Stephanie Reed from Travel PR in London, UK, recently journeyed across West Sweden with her colleague Karen Carpenter, taking in Gothenburg, the Bohuslän coast and Dalsland lake district.
Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg, is incredibly easy to reach from the airport, too – a quick and typically-efficient 30-minute bus ride. Upon arrival, we were treated to our first introduction to this relaxed, very pretty city, with an interesting walking tour led by Gothenburg Tourist Board’s Lena Larsson. We wandered along cobbled streets, stopping to sample ‘Göteborg’ dark chocolate (the locals’ favourite – it’s lightly seasoned with sea salt and, rather surprisingly, tastes divine!) as well as trying to resist the temptation to step into every super-cool, independent fashion or design shop we passed along the way.
That evening we indulged in a fantastic meal at The Taste of West Sweden accredited Restaurant Familijen with its glamorous interior, soft lighting and mouth-watering food – the asparagus was especially tasty.
Friday 20 May – Gothenburg
|Stephanie outside the Gota Canal steamships|
We enjoyed lunch at the Michelin-starred Fond restaurant – oozing sophistication but without a trace of the snobbery so often associated with eateries of this standard. It’s one of five foodie hotbeds in the city to enjoy Michelin status and what’s unique is that they offer special yet unstuffy dining, with customers not required to reserve a table months in advance. Compared to London, where waiting lists can become all-consuming, this makes a refreshing and welcome change.
After a stroll along Gothenburg’s main street, we soaked up more of the city on board the Paddan boat sightseeing tour, gliding along the canal and into the harbour, giggling as all passengers were asked to duck down in order to get under a few of the bridges without losing their heads.
That afternoon we took a dip in a sublime outdoor pool, spectacularly set on the roof of our hotel – the boutique Avalon Hotel. Part of the pool hangs over the front of the building, with a glass floor giving swimmers a surreal view of the sheer drop below. Stay at the opposite end of the pool if you’re afraid of heights! Avalon showcases eclectic Swedish designs, sculptures and artwork throughout, and it often took us a while to reach our bedrooms because we kept stopping to admire exhibits along the hallways.
We ended the night in style – sipping wine in the Avalon’s chic outdoor bar, wrapped in those thick blankets…
Saturday 21 May – Bohuslän west coast (Marstrand)
Today it was time for us to leave Gothenburg to discover Sweden’s west coast – driving, what else, but a Volvo. It was the time first time I’ve ever driven on the right-hand side of the road. It didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped. It took a while to accept that the gears weren’t to my left and that the ‘E6 Malmo’ (south) wasn’t the ‘E6 Oslo’ (north). After a few accidental returns to Gothenburg’s centre (we just couldn’t keep away, obviously), we were finally heading in the right direction.
|View from Villa Sjotorp|
Lunches don’t get more perfect that this. Actually, life doesn’t get more perfect than this. With the sun blazing down on us, we ate yet more flavoursome, locally-sourced food whilst admiring a jaw-dropping view through lush, dark green trees to the sea beyond, islands scattered in the distance, as a lone boat bobbed its way in and out of sight. “In Sweden, we say ‘life is like a prawn sandwich’ when we enjoy moments like this because it’s so delicious, so wonderful,” Lotta said, as we marvelled at the scene.
|Karen overlooking Marstand|
Before we left the Salt & Sill (and we really didn’t want to; that speedy sauna looked too much fun!), we tucked into another scrumptious meal – a smörgåsbord buffet that kept us going back for more, especially the homemade berry pie and vanilla sauce. Amazing.
The afternoon was spent visiting the extraordinary Sculpture at Pilane 2011, a unique site that mixes thousand year-old ancient remains in the countryside with avant-garde sculptures. We were lucky enough to meet the renowned sculptor of one of this year’s exhibits, Keith Edmier, chatting to him about what inspires his work as we wandered past sheep grazing freely and trekked to the highest view point to be transfixed by yet another awe-inspiring view. There are some high-profile exhibits being showcased this year, including work by the British artist, Tony Cragg, currently exhibiting at the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Irish artist, Eva Rothschild, creator of the cutting-edge ‘Empire’ sculpture in Central Park, New York.
We then continued our unique day to meet the oyster safari guru, Per Karlsson, in the fishing village of Grebbestad (from where 90% of Sweden’s oysters originate). Per offers eco-friendly seafood safaris and tasting sessions from his restored 19th-century boathouse. Within minutes of us arriving he hauled some fresh oysters from the natural oyster bed – located directly under the boathouse – and offered them to us to sample with Grebbestad’s very own seaweed crackers, ‘Grebbestad Tångknäcke’. I eyed the hot tub overlooking the shore right next to the boathouse, a sublime place to toast your new oyster knowledge after a safari.
Well-known as the setting for Camilla Lackberg’s crime novels, I’d been told Fjällbacka was a dream fishing village but I was taken aback by just how pretty it is. Boats sway gently in the harbour against lines of red wooden houses, with wind chimes singing in the sea breeze. It is perfection.
We then moved on to visit the Vitlycke museum, inspecting the fascinating rock carvings created during the Bronze Age period and the specially-recreated Viking farm, all set in yet another naturally-beautiful green landscape. The museum also offers archaeology classes for children so it’s a great place for families – and entrance is free.
In the afternoon we ventured to the wilderness of Dalsland, with its wild forests and shimmering lakes, for some energetic adventure at Dalsland Activities centre. Visitors can try all sorts of exciting activities here, including kayaking, canoeing and tipi adventures. And it was then that the highlight of my trip was decided as we went horse riding around the serene landscape, feeling so close to nature. At one point we climbed a steep hill to be surprised with a striking and unforgettable view across Lake Ivag. To see this on horseback was an experience that I will remember forever.
|Horse riding in Dalsland|