• Finland

    Christmas Spirit of Porvoo

    My friend Anna and I went Christmas shopping to beautiful Porvoo last Saturday. Porvoo is a small city one-hour ride away from Helsinki. It is very popular summer destination but in my opinion it’s also special to visit there during the Christmas season because of many beautiful Christmas markets/bazaars where you can buy Finnish handicraft like handmade woollen socks, jewellery and traditional Christmas sweets.

    The Old Town is the heart of Porvoo and the most loved part of the city according to locals and visitors. The narrow and cobbled streets, colourful old wooden houses, small shops, cafes and restaurants make you want to visit Porvoo time after another.

    Besides enjoying the 16th-17th century atmosphere of the Old Town you should visit Porvoo Cathedral which is one of the most famous places to visit in Porvoo. The Cathedral is built in 13th century and it’s historically very important. Also, the old red wooden storehouses by the river Porvoojoki are a beautiful sight. You can get the best view from the other side of the river. If you like chocolate, you can’t miss the Brunberg chocolate factory store. You can taste all sorts of chocolates for free and buy them with quite good price. For lunch you should head to restaurant Hanna-Maria which offers traditional Finnish food like salmon soup or reindeer meat.

    You can travel to Porvoo by your own (or rented) car or by bus. From Helsinki you can book your tickets from Matkahuolto or Onnibus websites. Return journey costs around 10€ and there are buses leaving every hour or even more often. You can even decide to go during the same day just to have a lunch or enjoy a stress-free day in the Old Town of Porvoo.

    With love Jenna

  • Lanzarote

    10+5 tips what to see and do in Lanzarote

    1. Timanfaya National Park
    The area of Timanfaya was created almost 300 years ago in volcanic eruptions and it’s the most breath-taking place in Lanzarote. The landscape differs completely from everything I’ve ever seen and to be honest at some moments I had no clue in which planet I was. I could imagine that similar landscapes might exist in Mars: rough, dry, rocky, all the shades of red, brown, black and grey. You have to pay 10€ for the entry and you cannot wonder around the park by yourself but take a bus ride and admire the landscape through the window.
    2. Cueva de los Verdes (“Green Cave”)
    Cueva de los Verdes was born after the eruption of Corona volcano when the lava was flowing through the “lava tube” over six kilometres to the ocean. This lava tube is one of the longest existing ones in the world. The cave was named after the family “Los Verdes” (“The Greens”) who owned the land where the cave is located and has nothing to do with the green colour. There are tickets sold only for guided tours for 9,50€. On the tour you walk 1 kilometre inside the cave while you will be explained how it was born and its history. Because of the great acoustics there are some concerts organized.
    3. Jameos del Agua
    Jameos del Agua belong to the same cave network than Cueva de los Verdes and it’s located only a short walk a way near the beach. Inside the cave there is an amazing restaurant where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or even make a reservation for the dinner (open for dinner only Saturdays and Tuesdays). At the end of the restaurant you can see where the lava tunnel continues its way towards the ocean. The cave is amazing with the pool of water where the rare, blind and tiny white grabs live. The place is also culture and art centre and the entry costs 9,50€.
    4. Cactus Garden
    Lanzarote is famous for its cactuses and the cactus garden is a really nice place to visit. You can find over 450 different species of cactus from five different continents. Entry fee 5,80€.
    5. El Golfo – Charco de los Clicos (“Green Lagoon”)
    The Green Lagoon is formed in the crater of an old volcano right next to a small fisherman village called El Golfo. The green colour comes from a type of algae that grows in the water. Contrast between the green water, black soil and blue ocean is quite unique and worth of seeing. Free entry.
    6. Los Hervideros (“Boiling Pots”)
    The caves known as Los Hervideros are constituted of two caverns separated by a natural pillar, shaped by lava and the ocean. The name translates to Boiling Pots coming from the moment when the waves hit the rocks with such power that the ocean seems like it’s boiling. The recommended time to visit is during the high tide or full moon. Free entry.
    7. Surfing
    Lanzarote is called the Hawaii of Europe because of the amazing surfing possibilities it offers all around the year. There are many windy beaches with daily red flag which means swimming is prohibited. If you are a beginner or even a bit more experienced, we recommend booking a surf lesson or course that many surf schools in the area offer. We booked a 1-day surf course from Calima Surf School at Famara beach. 2 surf lessons, wet suit, board and lunch were included in the price, which was 55€/person. The waves and currents were strong, lessons were great, and the wet suit kept the cold away. Every surf school has their own area at the beach were to arrange their lessons and at some point, it felt like there were too many people in the water at the same time, so you should be careful not to knock anyone with your board or to get hit by others. Couple of times we managed to stand up on the board and surf towards the shore!
    8. Papagayo beaches
    All beaches of Punta de Papagayo are in the south tip of the island in protected coast so here you can get away from the hustle and bustle of hotels, restaurants and masses of tourists. To reach Papagayo beaches you must ride a very bumpy and narrow road for some kilometres with a speed of 20-30km/h but when you get there the view is definitely worth it. The beaches are in their natural state with soft golden white sand and crystal clear emerald green water, surrounded by rocks. Personally, I love these kinds of beaches and that’s why we went there twice during our holiday. This is a perfect place to snorkel and the sunset is breath-taking!
    9. Sunday Market in Teguise
    The beautiful small town of Teguise located in the middle of Lanzarote comes to life every Sunday from 9:00 to 14:00 when the streets are filled with market stalls. From Teguise Sunday market you can find everything you can imagine from fashion and jewellery to souvenirs and food.
    10. Mirador del Río
    This view point is located at the north of the island more than 400 metres of altitude. It offers a view over El Río, the narrow stretch of the sea separating Lanzarote from La Graciosa, and you can see islands of La Graciosa, Alegranza and Montaña Blanca. The entrance is 4,75€ but if you want to save some money you can enjoy the same view just next to the Mirador del Río for free (like we did).
    +Gran Karting
    Many may not know that the biggest Go Karting race track in the Europe is in Lanzarote. On our last day we decided to give it a try from my mom´s suggestion. We drove around six laps, obviously my father and boyfriend bypassing me in the first curve, but my mother came to realize after first lap that karting wasn’t her type of sports and drove directly to the pit stop. Price 18€/person/8min.

    +La Graciosa
    The island of La Graciosa is located in the north really close to Lanzarote. La Graciosa has been maintained the best in its natural state comparing to other islands. You can take a ferry to from Órzola which goes every half an hour. Return journey costs around 20€. We were also tempted of the golden sandy beaches La Graciosa but we didn’t have enough time to visit there.

    +Day trip to Fuerteventura
    From Playa Blanca in the southern part of Lanzarote you can catch a ferry to Corralejo, Fuerteventura if you get bored staying only in Lanzarote. The island seems completely different from Lanzarote with its long sandy beaches one after another.

    +Visit wine yard
    The volcanic rich soil of Lanzarote is a good base for the grapes, but the strong winds keep the circumstances hard. That’s why they have developed a special way of growing the grapes in Lanzarote: Grape-growers dig holes and build stone walls to protect their grapes. Specially in the area of La Geria there are many wine yards/wineries to visit.

    +Arrecife
    The “capital” of Lanzarote is often ignored by tourists. If you want have better shopping possibilities head to Arrecife. Have a walk by the beach, admire the view and stop for a lunch.

    With love, Sanna

  • Lanzarote

    Lanzarote: Why visit a tourist trap?

    Why Lanzarote? I had never been there before and to be honest I hadn’t even been interested of going there as Canary Islands are known to be a “tourist trap” (seeing image in my mind of masses of retired Scandinavians red as tomatoes, socks in their sandals, equipped by ridiculous hats and fanny packs) until my boyfriend started talking to me about how I would absolutely love it and he made me do some research. Around the same time, it came up that my mom wanted to celebrate her 50th birthday somewhere near the beach and so we started to plan this trip. First, we were thinking to go Andalusia but at the end of October you never now how the weather would be so after all we ended up searching flights to Canary Islands. We booked the return flights from Madrid to Lanzarote last May with around 120€/person (for me, my parents and my boyfriend). It was my mother’s responsibility to look for accommodation and she booked very spacious apartment with terrace for us from Puerto del Carmen. My parents arrived at Madrid from Lapland couple days before our trip and this was actually my dad`s first time traveling to the south.

    Lanzarote is the most eastern island of Canary Islands and fourth in size. Around 140 000 people live there. Temperature is above +20ºC all around the year and during the nights temperature drops only few degrees. It rarely rains there but of course the day after our arrival it was raining the whole day so much that the water even started entering into our apartment. Couple of days it was also super windy which seems to be typical in Lanzarote. Canary Islands get most of their income from tourism so in that sense it’s true that it’s a tourist trap. Also, Puerto del Carmen is a very touristic zone full of hotels and apartments, but it also means there are a lot of restaurants, cafes, little shops and supermarkets in walking distance like Eurospar, Hiperdino and Lidl.

    When we arrived at Lanzarote, we rented a car (a Seat Leon big enough for max 5 people with a decent sized trunk for the luggage) from the airport which I had booked the day before. Renting a car is a very good choice for people who don’t only want to be chilling on the nearest beach but actively explore the island. I chose to get the car from CiCar (Canary Island Car) which is a local car rental firm and had the best offer: car rent 6 days + 2 hours, all-inclusive insurance, insurance for the driver, unlimited kilometres and additional driver. Also, for families the offer included safety seats for the kids and all for 117€. During the six days we almost used all the gasoline (the tank was full when we got the car) so filling the tank cost 45€ extra and the total cost of the car was 162€. Driving around in a new place for almost a week didn’t leave me much time to enjoy the views but for sure helped to gain some driving experience. It takes only one hour to travel through the whole island from north to south.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of masses of tourists and I tend to avoid organized tours but if you want to enter to some of the Lanzarote’s most famous attractions you just have to tolerate it. You should be prepared to pay around 10€/visit but in the ticket sales points there are some package offers that may benefit you. If you want to visit many places, I really recommend doing some planning in which part of the island are they located and visit the places near each other on the same day. Check also the post 10+5 tips to Lanzaote . Lanzarote is part of Spain, so locals speak Spanish but also very good English. Currency is obviously euro and prices are normal or even some situations lower like gasoline.

    The nature and landscape seem really dry and tough so there are not many products cultivated in Lanzarote. Typical local products are jewellery made from lava stones, products made from cactus and aloe vera, wine, small platanos (Canarian bananas) and Papas Arrugadas con mojo (“wrinkled potatoes” =boiled potatoes eaten with different spicy sauces). We tasted some cactus marmalade which was nice and cactus liquor which tasted a bit like cranberry.

    Lanzarote is full of different kind of beaches but because of the weather conditions we didn’t visit that many. There are long sandy beaches mainly located in the most famous tourist areas, there are big and small rocky beaches, natural pools, black beaches, super windy beaches for surf and basically everything between. You can also do almost all kinds of water activities you can imagine: surf, dive, snorkel, rent a boat, drive a water jet ski, go dolphin or whale safari, wind surf etc. You shouldn’t expect a “warm bath” in the waves of Atlantic Ocean but at the end the water wasn’t as cold as than I expected and we went to swim on the warmest day.

    Lanzarote surprised me positively with its extraordinary landscape and possibilities to do and experience many different things. You could spend there easily two weeks and the six days we were there passed by way too fast.

    With love, Sanna

  • Germany

    Bavaria road trip: Munich, Neuschwanstein and Füssen

    What more Bavaria can offer you than the city life in Munich and Oktoberfest? ALPS, castles, small beautiful alpine villages with flowers, pumpkins on the road, lakes and stunning landscapes. While visiting Munich we also recommend to go a bit further to enjoy the beautiful Bavarian views.

    On the first day we made a road trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. In the morning we woke up at 6 o’clock and were packed in the rental car ready to go already at 7 o’clock. Jenna was driving, Sanna navigating and boys were sleeping in the backseat. It took some time until Jenna got used to the German driving style while other cars drove past on winding roads. On our way we saw so many cute little alpine villages and we did our best not to stop by in each of them. When we approached the destination we were impressed of the view: the most beautiful castle we have ever seen in front of the Alps. Another super cute thing was that there were many pumpkin selling points along the way where you could crab a pumpkin with you and pay it by putting the money into a small box.

    The ride to the castle took about 2 hours as the place is almost at the Austrian border. We arrived at 9 o’clock to the small village called Hohenschwangau, where you could buy tickets to the castle. There are many parking lots for people arriving by car and because we arrived so early we had no problem parking the car. The parking fee was € 6 per day. We rushed to the ticket center, but there were only a few other tourists before us. On the castle website they recommend you to buy tickets at least 3 days in advance (not possible to buy online later) and because we noticed that too late we couldn’t buy tickets online. We got the tickets from the ticket center for the tour starting at 10:05. The tickets cost 13€ per person and the students got a one euro discount! From the ticket center it took about half an hour to walk uphill to the castle. Before our guided tour started we walked about 15 minutes to the Marienbrücke Bridge, which has breathtaking views to the castle.

    Neuschwanstein Castle was built between 1868 and 1892 by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The King admired Wagner’s opera performances and built the castle for himself to be able to live there “a fairytale life”. The king’s favorite bird was a swan and that’s why you can spot swan inspired decoration in many parts of the castle. Also, the name of the castle literally means a New Swanstone Castle. The king lived in the castle for six months before he was found drowned in the lake. The castle was opened to the paying visitors just few weeks after his death to fund the completion of it’s construction as at that point only 16 of the 200 rooms in the castle were ready.

    Visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle is a dream come true for all the little and grown up princesses including these two nearly thirty-year-old ones. After all, the castle was also used as a model for the Walt Disney Sleeping Beauty Castle. The interiors of the castle weren’t as impressive as we expected and unfortunately it was forbidden to take photos.

    In Hohenschwangau village there is also beautiful lake called Alpsee with crystal clear turquoise water. There were many swans swimming in the lake which you could imagine been swimming there also when the king lived. The lake was like from a fairytale and definitely worth to see. After visiting in the castle and the lake we decided to continue our journey to Füssen, a nearby city full of colourful houses. We found a lunch spot and decided to eat currywurst while there was a street musician playing nice music next to us.

    After the lunch we drove back to Munich and returned the car to the main railway station. We rented the car from Hertz at the airport after arriving to Munich. The 24h car rental price including additional insurance was 100€. The fuel costs were 36€ so the total cost of the car was 36€ per person. Our Airbnb hosts also recommended to visit Herrenchiemsee Castle, which is located on the largest island of Chiemsee lake and it is said to be like a small Versailles. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to see it but we’ll keep this recommendation in mind for the future trips.

    In Munich, we spent our time mostly in the Oktoberfest area and the city center around the Marienplatz. (If you want to know more about Oktoberfest, read our previous post Octoberfest 2018  ) In Marienplatz, you’ll find the Neues Rathaus (the new town hall), which is a Gothic style building and well known landmark in Munich. As we both have an eye for aesthetic things we really loved the Bavarian way of decorating the buildings with flowers, it’s so pretty! Right next to the Rathaus there is also a white Hirmer’s clothing store for men which was just gorgeous in it’s flower dress. In Marienplatz Square, you will also find Cafe Rischart, which has a long glass vetrine full of delicious sweet buns, salty pies and cakes. Here you can also find fresh pretzels, which are definitely worth of tasting.

    The famous Viktualienmarkt marketplace is right next to Marienplatz. There you will find German delicacies and you really should have a lunch as there are many options to choose from. The smell of fresh vegetables, flowers and spices on the market was charming.

    Getting around in Munich was easy because of the wide train and metro networks (S-Bahn and U-Bahn). We were 4 people so we bought a 72h group ticket for all zones which is meant for groups up to 5 people. The ticket cost 73€ in total so the cost per person was about 6€ / day. The group ticket will always be cheaper to buy when there are two or more passengers.

    German and especially Bavarian food is quite heavy (meat and sausages) and fills your stomach quickly so be careful not to order too much. If you are looking for a traditional German place to eat in the city center we can recommend a restaurant called Augustiner am Dom.

    Bavaria is truly a beautiful area and we think renting a car allows you to explore it more widely and your vacation is not limited only to the big city’s hustle and bustle. Finally we can say that we were positively surprised at how much Bavaria has to offer!

     

    With love, Sanna & Jenna

  • Germany

    Oktoberfest 2018

    “Let’s go to the Oktoberfest!” said someone at our last Easter break in the Levi skiing center in Lapland. After a few days the flights and Airbnb were already booked. Expectations: beer, beer and beer, even though neither of us is even a friend of beer, but this was probably the first time our men were more excited about our trip than we were. Reality: beer, lots of people, partying all day, Bavarian atmosphere, sausages and pretzels. After we spend two evenings and one full day in festival area we can say that YOU SHOULD GO and EXPERIENCE OKTOBERFEST YOURSELF!

    Oktoberfest is a two-week beer festival held every year in Munich, Germany. It is one of the world’s largest public celebrations and attracts about six million visitors from September to October. The first Oktoberfest was celebrated in October 1810 in honor of the Crown Prince Ludwig Bavarian and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen wedding. The wedding was celebrated for five days by eating, drinking, parades and horse-riding. People liked the event so much that it was decided to reorganize in the coming years and this year it is celebrated 185th time.

    We went to Oktoberfest with our future hubbies Adrián and Petri. Sanna and Adrián had an early flight from Spain and Jenna and Petri came from Finland later on the same day. When we booked our trip, we checked the different alternatives for accommodation and compared the prices. The hotels were really expensive as also the Airbnb options in the central area. That is why we decided to choose Airbnb outside the city center from Otterfing. In total we paid 580€ for 4 nights for 4 people. Otterfing proved to be a very good alternative as it reached the center of Munich in about 40 minutes by train. The trains run late at the night, so after the Oktoberfest, the journey to the apartment was easy as long as someone remained awake to check on which stop to get out. 

    The oktoberfest is all about wearing the traditional costumes so of course we also decided to buy them. Women’s costume is called dirndl and men’s lederhosen. Traditional suits bought from Munich are beautiful but  really expensive. So if you do not want to invest large amount of money, get it in advance from elsewhere. In addition, women accessorize their outfits with different size heart-shaped gingerbreads hanging from their necks and clothespins engraved by different texts attached to their dresses. We thought that the gingerbread hearts would have been a nice souvenir to take home but eventually we ended up eating them on late Sunday night on our way to the apartment. 

    The Oktoberfest is located in the Thereisienwiese area near the main train station. There are 14  huge beer tents in the area, including one wine tent (of course we had to try some wine!) and several smaller beer tents. All the tents are an attraction themselves because they are very different from each other and you can enjoy good food and live music inside them. Outside of the tents there are also stands where they sell German snacks like sausages and pretzels. Most of the tables in tents are pre-booked so finding a seating might be challenging and in some tents beer will not even be served for you if you do not have a seating position. The pints are one liter each and they cost € 11.50 /pint. Guys were super happy with their beers but especially for Sanna the struggle was real. Like why even attend to a beer festival if you don’t drink beer? We tried to fix the situation by smuggling in some wine in a water bottle and actually it worked on Saturday but on Sunday we got caught. At the end even Sanna drank couple pints of Raddler with some help from the others.  Surprisingly, the tents are opening and getting full already in the morning at 10 am and they are only open until the midnight. You can enter to the festival area and tents free of charge, but there is an “old Oktoberfest” area where the entrance fee is 3€. There is a sky wheel and other amusements like carousels to enjoy.

    After all Oktoberfest was a great experience that we warmly recommend to attend at least once in a lifetime. Although the festival is well-known among the tourists, there are plenty of locals and we caught the Bavarian atmosphere from the first sight. If you want to have even more authentic Oktoberfest experience you should go to the smaller cities in Bavaria. We think that the few days we spent in Oktoberfest were just enough for both our liver and budget. Even though there were lots of people and some of them had taken pint or two too many there was a calm and cheerful atmosphere in the area. We met people all around the world and we got a lot of new friends. People were friendly, made place to sit with them and were happy to have a chat with a complete stranger. 


    With love, Sanna & Jenna