Through travelling to so many contrasting places together (over 30 different countries to date), we have gradually discovered the type of holiday we need for restoration (and luckily for us, we have similar tastes when it comes to this): remoteness, nature, and a few adventures.
Getting to Islay was an adventure in itself as we opted to take a direct flight to Edinburgh and then drive to the ferry port at Kennacraig, where you then take a two-hour ferry ride across to Islay. To break up the journey, we spent the first night at a Bed and Breakfast not far from the port before continuing on our journey.
The scenic drive through Scotland was just breathtaking – we were too in awe to take many pictures of the route and the ones I took on the way back just don’t do justice to the panoramic views.
The road though mainland Scotland
Out on deck during the ferry crossing to Islay
View of Jura from the ferry
I loved the journey – being in a car ferry reminded me of childhood trips we would take to France – and we even caught glimpse of a dolphin from the deck.
After disembarking, we stopped off at Coal Ila distillery on spec and were pleasantly surprised that they had availability on their next tour and so our whisky journey began. Caol Ila seemed more mass production focussed with much of their whisky being produced to create blended whiskies rather than single malts. Still, it was a great place to stop and learn about the distilling process for the first time.
Our drive to our accommodation took us from the very north of the island to the very southern tip and took around 40 minutes to drive (which gives you a sense of Islay’s size). Always ones for adventure, we had planned to stay in a highly-recommended Stormpod (a renovated large caravan built into the hill behind it and covered with turf for protection from said storms). Our view overlooking the bay packed with wildlife was enviable – and as it turns out, not a dull moment can go by when you are seal spotting…
View across the bay
This one wasn’t at all camera shy
Stormclouds in the distance
The weather was particularly good for the first few days (a rarity for Islay we were told) before a storm set in (and the Stormpod’s protective design came into its own) but this just added to the adventure…
This adventure walk was cut a little short due to lack of visibility
Jura in the clouds
With us both having developed a taste for whisky in recent years, we were intrigued by the several distilleries on Islay which are renowned for their peaty (smoky) taste. We loved learning more about the whisky-making process and in total visited 7 of the 8 distilleries on Islay, as well as visiting the distillery on the neighbouring island of Jura (the terrain here was possibly some of the most spectacular I have ever seen – again the pictures don’t do it justice).
Iconic shots of these distilleries on Islay
This yellow flower on thorny bristles coloured the landscape
Stunning views and wildlife was everywhere and Islay may not be a destination everyone thinks of, I would definitely recommend it – whether you are a walker, nature-appreciator, whisky drinker or general Scotland lover… this really is an island paradise.
Oyster catchers on the beach
View through the window of a castle ruin
April- September is considered as the touristy season on Islay and we had booked the rest of our distillery tours in advance, which was a good idea as they often only operate in small numbers and sometimes tour buses can come and book out an entire tour. If you plan to go to Islay, you may also want to avoid the Islay Festival of Music and Malt at the end of May as prices can be high, and accommodation hard to come by.
All in all, it was a great vacation – made even better by the fact that we were able to visit two sets of friends on the way home in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Oh… and enjoy this on a casual Tuesday night…
Well, almost. While I had certainly hoped for a white Christmas at the end of 2016 (as always), it was not to be…
In the following early months of 2017 we have faced many icy cold days – complete with a snow-covered landscape (on and off) and frozen lakes (complete with many ice-skaters of course!).
But having spoken to many locals who have been around a lot longer than I, it seems that the Swedish weather may be a little more confused than ever…
This isn’t the first time that weird weather has affected Sweden in recent years. Our first summer here (2014) was hot and humid interspersed with freak thunderstorms that flooded underground stations and caught everyone by surprise. The following winter was surprisingly mild with very little snow, and then in early November last year (2016) Stockholm experienced its snowiest day for 111 years which brought the city to a standstill and halted public transport (not an easy feat in a country whose infrastructure is designed with sub-zero temperatures in mind).
One of the things I most love about Sweden is being able to truly experience winter alongside the contrast of each season – the colours of autumn, the freeze of winter, the awakening of spring and the midnight sun of summer. And the seasons do come – but now with a very unpredictable rhythm it seems. We could be in for another scorcher of a summer, but right now it’s -2°C outside and I can’t see it! The buds and early flowers of spring are fighting to hold their ground against the frost and we are all wondering when spring will truly arrive.
Many might argue that it is not unusual to see snow in April here in Sweden – and no, it’s not. But it is the erratic nature of the weather that causes concern… Today, we woke up to a covering of snow on the ground – when two weeks ago we were enjoying the sun, thinking about picnics and Ben was wearing shorts!?
I see a change.
People who have known this place for much longer than me talk about this change.
The media reports on record heatwaves and snowfalls based on years of scientific data.
Still many people don’t want to talk about this change… this climate change.
But if it is affecting the seasons so visibly like this… it makes you wonder… what else is it doing to the things we can’t see?
A blog post has been brewing in my mind for a while now given the state of well… everything! And aside from the much discussed politics of Trump and Brexit, a significant, divisive (and perhaps equally alarming) ‘blame culture’ also seems to be on the rise.
Whether the state of the current political world is related or not, many articles seem to be popping up about ‘Millennials’ – that is the generation (of which I find myself a part) born from the early 1980s (specifically 1982-2004) who are often characterised as narcissistic, entitled, and tough to manage in the workplace – as outlined in this video by Simon Sinek.
Interestingly, in my experience, the majority of people sharing this video are firstly those who are (by luck of their own birth date) not of the ‘Millennial Generation’. Don’t worry though – if you, like me, are a Millennial, I like to think that there is still hope for us! But seriously, it is much less often that people seem so willing to share similar videos or writings on their own generation’s weaknesses. No, rather… we seem to live in a blame culture and we would rather blame the other.
So, for the sake of balance, here are a few things that we have to thank millennials for:
And of course, it is the Millennipreneurs who are taking entrepreneurship to the next level and yes… with the likes of Spotify and Facebook being great examples of successful startups created by Millennials
The problem with generalisation
While trends over time are fascinating by their very definition, generalising an entire generation puts people into boxes, allows for voices to go unheard and creates and ‘us and them’ culture.
It is, of course, easy to look for a scapegoat for society’s problems and we all know that statistics can be manipulated and used to prove whatever you want them to. It’s easy to for people to generalise specific generations – examples include the stereotypes of the parenting problems of Generation X and the Baby Boomer‘s economic drain on society. But I don’t feel it’s appropriate to infer that this is the case for every person who happens to be categorised by this specific terminology. The fact is that while general trends can be interesting, I would argue that when we do it to focus on the negative, it isn’t at all helpful and only serves to create more social barriers across society as a whole.
And as this world seems to be tearing us apart so rapidly from every angle, I think a more constructive response would in fact be to not be drawn into the blame culture of what divides us. Finding things that divide us is easy. The challenge is to come together.
‘Unity is strength, division is weakness’ – Swahili Proverb
It’s no secret that many people were happy to see the back of 2016… and yes… I agree it was not the best year on record. Many things happened which made us all think about the state of the world in which we liveMany would also consider the word ‘meh’ as an appropriate adjective when it comes to describing 2016… I hear you too!
But when I was challenged to find what was good or even (dare I say it) awesome about 2016, I was able to reflect on some pretty wonderful things.
It was another in which to experience, learn and grow – and while I hope that these are aspects of life which I will always embrace – here are some more concrete examples of what made the last year great:
Life adventures happened – and for the most part, it was because we made them happen.
We planned. We decided. We booked.
We wrote. We composed. We recorded.
We put ourselves out there.
We may only be able to play our teeny, tiny part when it comes to political referendums and elections and it may not go down as we feel it should have done. We have no control over the losses and tragedies that passed us by in 2016. And don’t get me wrong, these are not small things – especially where grief is involved.
2016 is done.
…but we are not.
I will continue to put myself out there and push all the opportunity doors that 2017 brings my way.
2017 is before us my friends and I, for one, intend to embrace the whirlwind that it will no doubt end up being.
Happy New Year friends – here’s to an adventurous 2017!
We officially got the keys to our new apartment in Stockholm, back in May – two days after we returned from our big Asia trip. The apartment needed a lot of work (including a complete new kitchen) but, as ever, I didn’t think much about taking ‘before’ pictures so the dramatic change may be a little lost here. Either way… a lot of hard work and love has gone into making this home of ours so here is the big reveal with a few ‘after’ shots…
The living room
This room needed cosmetic attention and so we re-painted, creating a feature wall with a natural theme – we used wall stickers for the tree outlines and they turned out really well:
(The curtain pole was created using a broom-handle and branches from my in-laws’ garden which we cut and painted to blend in with the tree theme.)
And in a moment of madness ‘environmentally-friendly thinking’… we decided to take on the task of completely re-upholstering our old sofa in a bid to reuse and recycle (rather than buy more ‘stuff’ when really what we had was more than sufficient). And for this… we do have a before and after photo:
Before (in the old apartment)
After (in our new apartment)
It probably took three days in total to finish the sofa – with some parts, such as the re-upholstery of the main frame, definitely being a two-person job. I have to say… I’m super happy with the colour and overall finish so this is a definite win!
Inspired by our travels, we have gone for a clean room, inspired (in part) by Japanese culture. The window covering on the smaller window is actually a wall-hanging we brought back from Japan (and fitted perfectly in this new space) and our scratch map helps us to plan our future adventures! As this room is a cozy kind of size, the lack of wardrobes meant that we had to think more creatively about hanging space, so when we bought our new bed from IKEA (where else!), we decided to turn it round and use the taller end of the bed frame as a clothes rail.
The Studio Room
Part of the reason for the smaller bedroom size is that the room was originally one large room which was made into two smaller rooms… perfect for us as we now have our home studio set-up in the other room. This is where the Salt Of The Sound magic happens (complete with homemade soundproofing)…
The Guest Room… aka Anita’s work space / yoga / sewing / project room
Yes… this room gets called many things… and has many uses. Now complete with futon… it is a fully functioning guest room and is also my space where I like to blog, sew, write and just be creative…
Ahh yes… the kitchen! While we did most of the renovations ourselves, we drew the line at fitting a new kitchen and used Kvik to get a good kitchen for a reasonable price. It did mean that we had to move out over the summer for a couple of weeks but we are so pleased with the finished result:
We have enjoyed adding our own finishing touches to this room too – including reupholstering these mismatched chairs that we bought second-hand from friends who were leaving Sweden. The fabric we bought from Japan – the concept behind the fabric patterns is a fusion of both modern Japanese and Scandinavian design.
While we had a balcony in our last place, our new balcony is much bigger (more than two people can sit out there at once!) and has glass windows which can be moved across in the summer but also provide shelter in the winter, making this a real indoor-outdoor space. We relished having this space over the summer months and now, thanks to the invention of the outdoor heater, we can continue to enjoy our balcony throughout the winter months too. Oh.. and we may have even started to dabble in a spot of gardening too…
Looking out onto the balcony from the living room
Winter plants in out overhanging baskets
So there you have it… friends and family… we look forward to welcoming you into our new home in the near future. Our guest room is ready for you – all you need to do is to book your tickets to Sweden!