Baltic Sea Cruise 2014

CHANGING TIDES OF HISTORY:

CRUISING THE BALTIC SEA

JUNE 21 – JULY 2, 2014

 

DENMARK, POLAND, ESTONIA, RUSSIA, FINLAND, SWEDEN

(with pre-cruise in NORWAY)

JUNE 15 – JUNE 21, 2014

 

JUNE 15 - DEPART THE U.S. ON OUR WAY TO BERGEN, NORWAY

WONDERS OF NORWAY PRE-CRUISE OPTION

“This unique five-night journey from Bergen “Across the Roof of Norway” features the snowcapped mountains, cascading waterfalls, alpine lakes and spectacular fjordland as seen from aboard the Bergen Line, Northern Europe’s highest railroad, and the Flåm Railway, a modern engineering marvel. Tour the city of Bergen, including Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enjoy an overnight in the historic HOTEL STALHEIM and a spectacular cruise on Sognefjord and Nærøey Fjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Following an Oslo city tour, embark the PEARL SEAWAYS ferry and disembark in Copenhagen the next morning for a scenic cruise along the city’s idyllic canals. Accommodations are for four nights in comfortable hotels and one night aboard the PEARL SEAWAYS ferry.”

 

We got our Super Shuttle ride to SFO at 5:45AM and at 8:15am departed on Flight UA258 to EWR (seats 10C/11A).

Arrived EWR at 4:54p (EDT) and had a 3 hour layover before our next flight, EWR to OSL Flight UA38 (seats 9D/10F) at 8:05PM. However, the plane was late getting in from Denver because of radar trouble (?) So we each had a burger and a couple beers in a Mexican place and we never actually left Newark until 10:00PM.

 

JUNE 16 - BERGEN, NORWAY - RADISSON BLU ROYAL HOTEL

We arrived Oslo (Norway Time) at 11:30AM (about 2 hours late and had about 2 hours before our OSL to BGO SAS Flight SK267 was to leave at 1:45PM.

So, after clearing Passport Control and Customs, we had a few minutes to spare before boarding.

We left Oslo at 1:45PM and arrived at Bergen at 2:35PM.

It was just a 50-min flight but the total flight/layover time was 20-hr, 50-min.!

We found Mihai Visan (Gohagan Rep - 1st day on the job!) and Teryn, the young local guide in the Concourse and waited for the rest of the people coming in from other flights. Except for 4 ‘no-shows’ (flights delayed or missed), everybody else got on the bus to ride to the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel about 4:45pm.

We got checked in and waited in our room until our bags were brought up. (We found out later that when our bags were taken off the bus and stored on the sidewalk waiting to be taken into the hotel, three young people walking by picked up one of the bags and took off with it! – It was eventually found and returned to the owner, but some items of clothing were missing.)

14-2051 Bryggen (Z-4-387)

It was about 6:00 when we went wandering out along the interesting waterfront of the old part of town called Bryggen.

We found Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub but just had a pint — they didn’t do any food! Wandering back to the hotel, we stopped for a bite to eat at a place on the waterfront where all the tables were outside and we had some snacks and another beer for dinner.

Back at the hotel, we found a sheet of paper in our room with the layout of times and events for the next day. Included with the list of things was the instruction for transportation. Tomorrow we’re on the Blue Bus…

This is how and why the colors:

The Gohagan contingent of travelers on this cruise consisted of 16 different groups, 12 of which were University Alumni groups including Cal Berkeley. There were a total of 65 people in all. When we went off on excursions or tours, depending on the size of the vans or buses, the groups and the vehicles were assigned different colors and Gohagan’s daily program specified which color groups went on which color bus.

This had been a long, long day and we hit the sack early!

 

JUNE 17 - BERGEN, NORWAY - RADISSON BLU ROYAL HOTEL

After breakfast in the Hotel, we piled on to the Blue Bus and headed off for the local “Old Town” tour with our first stop at the Fløibanen Funicular.

14-2040 Floien View (Z-4-433)

We rode up to the top of the mountain (332 meters or 1000 ft. up a 60° slope) for quite a nice view of the bay and the waterfront. Ginny got a lot of great photos there. We rode it back down and got back on the bus and toured the downtown part of Bergen and then did a walking tour of the old historic waterfront area called Bryggen, where we had walked a bit last evening.

When we got back to the hotel, we made a pit stop and then did our own walking tour of the waterfront area and met up with our group along the way.

We were on own for lunch so we went to 'Softis', one of the nearby shops, for a BIG pistachio (double scoop) on a waffle cone for my lunch.

Then we were back on the bus again and did the tour of the southern part of the town and a tour of the old wooden Fantoft Stave Church that was originally built in 1170, a beautiful ornate structure made from 300 year old pine. Then, back on the bus to Eduard Grieg's house - now a museum, for a guided tour of the house. After leaving the house, both groups assembled in the concert hall for a piano recital of 6 of Greig's works. (I kept nodding off but the clapping at the end of each piece would bring me back!)

After the recital, we were bused back to hotel and got in about 4:30 PM.

We walked down the Bryggen waterfront a ways and saw the Unicorn place open but not a soul in sight – including a bartender. So we walked down the 'half timber' like alley and found ‘To Kokkar’ (two cooks) restaurant and had a nice dinner (very expensive fish for me and veal for Ginny) in the upstairs restaurant.

Back to the hotel by 10:00PM, got our bags ready to be picked up at 7:30AM for our trip to Stalheim in the morning and then to bed.

 

JUNE 18 - STALHEIM, NORWAY - HOTEL STALHEIM

After breakfast, we checked out and boarded our bus at 8:45AM. We followed Hardinger Fjord quite a way into Stalheim. The fjord is very wide and deep and surrounded by snow-covered mountains and a huge glacier. Along the way, our guide, Jarje (pronounced Earl!) read a funny story about an American tourist in Spain and Portugal.

14-2122 Tvindefossen Pano (541-543)

It was about noon when the bus stopped just after going thru the city of Voss at the spectacular Tvindfossen falls, for a 10-min. photo op. As soon as we arrived at the Stalheim Hotel, we were hustled right into the hotel dining room for a buffet lunch.

After lunch, we picked up the key to our Rm. 319 and our bags were waiting by the door for us.

We have a spectacular view out our hotel room window of the Yosemite-like mountains and even a full dome that looks like the back side of Half Dome!

After getting situated in the room, we walked up to the Museum area with cabins and things from the 19th century and ran into our group on a guided tour of the various buildings and artifacts. After the museum tour, Ginny went with a small group led by our local guide down the hairpin trail to another waterfall. I sat in the hotel bar and had a pint of Carlsbad.

After dinner, we wandered around the outside of the hotel, rubber-necking and photo taking and then back to our room to get our bags ready for a very early pick-up in the morning. Then we crashed early and got a good night’s sleep.

 

JUNE 19 - OSLO, NORWAY - GRAND HOTEL

We checked out after breakfast and took the bus down through the Naeroy Valley to the pier in Gudvagen where we embarked on the privately chartered ‘Fjord Lady’ for the cruise up the Songefjord and Naeroey Fjords to Flam. There, we boarded the historic Flam Railway train for the 13 miles ride up through the spectacular mountains and numerous waterfalls to Myrdal.

14-2215 On Songefjord (Z-4-628)

At Myrdal, we boarded Train #602 to Oslo and took our assigned seats, settled inwhile watching the countryside change as we descended back down to sea level.

After arriving in the Oslo train station about 6:00PM, we got out onto the street and there was no bus in sight. It seemed as though we were right in the middle of the big shopping district and with all the rush hour traffic, there was a lot going on! We waited on the sidewalk on a street across from the station and finally after about 20 minutes, our bus came to pick us up. Seems as though the driver was waiting on the other side of the station from where we came out and with all the traffic, it took him a while to get over to us.

It was about 7:30PM when we finally got to the Grand Hotel, checked in and received the keys to our room. After our bags were brought up to the room, we headed out to do some sightseeing, take photos and since we were on our own for dinner, get a bite to eat.

Back at the hotel, we got our bags ready – one for overnight on the ferry tomorrow and the roller bag for pick-up outside the door by 8:00 tomorrow morning. We won’t see that one again until we board Le Boreal in Copenhagen the day after tomorrow.

 

JUNE 20 - OSLO, NORWAY - PEARL SEAWAYS FERRY TO COPENHAGEN

After breakfast, we got our things from the room and checked out. Before boarding our bus for the City tour at 10:AM, we verified that our bags were in the lobby and ready to be taken away to our cruise ship in Copenhagen.

14-2367 Vigeland Park (Z-4-835)

Off on the City tour, we made our first stop at the Oslo City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held every December. Then on to Vigeland Sculpture Park where Ginny walked with most of the group through the park up to where I, and a few others rode the bus around to our meeting point. When everyone was present and accounted for, we rode on out of the city a ways and up a winding road to the Homenkillen Ski Jump Tower and Museum After we rode the elevator to the top of the tower and had a chance to get some great views and photos of same, we came back down and toured through the Museum before heading back to the bus.

Back in the heart of the city, we stopped for a pre-arranged lunch in the Hotel Bondeheimen. Following our lunch break, we re-boarded the bus and headed off for the Viking Ships Museum.

It was about 3:30PM when we headed out again and rode on down to the pier and boarded the Pearl Seaways Ferry where we were assigned Commodore Class Cabin #10802 for the 12 hour overnight sea journey across the Skagerrak Strait and Kattegat Bay to Copenhagen, Denmark.

After dropping off our things in the cabin, we had a “Sail-away” beer in the Sky Bar on the top deck as we sailed out of Oslo. It was pretty windy and chilly out there, so we went down to the Diamond Bar and had another beer.

At 6:30, we had dinner in the Blue Riband Room on Deck 8 with the group and afterward, we went to the Casino on Deck 7. They only accepted Danish Krona (DKK) and all we had was Norwegian Krona – but, there was an exchange window where, for a small fee, they would change ours. Then there was a 50 DKK (~$9.00 US) Casino entry fee (but we got a free drink), and when we sat down to play Black Jack, the table had a 50 DKK minimum! We each sat down with 200 DKK (~$35.). I ran out right away but Ginny had a good run and she walked away with 600DKK (~$115.)!

We got back to our cabin around 10:00PM and crashed for the night…

 

JUNE 21 - COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - M.S. LE BOREAL

We had a coupon in our cabin for breakfast that we used in the Explorer Steak House on Deck 8 and then went back and got our things ready for disembarking. After the ferry was docked, we boarded our waiting coach and were greeted by Lisabeth, our local Copenhagen guide. Then we were off for short tour of the city on the way to the canal boat dock. We boarded a canal boat, which is very similar to the Seine or Amstel sightseeing boats, for an hour-long cruise along the many canals out to the harbor and back. The city of Copenhagen is built on a multitude of islands and the best way of getting around is by boat! We passed by the major buildings of Christianborg Palace, The Naval Church and the Old Stock Exchange before entering the harbor where we saw the ancient Battery Sixtus and the fortress Three Crowns. 

14-2599 Little Mermaid (Z-5-095)

Heading back to the Christianhavn Canal, we passed by the Little Mermaid but couldn’t really see it too well. Back at the boat dock, we boarded the bus and saw more of the city including The Little Mermaid and, among many other interesting places, Tivoli Gardens. We left the bus by the main square where Ginny and most of the group went with Lizabeth on the walk to the Library Gardens.  I opted out and wandered around the square and took a few photos and had a beer where the band was playing. While I was sitting at a table near the stand where I bought the beer, Ginny came by and sat with me for a while and then she went off to find the group. I went off to find the Irish Pub she told me she had seen on her walk. Sure enough, I found the Dubliner Pub and had a pint of Guinness!

We all met back at the fountain by the main square and got on the bus and went to the docks where our cruise ship, ‘M. S. Le Boreal’ was waiting for us. We boarded and found our new home, Cabin #534.

Shortly after leaving port, we did the mandatory lifeboat drill with our life jackets on and went down to the theater on deck 4 where the Captain introduced himself and some of his officers including Isabelle, the Ship's Cruise Director.

We had dinner at 8:00PM with the Cal Alum group in the La Licorne restaurant on Deck 2 and I had the 4 course – rib-eye steak dinner. We shared a table with Dick Behrendt and Ricky Pollycove who live just up the street from us on California St. near Taylor St.

It was 10:00 PM when we left the restaurant and we headed straight for our cabin for the night.

 

JUNE 22 - GDANSK, POLAND/LECH WAŁESA

We had the buffet breakfast on Deck 6 – I had my regular toast and cereal, just like at home! At 9:00AM we went to the Theater for Fritz Tubach's lecture on The Vikings and then at 10:30, we went back to the Theater for John Cochran's talk on when he, as a reporter for ABC Evening News, had interviewed Lech Walesa during the Solidarity Movement in 1980.

14-2701 Gdansk (Z-5-132)

After a light buffet lunch on Deck 6, we joined up with our Cal group and boarded the ‘Blue Dot’ bus to go on the City Tour of Gdansk. When we left the bus, we assembled on the bridge leading to the Green Gate where our guide gave a short spin on the history and significance of the building. Then we headed on through one of the arches of the Gate and entered into the Long Market, featuring several examples of Poland’s finest medieval and Renaissance architecture. We walked past many elegant patrician mansions featuring late Renaissance and Baroque façades and stopped for a look inside the 14th-century Artus Court, a meticulously restored Gothic guildhall that houses a fascinating collection of Polish art. After leaving there, we saw St. Mary’s Church but didn’t go inside and continued on our walk, getting photos of the famous Neptune’s Fountain and ending up back at the Green Gate. We were given an hour of free time and then we were to meet back at the Gate before continuing on the bus tour.

Ginny and I headed back down the Long Market street and found a money exchange shop where we traded $40.00U.S. for 118 PLN (Polish zloties). We wandered around for a while and found an outdoor beer garden where we sat and each enjoyed a nice cold Zyweic beer before heading back to the meeting place.

Back on the bus, we stopped at the Lenin Shipyard to see and take photos of the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers before heading back to the ship.

It was about 4:30 when we returned and after freshening up back in our cabin, we headed up to the lounge for refreshments before going to the Theater for a reunion and a sort-of re-enactment of the 1980 interview with Lech Walesa by John Cochran. By special arrangement, Lech Wałesa, the leader of the Solidarity movement (the first independent trade union in Eastern Europe and the key factor in winning the Polish struggle against Communism), former President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize winner was on board the ship this afternoon. Mr. Wałesa interacted congenially with John Cochran and then discussed his perspective on Solidarity, globalization and progress in the region, with time for questions and answers.

We didn’t get to dinner until around 8:30 and afterwards, we just headed back to the cabin for the night. Had to set the clocks ahead one hour before going to bed!

 

JUNE 23 - CRUISING THE BALTIC SEA – LECTURES ALL DAY

We had breakfast at 8:00 on Deck 6 and skipped the 8:30 Lecture on Perestroika but went to the Lecture on ‘Why Did The Cold War End’ by Prof. Michael Mastanduno, Dartmouth U. at 10AM.

And then we went to a discussion with John and Barbara Cochran in the Theater where they talked about their careers and today’s media.

We had a light buffet lunch on Deck 6, followed by the lecture at 2:45 by Glen Kranking, Smithsonian Journeys on ‘Estonia In Occupation and Liberation’.

After having our fill of lectures for the day, we went up to Deck 6 lounge and formally met Jino our bar tender who makes great Manhattans and Bellinis and had him make us a couple of each!

At 7PM we went down to the theater for the Captain's Welcome, with champagne and photo ops and then off to a 4-course dinner on deck 2.

A Very Long day!

 

JUNE 24 - TALLINN, ESTONIA

We docked in Tallinn at 7:30AM and since the tours started at 8:30, we were already up and at ‘em! For something different this morning, I tried the pancake and waffle– soggy cardboard! Got corn flakes and a pastry roll instead.

After breakfast, Ginny went off with the walking tour group to see Tallinn’s Old Town, which, having largely escaped the ravages of World War II has remained virtually unchanged for the past 600 years and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Because that tour included “VERY hilly, narrow, cobblestone streets”, I went with the bus tour group.

14-3014 Alex. Nevsky Cat. Pano 3 (333-334)

We stopped on the outskirts of the city for a photo op at the very impressive ‘Song Field’, the biggest open-air theater stage in Europe. Back on the bus, we drove through the Pirita District with its many attractions, and continuing along the 14th Century Fortification wall, passing by Stout (Fat) Margaret Tower, Freedom Square, more churches and finally back to the dock. All in all, an interesting but not a very impressive look at the city. The walking tour group in Old Town got to see the landmark Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and toured the medieval Town Hall, the only intact Gothic-style hall in Northern Europe.

Ginny had already returned from her tour and was in the cabin when I got back.

We had a light buffet lunch on Deck 6 and then we watched the boat depart Tallinn for the next stop in St. Petersburg. Then back in the cabin, I took a nap while Ginny went to the 3:00PM lecture by Fritz on Mythology. When Ginny next started off to the 4:30 lecture on St. Petersburg I went up to the Deck 6 Lounge and had a Manhattan. It turned out that Ginny never made it to the theater for her lecture. Instead, on the way there, she stopped to check out all the ‘official’ photos and video clips on the computers that were showing on the wall monitors. Then she came up and joined me in the lounge and had a drink that sounded like it could be a 24 Karat Margarita, except it also had OJ in it. Whatever it was, she said it was mostly OJ!

We had to go down to the Theater for a briefing on St. Petersburg at 5:30. Basically, what they were telling everybody was that if one doesn’t have a Russian visa, you must stay with the group at all times. No wandering off alone without one! Then at 6:30, we went to the Cal Discoveries Reception in the Main Lounge on Deck 3 followed by dinner at reserved tables in Restaurant Licorne, on Deck 2 at 7:30PM.

We set our clocks ahead another hour tonight!

 

JUNE 25 - ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

We entered Neva River about 6:00AM and I watched out our cabin window as we docked at 7:30.

14-3246 Church of Spilled Blood Pano 5 (463-464)

After breakfast, we headed down to the disembarkation area and then out through passport control where Russian Immigration officers checked our immigration form and tour ticket and recorded our passport numbers. Finally, we were allowed to head on out to the street and board our bus – we (the Cal group) boarded the Blue Polka Dot - and went on the bus tour of St. Petersburg. We travelled along through Nevsky Prospekt, passing by St. Isaac’s Cathedral and made photo stops at the Church on Spilled Blood and the Rostral Columns. Then we bused across the Neva River to the Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral where Peter and Catherine the Greats and families are buried.

After leaving the fortress, we went back to the boat for lunch and then back on the bus to the State Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace of Catherine the Great and a UNESCO World Heritage site and did pretty much the same tour as we did in 2010 — but even faster this time! There are so many of the world’s greatest art works, I could easily spend a week in there and still not see it all!

After leaving, we rode back to the boat and went up to 6th deck lounge and had a couple drinks before dinner at 8:00 and then back to the cabin for the night.

 

JUNE 26 - ST. PETERSBURG

14-3342 Catherine's Palace (Z-5-631)

Once again after going through Passport Control where they just checked our passports this time, we headed off on a full day’s excursion to Catherine’s Palace and Peterhof. The morning’s tour began with an hour’s bus ride to the Palace of Catherine The Great in Pushkin. We spent all morning going through the many beautiful rooms and I was especially delighted to see the Amber Room again!

For lunch today, we rode to a local Russian restaurant with Russian style cooking and a huge souvenir shop for tourists. I bought a postcard and stamps and sent it off to my brother Jim. (He got it exactly one month to the day later on Saturday, July 26Th!) [Note: Ginny remembers this differently; her story is that we got the post card and stamps in a different souvenir shop on the previous day in St. Petersburg.]

14-3442 Peterhof (Z-5-792)

After lunch, we had another hour bus ride to Peter The Great Palace, Peterhof for another fast walk through all the rooms and an even faster walk through the gardens out to the Hydrofoil ferry docks. There we boarded the Peterhof Express Hydrofoil "METEOP 14" for the 25-minute ride on the Gulf Of Finland back to St. Petersburg and the docks in front of the Hermitage at 5:15PM.

Got on our waiting bus for the short (4 or 5 blocks) back to our boat and after freshening up, we went up to Deck 6 lounge and found Jino mixing about 100 White Russians for the 'Sail Away' party later on the deck outside. We each ordered and got our drinks and then took a White Russian also when we were booted out of the lounge because another group was going to have their reception there.

We each took our 2 drinks down to our cabin and sat out on our balcony and watched as we sailed out of port and off to Finland at 6:45.

We each had burgers and fries for dinner on the Deck 6 restaurant and then we went to the Theater on Deck 4 and watched some of the "Ooh La La Paris" French Review. It was pretty awful and we left before it was over...

Set the clocks back one hour tonight…

 

JUNE 27 - HELSINKI, FINLAND

We watched from our cabin as we arrived at Helsinki around 7:30AM and then went up to Deck 6 for breakfast.

14-3521 Church of the Rock (Z-5-865)

At 8:30, we got on the bus for the city tour of Helsinki. We rode through the main part of the city with our guide pointing out most of the important buildings. We got off and walked uphill 2 blocks to Temppeliaukio Church, the 'Church in the Rock' that was blasted out of the hill.

Back on the bus we headed for the Sibelius concert  - 2 young women, a pianist and violinist played 6 short musical pieces written and composed by Sibelius, none of which were very appealing although the musicians were great!

After another short bus ride we all got off for a 20-minute look around Senate Square and the Helsinki Cathedral. Most of the group, including Ginny elected to walk back to the boat but I came back on the bus.

Ginny got back not too long after I did and we went up to Deck 6 for lunch. I had fish and chips and a beer and we sat out on the deck with Susan and Richard.

About 2:00PM, Ginny got photos as we sailed off from Helsinki and on to Sweden. Then back in the cabin, Ginny took a nap and I got my log up to date. (We skipped the two lectures this afternoon!)

At 5:00, we went up to Deck 6 lounge and Ginny had a couple of Piña Coladas and I had a ‘Double Jack’ and water before going to the Captain’s Farewell Reception in the Deck 4 Theater. Then we skipped the “Gala” dinner in the Restaurant La Licorne on Deck 2 with dress code “Gala” and went to the buffet on Deck 6 instead – we weren’t alone!

Set the clocks back one hour again tonight…

 

JUNE 28 - VISBY, SWEDEN

This morning after breakfast, we made sure that our shipboard charges were correct and our Visa card, which was already on file, would be charged correctly. Then, we got the envelope for the crew’s gratuities taken care of and dropped off at the Reception Desk. We skipped the 10:00AM lecture and started in on getting our bags packed for tomorrow’s pick-up at 6:00AM.

The ship arrived at the Visby dock about noon and the walking tour of Visby began at 1:00PM. Since the streets were all narrow and slippery cobblestones (it was drizzling outside), I elected to forego the tour but Ginny put her poncho on and went with the group.

14-3625 Visby Pano 2 (031-032)

When Ginny returned around 5:00, she said that although the town was a Unesco World Heritage Site, it’s old and well preserved but there’s nothing really all that remarkable about it.

We had a couple of drinks in the lounge and then dinner on Deck 6 before heading back to the cabin to finish packing our bags and getting them ready for tomorrow morning.

 

JUNE 29 - STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - SHERATON HOTEL

POST-CRUISE OPTION

We had our last shipboard breakfast on Deck 6 and then back to the cabin to prepare for our 9:00AM departure. When our Post-cruise group was called, we disembarked and identified our bags for the Gohagan cruise director before the bags were taken on a luggage truck to the Sheraton Hotel where they would be delivered to our room when it is ready. Then we boarded a bus for a city tour of Stockholm and made our first stop at the City Hall where the annual Nobel Prize Award Ceremony banquet is held.

14-3749 Stockholm Pano 3-Old Town Sq. (148-149)

Next, we started on our walking tour of Gamla Stan where we walked along many quaint streets with all kinds of small stores and shops and finally came out onto a small square where we happened to see the Military band come marching by and followed them into another square in front of the Royal Castle where stations by the front entrance were manned by guards. Turns out, we were just in time to watch the ‘changing of the guard’ ceremony! It was a typical ‘military event’ but nowhere as impressive as the one at Buckingham Palace in London. When it was over, our group was given free time to wander about and get lunch on our own before re- boarding the bus to the Sheraton to check in about 2:45PM. Ginny and I found a café with tables outside and managed to get one of them. We each ordered a beer and their Swedish Meatball dish – delicious!

After lunch, we went back to our designated meeting place and got the bus to our hotel.

14-3773 Lunch at Kaffegillet (Gar iFon-0442)

We checked in and our bags were already in the room when we got there.

After freshening up and resting for a bit, we went out to explore the area and look for a pub to get a drink and a bite to eat. We were right in the downtown shopping area with lots of stores, big and small, but no pubs, bars or even restaurants. After walking around for about six blocks, we finally found Pickwick’s Pub and we each had a pint at the bar. The place was pretty crowded with ‘football’ fans watching the World Cup match on TV. We finished our beer and went back to the hotel and sat in the lounge and we each had another drink while deciding to just go to the Hotel’s restaurant for dinner. And since we already had the Swedish meatballs earlier, we just ordered something light and then called it a night.

 


JUNE 30 – STOCKHOLM - SHERATON HOTEL

After our continental breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we boarded the bus for our tour through the Vasa Museum. It’s a very interesting place with an extraordinary story to tell.

14-3791 Stockholm Pano 5-Vasa Side (220-221)

After spending a couple of hours in the Museum, we were back on the bus and headed back to the hotel. The Museum was the last of the tours and/or excursions and we’ll be on our own from now on.

After returning to the hotel, Ginny figured out the subway particulars and we took it to the King’s Garden. Back up on the street, we found an ATM and got enough Swedish Kronas to hold us over until we board our plane tomorrow morning. Then after walking around the park for a bit, we headed over to the boat docks in front of the Grand Hotel in the port of Strömkajen on Lake Malaren. We found the ticket window to get the 2-hour ”Under The Bridges” boat tour at 2:00PM and then since we had nearly an hour to kill, we got a hot dog and a beer, sat and ate and enjoyed the lovely weather. We were first in line for the boat ride, got good seats and sure enough, there were a lot of bridges to pass under – it’s the 3rd largest lake in Sweden!

After the boat ride, went back through King’s Garden and looked for the old red church that we had seen on our earlier Garden walk and thought it looked rather interesting. We found St. Jacob's and Ginny got a few good photos of the exterior. We decided to not go inside and instead walked back to the hotel. After resting up a bit, we figured out how to get the subway to the Hard Rock Café and headed over to the Metro station a block away from the hotel. Ginny worked the ticket machine, got us a couple of tickets that let us get through the turnstiles and we were on our way!

It was only a couple-block walk to the HRC and it was about 6:30 when we got in and seated right away. There weren’t too many occupied tables, and this has to be the quietest HRC in the chain – maybe it was just because it was so early in the evening? We had burgers and beers and the bill took every last Swedish Krona we had! For a tip, we asked our waitress if she would take a $20 U.S. bill and she grabbed it!!

In the Metro station going back, we couldn’t figure out how to use our debit card to get our tickets and the attendant in the booth came out and helped us. With tickets in hand, we got a train right away and were back at the hotel in no time at all. We stopped in the lounge and had one more drink before heading up to pack.

 

JULY 1 - DEPART STOCKHOLM AND FLY HOME

We had our last continental breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then went up to the room, got our things and went down to the desk and checked out. We paid off our bar and restaurant charges and then got the 10:10AM transfer shuttle from the Sheraton Hotel to the Stockholm airport in plenty of time for our 1:05 PM Dep. on Flight UA9017 to FRA.

Arr. FRA 3:15 PM with a 1-hr, 45-min layover before departing at 5:00 PM on

Flight UA933 to IAD (Dulles) Seats: 25H / 24K

Arrive IAD 7:50 PM (EST) (8-hr, 50-min flight) with a 2-1/2-hr layover before

Dep. 10:15PM on Flt UA225 to SFO Seats: 10C / 11A

 

JULY 2 - (ARR. SFO 12:15A)

5-hr, 32-min flight - Total flight/layover time = 20-hr, 17-min

All of the flights went off as scheduled and our bags arrived with us, too! We got a taxi home and all in all, a very nice trip!!


© Virginia E. Vail 2012