Archive for October, 2006

October 29th, 2006

Finnish autumn travel

I, Sanna and Aapo attended to my cousin’s wedding party yesterday in Hämeenlinna, somewhat 100 kilometers up north from Helsinki. In true Nomadig spirit, this story is about getting there, not being there.

The first autumn storm hit Finland on Friday and the weather forecasts for Saturday warned about bad driving conditions just everywhere outside the coastal region between Helsinki and Turku.

I had scheduled winter tyre changing for the next Friday, but now we needed them now — just to be on the safe side and also because both our parents called us to verify that we had the tyres.

The only issue was that the tyres were in a warehouse that I don’t have access to. I was a bit agonised on Saturday morning, trying to call them at eight, nine, nine thirty and ten o’clock. Finally, they answered at ten and I played the wedding card to get a time for the tyre change.

I hurried there — the place is located about seven kilometers from our house — and found no other cars in the queue. I was fortunate enough to get the car on the garage immediately. If I would have appeared there five minutes later, the queue would have been at least 45 minutes.

After getting back home, we packed everything to the car and headed towards Hämeenlinna. The road was dry and except the wind there were no sign of the storm — sun was shining amidst the clouds and the day looked quite wonderful.

The wedding party took place in an old mansion, really nice place. We had fun until Aapo got too tired and cranky, so we had to leave before dancing took place. We were back at home before nine o’clock, earlier than ever from any wedding party.

Toy heaven

Hamley’s toy store is a must destination for everyone having children — albeit it might be best to leave the children to hotel, or you might find spending the whole day there. And catching sleep next night would become next to impossible, as the excitement of so many toys, blinking colours and flashing lights would be just too much, especially for the young ones.

Inside Hamley’s toy store in London, UK
The store has several floors, all filled with tantalising toys and games for children of all ages. There are both old wooden classic toys and the latest plastic electronic gadgets, and everything in between. Chances are that you find the items you are looking for. The staff is eager to help, and there are toy mini-exhibitions on every floor to get the taste.

The prices are reasonable, but not cheap.

www.hamleys.com, 188 – 196 Regent Street, London, United Kingdom, +44 870 333 2455

Books, books, books, music and café

Borders bookstore on Oxford Street is a centrally located haven for all bibliophiles. The selection is excellent in English literature, and there is a small number of books in other languages, too.

Borders bookstore on Oxford Street in London, UK
They sell also CDs, maps and other stuff usually associated with a bookstore. There is a Starbucks café to rest your feet while browsing through the shelves.

Unlike most of the other stores in London, bookstores are open till late — it is always fun to visit the photography section in late hours to see several men flipping through the more adult oriented photoshoot books.

Books are surprisingly expensive in the United Kingdom — but usually there are possibilities to bundle several books together and get them cheaper. This deal excludes bestsellers and all books outside the mainstream, but gives just enough options to buy a few books for the aeroplane.

www.borders.co.uk, 203 Oxford Street, London, United Kingdom, +44 207 292 1600

October 19th, 2006

London travelogue – nightmarish beginning

I visited London yesterday to attend a workshop. My flight left Helsinki at 7.10 in the morning, so I was awake a quarter to five — I never seem to learn when is the correct time to leave to the airport. If I think that I leave on time, I’ve some time to burn at the airport — on the other hand, I’m a nervous wreck if the schedule is too tight. Today I was through security 5:45, so I had to wait a few minutes for the shops and the SAS lounge to open.

The flight left almost on time, there was a slight delay due to traffic in London, but we were airborne fifteen minutes late. However, fog covered the ground in Stansted and after circling almost an hour over the airport, the aircraft was directed to land to Gatwick.

We got there in twenty minutes or, and landed quite fast. We were now something like 75 minutes late. Then we had to sit on the plane for an additional 50 minutes, first waiting for the bus and then for wheel stops — the bus driver had instructions not to let anyone in until the stops are in place. The airplane captain tried to negotiate with the driver with no avail.

I cannot fathom how on earth Gatwick airport could not manage to get the bus to the plane in something like five minutes. The plane needed to order the bus through Finland — very flexible and effective way of dealing surprising events. People in BAA, wake up!

Finally we packed into the bus and got to the terminal, about two hours late from the original schedule — and on a different airport. There was a silver lining, too, as Gatwick Express is faster than Stansted Express and the trains are in much better shape.

I switched to tube in Victoria Station and travelled to Covent Garden just to found out that the workshop is held near Carnaby Street. People familiar with London know that there is a few kilometers in between these two locations. Fortunately the weather was nice and walking was a viable option.

I also learned that I was not the only unlucky one — a colleague had sit on the plane in Helsinki airport for two hours.

After the workshop I had a couple hours to spend and I visited several shops in Carnaby Street and Oxford Street. Found nothing, but had the opportunity to visit Liberty department store that we had to skip due to blackout in August.

The return trip was not too straightforward. We took a cab to Liverpool train station, and tried to buy tickets to Stansted Express — we had a lot of difficulties to get our credit cards accepted by the vending machines. The transactions failed also with a clerk, and tickets couldn’t be bought onboard. Somehow we managed to get the tickets using several cards, and missed only one train.

The check-in went gracefully in Stansted, but the queue to the security checks were several hundred meters. I got a fastlane sticker due to my gold card, but my colleagues had to queue for an hour or so. We all got to the plane and the plane left almost on schedule, so the story has a happy ending.

Clothes for smaller folk

One of the frequent destinations in London for us Finnish parents are GAP Kids and Baby GAP stores. Their clothes are of good quality and the price is quite good, too.

GAP Kids store on Regent Street in London
The store in question is located very centrally on Regent Street, in an old classy shoproom. The place could host also a design store, but the children clothing store blends in nicely.

The selection is not very exhaustive and focuses almost exclusively on basic stuff; trousers, jeans, shirts and onesies. Fortunately they come in variety of designs and colours, not just in baby pink and baby blue.

www.gap.com, 208 Regent Street, London, United Kingdom, +44 20 7287 5095

Japanese simplicity

If you think that form should follow function, Muji might just be the shop fo you. The Japanese store has made simplicity a form of art. All items are stripped from superfluous details until the core is found.

Simplicity does not mean boring or ugly products. The stuff on sale is comparable to other design products. There are no big innovations, but no quirks either.

There are several Muji stores in London, usually at least one on every high street. We visited store on Carnaby street, a couple blocks from Oxford Circus. The store is not the biggest one, but it has all major categories on sale: office items, tools, clothes, tableware and furniture.

www.muji.co.uk, 41 Carnaby Street, London, United Kingdom, +44 20 7287 7323

October 15th, 2006

Turku, Helsinki, London

My travelling seems to be picking up again. I was visiting Turku with Sanna and Aapo the last weekend — it was a good break from the loads of work I’m faced with, Exove seems to gaining more and more speed…

That Saturday was a shopping day — it was raining cats and dogs, but we visited a bunch of good stores in Turku downtown and found something worth purchasing.

This Saturday was also a partial shopping day; this time here in Helsinki. It was raining again, and maybe due to this we found a bunch of items… The rest of the day, as well as today, has been spent working.

Next Wednesday I’ll visit London for a day. I need to be in the airport at 6.00 latest and I’ll be back in Finland 0.55 on Thursday morning. Sometimes travelling is not so glorious…

Fashions on the edge

If you are looking for trendy young fashions, head towards Urban Outfitters on Oxford Street. It is a curious mix of a high street shop and an independent young fashion designer boutique. These are not the clothes you would wear for a job interview — unless you are a seeking a position here or in Diesel — but instead they fit the streets.

Urban Outfitters store in London
The store has three levels, all packed with clothes and other items worth checking. The pricetag is not the smallest, but this is not a high end fashion store either.

Beside clothes, they sell also home furnishing and all kinds of smaller stuff.

www.urbanoutfitters.co.uk, 200 Oxford Street, London, United Kingdom, +44 207 907 0815