Oh. My. Good. Gosh. There’s such a lot of stuff I want to write about right at this exact moment. But there’s so much going on. This weekend one of my bestest buds is getting hitched. On Monday I hosted a pizza party. Today I need to engineer my journey home from horrible Knightsbridge to take in some froyo (because it’s sunny and I love froyo). You see why i am only now getting around to telling you about my trip to Stockholm.
And there’s so much to say.
But you don’t want to hear every detail of Sarah and my weekend, I’m sure. For example, you could probably do without sharing in the emotional rollercoaster that was 18 hours spent debating the merits of a particular poncho (I’m as surprised as you are) before rushing back to the store in a panic and committing to the purchase. So, here are my highlights, by way of a list. My 'Four Favourite Things' about Sweden. And – to be balanced – some things that I don’t approve of.
Here we go:
1) Animal homeware in abundance. In such abundance that I find myself questioning whether I am actually Swedish. Where else could you casually stroll into a shop and pick up a set of plates with cats on them, flamingo cocktail glasses, a rabbit-shaped toast track, tea towels featuring a pair of jaunty dancing lobsters, and a dishcloth on which a chicken and an egg ask each other, "Which came first?" (at least I’m guessing by their facial expressions that this is how it translates).
2) Window displays. Now I don’t want to give all the credit to the Swedes here – the Dutch are also exceptional in this category and perhaps I need to write a blog just about window displays I’ve seen in Amsterdam. But the Swedish also seem to boast untold levels of creativity when it comes to producing strangely dramatic window displays. Now, let’s be clear, I’m not talking about Selfridges-style glamour. Oh no. I’m talking about marvellously quirky out-and-out weirdness. My favourite in Stockholm was at Mulberry. Such an aspirational brand. Such an unexpected use of toadstools.
3) Cider. I’m not a very big drinker of alcohol these days. But I am a very big appreciator of surprising cider flavours. My tastebuds and I particularly enjoyed gooseberry and starfruit.
4) Underground stations that are disguised as caves. True story. I should have taken a picture of these, really. But, if you haven’t been to Stockholm, you’ll just have to believe me. The platforms on the underground network are made to feel like the inside of caves. Big rocks and stuff. Kind of dark and cold. It feels a bit like being a dinosaur. I imagine.
Now, this is not a travel blog (if it was it would be the most rubbish one ever). But I feel it’s important that I give you a balanced opinion. So here’s the three things I’m not so keen on about Sweden.
1) Toilets. The toilets themselves are mainstream. Nothing to write home about. What is upsetting is that you have to pay to use them. A whopping £1 per visit. And do not – I repeat do not – attempt to cheat the system. I was feeling particularly pleased with myself after craftily cheating the system in one department store by squeezing around the side of a turnstyle and sneaking in free-of-charge. But I was followed by an ugly man who had, apparently, watched the entire episode on some kind of security camera and shouted at me in Swedish until I paid him the money. Well, actually, it was all a bit awkward because I didn’t have any money. So I had to go back out and get money from Sarah, by which point my bladder was about to explode.
2) Monies. The toilet thing is one example. There’s no getting around it – Sweden is expensive. They like you to pay them over £7 for a cider. I don’t like that.
3) Etiquette. It’s not that I think Swedish people are rude. But there are perhaps some quirks in etiquette (such as those displayed by the aforementioned toilet troll) that can make one feel slightly on edge. Example – Sarah took me to a truly amazing thai restaurant and muttered in exasperation when she saw who was in charge of assigning tables. A power-hungry chap who apparently often pretends to be a mute. Excellent. When our table finally came up (we waited nearly two hours, but we were enjoying pear cider and deeply troubled by the poncho dilemma at this point), he was very reluctant to let us have it. In fact, an in-depth investigation was carried out before we could sit down as he insisted that many Sarahs were waiting and refused to believe that we were first in line. Reluctantly he led us to our table, but we couldn’t help but feel a little unwanted.
So, those are my feelings on Sweden. This weekend I’m back in Edinburgh where there are far fewer opportunities for exotic ciders and animal homeware, but there are cocktails in teapots. I will now leave you with a lion. These guys are all over the place in Stockholm. I’d like one in my living room.