Today I am spending my Saturday evening in, watching the Eurovision Song Contest on TV. I am kinda loving the Azerbaijani flair! Right now we are on Cyprus. The Russian Babushki have already been on (ok…what were they thinking?!) and the crazy lady from Albania. And the AWFUL UK guy—what kind of name is Engelbert Humperdinck??
Veli-Matti has been feeling sort of sick all day and has been taking it easy. Before work (I only worked the afternoon) I walked through the International Festival that is in the park by the train station this weekend. It was cool! Lots of people and lots of booths. The Greenpeace booth was dedicated to protesting Shell. There were cartoon polar bears. The weather today was gorgeous. So warm and sunny.
Last night we had a spontaneous date night and ate at a surprisingly delicious and out-of-the-way Turkish restaurant. Tomorrow I am going to Hämeenlinna to visit with my friend Amy one more time before we leave.
This is my last week of work. Saturday night is our going away party. And Monday my mom, sister, aunts, and cousin are coming to Helsinki! So excited!
And in only three weeks I will be flying to Los Angeles! And I guess then Nicole in Helsinki will end. Or become something law school-related.
Last weekend I had the incredible luck to go on a trip to Croatia with my cousin Holly, who was in Europe for work. She got to go to southern France, Brussels, and London before meeting up with me in sunny Split. When she first suggested we meet somewhere for a holiday weekend trip, it didn’t take long for us to get to Croatia as a possible destination. Both of us had it on our must-see lists, so we made it happen!
I flew out of Helsinki on Thursday 3 May, with a fairly short layover in Oslo before arriving in Split. As soon as I got out of the airplane I felt warmth! Sun! Summery conditions! For the first time since January! Even an insanely long passport queue couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm.
The first thing we did after checking into our hotel (which I loved—a very very cute place called Hotel Luxe. I was skeptical of their proclaimed “Boutique Hotel” status but it was a 100% enjoyable experience and even lived up to the title) was start walking along the waterfront to the Diocletian Palace. I just felt meh about the “sights.” It was more just about getting a feel for the place than seeing anything particularly impressive.
After walking around for a while, we stopped to snack on some whole fried baby fish called white bait and grilled sardines and anchovies. We decided to climb a nearby hill to get a good view of the city. Marjan (the hill/park) is a beautiful huge web of dirt walkways and leafy shaded paths. Lots of joggers and bikers passed us.
After the substantial walk we wanted to get dinner and stopped in a random hole in the wall, where we got really delicious fresh fish and squid. The potatoes/green stuff were pretty much flavorless.
More walking (and almost a litre of wine!) later, we ended up back at the hotel, where Holly relaxed and I went to the spa for a short soak. There was no one else there so it was like my own private hot tub. :)
The next morning, Friday 4 May, we woke up early to eat at the breakfast buffet—which was really good! Lots of healthy options. I had a little sausage, grilled veggies, smoked salmon and cucumber, bread, coffee, and even a berry smoothie with walnuts. Way more than I normally eat for breakfast but I wanted to have plenty of fuel for a long day of activities.
We decided that instead of driving straight to Dubrovnik, we would make a slight inland detour to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I think this was the first time I’ve driven through a police checkpoint?
It was amazing to me how many buildings still show the war—as in, they are bombed out or riddled with bullet holes or otherwise not restored to prewar conditions.
We pretty much just walked around the Old City area and got a good view of the famous bridge.
I had never been to a Muslim country so it was very cool hearing the call to prayer and seeing a different cultural heritage, as well as different architectural styles.
The river water was bright shimmering turquoise! So beautiful. And it was HOT. Blissfully so! Like +30 degrees!
On the drive to Dubrovnik we stopped at a roadside fruit stand overlooking this epic vista. The fruit seller guy was way too Eastern European man friendly—he insisted on feeding us samples. *Cringe* I hate being fed! No one does it to me! Not even my fiancé!
The drive was stunning. We just passed one tiny seaside town after another and the water/cliffs/buildings/everything was gorgeous.
When we got to our hotel (Hotel Bellevue), it was AMAZING. The first thing we did was go down to the private beach—you hold your room card against a reader in the elevator—and had a drink by the ocean. It was warm outside but wayyyy too chilly to swim in the water.
After the pre-dinner cocktails we changed and went out to eat in the Old City, which was only a short walk from the hotel. Holly at dinner:
The restaurant had a very unfortunate wedding reception hall style of decor.
We were brought an amuse bouche of fresh ricotta-ish Croatian cheese and tomato but ate it before taking a photo because we were so hungry! Oh well.
We asked the waiter for a fruity, crisp wine (since the whole list was Croatian and we had no idea) and this is what he brought. It fit the bill!
Nice biscuit-like bread.
First shared appetizer: scallops with cauliflower puree and truffles. The truffles were way too strong for me. :( So everything on the plate tasted like truffles. But were it not for that, I think the scallops and puree were pretty nice. The extra bit hanging off the scallop was weird—what is that? The roe or something?
Second shared appetizer was octopus terrine. Also a thumbs down. It didn’t have much flavor and what it did have wasn’t all that pleasant.
My entree was monkfish with bacon and a potato puree with broad beans. And truffles. Lots of truffles. Blech. Same fate as before—pretty good except that everything tasted like truffle.
Holly got a whole grilled fish, which the waiter fileted at the table. Better view of the dated wedding decor.
After we paid for dinner (and got free glasses of some Croatian after-dinner drink that was just way too much after a half bottle of wine each), we explored for a while.
Ended the night by going to a bar that seemed really cool—and was! It is called Art Cafe (how cliché) and we had a beer amongst the pretty people before heading back to the hotel and hitting the sack. A long but awesome day!
On Saturday 5 May we again headed out after breakfast to a morning of activity. (The breakfast buffet was similar to the first hotel, but to me not quite as satisfying or charming, somehow.) We decided to walk the perimeter of the Old City along the tops of the old city walls. It was a sunny and beautiful way to see the city.
The people looked so tiny! A toy town!
Holly said Game of Thrones is (was?) filmed here and it really looked like it.
Complete with pirate ship!
One thing that was neat was that people actually live in this part of the city—it’s not just a tourist attraction.
We even got to piggyback on a Spanish tour and here a wee bit of history—fo’ free!
In case you can’t tell—it was really sunny! I ended up with a mega sunburn! Here’s sunny Holly:
Even though it wasn’t THAT crowded, it was too crowded for us, so we decided to spend the afternoon at the hotel beach. We laid out, napped a little in the lounge area and even jumped in the water—only for a second. Freezing cold! Followed with a swim in the heated indoor pool and a dip in the hot tub!
To complete the total relaxation of the afternoon, we got pedicures at the hotel, although unfortunately Holly got a serious slice in her foot by the skin-scuffer-thing and did NOT enjoy it! :(
We were starving and decided to eat at the hotel restaurant before the evening’s exploring. We ate on the terrace overlooking the sea.
Bread came with garlic, chili, and balsamic olive oils.
I had a very satisfying pasta and grilled turkey in a cheesy sauce.
And an even more satisfying chocolate souffle for dessert! YUM.
The rest of the night was all about getting the most out of our final hours in the city, so no photos! We wandered and wandered and had drinks at Gradska Kavana, the Town Cafe.
The next morning it was time for breakfast and a drive to the airport!
Thanks for the awesome company Holly! Definitely one of my top vacations of all time.
I decided it would be fun to blog about my upcoming wedding and all the planning that goes into it. We are planning on a very long engagement (not like that one) which means more time to think about/write about all kinds of minutiae!
Check it out:
I think the reason I’m not so good at blogging now is because I’m way better at emailing than I used to be.
Heikki came over tonight and he and Mr. Man worked on artistic projects and I painted my nails and watched The Holiday on telly. (No, really.) (And I also gave both my solicited and unsolicited opinions on said projects.) The movie was surprisingly good!
Today my American friend Amy was in Helsinki and we had a lovely day! For one thing, it was the warmest and sunniest it’s been yet in 2012! For another, we went shopping and I got two H&M purses (finally had to buy a new one when my straps snapped off the old one, and they were so inexpensive at the ol’ Hennes and Mauritz that it was reasonable to buy the more casual and more professional versions of essentially the same bag). Also got some REALLY neat reproductions of vintage Finnish tourism posters at Stockmann. See below!
We also bought an awesome new game called Bandu. We played all afternoon. It involves building towers from strangely-shaped blocks of wood.
So excited about Vappu (May Day) coming up!
And next next weekend I will be in Croatia with Holly, my awesome cousin!
Mmm. Such a nice Sunday even though we didn’t do much. I went for a run. Finished one book and started another (Into Thin Air —> first Game of Thrones book). Ate cereal for breakfast and leftover curry for dinner. Watched Anthony Bourdain and Tomin Keittiö on tv. (Tomi made dinner for his fiancée and it was cute.)
On Saturday we will go to Rovaniemi to visit Veli-Matti’s parents for Easter. It will be great. I love going to their house!
my birthday is 15 days away!
(Source: gema4ever21, via glossyglossyclassy-deactivated2)
When my brother and sister were visiting, we decided to go to Tallinn on a day cruise from Helsinki. It meant getting up really early on quite a cold and windy day to catch our boat before the 8 am departure. I expected the boat to be a lot like the ships that go between islands in Greece, but it was a bit more than that. We parked ourselves unfortunately near the stage in one of the bar areas of the ship, and the next three hours were filled with unrelenting cheesy old-time Finnish music. As soon as we got on the boat, everyone around us—the average age being about 60—started drinking. I was barely awake, let alone ready for a beer.
The other funny thing on the boat was the duty-free store downstairs. It was full of employees giving out free samples of the alcohol on offer. I was talked into testing a shot of non-Bailey’s Irish cream, which was pretty good, but the thought of anything else (especially some kind of cinnamon-flavored “Fire Whiskey” that is exactly like Goldschläger, the smell of which immediately conjures up memories of vomiting) made me feel ill.
When we got to Tallinn it was lunchtime, and we set off for Sfäär, a hip and happening restaurant recommended by the New York Times in its serendipitous “36 Hours in Tallinn” column, published only days before we went. The low prices and great food and cool vibe made this place a winner. The main downsides were the lackluster desserts and the crazy soundtrack—nothing but 3 Lana del Rey songs and their various remixes on repeat. We seriously heard Video Games come on seven times over the course of our lunch.
My pictures turned out badly but here is what we got:
Water with an jaunty cucumber slice and an herbal sprig in it, complete with Iittala glassware (Finnish design!).
My brother Sean’s chicken and potato croquettes with picked pumpkin cubes.
My sister Evelyn’s lamb patty with mashed potatoes and a roasted tomato (stacked to a goofy, teetering height).
Veli-Matti’s wild boar patty with potatoes and a mushroom sauce.
And my really excellent but basic Caesar salad with pesto chicken (I still wasn’t quite over the queasy feeling of the morning).
Plus really tasty, molasses-flavored dark bread (with a wooden butter knife).
The desserts were just ok, except for the cream puff, which was billed as a “curd pastry.” It was highly recommended in the NYT article, but the “curd” inside was like whipped cream left in a dirty sock overnight. It was inedible.
After lunch we went on a walking tour of the city, aided by some print-offs I had compiled from various internet sources. It was a cold and windy day but I really enjoyed walking around the city’s medieval Old Town. We managed to see every highlight on my inexpertly-produced itinerary.
By this time two hours or so had passed, and we had time only for a coffee before going back to catch the ship. We stopped at a cute, and again very cheap, chocolate shop-cum-coffeehouse. It was a nice place to warm up before going back to the ship.
On the return journey, my alcohol-aversion had passed, but now sleepiness had set in on our group. So the ride back was just as non-party as the ride there. (Minus the terrible music since we learned to go nowhere near the stage!)
The snow started melting at the beginning of March and now it’s just about gone, except for some still-massive amounts in parks and on the sides of the hills near Linnanmäki and places that don’t get plowed or shoveled ever. I wonder when the last of it disappears—maybe by the end of April?
Last night we went to Vesa and Noora’s house for an AMAZING meal. They made focaccia from scratch and risotto and panna cotta with a fresh raspberry sauce.
I have been slowly getting more shifts at Behnford’s, the imported food store I work at, and I love my job. It is so full of positive energy. I got an email from my yoga teacher in Amsterdam recommending some studios in Helsinki, and I am planning to check out some of those classes soon. Many good things!
Today my friend Amy was in town because it’s her Hiihtoloma (Ski Holiday—which reminds me, Veli-Matti told me that in Finland they stagger the winter holiday week by how far north you live. Etelä-Suomi or Southern Finland gets it first, then slightly north the next week, then further north the next week, and so on. This is to keep the ski resorts from being overbooked.) and she was visiting family in the greater Helsinki area. She suggested we go see the Carl Larsson exhibition at Ateneum, and boy am I glad she did!
I would never have gone to the show on my own because a) I didn’t really know who Carl Larsson was and b) I would have dismissed his paintings as sentimental and cutesy. So wrong! It was an awesome retrospective of his life and work, and it was a very cool peek into what turn-of-the-century rural Swedish family life was like (somewhere I definitely had not glimpsed before!).
The picture above was one of my favorites because of the back story. Larsson said his daughter, who was living as a nurse in Stockholm but was at home visiting the family house in the country, had been dancing until the wee hours of the morning but he made her pose for him instead of going to bed. The facial expression is so perfect.
And since I’m so super-artsy (what with an artist fiancé and all), I also went to Kiasma on Tuesday to see the Thank You for the Music exhibition. The pieces were about “the intense emotional response produced in us by music,” as the website puts it. Veli-Matti was underwhelmed but I enjoyed it a lot. I thought there were too many videos though, and some pieces that felt amateur and un-thought-out (like concert posters painted over with thick silver paint because the artist “likes the colour silver” or something like that in the description—what??).
I also finally went to the Helsinki branch of Vapiano today. OMG. Best panna cotta of my life, and decent coffee too! (I am so spoiled by Vesa I can never have normal coffee again.) Even if it is a German-owned Italian restaurant chain in multiple countries with inflated prices, I love it and want to go back for lunch when Evelyn and Sean are here.
I am SO excited my little brother and sister are visiting me for Spring Break the week after next! Yippee!
I also found out through the internetz that there is an English language association that has a pub quiz once a month, in English, at Molly Malone’s, the local trashy Irish pub. Luckily, the next one is coming up the first Wednesday of the month, which is next week! I am so pumped. AND there is a special extra quiz this month in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. It will be when the sibs are here, and with Evelyn’s genius-brain I am sure we will prevail! The only downside is a dumb 10 euro entrance fee. Oh well. Some sacrifices are worth making to participate in a pub quiz.
More from the internet: I ordered the 1964 classic “The Finnish Cookbook” by Beatrice Ojakangas through Amazon about a month ago, and it finally arrived this week. I read it cover to cover and I think I will start a blog devoted to cooking every one of its recipes à la Julie and Julia. Never saw the movie—maybe I should. I picked up a Fun Finnish Fact from the book that I have since repeated to every person I converse with. The Finnish lion on the official coat of arms (seen on the flag flying over government buildings on one of the rare lippupäivä, or flag days, like today—though I don’t know what was being celebrated) visually represents Finland’s place between East and West. The lion is facing west and holding a Western-style broad sword while standing on top of an Eastern-style curved scimitar. This symbolizes Finland’s rejection of the east (ahem, Russia) and firm enshrinement in the culture and politics of Western Europe (with the EU and all that jazz…although that didn’t exist in 1964 when The Finnish Cookbook was written).
Interesting, right?! And check out that tongue:
Don Draper and Stringer Bell, you are men among men, but if you ended up paralyzed in a wheelchair with a broken penis, part of us would know you deserved it. —
Thank you Emily, this article was great.
Big news: I found a job!! And it’s PERFECT for me! I am going to work in an awesome American, British and Australian imported food store. I am supposed to get a call this week about setting up my first day/starting training. I am so excited.
And I bought new shoes, cute suede ankle boots, because my other boots are getting really worn out and are just not professional enough. The new boots aren’t really suitable for tons of snow and wet, but I figured it will start being spring soon, right? Then today it snowed 25 centimetres.
On Tuesday I will go to Hämeenlinna to visit my American friend Amy. First trip taken by myself in Finland! I don’t have Finnish classes this week because it is “Ski Holiday” i.e. winter break. Veli-Matti is going to Lahti for a few days to work on the photography department’s student-run website at his school.
Now I just have to worry about all the registration/bureaucracy/work permits/bank account opening/etc. that we already had to go through once in Amsterdam.
I have been cooking up a storm waiting for the job to happen. Some current favorites (and I promise to start taking pictures from now on):
- Chocolate mousse. Only two ingredients: chocolate and eggs. A Valentine’s Day experiment with chai flavored whipped cream (cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla).
- Cream of tomato soup with cheesy crouton. Also very easy. Tomatoes and garlic roasted for an hour, then pureed and mixed with stock and cream and simmered a while longer. I just toasted the bread and popped it in the oven with shredded cheese on top until the cheese melted.
- Nachos. These were a big hit at a recent mini-party we had. I just added cheese, avocado, corn, tomatoes, chili, and crème fraîche to tortilla chips and popped it in the oven.
Heikki brought us a special treat today, a food traditionally eaten just before the start of Lent: pulla with almond paste, berry jam, and whipped cream. The pulla was homemade by Heikki’s vaari (grandpa)! He is in his nineties and still keeping Hessu cool.
(Source: anglophilemeetsbibliophile, via bruut)
Because I love you all (as friends) and I love Game of Thrones, I combined them both into some sweet valentine’s day cards for you to give to your sweetheart or favorite prostitute. Enjoy! Click for printable version…
I’ll send these to myself!