Thursday, 18 September 2014

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Hopping on/hopping off in Helsinki

I slept in this morning. The outcome of two busy weeks in NYC, the overnight flight and the time zone changes no doubt but also an indication of how quiet it is in Helsinki. People are not noisy; not in the streets in daytime anyway. Are they rowdy in the evenings; or after a drink or two? I don't know but my CBD hotel, with its double windows, provided no early morning noise to go with the daylight to wake me.

I took it pretty easy really, doing some more walking and two round trips on the sightseeing buses viewing things from afar. Imitation tourism I suppose but it was sufficient for me today. It is also the reason some of the photos I am posting have reflections; they were taken from behind glass, the upstairs windows of the buses.

The south harbour was glistening in the early sun and there were three cruise boats berthed today, not just the one from yesterday.

Helsinki's south harbour

Lutheran Cathedral at Senate Square

My new favourite shopping centre principally because it provides clean and, significantly, free public toilets not readily in evidence elsewhere.

Galleria Esplanad
At lunch a cafe called Picnic attracted my attention because of its clientele. They were either young, or older ladies or working men in their flouro jackets all of which suggested an inexpensive establishment. I selected what I thought was a cheese and tomato roll but it turned out to be chicken and cheese in a BBQ sauce. Never mind, it tasted fine and was chock full of its ingredients even if my photo suggests otherwise. But I draw your attention to the plastic packet on the plate. This was offered as free 'bubble gum' which goes with the meal. I thought that to be unlikely but, hey it was free, so what the heck.

'Picnic' lunch

So what about the 'bubble gum'? Well the product is (apparently) Professional Taysksylitolipurukumi and the packet says it is 100% Xylitol. I had no idea what any of that meant until I opened the packet and tried it. Well, thankfully it wasn't bubble gum - which doesn't appeal to me - but a pellet of strong peppermint chewing gum that freshens the mouth after the meal. Not a bad idea really.

A familiar brand in faraway Finland.

Fosters in Finland

On my third trip today the bus packed with German speaking passengers.


who all but disappeared when we reached the stop where their cruise ship was berthed.


Hietalahti Flea Market

A statue of the great Finnish Olympics athlete Paavo Nurmi graces Helsinki's Olympic Stadium

And then back on the streets...

Don't ask me, I have no idea

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Helsinki trams

For Andrew; trams in Helsinki.

The daughter of the Baltic

That is how Helsinki was described in the commentary for the sightseeing cruise I stumbled across shortly after settling into my hotel this morning. The city was established by a King of Sweden back in 1550 and has been fought over variously by the Swedes and the Russians over the centuries.

Although there was a fair bit of cloud around it also was extremely sunny, glaringly so on the harbour, but at the same time rather cold on the water so the trip around 5 or 6 islands that seem to make up part of this city was a bit of trial for me with only a thin cotton jumper over a short sleeve shirt for protection. I hadn't expected to be on the water and wasn't really dressed appropriately.

I did a fair bit of walking until weariness from the travel and the effort of navigating the uneven stone paving overcame me. If my comments go haywire from here, blame the tiredness.

Some pics;

My hotel, with the banners outside

Broad avenues

Cyclists everywhere

Numerous walking streets
Russian Orthodox Church and the waterfront

The Baltic Sea in he distance, I guess

The waterfront
In the above photo are the City Hall, the Swedish Embassy, the Presidential Palace and (on the middle left) the market square on the waterfront.

This couple had just wed, I believe

Tram lines everywhere


A quick post to advise that I have arrived in Helsinki. It was an overnight flight of about eight hours from New York on Finnair. The service was fine. The aeroplane seemed a bit old and noisy but its descent and landing here were fantastic; so smooth and quiet as though we were gliding in.

The surrounds of Helsinki as viewed from the air are very green with plenty of forest areas and trees. The airport is compact, clean, stylishly modern and ordered. It is also very quiet by international airport standards. I did not hear a single announcement through the entire arrival process.

The baggage carousels have a blue tape surrounding them about one metre out on the floor. Everyone stands behind that tape until their baggage reaches their position before they step forward to pick theirs up. Nothing like the free for all at carousels every else I have travelled.

The drive form the airport to my inner city hotel took about 30 minutes and cost 45 Euro. I noticed an extensive tram network and a variety of tram types. I'll have to be on my toes to capture snaps of them for Andrew whose website I notice has magically acquired a .fi suffix here. I'm not sure how the link will work elsewhere.

OK, I'm off to explore the city.

Monday, 15 September 2014

So long, farewell....

auf wiedersehen.....oh, wrong song!

Our last full day in NYC yesterday began with brunch at

Corner Cake & Bakery on Madison Avenue
Then we walked down

5th Avenue
to revisit

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The museum lobby
Central American Gallery
Modern Art Gallery
American Wing
Farewell museum
Then we walked down 5th Avenue again to enjoy

Central Park on a sunday
and in the evening, a final dinner at our local Italian restaurant

Ottomanelli Bros
In a few hours we fly out. Cs is flying home to Sydney and I am flying to Helsinki for a couple of days before going on to London.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Odds and sods

We started off the day at the Chelsea Market a converted factory in the meat packing district that contains an atmospheric shopping mall of food, fashion and crafty type stores. It is not a vast centre - unlike so many things that are large here - but it is worth a visit and a purchase or two.

Chelsea Market
We found an exciting restaurant nearby for brunch; Bubby's.

Bubby's High Line
We ordered pancakes. Mine were described as the house specials with a compote of blueberries on the side. Naturally the serving was enormous and I wasn't able to eat it all. My drink in the jar was a Peach Lemonade.

Bubby's Pancakes
And we moved on.

Meat Packing District
Meat Packing District
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal
The subway is less glamorous.

Grand Central subway
Tonight we had a meal at the Cafe Edison before the theatre. The Cafe is attached to the Hotel Edison near Times Square. The hotel seems from outside to be a bit seedy but it has a lovely art deco lobby.

Hotel Edison
Hotel Edison
Finally we attended our last show for the visit. 'The Country House' is a new play staged by the Manhattan Theatre Club. It is about a family of theatre people who get together on the first anniversary of a member's death. It is a comedy with a dramatic conclusion and I suppose the main attraction is Blythe Danner (Mother of Gwyneth Paltrow) as the name star. It is the weakest of the shows we have seen this visit; entertaining enough but nothing special.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Star Spangled Banner

Today is the 200th anniversary of the USA national anthem, according to a segment we just heard on morning television here.

Apparently it was 200 years ago this morning that the casual poet who wrote the words that became incorporated into the anthem woke to find the star spangled banner still flying over a fort that had been subject of fierce attack through the night.

It's all here if you are interested.

Happy birthday anthem.