this time, having lived in another nordic country, we were able to get a better perspective on stockholm. it is definitely more classically european in its layout and architecture, and the people are much more visual with their wealth and pride. although they are finlands neighbors, and we have swedish as a second official language, and sweden used to 'own' finland, it is pretty striking how different the people and countries are. it also helps clarify the finnish/swedish rivalry a bit more. at the end of our trip, while i enjoyed stockholm, id have to say that i still prefer helsinki, but of course, im biased. :)
additional general notes on the city: we couldnt go one block without seeing a double stroller. it was incredible. there are a lot of strollers and parents around the city in helsinki too but this was really remarkable. and also we saw many more dads on stroller/kid duty than you do in helsinki. it seems sweden has progressed further in parenting equality (socially) than finland.
also of note: bus rides are free for one adult with a stroller in stockholm but not on the trams or metro. of course i appreciate helsinkis policy more. :)
from talking to mom friends, we decided on the silja line cruise (as opposed to the viking cruise line, apparently that one is cheaper but flooded with drunk partiers). our boat left from the city centers olympia port terminal at 5p, so we arrived ready to board late in the afternoon. it was a weird feeling getting on the boat...none of us had ever been on a cruise. since it was a tuesday, it was not crowded, so it was a nice way to ease ourselves in. first thing on-board, we stored our stroller and then found our room. it was small, with no window (B-class cabin), but well laid out and in the end didnt feel cramped. after getting things situated in the room, we wandered around the 6th, 7th, and 12th floors checking out the communal spaces.
(ladder climbing up to papas bed; looking at the coast as we pull away from helsinki)
after a snack with some hidden gluten i felt pretty crappy :( so i laid down to rest while X and dave played in the 'playground' area of the ship. then we headed to the italian place on-board (tavolàta ristorante italiano) for dinner. while we waited for our table, we perused the choices in the duty-free shop. perfumes were Xs favorites, and we ended up choosing some candies to purchase (my danish 'opera mints' from anthon berg were OUTSTANDING!). the restaurant turned out to be decent, though it took forever to get our food. the portions were big and our dishes were actually pretty tasty. plus, i didnt even get any heartburn, which has been an evening staple lately, so i would certainly eat here again. after food, we went back to the room to unwind and get to bed. this took forever (X was way too excited about sleeping on a boat), and i ended up actually not sleeping well because we had had to lay with X in dark for so long trying to get her to sleep that once it was finally time for me to go to sleep i was already sore and uncomfortable from being stiffly awake in bed so long. that was a bummer, because actually the bed was nice and the humming of the engine was rather soothing.
(relaxing in the ships ball pit; family photo at dinner)
we were up at 7a finland time (6a sweden time) and had an hour to wait for the breakfast buffet to open. the breakfast buffet was well priced i thought (compared to its laughable dinner rate of 38€ per adult, breakfast was 11.50€ per adult). we ate our food by the window while we watched the coast of sweden roll by. then we played in the ships playground again while we waited the 1.5 hours before we docked. at the terminal, we had a short but expensive (25€!) cab ride to our apartment/hotel. since our room wasnt ready yet we stored our luggage and got a map. dave got a transit travel card for himself and we went to wait at the bus stop. after a 10 minute wait the damn thing passed us by because it was full, and the next wouldnt come for 15 minutes, so we decided to start walking toward the djurgården island. ugh. that wore me out too much. but, finally, a long while later we were rolling up in front of the aquaria on the island, a nice, small aquarium in a lovely waterfront location.
(waterfalls at the entrance)
(nice small reef tank; a swedish dammsugare treat. X didnt finish it so dave did...he wasnt a fan and could see why X abandoned it. it was a liquor soaked cookie wrapped in marzipan, dipped in chocolate)
then we jumped on the 7 tram to go deeper into djurgården island. we got off at the end of the line and walked the grounds of the gorgeous rosendals trädgård. this place was a highlight for sure, and it didnt seem frequented by tourists (just locals). it had lovely rolling hills and groomed paths and a nice greenhouse/garden area with a posh cafe and bakery selling wonderful things at a decent price (well, for stockholm and for the luscious surroundings). i had a garlicky polenta dish with shredded crunchy beets and cauliflower while dave had roast beef with potato salad. X sampled our food and offered her opinions, lol. we then chose 4 desserts to share afterward: a cardamom bun, a jam print shortbread, a hazelnut meringue, and a coconut macaroon. yum! we then walked back along the djurgårdens northern edge, across the bridge, to a bus stop that took us back to our place.
(walk along the northern edge of djurgården; gorgeous building, home to helin & voltaire)
back at the apartment, we did dinner from the neighbourhood grocery store and relaxed and went to bed. i had definitely overdone it with all the walking today (lots of contractions and discomfort), so we need to take it easier the next couple days.
with some hiccups, we all managed to get enough sleep to be well-rested for the day. yay. the hotel also had a very nice breakfast, so that was a plus to help start our grey, gloomy day.
we took a couple of buses to junibacken (the astrid lindgren museum, [she authored pippi longstocking]). what a lovely place for children! its like a giant literary playground, a place to get lost in fantasy. id say the exhibits appeal most to kids ages 7 and under, but the literature used in the exhibits is sometimes from books for 8-12 year olds. it was great for us though because we had read many of the books/stories (mainly nordic authors) that had exhibits so it was extra fun, but its not necessary. the first room you enter has imaginative play spaces based on nordic author book scenes. then you ride the story train through i think 5 of astrid lindgrens lesser known (to english readers) stories. then you are in a huge play space filled with pippis house, villa villekulla, and her horse and other things. i LOVED that pippis kitchen area had the furniture positioned so that kids could actually play the same 'don't touch the floor' game that pippi and her friends did in the stories. genius. then you walked downstairs from pippis house into a carnival of color that was the gorgeous cafeteria. a long buffet of treats as well as a kitchen making hot food was all available. and from there you went into the special exhibit room that was a little city from some book series by martin widmark called 'monsters & mysteries'. that area too was really fun and imaginative and perfectly kid-sized. i would have loved to explore some place like this when i was a kid. from the gift shop, we picked up a pippi shirt, some itty-bitty animal friends, and a book called 'thumbkin explores at night' by swedish authors inger & lasse sandberg.
(villa villekulla; slide in the special exhibit room)
we then did lunch at the nearby djurgårdsbrons sjöcafé. we had mediocre pizzas but they were reasonably priced and despite the cafe being in a very touristy area it seemed to still be mixed with locals. then we took a bus to the city center and went up to the kulturhuset. the 4th floor has a play area and library/art space just for kids. we found a stack of english books and enjoyed some down time. then we went to the buildings 5th floor for a snack...worst food place weve been to in a while, very bland.
then we walked to NK (the big swedish department store). i must say i was very unimpressed. we walked the main floor and the lower level, and i found the displays to be boring and average and the lower basement level with the food was not well lit and not very 'upscale' feeling. stockmann is far superior. we then went to 'system bolaget' the countrys official alcohol store. dave found a wide selection and chose 4 beers to take home. and lastly, we stopped in to polarn o pyret but nothing caught our eye. the shopping area of downtown stockholm was very unappealing to me. it was very crowded with ugly tall buildings and loud roads. i also felt that the wealth bombards you everywhere in the very central downtown area. i suppose thats appealing if you are wealthy and like being among your own kind, but it wasnt very appealing to me. i know though, that there are other more desirable neighbourhoods of stockholm that dont give that vibe.
we stopped at an ICA grocery store on the way home for simple dinner stuff again, and then just did tv and relaxing to finish the day.
we had another good breakfast to start the day and then headed out to humlegården park for play time on a big city playground. there were lots of daycare groups there on this gloomy, grey, damp morning. we then walked from the park onto gamla stan (the 'old city' island) for lunch and had a divine vegetarian lunch at hermitage. it seemed like a place you need to get to early, and thankfully we got there just when they opened and just as it started to rain. we chowed down on tasty lentil soup, bean dishes, rice, and basically just lots of tasty, flavorful, healthy food that we were craving after some more heavy, filling 'vacation' meals. i would love to come back to this place.
(father and daughter waiting to cross the street in downtown stockholm)
we then popped into eco-bakery sattva for a GF treat for me. yum. we also went to café muren for ice cream, and thus began our descent on the super touristy street (västerlånggatan) of gamla stan. as the road literally declined so did the weather and our will to attempt souvenir shopping or be amongst other tourists. we turned off the road when we could and found a historic tram and public transit shop (we bought a calendar) and then were in need of a bathroom. we used the facilities at the nobel museum in the heart of gamla stan. this is THE famous, picturesque square of the island.
(the buildings on the square where the noble museum is)
after the pee, we were done with the island, and its weather, and sweden. we headed back to our hotel by bus and gathered up our things to get back on the boat. we were disappointed to have quit earlier than we needed to, but we were all wet and didnt have anymore left in us. instead, we waited with the surly and stupid friday evening cruisers who were to be our overnight shipmates (weekend cruisers are more the boozer/partier crowd).
once on-board we sprawled out in our larger room (promenade class, with a window), had dinner at the italian place again (more good vegetarian food and a super cheap kids dinner buffet), and some play time in the ball pit. we managed a nice end to the day on the boat, but i dont think, in general, we are typical 'cruise people'. we just arent the right personality nor do we have the right mentality i think. however, it may be something we do again in the future, as we ease into vacationing with two kids.
(goodnight baltic sea)
we had a decent night sleep on-board this time, but found ourselves already bored with the cruises breakfast buffet. after eating, we played in the ball pit and were definitely ready to be home and off the boat. we burst off the boat, onto our buses home and noted how quiet and sleepy the city center was on saturday morning (10:30a). we almost thought it was a holiday or something.
*the complete photo album from our trip can be found here.*