Stephanie Burgis
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I'm back! :)
(This is in response to SarahP's comment on my last entry. Thanks Sarah! I'm hereby getting off my butt and writing a new entry now.)

I loved, loved, loved Stockholm. Actually, I ended up feeling kind of guilty about how much I loved it. I mean, Vienna is and always will be the city of my heart...but I spent the first few days in Stockholm saying, "Oh look, how cool, that reminds me of Vienna...." and then realizing with a guilty internal lurch that the end of the sentence was "except that in Vienna we'd be sitting in a cloud of smoke/the waiters would be rude/there wouldn't be that beautiful lake down at the end of the street..." Eek. Well, Vienna still is the city of my heart. But I may actually love Stockholm just as much, which is something I thought I'd never say of any city.

But what I hadn't reckoned on was the effect of an entire city made up of islands. Beautiful, glittering blue water everywhere, combined with gorgeous Baroque architecture and eighteenth-century palaces - AND pine trees! My Michigan heart goes all melty whenever I see pine trees and lakes. And when you combine those factors with eighteenth-century palaces and theaters, delicious vegetarian cafes/restaurants and really, truly excellent loose-leaf tea and lattes....well!

I've posted all my Stockholm photos (well, all the ones I've uploaded so far) in my brand-new Flickr account. But of course I can't resist putting a couple in this entry, too...
Drottningholm Palace
Drottningholm Palace may just be my favorite palace in the world. It looks an awful lot like Schoenbrunn, but it is actually on a lake facing pine And better yet, it contains the only 18th-century opera theater still in use with all the original stage machinery and authentic sets.

The big disappointment of this trip, for me, had been that I found out shortly before our arrival that the theater would be closed for the winter while we were in Sweden. So I thought we'd just walk around the palace and take photos of the outside of the theater, and that would have to be enough. We walked through the palace, which I loved, I headed over to photograph the outside of the theater...and I saw a sign that said the last theater tour would be in ten minutes!! I raced back, grabbed Patrick, and we had an awesome tour. It was the highlight of my trip, and needless to say, a whole new novel idea came out of it. (Did I even need to say explicitly that there's going to be a novel set partly in Drottningholm? No, I didn't think so.)

They even let me use the 18th-century thunder-effect machine! It was like giving the perfect toy to a little kid. I yanked on heavy ropes to make the (surprisingly convincing) thunder effect while Patrick turned a crank to do the wind effect, and I don't think I stopped bouncing for at least an hour afterwards.

Oh, yeah, and it was good research. Really. :)

And the silliest thing we did while we were there, which was also unbelievably fun, was to go to the Ice Bar at our hotel, the Nordic Sea Hotel. The bar is made of ice. The tables are made of ice. Vodka cocktails are served in glasses made of ice. Before you go in, they put a cape and a pair of thick gloves on you and then make you go through an air lock (where I started to think "Uh-oh...") It was frickin' cold. And it was awesomely, ridiculously fun.
Steph & Patrick in the Ice Bar
I had an Absolut Jukkas cocktail - vanilla vodka mixed with apple flavoring, elderflower juice, and - maybe pear? It was sweet and strong and delish.

I loved Stockholm. We will definitely be going back.

And now we're home. I've been trying to figure out how to fix the opening of Congress of Shadows (as usual). I've also just come out of a really good meeting with my PhD supervisor, fixing exact dates for the hand-in of my PhD. I'm sitting right now in the postgrad lounge in the student union, which has been equipped with a lovely juice bar, and I'm drinking a smoothie made of blueberries, bananas, honey, yogurt and muesli.

Life is pretty good.

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