Sunday, September 21, 2008


Stockholm - day 7

Today we only really had time for breakfast, packing and getting to the airport.

On the way to the T-bana we picked up some cheap Swedish chocolate from the local supermarket instead of at the ridiculously-priced airport. Unfortunately local supermarkets do not also stock reindeer and elk meat.

In central Stockholm, there is a fast, regular train service to Arlanda Airport (although today it was running at half a timetable because of some problem) which we bought tickets for and managed to get some seats. The train has some flat-screen TVs for displaying safety messages, news and adverts. One of the safety messages must be the scariest I have seen for a loooong time and it was merely warning of how to stand with luggage on an escalator. If you have a large suitcase, it should be above you so that it can't fall down the moving staircase like a understoppable juggernaut, destroying all in its path as it slides unhindered onto the platform below. Next time we'll take the lift...

As we approached the airport, the display informed us that the next stop was for terminals 2-4 and not 5. We had taken a taxi last week from the airport (and I hadn't been to Stockholm for many months) so neither of us knew which terminal we wanted. As the train came to a stop, we finally found a document that informed we needed to get off NOW with lots of apologising to boarding passengers and blocking the automatic doors from closing. I don't know why we were panicking - it wasn't as if the train would take too long to bring us back from terminal 5 if we hadn't got off but there you go.

And to make more mockery of our hasty departure from the train, we soon found out our plane was delayed 90 minutes - enough time to return to Stockholm for a coffee and back again ... twice.

Even better, it was only after we had paid for lunch and gone through security that we were given food vouchers to compensate being delayed.

The shops in terminal 2 - as befits the relatively low passenger volume - are small and with limited range. Most of the time they have nothing that you can't get at any other airport or European high street supermarket. One concession did stock traditional Swedish fare so we splashed out on some jars of pickled Herring (Sue having now worked out she likes the stuff). As we already had a reindeer pelt from our Finland holiday, we could safely avoid the massive mark-up there and I was not at all interested in paying £4 for a crisp-packet-sized amount of dried meat (deer/reindeer/elk - of which I am sure 90% would be just deer).

Time passed - the plane was now 2 hours behind and it wasn't until we were on the flight that we found out this was due to a fault in the transfer system that moves fuel between tanks on the plane.

Once finally boarded and seated, we were unsettled to see (but more importantly hear) an inebriated Irishman coming down the aisle towards the empty seat right behind us, in the "Naughty Row" as we were informed it was to be known. He promised all and sundry that all he needed was a beer and he'd be off to sleep in no time. We did fear the worst, especially after he complimented Antonio (a Richard Madeley-lookalike steward in the cabin crew) on how fragrant he smelled. And after he wanted to know if anyone would like to hug the reindeer pelt he'd bought as a present for his partner. And if they wanted to admire the bread he'd picked up for her too.

Once sat down, he latched on to the two Swedes sitting next to him and advised them on all the places they needed to visit on their forthcoming trip to Hong Kong. At length. And so it went on for the whole flight back to Heathrow although I did have to tune him out eventually by watching "March of the Penguins".

It turns out that we were in the company of Irish stand-up comedian Andrew Maxwell. To be honest, he was a lovely guy and all the time he was positive and up-beat, without a care in the world. I'd love to know which of his several plans to surprise his girlfriend he actually chose. Later, when we got home, we watched his stand-up on YouTube for ages and bought a 2nd-hand DVD off eBay.

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