The weekly photo challenge this week comes at a perfect time to introduce our new kitty named Frida! This kitten is an Arabian Mau, and was rescued from the streets by an amazing lady named Jackie who runs a cat rescue group here. It took us about a month to get her healthy, but she is doing great now and loves to play. This is a very rare shot as Mia hardly ever takes a nap… little Frida had jumped on Mia’s back while she was sleeping and then she also fell asleep. I ran to get my camera and snapped this shot. Mia had no idea that Frida slept on her back until after she woke up and I showed her this photo! 💞
Norway ranks at the top of my list of places to see in Scandinavia. The peacefulness you feel while in Norway is something you will never forget. I try to show what my family and I experience through my words and photos on this blog, but sometimes I feel that it is hard to do a very special place the justice it truly deserves. Norway is certainly one of those places. You really need to go there in person to experience the calmness, fresh air, and the true majestic beauty of it all. No wonder it was ranked at the top of the list for most happiest countries in the world*(see link below)!
Maybe it is not our recent move that is taking me a long time to show our full Norway adventure (we have been staying in a hotel the past two weeks until we find a new place), but I believe I was really having a hard time deciding how to show such a magnificent place the way I thought it needed to be seen. I think the best I can do at this point, is to forget about what to say in words and just show the photos and hope my two posts on Norway will inspire others to add Norway to their list of places to see! So, here we go…. our Norway in a Nutshell experience in photos:
We made it to the end of the route at the stop in Flåm! Next, we spent a little time eating lunch and shopped in the enormous gift shop during our break after the train ride! About an hour and a half later, we boarded the amazing Fjord1 cruise to Gudvangen (Aurland, Undredal, Nærøyfjord, and the majestic Sognefjord- the longest and deepest fjord in the world)!
For more information on the Flåm Railway experience, please visit: Flåm Railway
For more information about The Bergen Railway, please visit: NSB
For more information about the Royal House, please visit: The Royal House of Norway
For more information on the Norway in a Nutshell tour, please visit: Norway in a Nutshell
To read the article from Forbes about the Happiest (and saddest) countries in the world in 2013, please visit: Happiest Countries
To read Part 2 of our Norway in a Nutshell adventure, please visit: Norway: Part 2
We can now mark another Red Pin Adventure off our Travel Bucket List:
Oslo-Bergen, Norway (See the Fjords and Ride on the Flåm Railway).
My upcoming posts will feature a Blog Hop, Sweden (Stockholm), and Russia (St. Petersburg)!
I’m way behind again on blog posts… we have been very busy planning for our upcoming move and packing up the apartment. It is hard to believe that we have less than two weeks left here in Finland. We finally had beautiful weather this weekend and we enjoyed a high of 72℉ today! Too bad we will be moving when it is so nice here. It felt like we were back in Florida today!!
This post is from a trip in April during Spring Break. We decided to use the break to work on seeing more of Scandinavia. Spring Break in Finland is only a long weekend (not like the week off we are used to in Florida), but it was a nice break to finally enjoy some nice sunshine after the dark winter. Here are a few photos which highlight the stunning Tivoli Gardens, which opened in 1843 (the second oldest theme park in the world & the most visited in Scandinavia). Walt Disney himself even visited this park for inspiration for Disneyland:
Below are a few other places we visited while in Copenhagen (Rosenborg Castle, The King’s Gardens, Amalienborg Palace & The Little Mermaid Sculpture) :
For more information about Rosenborg Castle, please visit: Rosenborg Castle
For more information about Tivoli Gardens, please visit: Tivoli Gardens
For more information about Sculptor Edvard Eriksen and The Little Mermaid, please visit: The Little Mermaid
My next posts will show our adventures in Norway and Sweden. We can now mark another Red Pin Adventure off our Travel Bucket List:
Copenhagen, Denmark (visit Tivoli Gardens)
We couldn’t leave Finland without experiencing Vappu! For our last month living here, it was great to see all of the Finns out celebrating today and last evening here in Helsinki! I believe it is the biggest celebration of the year in Finland. There were so many people out and about that I thought we were in a completely different city… much different from the peace and quiet that we have seen this past year! It was nice to finally see so much fun and excitement!! Here are a few photos from the celebration:
If you would like to learn more about Vappu, this is a great article about the celebration in Helsinki (sorry, you will have to copy and paste the link, but this is the best article I found in English: www2.hs.fi/english/archive/thisweek/18042000.html
We can now mark another Red Pin Adventure off our Travel Bucket List:
Celebrate with the Finns during Vappu (May Day) in Finland!
For this week’s challenge, I have chosen two photos. They are both from this past Easter weekend when my family and I visited Denmark & Norway & they both represent the feeling of being on top of the world! The first photo is of me climbing a tree in the Royal Garden at the Rosenborg Castle. The second one is of my daughter Mia when we were at the top of Mount Floyen in Bergen, Norway.
My family and I were finally able to try out snow skiing and snowboarding for the first time in our lives at Ski Saariselkä Sport Resort in Finland two weekends ago. I ended up with a nice bruise on one of my butt cheeks from it for the past 2 weeks, but all in all it was a very fun experience for all of us!! We also went on a ski lift for the first time… and boy oh boy was that hilarious!! I fell off the side trying to get off and lost my blue winter hat in the process which went flying down the ski slope never again to be seen! 😦 So, if anyone finds a nice light blue winter hat that has a Helsinki tag on it… it’s mine! My husband also banged up his legs trying to get him and Mia off safely… my goodness, we were a complete mess trying to get off that darn ski lift!! Leave it to the family from Florida to show everyone how to do it so gracefully! Ha Ha! Oh well, we can now say we’ve tried it, not successfully, but we survived… barely! Another check off the bucket list! 🙂
We first tried out snow skiing with a very nice ski instructor named Leen. It was a great experience to have snow skis on our feet for the first time. It was a little difficult to walk at first, but we managed to go skiing down a little part of the bottom of the slope! The next day we tried out snowboarding. We were exhausted from all of the excitement of staying up late the evening before to see the amazing northern lights, so my husband and I didn’t do as well. But, to our surprise, Mia was a natural!! She had so much fun and we couldn’t believe our eyes when she kept successfully going down the little part of the slope and even slightly turning at the bottom. She looked like a little surfer girl with her arms stretched out on that snowboard…We were so proud and amazed!! All in all, this was a very fun experience for us and something we will never forget. We would love to try cross country skiing one day as well.. it looks a lot less scary and much more peaceful!!
Here are a few photos from our first experience snow skiing and snowboarding:
Santa’s Resort: After our ski lesson on Friday, we made it back to the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort where we stayed and they had transportation (a quick 5-minute drive) ready for a group of us to experience their Santa’s Resort. We were greeted by a very friendly elf and were taken to feed some of Santa’s reindeer. We were then taken up a pretty snow lined path to where we could see Santa in front of a cute little cottage and he was standing next to a real reindeer!! Mia starting screaming “Santa, Santa, Santa!!” It was a pretty cool sight to see! We were then able to take photos with Santa and his reindeer and then went inside his cute cottage. Mia was able to sit on Santa’s lap and he gave her a present. The cottage had a cute desk where letters from children around the world were displayed. It also had a room where Santa’s sleigh bed was and a very cozy fireplace in the living area.
We were then taken down a beautiful wooden bridge where you could get a great view of the Celebration House (Finland’s largest log building which is used for special events). We enjoyed a nice warm juice drink and some tasty gingerbread cookies inside the stunning Celebration House. Here are a few photos from our experience at Santa’s Resort:
My family and I really enjoyed our weekend trip to Saariselkä, and truly had the time of our lives! We can now mark two things off our Red Pin Adventure Travel Bucket List:
Try snow skiing Try snowboarding
For more information about Ski Saariselkä and ski/snowboarding lessons, please visit:
For more information about visiting Santa’s Home, please go to:
To view my earlier post from this same trip about seeing the northern lights from a glass igloo, please visit:
For this weeks challenge, I have chosen 3 photos. The first one shows this past years point of beginning for my family after we donated almost all of our belongings and left Florida with only suitcases and moved to Finland! It was a new beginning for us with so many changes and certainly at the time, a very scary new adventure!! Well, almost one year later, it is not so scary anymore and our lives are much more simple, peaceful, and at times pretty adventurous! It has changed us all in so many ways and we have now been to so many wonderful places and experienced some pretty amazing things like seeing the northern lights in Lapland!!
All the snow has melted here in Helsinki, and it is finally starting to really look like spring after a little tease we had a few weeks ago. Mia was lucky to wake up on her birthday to a beautiful fresh snowfall, which I am hoping was the last one for the season. I am way behind again on a blog post, but I have plenty of photos to share from around beautiful Helsinki during the winter as well as a few shots from a few places we have visited in the area. I am very happy to say that we managed to survive the darkness and a winter in Finland. We brought Florida with us and were very lucky as we heard this was the mildest winter in Finland in the last 20 some years!
My family and I are flying up to North Finland (Lapland) this evening for one last shot to see the northern lights. We are also signed up for skiing lessons as we have all never been snow skiing before. We only have about two months left here in Finland (yes, we are on the move again… this time to some place warmer)! I will post photos next week from our adventure this weekend and hopefully some aurora shots will be included. I am better prepared this time and have a tripod packed and ready to go… Aurora hunting here we come!!
It’s 2014 and my family and I just returned to Finland a few days ago after spending three weeks back at home in Florida for the holidays. We have gone nonstop for the past year with the move and my husband’s busy job, so we really needed some time to recharge, thaw out, and just turn everything off for a couple of days. We were successfully able to do so mostly because my dad decided to put in this amazing koi pond for my mom a little over a year ago. My mom is from Okinawa, Japan, and one of her dreams has always been to have a koi pond in her backyard. Well, my dad jokes that he has heard her say that she has wanted one the whole time they have been married (40 years this year). So, if he was going to finally put one in for her, he was “going to make damn sure it was a really nice one, so he wouldn’t have to hear about one for the rest of his life!”
Well, he successfully did so after finding a company that installs koi ponds in the Central Florida area and to our surprise, construction finally began on my mom’s koi pond and was finished in only a couple of days! This corner of their backyard has turned into an amazing sanctuary where you can sit on one of the benches and listen to the sounds of the waterfall and truly feel yourself completely relax. My daughter Mia has spent hours upon hours playing and catching little minnows and frogs at the pond. There is even something so tranquil about feeding the koi (nishikigoi) and watching them come to the surface and swim around each other while they eat.
There is a lot involved in the pond such as the pump, waterfall feature, bubblers, UV lighting to control the algae, the filter, and testing the water. But, overall there is not much upkeep to it other than feeding the koi everyday and cleaning out the filter. There are about 30 koi total in the pond as well as minnows and frogs. The plants have really grown in since the install and although the lily pads that were originally put in looked really nice, they have all been eaten by the koi. Here are a few photos of the koi pond in my parent’s backyard:
2013 is coming to an end and this is what is coming to my mind, “Oh my, what a year it has been!” For my family and I, it will always be a year that we will never forget. It was filled with excitement, laughter, ups and downs, and even some “what the heck were we thinking” moments! This was the year that our family decided to donate 3/4 of our belongings, remove toxic people and things from our lives, move to Finland with only suitcases, and basically simplify our lives in so many ways. We also spent a lot of time focusing on our travel bucket list, and as we reflect on this past year, we have so much to be grateful for.
A few weeks before we moved to Finland, I received this email on Facebook from one of my high school classmates who I hadn’t seen in many years:
My friend lost her baby girl, Jaedyn, at only 16 months old after a tragic accident. Jaedyn would have been 10 years old this year. Since I can remember, my daughter Mia has always picked up rocks wherever we went. She has probably picked up a thousand by now! I would find them everywhere… at the bottom of my purse, in my pockets, her pockets, and her daddy’s pockets. She even has a very nice collection of them on her window sill in her room in Finland. So, after receiving this email from my friend, I knew this was a perfect job for my family and we started to pick up rocks for Jaedyn on our trips that we went on. Here is a photo of precious Jaedyn which was taken only three weeks before the accident:
Here are photos of the jar we made for her travel rocks and also photos from her gravesite where her mommy joined us to give the rocks to her a few days ago:
I will end 2013 with this photo of my daughter Mia with one of her rocks she has collected and a quote that I love about when a child gives you a rock. I would also love to hear any of my fellow bloggers’ stories about their children and rocks as well as any special things that you do for those who have passed. Thank you all for following along. I wish you a very Happy 2014 and a new year of peace and many exciting adventures!
My family and I had the chance to go Dog Sledding with Huskies and also to see the Northern Lights while on our visit to Rovaniemi, Finland a few weeks ago. Our trip to Lapland was one of the most exciting trips that we have ever taken!
Dog sledding with the huskies was probably one of the most exhilarating and relaxing experiences of our lives. The huskies were so excited before we went off for our ride… they kept doing this weird jump that reminded us of a fox while hunting. They couldn’t keep still and could hardly wait to go on the run!! We signed up for a one hour safari at the resort where we were staying (Santa Claus Holiday Village). When we signed up for the safari, we had no idea that my husband would be the one to actually drive the sled. Wow!! He had to go through a little lesson on how to use the brakes by pressing down on a wedge with his foot that went into the snow. He was also told how to assist the huskies while going uphill by pushing off in the snow with his feet. Mia and I sat in the sled and were covered in blankets since we were going on a pretty long ride. There was one sled in front of us with our tour guide and another sled behind us with another dad and his daughter.
After the huskies took off for our ride, all you could hear was Mia and I screaming with such excitement for about 10 minutes straight!! We were not expecting them to go so fast and we also went through such a twisted path at the beginning which went so close to so many big trees covered in snow. We kept thinking our sled was going to run right into them!! After the first 15 minutes of total excitement, we found ourselves in the middle of the most beautiful snow-covered forest. We were able to sit back and truly enjoy being in the Arctic Circle and Lapland! There were moments during the ride that we could not see the sled in front or back of us and it was just my family and I alone with the huskies in the forest. Although our tour started at noon, the sun was already setting around 1:00. The sun would rise around 11:00 and would be set by 2:00, so there was very little daylight there. Here are some of the photos I was able to get while riding in the sled and a few shots from right after our exciting ride:
One of my dreams has always been to see the Northern Lights in person. We knew that it could be hit or miss when trying to see them. We only had two nights to see them and we had no luck the first night of our trip even though the sky was completely clear that night. So, we had one last night and I was really hoping that we would get to see them on our trip to Lapland. I researched the internet to see what our chances would be that evening and what the best time to go out to look at the sky for them. I found out that the best time would be between 10:00 and 11:00, but we only had a moderate chance of seeing them according to the Auroras Now! website.
It was so cold (-6 F) and we could only stand to be outside for short periods of time, so we got all bundled up and headed outside at around 10:00. We looked around and didn’t see anything and then I noticed a slight arched light gray hazy line about 2 feet in height started to form across the sky not far from the horizon. We decided to climb up this snow mound close to our cabin and waited to see if anything would appear. Then slowly right before our eyes this arched line started to change from the grey to orangish to a bright green!! It would change in shape and disappear and then slowly appear again and at one point took up much of the sky at the horizon. We were in complete shock!!! The whole show only lasted about 20 maybe 25 minutes top. I wish I was better prepared to take photos… I didn’t even have a tripod! I hope that one day we will have the opportunity to go back and I will be able to getter shots. Here is what we were able to get… Not great, but I’m sure you can tell that they are the Northern Lights:
I will have one more post to end the craziest and most exciting year of our lives so far. To end 2013, I will share the story of a little angel who has been traveling with my family this past year.
We can now cross off these latest Red Pin Adventures off our travel bucket list:
Dog Sledding with Huskies Lapland – See the Northern Lights
This past weekend my family and I took the short 1 hour journey by plane to the beautiful Arctic Circle to visit the “real Santa” in Rovaniemi, Finland. We stayed at a very fun resort for families called Santa Claus Holiday Village where you get to stay in cute cozy cabins which include a sauna in the bathroom. Breakfast, dinner, and wi-fi are also included. Mia and I had never seen so much snow in our lives! The resort was a great experience and had many activities for families to do including: Snowmobile rides, sledding, shopping, restaurants, husky sled rides, Santa’s main post office (where all the children’s letters to Santa arrive), Santa’s ice park, the chance to see the Northern Lights, Santa’s reindeer rides, and of course Santa himself! Here is a link to their website: http://www.santaclausholidayvillage.fi
Here are a few photos from around the resort:
We decided to travel to a secret place in the middle of the forest to experience the Dream of Joulukka. It was an experience our family will never forget! If you get the chance to experience this through the eyes of a child it is truly a magical and unforgettable experience. A white van came to pick us up at the resort and we stopped to pick up a few others on our way to Joulukka. We drove for about 30 minutes out to what felt like the middle of nowhere into a mystical forest. All of the kids also magically fell asleep on the ride there and back. So, it certainly is a secret place and the kids have no idea where they were! There were 12 of us total on this adventure and we were greeted by a cute little elf! She took us to a cozy hut with a fire pit in the middle which said elf school above the door. Her, another elf and a troll told us elf stories and taught us a few of the elves secrets. We also had fun decorating gingerbread cookies and receiving our Santa’s Helper Diplomas after graduating from elf school!
After graduating from elf school, the elves took us through a candle lit forest to a fire where they told more stories under the beautiful clear star lit sky of Lapland. We enjoyed roasting marshmallows and sipping on hot chocolate to keep us warm and cozy! We then took another journey through more of the candle lit mystical forest to Santa’s Command Center where we saw many cool things including Santa’s world map, his mail machine, his desk, and at the end we enjoyed a very magical experience of meeting Santa Claus himself!
After going through a secret door, we met Santa himself! Mia had the opportunity to tell him what she dreamed of for Christmas and Santa also presented her with a gift (we secretly gave it to an elf ahead of time) and he even walked outside in the snow to talk with us before we left his home in the forest!
Here is a link to the Dream of Joulukka Santa experience:
My next post about Rovaniemi will include our Husky Sled Ride experience and seeing the Northern Lights! We can now mark another Red Pin Adventure off our travel bucket list:
Visit the Arctic Circle & Santa Claus
It’s been a little while again since my last post…. and now the craziest year of our lives is almost coming to an end! We finally had a nice snowfall today which was enough for Mia and her friends to play in after school today. We had so much fun running around laughing and throwing snowballs! We had zero snow in Florida, so it was an exciting afternoon for us!
We did make it to Florida a few weeks ago. The strike did not happen and we were very happy to go home even if it was only for a few days. We felt right at “home” as soon as we saw this Mickey in the photo below at the airport in Orlando. Mia had so much fun visiting her school that she attended for 3 years in Florida and it was nice to spend some time with our family. Mia and her dog Audrey were so happy to be reunited! She has been talking about Audrey since we moved. They were just like two peas in a pod again!
Mia also had her first piano concert at school this week. I think we were more nervous than her. She went right on stage and played her song with such confidence. We were so proud!
Our next stop is to visit with Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, Finland! We leave very early in the morning and we are super excited to meet the real Santa in the Arctic Circle. Mia has her letter to Santa all ready to give to him. We are also looking forward to being in Lapland and to hopefully experience a dog sled ride with huskies!
Here is a link to where we will meet Santa Claus:
Happy Friday! It is hard to imagine that it has already been one year since I started this blog. What a year it has been!! My husband moved to Finland this month last year while Mia and I stayed behind in Florida so that Mia could finish Kindergarten. It was a rough time for our family while we were apart and we now joke that deciding to be apart for 7 months was the dumbest decision my husband and I have ever made as a couple in the 17 years that we have been together!
Well, we have been back together for almost 6 months and are enjoying our family living in the same place again! However, we had to leave Mia’s dog Audrey and our dog Ollie behind at my parent’s house in Florida. Ollie is very old at 13 and Audrey is very big at almost 70 pounds and we were not too sure about bringing them here as we would be renting an apartment and would have to travel. We also plan to spend a couple of months each year back in Florida. Audrey was originally my parent’s dog, but Mia and her became like two peas in a pod so she became Mia’s dog… A day hasn’t gone by since the move that Mia has not talked about her best friend, Audrey. It has been really tough, but Mia has been super excited that she will get to go home to see her dog tomorrow (well, maybe). We just found out yesterday that some employees at the airline that Mia and I have tickets with (FinnAir) may be going on strike. We really do not want to let Mia down so we will do our best to find a way to get her home to her best friend. So far, our flight is not one of the ones cancelled!
I also wanted to thank all of my friends, family and fellow bloggers for following along this past year on my blog! When I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. I still have a lot of work to do and a lot to learn about blogging, but I am so grateful for the experience so far! A great big thanks to all of the people who have viewed my blog from the following countries this past year:
We were able to take a very short trip over to the Palace of Versailles during our Paris trip. We took the train (RER C-line to the Rive Gauche station), which was only about a 30 minute journey. We also met a very nice family from California that also took the train over and we enjoyed chatting with them while we waited for tickets and to get into the Palace.
There are so many impressive things to see while touring one of the most famous world heritage sights. The architecture, artwork, and the gardens are truly an experience you will never forget. The gardens were absolutely stunning and I had no idea how massive the grounds would be. We were not able to see much of the Palace and gardens as we only had about two hours left to explore before we needed to head to the airport for our trip back to Finland. We spent about an hour inside the Palace and then an hour in the gardens. We were told when we purchased our tickets that you would need a good six hours at the property to see everything, so we decided to rent the golf cart that is offered when you first exit the Palace and enter the gardens. It cost us 30 euros for one hour. It was worth it since we were so pressed on time. We were able to do a nice drive around most of the property, but we were not able to really get off the cart to explore into some of the sections, but did manage to get off a couple of times to get a few shots.
Here are a few photos from the 2 hours that we spent at the Palace of Versailles:
Love Locks in Paris:
We decided to visit a bridge in Paris (Pont des Arts) one evening before sunset which has thousands of love locks attached to it. These love locks are locked onto the railing of the bridge usually with the lovers names on them and then the keys are tossed into the Seine River so that no one can ever unlock their love. I know that some may say that these locks are not attractive on the bridges. However, I thought there was something so amazingly beautiful about them. It is truly breathtaking to see the thousands of love locks attached to the railing. Talk about really feeling the emotions of being in the City of Love! We decided to make a family love lock so that no one could ever unlock the love that our family shares. Here are a few photos from our experience on the Pont des Arts bridge:
I will end this post with a sunset photo that I took from the plane as we were leaving Paris and on our way back to Finland. There is something about it that I just find so peaceful and it is a perfect shot to end our first trip to Paris.
It has been some time since my last post here on my blog. Honestly, I’m not sure where the time has gone! We seem to be busier and busier as we are getting settled in. We enjoyed seeing our first snowfall here in Finland this past weekend. I have also been meeting many moms from all over the world from Mia’s school and have been learning a lot about Finland as well as working on a few projects here. We have managed to pick up a few Finnish words here and there as well since Mia is learning Finnish in school!
My family and I really enjoyed our first trip to Paris. We didn’t have much time to explore on this trip, but we did manage to see a few of the must sees mostly in the late afternoons/evenings. Once again, there were so many things that I wanted to take a photo of! Paris was a little overwhelming, but so exciting all at the same time! Overall, I thought Paris was a very beautiful city and it was nice to finally see the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa in person! Here are a few photos from our adventure:
The Mona Lisa
We were very excited to be able to take the journey into the famous Musée du Louvre to see the Mona Lisa in person and all of the other amazing artwork in this stunning museum. We just wish we had more time to explore a little longer. It was so massive and overwhelming that you would need an entire day to really get a good glimpse of all of the beautiful pieces on display. Here are a few photos from our experience seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time:
Please click on the images in the gallery below to see a larger view:
I will do one more post from Paris which will include images of the love locks and the beautiful Chateau de Versailles. I will end this post with two beautiful sunsets that I was lucky to get shots of. The first one is at The Louvre – we were a little lost and ended up walking past it again at just the right time. The last one is of the beautiful Eiffel Tower.
We can now mark Paris, France off our Red Pin Adventure Travel Bucket List:
Au revoir from la ville de l’amour! ♥
We decided to take an impromptu trip to another country this weekend. There is a cruise ship port only a 10-minute walk from our apartment, and we have been seeing the ships come in and out of the port from our patio. We walked over with just a small backpack and were able to purchase tickets over to the picturesque town of Tallinn, Estonia. We took the Eckero Line M/S Finlandia ship and chose the cabin for the return back so that we could sleep after a lot of walking and exploring. We had also heard that The Finns like to take a trip to Estonia to purchase cheaper alcohol and cigarettes. This was certainly true as we saw many people with carts loaded to the top with cases and cases of beer on the return trip to Finland!
We were pleasantly surprised with this charming place which is only a 2-hour cruise ride from Helsinki. It truly felt as though we had stepped off the cruise ship and landed right into a little Fairytale. We spent a very relaxing 5-hours exploring the Old Town area and then returned to the port for the short 2-hour trip back to Helsinki.
Here are a few photos from our adventure this past weekend in Tallinn, Estonia (click on photos for a larger image):
We really enjoyed our latest Red Pin Adventure to Tallinn, Estonia this past weekend and can now cross it off our Travel Bucket List:
I am finally continuing with my London posts. It has been a very busy time for us as we were moving to a little bigger place the last couple of days. Mia has her own bedroom now, so she was very happy to unpack her toys that have been in storage. She also started her first day of 1st grade today and had a great day which was a big relief for us! I couldn’t sleep last night and was so nervous for her, but it all turned out fine and we are very happy with her new teacher!
This is post number two in a three-part series from our recent adventure in London, England. In this post, I will feature Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, & the London Eye. All but Westminster Abbey have an amazing view along the Thames River and were a short walk from our hotel.
Continuing from my last post, this is London Tip #5: The Golden Jubilee Bridge that is right next to Big Ben and the one you cross over to get to the London Eye gets unbelievably crowded! However, you can get some of the best photos in this area, so you may want to visit it earlier in the day or right before sunset to avoid a million people in your photos with you!
Big Ben has to be one of the most recognizable structures in the world. It was so impressive to see in person and reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Hook. It is one of those places when you see it for the first time in real life, you just say “Wow, that is amazing!” Here are a few photos of Big Ben & The Palace of Westminster (click on photos for a larger image):
For more information about touring the Houses of Parliament, please visit: Houses of Parliament Please note: Only permanent UK residents are allowed to tour Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben.
Westminster Abbey was my favorite place that we toured while in London. This is certainly worth the price of admission and has many surprises inside! It is not just an old gothic church, but a place filled with rich history (founded in 960) and also has an impressive collection of artwork. It is the coronation church and also the final resting place and memorial site of many significant people. King Edward’s Chair, the throne which is used for coronations is also housed here.
London Tip #6: Do not pass up touring the inside of Westminster Abbey! If you only have one day, I would suggest taking the time to tour this church. Also, do not be intimidated by the line to get it. It moved very quickly for us and was worth the 20-30 minutes we waited in line. I would also recommend the Cellarium Cafe which is perfect for a nice break with afternoon tea and light snacks.
Here are a few photos from Westminster Abbey (please note: photography and filming are not allowed while you are touring the inside of the Abbey):
For more information about touring Westminster Abbey, please visit: Westminster Abbey
The London Eye was within walking distance to where we stayed and was of course one of those things in London that you just have to do! It is located in the South Bank right along the Thames River. We were able to see so much of London from the top and you get to see out for a distance of about 25 miles from the top. The views from the London Eye are absolutely breathtaking and was definitely something that we are glad that we were able to experience. I would love to experience it at night the next time we visit as I am sure it would be very beautiful with all of the city lights on.
Here are a few photos from our experience on the London Eye:
For more information about the London Eye, please visit: London Eye
You can read part 1 of this series at the following link: London Part 1
Mia and I were finally able to see where her daddy has been working since November. We had a great time visiting the office on Friday and meeting some of his co-workers. Many were on their summer holiday, so we will try to visit again after the summer is over. Mia thought that her daddy’s office was a very cool place to work!!
We decided to take our first journey on the train today and made it downtown. We celebrated the 4th of July at the Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki. They were giving 20% off to anyone from the U.S.A. today!
We also went across the street to check out their big department store called Stockmann. It was really nice and we ran into a reindeer!
We arrived safely in Helsinki late Saturday afternoon, and have been busy unpacking and exploring all of the different areas around us. After the first day, we knew we needed to find Mia something to help her get around. We have been doing so much walking, so we found her a cute little scooter to easily keep up with us. She is really getting around great now and having a lot of fun with it!
The time zone difference (7 hours ahead of Orlando) has really been tough on us these first couple of days. It is also daylight out most of the time. The sun set on our first night around 11:00 p.m. and then sunrise was at 3:58 a.m.!!! We have to wear sleep masks just to try to keep some of the light out to sleep (we have blackout shades on some of the windows too). On our second night, we were wide awake from 2 a.m. to around 6 a.m. We went out for a walk/scooter ride at 3 a.m. and made it over to Mia’s school so she could see it. Not one soul was out! I was a little surprised since this is the capital city of Finland! We have been here for almost 4 days now, and I have yet to see a police car or officer and have not heard any sirens from ambulance or police. Seems very strange for a big city. I heard at least two or three a day in Central Florida! It is certainly a nice peaceful change. It is also refreshing to see so many people out with their families, walking their dogs, bike riding, and just simply enjoying this beautiful weather!
Danny was back to work Monday morning and we start to look at new places tomorrow. However, we are really enjoying the simplicity of going from a 4 bedroom home to a cute little studio apartment with a view of the beautiful canal…. Not sure if we really need a little bigger place anymore! We’ll see how tomorrow goes. 🙂
Here we go!!!! We are finally all packed and ready to go! Moving to Finland in less than 20 hours!!!! Our master bedroom turned into packing central this past week. Only moving with suitcases and donated about 3/4 of all of our belongings to various charities and friends in need. Whew…. It feels great to simplify our lives and we are now ready for our adventure in Europe!! We will miss you all!! ♥
The big day is almost here… We will be flying to Finland tomorrow!!! It has been a very busy week getting everything packed, but we are looking forward to starting our new adventure! I am finally posting the photos from our trip back to my homeland. It was an amazing experience and also a very emotional one. It was so nice to see all of our family in Japan after so many years and also to meet many of them who were not born until after we moved away. I had forgotten how beautiful it was… It felt like we were in paradise!!
This post will include some of the photos from the Tokyo area of our trip and the next post will include photos from our visit to my homeland: the beautiful Island of Okinawa, Japan. We really enjoyed our trip to the Tokyo area of Japan and were able to experience many beautiful sights as well as some amazing food! Visiting the Tokyo area was a first for all of us and the most exciting part was our ride on a bullet train! Wow, what an amazing experience that was!! I’m sure the look on all of our faces after the first one flew by us while we were waiting for our train was priceless! The sound of them flying by will certainly make you jump and say, “Wow!!!!!” right afterwards!
Word on the street is that I need to update my blog!! So sorry, I am a little behind…. things have been crazy here!!! We are very busy packing up the house and are down to only one week until our move to Finland! Wow! It has been a great couple of weeks of family reunions for us. The first photos are from Danny’s return home from Finland and the rest are the airport pics from our trip to Japan. It had been 30 years since my mom and I had been home to Okinawa, so it was a VERY long awaited family reunion! I will post the rest of our photos from our trip in my next two blog posts.
We are FINALLY down to only hours until our family is reunited!!! Danny will be boarding a plane in Finland in about 5 hours and will be on his way home to Orlando! Mia will finally get to finish her bike riding lessons with her daddy and I will get to sleep in for my b-day on Friday (Mia’s an early bird like her daddy and I am a night owl so I could really use some sleep)!!! We are so excited that the day is almost here and have a very busy month ahead…
We will be leaving on Saturday for our long awaited trip home to Japan. We will spend a few days in Tokyo visiting family as well as Mt. Fuji and then we are off to Okinawa (where I was born). We are very excited to finally be reunited with our family in Okinawa which we have not seen in almost 30 years! We will then return home for a short period and will be off to Finland for our big move on the 28th of June!