What to see in Helsinki – One day itinerary

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Helsinki – the capital of my home country, Finland – is the perfect weekend trip. This summer’s visit back home was one week long, but we only had one day to explore Helsinki. I lived there for two years, so I am quite familiar with the city – unlike my British boyfriend. He had been there a couple of times, but only in the wintertime – and believe me, Helsinki is a whole different experience in the summertime! A lot better one, if you ask me.

Getting around Helsinki

Helsinki is small, and you can get around by foot or tram easily. The public transportation is well organised, and you can get all your tickets in one app, including train ticket from the airport to central. You can download the HSL ticket app here.

However, they have recently introduced electric scooters that are all over the city – a lot like Mobikes. We had never tried these before, so of course, we had to go for it! We hired Lime scooters (the same company that does the electric bikes in London, so you can use your existing account!), and after the initial nervousness, the ride went really smoothly. We enjoyed the scooters for about 40 minutes, which ended up costing us around 13 euros each – a bit pricey if you ask me, but hey, it was loads of fun.
Things to do in Helsinki
Thigns to do in Helsinki 2

What to eat in Helsinki

My boyfriend’s ultimate recommendation to Finland is to eat at Hesburger – the local version of McDonald’s. It’s just a standard fast-food burger place, but if you need something quick to go, I would recommend it. What differentiates them from the competition is their amazing selection of delicious mayos – cucumber mayo is my favourite.

Other than that, I would also recommend strolling around the market square, where you can find a wide range of traditional foods, such as reindeer meatballs and seafood. Try the Finnish ice cream as well, it’s amazing and the softies are a bit different from the ones in the UK.

You can buy more local goodies from Vanha Kauppahalli, which is right next to the market square (Kauppatori). Perfect for finding food-related souvenirs!

Other restaurant recommendations:

Sightseeing in Helsinki

If you only have one day – or more like half a day in Helsinki, such as a layover – I would recommend staying around the market square area. It’s close to the main railway station, so it’s very easy to get to. We did the following:

1. Picnic (Hesburger) at Esplanadin puisto (Esplanade Park), which is a beautiful park surrounded by the more upmarket shopping opportunities. It is a popular summer hangout area.
2. Scooter ride to Kaivopuisto, which is a park not too far from the market square. You can enjoy the sea and the sun, and window shop the parked sailing boats.
3. A quick tour around Senate Square (Senaatintori), where the most famous attraction in Helsinki, the Cathedral, is located. Around here you can find loads of shops that sell local hand made products, art, and fashion. The buildings around there are also veeery pretty! The area is also called Torikorttelit.
4. A trip to Suomenlinna, which is a sea fortress. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and the perfect place to get to know the country’s history and enjoy the sun and some drinks.

Thigns to do in Helsinki (4 of 7)The view from the ferry, on your way to Suomenlinna. It’s only a 15-ish minute ride, and you can use your existing HSL day-ticket! No extra fee!
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Thigns to do in Helsinki (6 of 7)Old bunkers now look like the Shire, don’t they?
Suomenlinna (5 of 6) copy Enjoy the sea views with Lonkero, a Finnish alcoholic drink. You can buy it in any shop – but only between 9 am and 9 pm. The architecture in Suomenlinna is also beautiful.

I hope you got some nice tips from this post! If you’ve been to Helsinki, let me know what you thought by posting a comment below. And, if you have any other recommendations, please let me know!

Birthday weekend in Oxford

I haven’t traveled abroad for a while now, but I’ve quite enjoyed exploring England instead. A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I headed to Oxford to celebrate my birthday and to get away from London – which is absolutely required every now and then.

Oxford is quite a small town, but surprisingly lively. One of the top universities in the world, Oxford University, is located there, so there are a lot of students. However, it is also a popular tourist destination, and the streets were in fact quite busy – but not London busy, so that was perfectly fine by me. We even had a thought that maybe Oxford would be a nice place to live in one day.
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Oxford (9 of 25)The students doing what students do.

Things to do in Oxford

In an old town you can find old buildings, so I think just walking around the streets of Oxford is a great activity. However, there is also other kinds of history. We visited, for instance, a pub called Eagle and Child, where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to be regulars. It’s crazy that the pub is still there! We also found a lovely, less traditional, pub called The Head Of The River, which was located next to the river Thames. You should order a bloody mary, it was probably the best one I ever had!Oxford (14 of 25)Head Of The River pub
Oxford (13 of 25)The river Thames runs through Oxford, and there is also a canal. Therefore, punting is a popular activity, but unfortunately, the weather was a bit unpredictable, so we decided to leave that to another time. You can also do punting in Canterbury and Cambridge, which are also on my to-do list.
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Oxford (2 of 25)We found a little fair where they had installed electric motors to old cars.
Oxford (4 of 25)The loveliest posting box I have ever seen!
Oxford (16 of 25)In addition to walking around and drinking in the pubs, you can also attend all kinds of tours around the city and go inside the university buildings. A lot of films have been shot here in Oxford, including several scenes for Harry Potter. You can attend a Harry Potter themed tour, where they will take you to all the filming locations. Oxford (18 of 25)
Oxford castle
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There is also a castle, Oxford Castle & Prison. The tickets cost 12,5, so we decided to skip the castle this time around. However, next to the castle there is a mound, where you can climb for only one pound.
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I was surprised by the vast amount of shops in Oxford. The photo above has been taken from the shopping street, and at the background, you can see Christchurch, which is a university building.

Oxford museums

There are a lot of museums in Oxford. We visited Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers museum. They are in the same building and the entrance is free. The Natural History Museum caters skeletons of extinct animals, including dinosaurs, and Pitt Rivers museum contains over 500 000 small and large things that have been found across the world. If you are more into architecture than old things, I would still recommend going here because the ceiling was absolutely stunning! Despite the outstanding architecture, the most fascinating and frightening thing to see in my opinion was shrunken human heads. They were in fact an inspiration to the talking head of the Knight Bus, seen in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (my favourite of all Harry Potter movies, by the way). If you’re really into Harry Potter like me, don’t miss the Warner Brothers  Studios’ Making of Harry Potter exhibition, which is also near London.Oxford museot natural history museumOxford University Museum of Natural History
Oxford museot (1 of 4) kopioA university building called Radcliffe Camera and Pitt Rivers Museum

London to Oxford and public transportation

Getting to Oxford from London is super easy by train. It only takes an hour, and the trains go frequently from at least Paddington and Marylebone. An open return ticket costs about 25 pounds without a railcard, but I heard that the bus is a cheaper option. However, the bus ride can take up to two hours.

There is no tube in Oxford, and the best way to move around is by foot. However, cycling seems to be incredibly popular here, and there are Mobikes everywhere. Local buses also go very frequently, and 24-hour ticket costs less than 5 quid.

Hotel in Oxford

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We booked our trip on very short notice, so we ended up paying a little more for the hotel than we expected (115 pounds). We stayed at Best Western, which was an average but nice hotel. It was a little outside the city centre, but only a 10 minute walk away. The location was very peaceful, and the staff was nice.  If you are willing to stay a bit further out or don’t mind flower curtains, you can definitely find somewhere cheaper. Or just book well in advance.
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We could have bought a hotel breakfast for about 12 pounds, but when traveling, we always want to explore local eateries as much as we can. We headed down to Jericho, which is a part of town with a lot of restaurants and cafés. Based on online recommendations, we decided to go to Jericho Café, which was a pretty classic English style café. It was great value for money, and my boyfriend approved his Full English Breakfast. I was really enjoying my waffle with poached eggs, bacon and maple syrup on top. A couple of years ago I would have been frightened about this combination, but now I’m definitely a fan!

Stories behind film photos taken in Italy

Authenticity is becoming an increasing trend, and several blogs have recently shared stories behind their Instagram posts, such as how was the scene staged, or how messy their house really is.

Film photography is currently also quite trendy, so when I spotted a single-use film camera in an airport shop, I couldn’t resist but get it. The photography experience is completely different on film, and so is the outcome.

I find all this quite refreshing, so I decided to combine these two concepts and tell you some stories behind these unedited film photos we took on our trip to Italy. At the same time, I think this is a nice way to wrap up all the Italy content I’ve been churning out recently.

Naples

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This is the first film photo taken on the trip, on a street next to our hotel. At this point, I was too eager to go exploring, and wouldn’t have wanted to stop to take any pictures. I must say that the green looks quite nice against the pink background, though.01810002

It was so windy at Castel Sant’Elmo, which is a fortress on top of a hill in Naples. It was almost impossible to get nice photos from here because my hair looks like this in almost every photo. This photo wouldn’t make it to Instagram, but it made it here!01810003

Another pic from Castel Sant’Elmo. It was so windy that it was actually pretty cold, and my boyfriend pulled out his puffer jacket and beanie – meanwhile, I was getting rid of extra clothing so that it would look like it was warm. Well here is the reality.

Pompeii

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It wasn’t really that busy in Pompeii because we were there before the season had started, in mid-March. However, we wanted to take this picture here, and a rather large man in a white t-shirt was standing right next to me for quite a while. He would have stuck out of the photo a bit too much, so we had to wait for ages before he left and we could snap the picture.

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Empty streets in Pompeii! The area is actually really big, so you can actually fit a lot of tourists there without it being crowded.
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A photo with some well-formed buttcheeks.
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These photos were taken at Pompeii train station.01810013

Sunset in Sorrento. This photo looks nothing like it really was. The sky was actually pastel coloured, not this kind of infernal orange. I think it’s because of the use of flash.

Capri

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On the way to Capri. The boat was full of tourists, everyone reaching to every direction with their DSLRs, GoPros and phones. There was this one middle-aged man who filmed the entire 20 minutes of the boat trip. I think it’s nice to get some photos and video, but what on earth are you going to do with that much footage?01810015

What an awkward pose! Before this, we had taken some photos with the digital camera, and I had a quick look at the photos and thought I looked fat. So here I am trying to hide my belly rolls. 01810016

My boyfriend’s attempt to photograph the lemon trees. Well, you can see them!
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This guy doesn’t usually enjoy being in front of the camera, but in this scenery I insisted to take his picture. Not a bad photo I think!
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The colours pop completely differently on film! I like the contrast between the green grass and the red lipstick. (And the ice cream stain on the shirt.)

Positano

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Before taking this picture I had forced my boyfriend to take about 50 000 photos of me posing in all sorts of different poses and from different angles. He had enough of it and sat on this rock – and I took this picture, which turned out to be a lot better than any of those posed pictures of me.

Rooma

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Our flights back from Naples got cancelled, so we had to travel to Rome and spend an extra day there – what an absolute shame, hehe! We stayed in a pretty shitty hotel in Trastevere, but next to it was this nice restaurant. We stopped to look at the menu and an old man who worked there showed us how they made it to the Lonely Planet guide. Obviously we couldn’t say no, so we enjoyed this colourful meal there.

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Whoops, what is this Afterlight filter looking effect?? Kind of trendy I guess, so that’s all good. Rome wasn’t that crowded on a Monday in March, so we were able to take all the time whilst snapping the tourist photos with the Colosseum!

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Is this a paparazzi photo from fashion week or a tourist photo? You can tell by the unknown object on the upright corner.01810026
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Piazza Venezia, is Rome’s most beautiful building if you ask me!
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Good night Rome! This photo was taken from Villa Borghese, which is a park in Rome. You can see the entire city from here, and the sunsets are amazing – much better in real life than in this picture.

What did you think of the concept of this post? I quite enjoyed making this!

The Garden at 120 – Hidden Gem Rooftop in London

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Tower Brigde Nähtävyydet

Read the article in Finnish.

Sky Garden and its popularity have recently skyrocketed. It is indeed an amazing place, but you must book your tickets well in advance, particularly if you are looking to visit there during the weekend. There are, of course, some walk-in tickets available, but you will need to queue for those, and your access will not be guaranteed.

So, if you were too late to book tickets to Sky Garden, you’re on a budget, and you’d still like to admire London’s skyline from a top location, I’ve got a solution for you: The Garden at 120. It is London’s latest rooftop garden, which opened earlier this year. It’s still very much of a hidden gem, so I guarantee it’s not going to be busy, as it seems like even Londoners don’t yet know of its existence.

My friend and I visited here in March, and then there were no services available. However, I would imagine that some sort of café or ice cream trolley would start operating here as soon as it gets more popular and as the weather improves. Also, the metal bars were still empty in March, but imagine how beautiful they will look once covered by flowers.

The Garden at 120 is the perfect place to have a break from the hectic city and enjoy some amazing views. It’s located close to Tower Bridge and Tower Hill, so if you are sightseeing, combine these three. Also Sky Garden, which is located in the Walkie Talkie building is very close, in case you want to try your luck with walk-in tickets first.

It would be great if you could share some of your favourite rooftops, here in London or anywhere else in the world!

Trying out the life of a millionaire in Algarve, Portugal

A week ago I found myself lying under the Portuguese sun. We had an amazing chance to stay with my boyfriend’s grandparents and their lovely friends at their villa in the Algarve, near Faro. Most of our time was spent by the pool, but we also had the chance to do a little bit of exploring around the area. Hopefully, we will get to come back sometime soon, and explore a little more. If you have any tips I should try out next time, please let me know in the comment section!

Our extended weekend turned into almost a week of vacation – thanks to a cancelled flight, which is why we had to leave a day early. It seems like this is becoming a new tradition as our flights were also cancelled on our trip to Italy. The time in Portugal flew by, and here’s what we got up to.

Golf and Beach life at Quarteira

Algarve Portugali-4Our villa at the golf course.
Vila Sol PortugaliStrolling in the garden.
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Algarve PortugaliThe neighbourhood in Vila Sol

We were staying at the Vila Sol Golf resort. I have never played golf in my life, but here it is an essential part of the lifestyle, and the Algarve offers some of the best golfing opportunities in Europe. This explains the popularity amongst millionaires and celebrities. Our villa was located literally on the golf course, and observing the golfers became daily entertainment for me. If you have a car you can jump into, do a little cruise to the nearby Quinta do Lago, which is the even wealthier area, to see the ridiculously prestige villas, and a lot of these villas can also be rented out. If you don’t have a car or don’t fancy to rent one, just drive around your area with one of the golf buggies!

Where to eat and drink at Vila Sol

If you end up staying somewhere near Vila Sol, I recommend you have dinner at The Moon. It is not the cheapest option in the world, but it’s not a stretch for those used to London prices. The food here was absolutely delicious, and I was amazed particularly by the parmesan soup. They also offer a convenient shuttle service, so no need to worry about stumbling across the golf course (like we ended up doing, woops) or finding taxis.

After having dinner we went to the Wine Bistro, a restaurant and bar, to have another glass of local wine. The place was hilarious. Most of the customers were in their 60s and 70s, and they were split into groups of men and women. As it got later, the karaoke was turned on and the groups started to mingle. Karaoke is apparently not usually offered at Wine Bistro, but it was great entertainment!

By the way, make sure you eat as many Pastel de Natas (Portuguese tarts) when you are in Portugal! They are an absolute delight and I regret not having more.

Vilamoura – A little Monaco in Portugal

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Vilamoura is an area near Quarteira, Algarve, and is most famous for its marina. Here you can spot celebrities, football players in particular, who reside in the nearby areas. In addition to admiring the yachts, make sure you pop into the little shops and get some dinner. I would recommend the Mayflower, which is where we had dinner. They offer stunning food at reasonable prices, and their staff is very professional but incredibly fun and friendly. They have both indoor and outdoor seating and the restaurant was welcoming to both families and couples, of all ages. Portions are also large so you will not leave hungry!

Quarteira beach

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Algarve beach
Quarteira Algarve

Quarteria village itself is nothing special, but there is a huge, beautiful and smooth sanded beach. We came here a couple of times, and I recommend taking a walk along the beachfront. The ocean was still freezing, so there weren’t any swimmers despite quite a few sunbathers.

Sagres – The End Of The World

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Sagres Algarve
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The End of The World, or so the Europeans thought before the 15th century, is a stunning cliff area near a little town called Sagres. It’s extremely popular among hikers and cyclists, but a more comfortable way to access Sagres is by car. It is a little over an hour drive from Vila Sol, so if you are somewhere near Faro, I recommend that you pay The End of The World a quick visit. Normally there are also little market stalls, but unfortunately, we were here on a Sunday, so most places were closed.

The Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente is one of the first lighthouses with rotating light and was originally built in 1520*. Unfortunately, you can’t climb up the lighthouse, but you can access the rest of the building and the courtyard. In the courtyard, there was a cafe that was open despite it being Sunday. There is also a museum, but for me, the main interest was to admire the impressive cliffs.

It is very windy at The End of The World, so please be careful when moving around. Many people have accidentally fallen off the cliffs, and I am not surprised. We didn’t manage to get many good photos from here; in almost each of them, I look like I’m struggling to stand up and my hair is being blown everywhere.