The start of our summer holidays and whilst most Britsh families head south to the Mediterranean we always head north to Finland. You may find this somewhat strange but actually southern Finland generally enjoys warm sunny weather during the summer months, warm enough for trips to the beach and for swimming in the crystal clear lakes and sea.
My love affair with Finland began in 2006 when I had the privilege to go there for a few weeks as a visiting teacher. Although I’d travelled widely over the years and had visited neighbouring Norway and Sweden, I hadn’t been to Finland before but that first visit was to leave a lasting impression on me, so much so that I have visited for summer holidays every year since then and even taken two winter ski trips with my family to Saariselkä in Lapland situated in the very north of the country way above the arctic circle.
Back to today, I left home mid morning to make my way to London’s Heathrow airport by train. In previous years I have either flown from Manchester or taken a connecting flight with BA down to Heathrow but this year it was much cheaper for me to travel down to London by train and take a direct flight from there. My large suitcase, approaching its weight limit of 23kg was difficult to manoeuvre but somehow I managed to get it on and off trains, often with the kind help of fellow passengers. After arriving at London’s Kings Cross station there is step free access down to the Underground and trains run direct along the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow enabling me and my luggage to get there unscathed.
Despite the majority of BA flights departing from Terminal 5, some flights including the one to Helsinki still depart from the not so attractive Terminal 3. After checking in, I wandered round the terminal glancing in some of the shops and cafes before stopping for a sit down and a snack in one of them.
You might think from my post that I’m going on holiday all alone but this isn’t the case. My husband and sons will be joining me to fit in with their work commitments at differing times as they are fervent lovers of all things Finnish just like me! In fact, my older son is flying into Helsinki from Gatwick on a Norwegian flight today and our flights are due to arrive in Helsinki at exactly the same time so it will be interesting to see what happens and if both our flights arrive on time! Norwegian offer free wi-fi but that’s not very helpful to me once I’m airborne as BA don’t offer such luxuries.
It was a full flight taking less than three hours into Helsinki. Sitting next to me were two gynaecologists travelling to Helsinki to attend a conference in the Finnish capital. It was to be their first visit so we discussed how they might spend some of their free time. Chatting to them, I discovered that the first hospital one of them had worked in was the one in which I was born – what a coincidence!
The snack on board was small but delicious, a sweet and savoury combination of a chicken and bacon roll followed by a salted caramel muffin, (there was a salad option available for vegetarians). Then it seemed in no time at all that we were landing at Helsinki Vantaa Airport, 11.45 pm local time but still light – how I love the ‘white nights’ of Finland – they leave me so energised!
Just as I arrived in the Baggage Hall my suitcase appeared, how I wish other airports were as efficient as this one. I walked out into the Arrivals Hall, looked round and about a minute later my son appeared, his flight touching down two minutes after mine, perfect timing!
After greeting each other, we walked along to the airport railway station which opened almost exactly one year ago and caught the train into the city centre from where we strolled across to the Kamppi bus station to take a night bus the short distance to our rented apartment where we’ve stayed several times before. After unpacking and a little supper it was time for bed, feeling immensely happy to be back in Finland!