Last Friday, we embarked on part 2 of our summer vacation and tried to squeeze every last ounce of fun and sunshine out of the summer. And I'd say we succeeded. We took the bullet train to Stockholm, spent 2 nights there, and then took the overnight ferry to Helsinki, Finland, and spent 1 night there as well.
I can't say enough good things about the Silja ferry ride to Helsinki. For about $400, we got round-trip transportation to Helsinki for the 3 of us (in a mid-range sleeping cabin overlooking the promenade), breakfast both mornings, plus a nice hotel room in Helsinki. The weather was surprisingly great, so we got to enjoy an evening cruise through the Stockholm archipelago. Truly unbelievable. Three hours after leaving Stockholm we still hadn't hit open water. There were tiny islands dotted with cute cottages on either side of us, in some of the most remote land I've ever seen. It was the highlight of our whole trip.
We couldn't help comparing the two cities, since we visited them back to back. Our assessment: Stockholm wins hands down in the beautiful city/cool attraction department, but Helsinki felt more livable, friendly and down-to-earth to us.
In Stockholm, Lewis and I gave two thumbs up to the Vasa Museum, where a 17th century viking ship is on display, dinner at the Östermalm saluhall and lunch at the restaurant in the modern art museum, with an incredible view of the city and harbor. (Our room at Hotel Riddargatan was also a plus – comfortable, modern and in the best location.) In Helsinki, we loved relaxing in the main park/square in town and enjoyed the Suomenlinna island and fortress.
Sophie's faves? It would have to be the ferry, where our room overlooked the main shows on the promenade. They had Moomin characters plus Carnivale-type performers, and she was completely captivated. She also had a lot of fun walking back to the hotel from dinner one night in Stockholm. It was like 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile, and she walked the whole way holding our hand. Luckily we weren't in a rush and the city sidewalks weren't that busy. Just a nice slow stroll and one of those simple moments that make being a parent the best thing in the world.
And while there were a lot of those moments, I must say that this trip was probably our most challenging one yet with Sophie. She missed her afternoon nap a couple of times, and that made dinner out a nightmare. And our morning/lunch at the modern art museum in Stockholm consisted of Lewis and I taking turns viewing the exhibits while Sophie was having a tantrum.
This is probably par for the course with a toddler, but "no" has become her new favorite word and we are precariously navigating this new stage of parenthood. Our worst fear is that our sweet Sophie turns into bratty Sophie due to poor parenting skills. Lewis and I now seem to have a daily discussion about how to handle things with a united front and the right level of discipline. Any of you veteran mommies and daddies have any words of wisdom to share?