With only one day to go before Christmas (in Sweden it's celebrated the 24th), we had a bit of shopping to do, so took the opportunity to also wander around Haparanda. Not a large town, it's only a few minutes' walk anywhere we need to go. While parts of town are quite modern, the city center has lovely old buildings and traditional houses. In the center square is a beautiful old hotel.
We walked to a restaurant called Leilani, where you can order Asian food or pizza or other more standard Swedish food. I love that you can get anything here. Roland and I had Thai, and Sydney and Robert had pizzas. Sydney was suitably impressed.
After lunch, we walked through some of the small shops in town and made our way to Konditoriet, a little bakery cafe. That's right, team, it was pastry time. Fika! Here's what they had in the case:
And here is what we had. Sydney said that was both the biggest and the best cream puff she'd ever had. I had my usual danish, what they call wienerbröd here. Robert had a completely delicious almond cake I've never had before. (Roland had that weird cheesecake topped with jello...I get it, but, no.)
I was surprised in the bathroom by this scary little Santa hanging on the wall. He's not only creepy but he looks like someone. If you know who, please tell me.
Heading home after fika it was getting a bit dark; the lights were on, though, and it looked like a little fairy tale town.
Sydney confessed today that she's never made a gingerbread house. We shopped around and got what we needed, then decided that for the candy decorations, we'd skip the grocery store offerings and shop at Candy World instead. Candy World is not only a great name for any shop but it's also a warehouse sized candy store. We have an amazing selection of sweet decor for our house.
Once home, engineer Roland designed a house template and Sydney and I rolled and cut and baked. We had a fun idea to cut holes out into the cookies and melt candies in them for windows. Sydney monitored our experiments.
The houses I've made were always held together by icing, but these geniuses over here straight up melt sugar in a frying pan and dip the pieces in hot caramel and stick the house together.
As we were assembling, we kept seeing northern lights photos being posted online and checking the aurora forecast and realized we had to get out there. Once the house was together, we set it aside until tomorrow. With our toastiest layers on, we grabbed the cameras and drove out into the woods north of Haparanda. It was bitterly cold tonight, -10 C (that's about 15 F), but once we got out of the car it was awhile before we remembered our numb fingers.
I picked up some sparklers at the grocery store, thinking we'd do some fun long exposure pics with them, and threw them in with our stuff at the last second tonight. It was a bit much, but then so am I, I suppose.
Beyond magical. I can't believe our luck this year with every bit of this trip. After a stressful few months I feel completely refreshed and after being around people I love so much, my heart is filled to bursting with happiness and gratitude.
I am looking forward to a very relaxing holiday tomorrow with my wonderful Swedish family. For everyone who's been following this adventure with me, I'm so happy to have you along. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I hope your holiday is filled with love and light, goodies and magic.
Tomorrow: Swedish Christmas dinner and the finished gingerbread house. God jul!