I can't believe I traversed three countries in two weeks. Talk about a whirlwind adventure.
First things first, I just want to say, Lufthansa airlines, you rock. I am by no means an airline connoisseur, but I was definitely a fan.
Moving on...let me tell you about Finland. We (my travel buddy Natalie and I) landed in Helsinki and then got picked up by a friend and drove to Turku (which used to be the capital of Finland). Majority of our time was spent there. Beautiful city divided by the River Aura and we could walk everywhere. Awesomely this is the location of the whale tail fountain sculpture entitled Harmony by German artist Achim Kuhn. Also along the river are giant awesome ships. Legitimate giant pirate ships. So of course this is where the Tall Ship Races happen. Even cooler, some of these ships are converted into restaurants. And of course, with such an history and presence of ships, there's got to be a museum, right? That can be found in the Forum Marinum which also has the ship museum Suomen Joutsen. And anyone who is reading that is an art fan too, fantastically right outside the museum is the giant daisy sculpture. I was thrilled to find both of these pieces in Finland. Now we didn't actually go inside of Turku Castle because of course the only day we could go, it was closed, but it was still cool to see the old architecture. We also stopped in to Panimoravintola Koulu, an awesome pub. Now I am not a beer fan, but I had a blackcurrant hard cider that was absolutely delicious. And of course it was a really cool atmosphere inside too. I definitely recommend this pub as a place to visit.
One of my favorite spots we went to in Finland was the town of Naantali. Incredibly cute town and we got to do some hiking too. It was beautiful there. For some reason rocks all covered in moss is whimsical to me. When we got to a higher vantage point that overlooked the Port of Naantali, the water was like glass and it was foggy and just gorgeous. Also we got to walk around Moomin World, which was closed for the season but it was still cool to explore.
Top favorite spot in Finland was the forest in Helsinki, which I'm pretty sure was the Nuuksio National Park. Absolutely gorgeous. I was in photography heaven. It was slightly treacherous though because the trees were so thick, that all the ice had not quite melted yet. So while it was not super cold considering we were in Finland in the beginning of April, all of the paths were covered in ice and trying to travel smart, I neglected to pack my ice hiking traction cleats. Darn it all. But it was still really great. The rocks were covered in moss and all the trees were so tall and it was just beautiful and whimsical and I've never been hiking in such a beautiful area. Here's the sad thing though. I got sick so I did not get to do a whole lot of exploring in Helsinki because we were only there for about two days. But it's a coastal city with fantastic architecture.
My sickness continued to plague me into the first day in London. Which basically ripped my heart out because I've been dreaming about going to London for years and never imagined I would ever actually be able to go and we were only going to be there for four days. So what did I do while I felt like crap? Watched Doctor Who obviously. Because what else is there to do while you're chilling in bed all day in London. It was beautiful, really. But then English drugs saved the day and I started to feel better and dreams came true.
The friends that we stayed with were some of the most amazing hosts. Anywhere we wanted to go, they made sure we got there. You know typically when you're an American traveling abroad, you try to blend in and not look like a tourist, but in London I did not give a crap. I was so excited and wanted to go to every attraction possible. First order of nerd business, I got to see a Tardis. Oh yes, a Tardis, just outside of a tube station. I was ecstatic. You know, took a couple selfies, the usual. Next, I got to walk across Abbey Road. Abbey freaking Road people. Only The Beatles could make a crosswalk famous. Downside/public service announcement, Abbey Road is a legitimate street where traffic still comes through, so if you're in London and want to get yourself an iconic photo walking across the street (like I of course did with Natalie), just be considerate of cars driving through. And you can't go to London without getting a photo with a red telephone booth. If you don't, you're just weird. Seeing Tower Bridge...I really can't describe why I love London so much, because just seeing Tower Bridge, not even walking across it or riding in a classic double decker red London tour bus, I was just so happy. And let me tell you, I was so giddy when I saw Big Ben. I am a giant dork. If Natalie wasn't afraid of heights we would have gone on the London Eye, but it was still awesome to see across the Thames. I'll just have to go back to London to do more stuff.
Alright, now unto the less walking around and seeing stuff, and more the going and doing stuff stuff. That sentence made complete sense. Anyway, remember how moss covered things give me whimsical feelings? Well the abandoned church St. Dunstan's in the East is mossy and covered in vines and is totally gorgeous and I took some portraits of Natalie there which you can find in the portrait collection. If you're a fan of museums, you've gotta visit the British Museum. We didn't have an awful lot of time to spend there, but it is so big and magnificent. I really want to go back and spend more time there. And we managed to stop by Buckingham Palace. It was at night, but it was still cool. And the flag was up which means the Queen was in. But I'm pretty sure it was past her bedtime so she didn't come out to say hi. Oh! Camden Market!! How do I describe Camden Market...It's like Parkleigh meets Hot Topic. If you don't know what either of those places are, it's like artsy meets punk. There is literally everything and anything there. Natalie bought herself an awesome leather bag. I bought one of my best friends a handmade leather notebook with hand cut plain paper. And just a little down the street you can get a tattoo and a piercing. Restaurants, shopping, and art. It's really something you have to experience.
But there is more to England than just London. We got to go to Stonehenge. Who takes the Pandorica takes the universe! There's my nerd side again. Anyway, because it's been around so long and it's such a tourist attraction it's starting to deteriorate a little so to protect it you can no longer walk around inside of it, you can only walk around it. LOTS of people there, but since it's such a large area you can definitely manage to get pictures without any other people in the background. It was really awesome. Then we headed down to the coast and went and visited Durdle Door. Another gorgeous place. Honestly it reminded me of the coast in Italy. The hike down to the beach was definitely a hike, but it was totally worth it. Yeah I probably sound repetitive and redundant by calling a lot of places gorgeous, but it was. On the way back to Hayes we drove through the New Forrest as the sun was setting and it was beautiful and (even though I'm afraid of them) we stopped along the road and saw some wild ponies and they came right up to the car. That terrified me, but it was really cool seeing horses in a natural environment.
Airport plug, I had a layover in Heathrow when I went to Italy and thought it was an awesome airport. Easy to traverse and navigate. This time, we flew in and out of Gatwick. Also easy to traverse. Both get good votes from me.
Dublin!! Bus system is totally confusing. Or maybe I'm just a dunce. But anyway, Dublin is great. We got to tour the Guinness Storehouse (again not a beer fan but Natalie is) and it was a really cool experience. Floor after floor of things to see and do. The best part for me was the Gravity bar at the very top of the building which provided a 360 view of the city. And of course just walking around the city. I am a big fan of cobblestone streets and old architecture and Dublin definitely has that. We also took an afternoon and headed to Malahide and got to explore the grounds of a castle. Something else that was cool is that while we were in Ireland, this was around the same time that Ed Sheeran's album Divide was released and yeah I got a little giddy when we were walking down Grafton Street (famous shopping strip and Natalie got herself a new claddagh ring). Of course also at this time Ed Sheeran was in fact in Dublin for a concert which of course we could not afford. So we went pub hopping. There is a lot of history in the pubs in Dublin. For example, McDaids has high ceilings because it used to be the morgue. Another notable and famous pub is The Brazen Head. Fantastic food, awesome atmosphere and people. It is the oldest pub in Ireland having existed since 1198, so it is over 800 years old. You can just feel the history while you're sitting at the bar. The gentleman who was attending to us had been there a long time himself and was super hospitable and kind. He even let us step behind the bar for a photo. The last place we hit up was the Oliver St. John Gogarty pub so that we could of course eat some more Irish pub grub but also we got to experience amazing live Irish music. Awesome way to finish out the trip with a bang.
If I ever find myself in Finland again, I would love to go more north and explore more forests, maybe run into a reindeer. Of course as long as he didn't find out that I ate a reindeer last time I was there and there was no risk of death. London, there's just so much to see. I need more than four days. And Ireland, definitely need more than two days there and I really want to go more north. I must see the Cliffs of Moher. I hear they're insane.