September 24-26, 2000
This morning, Mike found this troubling article in the European edition of USA today. Mike feels, as do we all, that people should be diligent in making sure their health care costs are covered before they engage in excessive ballooning adventures.
The morning is clear and bright: blue skies over Stockholm.
Despite occasional naps on the road yesterday, I found myself very tired and spacey last night, and some solid sleeping was urgently required. The Grand Hotel is a fine place for rest: Everything here is absolutely top-notch ... including the all-important bed. After closing my eyes, the next five things that caught my attention were my alarm clock ... five times because I kept hitting the snooze button and instantly falling back into a total sleep. Perhaps I'm a little behind in logging sleep hours.
We're all meeting downstairs in a few minutes, and we'll plot our morning schedule at that time. With the weather so apparently perfect, ballooning appears to be a real possibility. That would be a late afternoon activity, however, and we will have things to do before then. I'll let you know what they are!
Look at the clock! Hell, look at the calendar! It's Monday, and you don't know what happened to us on Sunday! ...
Well, it was quite a lot. We did the usual breakfast and lunch things. Between those events, Stephani, Robin and I explored some of the shopping possibilities. After lunch most of us visited the Vasa Museum (which was totally incredible). And then we ballooned over Stockholm ... and then we had a marvelous dinner.
When I set it forth in such a summary fashion, it seems so simple. But I've got about 300 photos from Monday, and they need to be sorted and arranged and uploaded so you can see them, and that takes time, and we're so busy doing new things. As I said, it's actually Monday as I write this, and we're about to start doing our Monday things. Perhaps I will come back to this spot later ... but for now, this will give you a bit of the flavor:
You might want to check this page in the future: It's always possible that I will add more photos! (Additional Vasa photos from September 24 were added as late as August 2001 ... these pages are living documents.)
What's going on here?
Could there be a King Sigismund of Hungary in 1396, and then, 202 years later, a King Sigismund of Sweden? It seems strange; I wonder if heads should roll in the Research Department. On the other hand, the entire range of royal breeding stock was limited, and it could be that Hungary and Sweden had some nuptials of convenience at some point during the fifteenth or sixteenth century. I suppose it's possible that, as an ultimate result of this, a young Swedish Sigismund bore the name of his long-past Hungarian forebear. Stranger things have happened.
It's another absolutely beautiful day in Stockholm! The weather has been much kinder to us than we had any right to expect. As of this morning, it looks like we might have another flight today. If we do, that will mean five out of six possible flights ... much, much better than we expected.
Of course, it's still morning. For now, we've had breakfast ... and then Stephani, Robin and I explored the "Old Town" part of Stockholm. Our plan now is for lunch and a boat tour of Stockholm ... and then we hope to fire up the propane for one last flight. This will be the last flight of the Screwmaids until Chateau d'Oex 2001!
A small sample of this morning's walk:
Lunch (at the Grand Hotel) was great; the boat ride was great! This is such a beautiful city, and it's so riddled with water, you can cruise around all day long. We only spent an hour on our sightseeing tour, however. The boat was equipped with headphones that would describe the sights in six different languages. For the most part we chose English, although an occasional switch to the mellifluous Swedish description provided a particularly peaceful experience.
A little before 5:00, we headed out once again for a flight ... our last flight of this trip. Our takeoff spot was the same as yesterday's. Since there was some traffic congestion on the main highway that led to that spot, though, we took an alternate route. There were lots of balloons already in the air as we drove through Stockholm. This must be the most heavily ballooned major city in Europe.
Our flight was excellent! Although we launched from the same location as before, a change int he winds gave us a different path. Robin watched for golf courses (and near the end of our flight was rewarded with a couple of them), and I experimented with my 15mm lens. (The results will have to await Kodak processing back home.) We found a great landing site and touched down right next to an alien crop circle that had been marked into the field.
We had dinner at Diana's, on the Old Town island. Go there if you get a chance! The food was really good, and the atmospheric cellar made a nice location. Pikeperch fillet was a popular choice; the reindeer was excellent.
Well, it looks like we've reached the end of another fabulously successful trip. We had several excellent flights ... more than we expected the weather would allow. We spent many happy hours on the road, in museums, on boats and at tables. This has been such a great group! We're already looking forward to travelling together again next year in Turkey. I've traveled with Alf and Annie and Stephani and Robin before, and they're always a total pleasure. And it was so wonderful meeting Watcharee and spending these days with her! This could not have been any better.
Now it's time to finish packing up, and then we're off to the airport. Long flights today! Stephani, Robin, Annie and I are all on the same flight to New York. There, we'll split up, with Stephani and Robin catching a direct flight to Fort Lauderdale. Annie and I are both heading for Seattle, of course, but we have been scheduled on different flights: Hers is direct; mine involves a plane change in Salt Lake City. Delta might have cleared my waiting list status on Annie's flight so we can arrive together ... we'll find out somewhere along the way.
Now it's time to turn the pen over to Alf for up-to-the-minute ongoing details. But I'm not done yet! I have lots and lots of photos that I haven't had time to sort through, because we've been so busy ... and I have more to tell, too. So, during the next few days, I'll be going through this journal and filling in the gaps with much more exciting stuff! Keep tuning in here, even as you follow Alf's new exploits back in Bangkok. (He's going to be moving back into the totally remodeled Gore Vidal suite.) Major additions will be indicated on the site's main page, so you'll know what's happening.
And then ... after a few months of Bangkok, elephant polo, and assorted other adventures ... I'll be back here in January to tell you all about Chateau d'Oex once again!