Archive for April, 2012

April 29th, 2012

Our latest Estonian trip

We visited Tallinn on last weekend — in fact had an extended weekend from Sunday to Tuesday — and finally got some time to tell about it.

I’m quite frequent traveller to Estonia due to Exove’s other office in Tallinn, so there was not much new for me. On the other hand, this was the first trip abroad for Seela.

We had booked a family package from Meriton — we have been there earlier and the hotel works very well for families with little kids. Sunday was really nice day, sun was shining from a cloudless sky and the temperature was almost 20C; that is a really high number for our altitudes in April.

We strolled around the old town, especially in the Toompea district. After walking for quite a bit, I spent an hour in the hotel waterpark with the boys and was completely spent. I fell asleep around nine.

Monday was a working day for me. The rest of the family picked me up in the afternoon from the office and we spent some time in the shops before I had to go to a meeting for an hour. Then we visited the old television tower, Teletorn, but the weather was cloudy and the viewing platform was inside the clouds with zero visibility. Fortunately, the insides of the tower were interesting, too.

While at the tower, the weather had changed rainy and we stayed the rest of the evening at the hotel. The hotel restaurant was mostly tolerable, but fortunately swimming helped to change the bad mood. Seela took her first dip to the pool, too.

I left the family to the hotel on Tuesday and popper over to our office. They spent the day swimming and I was working. At the afternoon we had a family reunion and walked to the harbour. The ferry trip back to Finland was as nice as the trip to Tallinn, boys played in the play area, so I and Sanna could spend some time together.

Basic accommodation

Rovaniemi has surprisingly many hotels for the size of the city — it is probably due to the number of people that come there to see Santa Claus.

I was travelling on business matters, so I had to skip meeting Mr. Claus, and focus on the essentials instead. I got a pretty good deal from local Scandic, a big room with a sauna. When I opened the door of the room, I found out the reason for the price: window was towards the hotel atrium and the restaurant. Not the best view, unless you’re charmed with balding Finnish men strolling around the restaurant and the lobby…

The rest of the room was just ok. Scandic fortunately includes free wifi to all rooms and price categories, so I could focus on working. The sauna was decent, maybe even good in category of hotel saunas. It would fit two person, so I had plenty of space for myself.

The overall feeling of the place was a bit rundown, fortunately except for the bed that was in top-notch shape. The location of the hotel is central, and there’s plenty of shopping possibilities around.

www.scandichotels.com, Koskikatu 23, Rovaniemi, Finland, +358 16 460 6000

Fancy and inexpensive (restaurant)

Sfäär is an interesting restaurant and clothing store combination between the downtown and harbour in Tallinn, Estonia.

The restaurant serves pretty typical sounding food with Italian and Asian influences. The things that set the restaurant apart from the others are the excellent taste of the portions and the quite low prices, especially compared to the quality.

The food is just amazing for the price. For example, I ate really creamy and tasty pasta carbonara that cost mere six euros. Children portions cost €3.20 or something, and they were eaten completely by two pretty picky young patrons.

The store, on the other hand, is pricey. It is due to the brands they’re selling, as they sort of define the cool — a lot of small Swedish upscale brands, and other similar ones around the Europe. I didn’t find anything particular that time, but willl return from time to time again to check the offerings.

www.sfaar.ee, Mere pst. 6E, Tallinn, Estonia, +372 56 992 200

April 20th, 2012

Popped over to Rovaniemi

I’ve been travelling quite a lot recently. One week after returning from Lapland, I flew back to its capital, Rovaniemi, for some business related matters.

Rovaniemi has been a bit of a mystical town for me. It is the northernmost bigger city in Finland, was burned down by Germans at the end of World War II, and hosts a big university that produces both artists and lawyers. I’ve never visited the city before.

Unfortunately, I got only a couple of hours to stroll around the city center while grabbing something to eat. It felt like any city in Finland during daytime, but I fortunately had to visit a kiosk late in the evening — the whole experience was different. The sky was clear, there was still plenty of light, and there were crispness in the air. I got same kind of feeling in Iceland, the air is so pure and fresh.

Northern lights would have crowned the experience, but that needs to wait for the next time.

Charming ski café

Café Golden Moments is a newish small coffeehouse in Ylläs ski resort, on Ylläsjärvi side. Compared to the other food joints in the area, Golden Moments surprised me pleasantly of being a stylish choice with relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

The cake I ate was good and the service was really pleasant and charming. The place was not packed, so we lounged there almost an hour — and so did most of the other patrons. It was a needed break from the hustle of the typical ski resort restaurants.

Café Golden Moments, Vaeltajantie 2, Ylläs, Finland

Ski in and out

Ylläs Ski Chalets is a modern accommodation option for avid skiers, located just next to the gondola lift on Ylläsjärvi side of the fell. It is currently also the only area that has some services in walking distance; there is one café, a couple of restaurants, two bars, a small spa, and very small grocery store in the nearby area.

The chalet apartments have a few configurations. We had a 42 square meter apartment with one bedroom and a sleeping alcove — that could be almost considered a room of its own. The apartment has one kingsize bed and two bunk beds that are perfect for kids. The kitchen is well-equipped and the table seats four easily and five with a small effort.

There is also a sauna with electric stove, and a small balcony. The ski equipment can be stored in lockers on the ground floor.

The chalets can be reserved through Holiday Club Saaga, www.holidayclubresorts.com

Ylläs Ski Chalets, Vaeltajanpolku 2, Ylläs, Finland

April 10th, 2012

Skiing holiday up north

We spent our winter holiday in Ylläs ski resort way up north near the Swedish border. Ylläs is the biggest ski resort in Finland — measured by the number of slopes and the biggest vertical drop, not by bars or restaurants — and it was a perfect choice for our family.

We travelled by a night train from Helsinki to Kolari and then drove 40 kilometers to Ylläs. We took our car to the train, as the ski resort is somewhat dispersed around the fell and you need either car or taxi for grocery shopping. Our accommodation was in Ski Chalets just next to the gondola lift on Ylläsjärvi side of the resort.

The location was just perfect. It took less than five minutes to walk from the apartment, pick up the skis, and go to the gondola. In the first days there were no queues, so we were sitting in the lift in no time and at the top after seven minutes.

There was also children and family slopes next to gondola, so our boys spent quite a lot time there practicing their skiing and snowboarding. I took also a crash course on snowboarding and despite hitting ground several times (and being sore for a couple days afterwards), I somehow got hold of the boarding and managed actually enjoy the experience. I’m now thinking of buying a board and boots for myself.

Sanna and Aapo visited the ski tracks for cross-country skiing a few times, and Seela was spending her time in the pram at the bottom of the slopes. She won’t be skiing in next winter yet, but maybe after that.

We were there almost ten days — and looking back now — we could have been even longer. On the other hand, it was good to come back while the fun lasted. Now we are already preparing for our next visit to Ylläs.

The biggest slopes in Finland

Ylläs boasts the biggest ski slopes in Finland, the highest vertical drop is 463 meters and the longest piste is around three kilometers. There is 63 slopes in total and around 30 lifts. And I can tell you that most of the slopes are really fun to ski.

The fell contains actually two ski resorts that are interconnected on the top, and one ticket covers both resorts. Ylläsjärvi side seems to be a bit better, as it has the longest slopes and the fastest lift — a gondola. Äkäslompolo has maybe better groomed terrain, but you have to use T-bar lifts. There are virtually no queues except on the busiest days, like Easter holidays.

Both sides have good children and family areas for both beginners and more advanced juniors. There is also a few sport stores in the area to cater for any urgent equipment needs.

Cross-country skiing is also well catered for, there is around 330 kilometers of tracks with varying difficulty levels.

The restaurant selection focuses on traditional Lappish food and pizzas. Some of the restaurants are actually quite good, but some serve the typical ski resort rubbish.