Theatre review: Moments – a dark Scandinavian drama in London

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(Image: Sindri Swan)

Moments http://www.momentsplay.com/ at the Drayton Arms Theatre http://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/theatre/visit-us/event-list/eventdetail/4958/-/- was a surprisingly harrowing drama for a Saturday afternoon in South Kensington.

This is the UK premiere of an Icelandic play originally written for radio. It is performed in Icelandic (subtitles) and English. The Icelandic language performance underlined the foreignness of the production, which is a significant element in a play that offers a cultural commentary about Iceland by Icelandic playwright Starri Hauksson.

The story highlights the toxic claustrophobia of family life in a close-knit Icelandic community and the loneliness of mental illness as the protagonist, Andri (Aron Trausti), looks back in anger and regret in the wake of a family tragedy. His self-imposed isolation brings a series of concerned visitors to his sordid apartment, but this also blurs the boundaries between his imagination and reality. Who is actually there to help and does it matter whether they are real or imaginary?

Ultimately, Andri finds a resolution, of sorts, but as this play is on for another week, I’m not including any spoilers – the plot has several interesting twists and the conclusion is not obvious, but one of numerous possibilities.

I was told that Moments is semi-autobiographical and the feeling of near reality is enhanced by flashback scenes using old family videos – actually the family videos of one of the actors – that show us images of the harsh climate and landscape of rural Iceland, where guns and hunting are part of growing up/becoming a man – and part of the catalyst for this drama.

Moments is well written, the acting is excellent (particularly Aron Trausti and Siggi Holm) and it is a thoughtful and sensitive production (Sindri Swan, Maya Lindh) that does not shy away from challenging topics. It offers food for thought and an interesting perspective on Iceland’s complex culture, contrasting Andri’s agoraphobia with the vast open spaces of the remote Northern Iceland landscapes in the videos – this is even more resonant if you have visited Iceland.

If you fancy an evening of dark Scandinavian drama – and the Drayton Arms is a nice venue for a drink/dinner too – don’t miss Moments.

Moments runs at the Drayton Arms Theatre in South Kensington onTuesday to Saturday evenings at 8pm until Saturday, 31st October 2015.

Iceland: Midsummer night’s dream with a slice of paradise

I recently attended a talk on blogging organised by the London Writers Café. We were asked what topics we blogged about and I mentioned travel as one of my main interests. I then realised that I hadn’t written a travel piece this year. So here is my take on midsummer in Iceland. Unusually for me, this was a holiday, not a business trip, so my insights and travel tips are from a slightly different perspective than usual.

Continuing my fixation with Scandinavia, I had been thinking about Iceland for some time. The original idea was to see the Northern Lights. Then the opportunity arose to take a few days’ holiday at midsummer, which I have long considered a special time of year. It turned out to be a midsummer night’s dream.

Iceland is the furthest north I have ever been – and I have visited Stockholm and Moscow. In the summer there is no night at all. It is the land of the midnight sun.

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We arrived in Reykjavik at about 11pm and the sun was dipping towards the horizon like a traditional sunset. But it never actually set. The landscape on the drive to Reykjavik was stunning – and reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus as sunset became sunrise.

We stayed at the Centerhotel Arnarhvoll http://www.centerhotels.com/our-hotels/hotel-arnarhvoll/ which we were told was fully booked, though we didn’t see many other people. Perhaps it’s because I’m from London, but to me Iceland is a land of empty spaces. Reykjavik is Iceland’s biggest city and most populated area and even with all the midsummer tourists, there did not seem to be many people around. The hotel was ten minutes’ walk from the city centre; the room had a sea view and so does the hotel’s Panorama Restaurant, which serves an incredibly varied breakfast and is perfect for an evening drink. As I said, I was on holiday, but I mention in passing that the Centerhotel Arnarhvoll has free wireless internet that works very well…

Iceland is a wonderful tourist destination. There is plenty to see and the people are great! The Icelandic language is based on Old Norse and is challenging to say the least. Icelanders recognise this and there are plenty of fun souvenir t-shirts. I bought one with the slogan “I don’t speak Icelandic”!

Everyone speaks English and in a useful way – not just prices and numbers, so it is easy to organise sightseeing and transportation. There is no touting or hassling even though tourism is a major industry. The souvenirs are brilliant, and sometimes bizarre, but Iceland is expensive, so it is best not to get too carried away. Think about what you would like to keep/wear when you are back at home. For example these onesies looked ever so cute in the shop, but we resisted…

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Íslandia is one of several shops that specialise in Icelandic souvenirs, notably the famous lopapeysa (Icelandic jumpers) which are sold all over Reykjavik – I bought a cardigan. It looks nice and kept me warm on late night sightseeing tours, but left bits of wool all over my black t-shirt… we bought books about legends, trolls and runes.

Norse legends refer to the various “hidden people” that include elves, trolls and fairies. Trolls in Iceland are not necessarily bad, though they can be dangerous. They are sometimes depicted as lovable characters, sometimes as massive smelly destructive monsters. It depends what you read. I met this cute troll in the city centre.

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Had we been staying longer, we might have considered a day at Magnús Skarphéðinsson’s famous elf school, and I did email, but apparently it only happens on Fridays… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_Elf_School

24-hour daylight means you can do a lot, if you have the energy – and we certainly did! We got back to the hotel well after midnight each night and it felt surreal walking back in broad daylight in the early hours of the morning.

Reykjavik sightseeing and culture

We visited Hallgrímskirkja, the big church in the city centre, just in time to listen to choir practice before climbing the tower to take photographs of the marvellous views across the city and the harbour. Then we walked down Skólavörðustígur, a street full of arts and crafts galleries and cafés that leads into Laugavegur, the main shopping street.

The Settlement Exhibition http://www.minjasafnreykjavikur.is/english/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-4206/ in the city centre beneath the Hotel Centrum is worth a visit. It is a relatively small exhibition of the history and archaeology of an early Icelandic settlement and includes numerous interactive elements.

The Reykjavik Art Museum is on three sites http://www.artmuseum.is/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-2173/3432_read-6298/  We visited Kjarvalsstaðir, which focuses on painting and sculpture and is a short walk from the city centre. The permanent exhibition of key works by Icelandic landscape painters, notably Jóhannes S. Kjarval (1885–1972), is an excellent example of how Iceland’s unique and fabulous scenery has influenced and inspired its art.

Food and drink

This was not a ‘foodie’ holiday. Icelandic menus include unusual items like whale and puffin, but if, like me, you’re not keen to eat the local species, there is a wide variety of restaurants and cafes, including pizza and sushi as well as conventional Scandinavian food. We liked sitting in the sun at Café Babalú, a hip rooftop vegetarian café. As with many Scandinavian destinations, the coffee is excellent.

We particularly enjoyed a meal in Hornið, one of the city’s oldest bistros (I thought it might have a Viking theme, but Hornið means corner in Icelandic, and the food is Italian-style…)

Reykjavik has a massive choice of bars and clubs including Kaffibarinn owned by Damon Albarn (look out for the London Underground style sign).

The Golden Circle

A major cultural highlight was an evening Golden Circle tour which included Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall. The trip takes about three hours each way and passes through some spectacular scenery. The rugged volcanic landscape is breathtaking – it feels like we are on a tour of a different planet.

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We saw the site of Iceland’s ancient parliament and the point at which the European and North American continents meet. Apparently the two continents are gradually moving apart. I discovered that it is not possible to stand with one foot on each continent…

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Gullfoss is breathtaking, and definitely reminiscent of the Prometheus movie. It is a steep and slippery walk from the car park to the waterfall, and perhaps because we were there at night, even though it was light, there was a strong wind and a chill in the air, so it is important to have appropriate footwear and something warm to wear – the shop sells Icelandic knitwear and hot drinks, but it helps to be prepared because it really is worth getting close to the waterfall and experiencing the power of this wild and wonderful landscape at close quarters.

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On the way back we visited Geysir, a spouting hot spring that gave its name to geysers worldwide. The original Geysir is dormant, but nearby Strokkur, apparently the world’s most active geyser, erupts every 5-10 minutes.

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This was a long tour, but every element was amazing and it was a photographer’s dream. The photographs on this blog were taken with an iPhone 4S and a Nikon Coolpix compact camera. I have posted more photographs on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/joannagoodman/

The Blue Lagoon

I have saved the best for last as I will never forget the Blue Lagoon http://www.bluelagoon.com/ The brochures raise expectations and the experience exceeded them. My photographs are not adjusted – it really was this colour.

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The spa is very well organised with spotlessly clean changing rooms, showers and lockers. Towels and bathrobes are provided – you only need to bring a swimming costume. Various spa treatments are available, but we just swam around and enjoyed the unique experience. The water is almost too warm and there is a swim-up bar with a good selection of alcoholic and soft drinks. Silica mud is available to put on your skin and you can buy this to take back. I didn’t try it as my skin is quite sensitive, and following the advice of the hotel receptionist, I kept my (long) hair out of the water.

Relaxing in warm blue water drinking strawberry wine was a slice of paradise that will keep me smiling for a long time. However, sunscreen is important as the sun is quite strong and reflects off the bright water. As you can see from my picture below, I didn’t apply enough…

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Designer living – and dying: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I eventually went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Columbia Pictures’ latest adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster. I cannot comment on how closely the film follows the book, which has sold 50 milion copies in 46 countries, as I have not read it, but as readers of this blog will be aware, I am fascinated by Scandinavia and Larsson’s horrific and compelling – albeit slightly predictable – plot line certainly held my attention effectively for nearly two and a half hours, even though I had worked out whodunnit about halfway through.

A stellar cast – featuring Rooney Mara as  disturbed and tortured punk-goth anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander and Daniel Craig as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist – did an excellent job portraying Larsson’s dark and damaged characters. As many have pointed out, the Swedish accents – especially Craig’s – were inconsistent and not always accurate. As someone who has visited Sweden several times and heard a lot of ‘Swinglish’ I agree, although I did not find this distracting. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been reviewed many times, so I won’t rehearse the story, and I can only recommend it. I am also interested in seeing the original Swedish film interpretation, as Sweden’s landscape and history are intrinsic to the plot and the atmosphere.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is visually spectacular throughout, from the opening sequence to Karen O, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross’ stunning cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” to the final shots of Stockholm’s streets at night.

Swedish design was an important part of the setting, notably the use of monochrome and minimalism as well as the more traditional elements – the beautiful simple lines that are set off so well by Sweden’s bleak, elegant landscape, which itself turns monochrome in the winter.

It seemed appropriate to watch a designer film in a designer cinema.The Screen on the Green in Islington is a truly elegant cinematic experience.

http://www.everymancinema.com/cinemas/screen-on-the-green/find-us

There is a trend in London for cinemas with sofas and bars (I love this) and this is one of the best. There are a lot of sofas, all with footstools as well, so it feels like a massive living room. There is bar service, so your drinks and snacks are delivered to you as you relax on the sofa (or in my case scuffle through my oversized handbag searching for my specs!). It’s worth booking online as you can choose whether to go for a sofa in the middle of the room, which I like as you get the most accurate projection of the film, or one at the side which would feel more cosy and intimate for a special date.

Finally, one thing that struck me afterwards – I hope it isn’t a spoiler and I guess this observation is a consequence of mixing wine and cinema – is how much work must go into creating a designer torture chamber. Last year I had some renovation works done to my house and recall having to set out some fairly precise instructions for the builders. Imagine having to go through this process for a torture chamber – a secret remote-controlled entrance, effective soundproofing, floor and wall tiles you can hose down easily, grout that doesn’t get stained, the positioning of the gas vents in the ceiling, a remote-controlled electric winch that can hold a person’s weight, a bespoke cabinet for ‘special’ equipment… the list would be endless. And imagine your average builder’s reaction to these bizarre and sinister requests – worse, getting some quotes in might just alert people to the fact that things in this house could get out of hand, making the mystery a lot easier to solve. Perhaps there are ‘special’ builders. Or do designer serial killers need to be really, really good at DIY?

 

Destination Copenhagen – restaurants and reflections

Delayed by deadlines – a belated account of my visit to Copenhagen a few weeks ago, for business and leisure. I had meetings arranged; I wanted to step away from my stressy life, and Copenhagen is one of my favourite places. I didn’t do much sightseeing, but I stayed in the centre and walked everywhere, breathing the fresh air and the atmosphere. Since The Killing has sparked an interest in all things Danish, I thought I’d share my impressions, reflections – and photos.

I start with a random flashback. One unlikely star of The Killing is Sarah Lund’s Faroese sweater, which can be found here http://shop.gudrungudrun.com/ The sweater takes me back to my childhood, and the Danish shop in London’s Brompton road which sold authentic Faroese sweaters and smørrebrød (Danish open sandwiches – not something else fashionable to wear) both of which are lovely, but surprisingly heavy. 

Getting around – and three clichés

The Copenhagen Metro, which is currently being extended, is modern, inexpensive and easy to navigate. It’s only about 15 minutes from Kastrup airport, to Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen’s largest city square. You can buy metro and train tickets in the arrivals area of the airport. Taxis are relatively expensive, but they are metered, the drivers generally speak English and you can pay by credit card.

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I got out of the metro at Kongens Nytorv, struggled up the escalator with my suitcase to find a cliché – Danish pastries! They smell as good as they look!

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I stayed at Hotel Skt Petri, a boutique hotel in the Italian quarter, near the university. It was clean and comfortable and featured another cliché:  Danish designer furniture – including Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs

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However, Copenhagen has plenty of boutique hotels, and although the Skt Petri was conveniently located, next time I’m in Copenhagen – and there will be a next time – I shall probably stay near the harbour. The last time I visited, I stayed at the Scandic Front, where my room had a sea view. It is worth having a walk around the picturesque harbour area, where you can also see Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid. I took this photo on the way to one of my meetings.

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Strøget, which starts at Kongens Nytorv, is the world’s longest pedestrian street. I like this kind of thing – in Hong Kong I spent some considerable time riding up and down the world’s longest escalator. Strøget is rightly described as ‘the shopping street’ and that’s another of Copenhagen’s main attractions – a terrific selection of designer and other shops.

Walking along Strøget from Kongens Nytorv, I was rare brunette in a sea of Scandinavian blondes – a third cliché brought to life!

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Strøget has a massive selection of shops selling just about everything. One must-see for anyone interestested in design, and particularly Scandinavian style, is Danish interior design and accessory store Illums Bolighus  http://www.illumsbolighus.dk/uk/main.asp which sells classic and new Scandinavian designer products.

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Five minutes away, the Illum department store is a cross between Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, selling Scandinavian and international brands. Although Scandinavia is having a fashion moment, I particularly liked the homeware and stationery departments and spent some time looking at multicoloured Moleskine notebooks (as you would expect, Scandinavia gets all the new colours first) and ORDNINGANDREDA accessories http://www.ordning-reda.com/pages/?dom=1037

Like Sweden, Denmark has superb coffee, and coffee breaks are an essential part of any shopping trip. Cafe Europa, opposite Illums Bolighus serves a great-looking brunch. I like sitting in a window seat, writing on my iPad2 and people watching.

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Designer capuccino at Europa

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Lagkagehuset, also in Strøget, had terrific cappuccino and home made Danish pastries – and incredibly cheerful and friendly service! http://www.lagkagehuset.dk/butikker/42

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A traditional brasserie and two destination restaurants

I’m afraid the rest of this post is going to sound like a restaurant guide. This is because Copenhagen has become something of a restaurant Mecca with a reputation for creating some of the world’s best and most original cuisine.

My visit started with lunch at Café Victor http://www.cafevictor.dk/en a classy French-style brasserie just off the square. I was meeting my oldest friend in Copenhagen and one of his colleagues (to clarify: he is certainly not old in years; he was the first person I met outside of a meeting when I first visited Copenhagen). Although Café Victor is perennially fashionable, the cuisine is straightforward – perfect after a long journey. The waiter made a huge fuss of us. I have a feeling that my friend is a regular here…

I was taken to two very different destination restaurants. The first was Era Ora – a glamorous Italian restaurant that lives up to its Michelin star and fabulous reputation http://www.era-ora.dk/restaurant 

The portions are tiny delicious morsels – but each course is accompanied by a full-size perfectly matched glass of wine. The Danish wine menu is legendary, and as has happened before, defeated me after the first couple of dishes. Impressively, although it took rather longer to achieve this, it also defeated my dining companion – despite his elegant lifestyle – and we ended up having a rather fuzzy conversation and giggling a lot.

Era Ora is perfect for dîner à deux or a celebratory dinner for half a dozen people. Notwithstanding its Michelin star, the atmosphere is relaxed; the tables are spaced well apart and the acoustics are good, so the room is condusive to proper conversation, so long as you have a lot of self-control when it comes to the wine menu.. but it’s also completely brilliant if you don’t take it too seriously…

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Later in the week, I met up with two people I have seen relatively recently – a Danish friend who travels to London regularly and his gorgeous colleague who divides her time between London and Copenhagen, which strikes me as a perfect arrangement in many ways. She knows all the best places to go out in both cities! 

We went to Geist, an achingly fashionable bar and restaurant in Kongens Nytorv that attracts a hip media crowd http://restaurantgeist.dk/ On a Thursday night, it was kicking. It’s owner, Bo Bech, is apparently the Danish equivalent of Gordon Ramsay. If you sit the bar – as we did – you can watch what goes on in the kitchen. And everythng was perfectly coordinated – a bit like a modern ballet. There was music, but fortunately no drama. The food is a gastronomic oxymoron – deceptively simple, with touches of originality – innovative and arty-looking combinations like the candy floss that arrived with our coffee! It was delicious and delivered a delightful post-dinner sugar rush.

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The toilets offer more originality in terms of mirrored ceilings and sound effects! This may have been taking things a bit far…

Geist is eclectic. It is definitely worth a visit and be sure to make reservations. We had booked a table, but still had to queue for the cloarkroom and to get seated!

Designer everything! 

I can hardly believe that my waistline has survived being royally entertained by my lovely Danish friends – not all of whom I mention here – who transformed my business trip into a memorable and wonderful few days. And time to reflect – here I am in a hall of mirrors outside one of my meetings.

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Interior design is a theme that runs through Copenhagen like the stripes in a stick of rock, or Calais on the heart of Mary, Queen of Scots. The arrivals hall at Kastrup is full of egg chairs. Every cafe and office I visited combined classic elegance with different quirky touches to make it stand out from the rest. Here’s a staircase reminiscent of the Guggenheim museum.

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Even the flowers sold on the street are colour coordinated.

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Into the light

It occurs to me that Scandinavian design is about throwing shapes (a bit like dancing the focus is on finding a pure and compelling line) – objects that change, and change the shape of their surroundings – as the light falls on them in different ways. I’m signing off with another attempt at an arty photograph on the way back to the airport. I took this as the train emerged from a tunnel into the light – you can just about see me reflected in the window. 

 

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There is something cool and refreshing about Scandinavia – and something special about the light there. I returned feeling renewed in some way. But that was before things set me back again… I seem to have got into escaping to cold places to find clarity and direction…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different in a good way: getting to know Stockholm

Last week I attended the VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum and had some business meetings in Stockholm. As usual, I squeezed in as many meetings as I could, and this meant I did a lot of walking around Sweden’s beautiful capital city, but no sightseeing! I was entertained by my wonderful Swedish business contacts, some of whom are becoming friends as well and had a proper girly catch-up with my lovely friend Mia.

I have written detailed reports of the event elsewhere, for example here http://www.theorangerag.com/blog/_archives/2011/10/11/4917503.html#1533750 

Therefore this posting focuses on Stockholm impressions: travel, shopping and restaurants.

Express train

There really is no point in taking a taxi from the airport to central Stockholm. The Arlanda Express  takes just 20 minutes from Arlanda Airport to Stockholm Central Station. You can buy a return ticket at the airport, on the platform, or on the train. The environmentally friendly electric train is fast, comfortable and luxurious. All the announcements are in Swedish and English – it feels luxurious and is a really great way to arrive in Stockholm!

When you get to Stockholm Central Station, the easiest way around is the metro or tunnelbana which has 100 stations. Again it’s pretty easy to navigate. You can purchase tickets and smartcards at SL centres – there’s one at Central Station – or even at the barriers. You can get one, three and seven-day travelcards or buy individual tickets. I bought a carnet of eight tickets, but I didn’t use them all as the weather was lovely and I walked nearly everywhere.

Hotel Rival and dinner in Mariatorget

I stayed at Hotel Rival http://www.rival.se/en/default.aspx which initially appealed because it is owned by Benny Andersson from ABBA!  It’s a converted cinema in Mariatorget, only four metro stops from Central Station. It is a nice walk, but too far with a suitcase. Hotel Rival is really lovely – classic Swedish decor with an eclectic, trendy twist. Hotel Rival has thought of everything – wireless internet connectivity, a destination bar and restaurant and even cuddles – there’s a teddy bear in every room.

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Stockholm felt cold after London’s Indian summer, but Hotel Rival is warm in temperature and atmosphere. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and the staff are friendly, but not intrusive. I bought these stylish mugs and tray.

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Mariatorget is Stockholm’s equivalent of Notting Hill Gate – cool, fashionable and full of wonderful shops and restaurants. I didn’t get a chance to look at the shops, but one of my lovely business contacts who I had met in London and his equally charming colleague took me out to dinner. It was great to have the opportunity to get to know them a bit better and I hope we will keep in touch We went to Sjogras, a friendly neighbourhood restaurant in a classy, elegant neighbourhood which serves modern Swedish cuisine. It was full – even on a Tuesday night – I recommend it, and it’s definitely worth booking http://www.sjogras.com/ 

VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum

The following day I attended the VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum conference at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel.

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This is an excellent venue for an event and this one was attended by over 130 delegates from Swedish and international law firms. The keynote address by Professor Richard Susskind, raised many interesting questions and the subsequent heated panel debate was reported in the local press! However it was even better to be there – participants’ body language said it all. Thanks are due to Helena Hallgarn and Ann Björk of VQAB for an interesting and useful day with thought-provoking presentations and excellent networking. It was good to meet leading lights in Swedish law firms and catch up with legal IT providers including Autonomy (now part of HP of course), Recommind, OpenText, BusinessIntegrity and Millnet and hear presentations from Rob Ameerun of Legal IT Professionals and Chris Bull of Edge International, among others.

Villa Godthem – a destination restaurant in the woods!

I had to tear myself away from the post-conference reception to meet friends at Villa Godthem http://villagodthem.se/en/ one of Stockholm’s newest destination restaurants. This is a 19th century villa in a woodland setting in the city centre. It is a dark and glamorous place with a superb 1970s style bar. We drank champagne and lounged on big velvet sofas around an open fire – it felt like winter, but in a good way! The food is served on planks of wood! Steaks are a speciality – though the fish was also excellent. My host had read this blog – recognised my bracelet and we talked about irreality. Great conversation in a theatrical setting! Godthem made me think of Gotham, and Batman (in his Bruce Wayne guise) would not have looked out of place here!

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Hotel Rival – cocktails and catch-up

The next day, after a full day of meetings, I had arranged to meet my friend Mia to sample the delights of the Hotel Rival bar and restaurant. My last interview was in the central shopping area and my charming interviewee suggested that I walk back to the Rival. He showed me a picturesque route around the harbour and through the old town. It was a sunny evening and I took some photos along the way. This one is an example of  Swedish English, or Swenglish, as it is known. English is widely spoken in Stockholm. You can ask for directions in almost any shop, cafe or station. Everyone I encountered was helpful and friendly. This restaurant sign shows that Swenglish can even include a charming sense of humour, which put me to shame as all I have learnt is hello – Hej (pronounced Hey!) and thank you – Tack (pronounced Tack!).

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Mia and I had cocktails at Hotel Rival’s popular bar which has an eclectic cocktail list. I tried a rhubarb martini! Again, it was different in a good way! This is the view from our table on the gallery – there are bars on two levels.

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I had a business lunch at Pontus! http://www.pontusfrithiof.com/useruploads/files/pt-bg1-eng.pdf a popular Swedish restaurant in the city centre which has just reopened after a major refurbishment. Although I was focused more on the discussion than the meal, I recommend Pontus! for its unusual and cool decor, extensive menu and lively, bustling atmosphere.

Coffee

Coffee in Stockholm is excellent, which was good news for me as a coffee addict and because I was out on the town for three consecutive nights. Most cafes have good strong coffee and many offer a terrific selection of cakes and sweets. Here are some from the cafe at Central Station.

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Waynes coffee shop chain is like Starbucks with an upgrade! Fabulous coffee – you can get espresso, cappuccino, mocha as well as different variations of latte, tea, smoothies and a wide selection of sandwiches, cakes and sweets. It even has its own branded chocolate.

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Swedish design shops are found throughout the city centre. I particularly liked Stockhome http://www.stockhome.se/ which offers all sorts of stylish and colourful items. I noticed the multicoloured toilet paper…this photo is from Stockhome’s website.

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As a technophile, I also loved the Urbanears multicoloured headphones. I couldn’t decide which colour and they are quite expensive, but I still might get some because you can buy them online here http://www.urbanears.com/headphones

Three days in Stockholm flew by and soon it was time to get back on the Arlanda Express. I sat on the train reflecting on a successful trip, excellent meetings and superb hospitality, meeting existing and new friends and contacts and being royally entertained, and feeling some regret at packing my schedule so tightly that I had little time to explore Sweden’s beautiful and classy capital city.

Here are some (arty?) photos I took from the train during a spectacular Nordic sunset.

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One more travel tip

I discovered at the airport that you cannot bring Swedish duty free alcohol back to the UK. I was going to buy some vodka as a gift, and instead chose this. It may look like it says it’s not chocolate, but it definitely is!

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Goodbye Stockholm – I hope it is au revoir, not adieu.

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