Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
284Trip End Ongoing
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I decided to fly with Sterling Airways for this trip for a couple of reasons. The main reason was they fly from Gatwick which is only 30 miles from my house and would save the drive to Stansted which is miles from nowhere. As a result the price (£87 return) was about double what it would have cost on Ryanair. However unlike Ryanair they fly to the main Swedish airport (Arlanda) rather than tiny regional airports like the other budget airlines.
So I took a half day off work in order to catch the flight at 18:40 flight. Parked the car in the long stay carpark (£23) and took the courtesy bus to the South Terminal. Check-in at the Sterling counter was the easiest I have even encountered! No one in the queue, no bags to check-in so it was over in about 2 minutes! The queue through customs was a different story and it took about 40 minutes before we finally got to the departure lounge and went straight to the bar.
Seeing as we weren't going to arrive in Arlanda until 22:05 (2hr 15min flight) we decided we needed to hit the booze to catch up! After a pint of lager and a Magners our flight still wasn't being called to the gate so I went to the info desk to find out what was going on. The flight still hadn't landed! Bloody Sterling Airlines!
I flew with Sterling about 10 years ago when they were called Sterling European Airways to Faro and had the worst delays I've ever had. 3 hours outbound and 4 hours in tiny Faro airport on the way back! After that piece of news we wandered back to the bar for a pint of bitter and straight after ordering we were called to the gate. Very quickly downed the drinks and basically had to sprint the the gate.
Thankfully Sterling have improved (and have more than 2 planes now!) and the flight took off an hour late. I expected the flight to only last about 1hr 30mins so was a bit surprised at how long it took! We touched down in Arlanda just after 11pm and went to meet the guys.
Kim and Lars were waiting and after quickly grabbing some cash we jumped in their car (sadly a VW not a Volvo) and shot off towards Stockholm.
Well what an introduction to Sweden!! Within 5 minutes we were being diverted off the motorway by a police road block guarding a car on fire on the bridge! For the next 30 miles every exit off the motorways were blocked by police so something big was obviously going down. At one stage we came to a massive traffic jam and in a moment of genius Lars took a turning down a construction lane in the middle of the motorway. We drove straight to the front of the queue, saving about 30 minutes, and were waved through by M-16 wielding cops! No more interruptions and we got to Stockholm at about midnight. Apparently an armoured bank vehicle had been stolen.
We didn't waste any time and got straight in a taxi to the Gamla Stan area of town. We ended up drinking the night away in a small underground "viking" bar. It was my sort of place! 3 litre jugs of beer and people signing traditional songs. After leaving the bar we encountered a Swedish institution, sausage vendours. They are on every single street corner selling cheap sausages and the chorizo was much needed after a night drinking!
On Saturday we spent the whole day being a tourist. We left Lars' flat and walked to the Gamla Stan area again. This is the oldest area of town and it is stunning! They say Stockholm is one of the worlds most beautiful cities and they aren't wrong. Set around a harbour it reminded me quite heavily of Sydney, only with older colourful buildings instead of skyscrappers. I liked it a lot!!
We spent a while walking around the streets before boarding a boat and heading off to the archipelago. According to the LP the only way to see Stockholm is from the water and it was a very pleasant way to spend a gloriously sunny afternoon. We took the boat to Fjaderholmarna where we stopped for lunch, snapps and a few beers before getting the boat back.
We had seen an amusement park on the river and thought it would be a great place to spend a few hours. We bought a token booklet that got us 2 rollercoaster rides and 5 fairground type shooting, throwing ball games. The rollercoasters were pretty weak but a good laugh. We made a tournament out of the fairground games and I won overall. On the air rifle shooting I shot 49/50, only missing out on a perfect score with the last shot! With our token booklet we also got a free beer token so downed that before heading back to the flat.
That evening we went to a restaurant called Cliff Barnes, a place where Lars used to work, which he said was a good party place. At first sight it didn't really seem like it. Looked like a normal restaurant but come 9pm it was a completely different place. The lights went down, the cheesy music started and pretty soon everyone was dancing. When the second song that was played was In The Navy you knew it was going to be a funny night! We were dancing on our chairs until kick out time at 2am when we left dripping in sweat and with a massive grin on out faces. We were nowhere near ready to go home so they took us to a party boat called Lady Patricias'. I was a little skeptical but it was great fun and the drinks were insanely expensive. It was a fantastic night!
Sunday was a relatively low key day. We were all feeling the effects of the excess the previous night and found somewhere to grab a coffee straight away. We weren't in any mood to go sightseeing today so spent the morning window shopping in expensive department stores before saying goodbye and jumping on a train to the airport. It had been great to see the guys again and I'm sure we'll be doing it again some time in the future.
The airport was a complete nightmare. Unlike Gatwick we had to queue for the check-in desk before joining the longest security check queue I have ever seen! It stretched for about 1/2km through the airport and took nearly an hour! Once through it was plain sailing and 3 hours later we were back in Blighty.
Flight: £87 - Sterling Airlines from Gatwick
Airport Parking: £23.10
Spending Money: £124.90
Total Spend: £235 (Exactly the same as the weekend in London)