Archive for 2014

December 28th, 2014

New York Travelogue

As said last month, we booked a trip to New York for Christmas. I’m writing this post from our absolutely fabulous Airbnb flat in DUMBO, Brooklyn. For the unitiated, DUMBO is the hottest area right now in NYC, rough post-industrial area near southern Manhattan that is experiencing gentrification as we speak. There is a lot of old industrial buildings that are transformed into flats and offices, and also some new big buildings are being built. The area has not yet lost its rough edges, so it is quite an experience of old and new.

This is also the first time I’ve ever stayed in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan. Very refreshing change, especially when Manhattan is just across the East River.

To be frank, we’ve spent most of our time in Manhattan – shopping, visiting Guggenheim, ice skating in the Central Park, and so on. It is still the epicenter of New York. But, we’ve also visited the transport museum here in Brooklyn, and also spent money in the local shops. Tomorrow morning, we’ll have an American breakfast / brunch in a Brooklyn restaurant – and we are actually not going to Williamsburg, but staying in Brooklyn downtown.

I’ve also learned something new about New York City, as it was news to me that Brooklyn was an independent city until late 19th century. It would be the fourth largest city in the USA right now. It dawned to me while walking on Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan that it connects the Brooklyn and New York city halls.

Maybe we need to get accommodation from the Bronx, Queens or Harlem next time – gaining new perspectives to older knowledge has been very fascinating.

We will stay here a few more nights and fly back to Finland just before the end of the year. I’ll try to write more about the trip when back at home.

November 29th, 2014

Christmas in New York

We have been dreaming of spending Christmas in New York, and finally it is happening this year! We booked our flights already a few months ago, got a nice apartment in Brooklyn from AirBnB, and bought a load of Christmas presents to kids from Amazon and other places.

We will land quite near Christmas Eve – that is the biggest day of celebration in Finland and when also Santa Claus visits homes. We are not planning of importing a Finnish Santa to New York nor following American traditions of presents given on Christmas Day – but need to figure out something that combines both.

Our kids have been a bit worried whether Santa founds us from Brooklyn, but they’ve discussed that only with their grandparents so far – maybe they’ll worry more later and discuss with me or Sanna, or then it is just a minor fear; as they have unlimited faith in Santa’s abilities. We’ll see.

We’ve planned to visit local IKEA to buy Swedish Christmas food that is quite close to Finnish Christmas offering, and then loot some high-end grocery store for the rest. Chocolate and candies need to be carried from Europe, as US selection sucks – and imported stuff is very pricey.

Besides spending Christmas there, we’ll go to a museum or two, and I’ve also booked a couple tickets to an NHL game in New Jersey. I’ll go there with my oldest son (nine), who has been playing hockey for five years now. I do hope that it is worth the small fortune I paid for the tickets.

October 23rd, 2014

Autumn travels

I’m alive and well from DrupalCon. I must say that it was quite a trip, as usual. Six days of constant interaction with developers and business people takes its toll. I was hosting a panel and also a customer dinner on Tuesday and after I got these most important tasks done, I promptly fell sick. Fortunately, I had fever only during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, and could get myself in a decent shape with help of ibuprofen. Not the smartest thing to do, but there were no better choices. Had no after effects or anything, so I wasn’t too sick.

After Amsterdam, I’ve visited Oulu once and will go there again at the end of November to meet clients and of course Exove’s staff in the city – there will be also a Christmas party. I will go at least once to Tallinn, for Christmas party with our Tallinn staff. And then to London late next week, to meet customers, partners, and our new UK representative.

And in December, our family flies to New York for Christmas. We’ve rented an apartment in DUMBO area (southwest Brooklyn, very close to Manhattan) from AirBNB. My first time ever using AirBNB, so I’m excited to see what’s waiting for us. The reviews of the place have been very positive, so it should be good.

We’ve already planned our couple first days, as we need to prepare for Christmas dinner, and not all traditional Finnish delicacies are readily available in the States. Fortunately, there is an IKEA store quite nearby – as some traditional stuff is actually imported from Sweden, we can buy those from IKEA. The rest needs to be bought from Dean & DeLuca – most probably will cost a small fortune, but hopefully is worth it.

I’ll write more about our trip later.

September 23rd, 2014

Amsterdam Calling

In a couple of days (three, in fact) I’ll be going to Amsterdam to spend a week at DrupalCon Europe. My company is a platinum sponsor of the event, and I’ll be talking, breathing, and living Drupal for one very intensive week.

Travelwise, it has been a while since I’ve been in Amsterdam for good. I was there briefly in 2012 — again in a Drupal event — but spent most of the trip near the airport and visited the city only for one dinner at a restaurant near the central railway station. The previous occasion was 2009 — very good trip, only me and Sanna; kids stayed home with grandparents…

Anyhow, this time I’ve got a weekend to both stroll around the city and network with fellow Drupalists. It is always a pleasure to have some free time to discuss and reflect things, especially after spending this week hectically organising everything and between related to DrupalCon.

August 21st, 2014

Back to work and school

The end of summer is near, and our family is back at work and school. Thus, there are less possibilities for travelling in the near future.

On the other hand, football and ice hockey are on full speed again, so most of our weekends are now spent watching either Aapo or Niilo playing.

There is a longing to travel, I must admit. I’ve found myself daydreaming about going to New York or London, but currently flights are quite expensive and when you need to haul over five people, costs accumulate rapidly.

I’ll have a week trip to Amsterdam to DrupalCon, but most of the time I’ll be either in a conference center or meeting people on business or Drupal community matters. So it doesn’t satisfy the hunger for travelling – except that I’ll spend quite much time planning the trip, as there are more moving parts compared to family travel.

July 27th, 2014

Slovenia Travelogue

We have traditionally spent a few days abroad every summer with the whole family. Last year we were in Pärnu and Kuressaare in Estonia, and this year we found ourselves in Slovenia.

The flights from Helsinki to Ljubljana were surprisingly inexpensive on Finnair, around 250 euros per adult and a little less per child.

As we are a family of five, accommodating everyone in a hotel is sometimes quite cumbersome and recently we have been looking for apartments instead. And it paid of in this trip, we found a really gorgeous apartment next to the old town. Two bedrooms, big living room and kitchen, and quite a spacious bathroom — we had plenty of space to spare.

Also, I’ve found out that prebooked airport transfers reduce the stress when arriving and leaving the country. There’s someone at the lobby waiting for you, instead of you trying to navigate through the airport to find a taxi stand.

And now to the journey. We left Finland on early Wednesday morning and boarded our direct flight with no major hassles. The children have grown during the years, and this time I could actually focus on my own matters during the flight instead of giving instructions left and right, wiping noses and mouths, or dashing to the toilet to get tissues. A very long wait has thus ended.

We had had excellent weather in Finland — and still have — so the difference between sunny Slovenia and sunny Finland was very subtle. We got to our huge apartment in half an hour and then explored the city on foot. At the end of the day, we had seen most of the touristy part of the city already, except the castle and the park.

The castle was explored on Thursday. It is built on a very steep hill, a natural location for a fortification — the castle commands the city and the river. As Ljubljana has quite peaceful history, the castle is not very big or heavily armored. It had still a lot to see and do for several hours. We lounged in our apartment during the hottest afternoon and then ate very well on a riverside restaurant. The bill was staggeringly small, around 40 euros for five person, including drinks. This is due to our kids sharing a pizza, but still Slovenia is nicely inexpensive destination.

We had booked a car for Friday, and our goal was to visit in Venice, Italy. As we had already covered most of the city on Wednesday and Thursday, we extended the rent period with an extra day to visit caves in the karst region.

Venice was excellent and easily reached from Slovenia. We drove around two hours on highways and then parked the car on a multistorey car park on the main islands. We walked through the mazelike alleys to the main square and then took vaporetto back to the car park. I can truly recommend this approach should you have only day in Venice. You get to see the local life, find restaurants and shops while leisurely strolling around, and then return back to your car with sore feet in the luxury of a waterbus.

There were huge queues to the basilica and museums, so we skipped them and bought cones of ice cream instead.

On our way home, we visited Noventa di Piame designer outlet village and found a few things worth purchasing. There was also a charming café, Bottega Dei Sapori, with elegant service and delicious cakes. I can heartily recommend their chocolate fudge layer cake.

Friday was spent on caves. There are two big cave destinations in the country. We decided to skip the one with an underground train and focus on less touristy destination at Škocjan. The cave is carved through the karst rock by an underground river, and it was huge. We walked more than two kilometers under the ground. Some halls in the cave system were huge, several dozen meters high and over hundred meters long. The underground river valley was, of course, even longer and deeper. Our two year old managed to walk the whole cave by herself, we just carried her when there were longer stairs.

After the caves, we visited Slovenian coast and spent a couple of hours in Mediterranean rocky beach in Koper before visiting Trieste on Italy for dinner.

On Sunday, we had no car anymore, so we spent the morning in the Tivoli park watching kids playing football and enjoying themselves at the play areas. We also visited the small museum of modern art that had art also from Laibach, a band that I’ve been listening to in the past (and nowadays now and then).

Monday was the day of returning to Finland, and it was also the first day that it rained. It rained quite hard for the whole morning. We navigated, albeit badly, to an indoor waterpark Atlantis, located a few kilometers away from the city centre. We were already wet when we arrived, but fortunately the mood improved as the waterpark was quite good. Children enjoyed themselves and it was refreshing to swim in a warmed pool while it was raining cats and dogs.

Everything must end, and after the bus ride from the waterpark we packed our bags, waited for the our ground transportation to arrive and flew back to Finland. Everyone was tired at the end of the long day, but it was also good to be back at home.

June 26th, 2014

Summer Trips

I’ve booked two trips for the summer. First, I go to Utrecht, Netherlands, to meet fellow Drupal executives in Drupal CXO. This takes a couple of days and kickstarts my annual holiday.

Later on July we go to Slovenia, and maybe to Italy, too. This is a bit open. Trieste is around 100 kilometers from Ljublana, and Venice is 250 kilometers away. I would rather go to Venice, but it might be too hard trip for a single day with kids. But the jury is still out on this matter.

Before those trips, we’ll go to northern Finland tomorrow. I’ve had so hectic week that driving with kids after a busy day will be interesting, to say the least.

May 30th, 2014

Summer road trip

We’ve nailed down the details for our “epic” summer road trip. As a five member family with small children, the epicness is a relative concept.

Anyhow, we’ll leave Helsinki on the last Friday of June and drive to Tuuri to visit Veljekset Keskinen shopping center in the middle of nowhere and spend one night at their hotel. We’ve visited there now and then, typically en route to Oulu. There is not much to see or do there, but the whole place is so extravagant and built with with no taste, so it is quite interesting experience.

On Saturday, we go to Power Park, an amusement park near Tuuri and spend the day there. The accommodation is in Pietarsaari, Hotel Epoque. Never been there, but the hotel looked nice on their web page and we got big enough room for everyone.

The trip continues to the sandy beaches of Kalajoki and the holiday house fairs that we’ve frequented in the past years. We are building a holiday home for ourselves, so Sunday is reserved for gathering ideas. From there, we drive to Ylivieska to pop over Kärkkäinen department store — they sell the cheapest Legos in Finland.

And finally, we drive to Oulu at Sunday evening, spend a night at friends’ house, and then I fly back to Helsinki after working a full day at my company’s Oulu office. Sanna and children will drive to Taivalkoski to visit the grandparents for a week.

We will have a family reunion in week, just before Helsinki Cup starts here in Helsinki.