It’s been a while since we last uploaded an acoustic video, hasn’t it? This song is called ‘Nothing Holds A Candle‘ and we finished writing it just over a year ago. We’d love to be able to say what exactly it was that inspired the idea for the song but Matilda can’t remember… All we know is she recorded the first verse on her phone very late one night, forgot about it, and then found the file while going through recordings on her way to Gatwick Airport. She was heading to Sweden for a week and sent the idea over to Moa who helped finish the song. Though we don’t know where the idea came from, we really love this one. For us, it’s about finding the good in each other even when the circumstances around you aren’t ideal.
Video shot outdoors at the Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch in Canada.
We’d like to dedicate this song to Mary – an amazing person and colleague who will be missed by many.
Let’s catch up! Our final stop between the U.S. and the Rocky Mountains Buffalo Ranch was Calgary, where we spent 3 days before heading into the Rockies. Our Airbnb hosts were kind enough to offer an airport pick-up service which saved us some time and money. Throughout this trip we have mostly stayed at Airbnb locations over hotels and it’s such a great way of travelling. For example, our stays in New York City and Toronto were both in great neighbourhoods (Greenpoint/Brooklyn and Roncesvalles) where we felt like locals rather than tourists.
Upon arriving at our accommodation in Calgary we knew that we’d once again made the right choice! Our place for the next 3 days was located in a beautiful neighbourhood, just above Bow River and a 10 minute walk from picturesque Kensington with lots of small stores, pubs and restaurants. We were also only a 25-30 minute walk from downtown Calgary. The city had, much like our previous stop Chicago, just received a dump of powdery snow which just added to the beauty. I could keep going about how pretty it was. Honestly, every street in the surrounding areas could easily have been plucked right out of a Christmas movie – complete with light decorations! Did I mention we saw polar hares running around in the street every night?! You could barely see them at first as they just look like piles of snow until they start moving. At which point you’ll probably see 5 or 6 of them! Probably having a very important polar hare meeting about things and stuff.
Our first mission after leaving our bags at the Airbnb was dinner. We ended up at Menyatai Japanese Noodles which was the first restaurant we saw and the food was delicious! After this we took a stroll around the neighbourhood and made mental notes of places to go back to over the next couple of days. We discovered that they had a CAT CAFÉ (!!!!) and had to immediately message our friend Sofie as we’ve been wanting to go to one for ages. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit this time around, but I have a feeling we’ll be back in Calgary before the year is over.
On the second day we decided to checkout downtown. It was pretty cold outside so most people were making their way around the central areas by using the pedestrian skywalk system +15. We wanted some fresh air and sun though so we spent the morning outside. On our way back towards Kensington we decided to walk across the Peace Bridge. Just before reaching the bridge, we happened upon a travelling outdoor photo exhibition called The Fence. It was apparently the first time it was being shown outside of the U.S. and it was very cool. All photos, with accompanying stories, were attached to a fence that went around a construction site by the river. Read more about it HERE.
We had a late poutine lunch back in Kensington before checking out the stores in the area. I ended up getting myself a nice big scarf (desperately needed in the cold temperature) and we both scored ourselves a bargain at a local bookstore. As we hadn’t seen much of the Winter Olympics we decided to leave our purchases in the Airbnb and then make our way back to find somewhere with drinks and sports. The place we chose to hang out for the evening was Hayden Block. It’s a great place with a good atmosphere, lovely staff and HUGE tv screens which makes for good Olympics watching! We had a couple of drinks each and shared a plate of hushpuppies while being entertained by the Men’s Half-Pipe Snowboarding.
Our final day began with a walk to the Prince’s Island Park which is located in the Bow River. We learned that the island, along with the rest of Calgary, was heavily flooded a few years ago. The island is still being restored. It was a nice little walk where we met many squirrels. I don’t really know what more to ask for in a walk, other than seeing cute animals? We came from the west end of the island and headed East to the man-made wetlands. It is inhabited by a range of different bird species and a few beavers. Unfortunately we did not see any beavers, but we did see signs that they were present in the area which was cool!
Ice rink between Prince’s Island Park and downtown Calgary
As it was the 13th of February, aka Galentine’s Day, we thought we deserved a waffle treat after all the walking. Leslie Knope would definitely agree with us on this. The perfect place for a waffle brunch was of course Buttermilk Fine Waffles on 17th Avenue. I’m gonna let this picture do the talking:
Moa had a haircut booked in the afternoon which meant we had some further time to kill. Calgary is located in Alberta, which we’ve been told is country music land in Canada, and it has a few country/western stores (Calgary Stampede anyone?). We checked out a couple of them and Moa got herself another postcard for her travel collection. We went our separate ways when it was time for the big haircut. I found myself killing time in the nearby CORE shopping centre with a late A&W lunch. I told myself I wouldn’t do any shopping. It didn’t work. In fairness, I absolutely did need to get the cleaning and waterproofing kit for my leather boots. They are naturally waterproof, but in the extremely slushy streets they had sadly started leaking and had salt stains all over. So I started in ALDO where I got these much needed supplies… and H&M was basically next door with a sale… 17 CAD for two knitted sweaters was too good to pass up!
Around 3 hours later, Moa was finally done with her marathon haircut. It was at a hair academy so I’ll forgive it… even though it made me spend money.
We ended the day at Hayden Block once more to watch the Olympics. The Women’s Ice Hockey tournament was on with Sweden facing Switzerland. The staff made sure to have at least one screen show the game for us which was super nice of them. We had a few drinks each and I ate a great bacon mac & cheese. Sweden lost against Switzerland, and all over the world, people were confused as to how one country could play a game against themselves in the Olympics and lose.
I must add a final note about our fantastic Airbnb. Our host Christine was incredibly nice and the house was all you could ask for. They even stocked the kitchen with a “mini supermarket” where you could take any items you needed (such as noodles, coffee, energy bars) and pay by putting change in a jar. Great if you don’t have the time or energy to go to the supermarket! They had not been doing the Airbnb thing for long so we made sure to leave a glowing review. If we are back in the area, we will for sure stay with them again!
On the 14th of February we got on a Greyhound bus and headed to Golden where we’ve now been for just over a month. We’ll be here for most of April as well, so expect some more posts about this wonderful place in the Rockies!
Having some good music to listen to is a pretty vital part of life in general, but it is particularly important while travelling. We thought we’d share some of the songs we’ve enjoyed listening to so far during our time in the Rocky Mountains! All compiled into a handy little Spotify playlist. Click on the image below to listen!
Please feel free to let us know what your favourite songs are and if you have any recommendations for us!
FULL LIST OF SONGS:
Emily Faye – Open Road
Jake Morrell – Englishman
Fifth Floor – These Days
Thomas Rhett & Rhett Akins – Drink A Little Beer
Lady Gaga – Yoü And I
Dustin Lynch – Love Me Or Leave Me Alone (feat. Karen Fairchild)
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – Walking On A Dream
Alright, time to get you guys up to speed – We’re back in Canada (and have been since the middle of February, oops)!
I’d like to say we have a good reason for not updating this blog very well the last few weeks but truth is, life kinda just got in the way. And we’re great at procrastination. Jokes aside though, it’s been really nice to just kind of be and live in the moment and settle in. This blog post will be kind of a quick summary and catch-up of the last few weeks, with a bunch of pictures going with it!
On February 11th we left the US and Chicago and flew to Calgary, Canada. We stayed there for three days before boarding a Greyhound bus west and set off into The Rockies. Since February 14th we have been staying at the Rocky Mountains Buffalo Ranch located in the middle of Columbia Valley about 20 minutes outside the small town of Golden. If we thought we were remote when we stayed in Kenmore outside of Ottawa, then this is a whole new level. It’s basically mountains, forest, and us. And it’s wonderful.
At the ranch we are helping Leo, our host, with running his Airbnb business and daily chores in exchange for food and accommodation. We clean the house and the cabin that’s being rented out, chop wood, drive the snow mobile to and from the mailbox and shovel tons of snow. It’s awesome.
The buffalos are all taken care of by Leo and is not something we help out with, mainly because we would most likely get charged by them if we entered their pastures. So no thanks. They are super cute though and are beautiful creatures. At the moment there are 18 animals here and the herd is lead by the alpha male Chester Jr – a massive bull who’s apparently only going to get bigger!
A few weeks ago we attached my GoPro camera to the snowmobile and Leo tried to get the buffalos to chase him so we could get some good footage. However, one thing we’ve learnt here is that the buffalos won’t do anything you want them to do so they mostly just calmly walked around and were not up for running at all. I still managed to get some cool shots, which you can see below!
The only downside to being here is that we don’t have a car so leaving the ranch can’t really be done spontaneously to go to town. My mom asked me when we were talking on Skype if we couldn’t just “take the bus”. Nope, there are no buses here! If we want to get to town we either arrange to get a ride from a neighbour or friend or we hitchhike in. Luckily for us, we’ve already gotten to know some amazing people around here. Everyone is so friendly!
So how does life look for us nowadays? Well, it’s pretty quiet and relaxed. Since it’s the low season here on the ranch (in the summer Leo rents out some cabins that are not suitable for winter as well as running a daily buffalo tour) we have a lot of free time to spend as we want. Any chores we might have for the day are usually dealt with in the morning or noon and late afternoon and evenings are almost always free. Since Leo is also a musician we’ve ended up having several jam sessions in his cabin! We’ve also been to a local jam night a few times in town at a great place called The Wolf’s Den and are hoping to get to play there again in the near future.
To my personal joy there’s a climbing gym in town which I’ve signed up for, so a few times a week I go climbing which is so much fun. I always feel better when I can climb regularly and I’m really hoping that when the snow melts away I’ll get the chance to go on a few climbing adventures outdoors.
What’s next? Well, the long-term plan is that we will be staying here at the ranch until the end of April. After that we don’t know yet, we’ll decide that when we get there. In regards for a plan for the next few days – I’M GOING SKIING! TODAY! Since I love skiing and have always loved skiing, it would have felt like a crime to go to Canada and not ski. This is however not something I share with Matilda, so I’ve booked a ski trip for myself starting today. I’m going to Lake Louise! I’ll be staying there until Friday for three full days of skiing and I couldn’t be more excited.
So in terms of the blog, here’s what we’re gonna do. There’s gonna be a post about the time we spent in Calgary which I will try to get up in the next few days. When I get back from my skiing trip I am also making it my mission to make a vlog where we can show you the ranch and what we do with our time at the moment! It’s so hard to try to sum it all up in words sometimes and it’s a great way for us to show you the incredible scenery around here. There’s also going to be a post coming up soon about a spontaneous roadtrip we took this weekend to Yoho National Park and Emerald Lake with our friend Matt, a post about when we went dogsledding (which is also thanks to Matt) as well as a post where I tell you all about my ski adventures.
After spending 2,5 days in Cleveland it was finally time for us to get up stupid early and get on a bus to Chicago where we would be staying with Moa’s friend Jared. Chicago was one of the places I was most excited about seeing, largely due to my family history with the city.
On our way to Chicago we got to tick off Indiana as another state we had set foot in and Moa got herself another rest stop postcard. In case anyone back home is wondering: Ohio and Indiana basically just look the same as southern Sweden. Farmland, farmland, farmland!
We finally arrived in Chicago around 15:00 and it was COLD. Should we be used to this by now? Yes, we should. But after spending 8 hours on a warm bus it’s still a bit of a shock. If you’ve not been to Chicago before, you should know that in the metro there are two maps within the map. If you do not find your stop on the big map, look for the tiny Loop one! It may be in the corner somewhere. The Loop is basically the downtown area. After some initial confusion regarding this, we managed to make our way downtown.
We met up with Jared at the Merchandise Mart and got on a train heading North. Moa and Jared have known each other since they met on a Paris trip a few years back, but it was my first time meeting him. As luck would have it, we all got along very well. It would have been a very awkward couple of days otherwise! We mentioned that we wanted to go see the Swedish American Museum the next day and were surprised to learn that Jared’s place was located a mere 10 minute walk from there. We were basically staying on the border of Andersonville!
After dropping our bags off, we were taken on a walk through Andersonville. You can really tell that people are proud of their Swedish heritage! The main street is filled with Swedish flags and Swedish American businesses. We made some mental notes on what places to visit the next day and then headed back home to eat some deep dish Chicago pizza. It was very weird! Good, but weird. It’s like a pizza in reverse (cheese at the bottom, sauce on top). It’ll also make you REALLY full after only 1 or 2 slices.
Our Friday morning adventures were all located in Andersonville. The day started at the wonderful SVEA Restaurant which is a small Swedish American café/diner that has been open for a century. We were pleasantly surprised by the food! The menu was naturally a bit Americanized but it still had plenty of Swedish elements which made us feel right at home. (This was a pretty big contrast to the “Swedish” coffee shops we encountered in New York, where the only Swedish connections were a flag and maybe a couple of translated words on the menu.) I had pancakes with lingonberry jam and Moa went for an omelette. Delicious! If you’re ever in the area, you should definitely visit this place. It has a great atmosphere and they only accept cash – just like back in the day!
At the next table were two very nice American ladies who struck up conversation with us when they found out we were Swedish. They gave us some great tips on places to see in Chicago and where to go for a good book or a meal in the surrounding areas. They ended up offering to pay for our breakfast which had us a little speechless and very grateful. “We have to show you there are still some good people left in America!” And there are indeed! I think that’s one of the things that so far has really left an impression on us in both Canada and the USA – people are generally very open and friendly. We love it!
After breakfast it was time to visit the museum down the road. We were greeted by a lovely lady by the name of Diana who volunteered at the front desk. She gave us a rundown of how to best experience the history museum upstairs and also some background info on the exhibitions currently on display downstairs and in the Wallenberg gallery. We were definitely made to feel welcome from the moment we stepped in the door.
The museum upstairs was great and had paper guides in both English and Swedish. We had already learned a lot in school about the Swedes emigrating to America so there wasn’t brand any new information for us. It was, however, very interesting to read about it from “the other side”. The room is set up so that you walk counter clockwise in a circle and get to see each step of the Swedish immigrant’s journey. For me it was cool to see how my great grandmother would have travelled and spent her days in the city. The museum also had a lot of info about Swedes who made an impact on Chicago and the country in general. For example, Swedes played a large part in building Chicago and other cities, both as architects and as labourers. And Walgreens, a huge American drugstore chain, was founded by a Swede in Chicago!
We spent quite some time upstairs as we wanted to read and look at everything. Once done, we had to visit the museum store downstairs which was packed with Swedish things. They stocked Kosta Boda glassware which is created not far from my little town in Sweden. And the most important thing – they sold Marabou chocolate! It was of course very expensive but we both decided to treat ourselves.
In the afternoon we made our way downtown where it was apparently very important for us to see “the Bean”. I didn’t know what this bean was or why we should see it. Moa, Jared and the ladies we met at breakfast did however assure me that I should see the Bean. It is allegedly a famous Chicago landmark, but I mean… I didn’t know it existed… Sooo… here is a bean:
Post-Bean we went for an ice cold walk by the beautiful Chicago river. I was very surprised at how clear the water looked. (I guess that’s what looking at the dirty Thames for 5 years does to you.) We then decided to go for an early dinner to warm up and make plans for the evening.
Ever since we decided to visit Chicago we had been talking about seeing some improv comedy, as we’d read so much about the Chicago improv scene. So during dinner we looked up possible shows to see in the evening. We settled on an 8 o’clock performance at the iO Theatre – another place we can highly recommend to everyone! Just walking around the place and seeing the pictures on the walls is very cool. It shows you just how many famous comedians and actors that have passed through the theatre over the years.
The show itself was great, with the improvisers taking inspiration from a “mindreader” performing tricks on the audience in between scenes. The particular show we went to was apparently new but we wouldn’t have been able to tell! In general I felt the tempo and overall standard was higher than the improv we saw in New York (and that was still VERY good). So thumbs up for the iO!
Saturday started with breakfast at SVEA Restaurant once more. I opted for the viking style french toast with bacon. Also delicious! We then made our way downtown and wandered around as Jared showed us the city. When going by the Chicago Cubs stadium I made the mistake of asking what sport they play and was quickly hushed by Jared (all in good fun). “Don’t say that too loud around here!” But I mean, every American city has all the sports… how am I supposed to know which team does what?!
Early dinner was had at a great place called Cheesies which serves grilled cheese sandwiches. Moa and I had our minds BLOWN. “I would be so fat if I lived in America, there’s too much tasty food” – direct quote from Moa. After our big cheese experience, Jared took us out for our first Target experience. We spent a pretty good amount of time in there but didn’t come out with much. I can definitely see how one might spend a lot of money in there, though…
Waiting for trains in Chicago is super cold
Chicago architecture is awesome
Making friends in Target
Our Chicago visit ended with cider, snacks and a movie at Jared’s place. He had bought all the snacks he thought we should try before leaving the U.S. and we combined it with the original Jumanji movie. I had wanted to see it ever since I was a kid but somehow never got around to it. I guess a trip to Chicago at age 26 is as good a time as any to fulfill your childhood movie watching goals!
Our American roadtrip had now come to an end, and we prepared to get up depressingly early and get on a flight to Calgary the next day…
I think we can both say for sure that we will be back in Chicago! In the summer, though. Definitely in the summer.