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June 20, 2010

Well, it wasn't easy, but we are here in Finland. The day started ....oh lord, I don't remember how many hours ago. it is now 1:15 p.m. Sunday in California, 11:18 p.m. Sunday in Finland and we began at 7 a.m. California time Saturday. I haven't slept yet.

I got most of what I was going to do done, including going to and reviewing the show, and making brownies for Ashley. I slept for a couple of hours and then got up to finish the packing, with Bitsy's help

Our Delta flight was scheduled to leave at 1:30 and we wanted to get there early to avoid problems (GOOD THING!). I think it was as we were getting out of the car at the parking lot when I remembered the three things I had not brought: my credit card, my ATM card, and my medical card. Good thing Walt is traveling with me! On the bright side, this will be a very cheap trip for me since I don't have enough money to buy a postcard and will be totally beholden to Walt for everything (which means fewer inpulse purchases!)

The second thing I discovered was in the very long check-in line at Delta. That odd smell I'd been smelling was coming from me. It seems that at some point in the past, a dog--could have been anybody, and was probably one of the fosters on a trip to or from Petco--peed on my jacket. As I write this, I have turned it into the hotel staff for washing. It is probably going to cost a small fortune, but there's not much I can do about it.

The Delta counter was a zoo. We kept being moved from this line to that line. We were plenty early, so we weren't worried about missing the plane, but it was just a damned nuisance. Then we learned that our flight had been delayed and that it would now arrive in Detroit too late to make the connecting flight to Amsterdam (and then to Helsinki). In the meantime we were texting with Char and Mike, who were on Air France to Paris and then to Helsinki, and their flight had been delayed until 4:30.

By the time we got to the counter, Delta had already rebooked us on British Air, flying to London and then to Helsinki. I was thrilled because I really like British Air. As it turned out we were leaving almost at the same time as Mike and Char, so we waited for them at the int'l terminal, had lunch with them, and then we all said goodbye and leaded to our respective planes.

Any flight is a good one if I can buckle the seatbelt and don't need an extender and not only could I do that but I could even almost put the tray table down, which allowed me to actually eat meals off my own tray and not have to share Walt's with him.

They have this great entertainment system, with individual TV screens and literally a couple of hundred options for movies and TV programs. Unfortunately, it took them nearly an hour to get it working. The poor co-pilot had to keep coming on and saying he still couldn't figure out the problem and he'd try rebooting the system again. Each reboot took about 20 minutes. But eventually, he got it fixed, we all held our breaths and I watched The Blind Side which I'd wanted to see for a long time.

I tried to get to sleep after that, but could not. I read, I listened to music, I watched a movie I had seen before, thinking that would put me to sleep. Walt slept a lot and unfortunately just when I finally started to drift off to sleep, 3 hours from London he woke up and I had to get up and let him out to the bathroom. By the time he wandered around the plane looking out the windows and doing I don't know what all, I was wide awake and any thought of sleep on that 10 hour flight were gone.

We had a couple of hours at Heathrow, but they are very sneaky there. They don't tell you your GATE until it's almost time for the plane to board. And then they post signs telling your how much time to allot to get to your gate in this ginormous airport.

Naturally we were at the "20 minute" gate.

But we made it and flew the next 3 hours on FinAir, which was a lovely airline, and another where the seatbelt fit and I was able to put the tray table down. I misunderstood the literature and thought we had to buy our snacks on this flight, so we got some like rye crisp with some kind of cream cheese filling and then a big bag of peanuts to split. We paid about seven euro for those and when we had finished eating them, they gave us LUNCH, a humongous sandwich that I didn't even open.

Flying into Helsinki reminded me of flying into Minneapolis, with lots and lots of bodies of water--little lakes, big lakes, rivers, etc. Very green, very flat, and very neat looking fields and barns. The airport itself was almost empty (it being 6 p.m. on a Sunday). Extremely clean, with sauna and massage parlor, and even some chairs in the waiting room that recline. And, unlike either San Francisco or London, they offer free wifi (which I was unable to use because we had a Viking Cruise Line rep to meet).

We met some nice people from the cruise in the car and more at the hotel, including Suellyn, with whom I have been communicating on Facebook.

We drove in from the airport. The city seems very clean, very ordinary. Nothing to make you go "oooo...look at that!!" Our hotel is NOT the one pictured yesterday. This is very simple and utilitarian. We are paying roughly $300 a night for our room (it was included in the cruise price) and this is the room:

But it's clean and comfortable, if not exactly the 4-star hotel we had expected. And you need a key for EVERYTHING. You can't use the elevator without a key. You can't even TURN ON THE LIGHTS without a key!

This is the view from our window at 11 p.m.:

We we went out with Mike and Char looking for something to eat, but we had been fooled by the light sky and it was actually so late, everything was closing. Instead we came back to the hotel and had a wonderful small Italian dinner in the hotel. My vegetarian bruschetta was amazing.

Now Walt has gone to sleep.

and as soon as I see if this will post, I will do likewise. Tomorrow we have a 2-1/2 hour walking tour, which I expect will kill me. :)

Helsinki walking tour (oh dear...!). Enjoy a walking tour introducing you to the main sights of the Old Town of Helsinki. See the neoclassical Senate Square, the Uspenski Cathedral, the port and its adjacent market and the downtown shopping district.

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Afternoon of Leisure.


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