18th May 2019 – 22nd May 2019
We are so, so lucky that this ‘Once in a Lifetime’ adventure takes us to some amazing places and places that create memories that will stay with us forever. The Swedish National Park of Skuleskogens is one of those. As we turned off the E4 and started heading up into the National Park I was, I admit holding onto my seat. It was Greece all over again with the scary roads. The road we were travelling on into the forest, ceased being a road and became a track. I gripped the seat even harder and David kept saying that it would be OK. Eventually after several kilometres we came to our parking, in the middle of the forest, just us and complete and utter silence. Most people would crave this solitude and many others I think would hate it. There was no mobile signal, no WiFi and not a sound to be heard. We parked and then decided to explore a little and walked through a track for around 20 minutes, I couldn’t believe it when I saw these beautiful little purple flowers bursting with life, the trees were just beginning to open, the season being so much later than in the U.K. and the lush green ground flora all around us. As we approached an opening, the Baltic Sea greeted us in the most beautiful of views. Chloe got all excited as there was a beach and she was desperate to get into the water, however, we didn’t think it was a good idea with it being so cold. I think she was thinking of her Greek swimming last year. There was also a wooden shelter and a large fire pit with a metal grate to BBQ and a massive pile of wood all cut ready to use. We sat looking out on this amazing vista, just in awe of it’s beauty. I have always loved nature and this is a very special place. The next day we decided to go on a walking trail, we have been lucky with the weather on this trip so far and the sun came out, ready for our hike. We were concerned that the distance would be too far for Chloe. She is 12 now and we are conscious not to go too far and exhaust her, although we think she is doing well for a dog of her age. We didn’t need to worry, she absolutely loved it. We walked 8km in total, so not too far. We found a scattering of little holiday cottages, a beach and more beautiful views. The mature fir trees reaching for the sky that became the perfect blue in the afternoon, the weather was amazing. Being here, has been like stepping out of the world, it is a very, very special place indeed. After 2 days we made the slow drive out of the park, with me more relaxed this time and continued North on our favourite road, the E4. Next stop Umea, we parked on the edge of the town and decided to cycle into the centre. David said it’s not far, well from now on, I am not trusting him on his ‘not fars’ When we finally returned after over 20kms, he said that it takes so long as I cycle too slow ! Not sure how that one works ! The town, like most towns we have visited other that Stockholm are quite uninspiring, obviously, our opinion only. I am not sure what I was expecting but they are quite ordinary. Umea is a student town and as it was a Saturday was bustling with life, a brass band was playing in the centre square and the one and only ice cream van had a massive queue. It was a beautiful day and when the sun shines, all the Swedish people seem to strip off. As we were cycling through the villages to and from the town, I noticed woman in bikinis and men in budgie smugglers all sun bathing. I imaging that with so little warm sunny days, any opportunity to get some vitamin D is snapped up. What we have also deduced from driving through Sweden is that Swedish people, love a hamburger. I think there are more Burger Kings, McDonalds and their own Max Burger outlets than in the U.K. As we have gone further North there are obviously a lot less but in the South of Sweden you will always be able to get a hamburger. As we head North and get more rural, everyone also seems to have a old broken Volvo in their garden, rusting away and weeds growing all around. They also love American vintage cars with some amazing Mustangs, Chevrolets & Cadillacs, all restored and gleaming. Their houses have a colonial feel to them and would not look out of place in the Wild West of America. We have travelled many miles and are continually on the look out for the elusive Moose which all the long E4 has warning signs ‘Beware of the Moose’ but have we seen one, of course we haven’t ! David is looking one side of the road and me another but to date we haven’t seen any. Apparently in the months of May they are seen on the green pastures, we continually live in hope.