of palaces and boats
11.08.2016 - 30.08.2016 70 °F
We awoke to another beautiful sunny day in Stockholm. However, the weather forecast for the Helsinki area (tomorrow’s destination) is one of rain. Janet, Jacquie and I are going to veer off from the group and tour Tallinn, Estonia while everyone else is seeing Helsinki. Tallinn is 50 miles from Helsinki so I’m hoping for sun. . . .kidding. . . .we’re gonna get wet. J&J and I visited Helsinki in 2012 immediately after the Russian Volga River cruise that ended in St. Petersburg, 200 miles and a quick hop away. It is a very pretty and clean city, and I am sure that I would enjoy visiting it again. . . .but!. . . Tallinn is a new experience and is so close. There is one thing in Helsinki that I would love to see again and that is the Sibelius Monument. We’re thinking about taking a cab to the monument since we’ll be in town and all three of us love it so much. We’ll see what happens – we may be attempting too much.
As I am writing this I am sitting in the hotel bar – I know, not a big surprise. But I was just surprised by the bar clientele. I took my G&T to one of the only available small tables and settled in when a gong rang out. I looked up and a bunch of the bar clients all stood up. I thought, “OMG is it some sort of fire alarm?” Then they all sat down. . . . .at a different table. Ah HA! It is a speed dating session right here in front of me! I can’t think of anything more dreadful than schmoozing with strangers for five minutes while they are sizing you up. Oh yeah, I was in loan sales once. It was dreadful.
Today was relatively short and that is OK. As this trip is winding down, I am beginning to look forward to my own life, in my own house with my own wine, and my puppy ignoring my every command. I think everyone feels this way at some point in the trip. It must mean something that it has taken me this long to detect it in myself. After all, there are only a couple of days left. I’ve been on trips where I started counting the days earlier on.
We started a little later than usual. At 9:30AM we rode out to the Drottningholm Palace which is the private residence of the Swedish royal family. It is a major tourist attraction in Sweden but as palaces go, it is not particularly opulent. We wandered through about ten rooms and then went out into the gardens (which seemed to be in better condition than the palace) and had a very nice morning strolling around. But I tell ya, I am “about palaced out” (to quote Diane Navarro, a much beloved traveler who died recently). It’s not that after you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. It’s that after you’ve seen twenty, you get a bit jaded. Our guide is very knowledgeable and animated and can make the history come alive, but in the end it’s more of the same stuff you’ve seen over and over. Besides, these things were built for the very wealthy who ruled over the poor and struggling. There will always be something wrong with that picture.
The next (and last) official tourist event was a narrated boat ride around the nearby islands and through a canal. OH NO! Not again!! No, this was much better. There was room for everyone, the narration was understandable and it only lasted an hour. Once we left the boat we were on our own for the afternoon. A few of us went in search of gifts and souvenirs, then finding none, had a late, light lunch at a local pub.
Dinner was once again in the Old Town. The place was hoppin’ on a Saturday night. So many sidewalk cafes and all were busy. It’s really exciting to be in a medieval town that is so vibrant. But that is short lived because we leave for Helsinki tomorrow morning.