Sunday, August 30, 2009

WILD FLOWERS


MOZZARELLA CHEESE STARTER

For the lunch today my husband made for a starter: Mozzarella cheese with crispy Spanish ham with sweet and sour sauce and thyme....with Tariquet wine from France


YELLOW BOX... BUT WHICH ONE...

Want to send your holiday postcards... Oh which box to choose... Andorra does not have it's own postal service so there are two that takes you cards out of the country, the Spanish and the French post offers you their services. But you can buy Andorran stamps and inside Andorra mailing letters is free. For locals it can be more complicated to get your mail delivered at home, like for us in our small village only the French post delivers the mail, so what ever comes out of France needs to have a special mention on the letter, Andorra Via France.

CITY CENTRE



The city centre is busy everyday of the week, here we don't have bad traffic jams, thanks to the local traffic police looking after pedestrians and vehicles in town.
The town is not very big so you can find everything in a walking distance and ones you get hungry or thirsty you have plenty of choices where to eat or drink. Restaurants and bars are not expensive in Andorra. The Andorrans eat the lunch quite late 2.30 p.m. like the Spanish and in the evening before 10.00 p.m. you will find the restaurants empty. So if you feel hungry before you can always go for a nice tapas, there are many tapas bars around Andorra-la-Vella.

ANDORRA-LA-VELLA


You can't escape from the mountains even in the capital of Andorra, you are surrounded by mountains where ever you go. Andorra-la-Vella is situated in main valley of Andorra, in the north one way out towards France and towards south one way out to Spain. Andorra is not part of the EU, so we still have the real border posts with controls of passports and goods. Andorra has 10 million tourist per year, so you can imaging that the only two border posts are really busy especially holiday seasons and weekends. Most of the people are just coming for day or two for shopping. The VAT being only 4% it seems to be a shoppers paradise, but one must be careful, some items are cheaper like alcohol and cigarettes. For other items it is good to compare the prices before buying.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

ON THE TOP

After 4h 20min climing up, we reached the top of the mountain, beautiful seanery and the end of the road got more challenging...After a pic-nic on the top the down hill was more difficult than we though...

FANTOM OF THE WATERFALL

This morning we wake up early and got out just after dawn, my family and some friends got to the start of the climing the highest mountain in Andorra, the Pic de Coma Pedrosa. On the way up lot of waterfalls and I captured my own shadow in one of them waterfall.

Friday, August 28, 2009

WALKING ON THE HIGH SIDE


video

Andorra is the hiker's paradise, some of the nicest walks can be done in the valley starting from Massana going up to Arcalis ski resort. Signs for the hikes can be found along the main road all the way up to Arcalis. There are some easy walk down in the valley and the most difficult one can go up to 2900m high. The natural beauty, rivers and lakes can be admired while hiking along the paths which are very well marked. Several springs with clean water can be found in the villages. We use daily the spring water, on the way to the grocery shop we stop to fill our bottles from the spring of Font de Mordell near by our home. Ordino is a small town in this valley, where the old and new building stands side by side in perfect harmony. This area starts just 10min away from the capital Andorra-la-Vella.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

FINDING NEMO




At the Barcelona Aquarium you can find Nemo with his friends. The aquarium is situated at the water front starting few steps a way from Las Ramblas. The water front offers lot of things to everybody, shopping, restaurants, activities for smaller kids etc.
We had a short visit to the CosmoCaixa, the new Science Museum in Barcelona. A short 40min. visit wasn't much but we are looking forward to go there next time when visiting Barcelona and spend at least half of the day walking around the 5 levels of that magnificent museum.





MODERN BARCELONA
















The more modern Barcelona is situated close to the sea north of Barcelona city after the Olympic harbour. Large street, parks and places offer a different atmosphere of the city. The architecture is very modern and even surprising. From the Olympic Harbour one can access the beach area.





TAPAS AND PINTXOS










During the 3 days we did lot of walking around Barcelona in a very hot and humid weather. While walking we found some interesting Tapas bars and Pintxo Bars, pintxos are the tapas from the Spanish Basque area. It is a nice way to eat when ever you feel hungry and with the hot weather we found the "claras" very refreshing, it is a mix of beer and lemonade. The best Tapas we enjoyed in a small bars were the local goes, they don't always look the nicest ones but get the good value for your money. To stay in Barcelona there is an endless list of hotels but we choose the rental apartment, the other way to stay in the city. Good quality flats for reasonable prices and nicer when you have a group of friends or family with you.




FOLLOWING GAUDI'S WORK















August is maybe not the best time to visit Barcelona, lot of tourists and August is also the holiday month of the Spanish people so twice as much tourists in Barcelona. For the first time visitor the best way to get a good idea of Barcelona is to hop in to the tourist bus service which has 3 different lines. Parking is difficult so we used the tourist bus service and during two days we discovered new areas of Barcelona. We knew already the old historical part of the city but still had to follow Antonio Gaudi's world. The Park Güell was so full of people it look like the human tsunami had taken over the park. About 15km from Barcelona there is La Còlonia Güell, an old industrial village built end of the 18th century. Gaudi's Crypt can be found there. La Còlonia Güell was later sold as individual houses and it is still a living village, but you can follow its history by the self guided tour.





3 DAYS IN BARCELONA

Barcelona is a vibrant city with Mediterranean atmosphere, many places to visit and something interesting for everybody.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

TERRACE BY NIGHT

The rectangular large white pots have a light inside, so in the evening it will give a nice strong light at the terrace. The pots are from Vondom . And what is the best they even resist a cold winter weather. The pots only needs the proper electrical connection but our electrician is still on holiday...

TERRACE CELEBRATION

Yesterday evening we had some "cava" sparkling wine to celebrate the new look of our terrace.

RED PLANT POT

NEW IMAGE FOR THE TERRACE

Our Xalet as they call the houses in Andorra has a large terrace with the beautiful view to the mountains with the highest pic of Andorra, The Coma Pedrosa. Before leaving on holiday to Finland we ordered plant pots from the local nursery. The pots were delivered Monday and yesterday we got more plant...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SAME VIEW IN WINTER

We live at 1450m altitude so in winter we don't always have snow, but the mountains gets snow much more and it melts only in May...Andorra is a very sunny place.

Monday, August 17, 2009

ANDORRA... The view from my bedroom...

Nestled between France and Spain high in the Pyrenees. Andorra is a tiny mountain Principat. Currently the highest life expectancy in the world at an average of 85 years at birth. Clean air and water, no crime and the quality of life are part of reason for that. Andorra is not just a duty-free shopping heaven, it has much more to offer. For nature lovers there are hundreds of marked hiking paths and for mountain biking and road cycling you will lot of different routes to practice and it is a downhill cycler's paradise. The skiing is the main sport in winter but around the two large ski resort areas you will find many other activities for all ages. After your activities
you can go and enjoy a spa experience in the Caldea Spa, the mineral water in the pools comes from the surrounding mountains.

TILE WALL

On the way from Finland to Andorra, we landed at the Barcelona airport. The airport outside wall have this beautiful tiles which is also the first thing you can see in Woody Allen's Film "Vicky Christina Barcelona" when to two American girls just arrived to Barcelona for the summer...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THE MASCOT OF THE MERIMASKU

On the way to the airport the last view we have of Merimasku is the Seagull in front of the local school made by the artist Antti Huovinen and school children. The Seagull is the mascot of the Merimasku commune...Tomorrow we will wake up at home in Andorra...

ON SUITE

The bedroom is open to the bathroom. In the bedroom we have wooden flooring instead of tiles. The both flooring areas have underfloor heating.

THE GLASS BRICK WALL


Due to the glass brick wall and the large shower area, the water spray can't reach the other side. The accessories are all in turquoise colour so we added one turquoise glass brick in each wall. On the floor the stone path is coming from the shower area to the front of the long table.

THE SHOWER

The best in this bathroom is the shower area, it is almost 4 m2 and the area is separated from the rest with two low glass brick walls. On the floor in the middle there is a stone floor installed by myself, stone by stone...

BATHROOM ON SUITE

There are two things that I will miss while we are back at home in Andorra; the sauna and swim but also my bathroom in the chalet. It is a bathroom that I have designed myself and that's why it has so much space. In the front of the big window there are two basins with a view to the entrance terrace.

MOOMINWORLD

The hugging the Moomin is a highlight of the summer for many young visitors of the Moominworld in Naantali. It is a theme park where you can meet all the characters in their own habitat. Let's hug when me meet is the Moomin motto.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

THE MOOMINS

The Moomins in Finnish " muumi" and in Swedish " mumintroll" are the central characters in series of books and comic trips by Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson. The carefree and adventurous family lives in the Moominvalley. The Moomins became better know the worldwide public in '80 by the modern day cartoon series in the TV.

STEAMBOAT "UKKO PEKKA"



Hustle and bustle in the sunshine and living idyll can be found in the lively guest harbour; the gently swaying sailboats, the whistle of the steamboat "Ukko Pekka", the narrow lanes of the old town, the boutiques and galleries, cafes and restaurants offer experiences each more pleasant than the next. Naantali offers accommodation in the luxurious Spa Hotel or in the charming wooden houses of the old town. Those who enjoy the tranquility of the archipelago can choose a high-grade cottages any time of the year.

video

LAST DAYS IN FINLAND

Our last summer guests arrived yesterday from France by car via Stockholm on a Cruise boat. You can arrive by two different cruise companies to Turku from Stockholm, Sweden. So in the late morning we decided to visit the town of Naantali which is situated between our chalet in Merimasku and the town of Turku in the south west of Finland.

NAANTALI -the sun of the archipelago

In Naantali there is something to do and see for all ages, families, adolescent, single people, couples, for boaters, those coming by car or coach, those who stroll by the seaside, those who walk the Path of Love, the bikers, the golfers -in short for everyone. Small children even bigger ones will all enjoy the Moomins and older children can test their boundaries on the adventure land Väski.

Monday, August 10, 2009

SOUTH AFRICAN WINES

Last Friday I went to "Alko", the Finnish liquor store owned by the state. They have a good variety of wines from all over the world. In the shop I found the "Etiketti" magazine, which is publish by the Alko and always have articles about wines and food. This time I got more interested about it because it said on the front cover "South African White Wines", so I picked it up but only had time yesterday to read it. The first picture in the article was Constantia Steenberg Vineyards, I was looking at my old neighbourhood. In 2003 we left France and moved to Cape Town, South Africa and rented a house next to Klein Constantia Wine farm.
Buitenverwachtning was at the back of our house and our children's school was next to Steenberg Vineyards. The Constantia area in Cape Town is really beautiful with the old Dutch style Buildings and the mountains... It is really a place everybody should visit ones in the life time... In that regard I am lucky to have a change to visit South Africa quite often so I will be back there in November with some Finnish friends.
So this weekend we drunk some South African Wines with a friend from Miami but origin from Cape Town. South Africa has lots of good wines, we try always some new ones that we can buy here in Finland and this time one of the bottles that we had was called "Long Nose" a gewurztraminer from Western Cape, it is a nice wine to drink even for aperitif. The label said it will be good with spicy food. Fragrant and full bouquet. Spices, rose petal and lime dominate that pallet.
With food we had an other South African white from Tulbagh area, Drostdy-Hof chardonnay, this wine is slightly oaked with tropical fruit flavours.

http://www.buitenverwachting.co.za/
http://www.steenberg-vineyards.co.za/
http://www.kleinconstantia.com/

THE COOK BOOK

Yesterday afternoon I spent a lazy moment reading a cook book called Skandimania given to us as a gift by our friends. It is such a lovely book with beautiful photos and full of excellent recipes. The book is written by two Finnish chefs; Antti Vahtera and Visa Nurmi. We found our whole Christmas menu in it for the coming Christmas that we will spend here in Finland. It is actually difficult to think that next time we are back at the chalet it will be Christmas.

...LAZY AFTERNOON...

The holidays in Finland are almost over. We still have few days ahead, so I want to make the best out of it. The weekend has been busy with friends visiting us. I really enjoy having friends here, eating good food and drinking wine...This week the weather have been just perfect, warm days and lot of sun. August is the month in Finland when the days start to get shorter, the sun sets around 21.30 but the dusk lasts for an hour. Last week we had the full moon so we decided to have a midnight swim in the moonlight...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

THE SEA...

The Baltic sea can be very calm especially between the islands in the archipelago of Turku.

SUMMER APERITIF

White wine, Basil leaves, lemon and sugar... delicious aperitif

... ONE SUMMER DAY BY THE SEA...

...The morning starts with this view and a swim in frisky Baltic sea...

...The morning coffee is served on the upper terrace where we can catch the warm morning sun... for my morning breakfast smoothie I picked blueberries in the forest at the back of the chalet...

... A quick trip to the local shop for locally produced food; small summer potatoes, smoked salmon,

strawberries, traditional island bread...

...We start the lunch preparing while having the aperitif for that we have made a special drink:

bottle of white wine, Basil leaves, sugar and few slices of lemon... after three hours all these ingredient in the jar, we will enjoy this nice summer "apero"...

...the lunch on the pier... and I even enjoy the dish washing at the summer kitchen by the sauna...

...After lunch a boat drive to meet some Belgium friends spending their holiday in their island and visit their new "mökki" a Finnish summer cottage that was built last year. On the way we pass hundreds of island...

...Back to the chalet in the beginning of the evening we light the fire in the sauna stove and the barbecue...

...It is the time for a second aperitif of the day a glass of champagne and some small toast of the island bread with cold smoke salmon. This will satisfy our hunger and later after the sauna we will grill some typical Finnish sausage on the fire...

...The sauna can be taken even late at this time of the year and we can still enjoy the sun shine...

...The wind has calm down and we can see the reflection of the coast line on the sea...

MY SUMMER COACH



The summer coach at the pier is made of two foam mattresses which have a loose cover, that are easy to wash. I have made over 15 cushions that we can use in many ways to get the best relaxation in the sunny day or warm summer evening.

I LOVE....

I love summer here in Finland for many things...

...I can eat strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and red currents which grows here in the neighbourhood...

...to have a swim in the morning in a still Baltic sea...

..really enjoying friends visiting us from close and far...

...sitting on my "coach" at the pier reading my favorite magazines and watching the boat passing by...

...walking in the forest...

Monday, August 3, 2009

"VIHTA"


One of the traditional sauna rituals in summer time is the "vihta" or called "vasta" as well.
The "vihta" is a whisk made of a bunch of birch twigs. It is used to pamper the skin gently or friskily swatting the body from head to toes. it is very healthy, it helps the dirt to come out of the open pores and stimulates the circulation. The birch leaves gives a nice perfume in the hot sauna. In the water which is thrown on the top of the stones one can use few drops of essential oil, like eucalyptus or mint. In Finland one can also by different sauna oils and many other accessories for the sauna.

THE SAUNA ROOM

Our sauna room has the stove called "Iki kiuas" which has about 250 kg of stone around it. That gives us very nice soft steam and the sauna air never feels dry.
One start the sauna by sitting in the sauna room, water is thrown on the hot stones topping the kiuas which produce the steam. This is called "löyly" in Finnish. The heat and the steam will help the muscles to relax and it opens the pores on your skin. When the heat begins to feel uncomfortable, it is a customary to jump in to the sea or lake or just step out and cool down on the terrace or in the dressing room. In winter time we swim in the sea after the hole has been cut in to the ice, an other way to cool down in winter is rolling in the soft snow.
Then one usually sits down and has a cool drink or beer. After cooling one goes back to the hot room and begins the cycle again. Usually we do that three times or even more. The time spent in the hot room is up to everybody. In Summer nights it is lovely to spent long time with this sauna ritual with the midnight sun. Before leaving the sauna it is good to take a shower and wash the body with nice sauna soap and soft brush . After that the skin will feel smooth and soft.