Off to get Helsinki Card at the Tourist Info centre here in Helsinki, which was pretty close to the hotel. Damn good deal – 39 euro which gives you access to free public transport all through the city, access to all museums and access to a free tour. Definitely worth the cash.
We had about an hour to burn before tour, so went to Esplanade Cafe for coffee and some food for Alex. Coffee was lovely (and laced with dark chocolate!) and Alex’s blueberry slice was about 85% blueberry/15% tasty vanilla sponge. Really amazing.
Headed back outside into the cold to the tour bus and boarded. Sitting on board, noticed someone who looked a lot like the lovely lady we bought our cats from – even Alex said “That lady looks so much like Marie!”. There’s a reason…it WAS Marie 😛 She sat opposite us on the tour. Travelled to the other side of the world and then managed to bump into someone we knew from home. Seriously weird, in a very cool way!
Sadly the weather wasn’t behaving and it started to rain while we were on the tour – something that will be a bit more relevant towards the afternoon…. >.>
The tour was amazing – I have the itinerary, so I’ll have to go through at some point and add them all in. The architecture and history of Helsinki is just amazing. Was able to get off the bus in a few spots, including the Rock Church (which is seriously beautiful) and an amazing monument to one of Helsinki’s famous classical composers. Have a few photos that I’ll try and upload at some point!
After the tour (which went for nearly 2 hours!) it was time to head across to Soumenlinna Island to the naval fort. Took a quick break off to the hotel for a toilet trip, then wandered past the markets that were beside the ferry terminal – which is where I picked up my amazing purple beanie of awesomeness!
The ferry ride across was smooth and we landed at about 2pm. As usual, first stop was to the little cafe on the island to get some drinks and food – hadn’t had lunch yet! Then headed off on the trek through the island – it’s actually islands – you trek over three of the major ones. Was really beautiful. We’ve got some beautiful photos of some of the architecture, stone work and monuments.
One thing though…it was absolutely FREEZING. 7C, with wind and rain = “feels like” temperature of about 2-3C. This was the point we realised that if we were going further north, we’d need to get new clothes.
Spent a good 2 or so hours trekking around the island and then headed back to the main centre to buy a few touristy things and visit the museum. Very cool to see all the information relating to the island in different languages (almost everything was in 4 different languages – Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian), how it’s changed as well as the homage paid to the ship builders.
We then decided to head back to the mainland, but had another half hour wait for the ferry – so another trip to the cafe to get some take-away rooibos tea (at least to keep my hands warm!) and then back onto the ferry to head “home”.
Landed at about 5pm or so and headed straight for Stockmann’s – the saying (that we learnt on the tour bus) is “If you can’t buy it at Stockmann’s, you don’t need it”. Wandered through the men’s section first and found a coat and gloves for Alex, then off to the women’s section for mine. Got some rather nice deals – pretty sure if we’d bought our jackets in Australia they would’ve cost us at *LEAST* double what we paid here. Oh, and I have capacitive gloves, so I can still use my phone/tablet while wearing them ^_^
Then went back to the hotel to rest up a bit, have a shower etc. before heading out for food. The food trek was a bit…long. Couldn’t decide on what to eat! Wandered around for quite a while (close to an hour) before realising we’d almost done a complete loop. Went back to near where we started and looked down a few streets we hadn’t looked through – and found a really lovely place called Belge.
In all of Helsinki, I managed to find the equivalent of the Bavarian Bier Cafe ^_^
Really lovely atmosphere, really lovely service and the people were super friendly – and quite amused by my blank look whenever they tried to speak to us in Finnish! But they could all speak English, which was good. I stuck with lemonade, but Alex managed to down a litre of Hoegarden while we were there! The meals were beautiful – every single bit of them. I had corn-fed chicken with mustard sauce, chips and ratatouille; Alex had beef brisket with the most amazing garlic potato bake I’ve ever tasted. I followed up with waffles, caramelised apples and ice cream (can’t pass up desert). Alex, of course, stuck with his beer.
It was then about 9, so time to head back to the hotel. Alex was rather chipper – could tell the beer had affected him. He doesn’t normally dance and sing in the street 😛
Got back to the hotel and then bummed around watching TV (Bones & Criminal Minds, with Finnish subtitles :P) until we ended up crashing – Alex was out by about 10, I ended up crashing about 11.
It’s now nearly 5am and I’m wide awake – will head down for an early breakfast around 7am and then head off in the car to Joensuu!