Through luck, I was able to attend the Royal Awards Ceremony and Banquet at the City Hall where the Stockholm Water Prize is given back in August. I wish someone had given me some etiquette pointers in advance (when the royals are present you do not clink your glasses in toasts for example). Dr. Joan Rose gave a wonderful speech about her work on drinking water standards. As a dessert lover, my favorite moment might have been the trumpet fanfare to the troop of servers bringing in dessert with sparklers on the trays!

The Water Week as always was a whirlwind of coffees, sessions, meetings, meals, and more with an amazing community of people who work on water around the world. I fell in love with the Art Deco styled Vete Katten, cafe. (Try the Princess torta.) I had a fun final evening with friends at the Dance and Mingle, which was held with a Eurovision band. The Scandic Haymarket’s recent Art Deco makeover made it an amazing place to stay. I loved that my room overlooked the square, which held different kinds of markets every day of the week.

After a wonderful Stockholm World Water Week, we decided to relax by taking a Viking Line overnight cruise to Helsinki. I’d never been to Finland before, and it was fabulous to leave Stockholm by sailing past all the amazing small islands where people still live while commuting to the capital. It was really nice to relax on the ship, and I can easily say that the multi-course meal we had at the No Name restaurant was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had and it was not much more than the smorgasbord option.

Getting off the boat it was easy to see what a friend who used to live there described as “the white church and the red church.” Uspenski Cathedral is a red brick Eastern Orthodox cathedral. We arrived in the middle of a service, which meant I was taken back to my time in the Middle East with the icons, the incense, and the chanting–always inspiring. Wandering along the streets, we meandered our way to Market Square, which contains the Havis Amanda statue and where the Helsinki Cathedral dominated the view with its vantage point on the hill above. The stairs up to its white walls and green dome seemed very steep; the sanctuary was plain as one might expect of a Finnish Evangelical Lutheran church. We went down to crypt and ended up having a hearty carrot soup and bread there to support the local boys’ choir. We then continued our wander to the “Church of the Rock” with its rock interior walls and amazing acoustics. We had just sat down to admire it when we were told a baptism service was beginning and we needed to leave.

In the Helsinki Central Railway Station, I saw the fanciest Burger King I could ever expect to see in my life–beautiful wall mural. The station itself is another incredible Art Deco building. An easy walk from the train station, we enjoyed some peaceful time at Kaisaniemi Park with its lovely botanical gardens. Of course no city tour would be complete without an excellent cafe like Karl Fazer, which had incredible hot chocolate with the local candy Marianne (chocolate pepperminty goodness). Afterwards, we enjoyed a lovely stroll through Esplanade Park, which is beuatiful and led us back to the South Harbor (cute stalls and boats) on our way back to the Viking Line ship. One thing I have to share about the park is how much we loved the Talking Statues! There were several things we wanted to explore that we just didn’t have time for: Suomenlinna, UNESCO World Heritage; Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, similar to Skanson in Stockholm; and so much more.