So after that early night we woke up to the sound of rain pouring down onto the boat. One thing I should probably mention is that because we were slow in booking our hotel we didn’t get the Captain’s cabin and so had to settle for the Mate’s cabin. The only different I can work out is that the Captains cabin has a larger ‘living room’ and has windows in every room while the Mate’s cabin has a bedroom that has no windows. So we sat in bed wondering what we were going to get up to on our last day if it was raining. We’d planned the boat trip but unless it was nice weather it wasn’t really going to be worth it. I’d decided to brave the cold and got out of bed to take a peek outside only to find the boat completely surrounded by ice and it was the noise of all the shards rubbing against each that we were mistaking for rain.
We had into met a single person at the hotel that we could describe in any negative way until this morning when we went for breakfast. There is a PC that can be used for free by anyone but at busy times you only get 10 minutes before you have to let someone else on. I’ve no idea what nationality the girls were but they chatted away in thier language with Vonnie sitting at the PC at the table beside them. It wasn’t until they started moaning that they were important and had to check work emails etc that they switched to English and just generally felt it necessary to get in wee digs about having to get access to a computer as soon as possible. All they had to do was say to Vonnie that they wanted on next but instead the intermittently broke into perfect English to moan about the computer. After that we packed up quickly and checked out. With our exploration the day before we realised that if Vonnie was going to get about that day we’d have to rest her as much as possible. Cue one taxi to the Grand Hotel which cost far less that the previous one. We’d planned on going out onto the boat trip and getting the traditional hot pea soup with bread for lunch on board which was nice but certainly an acquired taste. What we hadn’t planned on was the temperature being -3C before we’d even gotten on the boat. We were heading out towards the Baltic Sea and the chef mentioned that it was -8C without taking into consideration windchill as we had lunch inside.
The boat ride was nice. Basically it took you out on a trip around the archipelago. As it was winter though the longer trips which we really fancied were not running but the one that was gave you reindeer hides to sit on and blankets to snuggle up in. Our guide for the day, like all tourist guides, was just eccentric enough to be interesting without being nuts. It was that cold though that throughout he was sipping down lots of the tradition hot drink that’s very similar to mulled wine. By the time he took his break he was plastered. We went downstairs for our soup and a taste of this wonderful hot beverage ourselves before he started on the second half of the tour. By this point the Australians we had sat beside had decided to stay downstairs in the warmth along with almost every other passenger including Vonnie. I ended back upstairs with the Cuban-American guy and an elderly gentleman that barely spoke a word the entire trip, he even spoke to his wife in grunts. We had major problems in getting a decent phone signal while we were in Stockhom. In fact the only time we managed to get a 3G signal at all was funnily enough when we were out on the boat and directly across the water from the owner of Ericsson. As soon as we were past that house we lost the signal again.
By the time we got off the boat it was only about 1-2pm but already it was starting to get dark so we went for a wander around the old town, Gamla Stan, looking for the toy shop and the chocolatier that I’d found the night before. I showed Vonnie the royal palace and eventually found the shops we were looking for but only after Vonnie spent time drooling over the wool/yarn shops she had found. The toy shop was something else though. Almost everything in it was handmade and very expensive but it wasn’t until we got home that we found out why. Women in Russia make all the toys by hand and the toy shop pays them a good price for their work to allow them to feed, cloth and house their families. Fairtrade toys if you want to describe them that way. There was some really fantastic toys in there but we just couldn’t afford them. We wandered around the town and every 15 minutes or so had to stop and get hot chocolate as we were frozen to the bone.
We stopped at another chocolate shop and had possibly the nicest hot chocolate I’ve ever had. It wasn’t one of your powdered drinks as he made it in a coffee machine from cocoa beans and it was like we were drinking smooth, hot melted chocolate. At £4 for a tiny cup I expected it to be good but I never expected it to be that good! As we wandered on again Vonnie clocked a guy talking on the phone in a suite with a bulge on his belt. He had a handgun strapped to himself. It wasn’t until we realised there were more men like him around us and that we were standing outside their parliament buildings that we clocked what he was.
Anyway after a few more stops for hot chocolate we decided it best for everyone concerned to find the bus station and maybe think about getting the next bus to the airport. We were running something like four hours early but to be honest with the cold and not being entirely sure where we were getting the bus from alongside Vonnie being pregnant it wasn’t a bad thing. As it was very late when we arrived in Stockholm we never really got to see much of the city on the way in so the journey back out at around 4pm gave us a much better look at the rest of the place.
Getting to the airport so early did mean we had to stay in on the land side for much longer than normal but they had Stargate Atlantis on the TV so time flew by relatively quickly. It wasn’t until we had landed that though that we found out that the Hudson River crash had happened 40 minutes before we were due to take off. The airport staff had went around turning off all the TV’s just as news filtered through about it. We just though they were shutting up shop that as we were the last flight out that night.
When we landed in Glasgow it turned out that the last three planes due to arrive at Prestwick had all arrived early so there were huge cues to get through passport control. I stupidly mentioned to Vonnie that now would be the perfect time for her to have one of her fainting episodes only for her to actually really feel faint about 5 minutes later. We ended up being brought through the side of the queue and the police gave Vonnie a bottle of water to help her recover. I’ll keep my mouth shut next time I think.
I’d go back. I’ve not seen anywhere near enough of the place but I think I’ll need to win the lottery to afford it again.