Saturday, July 2, 2011

Baltic cruise: Stockholm: hottubbing next to greatness

[My travel journal continues, in the wee hours, sailing to Helsinki.

I note that I failed to reference the many crew who wished us a happy Canada Day, unprompted and with barely a pause for breath, once they'd confirmed we weren't illegitimately wearing the swag. A nice touch, Celebrity!]

July 1, 2011: Stockholm

With the time change, it will now be close to midnight. Fog has once more enveloped our view of the forested islands surrounding Stockholm -- a view much like the Thousand Islands, we all agreed. Only we're actually a river, an ocean and a sea away, well on our way to Helsinki, Finland now.

Stockholm was beautiful. It reminded me of Ottawa at times (at least, initially). Once we started hitting the canals, however, Prague was a closer match -- or how I imagine it in the summer. We walked the whole (short, admittedly) day, ending at Skansen. There, we found out just how expensive Stockholm is: park admittance and a meal on the property shortly thereafter saw us drop $180 CAD, for Swedish meatballs -- simply meatballs there, of course -- and pickled herring. [A nice, tasty time, mind you, but not the Tivoli experience Tea later admitted she was hoping for. More on that in later posts. Stay tuned!] Unsurprisingly, we were through our Swedish krona -- trading at 7:1 -- in very short order indeed. Luckily, they also take euros.

Once back onboard, we took our tired feet to the hot tub. There, Stephen and I met a very interesting gentleman: Kamel was a retired businessman from New Delhi who'd been to Austria and the French Riviera prior to flying to Amsterdam to sail with us. Not only that, he'd paid for much of his extended family to join him, and they'd all spent many days (and in some cases, weeks) at these intermediate destinations. "Life's good," was probably Kamel's most common refrain during our many subsequent chats.

I had difficulty believing he was a day over 55, until he explained that he'd been ranked as high as third in the country on the Indian squash circuit; sport has kept him young, although now, at 72, he sticks to golf. Whip smart, and a hoot to boot, early on in the conversation, he asked, "What sport do you play?" Very different from the typical, "Do you play any sports?" He went on to say that while sport is great at any age, it's the key to a long life, firing both the brain and the body. As I write this evening, it's a gravity about the need to commit to tennis again that sits with me.

Up next: Helsinki, Finland

There are more pictures from the day in Stockholm in our Picasa album.

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