Archive for October, 2009

October 31st, 2009

SAS travel hassles

Our London trip reservation didn’t go through SAS system. Their website showed me the confirmation page, but I didn’t receive any confirmation mail. After waiting a couple of days, I logged in their site and found no reservation. Their pretty non-polite customer service — they are hiring Estonians to do Finnish customer service, and the Estonian service attitude is really low in general — didn’t find the reservation either. Fortunately, there were still seats available with points, and I could rebook the trip.

This time it went through, and I got the emails and everything. The incident, however, decreased my already quite low confidence on SAS website. It has been down several times, the reservation system breaks down while you trying to check the prices of flights, and the single sign-on system they are using is slow and in general really badly implemeted.

If someone from SAS is reading this, forward this message inside your organisation: a) Fix your website, it is in shameful condition, and b) train your Estonian staff to understand when to make an apology or at least sound sorry for the hassles you have out your customers through. And maybe also c) I’ve tried to use your feedback channels earlier with pretty bad results, so you could fix this, too.

Cheaper than the paragon

Guess is a brand that I’ve got a love / hate relationship with. Their brand is so blatantly looking like a cheaper version of Gucci that is advertised with very sexual imagery. This bothers me heavily, and nowadays I’ve started to frown on Guess’ handbags. They just look too cheap to me.

Guess outlet at Central Valley, NY, USA

On the other hand, they’ve got some really nice clothes, and I do own a few Guess t-shirts. Maybe clothes are not that archetypal as bags when defining luxury brands and those brands that would like to cheat their way in to the luxury club, including Guess.

If this does not bother you (which I guess is the case with most of you), the outlet store is an excellent place to buy a lot of young and trendy stuff with quite low prices. They have also a smaller section of children clothing that is worth checking if you have offsprings.

www.guess.com, 442 Woodbury Court, Central Valley, NY, USA, +1 845 928 1294

Swiss bags

Victorinox makes, at least in my opinion, the best luggage in the world. I’ve fallen in love with their ballistic nylon series, they are both functional and beautiful.

When founding that they’ve got an outlet store in Woodbury, we checked it pretty thoroughly — and bought a new bag to carry all our other finds back to hotel and eventually back to Finland. It is a bit weird to buy European stuff in the US and carry it back to Europe; and save money by doing so. The price of the bag was about half compared to a similar bag in high streets. It was not exactly the same bag, but close enough.

The store is very strong in bags, but there is other paraphernalia, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay too much attention to them while looking for the bag, so I cannot say more about the selection.

www.victorinox.com, 964 Grapevine Court, Central Valley, NY, USA

October 25th, 2009

Once again, to London

I’ve accumulated a plenty of points when I was working for a company with Finnish-American-French set-up. Now, the points are expiring, and thus there is need to spend them by travelling.

The supply of SAS flights with points is surprisingly poor. Most of the interesting places that I haven’t been yet are virtually impossible with points. Even when checking the calendar far ahead, up to May 2010. Finally, there were two practical choices left: Milan or London. We’ve visited in both, and sort of know what to expect — neither of them is a children-friendly city during winter months.

I’d love to go to Milan for shopping, but Sanna wanted to get to London, and truth said, it is fine for me, too. It is probably easier for boys, as there is more to see on the streets — double deckers, London cabs, the tube (well, that’s not on the streets, but it has been always a thrilling experience for my sons — maybe they are budding engineers…).

We found also a good hotel with decent price near Oxford Circus. We’ve been once in a hotel in the same area, and it does really make a difference. Suddenly, London is very compact city, as almost everything is in a walking distance: Hamleys for boys, Selfridges & Co. and Liberty for Sanna, and Waterstone’s Piccadilly for me.

Basic children clothing

If you are looking for inexpensive children clothing among the Woodbury Commons outlet stores, pop over to Carter’s. The whole outlet is packed pretty tight with all kinds of children clothing.

The sheer amount of clothes packed so tightly together makes the whole experience to feel cheap. Maybe that’s the purpose, or then they need to utilise the floor square meters as effectively as possible.

The prices are good, but some of the clothes are not. There are items worth buying, but some other clothes look cheap or are of bad quality — or both.

www.carters.com, Woodbury Commons Outlet, Store #576, Central Valley, NY, USA

A bit more fancier

Banana Republic outlet is an easy place to buy smart clothes while running from outlet to outlet. The stuff is a bit more classy than in GAP, and most people are familiar with Banana Republic’s style and design. In a sense, it is a good compromise between price and style, hovering somewhere in between of GAP and Calvin Klein.

The prices can go quite high, for example, an overcoat can easily cost around $150-$200. There is usually a good selection of clothes available for him and her, and also some accessories. No clothing for children, which is a shame.

www.bananarepublic.com, 422 Evergreen Court, Central Valley, NY, USA, +1 845 928 1819

October 18th, 2009

Picasso at Ateneum

The art museum Ateneum has been hosting a big Picasso exhibition for a while, and last weekend we got a spark (from a friend) to visit the show. Today was the day. After gently waking Niilo up from his nap, we got everyone dressed, out of the door, and to Helsinki city center.

Ateneum enjoys an excellent location in Helsinki, next to the central railway station, and thus it is easily accessible from all directions. They was a queue already outside — something that rarely happens in Finnish museums — and it took about fifteen minutes to get in and pay the fare. We met our friends while queuing, and their presence probably toned the boys down a bit; Aapo is not that fond of strange people…

The exhibition was crowded, too, but fortunately not overly so and you could enjoy the works. I was walking with Niilo and his stroller while Sanna took good care of Aapo. Our friends enjoyed much bigger freedom of movement, as we were only ones that have kids. That said, boys behaved really well, and Aapo showed some interest in the works, too. Niilo was just happy to sit in the stroller or climb on the chairs.

The works of art are from Paris — the museum there is being renovated and the collection is loaned to other museums during that time — and it was a good retrospective throughout Picasso’s career. There were numerous paintings for all his artistic eras, and a good amount of sculptures, too.

We visited also a cafĂ© on the third floor, and then the boys vent off their steam by running and fightning. Nothing major, but Sanna decided to take them to a walk — that ended into a playarea built in the museum. The rest of the museum tour consisted of Finnish modernists and some more traditional Finnish art.

If you are visiting (or living in) Helsinki, do pop over to Ateneum while the works of Picasso are there.

Cheaper GAP

If you are looking for comfortable clothes and some accessories with reduced prices, GAP Outlet is a worthy destination. It is packed with all kind of stuff with very reduced prices. The outlet in Central Valley is quite big, especially when compared to the other outlets in the area, but the selection is not the greatest.

GAP Outlet in Central Valley, NY, USA

Thus, you may find a lot of good items or then return with empty hands from the store. They have sections for men, women, children, and babies. There are some accessories, but not that much. The outlet is cheaper compared to the high street stores, but not dirt cheap. We bought five items (clothing) and ended up paying about $75.

Do note that some of the items are specifically (one would not say exclusively here) for the outlet stores only. This might have consequences on the quality or durability of the product. Or then not, I don’t have enough experience to be a judge here.

www.gap.com, 470 Evergreen Court, Central Valley, NY, USA, +1 845 928 3122