Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Sweden unmasked

Bork, Bork, Bork… and for those of you under the age of 50, that’s the indecipherable Swedish Chef from the Muppets.

I reckon what he’s actually saying is Told You So, Told You So, Told You So!

It went almost completely unnoticed but the UK put Sweden back on the exempt list this week.

Perhaps because their much derided ‘no lockdown strategy‘ to Coronvarius is proving to work with rates right down.

Which makes it the perfect place to travel to find out how they’ve done it.

It’s got to be Swedish meatballs

Perhaps because they have the self-discipline to be able to keep a social distance from each other.

And that is even more difficult when you look like them.

Although I guess Swedish men probably take their Swedish women for granted and vice versa.

I’m reminded here of the Irish football fans’ song in defeat to Sweden at the European Championships… ‘go home to your gorgeous wives.’

Hello flower!

Of course, you’ve worked out that this is mainly an excuse to show some gorgeous Swedish women.

More than 850,000 British nationals visit the Land of Agnetha every year.

And despite how virulent we are (and it has to be repeated how welcoming the rest of the world are to welcome Britons) the Swedes are still happy to see us.

The closest I’ve got thus far to Sweden is seeing the 16km Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden.

On my MSC trip around the Norwegian fjords.

So what’s so great about Sweden?

Stock in trade

StockholmAnd what do we know? Yes, it’s got the Abba Museum, but also the Viking Vasa Museum and the Fotogrofiska. And 30,000 islands.

And although I feel I’m being intrusive and was on the Hollywood Walk of FameGreta Garbo‘s grave who really only wanted to be alone.

I’m here for the beer

Gothenburg; Yes, and it’s got water too, waterways, and try them on a kayak or paddle board, and I mastered the last, right?

While you should also check out their craft beer Poppels or Stigbergets.

And, of course, more ships… the 17th century Goteborg. Aye, aye Cap’n.

Have a sauna

Malmo: And because it’s Sweden, and I love a sauna, Ribersborg Kallbadhus at the end of the pier.

There are actually five saunas, a steam room, a sun deck and access to the ocean.

Fika is Swedes’ cafe downtime and great for people watching. I fancy that cinnamon roll hes having.

And further afield:

Work out Wallander

Ystad is Wallander country and you can check out Greyfriars Abbey and the Church of the Virgin Mary.

Lap it up

Swedish Lapland: Drive the 223-mile route up the Wilderness Way from the canoeing centre at Stromsund to Vilhelmina via Fatmokakke with its wooden huts.

You want reindeers? Well, Jokkmokk must appeal to Scots!

And then there’s also the James Bond Museum in Nybro. We’ve been expecting you.

SAS Scandinavian Airlines  is who to go with.


Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying

Rainy Days and Songdays – Dancing Ian in Istanbul

A boat, a boogie, the Bosphorus and Bloomfield all came together a year ago.

I was reminded of that outing on the Bosphorus with Turkish Airlines, and a group of Irish Travel’s finest.

Our host ramped up ABBA on the sound system and the strains of Dancing Queen carried all the way from Europe to Asia.

It makes you wonder how often Dancing Queen gets played around the world in the way a Beatles song is (every 30 seconds).

But I’d say it’s a lot… and even more in Eurovision Weekend

The Biz

All of which brings me to my good friends at Travel Biz

The Biz kicked it all off with a Zoom Trade danceathon on Friday.

Before they handed it all over to Graham Norton.

And, of course, Graham did his usual sterling job as the BBC presenter with the link to the Netherlands

It’s a country I love Pictures of Amsterdam and where the Contest would have been held.

The only thing missing on a digital night of celebration of all things Eurovision was the scoring.

And to cap it all off Bjorn shared the love in a live link.

If only he had seen Ian Bloomfield of Irish Travel Trade News strut his stuff!

And, of course, your favourite Bandanaman doing his Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy (A Man After Mudnight).

Abba Days are here again

And for the ultimate Abba experience see and With Scandinavian Airlines

Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Flying, UK

Sweden, mooses and no lockdown

There’s a moose loose aboot this hoose – Lord Rockingham’s XI

Now what has ‘Hoots Mon’, a UK No.1 from 1958 to do with the price of Irn-Bru?

Only that the moose is considered a measure of distance in northern Sweden.

Which we’re all looking at enviously because there’s no lockdown there.

In the region of Norbotten locals are warned to stay ‘one moose length’ away from each other.

Check out the lights. Photo by Jonathan Petersson on

While in the rest of the country they’re still eating meatballs, smorgasbords and pickled herrings and highly-priced beer in bars and restaurants.

All the time following Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s guidance to keep social distance.

The Swedish hinterland

So what is it that Sweden is doing right?

Well, in a nutshell, they believe it is not sustainable to keep its people in open-ended lockdown.

A night out in Sweden

And that they are prepared to accept certain restrictions on movement and interaction over a prolonged period.

Rather than to take the pain today for jam tomorrow.

She and her fellow Swedish politicians recommended this on internal travel at Easter.

The government exhorted Swedes not to travel to their summer cottages or relatives but did not ban them from doing so.

Which was 90 per cent lower than in previous years.

The Abba Museum

All of which progress and good husbandry focuses our attentions rightly on Sweden…

And talking about husbandry I’m reminded of what a good husband I would have been to Agnetha Faltstog, my first love.

Alas her husband Bjorn Ulvaeus was on the scene… and I was only 11.

ABBA’s Greatest Hits was the first album I ever bought.

And it was my love of Abba that got me innocently into trouble in my Jesuit Catholic all-boys school when I brought copies in of The Sun newspaper.

The ABBA Story

All because they were serialising The ABBA Story… I even used my lunch money to pay for the newspapers.

Easy ahopping

However my teacher suspected that I was ogling the bare-breasted Page 3 girls instead. All of which landed me with a belting.

I will continue to make it one of my life’s missions to track down Agnetha in her retreat.

And the best starting point is to actually get out to Sweden.

SAS Scandinavian Airlines is your best bet, and they fly out of Dublin, and in the UK from London, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle.

A tour around Scandinavia

Now I dipped my toe into Scandinavia when I cruised with MSC and around Denmark

And Norway, getting within touching distance of Agnethaland and

Finnish forest huts

While I’m continuously being tempted by my old Finnish and adopted Glaswegian Paula from our Disneyworld

And to go our to her home country, which is more culturally Scandinavian than geographically.

But the UN named it the happiest place on earth so the Scandinavians will claim it gladly.

Iceland for geezers

Ah, those Northern Lights

Heck, so that I’m not accused of not including the other Scandinavian countries, I’ll flag up Iceland here.

With Iceland Airlines and

Although again it is probably more culturally Scandinavian than geographically traditionally so.

Greenland in demand

Shifting plates

The Faroe Islands is a self-governing Danish territory and Greenland which is a Danish territory will also qualify.

Mind you Donald Trump has had his eyes on buying the world’s biggest island

In what he would probably tag a beautiful, beautiful deal.

So we’ll just have to watch this space.

America, Asia, Europe, Flying

Flyday Friday – Airline angels with wings

They’re our angels with wings, our air crews ferrying exiles home and important supplies around the world.

And I’m happy to flag up American Airlines and their efforts during the crisis.

American Airlines will increase weekly cargo-capacity to 5.5 million pounds.

And they will transport critical goods between U.S. and Dublin,  Buenos Aires, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Seoul and Shanghai to support those in need. 

The new DUB-DFW cargo only service will launch 1x weekly beginning, April 13, and will be operated on Boeing 777-300 aircraft.

Wrap it up: The ground staff do their bit

These flights will help transport life-saving medical supplies and materials, including personal protective equipment and pharmaceuticals.

Other essential goods on these flights will include manufacturing and automotive equipment, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, mail and electronics.

“The air cargo industry plays a critical role in pulling the world together in times of crisis, and it takes all of us to get the job done,” said Rick Elieson, President of Cargo and Vice President of International Operations.

Fly the flag: American Airlines

“With the expansion of American’s cargo-only flights, we have more capacity to bring critical medical supplies and protective gear to the areas that need it most.

In March, the airline began operating its first cargo-only flights since 1984 between Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Frankfurt (FRA).

Stepping it up: Vital cargo

They will be transporting more than 350,000 pounds of medical supplies.

There will be mail for active U.S. military, telecommunications equipment and electronics to support communities impacted around the globe.

Of course these supplies are vital to get us through this crisis.

But American Airlines will never forget its human cargo and will have us all flying around before too long.

Sweet home Chicago

Out on the lake: Chicago Photo by Pixabay on

Chicago was, and still is, on my radar for this year.

It’s a city that we feel we all know from its Gangster Days, its architecture, music and art and it has always intrigued.

And I learned more in my travels and my American Trilogy, and

About it as the destination of choice for those from the Deep South looking for a better life.

American Airlines and Chicago… my kinda people too.

And Qatar too

Flying high. Qatar Airways Photo by Carlos Pernalete Tua on

I am indebted too to the doyen of Irish travel, Eoghan Corry and Travel Extra for flagging up Qatar Airways’ efforts too.

As their second cargo aircraft carrying vital medical equipment from China landed at Shannon Airport.

It is the second consignment to arrive in Shannon.

Swede dreams everyone

Sign me up

We’re all hearing about how ‘normal life’ is well, very nearly normal in Sweden.

And a shout-out here to SAS who have only been training at Sophiahemmet Hospital in Stockholm.

The canal city is very much on my to-do list

They will be learning from the medical stafff on how to take care of patients.

The training is part of a larger initiative where SAS employees get the chance to contribute to society and to temporarily work where they are needed most.

Now not to put too fine a point on this but they do look like angels… and I am more than a little jealous of the younger beardie gent second on the left.