My account of this trip can be seen as an illustrative guide for international travel for older people who are intimidated by it.
So this might make you think “say, what?” I hate to travel. And this is a travel blog. But I do like to visit family, even if they are far away. I mentioned this to my son’s fiance and veteran world voyager and she said, “Just hang on, someday we will project our holograms and visit that way.” Can’t wait!
In the Meantime
I traveled to Sweden from Bemus Point, New York recently to meet my grandchild. I had no choice but to go. So here are the things that struck me.
The Chautauqua County Swedish Connection
Nearby Jamestown, New York is like a mini Sweden. It has a huge, loyal Swedish population. It has a Swedish Embassy, despite its tiny population of 30,000. The King of Sweden has visited. Seriously.
So Going to Sweden seemed like a natural foray. I have been to Europe several times. I have lived in Europe for short periods but always in Italy. I took trips to Spain, Germany, Switzerland, London and Ireland. I had never been to Sweden.
So June 14th, my sambu (the Swedish term for live-in partner), drove me to Buffalo airport. I was going to board an early flight to JFK and then connect with Norwegian’s 11:oo pm flight to Copenhagen. But the Jet Blue flight was on a 2-hour delay. We landed late at JFK.
So from this point on, you should read this blog with frantic background music playing as you see me in a series of still shots, hauling my 40 pound rolling bag and a carry-on, running, sweating and panicking, as I race my chunky little grandmotherly body across concourses, escalators, gliding platforms and people moving devices (the dreaded air-train). I reach my boarding gate with nine minutes to spare. No duty-free browsing for me. The whole time I’m thinking JFK is part miracle and part horror movie. But guess what? People were nice.
For an older person, who is traveling alone and not very seasoned, an international trip can be daunting. I am inspired by the fearless millennial. I am totally intimidated by the “self-check in” kiosk. I am positive that I’ll press the wrong button and I’ll be on a flight to Cambodia and my luggage will go to Katmandu.
So here are some tips. Don’t fear the kiosk. It knows more about your trip than you do. Scan your ID and save waiting in line. At JFK there is a handy little flyer with a map on it to help you catch the proper air-train that connects all terminals. It will also show you which station to go to for the hotel shuttle buses. At the airport in Denmark, they pass out all sizes of zip lock bags for any liquid duty-free items you may buy. When you go through the check in, you cannot bring the water bottle you just bought into the gate area.
On to the Flight and Destination of Copenhagen
You could move about the cabin but remember on a 787 there are a lot of people. Even in an aisle seat, and even if you are five foot two, staying seated for 7.5 hours is enough to give you the howling fantods. At first, I amused myself by contemplating the requisite number of disasters that my imagination insists on conjuring. I remember how much I like being close to the earth, in fact right on it. Then I was amazed at how the touch screen in front of me was equipped to take my credit card in exchange for a warm blanket (and were they turning on the cold air on purpose)? I had a choice of beverages, snacks, and movies. If patience isn’t one of your assets, you can track every detail of the flight. In the end, I settle on stoicism. I was awake, I was confined and I was headed to Sweden.
Then I was amazed at how the touch screen in front of me was equipped to take my credit card in exchange for a warm blanket (and were they turning on the cold air on purpose)? I had a choice of beverages, snacks, and movies. If patience isn’t one of your assets, you can track every detail of the flight. In the end, I settle on stoicism. I was awake, I was confined and I was headed to Sweden.
Copenhagen airport is actually pretty. It has sculpted, blonde, wood seating that looks like art and planked, wood floors. My smiling son and his lovely lady met me and we were off to Malmo on the train. We crossed over the ocean and saw the windmill farm wading in the water.
I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel just off of the Lilla Torg the first 5 days. It was a wonderful location and I could wake early and go into the small square each morning. It stood empty except for the occasional delivery truck. I am talking 9:30 AM. The Swedes don’t venture out for coffee until late morning. I would wrap myself in a blanket thoughtfully placed at the outside tables and sip coffee and enjoy the architecture and listen to seagulls.
So each afternoon, my son, and his family came. We walked through King’s Park (Kungsparken), which was lush and lovely. We shopped and lunched. We enjoyed a Fika (a coffee break that the Swedes cherish) at tasty cafes.
I almost got run over by several bike riders since I kept confusing the walking lane with the bike lane! There are riders everywhere from mothers hauling two children in a three seat rig, to ladies my age, skirts flowing behind them. I explored every morning. I bought Swedish dresses at Gudrun Sjoden and souvenirs at a craft gallery.
I was surprised to see so many ethnic restaurants, the variety was impressive. After the downtown experience, I moved out to the suburbs into a condo next to my family. VERY reasonable guest-housing is a perk for owners. I got to celebrate Mid-Summers at my son’s fiance’s home. They were gracious and wonderful and the food was extraordinary, including the many flavored pickled herrings (known as sill)! Truth be told, I would never eat these herrings state-side but actually found tasty. We took the bus a few minutes out-of-town and lounged at a pretty country cottage and had an alfresco meal with a her kindly Aunt and Uncle.
The Best Part of My Trip to Malmo
Finally, I had to tear myself away from Sweden and my new little granddaughter, who was the highlight of the trip. Here she is at 5 weeks. She is my motivation for returning. Flying home, I felt pretty confident. I checked myself in at the airport, I even printed my luggage claim. I swiped my card on the screen on the plane, ordered a movie and a glass of wine and started planning my next trip.