Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Which we Spend our Last Day in Stockholm

I often find that I waste the last day of a trip wishing that I didn’t have to go home, or worrying about what time I need to get up in the morning, or how I will be able to fit everything in my suitcase.

This time, I did worry about getting up early (4am yuck), and I did manage to fit everything in my suitcase (the packing fairy didn’t come), but I was ready to head for home. We all missed Kent and wanted to sleep in our own beds in a city that didn’t have 62 sets of bells within 8 square blocks. Have I mentioned the bells? But before we came home, we had some shopping to do.

We stepped outside the door to our place to a swarm of huge bumblebees buzzing around. There was a tiny hole down by the ground and these bees had, apparently, taken up residence here over night. They were enormous, and kind of cute in a large fuzzy insect kind of way. Jacob said he wanted one as a pet.


You can see it one of them here, albeit a bit blurred. But you get the idea. It seems that the theme of this trip has been Bells and Bees. What is with that? I guess it’s better than, say, tornadoes and Mosquitoes. Or Gunshots and Cocaine. Or Dead Kittens and Spam.

Anyway, we stared at the Mega Bees for awhile, then headed out into the fray.


Sweden is really crazy about their royal family. Perhaps almost as crazy as the Brits are about theirs. Last summer the Crown Princess got married to her personal trainer who looks a bit, as Jacob observed, like Gollum from Lord of the Rings before he turned into Gollum. Anyway, their wedding was a huge deal and you can still buy any number of trinkety items with their faces emblazoned on them.

We wandered through the Royal Palace and came out one of the entrances where the Royal Guards are posted. The two in the picture were having a very formal conversation, standing straight, eyes forward the entire time. It was of course in Swedish so we could only guess what they were saying:

Lieutenant: Larssen, will you have a pickled herring sandwich for your lunch?

Larssen: Yes sir. With tomatoes please sir!

Lieutenant: Multigrain, white or pumpernickel?

Larssen: Ummmm Sir!

Lieutenant: Come on, Larssen, I don’t have all day!

Larssen: What was the second choice sir!

Lieutenant: White!

Larssen: Is there oat bread, Sir!

Lieutenant: I think so.

Larssen: I’ll have it on oat bread with Jarlsberg slices Sir!

Lieutenant: Very good. I’ll have that ready for you in 5 minutes when Magnusson comes to relieve you

Larssen: Don’t forget the pickles Sir!

Or perhaps:

Lieutenant: Larssen, have you seen my hand cream?

Larssen: The rose or the white lily Sir!

Lieutenant: actually it was the Mandarin and tuberose

Larssen: Ummmm Sir!

Lieutenant: Come on, Larssen, I don’t have all day!

Larssen: Magnusson had it last I saw it. He was taking it into the bathroom with him Sir!

Lieutenant: How inconvenient. What am I to do now?

Larssen: You could borrow mine, Sir!

Lieutenant: What fragrance is it, Larssen? Is it that Freesia and vanilla because I’ve tried that and it wasn’t to my liking…

Larssen: No it’s banana coconut Sir!

Lieutenant: That should be Fine. I’ll return it to you later today

Larssen: Don’t forget the pickles Sir!

Lieutenant: What was that last comment, Larssen?

Larssen: Nothing Sir! Have a nice day Sir!

We moved on and hit a few stores running until we came to the Swedish department store, NK. It was a cross between Ikea and Harrods, except better. We spent forever in there wandering the paper shop, or trying on clothes, or sampling the wares in the food hall.

I loved the fabric store, even though I have never sewed a single thing in my life except for the world’s ugliest pantsuit in Grade 8 home ec class which has hopefully since been burned or torn up into rags.


There was an entire wall of buttons in little tubes like these but I couldn’t get to the other colours as a gay couple was trying to match a missing button from a shirt and weren’t moving out the way.


The bolts of fabrics were very appealing. I kept picking them up and holding out yards of them like Mrs Olson from Little House on the Prairie, until the saleswoman came over and asked if I needed anything.

And how about this stool? Is that not the cutest thing ever? Jacob says he is going to make one for me…


Next up was the toy department which featured rows and rows of smurfs, fabulous fabric toy houses that nested inside each other and were actually storage boxes, a high chair that looked like it was trying to get Baby ready for their first visit to the dentist, and of course, trolls. They are big on trolls here.


DSC08235 DSC08236DSC08240


I won’t bore you with the bazillion other shops we visited. but suffice to say, it was a good day. As we walked home, we passed through the square in the middle of the old town close to our apartment, and happened upon a protest, of sorts, against US involvement in pretty much everything. A Columbian band was playing, and they were pretty good, but the real highlight was the fact that we got to see the Man with the World’s Largest/Bushiest Eyebrows. Amazing! Check those babies out!


We tried to get to bed early as we had to get up at 4am, but here in the land of the midnight sun, when it is light out at 2:15 am and fully light by 3:30am, those pesky Circadian Rhythms get all mucked up. And so I was pretty much up at 3am and stayed up for the next 24hrs. Somehow we manoeuvred our way from the apartment, to the train station dragging our suitcases along the cobbled streets at 4:45am. Fortunately the residents of the Old town are well used to rackets and clatter all night as most of the streets and alleys are too narrow for delivery trucks to make it down them so deliveries are brought in on huge carts that, as far as I could tell, do not enjoy the benefits of big fat tires. We passed a few of these carts, some were heading for restaurants and cafes, the smell of cinnamon buns and cardamom cake filling the morning air. Gonna miss those…

As per our luck for this trip, the Airport train was practically waiting for us and rolled out about a minute after we got on board.

Our first flight to Heathrow was uneventful although I was so tired I could not figure out which coast I was looking at out the window. We were flying south, and I was looking out the right side of the plane and that should have been enough information for me but I was still baffled. Was it Denmark? How far West were we? Germany? Scotland? Perhaps it was Holland? I finally figured it out (it was Scotland) and realized that that section of the North Sea isn’t really that big and when you are up 40000ft, you can see a good deal. I have since learned that the German and Dutch governments have both installed these wind farms in sections of the North Sea. I didn’t take this picture, but it gives you a good idea of the scale of them. It was a bit surreal to see them scattered around out in the middle of the ocean.

Dong offshore windmills_XL(1)

We landed at Heathrow and whiled away the two hour wait in the less than charming terminal 3 waiting lounge. This place is huge, and crowded, and full of expensive stores such as a Harrods outlet, Burberry, etc. Places where you can pick up a leather wallet for 1700 pounds if you happen to have left yours at home. These places just irk me. Perhaps they might notice that there is actually nobody in them (except the Harrods outlet which, FYI, actually has many of same items that are in the main London Knightsbridge store except they are cheaper) and they are a waste of space, and that if they would just go away, there would be more room for sitting down, and people we wouldn’t all be taking each other out each time you so much as turn your head to look for an empty seat. It’s the bookstores and candy stores that have all the people in them. Duh. Plus, (no, I’m not done yet) the place is permanently under construction, it seems, and half of it is all boarded up so it seems very incongruous to have all these fancy stores next to construction zones, and surrounded by the dishevelled masses waiting for their next flight. Ah well. I guess it’s better than Gatwick. Don’t get me started on that low-ceilinged pit of despair.

Guess who was at the airport? June and Tony! And also, Carol and Geoff (bit younger than June and Tony), Cliff and Barbara (sportier, Barbara has short, red brown died hair and Cliff has his keys on a lanyard around his neck), Sandy and Derek (more refined, Derek has loafers on, shorts and knee socks, Sandy has a tan, and is talking on her phone) and a few other archetypal English couples. I love them!

ANYWAY. Next was the flight to Toronto. Before we got on, the kids were taking bets on how long a flight it would be to Toronto given that it was close to 9 hours from Vancouver to London, and so it must be waaaaay less than that to Toronto from London. I started to explain the whole flying ‘up and over’ close to the pole thing but they weren’t listening. Zoe figured it would be 5 and Jacob said MAYBE 6. So you can imagine how thrilled they were when the Captain broke the bad news that it would actually be closer to 8 hours. WTF? It actually wasn’t a bad flight although we did have a few more brushes with adult movies, and the woman behind me appeared to be having some sort of issue with her tray table. Up, down, up, down, up, down. I finally turned around and gave her the kind of smile which I have used before when disciplining other peoples children to make it look like I’m really friendly, but am actually explaining that if they don’t stop the offending behaviour, I will stop it for them. This look is typically accompanied by some sort of death grip on the arm, which unfortunately I was unable to administer in this setting.

What I said: “Everything Ok with the tray table?”

What I meant: “Are you going to do that for the rest of the trip because if you are, I’m going to have to hog tie you and put you in one of the bathrooms. OK? Great. Thanks.”

What she said: “It’s fine”

What she meant: “Go back under your rock and leave me alone I’ll obsessively open and close the tray if I damn well want to to!”

She then went to sleep for the rest of the trip thank god.

We landed in Toronto where they have the annoying requirement  for those who are connecting to another flight, to collect all your baggage from the carousel, and then recheck it back into the system. It doesn’t matter that it has already been checked all the way through to Victoria, you still must do this or your bags will sit there unclaimed. Tons of people didn’t know this, and no one tells you. It’s only because I’ve done it before that I knew about it. I’m sure many people just go on to their final destination without knowing to do this, only to discover that their luggage is still in Toronto going round on the carousel.

By this time we had been up since last week or something like that and the prospect of another 5 hours across the country was daunting. We somehow struggled through although it felt like we were up there for days. They have those maps on the tvs that show your alleged ‘progress’ on the flight; we seemed to be flying over Bismarck North Dakota for so long that Jacob and I wondered if we had been stuck in the equivalent of one of those lap pools that has a jet of water that you can swim against and stay in one place.

When we finally landed in Victoria, it was sunny and crisp and clear and the air smelled amazing. We were all so happy to see Kent, and everyone was full of stories and yawns, and more stories and more yawning. We were all asleep by 9pm and that night, there were no bells although I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have noticed them at all. Really.

Thanks for reading. Until next time…



1 comment:

  1. Hi Jane - Siobhan suggested that I'd enjoy your blog, and she was right! Thanks for sharing your observations in a light and thoughtful way, and ask Jacob if he'll make me a stool too!