Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in Finland

Sammy and I are celebrating Christmas in Helsinki, Finland. It's been really nice and relaxing so far because the Fins celebrate all three days, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas. Everything is closed except the hotel restaurants.
Even though everything is closed Sammy and I have been walking around and peeking in the shops. One thing we've decided is that the Santa Clause over here looks a little different than the ones I'm use to seeing. He doesn't seem very friendly.
Scary Santa
While Sammy and I were strolling around Helsinki we stopped by the Cathedral which is the largest in Western Europe. It was really pretty, and there was a Christmas Concert playing, we wanted to go, but we weren't able to get tickets because it was already sold out.

Me and Sammy
After taking a look at the Cathedral we wandered down to the harbor. There was a old style tall ship in the slip and when we got closer to it we realized it was a restaurant. So we strolled down into the shops and found a fur shop that sold hats. So now I'm a proud owner of a fuzzy black hat!
Me in my Babuska hat!
As Sammy and I walked down the street after buying my hat we noticed that there are a lot of restaurants in Helsinki that are Michelin reccomended. Tonight is that first night that most restaruants are open and we're going to try one called Yume. Which is Japanese, not Finnish. Tomorrow night we may try a Finnish one if we get back from Turku in time.

Sammy in front of a Michelin recommended Finnish restaurant.
Sammy and I were suprised that the city wasn't decorated for Christmas more. The Fins seem to use decorations sparingly. Even though it wasn't as decorated as much as we had anticipated it was still really nice.

Main town square
While walking around the shops we also saw something that seems to be a common occurance during the holiday season...PIGS. I guess the Fins also believe that pigs are good luck during the holiday season.
Christmas window showcasing a pig

Tommorrow we are going to Turku which is the old capital city of Finland. More then...

Our Christmas Tree in Dubai

Sammy and I put up our Christmas tree. It sits in the hall upstairs and the cat loves to play with the low hanging ornaments. Cranky woke me up about 4am playing with a gold star she pulled off the tree, it sounded like someone was trying to get into the house. But Gabi wasn't barking so I got up to investigate and found her having a grand old time batting the star up and down the hall!

Here is a photo with the flash on - the big chrsitmas ball is one we bought in Sweden 2 years ago.

I took another photo of the tree without the flash and I like it better because it looks more like Christmas.
And here is our 2007 Christmas self portrait

Merry Christmas!!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Belgium and the Netherlands

Sammy had a business meeting in Genval Belgium over Thanksgiving, since I've never been to Belgium we decided to take a few extra days and do a little site seeing. We landed in Schiphol Airport on Wednesday evening made our way to Rijswijk where we stayed the night. The next day I went to Delft while Sammy had some business meetings.

Me and Sammy in Schiphol Airport

Delft was really nice, I found a shop that sold handmade wood candle holders and handpainted Delft pottery. The building the store was in was really old, the ceiling had a really nice mural painted on it and according to the shopkeeper the painting was about 300 years old. The shop keeper was very nice, she made coffee and we sat and chatted for about 1/2 hour.
This is a partial photo of the ceiling

After Delft we took the Eurostar to Brussels where we stayed the night and wondered around a bit. I really liked all the small shops that were surrounding the Grand Place. We only stayed in Brussels one night because we were going to Brugge for the weekend to meet one of our friends from London, Samara.

Grand Place, Brussels 

But we had enough time to check out the archeological dig in the old palace poke around in some of the comic book shops. We also browsed around in the cookie, chocolate and Beer shops.

Beer shop

Brugge was a beautiful little town, it has canals and of course a lot of little shops. It was also decorated for Christmas and had a little Christmas market set up in one of the squares. We stayed in a nice place, the Hotel Jan Brito
While in Brugge we walked around the shops, checked out the Christmas market and Samara and I went shopping. Sammy being the gentleman he is carried all of the bags.

Shopping in Brugge

Sammy had to leave early to go to his meeting in Genval so Samara and I did a bit more shopping before she left. While we were out and about we found this little coffe shop that served the most incredible hot chocolate that I've ever tasted. The hot chocolate was served in a large cup with hot milk and a tulip of chocolate in the middle which melted right in front of you. They also served up delicious pastries.
Hot Chocolate

After Samara left to go back to London Sunday night I met Sammy in Genval. It's a nice little town with a small lake on which the hotel was located. While Sammy was in his meetings I walked the lake and visited the town. On Tuesday night we left Genval to go back to Amsterdam so we could catch our flight out of town on Wednesday. Unfortunately, when we were in the Brussels train station Sammy's backpack was stolen. Right out from under our feet...literally. One guy distracted us while the other one came behind us and pulled the backpack from under our feet. It was awful because they not only got away with his computer, but they took his passport. So we ended up spending an extra week in Belguim.
Since Sammy has an Indian passport it was even more of an inconvenience than it would have been because of the visas that are stamped into his passport that let us travel at will. We had a trip to Finland booked for Christmas so there was a possiblity that we would have to cancel it because his 2 year Schengen visa would have to be replaced.
Even though we spent a lot of time at the Indian Embassy and Sammy had to work we did get to go to Ghent over the weekend. It's as nice as Brugge and it also had a huge castle in the middle of town. Of course my camera battery was dead and I had left my spare in the hotel room so there are no photos.
But we did go to a Christmas market in Brussels where where I took some video of the old style merry go round.