The trip is over; and we’re back in the US.
I am adding onto the original teaser I posted on 24 June.
If you previously left a comment on this post, don’t be surprised to see it attached.
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Temps: Hi 59F (15C) / Lo 43F (6C)
Our aching feet can attest that the city is very walkable. If only I had my pedometer to measure just how many miles we put on our feet today; I’m guessing about 6 miles (9.6 km)!
We weren’t the only ones enjoying one of Helsinki’s sidewalk cafés today ;-)
We woke up at 6:00a, looked out the window and saw the overcast skies. Since we had decided this was going to be an easy day, we pulled the curtains closed again and went back to sleep. The next time we woke up it was 9:00a. It was still overcast and the pavement outside was wet … must have rained at some point. The good news — it was only 50F (10C) and the high was forecasted to go up just a few more degrees. Loving these temps after the hot, sweltering days in Turkey!
We took our time getting ready for the day ahead. Breakfast in the room from the foodstuff we picked up from K-Market yesterday; and then Mui made sandwiches for lunch, which he packed in inexpensive plastic containers … also from K-Market. It will be nice not having squished sandwiches for a change ;-)
Sandwich, dessert, napkins, and Wetones … all tidily packed away in individual containers.
It was 11:30a when we left the hotel under a light drizzle; nothing worth opening an umbrella for. The walk was just over a mile (1.7 km) — an easy one on wide, paved sidewalks designed to accommodate pedestrians and bikers in dedicated, marked lanes.
Estimating we walked at least 6 miles (9.6 km) in our meanderings today.
Our first stop once we reached the heart of the city was Café Esplanad [esplanade] — one of the many sidewalk cafés overlooking the very popular Esplanadin Puisto [Esplanade Park] — in concept, not unlike the Mall in Washington, DC. Despite the light drizzle, we opted to take a seat outside. Protected by the awning, we sipped our hot beverages while we watched passersby. Gulls, perched on the light poles lining the street, took every opportunity to swoop down on leftovers, but they left us in peace.
Don’t look for ‘personal space’ if you take a seat at a sidewalk café …
… to sip a cappuccino, or in my case, a hot chocolate topped with mounds of whipped cream.
Next, we walked the short distance down Pohjoisesplanadi to the Tourist Information Center (TIC) located at the intersection with Unionsgatan. Couldn’t have asked for a better place to pick up brochures and get our questions answered about the logistics for some of the side trips we have in mind.
In addition to a sticks & bricks tourist information center, youngsters man
a nearby kiosk where they are available to answer questions.
The forecast called for the drizzle to end around noon. And in fact the rain stopped and blue patches started to break through the clouds by 1:00p. We took advantage of the break to wander around Kauppatori, the central market square that overlooks the South Harbor, just about catty-corner from the TIC. The place was choc-a-block with tents from which vendors were selling everything from souvenirs and handicrafts, to flowers and plants, to fresh fruits and vegetables. There were numerous tent stalls where food was being cooked — salmon, herring, calamari, as well as a mix of vegetables, and salmon chowder. The smells were tantalizing, but we weren’t hungry yet, so we moved on … but not before filing “have lunch at Market Square” in the “to-do-before-we-leave-Helsinki box” in Mui’s brain — he keeps track of dining opportunities ;-)
Not all of the vendors sell their goods from tents; some sell from boats.
Leaving Market Square behind, we walked through the old market hall — filled with casual eateries — and headed to the Makasiini Terminal. Located in the South Harbor, this terminal services the express ships that ply the waters between Helsinki and Tallinn, Estonia. From the companies that sail this route, we had already narrowed our selection to Linda Line. We knew that there was a 40% discount off the €70/person
(~ $95) round-trip fare if tickets were purchased a day in advance. Imagine our surprise when the ticket agent told us they were running a special promo for €29/person (~ $39) round-trip. Of course we wanted to jump on the special pricing, which was less than the one way fare. The only problem — we didn’t know which day we wanted to go. So, we excused ourselves to discuss our plans.
Nope, this isn’t the ticket vending machine in the terminal … it’s the umbrella vending machine!
We think better on a full stomach, so we found a table on the quay and sat down to chew over dates as we chewed our sandwiches ;-) By the time lunch was over, we had a date for our proposed trip across the Gulf of Finland. And a few minutes later, we had tickets in hand to make the trip. But that’s for another day.
The view from our lunch spot.
Helsinki’s famed Uspenski Cathedral is on the left; the Finnair Sky Wheel on the
right is the city’s latest attraction — having opened in May of this year, it has a
VIP gondola that has a glass floor and leather seating, which you can opt to ride
for €195; the price includes Veuve Clicquot champagne! Even at €12/person
for a regular gondola it’s too spendy IMHO, so I think we’ll skip it.
On our way back, we strolled through Market Square where an ice cream kiosk beckoned us. Making my selection, I took my cone over to a bollard near the water, leaving Mui to place his order and pay for our sweet treats. There were signs all around with warnings to watch out for the gulls, which make every effort to steal ice cream from unsuspecting people. I managed to hang on to my scoop; but Mui was not so lucky. The look on his face when one of the birds swooped in and pushed the scoop of ice cream off the cone was priceless. Alas neither one of us was expecting it, so I have neither a photo nor a video … but we will recollect it with a smile whenever we think of today ;-)
By this time, my feet were killing me, so we returned to the hotel for a change of footwear. We took the HKL [Helsingin Kaupungin Liikenne … Helsinki City Transport] tram (#10) and got off at Hesperian Puisto, the same stop where the FinnAir City Bus dropped us off yesterday. Very handy. At €3/person (~ $4.10) the fare was a little pricey for a 15-minute ride, but I gladly paid it as I was in no shape to walk even the shortest distance. The good news — the ticket was good for an hour, so we used it to return downtown once I had changed into a pair of comfortable sandals.
Though the tram is an older model, it is well maintained.
While I was changing my shoes, Mui was asking the ladies at the hotel’s front desk for recommendations on shoe stores. The consensus was that we would find comfortable walking shoes at Aleksi 13, a department store on Aleksanterinkatu [Alexander Street] … and yes, the 13 refers to the number of the building in which the store is located. We checked out a few other stores on our way there, but none of them had the kind of walking shoes I was looking for. Anyway, I did find a nice pair at Aleksi 13. And guess what? The clerk who waited on us turned out to be the sister of the desk clerk who recommended the store. We knew she worked here, but who would have guessed that of all the store clerks, she’d be the one to help us … small world.
Newly shod; I’m ready for more walking!
Since we were in the vicinity anyway, we decided to stroll down the length of Esplanadin Puisto [Esplanade Park], referred to by the locals as Espa. Since it’s establishment in 1812, the park has been a favorite place to come for a stroll; meet friends for a chat; have an ice cream cone — beware the pesky gulls; maybe have a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or a bite to eat at the Kappeli Restaurant; listen to music performed by local bands; or just enjoy the blooms that add color to the grounds. Entranced by the flowers, I focused my camera on them, but there are plenty of other photographs from around the park in the link above.
JL Runeberg Monument
JL Runeberg Monument
(The Runeberg monument is Helsinki’s first public monument. It honors Finland’s national poet.)
(Zachrias Topelius was a Swedish-speaking Finnish author, journalist, historian, and
rector of the University of Helsinki who wrote novels related to Finnish history in Swedish.)
We wandered around a bit more, checked out menus at a few of the restaurants downtown. Deciding we weren’t really hungry, slowly we began the mile-long trek back to the Crowne Plaza.
Walk and bike sidewalks divided into lanes. What a great idea!
Perusing the information we collected from the TIC today seemed like a good idea, so that’s how we spent our evening. Now, plans in place, we can call it a day. A nice day is forecasted for tomorrow, so I see lots of walking in our future ;-)