I started something fun for (those brave enough) guests that come to visit us in Helsinki. Today, I bring you my girl Lizzy, who came to visit us with her fiancé Will after our trip through Ireland (where they became engaged after nearly 10 years, one house and two dogs together). We attended university together where Liz and I became fast friends in our sorority, and Jimmy and Will became buddies in their fraternity. While they were out here, Liz and Will asked us to be in their wedding party, and we couldn’t be more excited to share in their lives!
It is nice to see Helsinki through a tourist’s eyes from time to time, so here is Lizzy, everybody:
I think it would be appropriate for me to start this post by saying: VISIT HELSINKI!
I know I know, it’s not on the top of your list, blah blah. It wasn’t on the top of mine either. I distinctly remember telling other close friends that “I wanted to visit Jimmy and Amy, but wasn’t sold on visiting Helsinki”. Careful Liz, your naïveness is showing. Yes conscious, I know.
THAT, should never be a reason to not go somewhere your close friends are living! That, now I know.
I was naïve to ever even think that Helsinki wouldn’t be short of amazing. Everyone wants to see Paris and London and Italy. Me too. And in due course I will. However, I was going miss our opportunity to visit Jimmy and Amy in Helsinki unless we acted fast. So we did. We planned an entire trip around it. We went out of our way to fly from Dublin to Helsinki for only a 2 day stay and we don’t regret it for a second. It added a total of 8 hours to our travel time, but a lifetime of unforgettable memories.
I entered the idea of visiting Helsinki with the sole purpose of physically seeing where Jimmy and Amy have been living. I wanted to see where they lived, but also where they did day-to-day things like grocery shopping, worked, what they did with their friends, their favorite restaurants and bars, what going to an authentic sauna was like, etc.
So for our short stay, I wanted to live like a Finn.
First of all, Amy is an amazing tour guide! She was so enthusiastic to show us her favorite spots in Helsinki, ones that she probably shows everyone that visits and she herself sees nearly every day. So thank you Amy for toting us around Helsinki and giving us an amazing experience! We would have been so lost and bored without you!
Ok now onto the goods.
Before we even made it to their apartment from the airport, we stopped at a food truck. Luggage and all, we were told this was totally acceptable at ungodly hours of the morning. So we indulged! The next morning we took it slow and then headed out to see the sights of Helsinki!
Around every corner I was “ooo-ing” and “aww-ing”. It could have been the unbelievable weather we were gifted with, but Helsinki put on its best for us. It’s clean, safe, and incomparable to anywhere else I’ve been.
We packed a picnic lunch, boarded a ferry and headed out to Suomenlinna, Helsinki’s island fortress. We enjoyed a leisure lunch on a grass hilltop with an impeccable view of the Baltic Sea.
I didn’t want to leave this view, but then Will reminded me I hadn’t met my ice cream quota for the day. So I guess I was ready to keep moving with some ice cream in hand.
We made our way back to the mainland and settled onto the top of the Relandersgrund for a couple of Longkero drinks and an unbelievable view. This is when I truly felt I was experiencing life as a Finn. I was on a barge. Drinking…. Yep that pretty much sums it up. Add in the fact that we were headed to a sauna, and then you really can’t get more Finnish.
DO NOT VISIT FINLAND WITHOUT GOING TO A SAUNA!!
Look at you, you act like you know everything about Finland now. You’re right, but even I know you need to go to a sauna in Finland, which is saying something!
Aside from just being in Helsinki with our amazing friends, THIS was the highlight of our Helsinki leg. We quickly (with very full jostling bladders in tow. You can imagine how uncomfortable that was) made our way to Loyly before last call.
The sauna was jaw dropping. I expected many things in Finland to be old and musty. It wasn’t, in fact the city is fairly young (thank you Amy for the facts) and everywhere I went, I was surprised to see how modern it was. Modern in design, modern in technology. The sauna had delicate features mixed with grand and masculine touches. Wood, concrete, large lounge ottomans. Getting awfully architectural over there, that’s Amy’s job. Yes yes I know, and I should leave it to her!
There were two different sauna rooms -traditional smoke and wood heated- in which we rotated our time and it basically went like this:
Sauna, Baltic, drink, repeat!
I’ve jumped in pretty cold water before (my family is really into that) but nothing compared to this!
One, it was the Baltic Sea! (need I say more? No but please do).
Two, it was 55 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 13 degrees Celsius), and
Three, we did this with two people that mean a lot to us and it was a memory I will never forget!
Is there anything that can make you feel more alive than going from a hot sauna to an icy body of water? I think not. And in those moments, we felt so thankful for the opportunity to visit Finland. To visit two of our closest friends in a place that seemed so foreign to us upon our arrival, and by the end we felt so comfortable and appreciative of.
We made our way home and Amy cooked up an amazing dish of Pasta Bolognese (find the recipe here). Even upon arriving in Ireland to these two, it felt as though we had seen them yesterday. We live thousands of miles apart and the last time we saw them was June 2015 (that’s 15 months). As we were standing in their kitchen, Amy was cooking, I was mostly talking and drinking and staying out of her way, and the boys were sitting on the couch playing video games. THESE are the moments that we will cherish. Because no matter how far away they are, or how different our lives are, we settled right into our roles and felt at home.
This, I would say, is a gift. To have such close of friends that when you see them, it feels as though no time has passed at all.
After another slow morning, we met Jimmy for lunch and then took the metro to the design district and enjoyed popping in and out of eclectic shops. We made our way to a harbor and strolled along the Baltic inlet until we found a conveniently located outdoor bar. With as many randomly placed bars there are around Helsinki, it’s easy to see they’ve thought about when and where Finns might be getting a little thirsty. We enjoyed the view and a glass of champagne, talked about hopeful future vacations as well as the many exciting things to come.
Finns also know how to party! Or bar hop…Or maybe just drink. Yeah, Finns know how to drink! After cocktails and snacks at Bronda followed by a delightful and relaxing dinner at Kapelli’s we headed out for a night (and early morning) on the town. First we hit Steam which was a Steam Punk themed bar. Complete with a fog machine, dancing and décor that could keep your eyes busy for hours.
After several rounds, we un-reluctantly decided to keep the fun going and headed to Navy Jerry’s which is an old world Cuban themed bar. Here, we ordered what I would consider the best mojito I’ve had – and also the largest.
Needless to say, Will and I will be getting our hands on a few of these gigantic mason jars and making party sized mojitos at home!
In true Finnish fashion we stopped by the food trucks (again) before we made our way back to the apartment. We made it home by 3:30 am, which was just enough time to lay down for an hour before starting our journey home. Talk about making the most of your trip.
Jimmy and Amy made the absolute most of our time in Helsinki. These are the types of friends one can only pray for. They are also the types of friends that put you on a long plane home drunk.
Thanks for that by the way…
We spent our trip home commemorating all the experiences and fun we had during both our trip to Ireland and to Helsinki. We honestly couldn’t have made a better decision than to make Helsinki part of our first trip to Europe. We are so grateful and will forever look back fondly on our time there with Jimmy and Amy. We were able to immerse ourselves in their temporary home of Helsinki, and although we would LOVE for them to live stateside, we won’t be angry if we get to visit them again in Finland.
Sooooo how does next year sound?
I’m going to say it again, VISIT HELSINKI! You will not regret it. Even if it’s just for 2 or 3 days, go while Jimmy and Amy are still there, they made all the difference! And provided a comfy place to stay!