Ebates Referral
Lately, I have been using Ebates when purchasing products and services online. It's a great site to earn cash back with online purchases you were probably already going to make. It is free to sign up, and if you use my referral link, we both earn 5$ after your first purchase of 25$ or more.


My sister is the one who introduced me to the rebate site, and I hesitated for almost a year. I'm happy to say, it's a legitimate opportunity and I'm looking forward to my 'big fat' cheque when it's time for a payout :) Do remember to read the fine print of each store's offer as the rebate % may differ for certain items/services purchase.

I find the sign up to be quick and easy and non-invasive with privacy. Give it a try! Especially if you're going to shop at the stores they have listed.

Happy Shopping!

LJ 18th anniversary

#mylivejournal #lj18 #happybirthday

2015 Finnish Parliamentary Election
When I was visiting Helsinki, the Finnish political season was quite an exciting event, full of campaigning by the various political groups. It was interesting to see the various parties and their booths outside Kamppi Center. They offered information along with various methods of entertainment and treats to attract the population to come talk to the various candidates and parties. I have to say that my friend is active in collecting knowledge on the various parties, so we had a great time following/watching the election results on the television.

Helsinki, Green Party

Temppeliaukio Kirkko aka Rock Church
The Rock Church is a Lutheran church with the interior built out of a solid rock. Head upstairs to the second platform for a better view of everything. Outside the church, look for a path to walk up around the roof of the building. *You can't and shouldn't climb over to see the glass part of the roof.

Rock Church HelsinkiRock Church Helsinki

Rock Church HelsinkiRock Church Helsinki Exterior

Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki
Hours: 10:00-17:00 (hours may differ on event days.)
Admission: Free

Explore the Charming Suomenlinna Island
Suomenlinna Island is reachable by a local HSL ferry, that is included for free with the HRT/HSL day pass and Regional day pass. You can also get there by a water taxi. It's a perfect getaway on a quick 15-20 minute ferry ride to this relaxing island on any day of the year. The ferry boat offers a covered deck or an open air deck on top, both with seating available. So therefore you can take the ferry even if it is raining. Once you dock and walk off the ferry quay, the visitor center is right ahead of you and you can go ask for a map and any information you need about the island. Even if the visitor center is closed the island has clear markings and directions of places that you can visit around the island.

Suomenlinna IslandSuomenlinna Island, Augustin Ehrensvard's Tomb in the Great CourtyardSuomenlinna Island - old bunker

There are a lot of interesting sites and points to visit on the island; that is divided into 5 districts, because it’s actually 4 islands connected by short bridges. I was there in the late winter season but I still found myself spending over 3 hours exploring almost every corner of the island. Locals live on Suomenlinna Island, so be respectful of that fact when walking around. My friend told me that interesting enough no one is allowed to own property in this island as everything is on a lease only. Keep in mind that there's also a military base there. I'm not sure if you're able to access it but you can give it a try. That was a part of the island that I did’t have time to venture.

The island’s history and military significance is very interesting and you can read up on the information as you tour around, especially about the Russian Finnish War. You’ll most likely run into the Suomenlinna Church first as you walk around. There are old bunkers to wander into and around. There are a few museums on the island, most if not all only open during the summer season. The great courtyard offers the tomb of Augustin Ehrensvard, Swedish militant and designer of the fortress of Sveaborg. Much of the island is actually fortified, since it was and a part still is a military base. There is an old dry dock (still in use.) There’s a site of the old Vesikko submarine, now a museum. Kustaanmiekka part of the island offers great view of the sea and it’s where you can walk along the original bastion fortress walls. If you time it right, you might be able to catch the huge ferries pass by the strait. It's pretty amazing to view how those big ships are able to maneuver through what seems like a narrow passage. Here is where you can find the King’s gate, a waterway entrance originally meant only for high officials and royalty.

Apartment Building on Suomenlinna IslandA school yard at Suomenlinna Island

I didn’t enter the visitor center nor any of the museums when I was there, but I still found this island to be easy to get around, charming and interesting none-the-less. The weather turned out to be very lovely this winter afternoon I was there. The sun even came out and on the ferry ride back to Helsinki we saw a rainbow. For just the cost of a ferry ride (included if you have a transit pass) this island is not to be missed any time of the year.

Suomenlinna Island, Bastion FortressSuomenlinna Island, Viking Cruise LineSuomenlinna Island's Great Courtyard

-Bring a flashlight to explore inside some of the bunkers as there are no lights inside.
-There are free public restrooms in various parts of the island.
-Museum/Cafes/Restaurants are mainly open in the summer season only, check ahead for available hours in the off-season.
-I only noticed 1 market store on the island and that is by the quay.
-Pack a picnic and enjoy the views
-You can bring your bike onto the ferry to use on the island.

Acccessible 365 Days/Year
Check HSL Ferry times for service.

Kiasma, Contemporary Art Museum
Kiasma's interior and exterior are pretty spectacular, especially as a place to display contemporary art. Ceilings are high, there are lots of lighted area that give you a sense of openness. The cafe and shop are open style.

Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum

The Robert Mapplethorpe photography, Ismo Kajander: Anartist, Face to Face and Elements exhibits along with their permanent collection were present at the time of my visit.

Kiasma Contemporary Art MuseumHelsinki Kiasma

As all contemporary art goes, some you like, some you don’t. I liked that the gallery had an eclectic mix of contemporary art.

Interesting enough there seem to be a street demonstration/protest outside when we were about to leave the gallery. From inside I could see the police and horses on guard. I found it funny that it seemed like one of the officers were taking pictures with his cellphone.

Non-Violent Protest in HelsinkiHelsinki Police on Guard

Mannerheimplatsen 2, 00100, Helsinki
Admission Fee: 12€ (Free every first Friday of the month)

Töölö’s Silbelius and Regatta Cafe
Helsinki Public Art Sculpture, Jean Sibeluis tribute

Took the bus/tram to Sibelius Monument (Sibelius-monumentti) in the Töölö district. The monument is a public art sculpture in honour of Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. It’s interesting and you can enjoy the waterfront park around it, along with a WWII monument and the Ilmatar and the Scaup bronze piece.

Tip: http://www.hamhelsinki.fi – A great website, to help you explore all the public sculptures in the Helsinki region.

Regatta Cafe - HelsinkiRegatta Cafe - Helsinki

A short walk from the monument is the Regatta Cafe. It’s popular amongst tourist but deserves it’s fame. The cute shop is quaint with filtered coffee/tea and a decent selection of pastries to choose from, with pretty standard prices. Not the best coffee but does come with free refills! They offer an outside fire pit for you to roast your own hotdogs. There is plenty of outside seating if you can’t find a seat in it’s limited seating inside. In case of rain, there are a few parts that have a covered roof outside. The restroom is clean and interesting, with lots of little trinkets to look at when you’re doing your ‘business.‘ Yes, I am actually promoting their toilets. All in all, Regatta is a nice place for a coffee break and/or to catch up on a book.

Regatta Cafe - HelsinkiRegatta Cafe - Helsinki

Regatta Cafe, Merikannontie 8, Töölö, 00260 Helsinki, +358 40 4149167
Hours: 09:00-21:00, Open on holidays too.

Public Transport: Helsinki Regional Day Pass
Card CoverPublic Transportation around Helsinki and surrounding area is runned by HSL HRT and I found them to be quite efficient. Their website (www.hsl.fi) is also available in English, and their route planner works well too (http://www.reittiopas.fi/en/)

I was staying in Espoo, so I decided to buy the HSL/HRT 4 day regional pass for 30€, valid on all local/regional bus, tram, metro, some suburban trains and the Suomenlinna ferry for Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vantaa region. The pass is electronically added to a single-charge card that you just tap on readers when entering any form of transport. The day pass is valid upon first tap, based on a 24 hour period, as opposed to midnight. You do not have to worry about any buttons on the readers if you are using any day pass. I found the price to be the better value as a single use regional ticket costs 5,50€ and is valid for 80 minutes only. The day pass is a better value when you buy the total days you need all at once, as the one day regional ticket is 12€, and then another 6€/day.

You can’t buy day passes on buses so I went to the R-Kioski (Finland’s equivalent to 7-11) at the Kamppi Center (Kampin Keskus) where there is the central bus terminal, metro station, and mini shopping center. The cashier worker was very nice there, spoke English, and very pleasant to help me buy my regional pass. I made the error of buying only a 3 day pass at first, I noticed before leaving and told him, he charged me the extra 6€ and made the adjustment on the pass. He told me since I hadn’t validated the card, he could easier add the extra day with no problem. I was able to pay with my credit card, which was a nice bonus. I should have bought the day pass when I was at the airport, but I wanted to confirm some plans with my friend so that I could figure out how many days I needed the pass. So, from my friend’s place, I bought the regional ticket at 5€ (now 5,50€) from the bus driver. The ticket is an electronic print out with the fare paid and the date/time of when you ticket is expired (80mins), it even mentions what bus# and time of purchase. You can purchase tickets/day pass from machines as well. I didn’t use that method, so can’t tell you for sure it’s functionality. Personally I like going to the R-Kioski (they even have one at the airport,) since they are everywhere. The cashier at the R-Kioski gave me a free card holder, which I don’t believe they include when you purchase at a machine. You’ll notice the actual card is pretty flimsy so the card holder was helpful.

HSL HRT Helsinki Bus TicketHelsinki Single-Charge Regional Day Pass Card

Most regional buses didn’t make stop announcements (text and sometimes voice in Finnish/Swedish,) however, I noticed local buses and trams did. Of course, I’m sure if you asked the bus driver to let you know when you get to a certain stop, he/she would help. Although I don’t know for sure if all bus drivers can speak English, so write down your destination (in Finnish) just in case. Whenever I took a regional bus it was either to my friend’s place in Espoo or Kamppi Teminal (which I recognized both stops) so I didn’t have much trouble. Regional buses are not too frequent but are pretty good on time. Unfortuntely, their frequency to other regions, usually entail going to Helsinki and then transfering or have limited timetables.

The bus from Espoo to the airport had a very limited schedule so I decided I would bus to Helsinki and catch the regional airport bus at the train station. Keep in mind there are bus stops (terminus) on both sides of the train station. At the time I was there I found the signs at the train station for the airport bus non-existing and when I asked someone they didn’t really explain it properly. If facing the train entrance from Kaivokatu Street the main bus terminal is to the right, there is a bus to airport from the left side of the station, but that one is the Finnair bus. The Finnair bus is a separate ticketing from the HSL/HRT airport bus #615. The advantage of the Finnair bus, is that it is direct to the airport, but also cost a bit more, and if you are using the regional day pass, it is not valid on them. Bus#615 makes a few stops before making it to the terminals of the airport. Don't forget to figure out if you're going to Terminal 1 (star alliance) or 2 (Finnair and One World) of Helsinki airport. If you do forget, they are connected pretty close to one another via a corridor.
***Update: So, it seems that the train from Helsinki airport to city center is now in operation, and you can use the regional day pass to travel between both points (https://www.hsl.fi/en/ringrailline)

The Helsinki only or regional day pass both includes the local Suomenlinna ferry, which is a very nice 10 minute ferry ride to go explore the island on foot or bikes afterwards. I was there during the off season, and although almost everything on the island was closed except for the tourist office, it was a very nice walk around the island. I’ll write more about this island on a different post.

Tip: If you are riding on the system with a pram/pushchair (stroller) with a child between 0-6 years, you can both ride the Helsinki region transport for free. Baby body carriers/wraps do not count as a pram/pushchair, at that point it's full fare.

*UPDATE, April 2016: So the Helsinki Regional Transport has done a lot of newly improved developments in their ticketing machines, card readers, voice/text announcements, real-time waiting times and etc. I find the system to be extremely visitor friendly, so those looking to visit Helsinki and it's surrounding region should take advantage of a well designed public transportation system.

Good to know Finnish Vocabulary:

train station - rautatieasema
bus terminal at train station square - rautatientori
bus station - linja-autoasema
central bus terminal - linja-autoterminaali
single ticket - kertalippu
single regional ticket - seutulippu
day ticket - matkailijalippu

On my way to Helsinki: Air France - CDG - Finnair
AF0351, AY0872 Air France Toronto-Paris-Helsinki Boarding Pass

My flight to Paris was fairly easy. The configuration of aircraft, in economy, was 3 by 4 by 3. As usual, I had the window seat (39A) and this time I was seated next to a nice middle aged Indian couple who were going to Paris to attend a wedding ceremony. It’s an overnight flight, so for the most part there isn’t a need to socialize with your seat neighbours.

Menus are passed out and aperatifs are offered with dinner being served soon after we were high enough in the air. The digestif carts came by afterwards. Along with water service throughout the night. A hot breakfast is served before arriving in Paris.

The seats aren’t the most comfortable to sleep in but one should try to get some rest on a redeye flight.

Economy Class Menu YYZ-CDG
Air France Economy Class Menu YYZ-CDG

On arriving at Charles de Gaulle (CDG,) I had to go from Terminal 2E to 2D. I followed the signs for a connecting flight. Went through a somewhat unorganized set of lines that was a security bag check. I think that took about 30 minutes. I had to show my connecting boarding pass and passport at this security check. A lot of passengers seemed confused of this process, and honestly, so was myself. I then followed the signs for 2D to come to a shuttle bus area. I waited about 5 minutes for this shuttle bus, that took us on a ride through the different terminals. I got off at 2D. Walked around signs that showed connecting flight and noticed the immigration & customs booth I was to go through. Officer asked me the basic questions and stamped my passport. I notice that I was actually exiting to landside of the terminal at this point. I walked towards another security checkpoint to get back into airside of Terminal 2D. This was fairly quick but still, I was kind of wondering why I had to do 2 security checks if I was just connecting through CDG. Did this double check have to do with I should have landed in 2F but instead was starting from 2E? Anyways, Terminal 2D was quite crowded. There didn’t seem to be enough seating and it had so many storefronts occupying the terminal’s space. I had arrived at my boarding gate with just enough time to go to the restroom before having to board.

My flight to Helsinki would be provided by Finnair, an Air France code-share. I already had my mobile ticket but on boarding, the machine was not reading it properly. The gate agent (I later noticed was also the FA) suggested that I needed to brighten the phone screen and I told her it was, so she asked me for the seat number instead in order to board me. I was a little annoyed that she questioned me when I told her 3A. (If you look at the seat placement online, Finnair usually flies their business/first class in that row, but on my flight it would be an economy seat. I almost felt like she was judging me.)

Anyways, the seats were okay. It’s a 3 by 3 configuration throughout (for first class they don’t seat a middle person) but since they partition their classes through an awkward movable plastic screen with a middle curtain, I felt kind of claustrophobic with it being right in front of my face. Plus the guy in front of me totally collapsed his chair down. I also lost any view of the overhead screen with the plastic barrier in front of me.

Complimentary blueberry juice, coffee, or tea was served. I was really excited to try the juice, and I’m glad I did. It’s definitely one of the best juice I’ve ever tasted.

Helsinki airport is fairly straight forward to move around. I waited a short bit for my luggage at the carousel and soon enough I headed toward the agree meeting place, cause my lovely friend had offered to pick me up from the airport. Which would save me the bus trips through Helsinki to Espoo.

CDG is also known as Roissy airport. It's not my favourite airport in Europe. It's one of the busiest and therefore, sometimes very unorganized and not really passenger friendly in my opinion. If you have a connecting flight, and it's not with AirFrance, expect delays through security and/or immigration/customs. Give yourself at least 3 hours between flights.

I’m not sure if it was the AF flight or the Finnair flight, or a combination, but when I arrived to Helsinki I was feeling fairly bloated and gassy. I had diarrhea which actually lasted for several days. Someone told me it’s pretty common from flying but it was the first time I suffered from it. I think I must have been dehydrated from flying, so even on those overnight flights, drink lots of water.


Summary of Air France, Economy Class, Flight AF0351, 18:35, Toronto (YYZ) to Paris, Charles de Gaulle (CDG), April 16, 2015:

Website: 4/5 A straight forward site with no complications.

Price: 5/5 I had found an excellent multi-city fare option

Service: 5/5 On time boarding and arrival.

Aircraft: 3.5/5 Clean and the seat width were okay. In economy you can't help but feel getting out of a window seat entails bumping into something.

Staff: 4/5 I think the agents and flight attendants did their job and were pleasant. I generally have an easy time with agents in Toronto.

Food: 4.5/5 Pretty standard in economy class food offerings. I like their menu design. Free champagne as aperatif.

Summary of Finnair, Economy Class, Flight AY0872, 10:50, Paris (CDG) to Helsinki (HEL), April 17, 2015:

Service: 4/5 Relatively on time boarding and arrival.

Aircraft: 3.5/5 The separator between first/economy is quite intruding. So, don’t be the first economy row behind first. Although, even with their seat map you can’t know for sure which row it might be.

Staff: 4/5 I think the gate agent I had was kind of rude but thankfully she wasn’t my serving flight attendant.

Food: 4/5 It’s a food for purchase option on this flight, so didn’t have anything. Limited free beverage options but the blueberry juice is a must.

A little delay in my entries
I want to apologize for the delays in my entries. Life gets busy as most of you all know. I finally finished my entries on my time in South Korea in February, and I'm looking to write about my trip to Europe last spring. It's been almost a year since that trip and I didn't really leave myself with any notes to write detail entries but I will try my best. I also recently went to Europe this January, but I'll keep everything in order for now. I hope some of this information helps whoever may be reading these ramblings of mine.

I'll post about my flight to Helsinki soon :)


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