Tag Archives: boats

Disappointing Boat Tours of European Cities 2: Stockholm

I am sure you all remember the pain and disappointment of a Hamburg boat tour in January, with a tour entirely in German and only a numbered sheet with serious, unintentionally hilarious translations of sights to be seen.  With our sleeves we removed condensation from the windows as we stared through lashings of rain and vast expanses of containers and industrial shipping — I would have enjoyed those in the sun.

Yesterday was sunny, we had a few hours before the train whisked us off to Linköping. Stockholm is a city built on islands, and I dearly love boats and the ability to enjoy sitting on a boat and get wonderful views of a new city you can obtain in no other way — what could go wrong?

Real estate development, that’s fucking what.

But I shall start with what we enjoyed.

Views of the old city

Stockholm day 1

Stockholm day 1

Stockholm day 1

Stockholm day 1

Splendid, even if viewed somewhat at a distance.

The below were described as allotments set aside for Stockholm’s poor to grow vegetables and enjoy fresh air — I am not at all sure that they continue to have this function, it seems doubtful from how picturesque they are and the lack of needful gardener’s messiness, but I liked them nonetheless

Stockholm day 1

Stockholm’s floating swimming pool — BAD — and bad (ass) it certainly is. An attempt was made to shut it down, but people came together to preserve it.

Stockholm day 1

There was not a mention of social housing in the commentary, but I rather liked these brutalist buildings in their great arcs to provide residents with the best possible views across Lake Mälaren, and I imagine they are (or were) social housing set in great green parks along the waterfront (including playgrounds, which you can see in the foreground) and full of life:

Stockholm day 1

Wonderful. This is Stockholm, a city like no other I have seen.

The weird and wonderful

Stockholm day 1

Stockholm day 1

This grill hidden away, for some precarious baltic-sea adjacent BBQ:

Stockholm day 1

This doesn’t really count, except the bro signal is pretty hilarious for English speakers:

Stockholm day 1

The interesting and industrial

Stockholm day 1

Stockholm day 1

I loved so much this wonderful building:

Stockholm day 1

The long periods of just-the-same-crappy-‘luxury’-flats-built-through-‘regeneration’-on-every-fucking-stretch-of-water-in-the-whole-world

This, in fact, comprised most of the tour. The tour guide had little to say about any of it, so apart from some facts about the Social Democrats, the life expectancy of men being 75 and women 81, that time the bubonic plague hit Stockholm with 1200 people dying a day in a city of 50,000 people and yet it went on for months, that time they tried to win the Olympics to the city and failed (Athens bankrupted themselves to win it instead, but that’s my own commentary) but it meant they did built some interesting housing with solar and using gas from the local sewage treatment plants…a bunch of fun facts and lots of musical intervals (they provided headphones with an array of six languages to choose from).

Occasionally they would get to point out the interesting things that used to be there connected to the docks, before they were all rebuilt with this ‘quality’ and ‘luxury’ housing. Not a mention of an architect, an urban plan, a social vision, just some basic advertising jargon. Heres is one reminder left of the docks that were once here

Stockholm day 1

An array of soul-crushing developments that I am sure I have seen before in Chelsea, in Limehouse, in Chicago, in LA, in Glasgow, in Hamburg…and every god damn city with any history of industry along the waterfront.

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Far be it from me to complain like a middle-class consumer would, but the very expensive ‘Under-the-Bridges’ tour (we went under a few bridges, that was cool) was advertised as being 2 hours 15 minutes, when in fact it was under two hours. That was because we skipped what the materials encouraging you to buy the tour showed as included, but when actually on board were described as the ‘alternative’ loop which would have brought us back into the interesting older part of the city to see it from the other side. Which I would have loved. Of course, going twice past the horrors of modern development meant I was still pretty happy to get off that damn boat. If only it had been late enough in the day to have bought some overpriced alcohol.

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Baja adventures come to a close

Ah, to write is such glorious madness, and to live even more so, the night is warm and full of stars and soft winds and the crickets singing…

Saturday night was full of the sound of…firecrackers? I am still not sure, I know gunshots, I know firecrackers, there was no pop, no hiss as the firecracker takes flight, no crackle as sparks fly up and burn brightly before fading into their fall back down to earth as ashes. Whatever they were, they riddled the darkness with holes and woke me every time I was about to drift into dreaming. And cars peeled out, raced down the road, cruised slowly with a ghetto bumping that ranged from rap to banda’s trumpets and I did not sleep.

So Sunday dawned and we got up and went down to breakfast. I checked us out and lied about why we were leaving a day early and the woman peered at me suspiciously though I wasn’t angry and wasn’t going to battle for my money back. I ate the extra night’s charges happily and thought about Ensenada. A final view of ex-ejido Chapultepec, fondly referred to as Calcutta by Jose, the view from our balcony and the dream denied of access to a white beach to lie on and the lulling of waves…still, I am glad that we were there and enjoyed it greatly. It is a different sort of enjoyment then that to be found lying on a white beach, but enjoyment none the less. I love windows to other worlds.

We were up and out of there quite early, and two bus rides later arrived into Ensenada where we dropped our bags at the hotel, and then went for a wander along the port’s shore. It was picturesque, but often I prefer the interesting, we passed this:

Caution no bathrooms…I am glad they were clear and warned me about it, because I was thinking that might have been just the place…

I love boats, so we paid $2 to an old fisherman to go out in one, and he took us around the bay which hadn’t promised to be too exciting (to all those who don’t love boats that is). I would have been happy regardless as the adventure is the thing (and being in a boat), but we came suddenly upon the grand wreckage of an old pleasure cruiser half sunk into the bay, and it was an extraordinary thing to see

gutted and filled with salt and water, rotting away to the music of waves and the sea lion’s discordant barking, they lay sprawled across every surface. They are amazing creatures really, looking so ridiculous on land, long smooth rolls of fat awkward and ungainly, yet in the water they have such beauty. The old fisherman who took us around ignored us completely and set us back down onto the little pier, where the safety inspector was waiting clipboard in hand to ensure we were still wearing the life vests that had been thrust upon us when he suddenly appeared just before our departure.

A little further down we came upon the fish market, like the sea lions you can smell it for some time before you actually get there…and you can buy delicacies there beyond imagining

We wandered a bit more, I lunched on a cream puff and some coffee. When it was finally time to check in we rested for a bit, the cool comfort of a nice room can never be over-appreciated I have to say. And then we wandered the city some more. We had lobster for dinner, and just after we sat down a very self-important and probably minor figure in Ensenada’s narco-traficante world came in. He had a round red face beneath a panama hat, squat body and bandy legs, he was dressed in money and no taste rather like a Texan tourist. And his money had bought him a very young girlfriend with a beautiful face running slightly to fat and a tendency to look rather peevish. He kissed her regularly and with much enjoyment, and luckily for us monopolized one of the wandering groups of mariachis. He clearly did not care for music, only for his ability to buy it, so was rather annoyed whenever they asked him what they should play next as he was also involved in the tedious work of keeping several waiters rather busy. His girlfriend was annoyed at being loudly solicited for ideas, and so by default we heard of the exploits of other more famous narcos in one corrido after another, but since I myself do love music, especially the live mariachi variety, I wasn’t at all sorry. I was just sad he didn’t ask me.

At any rate, we left the seafood spot, and stopped into a couple of bars, watched with enjoyment the Ensenada cruising scene unfolding before our eyes, wrote a corrido ourselves on a napkin in honor of the one-eyed cholo from Friday (ay juedita tomame un photo, que yo no soy joto, pero si soy un cholo, de Doheeeeeee-ee-ny…forgot to say that our one-eyed cholo friend claimed the neighborhood of Wilshire and Doheny, ie Beverly Hills…it wasn’t until later when we had all calmed down from what seemed a probable scene of violence that any of us remembered such a ridiculous statement)

And so we ended up in the very nice and old wood-framed bar at the hotel…I was buying a round and talking to the bartender and I was all “hey, I was here for new years a year and a half ago…” and he was all “I remember you! You were sitting under that window at the table over there!” and I was all “yep (though with no little surprise!),” and then he was all “You were with your two friends playing dominos,” and I was all “yep,” And then he was all “I got you to dance!” and I was all ”er…yep?” I don’t remember that bit but it’s not hard to get me to dance at all, so it is probably true. This was all in Spanish of course, very loosely translated. But it gave me a certain sense of homecoming. So we introduced ourselves and Arturo and I are now friends. And then Bev and I smoked the Cohibas procured at Mario’s restaurant under the “beach hotel” only that morning, and I was happy.


And thus ended the third day.

Monday was involved almost entirely in travel, after a breakfast spent listening to the radio playing old pop songs by Enrique Iglesias and Alejandra Guzman and Shakira…it reminded me of living in Guadalajara and I was suddenly filled with a great love for Mexico. And all things. It was a brilliant weekend.

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