Lunch

I am here, sitting at my table kitchen at home and drinking a cup of tea after my lunch. It takes me 10 min to walk home. It’s quiet here and I got chocolate as dessert. Why don’t I do it more often?

Time for thoughts is what I lack the most. This lunch at home, in the middle of an hectic day, offered me 20 minutes of me-time. And silence at the table.

I love my colleagues, my work, all the power there is at work but when I grow older, I also need more space for myself.

Like the rolling stones would sing:

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.

I’m here now, alive and in peace. The sun shines, is warm but already too lazy to get up in the sky as one month ago. We’re going toward darker times, irremediably. And to survive, I need to keep my inner peace. I need to be a good leader for others around and this will go through trying to get what I need, it won’t come by itself.

Train travel Sweden France back and forth

Here is some resume of our travel in train from this summer 2019, with some reflexions of mine. I don’t have much pictures without someone of our family on, so excuse the lack of illustration of this article.

The grounds

  • We were two adults and one 2,5 years old girl
  • We wanted to travel by train since our 2,5 years old girl pays the plane and we had a lots of vacation this year
  • We began to plan this travel in February and left Uppsala June 21st
  • After a quick calculation and since we began to plan this travel early, we decided not to buy an interrail card. Others reasons were that we were away so long and had so much night trains on our list, which require extra reservation anyway.
  • I booked all the tickets myself and made an active choice to have a lots of time between different trains or to have another train to take later if the first would be delaid
  • To go from Copenhagen to Hamburg, we choose to avoid the railway works and go west to Esbjerg. On the parts where the railway is under renovation, the train was replaced by busses and we already knew that Z was sock in busses, so we wanted train the whole way.

The planned route was following: Uppsala-Alvesta, Alvesta-Esbjerg, Esbjerg-Hamburg, Hamrbug-Basel and for the return: Basel-Berlin and Berlin-Uppsala.

Our way down to France (7 trains and about 30 hours train)
Our way up home again (5 trains and about 32 hours in the train)

Uppsala- Alvesta

booked with SJ at the station+Snälltåget booked through Snälltåget

We decided to leave just before Midsommar in order to skip another change in Stockholm since the railway administration planned a renovation of the bridges from the Gettingmidjan from Midsommar.

This part of the travel went well until we realized that our little girl is sick even in normal trains (actually in every transportation) when she reads or looks at the phone. This was not a nice surprise since 1) she felt bad 2) what would we do of all the hours on train if we couldn’t read with her?

Picture taken somewhere in Sörmland, like 100 km south from Stockholm.

The train between Stockholm and Alvesta- was 1h50 delaid so I claimed a refound and got it for 25% of our ticket price some week after my claim. The delay did not matter for us since our travel for the day ended there, and I smiled at the fact that we could make our travel cheaper when the infrastructure is not working.

Snälltåget may have old fashioned (garbage?) looking train from the outside but the inside is new and you have place for the legs. This is definitely better than on the plane. I also like the feeling in the restaurant wagon, with tables and the fact that they only use reusable dishes. The menu was pretty good to be in a train but before we arrived at destination, they told us they were out of warm food.

Alvesta- Esbjerg

Öresundståg + DSB, booked through DSB

Well, this pas of the travel went without any trouble at all. We took an Öresundståg between Alvesta and Copenhagen. That was not possible to make a place reservation but we managed to find seats for the three of us, the fourth seat being occupied by a very funny and nice man. If you wre hungry, you could buy food in a machine. Quite noisy train because of the very open compartments.

We had some hours before the next train to eat lunch in the danish capital. For me, it was while drinking a cold beer and eating outside that the vacation feeling came.

The second train was with seat reservation and worked on fuel. This made me think that train is not everywhere an ecologial solution. This made me think of the ecological aspect of our travel: it may have disappeared a little -I guess- when we drove this part with fuel power? We crossed Danmark frem East to West with this train and it was very enjoyable. The train was confortable, no service for food except a machine but very clean and quiet train.

The station of Vejen, on our way to Esbjerg.

Esbjerg-Hamburg

DSB booked through Deutsche Bahn DB

The first train was as well an non electrical powered train Comfortable train without reservation. No food service inside the train.

We had to change at the Flensburg station was easy because the second train came at the same plattform but we noticed we were not alone.

The second train we took this day from Flensburg to Hamburg was a regional train. We had booked sits and I was very happy for that because the train was totally full of people going on vacation. Z felt asleep 8 minutes before we arrived in Hamburg, making the travel quite challenging for us (finding activities which do not disturb the neighborhood, do not include reading in some way and interest her…)

Hamburg-Basel

ÖBB nightjet booked through ÖBB

At the moment we climbed on the train, the conductor told us that the sleeping wagon was replaced with a sitting wagon. We had practically no other choice that to get on the train or to get off and buy another ticket , well first an hotell night in Hamburg and then a new ticket. No need to say that the mood was not very good since we did not get any explanation but we survived.

I claimed a refound for this since we paid extra for beds we didn’t get and after a mail every two days during two weeks, I finally got a reply and had to confirm with the numbers of the credit card used for the booking and got the promise I would get the money difference on my account within some weeks. ÖBB paid us back 40 euros and the price of our ticket was 129 euros for the three of us. So they kept their words.

The night itself was awefull, mostly because we had to sit, in a kupé with 6 adults and a kid. The AC was working but you understand that we didn’t sleep that much. Well, our girl did but I looked through the window the whole night and actually had a nice reflection time with myself. Look below this wonderful sunrise in South Germany:

ÖBB serves the breakfast, which was very simple but filled it’s function.

A thing I didn’t know (but which didn’t matter for us but could for other) is that Basel (our destination) had billions of station. We got off at one which is not the main station, it worked but be careful if you are travelling more from Basel.

Mulhouse-Berlin

TER sncf bought at the station + ÖBB nightjet booked through ÖBB

We simply bought our ticket for the TER at the station, there was no reservation for places but the train was almost empty. It was a very quiet and quick travel to Basel (about 25 minutes if I remember well) and we arrived at the french part of the station SBB.

In Basel, we went in a parc and ate our picknick. I was happy of that because the prices in Switzerland are not kind to the wallet of poor vacation people. The weather was wonderfull and it was also good for Z to run a little bit before the travel began.

We jumped into the train around 21:00 (the train arrived about 30 minutes before departure) so we could install ourselves in our beds calmy. This time, we were sharing the compartment with a family of 2 adults and 2 children, and they already transformed the compartiment in sleeping position when we arrived, so we just had to go to bed.

The beds were just long enough for me and M but since I was sleeping with Z, I would have had some more centimeters in width. The wagon was pretty noisy but the AC worked. We asked for a breakfast to go (one of the passenger with us on the Hamburg-Basel did it and it was much more convenient than to eat in the wagon) but our breakfast never came. I was too tired in the morgning to fight for this, so we just bought a better breakfast in the sun in Berlin.

Berlin – Uppsala

Snälltåget + SL booked through Snälltåget

First of all, M and I agreed about the fact that the station in Berlin is very practical. It is built all in hights so you don’t have to run kilometers to find the right track. You have the S-Bahn and U-bahn at the same point and you just go down to find the long distance train. One good point with having the long distance trains down this day was that it was a little bit cooler. The Snälltåget does not have any AC for night travel, so it was very appreciated.

We climbed in this train around 19 and had some hours in “sitting position”. In this train, Z had her own bed, but since she is so little, we were afraid that she would fall down plus that she did not want to sleep alone, so we did not use the third bed, which made it more comfortable for the 6 of us in the compartiment: the last bed could be used for the luggages. We shared the compartiment with 3 other girls.

About 23, the train did go on th boat and this was the beginning of the sauna time. No fresh air at all and no AC, so we simply were sweating in our beds. The beds were more wide than in ÖBB train, so it was much more comfortable for me and Z but the space for the luggages was much more little.

We arrived in Malmö in the morning and we climbed out of the train to eat breakfast (and change train).

In the second train, there was AC. There was also a couple on our side, with one man who was always looking at Z at every word she was saying. And this made me very angry. He did not say anything, just looking at us with the devil eye, but I was ready with some reply. Z at this time was very quiet, just talking and she fell asleep about 20 minutes after departures. All the other trains, she felt alseep 10 minutes before arrival, so this time she was very good. I guess this man had a bad night on the previous train, but this was not Z’s fault either, she was pretty nice as well.

We changed train in Södertälje Hamn, which is unusual, due to the renovation of Gettingmidjan, the only bridge in Stockholm on which all the trains coming from south are arriving to th central station in Stockholm. The change was very very easy, because we just had to wait on the same platform and to climb into the next train, which arrived 10 minutes later and took us directly to Uppsala.

To arrive in train in our home town gave me a peaceful feeling. Somehow, you come home at a normal speed, withouth the stress of picking up your luggage, wait for a bus or something. We just arrived at the station and 10 minutes later, we were at home.

Packning

We choose to have one big carrier for Z, with an extra bag on the back and one big bag for the rest of our stuff. Plus one bag to carry by hand to have the food and drinks separated.

Our bags, packed for the travel.

We had 12 kg in the big green bag and the bag with Z in was maybe around 15-18kg with her in. Of course, she only wanted Mamma to carry her…

This carrier for Z had the advantage to have the place for a camelback (water bag of 3L) so we always had water with us. It staid also astonishing cold there, even during hot days.

Important to notice that we had one week without any possibility to wash our clothes and then, there was always some washmachine in the corner.

We also had a separate bag (you know, this one you can make very very little) for food and beverage. The reasons: this volume was very variable and I wanted to have all this separated from clothes, since we couldn’t wash so often and I wanted to avoid accidents. This was actually a good idea.

What we did not use during our travel

We did carry 25 items with us without using them during our trip. There is some though I would pack again on the next travel, because it may have been more luck than anything else that they did not come to use. For exampel: raincoats, Alvedon, cream for Z’s ass.

We went away with 3 packages of dried food and we ate one. Actually, there was only one hotel room where we could used these (meaning one hotel room with a water boiling). These packages are very depending on how you choose to eat and spend your money, We decided clearly to eat at the restaurant and don’t bother about what it would cost. The raisins was to give to Z if she was very hungry but since she was sick in the transportation, she did not want to eat either.

We had some clothes extra for Z that weren’t used as well, and mainly socks. I may have had a black hole in my head when I packed so much socks for her. Well, we would have survived with less socks.

What we took with us from our travel

Well, the bags were very full with all our stuffs so we really had to think of what we took home with us, No need to say that Z got most of the things.

M and I got a hat. Z got shoes and some clothes and of course jewelery. I left a book in France and took another with me. Z got some magazines and 2 crowns (one for Midsummer and one from Burger King). We had some products against mousquitos bites (very used…) and a loup/magnifier. Very important to discover your environment in all the details. We took with us 3 stones from the beach in Danmark, 2 wine glasses size S.

What we took and used

Well, all the rest… I don’t really remember but roughly, we had each adult 3 tee-shirts, 1 short, 1 trousers, socks, underwears, flip-flop, running shoes (the ones we got on our feet to walk and travel), 1 suit, bathing clothes, 2 microfiber towels, pyjamas, toys for Z.

Our bathroom kit did included one toothbrush each, our toothpaste, a brush, deodorant. We met a family in the train between Basel and Berlin, they had like a 5kg bathroom kit. It is very personal I guess, but I did not miss one thing. M needed a razor, but this would not have made our kit much heavier if we would have thought of that before.

In summary, we had alwas the same clothes on us, did some days with tee shirts with some stain, but honestly, who cared? After 5 weeks of them, I was very hapy to find my other clothes at home, but honestly, I also wanted to get rid of a lots of clothes as well.

TipS

Deutsche Bahn DB has an app that helps to see if the train is on time, when the train drives through/in Germany. Very useful as well when you want to know which track it is coming to the station. I’m not sure it’s relaible all the time but it calms my mind a couple of time.

If you transit through Basel, be careful of the station you book your ticket from /to since there is several stations in this city.

In Basel, you are in Switzerland. Believe it or not, but the rule of the roaming prices do not apply there. I experienced a very expensive mapgoogling there until my phone told me “you haven’t any internet credits anymore”.

Since the space in the night train is reduced, prepare what you will need for the night and the morning after. Think light but practical: a new tee shirt, toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel, water, some snacks, a book, battery for your devides. The most easy is to put your big luggage somewhere it will stay untouched the whole travel. I abandonned quickly the idea of changing to pyjamas. To space, no time and too much eyes around. Keep your pappers and money close to your body.

Ask for being a member of the facebook group “tågsemester” (swedish speaking) a read the threads there before you decide yourself, I read a lots of good ideas and tips for the specific travels we planned to do.

When you stay a day in a city and plan to take the night train the same day, you can easily put your luggage in some boxes at the stations. We tried the ones in Hamburg and the ones in Berlin. Hamburg was very practical, close to the tracks. Berlin was a little more complicated to find and you needed cash. It’s a good way though to have a light day and often closed to the tracks than your hotel (if you were staying at the hotel the previous night). If I remember well, it costed 5 or 6 euros a day for one big box.

Travelling with a kid

Well, this part is delicate. It’s so much about education, tolerance (yours and other passengers), food, temperature and sleep. For us, we judge that it went pretty well, except the fact that Z was sick even in “slow trains” while reading or watching youtube. We discovered this 45 minutes after the departure of the second rain, so it kind of killed all our plans of occupation for Z during the hours of train. The only things we could do was watching at the landscape and hope Z would sleep. Much of the success of the travels was due to the passengers with us. If they were kind and said hello, then Z would be nice. If they looked at us angry or did not care, then Z would look for our attention and mostly in bad ways (like kids can do, like searching where our limits were, and by this, not being a very good passenger). I felt a little bit like this: Z is 2,5 years, so the adults around had to adapt to her and not the contrary. It went well for us though. We just got these evil eyes from the man on Malmö-Södertälje and the rest went pretty well.

We choose to transport Z in her bagpack and it was a very good decision. We had no problem with stairs, climbed on and off trains, we knew where she was and she was protected from people all around. Of course, we lost a whole back for other packing but at this point, she is our most worthy package, so it was all ok like that. We wouldn’t have managed this with a strolley I guess.

Our girl doesn’t need diapers anymore but we still used it for the travel and even if it was hot and a bit uncomfortable for her, we saved time and washes since the toilets were not all in function. I guess it would have been a challenge without. Not deadly but practical for us parents.

We planned some toys but she almost never cared and plaid with the things that were around. We also had books, but the same here: she wanted to read new things, like the menu or safety explanations.

Most of the time of the travel was spent at looking at her. The same kind of travel alone as an adult is much more “own-time” for reading and stuff I guess, but in comparison to travel by plane, it was much easier. She could move in the train and it was less of “not doing things time” as it can be at an airport or in a plane.

But for her, I guess she won’t remember this travel and how uncommon it was. She just followed us and has nothing to compare with. To spend the night in a train or in an hotel room is as exciting.

How much did it cost?

Travelling is not for free. In our case, I think that the tickets did cost about 900 euros. (The plane was 1000 euros when I was looking in february). On the top of that you have to put the food, he beverage and the night you spend in th towns you are staying at. It was not a cheap vacation at all, almost our most expensive ever. And we did not buy things, we just spend money on nights and food and drinks.

We did not use Interrail for several reasons, the main being that we wanted to travel by night and you have to book and pay extra for reservation anyway, so we had the time to buy cheap tickets instead.

Was it worth it?

Yes. I really appreciated the fact that the travel was slow. Of course, it has to be combined with the fact that you have long vacation, because spending all the free time on a train is not really funny I guess.

When you talk about train, you also very often hear about delay. We had 2 trains delaid of the 12 we took. These delays did not cost us anything: the first was for a train taking us at our destination this day and for the second, it made our changing time from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. In this case it was perfect since the platform we were changing on was hot as hell and without shadow. So we cannot complain at all about the delays. We also planned our way withouth sensitivity for delays, because we know it could happen. This reduced our stress to zero.

For the climate: well, I can say that we did not make it worse, but we did consume a lot on our way down, so maybe all in one it’s not very positive anyway. I don’t know.

It was a lot of time spent in trains. I had a lots of hours to reflect about life in general and things in particular and I enjoyd this. We discovered a lots of things and had time to talk with each others.

Munich

We spent some days in Munich, visiting a friend. We were not much of tourists but to enjoy Spielplatz und Biergarten, we were good.Life in Germany is something I’m almost longing to. Well, not yet, Z have to be older (the possibility to get work and life balance with small children is better in Sweden) but I like the way you can live on the country side but close to a big city somehow.To move to another country now would be a big step for us, we are way too comfortable with our life in Sweden but I’d like to enjoy shorter winter and more mountains (south Germany in this case) and simplicity in big cities.Let’s see what life will offer us!

Build your own story

When you have kids, it’s very probable that you spend time, a lots of time, around a sandbox. I spent a big part of last Wednesdays afternoon in one, trying to find some occupation myself. Z is pretty independent and wants to explore by herself, so most often, I get bored.

This time, I decided not to be like other bored parents who pick up their phones and scroll. I picked up a bucket and a shovel and built my own story. At the end of the afternoon, the sandbox was filled with sand towers and Z found it quite impressive. Me too: the time passed by quickly.

That’s a little bit like that I see life: it becomes exactly what you make it. You can sit on the side seing life through your phone or you can build your own story. Good luck!

Challenge

Alexander Pärleros is a swedish guy making a podcast with people who succeed in something. He wrote a book with the tips he heard of them and one is to not complain during 7 days. About nothing at all.

I’m convinced that the mental position of your brain conditions how your life will become. Not because everything will be done by itself but because you will change your decisions by thinking differently. I think that this advice of stopping complaining is one good to deeply change your mental picture.

Even if I’m tired, even if it’s raining, even if the automm is coming, I’ll do this challenge and report afterwards. Keep in touch!

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13

I’ve been living in Sweden for 13 years now. Meaning 15 years abroad. This is actually huge.

When I arrived both in Germany 15 years ago and in Sweden 13 years ago, I had a perspective for the future just about some months ahead. And I was not worried. I actually had not much to loose if things were going wrong. I haven’t even had a thought by then how things could go wrong. Life was just a big cake to eat and I liked to try new pieces of it.

Now, even if I like my life very much, I cannot say that I take every new day for an adventure. Well, we need stability for Z of course but I haven’t challenged my situation for ages it seems and with this came routines with a big R. I became lazy and unfortunately, automm is not for me a good period to start new projects.

Somehow, I need to be true to myself and make some improvements to be able to say that I lived it all, every inch of my life was full lived, the day I’ll die.

More fun, more creativity, more learning.

Hans Rosling

The last book I read (listened to) was Hans Rosling biography about how he got to understand the world.

He founded the organisation GapMinder with his daughter and son and this is worth to take a look in the tools-part of the website, even if you think your perception of the world i right. New facts come every day and I got astonished myself by the lack of actuality my knowledges about the world had.

gapminder

Picture: screen shot from the tool of Gapminder

20 years after

I remember so well this Sunday evening 20 years ago when the third goal was done during this football game and when France became champion of the whole world in soccer. Oh yeah, for me, 16 years old at this time, it was the beginning of the dawn of my adult life. I did no know anything about football but had a big crush in a guy who loved it, so I did learn some of the rules and the name of the football players. And it went well! The team took itself to final! I got a tee shirt from the team after a bet with my mother, a tee shirt without star yet.

And the third goal came and I got a kiss from my crush. Best goal ever at this moment. The little town I was living close to went totally crazy, champagne from the balcony, Gloria singing “I will survive” everywhere and tons of happy people. It was really something to experience. A moment of pure peace and joy for the most of is in France at this time.

And this year, 20 years after, when the football WM began, I knew it would be a victory for France as well. I did not tell anyone because Sweden was also playing and I was in minority but it became more obvious with the games. Somehow. And I can tell that I’m not a football fan at all, I just felt it in my stomach.

I bought a tee shirt for my daughter when I made a quick visit in France and I took my no-star tee shirt off the cupboard and we began to watch every game with France playing. Z needed the pool game to understand the point, but when we arrived to the final, she got it with the special shirt, the flag and the songs.

And we did win. We= the Bleu blanc rouge in the field and in the hearts. It was wonderful to see my 1,5years old running with the flag at the end of the game. Somehow, she is at the dawn of her life like I was 20 years ago at the dawn of my adult life.

Well done les bleus!

Elections 

I was in Stockholm this Sunday morning to vote. This is the second round of the presidential elections in France and more than me in Sweden thought that it was important. 

Two weeks ago, it tool about 15 minutes but this time, it took me an hour to queue. With the travel back and forth, it will be a five hours history. It does not matter, it could have taken the whole day, I would have staid to make my duty. Democracy is too important to me to miss it.

This is also funny this feeling to feel myself in France every time I go to the ambassy. This is after all just another building in Stockholm but the mood and air are French there.

50-50

Friday at home. Z turned 10 weeks this morning. It feels like she has been with us for ever.

I’ve now been at home from work 14 weeks. The first 4 weeks, I was waiting for Z to show up and then 10 next weeks, it has been a discovery of this little girl plus for me the start of coming back in my normal shape. Without going in too much details, the birth went pretty well for me, but after 9 months of carrying a stomach which is getting bigger and bigger, my stomach and back have a long way to be in shape again. I’ve started some exercises but honestly, it is for me difficult to take 20 minutes per day and do them. I just hate it. I’ve been taking pretty many walks, mostly to make things than just with the goal to go. I hate to walk without a purpose. I still have my goal: to run 10 km in 50 minutes when Z will be 1 year old. The other day, I took a long walk (more than 10 km) and put some running in it (run one minute and walk 4 minutes). I was pusching the strolley as well, so it was very challenging. It was the very first time I was running, and it felt like my legs were very weaks. I did not pee on myself, which is one of my biggest fears for the future after the birth.

But… Today, two days after my long walk, I feel in my back that I have difficulties to hold myself straigth. I really need to make these exercices for the back and stomach, but well… Where is my motivation?

I’ve also been swimming and it went pretty well, except for my breath. I need to train up my heart again, but it will be ok.

Another thing that will change soon: I will go back to work 5 months earlier than planned. And I (and the whole family) are happy with that. I am incredibly thankful that M’s and my employers give us the possibility to do so. M and I will work 50% each every week. This will give us the opportunity to spend as much time with Z during her whole time before she begins the preschool. Of course, this is only possible because I don’t breastfeed her anymore (I stopped when she was 2 weeks) and because I feel strong enough in my body to work 2 to 3 days a week. This is not given to everyone. To me, this is the real face of parity. M and I will have as much insight in Z’s development. Right now, this is heartbreaking when something new happens during the day and M misses it. I also think that we will even more enjoy “adults discussions”and passionate work during our working days and free time when we are at home with Z. Everyone is different, but for me, a whole week at home with Z when M is working is a bit too long. On thursday, I feel restless and Z still needs her quiet, sleep and so on.

To be at home with your baby is incredibly possible in Sweden, compared to other parts of the world. I have France as comparison and I can tell that I am very happy to be a mum in Sweden for that. I do think though that it exists a lots of fake informations going on the internet (not only in the world of Dj Trump.et…). For a kid in Sweden, you have 480 days to share between the two parents, with 90 days that are fixed for each parent. The parent who doesn’t give birth gets 10 days when the baby is born. Most of the time, the mum stays at home the first period and then the other parent is at home. From all the people I know, I don’t know one family which shared the parental leave so early as we do. It may for sure have to do with the baby needing the mum for the breastfeeding. OR if it is not the reason, I hope we did not miss anything. Because it is a jungle… You have your 480 days to share between the two parents, the preschools maybe do not have place for your kid when you want, there is a lots of vacations from school you have to think of and as we, you may not have an easy babysitter closed to you, that you can call quickly. You even have to think of your retirement money, of the sickness money and in general, how much money you are willing to get to make your budget go round. And this is one missunderstanding that travels on the internet: you are NOT getting 80% of your whole salary when you are at home with your kid. Well, yes, you are getting if IF 1) you are taking 7 days of parental money a week 2) your salary is under the roof the social security pays 3) you only get it for 300 days of the 480, for the 180 days left, you get 18 euros a day. I don’t know anyone making the 3 things working together.

Of course, most of people get kids because they want it, so did we. We knew these consequences and the happiness to have Z in our life is bigger than that, and we have good financial conditions since a while, so no arm on us. But think of that when you are believing all what is on FB.

To me, working 50% will give me another wonderful possibility: I will not need to find an excuse for not training half of the week ;)

 

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