Aside from a slight hiccough over the seats, the flight from Sydney to Stockholm via Beijing went off without a hitch. The hiccough with the seats had nothing to do with Air China. It involved a family of four who had booked separate seats (one set of two, and two individuals) for the flight from Beijing to Stockholm, but who then decided they wanted to sit together. As the family involved two very young children, of course, the two young Swedish women wanted to help, and so they moved. But they didn’t bother to think about the late 40’s gent from Australia who arrived on the flight a few minutes later.
Of the two young women, one had the “oh shit” look on her face when I turned up, while the other feigned ignorance and then attempted to “find” and “check” her boarding pass. After a couple of minutes, when it was clear I wasn’t going to magically disappear they all came clean and explained what had happened, and told me I should go and sit over in another seat two rows up. It was dead centre in a four-person row, the position I hate most when flying. The reason why I always book aisle seats on international flights is so I don’t both other people when I need to go to the bathroom. “I’ll sit anywhere, so long as it’s an aisle seat”, I told the flight attendant who was called upon to deal with the situation. Within minutes, she had found me a double seat by myself. Everyone got what they wanted in the end. Go Air China!
The only other thing that went slightly wrong was the final “light meal” which was an egg and rice dish which you added “pickled tuber” too. At first, when it was just egg and rice, it was just bland; but then when you added the “pickled tuber” it became fairly inedible to my tastes. I was mostly pretty happy with the other meals which consisted of a choice between “chicken and rice” or “beef and rice”.
I was also really happy with the sleep over I had at the hourly motel at Beijing Airport. $59 for three hours of good sleep in a proper bed, along with a good shower made the investment well and truly worth it.
An hour or so later, when I was on the flight from Beijing to Stockholm, I had a sudden realisation it’s exactly three years since the last time I visited Stockholm in winter. Well, spring really. I came here in 2010 for Melodifestivalen (the Swedish finals leading to Eurovision) and I’m back again, though this time the visit is much longer. I’m travelling for two months, using Stockholm as my main base, with side trips to some other European countries. My friend Sue is also travelling with me for part of the trip.
When I arrived in March 2010, Stockholm was still very icey (frozen lakes) and there was a lot of snow even on the streets of central Stockholm. This time around the temperature was reasonably mild (5 degrees) when I arrived at the airport last night. Also, there doesn’t appear to be as much snow, though I’ve yet to properly explore.
When I arrived last night there was a bit of a delay at the airport, due to some people in the “foreigners” queue being extensively questioned. In the end, the people in our queue were directed to the head of the “citizens” queue, and it wasn’t so bad then.
The first thing you notice at Stockholm Airport at the moment is ABBA. As the airport is the “official airport” (whatever that means) of the new ABBA Museum in Stockholm, there are banners and audio visual displays all over the place. There’s also some physical displays of ABBA’s on-stage costumes in large perspex containers. If you didn’t know ABBA were from Sweden before you arrived at Stockholm Airport, you certainly would minutes after arriving.
I caught the bus into town (99SEK, currently 15AUD), topped up my travel card, caught the T-bana to Kungsträdgården, and then walked the last few minutes to Hotel Skeppsholmen, the “luxury” hotel I chose for my first night in town. Although the rest of my trip will involve staying in AirBnB accommodation, I thought for my first night I could enjoy a little luxury with a good shower, a good bed (with thick sheets), and with what I thought was a view of the harbour.
And yes, indeed, I do have a view of the harbour. But I also have a view of Mono Music, the company owned by ABBA’s Benny Andersson. Like, seriously, ten to fifteen metres away. If I was one of the crazy ABBA fans, the ones who “stalk” ABBA members, this would be just the place for a stake-out. But I’m not. I assure you, I’m definitely not.
I never ended up having dinner last night. I just came to my room. Had a shower. Watched a bit of television. Checked out a few local papers (I see there’s a Swedish production of Priscilla later in the year). And then I then pretty much passed out and slept until about three o’clock this morning.
So here I am staying in a nice hotel in Stockholm. It’s dark outside. Sunrise will be at about 6.30am, with sunset at about 5.30pm. The forecast for the next few days is partly cloudy, with a temperature range from just above zero to a cold night on Saturday of minus-12. Saturday is Melodifestivalen, so Patrick, if you’re reading this, pack some extra woolies.