Friday, July 1, 2011

Which Took a VERY Long Time

I had been dreading the day of travel between Hay-on-Wye and Stockholm as it depended upon meeting a series of connections. There is always tons of room for error in these types of situations and so I was imagining various catastrophes like flat tires, train derailments, strikes, this sort of thing.

We left the Nethouse in Hay at 8:30am, drove to Newport, dropped off the rental car, got a ride back to the station, took our time getting to the platform as we thought we would have to wait, had a chat with June in the lift after Tony had dropped her and a friend (Margery) off (they were going to Nottingham, of course) and walked right on to the Paddington train as if we had planned the whole thing.

The train ride was uneventful except for Raj and his friend Rhys who would talk about the lack of demand for computer engineers like themselves who are more trained in C++ than anyone else around, don’t you know. I will observe here that there is a charming similarity between the Indian and Welsh cadence. At times, it was difficult to tell them apart, except that Rhys was a lot louder than Raj and kept punctuating his side of the conversation with a loud bellowing laugh. I wanted to tell him that there was nothing amusing about C++ and in fact, one might go so far as to say that it is the opposite of amusing. But I didn’t.

We had more luck at Paddington and walked off the train and straight onto the Heathrow Express which left about 3 minutes later. 30 minutes and we were at Heathrow.

By this time it was only 1:30pm and our flight didn’t go until 5:30pm. I really hadn’t expected to be so efficient. I had been stressing about strikes, but apparently it was the either the lamest strike ever, or it was somewhere else in the airport. You really wouldn’t have even known there was strike at all. In fact, it all seemed to be running much more smoothly than usual. Weird.

Anyway, our luck continued when we found our Scandinavian Airlines check-in counter, and there was NO LINE. Nothing! I expected the dude to tell us to go away and come back in 3 hours or something but he said we could check in everything right there. So nice to do that without 300 sets of eyes boring into your back willing you to hurry the fuck up as you drop your passport and fumble with your papers or have to repack your suitcase because you brought too much stuff.

We then zipped through Security, which is a feat unheard of at Heathrow. Our only hold up was Zoe who set off the alarms and had to be searched. Never know what a 9yr old girl could be hiding. The woman seemed fixated on the rivets in Zoe’s jeans, passing her tri-corder, or whatever it is, over and over them. Finally I had to say that I was pretty sure the metal rivets were setting off the alarms and could we all move on. Duh.

We had nothing to do now except wait for 3 hours in the crammed ‘airline lounge’. We wandered and shopped and napped and then it was time to board our flight to Oslo where we were connecting to Stockholm.

The flight was uneventful and soon we were approaching Oslo airport. The landscape out the window was stunning – rolling green hills, forests, little red farmhouses, blue lakes, pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, and purple horseshoes:

DSC07925 DSC07911 DSC07924

I was kidding about the purple horseshoes.

Oslo airport is fabulous – all glass and light. And everyone was drop-dead gorgeous too. We also had the World’s Nicest Customs Officer who actually looked a little bit like Eric from True Blood (who is actually Swedish, but who cares – these are minor minor details) 


The Aquavit bar….perfect! you could get pickled herring here too!


My tired traveller


Salte Rockers anyone? No? You sure?

We didn’t have long to wait before the flight to Sweden which was all of about 30 minutes. We picked up our luggage on the other side – it was all there waiting, nothing lost, and just walked out. I had forgotten that once you are in the EU, you don’t need to be harassed by a border guard every time you so much as think about going to another country. Eric back in Oslo had checked us in to Europe and we were good to go! They don’t care! Hi Welcome to Europe! Go wherever you like, and guess what, we trust you! Hello, North America are you listening?? No need to be assholes anymore – you could do this too!

Anyway – more smoothness as the Arlanda Express appeared to be waiting for us as it pulled in just as we walked onto the platform, and quietly pulled away just after we sat down. And they don’t charge for kids under 17. Hello!

We got a taxi to our apartment, and fell into bed a short while later.


It was a good, but very long day, and even the incessant hourly, quarter hourly and half-hourly ringing of the church bells all night didn’t bother me. Well, ok maybe a little. Ok well actually it did bother me. A lot. WTF? There is NO CHANCE of not knowing the time here. It is sonically imprinted on your head every fifteen minutes. Dear Gamla Stan: Enough with the Bells. We get it.

I was also overjoyed to discover a daycare under our window. Yep. Drop off starts at 7am. That is the joy of these old towns with their narrow little alleys and amazing acoustics. You can hear everything.

At least they were cute. The kids, that is. Not the bells.

Thanks for reading – more tomorrow.



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