So that today’s destination remained a surprise until the the very last moment, Rich programmed it into Dervla (our sat nav) under a pseudonym – ‘Velsanka 40’. Velsanka means ‘Welsh woman’ in Croatian. Yep. I’ve taken lessons in Croatian as well as Icelandic. Anyway, back to my birthday. ‘Velsanka 40’ was only two and a half hours drive from the air park, so we pulled off the motorway for a long coffee break at a little village called Gustafs, so small that the cafe was called ‘Gustafs Cafe’, so I was very surprised but pleased to find that they made their own gluten free biscuits!

After stopping only a little further on for a packed lunch in a layby, I could contain my excitement no more and insisted that we get to wherever we were going as soon as possible. We turned off the main read to the village of Broddbo Norrängen, and there I saw the sign: Norrängens Alpacka. We were spending my ‘big birthday’ with some of my favourite creatures in the whole wide world – alpacas and llamas.

Norrängens Alpacka is run by Paul (originally from London) and his partner Katja (originally from Russia). They’re both fluent Swedish speakers and live on the farm with their two sons, their very friendly dog Tindra, two peacocks, and countless chickens. Oh, and about 100 alpacas. Not only does it have all things fluffy in abundance, it’s also been voted the number 1 independent bed and breakfast in Sweden. So Rich, as always, had done his homework. One thing’s for certain – I’ll never forget my fortieth birthday!

Paul introduced us to some of the alpacas and then showed us to our very spacious room in the now converted barn. We had a huge double bed, ensuite, table and chairs, an armchair, and the best bit – a view of the alpaca grazing fields. With access to a self catering kitchen, free hot drinks, several communal seating areas, a pool, a sauna, and a well stocked bar downstairs complete with pub stools and packets of pork scratchings shipped over from England, we couldn’t wipe the grin from our faces. Paul and Katja had thought of everything. They’d even, or so it seemed, very kindly arranged for a baby alpaca to be born that morning so Paul then took us to meet the new baby and its mum. Nothing quite compares.

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After settling in to our room I went for a sauna and swim whilst Rich napped, and after a light dinner we bid goodnight to the newborn alpaca and joined two other guests downstairs in ‘Paul’s bar’ where Rich enjoyed a local Dalarna beer, and I enjoyed the surroundings. With the big 40 looming the next day, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else!

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