“On the first sunny days this spring everyone was outside their houses, leaning their backs against the walls and their faces to the sun.” Our Swedish host had laughed as he told us this. So had we, as we listened to the rain.
That was day one.
Our Grand day though is different – there is sunshine, lots of it, bouncing off water in every direction.
We head to the Veranda at The Grand Hotel for smorgasbord and try not to think about what the meal might do to our budget.
Part payment will be what we have saved in taxi fares. We have been in Stockholm just four days and we have walked the city to the bones of our shoes.
We have been everywhere from the medieval shadows of Gamla Stan to the spacious shopping malls. We have eaten in the covered Saluhall food market and in the cafes scattered through Stockholm. We have late-nighted on the Saturday subway in search of meatballs and today, Sunday, we are treating ourselves to The Grand.
Rooms at The Grand are so expensive that most travel guides go into a blank swoon. It is reputedly Scandinavia’s finest hotel, bedroom to laureates and presidents and so discreet it won’t tell.
The entrance hall is pillars and big space. The wide, rectangular Veranda is off to the side and it gleams with polish.
Window boxes of daffodils are lined up along the outside of the thick pane of glass that runs the length of the room. They nod in the sunshine. Two days earlier they had been buried in snow.
That blizzard had hit during our last night on board the three-masted ‘af Chapman’. Snow had thumped on to the deck, ripped out of the rigging by the wind. Checking out that morning had been a cold, slippery walk along the gangplank up to the youth hostel reception.
The walk over the bridge and off the island had been even colder and longer. The challenge had been not to take a taxi so we had headed into the horizontal snow with a pathetic umbrella and a toppling wheelie suitcase. As for our feet – the advice has to be that if you are doing spring in Stockholm take your wellies.
Today that bridge is just around the corner, stretched out like a sun-lounger, and we are in The Grand. We are in luxury – thick white tablecloths and dry socks. The smorgasbord sets us adrift on a high. The venison shavings; the feathers of fish; the delicate asparagus soup; and the tiny chocolate delights make it hard to move. We schnap to a standstill.
Outside Stockholm salutes the afternoon sun – we have just one more mouthful. It doesn’t seem right to leave The Grand in a hurry.