Hey Hey Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town

Stockholm is one of the prettiest cities we have ever seen.  Lots of European cities have old towns (Fribourg, MalmöGeneva, Prague, Annecy).  Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, charming.  It is an island connected to the rest of the city by bridges.  The buildings date from the 13th century.  We loved strolling Västerlånggatan in Gamla Stan.  There are lots of boutiques, cafés and restaurants.

It is enchanting with cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, old architecture, lanterns, boutiques, antique shops and cafés.   Parts of it are filled
 with souvenir shops and restaurants, and the like.  Yeah, they are a bit of a tourist trap (especially Västerlånggatan), but they don’t make the old town worth writing off.

Wander the side narrow streets.  Look for the signs above doors that indicate the building has paid its fire insurance (thanks Rick Steves).  Notice tons of other period details.  Find places with some Swedes.  Trust me when I tell you, it’s great fun.

For those who get bored after their 20th (or 2nd) palace, Stockholm has some swingin’ history.  Loads of writers and artists pickled themselves here.  It also has some gory history.  In 1520, the bloodbath of Stockholm took place here.  80-90 people were executed in this square (near the Nobel Museum).

Plus, you never know who you might run into at the palace…

Prince Charles leaving Sweden’s Royal Palace

 

Saluhall

We like to eat and who doesn’t love drooling over food while on vacation.  As a result, we’ve been to some famous food halls (London’s Harrod’s, Boston’s Faneuil Hall, New York’s Fulton Fish Market, Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel).   Saluhallen, is a historic indoor food market in the heart of Stockholm’s old Ostermalm neighborhood.  Saluhall has around 17 small businesses, most have been run by the same family for generations. Here are some of the things we liked about it:

  • It is located in a magnificent building that dates from 1888.   The exterior is neo-gothic.  It looks a bit like a medieval castle and it’s iron framework give allow it the inside to have a high ceiling and enormous windows.
  • The stallholders are very nice and happy to share their extensive knowledge and experience.  They are a wealth of information about the food, how to cook it, etc.

  • The incredible displays of wonderful food are a treat for the eyes.
  • It is a market for locals.  They seem to want both nice quality Swedish food and more exotic foods from other countries.  Therefore, it has a nice variety of foods.

  • It is a great place to grab a wonderful, but reasonably priced bite.
  • Great people watching.
  • Something about it seems to put people in a good mood.  It has a warm, cheery atmosphere.  Maybe it’s the moose heads…

Don’t take our word for it, Bon Appétit Magazine named it the world’s seventh best food market.

We stopped there for coffee and smoked salmon smørrobrød (an open face sandwich).  I would probably have chosen something less smelly if I had known that I would be speaking with royalty.   Never mind, it was so good that I stand by my choice.

Easter In Sweden

Easter celebrations in secular Sweden are comparable to Christmas for the secular American.  While some attend church on Easter Sunday, for a majority of Swedes many of the celebrations have little to do with Christian beliefs.  Easter is a big deal in Sweden and the entire country partakes in their holiday traditions.   We were in Sweden weeks before Easter, but signs of it were already everywhere.   The Swedes seemed to look forward to Easter as a sign of spring.

I asked a nice lady at the National Museum gift shop about branches with colored feathers attached to them.  In the 12 hours I’d spent in Sweden, I’d seen them countless times.  She explained to me that Easter in Sweden is kind of like Halloween in the US.  In Sweden, children dress up as witches, paint their faces, carry brooms and knock on their neighbor’s doors for treats.

The schedule is a bit different than in the US.  Many of the traditions predate Christianity and were incorporated into Easter celebrations over the years:

  • Palmsöndag (Palm Sunday) Instead of picking up palm leaves or other branches from the church, Swedes pick up pussy willows.  They are also used as an Easter decoration.
  • Svarta måndag (black Monday) is when chimneys were traditionally swept.
  • The Thursday before Easter, Skärtorsdag (Holy Thursday), Swedish children dress up as påskkärringar (witches) and go trick-or-treating…well, sort of.   Skärtorsdagen is the day of the Last Supper.  Swedes considered it a dangerous day to be out, because the old spirits were let loose.  The night was a time for the devil, who wanted you to sign a contract exchanging for riches for your soul.  Hence the witches…

  • Good Friday is more appropriately named in Swedish Långfredag – Long Friday.  No fun may be had on this day (to mourn of the crucifixion of Christ).  In fact, public entertainment was prohibited until 1969.   The fun recommences on Saturday morning.
  • Saturday night is Påskafton (the Christmas eve of Easter), a day for feasting and eating.  Families sit down to dinners of eggs and lamb, representing the fertility of the spring and the rebirth of the year after the long winter.   They also have special crackers and exchange cards.  Traditionally children make drawings of witches, chickens and eggs accompanied by a few words.  In the late afternoon, bonfires are lit in many areas to scare off the evil influences.
  • During Easter week in Sweden, it is taboo to get married or baptize a child.

By the way, Swedes also have beautifully decorated Easter eggs, both decorative and edible.

Traveling Through History At Skansen, The World’s First Open-Air Museum

He’s been known to think of museums as a great place to nap, but enjoys the activity inherent in open-air museums.  Founded in 1891 by Artur Hazelius, Skansen was the world’s first open-air museum.  It is a great place to visit with kids, as big kids we enjoyed it too.  It was great to be out in the sun on a nice spring day and we saw tons of cool stuff.

The golden pretzel is the sign for bakeries.

How could he nap when there were fresh baked goods?

Skansen is a time machine.  It has 150 houses that were relocated from different parts of Sweden to form a medieval city.  Most of the houses have museum staff dressed in costume ready to answer questions, tell the stories of the buildings and giving demonstrations.  There are demonstrations on glass-blowing, netting, sheep-sheering, how to make bread, how to produce various handicrafts, etc.  We even bought coffee (coffee again, quelle surprise) from a costumed lady in a 19th century house.

The staff are one of the things that make Skansen so special They are everywhere and do a lot to enrich visitors.  In addition to the standard imparting knowledge, musicians perform folk melodies.  Dancers teach people folk dances.  Staff drive visitors around the complex in a horse and carriage.  People in traditional costumes walk along the streets and do traditional everyday tasks.

Skansen has a zoological part with domestic and wild local animals.  In addition to the normal farm animals, there are Scandinavian animals such as lynxes, wolves, bears, wolverines, reindeer and seals.  We happened upon them at feeding time  (around 2:00 p.m.).

Skansen is fun for kids, big ones, like us.

 

We Liked The Cut Of The Vasa Museum’s Jib

The Vasa Museum in Stockholm houses the Vasa, a sunken 17th century ship.  Finished in 1628, the Vasa was top-heavy and too narrow for her depth/weight (the king dictated the measurements and no one was about to correct him).  The Vasa sank in Stockholm’s harbor, not even a mile into her maiden voyage!   Giant oops.   333 years later, in 1961, she was salvaged almost fully intact.

How the Vasa looked when she set sail

King Gustav Adolf built the Vasa for a major role in the Swedish navy.   Sweden had been at war with Poland since 1625 and embroiled in the Thirty Years’ War.   To advance its interests, Sweden needed a strong navy.  Sweden had recently lost twelve boats.  They desperately needed some new, fancy ships.  Unfortunately, the Vasa’s designer died without leaving written records, the king changed some of the specifications and the completion date was looming.  It was a rush job.

Recreation of the interior

How the ship’s interior was organized

Fanfare surrounded the Vasa’s launch.  Hundreds watched from the shore.  Crew members’ wives and children were on board for the first leg of the journey to an island with barracks just outside the bay (where soldiers would board the ship).  Small boats towed the Vasa from the dock.  After firing a farewell salute, she tilted took in water and promptly sank.  Small boats in the harbor picked up most of the 150 people on board, but about a third went down with the ship.

This diving bell was used to salvage some of the cannons in the 1600’s!

Salvaged cannon

The captain was thrown in jail and an inquest to determine the cause of the sinking was immediately undertaken.  It wasn’t long before it became clear that the king himself did much of the decision-making.  King Gustav Adolf determined the measurements, added a second gun deck and larger cannons.  The inquest instantly dropped and crucial paperwork vanished.  Hmmmm.

Today, the Vasa is the centerpiece of a colossal museum.  The real star of the museum is the Vasa itself.   The enormous strategically lighted ship is the first thing you see when you enter the colossal, dimly lit main area.   Prepare to be awed.   It is enormous and it’s intricate timber carvings are impressive.   You can view it from every angle and it is extraordinary.  Sorry, the pictures don’t do it justice.

Normally, sitting around looking at boats is not my idea of a rockin’ good time and he gets seasick.  It doesn’t matter if boats or history is your thing; it is one of the coolest time capsules ever.  Thousands of artifacts and the remains of at least fifteen passengers were recovered.  Clothing, weapons, cannons, tools, coins, games, dishes, cutlery, food, drink and sails are all on display.  The museum does an excellent job of displaying these items and giving them context.   Without lecturing or boring visitors, the museum educates them about naval warfare, shipbuilding techniques and everyday life in 17th century Sweden.

95% of the original ship survives.  There are several reasons why the Vasa is in such good condition:

  • The ship was brand new when it sunk.
  • The Baltic Sea has a Saline level of 0.4%, which prevented many of the organisms that destroy wood from living in the water.
  • It sunk in an area where neither ice nor currents damaged it.
  • The water temperature remains relatively consistent (and cold) ranging from 1-5 degrees Celsius (33.8 – 41 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • The ship was built from oak with high iron content.
  • To prevent cracking when exposed to air and sunlight, the wood was wrapped in plastic sheets as soon as it was lifted from the water.
  • It was treated with polyethylene glycol.

We weren’t the only ones interested in the Vasa.  It is Scandinavia’s most visited museum.  While we were there, we saw the King and Queen of Sweden, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles.  They actually got to go on the ship.  Lucky ducks.

 

As Addicts, We Loved Fika, The Swedish Tradition Of Coffee Time

I am an addict.  Recognizing your addiction is the first step, but I don’t want to quit.  I love my coffee and am not about to give it up.  Sweden might feel the same way.

Coffee shops are everywhere in Stockholm and the quality is quite good.  It frought with danger for the calorie conscious.  The Swedish tradition of fika  (coffee time) is untranslatable, it seems to mean to meet up for seems to involve a coffee, conversation and a tasty treat.   We saw dessert tables piled with tasty treats everywhere.  From pastries to sweetbreads to cinnamon rolls to cakes and pies, they have it all.  Apparently, it is bad form to offer less than three different types of pastries to your guests.

Rather than just getting my caffeine fix, I took advantage of our time in Stockholm to treat myself to some fancy coffees.  Regular coffee is available, but I had cappuchinos, lattes, expressos and other fancy coffees.   We also partook of the baked goods.  I know, I live on the edge.

Ice Ice Baby, Stockholm’s Ice Bar

English: Absolut Ice Bar in Stockholm

English: Absolut Ice Bar in Stockholm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

If you travel enough, sooner or later, you will be in a city with an ice bar.  You don’t go to these for the slightly overpriced drinks.  You go for the unique experience.  Stockholm’s Icebar in the Nordic Sea Hotel (guests get discounts) is the second oldest behind the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.

 

 

In the bar, everything, from the glasses to the bar itself to the tip jar are made of ice.  The ice is shipped from the Torne River in northern Sweden.   Obviously, it has to remain below freezing inside the bar so that the ice doesn’t melt.  The thermostat is set at -5 Celsius (23 Farenheit) When you sit on chair made of ice and hold a drink made from ice, you could get a little cold.    Before entering, you are given a coat with a hood and mittens.  It looks like the uniform of some sort of cult.  It’s a metallic blue blanket with a fleece lined hood.  They keep you warm, prevent your body heat from melting the ice and provide a neat photo opportunity.

 

 

 

Don’t stress over what you’ll get to drink.  In the Absolut Ice Bar, your options are vodka, and, um, vodka.

 

 

 

Being from Michigan, we appreciate ice carving.  In addition to the glass, made from a hollowed-out block of ice there were stools, tables, the bar, the tip jar and sculptures.  It was to see the ingenious ways in which they made everyday items from ice.

 

 

The Ice Bar is small, holding only 35 people. If you are interested, book ahead or you will have to wait.  Although the wait can be more than a half an hour, I hear that it’s easier to get in around 10:00.  The maximum time in the bar without buying another round of drinks is 40 minutes.  Don’t worry.  You’re there for the novelty of it all and likely won’t want to stay longer than that anyway.

 

 

Alcohol is expensive in Sweden (explaining their enthusiasm for an open bar), but the Ice Bar is still more expensive than a regular bar.  It’s something you do for the experience, and a touristy one at that.  I doubt that you will encounter any Stockholm residents there.  Regardless, it’s a unique experience and something you won’t forget.

 

Yes, the little girl is licking the ice like the kid from “A Christmas Story.”

 

 

 

Millennium Trilogy Walking Tour Of Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm – Part Two

Yesterday, I posted Millennium Trilogy Walking Tour of Stieg Larssons Stockhom – Part One.  It told about visiting the Sodermalm area of Stockholm, Lisbeth Salander‘s apartments, Mikael Blomkvist‘s apartment, Monteliusvagen and the Lunda Bridge.  Sodermalm  contains many other places named in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.

Södermalmstorg – Milton Security Offices

Lisbeth Salander worked as a freelancer for Milton Security.  Her first guardian, Holger Palmgren, recommended her to Dragan Armanskij, the Executive Director and chief operating officer of Milton Security.  They form a stable working relationship and build a degree of trust.  Most of their interactions take place at the Milton Security offices, located at the entrance to the Södermalm district from the old town of Gamla Stan.

The concrete, glass and steel buildings of Slussen are the offices of Milton Security, the company worked for as a freelancer.

Stockholm’s City Museum, which provides Millennium tours in several languages  and sells self-guided tour maps is located nearby.

Transit Stop: Slussen T-bana

Hornsgatan 78 – Mellqvist Kaffebar

Located near Lundagaten (where he set Lisbeth Salander’s first apartment), this was one Stieg Larsson’s favorite places.

In the 1990’s, Stieg Larsson was a director at Expo magazine, which had its offices above the coffee shop.  He sometimes had breakfast and hung out there.  He wrote several pages of the Millennium Trilogy there.  It is a perfect place to stop for coffee or a quick-lunch.

This tiny neighborhood coffee shop and a setting for several scenes with the name Kaffebar.  It is a favorite haunt of Mikael Blomqvist. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo he meets Salander there and she asks him for a loan so she can go to Zurich.  He also meets Erica Berger there.

Transit Stop: Karlberg station

Götgatan 17A (the corner of Götgatan and Hökens Gata) – Millennium Magazine Offices

In the books, Mikael Blomkvist and Erika Berger run Millennium Magazine.  Their fictional offices were located in an L-shaped office on the third floor of this building.  In reality, it houses apartments, above the real-life Greenpeace offices.

In the Swedish film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, number 11 Götgatan street stands in as the entrance to the Millennium offices.

Transit Stop: Slussen T-bana

Götgatan 25 – 7-Eleven

This is a 7-Eleven where Lisbeth Salander often shops for large packages of frozen pizzas (Billy’s Pan Pizza, flavor unknown) and Marlboro Lights.

7-Eleven is surprisingly popular in the nordic countries.  While it was too cold for a Slurpee (darn), you can take advantage of this stop to refuel.  You could even pick up some Ramlösa sparkling (the mineral water, the preferred brand Mikael Blomkvist).  It’s Swedish and comes from near Helsingborg.

Transit Stop: Slussen T-bana

Tjärhovsgatan, 4 – Kvarnen

The members of the heavy metal band Evil Fingers are some of the few people with whom Lisabeth Salander is able to forge a relationship.  They play at Kvarnen every Tuesday night.  Salander goes regularly.  Mikael Blomkvist and Millennium employees also come here.

Kvarnen is a legendary 100 year-old beer hall that is full of character with a massive wooden bar.  Its restaurant serves traditional Swedish dishes like Swedish hash, fried herring, reindeer, and meatballs.

Several scenes from the books are set at Kvarnen.  In The Girl Who Played with Fire Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are both at Kvarnen.  Salander sees Blomkvist is having a beer with Dag Svensson and tries to attract his attention by kissing Miriam Wu.

Transit Stop: Medborgarplatsen T-bana

St. Paulsgatan 13 – Synagogue

This is home to the Adat Jisrael Synagogue.  Detective Inspector Jan Bublanski is a member.  He meets Dragan Armanskij (Salander’s boss at Milton Security) here.

Hornsgatan 20 – Java Cafe

In the books, the characters frequently visit Java Café, indulging in the Swede’s love of coffee.  It is currently located at Hornsgaten 20 and has a different name.

Transit Stop: Slussen T-bana

Tavastgatan 28 – Tabbouli (the inspiration and stand-in for Samirs Gryta)

Tabbouli is the inspiration for Samir’s, the Lebanese restaurant where Blomquist, his friends, and Millennium Magazine’s staff dine (lamb stew anyone?).  In The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, it is the location of the shoot out with Nikolic brothers.

Subway Stop: Mariatorget T-bana

Mosebacke Square/Sodra Teatern

Mosebacke square, near Salander’s new apartment on Fiskargatan, features a statue of entwined sisters.  She is seen walking through here in the movies with her lawyer Annika Giannini.  At the end, they are shown at the Sodra Teatern, restaurant and summery terrace popular for having a drink and its wonderful views.

The Millenium Trilogy is set in other Stockholm’s neighborhoods.  Kungshlmen, an island across from Sodermalm where city hall is located, contains the courthouse and police station.

Scheelegatan 7 – Courthouse

Located in the Kungsholmen district on Rungsholmen, the Stockholm District Courthouse is easy to spot because of its tower with the green roof.  The Millennium Trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, starts here, with Mikael Blomkvist’s conviction for slander. It is also the scene of the trial where Lisbeth Salander is declared legally competent.

Transit Stop: Rådhuset T-bana

Kungsholmsgatan 37 – Police Headquarters

This police station features in the books The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest as the workplace of  inspector Jan Bublanski leads the team of investigators, Sonja Modig, Hans Faste, Cut Svensson Jerker Holmberg.

Subway Stop: Rådhuset T-bana

Upplandsgatan – Substitute Guardian Erik Nills Bjurman’s Apartment

The the Vasastan area  on island of Kungsholm was the home of Astrid Lindgren (the author of the Kalle Blomkvist and Pippi Longstocking books).  It is not surprising that Larsson, who greatly admired Lindgren, used this as a setting for pivotal scenes in his books

Salander’s second guardian, Erik Nills Bjurman, has a four bedroom residence on Upplandsgatan street in Odenplan, near the Odenplan T-station.  It is not far from his office in Vasastaden district.

In his apartment, he violently assaults Salander and where she exacts her revenge.  It is also the site of his murder in The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Transit Station: Odenplan T-bana

  • Outside of Stockholm, the quaint village of Gnesta, doubles as the fictional village of Hedestad in the Swedish films.
  • Mikael Blomqvist has a cottage on the archipelago island of Sandhamn.
  • Kurgens Kurva is home to the world’s largest IKEA.  This is where Salander purchases the furniture for her new apartment.
  • Goran Martensson of the Personal Protection Division at Sapo and a member of “the section” lives in Vallingby.
  • Millennium employee Dag Svensson and Mia Bergman live in (and are murdered in) an apartment in Enskede.

Millennium Trilogy Walking Tour Of Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm – Part One

I read and loved Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (so did the rest of my book club in Charlotte, ladies this one is for you).   In Stockholm, you can take the Stockholm City Museum’s popular and award-winning Stieg Larsson Millennium Tour (available in several languages).  It is also possible to  do a self-guided tour with a Millennium Map sold the City Museum for 40 SEK ($5).

Transit Stop: Slussen T-bana

The City Museum (at the entry to Sodermalm)

Heading out in search of sites from the books and movies seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out Södermalm, a fantastic neighborhood in Stockholm where many of the book’s scenes are based.  Sodermalm has always been the working-class, even bohemian part of the city.  Although gentrified, it retains a unique character.  Old wooden cottages and 20th century stone houses line its narrow cobblestoned streets.  Steig Larsson lived there and he had his characters live there too, at least the heroes do.  The villains live elsewhere.

Fiskargatan 9 – New Apartment Home of Lisbeth Salander

With her ill-gotten gains, Lisbeth Salander purchased a 21-room suite on the top floor of the upscale building Fiskargatan, 9 for 25 million kronor ($3,850,00 or  2,808,000  Euros).  It is in an exclusive and discreet neighborhood.  She chose the apartment for its light and excellent views over Gamla Stan, Djurgården Island and the Bay of Saltsjön.   Built in 1910, its green metal roof, making it easy to spot.

In The Girl Who Played with Fire, Salander moves in to this apartment.  She went to IKEAfurnished only three of its rooms.

The name on the door to Salander’s apartment is a nod to Sweden’s famous children’s book character, Pippi Longstocking’s town “Villerkulla”.  The buzzer to her apartment was labeled “V. Kulla.”  Stieg Larsson was inspired by the idea of a grown up Pippi Langstrump (Pippi Longstocking) who gets things done on her own when creating the character of Lisbeth Salander.  This is clearly a nod to another famous Swedish author.

Transit Stop: Slussen T-bana

Lundagatan – First apartment of Lisbeth Salander

Unlike most of the locations in the books, the number of Lisbeth Salander’s flat on Lundagaten is never named.  She had a miserable upbringing in her mother’s public housing flat on Lundagatan.  At 18 Lisbeth Salander, aided by her guardian, Holger Palmgren, purchased it for her mother.  From the books, we know it is located on Lundagatan street near Högalid church and is close to the #66 bus stop.  Some have speculated that it is number 38.  In the Girl Who Played With Fire, Salander moves to her new apartment at Kargatan 9.  She allows Miriam Wu to use the flat. When Salander lived there, it was unorganized and not very clean.  Miriam Wu cleans it up and decorates.

Transit Stop: Zinkensdamm T-bana

The Lunda Bridge (Lundabron)

This a bridge that connects Lundagatan, where Lisbeth Salander’s first apartment is located, and Bellmansgatan, the street where Mikael Blomkvist’s apartment is located.  It is significant because it was the fastest way between them.

Monteliusvagen

From the Lundabron, you can walk via Monteliusvagen, a quarter-mile promenade overlooking Lake Malaren and the Old Town, to Mikael Blomquist’s apartment.   From the path you can also see the courthouse where Mikael stands on the steps after being found guilty of libel across the water.

Bellmansgatan 1 – Mikael Blomvist’s Apartment

It is located on Mariaberget Hill in the historic Söder district.  Many of the buildings in this area were built after a fire in 1759.   Blomkvist’s apartment is in a luxury building located in a desirable neighborhood.  You can recognize it by its gothic and neo-gothic spires, mid-air walkway and castle-like details.

It has views of Riddarfjärden bay, the Saltsjon bay and Stockholm’s old town Gamla Stan.  From the books, we know that Blomkvist bought the flat in the 1980s.  In the book the entrance to his apartment is the front door of the building. In reality, it is accessed directly from the elevated walkway.

Don’t expect an undiscovered spot; it may well be Stockholm’s most well-known address.  Fans from all over the world come see and photograph this building.

Subway Stop: Gamla Stan T-bana

More from Sodermalm tomorrow…

I Made The Queen Of Sweden Smile…And Met Camilla Parker-Bowles

We weren’t the only bigwigs in Sweden last week.  Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles (the Duchess of Cornwall) were also visiting.  I caught a glimpse of a fancy motorcade on the way to a museum.  A local told me that it was probably for Prince Charles who was in town visiting the King and Queen.

I was walking through Gamala Stan and saw him come out and sign a couple of autographs on the way from one palace building to another.

The next day, we were on the way to the Vasa Museum when a fancy motorcade sped past.   We were hoping that they weren’t headed to the same place because we didn’t want delays.  We were able to enter the museum when it opened and began touring it.  It is awesome!  So impressive.

We were asked to step back by some guards to make a path for King Carl of Sweden, Queen  Silvia of Sweden, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles to pass. We stepped back and I got the camera ready.  I was able to snap a couple of pics before they got too close (I didn’t want to blind them).  The King and Queen stood back, letting Charles and Camilla work the crowd.  I caught the Queen’s eye, smiled at her, gave her the thumbs up and whispered “great country.”  She cracked a smile.  We had a moment.

Camilla came up to me and asked me where I was from.  I told her that I was from the states, but lived in Geneva.  We chatted about the impressive ship and the well-curated museum.  She asked if I was enjoying my time in Stockholm.  I said “immensely, it’s a wonderful place, but you have a very nice country as well.  We had a fantastic time there.”  She smiled and wished me a nice trip.

Surprisingly, she did not invite me to tea later.  Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising…I’d just eaten smoked salmon and downed a couple of cups of coffee.