The Stockholm sojourn


Saturday evening – Stockholm. A few minutes before 18:00 and it’s all but dark. Our last evening in the city; tomorrow, we’ll use the Arlanda Express to whisk us to the airport to check in and by 15:00-odd should be airborne en route back to Cape Town.








The weather’s been kind, the city and its inhabitants, likewise. Winter is clearly on the way, however. The eyes and movements of the Stockholm-ites show that their preparations for the coming cold are underway and soon, the thermometer will slide from 10(ish) C to zero and not stop until the cold really bites. The dark too.






I’m glad to be heading south; a kind of one-way migration. Cape Town should just be seeing the arrival of Spring, bringing relief from winter’s mid teen temperatures, but still no rain to speak of – the city is in the grip of its worst drought in history.


Naturally enough, our politicians have been fiddling while Rome burnt the dams dried up and only now are beginning to address the problem – probably two years too late.


Enough carping. Stockholm doesn’t have water problems. In fact the city is built on islands, close to the nation’s eastern Baltic coastline. It’s magnificent, the public transport system, a marvel, the sights and locals a pleasure. We’ve had a great time.


I’ve also found lots to photograph and managed a bottle of wine with photo buddy, Hans Strand. He opened some fine burgundy and spent a couple of hours trying to encourage me to buy a D850. I’m OK with the one, but a new heavyweight Nikon? Not so much. Yet.


Thanks again, Hans. It was good catching-up.


The Swedes like the French, do a great deal outdoors. There’s little snow and ice at present, so most of the population content themselves with eating and drinking outside, often protected against the single digit temperatures by racks of infra-red and gas heaters. Smart people.






Given their propensity for outdoors, most of the photographs I’ve taken are in and around the city; people just doing what they do every day. For would-be visitors, spend some time researching the city, but don’t miss Gamla Stan (the old city), Södermalm, Nytorget and the permanent Fotografiska. The T-Bana – metro railway to you and me – is outstanding, with many stations displaying various art and sculptural works as a part of their decor. Even at lunch time when these images were shot, the T-Bana can hardly be called busy.


And that’s about it. No stunning highlights and thankfully, no low lights, this has been an excellent week in a smart, elegant city. Summing-up; for me, a really enjoyable stay, beating Oslo by the slimmest of margins. I sense a return trip in the coming year or so.



Ottering in Oslo


As I mentioned in last week’s post, we were supposed to be flown from London to Oslo by Ryanair last Saturday. Needless to say that was €300 down the toilet and I won’t be making that mistake again.


The vile Irishman might have chosen to indirectly punish us even further, as our self-funded replacement flight on Norwegian was rammed with Northern Ireland football supporters flying to the World Cup qualifier (I think that’s what it was). Charming they might be, but Irish footie supporters are noisy, boisterous and seemingly roaring drunk their every waking moment.


The game was on Sunday evening, with Ireland losing 1-0.


I was dimly aware – our first floor hotel room window over the hotel’s reception area actually opened – of loud conversations, chants of “Who are you?” and endless billows of cigarette smoke wafting into our room right through the night. At around 08:00 on Monday morning, I went down to buy coffee and found myself in the queue behind the archetypical red-headed Irishman who was attempting to buy beer from the deli/snack bar counter in the hotel. Meeting with an incredulous “But it’s only eight o’clock,” he responded with a tremulous “…it’s a national emergency,” but still he couldn’t thaw the heart of the Nordic lass on the till.


Things around here have quieted a lot since they took their hangovers off to the airport.






So, Oslo. As a friend pointed out recently, Lisbon is a great city to photograph. In my opinion, so are Paris, Tokyo and to a lesser extent, Singapore and Copenhagen.


Oslo does not make the easy/fun/good list. It is (Nordic) beautiful, serene, stylish after a fashion, clean and populated by the most helpful locals, but photogenic it doesn’t appear to be. Then, I expected one of the Viking, Kon Tiki or Munch museums to offer some photo opportunities, but that wasn’t to be either.


Oslo’s foodie market at Mathallen offered a few photo opportunities, but no more than similar markets in Madrid, Sydney’s fish market, or Venice to name a very few.


The city is basking in late autumn light and clearly prepping for winter. Rain threatens and I wonder whether a visit in (maybe) July or even January might have been a better option.






Still, it’s a really interesting city. Vigeland’s sculptures, Munch’s works, Ibsen’s plays and the work of the Nobel Institute make a fine backdrop to this modern and hugely relaxed society. I’ve enjoyed it, although rushing back doesn’t seem to be on the agenda.


Early on Thursday, we decamped for a concessional (on my part, as I hate them) guided tour* from Oslo to Myrdal, on to the Flåm (inelegantly pronounced Flom) railway to descend 866m to sea level in just 20 kilometres, at gradients as steep as 1:18 – tough for a road, but amazing for a regular rail line, with no funicular assistance.


From Flåm, we enjoyed a launch ride along two spectacular fjords to Gudvangen and from there, a bus (complete with singing driver) to Voss and finally another train ride into Bergen, arriving on time, moments before 20:00.




It had been drizzing most of the day, but was pishing down by then and a taxi seemed like an excellent idea. Having attempted to walk the route this morning (Friday), I’d have to say that last evening’s decision was beyond perfect as even with the help of Mr Google’s maps, we got took wrong turnings aplenty and would doubtless have found our hotel, but not before some terminal matrimonial damage had been done…


* Guided tour? Actually not. Norway in a Nutshell was brilliantly organised, but no guide and in truth, one was not needed.


And so, Friday dawned in Bergen. The weather forecast is predicting at least another week of this downpour and our foray to see whether we should attempt a walk to the station tomorrow for our train back to Oslo got us so wet that we’ve spent the last couple of hours back in our hotel room, drying out.





As we were returning to Oslo, we’d packed little more than an overnight change of clothes and stored our suitcases in our hotel’s storeroom. Given the number, variety and busy schedules of the transport we used, that turned out to be an excellent plan. Dragging luggage over that obstacle course could doubtless have done either one or both of us some serious damage.


Next week; Sweden.

Travelling – the London Leg


Photo giant, Pete Turner’s death a couple of weeks ago both reminded and encouraged me to look at what I was/am shooting a bit differently. I’m no lover of super saturated colours, but a little tweaking never hurt anyone. Right?


Plus, I find the Fuji cameras I prefer when travelling produce spectacular colour, especially when pushed a little.


So, a week in London en famille, celebrating a milestone birthday with little else in the way of social commitments beyond a daily family lunch or evening meal, I got lots of time to wander, explore and play.


For the photographically minded, all these images were shot with either the tiny Fuji X100F or X-Pro2 and 56mm f1.2. I can’t possibly imagine why I told myself I needed to pack and carry four other lenses 🙁



















Our couple of days in Lusaka last weekend brought me face-to-face with many readers of this blog, all of whom nagged at me because I hadn’t posted anything for months.


Almost. Eleven. Months. The last post was from Tokyo, early in our extended stay en route home from the US in November 2016. I’d been unwell with something minor that I just couldn’t shake off. Di seemed fine, but it was really only long after we got home that both of us really understood what had happened.


By then it was January. We’d been home since late in November, when we put our cases down and sagged into our respective chairs and stared at the Southern Atlantic breaking on the rocks outside.


December and Christmas passed, as did New Year. With the exception of a Christmas Day lunch invitation from some friendly neighbours, we didn’t move and the days passed in a gentle blur. Eventually, time being what it is, we both became aware that we were mending and beginning to think of resuming our more usual and active lives.


So, what ailed us?


That’s a longer story.


Earlier in 2016, we’d made our annual trip east and spent a week in our favourite Singapore and then travelled on to Penang. It was poor planning on my part – the hottest time of year with the daily temperatures hovering around 39C. And, at first, we were both puzzled about how hot and bothered we were – more than the extra impact of a heatwave and our previous experience would have made us believe.


Home again, the realisation dawned that the heat was one critical factor, but more crucially, age was catching up with us. The walk across the city to sip icy beer in the Raffles open air bar, or eat in Little India were no longer quite as realistic as they had once been and now, taxis needed to be factored into our plans as well.


And so it was in Japan. After a surprisingly stressful month in the US, at turns enjoying and then avoiding the traffic, we’d arrived in Tokyo, blissfully unaware of just how tired we were. Connecting the dots; Singapore and Penang, the US and Japan, age and travel. Without wanting to sound overly melodramatic, we’d just been on the edge of our stamina reserves without really realising it.


By late January, we were up and about again, but hard learned knowledge is useful knowledge and our travel plans have taken on a slightly less busy feel, with a more relaxed approach to both our days and our itineraries.


This morning (Friday), we’re zipping suitcases and checking documentation, prepping for the airport late this afternoon, Dubai at dawn tomorrow and London by lunch time. We’re off to celebrate Mrs P’s most recent 21st, with Laura and hubby Zach, Julian and girlfriend, Amy.


A relaxed week in London, then with our without Ryanair’s assistance – more of this later – we’re off to Oslo and Stockholm, me filling a promise to my wife (and world’s best travelling companion) to see some of Scandinavia.


Why not join us?


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