Five international travel bloggers are invited on a familiarization trip to Northern Sweden. In addition to sightseeing, they get to dine at some of the region's finest restaurants.
At the conclusion of Travel Bloggers Exchange Europe, a.k.a. TBEX Europe, in Stockholm, travel bloggers were offered all-inclusive familiarization trips to other parts of Sweden.
As a participant in TBEX Europe, I was invited on a three night trip to Vasterbotten in Northern Sweden. I was one of five international travel bloggers taking part in the trip.
One was from Germany, Synke Nepulsky, who publishes Synke Unterwegs, a German language blog. Another was from Turkey.
The rest of us were from the United States, including Jonathan Sacks, who publishes Everyone Hates a Tourist.
Two of us (including me) live overseas.
The first stop on our Country Break to the River Country was Tjarn, an 18th century farm located deep within a forest and sheltered by hills and streams.
Our host, Bengt-Erik Hesse, served us a mouth-watering dinner in the dining room of the farm's manor house.
Our yummy meal was followed by a simple but scrumptious dessert that was served while Bengt-Erik sailed us up and down the river that defines one side of the property.
The following morning, Bengt-Erik prepared a traditional Swedish breakfast, which was served buffet style.
Then it was off to Umea, the most populous city in Northern Sweden. This is where our three-day restaurant crawl began.
Rost Mat and Kaffe
Our tour of Umea began at the Vasterbotten Museum, an indoor-outdoor museum with the world's oldest preserved ski, rock art, and a collection of traditional structures that have been re-assembled on site.
There is a one room school house, a manor house, Sami dwellings - the list goes on.
We even got to learn how to make Swedish flat bread the old-fashioned way. Can I do this at home? Probably not. But it was fun ...
For lunch, we stopped at Rost Mat and Kaffe, one of the best vegetarian restaurants in a town that has three to four times more vegetarians than Stockholm, the nation's capital.
I had soup, salad, and dessert. All I can say is, if you thought vegetarian food was boring, you haven't eaten at this restaurant. My meal was spectacular!
After lunch, we were taken on a stroll through the city of Umea, visiting some of its best spots for Instagramic moments.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), I had left my most of my digital devices in Stockholm as part of my four-day commitment to Digital Detox. So I didn't get to share these moments in real time.
Fortunately, I did bring my camera and can share them with you now (and in more future posts on sightseeing in Northern Sweden).
After visiting the Guitar Museum, we checked into the Stora Hotellet. We freshened up.
Then we enjoyed a three-course dinner across three of Umea's finest restaurants. Strolling between venues enhanced the adventure - and helped with digestion.
Our first stop was Radsuskallaren, where we enjoyed three yummy appetizers paired with three beers.
One of three food and beverage outlets housed in a red brick heritage building, the eatery occupies the basement, which is somewhat reminiscent of a wine cellar.
Loved this place. Enjoyed the pairings. I considered returning for lunch on our final day in Umea.
Would I be able to find my way back?
For our main course, we ambled across town to Runt Hornet, a lovely fine-dining restaurant with a casual ambience.
It was obviously a big hit with locals, which is always a good sign!
Several options were recommended. I opted for a mouth-watering grilled meat with sausage and potatoes.
It was accompanied by a small side salad and washed down with a fine wine.
Was there really any room for dessert?
Following our main course, we waddled back to our hotel, where a decadent Swedish dessert was prepared before our very eyes in Gotthards Krog, the hotel's excellent restaurant, which is housed in a glassed in courtyard.
I was stuffed to the gills. Was there room for dessert? I decided to take just one bite to see what it tasted like.
Then another, and another, and another ...
Before I knew what I was doing, I had finished the whole thing.
We enjoyed an excellent traditional Swedish breakfast served buffet style at the same venue the following morning.
Another trip to the countryside followed. First, was a boat ride into the Baltic Sea in hopes of getting up close and personal with seals.
We DID spot a few seals in the distance, and a couple of them spotted us and appeared as interested in us as we were in them. But they DID keep their distance.
Then we were taken white-water rafting. Finally, we ended up in the village of Grano, which positions itself as the Gateway to Lapland.
We spent one night at Grano Beckasin, a boutique hotel where guests stay in tree houses, which are called bird's nets. Very posh accommodation in a very dramatic setting.
Is this what is known of as "sustainable luxury"?
We had dinner at the hotel's charming restaurant, which is committed to the locavore concept. As many of the ingredients as possible are procured locally.
The first course was a thin slice of reindeer meat, which was surprisingly spicy. I asked if the meat had been marinated, but I was told not.
The intense flavour came from the animal's natural diet. The reindeer, you see, roam freely in the wilds. They are not raised on a farm.
Next came the main course, grilled meat and vegetables and the silkiest mashed potatoes I have ever tried.
Was the meat elk or moose? I can't remember, but it was flavourful and wonderfully prepared.
We had a traditional Swedish breakfast the following morning at the same eatery.
Following an excellent breakfast at Grano Beckasin, we did some local sightseeing before being driven through the bucolic North Swedish countryside back to Umea.
We said goodbye to our charming posts, Sirpa Karki and Hanna Sondell, and left our bags at the office of Visit Umea.
The rest of the morning was left free so we could pursue our own interests before boarding a train bound for Stockholm, which would depart at 12.45 pm.
I wandered through downtown Umea, planning to do nothing more than window shop.
Before I knew it, something in a shop window attracted my attention. I went inside, tired it on, it fit perfectly, and I bought it.
I wanted to have lunch at Radhuskallaren or one of the other restaurants in the same building.
I couldn't find it, but I did discover a lovely park, where I took in a few rays of sunshine. When in Umea, do what the Umeans do!
Time was running out. Where should I have lunch?
I decided to retrieve my overnight bag and eat as close as possible to the train station.
I was attracted by a sign advertising a taco buffet in a grocery store window. The price was right. I decided to give it a try.
So my last meal in Northern Sweden was a plate of three tacos prepared at a do-it-yourself taco bar!
You can take the Californian out of California. But you can't take the love of Mexican food out of the Californian!
Special thanks to Sirpa and Hanna for a memorable stay in Vasterbotten, a.k.a. the River Country.
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