What to Do in Helsinki, Finland in November

The first notable thing we saw after getting off the Tallink Silja ferry at Helsinki, while walking from the West Harbor towards downtown Helsinki, was this statue. A bit grotesque, but I’m no art critique either.

This Bad Bad Boy is 8.5 meters in height, and his face shows surprise and shock, as if caught while urinating. It was part of the Mutatis Mutandis exhibition, which finished in October 2016, and since then, the statue has been moved to the city’s West Harbor (just outside the building housing of the Helsinki Computer and Game Console Museum). The artist Tommi Toija created this Bad Bad Boy statue.

In its new location away from the port, we walked about 5-10 minutes before we spotted him.  Again, I’m no artist, and I’m glad I don’t make my living from writing art critiques.

Bad Bad Boy in Helsinki

A more pleasant sight were these colorful seals, with a herring in their mouths.

Seals at the West Harbor Helsinki

More art and modern design is presented here. This is a wall of hundreds of tiny plaques, which you find walking from the West Harbor to the eastern shore of Jätkäsaari. The art project is called Horisontti, and bears the names of donors to the Keep the Baltic Sea Clean campaign.

After what seemed an endless walk trying to find the old part of Helsinki (good luck), or the modern downtown shopping area, we struck on the Stockmann department store. It was a nice warm place after a good 25-minute walk, especially being around the port area of Helsinki in November.

Stockmann shop window in Helsinki

Next, we looked for one of the Christmas markets. We found one in front of this white Lutheran church (construction was 1830- 1852).

Lutheran church in Helsinki

At the Christmas market, my friend and I shared a reindeer kebab. I had my share with all the extras a kebab can have – chili peppers, red onions, and sauce. The taste of game and the meat texture will make this a unique experience, and …remain unique.

We took another stroll through the lit streets of Helsinki.

Speaking of lit – most pubs were full by 5pm on Saturday. We could not leave Helsinki without having a pint, so we had it sitting outside.

Helsinki is a cool place to visit for a day – there are some good museums (which we didn’t go to) to visit, but we were more interested in shopping for souvenirs, its people, and the local culture.

What to Do in Tallinn, Estonia in November

Tallinn is known to experience its second-wettest month of the year in November (after June). Well, we were in luck. It was a bit rainy in the mornings, but it usually cleared up towards noon.

We had flown from Frankfurt via Stockholm to Tallinn. When we arrived at the Tallinn Airport, I learned my suitcase was still in Stockholm. Oh well. This was nothing a good local beer could not fix.

This was the first sight we saw entering Old Tallinn.

Old Tallinn entrance

We stayed at the Baltic Hotel Vana Wiru, where they have a very fine restaurant. More about that and Estonian food in a different post.

By midnight, we checked into our hotel, and then went to a pub. By the time we got back, my suitcase had arrived at the hotel too. It was a bit damp from having been out on the tarmac for a while, I’d suppose.

The next day, we hit the Christmas Market several times. Old Tallinn is not that big, so you are bound to cross the market again and again on your way around. We tried different sorts of Glögg (the Baltic version of mulled wine). Interestingly enough, it was often offered in three content levels: 0% alcohol, 11% alcohol, and 21% alcohol.

Glögg’s the word!

 

Christmas market tree in Tallinn

There are many tourist shops selling their knickknacks, shops featuring amber in any possible form, and there are many cafés, pubs, and restaurants.

Amber jewelry tree

This amber jewelry tree would set you back by € 4950 – in case you were wondering.

I had read somewhere Tallinn would not be so crowded in November. It seems they still have their fair share of tourists during that time of month, especially with the start of the Christmas market.

 

In my opinion, a full day in Old Tallinn is enough. We had one and a half days, which was plenty. Well, and then, there is always more Glögg.

Saturday Market in Suresnes, Paris

I could not find a boulangerie open on Saturdays (!), so I bought some day-old croissants at a small supermarket. And yes, I gave up quickly.

I am sure there are plenty of boulangeries open for business if you’re willing to search in an unknown neighborhood, but I was too hungry to continue looking for one. I thought about asking one of the locals on the street, but knowing how this would end, ” à droite…. à gauche…. encore à droite….”, I chose the easy way out.

Around 11am, we went to the nearby market to buy roasted chicken with potatoes, seafood, and cheese for lunch. Here are some impressions of a French market on a Saturday morning.

What looked like cantaloupe from a distance was actually 36-month old Dutch cheese called Mimolette. You could have fooled me. Even when wearing my glasses.

Aged Dutch cheese - Mimolette

Aged Dutch cheese – Mimolette

Of course, the two Marylanders (my husband and his brother, a veteran Paris expat) had to get seafood for lunch.

Market in Suresnes, Paris

Market in Suresnes, Paris

And yes, the French do eat horse meat. The stand offered chevaline (horse meat) and it looked pretty much sold out at 11:30am.

Horse meat at the market

Horse meat at the market

 

At home, the big boys enjoyed their seafood lunch, while I had poulet rôti and potatoes for lunch. Can’t get the farm girl out of me.

seafood lunch

So we saw some unusual cheese, the boys splurged on seafood, I stuck to the familiar poulet rôti, and horse meat was sold out. I love Paris.

Oberursel Christmas Market

Yesterday afternoon, we visited the Oberursel Christmas market, and it marked the first time we came with our children.

The older one is attending college in the U.K. and the younger one went to the Christmas market in Strasbourg/France… Needless to say, we were able to pass the Crepes stand and many others without stopping. We surely had much time to spend quite a bit of money! The most ever. We bought a creche and Christmas ornaments from the Erzgebirge for presents. We also had Fischbrötchen (this German delicacy which most foreigners despise), photo here at Marions Kochbuch: Fischbrötchen.

The old steam locomotive is still running, mostly occupied by young riders.

model steam locomotive in Oberursel

One of the many vendors with Christmas ornaments on display.

The Christmas market is between the Marktplatz (market square) and Rathausplatz (city hall square).

Christmas around the Marktplatz

View onto St. Ursula Church, as seen from the Marktplatz.

The church seen through the mist

I had to pass on this food – but not the photo opportunity.

roasted pig

It was a cold day at the market, but as Germans sell Schnaps and Glühwein as early as midday, it surely was no problem for some.

Sunday, 02 Dec 2012,  is the last day of the Oberursel Christmas market and the hours are: 12:00 – 21:00.

 

Sunday Morning in Biarritz

Biarritz, a French vacation resort on the Atlantic coast, is a busy little town. There are so many people out and about to do their shopping on Sunday morning. Germany, in comparison, looks like a ghost town around this time of day.

In France, all centre ville shops and markets are open until 13:00. I had almost forgotten how much fun shopping in France can be, in every sense of the way.

Lining up at the pâtisserie in Biarritz

Pâtisserie goodies

Sunday morning shoppers

At the market in Biarritz

Mozzarella wrap with greens and dried tomatoes

Fruits confits – wonderful display at the marché

Dried peppers – a local specialty

Most shopping is done on foot and beware of parking difficulties when coming to Biarritz.

Hard to find a spot and when you do, use your feet around town.