I'm writing from Stockholm's Arlanda airport, a bit clammy from a classic pan-airport-with-luggage sprint, during which I seemed to have lost the ability to follow clear and simple signage and so took two wrong turns, only to be told once I got to checkin that my flight was two hours late and all that running around was unnecessary. Hahaha! And there I was thinking I was going to have a heart attack. But as luck would have it, my flight was eventually cancelled and I was rebooked on a direct flight that was previously out of my budget. A stupidly expensive, celebratory seltzer was drunk.
The parent pickup at Herrang went well, with mom and dad doing an excellent job of finding me, despite my vague directions of "Come to Herrang on Saturday! Meet me at the Ice Cream Parlor!" It was fun to show them around and they seemed to enjoy it.
In Stockholm we were staying at the Grand Hotel, which is quite a few notches above Herrang. At Herrang, I got excited when the "good" shower was free—there were two private showers, with one being slightly less gross than the other and which had a lock that actually worked 100% of the time. It was housed in a wooden hut, with wooden floors that were always wet and slimy. The shower itself was an enclosed plastic rectangular prism, with one door kind of janky and hanging slanted, leaving a gap at the bottom where all the water sprayed out (see aforementioned wet and slimy floor.) At the Grand Hotel, I had a bathtub with three water dispensery options: showerhead, tub faucet, and handheld wand, and the floors were granite (dry). Hanging in the bathroom, too, was an enormous fluffy, white, terry cloth robe to cocoon myself in, and oversized, soft and fluffy terry cloth slippers for my disgusting dancer's feet. And I had it all to myself! I often think I must have done something really great in a past life to be able to experience such things.
And now, seven paragraphs about the breakfast of my dreams
But by far the best thing about Grand Hotel is the grandest breakfast buffet on this planet. In general, I feel like the Scandinavians are my breakfast food soulmates—lots of protein and dairy and coffee to start the day off. As much as I love France, I am in disbelief that everyone seems content to have only a slice of buttered bread in the morning, a food that my system burns up in about 10 minutes, leaving me either hungrier than before or eventually eating an entire baguette, neither of which makes me feel good.
But at the Grand Hotel, I am going to unequivocally state that they have perfected the art of breakfast. In addition to the coffee flowing like water, there were not only two kinds of gravlax, but also five other kinds of cured fish—pickled and smoked and salted, herring and mackerel! There were gently boiled eggs, perfectly peeled and cut in half and garnished with morsels of smoked fish and a tiny sprinkling of herb garnish, laid out perfectly on a silver tray. There was an array of sliced meats, including smoked reindeer meat (which I tried, pretty good), and six different half-wheels of cheese, each with its own cheese slicer. There was a bread station with baskets brimming with a variety pleasingly plump rolls, and four or five different kinds of loaves—including one in the style of San Francisco sourdough, as well the more Northern European sturdier, dark, and nutty loaves—all of which were nestled together in another basket and swaddled in cloth, so that you could pull one out and cut a slice to your desired thickness, without having to touch the rest of it. They were all divine.
There were three kinds of yogurt waiting for me in jugs (which is conveniently the unit measurement I usually use for my yogurt intake), made even more exciting by their placement next to a tiered plate of breakfast pastries. There were thirteen possible toppings to add to the yogurt displayed in pristine white ceramic dishes, including a variety of jams, and even goji berries. For those who can't be bothered to make their own mix, there were also yogurt parfaits in little oval glasses, delicately layered with blueberry jam and toasted nuts and coconut flakes. Nearby there was also the dairy-free station, which I completely ignored (though I appreciated that it was there, for others' sakes).
There was not one, but two kinds of porridge, nubbly oat and creamy semolina, sitting on the counter in—get this—two 5.5-qt Le Creuset pots (green). Next to the porridge was a bowl full of the lovable Swedish lingonberry, which looked like a mound of softly dimpled rubies floating in a pool of their own gorgeously florid juice. Positively charming. There was other fresh fruit, too—the usual suspects of kiwis and grapefruits and melons, but the most impressive, in my mind, were the fresh passion fruits, cut in half. I love the passion fruit, though I fully acknowledge that there is no way to describe the way it looks without invoking the words "alien eggs." They were slimy and crunchy and tart and a delight to eat.
There was a dazzling rainbow of juices in elegant glass urns—golden apple juice, orange orange juice, deeper orange orange-carrot juice, bright green juice made from spinach and pineapples and kiwis, and the unmistakable beet red juice, made from beets and oranges and probably other things, but does it matter because it always taste like beets anyway. There was crispy bacon and baked tomatoes, and foods kept hot in those ubiquitous domed brunch trays, except these housed dishes that actually looked appetizing—potatoes somehow shaped in adorable round little balls, save for a slightly flattened side where they had been panfried to perfection; sautéed vegetables that looked like they would still crunch; bronzed sausages; and scrambled eggs done low and slow and just right.
We're in Europe, so there was obviously Nutella in individual, Nutella jar-shaped packets, the very kind which I remember from childhood trips, my sisters and I would hoard as many as we could manage and then later use them as bargaining chips. But perhaps most impressively, there was a small amount of peanut butter, displayed ceremoniously in a tall and elegently stemmed dish, and seemingly very proud of itself. It felt like such a sweet, welcoming gesture to us Americans, with our apparently inscrutable addiction to the stuff. They really thought of everything.
Yes, it was really spectacular, and all expensed to the room, whose bill magically vanished into the hands of my generous creators, and this again has me wondering at my karma. It's times like these when I wish I had the digestive capabilities of an anaconda, where I could eat it all at once, and then not have to eat again for a few days. But, I guess that would mean I wouldn't have an appetite for the beer and sausages awaiting me in Bavaria, which wouldn't be good, either.
But wait! ...Stockholm?
Oh yeah! I learned there's a whole city that goes even beyond the hotel restaurant walls. But the thing is, at this point I've written over 1200 words, mainly about breakfast, and with the empathy I have for you, dear readers, I think I'll save the rest for the next post.