Already during our previous visit to Utö we decided to return for their Christmas market, and so we did.
M/S Waxholm II was already pretty full when we boarded so we got seats far aft. A fourish girl sitting in front of us teased me with her giraffe-ears-and-horns head piece. I indicated my great envy.
When we arrived, Utö Värdshus looked pretty different from when we saw it last: In the yard was a number of market stalls, the celebrated Christmas market. The entrance was extended with a tent that turned out to contain a temporary cloakroom. We didn’t think much about it, but went straight in for check-in.
Through magic hotel-staff skills, the receptionist recognises us immediately. Our room is not yet ready, but will soon be. We drop off our luggage and tour the little market. Some parts of it are in fact inside the inn building, we duck in and out, me bumping my head on the low door lintels. Finally I manage to bump my head on some overhanging snow and get a heap of it inside my collar. IH! IH! Honeybuns thinks it’s silly of me to be so tall, she manages perfectly well. A snow fight ensues, until I notice the little girl from the boat. A few stealthy steps and Haha! now I have giraffe horns. I strut about a bit before returning the horns.
We briefly peeked into the mine museum and the ominously-named Boutique Hybris, and chatted with the staff, but didn’t find anything particularly interesting, shopping-wise. As we will have Christmas dinner in the evening, we skip the inn and instead have lunch at the Society House. Pricey, but good. We note that quite a few families with children are visiting the inn and the market—there’s a long line of prams outside. And! The inn is completely packed with people having Christmas luncheon. Where did they all come from?
We pick up our key and retire to our room. Our plans had included studying, but after a week’s worth of early mornings, we just fall asleep. When we wake up, it’s already dark outside. I turn on the telly and “Christmas at River Cottage” spreads Christmas cheer that I decide not to consider the fakeytude of, but just enjoy, though when Hugh goes out into the garden to pick vegetables on the morning of Christmas Eve, I throw a glance at the snow dunes outside our cottage.
Come dinner time we climb the hill up to the inn and it’s clear that the extra cloak room is needed, the place is as full as it was for lunch. Robert, the maitre d’, greets us: “Ah, there you are! [aside to a staffer:] OK, now everybody is here.” Oops, we’re last? Well, as they say, the later, the finer the guests. We are escorted to our favourite table, the one with the best view.
Then, off to sample the 150+ dishes. While we do not taste them all, everything we eat is delicious and even with our respective food restrictions there’s plenty enough both for Honeybuns and me to eat. We peek at the other patrons, clearly many families—children sleeping by the tables here and there— groups of friends, snippets of song here and there (though with the snobbism afforded by a polytechnic education I consider the variety and quality of performance of the drinking songs to be less than adequate). We had thought we’d get some reading done after dinner, but now the lounges are used for dining guests, so we instead, happily sated, walk down the hill, through the driving snow, and in spite of our long afternoon nap, we fall asleep again not too much later.
In the morning, the snowfall has increased in intensity as we walk up the hill for breakfast. Apparently, we didn’t quite live up to classic Christmas dinner standards, as we had no need at all for the head-ache pills and indigestion powders strategically placed in the middle of the breakfast buffet. As we checked out, we made a booking for this summer, and I bought some of the sausages on offer in the Christmas market. We also bought a handful of tickets in the lottery stand and won bike rental for two during the summer—what a useful coincidence.
And then, the boat home through the still-increasing snowfall.