Tuesday, May 30, 2017
   
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Down to earth budget for high flyers

ANDREA McVEIGH samples a quirky hotel stay in Stockholm…

If you’re the sort of person who has always wanted to turn left when you board an aeroplane and dreams of stretching out in a full length bed, enjoying a really good night’s sleep on an aeroplane, there is a way to do it without paying thousands of pounds for a business class lie-flat seat.

Admittedly, your destination may not be as exotic as you may wish it to be after spending 24 hours on-board this particular 747, because you won’t actually be travelling anywhere. But for the sheer pleasure and novelty factor of saying you have slept in a jumbo jet’s cockpit, Sweden’s JumboStay hostel is perfect for would-be high-flying travellers with down-to-earth budgets.

Whoever thought of turning an out-of-use jumbo jet into holiday accommodation must not only love planes, but clearly has a canny understanding of how people will travel to all parts of the world just to experience something new and quirky.

Given its size and location close to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, JumboStay is ideal for overnight stopovers, and there are dorm-style room with bunk beds that cater for up to four people as well as two premium rooms, one of which is the Cockpit room and the other is the Black Box room, both of which feature double beds and ensuites. Plus, there’s also a single bed ensuite for those travelling alone.

My husband is a real plane fanatic who can tell you the seat configuration and amount of leg room in all the different cabins on a variety of different airlines. In fact, when friends tell us that they’re going on holiday, he doesn’t ask them where they’re going but what airline they’re flying with! So when we looked into Stockholm as a weekend break destination, there was really only one place to stay.

JumboStay is a budget hotel and is billed as a hostel, with most of the 33 rooms featuring a shared toilets/shower rooms. But if you splash out, you can sleep in either the cockpit or the Black Box, and will benefit from your own ensuite, as well as a bit more space.

The man behind the hotel is Swedish hotelier and businessman, Oscar Diös. After hearing about an old wreck of a plane for sale at Arlanda airport – a decommissioned 747-212B – he knew exactly what he was going to do with it. There’s information on the wall of the breakfast/café/chill out room giving the history of the plane and its various owners – after being built for Singapore Airlines in 1976, it was later owned by Pan Am before its final flight with Swedish airline Transjet.

After flying from London, my husband and I arrived at Arlanda late one Friday afternoon, and took the transfer bus which brought us from the airport and the aeroplane which carried us to Sweden, to the aeroplane that would be our home for the next two nights. Much as we would to have loved to have stayed in the Cockpit room, it was booked the weekend of our trip, but our Black Box room was even more spacious and almost as idiosyncratic.

Right at the back of the plane, it’s perfect for couples and, with its original cabin window, allows you to wonder how the mega-rich live, those super-elite travellers who can afford to stay in one of Etihad’s first class ‘penthouse in the sky’ suites which come with private butlers!

We didn’t feel like making the journey into the centre of Stockholm after having just arrived, so for our first evening we bought some Swedish beers and snacks from the café at reception and took them out onto the aeroplane wing, which also doubles as an observation deck. It’s really quite surreal to find yourself standing and sitting on an aeroplane wing, and the sense of weirdness only increased with the more beer we had!

Because JumboStay is located at the entrance of Arlanda airport, we had to get a bus into the city centre for our first proper day exploring Stockholm itself. There’s a bus stop not far from the hostel and the bus took around an hour to get us to the centre of the Swedish capital.

Stockholm is an ideal destination for a weekend break, and although, like all of Scandinavia, it’s expensive, it wasn’t as pricey as we had feared. It’s a very walkable city and so, after a brief look at the souvenir shops of the new town, we made a beeline for the intriguingly named Gamla Stan, the city’s Old Town area and one of the best preserved medieval city centres in Europe. It’s where Stockholm was founded in 1252, so it just oozes history, but today it’s also the hippest place in the city, with lots of trendy young people shopping, drinking and dining in its many boutiques, bars and eateries.

After wandering around vintage clothes shops, delis and Swedish design-ware pop-up shops up and down Gamla Stan’s narrow cobbled streets, past the imposing Royal Palace and through the charming Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm, we were understandably hungry and looking for somewhere authentically Swedish but also relatively inexpensive, to eat. By chance we came across Meatballs for the People at Nytorgsgatan30. No prizes for guessing what it served, but the quality and variety was fantastic, with elk meatballs, reindeer meatballs, lamb and pork meatballs all on the menu, washed down with even more Swedish beer.

Stockholm is made up of 14 islands, not that you would know it by walking around, despite its abundance of rivers and bridges. To get a sense of the city from the water, sightseeing boats shuttle tourists around the islands, offering some great photo opportunities.

After a long day and another night in JumboStay, we again got the bus into Stockholm to make the most of our last full day in Sweden before flying back to London that night. This time, we decided to save our legs and see the city from the top deck of a hop-on, hop-off tourist bus, which does circuits around the city at regular intervals.

The highlight of the bus tour for many people has to be when it stops outside the ABBA Museum. Yes, there really is one, and it’s filled with the chart-topping band’s outlandish 1970s outfits, as well as displays of their lyrics and memorabilia. Although we were told that we’d ‘walk in, but dance out!’ we aren’t such big fans that we wanted to pay the SEK 195 (approx. £17) entry fee.

And anyway, for us there was only really one star of the show that weekend – our unusual hotel!

Stockholm Tourism, visitstockholm.com.

JumboStay, jumbostay.com.

ABBA The Museum, abbathemuseum.com.

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