Wednesday 1 June 2016

Chronically Holidaying: London and Stockholm

I shared my tips for holidaying with a chronic illness just before I went away, and I wanted to post about my holiday in general, and also how I did with managing my own advice.

I started Friday with my train journey down to London, popping into my old workplace to see work friends and heading out for cocktails and food with them and other work friends who have since moved on. I haven't seen a couple of them since I left last October, so it was lovely to catch up with everyone and take advantage of 2 for 1 cocktails at a local pub! I then headed back to my old work partner in crime Becky's house to stay the night. We started Saturday with brunch at The Breakfast Club before heading to The National Theatre to watch The Flick, a play we managed to grab last minute tickets to that I was super excited to watch. It was excellent; set in an old one-screen movie theatre in Massachusetts with a cast of 3. Easily one of the best things I've ever seen on the stage, there was so much nuance to every performance. I highly recommend it. 

I spent Saturday evening with friends watching Eurovision! It was loads of fun, even if the entries were a bit...tame this year. Sunday started with brunch in Muswell Hill with my cousin, followed by cake and gelato in Soho with a group of friends. I headed back to some friends' house for pizza and a movie, before a VERY early drive to Gatwick for my flight to Stockholm. 

I've never flown by myself before and I was pretty nervous, but the whole thing was surprisingly stress-free, even less stressful than travelling with someone else, actually! I normally get horrific pressure in my head when flying so I'd procured some anti-pressure earplugs which I was testing out for the first time after a truly traumatic flight to Athens last September. They worked a treat and I seriously recommend them if you have the same problem!

I was met in Stockholm by my friend Frances who moved out there earlier this year with her boyfriend Paul, and stayed with them in their lovely apartment. I can't tell you how much more relaxing a holiday is when you're with someone who knows where they're going and what they're doing! We had a chill Monday which started, of course, with a fika break, followed by shopping and dinner and drinks, before settling in for the night. Tuesday involved a walk through the old town and a trip to the royal palace (which is super beautiful and very elaborate), some fika at the most adorably quaint cafe ever, and more shopping. Tuesday evening we headed out for an amazing dinner at Meatballs for the People. I was hesitant about meatballs, though keen to try a traditional Swedish dish, such is my holiday custom, and it was so delicious. I had beef meatballs with potato puree, pickled cucumber, lingonberries and a red wine sauce, and everything was so tasty and worked really well together. I wish I could eat it like, every week.

We spent most of Wednesday on Djurgarden, an island that is mostly nature and parks but also has the Nordic History Museum and, notably, the ABBA Museum. We had a really lovely walk along the water, taking pics and soaking up the sunshine, with an extended reading break and an ice cream break! We headed back to the main island for lunch and a walk around, followed by the biggest gelato cone I have ever had and another bask in the sunshine.

It was such a relaxing few days, wandering round Stockholm, taking in all the Swedish architecture and soaking up the chilled-out atmosphere: life there is so much calmer than in London! It's such a different way of life and I really appreciated a break that focused on actually having a break! My holidays are usually a stressful affair.

How well did I do at following my own advice? Not too badly, I don't think! I definitely paced myself better than I ever have before; there were a lot of sitting down activities (most of which involved eating, I did a lot of eating) and I had a couple of early nights (I even managed a few 8 hour sleeps, unheard of for Vacation Caitlin!). But mostly, I was helped out by all my friends. So many people let me stay in their guest rooms, or their own beds when they were elsewhere, which really helped. It's totally fine to stay on sofas and share beds for a few nights, but there's nothing like having a whole bed to yourself. People carried my suitcase for me, or stored it for me, or took it somewhere for me, which really helped as dragging/lifting/carrying suitcases really hurts my shoulders. Special shoutout to my pal Debbie, who was a total hero and drove me both across London and also to Gatwick airport at 4am. That is true friendship. And of course to Frances and Paul, who not only let me stay with them, but who entertained me for 3 days and were very respectful of my limitations and my need for extra-extended fika breaks!

However, despite having 3 and a half days to recover from my trip, I spent all of last week pretty ill. I had to take long naps, skip exercise, miss social activities, take a lot of painkillers and generally just felt pretty crappy. I'm not sure why I've had such a severe reaction; admittedly this has been my longest trip but it was also my most relaxing which I thought would balance out! I have nearly a week in London in July, including going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (omg so excited), so I think I need to have a think about what else I can do to minimise the impact of my trip once I'm back home.

What do you do to pace yourself on holiday and to recover once you're back?


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