Archive for November, 2007

November 29th, 2007

Visited Turku with train issues

I was visiting Turku on Tuesday on business — had an excellent day business-wise, by the way.

Anyhow, we took train from Helsinki to Turku and enjoyed surprisingly good mobile internet connection all the way. Coming back was a completely different adventure.

The previous train had collided with an elk and its brakes’ got stuck. You can’t really move train forward or backward while it’s braking. And the railroad there has only one track. So we sat there like ducks. And happened to be in such place that our fancy mobile internet was bit patchy.

After waiting almost two hours there, we finally got moving. I am still wondering how an elk can hit train so bad that it takes two hours to fix the damage.

Fresh coffeehouse

Café Metro is a small chain of coffeeshops around Manhattan. We had the pleasure of living in a hotel next to one outlet on 54th Street and 7th Avenue. As most of the hotel packages in the States do not include breakfast (and the breakfast is priced to ridiculous levels), Café Metro was our salvation in several mornings.

Café Metro in New York

The shop is a small deli that sells salads, different kinds of sandwiches and a set of bagels. Especially the sandwiches were extremely delicious, and the bagels were not bad either. There is also a selection of sweet pastries and cookies.

The service is fast and the stuff is fresh. Highly recommended. Not that pricey either.

www.cafemetrony.com, 839 7th Avenue (@ 54th Street), New York City, NY, USA, +1 212 586 2626

The birthplace of Tallinn

Toompea hill is the birthplace of Tallinn. The oldest fortress stood on this hill and gradually the old town and the city grew around it. The Toompea and the old town have only a couple of open passages, and otherwise they are separated by walls. In fact, the place has been a separate town with its own administration and special rights. Toompea was joined with Tallinn (”lower town”) in 1878.

Tallinn Toompea hill

Nowadays, Toompea is the home of Estonian parliament and government. The hill is not very large, so it can be explored by feet in a couple of hours. There are magnificent views over the city from several viewpoints. There are two churches, one Lutheran and one Orthodox that are both worth of visit.

Toompea Hill, Tallinn, Estonia

November 22nd, 2007

To go or not to go

That has been the question. I’ve been procrastinating whether to go to the States again, this time on the west coast. As you might remember, we were thinking of going to San Diego earlier this autumn, but had to cancel the trip.

I’ve got some business items that needs some attention in the Bay Area, but I’m still a bit unsure what to do. The trip costs money and especially takes time that has been really precious lately.

The flight prices are still reasonable and there are a couple of fancy hotels that have affordable offers. So there’s no specific reason not to go. Some business could be handled by phone or email, but face to face meetings are always better in several senses.

Maybe I’ll decide tomorrow…

Nice atmosphere, bland food

Estonia’s Silverspoon society selects best restaurants every year. We’ve visited in a couple of the winners and have never been disappointed to the food. This year we heard that Restoran House is among the top three restaurants.

Restoran House in Tallinn, Estonia

The interior looks good, it is sort of loft style renovation executed in an old town house in a quite good location in the Tallinn old town. The menu is extensive and the portions are surprisingly inexpensive. Unfortunately the taste is very mild, or bluntly put bland, and the food is not in par with the rest of the restaurant. At least in the Asian section of the menu. The restaurant has a children menu as well, and the portion we ordered was well-received by our toddler. And it didn’t have anything stir-fried that is quite common in children’s portions.

The toilet in the first restaurant room is also worth of visiting. There is no traditional floor, but it has been replaced with a glass. When you are sitting on the seat, you can see to the basement of the building — a few meters drop. If you have a vertigo, select other restroom. Otherwise, don’t miss this.

www.house.ee, Rataskaevu 16, Tallinn, Estonia, +372 6411 900

Boutique to furnish your home

Liina is a small home furnishing shop located in the Porvoo old town, focused on more traditional designs — think of Lexington (one of their brands, in fact). The smallish wooden house has been filled from floor to ceiling with all kinds of items related to home furnishing.

Liina store in Porvoo old town, Finland

Most of the stuff is fabrics and other “clothware”, such as linens, bathrobes and so forth. The prices are higher compared to normal Finnish home furnishing stores, but also the brands and the quality are higher.

www.liina.net, Jokikatu 16, Porvoo, Finland, +358 40 519 9190

November 16th, 2007

November New York Travelogue, part II

We’ve been back in Finland for about a day now, and finally I’ve got enough time to provide some reflections from the rest of the trip.

The Sunday was a lazy day; first we spent an hour or so visiting the Central Park Zoo. The zoo was surprisingly small, but still had a curious mix of animals from different places of the Earth. Aapo was thrilled to see sea lions, penguins, polar bears, monkeys and red pandas. I was surprised to see how crammed some of the animals were. For example, penguins were stuffed into a narrow corridor and sea lions were in a pool no larger than a normal swimming pool.

The rest of the day was spent in shopping and visiting Times Square. The second Sunday in November is Father’s Day in Finland, so we celebrated it by going to Burger King to savour Whoppers with fries and soda… Both dad and son were satisfied.

The last stop was Toys’R'Us on Times Square, a really hyperactive toy store – that had a ferris wheel in the store.

Monday was out-of-town day, I had to go up Hudson river for a meeting and then we visited an outlet store village with 220 shops. The rental store was located next to our hotel and driving out of Manhattan was relatively easy and surprisingly enough not jammed. Getting back was a bit more frustrating, as the highway was sometimes stuck. Fortunately, GPS did the navigation and I needed just to follow instructions.

Tuesday was spent again in Manhattan. Had quite a nice lunch in the southern business area and then browsed through some stores in the evening.

We visited MoMA on Wednesday morning. The museum opened at 10.30 and we were out a bit before noon. I thought that the new MoMA would be bigger, but no. The pieces of art were nice, though.

The trip to the airport was surprisingly smooth, our apparently Russian driver got us there in less than fifty minutes. Then we waited there for four hours before boarding the plane. Finnair warned us to come soon, as there might be delays in check-in and security. Both took about fifteen minutes, combined.

We had four seats in the plane and Aapo dozed off early and slept the whole flight. I fell asleep when we were over Greenland and woke up above Europe — surprisingly little jetlag so far.

Overall, the trip was excellent.

November 11th, 2007

November New York Travelogue

We are now in New York, cozily settled in an excellent suite hotel The London NYC that seems to be in the center of most attractions interesting to us: Central Park, six blocks; fifth avenue shopping, four blocks; Times Square, five blocks (or something, has not yet visited there — but the lights can be seen here).

The local time is 4:45 AM and I and Aapo are awake. He has been for an hour or more, I tried dozing with no avail. Now I’m writing this in the living room of the suite and Aapo is watching a Goofy DVD we bought along with a portable player from Helsinki-Vantaa airport. Classic Goofy episodes are fun to watch…

The flight was surprisingly easy, albeit it was late for 45 minutes or so. The immigration takes its own time when going to the US — to be honest, I don’t know why they bother with these procedures, reminds me of a third world country. Anyhow, after stepping on US soil, we got the bags immediately and then boarded AirTrain to NYC metro. The metro took us to the next block from our hotel, so we had literally walk around the corner and cross a street to get here.

I run some business during the rest of the evening. Yesterday, we woke up early and visited a traditional US diner for breakfast. The amount of fat was staggering, but the sausages were excellent. Then we visited Central Park, strolled around there, found a children play area and Aapo got fascinated with ducks in The Pond.

Then we visited a number of shops and bought a load of stuff, including one new bag for bringing them home. We nod off already at seven.

Today, we’ll go to Central Park Zoo and visit a few more shops around the Fifth Avenue and Times Square for some sights for Aapo and then there’s also Toys’R'Us. More of this later.