To Helsinki and beyond
Last weekend we were able to go on a short Finnish getaway without the kids; thanks to a dear friend who voluntarily watched them for us <3 Honestly, it was great to just be by ourselves for the weekend after a long time, but like all Desi parents there was major guilt that took over us. Sigh. I think short breaks like these are healthy for kids and for parents, and if only they came without the baggage of guilt. We thought the extreme temperatures might be too much for them, but once we were there we thought the kids would actually have had a lot of fun had they been with us. We already know we'll have to go back with them soon.
We took Finnair (the only viable option considering our next stop) super early on a Friday morning to get into Helsinki way before noon for a full day to explore the city before our next leg to Lapland the next morning. As a side note, if you ever get a chance to fly Finnair, do try their signature premium blueberry juice. It's wild blueberries and Finnish spring water and no preservatives. I need to find out where I can purchase it in France :) The Finnair bus or bus 615 is pretty convenient (better & much cheaper than a taxi) that takes you from the airport to Railway Square in central Helsinki in 30-40 minutes. It was a cold and bright day and our
was a short 5 minute walk from the square; although, I somehow managed to turn it into a 15 minute walk. You see there are always several ways to go from point A to point B :P In hindsight, it woke us up and was good introduction to the city & -10 °C :)
Railway Square - on the hunt for our hotel
was your standard Nordic four star, very affordable, good for a short stay and the location was just perfect and the front desk staff was extremely courteous and helpful. They made sure we had breakfast sandwiches and fruit to go the next morning when we checked out before breakfast started. I thought that was really thoughtful. Anyway, after checking in we had a Mexican lunch at this really nice place nearby called
that we found on Tripadvisor. We had to wait a few minutes for the buffet only service to end at 2 pm before we could order from the a la carte menu, but it was no big deal and the food was worth the wait. We had been up since 3 am so we went back to the hotel for hubby to take a quick nap and for me to rest up (daytime naps are just not for me) & revisit the plan for the remainder of our day in Helsinki.
By the time we were ready to go out again it changed from a bright clear day to dark snowy early evening. It was actually quite beautiful, and the flurries were light enough where you could still walk around, but it was brrrrr. The Helsinki Cathedral with the iconic green dome was all lit up and looked beautiful behind the white flurries. It was unexpectedly quiet with not many people around. I guess not everybody likes to walk around in snowy conditions. We did not mind the people free pictures at all :P
Helsinki Cathedral at night
The walk from the cathedral to the Senate Square, onto the Market Sqaure at the port and through the narrow Espalandi Park all the way to Mannerheimvagen, which is one of Helsinki's main thoroughfare was so pretty and peaceful, and just long enough to create an appetite for dinner.
Senate Square in sub-zero temps
On the walk I discovered that someone forgot to pack his hat and thermals and long johns. I am pretty sure that someone was told we were heading to the Arctic and not Hawaii, and I really thought I was travelling without children this time? :P Thankfully, we were walking through a shopping district and after a quick coffee break we spent the next hour looking for winter accessories for him. I know!!!!
We intentionally steered clear of Finnish food (expecting it would be kind of similar to Norwegian cuisine :S) and knowing we'd probably have no choice but that in Lapland. So, for dinner we walked up to
- a big buzzing restaurant on a small quiet side street. Good thing I made a reservation a week in advance. Their coat room was the size of a European house itself :P I had even higher hopes after seeing the place. Whoever owns that restaurant knows Asian food and offers an extremely unique blend of Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Super creative cocktails and mocktails on the drinks menu make it even more fun. It was unbelievably good and lived up to all the reviews and expectations. We had a tough time deciding what to order out of all the interesting warm shared options. The "Cha Plu"- Roasted Albacore starter, the "Kra Pao"- wok fried wings in minced chicken, wild ginger, basil, chili & garlic sauce and the "Golden Triangle" - coconut pudding topped with mandarin sorbet, fresh mangoes, and Thai coffee deserve a special mention. It was pretty close to a perfect meal. 9/10 and a thumbs up!
"Cha Plu "
Tummies were full and it was time to catch a few zzzzz before a 6 am flight to Ivalo in Northern Lapland for our real arctic adventure. However, thanks to all the excitement and fear of oversleeping I hardly caught any zzzz before my 3 am alarm went off. :S :P