The trip to HEL

| October 22, 2015

I wrote this up on 17 October, the day we traveled to Helsinki.  Here goes:

I am cranky. That’s how I’m starting out this blog entry: This day has been mostly intolerable.


I’m not one to bad mouth Lufthansa; in fact, I’m typically a huge fan who gushes about the airline for not only its services, but also its family-friendliness. Today was an exception. 

Arrive at FRA. Print out boarding passes. The ticket prints and Sequoia–my 8-year-old–is on standby.


Get in line. Agent says they’ll fix it at the gate. That’s never settling, going to the gate without a seat.

Get in line for security. Paul is pulled aside and they run his belongings four times.


Security determines that the item flagging Paul was: his iPhone charger.

kari face

Because they’ve never seen one of those before.

I step into the body scan. I am scanned four times. I am then pulled aside and frisked. (At least it wasn’t like last time, when they actually went inside my pants.)


The gate did give Sequoia a seat on the plane. They didn’t seat us all together (a first for Lufthansa), but I switched with Paul so that I could sit next to my child.  

The gate called our flight number. We made it through without incident (yay!). Then we got stuck in a hallway with anout 50 people from our flight because the door was locked.


Then we got on a bus. We rode a while, were dropped off on the tarmac, and then got to stand in line outside in the cold for a while.  It was beginning to feel like a RyanAir flight

I will say this: in true, family-friendly Lufthansa form, the flight attendant handed Sequoia activity books as soon as she stepped on the plane. 

Then came lunch–included, as always, even for a two-hour flight. Yum!

Redeeming themselves through my stomach.

Redeeming themselves through my stomach.


We arrived to walk quite a ways between terminals to find an exit. (Note: the departure required even more walking, starting out 4 stories underground after disembarking the train, which had been above-ground until dumping us in a cave.) We grabbed a cab. The driver was very nice, pointing out sights as we passed them.  I was feeling a bit queasy, sitting in the back seat.  Paul later informed me that the driver was so bad that when he tried to cut a guy off, that guy gave him the finger and held it up for a verrrrrrrry long time.  I don’t know how I missed that.  I was probably trying not to barf.

The cab driver dropped us off at the tourist bureau. We were starving.  The restaurants around the tourist bureau were closed because we were in between lunch and dinner hours for Finns.

Of course we were.

I walked into the tourist center to grab some maps, brochures, and city passes. I gathered a LOT of literature. I did not think ahead to how much this would weigh down my backpack. I was incredibly–and I mean, incredibly–disappointed to find that they were out of “Food Helsinki? Hel, Yeah!” maps in English. For as long as I’ve planned the trip, I have been looking forward to picking up one of the foodie maps to follow around town, restaurant to restaurant. So I grabbed a Russian-language foodie map. 

Because that’ll help. 

Sequoia grabbed a kids’ map of the city. 

We noticed an open cafe and walked in.

helsinki finland

The selection was limited, but good. Unfortunately, despite the “free wifi” signs on the main sign and behind the counter, you couldn’t connect. The girl: “yeah, it doesn’t work inside here.”

The word “inside” was in the wifi name. 

After a while, Paul wanted to walk to Starbucks. 

    Me: Is it on the way to the hotel?

    Paul: No, but it’s not far. 

We schlepped our 3 suitcases, 2 backpacks, 1 messenger bag, and Sequoia’s jacket down to the Starbucks, where the line was, um, long. Paul no longer wanted coffee. 

We headed back in the direction of the hotel.

Wait–I have not yet mentioned something–

A week ago, I changed a hotel reservation to stay instead at the Radisson Blu in Espoo. Who doesn’t want to stay in a place called Espoo?

Paul asked why I changed the hotel. I told him that there was more to do at the Radisson, including a pool. When he asked how far it was to city center, I told him about the convenient shuttle. Still, he seemed displeased. He was also concerned about cost since these two weeks are travel-packed. 

I searched for a new hotel. I found a very highly-rated apartment hotel. Now, I don’t typically do apartments. There are no amenities, no service–and I’m an amenities, services kind of girl. 

“I’m an amenities, services kind of girl.”

But out of love for this man, I booked the hotel at half the cost of the Radisson. 

In the airport, Paul was reading the email about the apartment. The door code would not be activated until 1600. We were due to arrive at HEL at 1300. That meant we would be lugging luggage around the city for 3 hours. 

    Me: this is why you go to a real hotel. You can leave your bags there. 

    Paul: why did you change it from the Radisson?

Are you fucking kidding me?

Okay. Now I’ll get back to the story…We were leaving Starbucks. 

We began dragging our suitcases across town through cobblestone, gravel, dirt. We come to a large intersection. I point out the crosswalk to the right. 

    Paul: but we need to go left. 

    Sequoia: my (children’s) map says go straight.

Sequoia was right.

We continued on our way (well, after I threw back two pain relievers since my chronic left shoulder pain was acting up and my arm was numb and tingly from my chronic neck pain because I WAS DRAGGING SUITCASES THROUGH A CITY). 

helsinki, finland

We walked up a hill to find a set of stairs leading back down to the street level where we’d begun walking uphill. 

That was awesome. 

Eventually we found the apartment. We were 14 minutes early, so our door code did not work. A taxi driver waiting for a customer told us to slip in when someone came out. 

We totally did. 

We stepped inside. I saw that we would need to go up three floors to our apartment. Dismayed to find no elevator, I walked past a door and began lugging my shit up three flights of stairs. At the top, I noticed the same type of door I had seen downstairs. 

    Me: oh my god there was an elevator. 

    Paul: yeah, I was wondering why you walked past it. 

Are you fucking kidding me?

It’s like he was saving his voice for a concert. He literally did not say, at the bottom of the elevator, “Did you see the elevator?”

It was 8 minutes til 1600. The door code did not work. Sure enough, though, when we tried at 1601, it worked. 

I am writing this as Paul is out at a grocery store buying something for tomorrow morning since we are in an apartment and there are no services or amenities.

I want the Radisson. 

Addendum: Return trip, security pulled Sequoia aside and swabbed her.  They then swabbed me because my bracelets set off the machine.  Why–I ask, why–do they swab Sequoia and/or do a full pat-down?  What in the fuck do they think she is going to do?

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Category: Europe, Family Travel, In Germany A Broad blog, Travel, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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