Archive for June, 2011

June 28th, 2011

Relaxing midsummer

The previous weekend was midsummer, and we spent it at my parents’ cottage — very typical Finnish behaviour. The weather was quite bad the few days before the weekend, so we were pondering on whether we should go or not almost to the last minute. Fortunately we decided to go, as the weather was really pleasant. Not blazing hot, but not too cold, either.

Aapo and Niilo enjoyed the company of their cousins and spend most of the time outside. Sauna was in heavy use, and they splashed a lot in the lake. Aapo learned to climb to a tree and other practical countryside skills.

While the kids were playing together, I and Sanna could socialise, read books, and relax. Very different experience compared to our typical holidays.

After coming back, Aapo fell promptly ill, and now I’m trying to work from home with varying success.

June 15th, 2011

New York Travelogue

A week has been passed since we returned from New York, and finally I’ve got enough time to sit down and write about experiences… This rare event is due to me sitting in Linda Line boat on its way to Tallinn. There is no WLAN or 3G here, so I can focus on offline items only.

We left Helsinki on Tuesday afternoon. Sanna and the boys checked us in while I was parking, and we met at the security control. Helsinki-Vantaa seems to be an exception and provide good customer service, as typically every traveller has to be present even in baggage drop desks. The security check was also very swift, and soon we found ourselves in the stores.

The only queue worth mentioning was in passport control, it took almost three minutes to get to the counter. Since my last visit, the non-Schengen area of the airport has been completely renovated, and there were a number of luxury good shops and a couple decent cafés. Would we been travelling without kids, we could have visited Finnair Spa that had several saunas, a small pool, and other items rarely found on airports. Instead, I got a good tour of the facility. Nobody was there — I hope that I’ll be able to travel again before they shut it down due to low usage.

The flight was eventless, and the entry to the USA was the typical hassle. There was a lot of quite new TV sets looping a marketing video with smiling Americans welcoming us to the States. Very disneyesque and in stark contrast with the official procedure going under the TVs. Maybe you should try to fix the procedure and focus less on commercials. It felt cheesy and absurd.

And now, back to our normal programme. After the passport control and the customs, we spent like 45 minutes in taxi queue. While driving to the hotel, Niilo threw up in the taxi on our way to the Times Square and our hotel… Fortunately, the driver was kind enough not to ask more money for cleaning after my hefty tip. While Sanna was washing the kids, I spurted to nearby grocery store for, well, groceries and sushi.

The next morning was an early one. After like three hours of cartoons — thank God for 24h cartoon channels — the breakfast was served. Time was like 7.00. I had purchases a breakfast or parking package, and thus we had an excellent breakfast buffet every morning. I gained at least a kilo of weight with the generous help from Doubletree.

The first full day, Wednesday, was spent mostly on shopping. We wandered from the Times Square a few blocks south, then walked to the 5th Avenue and continued it towards north until we reached the southern tip of the Central Park. Then to California Pizza Kitchen for late lunch and to Bloomingdales to buy more luggage. For some odd reason, we’ve found NYC Bloomingdales the easiest place to buy new luggage, this time we purchased a cabin sized Victorinox trolley.

Boys were quite tired already, so we took metro back to hotel, and spent the rest of the night recovering.

Thursday was a museum day, we ventures to the National Museum of Natural History, and waited it to open doors in the Central Park. For 90 minutes or so, fortunately we found a good playground to kill the time.

The museum was really nice, but it was filled with schoolkids. I’ve never noticed how much noise a few classes of American children can (and will) generate. Some exhibit halls were just unbearable. The teachers were participating in all that noise, not hushing anyone. Weird.

Then we popped over to Columbus Circle to visit a bookstore and a couple of other shops. More grocery sushi, and again we were good to go. The last stop for Thursday was Toys’R'Us at the Times Square. This trip was just to survey the offerings. Boys didn’t get the idea, but at the end nothing was bought.

We started Friday by visiting the Highline Park — a really fresh way to make a park in an urban settings. An old railroad running above streets has been converted into a park. Really nice place with good views! Highly recommended.

Friday’s shopping was done in SoHo. We found Apple Store with some games on the second floor as a good base station for our travels. Sanna and I took turns with the boys while other was shopping. I found decent salmiac from Dean&Deluca’s!

Then we popped over to the Union Square to visit Taco Bell. For some odd reason, I really like their food. Nobody else in the family does, but they tolerate it once a trip. Boys started to be quite tired, so we bought some sushi and rode to the hotel with the metro. Spending an hour in the hotel room made wonders, and we strolled around the Times Square for a while.

On Saturday we visited the roof of the Rockefeller Center. The views from the 67 floor were awesome and there were practically no queues. We bought also a couple of Lego boxes from Lego’s flagship store, one new Nintendo DS game, and other paraphernalia. The day was also Sanna’s birthday, so we had an excellent lunch at Bistro Moderne.

I had found a couple of comic books (Alan Moore’s) and a pair of good jeans at the Union Square, but decided not to buy them. That felt like a mistake on Saturday, so we headed back to the square to purchase them, and then travelled two metro stops north to visit a couple of department stores. The last stop for the day was Burger King. Or two stops, the first BK didn’t sell any kids’ meals so we ventured a few blocks down.

Sunday was the last day of the trip and dedicated to MoMA. After arrival, we had a nasty surprise as the museum didn’t let scooters in or wouldn’t store them either. The staff was friendly, but could not provide any reasoning for their new policy — that was not stated in their web pages or on the doors next to other sanctions. Of course, there were nobody authorised to make any exceptions. I should’ve asked whether there was someone with enough credentials to get somebody authorised to come to work. It is really infuriating that people cannot take any responsibility or make any decisions on their own in the USA. Probably they are afraid of being sacked — in a museum!

Anyhow, Sanna complained about the policy while I left the scooter on the street. A museum staff member showed us a box where we could hide the scooter, so I picked it up again and stored it inside the museum, breaking their new unannounced policy. There was another family in the same situation. It is mindboggling that the museum a) does not support ecological mode of transport, b) does not provide a shelter for the scooters — in fact policy specifically states that the scooter are not to be stored in museum premises, c) cannot provide any explanation whatsoever why the policy does exist, and d) explicitly has forbidden its staff to provide any information about anything outside of the museum.

The works of art somewhat lost their magic after the incident, and I found myself looking at the walls: Picasso, Picasso, Miro, Picasso, Dalí, etc. No feelings whatsoever. Maybe it is time to move on from modern art?

After the museum trip we took a taxi back to the airport — nobody threw up this time, and had surprisingly easy check-in and security check process. We had more than three hours to kill at the airport. That has mostly nothing. Nintendo DS and books came to rescue, and we had a delicious meal at the local McD.

The plane trip was good. The boys dozed off almost immediately and woke up in Helsinki. I get a few hours by myself, too. The plane arrived at time, we got the bags swiftly, and then I drove to work — Sanna continued home to have a day off with the boys.