Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

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Suomenlinna is a popular island destination about 4 kilometres away from the Helsinki city centre. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and very popular among locals and tourists. It is a beautiful place to soak in the warm sunlight and breathe in fresh air. Personally, I just love to sit by the shore to watch the gentle waves rolling in.

I’ve been to Suomenlinna many times before but it was my first time to visit when it is covered in Bunias orientalis (Ukonpalko in Finnish). It is such an amazing sight in combination with the blue colours of the sea and sky. So beautiful! It is something not to be missed in June of each year.

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

Tea moment in Helsinki

Tea moment in Helsinki

If you fancy an afternoon tea in Helsinki, I 100% recommend to head over to Brasserie Kämp along Pohjoisesplanadi Street. You won’t regret it, I promise. It will be a lovely afternoon spent in a beautiful place. You will have a choice between the Classic Afternoon tea and the Grand Afternoon tea. Take the latter as the lobster and caviar are a must to complete the setting. There are 13 tea selection. I prefer the Jasmine spiced green tea from Japan with its fresh taste and deep aroma.

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

Vanhankaupunginkoski and Tullisaari

Vanhankaupunginkoski and Tullisaari

EC8858ED-0E8C-4A96-8B83-4A6B27AD4486The times of COVID-19 opened up possibilities to visit the outskirts of Helsinki. Why we haven’t done this before, I don’t know. But the travel restrictions surely played a main role. Although these places are some drive away from my Kamppi neighborhood, it was worth the visit, especially to see 100 year old trees.

Vanhankaupunginkoski is a riverside nature reserve with waterfalls. It is a popular place for walking, picnicking, fishing and birdwatching. The breeze created by the waterfalls was such a refreshing treat on this warm afternoon.

Tullisaari is located at the southeastern part of Helsinki. I love this peaceful island with its beautiful walk path and a lovely picnic area facing the sea.

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The sun setting behind a tree from 1830 was the most breathtaking.

Century old trees made me imagine children climbing on it over the years. I wonder how many things these trees have seen. They hold lots of memories.

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All photos by Ari Vitikainen at http://arivitikainenphotography.com

Travelling close to home in Vallisaari

Travelling close to home in Vallisaari

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The restrictions on foreign travels made most of us aware of the beauty surrounding us. Exploring nearby places became a thing to experience now, rather than to wait for it to happen in the future. As the lockdown in Finland eases and the summer holiday starts, we immediately planned a trip to Vallisaari on the first day it reopened to visitors. Vallisaari is an island in Helsinki located some 25 minutes by boat from the Helsinki market square.

I instantly felt that holiday vibe the moment we arrived in Vallisaari. It was fun to see the hanging tents from the other side of the shore. Can you see them?

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The combination of the dense, green forest and the clear, blue water was such a relaxing sight. I enjoyed the long walk in the most diverse nature. The island is full of beautiful wild flowers bursting with glorious colours along with the birds singing beautifully in the background. They bought me a lot of inspiration for my fabric designs.

 

One exciting aspect of the trip was to spend the night on the adjacent island, Kuninkaansaari. We were the only ones on the entire island. It was my first time to sleep on a tent tied to the trees in the forest. It was such a perfect place to watch the sea, to admire the sunset and to look up the sky. Sleeping to the birds singing, insects humming and the gentle sound of the waves was such a nature’s gift.

And of course, I woke up listening to the same peaceful sound of the birds, insects and waves. And as the island came to life at 10:00, it was interesting to watch how everything was coming back to normal after months of lockdown. Deliveries from the mainland arrived to better supply the opening of another restaurant. The ice-cream shop will reopen soon too.

Another thing that left an impression on me was how friendly were the people there. I left feeling really good about the trip and will happily return.

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All photos by Ari Vitikainen at www.arivitikainenphotography.com

 

Back to London

Back to London

I have been to London a few times before. Interestingly, this was my first time to be in London on a non-work related trip. This time, it was purely holiday!

We stayed at a tiny hotel room by the King’s Cross station. As soon as we arrived, we were already out and about. We had an amazing first night. First at the Piccadilly Circus, a lovely Italian dinner, a walk in Chinatown and enjoyed the energetic performance of Thriller Live which I watched for the first time at the same Lyric theatre in 2013.

The next day started with a lovely breakfast at a nice, little French café called Pattisserie Deux Amis. Of course, we had to take photos on the way to the British Museum. After the British Museum, we went to see the Gherkin and had a very filling Japanese dinner. Then we rode the bus back to the hotel which was really fun, watching life on the street at night.

The next morning, we tried something different. We past by a restaurant and saw sandwiches being grilled. We thought, “Why not!” So we ended up sat back to back with construction workers at Frank’s Café. Although, while they were having lunch, we were just having breakfast. But the best bit was watching the old couple cooking the food together and speaking Italian to each other by a framed photo of their younger selves. For awhile there, I thought I was in New York!

Then we went to Tate Modern and went by the Tower Bridge in the evening. This time, dinner was Indian food.

The last full day in London was surprisingly sunny! There was a walk at James Park playing with cute squirrels, a placard with The Wave on it, crossed the Westminster bridge and watched Big Ben being all covered up. I was back to the National Gallery to see Surprised for the third time. And as the magic moment approached, we were on the Tower Bridge. Such a fun and tiring day with Chinese food for dinner.


Then the last morning came. We enjoyed a short walk in Oxford Street before heading to the airport. Happily, I found a great combination of two of my favourite brands, Uniqlo and Marimekko, in a form of a coat. I love this classic design! Marimekko is a famous Finnish brand but there is no Uniqlo in Finland. So no such coat can be found in Finland. So I feel like the lucky one!

And guess what? We totally forgot to eat Fish and Chips!

(All photos taken by Ari Vitikainen at arivitikainenphotography.com.)

Iceland, you’re the one!

Iceland, you’re the one!

Going back to Iceland after two years was quite a sure thing. Who can resist its beauty and the possibility to see the Northern light. However, the Northern light was pale as the moon was shining so bright. But I saw it across the sky and it will forever be remembered.

What was amazing about this trip was being able to drive around Iceland. We stayed in 5 places for 5 nights. It was easy to rent a car at the airport and start driving eastbound. Since we have been to Reykjavik before, we skipped the capital city entirely and went straight in search for the Northern light. As I said earlier, the moon was shining so bright so the Northern light was so pale but I saw it nevertheless.

Passing by the Diamond Beach the next day was so amazing. For me, it was the highlight of the trip. It was so beautiful, something I haven’t seen before. That night the Northern light can be seen better, although the moon was still bright as bright. I also realised that the easiest way to let people out of the guesthouse was to show them the photos of the Northern light directly from the camera. They all left so hurriedly to see the Northern light for themselves that I had the bathroom all to myself.

We drove past the mountains and over the mountains. In one place, the area was covered in snow. It was so beautiful, passing through different seasons, watching the sunrise and the sunset.

The last morning was very windy and the snow came. But later in the day, the sky cleared up and it was just amazingly beautiful. Yes, Iceland, you are the one!

All photos taken by Ari Vitikainen at arivitikainenphotography.com.

I love you, India!

I love you, India!

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I was a bit confused. People who were following our travels were commenting surprisedly that India is actually beautiful. But of course, India is beautiful. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Not only because of its beautiful people, it has a long, fascinating history. And if you like Indian food, well, what more can you ask for!

The India trip started by arriving early in New Delhi. The hotel was not only beautiful, but the staff were very generous to get us into early check-in without the additional charge. At first it felt like a hassle that the flight to Agra the next day was cancelled, but the express train did not only take us to Agra in less than 2 hours, it was surprisingly a pleasant trip.

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It was wonderful to visit Taj Mahal again after almost 10 years. Taj Mahal never ceases to amaze me. The heat didn’t stop me from admiring this historical place.

The next destination was beautiful Jaipur. I was taken back by this fancy hotel. It used to be a palace. In the 1940’s, they built the surrounding buildings. There are lots of quiet spaces in this hotel.

Jaipur, itself, is a fascinating city with historical sights that hold great significance. There is the Hawa Mahal, the City Palace and a visit to the monkeys. They ate lots of peanuts!

In between the Jaipur trip, was a quick visit to Jaisalmer. The Jaisalmer fort has many beautiful, intricate Haveli architecture. Interestingly, people live inside the fort and the daily life goes on as normal.

And of course, the trip will not be complete without visiting Thar Desert. Being able to pull the camel was such a highlight for me with the sunset as the backdrop!

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Upon returning to Jaipur, the flight was cancelled so it was a 12 hours overnight train ride. We survived and was accommodated at a beautiful hotel when we arrived. Our room was facing the Water Palace.

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The last few days were spent in lovely Jaipur, visiting the Amber fort and admiring the Step-well. It was my first time to know that Step-wells ever existed. Fascinating!

Lastly, here is my illustrated travel journal for this trip.

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All photos were taken by Ari Vitikainen at arivitikainenphotography.com

Lenny Kravitz, the greatest concert ever

Lenny Kravitz, the greatest concert ever

IMG_2811Lenny’s show in Helsinki on Saturday was amazing. He was full of energy, yet, so relaxed and so in the moment. He was walking in the stage and connecting sincerely to his audience. There was no rush whatsoever. He even asked the audience, “You are not in a hurry, aren’t you?” His voice was mesmerising. It was the same as listening to his studio recorded songs which means that he has such an authentic voice. His song, Here to love, was so touching with a choir on stage.

I bought seat tickets just to be sure that I can see. Except for Toto’s concert where I was stood in the first row, I struggled with height issue in concerts. I remember being squeezed among the crowd of a Green Day concert. And if not for the generous people infront of me during the Duran Duran and the Mariah Carey’s concert, I will not to able to see a thing, even those were seated tickets.

However during Lenny’s performance of Let love rule, I decided to go down. As luck would have it,  Lenny went down the stage too and kept on saying, “I want to see the people.” I saw the security near me looking all nervous. Lenny went across and up the hall. I knew that he will pass my way since the steps going up the stage was on the side where I was standing. People rushed to my side with phones ready while I decided to place my phone on my back pocket. I held out both my hand as he was coming close. I called softly, “Lenny”. And he reached his hand to me and I held it with both my hands. We were face to face. He was infront of me. He saw me. It was a very in the moment handshake. The people before me didn’t get handshakes while they stuck out one hand and phones on the other. I would not be in the moment and see him up close, if I was busy with my phone. I was the second to the last person who he shook hands with before climbing back the stage. The last person who was the guy next to me was not on his phone either. Well, talking about in the moment!

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Vienna’s Coffee Scenes

Vienna’s Coffee Scenes

It’s true what they say. Vienna has the most amazing coffee scenes. There are many cafes to choose from and each of one of them has a unique story to tell. However, there was not enough time to visit all of them as I wanted to enjoy every moment rather than moving hurriedly from one cafe to the next. Here are four cafes in the heart of Vienna which I had the opportunity to enjoy during this Vienna trip.

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Cafe Diglas in Fleischmarkt was the first cafe I visited. It was just down the street from the hotel. Cafe Diglas was established in 1875. There was a homely feeling about this place. Maybe because it has been around for a long, long time. The place serves good coffee and it has a huge selection of cakes to choose from. But of course, I decided on the Apple Strudel! It was a perfect choice. There was nothing not to like about this place.

 

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There was a queue outside of Cafe Central. I was not about to go in but there was this feeling inside me that I have to. Cafe Central was established in 1876. The place was a bit pretentious. There was also a huge selection of cakes by the entrance. But I ordered the Kaiserschmarren, of course, because it has to be tried. It was a large portion, making it quite difficult to finish up. The cafe has a beautiful interior but very busy. The waiters were rushing about, knowing that the queue outside was not getting any shorter. It was an okay experience but it would have been fine to skip it too.

 

Next stop was Cafe Schwarzenberg which has been on the premises since 1861. The cafe has certainly an old Vienna charm with its old style decor and nice ambience. Its says that the interior has remained largely unchanged. It has old fashioned waiters too who served me a wonderful Sachertorte, of course. It was a good choice for my birthday cake!

 

The last cafe was Café Hawelka. This was the most interesting cafe I have ever been. And mind you, I have visited many cafes in many countries. The Café Hawelka was opened by Leopold Hawelka in 1939.

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There was a queue outside too which made it quite a gamble since I can’t even see from the outside what the inside looks like. Upon entering while still in queue, I wondered how this will work out as the place was packed. It was a tight mass of people! But they seemed to be enjoying the relaxing ambience. Conversations and laughters were flowing. People seemed to be in no rush whatsoever. The friendly waiter approached with no menu at all. With the three dishes on his mental list, Goulash was the most appropriate. And it was a good choice. It was tasty!

It was amazing how this chaotic place has so much order. For this, I definitely recommend this cafe for such an authentic experience.

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All photos by arivitikainenphotography.com