City breaks, Europe, Family travel, Holidays

Our Swedish adventure

It’s been a long time since Mr Tin Box and I went on a holiday that didn’t involve towing our own bedroom to our chosen destination. However, this summer we had the perfect excuse. Friends had just moved to Sweden and were getting married, so we decided to abandon our caravan and join them for their nuptials.

Horse sculptures in the park at Karlstad
Sculptures in a Karlstad park

Our adventure started at Gatwick. Grandpa Tin Box dropped us off at the Travel Lodge where we decided to stay the night before our 6.30am flight. We had booked a family room for the bargain price of £30, which seemed reasonable considering our heads would barely make a dent in the pillow before we needed to leave for Departures.

Tin Box Tot making eyes at Travel Lodge staff
TBT making eyes

TBT enjoyed her first late night of the long weekend making eyes at the ladies serving food to our fellow travellers sat in the brightly coloured dining area. That girl is always thinking of her tummy!

A part from the fact we had to remind the hotel staff that we needed a travel cot when we arrived, the Travel Lodge did its job well. The food was reasonably priced and buses ran regularly to the terminal buildings throughout the day and night. It was no frills and functional.

Despite an early alarm and unfamiliar surroundings, TBT was a little star at the airport. You can read how our first flight with a toddler went here.

By mid-morning we had landed in Stockholm. After a minor panic about whether our borrowed pushchair had made it on the flight with us, we located it on the abnormal luggage conveyor belt. I’m sure seasoned travelling families would have looked there first, but we are still a bit ‘green’ at this international travel lark.

We picked up our hire car and began the three and a half hour drive to our destination, Karlstad. The journey was pretty straight forward and Mr TB remembered to drive on the right the entire way, which was impressive considering we’d had such an early morning.

Karlstad is built on the delta of Sweden’s longest river which runs into its largest lake, Vänern. That was where the wedding was to be held.

The Klarälven river, Karlstad
The Klarälven river, Karlstad

We checked into our hotel, the Ibis Style in the city centre, where we received a friendly welcome. Throughout our stay in Sweden I felt utterly ashamed of my unworldly language skills. Everyone we spoke to, from the hotel receptionist to the chap we bought TBT’s bedtime milk from at the local convenience store, spoke excellent English. You would hardly know we were abroad.

A cot bed had been squeezed into our room alongside a child’s bed and our double, making it a little snug, but we hadn’t come to Sweden to stay in our room all day so this wasn’t an issue. We had a small wet room with shower, a TV and there was a little duvet and pillow for TBT’s bed – her first out of sleeping bag experience. Something that I did find a bit odd was that the double bed came with a single duvet. I checked with some of the other wedding guests staying at the hotel and this seemed to be the norm. Luckily I always win when it comes to duvet wars at bedtime, otherwise there could have been problems!

Breakfast was a continental buffet served on the top floor. Everything was freshly prepared but TBT was a bit disappointed when the fruit bowl disappeared on day two. She loves a ‘nana’ with her ‘bequest’.

Ibis dining room
Buffet in Ibis dining room

The hotel was just moments from the city’s main square with bars and restaurants, and also just 10 minutes walk from Karlstad train station. Despite the central location we found the area extremely chilled out and quiet. There were several parks and the city museum just down the road. Even Monday morning felt relaxed with very little traffic outside. I don’t think Sweden does rush hour!

Landscaped park in Karlstad
Landscaped park in Karlstad

TBT attempting the mount the ‘orsie’

There was parking for our hire car just around the corner and, considering all other bills in Sweden came in at the top end of pricey, we were pleasantly surprised that this cost us just £15 from Friday afternoon until Monday morning.

We did spend rather a lot of cash during our stay – an average meal for two adults and a toddler came in at over £40, and if you did fancy a tipple, a glass of wine would set you back £7. Our three night stay at the Karlstad Ibis Style, including breakfast and free wifi, cost around £300.

Our friends were married at a boathouse on Lake Vänern. It was a stunning setting for a beautiful day. Sweden sure does scenery well.

Lake Vanern
Lake Vanern

After a full afternoon and evening/early morning of festivities, we had one more day to enjoy the local area. Mr TB made made good use of the hotel Wifi and found us somewhere to visit. Sadly, the fine weather that we had enjoyed for the wedding had been replaced by drizzle interspersed with downpours. However, determined to make the most of our free day we set off in the direction of Karlstad’s city park.

Map of Mariebergsskogen park
Map of Mariebergsskogen

Mariebergsskogen is a city farm, heritage centre, nature reserve, concert venue and play park rolled into one. And the best thing about it is that entry is totally free. Karlstaders pay a bit more local tax for the privilege of having such a fantastic facility, but if I was a local resident with kids I would think it well worth it.

TBT looks at fish
TBT in a dry bit of the farm
Mariebergsskogen sensory garden
Sensory garden

Mariebergsskogen stone maze
Stone maze

While the rain came and went, we enjoyed a few hours playing in the sensory gardens, visiting the farm animals and taking a walk through the woods and nature reserve. We were thoroughly soaked by the end of it but we had had a great day.

After one final visit to wish out friends well in their new home it was time to head back to the hotel for our last evening and prepare for the trip home.

Sweden is a beautiful place to visit with clean cities, friendly locals and lots to do for families. The cost of living and visiting is high, but we felt it was a price worth paying for an amazing few days.

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