Trip Start Jun 22, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day one started as all day one's do…with hope, with expectation, with great excitement of the wonders to come. Day one started with Scandinavian Airlines.

'Europe’s most punctual airline’ is how Scandinavian Air rather matter-of-factly market themselves. Obviously we can all see through their modesty; reading between the lines I interpreted ‘punctual’ to mean ‘the airline with the prettiest air stewardesses’.

I was excited. This would be one adventure where the hippy claptrap about the journey being more rewarding than the destination might actually be true for once.

Well…the lying sods. I wept in disbelief as Mrs Marple shuffled forward and welcomed us aboard – it was more ‘old folks home’ than ‘Stockholm’. This was, I’ll be honest, a worrying start.

I needn’t have worried.

After tea and biscuits, and having completed the crossword on Granny Air, we landed in Stockholm, and there’s nothing disappointing about Stockholm.

First impressions count. The airport does what an airport is supposed to do – get you in and out, efficiently. The place was clean, with clear signage and friendly, attractive, communicative staff. Things were looking good.

The train from the airport to the city – the Arlanda Express – was, there’s no other word for it, a
delight; it too was clean – nay spotless – modern and on time. If you happen to own a city and you want to create a good impression for first time visitors go and visit Stockholm – it sets the benchmark.

It’s the little things that made me smile. On the train, for example, there are blinds in each window which passengers can pull down to block the sunlight. Nothing unusual there. But the screws that keep the window frame in place double up as magnets that can be used to hold the blinds in position; just one example amongst many of simple, yet brilliant, engineering.

We stayed at Story Hotel, which nestles in a quiet back street in the otherwise vibrant area of Stureplan in downtown Stockholm. Anyone who advises staying anywhere else, with the possible exception of Hotel Diplomat, is a fool.

The hotel is independently owned, and it shows. If I owned a hotel I would definitely have a couple of Apple Macs on the front desk for guests to check themselves in and out in 30 seconds flat. That’s the Story way, and it works. I would also have an ultra-relaxed breakfast time where guests have until mid-morning to come and graze and flick through the morning papers. I’d almost certainly want a kick-ass cocktail bar downstairs too, and I like to think that, like this hotel, I would have a supermodel working behind my kick-ass bar. The owner of Story Hotel cares; the owner is cool. I haven’t actually met the owner, but sometimes…you can just tell. 

It is not only the hoteliers that are pulling out all the stops. The customer service throughout Stockholm is the best that I have experienced anywhere in the world – their English is perfect, the staff are attentive, helpful and, with the exception of an angry little taxi driver - there’s always one - they are absolutely charming.

Stockholm is a civilised place – it is walkable, green, safe, has grand old buildings and bustling little restaurants all of which are excellent and all located within a stone’s throw of the water which acts as the calming centrepiece to the city.

Ultimately, of course, it is the people that make or break a place. In Stockholm they make it. There is an underlying sense of calm throughout the city, of a people at ease with their surroundings and with themselves. I expected the people of Stockholm to be good looking, and indeed they were, effortlessly so; but more than that, they seem to be genuine, friendly, happy souls; you get the feeling that when they smile, they mean it.

It is the people that you meet that can determine whether your review of a trip is just ‘enjoyable’ or warrants an ‘ooh, you’ve never been…you have to go’.

There is, of course, another level beyond simply recommending a place to friends. There is a level at which, when you get on the plane to leave, you look out of the window and you think to yourself, "you know what, I could live there". That’s Stockholm. 

Places of note

Hotels...  Story Hotel; Hotel Diplomat 

Restaurants/cafes…  Riche; Bistro Jarl; Sturehof; Bistro Berns 

Bars/clubs… Cafe Opera; East Bar; Soap Bar; Sturecompagniet (club)

Sight-seeing… Djurgarden - parkland Skansen - an open-air museum of life in old Sweden 

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