|Holiday Notes June Part 2 - 7th June onwards to 13th.
Monday 7th June
Not so nice today, dry but overcast-so decide to play tennis and visit the Bibliotek for the free internet access. However, we discover that we have to pay to play tennis - Huh!
And when we go to the Tourist info to pay, she says not here, next door at the hole in the wall café - and I'm not sure how much it is this year, perhaps 40 or 50 kroner - it's June not January - are we the first tourists to ask to play - if so it should be free for us!
Anyway, the young guy at the "hole in the Wall" café says that'll be 50 kr per person - and Carolyn shouts out WHAT per person, not for the court!! - And he says "will go and see" - comes back and it's 50kr for the court! THEN he gives us this miniscule little blue ticket - it's no bigger than half of a postage stamp - with nothing on it apart from "MTK" - which stands for Mariestad Tennis Klub. How they then know which day your ticket is for - unless or course each day is a different colour - well we are not hanging about to check that out.
We play tennis on one of the 5 clay courts and Carolyn wins the best of three sets (2-1) not bad considering it's the first time we have played this year. On the other courts are the local kids getting lessons and boy are they whacking the balls. So that's how they produced Bjorn Borg!
Later in the day we drive over to the island of Torso - nice quiet place and the touring caravan site there is deserted - just a few holiday caravans with only one occupied.
Note: Carolyn says I have to mention about how keen the Swedes are about recycling.
At each caravan site and throughout the town there are recycling banks and at the campsite at Trollhatten the reception gave us a Red plastic bag for things that could be burnt : a Green bag for things that are bio-degradable and for other stuff there were places to put plastic, metal and glass waste also. So sensible these folk!!
Tuesday 8th June
What a wild night - the wind was terrible, and no it was nothing to do with Carolyn's upset tummy. We had the first real rain for a week and even though we were sheltered by the trees the wind must have been a good gale.
By breakfast time the wind had eased slightly, but it was a beezer, right from the North - felt more like Mallaig than Mariestad!
We packed up and headed towards the sunshine in the North and Stockholm. Uneventful journey even with Carolyn doing her share of the driving! And finding the campsite in Stockholm was very easy. Nice'ish place but nothing to write home about - and the nearby shopping centre would not look out of place in Bradford/Pilton/Gorbals - not a place I'd like to be in at night alone. But it did have two redeeming features - a Bibliotek (so free internet access, which we booked for 11.00am tomorrow) and a tube station to get to the centre of the city.
We did some food shopping at the local "co-op" store and the prices are pretty good, except for Flora - for example a pack of mince 0.3kg was only 10.19kr - so about 80p. Likewise two good slices of Smoked Mackerel only £1.20 - even the booze Carolyn bought today (yes she has run out of White wine already) was on average only £4.00 a bottle.
Wednesday 9th June
Sun shining again so Neil went off for a bike ride first thing - well 8.30am. Down to the lake and along to find a ferry pier - eventually - but by some really nice, interesting lakeside houses - completely different class to the high rise flats near the camp site. Though one interesting thing - the high rise flats have lots and lots of open spaces and parkland to sit out in and to allow the kids to play (including football pitches and basketball courts) BUT the expensive homes are crammed together with little space between and nowhere, but the streets, for the kids to get out and play - yes some small gardens but most have decking or a car space/port.
(Don't forget to mention that when you got back, Carolyn did her specially devised, Jim Hay inspired exercise circuit!)
Anyway, we visited the Bibliotek and spoke to the same woman as yesterday, who said "I don't remember your name", and brought out two cards like the one we had filled in - How difficult is it to remember two Scottish people from yesterday - dozy woman - AND THEN she goes to the computer and says there are no free slots for the internet until 12.00 noon.!! So, we then tell her we booked it yesterday with YOU, you dozy bitch. AND THEN we had to tell her which computer she had booked us on!! All this took a good 5 minutes of our precious 30 minute slot. Not good.
We then took the T-Bana (tube/metro to you and me) into the city on our newly purchased 3 day travel passes (180Kr pp). Quick, efficient, clean transport - David Begg and the UK Government could do with taking a lesson from Stockholm.
Stockholm is a lovely city in the sunshine, so much water and nice buildings, though there are a few really ugly concrete blocks as well, but by and large nice. We took an open topped bus tour to see the sights (180kr pp) - worth it so you see the good bits. You can get off and on the next bus, but we just took the whole tour. As in Gothenburg, the local kids finishing high school celebrate by going round town in cars/lorries with banners - we photographed one of the more "colourful". Not quite sure what the words say - but a picture is worth, etc, etc.
After that a bit of a walk around - and as you might expect a beer!!
There are so many water based tours and islands to visit, it's difficult to know which to do - but we liked the thought of the old Viking boat tour out to the islands, so might do that in a day or two.
We telephoned the nice couple (Alice & Jan) we met on the ferry and arranged to see them tomorrow - probably by car but we might take the T-Bana - however the weather forecast for tomorrow is not good!
Back to the campsite by the T-Bana (there is a ferry pier close to the campsite but the ferry boat only calls there 3 times a day from the city and we did not feel like waiting the full hour until the next one - pity, it might be a nice trip.
Thursday 10th June
Dull start to the day and the forecast is for rain, so we call Jan & Alice and ask if we can come by train and could they pick us up - no problem so off we go at 10.45am. The journey is quite pleasant, only one change of T-Bana to get to Morby - C, (that's Morby Central to you and I) and on the way we pass a sign for Inverness - (but it was for a part of a Geriatric and Psychiatry hospital!!) probably correct for the real Inverness in Scotland. Also, some of the underground stations have fantastic decorations like caves, really interesting - there should be a photo or two on journal.
Jan was there on time to meet us and the rain had just started as we walked out of the station. It's only a short ride 8 or 10 mins. To their nice typically Swedish house, externally clad in wood and painted Yellow - most of the other houses round about are a browny-red. We were made most welcome there and a plan to go and drive out to Vaxholm was agreed. It's a really nice place - lots of local ferry traffic - even in the rain (which is a pity because it would have been lovely on a nice day to go "walk-about"). Then we drove around a couple of other islands, round into Stockholm and then home to their house.
The evening passed most enjoyably (only a little drink you understand!), a really nice tasty meal and with chat about Sweden and our lives in Scotland - especially climbing the Munros. Jan also took us for a walk and showed us the ancient burial sites he had found by chance when looking for military defences (trenches, bunkers and the like). The sites were collections of stones in a forest and you could easily pass by them just thinking that a farmer had cleared some land and dumped them there.
Friday 11th June
The day dawned bright and sunny with only the slight prospect of a shower later in the day. We breakfasted well and then Jan took us back to the station to catch our train back to the city. In town we decided to go the VASA museum - (the VASA was a ship that sank in Stockholm harbour just after it's maiden voyage in 1628, when the sails were hoisted and it capsized (even then designers got things wrong)-it's been salvaged in almost complete condition and carefully restored over forty or so years.
We then took a sightseeing trip on a "Viking" long ship round the harbour area and round one of the inner islands (there are 24,000 islands) in the archipelago. Nice little trip with lunch and some wine available on board - in the interests of consumer fact-finding we had to try the wine - only one smallish jug of course! Then back to the caravan for a bit of sunbathing. This however, was short lived as the skies soon darkened and we had heavy rain with thunder and lightning for about 30 mins. Then even more T & L later in the evening.
Saturday 12th June
Decided to break camp and head South (sorry Uppsala - this is as far North as we are going - it's all down hill from here on). Uneventful drive for a couple of hours - the only notable thing was a UK registered car and caravan on the move just ahead of us - elderly car (L reg) and elderly couple - (those are the only sorts of folk who can have holidays in June - you know!).
We chose our site from the Caravan Club book - yes we did join - but keep it quiet (Carolyn wants to keep some semblance of a reputation as a trendy young thing and not a Caravanner). Nice place right by the side of the Gota Canal and pretty quiet. The local town is quite close so we cycled along the tow-path and found that as it was Saturday it was the local market day - but nothing special on the stalls only tat - and no local produce - shame. The local pop group were playing though - AND Elvis is alive and well and living in a small town in Sweden - no really!!
By the canal are a few cafes - but the most popular cafes are those selling Ice Cream and even the camp site (small though it is) has a little shack selling "Walls" type Ices - I wonder why it is that a country that is so cold in the winter likes Ice in the summer? Though the most popular Ice Creams are the soft, multi-flavour ones. Answers to Professor Freud on the back of a postage stamp please.
Sunday 13th June
Ah! Sunday - the day of rest - perhaps we should just let it drift past! - But NO, the sun is "splitting the trees" so Neil's off for a cycle round the woods and into town in the early morning. Now the town was a nice place yesterday - but in the quiet of the morning - it is absolutely charming. (Neil's word of the week!) Cobbled streets, lined with flowers and with a little river running through the centre of the village (the canal is on the Northern perimeter). Dear Reader, why is it that Scotland has nothing like this? - You find it in French villages and occasionally in nice English villages with a green and a duck pond, but I can't think of one in Skotte (that's Swedish for Scotland in case you were unsure). I'll try and upload a photo that does justice to Soderkoping (pronounced Sudsherping!)
Later in the day we book a time at the campsite Launderette - we've been away two weeks now and Carolyn is complaining that there's no space in the wardrobe because of my dirty clothes - how can that be? I've worn the same shirt for at least two days running - but unlike Carolyn, Neil is not used to washing out his smalls, each and every day. But the washing machine takes AGES.
Now, you chaps out there who are familiar with the normal wash cycle for a "light white wash" will know that about 45 mins. will do the business. Not this machine. 1hr and 50 mins for the wash cycle. Now if you know this at the start, you can plan what to do for this time slot. For example 5 or 6 beers, a Steak Sandwich in Harry's Bar then off to Oddbins to stock up, and you would still have 10 mins in hand. BUT when you don't and, unhelpfully, (1) there's nothing to tell you the timing and (2) the instructions are in Swedish and not some internationally recognised symbols- you pop back every 15 mins hoping that it's finished. And then when you hear the machine emptying and then spinning - you think - YES at last - then it goes and fills again for a rinse - YOU think, damn another 15 mins wasted.
Eventually, we get away for a cycle to the end of the canal at Mem, only 6KM from our site. An easy and pretty cycle takes us to the Crinan of "Sweden". For you folks that don't know - Crinan is at the Atlantic end of the Crinan Canal which is a route for yachts from the Clyde to the West Coast of Scotland, which avoids the long haul round the Mull of Kintyre - anyway enough of the geography lesson.
This place called Mem is really pretty and charming, but most places in Sweden and certainly along the canal are! So we walk to the café to get a beer and an Ice Cream for Carolyn (I've discovered that a Solero is delicious and has only 72 calories but tastes as if it has 600!) (she's turning Swedish - must be the blond hair). And this music group are setting up their equipment to give an open air performance - and at least one of them is talking with a Scottish accent and a couple of them are wearing Kilts - so guess what - They're from the Isle of Skye on a tour of places on the Gota Canal - except that two of their group missed the plane yesterday and are expected any minute. That's the way boys keep up our reputation!
I think that the group is called the Farquhar McDonald band, but will try and check this out, as they are playing in Soderkoping on Monday night along with a Swedish folk band - now that will be interesting!
That's all for now folks- do tune into the next episode of Toughs Travels on a computer near you soon!!
And remember "The Absent are always in the wrong".