Thursday, 19 July 2012

Örebro

For the last few months we have been thinking about travelling to visit Aicha's brother Tariq in Örebro, which is around 160km west of Stockholm. Tariq moved to Örebro back in 2010 to study economics at the university and has an apartment there which he shares with his girlfriend Paran. We had not yet decided if or when we would visit however the decision was made for us when Tariq bought Aicha a voucher for her birthday which meant we would need to go to Örebro to redeem it!! The voucher was for entry to a leisure complex which included swimming pools, diving areas, saunas, steam rooms, tanning salons and jacuzzi's....................and luckily for me the voucher was for two!! We decided to go there for a long weekend so I booked Friday off work and we headed there by train on the Thursday evening.


We arrived in Örebro around 9:15pm having been delayed by about an hour in Stockholm. When we boarded the train it was packed full of people and the only seats that we could find were in first class. The journey was approximately two hours and we only had standard tickets but there was no way I was gonna stand the entire time!! We parked up in first class and just waited for someone to move us on......................but no one did!! For the full two hours we sat in comfort! I even had a power point built into my chair which I could plug my charger into so that my phone would not run out of battery. Lately I have been trying to catch up with english TV shows so I used the time watching 'Mock the Week' and 'Would I Lie To You' on the mobile!!


Tariq and Paran met us at the train station then we headed into the town centre for a few drinks. There is a large square in the centre of town where surrounding bars and clubs have transformed it into an outside dining and drinking area. We pitched up at one of the bars and sat there chatting for a couple hours. By the time we left it was about 11pm..............but you wouldn't have known that if you didn't have a watch because it was still light out!!

The next morning we headed to the leisure complex which is called 'Gustavsvik'. It was a basically an indoor water park, but with our vouchers we had access to the relaxation area as well. In there you had a bar with a hot tub in the middle of it, so once you had been down to the swimming pool you could head back upstairs to chill out with a few beers!! There were only a few other people in there so it was nice to relax in peace....................plus it was good to get away from the noise from the swimming pool area! When I did go downstairs I didn't do much swimming though. I headed straight to the water slides and the rapids!!


I felt like a kid again!! There was one slide which shoots you into a large bowl then go round and round before finally falling through a hole in the bottom. It looked like a giant toilet!! The rapids was the one I spent most of my time on though. You climb to the top then you just let the current take you to bottom, through a series of slides and tunnels..................but with so many people going down at once it felt like a giant games of bundles!!! I must have been elbowed and kicked in the head more times than I can remember but it was amazing!! They also had diving boards in the main pool, ranging from 3 meters to 10. I plucked up the courage to jump from the 10 meter board................but I only did it the once as it played havoc with my balls when I hit the water!!! We were there for around 6 hours and even then I didn't want to leave! Before we left I had to have a few more goes on the rapids...................I couldn't resist!! I'm just a big kid at heart really!

The rest of our time in Örebro was spent shopping and seeing the sights. It only a small place but it has some really nice areas. There was some interesting artwork on display as well, one of which was a rotating car................although no-one was really sure what it was supposed to represent! Tariq mentioned that the previous year they had a 50 foot plastic rabbit on display in the square and even to this day he doesn't know what it was for!! Another place we went to was an area called Kumla which had a beautiful man made lake in the middle of it. I was told that the lake and the surrounding landscape were based on a painting but I'm not sure who by. It certainly looked familiar...............






   

Whilst I enjoyed my time in Örebro I'm not sure if I would want to live there as its a bit too quiet for me and, unlike Stockholm, there isn't an awful lot to do. It was a good weekend there none the less and it was great spending time with Tariq and Paran. 

This week has been quite busy although by that I mean outside of work. Everybody in my team is on summer vacation at the moment and I am the only in!! I haven't been just twiddling my thumbs though. I have been working hard but being on your own does mean you can relax a bit as there are no interruptions! Outside of work this week I have been spending my time either playing football or at the movies. Last night I saw 'Prometheus', which a prequel to 'Alien', and its a film I been meaning to see even since I first read about its release. Having seen it though, I found it a little frustrating. That's not to say it's a bad movie because it isn't. It's just that it left a lot of unanswered questions. Whilst it ties up a lot of loose ends from 'Alien', it then goes on to create a whole load of new ones!! Maybe that was the point of the movie, and they have definitely left it open for a sequel of its own.....................but I was hoping my curiosity could have been conquered without having to wait for the next film!

Yesterday I picked my tickets for 'The Dark Knight Rises', which is premiering here on Tuesday night. Now that is a film I cannot wait to see!! I am a massive fan of the new series of Batman films and from what I have read this one is the best of the bunch. Aicha and I are going to make an evening of it as we going to a BBQ beforehand......................roll on Tuesday!!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Happy Birthday Wifey!!

On Friday my wife celebrated her 30th birthday so like the loving husband and true gentleman I am, I decided to treat her to a few things to celebrate this milestone in her life. The idea of turning 30 was playing on her mind a bit so I thought we should do something fun................besides, I think 30 is the new 20 anyway!! Aicha is on a two week break from work at the moment so I decided to book a couple of days off so we could spend her birthday together properly.

I booked us into health spa on the Thursday afternoon for a full body massage then we would be spending the night in a hotel in the city, with dinner in a fancy restaurant booked for the evening. We arrived at the spa around 2pm and spent a couple of hours in there.................and to be honest I didn't want to leave!! I was so relaxed I could have fallen asleep....................which is exactly what Aicha did!! This is the second time I have been to this particular spa and it certainly won't be the last!! Believe or not the thing I enjoyed the most was when I had my hands massaged. It must have something to do with me being a goalkeeper because I didn't realise how tense the muscles in my hands were until then. Next time I go I might just ask for a hand massage...................although if I did they might think I was some sort of weirdo!!

After the spa we headed to the hotel which was located right in the centre of the city in an area called Slussen. Following our trip to the spa we were completely zoned out so we chilled out on the balcony for a couple hours with a few glasses of wine. We had quite a good view of the water from where we were so it was a nice way to relax before we headed out for dinner. I also got the opportunity to showcase my interviewing skill when I asked the birthday girl about her day so far............

video

We then made the short walk into Gamla Stan (Old Town) where were to have dinner at a restaurant called Kryp In. The journey to the restaurant was made all the more interesting by Aicha having to walk along the guttering to avoid getting her heels caught in the cobbled pavement! The restaurant itself was quite cosy but seeing as it was a warm evening we decided to sit outside. We both ordered the Archipelago Mix to start, which was a mix of shrimps, smoked salmon, cheese, dill and red onion served with toast. This was accompanied by the customary alcoholic beverage, with this evenings choice being pear cider. The starter was really nice but the main course what followed was a little bit disappointing. I ordered the roasted duck breast with risotto and Aicha ordered the beef tenderloin, but both unfortunately were under par. My risotto had too much cheese in it and the sauce was too overpowering, which meant that you couldn't really taste the duck. Aicha's beef was not seasoned and was drowned in too much sauce!! I'm not a fussy eater but I was a little peeved about this................suffice to say they did not get a tip!! Still it didn't put a dampener on the evening, because as soon as we left the restaurant we hit a local ice cream parlour then sat down by the water side to watch the world go by................







The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel then checked out. I had arranged to take Aicha shopping as part of her birthday present so it was staight of to Ahlens (thats a Swedish department store to you folks in the UK) to pick up some girly things. Luckily for me Aicha doesn't spend ages in the shops so after a quick visit to the make up department and The Body Shop, my work there was done! Next on the agenda was the hairdressers. Aicha had said that she didn't need many things from the shops but she need a haircut. I personally didn't think she needed one but then again what do I know! After the hairdressers we headed back home where we had a nice family meal in the afternoon and sang happy birthday!

On the Saturday we had a party at the local commune, which is a small hall that can be hired by the surrounding residents. The party kicked off around 5:30pm and was attended by Aicha's family and close friends. We ordered in lebanese food from a catering company and there was plenty of drink following our booze cruise to Finland! The party was a real good laugh and it was great seeing everybody again. We ended up coming home around 11pm, with me feeling a little worse for wear!! Yesterday was a bit of a write off for me as I spent the majority of the day in bed! There was however plenty of food left over as well so I was able to get the better of my hangover munchies!!










Today is Monday so it was back to work for me, but it wasn't such great day as I have got a cold! It has been really hot here recently even though the sun hasn't shining much. The air has been really humid which is why I think have suddenly got this cold. I was also been bitten 3 or 4 times over the weekend by insects so I spent most of today trying to refrain from scratching!! Still, I hear it has been raining none stop back home so I shouldn't complain!!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Booze cruise!!

The last week has been one hectic ride!! On Wednesday I travelled to Copenhagen for the day on business then on Friday Aicha and I took a boat trip to Helsinki. Whilst it was great to go to Copenhagen, I didn't get to see much of it as our offices were only a 5 minute drive from the airport.................the trip to Helsinki on the other hand was much more interesting!!

We left Stockholm at 5pm on Friday afternoon and the trip was due to take around 16 hours. I have done the odd occasional trip to France on the ferry but this was the first time I had been on a proper cruise liner. Although it probably wasn't up there with those luxury cruise liners you expect to see sailing around the Carribean or Mediterranean, it was certainly the best ship I've ever been on!! It was like a floating city! It had shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and a casino.



Once we found our cabin, we chucked the bags in and went to find somewhere to eat. Below the main deck there was a buffet restaurant and considering I had not yet eaten since breakfast this seemed like the best option. Unfortunately for us everyone else had the same idea and the restaurant was fully booked so we ended eating in one of the tapas restaurants. The food there was pretty good but there is nothing like an all you can eat buffet!!

After dinner we did some shopping in the duty free shop. Its Aicha's birthday this week and she is having a party on Saturday so we thought this would be a good opportunity to stock up on some booze.................and they certainly had plenty of it! As we were going round the shop it quickly became apparent that our order was going to be quite large so we decided to postpone buying the booze until the next day.................but to ensure our visit wasn't a wasted journey we stocked up on snacks and drinks for the room!! Our room was pretty basic but it did have a TV so we thought it best to get some supplies for when we were not out and about!!

After chilling in the room for a few hours we decided to check out the night life. There were 2 clubs on the ship, one called Atlantis and the other called the New York Club Lounge. Atlantis was biggest of the two and was the venue for the entertainment acts.................if you want to call it that!! They had a few bands playing but the song choices were shocking!! Some of the songs that were being played were enough to send you to sleep!! After a quick beer we then headed up to the New York bar and I knew instantly that I would enjoy this place a whole lot more.......................because they were playing karaoke!!........................and before you could say "Motown" I was on stage belting out 'Superstition' by Stevie Wonder!


I got a good round of applause when I finished. Not to blow my own trumpet but the singers prior to me were not all that!! There was one girl who was really good and I was glad I didn't have to go after her. Most of the people on the boat were Finish so there were alot of Finish songs being sung................but even in another language you can tell it was dire!! Aicha made the point that her Mum would have been embarrassed by some of the performances from her fellow countrymen! The Finns have a reputation as being heavy drinkers so maybe it was down to the booze!! We enjoyed a few cocktails of our own..................my weapon of choice was a long island ice tea!



The next morning we docked in Helsinki. The ship was due to leave at 5pm so we had pretty much the whole day in the city. There were a few things that we wanted to see however Helsinki is not the biggest of cities and most things were close by therefore by mid-morning we had seen everything!! Helsinki is a really nice place though. It has a different vibe than Stockholm but according to Aicha it is really similar to Gothenburg.........................I haven't been there so I will have to take her word for that!! The rest of the day was spent going around the shopping malls but I did manage to get a few snaps on the whilst we were there. One of the main attractions is Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square, which was quite a cool place. We also saw a man playing music using empty bottles, a woolly mammoth made from empty bottles and a orange man......................with no bottles! We also saw a parade, which at first we had no idea what it was for but it quite quickly became apparent that it was for gay pride. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures which was a shame because there were a few interesting sights!! I probably should have done but we were walking back to the boat by that point and I couldn't be arsed (no pun intended)!!











We got back to the ship quite early so we could book a table in the buffet restaurant. This felt like a good move because by dinner time I was starving!! At the buffet they had everything from sushi to nachos..............plus beer was included!! I decided to go with the cold cuts of chicken and beef...................with lots of sushi!! By the time I was done I could barely move!! I was so full it took about 3 hours before I could look at a piece of food again! I even felt quite nauseous as I walked past the hot food when leaving the buffet! I don't know why I do it! I always look forward to having a buffet meal but I always eat way too much.....................to such an extent that I regret ever having it in the first place!

After some well deserved rest we headed back to the Atlantis bar. As with the previous evening the entertainment wasn't up to much so we decided to hit the casino, with Aicha hitting the slots and me hitting the roulette table. It has been a while since I played roulette but I stuck to my usual routine of playing the dozens on the outside. I changed up 20 euros and quite quickly I was up by 40. I then decided to play the singles and with my first bet I won 72 euros after backing number 8! Aicha then joined me and was impressed to see I was winning! I gave her some chips to play for me and with her first go she won me another 72 euros!! We had a few more spins then I decided to cash in....................150 euros in 10 minutes, not bad going!!

With my winnings I decided to splash out on a few cocktails. We had a really good evening together and we even managed to bust a few moves on the dance floor at the New York Lounge!





The next morning we arrived back in Stockholm where we were picked up by Aicha's mum Inga. The previous day we had bought the booze for Aicha's party so we needed to get it back to the house..................and there was no way we could carry all that on the subway!! By the time we got home I was shattered. The weekend had really caught up with me so I spent the rest of the day just chilling out. All in all it was a really great weekend and one I would like to do again someday. I think it could be something really good to do with my friends and family one day when they come to visit....................all aboard!!!