It sounds like the start of a joke, but when a Kiwi comedian walked into a Swedish office for a meeting, he really did see all of Abba — Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid — walking in too.
Tom Sainsbury, he of the Snapchat face-swap impersonations of Paula Bennett, Simon Bridges, Judith Collins, et al — is our guest on the new episode of Trip Notes, available from today on iHeartRadio or wherever you get your podcasts. He tells me and co-host Tim Roxborogh about his unexpected Swedish star encounter.
"All four of them got together because they had to sign some kind of contract. They were all in the office together, which is so rare because they all hate each other," he says. "It was all very business. I was sitting outside a room, waiting to go in, and there they were. I dined out on that for ages. I just wish I'd been ready and thought of something funny to say."
Sainsbury visited the country with friend, Swedish author Linda Olsson, with whom he co-wrote a Scandi-noir thriller, and it quickly became one of his favourite places.
"I just felt very at home there," he says. "The people were so reserved but so funny ... and so good looking. You just walk down the street and it's just one after the other after the other, just beautiful people. And there I was, frumping along in my shorts and jumper ... "
He also enjoyed the culture, saying the Swedes have "an appreciation of art and music and things that I don't think other people do". And as for its reputation as being an incredibly expensive destination, Sainsbury says he found that to be untrue.
"Every time I travel I come back to New Zealand and go, I can't believe how expensive the groceries are. New Zealand is so expensive. So I don't think I've been anywhere that I've found more expensive."
Some of his other favourite destinations include the Chatham Islands, Canada, London, and our Destination of the Week, LA.
"I loved LA ... I found it was just like a city of like-minded people," he says. "The cuisine options are so good. I'm vegan and on every block there's cafes dedicated to veganism, it's amazing.
"I love people watching and there are so many great places you can sit down and see all these personalities. And also, some of the cafes we went to, people were just so willing to talk to you and if you look vaguely confused looking at your google maps or something, people came up to help, which I found amazing. I guess that's not the reputation of LA, people think they'll be more standoffish, but that wasn't my experience."
Download Trip Notes to hear more about Sainsbury's favourite travel memories, including taking his parents to the Chatham Islands, and the essential travel items he can't live without.
Subscribe, and each new episode will automatically download when available. You can also go to nzherald.co.nz/tripnotes to watch video from the podcast, and catch up on any episodes you may have missed.
In the meantime, here are some of the best things to see and do in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Swedish capital (visitstockholm.com) is an appealing place even in winter. It was restored to full cultural output a year ago when the Nationalmuseum (nationalmuseum.se), its temple of fine art, reopened after a five-year restoration.
A glorious 1912 dame of a retreat, where Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman used to stay, the Strand Hotel (radissonhotels.com) offers doubles from $275. The At Six, a boutique hotel on Brunkebergstorg square in Norrmalm serves up doubles for $200 (hotelatsix.com).
Gamla Stan ("The Old Town") is the most famous of the 14 islands on which Stockholm sits. The Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace) in its north corner is still the home of the Swedish monarch. You can wander the courtyards for free, but must pay for the staterooms ($26; kungligaslotten.se). Exit to the south-west and you pass the Storkyrkan, the 13th-century red-brick bastion that stands as the city's Lutheran cathedral ($10, svenskakyrkan.se). Immediately to the south on Stortorget, the Nobel Museum ($20, nobelcenter.se) salutes the writers, scientists and pacifists who have won Scandinavia's humanist accolades since 1901.
Sodermalm has some of the city's best shops. The pedestrianised "high street" Gotgatan offers music store Hellstone (hellstonemusic.se), and Designtorget (designtorget.se), an arcade of chic clothes outlets and coffee shops.
Nationalmuseum entry is free. The Moderna Museet (modernamuseet.se; free), adjacent on Skeppsholmen island, keeps things more contemporary, with work by Picasso, Dali and Warhol.
Abba: The Museum ($40, abbathemuseum.com), on Djurgarden, charts the legendary pop band's story.
The Strand Hotel bar pours a "Greta Garbo" cocktail (aquavit and peach; $25).
Oaxen Slip (oaxen.com) on Djurgarden deals in modern Swedish fare — like deep-fried pork belly with pickled turnip ($35). Fotografiska museum on Sodermalm ($20; fotografiska.com) has an in-house restaurant which revels in healthy dishes such as beetroot linguine with goat cheese for $22.
OFF THE MAP
A 5km stroll east of Gamla Stan, the Kaknastornet TV tower was once the tallest building in the Nordic countries. The lift to its viewing deck ($11; kaknastornet.se) delivers you to an epic view.
— By Chris Leadbeater, Telegraph Group Ltd
For more travel inspiration, go to houseoftravel.co.nz.
Tom Sainsbury stars in Wellington Paranormal season two, screening from Wednesday October 16 at 8.30pm on TVNZ2. Follow him on Facebook — facebook.com/tomsainsbury6