Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam

Besides London, Mallorca, France, Spain and Italy ( always Italy!), we have four families traveling to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Experience a Nordic world of fjords, castles, glaciers, and the legacy of the Vikings.  Enjoy the rides at Tivoli Gardens, discover the capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Amsterdam. View the Danish Crown Jewels, royal Viking ships, the warship Vasa, rescued after more than 300 years on the bottom of Stockholm harbor and well-preserved medieval ports. Western Europe’s most prosperous, pristine and progressive corner, many options for historic castles including Kalmar Castle, and Copenhagen’s fun-loving pedestrian center, biking and kayaking, innovative shopping and gourmet dining.

Generally, we aim to balance city and country life as we explore three important cities, it is  important not to move around too much when choosing three cities, so balance is critical, and at the same time provide an adventure without exhausting the family.

Three locations in 2 weeks translates approx 3-5 days in each city. Stockholm (city and archipelago), then Copenhagen (mostly country near the Fredriksborg castle & the Hamlet castle), and Amsterdam, city.

Starting at the top of the globe, arrive Stockholm in Northern Europe, then travel further  south to Copenhagen and then move south towards Amsterdam. Depart Amsterdam to home.

Stockholm will give teens that balance of cool city and country life but the country life part will be set in the Archipelago, very true to Swedish summers, being in the archipelago near to water and nature, they can learn about the relationship between the two countries of Sweden and Denmark.

Stockholm Hotel and a Glamping Option.

City Hotel http://www.grandhotel.se Grand Hotel and an Archipelago Hotel http://www.sandhamn.com *Extra option* Island luxury camp style hotel – http://www.islandlodge.se (This is very unique place in the middle of the Stockholm archipelago you arrive here by boat and stay in luxury tents, with Mille Notte linen and outdoor showers  – 1 night stay would do fine if the family/teens want to ‘camp’ out for some adventure, could be fun, the website does not look like much but it is a very humble style site and hotel).

A combination of city and island life. Here we can organize culture and cool in the city with biking activity and rafting. Stockholm is where innovation is key, the start of many great companies such as Ikea, H&M, Spotify, Skype, many of the world’s music producers and song writers come from Sweden too.  Then in the archipelago, it is a more humble, sailing environment, small town built on an island, hiking and nature can be the focus here.

Copenhagen Hotels Country http://www.kokkedalslotcopenhagen.dk/en/welcome (here you would be close to the castles which are perfect cycling spots and roads to ride on) Falsled Kro https://www.relaischateaux.com/us/denmark/falsled-fionie-millinge

City – http://www.dangleterre.com The D’Angleterre

Activity Options – Copenhagen.  Here you will get more of the countryside living among castles type of environment near the water, biking and walking is key and the best place to bike in the world is actually Copenhagen.

A cooking class on how to make smörrebröd could be fun, takes a few hours and the pace is fast. There is time for relaxation and leisure.

Amsterdam Hotels (city only)
Hotel L’Europe http://www.leurope.nl/ Overlooking the River Amstel, Hotel de l’Europe blends classic design—the building dates from 1896—with contemporary amenities in its 111 guestrooms and 42 suites. The recently opened Dutch Masters wing features replicas of paintings found in the Rijksmuseum.

Activity Options – Amsterdam. Lots of things to see in Amsterdam – hours of cool shopping, art museums: Van Gogh and Rijks museum, antiques, the Red Light district, the Anne Frank Museum, biking is very common here, the city life is more rife and alive here.

Stockholm Hotel: The Grand Hotel www.grandhotel.se which includes a gorgeous Nordic Spa (included in rate) – located nicely in the middle of the city overlooking the Royal Palace.

Activity Options – Stockholm (city/countryside/). Great thing about Stockholm, it is a blue and green city, surrounded by parks, water and beautiful islands with lots to do – day trips out to islands and the countryside. Teens will have bikes for their entire stay at the hotels, take it with wherever you may go and whatever transport we may use. If the idea is of interest, we could ask a local Swedish family to host a Swedish Midsummer celebration at their humble summer house where you would be able to join them at their home, making flower garlands and eating local Swedish food over midsummer. You can also go berry or mushroom picking together on an island.

Will mix in nature, sports, fun, activity and culture keeping the whole family in mind with a fun/ relaxed balance. Kayaking or paddle boarding in the lake Mälaren or in the beautiful canals of the Royal island of Djurgården. Create a map of Djurgården and meet up with parents somewhere on the island either for a luxury picnic or lunch in a park. A boat trip into the archipelago for island hopping exploring islands, hiking or little quaint towns for shopping. Kite surfing? We know the place on a small island!  The island of Vaxholm has a fortress which is  interesting, great for exploring by bike or just having lunch.  Shopping in the Bohemian style area SOFO for vintage shopping, cool music stores and cafes, where Greta Garbo lived. The old Town is  lovely and a must, for so many reasons, historical perfect in the day & evenings – some say a little haunted as well. Would be fun doing a ghost walk in the Old Town in the evening – teeny cliché perhaps, but fun. The Royal island of Djurgården – is a great spot for both kayaking and cycling it is the perfect spot for these activities as it is so peaceful with many great paths here; there are lovely cafes and restaurants The Rosendahl’s Garden near the Rosendal Castle is a perfect spot for cycling to for teens and the parents can meet the teens there for lunch. It is an open greenhouse and garden with the freshest of produce and flowers, here you can have lunch or coffees and cakes. On the island of Djurgården there is a theme park called Gröna Lund where there are lots of other teenagers as well, it is very close to the Abba Museum and some other lovely restaurants.

If anyone is into photography, there is a museum dedicated to just photography – Fotografiska Museum.

Day trips to beautiful Swedish palaces around the lake Mälaren for a culture experience and have your bikes ready or kayaks nearby at the same spots while the parents explore further and the teens can adventure on.

An underground art tour, the underground system is great in Sweden and we have had some amazing artists paint the walls of the underground – great photo ops.

Adventurous & different options?  Then perhaps a rooftop tour, you will get harnessed up and taken on a climbing tour on top of a building where you get to learn a bit about Stockholm from above and see all the other rooftops over the city, a different view while the parents can come along or wait for the kids at the café down by the water, watching the stunning views & explore the rest of Riddarholmen island.

Will look into some any summer musical concerts outdoors.

The Vasa Museum is quite amazing to visit and has a great but tragic story about the magnificent ship, I could look into a ‘behind the scenes’ experience where you can touch the remaining findings that were found on the ship in the 1600’s – this is in a special vault under the museum and everyone would need gloves before entering.

Beautiful museums abound in locations where there are great paths for riding bikes etc.
Private guides for all tours + bike guide to start the teens off with their bearings & knowledge.

Sunbathing on the feather islands. Take a boat out to the feather islands a quaint little island with small cafés and bathing spots.

I recommend a sail into the archipelago on a private boat and perhaps a stay for the night out if you like. A Swedish barbecue either on an island called Grinda, where you can cycle as well as just relax, kayak, swim and sauna if you wish.

Interested in novels and films like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we can do an exclusive tour, where this movie was written, filmed and inspired by in the book and the movie.

So much – pace yourself or add a few extra days and see it all!

 

 

Mérida, Yucatán Gem

Centro historico of Merida

The Yucatán’s capital, Mérida, is an unhurried city of pastel crayon colored 19th Century Spanish Colonial mansions and traditional squares accented by popular public parks. One of the safest cities in Mexico, not only is it an architectural gem, it treasures its Mayan heritage. Folk dancing takes place on the closed off historic square on Saturday nights, and bike riding can be enjoyed in Paseo Montejo, which is closed to cars on Sundays. Mérida was founded in 1542 and was named after the town of Mérida in Extremadura Spain. The city was built on the site of the Maya city of “Tho.” Tho had been a center of Mayan culture for centuries and because of this, some historians consider Mérida the oldest continually occupied city in the Americas.

The Plaza Grande marks the center of the city, the centro historico of Merida. Bounded on four sides by buildings which include the Cathedral San Idelfonso, the Governor’s Palace, Casa Montejo (now inhabited by a Banamex), the MACAY museum, the Olimpo (a cultural center that houses gallery space, a movie theatre and the Planetarium) and the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), the Plaza Grande is a lovely park where people come to meet, sit, read the paper, sing, dance, chase the pigeons or just watch the world go by. Locals still ride in little horse-drawn taxis, which gather by the plaza in the evenings. Trios of trovadores wait to be hired for serenades and wander the corridors strumming their guitars.

At the turn of the century, merchants who had grown rich on the trade in sisal rope brought great wealth to Mérida. The city retains a European feel, with many of the older buildings built from French bricks and tiles, brought over as ballast in trading ships. Like the rest of the peninsula, it had little effective contact with central Mexico until the 1960s and looked to Europe for influence, thus the stark difference in character and style from most of other popular Mexican cities.

Ancient Mayan history is still evident in many buildings, carved Maya stones from ancient T’ho were widely used to build the Spanish colonial buildings that are abundant in central Mérida. Much of Mérida’s architecture from the colonial period through the 18th century and 19th century is still standing in the centro historico of the city.

From colonial times through the mid-19th century, Mérida was a walled city intended to protect the residents from periodic revolts by the indigenous Maya. Three of the original seven old Spanish city gates survive, but modern day Mérida has expanded well beyond the old city walls.The exposed brick streets were originally brought from Spain as ballast in the sailing ships, sailors replaced the ballast with ink wood harvested in Mérida.

Mérida and the state of Yucatán have traditionally been isolated from the rest of the country by geography, creating a unique culture. The conquistadors found the Mayan culture to be incredibly resilient, and their attempts to eradicate Mayan tradition, religion, and culture had only moderate success.  The surviving remnants of the Mayan culture can be seen every day, in dress, language, and in both written and oral histories. It is especially apparent on holidays like Hanal Pixan, a Mayan/Catholic Day of the Dead celebration. It falls on November 1 and 2 (one day for adults, and one for children). Many of the local ladies still wear the traditional white dress decorated in beautiful embroidery.

Not only is Mérida a wonderful draw on its own, the central location is the perfect starting point to explore the Mayan Route of ruins, cenotes (underwater sinkholes with crystal clear water), and refurbished haciendas. Some of the haciendas are private residences and we have access to the best of the best!

Uxmal

I spent three days with a couple of extremely knowledgeable guides – I was wildly impressed with both guides and loved exploring Mérida and Uxmal, one of the largest and most important archaeological sites of Mayan culture. The Mayan town of Uxmal, in Yucatán, was founded c. A.D. 700 and had 25,000 inhabitants. The layout of the buildings, which date from between 700 and 1000, reveals knowledge of astronomy. The Pyramid of the Soothsayer, as the Spaniards called it, dominates the ceremonial center, which has well-designed buildings decorated with a profusion of symbolic motifs and sculptures depicting Chaac, the god of rain. The ceremonial sites of Uxmal, Kabah, Labna and Sayil are considered the high points of Mayan art and architecture. Uxmal is only about 40 miles from Merida. Spend a week here and vary your days: lounging about, exploring Mérida and venturing out to the archeological sites.

Despite the large population of Mérida, the area feels sleepy and calm, it doesn’t exhibit the rush rush energy of a large city; small villages dot the country roads, week long fiestas are popular in the tranquil towns outside the city. Mérida, itself can lay claim to a couple of well known chefs – I met two who had trained under chef René Redzep at Noma, the world famous Copenhagen restaurant. Roberto Solis, owner and chef at Néctar is a former Noma chef and he also cooked at Per Se in New York. Our dinner at Néctar, a small unassuming restaurant was amazing and the  very reasonable tab was beyond belief for the amount of food and wine we enjoyed, under the watchful care of friendly and efficient staff. The New Yucatecan Cuisine, as Solis describes it, is traditional in a sense, but wildly innovative.

Don’t miss the Mercado market teeming with vendors of fresh fruits and vegetables, piles of  indigenous spices, housewares – a massive mecca of interesting food and home items. If you like poking through cemeteries, the Cementerio General is spectacular.

This is not a traditional bustling city like Mexico City – Mérida has a relaxed vibe, love the proximity to Mayan ruins without the crowds, love the authentic city and the very friendly locals.

Planning another escape soon! Highly recommend and we can help you organize the VV Best guides, dining, private experiences and hacienda resort stay. We can also arrange visits to private haciendas for cooking classes with well known local chefs.