Archive for the Reviews Category

July 12th, 2012

Spa among nature

Holiday Club Saimaa is a brand-spanking new (opened in 2011) hotel & spa complex located near the Russian border in Southern Carelia province in Finland. The hotel is located at the northern end of the city of Lappeenranta, about 35 kilometers from the city centre.

We had a standard room and it could fit five people without issues — two adults, two kids, and one baby. There was a foldable sofa in the room that fit the kids, and the baby slept between us. The sofa is not suitable for two adults or older teenagers, as it is merely 120 cm wide. The room was spotless and large in Finnish standards.

The spa is grandiose with a lot of different interconnected pools and a couple big waterslides. There are Finnish saunas for both genders included in the ticket price, and there is a “traditional” smoke sauna on the open air deck above the spa building. An additional sauna world is located upstairs. A day ticket costs €5 a person and grants access to four different saunas, well worth a visit for sauna aficionados.

There are two restaurants on the spot, and they are just ok — albeit pricey for the quality of the food served.

May 11th, 2012

Simple, affordable, and yet designed

Motel One is a chain of inexpensive hotels mostly in German speaking countries — they do have a couple of hotels in Belgium and the UK. I spent a few nights in Vienna, next to Westbahnhof.

The hotel was very modern and airy, the room was surprisingly big and scarcely furnished, and the bed was big and comfortable. Also the bathroom was very well done with rain head shower. The room lacked all extra stuff that you see in hotel rooms, such as brochures, pens, envelopes, bibles, and so forth. But all that I needed was there.

My price included breakfast and free internet connection — and it was fast. The breakfast was surprisingly good for the price, I paid total around 220€ for three nights, with a number of hams, vegetables, buns, croissants, etc. in a buffet. No bacon, sausages or anything grilled — I eat surprisingly healthy hotel breakfasts.

www.motelone.at, Europaplatz 3, Vienna, Austria, +43 135 9350

April 29th, 2012

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

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

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.

July 24th, 2011

The original Legoland

The first Legoland was built in Billund, Denmark, just next to the Lego headquarters. Most of Lego fans consider it as the true Legoland that is later copied around the world.

I’ve visited all currently (July 2011) open Legolands and there is not much of difference between them. The concept is the same, albeit some local variation can be found — like beer is readily available and advertised in menus in Germany and Denmark, and not to be seen in California.

The parks are well suited for kids less than ten-twelve years of age. After that, some rides will most probably feel too childish or tame, and kids lose their interest in Legos anyhow. For the target audience, the park is spot on. There is a lot to do and see, the queues are not too long, and there is a lot of other kids of same age around.

Similar rides can be found in any amusement park, minus the Lego decals and motifs, so ridewise Legoland is not special. The secret sauce is the combination of rides, the Miniland, Lego sculptures, and the shops.

Food was surprisingly good for an amusement park, and the shops were well stuffed, too. The only minus — for us — was the long drive from Copenhagen airport to Billund. If you have direct flights to Billund airport, travelling is easy. If not, consider Legoland Windsor near London.

www.legoland.dk, Nordmarksvej 6, Billund, Denmark