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Category Archives: Holidays

Across The Water

Since Helsinki is conveniently located in the South of Finland, it means that a short hop by boat can get you to Stockholm, Sweden. The overnight Silja Line cruise ships that travel back and forth between the two cities are reasonably priced and are a great way to enjoy two major European capitals within the same holiday. Having made this trip before, the Sock Mistress and I knew what we were signing ourselves up for, though this time we shelled out for a slightly larger cabin, with complementary mini-bar and a window with a sea view. The awe inspiring ‘all you can eat’ buffet is clearly a challenge that many people are more than happy to take on, but the sheer scale of food that is served up just puts me off. If someone is offering more than my body-weight in fish, meat and cheeses – as well as hot and cold running beers/wine – then I’m afraid I just have to back off. Luckily there are several restaurants on the ship to choose from, including ones that focus on quality not just quantity.

Despite having been to Stockholm a few times now, I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of the city. A quick trip around the Old Town and the more tourist friendly areas soon brought lunch time beckoning, and the Stockholm City Theatre happens to have a very handy café hidden away on its top floor. The views from here are great and whilst they may not be ‘picturesque’ they do a great job of emphasising just how chaotic Stockholm traffic can be in the middle of the day. To think the ‘Getaway in Stockholm’ series of films were made here… hard to imagine anyone getting their car up to those kinds of speeds.

The weather kept threatening to become unpleasant, but it was never enough to stop us from sitting outside. Koloni is a fabulous café that serves organic cakes and excellent coffee, it also happens to be helpfully situated right across from where the shuttle bus was due to pick us up from the city centre and take us back to the terminal. After refuelling with some gorgeous chocolate cake and vanilla sauce, it was time to depart and set out for Finland again.

Despite some rather thick fog (and the constant horn tooting because of it) the journey back was enjoyable, though tiring. It’s hard work wandering around all those tax-free shops on board, looking through the shelves stacked high with exotic spirits and bizarrely shaped bottles of after-shaves/perfumes. Luckily, by the time Helsinki reappeared on the horizon, the weather had cleared and a hot, sunny day was waiting for our arrival.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in Holidays

 

Older Still

“You’re older than you’ve ever been… and now you’re even older…” goes the song by They Might Be Giants. I’ve been celebrating my birthday whilst on holiday for several years now. In fact, I’d probably have to get a calendar out to determine the last time my birthday fell on a day when I was in England. Actually, since I’ve asked myself out loud at least twice today what the date is… maybe keeping track of time just isn’t my thing.

After a breakfast consisting of more cinnamon rolls and very black coffee (like the day before) I reverted to a psychologically 8 year old state for present opening, which has never lost its appeal. Although now I’m older I do clear up the wrapping paper and recycle it, which I never did when I was actually 8 years old. As well as some funky shaving accessories, the Sock Mistress gave me a Kobo Mini eReader, which I’m going to enjoy greatly. Although I have a Kindle already, the Kobo Mini is much smaller and will be travelling with me whilst the Kindle will live on top of my bedside drawers.

Since the weather has been changeable this week, I hadn’t made any particular plans to go too far off the beaten track today – just to shop and eat my way around Helsinki. This turned out to be exactly the right thing to do, from Stockmann’s department store and the Swedish Theatre café to the Virgin Oil Company restaurant, for cocktails and (massive) pizzas! If you can’t be self-indulgent on your birthday, then you just need to learn how to work harder at it. Being on holiday as well just makes things even better, and we’re only halfway through the first week!

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Holidays

 

A Jolly Holiday

Finally, I find myself on holiday! The Sock Mistress and I have been counting down the days, weeks… months… until now and at last we have left England behind – our annual trip to Finland is upon us, and not moment too soon. This should guarantee the British Isles two solid weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, if recent history is to be repeated. Typically the weather perks up as soon as my passport is electronically scanned at Helsinki Vantaa airport. However, it is late May so perhaps it is just a coincidence…

Travelling here was mostly pleasant, aside from some turbulence flying over Stockholm. The pilot seemed to be blaming this on the Swedes themselves, in a joke that perhaps lost a little in the translation. Finnish humour is supposed to be an oxymoron, according to their Nordic and Scandinavian neighbours, so happy Finns should be a rare thing. On the other hand, although the Finnish national ice hockey team may have not won the world championships in Minsk this year, at least they did better than Sweden – and that’s something that every Finnish sports fan can smile about.

Having visited the Finnish capital and its surrounding area several times in the past, there are fewer and fewer new things to see or do each year. However, this doesn’t make the place any less interesting as a holiday destination, it just means that what was a novelty or a discovery before has become an old favourite that I associate with being here. Speaking of which, though they are a little sweet for me, having korvapuusti (cinnamon rolls) and very black coffee for breakfast is a great way to acclimatise my psyche to my Finnish surroundings. With that kind of fuel inside me, I’ll be ready to face the day!Helsthr

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Holidays

 

A Window to Faraway

I’m currently sat out in my garden, skimming through today’s news whilst listening online to the recent EU Commissioner debates (The other big competition that’s brought to us citizens of Europe by Eurovision). The sun is shining as I enjoy my breakfast, in fact if the weather reports are to believed, today will be the hottest day of the year in England. Unaccustomed as we are to sunshine in this country, this makes it very easy for me for me to imagine that I’m actually far away from where I actually am.

The weekend has arrived and I’m only four working days away from going on holiday – when I really will be far away from here. Thankfully the list of things ‘to-do’ that stand in my way between now and mentally clocking off are relatively few. The Blackberry will be switched off and its nagging red light will not be pestering me for attention – the LED equivalent of Japanese water torture. Whilst some of my colleagues are happy to check their emails whilst on leave, I find nothing admirable about it. It’s a mistake to think that you’ve been productive or effect just because you skim read a message from the accounts department whilst sunbathing with your wife/husband/2.4 children etc.

When I am on holiday, the mental energy that I normally expend on work-related matters is far better spent on reading menus, booking tickets for excursions and finally finishing books that I downloaded during the Kindle sale last Xmas. Instead of sprinting between Tube stations to make connections I want to be reclining in coffee shops watching the rest of the world pass by me. Weekends that bookend busy weeks don’t always present enough opportunities to do these things, but trying to making the time stretch so that it fits is always desirable. On this, the sunniest day of the year, making the time fit feels a little bit easier for me.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Holidays, Inspiration

 

Escape Velocity

With Spring time comes sunny days, longer days and best of all – holidays! By some horrendous cruelty of The Fates, I’ve not managed to take any holiday from work yet this year. That’s not a complete tragedy, I have taken long weekends here and there, but not what you’d call a proper break. As such, with two weeks of holiday just around the corner, I’m getting rather excited. Spreading the fortnight across Finland, Sweden and Estonia will make for a fabulous Nordic/Scandinavian style adventure, with plenty of opportunities for fun, frolicking and generally leaving all work related baggage far behind. The tickets are booked, the apartment is reserved and the GBPs are soon to become EURs (with a few SEKs thrown in for good measure). I’ll be getting myself into the right frame of mind by listening to Finnish/Swedish chart music on my Nokia MixRadio app, watching Finnish movies (Iron Sky is on Netflix in its director’s cut form) and getting outside as much as the English weather will allow me. Whilst I only have a skewed, tourist’s eye view of the places I visit, there are just certain things that I associate with my (almost) annual jaunts to Helsinki, Stockholm and anywhere else that is a reasonable excursion away. Long walks and very long days are certainly a couple of them, as well as adjusting to those light nights followed by early dawns.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Holidays

 

Xmas Eve

As Xmas Day itself draws ever near, the Cumbrian weather has been all the more soggy and gusty. However, it’s nothing that can’t be endured by wearing an extra layer or two. The big grocery shop went well, with no instances of trolley rage to be reported – although I’m sure if I was in the shops today I might not be able to withstand the crowds and lack of orderly queues.

I’ve managed to resist the traditional panic buying brought on by supermarkets closing for a whole 24 hours. As I’ve got older I don’t suffer the need to test the limits of my body’s ability to consume food/drink anymore, and I reckon I’ll feel all the better for it by Boxing Day. Even with a dash of portion control, I’ll still need to take a brisk walk in the afternoon to aid the digestion. Luckily the scenery is fantastic, so I won’t find it hard motivating myself to step outside.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Clothes, Food, Health, Holidays, Outdoors, Shopping, Travel, Xmas

 

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Grey Xmas

I’m already resigned to it being a rainy Xmas this year rather than a snowy one, though brief bursts of hail have whitened to hill tops of Cumbria. With enough warm and waterproof clothing, none of this is a problem at all.

Whilst some people might enjoy activity filled holidays, I prefer to wind things back a notch and slow down when taking a break. Laying in bed each morning is allowed, breakfasts last longer and lunches take place whenever they can be comfortably slotted in. Rushing is never allowed and everywhere is explored at a steady pace. Plans for the week are loose, with only a big Xmas grocery shop being the immovable object in the calendar.

It seems that every time I pay for something in a shop the person at the checkout asks me if I’m ready for Xmas yet. I think I’ve been ready for it for some time – I have no worries about last minute travel plans and frantic trolley dashes round the stores. So I’ll be ambling around the Lakes, taking the occasional photo and making sure I meet my daily quota of mince pies.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Clothes, Food, Holidays, Outdoors, Shopping, Travel, Xmas

 

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