Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Vacation Part 3 (California and Finland)

The 3rd and final leg of my summer holiday started the same day I returned from Greece.  We arrived back to Helsinki at 3 am and I grabbed a few hours of sleep before jumping back on a plane heading towards Los Angeles.  This part of the trip involved some business in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for my employer, followed by a quick visit home to the San Francisco Bay Area.   I was excited again to return to my home state, even though I needed to work during the first part of the week.

Misson Inn, Riverside, Ca
No need to get into details of the business portion of the trip, however I was quite amazed at the hotel that I stayed at while in Riverside, California.  I stayed at the historic Mission Inn hotel which made my stay feel a bit more like a vacation than a business trip.  The Mission Inn was built in the Spanish Mission style just over a 100 years ago and has been visited by many famous dignitaries and important folks through out its history. Albert Einstein, Emelia Earhart, Teddy Roosevelt among many presidents stayed here.  Ronald and Nancy Reagan had their honeymoon there as well. The hotel was palatial and in addition to the interesting Spanish style architecture, it had 2 bars, 4 restaurants, a swimming pool and various staircases, nooks, crannies and meeting rooms.  It is definitely one of the most impressive hotels I have ever stayed at and for $125 per night for a large room (about 95€), it was an absolute steal from what I am used to in Europe.  So, in between work sessions I was able to indulge in awesome food and swim a bit in the pool and soak in some California sun.

Grand staircase, Mission Inn
At the end of the week, I drove over to Venice beach from Riverside, strategically trying to get on the freeways during light commute hours, which is almost impossible in Los Angeles.  The traffic in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas is an absolute nightmare and even worse for someone coming from calm and efficient Finland.  However, with that said I made decent time from Riverside to Venice beach.  I hadn't been down to the famous Venice beach area since I was a small child and I had no idea of the motley characters that now call it home.  There is the famous Muscle beach which was a showcase to the muscled celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Weider among others.  As I walked down the beachfront, I noticed jugglers, entertainers, freaks, a man playing guitar on skates, various merchants, aggressive dudes trying to sell their new rap CD's, among other characters.  It reminded me a bit of the old Telegraph Avenue area in Berkeley as a beach community in Los Angeles.  A lunch near the water, hanging out a bit near the beach and strolling down the beach front and I was ready to go back to the airport and head back home (San Francisco, CA).  I always enjoy a trip back home to relax and catch up a bit with family and friends.  However, as always time seems to fly and my short stay at home was over and I was again at the airport and boarding an airplane back to Helsinki.

The Saimaa
My wife already had plans to visit her grandmother who lives in the North Karelia area of Finland and driving there takes around 4 hours from Helsinki/Espoo.  I have been to this area several times in the past and have always enjoyed it.  The drive takes you directly through the Finnish lake land region which features the great Saimaa lake among other natural sites.  We would spend an afternoon visiting her grandmother before driving over to a campground in the Punkaharju ridge area.  This gorgeous area features views of the Saimaa and a drive across a high ridge that splits one of the lakes in half.  This was our first camping experience in Finland and it was nice, the facilities had everything one could ask for including clean showers, restaurants and activities.  The next day we visited the famous city of Savonlinna which features the best preserved castle in all of Finland as well as a lively market at the lakefront.  It was another beautiful, sunny day in Finland to stroll around, take in some views and enjoy our surroundings.  The long drive back home included passing through the center of the Saimaa and stopping for lunch in the lake port city of Puumala.  Puumala is a neat little city that is right in the heart of the lake region and features a nice harbor for the boats that seem to come and go all day long.  Then we continued the journey through the lake region taking in the views along the way and then back home to Espoo.  It was the wonderful end to a long summer Holiday. I can say that this summer was definitely one of the most memorable in a long time and the weather in Finland cooperated.

Punkaharju ridge

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