Archive for September, 2008

September 28th, 2008

Reflections from the past trip

Once again, it has been a while before I’ve got enough time to jot down a few notes from our past trip to Iceland and the States. As you may recall, we visited Reykjavik, Boston and New York in the trip.

The main reason for the trip was Sanna attending to a conference in Boston. I could combine my own business needs with the trip quite well, too. Our parents are turning 70 this year, so it was also a pretty nice way to celebrate the new decade. They doubled as caregivers to our children. All in all, very action packed trip.

The first destination was Reykjavik, pure holiday for a day. We got the best price to Boston and New York from Icelandair, and a stopover in Iceland was practically free. We booked a bus trip to Blue Lagoon thermal spa, and swiftly missed the bus. I was in restroom with Aapo and Sanna hauled back our buggys that we left in the conveyer. Fortunately, the helpful ladies in the Reykjavik Excursion counter called the bus and it came to pick us (and another party) to the spa. The spa itself is pretty nifty experience, do go there if you ever visit Iceland. As almost everything else in the nature of the country, it is pretty unique — blue hot salted water is emerging from the ground, and people are bathing in it.

After relaxing bath session, we took the bus to our hotel in Reykjavik. This time we were warned that the bus will leave and won’t come back. We were sitting inside almost ten minutes early, just be on the safe side.
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Modern Viking ship

In Reykjavik shorefront, not far from the city center — nothing is far from anything in Reykjavik — sits a commanding Viking ship statue. Made of metal, this modernised version of the ships Vikings used to conquer a big part of the northern hemisphere back then is a sight worth not missing. The statue, named Sun Voyager, is made by artist Jon Gunnar Arnason.

Sun Voyager Viking ship statue in Reykjavik, Iceland

The ship looks very dramatic, and gives a lot of photo opportunities; either with your family or friends, or just the statue with dramatic Icelandic nature on the background. The best time to visit the status is either early morning or late evening on a clear day, when the last rays of sun make the statue turn reddish. We were not that lucky, so you can enjoy only rainy photo. On the other hand, the small water drops on the metal surface were pretty interesting…

Sun Voyager, Reykjavik harbour, Reykjavik, Iceland

Design hotel in middle of everything

CenterHotel is a small chain of small Icelanding boutique hotels, all located in Reykjavik. We got an excellent price for CenterHotel Thingholt for our one night stay in Reykjavik.

The hotel is very centrally located — albeit being in outskirts of the city means only one or two kilometer walk — and all major attractions and shopping possibilities are in a walking distance.

Entrance to CenterHotel Thingholt in Reykjavik, Iceland

The focus in the hotel is in modern design, and for me it worked pretty well. Dark floors, white and bright rooms, and good furniture made a good match. The bed was large enough and had excellent linens, and the bathroom was just right with a good shower. The only minus comes from the bathroom tap that was a bit loose, and could be swung around.

The price included also an excellent breakfast with very, very delicious Icelandic dark break — reminded me of Finnish archipelago bread. Dark, tasty, and not for everyone. There were a lot of other things, too, so do not worry about the dark break.

The service was straightforward, and well in line with other Icelandic service we encountered. Not pushy, but not very “delighted to be helping you” either. For us Finns, it is easy to accept that kind of service, but for Americans it might feel a bit rude.

www.centerhotels.com, Þingholtsstræti 3-5, Reykjavik, Iceland, +354 595 8530

September 11th, 2008

Three generations in travel

We’ll start our trip to Iceland and the USA tomorrow. This time the posse is our extended family; four of us and my parents. We’ll visit Reykjavik, Boston and New York.

Our choice of airline is Icelandair, they made an excellent offer for flying to Boston and returning from New York. We’ll pop over to Iceland for a day, boys and grandparents have never been there, so it will be a nice experience. The program there contains visit to Blue Lagoon and some walking around Reykjavik, nothing major.

In Boston, we’ll do some shopping, visit a couple of museums and so forth. I’ll have also some business to do there. After four nights, we’ll board a train to New York. I’ll run more business errands there, and then try to enjoy the city, too.

After a week of travelling, we’ll fly back from New York City to Helsinki through Reykjavik. Waiting for the trip, anxiously.

A bit odd shopping mall

Bayside Marketplace is an open air shopping mall located near the seashore in Miami. The mall is a bit low-key in architecture, and it has a strange out-of-place feeling that I’ve never felt before in any shopping mall in the US. It felt like Asian mall, full of people and a lot of small vendor stalls.

Entrance to Bayside Marketplace in Miami, Florida, USA

There are both the normal chain stores, such as GAP or Disney, and then also local merchants — some of them having really small outlets. We walked twice past the toy store we were looking for, and it was not even hidden anywhere. Just small enough not to be noticiable immediately.

There is a separate food garden that seem to focus on the greasy side, so we skipped it. A nice perk was a small square inside the mall with local band playing salsa; there were muscle boats in the background — felt like being in Miami Vice.

www.baysidemarketplace.com, 401 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida, USA, +1 305 577 3344

Urban beach

The beach at Miami Beach is something that you need to experience before you can understand what does it feel like to take a few steps from urban jungle into white sand beach. The beach and the buildings are separated with a narrow strip of green park in the southern part of the island, and a bit northern the beach just begins almost from the porch.

The beach at Miami Beach, Florida, USA

My biggest surprise was that how wide the beach is. There’s plenty of space between the water and the dunes, so all kind of activities can take place. Alternatively, you can just rent a chair and watch the ocean. There is usually some watersport activities going on, so don’t expect to have a pure calm sea view.

When you feel hungry or thirsty, you can walk a few blocks into the city and find plenty of bars, restaurant and grocery stores. Pretty convenient.

Miami Beach, Ocean Drive, Miami Beach (the city), Florida, USA

September 3rd, 2008

Through chicken pox days

Our boys have been sick for a while. They are better now, but we were confined to our home for two weeks, and thus my update frequency got sloppy again.

Anyhow, Aapo got chicken pox a couple of weeks ago. It took eight days from the first pimples to be fully healed and go back to the kindergarten. Then it was Niilo’s turn after a couple of healthy days. The disease was much stronger now, the poor baby was fully covered with pimples. Fortunately, he doesn’t know how to scratch yet…

I do hope that there are no permanent scars left, as sometimes chicken pox may leave really bad marks to face or upper body. I and Sanna had had the disease as children, too. Fortunately so — as chicken pox spreads in 90% certainty in fifteen minutes or so when visiting a room with a patient and it is really bad disease for adults.

Ultimate French luxury

Hermès, the highest of the high in French fashion has its beautiful store located among its peers in Bal Harbour Shops mall. The brand is famous for their signature scarves, but there is a lot of other stuff worth buying for. If you are worthy enough… The store is really pricey, and most of can afford to buy a scarf or some other small paraphernalia.

Hermès store in Miami Beach, Florida, USA

They sell also clothing, bags and other stuff. The bags are classics, but price goes really through the roof.

The service, as usual in Hermès store, is top-notch. Attentive, focused and patient.

www.hermes.com, 9700 Collins Avenue (inside Bal Harbour Shops), Miami Beach, Florida, USA