Take a VR Trip to The Arctic: Fly Under the Borealis and Meet Santa in Lapland!

Highly restricted travel possibilities this holiday season, understandably, can make planning fun holiday experiences difficult. Aaaannnd …. what do we need so much this year? FUN HOLIDAY EXPERIENCES! This is why, when I realised that Finnair is offering this very cool experience, I had to get more information and share this with you. So I contacted Finnair and they were so friendly to share all the information I needed on this initiative.

Lapland is a highly popular winter destination for travellers from around the globe. Rovaniemi is a city within Finnish Lapland at the arctic circle. This area is sought after as a tourism destination for many reasons: incredible arctic nature, dog sledding, reindeer, undisturbed and amazing night skies, landscape, native culture and Santa! Ask any Finn where Joulupukki (Santa) lives and the answer will always be Korvatunturi (the fell where Santa’s workshop is located).

This year, Finnair had the brilliant idea to offer virtual reality flights to Lapland to meet Santa so that people everywhere can enjoy some holiday fun. The VR experience offers a 360 degree view in which the traveller can be fully immersed in the experience. The trip includes the flight, a comfortable seat in Nordic Business Class, refreshments served by the friendly cabin crew and amazing views of the starry night sky while flying under the borealis. Once the flight lands in Rovaniemi, travellers cross into the arctic circle and have the opportunity to meet Santa at his cabin!

Flying under the Borealis

The flight takes some time to fly under the aurora borealis on it’s way to Lapland. The arctic borealis viewing is a popular pastime amongst star gazers and adventurers alike, as arctic skies are some of the most amazing, star-filled and even colourful night skies to enjoy.

Once disembarking in Rovaniemi, enjoy the crisp arctic air and warm holiday feelings when crossing the arctic circle to visit Santa at his cabin!

Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi

Travellers from all over the world flock to see Santa and now we are able to share in this experience, uninterrupted and without large crowds, for a reasonable price while donating to charity. Win-win-win!

The virtual reality flights are scheduled twice daily, starting on Christmas Day 25/12 and going through New Years Eve 30/12 during two times of the day: 12.00 EET and 19.00 EET. Flights can be taken via laptop, smartphone and VR headsets with web browsers that allow video play. As I understand it, the tours are in the English language.

The flights last approximately 30 minutes and cost 10 euros (or 12.30 usd). The proceeds from these VR tours are donated to UNICEF to help slow the spread of Covid-19 and minimise the impact children that have been adversely affected by the pandemic, globally. Tickets for the VR tours can be purchased by visiting the Finnair shop page by clicking here.

This experience is something that can potentially bring joy to people and families everywhere and I would absolutely recommend trying it.

Enjoy the flight!

-Mliae

Let’s Discuss!

I have been reading much about the sudden improvements in the environment, due to the coronavirus restrictions. The air is cleaner than anyone could have imagined would be possible in the time of a 4 months, marine life is returning to places long-thought to be absent from, and many good happenings are taking place. The world will most certainly not return to all of the daily habits we had pre-covid19. Keeping physical distance will certainly become more important than before.

There is one aspect (from many) to our lives though, which is currently facing the opportunity to change entirely, and that is the tourism sector. Tourism has stopped. Completely and simultaneously. This creates a never before seen opportunity for the global travel & tourism businesses to adapt better policies and create a system wide improvement.  This is what I want to discuss with you today. Do you think that the industry has an opportunity for change, or no? What changes would you like to see implemented if it were possible?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments and let’s discuss this!

-Mliae

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World Tourism Day

Starting in 1980, the United Nations began hosting the International World Tourism Day! World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27 September every year.

Tourism is important as it creates social, economic, cultural and even political value.  This year, I would think that sustainability is also a high value on this, World Tourism Day.

For some people, the word tourism conjures images of obnoxious, tank top clad tourists, talking loudly and stomping over the meticulously planned gardens. Or corporate tourism giants counting their piles of money. These are the very few. Tourism is actually very important to communities globally.

In many countries, tourism is one of the main incomes into the community. Meaning, their ability to make a living depends upon your desire to go there. Can you imagine? What would your life look like, if you only got income when your friends spent the day with you? Challenging.

In my mind, on this day – especially this year – we should take some time to think about the impact our tourism decisions have on communities. What do we desire to accomplish? Is it a priority to make sure that our money goes into the communities that need it? Or is it our goal to go see those sights we’ve long since read about in the leafs? Whatever the goal is, we should recognise it, understand it and plan accordingly. If we want to see those places, we should go there. If we want to contribute to these areas, we should go there. If we want to jump into a tropical lake and swim under a waterfall, then we should pack our swimming suits & hiking boots and just go!

Some ideas for celebrating World Tourism Day:

Use it as an excuse to plan that long desired trip!

Been dreaming about that spontaneous romantic getaway, but haven’t quite gotten around to actually doing it? Today is the day. What more do you need?

See some local sights

Always going away for holiday? (Same here) Why not take some time and check out your local sights? You may be surprised at what is offered in your local community. Search engines will always tell you what’s happening.

Make this weekend a holiday at home:

Shut the phone and go for a walk. Or make a nice dinner and a special beverage by candlelight. Avoid the screens and appreciate your time like you would if you were travelling.

If you’re feeling particularly feisty, learn to make some exotic food. Just add sand, fruity drinks and some tropical mood tunes. Put on those sunglasses and dance!

Where does World Tourism Day take you?

-Mliae

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Guest Post: Best US Cities for Europeans

Moving from Europe to the US usually feels like moving to a different planet. People who grew up in Europe have a specific lifestyle, and there are some things that will suit them in America, and some things that will not. Finding the perfect place across the ocean for people from the old continent is a real challenge. An ideal city would have to be just enough American to intrigue you, with a pinch of Europe so that it feels like home. We have done a research and tried to figure out which would be the best US cities for Europeans.

Before you hit the road

You should be really excited about this amazing new chapter of your life. Although culture shock will be big, moving to the US is an experience that will teach you so much. Not to mention a job market that is much wider than the one in Europe and really gives you an opportunity to build a carrier and make an impact. Before you hit the road, make sure that you have all the technical issues under control. You need dependable long distance movers to take care of your documents, regulations and safe transfer of your belongings. But try to travel light. You will certainly do a lot of shopping in your new city, so there is no need to bring your entire household. Try to find storage units in your area before you move so you can bring only the necessary things with you. This way, your relocation will be cheaper and you will have more space for the new things you will buy.

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The city of Pella in Iowa gives you the feeling you are in the Netherlands.

Kansas City – Spain in the middle of the US

Kansas City has that amazing Spanish ambiance. Along with a great number of amenities and job opportunities, Europeans can find a better life here without feeling homesick. Its residential neighborhood and shopping district were architecturally designed to mimic the city of Seville. You will enjoy its vivid architecture. The towers, ornate tile roofs, and sprawling courtyards give you the feeling that you are in Spain while having all the benefits Americans have. In your spare time, you can go for a romantic gondola ride on Brush Creek or take a horse and carriage ride, which feels a little like New York as well, so everyone will find something for themselves. Walking through Kansas City, you will see street performers and hear the music that will lend further authenticity to the place.

It’s a small town, but has a lot to offer. There is a wide variety of places where you can eat, drink, have fun and, of course, work. And don’t forget to go shopping and enjoy local January sales. You can actually order tapas plates basically everywhere you go. And when you are really hungry, remember you are in BBQ country.

Pella, Iowa, or maybe the Netherlands?

This beautiful city in Marion County, Iowa was founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, which explains its scenery. It sits forty miles southeast of Des Moines and it is the home of Central College, as well as several manufacturing companies, such as Pella Corporation and Vermeer Manufacturing Company. Not many people know about this hidden gem – one of the best US cities for Europeans. Its Dutch-style architecture lines the streets giving the impression you are in the middle of Amsterdam. The famous windmill called Vermeer Mill is located next to Central Park, and it’s the largest structure of its style in the United States. You can spend a night in the Royal Amsterdam Hotel, preferably in May, when their Tulip Time festival takes place. During this festival, the streets are flooded with traditional Dutch attire, food, dancing, parades, and, of course, dozens of tulips. Don’t miss to stop by the Vander Ploeg for a cream horn and some Dutch apple bread.

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Ride the famous San Francisco cable car.

San Francisco, the city Europeans will love

‘’If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair’’ says the song. Do you know why? It’s because San Francisco is where the hippie movement started back in the 1960’s. In many neighborhoods, such as Haight Ashbury, you can still feel that hippie atmosphere. And this is just one of the faces this city has. Its residents like to say that it has something for everybody. In some of the huge skyscrapers of its business downtown, called the Financial district, you can find some job opportunities for yourself. Silicon Valley is famous for its thriving tech industry and enormous companies that are growing and hiring more and more people every year. Do you like to walk or jog? You can do that for hours along the famous Embarcadero Street and enjoy the ocean view. And if you are a real outdoor enthusiast, you will be glad to hear that you can spend an entire day in Golden Gate Park, and still not see all of it.

Everybody’s favorite city

There are so many different neighborhoods that offer so much diversity that you get the impression they are small towns. China and Japan town, Castro district and Central Market, Marina, Fisherman’s Warf and North Beach are just some of San Francisco neighborhoods. And when you want to grab a bite, you can find anything from vegan sushi to burgers, from Indian to Italian food, and everything else you can imagine. I think you are starting to get why San Francisco is one of the best cities for Europeans. Most importantly, its diversity will make you feel at home in the blink of an eye.

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When in NYC, you can accomplish anything.

New York, one of the best US cities for Europeans

The main reason for moving to another city, country or continent is usually the desire to improve the quality of life. Therefore, when Europeans move to NYC, they are mostly looking for a better life. New York is a unique combination of the economic strength of the USA and the biggest ethnic diversity in the world. And here are some reasons that make NYC one of the best US cities for Europeans.

  • A huge job market – the best companies worldwide have their offices in NYC.
  • The most diverse cultural, sports and art scene.
  • Neighborhoods for all tastes – from peaceful to urban, with houses or condos.
  • An exceptional transportation system.
  • Lots of free ways to have fun.

But probably the most important reason why people come to NYC is the feeling that you can accomplish anything. And where everything is possible, dreams are coming true! Maybe the Big Apple is not just one of the best US cities for Europeans, maybe it’s the best for everybody.

 
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Budget Travel Ideas to Help Your Money Take You Further! #travel

It’s the holiday season. While many stay home and celebrate with their families, this is also one of the busiest tourism seasons of the year. Traveling during this time of year will also gobble up your budget much quicker than traveling during other times of the year. I’m here to share a few tips and tricks to help you stretch your money a little bit further.

I am no expert. However, I have travelled quite a bit, even though I am by no means a wealthy woman. So I wanted to share with you my version of budget friendly travel. I promise, you won’t regret it!

  • Take a road/rail trip instead. Air travel is expensive, and it limits you (schedule, location). Take or rent an auto or take a train pass (Euro rail for non-Eu citizens is a great incentive!). You have the freedom to go wherever the wind carries you and you can always find your way back home! Not to mention, the scenery is magnificent!

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*Ok, so sometimes you get to spend the night like this…but totally worth it if you get to see this ->!

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*Am I right, or am I right?!

  • Make sure you have a good quality bag that you can easily carry with you. Please, take it from someone who has been there: When you find yourself in a situation where you are walking to your sleeping place, there is nothing worse than rolling a overstuffed cumbersome suitcase along a cobblestone road. Be practical! You don’t need much. Put it in a small overnighter that’s easy to carry. You’ll thank me later!
  • Always have water and some snacks with you. Even if its just a small water bottle and a couple protein bars – having these on hand will keep the hangry at bay so you can enjoy your day!
  • Consider Hostels. Oh, I know – the mere thought makes your skin crawl. But believe it or not, hostels can actually be really amazing! (Yes, some of them are…blech.) Many luxury hotels will lease out 1 floor of suites as hostels (Amsterdam), just to ensure that the hotel stays booked. Some places that don’t normally lease out at all will make their rooms available as hostels off-season (see the marble encased University dorm in Poland which leased out their rooms during the summer months.!) Also, Andorra has an incredible log-cabin luxury hotel which rents out some of their unbelievable suites as hostel rooms -at a hostel price!
  • Go with the flow! Allowing yourself to get stressed-out or overly adhered to your perceived schedule. Firstly, things will NEVER go according to plan. Secondly, you will happen upon the most memorable experiences when you least expect it. So, be open to change…welcome it!
    *Suffering a royal hangover, we walked around and discovered the Wielicki salt mines, a Unesco World Heritage site and thought ‘why not?’. It was a great day spent there and I will never forget what an incredible place it was!
  • Ask around where the locals go, and go there. You will find some of the most amazing food places, and even better – great prices! Also, leave your diet at home. It’s no fun traveling with someone who’s on some kooky weight loss regime where they can eat only raw meat, kale and walnuts – or whatever the latest fad is. Let loose and enjoy!

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*Fish & Chips at Beshoff Bros

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*The donuts in Dublin were the size of my face! I think you know we had to sample some of these beauties! 😉 (Nom nom nom!)

  • Make sure you are insured. Travel insurance isn’t tremendously expensive. But you will thank me for it if you fall ill!
  • Take the time to enjoy a local Brew. In some places, you will find yourself in an unbelievable setting. In others, you will realize that a local beer costs less than a canned soda! (Poland, I’m talking to you!)

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  • Be reasonable with your tourism. 5 star restaurant? I wouldn’t. Oldest Pub in the country? Yes, definitely!

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  • Refrain from the souvenir hunt. I’ve watched people jump from store to store looking for junk and it just isn’t worth it. My policy is to purchase myself 1 item only, so I try to make it really special. A small something for family is ok too. But its a huge waste of money searching for cheap crap. I mean really, it’s most likely not even made in the country you’re visiting anyway!
  • Spend the day at museums! Many museums, including Natural history, are free in the EU. When we were in Ireland, we spent an entire day visiting museums and it cost us: ZERO! A great way to be a tourist on the cheap!

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  • Check out the free attractions in the area you are visiting. Most places have a tourism office/website. They will usually list any public events/festivals/showings that are happening for free. Why not go out and do something fun? Public art/book/food festivals are great fun and you can’t beat the price!

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  • If you are really saving hard for a trip – especially a road trip – and every cent counts, try this tactic: Take 1 small envelope for every day that you plan to be away from home (including leaving and returning days). So, 14 days = 14 envelopes. Divide your funds evenly across each envelope and it will help you to see whether or not you actually have enough for the trip. The most affordable hostel I’ve ever stayed in was 20€ per night. Do some internet research, but make sure to leave some wiggle room, because sometimes they are full and you just have to manage other sleeping arrangements. Factor in food (market bought, or eating out), gasoline/train tickets, entrance fees to attractions (easily found online) and emergency coffee stops. You won’t need as much as you may think you do, if you just budget well. Good luck!

I hope that you have enjoyed this post as much as I’ve enjoyed making it!

-Mliae

Aaaaannnnddd….We’re Off!

Guess where we’re going! We’ve got a holiday planned in the States and we’re so excited about going! We thought that for our 1st wedding anniversary, we should take a trip to where it all began. We had such a wonderful time in the USA last year and would love to see/do some of the things we missed when we were there. (You know, its difficult to see the sights when you’re planning a wedding). So we’re off!

Prepare yourselves for some …OK, ALOT of vacation pics! 😀

I wil be checking in with reviews and taking the opportunity to send my version of a picture postcard.

So excited! Talk again soon!

-Mliae

*Photo sourced via Pixabay

My Souvenir From the USA

So, a girlfriend of mine goes on holiday to the USA. When we all get together to hear about her trip, this is what she gives us.

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DONALD TRUMP CHOCOLATE BARS!?!!

This livened up the conversation a bit, as you might well imagine. We all had a good giggle.

I did not even know this was a thing.

-Mliae

Doheny Nesbitts in Dublin, Ireland.

This is why you should always visit where the locals go! On our last night in Dublin, we stumbled upon (or, ok, maybe kind of stumbled in) Doheny Nesbitts! We had been searching for a good local pub and had already quickly visited some local favorites. But they were so packed with people, standing room only is an understatement. This was our last stop-in before calling it a night. After all, we’d both just been kissed (in a cordial way) by our first Irishman!

I was so excited when we walked through the doors. We were greeted by happily playing locals (as seen/heard below) and there was actually some space in the place for us to enjoy a pint or 2!

We had a great time at Doheny & Nesbitt ! We were able to drink some scarcely available Guinness and whiskey. I hate myself right now because I am unable to remember the exact labels. If I could, I would be scouring the internet for a way to purchase and ship them. Although the specialty of them was that they were un-orderable. Only available in a handful of the older pubs in Dublin, even. They were AWESOME! The prices weren’t astronomical either. 🙂 Our bearded bartender was incredible and extremely helpful. If you are in Dublin, you MUST stop by Doheny & Nesbitt!

Take this referral to heart!

-Mliae

Enjoying Dublin!

Hello everyone and greetings from Dublin! 🙂

We are having a blast, and have a full day ahead of us! I wanted to check in and show you some of what we’ve been up to.

We found ourselves in an awesome AirBnb located near the canal and we realized that we are able to walk just everywhere…YAY!  This is my first time using AirBnb and I have to say that so far, it’s awesome!

We visited The National Museum of Ireland – Archeology. We seriously got lost in there for hours! The place just keeps going. The exhibits right now are really cool. There’s the Vikings, Celtic Vikings, history of Ireland, Egypt – even Bog people! I took a video clip for you from the exhibit on gold hoardes found in the bog. It really is quite unbelievable and the craftsmanship is…WOW! To make it even cooler, there is NO ADMISSION COST to to visit the museum. A great, free way to get a good glimpse of Ireland’s history!

 

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This was insanely cool. This is supposed to be the best condition Viking era sword they’ve ever found. If you look at the photo, you can still clearly see the makers mark! I couldn’t get over it. The nerd in me is fascinated. 😉

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We walked all over downtown, and the Christmas decorations are up and are so gorgeous! The mood was set by some serious street music too.

Here’s a clip of some of the street music. There was street music everywhere and it really added to the evening’s ambience!

After all was said and done, we hit The Waterloo pub for Fish and Chips (14€) and a pint of Guinness (5,50€). The fish and chips were really good, but honestly, I was still hungry when I finished eating. It must’ve been all that walking! The Guinness hit the spot totally. 🙂  Aaaahhh…What a great day!

1st nite meal

You know what the best part is? We only had to pay for our accommodation, food/drinks & souvenirs. Everything else we did was absolutely free! If you are traveling on a budget, I highly recommend you check out our day and plan to include these things in your trip. Its a great cultural experience and it doesn’t cost a cent!

Loving Dublin!

-Mliae

It’s Time To Hit The Road…We’re On Our Way To Ireland!

We’re off! On our way to the Emerald Isle, the Land of Leprechauns! I can’t wait!

I was so excited. As you know, I love to travel. Traveling puts my life in perspective and now that it’s in my blood, I have to do it. Things have been a bit limited on the financial end, so it seemed like travel wasn’t an option for awhile. Fortunately, my well researching husband was able to find us very affordable flights and accommodation! So even if we can’t splurge on luxuries, we’re going to have a great time!

I’ll be checking in with photos, reviews and recommendations soon!

See you guys later!

-Mliae

Best Milan Secondhand/Designer Shopping: Bivio!

Ladies and gentlemen, if you find yourself in Italy, you should visit this store. I HAD to reblog this post from http://www.stylejinx.com as I’ve been searching for a high-end consignment store. I was so excited when I saw her post! Thank you, Style jinx, for allowing the reblog 🙂

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composite-bivio-web-900-okI cannot express how fortunate I was to stumble upon this amazing little shop while on my way to the market of all places! Located but five minutes from my apartment, Bivio is a goldmine for all fashionista’s. It houses everything from vintage to lightly used Zara and extremely well priced designer wear, including gowns from Dolce&Gabbana, Chanel, and Valentino. Gowns that usually cost thousands of dollars  can be found be anywhere from 80 Euro to 300 Euro, not a bad deal!

bivio_milano_shopping_second-handokbivio_store_3These 2 photos of the interior from the Bivio Website

For you shoe fanatics out there, fear not, they have a pretty impressive array of designer shoes as well. Including name brands like Christian Louboutin, Fendi, Mui Mui and many others.

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I myself had my eye on a pair of velvet Armani loafers I sadly let slip through my fingers.  So how Bivio works is similar to any…

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It’s here!

I had to share this with you 🙂 I purchased this hand-woven rug during a trip to Morocco. It isn’t huge, because they were so expensive…more than I had on me, for sure! But the handicraft is beautiful, and since I limit myself to ONE purchase in each country, per trip (I’m not a souvenir ladened suitcase traveler…much to my friends dismay.) I was able to justify this little luxury to myself without too  much work.

It took a while to get everything in order and to have it shipped. Then have it shipped again. But now, it’s home! I hope you like it too…the photo colored a bit weird, but rest assured, its gold and blue tones are just beautiful 🙂

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What about you? What are some of your favourite travel souvenirs?

-Mliae

5 Easy Ways to Save Money in Switzerland

For all you traveling folks out there, I had to reblog this great post from Ticker Eats the World, about 5 ways you can save money in Switzerland. Check it out!

Let me begin by breaking the myth. Switzerland isn’t as expensive as most people make it out to be. It’s not cheap either, but when you think about train travel and food, prices resembl…

Source: 5 Easy Ways to Save Money in Switzerland

All work and no play makes Mliae a dull girl…

Sometimes, after a super long day, a girl just needs to unwind.

I found myself sitting alone, on the upper restaurant deck of the commuter train. The late evening sunset was gorgeous, and I could finally sink back into my leather seat and take a long deep breathe.

The day had consisted of meetings, marketing plans and a bums rush to the finish line. Maybe a teensy stop off for a fashion fix.

As I sat, I reflected. Then i just let the day slide off me and enjoyed the view.

Ok, this girl needs champagne. Stat. I clacked my way down to the bar and requested a glass and a treat. So rainbow marshmallows they supplied! An unlikely pair, I’ll give you that. But it went perfectly as hands-down, the best comfort food you’re going to get on a train. Perfect.

Now, time to kick back and relax.

Thanks for reading!

-Mliae

What I learned during 30 hours without power in the Nordics

I wake up in the Nordics, inland off the coast of Ostrobothnia, I wake to the snow gently falling on the trees. I was so excited to be able to see the first snowfall. I went to the spa appointment I had made for my manicure and facial, then planned to visit the store because there was nothing at the cottage to eat. Once I emerged from my appointment, feeling fresh and glowy as ever a girl can, I realized that the gently falling snow had turned into huge soft flakes and many centimetres of snow on the ground. Still beautiful and peaceful. I was excited about the prospect of building a snowman and drinking hot cocoa by the fire. I had been informed by my driver that the snow would continue to fall throughout the evening and into the next day. And it did. The snow fell and fell until it was up to the calves of my legs. And then, at after 5 in the evening on Friday night, it happened. I heard a *dink, dink, dink sound and Whabam! Lights out.

They flickered on and off a few times and I was starting to curse the cottage in which I’m staying. It wasn’t until friends arrived and informed me that the entire village was pitch black. So much so that even their bus drove past the stop.

Dinner that night was cheese wraps and apples. We played on our cell phones and other tech, assuming naively that the power would return ‘any minute now’. Of course, there were candles everywhere, which we lit just so we could see in the ever increasing darkness of the North. Thankfully, the cottage was stocked with candles and extra fuses.

That night, it was kind of an adventure in ‘roughing it’. A ‘welcome’ to the territory, if you will. Challenging, but almost fun in a forced romanticism kind of way where yea, its dark…but you aren’t actually worried about anything. I could’ve used one of these to spin the warm beer in the snow to chill and drink that evening.

7 in the morning Saturday. Woke up to a big bang and…light! For all of 5 minutes. Had I known then what I know now, I would have used that 5 minutes to charge my cell, make coffee, boil water and microwave food. Instead, what do I do? Shiver, roll over and close my eyes. Stupid, stupid, girl.

I dragged myself out of bed about an hour later, complaining about the cold and wondering at the lack of electricity…still. Little did I know that more than 30 000 others were enjoying the same situation as I.

Saturday went at a snails pace. Can you say hello frustration and irritability? That didn’t last long before we all realized that nothing would be accomplished by snapping at one another. Thankfully. With no coffee (that I was aware of…I found out later that an angel DID in fact use that 5 minutes to make something hot and left it in a thermos for all to enjoy), no technology, no lights, no hot water, no edible food, and cold as _____ outside , there wasn’t exactly a plethora of options to distract from the current predicament. So, we all went outside and grabbed shovels to shovel our way out of the cottage and onto the road. Afterwards, things got inventive. There was one place in which to make a fire, but not exactly a fireplace. More like an ancient bread oven. So a fire we made, and in front of it I sat until I thought I was going to melt. When the flames died out, the theory was that maybe if we put a pot of water inside the fire bake oven, that it would boil…or explode. It did neither. But it did get hot enough to make a batch of hot tea. Once it was noted how that little experiment went, on came the next one. Hot food. Seriously, is it even possible? With this being our only opportunity to even pretend to make hot food that day, there was no other option than to give it a go. Since I’d visited the market that day, there was at least a hundred euros worth of frozen goodies slowly going bad. I thought that I could bag it up and set it outside in the snow to keep it cold, but was informed that it would only attract the animals. So we grabbed the biggest (fingers crossed its pyrex) dish we could find, dumped 2 bags of frozen vegs, some olive oil and a ton of cheese in it, put the lid on, popped it in the fire oven and hoped for the best. This time, hearing an explosion was a most certainty. But…it didn’t happen. And let me tell you, hunger REALLY is the best spice. I ate like a ravenous dog and did not once care how I looked to anyone else. I am certain my cohorts felt the same.

After a quick call to the power company, I realized that it would be at least another 24 hours before they even hoped it might be fixed. Saturday evening went slow, as it gets dark so early in the North. Reading by candlelight was impossible, but someone magically whipped out games and we were able to manage it near-blind. That night, we all slept like a litter of puppies. It wasn’t intentional, but funny how things work out that way. No problem though because it was that cold inside that I’m sure we were all quite grateful for the extra body heat.

Sunday morning. My phone had been off for the most part because I was terrified that there would be an emergency and nobody would have the battery power to call out after a few days of this. I checked the news and realized that because of the…well, blizzard basically, the count of households without electricity had increased from 30 000 to almost 70 000 over night! In a country with a total populace of 5,5 million; 70 000 is an enormous number. OK, ‘we wait’ I said to myself. Although I was mad as a hornet when I woke up this morning because I’m already getting sick, the temp has dropped significantly, and the food…well, the food is going straight to the bin.

Bread breakfast. Enough, I’m calling the power company. I almost felt bad because the customer service rep was just as nice as she could be, but I had to insist that something be done somehow and an estimate given. Sure enough, within a couple of hours there were men working on every power line on the main road (as far as I could see). And then, magic happened. *Dink *dink….POWER!

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It’s now Sunday, and the lights have just returned. I’m sick, it’s freezing in here and at least 200 euros worth of food has perished. But we can see! The radiator will warm, and the water will heat so hopefully the pipes wont burst. I can cook! I can boil water! I can SHOWER!! I’ve never been so happy to see this light on a strip outlet as I was today…ever! 😀

I have to tell you that although not having power in a snowstorm for 30 hours really is just a minor setback in the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been so happy to see lights…ever, I don’t think. It’s amazing the things we take for granted. One thing that helps enables us to cook, clean, stay warm, see, work…and without it we can do none of those things. They don’t call it a necessity for the fun of it. This morning, I would’ve traded all the shoes in my closet for it. And now I have it. YEAH! Brings that must-have desire for all things gourmet and luxurious down a notch when you realize that its just not as enjoyable in the cold and dark.

Thanks for reading!

-mliae

Visiting Finland; Cultural insights and things to see.

Ah, Finland…what a wonder this country is. Located in the Arctic North and bordering Russia, this country with a population of approximately 5,5 million has many things that work in its favour as far as a travel and life destination. I have spent much time here there and everywhere in Finland, so feel confident in sharing my experiences.

Finland prides itself on having all four seasons. This true, without a doubt.

Spring

Spring is a time of celebration for many Finns. Once the snow begins to melt, the sun is shining and temps are warming, smiles on peoples’ faces become more prominent. When the flowers begin to bloom it is truly an incredible experience. And you will not see a happier woman than when the winter boots are thrown into the closet and her heels come front and centre. The May Day celebration, known as Vappu is a huge celebration in Finland. It is generally celebrated with outdoor parties, parades, and late nights. If you are there during ‘Vappu’, do not be surprised if you see a million people all wearing the same hat. These are the hats of achievement, of scholarly success and graduation. It’s a tradition.

Summer

Summer in Finland is amazing. The sun rarely sets for more than an hour or so, the days are hot, everything is growing and Finns are out en masse. Nature is prominent in Finland and the Finns love it. If you speak to a Finn about their plans during the summer, 90% of the time you will hear it said that they are visiting a cottage. With 188,000 lakes in the country, who can blame them? Most Finns have either their own or a family summer cottage where most of the free time is spent during the season. Summer cottages are not chateau’s. They are cottages on or near a lake, always containing a sauna, access to the beach, the usual amenities and everyone loves to go there. Mid-summer festival or ‘Juhannus’ is almost always celebrated at the summer cottage. Huge bonfires are lit on the lake and the party begins!

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Autumn

Autumn in finland is beautiful. The foliage is changing into gorgeous, almost surreal colors, people are out and about enjoying the ever shortening days and one can almost watch the transitions of the seasons happening in the populace mindset before your very eyes. ‘Pyhäinpäivä’, or All Saints Day is celebrated on or the day following the 31st of October. This is usually celebrated by placing burning candles at the grave sites of loved ones. Halloween is also celebrated in Finland, but mostly in the larger cities and on a much smaller scale than in North America or Ireland. Also popular in late November is ‘Pikku Joulu’ or little Christmas. These parties are prominent around the country. For the Americans, these parties are much like Thanksgiving. But because Christmas is usually celebrated with immediate family only, this is when the work parties and get togethers happen before the Christmas holiday.

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Winter

The winters are long and with low sub zero temperatures, one would think that people would be hiding in their homes for the duration. This is untrue. The Finns have an uncanny knack to make the most out of any weather conditions (unless perhaps it is just too hot). During the winter, Finns are quite active in sports. Any school you happen to pass by with have an outdoor skating area where you can ice skate, or practice your ice hockey skills. (Be warned, the Finnish children who play like pro’s will giggle at your utter incompetence by comparison) Skiing and Snow boarding or even snow tubing are commonplace sports, as well as long distance skiing which is usually done on one of the many nature trails once it has iced over. Ice fishing is also common but must only be done in certain temperatures. House and shop fronts are adorned with what I like to call ice art (flowers or other objects frozen into an ice mould and then placed around burning candles), candles are burning and trees are lit. The winter solstice is a good day, falling on the 21st of December this year, as the daylight will begin to show itself a few minutes more each day even though the temperature will continue to drop for some time further. Christmas is the holiday of the season. Santa Klaus or ‘Joulupukki’ is said to live in Lapland, in the far North of Finland and it is a common trip to make to rent a cabin and go to Lapland to see Santa and the reindeer.

As Finnish culture goes, there are a few things that any visitor should keep in mind when visiting. Finns are used to their space. A Finns personal space is much larger than say in Asia or Italy. This is due to the immense land area per populace in the country. Hugging is not done unless you are a close friend or family member, or after a long night at the pub. Finns are quiet. This is not an attempt to be rude, it is merely a culture of few words. The good thing is, when a Finn is speaking to you, you know that what they are saying is important and genuine. Finland has unique design tastes, one of the most famous and popular being Marimekko and you will see it everywhere.

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Finns love coffee. Finland is said to be one of, if not the top in coffee consumption worldwide. Finns are not ignorant. Finland has the top educational system in the world…and it shows. In business, Finland is at a strategic geographic disadvantage. This has been overcoming by the many forms of R&D, higher education specialties, and social policies in place in order to encourage productivity. It works. Finland has a very high percentage of trade and tourism with Russia, Sweden and the Baltics.

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If a Finn invites you for coffee, or to their summer cottage, or even in health and wellness places, ALWAYS remove your shoes at the door. Walking into a Finns home with your shoes on is a social faux-pas that will in all cases annoy your host(s).

Sauna

Going to the sauna is a deeply embedded tradition. Most Finnish homes have their own sauna’s, as do summer cottages, gyms, swimming halls and many restaurants and community buildings. If a flat does not contain its own, you can bet the building has one in the basement. The sauna is considered a clean place, and there are rules. For instance, Finns attend the sauna in social settings, en masse and nude. Do not stare and never ever comment on anyones’ body! Prepare to be looked at like you have 8 heads if you arrive cheerily in a bikini. You should at the very least rinse in the shower before going in, and usually have a paper or towel on which to sit. In some cases, your host(s) will have a cold alcoholic beverage awaiting your arrival. Although I have also been told that traditionally this is seen as a no-no and that you should only consume your drink once out of the sauna. I guess it is solely determined by the company you are in. Personally, a sauna beer suits me just fine. Birch whips: Some Finns are fans, many tourists are terrified. This is something that is done only on occasion (but as many tourists know, sometimes you ARE the occasion). Birch whips are made from tying a certain kind of small birch branches with the leaves in tact, together and drying. Before use in the sauna, it is soaked in the water bucket (this water is thrown on the hot rocks to make steam and it smells so good!) and then used to kind of, well, whip yourself with. Your legs, arms, shoulders and back. The birch whips can also be used a form of soap. Using the birch to scrub your skin by bundling the leafy part in your hand and scrubbing your skin is said to have cleansing and exfoliating properties. Trust me, it’s not as horrifying as it sounds. There is something in the birch which opens your pores and once you have finished the sauna and shower, your skin will be positively glowing. Not to mention the fact that your host(s) will be proud of you for not running away screaming (which they expected that you would do). Even in the winter, if you are by a lake, sauna is followed by a dip in the lake albeit quickly (Bbbbrrrr!) and a return to the heat.

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There are countless things to see and do in Finland. Many have already been mentioned. If you are strictly a city person, Helsinki is the place for you. Shopping, sightseeing, upscale cafe’s, spa’s and the harbour to name a few. Parks and nature trails abound in Finland, and history is endless. Finnish history goes back a very long time, it is still fresh in the collective memory.

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Historical towns like Porvoo with churches, old town and many opportunities to shop hand made crafts and products.

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industrial cities such as Tampere have sightseeing opportunities everywhere such as Aleksanderin kirrko in Aleksanterinpuisto.

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If castles are your thing, visit Hämeenlinna or Savonlinna. In Savo, there is an annual opera festival held during the summer months. But if you plan to attend the opera, make sure to purchase tickets far in advance.

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In Finland there are also many viewing towers with which to climb and get an amazing ariel view of the area. If you’re in good shape, go for it! And while you’re at it, check out one of the local amusement parks 🙂

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoy sharing it. I would love to hear your insights and experiences, please share! I will be posting more blogs on more travels, including Finland.

Thank you for reading!

-mliae

WHY?

As my first official blog post, I feel it necessary to explain why I’ve decided to do this in the first place.  I must admit that I’m not exactly sure if people will even be reading this, but hey…worth a shot, right??

Let me begin by saying, my life, especially now, seems to becoming more and more of an experiment. (Hence the name) I enjoy sharing my experiences, but also, I’ve discovered that when one truly needs a straight spoken opinion or advice, it is difficult to find exactly what I am looking for. So, I’m hoping this will help…both of us.

Face care and Cosmetics

This is a biggie. Any woman over 25 knows the trials and tribulations of searching for that perfect eye cream, neck tightener that doesn’t include snake venom (seriously?! Who thought that was a good idea??!) or the perfect lipstick that doesn’t result in a bozo the clown look-alike after a hot make-out sess. Since I usually find myself trying one of everything and comparing products anyway, why not do it here as well? Especially since it’s sometimes difficult to find product reviews online if they aren’t considered some of the seasons most popular products.

Cooking

Vegetarian, on the road to Vegan. Or maybe not. Maybe pescetarian. Either way, I’m feeling my way blindly to learning how to cook decent meals worthy of actually sitting down at the table and eating…one recipe at a time. Experiences and fire hazards to be shared here.

Wardrobe

Champagne taste and a beer budget? Yup. Absolutely. I’m constantly looking for creative ways to make my wardrobe more functional, more beautiful, and longer lasting. Albeit with a less-is-more attitude, this luxury lover will find a way!

All manner of silliness

Sometimes, you just have to be goofy. Especially on those days when I’ve managed to accidentally break my glass sauna door, had an electrical fire, ripped my Marimekko sheets or completely insulted my SO with a microwaved meal. Laughter truly is the best medicine and the world is a plethora of goofiness to get you smiling! 🙂

Thank you for reading. I very much look forward to experience sharing with you and reading your comments!

-Mliae