all here. These are the titles available in English right now, with another (The Lily and the Lion) being released later this year.
  • The Iron King
  • The Strangled Queen
  • The Poisoned Crown
  • The Royal Succession
  • The She-Wolf

The Foundation Series, by Isaac Asimov
Asimov's books about The Foundation are classic science-fiction. There's rollicking space adventure, a Galactic empire, rebellion, space battles, alien planets, and a search for mankind's "mythical" origin-planet. I am a self-confessed sci-fi lover, and this series of books is always worth a read, or a re-read. The titles in the series are:
  • Prelude to Foundation
  • Forward the Foundation
  • Foundation
  • Foundation and Empire
  • Second Foundation
  • Foundation's Edge
  • Foundation and Earth

The Earthsea Quartet, by Ursula K. Le Guin
This year I re-read Ursula K. Le Guin's books about Earthsea. I loved these books as a teenager, and found that they have stood the test of time: the prose is still exceptionally beautiful, the stories are gripping, and the characters original and believable in the midst of dragons and magic. They are a great reading experience for both young adults and adults.

Red Shift, by Alan Garner
To quote the sales blurb: "Three separate stories, three utterly different lives, distant in time and yet strangely linked to a single place, the mysterious, looming outcrop known as Mow Cop, and a single object, the blunt head of a stone axe: all these come together in Alan Garner’s extraordinary Red Shift." This book by by Alan Garner is a twisting, trippy and hard-to-describe tale that winds through three different historical times, all set in the same place. It's a story that I first read in my teens, but it has stayed with me over the years. Fantasy/history/poetry... there are shades of all three in this story.

Life, by Keith Richards
This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read, regardless of rock'n'roll stardom. Keith Richards knows how to spin a tale, and his life story - from the post-war bomb-craters of Britain, to the heights of Rolling Stones' fame - is a page turner. There is lots here about his love of music, his relationship with Mick Jagger, and much more. This is a book I'd recommend to anyone, whether they're a fan of Keith's music or not.

It's So Easy: and other lies, by Duff McKagan
Biographies by rock'n'roll legends must include tales of debauchery, and this one does but that's not the main focus of the story. Written by the bassplayer for Guns N' Roses, this is a very well-told story about working your way up to the top of rock'n'roll, while simultaneously destroying yourself with drugs and fast-living. The redemption is that he does emerge on the other side, alive. And along the way, there's a lot of inside-stories from the Seattle music scene, as well as Guns N' Roses behind the scenes. If you have any interest in the music of the late 80s and early 90s, this is a must-read.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks
I found this book very hard to put down, and while I liked the movie based on the book, the book is indeed a very different kind of story. Yes, it's about mankind surviving (with difficulty) a zombie-infection, but there's a lot of depth and humanity in the stories here. Each chapter is a short story, with a different person talking about what happened to them during this "near-Armageddon". It's very well-written, and easy to read.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - by Laura Hillenbrand
This story about a man who survived years of starvation and torture as a prisoner of war during World War 2 is an extremely gripping true story. It's made even better because it doesn't just speak about his captivity, but how his life was affected by that captivity, and how he eventually manages to overcome the pain and darkness it left him with.

Cloud Atlas: A Novel, by David Mitchell
A real mind-twister of a story, this book weaves together storylines about several different people in several different times: past, present, and future. The essence of the story is about how we affect people around us, and how we are shaped by the past and can influence the future by how we choose to act. It's science fiction-ish, with real heart and soul and poetry.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
"From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon..." Yep, Tina Fey made me laugh out loud (literally) throughout this book. It's insightful, hilariously funny, and piercingly truthful.

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
Without a doubt this is my favourite Dickens' story. (Well, this and A Christmas Carol!) Adventure, love, mystery, French Revolution, secrets, lies... Dickens doesn't get much better than this.

Song of Ice & Fire, by George R.R. Martin
George R.R. Martin's massive, raw, and often shockingly brutal fantasy-tale is a real marvel. It might not be for everyone - the unflinching brutality and the way characters you care about tend to die turns some people off - but there's a real power and originality in Martin's writing that is extremely engaging. Now, if he'd only finish writing the next installment already....Titles in this series so far:
  • A Game of Thrones
  • A Clash of Kings
  • A Storm of Swords
  • A Feast for Crows
  • A Dance with Dragons

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
In my opinion, Alexandre Dumas' classic tale of revenge is one of the best revenge stories ever told. It's a sprawling and rich story, with so much tragedy, heartbreak, love, sorrow and redemption that it's enough to take your breath away. I've re-read this book a few times, and it always reminds me that some classics are classics for a very good reason.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Funny, hilarious, and absolutely gloriously original - Douglas Adams' take on science fiction, science, and the universe is a modern classic. This is a book for adults that young adults might also find irresistible. The "trilogy of four books" makes for great reading anytime, anywhere.