Friday, August 14, 2009

Counting Down the Days

We've been sooo busy that I haven't had time to update this blog for a couple of days and we are on our way out again right now, so here is an update for Thursday and Friday. All the photos are at the end, they will make more sense if you read the text first and then look at the photos! Bye!

Today we arrived back in Stockholm which marks the beginning of the end of our Scandanavian adventure.

Yesterday ended up being a beautiful day for our planned bike ride and we made the most of it. The bike rental shop was about a mile away, so a nice walk started our day. We were outfitted with 3 speed cruiser-type bikes and a bike map of Helsinki. We ended up riding about 34 kilometers. Helsinki is another town, like Stockholm that has been planned with bikers in mind. There are many trails through parks and most roads have a designated bike lane or a marked spot on the very wide sidewalks. We loved exploring Helsinki in this manner!

Our route took us along mostly coastal paths and roads so our water view was always changing. There is a photo across one of the harbor areas where the boat we would board later that day awaited us.

We supplemented our PB&J lunch with some fresh strawberries from the market. When we decided we'd had enough biking, and our time was running out, we headed through a high traffic area and I was a bit concerned about riding our bikes through all these people. But not to worry, there was a wide bike lane with its own traffic signals!

After returning the bikes, we walked back to the hotel where we claimed our luggage from their storage area and decided to walk to the ferry terminal. We wanted to get there in plenty of time so we could be checked in before Jim had to make his 4 o'clock phone call. There was a nice waiting lounge so while he talked across the pond, I made some progress on my knitting.

Our return to Stockholm was on a different ship than the one that brought us to Helsinki. We still had a small cabin, but quite spacious when I compared it to my train cabin.

We stood out on the deck as the ship left the port area, wanting to watch as the ship made its way through a narrow passage between a rock and a hard place! The hard place was the island of Soumelenni, an island we visited when we first arrived.

We moved along to the lower decks after being sure of the safe passage through the narrow channel, because we had the 6:00 seating for the buffet dinner. After all the exercise we had that day, the choices on the buffet were wonderful. Also, this buffet has unlimited beer and wine to go along with your dinner. I did not really get my money's worth (according to Jim) because I only managed 2 glasses of wine, but Jim made up for my short-comings with 5 beers! Jim wants me to point out that they were small beers, and he is right!

After a decent night's sleep, we awoke to overcast and rainy conditions. We ate the breakfast buffet and then found a comfortable spot to sit near the windows so we could enjoy the cruise through the archapelago approaching Stockholm. The weather started to clear as we neared our port and the sun was out with just a few "Kodak' clouds around. We had a 15 minute walk to our hotel, which did not have our room ready at 10 AM (imagine that!), but has a luggage storage area where we deposited our bags before heading out on another Stockholm adventure.

When we were here 9 days ago, we bought a ticket to tour the palace, which included 3 related sites. We still had the National Treasury left to do on our tickets, so that was our first destination. At the Treasury we saw all the crown jewels. On the way out of the palace grounds, we saw an advertisement for a free organ concert in the early afternoon. When we figured out that the recital was in the Royal Chapel, we decided that would be a great way to spend an hour. But before the concert, we needed lunch and once again, the ice-cream shops with their homemade waffle cones were calling me! Life is good when lunch is ice-cream!

The concert included pieces played on the Royal Organ(?), and on a grand piano and it was all wonderful. We enjoyed the beautiful music while taking in all the decorations around the inside of the chapel.

After the concert we hustled over to a nearby church hoping to catch the 2 o'clock tour of their bell tower. We just made it and the tour was great! Our 2 guides were students studying to the Lutheran ministers and this was their summer job. As we climbed the 206 steps to the top, we climbed through history, starting with bricks and mortar from the 1300's, up to the top which was completed in the 1700's. We walked around on the outside of the tower (similar to what we did in Estonia) and were rewarded with wonderful views of the city.

We got checked into our hotel and while Jim went for his run, I walked around the area near the hotel.

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