Sweden, Stockholm ♥️ sunshine and springtime fun, you put a smile on our face and warmth in our hearts

On our way to Stockholm we stopped off in an idyllic little town called Mariefred, there is a really stunning castle sitting on Lake Mälaren called Gripsholm Castle and you can walk around the grounds to the castle, we were really lucky to have such good weather when we were there.

It was a good place to just chill and have a coffee before the final leg of our journey to Stockholm.

Stockholm, the city of pretty much everything. The contrast of old and new, a modern sophisticated city mixed with the traditional old town all connected by big underground tunnels. The city and the people are just so effortlessly cool.

We stayed about 30 minutes from Stockholm in a secluded wooded campsite on the edge of lake Flaten. A huge frozen lake surrounded by trees, there was a footpath along side the lake and right by the entrance to the campsite was a beach.

The weather was absolutely fantastic, brilliant blue cloudless skies and springtime cool air our campsite was in a perfect place, an ideal spot to BBQ.

And a fab spot for a run and some awesome scenery to capture with the drone.

The old town, Gamla Stan is as beautiful as the guide books say, with narrow alleys in between brightly coloured shops and cobbled streets.

The following day we decided to check out the Vasa Museum which was a great shout. A really educational experience, the boys enjoyed learning about how the Vasa had been built and then sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628 and recovered from the bottom of the sea over 330 years later. We learned how it had been restored and preserved.

The Swedes love the sun and as soon as it comes out they will head for any tiny bit of light they can find to sunbathe and soak up the rays. So, as we learnt when the sun is out you need to make the most of it and go outdoors, walking, eating, drinking, sitting with friends and chatting just simply enjoying the sun.

So that’s exactly what we did, we had a lovely walk along the harbour to the ABBA museum and then basked in the sunshine enjoying fish and chips.

Springtime flowers 💐

I’m so glad we were able to take this route and experience Stockholm. It’s been a really enjoyable and relaxing week in Sweden. We are really excited about our next destination, country No. 8 Finland.

Norway, Hardangerfjord & Folgefonna

The last leg of our Norwegian adventure took us back to Auklandshamn.

We drove back towards Haugesund in heavy snowfall just a couple of days after having the most amazing weather over the Easter weekend and now everything was covered in a blanket of snow.

It was quite surreal looking at everything covered in snow and at the same time really amazing to have experienced this magical place in what felt like every season. We couldn’t resist building a snowman on the deck where we had been sunbathing just days earlier. It was a really relaxing afternoon, we cooked brownies and had freshly brewed coffee, we played some family games and took the dog for a walk.

The reason for our return was to see just a little bit more of the country we had fallen in love with. Hardangerfjord and Fogelfonna National Parks had been recommended to us so we packed up the drone and got our picnic basket ready.

The drive was fantastic and the scenery was so dramatic.

Our first stop was Odda in Hordaland, a secluded town in the valley surrounded by huge rock faces and sitting on the edge of a beautiful fjord.

The waterfalls are pretty spectacular and partially frozen when we saw them

Låtefoss (route 13)

Furebergsfossen

We saw the old postal road by Nærøyfjord, unfortunately it was too icy for us to walk

We started to drive across the Bergen to Oslo road which is said to be Europe’s greatest mountain plateau, it was heaped with snow and the ski lifts were carrying skiers up the slopes. We had made it a long way in Norway already without winter tyres and were beginning to think we shouldn’t push our luck and continue on so without risking getting caught on the mountain roads we headed back towards Auklandshamn.

Such a great end to our time in Norway 💙

Koselig – a way of life

Whilst on our travels I have been learning about customs and cultures in the different countries we have visited so far. I recently discovered the concept of Hygge in Denmark and in Norway  I have discovered the Norwegians have taken this concept to a whole new level.

Koselig, is about making things just a little bit more enjoyable. It’s about feeling cosy, it’s about good food, wine, candles and being warm & enjoying time with family and friends. It’s about hot chocolate, fresh coffee, huge amounts of cake and candy. It’s about snuggling up under a blanket and spending time with people that make you happy. It’s about melting marshmallows over a campfire and eating fresh popcorn and freshly baked brownies.

All these things sum up our trip to Auklandshamn in Nina and Hein’s holiday cabin. It’s about 40 minutes north of Haugesund. The boys and I had been before and had fantastic memories of the time we had spent there in 2015.

When we had been before the summer had given us beautiful sunsets over the sea and long days fishing off the deck at the cabin and this trip did not disappoint either. We were so lucky with the weather, the sky was completely cloudless and blue when we arrived and the sun was shining, it was cool and sunny, just perfect for the Easter weekend.

(2015)

(2018)

On the ferry, we recreated the picture taken 3 years ago, it’s so special for us to share this time again especially now Jon is with us.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Auklandshamn, we were welcomed by Nina & Hein’s family and so well taken care of by everyone. Such a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable place.

Marie, Hein’s sister lives high up on the hillside overlooking the cabin.

A glass of cava and an amazing view, what more could you ask for?

The fishing trip proved unsuccessful, no fish but loads of fun.

The Easter egg hunt proved successful

………….and Jon was feeling very chilled

A spot of fishing

Sunshine and smiles

It really doesn’t get any better than THIS – Tussen Tak you scrumptious bunch, you’ve made us truly understand the concept of koselig ❤️ these memories have found a very special place in our heart.

Interesting fact – A Norwegian Easter tradition is to watch a crime series on the TV and read crime novels – Who knew ?!

Sweden, Gothenburg 🇸🇪 Time for Fika ❤️

Fika, a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning ‘to have coffee’ usually accompanied with cake, cookies, pie or sandwiches and shared with friends or family. Yesterday was a day of Fika.

Whilst we were visiting Gothenburg my cousin recommended Brogyllen a gorgeous coffee shop to try out their cakes. Such a great place to sit back and relax and watch the world go by.

The cakes were truly delicious, the Semla buns were so light yet full of almond paste that wasn’t completely smooth and had bits of almonds and topped with fresh whipped cream, the dough was soft with small pieces of cardamom running through it.

The boys are huge lovers of Kanelbullar, Swedish cinnamon buns. They prefer these to the American style ones as they are less sweet and they like the mix of cinnamon and cardamom and the crunchy pearl sugar on top.

After our coffee break we decided to download the city walking tour app and walked off the sweet treats.

We had a a lovely stroll, I love the fact that although the streets are cobbled the Swedes have also laid larger paving slabs alongside the cobbles to walk on so you don’t lose your heels. Thank goodness! – my boots survived.

Fiskekyrkan – Fish church. The fish market

Last night was the favourite part of my day, we had been invited over for dinner by my cousin Nick. He had prepared a Smörgåsbord for us. It was so lovely to chat over wine and talk about life and our family history.

More cake………

What a day !

Tonight, as we watched another fresh blanket of snow falling………

I really enjoyed our time in Gothenburg but I don’t feel like I’m done with Sweden yet, hopefully we will have more time on the way back to visit Stockholm.

I feel like I got my hygge-on in Gothenburg, the fika and spending time with family was totally hyggelig 💖

Tack så mycket Gothenburg and hope to see you again soon Sweden.

Sweden, “Super Trouper……….”

We got up on Monday morning full of gusto and ready to take on Sweden. After days of procrastinating we finally had a plan and were ready to get on with it. So after the usual mammoth pack up we said goodbye to Jes and his wife and we hit the road.

We made it to Øresund Bridge, the bridge that connected us to Malmö – possibly the most expensive toll bridge in Europe. We had a bit of banter with the Swedish toll operator about the size and weight of the RV but the outcome was simply pay up and get on your way. It was a sobering experience handing over the plastic for the exorbitant €200 crossing.

On entering Sweden we saw our first Ikea in about 5 minutes and ABBA was blasting out of the radio, how very Swedish! Jon and I did have a giggle.

It had been a long drive and we were ready to get parked up for the night. We had chosen a marina in a town called Landskrona. We enjoyed our dinner whilst watching the sunset.

This morning when we woke up there was even a fresh blanket of snow, welcome to Sweden.

We have made it to our sixth country.

Denmark, Møns Klint

We had been in Denmark for a couple of days already and were getting restless. Still not sure when we would leave and if we would take the RV to Norway, we have a lot of mileage to cover in a short space of time if we are going to make it to Norway by Saturday. We had experienced Copenhagen and were hungry for something more. We took the 2 hour drive from our campsite to Møns Klint in the South Eastern corner of Denmark. I’m so glad we did, the drive alone was stunning before we had even reached the beautiful white cliffs on the Island of Møn. We had been really lucky with the weather so far, clear blue skies, zero degrees and a splattering of snow.

The geological park of Møns Klint is stunning, we parked up in the forest and made the 20 minute downhill trek to the beach where we took in the white cliffs in all their glory. It had been pretty cold and there were huge icicles on the cliff face. There was even an enormous ice sculpture in the sea formed around some drift wood.

We strolled along the shore for a while and the boys enjoyed looking for fossils and snapping off icicles from the cliff. Lester was trotting along and sniffing in the rock pools. It was really refreshing to be out in the open soaking up the fresh air.

The upward climb was quite tough, we made our way up the impressive wooden decked staircase built into the cliff. It took a while to get to the top, not easy if you have short legs.

The drive home was so picturesque, it was the golden hour and the snow and ice glistened.

We’ve been weighing up driving the RV to Norway or leaving it in Denmark and taking Mini on the ferry all the way to Stavanger, today was a good day and gave us time to decide what to do, we’ve been procrastinating over this decision for a coupe of days now and we reached a decision, we will pack up the RV tomorrow and head to Stavanger. We both feel good about this plan. Next stop Sweden.

Denmark, Copenhagen, København 🇩🇰

A city that feels like a town. A lot like Amsterdam only much cleaner and more beautiful, almost like a fairytale. Very much like Hans Christian Andersen would have created in one of his stories.

The little mermaid perched on her rock, looking for Prince Eric….. with a gazillion tourists crowding her, I can hear Indonesian and American tourists, French and Germans all snapping away. It is stupidly cold, there are gusts of snow and we are all hustling to get a photo next to the delicate little statue. We get caught up in the frenzy and finally rush back to the warmth of the car.

Next on our list are the military ‘Nyboder’ houses, I remember these from the movie, The Danish Girl. The striking yellow paint contrasts the steely grey sky. The houses are stuck in time and the paint is peeling from the bricks.

We’re cooking now and we head to the next must do site on our list, Nyhavn, the iconic Danish houses lining the canal. They look resplendent, the sun is shining and we are ready for a coffee. Probably the most expensive place to get a coffee but the view is simply priceless so we suck it up

A canal boat trip to visit the sights, the opera house, the queen’s residence, it’s all very blah blah blah…..don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining about Copenhagen being blah blah blah, it’s more about us and our ‘adventure’. We want this year to be unforgettable and unique so as much as we love the tourist attractions we also want to go off the beaten track and see MORE. Really see what makes Denmark, Denmark.

A trip to a major city wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the food market (you know me and food) so we swing by Torvehallerne for some dinner….

Smörgåsbord = yum !

Ahhh Summerbird……….your beautiful cakes

So I’ll post this and I’ll add a little PS, I promise to give you more and not just the predictable.

Before I go, I recommend this book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Book-Hygge-Danish-Penguin/dp/0241283914

That sinking feeling

A couple of nights in Denmark and already we were feeling really good about being in Scandinavia, a gorgeous family welcomed us onto their campsite…Neils, his wife and their son live in a lovely white thatched cottage with parking for around 6 motorhomes. It has easy access and great facilities, Jon and I were able to relax and boys were delighted to find the games room, chess and a pool table – how fabulous!

We took a day out in Mini to the coast to see The Men at Sea statues and returned through the town near to us of Haderslev which is home to The Skate Dome a huge skateboard/scooter/bike park.

Then we set off for Copenhagen which was around a 3 hours drive. We always knew Scandinavia was going to be an expensive part of our journey, we have read many blogs about traveling here in a motorhome and everyone says the same thing, it’s bloody expensive. First, you can’t get hold of LPG so we are running on petrol, which makes for a super expensive drive at no more than 8 mpg.

Second, literally everything is expensive, especially bridge tolls. We had tears in our eyes when we handed over our debit card to pay the £120 toll over the Storebælt bridge. Forgetting he was in Europe and not Asia, Jon tried to negotiate with the cashier and obviously failed ! Lucky we didn’t have to pay even more.

We felt like we were making some real progress when we arrived at our campsite for the night, another site at a family home only this time so much bigger, I was feeling silently smug, as I had chosen this site. Joe and I in our high viz jackets directed Jon into the parking bay, on one side gravel, the other side grass. I was watching Jon roll into the gravel and all was good until the other side rolls onto muddy ground and suddenly we grind to a halt. We are stuck, totally, completely, 100% stuck. I made a rookie error and hadn’t checked all 4 wheels were on hard ground. It was a horrible feeling seeing the massive tyres wedged in the ground and the RV tilting to one side. We tried for an hour with wood, carpet and tree branches to get it out, it was an impossible task, my biggest fear were the RV’s self levelling hydraulic jacks, they were about 2cm clear of the ground and sinking. We just got deeper and deeper into trouble, I wanted to cry, I felt hopeless and tried to think through all the possible ways we could get out. Would the AA rescue us? Probably not, who can you call when you are in such a large, heavy vehicle and need to be towed when you don’t even speak the language?

Jon and I realised the only way out was to ask for help so we took the walk of shame up the tree lined drive way to the family home and knocked on the door. We were greeted by Jes……….he is so friendly and not at all phased by the fact that stupid English tourists have driven their 11 metre, 10 ton RV onto his land and got it stuck.

“Are you stuck?” asks Jes

“Yes, we are so sorry” Jon and I feeling very stupid

“No problem, I’ll get my tractor”

And that was that…what are the chances of finding a campsite in the middle of Denmark where the owner, who by the way is not a farmer happens to have a tractor and massive towing chain in his garage?! We had struck it lucky again.

Within 10 minutes the kind Danish man had rescued us, he had towed us to hard ground and connected us to electric and the boys to WiFi.

I always say that things can change in a heartbeat, one minute everything is peachy and the next they can turn horribly wrong. This was another example of how vulnerable we are.

We are having the time of our lives and experiencing amazing things but there is always that feeling of how vulnerable we really are. It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before. When you travel in your home, you realise the one thing that can bring you so much comfort and security can so easily be damaged or destroyed.

After trying to put Jes’s field back together and stamp down the grass we’d destroyed we had a coffee and the boys hot chocolate and although we were feeling slightly stunned about what had happened.

The temperature had dropped to -5 and the wind was picking up, so no slide outs tonight. We just had to hunker down and stay warm.

Ironically it turned out really well, not only did Jes speak perfect English and have his own tractor but he also has a genuine interest in American vehicles with a huge US pick up truck and 2 American 5th Wheelers in his barn. Jon and his new best friend, Jes disappeared into the barn to talk RV talk. By dinner time we were feeling cosy and warm and the earlier off-road experience was long forgotten, it was time to enjoy a glass of red and a pork schnitzel.

When you are drowning just keep swimming

Coming back to Devon, the place I grew up was an eye opener. I had always envisaged returning to the beautiful tranquillity of Devon, the quiet and laidback lifestyle. The Devon-way. I surprised myself that it wasn’t all I had imagined it to be and that I must have changed somehow. Devon was of course glorious as ever, the beaches a real pleasure, the towns quintessentialy British and the weather was mild. Although there was a nagging in the back of my mind that this wasn’t all I had wanted it to be, we actually felt a little bit cut off , 14 years living in capital cities does this to you. The instant gratification of walking out of your house and grabbing a Starbucks, department stores on your doorstep and bars and restaurants minutes away, Devon now felt a bit remote. It has given us food for thought about where our long term home will be.

Anyway I digress, we had returned and were in the most part enjoying Devon life as a retired couple (boys at school) enjoying lesisurly walks with the dog and coffees whilst undertaking the mammoth task of renovating the RV.

It doesn’t sound like a massive task but trust me it was huge and even now we look at what we have achieved and still find things we would like to improve. The title sums up our feelings throughout the renovation process, when you are drowning you just have to keep swimming. That’s what 7 coats of paint on each cupboard door does to you. So after weeks of Jon getting up every morning at 6.30 and going to the RV to demolish, paint, build and beautify we got to a point of seeing this ‘thing’ as a reality. I have to say Jon is the real driving force behind everything we do, I am a dreamer and a proscrastanator, Jon is a doer. Without him none of this would have happened, he sees a problem or a challenge and turns it into a real thing, making it better as he goes and enlisting people along the way to have the same belief and passion he has. I am in awe of his passion and enthusiasm for a project. I look at a task and can’t even start because I see so many obstacles, Jon walks in and just says “lets go and don’t stop until the job is done”.

When I did come and help, it was cold and quite depressing without electricity I would whinge and whine about not having the right paintbrush, being hungry, not having enough paint, the paint not sticking and so on and so on. Jon just soldiered on, never complaining or giving up. That’s just one of the reasons I love him.