Today we got on the road early to visit Castle Farm before catching our flight to Gothenburg Sweden. Unfortunately we missed the turnoff - twice. We messed around for an hour trying to find our way around Sevenoaks and were about to give up when we found it.
Castle Farm is a working farm specialising in lavender. As we were an hour later than planned we missed the scheduled walking tour through the fields. We stood on the edge of the fields and admired the spectacular view of the vibrant purple rows of lavender in full bloom. Busy bees were hard at work collecting pollen. We sipped on Rose Lemonade made by the same brand as the Victorian lemonade yesterday - the rose lemonade was even better.
We continued on to Heathrow along the car park that is the M25, however we made it the airport with plenty of time. We are on a different ticket for these flights from Venice and to Gothenburg, so had to go to a third party lounge in Terminal 5. The Aspire lounge is directly underneath the BA south lounge and unfortunately was full. Initially we squashed up on a bench with other travellers. Then one of the lounge attendants came to us specifically and said "I have found some more comfortable seats for you." We thought this was over and above the call of duty and were very thankful.
The flight to Gothenburg was uneventful except for the lack of food as the caterers failed to supply the whole plane. In general BA has gone downhill somewhat in the two years. Food must be purchased in economy class and while it is quite tasty it is disappointing to have to pay. There is no entertainment on the short haul European flights either (this has been the case for some time). It seems that all airlines are on a race to the bottom and we wonder how much longer Qantas can last providing the service it does - we have resolved to complain less about Qantas.
We are staying in Gothenburg with a cousin of the Navigatrix. They (cousin, wife and two children aged nearly 6 and 1) live in a lovely three bedroom apartment about 10 minutes from the centre of the city. They love living in Sweden and we can see why:
- superb facilities in the apartment block including huge drying rooms and laundry rooms, saunas, vegetable plots, playgrounds and a nuclear bomb shelter just in case ( a leftover from the 1960's where it was required in all buildings);
- the local day care centre (which costs approximately $200 per month for full time care) and school are just around the corner;
- great public transport to easily get anywhere in the city and surrounds;
- 5 weeks annual leave;
- 480 days of parental leave (albeit shared between both parents);
- plenty of other social and civic benefits.
Yes, prices are high (petrol ~ AUD2.00 per litre; Coca Cola ~ AUD2.00 for a 500ml bottle) as are taxes but life is full of trade-offs. It is summer holidays at the moment, so most Swedes are away at their country cabin ( or Thailand). Everyday feels like a Sunday with almost deserted roads and families enjoying the parks and lakes. The Swedish stereotype of blonde hair, blue eyes and absolutely gorgeous (male & female) is spot on - we were served by an Anna-from-ABBA lookalike when we picked up the car.
Holidays with small children are a different affair. No high adrenaline, high activity days or lengthy visits to galleries, museums and churches. Instead we spent an afternoon in the grounds of a castle by the seaside flying a kite and hunting for wild strawberries and raspberries. The next day we went to the park in the centre of town which houses moose, deer, a seal enclosure, pony rides and a small petting zoo. On our last day we went to a nearby lake and had a BBQ. Even trips to the supermarket and the large scale hardware store were an adventure.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing time and everyone was very sad with it was time to leave. We flew back to Heathrow for an overnight stay before heading to Reykjavík, Iceland.