Travel

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.

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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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Categories: Family, Finland Life, Nature, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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

http://www.biz4kids.com/EricksonChristmas2013.html

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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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Temppeliaukio Church or Church of the Rock

This is one of the most popular landmarks in Helsinki. Roughly a half a million visit it during a year. Temppeliaukio Church is a Lutheran Church located in the Töölö neighborhood. The church plans were started back in the 1930’s, but due to World War II it delayed construction. The church was finally started in 1968 and opened in 1969. The church is quite unique! It is built into the rock. The church hosts music concerts due to its great natural acoustics.

This has been on my Finland Bucket List and after living here for over a year and half I finally went inside the church back in May with my friend, Jennifer. I had attempted to see the inside before, but there was a wedding so it was closed to the public.

Here are a few pictures of the Church of the Rock.

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Church of the Rock

Categories: Finland Life, Travel | 2 Comments

Cinco de Mayo or Viides toukokuuta Celebration in Finland

Many Finns have asked us, “What is Cinco de Mayo?”

I ask my American friends What is Cinco de Mayo?

Most would guess it might be Mexican Independence Day or some might say it is an excuse to drink Mexican beverages and eat lots of Mexican food. Both of these are incorrect. Their Independence Day is actually on September 16. Actually, Cinco de Mayo is only a national holiday in one area in Mexico called Puebla. Cinco de Mayo was American created back in the 1860s in the American West. It has to do with a battle that took place in Puebla, Mexico where their army unexpectedly had a victory over the French. Latinos in California celebrated this day and up until the 1950s or 60s. It spread to the rest of the US. In the 80s the beer marketers got involved and made it what it is today. Basically a drinking excuse, but I like to think of it as away to celebrate our neighbors to the south and their culture and heritage.

Christian and I were drawn to a marketing poster here in Espoo from what we thought was a Finnish beer company, OLVI. A brightly colored beer can so we thought . I had cooked up some quesadillas and tacos and I picked up some fresh limes to go with our Mexican beer and then to my surprise it poured out red. We quickly learned that our beer was some sort of exotic fruit drink. We now mix three cultures and learn that Lonkero means long drink in Finnish. A long drink or tall drink is a mixed drink. They typically tend to be a gin drink in a can. This lonkero beverage originated in Finland and is one of my favorite new beverages here and now we have adopted to our American-Finnish Cinco de Mayo Celebration!
So Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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Jet Lag Recovery

Why is it when traveling eastward it is so difficult to recover from “jet lag”?

We manage fine whenever flying back to the States, but the return to Finland is a struggle for us! They say, “It takes 1 day for every hour of time difference.” This trip we flew from Texas and that is an eight hour time difference which means eight days to recover. The first day we slept until 15:00 (3:00pm) in the afternoon. We improved with bedtime and awakenings. We did oversleep our alarms. One morning we were forty five minutes late with getting Natalie to school. It really did take the eight days to get back to normal.
Poor Christian departed back to the States on the final recovery day. He will be there for a week and will have to recover again. Might be a little easier with the rest of us on schedule to force him back.

We tried the protein breakfast and lunch and carb dinner with cherry juice one hour before bed. Not sure that really helped. As I posted our sleep issues on Facebook friends in the States were suggesting Benadryl. I have to admit half way in the week I gave in and they did sleep beautifully, but that ended up a huge tease because I decided to try again and we were up at 2am ready to start the day again!

Final verdict was we just had to deal with it and the hours time difference to the days to recover seemed accurate for us.

Traveling in the summer is much easier. At least we don’t have to worry about school and it is daylight until 23:00 (11pm) so we can play and be up late.

Must not be that bad since I’ve already booked our next trip to the USA.

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Brilliant KLM Flight Attendants

We started our flight from Helsinki to Amsterdam and we spent the evening visiting what I guess what would be comparable to Urgent Care in US for some horrible stomach pains which ended up being a post symptom to the stomach virus we all had last week, damaged intestines. Plus a cold on top of that! Very nervous for this flight. Seems to be a de ja vous!!
Not sure if you all in the US know this , but the KLM Fight Attendants got an award for #1 in Europe. The girls even have KLM Barbies. They are so friendly and have proven so with each KLM flight we have taken.
Where they get their “brilliant” identity from me is a little ear pain remedy. I’ve done the hot towel thing before, but KLM intruduced us to the hot towel in the styrofoam cup. Place the cup to the ear with warm cloth on your ear and magic happens!! It truly does work. I even tested it, so it is mommy approved and child approved!

Thanks KLM for making our flight a pleasant one!

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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.

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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:
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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

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2009 St. Lucia Open House

2009 St. Lucia Open House

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2010 St. Lucia

2010 St. Lucia

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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

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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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Captain’s Coffee on the Viking

Awesome after dinner drink on the ferry. Coffee, liquor 43, special Captain Morgans and cream. Yummy!!

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