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Posts Tagged ‘Canon Rebel XSi’

18.01.11 – I made it through Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year, but now I’m in a fog :( Fog seems to pop up whenever the temperature rises above freezing. I think I actually prefer the subzero days where the sun, when it shows its face, can stroll across a cloudless sky.

Send me some love people! I needs it!

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11.01.11 – The weather is quite the topic these days. Snow cover in December was approaching record-breaking numbers. This wasn’t so surprising because I’ve been hearing about the possibility of this year’s winter being one of the coldest ever. The forecasters seemed to be “spot on” and all signs were leaning towards a brutal winter.

Over the last couple of days we’ve had a bit of unusually “warm” weather, temperatures around 5°C, which has turned snowfall into rainfall and the city into a giant slushie. My outdoor walking strategy turned from avoiding patches of ice to avoiding “potholes” in the packed snow which were now ankle-deep in water. Ice has also been falling from the buildings at an alarming rate and even took a man’s life!

Today the temperatures have dropped below freezing once again which has added a yet another challenge. Snow covered streets and sidewalks which have been worn smooth by the rain are now freezing over. The other areas which have been cleared of snow now have a thin layer of ice good enough to skate on, which is in fact, what I am trying to avoid.

The good news lately is that it’s going to snow soon which should make it a bit easier to walk around outdoors :) They say the grass is always greener but I guess the snow can also be whiter on the other side.

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10.01.11 – The kids have been out of school on Winter break so we’ve been trying to find different things to do. It’s way to easy to stay in, watch movies and play video games :P. Jaana has always been great about suggesting different activities in and around Helsinki. She told us about a ski and water park called Serena located in Northern Espoo, the city just outside Helsinki. Max and I ended up taking the 20 minute drive although public transportation from Helsinki was also an option.

Serena is a small park but there were just enough people there to make it exciting without the burden of long lines. We passed by the ski area on our way to the indoor section of the water park and watched skiers and snowboarders catching air and flipping off of jump in front of the resort. Inside the water park were a number of different swimming pools,wave pools, waterfalls, hot tubs and four large water slides. Max and my favorite was a 45-meter aquatube which was a good four story climb which zipped you down a number of turns and dives and then ended up in large “bowl” where you swirled around (I’m trying to avoid the toilet analogy!) until you fell through a hole in the bottom.

The fact the park had both a ski side and water park side made things a bit comical. It was interesting to take a break, in nothing but swim trunks, and take in the view of the snowboarders on the other side of the glass. Max and I also had something to eat before we left and a table on our one side had two boys in nothing but swim trunks and on the other, a group of four in jackets, goggles and hats.

There are a number of options for accommodations also. I could have seen spending a night there to get a bit of both worlds, swim and ski ;)

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09.01.11 – Helsinki’s Season of Light ended today but that doesn’t mean the town is going dark. I don’t have to go far to enjoy the “nightlife” of this city. My favorite view of the city is from my balcony where the warm city lights, the Northern sky and sometimes the moon are there to entertain me.

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08.01.11 – The great part about taking the ship from Helsinki to Stockholm is the fact that you can sleep onboard the ship for most of the travel time. I titled my posts day 1, day 2, day 3 but it’s not really a three-day trip. You leave at 5PM on day 1 so you can still have a full day to explore Helsinki before you leave and on day 3, you arrive back in Helsinki at 1030AM, so you have a full day ahead of you. Plus, you’re well rested because most of the time onboard the ship is spent sleeping. Well, we slept, a large group of the passengers drink like fish and party like animals.

We were pretty exhausted from the day so we grabbed something to eat and turned in early ;) There’s nothing like sleeping on a ship. It reminded me of my days in the Navy. I used to love laying in my “rack” and falling asleep while being gently rocked. The kids fell asleep early and I followed right behind them ;)

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07.01.11 – We had a full day to spend in Stockholm. The boat wasn’t scheduled to depart until 5Pm so we spent the last hours before we pulled in at 930AM eating breakfast in the ships buffet and planning the day. The ship had an information desk open 24/7 so I grabbed some maps and information flyers on popular things to do.

We came up with a list of three things, the Vasa Museum, a walk through the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and finally the afternoon in the Södermalm and Östermalm shopping districts. The plan was a bit ambitious, you could make a day of anyone of the three, but we knew we would be back and we just wanted to get a taste of Stockholm.

Getting off the ship and quickly on our way in an unfamiliar city was relatively easy. We were off the ship in 15 minutes after docking and followed a crowd of people making their way to the metro station, a short walk from the harbor. We bought full day transit cards at a kiosk in the metro and headed to our first stop, the Vasa Museum.

The Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet), a maritime museum with the 17th century ship Vasa on display, is located on the island of Djurgården, about 3km to the South of the harbor. The Vasa was a Swedish warship built in the 17th century which sank just 2km into its maiden voyage. The ship was salvaged in 1961 and finally moved to the Vasa Museum in 1987 which quickly became one of Stockholm’s most popular tourist attractions. There are several floors to the museum with exhibits or archeological findings of the ship and of 17th century Sweden. Scale models of the ship, dioramas depicting the salvage process and two-story walls with glass enclosed salvaged sails surround the main attraction, the actual ship situated in the main hall. The museum was a great start because it was something both the kids and myself really enjoyed.

We decided to grab lunch at our next stop, The Old Town (Gamla Stan), which is situated just West of the Vasa Museum on the island of Stadsholmen. The tiny island is located right in the center of Stockholm and used to be called Staden mellan broarna (The Town between the Bridges). Although the island is small, which makes it perfect for walking the medieval streets and alleyways, there are quite a few things to see and do. We passed churches, cathedrals, the baroque royal palace Kungliga Slottet before making our way to the town’s large open square the Stortorget. We found an inexpensive cafe and had a lunch of Panini-like sandwiches and pizza slices, not exactly Swedish fare but it definitely “filled the tanks” so we could be on our way.

Our next foray into Stockholm was mainly to appeal our teenage traveler Emma. We had read about a couple of shopping districts and we had our day travel passes so we jumped on the metro and headed to Södermalm in the Southern section of the city. Södermalm has a bohemian/alternative vibe and we spent some time walking on the street Gotgaten checking out the record stores and trendy clothing but Emma was more interested in finding the more mainstream Urban Outfitters rather than the hit or miss trendy boutiques.

Östermalm, the other shopping district we wanted to checkout, was located on our way back to the ship. It also had the Urban Outfitters store so we jumped back on the metro and headed there. Where Södermalm is more working class, Östermalm is definitely home to the more affluent so there were an overabundance of stores, cafes and restaurants to choose from. Emma spent sometime in the Urban Outfitters and I shopped for a new contract free iPhone. Emma was luckier than me ;) Unfortunately Sweden does not appear to have contract free iPhones but Emma picked up a couple of items to take home.

It was getting late in the day and we had to be back to the ship in two hours so we found a cute little cafe and crashed. We even learned a little Swedish while hanging out there. While I was waiting for my cappuccino and older woman returned with her Parma ham sandwhich and started talking to one of the baristas. She was obviously unhappy about something and then I heard her say “stinkerdoo” in that sing-song Swedish way which made the barista sniff the sandwhich and shake his head no. Max, Emma and I, a bit slap happy from our full day, started making the most of our new-found Swedish word. We were the most animated customers in the place, laughing at the idea of ordering the stinkerdoo for two or a pasta dish, the stinkernoodledoo. It was definitely time to put a fork in the day and head back to the ship!

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06.01.11 – If you have the time, one of the must trips to take from Helsinki is the overnight trip to Stockholm, Sweden by ship. Two lines, the Viking Line and the Silja Line, depart daily from Helsinki at 5Pm for an overnight journey to Stockholm. You spend the night on the boat, wake up just before the ship arrives in Stockholm, enjoy a full day in Stockholm and then depart at 5Pm for the trip/sleep ride back to Helsinki. Of course, you can stay as long as you like but the kids are on winter holiday from school so we decided to make it an overnight holiday.

The first day of our holiday included checking into the ship and an overnight journey by sea. Checking in on the Silja Line is quite quick and easy. We grabbed our tickets and found our room, a berthing which had four beds and a view of the ocean, albeit a frozen ocean ;) We grabbed dinner on the main deck, which is more like being inside a large shopping mall, and watched as people streamed by our table to shop, watch performances and make their way to party while the ship steamed onto Sweden.

Being the party animals that we are, Emma, Max and I checked out the main happenings rather quickly and then headed to our room to watch a few movies before the ship gently rocked us to sleep.

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05.01.11 – One of Helsinki’s Season of Light installations is staged at the Senate Square. Light and sound envelop you as the surrounding buildings are all part of the show. The Helsinki Cathedral and the façades of the Council of State building and the university main building, three of the four buildings which surround the square, are bathed in bright blue and yellow light. The idea was created by an artist named Mikki Kunttu and has the title Mercy.

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04.01.11 – The Walkea Fire Circus, just one of the installations which are part of Helsinki’s Season of Light event, really made an impression on me so I think it deserves another post. If you live in Helsinki or planning on visiting before January 9th, I would strongly suggest getting out to see one of their performances. They have three shows a night in the Topelia courtyard at Unioninkatu 38 at 1800, 1930 and 2100.

I think what impressed me most was the groups… how do I say it, their “down to earth” feel. Their performance reminded me of a Cirque du Soliel performance; the music, the imagination, the creativity, but the Walkea performance made me feel like I was watching something more real, albeit magical. A Cirque performance borders on the unbelievable because of the almost incredible level of skill. I think the fire circus had a more inviting and relaxed feel which really let me sink into the mood of the show. Mesmerizing describes it best because they held my attention as if I was in a spell.

Check it out if you can, I know you’ll be impressed. If you’re not in the area, click here for a google search where you’ll find additional information, more images and videos from others.

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03.01.11 – How does Helsinki decide to spend the darkest time of the year? With a Festival of Light guaranteed to stimulate the senses and make the most of these long winter nights. The festival, which started on New Year’s Eve and continues till January 9, 2011, has a series of works located around the city center which allows you to take a “journey” of light. Works, which include illuminated buildings, photography exhibits and even a fire circus, run from 5PM to 11PM and you can take the journey on foot or ride a specially designed “light tram.”

Last night we focused on the Walkea fire circus which was being held in the courtyard of Topelia building (at Unioninkatu 38). Six performers danced the night away with fire, tossing and turning large fire sticks, strutting with burning umbrellas or performing a duet which made me feel it was more like a ballet than a circus. The music was great, it reminded me of something you would hear at the Cirque du Soleil, (circus ethereal?) and the audience watched silently, mesmerized by the performers until it was time for the “thump thump thump” of winter gloved applause.

I’m hoping to go again before the event ends so expect to see some additional posts throughout the week.

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