I sleep very intermittently. Out of 7 hours in bed, sleep is only worth about 4 hours. We eat breakfast at the hotel and then catch a taxi to see the Vasa, a Swedish battleship that sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628.
The ship is very well preserved. The Baltic Sea is not salty enough to support wood worms. We watch a video and take a tour.
Afterwards we catch a taxi back to the hotel and buy a lovely piece of glass at the hotel shop. Then we are off to catch the Silja ferry to Helsinki. John will be attending the HP conference on board.
We get on board and are directed to a really nice cabin. There is a sitting area with a big window and a king size bed. This is bigger than some European hotel rooms we have been in. The ship itself does not seem luxurious, though, it is more like an overnight ferry with an accordion playing disco music.
We have not seen anyone we know. John and I go down to the Bon Vivant restaurant and have dinner while the ship is pulling away from Stockholm. Beautiful! I order a duck compote and sauteed flounder and John has a veal main course. It is all good.
Later on deck I talk to a 9 year old boy from Espo, Finland. He speaks English really well. Thank goodness everyone speaks it! We also take a ride in an elevator where, after me, John is the shortest person there!
We have breakfast at the hotel and head for Bruges, Belgium. t is cold and winday again. Bruges is a very cute and well preserved city. We look around the Markt and decide we will take a tour. We have coffee and pie until tour time.
The tour is an hour with headphones and commentary in English. Bruges is a town built on commerce and has the first stock exchange and coined the work, bank. There are many beautiful houses and canals. We go to see the Michelangelo statue afterwards but the church is closed for lunch.
Getting back in the car we take the shore road along the North Sea to The Hague and take a ferry and a stop at McDonald’s. Sarah is homesick for familiar food. We go along the dikes and massive flood gates. There are wide beaches beyond the dikes.
We get Zoetermeer and have a very difficult time finding the hotel. Anita has booked us into a Golden Tulip in the middle of an industrial park. It is like a weird ghost town. We have a triangular shaped room with a king sized be and an awful rollaway for Sarah. She says she will be okay on it. We have a small Pizza and drinks in the bar and then we are off to sleep.
John wakes up with severe laryngitis. He says it was from talking too much at work yesterday. I hope he is not getting sick. We have breakfast at the hotel with some excellent breads. Sarah and I have a pretzel. We looked at them yesterday and regretted not having bought one. We get on the road around 10:30 AM. The drive through the Black Forest takes longer than expected due to many slow trucks. The landscape is scenic and all the villages are charming.
We arrive at Strasbourg around 1 PM. We have a much easier time finding our way into the city than last time. France seems more crowded and a lot dirtier than Germany. We visi the Strasbourg Cathedral. The stone work is amazing. Sarah likes the rose window. We have wine and a hot chocolate at an outdoor cafe near the river. We watch a girl juggle and the waiter is joking with us about who gets the wine. Sarah buys a shot glass. All in all it is a very pleasant hour and a half.
Onto Metz, France. We go on the toll road. It cost 60ff or about $12 to go 150 km, pretty pricey but quick. Metz is a rabbit warren of narrow streets. We drive around and around finally finding the tourist agency. We get directions to the Metz Mercury which is hard to find. Anita, of course, has screwed up the reservations by booking two rooms again. This is not a charming hotel. We are staying in the ugliest room ever—narrow with three beds in a row, plastic furniture, and a pink decor.
We take a walk to the St. Etienne Cathedral. It is very impressive with a very high vault with buttresses and three rows of stained glass windows, some by Chagall.
We have dinner at the hotel and it is not a success. We trade food around trying to please everyone (Sarah.) I should not have insisted on French food. In the future we will stick to more McDonald’s and Italian food.
Everyone is exhausted and John is sicker with no voice and a bad sore throat. I hope that the erythromycin I brought along will help.