I arrived on schedule, tired and stiff from sitting more than 8 hours, but pleased to have landed on Swedish soil. The flights were fine, but Continental’s performance at Newark was so poor that I became rabidly angry and drowned my misery in a frozen margarita before boarding my SAS flight to Stockholm.
I dutifully followed the signs, helpfully printed in Swedish and English, to passport control and was shocked and appalled that everything Fell the Fuck Apart. There were but two lanes open to deal with four incoming flights. The signs were not visible above the crowds that prevented new people from getting off the escalator, resulting in a very polite shoving session to make room. After over an hour of my poor, efficiency-based brain sending enraged signals that there were no defined lines and no real process applied, I finally got into the country with a wish that I enjoy my stay, scampered to pick up my suitcase just before the carousel was ready to swoop it back into the back and, with an irritated sigh, followed the line of people through the arrivals hallways.
Tempted by the taxis outside, I steeled myself to take the less expensive and more environmentally friendly train to the city. It was pleasant enough – the ticket lines were orderly and quick, the train arrived and departed on schedule and was clean and easy to navigate. I emerged from the station and quickly found my hotel, beaming at the front desk staff when they gave me a room despite the 9:00 hour.
Finally buoyed by the strong coffee I gulped on the plane, I changed clothes, sent a few emails and set off with a map donated by my friends at the front desk. It was a short walk to Gamla Stan and I did find it lovely. I was also happy to be using my muscles, feeling the stiffness ease as I moved through the brisk morning. I took photos, smiled sheepishly at the guards around the royal palace and squinted at my map to find the suggested route to see the island whose name I can’t remember (Dj…something, I think) to see the boat and the bears.
Despite the charm, obvious even in the cloudy cold, I grew tired as I walked by all the ships that were docked. I smiled at other people – tourists and residents uniformly friendly and wonderful – and realized I was miserable. My chest was hurting from breathing the cold air. I felt a headache coming on. My feet were growing sore. After checking my watch, I realized I’d been at it for 2 hours and glanced at my map once more before forsaking the Dj…something island for today and going shopping instead.
After finding a clock and going to two stores (with really lovely employees – really. The Swedish are remarkably lovely in both manner and appearance.) to buy a power adapter that I’d forgotten from home, I came back to the hotel, put on pajama bottoms with my dressier top and fell asleep.
I forced myself out of bed after three hours, glancing around my rather sparse room and realizing I was a bit disappointed in the simplicity. It’s growing on me though – the lovely shades of the wood on the floor and on doors, the soft sheer drapes with more opaque stripes and soft linens in blue and white. I washed my face and set out again to buy a pass for the commuter trains then decided I might as well practice getting around town. Finding it remarkably easy, I watched the scenery out the window and though Stockholm was more industrial than I expected. Once outside the city – at least in the directions I was heading – the charm diminished a bit and it seemed like any other sullenly growing location.
Back at the hotel, tired and cold and cranky once more, I got out of clothes and into the shower after sending Adam a quick note that asked about dinner plans. He replied that he’d just arrived and would meet me in 20 minutes, which coaxed me to get dressed and head out again. There was a wonderful place not far from the hotel and they allowed us to eat a single course at the bar because we’d not made reservations. I had wine and we shared olives before digging into our main courses which were deliciously simple.
“Drinks or bed?” he asked and I shrugged, mostly indifferent, as we exited the restaurant after descending the curved staircase. “We’ll get a beer,” he decided. I followed, nodding at the bartender’s suggestion of a wheat variety that was easy to drink as I felt myself grow sleepy. We kept bumping into each other as we made our way back the short distance to the hotel lobby, the mixture of drinks and jet lag demanding notice. Waving vaguely, we set off to our respective rooms, me with plans for an early breakfast and a morning walk.
And so, back in pajamas and comfortably locked in my room, ends day 1 – I’m here. It’s very pretty. And there’s much more to come.