8th June continued: This is a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon – sitting in the sun by the river in Stockholm, wondering whether to have an ice-cream or not, and if my efforts at photography can possibly capture the silver-topped ripples of the river. If it is a river – again my knowledge of geography does not stand me in good stead.
Ok, I’ve talked myself into an ice-cream.
Later that same day – now on board the ferry Silja Serenade. As my cabin is below the car decks, I will aim to spend as little time as possible inside it. There’s a special lift down to it called Zero.
Help! We’re moving…
This reminds me of sailing up the Oslo fjord years ago on a cruise ship that was later used as a troop ship in the Falklands. An endless succession of little waterside communities, their houses built as close to the water as possible, lots of boats moored at jetties. Inland it seems to be mostly forest. I don’t think the land rises as steeply here though as it does in Norway. In a way it’s sort of like the English Lake District. There are certainly some great candidates for Wild Cat Island.
Every so often a speed-boat will rush across in front of the ferry or race alongside us for a while. Either of these is potentially risky as this ferry is massive – essentially a combined hotel, holiday park and shopping mall with a keel.
Visiting Disneyland was just the start of it. Our next trip after that was a much more ambitious one, involving a few nights in Paris followed by a lengthy train journey across France and all the way to Barcelona and back. By that time we were seasoned Eurostar travellers. While in Paris we sampled various other forms of transport, including the batobus, the Metro and, best of all, a trip boat on the Canal Saint Martin.
Coincidentally it was just outside the Musée d’Orsay, housed in a former railway station, that we had a family row started by me and probably caused by trying to visit too many museums in one day. The museum still looks just like a station.
Luckily by the time we boarded our TGV at the Gare de Lyon for the next part of our journey, that was all forgotten. You can book right through from Paris to Barcelona. I’m not sure if it’s always necessary to change trains at Montpellier, where there were some rather pretty trams and a useful bag shop inside the station for people whose travel bags had fallen apart on the way. We enjoyed the section on the TGV better than the rest, but later I became fascinated by the lagoons and flamingos we caught sight of during the trip along the southern French coast, and I began to wonder if we should have got off the train there to investigate instead of carrying on with a journey that became particularly tortuous at the Spanish border at Portbou, where I think the wheels were changed over to a different gauge and armed soldiers came through the carriages.
But of course it is always worthwhile going to Barcelona! I even managed to visit some more museums, and I thoroughly recommend the Picasso Museum and the Barcelona Museum, where there are real Roman ruins in the lower levels and you can walk round them.
We had decided to travel back on the night train or Trenhotel from Barcelona to Paris. One tip for Barcelona (though this may well have changed by now) is that there weren’t any left luggage facilities at the Estacio Franca, and we had to go over to the other station, Barcelona-Sants, to deposit our bags for the day so that we could spend some more time sight-seeing, and then go back to collect them later.
As we spent all night and then all day travelling constantly, it turned out to be one of those times when we really enjoyed going first class from London to Edinburgh. I think all we were fit for by then was drinking coffee and eating whatever the train staff brought us.