"Not another cushion!" he grumbled as I clambered onto the boat carrying yet another shopping bag. Inspired by our visit to Millesgarden and Svenskt Tenn, I was a woman on a mission and the boat was getting a Scandinavian makeover. Out with the drab and the utilitarian and in with the bright, bold and stylish. If I have to live on a small sailing boat for several weeks every summer, it is going to be a place I enjoy spending time! Cushions, duvets and curtains have gradually crept onto the boat over the past few summers, every change hard-fought, but now was the time to seize the zeitgeist and introduce colour. Glamping on the water has arrived!
We had arrived in Vastervik, a provincial seaside town five hours to the south of Stockholm, and the temporary mooring place of our boat. Cold, wet and windy, we were marooned there for a couple of days waiting for the weather to change, giving me plenty of time to hit the summer sales. New pillows and duvets arrived on the boat, together with bright duvet covers, cushion covers and a small blue and white cotton rug that neatly fits both in the saloon and the cockpit and which I cannot now image being without. Citronella tea-lights glow in colourful glass holders in the evenings, deterring mosquitoes and adding to the ambiance - mosquitoes are ubiquitous when living on the water and being confined with one for the night in a very small space is to be avoided at all costs! Anxious to avoid yet more shopping, he insisted we set out as soon as the weather improved, heading north towards the Stockholm archipelago and completely different way to see Sweden!
Scandinavian design was the theme of the second day of our city break and we set off across Stockholm to the outskirts of the city and the wonderful house and garden of Carl Milles, sculptor and garden designer, and his artist wife Olga. So much contemporary design has been influenced by their work, which flourished in the first half of the 20th century, and has some parallels to the English interior and garden design movement inspired by the Bloomsbury Group both at Charleston and Monks House in East Sussex and at Sissinghurst in Kent.
Carl and Olga Milles Breakfast Room
Anne's house (in the grounds)
Continuing the design theme, we ended the day back in central Stockholm at the hugely influential and incredibly expensive design store, Svenskt Tenn, and I made the discovery that my own interior design philosophy of mixing old and new, different styles, colours and patterns actually originated here with Estrid Ericson and Josef Frank, who, incidentally, designed the furniture in the rooms above at Anne's house in Millesgarden.
As soon as the stitches were out and life began to return, I booked my ticket to Sweden to join my partner in Stockholm. I knew that all I needed to do was get myself there and he would do the rest. It was extraordinary how quickly all the difficulties of the past weeks and months vanished the moment he met me at Arlanda with a big hug and an unexpected beard!
Stockholm dazzled in the bright sunshine, city of water and light. Beautiful old buildings in muted shades of paprika, vanilla, saffron and pistachio line the waterways of the old town, Gamla Stan, the buildings packed together along the narrow streets and alleyways, with bars, cafes, shops and restaurants vying for trade, as we set off to explore.
We soon left the teeming crowds for the peace and quiet of the old Lutheran Cathedral, Storkyrkan.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the city on foot, the weather far too glorious for serious museum and church visiting. We wandered from one island to another, crossing the bridges that link the islands of central Stockholm, each with its own particular charm and character. Sodermalm lies directly to the south of the old town and is the residential, bohemian area. Quieter and more low key than Gamla Stan, this is where young Swedes live and play and raise their families.
Then back to central Stockholm for some serious window shopping and sightseeing.
The windows of the Music Museum
A quick look at Riddarholmen, the most ancient part of Stockholm
Before a wonderful Swedish meal back in Gamla Stan.
The Baltic is
the Mediterranean! A huge bowl of the bluest of cloudless bright blue
skies sharply etched with vivid green trees and pretty houses washed white,
pale yellow, red and ochre, each topped with a neat red-tiled roof, clustering
around ports in the small towns and villages of Danish South Zealand.
There is something magical about living on a
boat on the water at sunset during the long twilight hours of the Baltic
Summer, being part of the unfolding drama of the closing of each day. The
swifts swooping for their supper, the splash of fish jumping for theirs, the
water like ripped silk, as we watch the achingly slow draining of the light as the sky turns from deepest blue to soft shades of silvery lavender, rose and
the very palest of spun gold, laughter and voices drifting across the harbour; ancient, impenetrable tongues.
For days we hopped from one idyllic island to
another drifting on a light breeze, exploring inlets and bays, mooring up or
anchoring for long lazy lunches and a siesta, as one long, hot summer's day
followed another, swimming with the fish in the clear, clean water then
threading our way back precariously through the shallow inky-blue waters,
reading the runes of the sea to bring us back to the relative safety of deeper waters,
before moving on to the next harbour, each one prettier than the last then slowly heading north
Sailing into Christianshavn Kanal right in the centre of Copenhagen, and mooring up
there for two days in the shadow of the brightly painted converted warehouses
that line the canal, was a complete contrast and an opportunity to spend some
time exploring this busy, vibrant Cosmopolitan city, dipping into museums,
galleries, shops and restaurants, sampling home-made schnapps and eating
freshly caught fish, before returning each evening to our own small
boat, sitting in the cockpit with a glass of Aquavit watching the
world go by, then rocked gently to sleep by the movement of the boat.
We tore ourselves away from Copenhagen and reluctantly
left Denmark, crossing the Sound to Sweden and the somehow cooler delights of
Malmo, spending a day exploring the old town, lunching in the market square and
stopping off for delicious Italian ice cream before setting off the next day on
the final leg of our journey, sailing under the Oresund Bridge in a very fresh
wind which threatened to blow us off into the massive concrete pillars, a train
rumbling overhead, then fighting the wind on a rolling swell for a while as we
sailed off the coast of Southern Sweden, spending the night in a small fishing harbour smelling strongly of fish, too tired to
A change in the wind the next day swept
us straight into the seaside town of Ystad in Southern Sweden and, finally,
time to spend with a small Swedish granddaughter, building sandcastles on the
long white Baltic beach and paddling in the dark blue waters that had carried
us safely here.