Finally Made It to Lapland!

One frustrating part of OUR experience here is Finland is trying to get information from the Finns on traveling within Finland.  So different from the USA.  When you ask about a destination it is usually quite easy to get info about traveling to places within the US and outside the US.  Some of our  experiences here in Finland have been completely blind – Lapland was definitely  the case here.  Lapland was a last minute decision with less than a week before we would leave.  We found an excellent deal at least what we felt was an excellent deal with the train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi.  It would be an overnight train experience.  Everyone was  very excited!  Rovaniemi is located at 66°30′N 025°44′E which is just south of the Arctic Circle.

As a family we put Lapland on our bucket list.  With that bucket list we wanted  to see reindeer, see Santa’s home, dogsled ride, ice fishing, snowmobiling and the Northern Lights.

This trip was going to be quick as we would be one night on the train to Rovaniemi , one night in Rovaniemi and then one night on the train back to Helsinki.  I spent a lot of time investigating what to  and how to make the most of it in such a short amount of time.  I had basically no help from anyone on trying to figure out what to do.  We found a get deal for our hotel in Rovaniemi on TripAdvisor which included breakfast.  The hotel was called Rantasipi Pohjanhovi.    If you click on the link it will take you to our  HotelRoomTours site and you can view the room we stayed in.   A short distance from the hotel was a great outdoor AngryBird Park.

I knew I wanted to find the best possible tour with what was on our bucket list and not spend too much.  Lapland is quite expensive, almost comparable to Disney in my opinion if not more.  I found Lapland Safaris online.  They seemed to have the best tour packages in my mind and good feedback.  Basically, they could cover everything on our list if we wanted to spend a lot of euros.  We narrowed it down to one specific tour – Santa Claus Safari which takes approximately 6 hours total.  The weekend we went (first weekend in Decemeber) was the opening season for Rovaniemi.  Our safari would include nature, culture and the spirit of Christmas.  This would be perfect for our family.  When I booked the trip I was experiencing some difficulties and their customer service was quite helpful.  The cost for the Santa Safari was 197,00 euros per adult and  98,50 euros per child.  This also included lunch.

When the train arrived into Rovaniemi we found our way to where we should catch a taxi.  This ended up being the most difficult part of the trip.  We stood for quite some time in the cold snowy weather with two young children waiting for an available taxi.  We made several phone calls and the hotel was trying to assist us the best they could.  Rovaniemi is a small town so it was a pretty quick trip to the hotel.  We arrived into Rovaniemi around 8:00am and we had our safari scheduled for 10:00am.  Lapland Safari start point was located right next door to the hotel we were staying in.  This was quite convenient.   We had time to check in and use the restroom with plenty of time.  We headed over to Lapland Safaris to check in.  The first part of the trip would be a snowmobile safari to a reindeer farm.  We were taken to the clothing area where we were all fitted with proper Lapland attire.  I might add it is quite cold up in the Arctic Circle.  From head to toe we were completely covered.  We then took a bus ride to the snowmobiles.  The children rode in sleighs pulled by snowmobiles and any adults that did not want to drive a snowmobile.  They sat in cozy sleighs with a nice warm blanket.  We got a short explanation on the use of the snowmobile and hand signals we would be using and then we all loaded up.  I believe we had about 25 ppl in our group.  The snowmobiling was on a frozen river.  We did see a small herd of reindeer in the distance on the river running.  That was pretty cool!  Christian did the first round and I drove the second half.  Here is a short video clip of the snowmobiling.

Our destination on the snowmobiles was to a reindeer farm.  Here we would learn more about the reindeer and the Lappish culture.  We went inside a structure where there was a warm fire and a guide dressed in his Saami attire.  After this we headed back outside and had a reindeer sleigh ride.  This was a lot of fun!  We were able to fit our family of four on one sleigh pulled by one reindeer.  This was a special experience for our family. Here is a short video clip of our sleigh ride.

After the sleigh ride  they girls played in the snow and we were waiting to have a visit with Santa Claus.  We were the first ones to go and have our own private visit with Santa.  After everyone had their visit with Santa we got back on the snowmobiles to head back to catch the bus to take us to Santa’s Village.  Santa’s Village was pretty much a tourist area.  The best part was getting some postcards and stamps.  The postcards would be stamped from Santa’s Post Office!  I don’t think I’ve ever written so many postcards in such a short amount of time.

The next day we decided we would take the girls to Santa’s Park.  This was pricey, but fun.  The girls were the perfect age.  The park is completely underground which was pretty cool!  The girls would go to Elf School,  calligraphy class, decorated gingerbread cookies in Mrs. Claus’ kitchen and another visit with Santa.  Lots of fun at Santa’s Park.

Elf School Diploma IMG_7401 IMG_7368 IMG_7372 IMG_7366

After Santa Park we found a great outside Angry Bird Park right in Rovaniemi just two blocks from our hotel.  The girls played for a bit and then we had some Subway in the lobby of our hotel before heading to the train.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The girls had fun and we were officially in the Christmas spirit.  This was perfect for our family.  We felt like we had enough time and were not rushing to get things accomplished.  Another time would be ice hotel or glass igloos and trying to find the Northern Lights.

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Family Sled Time

This was a fun video put together from our sledding last year, 2013. We are still waiting for the snow in the Helsinki area.

Sledding Fun in Finland

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Merry Christmas 2013 Video Greeting Card

Merry Christmas or Iloista joulua

We decided to do a little something different this year so we created a Video Christmas Greeting. When you click on the link it might take a few seconds to load. We hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014!!!
EricksonFamily Christmas Greeting

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Erickson Family Takes Two Firsts

Back in April,  we took a trip to Istanbul, Turkey.  This was our first time as a family going from Europe into Asia and visiting a Muslim country.  One of the best parts of our trip was visiting Christian’s graduate school friend and his family who are from Istanbul.  They were gracious hosts and gave us a side of Istanbul that most tourists don’t have the opportunity to experience.   We got to see  what it is like to be a local in such a unique culture and in such a beautiful city.  I think Istanbul has some of the best food in the entire world.  Just from our trip we have adopted some of their food as more of a daily staple in our diet.  One of my favorite purchases from Istanbul was a Turkish teapot and teacups.  I really enjoy the Turkish Tea.   Future blog post will be me showing you how Turkish Tea is prepared.   We have experienced very different texture and flavor of feta cheese.  And the olives…  Istanbul is truly unique and a must on anyones’ travel destinations.

Christian has put together our video of our trip.  Here is the link to the video of our trip to Istanbul:



Christian also put together a playlist of “shorter scenes” if you want to watch these clips:



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Tekla Culinary Club

Back in May, we were extended an invitation to attend the Tekla Culinary Club’s meal. They were so kind to do this for us as we had a guest visiting  and our two girls. Tekla has a wonderful cafeteria area with a perfect kitchen. The group had invited a chef from a local restaurant that specializes with Indian Cuisine. When we arrived he was showing the group how to make Naan.





The group was making all sorts of common Indian cuisine. The smells were wonderful. It was fun to have the girls watch how some of the food was made before it was set before them. The group was having a lot of fun.

IMG_5248DSCN1028 DSCN1025 DSCN1024DSCN1021DSCN1022DSCN1023DSCN1019  DSCN1017 DSCN1015 DSCN1012 DSCN1011 DSCN1009

Everything was fantastic!  We thank the Tekla Culinary Club for inviting us.

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Featured Family in an online magazine called EuroCircle

This month our family was featured in an online magazine, EuroCircle.

Here is the link:


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Finnish April Shower

Spring has sprung? Is just over 0C really spring? Maybe it is more that we are now at 14 hours of sunlight and yes that makes a HUGE difference. Last week we broke out the lighter winter wear. We thought our heavy down parkas might be done for winter #2. Saturday was beautiful +4 – yes Finnish spring weather!

Lots of playing and the girls even fell asleep at 7pm on a Saturday night. Could this be true? Christian and I watched about the French Revolution on YouTube to prepare for our trip to Paris in a week.

Sunday came and we broke out the bikes to prep. Let me remind you there is still plenty of snow and ice on the ground. However, we are seeing pavement and the street sweepers even started to pick up the gravel and the excess of dust from this and the chemical they spray to make the streets and paths accessible all winter is quite abundant. This phenomena causes a lot of excitement for the Finns! You start to see more bikes even the elderly are started to hop on the bikes. I prefer to wait for the gravel to disappear so little tumbles off the bikes or scooters don’t turn into huge drama. I have the band aids ready. That is one nice thing about snow and sledding, you really don’t need bandaids. The girls started a little rusty on the bikes, but got the hang of it pretty quick.

We had seen the the weather forecast predicting snow for Sunday afternoon and the hourly stated 2pm it would start, but that came and went and no snow. 4pm came and we started to see flurries. No big deal, but by 5pm it was snowing and Facebook of my Finnish friends were all posting the snow. I think everyone has had it for the winter white stuff and since we had a lousy wet summer, we are hoping for an excellent 2013 summer and it is deserved! I do have a much better appreciation why July shuts down in this part of the world.

As we went to bed I would say we got 3-4cm. Last winter we got the last snow that seemed to take the rest of the snow away. You could feel this last year. I’m not determined this time, but I’m hopeful this is it.

I will say I love the pure white snow and how it is in the trees. The backdrop of the bluest sky just like the cross on the Finnish flag is so beautiful and then there is the sun that was up at 6:30am making all the fresh white snow sparkle light diamonds. Makes for a peaceful and refreshing walk with oneself. Some like Yoga, but I’ll take this!

April 8th Snowfall






And then you finish off your beautiful walk with one of these – gotta love Finland!


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Isovanhempien päivä

Isovanhempien päivä!
Today Natalie’s Finnish Preschool is celebrating Isovanhempien päivä/Grandparent’s Day! They have been preparing and practicing song and dance. They are going to have few other surprises I’m sure, like coffee and pulla.

Natalie has been a little sad and not wanting to go to school since her grandparents are not here. The teacher in me came out and I worked with Natalie on making this fun for her. We got daddy to bring home some lanyards from work to borrow for the day. We took some pictures of the grandparents and Natalie and placed them in the lanyards to be her special necklace.

The bell rang and Natalie gave me her usual hug and kiss and then in the classroom she went with her necklaces. The children were immediately curious and came over to check out Natalie’s unusual necklaces. They were a hit! She had a huge smile and I think she felt very much apart of the event. She was telling the children in Finnish about the pictures. Her teacher walked over just a curious and turned and gave me a thumbs up and said, “Excellent idea!”

Mommy job done and I am satisfied she will be happy when I return!


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St. Lucia Day

This year we are so excited to be in a Scandinavian country that celebrates Lucia Day on a much larger scale. We have had our girls take part with this day every year back in the States starting when they were able to walk. This year we went to see how the Swedish-Finns celebrate the day. Each year a young maiden is chosen to represent St. Lucia on Lucia Day which is the 13th of December. She is crowned in Helsinki Cathedral and then descends down the main steps to greet the people. The steps were lined with children wearing Santa/Elf caps and they were holding lanterns. There was a band playing the Sankta Lucia song. At the bottom of the steps awaited a vehicle to take St. Lucia around Helsinki with a small parade.




St. Lucia delivers buns and coffee to her parents on December 13th. The buns are called Lussekatt. They are made with saffron. Here is what they look like:

Here is what we did with our girls back in the USA last year. In previous years we delivered breakfast treats to neighbors and friends.
Erickson St. Lucia Note

2007 St. Lucia in Georgia

2007 St. Lucia in Georgia

2008 St. Lucia Delivering  Treats

2008 St. Lucia Delivering Treats



2009 St. Lucia Open House

2009 St. Lucia Open House


2010 St. Lucia

2010 St. Lucia







2011 Natalie delivered treats to her Kindergarten class

2011 Natalie delivered treats to her Kindergarten class

Ella delivered treats to her preschool class

Ella delivered treats to her preschool class


The girls delivered treats to SuSu's friends in Texas

The girls delivered treats to SuSu’s friends in Texas


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Finnish Independence Day

The sixth of December is celebrated as the Independence Day in Finland. This year they celebrated their 95th year of Independence from Soviet Russia. It is a national holiday for the country and all public offices and banks are closed. The day is celebrated in a grand fashion all throughout Finland and specially in the larger cities and towns. The style of celebrating Independence Day in Finland has also changed with changing times. Today the celebrations are loud and on a larger scale. I don’t think it is as big as our Independence Day (USA – Fourth of July), but for a small country like Finland I guess it is big.

Finland Independence Day was initially celebrated by lighting two candles in honor of the country, but that has been enhanced with several other festivities. The first festivity commences with the unfurling of the Finland national flag in Tahtitorni Hill, Helsinki, followed by a divine service in the cathedral of Helsinki. The president of Finland arranges a grand party at his palace, where war ex-servicemen act as chief guests. This is a widely watched program in Finland. This takes place for several hours on Finnish television.

Independence Day in Finland is also celebrated with parades by students and army personnel. They award medals to the eminent people in the society, in many functions. Patriotic speeches are delivered by politicians and eminent people of the society. The important buildings of the country are decorated with Finnish flags. There are various music concerts and street parties held on Independence Day.

Below you see the girls with our two Finnish candles.
To all our Finnish Friends – Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää!

Finnish Independence Day

Finnish Independence Day

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