The Blue Mountains of New South Wales – beautiful Australian landscapes

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As we almost reached the end of the Australian leg of our journey we spent two days in the wonderful Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Running right down the Eastern coast of the Australian continent is a range of … Continue reading

Melbourne’s diverse lifestyles – Patterson Lakes

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Next in my mini-series of the Melbourne suburbs where family and friends now live. By contrast to yesterday’s post on the country suburb of Yarrambat this time we go back to the waterside and the boating heaven of Patterson Lakes. … Continue reading

What is it about Stockholm and hotels? Struck lucky again at the Hotel Rival

Hotel Rival sign

Mariatorget and Hotel Rival Stockholm

Gamla Stan Stockholm Old TownA year ago I was booked into one of the quirkiest hotels I have had the pleasure of visiting on my travels when my Stockholm host booked me into the Lord Nelson, a rather bonkers maritime themed hotel in the old town.

This trip we found another fun hotel, the converted cinema that is the Hotel Rival. We wouldn’t perhaps have got up to Söndermalm to stay but the hotel was getting rave reviews on Tripadvisor so it seemed too good to miss. Not only was it a good hotel but it introduced us to a new area of the city which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Hotel Rival Stockholm Interior

It is a 1930s Art Deco cinema bought and converted by former Abba member Benny Andersson. In the dark snowy night it is a glowing tribute to chrome, steel and plush red fittings. In each of the rooms there is a tribute to cinema glamour with Sweden’s own Ingrid Bergmann prominent.

Ingrid Bergmann print

The quality is very high, to the extent that we discovered that the images just tucked away in a corridor by the lift were original Andy Warhol prints!

Hotel Rival Stockholm

In keeping with the cinema theme you can check in and have one of over 200 classic or modern films delivered to your room for your DVD player.

The cinema auditorium has been kept and is now available for hire, we never got in there but we could imagine it in its 1930’s glory as we supped a glass of champagne in the cocktail bar.

Cocktail bar Hotel Rival Stockholm

Hotal Rival Wall Frieze Stockholm

Hotel Rival Stockholm Frontage

A great find in a great spot, it deserves its fantastic reviews.

Hotel web site here.

A different Stockholm

Photo Kevin Mayne

Photo Kevin Mayne

Photo Kevin Mayne

Regular readers may remember me writing about a number of work trips to Stockholm, it has provided me with some nice posts and is turning into a favourite city. (Click the Stockholm tab at the bottom of the post to see more.)

However last week I enjoyed a different Stockholm.

Three main differences.

  • Reason: We were on holiday! Proper tourists, taking in the sights beyond my fixation with cycle paths.
  • Location: A new location for me, staying in bohemian Söndermalm, the southern island of central Stockholm
  • Season: Shock to the system, first proper snow of the winter for Stockholm, and for us. Minus 7 degrees C in the evenings.

Over the next few days I will add a few extra stories of the trip, and some cycling notes might just sneak in, but here’s an opening highlight or two.

First let’s get the weather thing out of the way. There are two choices when you want to take a few days holiday in January. Either you have to spend a lot of money heading off to look for somewhere warm, or you have to embrace the fact that it is winter and enjoy what the season offers.

Our choice of Stockholm was exactly that, we wanted somewhere that could offer a proper winter break. The plan almost came unstuck because Europe’s relatively mild winter so far has left much of Scandinavia cloudy but snow free so far.

However we watched the forecast for the last two weeks and suddenly the temperatures dropped swiftly and over the weekend light snow was due to fall. And as if to order it did, leaving a light coating in the first day and then regular flurries through the next five days.temperature Stockholm Gondola

Gamla Stan

Stockholm cosy cafe

Between the cold spells were some beautiful spells of sunshine that lit up the buildings and waterside. And after dark there were still many Christmas lights so the city was shining bright against the snow and the cafes and restaurants offered a cosy warm glow which invited us in for coffee, cake and hot chocolate during the day and hearty Swedish food at night.

Some spots I had been to before looked quite different under the snow, especially the open squares but on a more touristy trip I found some interesting new places to enjoy. I suspect I got a different view because we walked everywhere, on previous occasions I had cycled a lot and that takes you away from the pedestrian hot spots. For example Stockholm City Hall sounds just like the boring seat of bureaucracy, but its position and interior architecture make it one of the top visits of the city.

Photo Kevin Mayne

It is also one of the three buildings in the city most associated with the Nobel awards along with the Concert Hall and the Swedish Academy, neither of which I had seen before.

Stockholm Concert Hall The Swedish Academy Stockholm

In contrast to the grander buildings of the city centre Söndermalm is a bustling residential neighbourhood full of art and craft shops, galleries and some fabulous cafes and bakeries. Sondermalm streets Stockholm

Our hotel was the Rival on Mariatorget (the Maria Square) which was a lovely spot in the snow day and night.Mariatorget Stockholm

Mariatorget Square Stockholm

And above it was maze of tiny roads and alleys that led up to the Mariaberget (Maria Magdalene parish) and Monteliusvägen, a panoramic footpath that runs around the top of the steep cliffs that overlook the lake, the old town and the city centre of Stockholm.

Mariaberget street scene

Some of the apartments up there are the most desirable in Stockholm. Photo by Kevin Mayne

We went up there at night and got a brilliant view over the city which was a special addition to my experiences of Stockholm.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Coming next:

  • The Rival Hotel
  • The Winter Cruise
  • Stockholm’s cyclists coping with the snow

Charming Ravensburg, Germany

Ravensberg Blaserturm

Ravensberg leather house

One of the pleasures of this year’s Eurobike was further discovery of Ravensberg, the town we stay at in the Allgäu region of southern Germany. 

I stayed there last year and found it was charming town with an attractive car free town centre and a lively bustle of restaurants and bars. However because we only use the town as a dormitory I didn’t realise that there was much more to it than the streets between the station and the main central Marienplatz.

This time we stayed in the delightful Hotel Obertor which is actually built into the city walls and the Obertor (upper tower) itself. A few morning photos don’t quite do it justice but it is a great location.

Ravensberg Obertor and Obertor Hotel

And just beside it was another tower, known unusually as the Mehlsack or “flour sack”. Great name, especially as it had a much more imposing name of the White Tower at St Michael when it was built but locals nicknamed it because of its shape and colour and the name stuck.

The Flour sack Ravensberg

Apparently the town almost completely avoided war damage because it was of little strategic importance which is why it is so well preserved. Another time I must try to have enough time to do it justice and I recommend it you might do the same. Good restaurants and hotels too.

For more about the cycling in the area too see last years’s post here

Ravensburg morning Germany Allgau Ravensburg weigh tower

Lakeside landscapes and villages – Upper Austria’s Attersee

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I am sure many bloggers and travel writers hit the same problem as me. I have been home weeks from a trip and published several items about the holiday, especially the cycling and the food. However I keep coming back … Continue reading