"I'm back in Stockholm."
This time I've decided to leave the bike at home.
Instead I've packed warm outdoor clothes, a pair of climbing shoes, and my MacBook Pro.
It's time I explored this beautiful city properly.
Stepping off the plane I always admire how proud the Swedish are of their capital city.
The walls of the Arlanda airport are lined with posters; striking images and quotes of achievements in technology and industry. It's impressive stuff. At home you're greeted by a banner that roughly says "Thanks for coming to Manchester. We know you had a choice...". But that reads a little bit like "Wow, we can't believe you actually chose to travel to Manchester!".
Not sure who signed that off, or why?! Manchester's one of my favourite places in England and it has many claims to fame itself!
Back in stockholm, the first thing I notice as I set foot outside is the temperature. Since my last visit only a few weeks ago it's taken a substantial dip. I thought Lytham was getting colder, but it's freezing here and as I bury my chin into my chest, I'm glad I packed the Winter clobber.
I'm here for the week. Working Monday to Friday but spending my evenings taking in the sights, climbs, and culture. On the to-do list are a number of coffee shops. At least two climbing gyms. A number of outdoor bouldering spots, and a visit to central Stockholm for a long-overdue mooch around the shops.
I'm going to try and avoid the usual tourist spots. This will be an alternative account of Stockholm. One from a guy that enjoys the outdoors, is content in his own company, and doesn't mind doing a bit of walking.
I've spent the entire day travelling.
I had planned to spend my afternoon walking around the local area, finding outdoor climbing problems and exploring a little. Apparently I stay within walking distance of a well known boulder spots. Unfortunately I didn't arrive in Sweden until long after dark. So have spent the evening reading, writing about a walk I did yesterday, and eating (some of my other favourite hobbies) instead!
I almost ran into trouble with my taxi driver on the way here from the airport. I'm certain he was trying his luck, and tried to charge me an extra 80 SEK. I politely told him that I have done this trip three times before and the price had always been the same. I've even used the same taxi company in the past! With that said he made some excuse about why he might have had to charge extra, then billed me the normal amount. I'm no schmuck! But it was a reminder that you need to have your wits about you when travelling.
This chap was actually the first person I've come across in Sweden who isn't all that pleasant. I've found the Swedish to be the most welcoming people you can imagine. The dress code here seems to be a smile... and a pair of running tights.
Because everyone here runs everywhere!
For reasons unknown a Business Class ticket on my outward flight was cheaper than any of the available economy class tickets. Not that I'm complaining. The transfer time at Frankfurt airport (a regular stop when I travel here for work) was longer than usual. And the Lufthansa Business Lounge was a great place to spend a few hours.
I'm not (that) ashamed to admit I had more than one donut, and visited the buffet a couple of times at least!
Tomorrow will be the first of five intense days of design at work. They're called Design Sprints. And while they're a fun and extremely effective way of approaching design problems, man are they mentally draining! I'm looking forward to the challenge though so I'll call it a night early, get some rest, and arrive tomorrow bright and early and ready to go.
My digs during the trip are a modern, tastefully decorated first floor apartment in Fredhall. Which appears to be a somewhat affluent area, but I'm not entirely sure! The living spaces are modest, but there are some expensive cars parked outside the buildings.
I'm blessed with an unrestricted view across the water of Alviks - the place I work! It's wonderful sight to wake up to each morning, and I'm lucky to have the opportunity to stay here over a souless hotel room. The downside is that there is no internet connection, or even working TV. Perhaps it could be argued though that this is - in fact - a good thing? It certainly means I spend more time with my nose in a book (or writing as I am now), rather than on Reddit or Facebook.
Even though I'm here on my own, I actually camp out on the floor in the living room. I find it feels less intrusive than using the bed of the guy who kindly call this place home while he's away. And I get a better nights sleep in the lounge on a few matresses than I did when I tried the bedroom on my first trip.
After a weekend of sugary food and treats I'm keen to do something active today. I was treated like royalty during my travels and in all honestly I'm sick of feeling full. I want to exercise today! To feel the burn a little!
I'm a naturally early riser. I enjoy it. I no longer see the point of staying in bed sleeping the day away. Some of the best things happen in the morning and if you're in bed, you've already missed out.
I woke up at 6am, without an alarm. Popped on the kettle and grabbed some bits out of the fridge for breakfast. I've decided breakfast and dinner will be reasonably healthy this week, and I will allow myself complete indulgence during the day at work... For social reasons, of course!
Before making a start on with the food I did a few strength excercises. I'm hoping to get into the routine of doing 50 situps, 30 squats, and at least 10 pushups when I wake up and just before I go to sleep each day.
With those done I whipped up a delicious cheese and broccoli omelette. As it cooked to gooey perfection in the oven, I hopped in the shower to freshen up before eating and heading to work.
The commute is a pleasant mile or so walk over a bridge and along pedestrian and bicycle paths. Like I said I can see my office from the building I stay in. It only takes 15 - 20 minutes. The air outside is so thick I can chew on it, and it's cold enough so that just a whisper of breath lingers in front of me as I pace up the steps to the bridge.The yellow building with the green roof is the one I'm staying in this week. This shot was taking as I crossed the bridge on my commute to work.
Arriving at the office I'm presented with a plethora of pastries, so I'm glad I've done the walk! Not that it would help, but I'm certainly not going to resist the delicious looking pain au chocolate in front of me.
Work went well this morning. We were presented with some great data and user insights to help us with the design tasks for the week, and I feel confident I can create something usable for the customers. Enough of that though, let's talk about lunch.
We headed to Brioche - my favourite coffee shop - for food. Which also happens to be the most awesome bakery.
If you're ever in the area this is the coffee shop to go to. Ignore the rest (there are many close by)! The smell as you walk past is a compass for the nose. It guides you straight through the doors and into an overwhelming selection of fresh bread and cakes. Not to mention the jam and sandwich selection! Goodness me!
I enjoyed a delicious "vegetarian pie" (quiche) with a well seasoned salad and a cappucino to wash it all down. The coffee at Brioche is excellent and the barista's all talented. Every time I've come here my drink has been presented as smoothly as the coffee tastes.
The office is conveniently located near one of the outdoor bouldering spots I want to check out this week.
And today I had the chance to leave work a little early. Heading off in search of a boulder I knew was quite nearby. The plan was to find it, then perhaps have a cheeky climb before heading into the city for a session at Bouldering Stockholm.
The walk I ended up doing was such a pleasant surprise. The footpath hugged the waters edge and the gentle sound of waves lapping the shore provided a relaxing soundtrack to my evening.
The path itself was full of interesting sights and sensational views where the varied landscape of Stockholm broke through the treeline. One minute you would be looking up at the modern architecure of a sprawling bridge (just one of many scattered throughout the city). The next; you're staring at a golden landscape of trees and cottages, a beautiful orange stage, spotlit by the setting autumn sun.
I'm not sure I ever did find the right boulder. I know I was close, and there were a few rocks around that looked like you could climb them but my climbing gear never made it out of my bag. After a bit of a sit down to take in the scene I gathered my things and headed to the train station. I was yet to use public transport in Sweden because in the past my bike has travelled with me.
I wasn't even slightly surprised by how easy or efficient an experience it was though. I've quickly come to the conclusion that Swedes know what they're doing.
Bouldering Stockholm is only a short stroll from the station and was easy to find. The staff there were awesome and extremely welcoming. It's a small climbing wall but the problems are well thought out and I had a great session. I'm really getting a feel for climbing again.
The grading was a kind of difficult to understand. That would be my only critisism, but it's minor. The routes themselves are well labelled. The holds solid, with no slippage at all tonight.
My arms spent from climbing and my legs feeling all the better for putting a few miles walking into them I headed back to the apartment. Once 'home' I ate a quick dinner of a banana, greek yogurt, and an apple and switched off for the evening. I think I'll have finished my first book of the trip by tomorrow. A thriller called "The Three". It's not bad y'know!
I wish I could run.
I've tried, and enjoyed it briefly in the past. Sensitive knees soon put a stop to it sadly. After an injury last year I was strongly advised that if I want to continue cycling, I need to hang up the running shoes for good.
It's such a shame, as despite only being here three times I can already pick out half a dozen routes that would make for a wonderful run. It's easy to see why Stockholm has the most active running community of almost anywhere in the World. They run to work, they run home, and they even run during their lunch break!
The next few days are going to be busy at work. With an after-hours dinner planned both tonight and tomorrow evening. The former is a company wide event, the latter a long-overdue meal and social with the design team.
I'm looking forward to both (it's food after all), but am still hoping to find time to do some more exploring and climbing in the evenings afterwards.
I tackled a massive pizza for lunch. The "Don Giovanni"!
The pizza turned out to be two things: 1) Delicious. 2) Great brain food! We really nailed some difficult design problems during the afternoon. Which I will attribute 100% to having a belly full of cheese and pepperoni.
At 4:30pm we were given a presentation of the company Q3 Report by the corporate fat-cats. I'll spare you this part of my day. Long story short: The company is doing well and we're moving premesis within a year to Stockholm City. Everyone is excited.
In the evening I went climbing again. Feeling a little more at ease with Swedish public transport I ventured a little further. This time I chose to climb at a gym called Karbin Klatterhall. Which required me to take a train and a bus to reach it.
Karbin is much bigger than Boulder Stockholm. With a huge range of bouldering problems spanning two rooms there was planty to climb, even for a beginner like me. The warm welcome I received last night and the atmosphere was somewhat lacking here but it was still the better place to climb. The routes were again well planned and labelled, and it was nice to have a grade chart here so I knew roughly at what level I was climbing (or attempting to climb) at.
Climbing is exactly what I need right now.
After a year of giving everything to cycling I feel no pressure at all to be riding my bike. What I do feel though is a compulsion to train and excercise. I find myself thinking "I'm going to have to run a few miles tonight, I've barely done anything all week!". Then I remember that's kind of the point of having a rest. But as weird as it sounds, it's tough doing 'nothing'.
I've certainly put on weight since I stopped training. I'm losing definition, and there's a little extra skin to pinch every day on my belly! It doesn't matter, not really. I can lose it any time by eating well again. The time between now and Christmas should be spent simply enjoying life's pleasures. Staying in reasonable shape but not worrying about being too lean. The body fat percentage I was at before my season ended just isn't something you can sustain healthily. I need to keep reminding myself that! I've been in hardcore training mode for too long.
Anyway, it was gone 10pm when I got home this evening. Time for a quick read before bed. Tomorrow's another busy day at the office. I doubt I'll get chance to climb or work out at all. I'm kind of bummed about that but a day away from the wall should do me some good and allow my arms and hands some time to recover. Also the restaurant we're going to after work sounds like just my kind of thing: Grilled stuff. Can't wait.
Maybe Stockholm could sense I was missing home this morning?
Bless. The city did it's best to put on a moody North-West England face. And for a while I thought I might even get a bit of a soaking during my commute. But no. The grey skies didn't last long. By the time I was walking on the path by the water close to work, mother nature was treating me to yet another glorious display.
Today is mostly about strapping on the nosebag and eating some serious work.
I haven't decided yet if I can make time for a quick climb before dinner. It's unlikely, plus I'm feeling a few aches from back-to-back sessions this week. Perhaps it's time for an actual rest?
Anyway, I've been waiting a long time for today. Wednesday is Fika day at work. A Swedish tradition, which is an afternoon treat of something sweet, usually enjoyed with coffee. Due to a strict cycling diet the past three times I've been here I am yet to participate. Not this time! Today, just call me Rossy-four-cakes.
I rode the rest of the afternoon on a wave of sugar. Work was difficult, with many user interface challenges to overcome. We were just getting there as it hit 5:30 and time to move on to dinner. We had reservations and a place on the waterfront called Piren. Everyone must've been a bit full from Fika as we all only ordered main courses.
I had 300g of entrecote steak. It was as good as I could have hoped for. Cooked perfectly rare, bathing in a red wine sauce, with onion rings on top. The chips that accompanied it were crispy, just salty enough, and perfect to mop up the leftover juices.
I finished off the evening with a liquorice creme brulee and raspberry sorbet. Wowzers!
I think everyone enjoyed themselves tonight. Conversation flowed freely and we discussed some fairly radical topics. Everything from newborn babies to cannibalism! Not topics you often hear at the office. Everyone definitely let their guard down and just enjoyed each others' company.
Which is a nice place to finally stop and switch off for the day. Now back at the apartment with only myself for company I'm able to recharge my batteries. Being an introvert, as much fun as I had tonight, I find that level of social interaction draining. I need my alone time. It's part of what I love about cycling. Just taking myself off for a few hours to get lost in my own world.
I'm not anti-social; I'm just pro-solitude.
It's been a huge day of food no doubt. Now I'm feeling guilty for resting and not training or watching my diet. Not working out is such hard work! Who would've thought?
Uh oh. I've finally cracked.
Four days in a row I've woken up before my alarm. Today though I also went for a run. I've got nothing in the fridge for breakfast but (and I'm going to sound like a jogger now) as I've done some cardio this morning I'm going to treat myself to a McDonalds breakfast. Something I would never normally do. Gotta make the most of this week of indulgence though I suppose! I'll be back on the omelettes and salads before I know it. I actually miss that stuff now!
I ran a route which would've been gorgeous, had it have been light. The reality this morning was a wind pummelling the building, which I battled against trying to open the heavy front door. At 06:15 was still pitch black outside too. The weather wasn't awful, but Stockholm had set the bar so high already this week the wind and gloom was unexpected. The howling gale didn't blow away any of my motivation though as I set out at an extremely easy pace.
I haven't run for a long time and I'm all too aware the quickest way to hurt yourself is to do too much too soon. I figured I would do a gentle warm up for a mile or so and then see how I felt.
I ran just over 5.5km. The first half was made difficult by my decision to run off-road. Roots and rocks seemed to jump out of the ground and set on me personally. As if my rhythmic breathing and metronomic tapping of my shoes interrupted their peacful slumber.
It was eerie down there at that time of day. Considering I was in the heart of the city I felt extremely isolated at times. I even passed someone camping on the pathway in a makeshift tent. Fashioned from binbags and rags. It sounded like whoever was inside was actually having a lot of fun... but I'm sure that wasn't actually the case.
I feel a hell of a lot better for getting that out of my system. Especially as (touch wood), my knees feel fine!
I'll make sure I go for another climb tonight. I've bookmarked another new wall which comes highly recommended. One thing I've enjoyed this trip is trying new places to climb, and the subtleties between how routes are graded and the different styles of route-setters at different walls. Back home it's rare that I go anywhere but West View in Preston. Saying that, I haven't been there in over two years now. One thing I'm looking forward to next week is hitting that wall again.
I'm setting myself a goal to climb at v5 grade within a couple of weeks. In fact, climbing at v5 before my birthday on November 13th would be awesome. Let's do that.
Back to Brioche for lunch.
After a stressful day of programme crashes causing a mad-dash to get everything finished by five, I was relieved to finally pack up and head out for another climb. This time I set out for Klättercentret in Solna. Another large gym with bouldering over two floors.
The staff were extremely friendly and welcoming; the place was rammed too! There's also a reasonably well stocked shop there, which gave me huge shoe-envy. Even though I love my Evolv I'd love some new climbing shoes. There's some really funky looking stuff out there.
I'm getting used to the bouldering grades in Stockholm now. So I was able to get climbing at a level I knew was challenging but manageable fairly quickly. I'm consistently getting up 5c grade problems without too much work now. I'm even more excited than I was to get back to West View with friend and crusher Will Horton. I learn a lot watching how Will climbs, and with his guidance I feel like I'm going to progress quickly.
With how busy the place was, I was a bit hesitant to get on the wall. There's always eyes on you and I'm a little conscious of my technique at the minute!
Tonight's session was shorter than the others. Maybe because of the run this morning? I found myself tiring quite quickly and didn't want to mess my hands up because of a weak grip.
Tonight was the first night I've had to cook for myself in the evening!
A quick fridge raid and I'd thrown together some chicken, rice, broccoli, pepper, and cheese thing. It was nice enough! I've spent what's left of the day writing, reading, and relaxing. I'm coming to the end of an intense week, I feel as though we've nailed the design we've been working on, and I'm allowing myself to unwind a little.
I guess most people would have a beer or a glass of wine. I've had an oat-based yogurt with some banana and walnut halves. #yolo.
Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper.
Friday's breakfast is always a big deal at work. The company provide a huge selection of breads, cold meats, cheeses and spreads. In the past I've been training and have limited myself to simply ham, cheese, and lettuce. I made little wraps out of the lettuce leaves. They were alright... I guess. Today I didn't hold back. It was nutella and Philadelphia sandwiches, and I loved every second of it!
Once I arrive home in the UK it's slowly back to training. Which will mean watching what I eat again. I'll have a week just riding my bike for fun, then start to focus on my build towards next season. With this being my last day at here, and with a spread like that, I should make the most of it!
With design sprints Friday is the day to test the prototype we've been working on all week. That means a design freeze. It also allows for a little downtime during the morning. I'm sat here listening to The Swellers on Spotify and waiting for the rest of the team to get in. I like to call today FatBoy Friday. For reasons that should be clear below!
I like to call today FatBoy Friday.
It's the most beautiful autumn day here. The sun is shining and it's proper jumper weather. The team made the most of it and ate lunch outside on the decking by the water. I had a burger and chips, and enjoyed every bite.
This trip has made me lust over a better camera. Every picture on this website has been taken using my iPhone so far. I love the convenience of it, but it does fall short in some areas. My birthday's coming up so maybe I can justify a (small) purchase. I'm thinking a GoPro Hero 4 Black will meet most of my needs. As a lot of my photography is action and outdoors. I won't be afraid of dropping and breaking it either. Something that's a constant worry with a better but more delicate DSLR. Plus, I can strap a GoPro to the dogs. And that will be awesome.
Tonight I'll go for a climb. I will probably give this article a bit of editing, pack my things ready to travel home tomorrow evening and start a new book, The Bone Clocks.
I managed to take a few worthy pictures on my travels to the climbing wall tonight.
I climbed well this evening. My technique is improving; my strength too. I can also feel myself getting stronger every day. I managed to
I should have a little time to kill Saturday morning, which I'm planning to do in Drop Coffee. One of the places I really wanted to visit this week and didn't get chance to.
Time on my hands and coffee on my mind.
Right back from my first trip to Stockholm, Drop Coffee is one place I've wanted to visit. It's in a bit of an akward place to get to from where I stay. Their reputation as a quality roaster is enough for me to make the extra effort today. Now I just need to decide if I'm going to walk or take public transport.
It's a nice day. I think I'll walk.
The trip to Drop Coffee was worth every. Single. Step. I don't enjoy exaggerating for effect, but this was first class. The best coffee I've had in a long time. I highly, HIGHLY recommend a visit if you're anywhere near Stockholm.
The cafe itself is unassuming as you approach. A small sign outside escorts you into a tardis like modern space. Much bigger than it would suggest from the street. If you aren't careful you could walk straight past. A glass buidling set provocatively between every other traditional building on the street is what's likely to catch your eye instead.
The staff are incredibly friendly (but this is true for almost everyone in Sweden!) and extremely knowledgeable. During my visit I enjoyed a latte and a v60 pour over. Accompanied by a pate and pickle sandwhich, and a mushroom soup! Devine.
With plenty of time to spare before starting my journey to the airport I thanked everyone for a perfect end to my week and walked the 4.5km back to the apartment to collect my suitcase.
I've had the most amazing trip, and am still to discover most of what Stockolm has to offer. Which is great. As I'll have plenty more to keep me busy next time I'm here!
As I finish editing photos I'm sat in Arlanda airport. Enjoying the last few hours of food indulgence before training resumes next week.
I wouldn't normally end up in a Starbucks, especially so after the quality of Drop Coffee this morning. But, here I am. And actually, this Pumpkin Spiced Latte is alright. Fair play Starbucks! You've managed to disguise the fact your coffee isn't the best with delicious pumpkin flavours and some cream. Nice.
My flight isn't for another two hours. Let's hope they don't run out of cake…