Sunday, 8 October 2017

Day 6: Stockholm & Film: Blade Runner 2049

Wow, our week in Stockholm came to an end at last! Finally, after a succession of days in the office (exploring eateries at night), we got to do some exploring of our own yesterday, Saturday. And wouldn't you know it, after a couple of fine days - Saturday, it rained all day! Figures.

Undaunted, we set out after breakfast - a slightly later one than usual - to make our way to Gamla Stan, the old town. We could see it in the distance - which didn't make it easy to get to! Dunno what it is about Stockholm, but they seem to have a habit of layering the city - and not all streets are suitable for pedestrians. They also lack connections between streets. So, finding your way between a bridge and a particular road isn't that easy! Google Maps also kept being confused about where we were - so it took us longer than necessary, but we did make it.

Actually, we were intent on going to Riddarholmen, a small island off of Gamla Stan, because that's where my guidebook suggested starting a walk that we thought would be a good way to see what was to be seen. And there's a direct bridge there from the west side of Norrmalm, where we were. Sadly, that turned out to be exclusively for vehicular traffic, so we had to do quite a round to approach Riddarholmen through Gamla Stan. Which was when it started to rain appreciably, as we dodged our way around roadworks to see the Riddarholmkyrken church, and then around the other side of the island, where we got a lovely view of the bay:

More photos here. Anyway, we then proceeded back into Gamla Stan proper, where we wended our way - trying to compare the unclear map in the guidebook with Google Maps - up to Stortorget, the old square.

By the time we got to the palace, we were very ready to go indoors - the only part that seemed to be open on our side was the treasury, so we queued for tickets there. A highly deferential chap was asking everyone whether they already had tickets? "No? Then I'm afraid I can't help you, you'll have to wait a while." People who already had tickets could go straight in - a good tip, as we were in the queue for about 10 minutes. Hey, at least we were dry! The treasury itself contains the crown jewels, and as with the British crown jewels, photography is strictly prohibited, I'm afraid. They also have guided tours - I do believe the guide was the same chap who'd been directing the queue. At 160Kr for an adult ticket, it's a bit steep - but the ticket is valid for a week, and covers two other museums. No good for us, of course..

Back outside, we were determined to find the armoury, which had been recommended to us as a must-see. And free! We found it further down from where we'd just come out, towards the water and on a lower level. And we spent an age in there - what a phenomenal amount of stuff, for a price of 0Kr. Armour (for kings and horses)..


..more photos here. Down the back, there was a display of Japanese weaponry - and down another level, the most fabulous display of carriages!

Cinderella, eat your heart out.

Outside, it was still raining, and it was lunchtime - so we decided to look for food. Around the palace, there was a distinct lack of eateries: so we headed back to Stortorget, which turns out to be lined with them, and decided pretty quickly, especially with the rain that was falling on us. Ebenist had a decent-looking meatball special, so in we went, and got a snug table. To my mind, the interior had a distinctly nautical feel, with wood everywhere and quite cramped conditions. The menu presented us with several eye-wateringly expensive options - the special we'd seen was the cheapest, and was all we were prepared to eat, and that's what we got, along with a soft drink for my companion and a white wine for me.

Well, I have to say, we chose well - the meatballs were simply served, in gravy with a mound of mash (called puréed potato here) and some sides in separate bowls: but the dish was scrumptious! as was the wine. I was sorely tempted to have another, but figured I'd spent enough - we're not expensing that, as it was a day we took to ourselves. A city to eat well in - but be careful not to bankrupt yourself; we were lucky to have people to suggest eating options for the rest of the week.

And so back out into the rain. We took a detour from the guidebook route to visit the Finnish church, home of the city's smallest statue, dressed against the cold of the Stockholm winter:

..and carried on along some charming streets, ducking into a couple of souvenir shops on the way. When we'd had enough of schlepping through puddles, and figured we'd seen most of the place, we decided to take up another recommendation, and head out to the Vasa Museum. Which would also have the advantage of being indoors.

This was definitely Metro weather, and that's what we took out there. Now, when we took it on Friday, we got our tickets in a shop, and were able to scan them like any other card - however, getting them from the machine, we were to discover that we got paper tickets, which we had to show to the attendant, who would then let us through. Go figure.. anyway, the nearest Metro station to the Vasa Museum isn't very near at all, and it was a bit of a miserable schlep through the rain. It was worth it though, when we finally came to the Vasa Msueum complex - joining the fast-moving queue outside the museum itself.

This museum is dedicated to the warship of that name, which sank 20 minutes into its maiden voyage - the masts in the above picture depict the actual height of the ship, and what with those and all the ornate woodwork on top, when the wind started to blow, the thing capsized because it was top-heavy! We were just in time for a guided tour, which attracted so many people it was impractical to try and hear much - but what we heard was interesting. And the ship is undoubtedly impressive:

Three hundred years it lay underwater, until salvaged. What a feat.. and the museum makes a fine job of the history, with exhibits about the people involved, and nautical life at the time. There's also a well-appointed café, where we had a most welcome drink! Truly, a fine day out - and were I to go back again, I'd love to investigate the Nordic Museum, next door.

Back to the hotel then, somewhat exhausted, and I had a wee nap before we headed out to eat. With rain still pouring down, proximity was of the essence, and when we saw the Hong Kong Restaurang across the way, we made a beeline for it! We were seated with ease - there was a large birthday party at one end, but otherwise it wasn't crowded. Not the cheapest either, but my goodness, we were well fed.. I had the largest spring roll I've ever seen, packed with chicken, and one of the tastiest beef Szechuans I'ever had, with rice that had been doused in soy sauce, by the look of it, and was delicious. I accompanied it with a half bottle of white. My companion had duck in plum sauce, with which he was very impressed. And when I decided to have dessert, he did too - ice cream for me, banana fritter for him. Again, a fabulous place to eat - if not the cheapest.

And so, today it was time to leave Stockholm at last. An incredibly clean city, which I also found to be very elegant - I'd miss London, but Stockholm is a very liveable place. If a lot colder than here! Expensive in parts, with cheap alternatives. The train to the airport this morning seemed to have narration by Bjorn from Abba again, although he didn't do any advertising this time; never mind, we had our Abba fix on the escalator in the airport!

Ironically, despite the early start, I still wouldn't have been in time for the Crick Crack Club's event today - not if I wanted to leave my bags home first, certainly! Unsure I'd make it - what with depending on flights and airport transport, which can be erratic - I didn't book, and it was sold out anyway. (Bummer, and Clare Murphy is my favourite, too.) Which left cinema as a Plan B. Now, I didn't get the film list completely done - but mostly: and what it was showing was that the IMDB highest-rated film showing today was Blade Runner 2049. I adore the original - this wasn't a hard sell for me, and although it's since slipped in ratings, my film list is stored on my work computer, whose battery died, and so I had to work with what I had! Excellent.. it's showing close to me, in the Odeon Tottenham Court Road, and with 5pm proving a bit early, since I had to shop and eat, I booked for 6pm. (With Odeon, it's cheaper to book.)

Seating was unreserved, and the place was pretty packed - but I was happy to sit near the front for this. Now, I can't give away very much of the plot - the filmmakers were adamant about that, and I can see their point - what happens is so unexpected that it would spoil the experience to say much at all. What I can say is the following.. Ryan Gosling reprises Harrison Ford's old role as a young "blade runner" - in a dystopian near future (but with flying cars as the only truly unlikely element), society has taken to producing "replicants": humanoid robots that are indistinguishable from the "real thing". Some of them have "gone rogue" though - they're acting human, mimicking emotions for example, and the blade runners' job is to hunt them down and "retire" (kill) them. Robin Wright is his boss. Jared Leto is the megalomaniac boss of the company that took over from the original robotics company, which has gone bust. Harrison Ford shows up in this as well, the old rogue blade runner who went on the run himself, 35 years ago.

Eh, that's it! :-) Except to say the following: this is a real homage to the original, and if you liked that, you'll love this. Hell, IMDB even has a side-by-side comparison of the trailers, showing, frame by frame, how similar they are - check it out at the site of either film. The music - just like the original - is haunting. The visuals - just like the original - are spectacular: jaw-dropping, in fact. The images are even more unforgettable than the original, and the ending is so head-wrecking that I left the cinema in a state of shock. If you are a fan of the original, you must see this. If you haven't seen the original, mind, you can still make sense of this - but you get so much more from it if you get the references.

They say it's bombed on its opening weekend.. but the original wasn't a box office success, either. This deserves to go on to be every bit as much of a classic as that was, dealing so poetically with themes like slavery, the nature of reality, what it means to be human.. I adored it. Go see.

Tomorrow, I'm finally going to see the show so many people have asked me whether I'm seeing. Ink is showing at the Duke of York's Theatre. 

On Tuesday, I'm back with Up in the Cheap Seats for Ballet Boyz at Sadler's Wells.

On Wednesday, back with Funzing (London Speaks Sessions and LDN Talks @ Night) for a talk on Revolution in Iran: Girl with a Gun. This will be an interview with a female Kurdish revolutionary.. on the Battersea Barge, which I believe can get choppy. Never mind. This is one I got for free, for completing a loyalty card with three talks.

On Thursday, Let's Do This are back to St. Martin-in-the-Fields, where London Concertante is performing Bach Violin Concertos. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again.

And on the 16th October, back at Southwark Playhouse with Up in the Cheap Seats - this time, it's for A Day By the Sea.

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