We cover several cities, choose one to explore!

May 2019

Whisky on the West Coast

Having lived in Scotland for eight years, I've drunk my fair share of whisky. Most of it sitting in a steaming, peat-stained bath attempting to thaw out after a long, rain-soaked walk around a loch or up a munro. And although that's a pretty fine way to enjoy a dram, I can report that it's also rather fantastic reclining on a sun-warmed rock on an island in Bohuslän, on Sweden's west coast.

Which is exactly what I was lucky enough to do this week when I joined a 24 trip to Fiskebäckskil organised by Talisker. After a two hour bus journey from Gothenburg, we donned full overalls, jumped straight onto a fishing boat and set out on the glittering water to the nearby island of Flatholmen for lunch.

Idyllic Fiskebäckskil

Lunch is served

After kick-starting us with some freshly-shucked local oysters with a dram of Talisker (it had been an early morning), Brygghuset's chef Jonas Svensson served up heavenly bowls of creamy seafood broth. And if there's a better way to spend a Tuesday lunchtime than that, I'd like to know what it is.

Island nature on Flatholmen, one of some 8,000 islands and skerries in the Bohuslän archipelago

After lunch, it was back onto the boat for a bit of shellfish fishing. Lobster season isn't until late September so the crustacean queen we caught had to be thrown back but plenty of crab and langoustine (along with the odd muddy fish) came up in the pots.

According to Bobo, our fabulously-coiffed fisherman who's fished these waters his whole life, the weather conditions weren't great - fishermen like it nice and rough as they get better prices at the fish auction - but for us lucky landlubbers it couldn't have been better as we bobbed about in the sunshine spotting porpoises and watching Bobo and his wife Janni haul in the pots.

Once back on dry land in Fiskebäckskil, we gently swayed into Brygghuset's impressive whisky bar for a whisky tasting session. I've drunk whisky everywhere from Sydney to Skye while knowing shamefully little about the spirit but after an hour tasting, I felt significantly better informed.

But if there's one thing I like even more than neat whisky, it's a whisky cocktail. Happily, Emil Hed, recently named Nordic Bartender of the Year, was on hand to mix up some outstanding original drinks, all using Talisker.

Emil adding the finishing touch - porcini oil - to his 'Burnt Butter' cocktail

When you get to my advanced age, truly fresh and exciting flavour combinations come few and far between, but each of the four tailormade cocktails blew my mind in different ways. Porcini mushroom oil added to caramelly, maple-syrupy butter-washed whisky in 'Burnt Butter' was next-level delicious, 'Roasted Tomato' was a new take on a Bloody Mary, 'Honey', a refreshing long drink with meadowsweet liqueur and saffron honey came with a sprinkling of seaweed salt on the glass, and 'Coffee and Polypody' (it sounds better in Swedish) was sweetened with a sugar made from dried stensöta or polypody (a type of fern).

Four phenomenal courses. From left to right: scallop paired with 'Burnt Butter' cocktail, steamed bao bun with langoustine paired with 'Roasted Tomato' cocktail, cod with trout roe paired with 'Honey' cocktail, and 'Coffee and Polypody' dessert cocktail (Photo credit: Jennifer Kivinen)

After dinner, we listened to Danish adventurer and soldier Lasse Hansen talk about his life-changing experience rowing across the Atlantic last winter. Inspired by Lasse's adventures and fuelled by a healthy dose of Dutch (or rather, Scottish) courage, we rounded off an unforgettable day with the first sea-swim of the year in the bracing waters of the Skagerrak, from the hotel's floating sauna pontoon.

If you'd like to book this trip yourself (and believe me, you do), it'll be taking place on two weekends this summer - 28-29 June and 23-24 August. Visit Scandinavian Detours.

Every-other-week parenting without splitting up

As anyone who has ever been married or in a long-term relationship will probably agree, marriage is hard. Shit hard, you might even say in Swenglish, especially if you have children. So hard in fact that around 1 in 2 marriages in Sweden end in divorce. (I recently read somewhere that Gnesta, my home town, has the second highest divorce rate - 3.6 per 1,000 residents - in Sweden after Ockelbo, so we're battling some pretty unfavourable odds here.*)

While most children in the UK with separated parents seem to stick with the same "lives with the mother, weekends and holidays with the father" routine that I grew up with, in Sweden it's much more common to divide children's time equally between parents, with an alternating "mammavecka" and "pappavecka". Which is fantastic for equality, but possibly not always so great for the children.

When Joe and I had a trial separation a couple of years back (which I could blame on living in Gnesta, but actually there were a few other factors involved), we found we loved the freedom of having every second week to ourselves but hated being away from the children (and each other) so much.

So we came up with the genius solution of staying together but doing every-other-week parenting. I realise this won't work for everyone - Sweden's subsidised childcare and family-friendly labour laws definitely make it more doable - but I reckon it could be a relationship and sanity-saver for some families.

This is how it works for us:

  • On parenting weeks, we're responsible for picking up and dropping off children at school, food shopping, cooking, arranging playdates and basically any and all child-related admin.

  • On our free weeks, we can work as long and late as we want, go out any evenings without "permission", and even take a whole night off if we need serious peace and quiet.

  • We usually take one night of the week on our free weeks and go and stay at my mother's house nearby. I always intend to use my free evening to meditate, do yoga, take long walks and nurture myself, but usually end up eating pesto pasta and watching crap on Netflix.

  • When we're at home during our free week, we help out because we want to, not because we have to.

  • Weekends and holidays are pretty much shared but if we want to go out or go away, weekends at the end of our free weeks are the preferred time to do it.

  • As with "normal" parenting, communication and kindness are key. If we see the other parent struggling on their parenting week, we step in and help them out. Remember, karma will always bite you in the arse in the end.

  • Swaps and substitutions are allowed.

* If you want better odds, best move to Nordmaling in Västerbotten with only 0.8 divorces per 1,000 residents.