Tuesday 10 August 2010

A rainy day in Stockholm and the best jeans in the world

I've always loved Stockholm. Perhaps it's because I spent my formative years there, or it may just be all that water which surrounds the city and its beautiful buildings.

In any case, when the opportunity arose to spend a day in Stockholm together with Husband and Daughter I grabbed it with both hands. We boarded the 7.30 am ferry from Mariehamn and after a buffet breakfast on board drove into Stockholm just as the city was starting to stir. We'd decided to look around an area which I at the tender age of thirteen wasn't allowed to enter alone, Södermalm. Nowadays it's famed not only because it was the stomping ground of Stieg Larsson, and his famous characters Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist, but also because of its trendy, more edgy shops and restaurants. Some 30 odd years ago Slussen and Götagatan was an area where drunken, violent, knife-carrying immigrant Finns veered from one poor commuter to another, or where Ladies of a certain old profession traded their wares. Now the area has been taken over by the modern intelligentsia. But during all my past visits to see my mother, I'd not managed a trip there.

Daughter wanted to find a vintage shop called Beyond Retro Söder whereas Husband and I just wanted to find a good place for coffee, followed by a good place for lunch. But driving in Stockholm, especially on the south side which was completly virgin territory for me, with the aid of a pop-up tourist map, turned out to be a bit of a marriage-testing affair. Daughter said afterwards that she was very impressed that we didn't have a domestic. With both of us pining for a coffee Husband and I became a tad terse with each other. He was driving while I was trying to read the map devoid of most street names or any indication of the one-way system which Swedes seem to be particularly fond of. When we eventually managed to negotiate the various tunnels and bridges over the water from the North side of the city, which I knew quite well (Me, 'We want to be there, on the OTHER side of the harbour!', Husband all silent fury.), it started raining. Not just a few drops, but proper summer rain. In the sleepy, early morning rush, we'd stuck three sailing coats in the car -  just in case. All were too big for us, and put an end to any ideas of being stylish on the trendy side of town, but being dry seemed suddenly much more important.

We ducked into a coffee shop housed in a half-cellar affair and had one of the best latte's I've had for some while, served by a friendly Swede. It turned out to have the same colour walls as Daughter's freshly painted nails.

Then it was time for Daughter to go her way and we ours. The rain stopped for just long enough for a little wander, looking into all manner of shops with the most fantastic window displays.

And as we turned the corner of Götagatan I saw a sign I didn't think I'd ever see again. I've written posts on this blog before about my jeans addiction, and it was here it began. When I was eleven, the best shop selling jeans in Stockholm, in Sweden, in the world in fact, was Gul & Blå in Jarls Birgergatan. The shop was trend city. It had wooden floors, yellow and blue steel railings where the best fitting jeans known to man were stacked up high. It was an old warehouse, minimally decorated, with a steel spiral staircase leading up to the unisex changing rooms. It was the latest thing for us in the 1970's, and had a free-love kind of mentality, because even the fitting rooms didn't have any curtains. You had to be trendy to work there, not to mention to be able to shop there. The best-looking guys would hand you the jeans and then you'd just have to get changed in full view of everyone downstairs as well as the staff at the top. But my Sister and I loved the place. Together with hundreds of other teenagers we'd spend hours queuing up for a new delivery of V-cut jeans (cut to a V shape at the knee and then flared). I remember how happy I was when I bought a tight-fitting faded jeans jacket with puffy sleeves from there. I wish I still had it - it would be perfect for Daughter now.

When we moved to Finland, I'd take day trips to Stockholm just to buy a pair of jeans at Gul & Blå. Even when in the UK, I'd still get most of my jeans there, and buy in bulk for my friends who'd admired my Gul & Blå's and wanted to know where to buy them. But in the 90's something happened and the shop disappeared. So you can imagine my delight, when in front of me I saw the shop in a slightly different incarnation, slightly different area, but still selling jeans of good quality and style. Of course there was only one thing for me to do.You guessed it - this was one of those kinds of times when you have to break the rule of never buying another pair of jeans again because you own more than one for each day of the week.

And here they are, a perfect fit as always, and they are high-wasted, something I've been wanting for a while. They are stretchy, light grey and straight. And they are a pair of Gul & Blå jeans! This girl could not ask for anything more.

I spent the rest of the day in Södermalm on cloud nine. We had lunch at a vegetarian place and spent a very reasonable amount of money for it. Daughter bought two dresses, a broach and a handbag for next to nothing at Beyond Retro and at about three o'clock we decided we'd had enough of the rain which had become more insistent again and headed for a rest in my mother's flat on the other side of town.

I shall not go into the even more taxing drive we had back to Östermalm. All I'll say is the the Fathers of Stockholm City could have a close look at their signage, place names that have no reference on a map are next to useless to those who don't know their way.  And that having a proper map is a very good idea when you drive in any strange town. And having a Husband that insists on knowing best can be very annoying indeed. There.


Rose said...

it sounds ever so good. I love Beyond Retro in London but have always secretly suspected the Swedish version to be a much better place to trawl for treasure. I loved Stockholm when I went but as a newbie to it I think I stayed to the quite standard areas- and even then it was very hip and cool with lots to see, do and shop! I'm hoping to go again next year- and I will have Princess Torte every single day while I'm there!

Unknown said...


I love Princesstårta, my mother always gets it for me when we're in Stockholm. xx

Julie Sardinetin said...

You made me laugh with mentions of domestics over map reading - it's something that's guaranteed to cause domestic disharmony for me too.
Sounds like you had a fabulous time - in spite of the rain!

That's Not My Age said...

I love Stockholm - it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Did you go to the vegetarian cafe just on the Sodermalm side (sorry can't remember the details) that's part of a yoga centre-type place overlooking the water? I'm vegetarian and we spent quite a lot of time there! I bought a pair of Acne jeans - they shrank!

Unknown said...

Julie, LOL xx

That's Not My Age, no, it was a different one, on Bondegatan where there is a row of shops and cafes set in the cellars. I'm not fond of Acne, don't know why but am now glad! xx

Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to visit Scandinavia for a number of years, but now that you've enlightened me on the actual existence of the mythical perfect-fitting jeans as sold in Stockholm - well, I'm starting to save now! Perfect-fitting jeans are definitely a worthy goal!

Talli Roland said...

Love the photos - I feel like I was with you now! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I remember the old Söder. In the 70's it was anything but cool and fancy, that has sure changed. And Gul&Blå! OMG!! I never had one of these, but I once joined my sis to their store on Gamla Brogatan. It was bizarre and chocking to see her trying to fit those super-super-slim jeans. She had to lay down to zip them. Crazy!


Anonymous said...

Stockholm look pretty this time of the year even with the weather looking a little gloomy. Did you enjoy seeing the sights in the city? P.S I love your jeans!