29.08.21 — Travel
With my website back up after an error caused by my questionable WordPress coding, today’s blog post deviates somewhat from the usual updates from Madrid thanks to an impromptu work-related trip to Sweden!
The week before this trip, one of our current clients got in contact to ask that I head over to an event they were hosting in Sweden to present a preview of their new brand to their stakeholders. This event was to take place in the coastal city of Båstad, which is much closer to the Danish capital of Copenhagen (which I’ve visited a couple of times in the past) than the Swedish capital, Stockholm.
All this meant for a somewhat convoluted journey, with a flight from Madrid to Copenhagen followed by a two hour train journey from Copenhagen, through Malmö, and up the Swedish coast to Båstad, where a taxi would pick me up and take me to the hotel. With COVID still ravaging Europe, the main nuisance caused by this complicated journey was the different paperwork needed with the three countries involved: Denmark, Sweden, and Spain.
Once through the health checks in Copenhagen, I grabbed some lunch before hopping on the train headed to Sweden. The first part of the journey involved hopping under then over the sea, passing through a tunnel from Copenhagen to Peberholm (a little artificial island) and then over the Øresund Bridge. I was too awestruck to grab any decent photos, but it’s definitely worth a Google!
On the train I was struck by the lack of mask use, and some quick online research (courtesy of the free WiFi – the Scandinavians know how to do public infrastructure right) revealed that there’s no mask mandate in Sweden. I left mine on, working on some last-minute adjustments to the presentation that I was to give that very evening, before rocking up in Båstad a mere hour before I was set to appear at the gala dinner and give my presentation.
I’d been told that a taxi would be waiting for me at Båstad station, so I hopped off at this train station in the middle of nowhere and wondered how I was to identify the taxi driver. I wandered over to the only guy I could see waiting next to a car, and was greeted in Swedish – a language I really don’t understand. I thought I recognised the name of the hotel in there, and so hopped into the taxi without a second thought – I’d no time to spare!
Following our journey on Google Maps – I still wasn’t sure I’d gotten in the right taxi – I saw that we were on the right track and relaxed a bit, taking in the views of the quaint little village and the coast before arriving at my destination, Hotel Skansen. I’d then to check in and find my room as quickly as possible, as I’d a mere half an hour to unpack, run through the presentation one last time, get changed, and be back down at reception in order to attend the dinner.
I should here mention that the hotel and the town were absolutely gorgeous – the town hosts the Swedish Open, Sweden’s main annual tennis tournament, and my hotel room was located in a building joined to the main court. This meant that I could look out into the tennis court and the sea beyond by just walking out of my (rather lovely) hotel room. Bliss!
There wasn’t much time to take all of this in or enjoy the views, however, as I’d now 25 minutes to be ready and back at reception in the main building. My unpacking consisted of turning my bag upside down and distributing my things on the bed, and I’d to rehearse my presentation out loud to the bare room whilst I struggled to change into some very fitted boots and the one and only formal shirt that I own. It was all a big rush which passed in a flash!
Arriving back at reception in the nick of time, I found myself surrounded by lots of people speaking Swedish and a series of coaches that had arrived to take us to dinner. I had assumed that the event would be taking place within the hotel itself, but the presence of the coaches suggested otherwise. I eventually found someone I recognised, and we were all instructed (in English, gracefully) to board the coaches.
We soon arrived in a rather grandiose car park, flanked by the sea on one side and a lovely collection of buildings which formed the entrance gate to an expansive garden beyond on the other side. It began to dawn on me that this was to be quite the evening, a sensation consolidated as we were marched through the gardens and towards what looked like a stately home set behind a pond and a series of perfectly trimmed hedges.
It turns out that we were to be eating at the Orangeriet Restaurant at Norrviken Båstad, a villa and gardens which were once owned by a private family but which are now open to the public. The restaurant had been rented out for the evening to us, and so we headed in for a drink and to find our assigned seat ready for the evening’s presentations to begin.
Once we were all seated at our tables, the evening began with a starter and its accompanying wine pairing. Over a bowl of creamy seafood soup, I got chatting to the rest of the people on my table, who included one of the best tennis players in Sweden, one of the organisers of the event, and the owners of various tennis and padel clubs in both Sweden and Norway. I’ve played padel once in my entire life, so I was a bit out of my comfort zone!
The presentations then began, and I’d still no idea exactly when it would be my turn to take the stage. When the event’s technician came by and told me to set up my Mac, I thought it was time to go, but it turned out that the main course was to be served before then, so I returned to chatting with my new mates at the table for a while.
The main – roast lamb – then arrived, accompanied by yet another glass of wine and a side of Swedish potatoes, which promptly ignited an argument between the Swedes and the Norwegians of my table over which country had the best gastronomy. They were very good potatoes, I must admit, and the wine (a Spanish wine) was even better – but I was going easy on the alcohol until after my presentation.
With the main course over, it was then my turn to present, and I hopped up onto stage and cracked a couple of jokes before presenting the sneak peek of the clients’ new brand to an audience of 200+ of their partners. I’ve always enjoyed presenting, and this time was no different – especially as I had a great audience thanks to the few rounds of wine pairings that everyone had already worked their way through!
Once I’d finished, I made my way back to the table and promptly polished off the wine I’d been saving before dessert arrived. Even through I do have quite the sweet tooth, I must say that the dessert was the highlight of the meal, with a delicious chocolate tart with meringue and a homemade ice cream flavoured with hjortron, a local berry.
With that polished off, helped down by a glass of port, it was time to head back to the hotel. We hopped back on the coach and headed back, with everyone resolving to carry on the evening at the hotel’s bar. I wasn’t having any of that though, as I’d booked an early breakfast slot in order to try and visit the outdoor “cold spa”, an experience involving jumping into the freezing waters of the North Sea.
I woke up the next day with a somewhat heavy head – the variety of wines obviously didn’t sit well with my post-quarantine body – and headed down for breakfast. I loaded up on bacon, sausages, eggs, and even some salmon – when in Rome and all that. I finished off my breakfast feast with some pancakes with cream and maple syrup, and headed back to my room to pack and then check out.
In the end I didn’t have the time nor the correct attire to visit the spa, as I’d stupidly forgotten to pack some swimming shorts, and the options they had at the spa shop were all way too expensive for a quick dip in the sea. I also had to work my way around another crisis, as the two taxi companies in the small town were all booked up, and so I had to decide whether to grab a bus to the train station or head there on foot.
I eventually decided to head back to the train station on foot, as the bus would have me waiting for almost an hour before the train was scheduled to arrive, and I reasoned that a walk through the town would give me chance to see a bit more of Båstad and take a few photos. With my backpack weighing me down somewhat, I first headed down to the beach next to the hotel to check out the cold spa that I hadn’t had time to visit.
After a quick call to my parents to let them know how the trip was going, I noticed that I’d only an hour and a bit left to complete the rest of the journey which Google informed me would take 50 minutes. Not wanting to end up having to run the last leg of the trip to the train station, I began to head through the centre of Båstad, taking a few photos along the way.
I eventually passed by a supermarket, and resolved that since I was going at a good pace, I had time to nip in and pick up some treats for my colleagues and for myself in order to get me through the rest of the trip back to Madrid. I didn’t take into account the fact that I always get wildly distracted in foreign supermarkets, however, and so had to pick up the pace once I was back out and on my way to the train station.
With my KEX chocolate bar in hand (thanks to Danni for the recommendation), I sped onwards to the train station, passing by some beautiful houses and architecture along the way. I arrived at the station with just a few minutes to spare, hopping on the very punctual train back through the Swedish countryside and on to Copenhagen Airport.
At the airport I’d to take another COVID test, but it the process was quick and efficient, and I was soon boarding my plane back to Madrid a mere 24 hours after I’d first landed in Copenhagen the day before. In the airport, the KEX bar proved to be a great dessert after I’d half-enjoyed one of the most expensive sandwiches I think I’ve ever bought.
Once back in Madrid, I grabbed a taxi back to my place and had an early night, as I was straight back to work the next day. I’d been offered a longer stay up in Båstad, but I’d turned it down as I needed to get on with some work before a key deadline in September – there’s no rest for the wicked!
Well, as I’m sure you can tell by the amount of blog post which covers a mere 24 hours, the whole trip to Båstad went by in the blink of an eye. I had a great time, met some great people, and lived plenty of interesting experiences, but everything happened so fast that I had no time to process what was going on around me – it was all a blur!
Nevertheless, I’m really grateful to have been invited to join the event, which was like a quick two-day holiday even though I was connected and working for the majority of it. Båstad is a lovely place – despite its dodgy-sounding name – and I’ll definitely have it at the back of my mind if I ever fancy an escape from the heat of Madrid in the future.
Before I finish this blog post, I’ll give a very subtle hint about the subject of the next one, and to do so I’ll just leave you with this cryptic comment: there’s a line within this blog post which somewhat ominously foreshadows what’s to come…