1# Throwback Travel- New York: Midtown (day 1)

Back when I began this blog, I had only travelled to the USA for the first time a couple months before. At the time I was still figuring out what I wanted to write about and I only really covered the food and Florida Diseny Parks on this trip. Our travel stops included New York, Washington, Boston, New Orleans and Orlando (Disney). Since then I have written extensively about my travels to Europe, Japan, Singapore and Scandinavia. So I thought it was time to revisit my travel adventure in the USA, since I am planning to go back in the next couple of years. I have found so much family across different states, so my next trip will be focused on places like Connecticut, Detriot, Colorado, LA, Miami, Ohio etc. I would also love to revisit some of the cities I have already seen and do some of the things that I have missed.

Today I will start with our first stop, New York City. This was the place I was most excited to visit and was the perfect place to celebrate my 30th. We spent 7 days in New York and out itinerary was full to the brim with tourist attractions, shopping and yummy food experiences. As I mentioned, I only wrote about the food in New York, so you can read my previous posts Eating through NYC and review of By Chef Chloe restaurant.

Midtown

Marco, Octavia, Sally and I arrived on a warm summer afternoon in August. First thing we did was check into our hotel, without our suitcases. Since we had flown from Brisbane to LA to New York, there was some mixup and didn’t receive our suitcases until the next afternoon. We looked a little dishevled but were so excited to be in the most amazing city in the world.

We stayed at the SpringHill Suites, in Midtown Manhattan, which was quite a good location. Its a short walk from Bryant Park and 34th Street shopping strip and had a great view of the Empire State building. It is also within walking distance from Time Square and Central Park. As soon as we were finished checking in we set off to explore. We made our way towards Bryant Park and found the large streets to be pretty calm. I was expecting to feel like a sardine, but it really wasn’t that crowded.

Our first stop was the beautiful Bryant Park, which was just as I imagined a green space in New York would be. It is 38,860m square space between 40th and 42nd Street in the heart of Midown. On the day of our visit the lawn was closed, but there were plenty of chairs to sit and take in the greenery against the backdrop of sparkling towers and blue sky. Bryant Park hosts lively programs through out the year, including cultural events, classes, kids programs and winter activities. There is also plenty of food kiosks and cafes here. So matter what time of year you visit, its worth making a stop at Bryant Park.

We continued through Midtown, down 41st St and 7th Avenue towards Time Square. Now we were passing through bustling streets with flashy billboards that I was expecting. Along the way we met a friendly police man on horseback, which was very exciting for the kids.

Theater District

Eating in the US was a bit of a worry to me, as I was still breastfeeding at the time. So I tried to look for as many organic, minimally processed and GMO free food options that I could find. Marco’s biggest priority was finding the best American burger he could consume. So I was able to comprismise with this great little organic burger joint, which is only a short walk from Time Square, in the Midtown Theater District. Smokey Burger Organic offers organic, natural burgers, with gluten free, vegetarian, wild game and seafood options. Besides burgers, they also offer fried sides, salads, soups, shakes, sodas, juices, and smoothies.

I ordered the Young, Wild & Free Deluxe Burger which had a ground salmon patty, mango, citrus aioli, caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato. Marco and Sally had the Smokey Burger with ground double beef patties, yellow cheddar, chipotle sauce, caramelized onions, wild mushroom, lettuce, tomato. We also had a side of Sweet Potato Fries and Onion Rings. Everything was really delicious and satifying. The perfect meal for our first night in New York.

After dinner we checked out the famous pedetarian intersection, Time Square. It was so light up with bright billboards of products, brands and broadway show, and bustling with so many tourists. We were just so overwhelmed that we nearly missed the famous Red Stairs, which sits upon the TKTS ticket booth. In the heart of Time Square there are lots of costumed characters, who offer to take photos with you for a tip. They were a bit pushing and we only got photos with them because my mother-in-law happy agreed to get photos, thinking they were free.

Time Square is pretty amazing to see as a first time visiter, but as the days went on I found it to be a tourist vortex. It was very hard to get out of when you are passing through, because it was so crowded. Its extremelly touristy, but it also has plenty of entertainment, shopping, dining options, and of course Broadway. So any first-timer or tourist need to make a stop in Time Square and see at least one show on Broadway. We saw a few shows, which I will explain further in a future post.

That bring us to the end of our first night in New York City. On day two we did the tourist buses and Finanical District, to see 9/11 Memorial.

Have you been to New York? What did you think of Midtown and Time Square?

Life update: Ancestry DNA

Its been a while since I’ve given an update on my life. Between motherhood, university internship and a bit of a rough patch, I haven’t had time to reflect much. I have now graduate from my Museum Studies program and finally have some time to catch my breathe and focus on writing a bit more.

So something I have been wanting to write about for a while was my Ancestry journey. For my birthday last July I bought a Ancestry DNA kit. Genealogy is something I’ve always been interested in, and I was curious how ethnically Italian I was. I am also a big believer in eating for your ethnicity. Since I got my results, I have been able to trace my family back several generations in various towns, uncover family secrets and found relatives all over the world.

DNA results

Before buying a DNA test, I did a bit of research on which company to go with. I found that Ancestry seemed to be the most accurate and have quite a large sample size.

After sending away my DNA to Ancestry, I received an email that my results where in. So when I logged in I was able to see my DNA story and DNA matches. My DNA story has changed since my initial results. The reason being is that your DNA doesn’t change, but the sample size and algorithm that is used to assess you DNA will change. Ancestry uses Autosomal DNA, which represents both one’s maternal and paternal segments of DNA. According to their website, their DNA test targets your most recent family history of the last 100 to 1000 years. You do your DNA with other companies that focus on paternal or maternal lines, called Y-DNA and mtDNA, which can focus on the last 10,000 to 50,000 years. However, when searching for relatives and using historical records to trace back family history, I think Autosomal DNA is sufficient.

As you can see below, that the majority of my DNA is Southern Italian. This was broke down further to idenity Calabria the place of origin, which you can’t see in this image. Caucasus was next, which is modern Persian empire. Then there is a touch of Middle Eastern and European Jewish. I was pretty astounded to find that 26% of my DNA came outside of Calabria. I wasn’t sure if this was because invaders had intermarried with the local population, or because a group of my ancestors resettled in Calabria at some point in the last 1000 years.

I was pretty excited about my results, which represented a crosssection of Mediterrean and Middle Eastern countries. There was no big suprises of rogue ethnicities in my family tree that I wasn’t aware of. Considering my grandparents are all Calabrese, I doubted it would be the case.

My results also put to bed a family legend on my mother’s side. My mother’s brother was told back in the 90s by a ‘genealogist’ that their surname, Gualtieri was of French origin. He sold him a family crest and told him that we descend from a French king named Gualtier. This king was apparently exiled and relocated to the south of Italy where he changed his name to ‘Gualtieri’, married into a poor family and lost the family wealth over generations. This was immeidately grasped by my mother, who had a conversation with an old Calabrese man years before in the cheese factory that she had worked in. He told her that her father family was orignally from the north of Italy and had came from France. Clearly none of this is true, otherwise I would have a trace of French or Northern Italian DNA, which is distinctive to Southern Italian DNA. Additionally, the surname Gualtieri is a common surname found in the area that her parents are from and originates from the Papal States. There is no known history of this story either, which lead me to believe it was a lie. A more plausable explanation for the story from the man in the cheese factory is that my mother’s had two great uncles, who immigrated to France and Piemonte. This man may have been from the same town and would have known them or her family.

Another, falsehood that I had be told growing up was that my father’s family is Greek. Their surname is Greco, which does mean ‘the Greek’. However, this surname origins from Tuscany and is one of the most popular surnames in Italy. My mother also believed that my grandfather’s family has a more Greek bodyshape, being long in the torso and short in the legs. My results show no Greek DNA. Additionally, I have been able to trace the Greco name back eight generations in the same town, which dispels this belief. It is possible that their town had originated from had Greek settlement in the distant past, as many towns in Calabria had. However, there is no reason why they would be more Greek my other ancestors.

Updated DNA Results

About two months after I received my results, Ancestry did a massive update. Everybodies results had changed based on a new algorium. I was really surprised that my results had changed so much and now focused on two regions. I was now 73 % Calabrese and 27% Turkish/ Caucasian . I was confused how I had such a significant percentage of Turkish/Caucasian, but not surprised that I lost my Middle Eastern and European Jewish regions. However, when this conversation topic came up on a Calabrese Genealogy Facebook group, it was apparent that no matter how ‘Calabrese’ we were, we all had signigicant amounts of Turkish DNA. This is most likey due to the fact, that during the Middle Ages Ottoman pirates raided Calabria and other parts of Southern Italy. This birthed the italian expression “Mamma li turchi!”, meaning “Oh mom, the Turks!”. Nevertheless, I am proud of my DNA results and I imagine I had a doppleganger living 100 or 1000 years ago, living a very different life to mine.

Have you done a DNA test? What company did you use?

Where you surprised by your results?

Book Review: Magical Dawn (Magisk Gryning)

I’ve had Magical Dawn sitting on my shelf for so long. I bought it near two years ago when I ordered Hanna’s first three colouring books. Since I was waiting for Hanna’s two newer books, I thought I better go back to her third book and try out it.

Magical Dawn (Magisk Gryning) is by the Swedish artist Hanna Karlzon, published in 2017. I have had the pleasure to colour and review in her other books, Daydreams (Dagdrommar), Summer Nights (Sommarnatt) and most recently Smyckeskrinet (Jewelry Box). Each are just as gorgeous as the next and have a distinctive theme which flavour Hanna’s unique style. With the exception of Smyckeskrinet, I have the English editions of Hanna’s colouring books, since they are much easier to get hold than the original Swedish editions. I haven’t compared the books in great detail, but they are pretty much the identical.

This book has a musky pink hard cover with an black and white design with gold foiling. The beetle on the cover can be found inside the book, but is framed a little differently. The paper is a high quality and off-white in colour. The pages are double-sided and there are 96 pages to colour.

The line art in Magical Dawn was

This is not my favourite of Hanna Karlzon’s book, simply because its extremely hard to choose one over another. It is probably my favourite if I have to compare it to the first three though. The designs are intericate, interesting, and inspired the wonder of magic. I coloured eight pages in this book and used alot of blue and purples. I guess since these rarer colours found in the natural world, they inspired a sense of magic to me. I also did a video flip through, which included all of my completed pages. Any new pages coloured in this book in the future will be added to my Magical Dawn gallery page.

The Title page is always my most dreaded page to colour in all my books and this one was no different. I was really nervous about colouring those smokey essences and all those stars. I am not convinced I pulled it off either. I went crazy with the white gel pen to cover the black lines. In the end it all came together, but I think I will have to find a new technique for stars and smoke. This this page I used Polychromos pencils and a variety of gel pens.

This Rocker Witch was not a picture I would normally gravitate towards and I really didn’t like the design when I first saw it. However, I wanted to try to make something beautiful out of it and I am pretty happy how she turned out. I put a lot of work into her skin and hair and I was able to appreciate her unconventional beauty. Probably the hardest part of this picture was colouring the owl, as the design was very detailed and not very lifelike. I tried to use some inspiration from a real owl for texture and colouring and was surprised it came out looking relatively decent. I decided on a black ink background, to give the central image a bit of pop. I used Prismacolor pencils, a white Uniball gel pen and black Tombow Brush pen.

The Starwalker is another picture that I have seen done a few times and found really intimidating. There was just so much background and so many little stars to colour. I decided to try a galaxy background using Polychromos pencils, white Prismacolor and white gel pen. It started off really great from the right, but soon enough I lose my rhythm, so its a bit streaky in some areas. For the main design, I used Prismacolor pencils and a white gel pen. I find those Prisma’s blend a lot better so they were ideal for blending the colours in this turquoise-purple dress. My inspiration for colours scheme is from this anime fairy (not sure of the artist).

The Stardust Hourglass is a quick page, to practise magic dust. I was going to do a background, but then I wasn’t in the mood for experimentation. I’m very happy how the stardust turned out. I found using a bit of neon pink really helped give life to do the sky/electric blue dust. I used Prismacolor pencils, as well as a white and silver gel pens.

The Serpent Sorceress is another page I have seen done so many times. I just loved her gaze and her beautiful face that looks freakishly like Angelina Jolie. I really wanted to do this page in bright red, get away from the blue and purple hues. I didn’t turn out how I originally imagined, which is probably a good thing. I spent a lot of time doing her skin and I was inspired by this gypsy-inspired model. I find it really difficult to do darker skin tones, the skin can get a little streaky and a bit patchy. This wasn’t so apparent until the page was completed. Other than that I am happy with her hair, eyes, lips, jewellery and snake. I also tried something a little different with the background stars, but still not convinced it was the best technique. I used Prismacolor pencils, white and gold gel pens.

This picture reminded me so much of Emerald City of the Wizard of Oz, which was my inspiration for colour scheme. I used mostly Polychromos for this page, since they have plenty of interesting greens. I only used a few Prismacolors to blend for lighter shades, as well as gold and white gel pen. It turned out pretty close to what I intended so I am happy.

My very last and favourite picture of the bunch is the Blue jewelled moth. It didn’t stand out as an uniquely magical design, so I wanted to use blues and purple-pink to inspire a sense of fantasy. I chose gold, soft and bright blue, fushia, purple, brown and peach colour scheme. I am really thrilled how it turned out. For the main design, I used Prismacolor pencils with a bit of white gel pen for details. For the background I started with prussian blue, light blue and grey Mungyo Watercolor crayons, activated with water. The background turned out pretty terrible, so I used alot of Prismacolor layers to get it looking more like a galaxy sky. I then used a white gel pen for stars, which gave it more pizzazz.

You can purchase this Magical Dawn or Magisk Gryning from:

9# Colouring update: New Books

Hi everyone, I recently bought a few more books I wanted to share with you. I haven’t actually bought anything new in a while, as I have been trying to colour in the books I already have. However, the heart wants what it wants.

Before I show you my goodies, I’ll just let you know what I have been up to in regards to colouring. So I have been working in my Hanna Karlzon books more recently. As you would have seen my last book review was Jewelry Box and soon to see, in Magical Dawn. I am just in the process of organising my book review, which will be out soon, with about 7 completed pictures. Next I will start some work in my new Karlzon books, I just haven’t decided which one to start with yet.

Seasons by Hanna Karlzon

Not long ago I had a discount coupon on Book Depository and I noticed Hanna’s new book was soon to be released. So I decided to order it, as well as Seasons, since it was the only one of Hanna’s books I didn’t have. Seasons was realeased back in 2017 and was preceded by Jewelry Box.

I thought my favourite one of Hanna’s books was Jewelry Books, but I was quite also pretty impressed with Seasons. This book takes us through all the season, from Spring to Winter. You can pick whatever season you are currently experience or another you would prefer and have fun with traditional seasonal colours (or something else entirely). I also love that this book includes so many seasonal occasions themed pictures, such as Halloween and Christmas. I’m will probably do a review of this book next, so stay tuned.

Spirit Animals by Hanna Karlzon

Spirit Animals is Hanna’s latest colouring book, which I had on preorder. It just arrived and I am in love. I won’t say too much but yes its pretty and again total different to Hanna Karlzon’s other books. One big difference I noticed was that most of the single pages correspond directly to the adacent page. So although they aren’t two-page spreads, they can be treated as such if you want. I can’t wait to get tucked into this book as well, and a book review will follow soon.

The Fashion Through Time Colouring Book

This next book is one that I picked up at the Reject shop for about $4. Although its was cheap, it’s still pretty great. It takes you from Western Antiquity all the way through to the glam of the 1960s fashion. Although it mostly Western fashion, there are a few other cultures represented as well. I just loved the art so much, that I probably will colour a few and do a review when I get a chance.

Mungyo Watercolor Crayons

I mentioned in my last colouring book review, Smyckeskrinet (Jewelry Box), that I had recently bought these watercolor crayons. I saw them on Colouring with Olivier channel and experimented with them in Jewelry Box. I am still getting accustom to using them, but I have used them again in Magical Dawn and will continue to in my other Karlzon colouring books. They are pretty cheap and a fun medium to use to fill in backgrounds. Best of all they don’t bleed through and don’t cause the paper to buckle much.

Have you bought any new books lately? or the ones I have show you today?

Book Review: Smyckeskrinet (Jewelry Box)

This book review is on one of Hanna Karlzon’s most recent colouring books. I bought this book when I was in Sweden last year. I finally got around to colour some of these beautiful pages. I am really loving her books right now and intend on colouring through my other Karlzon books, while I wait for her lastest release.

Smyckeskrinet is Hanna’s fifth colouring book, which came out in 2018. It also cames in an English edition, Jewelry Box. The format of this book is the same as the rest of her books, which you can see from my other reviews of her first two books, Day Dreams and Summer Nights.

This book has a limestone green cover with an black design and gold foiling. The design on the cover doesn’t appear in the book, but has some similar elements that you will find inside. The book format is hardcover, with high quality off-white paper. The line art is on double-sided and there are 96 pages to colour.

This book is consisent with Hanna’s style, however it is themed is Edwardian house and its garden. Similarly to her other books, there is a large variety of beautiful girls, animals, flowers, jewels and inanimlate objects. However, these designs have an old world twist that makes this book quiet unique to itself. Consistent with the title, many of the designs are adorned with jewels, which gives the images a very anique feel. There is also quite a variety of images which take up entire pages, majority, or have quiet blank backgrounds, so you colour within the confines of the designs or make an elaborate background.

This is probably my favourite book of Hanna Karlzons so far. I felt the line art was more intricate and I loved the cute animals and beautiful headdresses. I wanted to experiement a little more then I usually do in Hanna’s books, so I have used quite a few different mediums to give you an good example of what works on this paper. Below I have included a video flip through and photographs of all my completed pictures in this book so far. Any future pictures will be added to my Smyckeskrinet (Jewelry Box) gallery.

The Name plate page was the last page I coloured since it was the one I was most worried about. I initially didn’t want to go with traditional colours for the peacocks, but when I started researching the various colours of their feathers I decided there was plenty of tones I could use to make them very pretty.

The main design was all coloured in Prismacolor pencils and a little bit of white gel pen. As for the background, I used Mungyo Watercolor Crayons. I had already experiemented with these crayons in this book and I was pretty happy with them. I used a combination of purple and light green crayon and activiated them with a water pen. I then went over the crayon with Prismacolor pencils. It did come out a little streaky, but overall I’m pretty happy with it.

I did the Jewelled Bettle and Garden Goddess as a two pages spread. I started with the goddess, which I wasn’t sure I really liked when I first saw. But I really wanted to try and make her beautiful and bring out all the aspects of her floral headdress to make it more volumious.

I used Prismacolor pencils and it took me quite a while to lay them down, so that she looked more three-dimensional. I think thats really the key to perfecting my colouring, the more soft layers the better the result. Then I decided to quickily do the Jewelled Bettle, since I used most of the same colours. I also used some white and yellow gold gel pen to bring out some of the details. I am not entirely happy with how I used them on the round and tear shaped jewels, but they do look better then left black.

Next I decided to try out a background that I had seen recently in a video on the Youtube channel Colouring with Olivier. I had actually purchased the Mungyo Watercolor Crayons after watching Oliver’s video review of them. I bought them off Ebay and they are quite an inexpensive alternative to Neocolor, which is very popular at the moment. I really loved Oliver’s Cracked Wall Background, so after watching her video I tried to recreate this myself for this two page spread. I used black, brown and lime green crayons with a water pen to activate. Intitally I went lightly with the crayon on the paper and activated it, then added extra color by wiping the brush directly on the crayon. Afterwards I used a sharp black pencil to add in the cracks. I am extremely happy how it turned out. Although its not perfect, it looks great overall as a two page spread and is quite a quick background to achieve. Another great thing is that the crayon didn’t blead through and there was minimum buckling on this paper.

The Jewelled Kitty-cat was a picture I feel in love with straight away. I used Polychromos pencils with some white Prismacolor to blend and white gel pen for sparkles. Something I always have difficulty with is whether I do the background or objects first. Only thing is background take so long that I sometimes feel less passionate about the overall picture by the time I finish it. The only downside to doing the opposite is that the pencil can stain the background and it can be difficult to erase. Luckily when using Polychromos you do’t have these problems so much. Unlike soft pencils like Prismacolor, they don’t smudge very much at all. They do requite alot of soft layers to get a vibrant color and not to ruin the tooth of the paper. I also like to used the white Prismacolor to blend and remove white speckling, which you can also do with other pastle soft pencils. Anyhow, thats pretty much how I got the depth to the sky and other objects, which really enthused me to use my Polychromos pencils a bit more.

The Black Swan Princess the first picture completed in this book, which I did back in September last year. It was dedicated to the late and great Katrine and which featured in my 7# Colouring Update. I used Prismacolor Premier pencils, white Posca pen for highlights and a black Faber-Castell Artist Pitt pen for the background. You can refer to my previous post for more details.

The Jewel Carriers was one of the last pages I coloured. I wanted use an Autumn colours palette, with bright oranges and deep blues. Since I was using Prismacolor pencils. I started with the background first, before don’t the flora and fauna. I really wasn’t happy with my color choice and wanted to give up on it. But once I added in the white gel pen and completed the pictures I didn’t mind it as much. Its not so pretty but it really packs a punch to your eyes.

This Astro goddess portrait is a relatively small picture and didn’t requite a background, so it was a nice quick one. It’s a really good design if you want to practice doing skintone and hair. I took my time, trying to give her skin a more deeper complection, which is more difficult for me on larger scale. I used Polychromos pencils, so I had to be very careful to be to do soft layers, but I think I am improving in not making such harsh lines on the face. I love how she turned out. I am not so happy with my background. The black lines on around the stars were too strong and don’t look much better with the gel pen. I think I need to find a new solution to this dilema.

You can purchase this Smyckeskrinet or Jewelry Box from:

Nordic Trip

It’s taken me all year, but I have finally finish writing about my fastastic Nordic Adventure. This spontaneous three week vacation, covered varies places in Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Finland. We explored large city metropolises, small coastal and inland towns, as well as parks, museums and natural reserves. We only scatched the surface of what the Nordic nations have to offer, but I hope it inspires you to visit this part of the world.

Below I have included links to all the posts in this travel series, incase you missed some. If you have any questions feel free to leave a message below and I would be happy to help as best as I can.

Norway

Norwegian Road Trip

Sweden

Finland

Estonia

Finnish Road trip

Finnish Roadtrip: Savonlinna to Porvoo (day 6-7)

This is the end of my Finnish Roadtrip and Nordic Adventure. Since this only covers and a half days I combined it all into this last post. One this day we departed from Savolinna, made a stop in Lappeenranta and arrived in Porvoo. We only stayed on night in Porvoo before making our way back to Helsinki for our flight. I am so happy we made this last stop, because I really loved exploring Old Porvoo.

Savonlinna

We woke up to a beautiful site out of the window of our summerhouse cottage. It was so nice to feel like we were walking up in the middle of nowwhere. It was so quiet and serene, but we need to get up and going to start our last day.

We arrived inn Savonlinna’s town centre for an early morning breakfast. Today was Monday, so we expected that today everything would be open, meaning an end to our Midsummer nightmare. I would have loved to spend time walking along this main shopping drag and also visiting Linnankatu to see the arts and handicrafts. However, we were up quite early and nothing was opening for another hour. So we had to decided if we waited or kept going to our next stop Porvoo.

We didn’t see a lot open for breakfast, but we did spot Herkku Pekka. This bakery offered a range of sweet and savoury pastaries, quiches, sandwiches and cakes. All of which looked delightful for three hungry people. I had the Salmon, Egg annd Salad Crossiant and Perunapiirakka. Marco just had a Crossiant and a coffee and O had a sweet Finnish pastry for the very last time. All the pastaries were freshly made and delicious.

So we decided to keep driving to Porvoo, which was going to take about just under four hours. This was the longest stretch of this Finnish roadtrip so far, so we were eager to get it over and done with.

Lappeenranta

On our way we stopped for morning tea in Lappeenranta. This town is about about two hours from Savonlinna. If only we had more time we could of visited its multiple attractions, but time was off the essence. We only stopped at the bakery, Kesämäen Leipomo Oy, which is somewhat of a workers stop. I read that they had a speciality, Liha-Piirakka, which is a savoury donut filled with meat and rice. Marco was more interested in trying the Hevosenkenkä maidoton (milkless horseshoe pastry) and Viinermukki laktoositon (lactose free apple donut). I don’t know if we ordered wrong or we were expecting too much but the were ok. We may have been happy with some jam danishes. However, on the bright side, most of this stuff was either vegan or lactose free.

Porvoo

Porvoo is the second-oldest town in Finland and was the perfect end to our Finnish roadtrip. This historical trading town was established back in 1380. The Porvoo Old Town is paved with cobblestone, lined with with colourful wooden houses and the waterway features Red shore warehouses, which once held exotic delicacies from distant lands. If you like to wander through bohemian and antiques stores and sample sweet delicies then this is the place for you.

One of the must visit stops is Brunberg’s Chocolate Factory, which has been in operation since 1871. . Here you can sample and buy a variety of different chocolate and confectionary, which I promise you as very high quality. Once we tried a few chocolates we couldn’t leave without purchasing some to bring back home.

A short walk north from the centre of the Old Town is the Porvoo Cathedral. It was originally built in the 13th century and was made of wood. However it was later expanded and rebuilt after numerous fires in the 15th century. It is quite pretty inside and retains medieval feel.

Nearby the Cathedral we came across the Iso Linnamäki Castle Hill. It is free to visit this park, but you do have to use your imagination. It was once the site of an old medieval castle, which overlooks the city of Porvoo. The first wooden castle would have been built here in the late 1200s by the Swedes. It was modernised at the end of the 1300s to include moats and a wooden bailiffs castle, which was built under Germ administration. It was later demolished and abandoned in 1400 by the Scandivians, to destroy any reminents of the German period. It wasn’t until the Great Northern War of 1700-1721 that Russians occupied the Finland and took this hill as a gunpost. Much of what had been preserved was later destroyed by local inhabitance, who illegally took gravel from the hill . Today Castle Hill is a serene, quiet space that has lovely views of the Porvoo. Albert Edelfelt used the view for his famous landscape in 1892, which looks verily similar today. You can even see the Red shore Warehouses, which are one of the most photographed buildings in Porvoo. We weren’t able to get close to them, but I did take a picture as we were driving past later.

Before leaving the centre of Porvoo, we had a later lunch at Hanna and Maria. This little Finnish restaurant is in the centre of the old town and has been arounnd for 30 years. It was named after the daughters of the merchant Oskar Simolin, who resided in Porvoo in the 19th century. It is only open during the day from about 8am until 4-5 (depending on the time of year), 7 days a week. They offers a variety of homely Finnish dishes, prepared with mostly local ingredients and the prices are quite reasonable. They have an variety of steaks and schnitzel, reindeer and liver, served with mash potato and salads. They also have a variety of cakes and sweet treats. Octavia and I shared the Sauteed reindeer/Renskav with lingonberry jam, mash potatoes, salad and bread. Marco had a Wienerschnitzel/Vienna Steak, with mash potatoes and salad. The dishes tasted as good as any homemade dish you would loved to be invited over for and the salads were very fresh.

Our last stop before going back to our apartment was Porvoo Art Factory/Taidetehdas Konstfabriken. Here you can find a few stores, including H&M, a cinema and a gallery. In regards to shopping there is really not much here. Since I arrived quite late I am not sure I was mean to be walking the halls of the gallery, since there was no one around. I only saw a little bit, but I think they were probably setting up for a new exhibition. I’d probably skip this unless your coming for a big show.

Our last accomodation on this trip was at this beautiful Airbnb, located in the suburbs not far from the centre. It had a glorious garden in the backyard and was beautifully decorated inside as well. One of the nicest features was the large bathroom and sauna. It was the perfect place to relax and stay in.

While we were enjoying our accomodation we did get a little bit peckish again, so we ordered some takeaway from Thai Street Food Porvoo. They offer a small, seasonal menu of Thai favourites and they are pretty popular rated place. The dishes we ordered Phad Thai and Stir fried chicken with cashews and noodles. They were both generous portions, tasted spot on and served with a fresh little salad.

The next morning before leaving Porvoo we made one last stop to a bakery Marco had already scoped out the day before. Tuorila’s Home Bakery is a Finnish artisan bakery thats been around for 25 years. They offer quite a variety of fresh breads, sweet and savoury pastaries. The prices were extremely reasonable for some of the best delicious pastaries we had found in Finland so far. We ordered a sweet donut, blueberry danish, and savoury LihaPiirakka (meat and rice filled). I can’t recommend this bakery enough if your in town.

The drive back to Helsinki from Porvoo only took about 30-40 minutes. Since we had a couple of hours before we had to be at the airport to go back home we stopped at Kauppakeskus Jumbo (shopping centre). This is only a 7 minute drive from the airport, so its perfect if you need to waste 1-3 hours. Upstairs we found a nice little coffee shop, called Coffee House, which had decent coffees and a variety of lunch and snack items. As for shopping, you can find all the big brands as well as smaller boutiques.

We that is the end of both my Finnish roadtrip and Nordic Adventure. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I did reminising about our trip. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a comment.

Finnish Roadtrip: Olavinlinna Castle (day 5)

In the afternoon of our fifth day on our Finnish Roadtrip, we visited the Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna. This is a must-see attraction if you are visiting this town, as its one of the best-known sights in Finland. We had a really great time exploring and learninng the history of this medieval castle

Olavinlinna is an imposing medieval construction, which was built from 1475 by the Swedes. It was designed as a military base to protect the Savo Region from Russian attacks from the east. It is located on a rocky islet on the Kyrönsalmi strait. The castle was founded by the Danish-born knight, Erik Axelssonn Tott, under the name Sankt Olofsborg. This was to profit on the political tumoil of Ivan III’s conquest into the Novgorod Republic and thus laid claim to the Russian side of the border. It survived several sieges by the Russians, druing the First and Second Russian-Swedish wars. It was never captured by force but it was under Russian rule of Empress Elizabeth as a result of the Treaty of Åbo.

Olavinlinna holds several small exhibitions, which include the Castle Museum and Orthodox Museum. It also hosts the Savonlinna Opera Festival every year since 1912.

The Olavinnalinna Castle is open 7 days, from 11am until 4pm (earlier in summer season). The admission fee is 10 euro for adults, 5 euro for children (7-17yr) and there are discounted prices for students, pensioners, families and groups. Guided tours are included in the admission price and run throughout the day. We took the last guided tour that afternoon, so I will take you through everything we saw. I really recommend doing guided tours, especially if they are free. Even if you have little kids, they don’t have time to get bored, as the pace you move from each room is relatively quick. There are text panels through the different rooms in Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian. So I assume the guided tours would be available in just these languages.

Here is an introductory film made in the Olavinnnalina, to illustrate how life was in the castle. It’s a little long but it gives you a good glimpse into the past and what we saw on our visit.

We arrived from the Bridge and entered into the Watergate Bastion, which is where we bought our tickets and assembled for the guided tour. From there we moved through to the Courtyard in the Shelter of the Inner Bailey. This small courtyard was secured by the three towers that overlook it and the curtain wall between each. The northern wing was used living quarters, the eastern wing was used for festal and household rooms, the southern wing was the castle’s kitchen (demolished).

We then quickily moved through the small exhibition into the Central Hall. This is part of the Castle Households on two floors, which were the living quarters. Castle workers would have been paid in food and these accomodations. They were able to access this area through a central spiral staircase, as the northern wall would have been solid for defene purposes. The first floor would have housed the men-at-arms and the servants. The baliff’s arched residential rooms were found on the second floor. The large statue is the patron St Olaf, didn’t arrive to the castle until after 1911.

The Bell Tower (St Virgin’s Tower) was located on the highest point of the island, for best visible defence. The Storeroom was located in the first floor shelter of the Bell Tower. It was used for storage of food and clothes and was protected by a 3 metre thick stone wall. These items were collected as taxes from the nearby provinces or produced by the crown estate. It included dried grain, salted/smoked fish and meat, metal dishes, furs, hides and other textiles. The would have been a housekeeper in charge of the clothing and a scribe in change of the tax collection accounting.

Adjacent to the Bell Tower was the Church Tower (St Olaf’s Tower), which was probably part of the first fortification of the castle. This is evident by the arching technique and masonry, that would have been constructed by the 16 foreign masons during the 1470s. The stone was locally acquired, the mortar was made from sand from Kuhaslmi and the lime was made of lime kiln cape.

Next we came to the Chapel, which is located on the third floor of the Church Tower (St Olaf’s Tower). There remains some fragments of medieval lime paintings on the chapel walls and ceiling. On the walls there are twelve cross for each apolstle. This church as been Catholic, Luthern and Orthodox at different times. So today it change be used by any of these religions for religious purposes including weddings.

Next we walked down a long thin hallway until we came to the Outer Wall of the Courtyard. From here we could see one of the towers and the different materials that were used to construct it. From here, there would have been men stationed with longbows and crossbows. The longbow was made of pliable wood and the string from plant fibres or animal tendons. The arrows were made of wood and iron. It could shoot arrows 120 metres and six per minute. The crossbow was alot slower weapon to operate and could only shoot one arrow per minute. However, these arrows could shoot 360 metres.

We took a spiral staircase down to the highest floor in the Bell Tower. This was a bit difficult to maneuvre since they were built uneven to slow down a potential intruder. The Tower Room would have been occupied by defended during a siege, since it has a broad area to fire from. It would have been cold and damp place to reside. These rooms had a fireplace, wall closest, toilet, and benches. The small recesses in the walls would have been covered with thin parchment made of sheepskin, to allow some light and shelter from the wind. Light would of mostly been givenn from candles and the fireplace,which would of made this space quite smokey. Also visted the the residential rooms, which had leaded glass windows, by the end of the 16th centuryand heat-preserving stoves by the end of the 17th century. These rooms were lined with skis annd colourful textiles. Its a bit hard to imagine how opulent they would have been, but the guide painted a picture in our head.

At the very top was the the Lookout Storey, where we were able to see from the Outer Wall of the Courtyard.

Next we went down to the Medieval Armory, still in the Bell Tower. This was the important defence junction within the inner bailey. This is where weapons were held, such as longbows, crossbows, harquebuses, gun barrels and projectiles.

Next we walked through a well lite and darken Defence Passage. There were great views from beyond the outer walls of the castle.

The last spaces we were taken too was a large banquet hall and a room which had a model of the castle. This gives a good depiction of a birds eye view of the castle, which is hard to gauge when your inside it.

Before we left we had a bit of fun in the castle’s playroom. Here you can try on outfits armor, weld a sword and have a fake medieval feast. This was really great to relax and let our daughter touch everything without worrying she was going to break something priceless.

Well thats the end of my tour of the Olavinlinna Castle. My next post were will be our last stop on this Finnish Roadtrip and for this Nordic Adventure.

Finnish Roadtrip: Kuopio to Salonlinna (day 5)

On our fifth day of our Finnish road trip we travelled from Kuopio to Salonlinna. We didn’t get to see much of Kuopio due to the Midsummer holiday, but we were able to visit the Puijo Tower. In Savonalinna, we made a scenic trip to a crepe house, visited the Olavinlinna Castle and had dinner on the water. So it was a pretty good day.

Kuopio

This morning we walked down to the Kuopio town centre. We were hoping that cafes and shops would be open. I really wanted to have breakfast at Trube Cafe, which is inside the Apaja Shopping Center. It has been around since 1913 and they sell baked Finnish baked goods and served their coffee in Moomin mugs. Unfortuately everything was closed, except a few food stalls. Since we didn’t have cash we decided to do breakfast elsewhere.

Before leaving we went past the Kuopio Cathedral. The building was built in 1806-15 and is a stone Neoclassical-style construction. Since there was a service I wasn’t able to take photos inside. The interior is quite plan and is mostly white walls with touches of gold Empire features.