Category Archives: Europe

One Day in Helsinki, Finland, Europe’s Northernmost Capital

Helsinki

Helsinki is the capital of Finland, and its most populous urban area. If you want to know more here’s the Wikipedia article. This is where we are began our epic road trip. Before that, however, we decided to spend a day here and get to know this city a little bit. Here’s a handy link to my video.

Camping in Helsinki

The most convenient campground to park your RV in Helsinki is Rastila. While it is little more than a parking lot, there are hedges between sites, and it is impeccably located. You walk three short blocks and you are at the metro station. Helsinki, like most modern European cities has excellent public transportation and for 9 € you can get a day pass, good for the metro, the bus, the tram, and the ferry

The campground itself has all the expected facilities such as bathrooms, showers, laundry, dump stations, even kitchens and a TV room.

Rastila Camping, Helsinki, Finland
Things to do

Well, this is more like “Things we did”. In any case it is still a good list, and we did return after the road trip and explored a little more. That will be another whole video and blog post though.

As soon as we got off the metro we walked a few block to Senate Square. From there we enjoyed a great view of the Helsinki Cathedral, which is a very iconic building. They were having a festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Finnish Armed Forces. Finland as an independent country is a relatively new nation, being under Russian and Swedish rule in the past.

From here, Market Square and the Old Market Hall are a short walk away. They are both super touristy but worth a visit if you want to try some marinated smoked salmon or any other local delicacy. Market square in particular is also a great place to get souvenirs. From here we took a ferry to an island called Suomenlinna, where there is a famous fort, UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a great boat trip with great views of the harbor and the Cathedral.

Helsinki as seen from the Suomenlinna ferry

 

Two other  places of worship come to mind. One is the Church on the Rock. It is basically a structure carved on a rock with a copper plated ceiling. When we went they were having a rehearsal, but they often have concerts as well because of the excellent acoustics.

The other one is commonly called the Chapel of Silence. It sits on the corner of Narinkkatori, one of Helsinki’s busiest squares. It is supposed to be a place to relax and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Commanding View

If you want to get a commanding view of the city there are two places I can recommend. First one is the Skywheel, which we did not take. It is a Ferris wheel near the harbor. All the glasses are blue so you may get a cool colored distorted version of the city. Instead, we went to the rooftop bar at the Torni Hotel, where unfortunately they don’t serve food, but they have a great local IPA. It is also one of the few skyscrapers in Helsinki.

Esplanadi and the Savotta Restaurant

We returned to Senate Square walking through Esplanadi. It is a very wide avenue, more like a city park, with great ambiance, sidewalk cafes, shopping, and street musicians. We came full circle back where we started to have lunch, more like early dinner at a restaurant called Savotta. It is quite pricey but it serves traditional Finnish cuisine in an upscale environment,

For more details watch my video below

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Our Accidental Visit to Oslo

Back Story

Back in 2015, Petteri Vähäkangas, a friend from Varkaus, Finland contacted me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. He told me “If you ever come to Finland, you can use my travel trailer for free.” Three years passed and I finally decided to take him up on his offer. Now he owns a small RV rental company called Savonia Caravan, so he offered a motorhome instead. I was really stoked because I have wanted to try a European style RV for a while and see how things are done on the other side of the Atlantic. For several months we communicated through messenger, and created a very ambitious plan for the two weeks we would stay in the Nordic part of Europe. VIDEO

Petteri and I at Rastila Camping in Helsinki
Delayed Flight

The day finally came. We had booked a flight to Helsinki on Norwegian airlines, with a short layover in Oslo. In the back of my mind I said “wouldn’t it be cool to see Oslo as well, the Norwegian capital?” but with only 2 hours there would be no time to spare.

I turns out the flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Oslo was delayed by several hours, and even though the agent at the airport said that our connecting flight would wait for us we were skeptical. Nine hour later, when we arrived at Oslo, there was no flight to Helsinki until the next day. Norwegian Airlines put us in a hotel, gave us some meal vouchers and basically said “we’re sorry”. We said “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and that’s what we did. We opted for an afternoon flight, so we would have the whole morning to explore Oslo.

Visiting Oslo

I had always heard many great things about the Norwegian capital, a vibrant city. Also we were in Norway, the land of the great navigators, explorers, and Vikings. Names like Roal Amundsen, and Thor Heyerdahl come to mind. I had also seen pictures of this park with hundreds of naked statues. That night, very quickly we drew a plan to take advantage of the few hours we had, and decided to do at least one museum, wander downtown a little bit, and the aforementioned park.

Getting to Downtown

Luckily Norway has great infrastructure, and there is a fast train that goes from the airport to downtown in just 20 minutes. We left our bags in storage at the airport terminal and soon we were walking on the deserted streets on a Sunday morning. Distances on the map often look shorter than in real life and it soon became evident that our ambitious walking tour of the city would be out of the question.

As we arrived by the City Hall we decided to take the ferry that goes to the museums. There are several: The Viking Museum, the Fram Museum, and the one that I wanted to visit, the Kon Tiki. Here they have preserved the balsa raft in which Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific Ocean. He wanted to prove his theory that the indigenous people of South America might have populated Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. The museum was fascinating, and a very picturesque boat ride on a perfect weather day.

Kon Tiki Raft, at the Kon Tiki Museum
Vigeland Park

As time was running out, we went straight to Vigeland Park. That’s where all sculptures are, 212 to be exact, all designed by Gustav Vigeland over the course f 20 years. The park is one of those places where you could spend several hours wandering around. It is a great place for locals to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city. I am going to call Oslo the “city of statues”.  You can see some kind of work of art at almost every corner.

We wished we could had lingered longer but we had a plane to catch. We just got a taste of this great city on this accidental visit, but it left us wanting more. We’ll revisit one of these days, on purpose next time.

Old Videos: Madrid, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley

I know, I have been neglecting the blog a little bit, but here I have a brand new shiny post. If only the content was so brand new.

#TBT

Hashtag TBT stands for Throw Back Thursdays, and for a while now I have been toying with the idea of posting an old videos you’ve probably never seen on Thursdays. I started last week, with the first video of our European Vacation of 2006, freshly edited.

European Vacation 2006 Part 1

This was a fabulous vacation we took back in 2006. Flew to Madrid, Spain, where we rented a car and for 10 days drove way too much and saw way too little, but we certainly covered a lot of ground. Madrid, Paris, the French Riviera, and Barcelona are just a few of the points of interest that we saw.

The Loire Valley

Today I published the second part of our European Vacation 2006. In this installment we crossed the border with France and had lunch at the medieval town of Saint-Emilion. This is in the famous Bordeaux wine producing region. From there we continued towards the Loire Valley, where we visited several of the famous Chateaux.

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Paris

Good things come to those who wait and the wait is over. I have finally finished my much anticipated video about our recent trip to Paris. Sit back and relax as we spend the next hour in the city of light.

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We went to:
Place des Vosges http://www.parisinfo.com/transports/73189/Place-des-Vosges
Palais Gariner https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/
Galeries Lafayette http://www.galerieslafayette.com/
Arc de Triomphe http://www.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/
Cirque d’Hiver http://www.cirquedhiver.com/
Basilique du Sacre Coeur http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/
Pigalle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartier_Pigalle
Moulin Rouge http://www.moulinrouge.fr/?lang=en
Galerie Vivienne http://www.galerie-vivienne.com/
Palais-Royal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais-Royal
Eiffel Tower http://www.toureiffel.paris/en.html
Bateau Mouches http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en
Musée de l’Orangerie http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/

We ate at:
Le Grand Café Capucines http://www.legrandcafe.com/
Brasserie Bofinger http://www.bofingerparis.com/en/
Pizza Vesuvio http://www.pizza-vesuvio-champselysees.fr/
Boulangerie Coquelicot http://www.coquelicot-montmartre.com/
A Priori The https://apriorithe.wordpress.com/
Le Suffren https://plus.google.com/103480048753296254793/about?gl=us&hl=en
Jacques Genin Cocolates http://jacquesgenin.fr/en/

We stayed at an Airbnb in Le Marais https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/233110

We like British Aiways http://www.britishairways.com/travel/home/public/en_us
We dislike TAP Portugal http://www.flytap.com/USA/enus/Homepage

Gear:
Main Camera: Sony HDR-XR200 http://www.amazon.com/Sony-HDR-XR200V-Definition-Camcorder-Optical/dp/B001QBM9EM
Second Camera: GoPro Hero 3 White http://www.amazon.com/GoPro-HERO3-Edition-Waterproof-Housing/dp/B009TCCTSQ
Third Camera for still and night video: Nikon D5100 http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Products/Product-Archive/dslr-cameras/D5100.html
GoPro Microphone Movo GM100 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00N0EA3NC?
psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00
Additional video: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Video edited on Final Cut Pro X
Graphics created in Motion 5

Additional audio and voice over recorded in Pro Tools 11

Original music composed in Logic Pro, performed by Robert Morales

Original soundtrack available at https://play.google.com/music/m/A7kg7lpb5njuminyla3y62n6d2u?t=Robert_Morales

London Parts 1 and 2

Before we continue I want to share with you the entire London video. Check it out below.

I  am in the process of getting a lot more videos ready for you. Coming soon we will travel to Key Largo, I will share our very anticipated recent trip to Paris, and much more, so stay tunes and see you on the road. Don’t forget to share.

London 2015: Part 2

Hello everybody. In this video we continue exploring London. First thing in the morning we go to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. Then we visit the marvelous British Museum, which houses ancient Egyptian and Greek relics, among other things. We go back to the Tower Bridge, but this time we pay to get the Tower Bridge Experience, in which we are able to go up to the catwalk and walk on the glass floor. We also get a chance to see the original steam engine that used to power the bascule bridge. We also follow in The Beatles’ footsteps and make our pilgrimage to the famous Abbey Road crosswalk. We end the night at Piccadilly Circus. On the following day we take an excursion to the Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge, but I’ll show you that on the next video. On our last night in London we eat at Sheba, and Indian restaurant in the famous Brick Lane.

Enjoy the video!

Back From Europe

For the past 10 days we have been on the other side of the pond visiting two of Europe’s main capital cities: London and Paris. I have decided, most appropriately to title this trip “A Tale of Two Cities” honoring its namesake, the famous Charles Dickens novel.
Very few things in this trip happened as planned. We didn’t get the seats we expected on the plane, our return flight got canceled due to a pilot’s strike, our Paris host lost our museum tickets, and the weather didn’t always cooperate, among other vicissitudes. Still we made the best out of it and had a superb time.
Since it I knew it was going to take me a while to edit the numerous hours of video we captured during our trip, I decided to make a series of quick daily videos which I released while on the road (thank goodness for the good wi-fi). I would like to share those videos with you now, although crude by my normal standards, they capture the essence of our trip and serve as a preamble, a preview, a teaser of what’s to come. Enjoy the playlist below.