Last week we decided to take a little day trip with our favourite German workawayers – Panini and Chippy (aka Annika and Lea). The plan was initially to go to Calgary so that I could pop into the Apple store and get my Macbook battery replaced. As it turns out, Apple doesn’t service this model anymore, so bye bye 3 hour drive to Apple and hello local computer techs who are happy to help!
Our new choice of destination was Banff as we’ve all wanted to go there since we arrived in Canada. The day started bright and early at 7:30 AM and we made a first stop at Lake Louise which is on the way. The lake is still frozen but it’s a beautiful place nonetheless.
We probably spent around an hour at the lake before continuing our journey. The first thing you see when you come off the exit to Banff is a massive sign and tourists taking pictures with it. Were we going to do things differently? Nope! Cue the tourist pics!
The Banff National Park is known for its amazing nature so we had already decided to dedicate the day to hiking. We chose a pretty easy hike that goes all the way up to the summit of Tunnel Mountain. It’s a relatively small mountain but with an amazing view! We did have a little trouble finding the start of the trail and ended up starting our hike a little higher up. I was absolutely fine with missing 500 metres of incline as I hadn’t been feeling well the day before. And it also meant we already had a pretty nice view from the get-go. The hike from start to finish takes a couple of hours and I’ll let the pictures do the talking!
While at the summit, we were greeted by this cute little chipmunk! It also earned Lea, who is a tiny person, the nickname ‘Chippy’.
After our hike we checked out downtown Banff and we all agreed that it’s a strange place! While beautiful, Banff is very touristy, and Moa described it very well; “Banff is designed to be what tourists think Canada should look like”. Spot on! My impression of the city centre was that it felt like a Canada theme park. We looked through the local thrift store, and a few souvenir shops, before sitting down to eat some hard earned pizza. After dinner we made our way towards the Bow Falls trail. Trying to find our way there by car had us moving towards a location that on the map was called ‘Surprise Corner’. We though this must be something fantastic. Guess what? The surprise was that it’s just a corner! The road takes a turn! Whaaat! Anyways. We were now on the wrong side of the river so we ended up parking in a residential area and walked across a pedestrian bridge to the trail. It was a nice little walk to the falls and below them is a golf course where we met a herd of elk. Cue pics!
We spent over an hour down by the falls before finally heading back to the car. We got to drive back with the sun setting over the mountains in front of us which is always breathtaking. I highly recommend it! We didn’t arrive back in Golden until around 10:30 but it was a day well spent! I think we’re all looking to go back and see other parts of the Banff National Park as the lakes melt and nature really wakes up.
I know what you’re thinking right now. ANOTHER blog post? You probably figured you’d have to wait at least a few weeks for the next one! Even though I did tell you there’d be one this week. I mean, sure, I did say it would be Moa posting… She still might. People have walked the moon!
I had a great little travel experience yesterday which I want to share with you. Moa may be off in Skaha but I might have exaggerated a little when I said I was left to my own devices. There ARE other people on the ranch. The other week, two German girls by the name of Annika and Lea arrived. As there is now a car on the property (OUR car! SMELLY but OURS!) we decided we should go on a little field trip (not to be confused with a Field trip). Our destination would be Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park. The snow has really been melting away here in Blaeberry so we figured it would be a nice little hike. Once you leave the highway there is a 2 km drive to the trail and then a 2.4 km hike to the falls.
We set off at around 12:30 once our chores were done at the ranch. The drive to the trailhead is not too long – only about 40 minutes. As we drove into the national park we were informed by signs that visitors now require a park pass which needs to be purchased on the park border. We completely missed the exit and had to find a place to turn around to go back and get a pass. Aren’t we the most upstanding citizens? Anyway, once we got back to the little hut were park passes are distributed, it turned out it was closed and no pass was required. A few minutes later we arrived at the road to Wapta Falls. Which was also closed. Yep, the dirt road going down to the trail was still covered in snow and our hike was now twice as long. Did we let that get us down? Not right away!
The walk to the trailhead was pretty boring so it was nice when we finally got there. The trail started going steadily upwards around halfway in. With fallen trees all over the place we had to practise some parkour to get by. (We were very graceful and I think Michael Scott would have been proud.) As the trail wasn’t really open for the season yet, I’m sure it’ll be cleaned up and made more accessible eventually.
We were very excited when we heard the roar of the falls which meant we were nearing the end of our 4.4 km hike (which I seriously believe was longer). The first stop is a viewing area high above the falls and the view is absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a picture that fully conveys this. If you ever go there (or if you’ve already been), you’ll know what I mean! We stopped there to drink some water and enjoy the scenery before following the trail downwards.
It was kind of tricky this time of year as the trail is covered in snow, ice and mud. Snow was definitely the preferable foundation. I would say that probably 70% of the trail down was ice which meant that we spent a lot of time sliding, grabbing trees and trying to find alternative routes in the snow just next to the trail. Every now and then we’d get to some bare ground where non-slippery moss was available. I frickin’ loved that moss… Before you get all the way down beneath the falls, there is another viewing area. It looked like people had been taking shortcuts and made their way down via the very steep bank underneath it. We chose the slightly safer ice trail.
Getting down took a LOT of effort but we made it! And it was worth it. It was such a cool experience to stand in front of the falls and feel that gentle spray of water. We were also lucky enough to have sunshine most of the time which meant we even got to see a rainbow! A picture says more than a thousand words so let’s have some photos, shall we?
I don’t know how long we spent down there but as we started hiking back, my shoes were absolutely soaked! They’re not really hiking shoes… The hardest part was definitely the last 2 km back to the car as at that point we were all very hungry and extremely tired of walking on icy snow. But we made it back and pulled into Golden for an A&W meal just before 18:00.
I’d love to go back to Wapta Falls again when it’s warmer and dryer. Someone told me it’s even possible to go swimming underneath them, which would be amazing! So don’t be surprised if you get another blog post about this place before the year is over.
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!
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.
It all started back in Canada when we were planning our US travels for the next few weeks. We realized that we had a 3 day gap between leaving Washington D.C and had plans to arrive in Chicago and we needed to decide on a travel route. I had already cracked a joke or two on Cleveland’s expense (“worst case we’ll just go to Cleveland, ha!”) because what you hear repeatedly in American tv-shows and movies are that Cleveland sucks. Cleveland is the worst. Cleveland is so boring. You get the picture! We knew it was kind of in the middle of our two destinations, but were looking at ways around it. Anyways, whatever route we looked at the one through Cleveland ended up being the cheapest one and as we are travelling on a budget we gave in and suddenly had plans to go to Cleveland for 2.5 days.
Early in the morning on February 5th we dragged ourselves to the Washington D.C Greyhound bus station and got on an 11 hour (!!!) bus with final destination Cleveland, Ohio. How fun! We were so excited! Yay!
Actually though, the journey wasn’t actually that bad. The drive was mostly, for my part at least, spent listening to true crime podcasts and reading a book. We even got to stop at a rest stop in Pennsylvania along the way, so I can now cross off that state from my list.
We arrived in Cleveland around 5pm and walked to our AirBnb, which was located not too far from what is considered to be “Downtown”. We then headed out to a Chili’s restaurant nearby to have dinner.
The following day we decided to walk into Downtown and explore all that Cleveland had to offer. We headed towards the water (Cleveland is situated by Lake Erie, one of North America’s great lakes) because waterfronts are always nice and to our delight we found a massive Cleveland sign! Obviously we had to sit inside it and take pictures, which you can view below. You’re welcome.
Cleveland is also famous for having a Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and it was situated right nearby. We decided to head there to check it out but we didn’t really feel like paying (budget you know), so we settled on walking around the gift shop for a bit.
After this we thought, “time to finally explore Downtown Cleveland!”. Now let me tell you about Downtown Cleveland. There’s nothing there. Like really. You might think I am exaggerating, but it’s true. We kept walking and walking and looked for anything that resembled a city center but all we found were the occasional café and like 5 Subway restaurants.
We did see one cool place and that was the Cleveland Arcade, an old shopping mall that still looks exactly like it did back in the 1920s. Unfortunately there was not much happening inside the mall, but it was pretty to look at.
We also found a Cleveland gift shop nearby that had t-shirts with slogans such as “Cleveland – it’s not that bad”. So they say.
After our Downtown experience we headed back to our room. Matilda wasn’t feeling too well at this point as she had caught some kind of cold (Cleveland Cold) so as the good friend that I am I decided to check out a climbing gym I’d found on Google that seemed pretty cool. Since it was in another part of the city and I didn’t really feel like wandering around by myself after dark (fun fact: Cleveland has the 5th highest murder rate in the US per capita) I got an Uber there.
“>Warning: This next section will be me geeking out about climbing so if you’re uninterested… Keep scrolling.
The climbing gym is called Climb Cleveland and is a bouldering facility, and it’s seriously awesome. The owner, who apparently built it himself, had focused on adapting it as much as possible after outdoor climbing to make it the ultimate training facility which meant there were a lot of features I hadn’t seen before at a bouldering gym. They have a massive section where you can actually top out onto the floor above like you were climbing a real boulder, a big crack climbing area to destroy those knuckles on and a massive traverse section with holds made from real rocks – just to name a few features. I spent the next 3 hours there climbing and chatting with the staff and other climbers and had a really fun night. By the end of my session I was even offered a ride back from one of the staff members, which I happily accepted. So if you’re a climber and are ever in Cleveland, I can highly recommend Climb Cleveland – it’s definitely one of the coolest bouldering places I’ve been to.
Moving on to Cleveland, day 2. When researching “things to do in Cleveland” I had come across the Cleveland Museum of Art which was supposed to have a great collection of paintings and artifacts. I’m going to be honest, I’m not usually the type of person who goes to art galleries and museums but this one had me intrigued. We spent a few hours at the museum and indeed, they had a range of cool collections. My personal favorites were an exhibit with old medieval armor and weapons which always fascinates me, as well as a collection of landscape paintings of North America showing scenes of the land before it was developed to the US we know today. They also had a massive collection of artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt that you could geek out about for hours if you wanted to.
After a few hours at the museum we headed back to “Downtown” and bought some groceries for our bus journey the following day. Since we were both quite tired we then decided to go back to our Airbnb, watch a movie and pack. Our bus to Chicago was leaving at 8am the next morning which meant another early start.
All in all, Cleveland wasn’t too fun as a city – but I am all in favor of that a place is what you make of it and the people you meet along the way. Climb Cleveland was amazing and really added some extra points to the city from my part, and the art musem was also a good timewaster. It might not be a place I’d choose to go back to just to simply visit Cleveland, but if I ever randomly travel through it again, I won’t suffer. Thanks Cleveland!
Next stop: Washington, D.C. and the start of our “epic” Greyhound roadtrip! The express bus from New York got off to a rocky start when the bus driver decided not to show up to work. We ended up being delayed by an hour before we finally made it out. I fell asleep almost instantly and woke up in Delaware. We arrived around 3 hours later at Union Station in DC. While trying to figure out how to get to our Airbnb (and probably looking very lost), we were approached by a very nice man heading home from work in the city. He showed us to the DC Streetcar which is free to ride from Union Station down H Street Corridor and Benning Road. We were given lots of information about the area, and advice on what corners to avoid during the night. He then proceeded to walk us to the Airbnb, to make sure we got there safe, and gave us his business card in case we needed any help.
Our Airbnb room was really nice and located not too far from the U.S. capitol. If it weren’t for my inconvenient knee “injury” we could definitely have walked there, but on this occasion we did have to settle for public transport.
On Friday we had a guided tour of the Pentagon booked. It was completely free but subject to application and background checks in advance. As you come out of the metro there is a strict no photography policy around the Pentagon – they mean serious business! We were around 15 minutes early which meant that we weren’t allowed inside and had to take a short walk and come back. We were then subject to airport style security checks before being allowed in the waiting room and eventually invited to a tour group of around 10 people. Our guide was walking backwards while taking us through the history of Pentagon’s different departments and we got to see quite a few areas of the building, including the 9/11 memorial.
After our guided tour, we got the metro back into the city and visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum which was really cool. They had lots of stuff from NASA, such as satellites, astronaut training facilities, and a piece of the moon! We were very fascinated by the space part of the museum but also enjoyed learning about the history of air travel.
We did become a bit tired of looking at airplanes towards the end and decided it was time to find something to eat. As we walked around the city looking for food, we were struck by how empty it was. There were virtually no people, which in contrast with the wide streets and grand buildings made us feel like we were walking around a model city rather than a real one! It was definitely very different from New York.
Our main aim for the Saturday was to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. We ended up spending most of the day inside the museum, and there is so much to take in that your brain just starts shutting down after a few hours. We particularly enjoyed the exhibit about human evolution, but the mammal and narwhal rooms were amazing too. The nature photography exhibit on the second floor is also something that you do not want to miss.
After frying our brains with information we spent some time sightseeing. It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon/evening – not as cold and windy as the day before.(Warning: when it’s windy in DC, it’s reeeeally windy! Too many open spaces!) There were a lot more people out and about on the weekend, which made it feel more like an actual real life place. We started out by Capitol Hill and made our way to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. Unfortunately we did not manage to find the exact bench that Leslie Knope was sitting on in an episode of Parks and Recreation, but we did get to walk where Captain America and Falcon used to go for daily runs so it’s okay.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
On Sunday we had arranged to meet up for lunch with my friend Faith, whom I got talking to online through a very dedicated group of Alex Lambert fans a few years back. (Actually, this was back in 2010 so it’s almost a decade ago… what’s up with time, guys?)
Here is a thing that happened while we were waiting for the streetcar in the morning:
Random man: “Are you watching the Superbowl today?”
Us: “No, don’t think so.”
Random man: “What?”
Us: “Well, we’re Swedish so we don’t know much about it.”
Random man: “That’s no excuse.”
MOVING SWIFTLY ON. We had some time to kill before lunch so we popped into the National Archives to take a look at the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States. It was very interesting to see the original documents up close and then to be able to read about how things lead up to each and everyone of them being signed.
At 1 PM we headed over to the Hill Country Barbecue Market to meet up with Faith. It was really cool to finally meet face to face after all these years! The restaurant choice was Faith’s idea and it was mine and Moa’s first introduction to a real Texas barbecue. The food was absolutely amazing and we had a very nice time, chatting away. We are hoping to visit California later this year and got some great tips on what to do there.
After lunch we decided to check out the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It was cool to learn about how American culture developed through various different cultures coming together over the centuries. A huge amount of Swedes moved to the USA in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s so it’s not uncommon for us to have American relatives. Two of my great grandmothers popped over to work in the USA in the early 1900’s. One of them was in Chicago for around 12 years before going back to Sweden, but her brothers stayed in the U.S. and had families. A third great grandmother was actually born in New York!
We found a little corner at the museum about Swedish immigration to Chicago and a note recommending a visit to the Swedish American Museum there, which we immediately wrote down. (More about that will come when we tell you about our Chicago visit…) When we left the museum we were absolutely drenched by heavy rain. What better way is there to end a day, really?
That’s a wrap on our Washington, D.C. tourist adventures! I bet you can’t wait to hear about our next stop. You are going to be SO jealous… but I won’t spoil too much. I’m sure Moa will have some fantastic things to say about it.