Trollharens Fisk

Fortunately in Sweden, very soft double mattresses are overlain by thin single mattresses, which you can then lay on the floor to create a firmer surface. Fabulous for those of us with dodgy backs.

Down for the hotel breakfast at 9am, to witness mayhem! The Swedes seem to take their first meal of the day very seriously, and the Scandic Gavle West offered the biggest breakfast buffet  we’ve ever seen. In a nutshell, you could pretty much have whatever you wanted. How many hotels anywhere in the world automatically offer a selection of gluten free breads and crispbreads for instance? After edging our way through the crowd we eventually managed to emerge with a plate of food each, and find our way back to the table without squashing small children along the way.

Swedes drink coffee rather than tea and so I had to partake to ensure maintenance of base caffeine levels. They’re also very partial to lingonberry jam, fruit flavored water, and waffles; and don’t mind children running amok whilst they eat. We both like little people, but I’m not sure we could cope with this level of ‘busyness’ at breakfast every day.

After checking out we headed north on the E4 to a beautiful little hamlet by the sea called Trollharen. Rich had done his homework and found a renowned fishmonger and restaurant here, called not surprisingly ‘Trollharens Fisk’, so we parked up and went for a stroll along the seafront, to work up an appetite for lunch. This part of Sweden is called ‘The Maiden Coast’, is very picturesque, and yet not on the tourist trail and so you won’t find the hordes.

We paid 200 SK for our fish buffet lunch, and proceeded to try and select at least one of everything from each counter. We failed to achieve this even after round two. The food is stunning, and you’re unlikely to find such a wide selection of fish dishes anywhere else in Sweden. It’s obviously much loved by the locals and Swedes in the know, but well worth a diversion if you are anywhere in the vicinity. In short, if you like fish, go to Sweden. It’s fishy heaven.

Meeting Scarlett

Despite the 3.30am start I felt surprisingly perky, although neither of us could face breakfast until we were through airport security, and firmly ensconed on seats in Heathrow Terminal 5’s ‘Giraffe’ restaurant. Fortunately they offer alternatives to a fry-up, and I thoroughly enjoyed my fruit and yoghurt with gluten free granola.

The flight became a little turbulent as we drew closer to Sweden, but having sat through flights to and from Isafjordur in Iceland, and Barra in the Outer Hebrides, this journey didn’t bring on that slightly panicky feeling, although Rich did start softly singing “Ship’s going down!” to try and freak me out.

At Arlanda airport we caught the ‘Beta’ bus to the Avis car hire office, and were very kindly given a free upgrade from a Toyota Yaris style car, to a big estate car. Fortunately I’ve driven big cars in the past, although I did get in the drivers seat and think “oh sh*t” when it dawned on me that it had been a while since I’d changed gears using my right hand, and that I would keep having to scrabble around for the hand break. By the end of that first trip though – 80 miles to Gavle, I’d started to get used to the car’s quirks – by now nicknamed Scarlett in honour of Scarlett Johanssen. It helps that most Swedes are very considerate drivers, and don’t try and push you aside like they do in the UK, or make rude gestures because you refuse to go over the speed limit on roads where children live and play.

This was our first stay at a Scandic hotel, and certainly won’t be our last. Scandic Gavle West is located just off the E4 motorway a few miles out of Gavle, and felt, not surprisingly, typically scandi with it’s friendly staff and quirky design features. Unlike most UK motorway hotels you can even open the window more than an inch, and there’s a swimming pool in the basement, so after Rich had had a nap we made our way down to the pool and quickly discovered that the Swedish way seems to be to shower, sauna, shower again, and then swim. In the UK the pool temperature would be considered cool, but here it means that you can quickly cool down after a sauna, and probably that fewer germs congregate.

Clever recycling bin - Scandi style

Clever recycling bin – Scandi style

After a few sauna-shower-pool sessions we then headed up to the restaurant, and were very impressed that the set meal starter came with caviar – a first for both of us! Steak, salad and fried potatoes were followed by chocolate trifle for Rich, and strawberry panacotta for me, before we called it a night. Less than twelve hours in Sweden and we already felt right at home.

Pucka packa’s

Dervla, hubby and me have just returned from Sweden, where I celebrated a ‘special birthday’. I’ll be reporting on our adventures soon.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of a one day old baby alpaca wearing it’s red coat. We arrived at central Sweden’s only alpaca farm – Norrängens Alpaca, on his birthday, and stayed there to celebrate mine.

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Laverbread

Laverbread is a Welsh ‘delicacy’. It’s basically seaweed mush, and despite having tried it many years ago and not enjoyed it, I felt I ought to try it again. This morning we had a tin with bacon for breakfast. And yep, it still tastes awful, but at least it’ll make good compost!

We made today a rest day. Rich was shattered, and I’m supposed to be learning how to take it easy sometimes, so we stayed in the vicinity of the cabin, making the most of the now empty camping area to explore the ‘big pond’.

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On the way back to ‘our pond’ I saw this poor creature – an injured buzzard. We alerted Amy and Dee who then tried contacting local raptor experts to see if someone could come out and help, but unfortunately, what with it being the Easter week, no one was around. We kept a close eye on the bird, and felt quite optimistic once it had managed to drag itself out of the water, but sadly, by the following morning it had passed away.

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To celebrate our final evening at the cabin, Rich lit the campfire as well as the hot tub and wood burning stove. What is it about men and fire? I’m banned from even touching the barbecue. Unfortunately, a certain someone got carried away with his fire making duties and managed to heat the hot tub to 48 degrees C. Given that my limit is 39 degrees, I felt just a tad annoyed that I’d been denied a final dip. Fortunately, as it was still a balmy 36 degrees the following morning I donned the bikini and jumped in at 7am. I could get used to living like this.

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Abercegir

Waking to this glorious view was such a treat. We crave and thrive in wild places, and so the cabin and its surroundings have served us well.

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After a hearty breakfast we drove to Machynlleth to stock up on groceries. Not surprisingly it was heaving with tourists as it’s sited on the main road to the coast, is a very pretty little town, and it the sun was shining. It also houses the Owain Glyndwr Museum. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Glyndwr, not many people have, but he was basically like a Welsh Robin Hood. Hence the long distance trail being named after him.

On to Abercegir where we parked up and followed some more of the Glyndwr’s Way to just below Cefn Coch, before it descends into Cemmaes Road. We decided against going down in to the village and climbing back up again as Rich’s energy levels had started to flag, not surprising since it’d only been five days since the last chemo session, and my neck had decided to give me grief. Instead we retraced our steps and allowed Dervla (the infamous sat nav) to take us back to the cabin along winding country lanes.

After a few hours of chillaxing on the deck, I then braved a ‘bucket bath’ in the makeshift shower cubicle. Washing outdoors definitely becomes easier with practice, and your skin learns to adapt to cooler temperatures. I’ve always found most people’s houses too warm, especially when they have the central heating on high, and perhaps this explains why.

After dinner we were then finally treated to a visit by one of the farm cats, and she’s very cuddly. As always, even though Rich isn’t a cat man, pooty wanted cuddles regardless, and forced him to oblige. She even stuck around whilst we used the hot tub, but sensibly took her leave before we made a quick exit from the warm water to dry off in the cool evening air. Fortunately the camp site had now emptied, and so no one was around to accuse us of streaking :-)

Cemmaes Road

We really lucked out on the weather for this trip. After a cooked breakfast beneath a clear and sunny sky, we walked along the Glyndwr’s Way in the opposite direction to yesterday – heading for a small village called Cemmaes Road.

As the walking guide promised, this really is one of the most beautiful stretches of the trail, especially in the April sunshine, and yet we had it to ourselves. We’d planned on stopping for a lemonade at the village pub, but unfortunately it was closed. It very conveniently had an outside loo and picnic table though, so we made ourselves at home nonetheless.

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

Whilst enjoying our picnic, a car pulled up and two hilarious Polish guys asked for directions to a place they pronounced as ‘Towin’. After they explained that they lived in Newtown, did not have a map, and had changed their plans for the day once in the car, we established that they were trying to get to the beach, and so pointed them in the direction of Abergele, but not before they’d asked why our map covered such a small geographical area. They found the idea of a small scale map for use when walking, running or cycling etc very funny indeed!

We retraced our steps, enjoying yet more lovely views over the Cambrian Mountains, and arrived back at the cabin a little dehydrated, because a certain person who shall remain nameless, had decided that ‘HE’ didn’t think we’d need the extra nalgene bottle I’d packed, and so had taken it upon himself to unpack it before we’d left. After a few glasses of water, we decided that we felt brave enough for a dunk in the swimming pond without our wetsuits. We each managed three quick dunks before the cold and my swearing sent us running for the hot tub.

Why I then thought it’d be a good idea to wash my hair and rinse it with cold water from the tap, I’ll never know. The ‘ice cream’ headache came on instantly, and sent me running whilst screeching for the warmth of the hot tub again. I can safely say, that the campsite residents now knew for sure that we were a bit quirky. When the came time to help Rich rinse his hair, I treated him to warm water.

Snowdrop the Goat

After a very peaceful night in the Cabin by the Lake, we rose at 7.30am and were greeted by two geese landing on the pond. Dee had mentioned that two had been seen in the area, so this felt like quite a treat.

Compressed geese

At 9am we headed over to the house for our pre-arranged goat milking session! ‘Snowdrop’ was thankfully on form and didn’t mind a stranger’s cold hands, but isn’t producing much milk at the moment. After cuddles and a few pictures, we then helped feed the chickens. We both love chooks, and can’t wait to have our own when we’ve a bigger garden.

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Back to the cabin for a late breakfast. When living with modern conveniences on tap, you forget how much longer chores take when you don’t have access to electricity and warm running water. We do love going off grid and back to basics though. Everyone should try it at least once, to remind ourselves how much we’ve come to rely on such luxuries, and why it’s important to help conserve resources!

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Making the most of having the Glyndwr’s Way on our doorstep, we then headed up to Ffridd Pentrecelyn. We’d planned a circular walk using smaller footpaths, but as seems to be the norm in large parts of mid-Wales, footpaths and signs are non-existent other than on national trails. So instead we made full use of the wind farm tracks to get up high and enjoy the views across to Moel Eiddew abd Mynydd y Cemmaes.

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Home to the cabin for tea and cake, followed by a quick foot paddle in the pond to cool our tired feet. The geese seem to have decided to stay, so we’ve nicknamed them ‘Trixie’ and ‘Dixie’. They seem quite comfortable sharing the pond with us, and it’s a privilege to be able to watch then up close. Not even changing into our wetsuits and going for a dip scared them off, but then I suppose we do just look like giant frogs. So much so that the frogs themselves kept popping up to take a closer look.

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