Tag Archives: Vacation

Walking Stockholm. On the Water.

The inner city of Stockholm, Sweden, is a collection of islets connected by bridges. Soon after Stock(log)holm(islet) was founded in 1252 more and more islets were connected together by log-bridges. So even today water is a dominant feature in the city and its surroundings. Please come along on a 7-mile tour by foot, guided by my sister’s dog Pebbe, and then a short trip by boat to learn some of what summer Stockholm has to offer in terms of waterways.

karlberg canal ud164We’ll start our walk along the Canal of Karlberg. This canal runs in the western central Stockholm and connects two lakes. On its shores we find lots of greenery, water lilies and other wild flowers.

karlberg 2 ud164

karlberg water lily ud164

karlberg 1 ud164

karlberg walk ud164Along the canal we spot fishing boats, hostel boats, houseboats and, of course people kayaking and paddle boarding. Pebbe is a great guide and keeps up the pace. Photo stops are carefully timed.

fishing boat karlberg ud164

karlberg boat ud164

karlberg housebaoats ud164

karlberg canoe ud164

karlber paddler ud164We also find some familiar birds and cute wild rabbits, who live under one of the bridges.

gulls in stockholm ud164

mallards at karlberg ud164

juvenile coot ud164

wild rabbit karlberg ud164We pass some beautifully planned new developments right on the water.

lindhagen ud164

cafe at karlbergs kanal ud164And walking back we spot the Karlberg Palace that now hosts the Military Academy.

militarhogskolan ud164By this time we have walked about four miles and stop to rest along the canal before heading home through Solna – another three mile walk.

aulikki at karlberg ud164Once in Solna, we marvel about the 2014 building of the year, Aula Medica of the Karolinska Institute, a Medical University, by Wingårdh Architects. It houses a 1000-seat auditorium/lecture hall and catches the eye with its unconventional, modern architecture.

KI Aula ud164

aula stockholm UD164

KI Aula Medica 2014 by Gert Wingårdh UD164We walk home through the little forest surrounding these new, and old, buildings. I hope you’re doing fine after this seven mile walk. The fact that this July turned out to be the warmest in 265 years in Sweden should not make you sweat. But I am exhausted and Pebbe wants to sit for a bit too.

Pebbe UD164After resting for a couple of days, we’ll embark on a short boat tour in the very heart of Stockholm, now on the eastern side.

sightseeing boat ud165We go out right along the most exclusive neighborhood in the city, the gorgeous old buildings on Strandvägen.

stockholm strandvagen UD165

stockholm strandvagen 2 UD165

old buildings on strandvagen ud165And far away we spot a landmark, the Kaknäs observation tower.

kaknastornet ud164We pass the Nordic Museum and the Wasa Museum that houses the only 1700-ship ever salvaged (mainly) intact, the 64-gun warship Wasa that sunk on her maiden voyage in 1628.

nordiska museet stockholm UD165

wasa varvet ud164Next we pass the largest amusement park in Stockholm, Gröna Lund. We used to visit this park frequently when our son was small. It now boasts several new rides that I wouldn’t even imagine trying out … and still a few old ones that look more familiar.

grona lund 3 ud164

grona lund swing UD165

grona lund carousel UD165Then we glide past more peaceful sights, like the Fåfänga park …

fafangan park ud165… and continue a bit deeper into the archipelago, in good company.

old sailboat ud165I leave you with a hint of my next post about a nostalgic trip to Finland on a ship like the one below.

boat traffic stockholm ud165I hope you enjoyed Stockholm on the water as much as I did. Thank you for coming along.

R & R Part II: On the Creative Side

This rare Finnish crocodile made me smile. I knew he had not crawled up from the nearby lake. In Finland crocodiles can only be found in the world of art, or perhaps in a zoo. This big fellow was guarding the lawn sprinkled with water lilies at Leporanta Art Center, not far from my childhood home. And he was not alone. There was the familiar man with the horse, whom I first met several years ago.

man and a horse Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75And an impressive bronze bird, an eagle perhaps, who had settled in the yard more recently.

Leporanta Eagle Finland Aug16 UD75On the only rainy day during my visit ‘back home’, we decided to visit the annual art exhibition just before it would close for the fall. At Leporanta, paintings are shown in traditional log houses and old barns, but sculptures made of iron, copper, wood, glass and composite materials are exhibited all over the vibrantly green grounds. Here a friend, my niece and my sister are examining handmade glass decorations at one of the log  buildings.

admiring the sculpture Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

sculpture and flower arrangement Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75I was smiling at the cute family swinging happily in front of the main house: mother, father and son. Family fun rarely seen.

swing 1 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

swing 2 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

swing 3 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75Inside the exhibition buildings we found smaller sculptures and paintings by both professional artists and amateurs. Many different materials, styles and price tags. To my delight I found lots of bird motives. Like this painting on wood boards by artist Marianne Kantanen.

A Moment of Reflection by Marianne Kantanen Leporanta 2 Finland Aug16 UD75
“A Moment of Reflection”

I thoroughly enjoyed a series of playful lithographs of birds – here two of them. And I also liked the painting of a fantasy bird on hammered copper. I thought it was unique and colorful.

There were numerous beautiful oils, acrylics and watercolors. In particular, my eye was caught by two delicate, moody paintings by artist Vappu Kiili.

I would have loved to buy a few paintings to take home, but since I always travel light with only one carry-on bag and my wallet was fairly light too, I had to settle for two hand-painted watercolor cards by artist Seija Laukkanen.

After a couple of hours we had seen it all, a great variety of beautiful works. This exhibition never disappoints. When we finally came out again the rain had stopped. On our way home we passed another lake, one of thousands in Finland, and I thought it was pretty serene. Almost like a painting.

last days of summer Finland Aug16 UD75Thank you for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the tour. My last post in this R & R series will bring us back into the nature around our lake ‘back home’.

R & R Part I: The Nostalgic Journey

The close to 26 hour travel from Florida Gulf Coast to my R & R destination in Finland was remarkably comfortable. Much thanks to my habit of paying practically everything on one airline card. Quite enjoyable indeed from the colorful, Africa-inspired sendoff in Philly to the delicious Money Monster accompanied dining onboard. Points still work.

airport entertainment UD75

my suite UD75

cheese plate UD75After actually sleeping quite a bit over the Atlantic, and everything running on time in London, I arrived in Finland surprisingly intact. For someone who gets to see family ‘back home’ only about once a year these trips are always nostalgic. Many kinds of pictures from the past suddenly surface. Me as a toddler moving into our new home with mom, dad and baby sister. A home built by our dad. A home that still stands tall, here pictured on a moonlit night the week before last.

Mikkos house at night 2 Finland Aug16 UD75Me in elementary school. And the memory of laying down on this very school yard bleeding profusely after being hit right on the nose with a baseball bat by a fellow student in the PE class. A ring of worried people bending over me when I wake up. This eight year old’s Miss Universe dreams brutally smashed.  But at least she got a few days off school while her eyes couldn’t see anything but the humongous nose.

my primary school 2 UD75Me in high school, and then as an undergraduate and graduate student in the big city of Tampere about 45 miles away from home. That was a wild time. Initially. But then we all mature and somehow life finds its intended path. I pass familiar places, but they are not the same. Like this old Orthodox Church next to my university. It used to reach for the blue skies all alone, but now has a backdrop of a brand new hotel tower. Progress.

Tampere Orthodox Church and Hotel Torni UD75When I pass my high school, I notice the Lutheran Church completed while I was a junior. Very modern architecture at the time, and in my eyes it still holds lots of appeal. I find comfort in the fact that at least a few places look like I remember them.

Kaleva Church 2 Tampere Finland UD75On the 3.5-hour journey from the capital to my childhood home, more familiar places fly by the window. Now illuminated by the late afternoon sun. And my early years come back to me with a profound sense of gratitude.

Lake view Finland Aug16 UD75And soon I was there. At the lake that belongs to my childhood more than anything. And one that still symbolizes peace and tranquility in my life.

rainbow Finland Aug16 UD75That first night I couldn’t resist going out to the backyard after the late dinner. I was marveling at the fact that dusk arrived only around 10 p.m. And the fact that my dear dad still kept a thriving garden.

lake and dads garden Finland Aug16 UD75

evening light on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75That moonlit night I felt the peace of this wonderful spot on earth. And I knew those precious, long-awaited moments with family had arrived.

moon light on the lake Finland 2 Aug16 2 UD75The toddler, teenager and adult merged into a surprisingly balanced whole and let out a long exhale into the cool night air.

Immersed

Hello friends! Just a little mobile greeting from the deep green Finnish woods, where I’ve been immersed in nature and family in equal parts lately. To experience summer temperatures in high 60s (close to 20 C) has been refreshing!


I will tell you more about my adventures once back home. I hope your summer has been wonderful, and your winter mild if in the Southern Hemisphere.

“See” you soon.

Clearwater, FL. Destination for Your Outward-bound Vacation.

I originally wrote this article for Bucketlistpublications.com where it was published on January 13. It’s a little different from my usual posts, but I have edited it slightly and added many more pictures for your enjoyment. See you in Florida soon 😉 Tiny

——

After having lived on three continents, and traveled the world for more than two decades for work and pleasure, I finally found my own little piece of paradise here on Sand Key, a barrier island on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast.

large trees in Sand key park at clearwater pass
Northern end of Sand Key at Clearwater Pass

Don’t get me wrong, I still travel, but I no longer feel I have to get away. Simply because there’s so much to explore right here in my backyard.  Outdoor activities for every taste, every age and ability.

I’m not going to tell you about all the excellent hotels, restaurants and bars that cater for visitors here. There’s an app or two for that. Instead, I’ve chosen to talk about a few activities and adventures for those who want an active, outdoorsy vacation.

sunset over the Gulf on Sand Key Clearwater FL
Sunset on Sand Key

Beaches. Beaches are of course the main attraction around here. Clearwater Beach offers everything beachgoers could ask for, a beautiful beach and lots of water related activities at the marina across the road – and throngs of company. Shopping and activities on Pier 60 every night at sunset, and lots of watering holes nearby.

Pier 60 Clearwater Beach Florida
Pier 60 and Clearwater Beach

For those who prefer a bit more quiet and space for their beach day, or maybe want to catch a fresh grouper for dinner, the Sand Key Park and beach just over the bridge from Clearwater Beach, will be ideal. It has all the necessary amenities, including food at nearby establishments.

Sand Key beach clearwater florida
Sand Key public beach on a busy day
Miles long Sand Key Beach clearwater fl
Miles of white sandy beach on Sand Key, south of the park

Water sports. Jet skiing is probably the most popular water sport among visitors, and is available both on Clearwater Beach and on Sand key.

summer fun on jet ski clearwater fl
Jet skiing is popular

Kayaking, sailing and  paddle boarding are available at the Community Sailing Center just opposite the Sand Key Park and the beach. They also offer summer camps  and instructional courses where you can learn the basics of sailing or paddle boarding.

summer fun at sailing center sand key clearwater fl
Sailing school
summer fun canoeing 2 720
Kayaking
summer fun 3 at sailing school 712
Paddle boarding

Kite surfing is popular on Sand Key when the winds are right. Parasailing and “sky-surfing” are also on offer for those who have a higher calling, or just seek the big picture.

parasailing in clearwater fl
Parasailing
skysurfing above sand key tinylessonsblog
Skysurfing

Excursions on the water. Clearwater Beach marina is a busy place. That’s where you can book trips on the water. Again, the items on the menu are many. Anything from a Pirate Ship rides with kids, to dolphin tours, dinner cruises or sunset sails.  Going slow or fast.  Your choice.

pirate ship clearwater fl
A pirate ship, fun for kids
summer fun tour boat clearwater fl
Dolphin tours
dinner cruises at sunset from clearwater fl
Dinner cruises
sailboat at sunset clearwater fl
Sunset sailing
Speed boating in clearwater fl
Speed boating

But I’d like to mention one particular experience that all my guests regardless of age have loved, Captain Mike’s Dreamcatcher Explorations. Most tours (private or split between 5-6 people) go to the Three Rooker Bar, a small Barrier Island.

3 rooker bar barrier island
3 Rooker Bar

There is no better way to spend a morning or an afternoon. You can do tube riding and dolphin watching on your way there, fantastic shelling and snorkeling once you reach the island. It’s an untouched paradise, and if you’re lucky a dolphin might come to swim with you there.

tube ride in clearwater fl
Tube rides
anchored on the three rooker bar barrier island off dunedin fl
Anchored at 3 Rooker bar

Three Rooker Bar is also a protected nature preserve, which brings me to my final theme.

Wildlife and hiking. Many visitors enjoy the birds found on Florida shores. And you can watch/photograph many species right in the salt marsh of Sand Key Park, on the beach and on the bay side. I’ve photographed at least 40 different species there, maybe around 10-15 on any given day.

papa osprey is wet after a bath sand key park clearwater fl
A female osprey, wet after a dive
reddish egret sand key park salt marsh clearwater fl
A Reddish Egret

If you want to experience untouched Florida nature and are up for a hike, then I can recommend a visit to Honeymoon Island about 30 minutes north of Clearwater.

Great Egret on Honeymoon island
A Great Egret on Honeymoon Island

And if you are up for a really long hike and the weather is nice, you can walk to Caldesi, a pristine barrier island, on a sand bar all the way from Clearwater. Those who want to just enjoy the beach or hike the nature trail can also reach Caldesi Island by boat from Honeymoon Island.

caladesi island nature trail dunedin florida
Nature trail on Caladesi Island
Beach on Caladesi Island, voted America's best beach a few years ago
Caladesi Island beach, voted America’s best beach a few years ago

Other nature related adventures are offered by Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is the home of Winter, the dolphin from two movies, Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.  The Aquarium, which is actually a hospital and rehabilitation center for marine animals, also offers excursions on the bay to examine the interesting marine life there.

Here’s to an outdoorsy vacation in the Clearwater area!

A Day on the Beach

Memorial Day weekend always marks the start of summer, kind of. Many visitors come to our beach to enjoy the warm waters and the sunny weather. I thought I’d invite you too…for a virtual vacation day right here on the beach.

We’ll walk to the beach through the nature reserve. On our way we can observe many different birds, some of them rare, and enjoy the beauty of the marsh and the park.

Once on the beach we’ll make ourselves at home. If you prefer, we can just relax, walk on the beach, collect shells, build sand castles, watch the birds and enjoy the sun and the water. The little “beach café” will stop right outside our “home” in case we forgot to prepare supplies for the day. If we prefer a bigger meal, the tent café is right next to the park.

Or if you want to be active, we can “do” stuff. How about kayaking, parasailing or a nice dolphin tour? Or just speeding on a wave runner? Dolphins might come to greet us! It’s happened to me once or twice. Or we could go for deep sea fishing or be brave and meet the pirates? If we don’t want to be on the water, we can always fly kites on the beach! As you see, there’s lots to do…

And when the evening comes, we can kick back and enjoy the golden sunset over the ocean…before we head back home.

I hope you enjoyed the day on the beach. Have a wonderful long weekend!

 

 

Another Piece of Paradise

Some time ago I wrote about finding the paradise on earth and mentioned two groups of islands, Mauritius and Seychelles, that I think come fairly close to my definition of paradise. I wrote a post about Mauritius almost a year ago and now thought that, for weekend reading, I would dive into the natural beauty of Seychelles, and the tiny island of La Dique in particular.

Some years ago we made a memorable visit to Seychelles. We stayed on the main island of Mahé, close to the capital, Victoria. Our hotel was right on the beach surrounded by lush, green tropical gardens.

We spent some lazy days walking on the beautiful beach and lapping sun around the pool, decompressing from our hectic life filled with work.

After a few days of complete relaxation, we decided to explore these islands little more. We wanted to experience the “Seychelles of yesterday”, the famous, untouched beauty of La Dique.

Early one morning we took a small plane from Victoria to the island of Praslin. From the airport we took a taxi across the pretty island – from north west to south east – to the jetty, where we caught a small freight boat, an old-fashioned schooner, to the island of La Dique. And soon arrived in paradise.

The azure waters were clear, the sand was soft and white-pinkish, the palms and the famous rock formations were breath-taking. It felt like one had arrived at the beginning of times…

This tiny island has about 2000 inhabitants. There are very few cars, bicycles and ox carts provide for transport. The island has many tropical forests and coconut groves, and the Aldabra Giant Tortoises that can live for centuries “stroll” around the island…

Seychelles is one the most environmentally aware countries in the world and has protected its natural environments to the extent that they feel truly untouched. This was very evident everywhere on La Dique.

I could not get enough of the azure waters and the wind sculpted smooth rocks surrounding the sparkling white beaches.

La Dique left a lasting impression…and I hope to go back there one day. Just have to remember to book more than a year in advance as the accommodations on the islands itself are few and sought after…For now, I think I’ll stay a while and paint in the shade of these beautiful rocks.

Bye now and have a beautiful weekend.