I’m never going to eat again.
That’s what my father said after our enormous and delicious dinner tonight at Sel de Mer, the French-themed dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. Before I get to that, though, a little about our day in Helsinki.
The shuttles started running from the ship to the city center at 8:30, so we headed out around 9:30. Twenty minutes later, we got off in downtown Helsinki in a square featuring a metal statue of a man full of holes, like Swiss cheese. The day was grey and windy, but not as bad as St. Petersburg, though we did have a bit of drizzle. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I tend to think of Finland and the Scandinavian countries as having a simple, ultra-modern style (which I did see later), but the buildings in the downtown are mostly from the late 19th century, when tsarist Russia ruled what was then called Helsingfors. Large, heavy stone buildings, many reflecting the influences of art nouveau.
At breakfast, I tried to find a hockey museum for Matt, but it turned out that while one did exist, it had closed a few years before. Instead, we started out in the 19th century food market hall on the wharf. Lots of Finnish food products, including some delicious-looking smoked salmon. There’s an open-air market right next store, so we did some souvenir shopping there, before heading down the Esplanadin Puisto park. My plan was to arrive at the Museum of Design at 11 am when they opened.
This was actually a lot more interesting museum than I thought at first (and I had high hopes for it). Shayna loved the section on Finnish gaming design, and I was equally fascinated and amused by the design history of the “Angry Birds.” We both tried on the VR goggles in another exhibit. Upstairs was a wonderful exhibit on the glass art of Timo Sarpaneva, which was simultaneously dream-like and elegant.
Afterwards, we walked dad over to the shuttle bus back to the ship, while the three of us went back to the market hall for lunch. Then, we too went back to the ship, where I had a chance to catch up with a friend from my annual trips to Gatlinburg, TN, but who I hadn’t seen there in over a decade and a half.
At 4:00 pm, the ship pulled out from the dock, and dad and I went out on the bow to hear the narration of our exit from Helsinki harbor. Dad went back in to nap after a while, but I enjoyed hearing about the various islands in Baltic near Helsinki. The final island was nothing but a tiny rock, but it held a fort, which, during WWII, had five navy sailors on it to keep an eye on the approaches to Helsinki.
This is where the harbor pilot left us. I walked down to the promenade and was there when he exited boat. The pilot boat pulled along side us, matching our speed, and then, the pilot hopped on, waved to us, and went inside. The ship sounded a long blast of her horn in farewell.
Before dinner, dad and I went to hear the classical concert. I like the quintet, but I don’t think Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” really counts as “classical favorites,” even if you do the electric guitar jam on a violin. I left dad to go to the briefing on Stockholm, which was packed, and then I met him, Matt, and Shayna at the Pinnacle Grill for the Sel de Mer night.
After an “amuse bouche” of seared scallop with mustard aioli on a seaweed bed, we had our starters. Shayna and I each had the Marseilles bouillabaisse, while dad and Matt each ordered the seafood tower of shrimp, lump crab, and langostinas. Everyone enjoyed their food immensely. For our mains, dad and I each ordered the Dover sole meuniere, after making sure it would be served in fillet. They filleted it at table. It was fantastic and dad loved not having to debone, the way we had to do in Amsterdam. Shayna had the catch of the day, while Matt had the grilled steak frites. There was so much food. But more was to come, since dad had also ordered the cheese soufflé to split.
We had to wait for that after our main courses were done, and it was excellent. Dad was in heaven and declared it perfection. He managed to eat half of it, while could only manage a quarter. All of us wondered how we would manage dessert.
Dad and Matt had their profiteroles, while Shayna ordered the cheese platter. All loved their dishes. My dessert soufflé (described as the chef’s take on Salzburg Nockerl) took a while, but was very good (though enormous). It was rather different than Salzburg Nockerl, as it was on a fruit compote base, rather than poached in hot crème anglais.
Over two and a half hours after we sat down at table, we were finally ready to leave. That’s when dad declared “I’m never going to eat again.”
“Until tomorrow breakfast,” replied the waiter.