Aihearkisto: In English

Tour operator in Ethiopia – Lal Tours

During our entire one-week trip in Ethiopia we were taken excellent care by Lal Tours. They picked us pick up from the airport and left us there after a  week of sightseeing, interesting conversations, and help in various touristic situations.

We stayed all together two nights in Addis Ababa, two in Dessie and two in Lalibela. In all of these place Lal tours found us nice restaurants and was able to change the plans according to our wishes – often we wished for more Ethiopian food and local places. Also a special thanks to our driver for safe driving and great company! Our guide Hawas was great company, and interesting conversations made us become friends during the week.

Talking about guides I noticed once again that Lonely Planet was of no use. The guide book had been ”updated” last year, but at least the information concerning hotels was totally outdated. When I can choose between guide books, I’ve noticed that Rough Guide is more useful without an exception.

Great Ethiopian dinner in Addis Ababa.

Great Ethiopian dinner in Addis Ababa.

Lal tours also owns hotels: we stayed in the one in Lalibela.

Lal tours also owns hotels: we stayed in the one in Lalibela.

At the terrace in Lal Hotel in Lalibela.

At the terrace in Lal Hotel in Lalibela.

Recommended!

Recommended!

Got to see this side of Addis as well - a French owned restaurant.

Got to see this side of Addis as well – a French owned restaurant.

Missing my little girl at home...

Missing my little girl at home…

Easter in the Lakeus

Seinäjoki in western Finland starts to be a familiar town to me, but still spending Easter there is quite exotic. Especially this time, when we managed to combine a night out for adults to a perfect Easter Saturday for kids.

On Friday night we checked in at Hotelli Lakeus. After watching hours Jerusalem 24 (perfect way to spend Good Friday!) we finally got up and found ourselves at legendary Seinäjoki bars. To start the night in a classic provincial style we had dinner at Amarillo (the same choice has been made in Joensuu, Vaasa and Jyväskylä for years already). Then we went to see the most positive person in Seinäjoki and all Finland at Bar 15 that is owned by this great person. Unfortunately he just sold the place and this was therefore our farewell visit. Quite surprisingly the metal band also sounded pretty good. Still it was probably too loud for my middle aged husband and we continued to Still Standing bar. This reggaeish spot has a liberal vibe, but I still heard from the neighbouring table some laughter at a person for living in Helsinki and bring therefore called hurri. No prob, I’m not at all afraid to move in this city known for fights with knives… From the windows of this Bar you can see the famous church, Lakeuden risti.

Stepping down to Bar 15.

Stepping down to Bar 15.

Some local metal band.

Some local metal band.

 

The night in Hotelli Lakeus was really comfortable and staff friendly and helpful. We didn’t have the kids with us, but at breakfast there was a nice kids spot with a lot of toys and also a small kids table with some special foods for them.

Kids’ Easter in Seinäjoki

But what is really great for the kids in Easter here in western Finland is the tradition of witches. First in the morning our kids decorated some sticks (vitsa) to be able to go around in neighbouring houses to virpoa people. Ie they dress as witches, say a little poem, and get candy in return. This is done because Jesus died on Friday and on Saturday the witches can do whatever. The same continues later in the evening when large bonfires are made to keep the witches away. Needless to say that they can also be used for a little barbeque with friends. All this is topped by a hunt for easter eggs. And contrary to almost all other celebrations in Finland, no alcohol is included. Pretty much a perfect day for kids. Olga made me promise that we’ll spend Easter here next year as well.

Olga with her witch costume and vitsas.

Olga with her witch costume and vitsas that she decorated with her own drawings. A week before at home she used Christmas balls and serpentine for decorations. God thing that we were too lazy to instruct her – there was room for creativity.

Kokko.

Kokko.

Olga had three sausages... and a lot of water later in the night.

Olga had three sausages… and a lot of water later in the night.

Easter egg nest found!

Easter egg nest found!

Lapua church on our way back.

Nurmoo church on our way back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a tour – 3000 km in Finland in November

The four of us just returned from an extensive tour in Finland. Finland in November – hell no, say many. But we succeeded to have a great time. And all this in a pretty cost effective way…

kierros2

The journey by car from Helsinki to Lapland is long. With a one-year-old and a four-year-old it has to be done during a few days. We took breaks in Seinäjoki (visiting relatives) and Oulu. In Oulu we checked in Scandic hotel (as they had promotional prices). The kids enjoyed their play room and I enjoyed the darkness – just laid in the white sheets with my baby. We had a long and good night sleep.

scandic

Meeting Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, Arctic Circle

On Saturday we arrived in Rovaniemi. In November they had a good layer of snow and we all got excited. Our great hosts had organized a palju in their backyard, so we spend the night bathing outside and sipping whiskey (after the kids had gone to bed).

The highlight in Rovaniemi was of course the visit to the Arctic Circle and meeting with Santa. You can visit Santa for free, but you have to pay for the pictures taken with him. The kids were quite terrified, but the snow and Christmas lights somewhat compensated.

santa

To be continued…

Hip Weekend for Adults in Kallio, Helsinki

Every once in a while we get a chance to spend the weekend without the kids. Weekend is enough to travel to Stockholm, Tallinn or Saint Petersburg. But as we’re quite busy at home – doing laundry, picking up toys and acting as waiters – I thought that a weekend of rest would be the best choice. So I asked for advice from a friend working at hotel marketing and got an excellent recommendation: Hotel Scandic Paasi in Siltasaari, Helsinki.

As Paasi is located in the eastern part of the city I thought that that would be the theme for the entire weekend. We would spend all the time in Kallio. As Kallio is as far as 6 kilometers from our home, I turned to a specialist again. My local trendy friend wrote a six point list of the best bars for us. And indeed – they were so good that we only managed to visit three! (+2 places of our own choice)

But here it comes! Basically, Kallio is more relaxed and cheaper than the centre, so no need to dress up, just enjoy!

Eat

Sandro is my new favourite spot to eat & drink in Kallio. We went here twice. Moroccan food, enough to make you too full, nice drinks, relaxed music. They also serve a great brunch.

Kuva

If you’re hungry during the lunch time, try Lemon Grass – a thai place across the street from Sandro.

Drink

Musta Kissa, a relaxing spot to have a chat over a glass of house wine or a beer. If you decide to stay in Paasi, this is very close too.

Sivukirjasto is great for a day-time drink when wandering around the streets of Kallio. We went in October, but were still able to have our drinks at the sunny tables outside.

Pulmu, an aeroplane-like bar for the young and trendy + for old & funloving. We were cheerfully wished ”Good night” by the other customers when we left the place (to sleep) at 11pm.

Kuva

During the days we just walked around, did a little shopping, watched the beautiful people around, and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. I definitely recommend a weekend in Kallio for everyone who enjoys city-life, good food, friendly people and nice bars. To make it more exotic (no matter if you come from far or close), visit a public sauna.

+++ GO FOR IT, book flights now.

Holiday Club Saimaa – resort life at the east border

After almost a year of pondering where the celebrate a grand birthday party with extended family – grandparents, cousins etc we finally ended up in Holiday Club Saimaa, next to Imatra. The place was chosen, because it seemed like a paradise for our kids and their cousins, ages varying from 1 to 5. The place has a spa and Angry Birds activity park. This was more than enough for kids’ so young – in fact just playing together in the house we rented would have been enough.

We rented a house for a weekend in the area, so all 10 of us could live in the same place. Practical and economical choice. It would be even cheaper, if you’d go listen to some kind of marketing speech for renting the apartments more permanently. We skipped that even though there would have been free babysitting (in a quite nice kids’ room) during the two-hour show.

What comes to eating with 4 small kids, we had breakfast at the hotel, but otherwise we brought our own dishes that were easy to prepare onsite.

During one exhausting day we managed to spend hours in the spa, visit the Angry Birds activity park, get some fresh air in between and finally visit the spa again in the night.

The spa was weirdly dark. When occasionally looking after three kids, I wished they had wore pink swimming caps… But it had a great area for really small kids and a kids’ sauna with cartoons, so we were happy with the visit.

Maybe it was the darkness that made us think that it’d be nice to visit the spa again after the kids had gone to bed. So we let all the kids with their grandparents and sneaked back to the spa at 8 pm. MISTAKE. The place was like wild west with people jumping around and having beer, all the floors were messy, trash cans full, shampoo bottles empty etc. Not a relaxing night. Luckily we could run back to our house and put some logs in the fireplace. But maybe this is all different if you go there in a week night.

Angry Birds activity park was pretty nice. Very similar to other inside playgrounds, but with the birds figures and everything shining new. The pricing policy was pretty cruel though: I prefer the kind of places that charge only for kids and let adults come look after them for free.

KuvaTough job to crawl after a one-year-old in the Angry Birds activity park for three hours!

All in all – a great weekend for the kids. And some relaxing moments even for the parents.

++ Why not?

The Classic, ”Sweden boat”

Since it seems that we’re traveling mostly in Finland nowadays – or extended Finland – I decided to switch my reporting language for a while. And no-one else seems to share relevant information in English about traveling in Finland(ish) with kids. So, let me start with the all time favourite – the classic – Sweden boat, cruise to Stockholm from Helsinki, with two nights on the ferry and one day in Stockholm.

Eating at the ferry

In Sunday afternoon we stepped on board Viking Gabriella. Right after finding our cabin (with one double bed and one bunk bed) we started eating the pizza we brought with us. Good idea. Bringing also drinks would have been another good idea as the tap water at the ferry wasn’t really tempting.

Somewhat better cabin with more room, but no window.

Somewhat better cabin with more room, but no window.

We chose to have breakfast at the ferry on both mornings. With a hungry son, this is a must. There are two levels of breakfast, we took the cheaper, but next time I’ll choose the more expensive one where you get sparkling wine + some items served to the table. This one was also claimed to have more peaceful atmosphere – suites us, as at the dinner buffet a group of men intending to concentrate more on drinks refused to be seated to the table next to our party.

Eating at the ship’s dinner buffet indeed has its pros and cons. The greatest pro is that the buffet is free for kids under 6. And the con is that when you serve the kids at the buffet you don’t eat much (not to mention enjoy) yourself. Maybe the optimum would be to have the kids eat in the buffet with one adult. The food was ok, and wine was good when mixed with soda water. And eating at the buffet also meant spending an hour and half less at the kids play room…

Some people are just always served to the table.

Some people are just always served to the table.

Fun on board

Where we spend almost all the rest of the time. The room seemed really dirty to me, as nothing had happened in 30 years when I was playing there myself. I remember my mom hating the room and making us wash our hands really well afterwards. But still – if it was dirty already then, what about now? The kids liked it anyways. But not as much as the karaoke dance at the FUN BAR… Olga found two cavaliers to dance with when people sang karaoke classics like ”Elämää juoksuhaudoissa”.

That’s life at the ”Sweden boat”. Both nights we went to bed at the same time with the kids and slept actually a lot more that an home. It was nice and peaceful, no one yelling at the corridor etc.

photo 1

Day at Södermalm

What surprised me was how nice it was to spend the day in Stockholm. We took a quick look at the princess castle (which was a little disappointment to our princess fan) and took a metro to Södermalm (Medborgarplatsen). NICE, NICE, NICE! Friendly & helpful people, lovely cafes, playgrounds… And yes, in the playground there really was more dads than moms. In the metro we were offered help when carrying the stroller and offered seats – seldom happens in Helsinki. And what hit me, was that the Romanian beggars looked straight into your eyes and smiled as in Helsinki they stare the ground. Interesting that they seem to have different strategies in these two cities.

photo 2

photo 3

The day was so nice that it is almost worth the ferry trip. I’d definitely recommend this trip for someone a) who is a bored stay-at-home-parent, b) who takes a week-long holiday in Helsinki or Stockholm (and can take a look to another city + skip a couple of expensive hotel night this way).

More tips

”Sweden boat” ++

—————————————————–

– Skip it

+ Whatever

++ Why not

+++ This is a must