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Small Town Sweden - Ljusdal (Pronounced Used - Tall) + A Mural Run and a Fartlek

Out of the almost two weeks in Sweden, the time spent in Ljusdal was probably my favorite. I used to be a big city girl, but now the small towns capture my heart. I was very lucky to have Marcus as my personal guide and translator during the trip, and I think now I might need a personal guide and translator for all of the international travel I do…haha. This blog better blow up for that to happen.


Ljusdal is the town where Marcus grew up in, so I got the very personal tour of the whole place from the now very blue house he grew up in to where he went to high school to his favorite pizzeria where the owner still recognizes him. That’s the thing about small towns…no matter how big they may get, the will always have that small-town feel and have a big place in our hearts.


We grabbed our rental car and popped on our way to Ljusdal - three hours away from where we landed in Stockholm. Of course we stopped on the way to enjoy Swedish fika, because duh. You might think these cinnamon buns look like pretzels, but they aren’t! What you think is salt is sugar baby. They are way less sweet and gooey than what we know to be cinny buns, but not in the least bit dry. The American in me thought I’d long for the gobs of icing, but leave the icing in American… the Swedes know a thing or two about buns.


Once we arrived, we were greeted by his brother and precious youngest nephew. I toured the quaint house while Marcus’ dad and girlfriend came over with his homemade caramel and cream birthday cake and we posted up in what we would call a sunroom with a cozy fire and a beautiful table setting. It was the start to a great trip. Also, there's ALWAYS a bowl full of pick and mix candy here...another reason why I love it.




Despite the wet weather and the jet lag, we ventured out to see more of the town, visit where his sister-in-law works Wahlins Hem, which OMG - it’s like a Williams Sonoma with everything Swedish and I wanted to pack the entire shop up and take it home.


We headed back to a homemade lasagna dinner - THE BEST LASAGNA I HAVE EVER HAD followed by Glasse Boat - AN ICECREAM BOAT. WHAT? How do we not have these in the USA? HOW? Mind. Blown.


We had only been there a few hours, and I was ready to have Lulu shipped over the pond and move in.




The first full day we were there, after sleeping for 12 hours (oops), we ran trails at Maga park and I was quickly reminded of why I don’t run trails… SO. HARD. 3.5 miles felt like 10, but the crisp 50 degree weather felt so good in my lungs I almost forgot about the pain in my legs. It was beautiful. The park also dons a full outside made-of-wood gym if you’re looking to do some pull-ups or other strength work. (I was so tired from the run I didn’t even get a picture, but take my word).






Marcus' oldest nephew, Hannes, joined us for the afternoon, treated us to the local pizzeria for Marcus’ one day late belated birthday lunch and took us to the top of a local ski slope for a beautiful view of a nearby town Jarvso. We of course had to go by the grocery store for pick and mix candy because the bowl was already running low before heading back to the house for my first crayfish boil.









A Swedish crayfish dinner is different from a Louisiana crawfish boil - however you say crawfish and they say crayfish - they are the same crawdad either way. This proper crayfish dinner included the crayfish, dill boiled shrimp, cheese pie - yes I said cheese pie and finished with a Swedish mud cake with local berries and ice cream. We toasted to Marcus’ birthday, his brother Magnus’ birthday and my upcoming birthday with the whole family.



This day - who knows what actual day it was - Thursday I think? We took a 10k run that winded us through the town, over bridges and through the countryside. 10k was the longest I’d run in quite a while, but the blustery air felt so good I felt like I could have run forever. I got a taste of the murals that I would see the next day and some of the local art as well.




Marcus’ nephew joined us again for a trip to Jarvso and on the way we stopped Hembygdsgarden where we had a traditional Swedish lunch - buffet style. There's always potatoes, usually a fish and some kind of meat. It was like walking into the past but make it Swedish. The pics are a slider so slide through and see it...and let yourself love that wallpaper as much as I did!!




After lunch we went to the Jarvzoo that houses some of Swedish top predators and game. We saw moose, fox, bears, owls, and reindeer - oh my. And many more animals that I wanted to hold and squeeze and love, but we need to take a minute… did you know that wolverines are actual real animals? I just associate that animal with Hugh Jackman. They had an entire exhibit dedicated to them and even housed one, but we didn’t see it, so to me, they are still fictional animals. Slide through to see a few of the animals we saw.




We headed back to Ljusdal to have dinner with Marcus’ family and it was one of THE best meals of my life - Janus. It was 4 hours of eating, 6 servings of food and wine paired with it - unreal. The chef - Peter Brolin - is a local and well known (amazing) chef and explained every dish in detail to perfection - in Swedish, but it was one of those times I didn’t even need to know what he was saying - it spoke straight to my heart and my belly. Here are just a few of the delicious dishes we experienced...



A great, unforgettable meal, and even better company.



The next day was probably my favorite run. We took a tour of the local murals and art. Most towns these days have murals or some kind of art featured by local artists. It’s always so much fun to do a run and snap pics of these bigger than life-sized works of art. This is a great way to explore a new place or even adventure out in your hometown and discover some of your own local art.




Speaking of running, your workout for this place is a fartlek...you heard me right...a FARTLEK. Fartlek means speed play in Swedish, so naturally I have to present that to you here. A fartlek wouldn't be ideal for a mural run because you're going to want to stop and take pics of all of the pretty things, but a fartlek is something to challenge yourself to do when you're headed out and need some inspiration. I like to do a 5 for 5 fartlek with my clients. Here's how it goes...


Walk or jog for 5 miles and every 5th minute you want to do a surge for 60 seconds. No sprinting, but a pick up in pace for 1 minute then back down to your easy pace. You can also lower the mileage and do a 2 for 5 - 2 miles with every 5th minute a surge. This is a fun, easy interval run/walk/jog that you can do anywhere to break up some of your miles!


After the mural run, we scooped up Marcus’ youngest nephews and took them Jarvso for an afternoon of playing at the park. Now, this isn’t just any park… The boys showed us a shortcut over to the kid sized houses full of wonder. The first one we went in was a craft room full of every kind of craft you could imagine - yarn, ribbons, paper, glue, scissors - anything you wanted it was there. It was a mini Michael’s on steroids and I never wanted to leave. I tried to start making a mobile but soon realized it would be much more time consuming than what we had, so I abandoned it to explore the other houses - one with wood working, a dress up house where the boys put on a puppet show for us, an outside spot with hula hoops and stilts. It was a kid’s dream, and also mine. We curved around the park to a jaw-dropping garden full of flowers and vegetables. I weaved through wandering who gets to pick all of this while the boys yelled pretty much the only English words they could say to me, “C’mon Megan!” We stopped for Swedish fika before they played on the dirt hills while I browsed. We brought some very dirty boys back to their parents.






Later that day, we got to do one of my favorite things at Magnus’ store - Ljudals Motor AB - SHOP. I discovered a new outdoorsy Swedish brand, Fjallraven and became obsessed. His shop carries snowmobiles to lawn mowers to outdoor apparel, and yes, my new fav brand.



After shopping we headed back to the house for another yet new food item, and oh so Swedish - moose. They’ve been running low on moose so the hunting hasn’t been what it was in years, but Marcus’ nephew had some frozen in his freezer, and well, Marcus just had to have some. Magnus marinated the meat overnight and then slow cooked it and let it sit for hours before serving it cold. Think roast beef but better. I had a heyday on IG trying to let everyone “guess that meat.” I got answers like squirrel and reindeer.



The time was winding down on our time in Ljusdal, and I was genuinely sad to leave this lovely town and people. We had to leave by 2pm to get our car back and make the train to Gothenburg so we went on a little 4 mile jog through the country, came back to best brunch on the planet and I hurried his family outside to take a few family photos. I even got sweet Sally their Jack Russell...to pose.










My takeaway from time with family in Sweden - it's about spending time together around a table. It's about less work and more rest, fika breaks, wine and laughs and table settings and slowing down and making memories. So, find yourself a local and a small town.

As I hugged each of his family members, I tried to choke back the tears, but the tears won that battle. I’ll echo what I wrote on IG… I didn’t understand what most of those people said throughout our stay, but sometimes you just don’t have to speak the same language to completely understand each other.




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