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June 21, 2010

I'm so proud! I caused another international incident today. Years ago, Walt and I went to Paris for the day with our friend Sian and her friend Ann. We took the Chunnel (train under the Channel from London to Paris) over and at the end of the day, we were in Montmartre and had to rush to get to the train on time. We didn't have time to stop to get a "meal," so instead we popped into a McDonald's. I chuckled over our being in the gastronomic capital of the world and all we were eating were cheeseburgers from McDonald's. I took out my camera and snapped a picture and suddenly heads went up, people started yelling and pointing at me and I slipped out of the door quickly. In the intervening years, I have made up a story that this was some great Interpol hide out and I had blown somebody's cover. I wondered if I'd be in trouble when I went back to Paris last year (but I stayed away from McDonald's).

Today we took our 2-1/2 hr walking tour. At about hour 1-1/2 Char and I decided that we really didn't want to finish the tour and really wanted to sit down somewhere and have a cold drink. The tour guide had stopped for a bathroom break in a mall where there was a McDonald's, so we told her we were going to leave the tour and go get something at McDonald's. We did.

The signs were mostly in Finnish, of course, and I wanted to remember what hamburgers and cheeseburgers are in Finland, so I took a picture of several of the signs.

Suddenly a woman rushed out from the kitchen yelling "Hey!" and saying "It is not permitted to take pictures here." What is it with McDonald's? I decided that if we find a McD's in Russia, I'd better watch out, or I might find myself in Siberia!

We had an early breakfast this morning. The hotel's huge buffet includes pickled herring and a big yogurt bar--vats of various yogurts, along with cereals, including Musli. Very healthy. Then we met in the lobby to start our walking tour.

Of course those are umbrellas. Are Mike and Char here? Then of course it's raining! Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and rain following the Blackfords wherever they go! We've known this for 50 years.

I didn't mind it at all. Rain=cool. So much easier to keep up (albeit at the end of the line) when you aren't dying from the heat!

We had a very nice tour guide

who made sure that we knew all of the most important buildings!

I'm getting the idea that Finland is very (justifiably) proud of its independence because it has been occupied by so many bigger countries. Most of the landmarks seem to be buildings and statues built by occupying countries to glorify themselves. All very military, solid looking without a lot of the frou frou that makes countries like France and Italy so picturesque.

We walked down by the docks where there was a Farmers Market that had some of the most incredible fruit. I want to go buy cherries!

We left tour not too long after that and after our experience at McDonald's, we came back to the hotel to check e-mail and stuff (people may scoff about my bringing a computer, but everybody uses it!)

Then the 4 of us set off on our own to find The Rock Church, which I had read about and seen on Rick Steeves. We got a trolly and found the right stop and toured it. Well worthwhile. The video will give you a little bit of the flavor. I'm only putting it here because I can.

We also found out what Santa does in the off season.

Then we took the trolly the long way back to the hotel, so we could see more of Helsinki. A nice, fairly nondescript town, which is clean, lots of nice parks, but still nothing to take your breath away.

Because we are old, we decided to take a nap and then meet for dinner. Stamina is not what it once was.

We went to a restaurant called "Belge," which is very close to our hotel--about four blocks. Char and I each had lamb shanks cooked with some kind of "monestary beer," which were some of the best lamb I've ever tasted. Walt had a slab of salmon with what looked like a ladder of shrimp leaning up against it and Mike had a huge bucket of mussels. We all had beer. I've only been here two days and already I've had more beer than I've had in the last 10 years, I think. But it's tasting very good on my dry throat!

Tomorrow we are taking a ferry to Estonia, so we can add another country to our list of countries we have visited!

Day of Leisure.





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