Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland

A weekend in Helsinki at Christmas (with Reindeer!)

During the Christmas of 2017, a year after going to Prague and Poland together, and after almost a year of living apart, I travelled to Helsinki to meet up with my roommates from when we lived in Spain. At that point Shaina had been living in Italy, getting Italian citizenship, and Vera was spending another year in Spain, this time in the Granada in the south.

I’ve heard Helsinki is boring and there’s not much to do in Finland. I can’t speak for other times of the year, but we did something awesome in Finland – we went to see the reindeer.

An easy half day trip from Helsinki, you can get to Nuuksio Reindeer Park. It’s about an hour on public transport, and so worth the trip. I’d never seen reindeer before, and in the environment in Nuuksio it does feel so magical and Christmasy.

Getting to nuuksio reindeer park:

You can take commuter trains U, L, E from Helsinki Railway Station to Espoo (8 stops/25 min) and then bus no 245 from Espoo to Nuuksio. The bus stop at Espoo is right next to the train station. Ride the 245 bus until the Punjobsuo stop (27 stops/23 min). Walk a little bit forward and turn right after the crosswalk – you’ll see a sign advertising for the Reindeer park!

Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland

Getting back we had a bit more trouble as we had looked up the 245 bus schedule and obviously written it down wrong. The bus doesn’t run very often and we were waiting in the cold for about 45 minutes. I’d suggest asking the people working at the reindeer park to advise on the next bus, so you can avoid this.

The park itself is small but so lovely. When we went it was just the three of us and one other small group. You can feed the reindeer, pet them, and there’s a candlelit hut with a fire pit where you can warm up and enjoy some warm cider or mulled wine. I think I recall being given some chocolate as well.

Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland    If you have more time (and money) than us, I would have LOVED to stay on site in one of the two iglu huts. These handcrafted huts are made from natural materials and look so cosy. You can feed the reindeer right from your window – there is a national park trail just around the corner that is meant to be a gorgeous walk as well. If I ever go back to Finland in the winter, I’ll definitely do this as a night in nature would be so wonderful.

The rest of our time in Helsinki was spent wandering around and taking in the city slowly. We went to Stockmann Shopping Centre, as it was quite festive and I bought a few decorations from that I look forward to putting out every year. We ate at Restaurant Savotta and spent an afternoon wandering around the stalls in the Helsinki market where there were tons of adorable handcrafted items.

Where to eat:

We had dinner at Restaurant Savotta, which was delicious and the place was adorable. It was like having dinner in someone’s house – traditionally decorated with Finnish furniture and rya rugs and the table settings were perfect. I wouldn’t miss this place on a return trip!

Helsinki, Finland

We also had dinner at Café Engel, which had great food and was perfectly located just across from Senate Square – where the Christmas Market is.

Christmas Market, Helsinki, Finland Helsinki, Finland

For breakfast, going to Regatta Café is basically a requirement. Traditionally Finnish and is right on the water, full of decorations, a fireplace, candles and is possibly the cosiest café I have ever been to. Go here and get the cinnamon roll – you won’t be sorry!

Cafe Regatta Helsinki, Finland
Cafe Regatta Helsinki, Finland
Cafe Regatta Helsinki, Finland

Logistics:

We stayed at Eurohostel, which was a cheap and cheerful option with a free sauna in the mornings. It’s a five minute tram ride to the city centre, and the trams are so easy to use in Helsinki it made getting in and out super easy.

Tram Helsinki, Finland

To/from the airport: This is really easy as well. It’s one train that takes about 30 minutes between the city centre and the airport. Two trains connect the two: Line “I” train: Runs via Huopalahti to Helsinki Central Station. Line “P” train: Runs to Helsinki Central Station via Tikkurila. See their schedule here.

Though we only had two days in the city, we packed in so much and had such a lovely time getting in the holiday spirit. One thing we didn’t have time to do but wished we had was visit the Winter Garden. It’s meant to be a bit of an oasis in the middle of the city and we were sad to miss it.

Devastatingly, I haven’t seen Shaina in person since, PROBABLY TIME TO SORT THAT. Instead of Africa 2020 maybe London-for-my-wedding 2020?

We Put a Ring* on It!

A few weeks ago, on a random Wednesday night when we were home painting the living room, Gareth asked me to marry him. It was very sweet and homey and low key and perfect.

We drank some wine we’d been saving since our trip to South Africa a few year ago and spoke with family and friends and celebrated for most of the night.

*Because I convinced Gareth he has terrible taste during our move, he bought me a place holder ring so we can design one together. And though he has terrible taste in home décor, the ring he chose was perfect and will be something I wear and treasure forever.

Now onto planning the wedding!

Christmas Market Sibiu, Romania

Christmastime in Europe

If you know me, you know Christmastime is my favourite time of year. I try to go to a Christmas market or two each season – though Christmas was a bit different last year!

This year, as we are running out of locations we haven’t yet been in Europe, and because we are broke, we bought the cheapest flights we could find – and will soon be heading to Sibiu, Romania! It’s meant to be a gorgeous Christmas market in one of the most picturesque areas of Romania. G and I have wanted to visit the country for a while, and £50 flights to one of the supposed best Christmas markets in Europe was impossible to pass up!

As we get ready to head out (trip is still two weeks away), I think it’s time to start a new section on the blog – European Christmas markets!

I’ve already written about Berlin, Prague and Amsterdam – however I’ve yet to write about Sweden, Finland, Norway, or Poland, and that is a travesty.

So to kick off December and celebrate the lead up to what I hope will be a wonderful Christmas season, let’s look back on celebrations of years past!

And honestly, everyone thinks you need to visit Europe in the summer, but I truly think there’s nothing better than a December spent sipping mulled wine and looking at local/handmade crafts. If you get the chance to visit in December don’t pass it up!

Buying a Flat!

I know it has been radio silence over here for so long now. Part of that is because life has been so busy I really haven’t had time to do anything with this blog – every time I try to start writing, I have such a small amount of time to fit it in that what comes out is rushed and of such low quality I can’t do anything but throw it out and mourn the wasted time!

But ALSO I’ve had a lot of really exciting things in the works for months, and I didn’t want to share them until completely official. And the first one finally is so here we go…

We’re buying a flat! In South East London (where we’ve always lived), right next to Crystal Palace Park, and the commute will be fantastic, and it’s got two floors and three bedrooms and two bathrooms. And it’s finally official!

Did you know buying a flat in the UK takes an average 6 month to complete? Because I certainly didn’t, and when our offer was accepted back in June I expected to be in end of August at the latest. Very naïve, I have since learned.

Buying a flat in the UK is also different to the states in that it’s not legally binding until the very end. Meaning you can get months in and right before you expect it to be official (and after paying lawyers fees), you can be “gazumped”.

Per Google: Gazumping occurs when a seller accepts a verbal offer on the property from one potential buyer, but then accepts a higher offer from someone else. It can also refer to the seller raising the asking price or asking for more money at the last minute, after previously verbally agreeing to a lower one.

Basically it’s all verbal up until you exchange contracts, which doesn’t happen until the end of the process. Our offer was accepted in June and then July – October our lawyers sorted out the legal stuff, and we finally exchanged October 23rd, which made it all legally binding. We will then “complete” on November 4th, which is the day we get keys and officially own the house.

Another major difference between buying a flat in the UK vs the US are chains. The system here is legally set up so it’s not just your one purchase, but the sellers forward purchase, and so on, down the chain until you find someone “chain free” – ie moving to rented accommodation, moving abroad, or not buying for another reason. Depending on how long your chain is, it adds so much time. For example, we have been ready to exchange with our sellers for about a month, but there was an issue between their negotiations with their sellers which held things up. Then we were meant to all exchange on the 22nd, but the contract hadn’t been received from the people our sellers were buying from, so we had to wait on that. Nothing to do with our purchase, but legally it all happens on the same day. We were lucky in that our chain was just the three of us – the people our sellers are buying from are moving to rented accommodation. But there can be chains of 6 or 7 people, and if one of the purchases falls through, it delays completion for months for the entire chain. As such, a friend’s home purchase took over 12 months. And statistically, an accepted offer only leads to a completed sale 2/3 times in the UK (I’d imagine this is even closer to 50/50 in London).

We’ve been anxiously awaiting exchange – as desperate as we are to move in, we were more desperate to know nothing would fall apart last minute and no gazumping would transpire. And it has all finally happened! We’ll be in so soon – and with enough time to plan and host Thanksgiving!

We want to do a lot of work on the place but have very limited funds at the moment. So I’ll share photos of the “before” and then slowly share the “after”. We currently have a bed and an old, dilapidated sofa a friend has kindly bestowed upon us, and otherwise virtually no furniture. What a fun and expensive and terrifying adventure this will be!

Krka, Croatia

Krka, Split & Plitvice, Croatia

It’s been far too long since our epic journey around Croatia for me to write a proper post about it. However, it was one of our best trips we’ve ever taken, so solely so I have it to look back on, a photo diary of our time there!

Plitvice

This gorgeous national park has 16 lakes that are joined by waterfalls. It’s incredibly beautiful – though the photos make it look quite wild – expect lots of people and clear walkways you can’t deviate from. There is (paid) parking nearby, and depending on when you visit entry is anything from $8 – $26.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Krka

I actually preferred Krka, and if you visit between June and September you can swim in the water! Note that parking is tough to figure out. It seems like the two official options are to drive to Skradin and catch the boat or to Lozovac where you can walk about 2 km to the park – note that this way you don’t see Roski Slap, only Skradinski Buk. We couldn’t figure it out, ended up wandering around a completely unrelated town for a bit (but got some ice cream out of it!) and then just drove as close as we could (it seems like probably to Lozovac), were very lucky to find parking, and walked about 30 minutes each way, along with dozens of other people. Entry is about $20. Well worth it!

Krka, Croatia Krka, Croatia Krka, Croatia

Split

Split was fantastic and we spent an entire day playing cards and drinking at what is probably my favourite pub in all the world. I have no idea what it is called, but it was full of locals and old and wonderful. We also went up Marjan Hill and had some pretty epic views of the city.

Split, Croatia View from Marjan Hill, Split, Croatia Marjan Hill, Split, Croatia View from Marjan Hill, Split, Croatia

This was part of a larger trip I took over Semana Santa (Easter) in 2017. I went to Italy (Florence with Rachel, Venice alone), Slovenia, and Zagreb before meeting up with Gareth and driving down the coast of Croatia, into Bosnia to visit Mostar, and finally to Dubrovnik. Easily one of the most epic trips of my life!