I last published at the end of May saying that the next blog would be delayed until after our upcoming trip. June arrived (as is customary after May) …. the first half of which was spent mostly getting ready for our holiday to Sweden. This meant Nigel having to install the automatic irrigation for the other half of the garden in yet another heatwave. We don’t seem to have had any in between weather this year, it went from winter to summer in a couple of days, it seemed.

One serious problem we had was that the pool decided to turn green a fortnight before our trip. We had advertised the house as having a pool for our house sitter who we knew would enjoy cooling off in it so it was a bit of a mad panic to restore it and get the chemical balance right so she didn’t burn off her skin! The DIY stuff we bought was not man enough to make any difference but thankfully a visit to a local pool specialist with very helpful and knowledgeable staff set us on the road to recovery. Two days before our house sitter arrived we had a correctly balanced blue pool again.

Poco never makes it easy for us to get the house ready for visitors!!!!

Then on the morning of our scheduled drive to Cartagena to pick up the house sitter Nigel found a screw embedded in a tyre so it was a quick scrabble to our local car tyre outlet who thankfully was able to remove the screw and repair the hole in about 10 minutes for the princely sum of six euros!

Not a welcome sight on the day we were to leave the car for a stranger to rely on.
LauraBelle arrived just before this Chameleon! She was thrilled to be able to hold him, a first for her.

And so, two days before we were due to fly to Sweden we picked up LauraBelle in Cartagena, an American lady from Guatamala on a European trip, who was to be our house and dog sitter while we were away. She was to drop us at Alicante airport, use our car while we were away, then drive back to the airport to return our car on the day of our flight home. We would leave her in Alicante where she was due to fly to Portugal the next day for another house sit and we would return home in our car to rapturous welcomes from 3 dogs who had been on their own for just a few hours. Good plan, all very slick and having met her we were delighted with our choice, we knew she would look after our pack very well and be reliable and trustworthy.

Salade Nicoise for our first meal together

Off we flew to Stockholm, picked up our hire car and drove to Ric and Aoife’s, a lovely reunion having not seen them since last September. They are settling well into their new life in Sweden and were very keen to take us out and about.

After a meal on our first evening, we had a walk to the local swimming spot.

Our first full day there was a national holiday, the Midsummer festival so we all went by bus to a local celebration. There was music and dancing as the maypole was raised, ladies wearing flower garlands in their hair, traditional costumes, which must have been very hot as it was 30 degrees and children with ice creams and candyfloss. We stayed for a few hours after which we left them all to it and went back to the garden for a BBQ and a catch up. Richard and I had a swim in their communal pool a couple of streets away which, as it was a holiday and everyone else was at the festival, we had to ourselves.

Midsummer festival in Sollentuna, we thought we’d be getting some cooler weather here, no such luck!

Locals dressing the maypole
R and A joining in
Up she goes
Pretty lady! Ric made her flower garland.
The candyfloss queue!
Final touches

The following day we got up early and caught the train into Stockholm and went for a two hour boat trip around the Stockholm archipelago. Richard had booked us a table for lunch on an island called Sandhamn and very splendid it was too with Aperol spritzes helping to quench our thirsts. After lunch we had a stroll to the other end of the island for a swim in the Baltic, well I paddled, they swam. And then it was another two hours back to the city centre by boat, a train and car ride back to their house after a very long but enjoyable day.

Just coming in to moor at Sandhamn
Viewpoint on the way to the beach
Locals enjoying the warm weather
A bright beetle cadging a ride on Aoife’s finger on the boat trip

And that, my friends is where it all starts to get a bit hazy as during the night I started to feel very unwell. By the morning my head felt like it was exploding, my throat and ears were sore and my nose very runny. I naively hoped it was a summer cold and tried to hide how bad I felt but did not succeed. I have to admit to being a little ostrich-like in that I didn’t do a test for a few days but then realised I was possibly compromising Richard and Aoife’s next guests who were arriving two days after we left, unless I knew for sure. Yes, it was Covid which I must have picked up on the plane and inevitably two days later, Nigel started with the same symptoms. So he spent his birthday in bed!! He can’t even try to hide how he feels. We’ve spent over two years managing to avoid it in Portugal, Spain and the UK and it couldn’t really have happened at a worse time.

The day after Midsummer when I had started feeling rough, we had a lazy day at home and then strolled to a grillplatz to have a BBQ tea. It was very warm, home from home for us!! (Except for the greenness!!) There are hundreds of these provided and maintained and stocked with wood by the council all over Sweden.

Local Grillplatz, in the forest near a lake a 10 minute walk from their house (or 5 without us!) The council provide wood all year round and they are clean, and well used by local folk.
Waiting for the flames to die down
Such a pretty spot! I’m there somewhere sitting in the shade feeling sorry for myself!
Marinaded chicken and veg
Two oldies on the way home, you can see the grillplatz in the distance at the end of the path
Some kind of peony in a garden on the way home

While all this was going on, we heard that SAS, the Scandinavian airline we were travelling with was having talks to try and avoid a pilot strike. At this point, Nigel hadn’t any symptoms so we tried all ways to change our flights home, maybe even so that just one of us could travel a day or two earlier if necessary as the first strike possibility was for the day we were leaving. But we could not find any availability.

Covid severely affected our appetites but before and after when we started to recover we did enjoy some very lovely food! Aoife and Ric cooked us some delicious typical Swedish dishes which I didn’t take any photos of sadly, but here follow some of the meals and snacks we sampled when out and about.

Open meatball sandwich, more an artist’s palette than a comestible!
Typical open prawn sandwich available everywhere
Danish style pastry
A galette in a very quaint little French crêperie
Minute steak at Ruby’s bistro

And I gave Aoife a masterclass in making Brownie wedges which Ric requested: a blast from the past which I used to make regularly in Bolton.

Out and about in Sweden before our scheduled return home

Lake Mälaran at Sigtuna, first water lilies we’ve seen since giving up boating . Ric and Aoife were ice skating here just a few months ago.
Sint Per’s church, Sigtuna
One of many of Sigtuna’s rune stones
Ruins of St, Olaf’s church
Pretty topiary in Sigtuna
Tant Brun’s Kaffe in Sigtuna where we had lunch
I think they need to spend some money on maintenance!I
Upsalla, by the weir
Upsalla Cathedral
Inside Upsalla Cathedral
Upsalla street
We managed a weary trudge around the Vasa Museet


Lunch spot at the Vasa Museet
The beautiful facade of the Nordic museum…we didn’t go in.
On Nigel’s birthday, we left him in bed and had a mini sightseeing trip, just the three of us. We ended up at this viewpoint overlooking the City Hall building (just above Ric’s right eye!) where we had seen many weddings taking place a couple of hours earlier.
We had a walk to Ulriksdal Slott the day before we should have flown home, father and son shot!
Ulriksdal Slott
Ric cooling off after our walk

And so on Monday 4th July we turned up at the airport, wearing our masks, took the hire car back, dropped off our luggage and headed to the insanely busy security queue. Both weary but now thankfully no longer coughing or sneezing, we shuffled along until suddenly the noise of phones buzzing became all too dominant, including our own. First a WhatsApp from Ric saying the flight was cancelled, then confirmation from SAS and judging by the sighs of disbelief all around us we were not alone. It was very hard not to cry I can tell you!

We extricated ourselves with considerable difficulty from the security queue and then had to go through a “special” door back into the arrivals area to collect our bags again, all the while thinking of our poor three dogs who would be home alone. Its a good job then we didn’t know just how long it would be! Richard and Aoife were keen for us to go back and stay with them until we could get an alternative flight but having already looked after us so well, we were reluctant to do this as it would have meant their friends couldn’t come and they’d been looking forward to it for ages and had things booked to do together. As it happens if we had passed it on to them, they would have had to cancel their friends coming anyway and then we might have gone back to theirs but as it was they tested negative on the morning we left. They had both had Covid after avoiding it in the UK for two years, when they arrived in Sweden in January so they must have had some immunity from our variant.

Once we had our bags back we checked ourselves into an airport hotel whilst we licked our wounds and tried to come up with a plan. Any plan would do, cunning or not! By this time we had of course spoken to LauraBelle, our house sitter. She could not stay any longer because she had her flight booked to Portugal the following day but we all hoped it would be a short term hiccup. But on researching many, many flights and options to get home quickly, even thinking “outside the box” and trying to get back via Copenhagen, Madrid, Barcelona, even Heathrow or Manchester, the only available flights were for 10th July with Ryanair, almost a week later. So we reserved them and then started to think about our dogs and their care. I messaged my neighbour who kindly said it would be no trouble at all for her to feed and let them out several times a day so between her and LauraBelle the dogs were very well cared for, Kate we owe you!!!!! Our car was left with an airport parking company and delivered swiftly on our eventual return. We even got a kind message and photo through the fence from our Spanish neighbours saying not to worry.

From Pili, my Spanish neighbour, Ditto and Poco through the fence with the caption
“Your children, they are well, don’t worry!”

I’m not going to attempt to list chronologically what we did in Sweden after the first couple of days because it all became a bit of a blur while we weren’t feeling well. I’ll just post more pictures and captions. We moved from the airport to a city centre hotel the next day. Dragging our heavy cases up and over the cobbled streets from the metro station to our hotel was a considerable challenge. We sat down on a bench to rest half way and both fell asleep for a little while only to be awakened by raindrops! During the first night there I was roused by severe and chronic toothache. This went on to affect the whole right side of my face and lasted for over a week. I think it was neuralgia actually, as I’ve had it before, whether brought on by stress or another symptom of covid I don’t know. There is still some tenderness there and I dare not bite on that side even now. Suffice to say we got out and about as much as we felt like doing, the vast majority of the time outdoors and on foot for obvious reasons. And we met up with R and A again for a pizza one night. Trees and water abound, it’s all very green, and clean and public transport is very slick indeed.

Our hotel Reisen in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. We didn’t have a river view unfortunately.
If we had, we’d have been looking out onto this splendid hotel ship
Hotel Chapman from the “other side.” We didn’t know it was a hotel till we walked round.
Our room in the Hotel Reisen, wot….no dogs on the bed????? We even had to have a nap most days after breakfast and also had the early stages of the TdF on Eurosport in the afternoons to fall asleep to!
Riddarholmskyrkan on Gamla Stan where many Swedish royalty are buried
Beautiful lacy wrought iron spire which can be seen for miles around
The Cupola, very beautiful inside too.
Sweetie Shop in one of Gamla Stan’s main narrow streets
Hmmm, not with toothache thank you!
Traditional Buildings in Gamla Stan’s main square, reminded us of the Netherlands. These are the benches where we fell asleep on our drag to the hotel!!
Didn’t interest us but Stockholm’s very popular theme park, Gröna Lund.
Much screaming and waving of arms and legs could be heard and seen
Stockholm Castle (being renovated) https://www.kastelletstockholm.se/
Random sculpture on Skeppsholmen island

A few images from around Stockholm’s historic harbour

Not the Wanderlust we know from Bourgogne!
A gun crane with a treadmill inside for 20 men
Drottningholm Royal Palace. We arrived by metro and bus and returned by ferry
We got rained on although it wasn’t forecast!
Still tired, N managed to have a nap while hugging a tree which we sheltered under while it rained.
Interesting water feature
The Chinese Pagoda
Elaborate entrance to the Parterre
There was a long queue of people for the boat back but they were all waiting in the wrong place, Nigel and I just strolled up to the embarkation point as the boat docked and we got on first, getting a prime position seat out of the wind. How we laughed!!
The Palace from the boat on the way back.
A French vehicle, selling Italian ice cream in Sweden!
Bread delivery fleet, Richard had a toy one of these in the same colour back in the day, almost 40 years ago!
At the Whippet Lab for our tea on our last evening, it was a bus ride away but we wanted to visit from when we first read about it.
Would have been rude not to!
Waiting outside the hotel for our taxi on the last morning

Oh, just one more thing in the “you couldn’t make it up” vein. The pre booked taxi didn’t turn up to take us to the airport. But thankfully the hotel receptionist got us another one which arrived within minutes!

Belle, Ditto and Poco were ecstatic to see us as we knew they would be. It’s soon become business as usual in the Crompton household. They are actually very quiet and calm again now, not least probably as it’s very hot again.

Flying back over the Swiss Alps. Straightforward bag drop and security check this time.

So now it’s file for compensation time, Sweden is not a cheap place to stay but we should get at least some of our expenses back. We kept all the receipts which are now collated so we shall see what happens.

Belle enjoying a treat all the way from Stockhom, licky cheese spread!
Normal service is resumed!! Not quite the Reisen hotel standard but it’s our standard!!!!! Note the miniature maypole in front of the mirror which Ric and Aoife bought me as a souvenir!
That’s all for now!

Well, not the holiday we had in mind but wonderful to see and spend time with our family in spite of the difficulties which are now beginning to fade into memories, we survived!!!!!

Hasta Luego, next bulletin sometime in August when we should be “on the road” in the campervan.