Friday August 5
We went to the fun fair. We were inspired by our trip to Tivoli in Copenhagen years ago which probably remains our most successful day out ever. Gröna Lund was reasonably successful but, I’ll say it now, it’s no Tivoli.
The great thing about Tivoli was the lovely restaurants and walks as well as fairground rides appealing to young and middle aged alike. To be fair to Gröna Lund it does have some charming rides and attractions and lunch on site was grand if not spectacular. We all rather enjoyed the fun house.
I deeply, deeply regretted my choice to try the Monster ride but the boys seem to have enjoyed it. The children went on most of the rides but after the Monster ride, I felt a nice cup of tea was more my thing. Speaking of tea, I enjoyed the Fika ride concept.
It lashed rain on us but that beat the blistering heat of the previous day. I mean, we’re used to rain. Herself persuaded me to go on one of those chair rides with chains, you know the kind. It swung out over the Baltic in a rather charming way and I was really quite enjoying myself until I realised that I was wearing slip on sandals and that there was a good chance that one of them might end up in the Baltic with the attendant complications of being bare foot in a fun park in the centre of Stockholm. I spent the remainder of the ride with curled up toes and clenched teeth.
When we got home, Michael, Mr. Waffle and I went for a stroll to the Buddhist temple at the end of the road. Weird, right?
Over dinner, herself looked around the table and said, not in a pleased voice, “Why does everybody look like me?” I think she needs to spend more time with her family.
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Herself and myself decided to go into Stockholm for the day. We had an early start. We identified a car park in the Gamla Stan and got ourselves there with the help of Half-Right Helga without too much difficulty. But the parking meter was broken. I stood disconsolately in front of it it for a while poking it with my cards. Then I fell upon this lone Swede (it was early) going across the car park. He was so kind. He said I needed a local parking app. He found the app in the app store; he waited while I installed it (giving it all my credit card details, my life history, you know what these things are like). Then he showed me on the app where we were and how to pay. It took ages but he was chirpy, he was off to his boat to go sailing for the day and in no rush he said. Apparently Swedes own more boats per capita than any other nation on earth (so said our boat tour guide, certainly feels true).
We wandered around the old town which was charming and pretty much deserted. We had breakfast in a trendy cafe. Herself had given us a number of recommendations from Gwyneth Paltrow. I was pretty dubious but I have to say, Gwnny did not let us down. I am most surprised to find myself saying this but would definitely recommend.
Then we went shopping and we saw the sights and we just had a lovely, lovely time. You know those days when everything goes right? It was just delightful. As we drove home, I said to herself, “You know, I finally feel like a grown-up, driving with my daughter to a foreign capital city, getting home again and absolutely nothing going wrong.”
I must say that even now when I see a picture of the old town in Stockholm, my eyes are rivetted to the open air car park by the harbour and I think, “I parked there, yes there.” Achievement level unlocked, guys.
The five of us went back into town that evening. We needed another kind Swede to help us with the car park. Car parking in Stockholm is complex for the reasons outlined previously.
We had booked ourselves into a programme of Nordic songs in the Opera House. Herself felt we needed some culture. Definite win.
We arrived a bit early and had drinks on a beautiful terrace looking out over the city. The opera house itself was elaborate; the Nordic songs were interesting; the singer explained them to us in English; the performance was under an hour (there’s only so much Nordic opera that is really fun). I would really recommend, I have to say.
Although the singer explained the songs in English she was Swedish as were most of the audience although there were some foreigners (including a very forceful English woman who made an Opera House employee who she made find her another bathroom down a locked corridor because the queue in the open one was too long. “I’ll miss the start,” she said. “I don’t think you will,” said the employee who you would think might know. She prevailed. I was both disapproving and admiring). English is amazingly prevalent in Sweden. A lot of the cafe/restaurant staff who are not Swedish appear not to speak it which I find pretty startling. I mean they were serving Swedes, in Sweden and speaking to them in English. Peculiar. Though very useful for those of us whose Swedish language skills are rudimentary at best.
We had drinks in the old town and then went for dinner to the Flying Elk which was also a Gwyneth Paltrow recommendation. I had dutifully booked but that proved unnecessary. When we arrived, they said, “You’re the booking!” We were the booking, the place was pretty empty – a gastropub by the harbour – but perfectly pleasant.
Honestly a perfect day.
We went back to the car park and it appeared to be locked against us. We asked the bouncer in a club beside the locked entrance whether he had any idea what we might do. “It’s the same problem every night, people get locked out,” he said gloomily. We were even more gloomy. You will be pleased to hear – but not at all as pleased as we were – that we did eventually find our way back to the car via a night entrance quite a distance away.
Sunday, August 7, 2022
Feeling that further delights were available in town, herself went in to Stockholm on the bus. As she departed she announced that her phone battery was low and she might be uncontactable. Sigh.
Daniel emerged late from his bedroom. He had got up at 4.30 to see the sunrise and it was a very early start. Also, as he dolefully informed us, “4.30 is not sunrise time”.
After the excitements of the previous day we had a quiet time knocking around the house and swimming in the Baltic.
We went to the supermarket where some German tourists, taking us for Swedes asked where the milk was. We got chatting. “Actually, we’re going to Germany tomorrow,” I said chirpily. “Where are you going?” they asked. “To Berlin,” I said. The father actually physically recoiled in horror. “To Berlin?” he squeaked. This did not make me feel good about my choices. I went into mourning for the lovely Airbnb, the beautiful surroundings, the closeness to the delightful city of Stockholm. What, what were we thinking? The temperatures predicted for Berlin were horrifying. I was horrified.
We were distracted from our Berlin horror by two things: 1. herself had found a charger and called us to let us know that she’d missed the bus and could we collect her from town (we could and we did, that’s parents for you – she had, inevitably, found this very cool cafe quarter where, blindly following the directions of Half-Right Helga, we inadvertently drove through a pedestrianised street to pick her up) and 2. our luggage debacle.
When booking our flights via Expedia, we had neglected to add hold baggage – even Homer nods etc. We then found ourselves in this hideous loop where Expedia said only the airline could add luggage and the airline said that they couldn’t because we’d booked through Expedia. When we checked in online 24 hours before departure could we add luggage? We could not. Our lovely luggage with which we had only so recently been reunited. Poor Mr. Waffle spent a couple of hours on the Norwegian airlines helpline and was told maybe they could do something at the airport. A number of hideous plan Bs were developed. We went with the following.
Herself was flying to Dublin on the following day having had enough of Berlin for one summer. Mr. Waffle booked her an extra item of checked luggage (€35) and then as plans developed a further item of checked luggage (“So €70 total, not so bad I suppose,” said I. “Ah,” said Mr. Waffle “you assumed the second checked bag cost the same as the first.” So worse.) Michael and Mr. Waffle took the pessimistic view that we would not manage to get our luggage to Berlin and packed their hand baggage to the gunnels. Daniel and I were more optimistic. We put all of our essentials in one of the hold bags and hoped we wouldn’t have to unpack it and load some of the contents into our hand luggage. Herself was beyond delighted at the prospect of taking two large additional pieces of hold baggage.
We went down for a last walk to the seaside. Daniel pointed up to the moon and said, “Le lune”. He was somewhat mortified as it turned out there were French people nearby. Mr. Waffle reassured him, “They probably thought you were Swedish.” In case you were wondering it’s la lune and that’s a mistake he’s unlikely to make again.
We went to bed early. “We’ve to be up at 6.30,” I said to the children. Poor Daniel, continuing his bewilderment at the flight arrangements in Europe this summer protested, “But I thought the flight was at 12.” It was but with the three hour early check-in advice, the need to bring back the car and the hour long drive to the airport, this seemed the latest we could leave it.
Monday August 8, 2022
We got to the airport no problem. In fairness, returning the hire car was pretty smooth but, irritatingly, the petrol station at the airport had closed down so waiting to get there to fill up with petrol wasn’t the cunning move we had assumed it would be.
We went to check-in filled with trepidation. People, they took our luggage. We would have paid almost anything at that stage but it wasn’t too dear and it was ultimately pretty painless.
We went and spent a fortune on a last family breakfast in the airport to celebrate clearing the luggage hurdle.
We said goodbye to herself. We had been crimping her style with our inadequate airport expertise, but she still seemed moderately sad to say goodbye, I mean not extremely sad now, to be clear. She was going home to Dublin where my brother was staying in our house for a couple of weeks while we were away. Herself and my brother get on like a house on fire but nonetheless, in my view, he is a challenging housemate. “But,” I said to her, “if anyone can make him toe the line, it’s you.” “Yes,” she said, “if it were a film, I would be a sensitive but troubled teenage boy and he would be a wild horse that no one except me can tame.” Quite.
Anyway we got to our gate, herself got to her gate and there was, frankly, relief all round. Honestly the airport experience is now so uniformly vile. It’s just got worse and worse over my life time. My father’s experience of airports in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s (which he hated, he travelled regularly for work) is almost unrecognisable. Even my own experience from 20 years ago was way better. I suppose discouraging air travel is good for the climate emergency. I am discouraged.
Stay tuned for the next installment where our brave adventurers go to the fiery cauldron that is Berlin in a heatwave.