Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter Cruise to Finland

During our recent holiday, aside from driving up to Norrland (Sweden) chasing Northern Lights, we also booked a winter cruise to Finland from Stockholm, Sweden.

A 2-night cruise on the Baltic Sea with a stop in Mariehamn, Finland and Helsinki, Finland. With more than 10 restaurants, a casino, night club and lots of shops, the luxury cruise Tallink Silja Line also offers entertainment on the promenade such as live band and Moomin mascot. Our 2-night cruise trip includes a cozy cabin on deck 11, breakfast buffet, dinner at the Grand Buffet on the first night, dinner at Happy Lobster on the second night, and Bus Tour around Helsinki.

The itinerary of our cruise trip. 

Day 1
1600H: Boarding time! When we boarded the ship, we were warmly welcomed by the staff and Blues band were playing music on the promenade. Our room was located on Deck 11 and it was really cozy.

On our way to the cruise ship, Silja Serenade.
Our room.

1630H: We just dropped our luggage in the room then we immediately looked around, took photos, went into the shops and checked the menus of every restaurant. We were confused where to have dinner since there were a lot of nice restaurants to choose from.

Deck 11 windows overlooking the Promenade
The Promenade/ shopping street. 
Outside the Nightclub and Casino.

1800-2200H: Getting ready for a fancy dinner, the first night we decided to have dinner at the Grande Buffet. It has a wide variety of food options from Asian to Western cuisine. After Dinner, we checked the Duty-Free shop since it was closed when we boarded. They offered 30% discount that night so we bought some wine and goodies. Then we went to the casino and played a little but I lost. LOL! After casino, we wanted to have a drink so we went to the nightclub. And while enjoying my cocktail, I was also having fun watching a wonderful dance show.

Outside the Grande Buffet.
Very huge on board Duty-Free!

Day 2
0800H: Getting ready for Helsinki. Having breakfast while watching the sun rise. :)

Lovely view at the breakfast room.

0930H: We arrived in Hesinki. We directly went outside the terminal to catch up with the Bus tour around the city. We were a little late.

The façade of Helsinki Cathedral, fronted by a statue of Emperor Alexander II of Russia

The Helsinki Cathedral.

Our First Stop: Temppeliaukio Church. We went inside this very unique Lutheran Church built directly into solid rock.

Uspenski Cathedral- An Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in Helsinki.

Our Second Stop: Sibelius Monument.

Helsinki Olympic Stadium where the 1952 Summer Olympics was held. Now, it is used as the home stadium of the Finland national football team and is also used also as concert venue.

Havis Amanda-  She is a mermaid who stands on seaweed as she rises from the water, with four fish spouting water at her feet and surrounded by four sea lions.

Our Final Stop: Restaurant Kappeli.

In front of Restaurant Kappeli.

1230H: After looking around Helsinki, we went to the shopping street and had a late lunch.

Kluuvikatu Street.

1500H: Time to go back to the Ship.

Time to go back to the ship.
Silja Line is the official sea carrier of Santa Claus and Moomin.
So tired from touring and shopping! LOL!

1530H: So glad the staff agreed to take us for a Bridge Tour.


1600H: After the bridge tour, we went back to the promenade to check again the restaurants and there was a new band playing live music. Moomin and Little My were also there greeting the new guests boarding.

Live Music!
With Moomin and Little My. :)

1800H-2200H: Getting ready for Dinner. This time, we picked the Happy Lobster Restaurant and the food was really good! After dinner, I went shopping. Then we went back to the Night Club to watch a new dance performance while having a nice drink.

Of course, I have to take the Scandinavian Salmon.
Very yummy dessert.
After dinner, went back to the luxury shop to buy the Versace belt I've been eyeing. ;)

0930H: Back in Stockholm, Sweden.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Trip to Norrland

Hello Everyone! Just came back from my unusual holiday. I call it unusual because it's not really my cup of tea to travel to the north on wintertime. Believe me, I love snow and I just love how it looks when it turns everything around into white, giving it a picturesque backdrop but don't like the cold weather! When I was young, coming from a tropical country, I used to wish we have four seasons so I could play with snow or build a snowman or go skiing but when I actually experienced my first winter, I was happy I was born in Paradise. ;)

During this holiday, We drove from the Skåne, Sweden to Umeå, Sweden and yes it was a long drive! However, we made a stop in Dalarna for two nights to see the famous giant Dalahäst (Dala Horse) and visit the old cozy town of Tällberg.


one of Tällberg's timber hotels.
Tällberg- one of the most known tourist and visitor resorts in Sweden.

Beautiful view over lake Siljan in Tällberg.

It took about 6 hours drive from Skåne to Dalarna and another 6 hours from Dalarna to Umeå. The reason why I wanted to go to the north of Sweden (Norrland) is to be able to see the Northern Lights and I was willing to go far north to the last city of Sweden, Kiruna. Since we only have two weeks holiday and we also booked a winter cruise to Finland, we didn't really have time to drive another 7 hours from Umeå to Kiruna and back.

So bad weather and snowing heavily going to Umeå.

Driving at 40km/hr since we didn't have spikes on our car.

On our first night in Norrland, we booked a hotel in a small town outside Umeå and drove to the forest hoping to see the Aurora Borealis, regardless of a weak Aurora forecast with only 2 kp. We waited for hours but the sky was not clear enough so we gave up. The next day, we drove to Umeå to see a friend and decided to stay in the city even though the Aurora forecast that night was very active. We stayed at Stora Hotellet and it is probably one of the most fabulous hotels I have stayed. The staff were very helpful with superb service. Nightfall, we drove outside the city to go to a darker area. The sky was clear, the stars were out and on our way to the forest, we saw a greenish glow on the horizon. It was so beautiful and my instincts were telling me to take photos but I was too lazy to take the camera out and I was also assuming to see more so I didn't. Yes, it was the Northern Lights. We drove and drove until we reached a really dark forest, we stopped and waited for a while. Suddenly, we saw a reindeer crossing the quiet forest road. It didn't care and it was busy eating. My husband was very happy since it was his first time to see reindeer in the wild. Apparently, there were more reindeer on the other side of the road. We waited and waited until we became so hungry so we drove back to the city to eat then a few hours later, the weather changed from clear to very foggy so I never got the chance to see the Aurora Borealis again. :(

Downtown of Umeå.

Frozen river in Umeå, Sweden.

Very artistic rooms of Stora Hotellet from 250USD per night.

Stora Hotellet

Stora Hotellet

We found a reindeer!

And more reindeer! Spot them.

The Northern Lights we saw was more like this. I regret I didn't take photo! But still happy to see the Northern Lights low on the horizon.

Photo credit: Jdombstravels

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Wardrobe Staple: Little Black Dress

My husband and I always find time to go on a date. We believe that going out on a date not only solidifies the relationship but also builds a happy marriage. We have been married for many years but every time we go out for dinner or have a glass of wine or go to the opera, I still feel excited like it's our first date. And we have this quirky tradition that started when we were still dating, we dress up!

A little black dress is a staple for every woman's wardrobe. It doesn't have to be expensive, as long as it's classy and it looks good on you then it should be among your clothing items. Black dresses usually hide flaws and highlight your attributes. During the day, you can wear it with a scarf or a cardigan or bolero or jacket and some flats and for date nights,wear it with high heels and some accessories.

During our Holiday in Spain some months ago, my husband and I went back to Torrevieja Marina to have dinner at the Italian Restaurant.

Little Black Dress: Forever 21
Shoes: Yves Saint Laurent
Bag: Prada
Accessories: Tissot Watch; Ruby Earrings; Silver Bangles