Saturday, 30 August 2014

Living History

Late summer Saturday day trip, time-travel on a museum train and an afternoon in Porvoo... 
For those of you who (for some odd reason) have never heard of this place: it is a small, bilingual (Finnish and Swedish) town and a popular tourist destination in south-eastern Finland, about an hour away from Helsinki.

Porvoo Old Town is the main tourist attraction, with its cobblestone streets and old, wooden houses. Even though Porvoo is a medieval town, most buildings in the Old Town (except the cathedral) date from the 18th and 19th century (wooden buildings tend to be rather vulnerable to fires...).

However, Porvoo Old Town is not an open air museum; the old buildings are privately owned homes or businesses, i.e. antique shops, vintage shops, flea markets, artisan shops, restaurants...

I love this little antique shop... it has an excellent selection of reasonably priced mid-century / 1960s designer glassware and porcelain, and I have found a few real gems there.
The other thing to buy in Porvoo is chocolate: both Pieni Suklaatehdas (= The Small Chocolate Factory) and the small but very popular Brunberg chocolate factory shop are also located in the Old Town.

Restaurant Timbaali
Professor M of course loves Porvoo because of the quaint little coffee shops and fabulous restaurants, such as Timbaali. The menu is modern Scandinavian / international cuisine, with excellent fish dishes and the weekend buffet table. The decor is a mix of old and new: a fresh and airy space that looks both vintage and very modern at the same time.

Boutique Hotel Pariisin Ville
And if you feel like staying a bit longer, there are several boutique hotels, such as the small and elegant Pariisin Ville. It has only ten rooms, each beautifully decorated and with complimentary internet access. But this small hotel has a little something extra: 3 of the rooms come with their very own sauna...


Porvoo is only about an hour away from Helsinki by bus / car. However, if you are not in a hurry and enjoy a scenic tour, in summer you can also get there by boat or the heritage railway line museum train.

I hope you enjoyed our little stroll around Porvoo Old Town, 


                                  Linking up with BonnieCamilaAmy and Jessi for

Travel Tuesday


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Style Crush: Leopard Print

Recently I have been ogling all things leopard...

Style crushes come and go... and when they go, you're left with items that work with absolutely nothing in your wardrobe and a nagging sense of 'what the hell was I thinking'.

Still, they're hard to resist... the internal debate goes something like this:

Inner Fashionista: "But leopard print looks so cool... "

Voice of Reason: "And brown tones wash me out completely, make me look as if  I haven't slept for a week."

Inner Fashionista: "Maybe just accessories... very glamorous..."

Voice of Reason: "Only if you get a whole new wardrobe to go with your new accessories."

leopard print accessories
bangle, shoulder bag, tote bag, sunglasses, ballerina flats, slippers 
So, I'm resisting my latest style crush, knowing very well that in a few months I would regret blowing my clothing budget on something that has no longevity, instead of something I could wear every day.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Summer Remix

Early August was very hot, and I found it challenging to put together outfits that are both comfortable and professional. Dressing for work in the middle of a heatwave is not easy, but I think I managed to mix and match my old summer clothes to maximum effect, even came up with a few new combinations, such as this outfit. Most of the pieces I'm wearing here are old, and have been featured on this blog before.

I think the Ghost dress is a bit too low cut for work, though, but both the cardigan and the bag have quickly become summer favourites, and I have been wearing the Tom Ford sunglasses non-stop since I started this blog... By the way, if you're wondering how long it will take before you get to see me without my sunglasses, the answer is till October: then the weather gets so unpredictable that I'll have to resort to taking photos indoors.

The Banana Republic necklace is old, and I bought the Clarks sandals in the sales... I usually avoid the sales like the plague: I hate crowded places, they never have my size, and I have usually bought everything I wanted long before the sales anyway...

all photos by Professor M
And now I'm fed up with summer, and the heatwave is finally over, replaced by late summer rain...

So long summer, see you next year! Welcome autumn, my old friend, I've missed you...


Linking up with Patti for Visible Monday

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Time Travel...

I know, I shouldn't be walking on the rail tracks... Trust me, there's no danger: the train you see behind me is not going anywhere, and it's the only train to stop at this particular station...
For our last weekend of holiday (actually, Professor M's holiday, mine ended weeks ago...) we decided to take a little trip to a small town nearby, Porvoo. We usually go there every summer at least once, as it's only an hour away by bus. This time, however, we decided to take the train. But not just any train: a Museum train, originally from the  1960s.

I remember (vaguely) these trains from my childhood (Yes, I'm that old...), I think they were in use till the late 70s, maybe even later... But now there are just a few left, operating on heritage railway routes in summer.

There are useful instructions (in Finnish and in Swedish) on what to do (or not do) on the train and at the station...

And a hand operated switch  as the train leaves the rail network and enters the heritage railway part of the journey...

museum train

What a great way to arrive in this historic town. The railway station is just a short walk from the boutiques and restaurants of Porvoo Old Town, which I will tell you about in another post later...


Linking up with BonnieCamilaAmy and Jessi for

Travel Tuesday


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Bad Tourist's Guide to Helsinki


Or, sightseeing with minimal effort...

I'm a self-proclaimed Bad Tourist, but I suspect everybody has those days... You know, when you're just tired, or feeling lazy, and your brain feels overloaded with trivial bits of information... And the guide book is nagging at you, telling you to pull yourself together because there's so much to see: the white church, the other church, Rock Church, some Empire architecture, Jugend architecture and world-famous architecture...

And all you'd really want to do is kick back and relax, maybe have a drink...

Helsinki sightseeing

Well, today is your lucky day. The 40-minute tour on the Spårakoff Pub Tram lets you do just that: you can go sightseeing while sipping beer (or cider or soft drinks)... This 1959 tram tours Helsinki from mid-May till the end of August, Monday-Saturday.

If you're more into champagne than beer, how about the bird's eye view from the Finnair Sky Wheel black and yellow luxury cabin? The Veuve Cliquot VIP Experience lasts 25 minutes and sets you back 195 euros. If you find that too steep, the 15-minute economy option only costs €12 (but don't even think of bringing your own bottle...)

Helsinki sightseeing

Who wants to spend the day in a stuffy museum when the sun is shining?
Wouldn't you rather go to a park and have a picnic? Actually, you can do both. Suomenlinna World Heritage Site is 15 minutes away by ferry and still within Helsinki city limits. This means that the same day ticket that is valid on buses, trams, trains etc is also valid on the ferry...


This old fortress is actually a cluster of interconnected islands, with lots of areas where you can sunbathe and have a picnic. There is a supermarket, a church, 6 museums, the old fortress walls, about a 100 or so old cannons, several restaurants and coffee shops.


A word of warning: some areas are restricted as there are about 800 permanent residents, Finnish Border Guard outpost and the Naval Academy... While Suomenlinna residents might be used to (but not happy about) tourists occasionally wandering into their gardens, the Border Guard and Naval academy may be less understanding... However, restricted areas are clearly marked with signs in at least 3 languages, so there is no danger of ending up in jail for trespassing...

Speaking of jail...

Hotel Katajanokka

Hotel Katajanokka is a former prison (1837-2002)...

Hotel Katajanokka

Restaurant Jailbird is located in the basement, and while the decor pays tribute to the past with ironic references to prison life, the food is standard Scandinavian cuisine.

So, there you have it, how to cheat at sightseeing... I hope you enjoyed our little tour.


Linking up with BonnieCamilaAmy and Jessi for

Travel Tuesday

Monday, 18 August 2014

Summer in the City...

Summer in Finland... The countryside, the lakes, sauna... Clichés for sure... but also true: when I think of summer I think of childhood memories. I used to spend my childhood summers at my grandmother's holiday home by a lake.... and I hated every moment of it, and haven't been to the countryside since the mid-seventies. The countryside and me, we're just not a good match. For starters, I'm allergic to just about anything growing there, so you can imagine how much fun it is.... And sauna... I have one in my flat. I use it to store dirty laundry.

Well, maybe I'm not a 'typical Finn' (if that even exists)...
However, when SacramentoRosy and Elena  invited bloggers to put together outfits and blog posts evoking summer for the share-in-style link-up, I thought we could have some fun with these clichés about summer in Finland...

40+ casual summer style

The cliché / public opinion states that summer in Finland is very short, therefore you must not waste a moment of it. And it always rains. Except when it doesn't. And it's usually cold... except when it's very hot. A hot day is considered a good one, and must not be wasted (because tomorrow it might be raining... and even if it isn't, there's always the long, dark winter just a few short weeks /months away...). The hotter it is, the better, and only tourists seek solace in the shadow.

This little island is located between Helsinki market square and Suomenlinna, the location for this photoshoot.

The clichéd  way to spend your summer holiday

(or vacation for my American readers) is at the family holiday home / summer cottage: a rustic, preferably old wooden building located by a lake or the sea, and as far away from other people as possible. As there are a bit over 5 million inhabitants and almost 200 000 lakes and the Baltic sea around, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a suitable location.
And what do you do at your holiday home? Well, nothing... A summer holiday is the time to de-stress, relax, chill out... get away from the big, bad world and reconnect with nature, listen to the birds sing and watch the midnight sun...

bag: Coach /  trousers: Marks & Spencer / cardigan: Gina Tricot / T-shirt: Pepe Jeans London / sunglasses: Miu Miu
Dress code: 
a ratty, old T-shirt and shorts (who's going to see you in the middle of nowhere?) for both sexes, although for men the shirt is optional. This sort of conditioning during our formative years may partly explain, though not excuse, the appalling dress sense of some Finnish tourists visiting Spanish holiday resorts...

So, what do snobbish city dwellers like me do to recreate the summer holiday experience /cliché that is so intrinsic to the Finnish psyche? Lucky for me, there are several places in and around Helsinki where countryside-phobic residents can go to soak up the sun, with SPF "as high as possible", of course... (I did mention that the summer is short, and only tourists hide from the sun, didn't I?)

Photos by Professor M
Maybe I've been living in a big city far too long, hiding under my sun umbrella (which I left in Homebase 2...): a few hours outdoors on a hot day (30°C  / 86F°) make me feel uncomfortable and red-faced (even with SPF 50). Then again, you've heard me complain about the hot weather all summer... Feel free to remind me of that in winter, say, around early March or so when my moaning about the never-ending winter reaches its peak...

Those of you going on holiday: enjoy the summer, 
and those of you (like me) who are back to work: keep cool, by whatever means.


                           Linking up with SacramentoRosy and Elena  for Share-in Style


Friday, 15 August 2014

Weekend Graphic Novel Segment 2

Tiina Lehtoranta
This is another one of my photoshopped cartoon images...

Tiina Lehtoranta

The original photograph (which I took in San Francisco a few years ago) is a bit out of focus, but that doesn't really matter as it is put through several Photoshop filters, light and colour are adjusted, there are several blending modes...

And none of this means a thing for anyone who is not familiar with Photoshop...
So, long story short:
I used Photoshop Elements 10, and the following filters: Poster Edges, Cutout, Smart Blur (quality: high, mode: edge only), some colour fill and gradient layers...

The quote is from The Naked City, a 1948 film noir classic.

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, 12 August 2014



During our brief visit to Barcelona in July, Professor M and I decided to venture out of town for a day. And Montserrat is an interesting destination for a day trip, either by train or by bus. As this was our second visit to Montserrat, we decided to forgo the all-day winery-Montserrat bus tour and took the train to Monistrol de Montserrat instead, and continued from there on the Cremallera (Rack Railway) up the mountain to Montserrat Monastery.


So, what can you expect to find in Montserrat?

There are several restaurants, a small hotel, and various walking routes, and shrines left, right and centre...
If you're a foodie, I would recommend  Restaurant Hostal Abat Cisneros instead of the self-service restaurant, though the rather heavy but fantastic 3-course meal with a bottle of wine left us unable to pursue our initial plan of taking the rack railway or the cable car all the way up the mountain. Actually, this was Professor M's plan, and if I'm completely honest, I wasn't too disappointed to skip this part of the trip as I have a bit of a fear of heights...


But Montserrat is not just a few restaurants and hiking routes surrounded by mountains. It is a monastery and a place of worship, and there are pilgrims who go there to visit the holy grotto, or to pray in the basilica. Thus, as beautiful and impressive as the basilica is, I will not be posting any pictures of it. While I am not a religious person (and I refuse to put a label on how I feel about religion as I have no opinion on it other than that I find it irrelevant and uninteresting on a personal level), I am deeply uncomfortable visiting a church / temple / mosque /whatever holy place as a tourist because I find it totally unacceptable to intrude into someone else's religious experience. After all, these are places of worship, and people should be able to pray without tourists gawking at them.


We did visit the Montserrat Museum, though. Besides religious artefacts and  images it also has a small but very interesting collection of Catalan Modernist and French Impressionist art.


Still, the museum is merely an appetizer: it is really small, and I doubt even a more ambitious tourist could spend more than an hour there. In other words, it is just the perfect size for this Bad Tourist... However, neither the museum nor the basilica could hold a candle (pardon the religious pun) to the majestic scenery all around.


So, for me, the real attraction in Montserrat is the wall of mountains surrounding the monastery, however uncomfortable I may feel actually going up or down the mountain on the rack train. Let's just say that I've always been more comfortable by the sea (though never on the beach) than somewhere high up...


Linking up with Bonnie, Camila, Amy and Jessi for

Travel Tuesday


Sunday, 10 August 2014


Summer is over...

Well, not quite, but my summer holiday is. Yep, it's back to work. It's way too hot, both at work and at home, and I'm struggling to come up with outfits that look professional yet keep me reasonably comfortable. The dress code is quite casual, but I usually make a bit more effort to dress for work. This isn't my 'first day back to work' outfit, though. This was day 3, when I finally got my act together.

Except for the necklace (which is new), you've seen the jacket, the topthe shoes and the bag before. I have quite a small wardrobe, and I thought that it makes no sense to get any new summer clothes at this point anymore (August is late summer in Finland; autumn is just a few weeks away, never mind the hot temperatures...).

What about you? are you just starting your summer holiday or getting back to work already?



Thursday, 7 August 2014

Stupid Questions and Rude Answers

Even though I live and work in a multi-cultural setting, I've never considered myself particularly well-travelled or well-informed when it comes to other cultures. Of course, I think I am at least superficially aware of the particular characteristics of most (western and some eastern) countries / cultures, having learned some more or less useful facts at school.

However, time after time I realise that most people I meet on my travels are far less familiar with my native country and culture than I am of theirs. To some extent it is understandable: Finland is of course a relatively small country that few people are interested in or have visited (and those who have tend to be very knowledgeable).

(WARNING: READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED: Although it is not my intention to offend anyone, you might want to look up sarcasm in a dictionary. If you are familiar with the concept, keep reading...)

Yet, there are certain rather absurd ideas and misconceptions that keep popping up in conversations, and the more often I hear them, the more frustrated I get. I mean, it's easy to be patient and understanding when you hear a really ridiculous statement or a question once, twice, or even fifteen times... but there comes a point you feel that enough is enough... For instance, when I first meet someone, and their opening line is something like: "Oh Finland, very cold..." I have to bite my lip not to say how stupid that sounds. Now, try this: "Oh, Canada, very cold..." Yeah, it sounds stupid, doesn't it? (BTW: winter is a lot colder in some parts of Canada than in Finland...). Oh, and before you ask: the closest I've ever come to a reindeer was on a plate in a restaurant...

So, I've collected here a few phrases I'm really, really tired of hearing, as well as my tongue-in-cheek answers, i.e. what I would actually want to say when I hear them (but usually won't...)



"Oh, Finland is so far away..."

Yes, in a galaxy far, far away... the outer reaches of Europe... There is this brand
new invention, called a plane, it can take you there in less than 3 hours, isn't that amazing?

"Do you think Finland will join the EU soon?"

Huh? Didn't you get the memo? The one we sent...oh... twenty years ago???


"It’s so dark in winter. How can you stand it?”

Well, we’re a bit funny about daylight here in the North: we like to save it all 
for summer when it’s warm and we're on holiday so we can enjoy it.

“How can you be cold? You’re a Finn, you should be used to cold.”

Yes, I am. I also expect to escape the cold when I go indoors

“What do you do when it snows?”

Well, first the president declares a national emergency, then we loot
the shops for supplies and hide in the basement until April…

Early December 2010


"You don't look like a Finn."

Yeah, imagine that: we look just like you. That's because we like to hide in plain sight...

"Is it because of the climate that Finns don't talk much?"

Must be. I mean, take the Swedes, for example: they never stop talking, and it's not as if they have something to say, it's just this endless chit chat. They just talk, talk talk, till your ears fall off, or you want to strangle them... Wait, don't they have the same climate???

"How do you play football in the snow?"

We don't give a shit about football, real men (and women) play ice hockey.

Early June 2014


"Finnish is such a difficult language."

How long did you study Finnish? Oh, you didn't? Then how do you know if it's difficult or not?

Actually, according to the pyramide model, English is... insert baffling linguistic terminology... blaah blaah... second language acquisition... blaah blaah.. Finnish.... inverted pyramid... blaah blaah... are you falling asleep or is that a look of sheer horror in your eyes?

"So, if you speak Finnish, you can understand Swedish and Danish, too, right?"

Oh, you know, as an English / French / Italian / Whatever speaker you can automatically understand Chinese, right? It's the same thing...

No, because Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language whereas Swedish, Danish and English (French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian etc) are Indo-European languages... [insert a baffling amount of linguistic terminology here]...protolanguage....blaah blaah... language tree...blaah blaah...  more baffling terminology....and the conclusion of this exhaustive introduction to linguistics is that Finnish is as closely related to Swedish / English / Japanese as elephants are to oranges.

"Oh, so it's similar to Russian, then?"

Well, the same way English is similar to Russian... It isn't? You're sure? Oh yes, it's because...[insert more baffling linguistic terminology]... Russian is of course a Slavic language... blaah blaah... Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language... just like sharks and eagles are both animals.

So, there you have it: a few phrases that probably most Finns are sick of hearing. We don't expect you to know our native country or culture (we are, after all, realists and pragmatists), but you should be warned that we are also sarcastic and find it very difficult to not make fun of people who ask stupid questions...

Have you encountered funny, frustrating or infuriating
misconceptions of your native country or culture?

Doing my bit to promote intercultural understanding, 
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