A Smorgasbord

13-Oct-2011 17:07, SAMSUNG SGH-I997, 2.6, 3.935mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 39
The past two weeks has been a true smorgasbord of activities – travel, work and a bit of exploration. It was exhausting to say the least with production deployments at two clients with challenging environments. The good thing was it required international travel and I headed out to Stockholm first and then to my familiar little French town of Lille.
14-Oct-2011 09:58, SAMSUNG SGH-I997, 2.6, 3.935mm, 0.012 sec, ISO 39

First of all, it has been the longest dry spell since I started the blog more than six years back. Of late I haven’t found the spirit within that helped me write about life in general and yoga. Travel seems to have taken more precedence especially the past two months. Anyway, arriving in Stockholm on a early Sunday morning wasn’t as challenging as I thought. The Arlanda airport is much smaller than Paris or Frankfurt or other bigger airports. The 2 hour time to connect to Stockholm at Frankfurt was occupied most with immigration checks into EMEA and I had trouble getting a boarding pass due to a different system in Frankfurt. You need to first check-in at the self-service machines and then go to the luggage counters to drop off the luggage. I went straight to the airways counters as I normally do in US. Getting past the long line and the time spent at immigration, the boarding time had already passed. After getting directed to a different ticketing counter, I finally checked in and got onto a flight 2 hours later than planned. Air travel in Europe still maintains the glamor of the past, at least to some extent. The air hostesses are dressed formal and pretty and enjoy all the attention they get unlike in the US where things are less formal and the challenges of extreme competition and price cutting. Air travel is also way too expensive in Europe like most of the things.

I took the flygbussarna – the shuttle to Stockholm central – and hopped onto a taxi to get to the Courtyard. The ride cost 99 kronos whereas a taxi would be 600!¬†Public transport, being as nice as it is in Europe, certainly is the mode of transportation of choice. Unlike in France, credit cards are accepted a lot more in Sweden by the cab men. The six hour time difference from home seemed nothing when I saw the sunny city out of my room window, but this would come back to deplete me when I needed focus most later on. Finding vegetarian food was relatively easy in the city – a few Indian restaurants came up on Google maps. I went to the T-bana, the train station, and bought tickets for my next day trip to Ericsson’s site in Kista (pronounced Sheesta).

15-Oct-2011 10:23, SAMSUNG SGH-I997, 2.6, 3.935mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 39

Monday on, work consumed all the time and energies with us planning to work through the weekend for a production cut over. But one critical issue and the cut over was postponed by a week, meaning I had to extend my stay. That made the weekend fully open and opportunity for some photography, but more of that later.

The Ericsson office is about a 10 minute walk from the Kista Galleria (the mall). The mall itself is superb with a glittery of shops and restaurants. The best part of the mall is the food court, with many ethnic stalls – Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian and the Steak houses and the Burger kings. We almost always had dinner at the food court as once you get back to the hotel, it is a bit of a hunt to get food and be back. The first few days, getting out late after work I would explore the mall in hunt for some clothing; just a bit of checking around convinced me that Europe is not the best place to buy things – it is good ‘ole Uncle Sam’s place. A dressy shirt was going for 700 kronos – almost 100 dollars!! That’s plain ridiculous, where at the Macy’s I could get it for thirty or less and with a frequent shopper’s coupons, it would be a steal even more. Having sales all the time is banned in Sweden by law; it happens only a few times a year, all other times it is retail. Where is the competition? Of course, the Kista Galleria is a premier shopping mall, but I was surprised not to find all varieties of shops. There are no Walmarts or Targets or equivalents in Sweden that I could find; the closed was Ahlens which is more of a upscaled version of Macy’s. Before I jump onto my city explorations, I did want to mention that you find one men’s shop for every FIVE women’s shop or in a unisex shop, there is a LOT more space for women’s clothing than men’s. Fashion is too big here and if you dress casually as in the US, then you will most likely be mistaken for a someone lacking taste!

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