Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Farewell Finland: The Scandinavian interlude has ended

As we get prepared to cross the pond and move back to California in a few days I reflect back on the wonderful experience of living 4 years overseas in Finland. It has been a very rewarding time abroad for the family and I in too many ways to list here. The kids learned the language and the culture while experiencing Finnish traditions. I personally will miss the clean air, peaceful forests, mostly traffic-free roads and kind, trustworthy folks. While there is no utopia in this world, Finland was a great place to spend these past years if you don’t mind occasionally freezing your butt off during the long, dark winters. :) However, I won’t deny I do miss my Californian spontaneity, awesome mountains and eternal sunshine. (Though I need to take some rain back with me to help the Californian drought)  I am really looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home. 

I thought to end this blog I would make a list of things I liked and disliked about living in Finland. Please don't take these too seriously.  :)  Also, thank you very much for reading my blog through these past several years.


1. Peaceful nature and forests and picking berries
2. Clean, crisp air
3. Stunning archipelago
4. Clean and quiet bus system
5. Security for my children
6. Easy access to health care
7. Trustworthy people
8. Summer, though it's very short
9. Sauna
10. Cross country skiing
11. Access to the rest of Europe
12. Helsinki
13. Beautiful Finnish Lake land (Eastern Finland)
14. Music clubs in Helsinki for Concerts
15. Long Holidays


1. Expensive Gasoline and Beer
2. Cold, dark winters
3. Too many rules about everything
4. Lack of spontaneity
5. Boring Finnish lager beer
6. Very unpredictable weather
7. increasingly difficult economic situation
8. Extreme pickiness of Finns when buying used items
9. Lack of customer service in many situations
10. Minimal store hours on Weekends
11. Xenophobia
12. Lack of good ethnic restaurants, though it improved much lately
13. 50 varieties of the same boring Finnish sausage
14. Lack of smiling faces
15. Takes a long time to get to know your neighbors 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Escape to the Canary Islands

Unfortunately, I haven't had as much time to keep blogging on a regular basis.  I think this is the longest I have gone between posts since I first created my blog in 2011.  Hopefully, I can post with more regularity, but no promises. :) My family went on a trip to the Canary Islands for the Christmas and New Year Holidays and it was our first time getting away from Finland for a warm weather winter trip since we moved here almost four years ago.

I had heard about the Canary Islands from various people and they had always been high on my curiosity list.  They are a chain of 7 Islands which are owned by Spain and just 100km from the coast of Northern Africa.  The Canary Islands get approximately 12 million tourists per year. They are specially popular amongst Scandinavians and other Northern Europeans who want to get away from their cold winter climates.  We had many choices among the 5-6 main Islands that you can travel too. It seems the most popular destinations are The Gran Canaria and Tenerife Islands.  We decided to get off the beaten path a bit and picked both Lanzarote and Fuertaventura.  Most people tend to book these trips directly through a travel agent and usually have their travel plans already laid out for them.  In our case we decided to be a bit more adventuresome, so we agreed to book everything on our own.  We thought we would save some money and have some added flexibility doing it this way.  This might be the case, but all the extra hassles of travel (shuttles, buses, ferries, airplanes) hardly made it worth our time for the little savings.

Camels of Lanzarote
We ended up flying directly into Madrid, Spain and then spending one night there before flying to Lanzarote.  We didn't really have time to enjoy Madrid, so the first night consisted of just a nice dinner near the hotel.  We would get 2 more nights in Madrid en route back to Helsinki.  Even though our flight was directly into Lanzarote, we needed to journey down to Fuertaventura via the Ferry for our first 3 nights.  So, after a shuttle, ferry ride, bus and taxi we finally arrived to our hotel.  Fuertaventura is one of the larger islands and is most famous for it's long white sand beaches, sand dunes and goats.  We made sure to visit one of the more popular beaches on the island.  During that excursion we noticed that many people were hanging (literally) at the beach Au-natural.  :)  I guess it was a clothing optional beach much to the children's shocked look on their faces.   We also really enjoyed visiting the Sand Dunes which are supposedly very similar to those in the Sahara Desert of Africa which is just 100km away.

Volcanic park in Lanzarote
Our final stop was the volcanic island of Lanzarote.  It is famous for it's varied volcanic architecture and has been compared to a mini version of Hawaii's big Island.  It also features an annual Iron Man triathlon.  We saw many cyclists riding all over the Island and perhaps they were training for the coming Iron Man event. We had a bit more time to tour around this Island and the highlights of the visit were seeing the main volcanic craters and participating in a camel ride.  The kids really enjoyed both of those activities.  This Island has it's own beauty but is definitely not as sandy beach oriented as Fuertaventura.

Having been to the Hawaiian Islands several times in my life, I wasn't sure the Canary Islands could live up to my high expectations.  We did enjoy our trip and the varied landscapes though I would have to give the edge to Hawaii if you are looking for more lush, waterfall filled landscapes.  I still think the Islands are worth visiting and would definitely go back and see the more popular Islands of Tenerife or Gran Canarias. These islands are welcoming during the dark, cold days of winter in Finland.  Speaking of old man winter, Finland enjoyed one of the warmest Februaries in a long time and Spring came early as the beginning of March saw the end of the snow pack.