Yep, that's right, I like big butts. I mean they are so big, come in different shapes but are roughly all the same, they rock gently when moving, are so much fun to be on and eating on one is just an experience.......... no i'm not some weirdo, i'm talking about boats. Ever since I saw 'Finding Nemo' I have called boats, Butts, and now my wife also calls them such.
So why were we on a butt? Well Tanja had come up with an idea back in September that we could tag along with the rest of the family to a trip to Helsinki and then get on a mini-cruise to Tukholma (Stockholm to those who don't understand Finnish). So we left at 0700 on Tuesday morning with a nice warm -2oC to help us knock that fog that forms in your head when you sleep out of our heads. After picking up her two brothers we hit the road. Our butt was leaving till 1730 and Helsinki is only about a 6 hour journey but we had to leave so early because of breaks to stretch our legs and also food. On our first stop we encountered our first bit of snow, about an inch and very much near ice than snow but still I was excited. Our second stop was for Brunchfast (basically brunch but for those who didn't have breakfast) was at Scan Burger, a small fast food chain, and I got some massive burger that decided on the first bit to try and escape. It was a tasty burger but nothing special, however that chips were good, stayed hot and crunchy till the end of the meal, not like the soggy, cold McDonald's ones.
We soon were dropped off at the docks in Helsinki and waited to board our butt. It was really funny because we had to sit outside the waiting room waiting to get in, then had to wait some more to get onto the butt. When we get to our cabin and I was impressed. We were on the top deck and it was a fairly big room, enough space to spread out. We were soon under way a leaving Helsinki harbour. I went outside to watch Helsinki sink away in the distant. We passed through the Kustaanmiekka strait between the fortress island of Suomenlinna and another small island. Then we were out in the open sea, the Gulf of Finland to be precise.
The crossing was very smooth, you could hardly tell that we were on the water. At 2000 we went for our dinner, it was an 'autumn' buffet and man it had everything. I managed six plates, 2 starters, 2 mains and 2 desserts, yeah I know what you are thinking but hey I'm on holiday. They had a lot of game dishes, bear stew, roasted deer, moose casserole, cold smoked reindeer, game mousse etc as well as numerous other dishes. Some were not all that tasty like the mushroom terrine but some were out of this world like the game mousse on small rye breads. The desserts were pretty sweet too, the tiramisu was a bit overpowering though. After getting really, really stuffed we retreated back to the cabin for our wee nap. The nap lasted a while but we wake up to watch something on the TV and pop open some alcohol free sparkling wine. Soon after we decided to call it a day and fell asleep to the vibrations of the butt.
In the morning we went to the breakfast buffet which was also very good, it was very crowed though. Smoked salmon, gravlax salmon, all different kinds of bread, eggs, bacon, and numerous other items were on offer. I managed four plates washed down with tropical and orange juices whilst admiring the scenery of the islands and coast of Sweden. We were soon docked and disembarked near Gamla Stan (Old Town in Swedish and where the Royal Palace is), after hearing the name of the place I automatically equated it to Gangnam Style and once we found a sign I did a small dance next to it (video will be uploaded at some point).
Gamla Stan was very cool. Narrow streets that reminded me of Peel back on the Isle of Man. The streets we all cobbled and with stairs going to parallel higher streets, it was similar to Bayeux in France which I visited and stayed in when I was 18. We soon came to the Royal Palace and that place was big. You could feel the history of the place. It had Guards posted at various places around the building. A small fact I found out, after the assassination of Gustav III of Sweden in 1792, the Royal Guard always carry loaded weapons. With this fact in mind, it is a good idea not to go up and pull faces at these guards like the tourists do to the Guardsmen in London.
We crossed the bridge going through to back of the Swedish Parliament and into main centre of Stockholm. We went through the main street that seemed littered with tourist shops (we the usual fun, cheesy and random nick nacks). After travelling around, we stopped to write some postcards and then decided to return to the butt. It was leaving at 1630 so we wanted to get in around 1530. As we were heading back we passed a few guys fishing opposite the Swedish Parliament building, soon one caught a fairly big Salmon. After walking passed the front of the Parliament building, we passed the Palace again and this time we saw an inspection of the guard. But soon the fun was over and we were back on the butt in our cabin, exhausted.
We relaxed until the butt pulled away and I went to watch us leave Stockholm behind. Then it was another buffet, however not much had changed, only a few things. I am never eating white fish tartar again but the Game sticks were very nice. After only managing 5 plates this time Tanja and I went shopping in the tax free shop for some goodies. We were soon back in the cabin watching TV, washing up, chatting about the day and munching on small cheese and meat sticks. I went out to watch us dock at Mariehamn in the Åland Islands and then returned to the cabin to call it a day.
In the morning Tanja and I slept until about 30 minutes before docking as we had opted out of breakfast. After getting everything packed and washed ourselves, we had docked and were disembarking the vessel. We walked from the harbour to the hotel that the rest of the family were staying in. A smart idea, it is a self catering hotel with no reception, all you get is a code that works from the day you booked till midday the day of our leaving. The beds were very soft, i'd say too soft for my liking. The day was sunny but a little nippy on the wind. After grabbing brunchfast in Picnic (a sandwich chain store) we headed back to the hotel room to get suited and booted. Jani (Tanja's younger brother) was going to be set apart as a missionary. As we only had one car, Tanja and I elected to go on the metro system. We got to the mission president's house about ten minutes after the rest of the family got there, the taxi had dropped us at number 16 and not 6 but he came and got us when he realised the mistake. The setting apart ceremony was different to what I thought it would be and i'm not entirely sure what I was expecting. Everyone said there bit with lots of tears to accompany the wishes of good luck and miss you's. After Jani was set apart, the family were offered cookies and drinks and I was taken into a small office by the mission president. Today I was going to find out about a chance to get rebaptised into the church. Well we got the green light, it has taken two years of constant struggle, pain, hurt and upset but finally the road has come to an end. This is the right move I believe for me and now it is up to the branch president in Oulu for how we go from here, I am talking to him on Sunday about it. The president and I joined the rest for cookies and drinks.
2 and a half hours after we arrived at the Mission home, we all squashed into the car (Janne, Tanja's youngest brother lying over us three in the back) and headed to find a place to eat. We decided (after some debate) on an Italian place called Mario. Tanja and I were banned from taking the meatball pasta for two by her mother, think she had visions of us recreating lady and the tramp at the dinner table. The meal was good, I had taken a grilled Chicken breast with Goat's cheese, roasted vegetables, herb potatoes and balsamic sauce. The guys took burgers, which looked pretty good, coming in baskets with 'newspaper' greaseproof paper. Tanja took grilled chicken breast with garlic mash and a citrus sauce. Her mother took a pasta dish and her father took the same as me. It was very tasty and we all decided (except Janne) to take dessert. Mine and her mother was chocolate brownie, Tanja was citrus panna-cotta and I cannot remember what her father and Jani had. The brownies came in jam jars and Tanja's came in one of those jars with a lid fixed by a wire, it was good looking and had a novelty factor. After this Janne and I were 'abandoned' to find the Metro system and get to the hotel. We flipped a coin and elected to go in one direction of the shopping centre, luckily for us it was the right direction and we were soon on a metro tram on our way to downtown Helsinki. We must have looked like a pair of young men who worked in the business sector, being all suited and booted as we were. We got out of the tram and walked about 15 minutes in 0oC to our hotel. By this point I was bushed, my legs were cramping up and as soon as I got into our room I got undressed and lay on the bed, paralysed. After watching some random TV shows and got a few move pages into the book I bought in Stockholm I turned off the light and went to sleep.
When I woke up in the morning I peered through the curtains only to see white, it was like some giant had dusted the street with icing sugar. We packed up all our stuffed and took it to the car, we wished Jani goodbye, as this would be probably the last time we would see him for about 2 years. We then headed into town for breakfast which we took at Stockmanns. After this, it was time to do some sightseeing. We went to the harbour and bought some Bebe's (they are a Finnish tart with fruit jam and icing on them) at the market there, passed the Presidential Palace, took a look at the bridge of love, climbed the steps at the Cathedral and then went inside the World Trade Centre. It was at the WTC that we met up with Janne and went to the 'America' store, which is a shop that stocks foodstuffs from England and America. I sneaked in a packet of pork scratchings and got a couple of cans of Irn Bru. Tanja and I spent 50 Euros there but we did get a lot of goodies. We soon headed back to the hotel where we waited with her mother for the father to come and pick us up. We then all went to Chico's for lunch, chicos is one of Tanja's favourite restaraunts, it is an America style restaurant. Tanja and I had mini burgers for starters, I had the cajun chicken kebabs for my main. Everything seemed to contain some form of spice in them and soon we were all talking about the tingling in our mouths from the chillis etc. For afters Tanja and dared Janne to get the Big Dream dessert which was six balls of ice (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate) with caramel sauce, whipped cream, chocolate bits and M&M's. He managed it all, how he did it I have no idea but he did.
Then we parted ways with the mother who was going to do some shopping before going on a plane. We (Father, Janne, Tanja and I) were going to drive the way back to Oulu. We left at just after 1500 and after a few stops, travelling through patches of snow, fog and ice we arrived back home at just after 2200. After checking up on my emails, editing the photos of the trip, I retired to bed.
So overall it was an great trip. I got back to a letter from my father and also got a letter back from the registration place and I have a social security number for Finland. So not long left before I am fully sorted in this amazing country. The snow is about 6 -10 inches outside and I am going to now brave a walk to the store to get some lunch. Hope you all have superfun my friends.