Take a Chance on Stockholm by Dave

(Pic Above is from Tivoli Gardens in Stockholm. Thanks to my friend Grant I think its the same one from this Dave Matthew’s album right?)




Stockholm was a great last stop for us. I have always wanted to see Scandinavia, especially in the summer. We had originally thought we would fly out of London, but we found an inexpensive, direct flight from Stockholm to of all places Oakland, California, through Norwegian Air, so for us it was the perfect setup.

Our first impression of Stockholm was how beautiful and clean the city was. Lauren said it reminded her of Paris.  We stayed at this great airbnb in the Sodermalm area of the city. The owner, Anna, was head of Scandinavian marketing for LiveNation so it had a hip, rock and roll vibe to the place. Plus the kitchen was one of the best we have ever used. The place had a kids room with lots of toys that the girls loved.

My favorite aspect of the city was that there are so many islands a short ferry ride away so you can feel like you are outside of the city in no time.  I also liked how it didn’t get really dark until 11:00 pm at night, just crazy.  People were out and about all the time, parks were full of people enjoying the sun, I’m sure because winters days here are short and dark.


Here were some of the Highlights:

Tour of the city by bike – Kelly booked a 3 hour bike ride around the city through a company called Bike Sweden. We had a really cool guide named Staffan who showed us around some of the beautiful parks and backroads of the city. We would have never seen this side of Stockholm and it was nice to have a guide to show us around and tell us about different landmarks or history of the city.


Waxholm – we took a 45 minute ferry to one of the many islands around the city. There are so many islands in the Archepelago that it would take you about 2 hours by boat to reach the open ocean. Waxholm itself was a quiet, quaint vacation town. We grabbed lunch and walked around the mostly nautical themed shops. My favorite part was probably the ferry ride itself checking out the other islands and watching all the different boats cruising around.



I actually saw this same boat docked in San Francisco during Americas Cup


Tivoli Amusement Park – one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, built in the 1850s. It was a cool mix of carnival games and roller coasters. Food was great as well. The girls played Skee ball, shot BB guns and basketballs, and won some stuffed animals – which we didn’t need.  One of the great things about Europe is that there are some rides that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen back in the states.  We went into this wild fun house that had all kinds of moving floors, walls, crazing moving stairs, and moving tunnels that made you feel dizzy to the point that I had to close my eyes.  It was a total blast. There was also a swing ride similar to the one above except 10 STORIES HIGH.!! I was too freaked out to even pull out the GoPro to film it. It was like a different weather system up there. We spent 7 hours at the park and the girls would have stayed longer, especially since it was so light out, but 10pm was our cutoff.



A little freaky, its pretty high


Good Times.

Abba Museum – relatively new (3 years) museum which even the kids loved.  Lots of interactive  exhibits like tuning a music studio control panel, singing onstage with ABBA holograms, Karaoke, and making a music video. You forget how absolutely HUGE this band was all around the world, probably because I was in diapers at the time.


Vasa Museum – The Vasa was a 17th Century boat that sank on its maiden voyage (Titanic who?) and was dredged up in almost perfect condition. Supposedly it is the most visited museum in Scandinavia. Really good exhibits about life on board the ship, navigation, and how the sails worked.


The grocery stores – Kelly really loved the grocery stores here. What I noticed was the amazing amounts of fish, hard breads, and yogurts.  Their cheese and meat sections were like nothing Kelly had every seen before – so many choices!


Bacon and Cheese Spread. Not that bad actually.


They love their hard breads here

The liquor stores – I had no idea that all the liquor stores in Sweden are state run. The benefit of that is that the state gets huge volume discounts. The selection is top notch as well, but you can only buy liquor at those stores and they are closed on Sunday, so you must plan accordingly.

The subway – we have seen a lot of subways on this trip, but the one is Stockholm has this 70’s, underground cavern type of vibe.  When we were there they were also pretty empty. I felt like I was in the movie Logan’s Run.



To cap off our stay we ended up meeting with some friends from the girls school, the Mahoney family, on our very last night of our trip. John was on a European trip celebrating his 50th birthday and Jen’s family is from Sweden, so we met her sister Michelle who lives in Stockholm. The girls were glad to hang with kids from their school and we had a great time catching up over drinks at the Hotel Diplomat.  What a great way to end our trip!


The Alonsos and the Mahoneys


After 11 months and 20 countries, ready to go home!!

Seeing an Old Friend in Lake Constance, Germany-by Dave



As you can see from Kelly’s last post, we have been very fortunate to spent time with many friends and family during this adventure.  After our time in Switzerland we visited an old friend of mine, Mausi, who lives just outside Lake Constance, Germany, in a town called Meckenbeuren.  Lake Constance is a huge lake in Southern Germany that also borders Switzerland and Austria.  As we wind down the trip, I was looking forward to just hanging around and living like a local.

But first some background about how I met Mausi.  We first met the summer after I graduated from high school, in 1990, on my first trip to Europe.  I was on a “student ambassador” program called People to People, a month long trip through several European countries which my family friend, Maria, had gone through a previous summer. To be in Germany at that time was amazing, as the Berlin Wall had just come down in November of 1989.  Our tour guide in Berlin was flabbergasted that our bus could just drive through the checkpoint to our hotel in East Berlin.  I actually had a chance to break off a piece of the wall with a sledgehammer.

During this trip we had a couple of homestays with local families, and one of them was with Mausi’s family in a really cool Bavarian town called Murnau, which is a couple hours south of Munich.  I remember having gulash for the first time, how empty the streets were when Germany played in the world cup finals, practicing with the local basketball team, and playing tennis on red clay.  It was also the first time when I realized that the BMW emblem was the Bavarian flag. Duh.

Mausi has since visited me in San Francisco a couple of times, I visited her when I was living in Vienna, my mom visited her family when she was traveling, and Kelly even met her when she was touring Europe after we graduated from Santa Clara.  When Mausi studied abroad at Depaul University in Chicago, she even lived on the same floor as my cousin, Gina. Gina and Maui even shared the same birthday down to the year! Small world.  To top it off, Mausi was even part of our wedding.

So it was great to catch up, meet her husband, Rudy, and her two kids, Anna and Theresa, and just spend time in a place with zero tourists.  We went to local bakery every morning, barbecued, watched Euro cup soccer, took a ferry to the nearby city of Konstanz and visited the kid’s elementary school.

One day Rudy took me on a tour of the surrounding area and its amazing countryside. We went to nearby town of Friedrichshafen, which is famous for is aviation industry, most notably the Zeppelin (or Blimp). We checked out the planes at the Donier aircraft museum. We also grabbed coffee and talked about life in Germany-housing, education, taxes.  Rudy works in the space industry designing scientific payloads to be sent into space, so it was interesting talking about different launch sites, orbits, the international space station, things I know nothing about.

We also had a chance to check out Anna’s soccer tournament, which looked exactly like any tournament in the states, except with amazing pork sandwiches and brats.

One of my favorite parts of our stay was that Mausi’s daughter Anna would speak to the girls in german, assuming they understood.  The girls had to figure out how to communicate with her, which they did – one of the perks of traveling to so many countries and hearing so many languages.  Anna was really good in helping the girls learn to ride a unicycle.  They had a blast and no one killed themselves. Win-win.

One story sticks out to me during our stay. I was hanging out with Mausi and Rudy after watching a Euro cup soccer match.  Mausi asked, “You know how we ended up with you when you first visited?”  I had no idea.  I guess all the kids in our group had to put down their hobbies and interests for their potential homestay families.  Apparently I looked like I was the most normal person when I put down basketball and tennis, while other kids put down things like Dungeons and Dragons, which I played too but would never admit to a stranger, because, you know, it’s weird.  Since most kids don’t want a potential axe murderer staying with them (buzzkill), a couple kids expressed interest in having me stay with them. Mausi couldn’t make it to the meeting when this decision was being made, so the teacher just asked her who she wanted.  All these years and I never knew.  Funny how that works out.

So a big heartfelt thanks again to Mausi, Rudy, Anna, and Theresa for having us and for all your hospitality. We look forward to returning the favor one day!



The people we have met along the way – Part 2 By Kelly

A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles – Tim Cahill

I was so blown away by all the people we met, visited or who visited us on the first half of our trip that I dedicated a blog post to naming each of them and giving our thanks for taking the time to make our journey that much better.  Now as we end this incredible experience, I continue to be amazed by the people we encountered on our journey.  Some we knew, some we met, some we saw after many years.  But once again, a friendly face, kind words, a glass of wine, dinner, it all meant the world to us.  So, once again, I would like to give a shout out to all the people who made the second half of our trip so special.

Barcelona – Dave’s mom stayed with us for 5 weeks.  We are so thankful for the time we had with her and her fluent Spanish which helped us along the way.

Barcelona – Liz and Lindsay – One of our San Francisco babysitters, Liz, and her roommate, Lindsay, happened to take a trip to Paris and Barcelona that coincided with our time there.  We were so happy to have a night out, without kids might I add, and to share a delicious, gourmet tapas meal at La Pepita.

Lisbon – To my family – Fernando, Maria Helen, Francisco, Dulce, Guillerme, Ines, Alexander, Ana, Henrique and to the extended family who came to see us.  For showing us your slice of Portugal.  We loved your beautiful country, your food and most of all you!!!  A highlight of our trip for sure.  We can’t wait to see you again!

Venice, Italy – Christina and Mia Green and their daughter, Maggie – If you can believe it, Dave got an email from our good friend, Tom Green, once he heard we were in Venice.  His brother, Christian, had just landed in Venice as well.  We met him and his family for a drink.  Small world!!

Sicily –  To my parents for joining us on this journey.  It was an amazing month and a treat to get to spend that time with you.

Terrasini, Sicily – To our friend Tina’s aunt, Lina.  For showing us true Sicilian hospitality and cuisine. It was such a delicious lunch and so nice to get to know you and your family.

Lucca – To our friend, Danny’s dad’s cousin, Domenico and his daughter, Beatrice, for showing us the quaint and charming town of Lucca and for driving us to see the amazing villas outside the walls.

Rome – To Father Kevin for taking the time to celebrate Grace and Lauren’s First Communion.  It was such a personal and memorable day.

London – To the Sweitzer family, Polly, Steve and Sadie, our compadres in world travels.  Cousins of my college friend, Julie.  

Paris – To my best friend, Jennie, for sharing her love for Paris and all things Eiffel Tower for 3 weeks!!!!  You made Paris a city we all love! 

Paris – And to Jill, from meeting briefly in Chianti, to having drinks and dinner in Paris.  Hope we meet again.

Paris – Dave’s high school friend, John Gaynor and his family, for having us all over for a home cooked meal.  We appreciate your hospitality.

Vienna – Phil Nery – grade school friend of Dave’s who happened to be in Vienna for work.  Dave was able to meet him for coffee.

Vienna – Penelope – a great girl we met when we toured Dave’s old school in Vienna.  She ended up babysitting twice for us – so lucky!

Lucerne and Murren – To my brother, Matt.  I can’t even believe that our paths crossed!! That’s the icing on the cake!  Loved spending time in beautiful Murren with you – a magical place.  Love you!

Basel – To our college friend, Shannon and her family, Tim, Blake, Jenna and Kate, for taking us in and showing us the sites in Basel.  What a treat to reconnect after all these years.  Can’t get rid of me now!  And to Ms. Jeanne – we loved our day with you!!

Lake Constance – To Dave’s friend, Mausi, who he met in 1990 when he did a homestay at her house in Murnau, Germany.  For housing us and showing us the beautiful countryside.

Stockholm – To our San Francisco friends, The Mahoney Family – who happened to be visiting their family in Stockholm while we were there.  We enjoyed dinner and drinks and the girls enjoyed hanging out with their kids.

Again, it really amazes me as I write this list.  The internet is an amazing tool that has allowed us to connect, reconnect and find people all over.  It definitely made the world a smaller place for us.   There are so many people around the world who took part in this journey with us.  You will all hold a special place in our hearts and memories for helping to make this trip so special.   

The joys of travel is visiting new towns and meeting new people – Genghis Khan