One of the most amazing things I have seen “Afloat”: The Mexican Tall Ship, Cuauhtémoc!
One of the most amazing things I have seen “Afloat”: The Mexican Tall Ship, Cuauhtémoc!
This is one of my favorite shots from while we lived in Finland. This was our last month there and it was during the Vappu (May Day) celebration. After a very dark and cold winter, it was the most exciting day we had seen in Helsinki all year! Although it was still gloomy, it was amazing to see so many people out and about and truly having a great time. We had no idea so many people actually lived in Helsinki!
This candid shot my husband managed to get after we danced around for a long time with this crowd is my favorite not only because it shows the genuine good time Mia and I were having on our faces, but also because of the people of Finland it shows in the background. There are so many expressing themselves: The bright pink lady blowing her whistle, the lady with the plaid long skirt banging on her tambourine, and the guy behind me showing the peace sign. I also had no idea there was a guy that looks like Kid Rock to the left of us and a very sad faced guy with pink bunny rabbit ears to the right of us! Good times!!
This series of photos are from the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress in Finland. It was a very cold and breezy day, so there were not a lot of people visiting the fortress. We decided to go down this empty street where we stumbled upon a big friendly kitty and around another corner I spotted a guy standing on a boat coming out of one of the buildings. It matched with the building nicely, so at first I thought it was a part of the building. I believe it is a boat that was just finished being built and was making its ceremonial descent down the little ramp and into the sea! There was a Finland flag flying and as you can see from the last photo, they lowered the flag right after the boat had successfully made it!
For this week’s challenge, I have chosen another photo from our day trip earlier this year to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. I will add a post with more photos from this trip soon. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on a group of islands off of Helsinki, Finland.
This photo was taken earlier this year on a very breezy and chilly day at the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on a group of islands off of Helsinki, Finland.
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!
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:
My family and I took the adventure of a lifetime this past weekend when we boarded a plane for a short one and a half hour trip up to Northern Lapland, Finland. We stayed at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Saariselkä. We decided to stay in one of the log cabins for the first two nights after reading some reviews and did the last night in the glass igloo (no shower, only a sink and toilet), but overall more spacious than we thought it would be. It ended up being one of the most exciting adventures of our lives!
We flew into the very small Ivalo airport and were picked up by a transfer bus to the resort. We were then dropped off right in front of our cabin and given our key. It was very convenient and the staff was very friendly (the owner who claims to be Santa’s brother even gave Mia a stuffed reindeer). They served us and the rest of the small group on our bus dinner at the restaurant even though we didn’t arrive until sometime close to 11:00 p.m. Breakfast and dinner were included, but I would recommend asking for their á la carte menu for more local choices for the dinner.
We were so determined to see an amazing show from the northern lights before we move in less than two months and we not only had one evening with an amazing show, we were completely shocked when we saw them 2 nights in a row (over one hour each night)!! The first evening was too cloudy, so we waited and waited the next evening and finally saw them sometime after 11:00 p.m. on Friday evening. One couple was so excited about seeing them that they got engaged right in front of us!! We gave up around midnight on Saturday evening after standing in the cold for so long, but then saw this amazing sight in the photo above sometime after 1:00 a.m.! We ran outside in the cold again and watched an even better show than the night before!! Everyone around us was so excited and I even had to email 4 different groups of people photos that we took to those who couldn’t take a clear enough shot from their cameras. It was a very exciting weekend for all of us at the resort!!
My family and I really enjoyed our weekend trip to the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort and overall had an amazing experience that we will never forget! For more information on the resort, you can visit:
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Saariselkä, Finland 99830.
For more information about Aurora Hunting and photography tips (I stumbled upon an article with Andy Keen and found his tips which were a great help to me although I still have lots to learn). I do hope to experience his “The Great Aurora Hunt” in Norway one day… what a dream that would be! Please visit:
For more information on the best times to see Auroras, please visit these two very helpful sites (I checked these often before our trip and almost every 15 minutes during our trip):
Aurora Forecast (Includes the very important Kp tracker while aurora hunting. We only needed a Kp2 to see the auroras since we were so far north).
My next post will include our first experience ever snow skiing and snowboarding as well as our visit to Santa’s Home at Santa’s Resort. We can now mark another Red Pin Adventure off our Travel Bucket List:
Stay in a glass igloo in Lapland (see an amazing aurora borealis show)!
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!!
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:
Saunas were invented in Finland and are a very important part of the culture here. There are only around 5 million people in the entire country (there are around 20 million just in the state of Florida where we just moved from). We have heard that there are over 2 million saunas here in Finland. That’s a lot of saunas for only 5 million people! And I know what you are wondering… and the answer is YES, they do go naked here in their saunas!! We have also heard that sometimes after a sauna they also go jump in a hole in the ice into the freezing water of a lake or ocean… and yes, still naked!! Yikes! I wouldn’t mind trying this, but only if I had a wetsuit on!
When we were looking for an apartment here, we were very surprised that pretty much all of them included a sauna. When we came to look at our apartment, I remember us looking at the sauna and thinking that it could be another bedroom or a walk-in-closet! The apartments are much more expensive here and a lot smaller, so we were thinking of other uses for the space at first!
Well, we moved into our place about 2 weeks ago, and decided to give this sauna thing a try. We were also battling a cold that we picked up from our London trip and thought that maybe the sauna would help a little. Our first evening trying it out ended up with me at one point coughing like crazy and having to run out of it!!! I think we were way too excited about pouring the water from our wooden spoon and bucket into the sauna heater with the rocks! All that steam just about killed me!! Lol
We have used our sauna about 5 times so far and have learned not to pour so much water into it anymore and are beginning to love the experience now! I am starting to wonder how we ever lived without one!! No wonder Finland has saunas everywhere. The Finns love their saunas, am I am finally understanding why. You feel so relaxed after the sauna, and are able to go right to bed afterwards and sleep like a baby. This is great for me since I have always been a night owl and now I am finally able to get to bed earlier!
Here are a few photos from our sauna:
I’m sure this Florida girl we will be hibernating in our sauna this winter! I’m not going to want to leave the apartment once it starts snowing here, but at least I will have our sauna to thaw out in! 🙂
What an exciting time to arrive in Finland! We were very excited to be able to experience The Tall Ships Races right here in the neighborhood that we just moved to!
Over 100 vessels were here this weekend for the races which began on July 17th and continued until July 20th. The event ended with the Parade of Sails, when the ships go onto the next Tall Ships Races location, the Port of Riga, Latvia. The races will later end in Szczecin, Poland the first week of August, 2013.
We enjoyed viewing all of the beautiful ships on Thursday, July 17th after they were all docked:
The highlight of the event was watching the departure of all of the beautiful ships during the Parade of Sails event on Saturday, July 20th:
We were a little sad to have to say goodbye to all of the ships. What an amazing experience it was to see so many beautiful vessels in one weekend/location:
For more information on this event, please visit:
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!! ♥