For our first adventure, we’re traveling by bicycle and boat around the Swedish Archipelago. Our ride picked us up outside the hotel in the morning, along with a family of three from Massachusetts who were doing the same trip. We drove a short distance out of Stockholm to a nineteenth century castle—manor house, really—where we were fitted out with bikes, helmets, and panniers, and given maps and vouchers for the ferries. Todd, Heather, and their 14-year-old son, Collin headed off immediately, but Karel and I waited for the cafés at the castle to open, so we’d have sandwiches to take with us.
The weather was pleasantly cool and cloudy, with an occasional light sprinkle. It was perfect for bicycling. Our route took us down the coast, through farms and national parkland. Most of the route was paved, but traffic was very light. We had to walk the bikes through a short, rugged stretch. Another section was a long, dirt track used by horses in training for sulky racing. All of it was beautiful, a patchwork of forests, meadows, and coast.
Finding the route was an entertaining challenge. The instructions would say things like, “Continue through fields, then turn left at the red house.” The problem was, all the houses were red. Why is that? This became one of those mysteries that plagued me for the next few days.
We knew we’d be working hard. The route was much hillier than expected. That was OK. We skipped the suggested hike in the national park to make sure we had plenty of time and energy to make our destination. If we had to walk up some of the hills, so be it. The thing we were not prepared for was the amount of pain inflicted by the bicycle seats. They were narrow and hard and designed by a sadist. Both of us were chafed, bruised, and sore after just an hour of riding. By the time we reached Dalarö, a historic coastal village, sitting on the bikes was agony.
We walked up the steep trail into town and staggered into the first restaurant we saw. By happy chance, it was an Italian restaurant. We chowed down on spaghetti—just right to satisfy our desperation for carbs. Karel spotted a small guitar leaning against the wall next to our table, so we entertained ourselves while waiting for our dinner.
We still had five hilly kilometers to go to our hotel in Smådalorö. Gritting our teeth, we mounted up and did our best to avoid contact with the saddles. I tried to focus on the beautiful surroundings. I was coasting down a particularly pretty hill when I saw Karel pulling over and coming to a stop. Except, he didn’t stop. He was too close to the edge of the pavement; his front wheel slipped down the edge, and slowly, so slowly, the bike plunged down the embankment into tall grass. As I watched the dreadful sight of my hubby pitching head over heels, I kept saying to myself, “He knows judo. He knows judo.” Karel did a shoulder roll and landed, unhurt, at the bottom. What a relief! When we resumed biking, I had to laugh—Karel had crashed less than two hundred meters from the entrance to the hotel.
Our hotel was a venerable old establishment, built in the 1870s. We were greeted at the desk by the stereotypical image of a Swede: a strapping young man with a goofy grin, good-natured and easy-going. He cheerfully carried all our luggage, dropped off earlier by the tour company, up to our room. Ran with it, actually—six bags in two trips, up the steep, old stairs.
I vaguely recall an awesome shower with buckets of hot water dumping over me, then sleep. Dr. Gizmo reported that internet service was blazingly fast, despite the quaint location, but we had no time for making use of it, nor to explore and enjoy the grounds of our historic hotel, because we had to get up early to catch our ferry. Breakfast was in a spacious sunroom, with a view of the gardens. You could get a glimpse of sailboats in the nearby inlet, and the golf course just beyond the hedges. The other guests were wearing linen suits and dresses. It all had the feeling of a country club in the 1920s.This entry was posted in Vacation 2014: Europe