A quick trip to Amsterdam

A quick trip to Amsterdam

It was an early morning trip to the airport. The metro station was almost empty but the airport was full of people. You can really feel the ‘revenge travel’ that people are talking about. Then the rain started just when we had to leave the bus to board the plane.

It was the big plane, the one you take on an intercontinental flight. I dreamt of flying to Tokyo or Seoul… Once we are up, it was sunny and very pretty!

I arrived at my hotel in central Amsterdam. I was too early and sweating from wearing thick clothing all the way from Helsinki. I took off my coat, left it, walked and sat myself to breakfast in this cozy place. I came in just at the right time as the place became full too quickly. Apparently, it was a known place for the locals.

I walked back to the hotel as the rain started pouring. I had no umbrella and no coat either. The closest shop was the cheese shop and that was how I ended up owning a cheese umbrella. I arrived at the hotel and was able to check into my room. The stairs was a typical dutch stairs – long, steep and narrow. But I was able to manage to get to the third floor. The secret – travelling light! The room was tiny. I can’t remember staying in such tiny hotel room ever in my life. But I managed. The secret – I’m a tiny person myself! (Note: this room was not even cheap!)

Then came the name test during breakfast the next day. And it was 100% perfect. The guy behind the counter got my name by just saying it once. He even offered a muffin for 25 cents. This was a correct name third time around. First in Paris, then Vancouver and now in Amsterdam. This place also played Billie Holiday.

Then it was walking walking walking. It’s really worth staying close to the major attractions. I was also back at Van Gogh museum after 6 years. I didn’t visit when I was in Amsterdam in 2019.

But the main reason why I was in Amsterdam was to attend my son’s graduation for his bachelor’s from the University of Amsterdam. We even went out the first evening to shop and dine. It was a special event. Just think about how these students spent the last two years studying online. It was a happy reunion with course-mates whom they haven’t seen in two years. Students flew from different countries to attend the graduation ceremony. Some even flew all the way from Dubai. I was such a proud mum! After the dinner of humongous burger, we said goodbye as he was busy with his classes the next day. He is taking a Master degree course after all!

So I continued to explore Amsterdam by foot the next day before heading to the airport. It was cloudy with few showers here and there but it was nice. The day before, my son took me to a special cookie shop. It’s so famous that they were out of cookies already when we got there. So there I was at 10.15 and a queue was already formed. I queued for fun. It was my first time to queue for cookies and I can honestly say it was worth it!

I continued walking and passed by this cute croissant shop and also saw a Gashapon shop. Guess if I played? Then I got breakfast at a pancake place where only one person works. She was amazing because the place was actually packed. She took the order, cooked, took the payment, cleaned and repeat. Some people were eating open pancake but I rolled it!

I head back to the hotel with a few diversions. The cookie shop still had a long queue. I also looked around the book market where I was 6 years ago and got myself some old postcards. Interestingly, I bought two very old postcards from Japan mailed to a person in Finland! I also passed by the Flower market and bought some bonsai seeds. Then I took my small luggage from the hotel and headed to the airport by bus. I arrived 4 hours before my plane departs without knowing that I should be at the airport 4 hours before my plane departs because of the revenge travel! There were lots of people. The queue went in and out of the airport. They even made a tent. I haven’t seen anything like this in my entire life and I have travelled a lot.

But I made it. It was a crazy three hours queue, longer than flying to Helsinki! Why did I come to the airport 4 hours earlier is still a mystery to me up until now…

It was a quick and lovely break, something that I thought I didn’t need but I actually did!

Oh no, I thought Malta was the 50th!

Oh no, I thought Malta was the 50th!

I landed in Malta for holiday thinking that it was my 50th country. But it seems like it’s only the 49th country I’ve visited. Although, I’m not so sure now if I counted every country correctly…

But anyway, the point is, I was in Malta. Yes, finally I was in Malta. I was planning a trip to Malta many times before but somehow it never happened. But now it did and I can say Malta is very pretty!

The city of Valletta reminded me of cities I’ve been before – Marrakech, Athens, Dubrovnik, Lisbon, Livorno. Even the wooden balconies reminded me of Jaisalmer. And of course, the Red telephone boxes and the red fire hydrants are English reminders. So you can imagine how the coming together of all these pretty cities will bring – a very beautiful and interesting Valletta.

But of course, the trip will not be complete without visiting Gozo and to have a quick swim in Comino.

The Gozo Cathedral was constructed between 1697 and 1711 and is built entirely from limestone.

Gozo is an interesting place. We had a quick walk around the city centre but our main interest was really getting something to eat and drink, dessert and coffee. Comino is beautiful with its emerald waters. The swim was very refreshing as we went away from the crowd and enjoyed a secluded spot.

Another interest place to visit is the small fishing village of Marsaxlokk. It was such a sight to see boats of different sizes at the dock and to eat freshly made pasta. We also took a small boat to see the St. Paul Pool and its clear waters. We passed by the Salt Pans on the way there. Somehow, I felt so small on a tiny boat in the middle of the sea…

It was indeed a wonderful holiday experiencing new things and new places, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, watching the sunrise and sunset and eating delicious food. And the most important thing is to be able to relax, gain new ideas for work and gather strength for the next projects.

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

A week of gelato, pasta and pizza

A week of gelato, pasta and pizza

Yes, you guessed it right! We were in Venice for a week, finally, after 9 years. But not only in Venice. We did a day trip to pretty Verona and another day trip to the fascinating Bologna. It was the peak season with the temperature reaching up to 37C. It was hot and it was obviously the time for revenge travels.

However, Venice never ceases to amaze me. Beautiful architecture! It was nice to see the colourful houses of Burano again. It was also interesting to have a week without any cars, motorcycles or anything with wheels, except for carts. It was wonderful just to stare at the grand canal for the most beautiful sunset and to spend time at the restaurants enjoying Italian dishes. It was indeed a week of gelato, pasta and pizza!

All photos by Ari Vitikainen

Before this holiday, I was basically just living infront of my computer for the past months preparing my classes on Skillshare. Days of the week didn’t matter anymore. Was it a weekday or was it a weekend didn’t make any difference. So I was happy to be on a holiday finally! Please check out my Skillshare classes on Creating Stickers on Cricut Joy and Procreate and Designing a Weekly Spread on Procreate. My sticker class received a recognition from Skillshare as an outstanding class.

Lastly, a Korean subscription box featured me in their magazine. I would never imagine…
Krakow Unmasked!

Krakow Unmasked!

I really enjoyed my birthday trip in Vienna in 2019. So being able to travel to celebrate my birthday this year was amazing. Krakow is a very pretty city with lots of good places to eat. Spring also came to Krakow so the city is even more beautiful. We arrived wearing masks as Finnair was still requiring masks on the flight. Then we were very surprised when we realised that no one uses mask in Krakow anymore. It really felt strange yet liberating after 2 years of constantly wearing a mask. And no more social distancing whatsoever!

We stayed in the old Town. From our hotel, it was easy to explore the city by foot. We were able to visit many places of interest just on the first day, like the Wawel Royal Castle, St. Mary’s Basilica, The Cloth Hall, Rynek Główny, Krakow Barbican, Plenty, St. Florian’s Gate, Floriańska, Smok Wawelski and the Town Hall Tower.

On the second day we walked a bit further and happened in Cmentarz Żydowski on the way to the old Jewish quarter. Nature overtook this cemetery while the birds were singing sweetly.

Heading back, we found by chance the oldest cafe and restaurant of Krakow. Jama Michalika was established in 1895. The atmosphere of this cafe is quite hard to explain. I didn’t feel that I had gone back in time when I obviously did! 127 years and still going…

For the third day, we drove the bus for some 40 minutes ride to Wieliczka Salt Mine which was excavated in the 13th century. We went down to 64 metre level by a wooden staircase and explored a 3 kilometre mine including an underground lake of 135 metres deep and a chapel made entirely of salt.

Then the last day in Krakow was all about arts. We visited three museums and was able to see the most valuable painting in Poland – Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine. We also enjoyed a traditional Polish meal of Barszcz Zurek and Pierogi and bought 50 pieces of handmade chocolates for 15,65 EUR. Krakow is not as expensive as Helsinki for sure!

Our flight back from Krakow was delayed by more than an hour. But we had the privilege to witness the beautiful sunset throughout the flight. We were probably the last ones to wear a mask on a flight. As of 23rd of April, Finnair doesn’t require to wear a mask anymore.

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

And there was Athens…

And there was Athens…

After a week in Santorini, we flew to Athens where we were greeted with the most perfect weather.

The Acropolis museum and the Acropolis itself is a must see. Amazing architectures and a feel of history!

We visited the National Gallery where I found my new favourite art from 1967 – Two Chairs by Costas Tsoclis.

We also took the bus to Flisvos Marina for a sunset dinner and returned to our hotel to enjoy evening drinks at our rooftop restaurant overlooking the Acropolis.

It was a wonderful holiday with lots of seafood, grilled fish, baklavas, walking and sunshine. I experienced a beautiful Greece with helpful, kind hearted people. After 2 years, it was a miracle that this trip even happened!

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Greece finally happened!

Greece finally happened!

After deciding to not go ahead with booking our trip to Shanghai in March 2020, we thought we will go to Santorini instead. Anyway, COVID is far away in Asia! But as you know how the story went, Europe was on a lockdown too… What I love about this story was how we got refunded for our flight tickets but especially how our hotels in Athens and Santorini kept our reservations although the bookings were clearly non-refundable. So after 2 years, Greece finally happened and it felt like a miracle!

When Greece dropped the requirement to have a COVID test on arrival, flights were selling out fast. It was a miracle that we still were able to purchase our tickets, although, that was a bit stressful. And a few days before arriving to Santorini, our hotel informed me that they are not yet ready for the season and will let us stay at another hotel. But surprise surpise! We were totally upgraded to a villa with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living rooms and even a sauna. And for a week, I had a private pool at the highest point in Caldera with the amazing volcanic views. The pool was heated at 30C so it was perfect!

Santorini is indeed beautiful and the weather was lovely. We enjoyed walking, exploring and eating lots of seafood, grilled fish and baklavas.

We also rented a car and drove across Santorini – from the windy Akrotili, to the peaceful beach of Kamari, driving up the steep and narrow road to Ancient Thira all the way to Oía to admire the beautiful sunset.

A Catamaran day cruise in the Aegean Sea is something not to be missed in Santorini. It was fun to look at the Caldera cliffs and the volcanic islands and of course to wait for the most amazing sunset.

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Next stop: Athens

Walking on ice – it’s this time of the year

Walking on ice – it’s this time of the year

Walking on ice. Walking on the frozen sea. It’s the time of the year to do it!

It was a very special feeling because I know that in other seasons, this place is the sea that I know. It’s water and there is no way I can walk on water. But not this time. This time I can walk on water. But just the hard kind of water! And the sun was setting too… 🙂

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Snow ducks, anyone?

Snow ducks, anyone?

I thought the Spring is just around the corner. But over the last few weeks, heavy snow has adorned Helsinki. Yes, it’s so beautiful!

Interestingly, I won a prize from Daebak Company (5% off on code ELAINE5). And the prize includes a snow toy. It was a duck snow toy which I first saw online a year ago when a K-Pop artist posted it online. It then became big in Korea. I always wanted it so it was such a lovely surprise to find it in the prize box.

And so here I am. If you find a full adult in downtown Helsinki making snow ducks, it is probably me! 🙂

All photos by https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Today in Helsinki

Today in Helsinki

Today’s 6.18 km walk in the neighbourhood after the snow storm yesterday. The month has gone so fast and soon it’s February. I hope everyone had a good start of the year!

Last week, Finland entered its third pandemic year. Are we nearing the end? Will it be an endemic soon?

All photos by https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com