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!

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

So Beautiful Switzerland

So Beautiful Switzerland

We had a short holiday with a short time to plan. But what a joy to spend that short moment in Switzerland. Switzerland is so beautiful. I highly recommend it. For this blog post, I will let the photos talk!

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

A day in Tallinn

A day in Tallinn

With travels slowly easing, especially to those who are fully vaccinated, we also took a chance to spend a Saturday in Tallinn. I’ve been to Tallinn many times before. However, this time we took a large cruise ship from Helsinki to Tallinn and it was a very nice experience.

There is a list of must-do when spending a day in Tallinn. One of them is having coffee and cake at Maiasmokk Kohvik in the old town. Established in 1864, it’s the oldest cafe in Tallinn. It serves good coffee and delicious cakes. Dining out is another thing and this time we tried a fusion style Asian restaurant. We have passed by this restaurant before but I’ve always been suspicious of anything fusion. However, the food was actually tasty and was not much a fusion at all! We had Yakitori Chicken skewers, Tom Kha Gai, Roti Canai (a bit too oily), Yellow Curry with duck and Korean Bulgogi beef. So it was a bit of everywhere in Asia kind of food experience. They were true to their taste. I highly recommend this place called Tai Boh.

There is much to explore in the old town where one can spend 5 hours quite easily. It’s a pretty town and a nice area for walking. So wearing good walking shoes is a must! The day ended with a record breaking 32,737 steps which is 20.97 kms walk and an amazing sunset on the way home. Tired but happy!

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

Siika Koski Arboretum

Siika Koski Arboretum

In 1986, two tree enthusiasts started planting acorns by the Siika rapids of Kymin River. Today, 80 species of trees and woody shrubs can be found in the Siika Koski Arboretum within its area of about 4.5 hectares. Species include Koreanpihta (Abies koreana) and Japaninjalopähkinä (Juglans ailanthifolia) just to throw in some Asian mix.

It was a very refreshing walk and to be one with nature. At this time, Kielo, which is the national flower of Finland, are in full bloom, covering a large area of the arboretum. I can imagine how beautiful this place is covered in Autumn colours. I can’t wait to see it!

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

Sunny Summer Helsinki

Sunny Summer Helsinki

Helsinki is a very beautiful city. Navigating it by foot is very easy and you can feel the city in just a few steps. No worries! You won’t get lost! And you will certainty enjoy what the city has to offer this summer, with or without the pandemic. So wear your comfortable clothes and walking shoes, and let’s go!

Adults and kids alike enjoy climbing these hill-like shapes at the square by Lasipalatsi. They are mostly sloped so people can walk over them or sit on top of them to enjoy the sunshine. The Amos Rex museum is underneath these structures. Pretty cool, huh?

The skies are perfect today. Beautiful clouds are dominating the skies. It’s a good idea to watch them closely by the Senate Square which is a very short walk from the hill-like structures.

And why not climb up the steps leading to the Helsinki Cathedral and enjoy the breeze from there. You can also catch a glimpse of beautiful Helsinki from here. I don’t know how many steps are there though!

As you go down the steps, you have a selection of places to go for coffee across the street. We chose Café Engel which is situated in one the oldest stone buildings in Helsinki built in 1765. It is an idyllic café with a view of the Helsinki Cathedral and the passing trams.

If you are planning to visit Helsinki someday soon, don’t hesitate to ask me for places to visit in this magnificent city which I call my home and my neigbourhood!

Photos by Ari Vitikainen @ https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

The beautiful snow covered Helsinki

The beautiful snow covered Helsinki

It was a fun snowy day in Helsinki and an evening walk was all it takes to fully enjoy it. The Old Church Park (Vanha kirkkopuisto) is one of the best places to enjoy the scenic snow in the Helsinki centre. The tree silhouettes against the snow covered ground felt so magical as the old lamps glow their golden lights. The beautiful old buildings surrounding this park add to its elegance. The Old Church Park was a cemetery. There are 48 gravestones visible in the park dating back from 1790–1829.

Walking further is the beautiful Espanade Park which leads to the Senate Square. The snow covered steps of the Helsinki Cathedral was a fun place to just enjoy the scenery and take in the cold, fresh air. But in fact, it was not cold at all. At 0 degrees celsius, my coat felt like a warm sleeping bag.

All photos by Ari Vitikainen @ arivitikainenphotography.com

Finally, snow!

Finally, snow!

The weather did not cooperate as I wanted to during the holidays. Darkness and rain was all it gave. There was anticipation of snow during Christmas which never arrived. But alas! 2020 ended. The new year came. And on the third day, snow appeared. It snowed beautifully, covering the city with its shine and glitter. A feeling of freshness and hope came along with it. The darkness turned into a beautiful Helsinki!

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