I've been to Sweden!! Lara and I went for her "stag" night; she insists she's not a chick, so I must remember to stop calling her that in my texts. It turned into more of a hen weekend though. We met at the Europa (after a raft of texts from her saying that she was already drinking - the tramp) on Friday afternoon to catch the 2pm bus to Dublin, where we were getting the half six flight to Copenhagen. (Slight digression: I had a fab day at work on Friday - I was on a half day, and I spent most of it either in the café or floating around the office encouraging people to eat the ANZAC Biscuits I'd spent until 1am the previous night baking - they weren't your classical ANZAC Biscuits, due to me accidentally buying baking powder instead of baking soda, and our oven not having baking trays, so half of them got cooked on a wire rack, which was interesting, but they still tasted all right, and one of the lads at work even knew about the ANZACS!) The entire bus trip down we spent moaning about how we should have brought something to drink, but we remedied that as soon as we arrived at the airport ... mmmm Beamish! It turned out that our flight was delayed, so we went on a wee shopping expedition and came out with some Boru vodka (Sweden pics here). I can highly recommend it - it comes in handbag (not that I own one of those, but Lara does)-sized bottles! Purchase complete the plane was ready for boarding, and we (i.e. Lara) used our womanly wiles to swap seats with one of the blokes next to us, so we could sit together. Next on the list was a 200ml bottle of Nicolas Feuillaté champagne. Lara had never had champagne on a plane (beats snakes any day), and it was her hen weekend, so we considered it £6 well spent. Stupidly we only got the one bottle each.
We arrived at Copenhagen too late to get the train to Ronneby (Lara's home town), so had to spend the night in Malmö at her friend Jimmy's flat. This involved haggling for a taxi, which you only apparently do in Malmö. One of the drivers even looked pointedly at me carrying the bag of vodka and told Lara that if we could afford to buy that we could afford to pay his exorbitant fare. I could see he was looking at the bag, and thought that he was refusing to take me, because I looked like a (high class, thank you very much)n alcoholic! However, we eventually found a more amenable driver and arrived at Jimmy's, where Lara was greeted with hugs and kisses, and I with beer. This was the start of my two-stop multiple-beer-tasting trip; I must have had at least 15/20 different beers in the four days, and it was excellent. (I even liked the "3.5-ers", as they're called, which is all you can buy at 11pm on a Sunday night.) We drank in the house for a while and Christian-I (Christian the First), Jimmy and Lara put on dreadful music (think Total Eclipse of the Heart etc.) and sang enthusiastically to it (Lara danced at me again - it's equally as terrifying as Spence and Pooh Bear singing "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" at me), while Jakob and I cowered on the sofa (sometimes I had to back warily out of the room). Finally they bored of that, and we left for a pub. Lara managed to scare off a chick whom Christian-I was interested in by sitting down at the table next to him. It was the funniest thing I'd seen in ages; Christian-I was just sitting at the table talking to this chick, and Lara slid in next to him. Next thing the girl just got up and left, without saying hello or goodbye or anything! I think she might even have spilled some of her drink as she flounced off. Mental. We stayed there until closing time, and then walked back to the flat. I managed to pick up (literally, from a bus shelter) a Leonard Cohen World Tour poster on the way back, which is now on my bedroom wall; and it's in Swedish. Lara, Christian-I and I (Jakob went home and Jimmy went to bed) sat up drinking and talking, which was amusing, because Christian had spent all night refusing to talk English (which I thought was really funny), but when we got home he forgot about it, which was even funnier, especially when he remembered again; until he made a booty call (who turned up within minutes, it was like she was waiting outside the front door), and then passed out. Lara and I decided that since it was half three, and we were getting up in three hours to catch the half seven train (there was no train at half past eight) to Ronneby we should really get a bit of sleep too.
Lara's mum met us off the train when we arrived, and we showered and had some breakfast at her house. (I think breakfast included beer, certainly vodka.) Lara got a mysterious phone call as she was dressing, telling her to check her mailbox, so she booted up the computer and checked her mail, none of which seemed very interesting. It transpired, however, in the actual mailbox of the house was a pink note, and a key. The note was a treasure hunt, with both drawings and a google images search of the things she needed to get (these included things like a free rose and four ice cream spoons). The key was supposed to fit a bike downstairs, but turned out to have nothing to do with any of the bikes (Britta forgot to lock said bike). The bike itself was a work of art: old school, and decorated with giant daisies, diet coke cans and Lara, wearing a black helmet several sizes too small to fit over her deads, with a pink fluffy tiara attached to the top. Class. She set off to ride through town on her treasure hunt, and her mum and cousin Tina (the quietest person I've ever met) and I set off to meet the others. We'd finally left the house and were half way down the street when I got a text from Lara saying whatever I did, not to forget the vodka, so we had to turn back - Lara's mum wasn't very impressed with this, and I was scared. All ended happily however, and we made it to the Japanese tea house in the park, where the picnic was being held. We hid ourselves behind rocks and "surprised" Lara at the appointed time. It was less a matter of leaping out and shouting Surprise! though, and more of the clambering down and walking for two minutes to reach the picnic area variety.
We'd had to prepare for the occasion by getting a small gift that represented a memory that you and Lara shared. Everything that sprang to my mind was something I couldn't take on the plane, which was awkward, so I decided on a large unbreakable wine glass - we've had very bad luck with wine glasses in our flat. There were about 13 of us, and Lara had to guess who had given her each present. Some of them were hilarious, a cucumber and a leek, and some were lovely - she got two pieces of art from the lads. (All this was accompanied by wine.) Next was the picnic, and the food, all prepared by the bridesmaids, was phenomenally good (and all vegetarian). Even better, when the wine ran out we had vodka. After that was the well known Swedish institution: the quiz walk. Yeah, I'd never heard of it either, but it's more or less like a multichoice pub quiz where you have to walk to the questions, which are stuck to trees. I'd contributed at least four questions to this, because I wasn't sure how dodgy it was likely to be (Lara's mum was there), and they ended up choosing the rugby one (Why does Lara watch rugby? a) A keen appreciation of the finer points of the game b) A keen appreciation of the finer points of the players c) To have something to talk to the digger drives about the next day. Thinking about it now, I wish I'd put water cooler in the last answer.). My favourite question was How did Lara and Emma become friends? Correct answer: When Emma stole Lara's potential boyfriend.
After we arrived at the car park we were ferried off to the spa, where I distinguished myself by both getting completely lost (that place was like a rabbit warren!), and falling over in a spectacular fashion in front of everyone. I wish I could put up day-by-day photos of the buise on my thigh, it's still going strong, and the colours have been sensational. I also have one on my elbow and forearm (on the same side), and when I eventually got into bed on Saturday night my leg hurt a lot, so I raised myself up on my elbow and that was equally painful. Turning over has been fun. Lara got her makeup done at the spa, and at one stage the woman said "I'm going to do your lips now, so don't talk or drink" (she had a beer), her instant reaction was "But that's what I do..." We went back to Lara's place, where she and Tina and I got changed. I wore the rather revealing dress that she made me buy on Thursday night (before I made the ANZAC Biscuits); no pics in existence, that I've been able to track down. It's kind of blue and green tiger stripes, rather low cut, and quite fitted; looks good with red hair though.
Anyway, we went to the nightclub next, which was grand, until the polis decided to come in, with the intention of stopping trouble before it began (apparently), and tried to talk to me (in Swedish). They concluded that I was so drunk I was "unreachable", probably because I stared blankly at them when they spoke to me. They took me outside to drive me home, which would have been interesting, considering I couldn't understand them, didn't know Lara's mum's address, and have no sense of direction anyway... Fortunately Lara had noticed the attempted abduction, and came to rescue me. However once the cops have made their minds up, there's no changing them apparently - even though we were standing outside, obviously fine, they still wanted me to go home, so Lara ran inside to let everyone else know what was going on. She'd been inside for about two minutes, and I was standing talking to Eleanor; the police came back and pointed at Eleanor, and said "You have to take her home. Now", which was funny, because Eleanor's not from Ronneby either, and didn't know the house address. They were very insistent though, and I don't know what they would have done if Lara hadn't turned back up and told them it was a ten minute walk, and that's how we were getting back. So Lara, Tina, Eleanor and Christian-II (Christian the Second) and I all ended up back at the house drinking, instead of at the nightclub. Eventually it was only Christian-II and me sitting on the sofa talking, which we did until we fell asleep (his feet on my stomach). Eleanor said it was funny listening to us fall asleep because our words got slower and quieter, until they stopped all together. I woke up at some point in the night and decided to go to bed, which provoked a muffled noise of discontentment when I moved.
The next morning we had a Swedish breakfast (fil (a kind of yoghurt which isn't yoghurt), bread, cheese, a kind of pastrami with olives in it, coffee, jam, boiled egg) and Eleanor told brilliantly inappropriate stories: "Do you remember the time we watched German porn in the hotel room at the Young Greens convention?" and "We had a competition to see who could kiss the youngest person at a Young Greens' convention. I won" (said with some satisfaction). We went for a walk round town after this, and I took lots of pictures of the houses and the cobbles (beautiful to look at, but you wouldn't want to be wearing heels). We also visited an art gallery and Lara got a wedding present for Armand - it's absolutely perfect. Then we walked home and Lara found a pizza place that opened at 3pm (although I'd swear we'd only just finished breakfast), so we walked there. We had to have pizza so I could have pizza salad - a peculiarly Swedish invention that comes with all pizzas. I have to admit I'm a convert, although I can't see what it really has to do with pizza at all. As far as I can tell, it's thinly shredded white cabbage, marinated in oil, white wine vinegar, black pepper and tarragon (I think, if not then definitely some dried green herb). Christian-II and I had a couple of glasses of beer, and I couldn't finish my pizza, so I was eating it for the rest of the day.
That afternoon Martin (the other lad) came round with some more beer, and we all sat on the balcony overlooking the garden drinking beer and talking nonsense (there's no point in trying to recreate it here). Later, Lara and I went to visit her brother, where I had Bear Beer, and discovered a herb called dragon. None of us could work out what it was in English, which was really annoying. Turns out it's tarragon, and I'm now officially calling tarragon dragon from now on. I just need to work on my accent. After that we caught up with the lads and Martin's sister drinking beer in the town square (as you do), so we got some of our own and repaired to Martin's sister's flat which was just around the corner (like everything in Ronneby) until she threw us out, because she had to work in the morning. Lara, Christian-II and I went back to her mum's garden (her mum was getting up at 5am for work the next morning), where we remembered we had vodka. Unfortunately after that we didn't really feel like drinking 3.5% beer, and I was getting the sniffles, so I went to bed. Lara and Christian-II (who was getting up at half five to catch the train to Stockholm for work) stayed up (drinking the 3.5-ers, it was always going to happen).
On Monday Lara and I got up at a leisurely hour (having been awake enough to wave when her mum left), had showers and prepared breakfast (bread, cucumber (a present), pineapple (a present), coffee, jam, cheese, fil, salami, and a bizarre-looking vegetarian paste thing, which tasted surprisingly good), which we ate outside in the garden. We then discovered that Lara still had a bottle of wine (another present) which we could have drunk last night, and which she now couldn't take as carry on luggage. So annoying. We wandered down to the train station, and failed to buy tickets at the ticket machine, so got them at the counter instead. I got a chocolate bar called Plopp for Jill, and an ice cream (for me). Once on the train we lamented our lack of alcohol, and half way to Copenhagen Lara remembered that we still had several 3.5-ers in the house. Of course.
We had a quick pint of Tuborg at the airport and bought provisions for the flight: wasabi peas and cheese. On the flight we caved in and bought a small bottle of wine each, followed by cans of Tuborg (to go with the peas of course), and I chatted up one of the flight attendants, who had tried to speak to me in Swedish. On our way off the plane he wished Lara a happy wedding, which made her ask me how long I'd been talking to him...
I think that's about it. Unfortunately instead of crossing another country off my list I've just added another place I want to go and live. Alors, c'est la vie.