8# Throwback Travel- New York: Grand Central, Central Park & 5th Ave (day 7)

Hi all! While I’m away on my babymoon to Tasmania, I thought I would continue sharing a couple of posts from my trip to America. These are from our last day in New York on day 7. There is just so much to see in New York, as you have seen from what we did. There is so much more I would like to do when I return one day. I am sure there will be many new attractions and delicious foods to try as well. On the last day we covered Grand Central Terminal, the MET, Central Park and made quite a few stops on 5th Avenue. We also dinned in a old-world Viennese cafe on the Upper East side and New York’s largest dinner.

So on my last day, Octavia and I began the day at the Piccolo Cafe, who are known for there authentic Italian fare and espresso. They have three locations, but I visited the little cafe is in Midtown on 238 Madison Ave. This location is quite tiny but was very popular in the early morning with locals. Their menu offers quite a range of pastries and panini with various fillings, pasta, gourmet eggs and salads. I ordered this delicious Salmon and Egg Sandwich, which was perfect to start the day.

Our first tourist stop for the day was the Grand Central Terminal, also commonly known as Grand Central Station. This iconic station is just stunning and a must-do if you visit New York. It was opened in 1913 and it’s retains its old-world nostalgia, due to its stunning Beaux-Arts architecture. Besides being a transport hub connecting Manhattan, it also offers shopping, dining, tours and other events.

After this, I visited The MET alone. Yes just right, I was by myself. I was not disturbed or rushed through my visit and I took photos of everything. I will do a separate post for this visit to show you all the amazing artwork that I saw.

Meanwhile, Marco, O and his mum visited Central Park. They took their time walking around and enjoying the gardens. I didn’t meet them until later and only got to see a fraction of what they saw. It was so hot this day and everyone wanted to leave. If we had more time I would have loved to do a tour of the gardens. This is probably not the best activity to do in the middle of summer.

For lunch, we stopped into a restaurant nearby on 5th avenue, within in the Neue Gallery. Café Sabarsky is an Austrian cafe, which was inspired by the turn-of-the-century Viennese cafes, which served as a hub for intellectual and artists. It’s headed by Michelin-star chef Kurt Gutenbrunner, who presents a menu with a modern take on Viennese traditional dishes. The dining room is relatively small but the interior is just stunning. The walls are flanked with dark wood, which is adorned with carved embellishments and there is a classic old-style bar. We each ordered a dish from the menu, including Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese, Bavarian Sausage with warm Pretzel & Sweet Mustard and Roasted Bratwurst with Riesling Sauerkraut, Roasted Potatoes & Dijon. The dishes were presently lovely and tasted very nice as well. They were rather small serves, but then for such a fancy place we probably should have ordered a bit more. Especially since I had to split my meal with my toddler.

After that, we took a walk from on 5th Avenue from the Upper Eastside to Midtown. This is a great walk to take in all the amazing architecture and high-end shopping scene. We made a few stops along the way. First, we stopped at the iconic Apple Fifth Avenue. To get to the store we had to go into a cube and down a spiral staircase. It was very crowded down there, just like every Apple store I suppose.

Next, we visited Trump Tower. Now, this was before the election, so I wasn’t so accustomed with the Trump name as we all are now. The interior is very grand, but also a little outdated. For me it’s reminiscent of the the grandeur of New York in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time we visited there weren’t any stores open. Since I had the pram, I had to take a lift to the first floor to get a view of the foyer. There was a doorman inside, who would only allow one customer or couple at a time. It was kind of nice to privately ascend up. While we were there we did get some ice cream from the Trump Ice Cream Parlor. It offers about 16 classic flavours. I believe I tried the Vanilla Honey Baklava, which I hadn’t come across before and it was pretty nice.

Next, we stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This is the grand church we saw while in New York. This church is 140 years old and is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The architectural style is largely Neo-Gothic and is truly stunning both inside and out. It is massive in size and can hold 3000 parishes at once.

Not far from 5th Avenue in Midtown, we also made a stop at the famous Magnolia Bakery at the Rockefeller Centre. This New York bakery is various locations within the city across the US, as well as in Asia and the Middle East. The brand was made famous by the ‘Sex and the City’ series and for its cupcakes. Their menu offer a range of cupcakes as well as speciality weekly cupcake flavours. Additional they offer pies, cakes, mini cheesecakes, brownies, bars, cookies and sweet breakfast muffins, scones and loaves. This particular location is rather small and doesn’t offer seating, so we had to grab and go. For me the cheesecakes looked the most amazing, so we got the Blueberry and Caramel Pecan Cheesecake. Oh my goodness they were amazing. They were so soft, creamy and perfectly flavoured and sweetened. I was in cheesecake heaven. I also hadn’t eaten cheesecake in 6 years, but I promise you they are great.

Our last stop was the American Girl Place, near Rockefeller Plaza. We don’t have these dolls in Australia, but I had heard about them. This store is two levels and features the American Girl dolls, Bitty Babies, Wellie Wishers and merchandise. There is also now a cafe on the bottom level.

I hoped to buy a look-alike doll for my daughter. Unfortunately, she was not interested in American girls or Bitty Babies. Instead, she rather wanted to play in the little house, that is set up for small children. Since they are pretty pricey and would take up a big place in my suitcase I decided not to get one for myself.

For dinner, Marco really wanted to eat in a New York American diner. I reluctantly gave in, since I wasn’t expecting diner food to be that great or healthy. He chose the Tick Tock Diner. It is the largest diner in New York and has a bright classic diner interior. The menu offers fried starters and sides, soups, mac & cheese, burgers, tacos, burritos, pancakes, french toast, crepes, waffles, egg dishes, sandwiches, salad bowls, pasta, pizza and desserts.

Marco and I decided to go with burgers. He got the Cheese Burger and Fries and I got the Turkey Burger and Sweet Potato Fries. To be honest we were a bit underwhelmed by both the presentation and the taste.

Well that’s my last day in New York. My post on the MET will be out soon and then we will move onto Washington DC.

Finnish Roadtrip: Tampere to Jyväskylä (day 3)

On day three of our Finnish Roadtrip we woke up in Tampere. We had realised a few days before that the Midsummer holiday was today. However, we were still hopefully that large department stores, restaurants and attractions would be open. Little did we realised that everything would be closed for the next three days. We still managed to fill our days as best we could with outdoor activities. We also made a stop in Jämsä before arriving in Jyväskylä.

Tampere

I had a couple of places in mind for breakfast. Apparently, Kaffila has the best third wave coffee, Vohvlikahvila has the best waffles and Fazer Café has the best brunch. However, since it was a public holiday today they were all closed. Luckily there was one place in town that didn’t let us down. The Tampere Market Hall/Tampereen Kauppahalli was open for business. I’m not sure if it was open all day, but it was first thing in the morning.

We bought pastries from pastries from Pullapuoti Wilenius. We got a Pastija Liha (pastry with meat), a Pastija Muna-riisi (pastry with egg and rice), a Berliin Munkki (jam donut with icing), a Mansikka Wieneri (strawberry and custard danish), and some Posso Munkki (donut balls) for the road. Not the healthiest breakfast, but we are still on holidays!

Luckily, the Tampere Cathedral also didn’t close for the public holiday so we were able to go inside. I heard that it has an amazing serpent roof that I was eager to see.

The Tampere Cathedral is a Lutheran church, which was build between 1902-1907. It was designed by Lars Sonck, in National Romantic style. It is known for its famous frescos, painted by Hugo Simberg and Magnus Enckell. Enckell painted the large altarpiece, which represents future resurrecion of people of all races. I am not sure if it was Enckell or Simberg who painted the long fresco that wraps around the walls. Simberg’s fresco sparked alot of controversy for its preceived wicked natures. This includes the winged serpent on the red background (ceiling) The Garden of Death (left corner) and The Wounded Angeel (top floor). Despite the modernity of this church, it is quite beautiful and the paintings are exquisite.

Jämsä

We originally intended to go from Tampere to Ähtäri Zoo. However, since there the weather was scheduled to rain and there were some renovations being done, we thought we would keep going to Jyväskylä. At this point we we still not expecting everything to be shut. So it seemed a good idea to skip the zoo. So we drove a more direct route to Jyväskylä, and made a tourist stopped at Jämsä.

Jämsä is a small town and part of a large municipality of Jämsä. It is know as the centre of Finnish aeroanutics industry. We stopped at a little kiosk on Vähä Valkeajärvi lake, just outside of town . This lake covers 11.7 hectares and is 850m in length and 300m in width. There is a picnic area and kiosk is open here in the summer and serves coffee and snacks. Since we only had card, no cash we weren’t able to get anything from the kiosk. I think this is quite common for these small kiosks, since they are only open for a few months a year. Nevertheless its a lovely place for a photo opportunity.

These photos were taken in the Jämsä countryside. The weatherwas just so gorgous and by now I was thinking perhaps we should gone to the zoo.

Another stop we made, a few minutes outside of Jämsä town centre was Juvenin Koski waterfall. This famous waterfall is 7m in height and is supposibly the highest and steepest free-flowing waterfall in Central Finland. To get down there we took a small flight of stairs then another couple of metres to see it mid way. Marco and Octavia went all the way down, but I prefered not to with my slippery boots. It was quite nice to see, but there was these enormous flying bugs, so we didn’t spend long.

Jyväskylä

The entire trip from Tampere to Jyväskylä took about two hours and by the time we arrived so did the rain. Jyväskylä is the largest city in Central Finland and Finnish Lakeland and is the fastest growing city in the country. It is known as the Athens of Finland, since its is the educational centre of the country.

We walked down the Kauppakatu pedestrian street to see if any of the shopping centres, department stores, boutiques or musums were open. Sadly we everything was closed. I’m sure this would be an amazing city normally.

So for dinner I originally planned to go to the viking themed restaurant, Viikinkiravintola Harald. They actually have a few locations, but I figured I would leave this dining experience for Jyväskylä. It was actually closed for the entire weekend.

There was only two places in town with open with food, the supermarket and Pancho Villa. I was’t that keen on Mexican food in Finland, but it seemed like a better idea then eating cold cuts on a cold night.

Pancho Villa is a Mexican chain restaurat, that you can find throughout Finland. They offer burgers, salads, Mexican classics, protein fillets and kids meals. They also cater for lactose free, gluten free and vegan. The decor was a little dated, but it was cosy place to have meal.

For dinner, Marco had the Cheese burger with fries and pickles, I had the Soft Taco (two vegan and two prawn) and Octavia had the children salmon fillet, chips and salad. We also recieved free corn chips and salsa. I have to say I was pretty impressed with dinner. For a chain resturant the food was relatively good quality and everything was really tasty.

After dinner we stopped by the supermarket and bought some fresh strawberries, raspberries and bananas for dessert. If your travelling in an Nordic countries you must buy the berries any chance you get. They are so sweet and have so much flavour.

We had our fruit salad in our Airbnb. I won’t recommend this particular acommodation because I didn’t really love it. In comparision to other places we had stayed it wasn’t the most comfortable and the bathroom was really old.

Tomorrow we travel to Kuopio and visit a zoo. Only three more days until this trip comes to an end…

Finnish Road trip: Turku to Tampere (day 2)

On day two of our Finnish roadtrip, we started the day in Turku and drove to Tampere. It was quite a rainy day, so we didn’t do as much walking as usually, but we do alot of eating. Some of the highlights of our day include the Turku Cathedral, Tampere Cathedral, lunch at the Tampere Food Hall, eating the best donuts in town and ending the day with a satisfying Belgium gastropub meal.

Breakfast

We woke up in the Scandic Hotel in Turku, which was actually the only hotel we stayed in during this trip. The room wasn’t very exciting, so I didn’t photograph it. It was comfortable and clean though. The only reason we didn’t book an Airbnb for this location was because they were much more expensive at the time of our visit then this hotel.

The good thing about staying in a hotel is the free buffet breakfast. I was a bit curious what kind of foods they would give us for breakfast in Finland. I wasn’t disappointed either. There was a variety of pasteries, Finnish breads, fresh fruit and vegetables, ham, cheeses, herring, oats with berries, roasted vegatables. giant baked beans, juice and coffee. This was probably my favourite breakfast buffet on this entire trip, since I wasn’t a big fan of the buffets on the ships.

Turku Cathedral

The last place we had to visit before leaving for Tampere was the Turku Cathedral/Turun tuomiokirkko. It is located off the bank of the Aura River, across from Downtown Turku. We had been nearby the night before, when we walked along the promenade of the Aura River and had dinner.

This cathedral is massive in size and is considered to be one of the most important Lutheran churches in Finland. It was previously a catholic cathedral, built in the 13th century and constructed of wood. However, it was later renovated and constructed mostly stone during the 14th and 15th cenutry. It was also badly damaged during the Great Fire of Turku in 1827. During the reformation the catherdral became Lutheran and much of its present interior was designed during the 1830s, by various renown artists and architects.

The altar was just gorgeous and awe-inspiring. The Altar piece was painted in 1836 by the Swedish artist, Fredrik Westin and depicts the Transfiguration of Jesus. The walls and roof surrounding the high altar are Romantic fresco’s, which were painted by the court painter,  Robert Wilhelm Ekman. This series depict the events from the life of Jesus, and the two key events in the history of the Finnish Church, including the baptism of the first Finnish Christians by Bishop Henry and the presentation to King Gustav Vasa by the Reformer Michael Agricola. The rerdos behind the High Altar and the pulpit were both designed by the German architect, Carl Ludvig Engel in the 1830s.

The side chapels were originally dedicated to various saints. However, most were converted to funeral vaults. Many of these graves and memorials are of notable people, including bishops, military commanders and royals. One of the most famous is Queen Karin Mansdotter, wife of King Erik XIV. Her sarcophagus is overlooked by a beautiful stainglass window, featuring the Queen and her sons. It also had a large playroom for children. This is such a great idea and something I have only come across in Sweden and Finland.

Tampere

Driving to Tampere took about two hours. We were anxious to get there so we didn’t make any stops along the way. I am not sure that there are any notable ones to make anyway. We first settled into our Airbnb. We were hosted by a lovely elderly couple, who provided us with a cosy, modern apartment. It was located in the Amuri district, a short walk from the Särkänniemi amusement park.

So Tampere is not a place I knew about before we were planning this road trip. So I will tell you what we learned. It’s one of the most populated inland city of all the Nordic countries and it is located in Pirkanmaa, southern Finland. It is known as the ‘Manchester of Finland’, because it was formerly industrial history. It is surrounded by over 2000 lakes and ponds, which make up 24% of its land surface. It is full of parks and green areas and also has popular amusement park, Särkänniemi and a host of other attractions.

Alexander Cathedral

On our way into the Tampere city centre we first stopped at the Alexander Cathedral/ Aleksanterin kirkko. It is surrounded by a large green park, Pyynik Church Park. Previously this park was the old cemetery of Tampere, but ceased to be used for this purpose after a new cemetary for the city was built in 1880s. However, during the Civil War in 1918, the land was used as a mass grave. It has a beautiful little fountain which is overlooked by the stunning architecture of the church.

Alexander Church was constructed by Theodor Deckin in 1880-81 and is known as one of the most beautiful examples of Neo-Gothic style. It was named after the Czar Alexander II for his 25 anniversary of his coronation.

Tampere Food Market

By now we were pretty hungry so we headed to the Tampere Market Hall/Tampereen Kauppahalli. It has been operating in a gorgeous art nouveau building since 1901 and has become the largest indoor market amongst the Nordic countries. It is bustling with over 40 vendors, sellingn fresh fish, meat, cheese, pastries, local foods. It has a host of cafes and restaurants and is open Monday- Friday 8am-6pm and Saturday 8am-4pm. This is the perfect place if you after a quick lunch or Finnish snack.

After looking around a bit we ended up choosing Ravintola 4 Vuodenaikaa. They offered French faire, including homemade sausages. They actually make 20 different sausages for their deli stall, from a variety of local meats, including pork, sheep, elk, reindeer, bison etc. It’s a lot more fancy then I expected to see in a Food Market. Marco and I both ordered the same dish which was Housemade Sausage (I think it was boar) with roasted potatoes and dijon aioli, with a small side of bread, salad and watermelon. It was simple but delicious!

Tampere Town Centre

After lunch we walked down to the city centre. Here you can find various department stores, restaurants, music venues, concert halls, theatres and cinemas. The large square in the photos below is the Tampere Central Square or Keskustori. It is quite open and is lined with important buildings, including the Tampere City Hall, Old Church of Tampere and Tampere Theatre.

Since it was rainy, we made a coffee and donuts stop at Pynikin Munkikahvila. It is only a small cafe just off the Tampere Central Square, but they also have another location at the Pyynikki Oberservation Tower. They offer sweet option, including large, small, vegan and gluten free donuts, cakes and “Wilhelmiina” biscuits. For something savoury, they offer grilled foccaccias, salads and more. They also offer a range of beverages, including filtered and espresso coffee.

Well we only came for the donuts and damn where they good! We just got the regularly large donuts and they were just perfectly spongy and sweet. These were the fried sweet treat we had so far. Marco also got a filtered coffee, since he was such a fan by now. I got my favourite oat milk cappuccino. This is definetely a must-eat stop if you are in Tampere.

After that we headed towards Särkänniemi. We went past the large city park Näsi Park or Näsinpuisto. This park is 6.2 hectares in size and was originally a bare rock. However it was redesigned by Swedish gardener, Svante Olsson. At the highest point you can find Näsilinna Palace, which was built in 1898  and is now a museum. Since we were on our way through we only took some photos at the Näsikallion suihkukaivo (Näsikallio shower well). This Art Nouveau granite fountain was completed in 1913 by architect Birger Federley and the three bronze sculptures are by Emil Wikström. The statues are based on old folk tales and are in the style of French realism. It is quite stunning to see on a sunny day or even a rainy day.

We walked all the way to the amusement park Särkänniemi, which has quite a few attractions along side it. These include Doghill Fairytale Farm , Aquarium, Planetarium, and the famous Näsinneula observation tower. I really had my heart set on taking Octavia to Doghill Fairytale Farm. However, due to the weather conditions most of the animal were going to be put back in their enclosures and alot of the programming was cancelled. We decided not to both with visiting Särkänniemi either since with little for O to do and we would only have a few hours. Instead we stopped by a little playground on our way back to the apartment. I was a little sad, but I think for the ticketing prices you should really spend the whole day.

Dinner

For dinner we visited the Belgium Gastropub Tuulensuu. This is the perfect place for a hearty dinner and some drinks on a drizzly evening or with some friends. They menu is quite traditional and offers a variety of snacks and small dishes to enjoy with an alcoholic beverage or meat-heavy mains. The prices are also pretty reasonably as well.

We started with some Apple ciders, followed by Schnitzel with fries  and Smoked pork neckroasted potatoes, horse raddish, Sauerkraut and beer sauce. They were massive meals and was definetely enough for two and half hungry people. They were incredibily delicious and cooked really well.

Well that’s it for today. We have a couple more stops in Tampere tomorrow morning before we make our way to Jyväskylä during the Midsummer holiday.

Tallinn: Medieval Baltic Fairytale

Today I will share with you one of my favourite cities that we visited on our Nordic Adventure. Tallinn wasn’t a place we intended on see, but with it’s close proximity to Helsinki, it wasn’t a difficult journey to make.

Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It has one of the best intacted medieval hanseatic old town in the world and retains it old world flair through both its architures, crafts, cuisines and residents. Its medieval roots date before 1219, when it was first mentioned in text. However its been a human settlement for over 5000 years. Today it is under independent Estonia, but it had previously been under the rule of the Danes, Swedish and Russian, who have all left their own mark.

Since we only had the day we couldn’t see everything. The highlights include Sadama district, Old Town, the Town Square, Town Hall Pharmacy, St. Catherine’s Passage,
Danish King’s Garden, Toompea Hill, Freedom Square, Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform, a few interesting old churches, a Medieval feast and Estonian sweet treats. There are plenty of free experiences to be had in Tallinn and it was one of the less expensive destinations so far on this trip. If you have the time and are less incumbered, there are so many museums and shopping centres as well.

Travel from Helsinki to Tallin

So to get to from Helsinki to Tallin, we took the Tallinki Shuttle Star, It left from West Harbour terminal 2 and arrived D-Terminal, Lootsi 13. The entire journey takes 2 hours. I was originally a bit unsure about making this journey, because we would loose 4 hours of our day in travel. However, we were able to board the ship at 7am for a 7:30 departure and arrive by 9:30am. The cost was 36 euro per adult and free for 5 and under, one way. We decided to add the buffet breakfast for an additional 21 euro per adult. However, in hindsight I would of preferred to grab a pastry and coffee from the cafe. I wasn’t that impressed by the buffet. On the plus it was free for O to eat and it did make it easy to let her choose what she wanted. On the Star there are a couple of shops, a few cafes and eateries, and a kids play area. You can book in for the lounge areas but its quite unnecessary as there is plenty of places to sit.