Sat  16 December 2017  Rovaniemi / Helsinki  

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December 16th 2017
Published: December 25th 2017
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Sat 16 December 2017 Rovaniemi / Helsinki

Early this morning, we transfer to the train station and boarded an all day train south, to the Finnish capital of Helsinki. This was after a 4.45am early morning call through the hotel TV as well as a phone call. We were all punctual, meeting in the foyer at 5.20am. Heck we were all good travellers!!

We had a 5 minute bus trip to the train station only to have to wait 10 minutes before the train doors were unlocked. It was a bit cold at -8 degrees!

Once on the train and after packing away all our suitcases, we settled down to the 8.5 hour train trip. The train was very comfortable with a dining carriage for plenty of coffee and lunch.

Some of us caught up with sleep, others caught up with emails and Facebook. Again, the Fins hadn’t let us down with wifi, and it was so quick. Perhaps the Australian NBN could take some lessons from Finland. I caught up with a lot of travel blogging and photo management.

The train had a dining carriage, so we had a light lunch. There was even Champaign and wine available.

We saw a team of Fins on board who we thought were hockey players. They were big lads. One of them even had a gold medal hanging around his neck.

Inger, our fantastic guide, shared her blocks of chocolate. She was so fantastic.

We arrived on time in Helsinki at 2.30pm – almost in near darkness but it was staying lighter, longer. Inger instructed the women to take the hand luggage off the train while the fellows took all the suitcases off. She had booked an extra 4 seats to accommodate all our suitcases that didn’t fit in the luggage carriers. Before we knew it, we and all our luggage was off the train. Inger then guided us to the right bus after a few minutes walk. We then had a 20 minute bus ride to our hotel.

The Original Sokos Hotel Presidentti, is located next to Kamppi Shopping Centre, central Helsinki, surrounded by cultural landmarks, and shopping opportunities. This was to be our ‘home’ for the next 2 nights. It had recently been renovated so all the furniture and fittings were beautiful.

It was a busy hotel with both tourists and business people checking in. Half our rooms were not ready, despite it being 3.30pm. Inger was not impressed. Sheryl, Tom & I were the last to get our room cards but as an example of Inger going over and above ‘the call of duty’, she bought us all a coffee. She was so fantastic!

It wasn’t long before we were in our room. All our suitcases were put on 2 large trollies as the hotel had a luggage service. However, we decided to take our suitcase ourselves which worked out well.

After about 30 minutes, we all met back in the hotel foyer as Inger was taking us for a city walk. It was well and truly dark by this stage and all the Christmas lights were ablaze. It was beautiful walking along the streets lined with little Christmas trees and their lights, strings and strings of lights across malls and roads and where there used to be hedges in the summer and spring, there were 100s and 100s of lights. Just beautiful. As you can imagine, Sheryl and my cameras were clicking like mad. I hope you enjoy the photos.

We all walked to the Christmas Markets which were in the large square in front of the brilliant white Helsinki Cathedral which is the icon of the city. In the centre of the markets was a massive Christmas tree and merry-go-round. Magnificent smells of gingerbread, berry mulled wine and sausages wafted around the market.

We walked up the steep steps of the Cathedral where we were hit by a spectacular view of the city and all its Christmas lights. Incredible!! A walk inside the church was on the agenda. As it was a Lutheran church, it was light and airy unlike the heavy European Catholic churches.

We then wandered down to the harbour experiencing more beautiful streets. We came across another Christmas tree as well as reindeer mode of lights.

After a very early start, by this time we were getting tired even though it was only 6.00pm. It was dinner time, so after visiting 2 different restaurants and finding they had no spare tables, we finally found an Indian restaurant in the Forum Shopping Complex. It turned out that tit was third time lucky as the meal we had was soooo tasty.

We all ordered entrees but when Sheryl’s & my samosas arrived, we were both wishing we hadn’t ordered a main course. Tom had his favourite tomato and coriander soup which he enjoyed frequently in southern India.

Despite this we weren’t deterred when our mains were served, chicken tikka etc, rice and the biggest serving of naan bread we had ever been served. This was all washed down with a red. After not even eating half of the food, we were beaten. We ended up taking a ‘doggy-bag’ with the naan bread in it.

Nursing our full tummies, we walked back to our hotel and flopped into bed.

Additional photos below
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