One of my personal aims is to have visited more countries than I have had birthdays. As a child, I didn't travel that much, and I only really got going when I took up international youth politics. Then, of course, having married, the travel really took off and now, with Ros, we are lucky enough to have a number of opportunities to see new places.
But my travel has been somewhat erratic - I've been to nine Latin American countries but not Norway, for example - and there is still plenty of low-hanging fruit left. And so, having decided that we wanted to see a little more of Northern Europe, I found myself with a chance to add a new country - Sweden. I had, technically, been to Sweden before, having stood on the roof of Gothenburg's Landvetter Airport once whilst connecting en route from Frankfurt to Helsinki, but you can't really count that, can you?
And so, on Saturday, Ros and I set off for Stockholm, flying SAS (not a wildly impressive experience, I must say) out of Heathrow's Terminal 3. It's not a long flight, and after a fairly uneventful journey, we reached the apartment we had rented in Södermalm, the now hip and trendy suburb just south of Gamla Stan, the historic core of Stockholm.
I'm afraid that, as a fan of the Muppet Show's Swedish Chef, I have to resist a temptation to mutter in mock-Swedish, but having overcome that, we were off to dinner at a restaurant where I had taken the precaution of booking a table in advance. One problem we often face is finding somewhere to eat on a Saturday night, as all the good places are reserved by the time we arrive. But now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can beat the locals - after all, you probably know your plans well before they do.
Pelikan is a rather stylish, modern Swedish restaurant, and having recovered from the slight heart murmur caused by the price of everything - Sweden is really quite painful on the budget - we enjoyed a good meal. There was, I admit, herring involved, and there may have been meatballs too, with lingonberries, but it was all good.
All in all, a good start to our trip...