Showing posts with label holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holidays. Show all posts

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A Taste of Sweden - Churches & Chandeliers













 When we are not on the water, we enjoy the usual tourist occupations of exploring new places, sampling the local food (and drink) and visiting the beautiful Lutheran churches that are found in every town in Sweden.  

The interiors are gorgeous with elaborate decorations and vivid religious paintings.  I was particularly drawn to the exquisite chandeliers.  My favourite is the one with the deep blue crystal at its centre.  The atmosphere is very different to English churches and they are a very useful source of Swedish history.

Friday, 7 August 2015

A Taste of Sweden - Simple Swedish Style

A simple vase of flowers at Grassagarden



There is much to enjoy and explore in Sweden.  On a sunny day, the water sparkles in the strong, clear, clean light, the days are endless, the sunsets memorable.  

But what I also love is the Swedish sense of style which perfectly suits the Swedish climate and the strong light.  So simple but so beautiful.  




We arrived on the small island of Rastaholm on Lake Malaren to find that it was barbecue night at the Rastaholm Inn.  The freshly-caught barbecued sea bream was quite simply one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten, served with a selection of freshly prepared salads, a cold glass of white wine and finished off with a delicious coffee served with a glass of warmed rum and chocolate truffles and fresh berries.  There was live music and later we took to the dance floor...


Table Decorations, Rastaholm Inn, Lake Malaren
The morning after the storm that brought us to the town of Strangnas on the shores of Lake Malaren was my husband's birthday and luckily the day was fine and clear, so we spent the morning exploring the town.  We came across the pretty Cafe Grassagarden which dates from the 17th century and used to be an inn. 





 The interior was just as charming and I loved the windows.  I have a big love affair with Swedish windows.








Another favourite spot on the mainland is the KutterKonfect, a lovely shop and cafe in the town of Trosa not far from Stockholm.  The speciality is chocolate-covered marzipan, the presentation is amazing and the temptation is huge!



Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Taste of Sweden - Views from the Cockpit

Sailing is a frustrating business!  Conditions are rarely favourable and it is frequently impossible to actually go anywhere in the boat at all, even in Summer, as the sea is too rough for any but the most intrepid (not me then!) or foolhardy.  Either the wind is in the wrong direction, or there is too much or it, or too little, or the tide is against us - although this doesn't apply in the Baltic - or it is tipping down with rain, but every now and then (a bit like Goldilocks) everything is just right and you have a perfect moment, actually lots of perfect moments out on the water, seeing the world from a very different perspective and often almost completely alone.  Compensation for dawn starts, unpleasant, crowded airports, snaking queues and tortuous journeys to be there! 

Boatyard at Oxelosund where we began our holiday 
The last two gorgeous Baltic summers of cockpit living, the sun shining almost every day, the weather lovely and hot and firmly stuck in the 'Baltic High' had not prepared us for this difficult and extreme summer.  It started well enough and the first few days were hot and sunny but the weather quickly deteriorated.  Every day could be both hot and sunny and cold and very wet indeed at any one time and weather forecasts proved to be extremely unreliable.


Our holiday home - moored at Rastaholm, Lake Malaren
Living in a very confined space when torrential rain is drumming down (and trickling down the mast which runs through the cabin), despite our best efforts to seal it, and dripping gently through the window onto my berth where I sleep with a towel and a bowl beside me to catch the drips) with nowhere to dry any of our wet clothes, unable to go anywhere until conditions improve, is not the best fun - we are after all camping on the water.  Then there is the loo situation! Facilities are often pretty basic and can be downright unpleasant and inadequate and forget privacy!  

We arrived on one island in the Archipelago, successfully moored onto the rocks and were directed to the facilities which turned out to be a compost toilet, a 10 minute walk away through a swamp.  What they didn't tell us was that no-one actually walks there, they all dinghy there, but we naively set off along a very overgrown path, slipping on wet rocks, sinking into bogs and under attack from ecstatic midges.  I was badly bitten on my face and hands, the only exposed parts of me, and pretty traumatised.  We left shortly afterwards to find a more civilised spot with an easy walk to the facilities and no midges.  Mosquitoes though are a perennial problem on the water, particularly the lakes.

Another low was the day we motored across Lake Malaren to Strangnas - a charming  lakeside town -starting out in glorious sunshine, anchoring in a quiet bay for my speciality boat lunch of feta cheese and couscous salad only for the skies to turn ominously black by 4pm leaving us motoring through torrential rain, thunder and lightning for two hours before arriving soaked in harbour to find it was full on a wet Wednesday!  Luckily they managed to squeeze us in eventually  - we are quite small and that can be an advantage - and we had a memorable outdoor supper with new friends Eva and Pieter under canvas at the crowded harbour restaurant, the rain still tipping down in sheets and running through the streets like a river, still dressed for warmth in our foul weather gear.  The glamour of it all!


Strangnas, the morning after the storm
But there were some very special moments too, some beautiful remote bays to anchor in, some stunning skies and sunsets, delicious meals sometimes with live music, chance encounters with charming and friendly Swedes and some very pretty towns to moor up in and visit too.  I could easily fill the boat with gorgeous Swedish design and love browsing around the antique and interiors shops, stopping for a cup of invariably excellent coffee or ice cream and a delicious lunch of fresh fish and salad before admiring the lovely Lutheran churches found in every town.


Anchored at Sackholmen, Stockholm Archipelago


Sunset at Sackholmen - Archipelago

Rastaholm in a rare sunny moment...


Slandokalve, Lake Malaren

Gripsholm Castle, Mariefred, Lake Malaren

Nacka Strand, Stockholm at Sunset

Monday, 27 July 2015

A Taste of Sweden. Trosa - Windows









 Sweden is not having a good summer this year!  For us, living for three weeks there on a small boat when the sun plays hide and seek, the rain comes down in torrents and it is frequently cold and windy, is far from ideal.  

However, I have amused myself during the gaps between storms, wandering around a pretty town in the Archipelago, taking photos of pretty Swedish windows.  The Swedes certainly know how to dress a window beautifully!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Sailing into trouble - Sea and Sky

Surprisingly, there was little indication of what was brewing as we sailed up the Venetian Lagoon towards Chioggia.  Weather is fickle and can change so quickly, 
but we had a peaceful meander that day.


Just us...


...and them...


...the sea...


...and the sky.

This is what I go out on the water for!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lunch is in the Sea

Travelling alone across Northern Italy by train and bus, armed only with a toothbrush and a dozen words of Italian, was not on the agenda when we agreed to join friends for a sailing trip to Venice and the Venetian Lagoon on a charter boat.  I had jumped ship!


Fishing boat - Chioggia
The previous day had started pleasantly enough with a wander round the old fishing town of Chioggia, investigating the street market and drinking delicious Italian coffee, watching the street life.  There was a strong wind blowing though and we both wondered if sailing back to Venice was viable in such rough conditions. However when we arrived back at the boat and started preparing lunch, we found ourselves underway! Without consulting anyone and anxious to get the boat back in time, the skipper had simply set off.  

Surprised and apprehensive, we took our french bread rolls up to the cockpit in a bowl and 
started to eat lunch, anxiously watching the harbour mouth to see what conditions were like at sea. With layer on layer of white water ahead, I voted to turn back now, before we left safe waters, but in a group the consensus rules and only one of the others was particularly concerned as apparently it is not uncommon for conditions to be at their worst at the harbour mouth, but to settle down once out at sea.  We donned the flotation jackets but with no safety straps provided to hook onto the boat, we had simply to hang onto any fixed bit of the boat we could find!  I wrapped my arm firmly around a winch as a huge wave, over 7 feet high, lifted us over the sandbank and tossed us down into the churning, boiling sea - the heaviest I have ever seen, or wish to see again at such close quarters.  

With the bowl of sandwiches sliding around and proving a distraction from the grim business of hanging on for our lives, one of the others took the executive decision to dump our lunch, bowl as well, into the sea. She crouched beside me, silent and pale, an accomplished sailor unlike me, and way out of her depth. Trembling with fear, teeth chattering, I clung to my winch.  The skipper refused to turn back. The huge wave at the harbour mouth would, he insisted, turn the boat over if we tried to return and there was no way back.  He handed the wheel to my partner, the only other man on board and luckily an experienced sailor able to manage the boat in such rough conditions, and disappeared down below to sort out the navigation.  By the time he returned we had mutinied, and to a man and woman had decided to go back, whatever it took, rather than face many hours in such dire and dangerous conditions with an uncertain outcome.  


My partner took charge and somehow managed to find a tiny window of slightly flatter water to turn the boat swiftly, avoiding capsizing it which could have flung any or all of us into the sea - a huge wave hitting a small boat sideways-on is the biggest danger.  He then skillfully surfed the waves back into safe waters to the enormous relief of all on board.  Later, when we had recovered from our ordeal, we took the safe route back through the canals to Venice, a route which had previously been discounted on the grounds of depth, but which turned out to be perfectly negotiable.  We never did get lunch that day but we really bonded over supper that night!


I rose early the next morning and set out alone for Grado where we had joined the boat, unwilling to expose myself to such potential danger again and looking forward to a trip overland under my own steam. My partner felt he should stay with the boat and see everyone safely back as the sea was still very unsettled after the recent storm. 



St Marks from St Elena
I thoroughly enjoyed my early morning Vaporetto trip across to St Marks Square where I found myself a front row seat on a trip up the Grand Canal to the railway station, negotiated the pitfalls of the Italian ticketing system, took a train across Northern Italy, nearly missed my stop, somehow managed to communicate with a fellow traveller who spoke no English at all, but helped me find my way by bus to Grado and back to the market square where we began our adventure a week before. 

Sitting with coffee and a croissant, I decided enough was enough and booked myself into a hotel for our last night in the Venetian Lagoon, a small cosy room with my own loo and shower and a bed that I could stretch out in and get out of without hitting my head!  Utter bliss.  The others arrived later that evening after a long but relatively uneventful trip, cold, tired and wet.  We shared a final celebratory meal together and, relieved, went back to our everyday lives.  




The holiday from hell or the holiday of a lifetime?  A bit of both perhaps but two firm decisions have been made.  One is that we will only sail alone, on our own very sea-worthy boat, make our own decisions; and the other?  To learn Italian!

Friday, 29 August 2014

A Taste of Sweden - Trosa



It was a chance meeting with Arno and Gita, a tricky mooring and a vicious tree attacking my partner as he helped them tie their boat up next to ours on the rocks at Ringson (followed by a compensatory gin and tonic on their boat) which led us to Trosa, a very pretty little town with a strong New England feel.  I think you can really see how Swedish style influenced building in parts of North America.


This gorgeous house reflects its surroundings, the light green of the roof tiles picking up the light green of the larger tree, while the colour of the railings and the small tree in the front garden are picked up by the window frame in the eaves, all sitting tranquilly beside the river.


Our favourite cafe, Kutter Konfect, which serves delicious coffee as well as hand-made marzipan and truffles.  The Swedes love their coffee and the quality is very high - a lovely, mellow flavour and just the right temperature. We never had a bad cup of coffee in Sweden - a real pleasure. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Another day, another mooring



I love the skies in Sweden, especially the evening skies just before the sun sets after a long, long summer's day.

It is rarely dark before 11pm and light starts creeping into the skies again by 3am in June/July, which I found rather unsettling. I don't think we really slept deeply at all.


We dropped anchor for the night in this quiet inlet...






...before heading to Fyrudden, a small pretty harbour, just a shop, a bar and a few houses...















...then on to Arkosund and a stunning sunset.  

We found ourselves caught up in a Swedish music quiz - we didn't understand the questions, never mind having the answers!










Nykopping at night. The night sky is rather painterly, I thought...


...and we could have showers and catch up with the laundry...




 ...then on to Ringson, an island in the Stockholm Archipelago where we learnt to moor onto the rocks, very popular with the Swedes, as you can then hop ashore and light a barbeque, walk the dog etc...









...before heading for the marina at Trosa, a beautiful little seaside town with a New England feel where we stayed a couple of days...






...then a long, so very hot day motor sailing which brought us to the beautiful island of Rastaholm on Lake Malaren, our favourite place of all, I think. Just idyllic...














...but, we had Stockholm on our minds again and the chance to sail into this stunning city, admiring the gorgeous Swedish summer houses built on the water...










... then a chance encounter with Andreas, a lovely German who had hit a rock (a common occurance in the Archipelago) and who needed a tow into Stockholm.  We took his line and towed him for 2 hours - 4 tons of metal just behind us, and no brakes, negotiating a lock, a bridge opening and heavy traffic coming into Stockholm...




...but we made it safely into Vasa Harbour in Stockholm, where we were found some scarce space - city harbours are popular in summer, but a crippled boat will always be a priority......and we ended our journey back where we started with an unlooked for extra two days in Stockholm, packed tight in Vasa harbour... w
ith an invitation to a wedding in Germany very soon!