Summer In Scandinavia Part 5- Old Town, New Adventures

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The trip so far:

Preview- Summer in Scandinavia

Part 1- Gear Up and Go!

Part 2- Well Connected

Part 3- This is the Way We Board the Plane (Board the Plane)

Part 4- Hello, Helsinki

Happy 2018!  When last we ‘spoke’ about this trip, we were packing it up to leave Helsinki, and head to Tallinn.  To do this, we hopped the number 9 tram down to the ferry terminal.  It stops right where you need it to- across from the large and rather impressive ferry/cruise building.  The terminal itself is even an attraction, with great views, as well as food and drink.

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Go home, Helsinki, you’re backwards.

They tell you to get there a bit early, and they really do board and leave promptly, so it’s a good idea to give yourself some time so there’s no rush.  Plus, it gives you a chance to take in the sea, and maybe a treat.

Ferry Terminal Eckero Line Helsinki

Bon Voyage!

The ferry is the best way to cross over to Estonia, and takes cars as well as passengers.  We booked the Eckero Line with Direct Ferries, and it really is more of a small cruise ship than what we’d think of as a ‘ferry,’ complete with several bars, a cafeteria, concerts on board, and several decks of small private cabins.  This is more than enough for the just over 2 hour crossing.  There are several companies that make the crossing, so there’s some flexibility in the schedule.

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All aboard!

We elected to get a 4 person cabin each way for just a bit more than the basic ticket (around $40), and with a baby it was totally worth it.  The space was too small to really be comfortable for all the adults to be in at once, but Baby Flyer napped both ways and we took turns hanging out with her and relaxing with a snack and a ‘Long Drink‘ up on deck.

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Sleeping away the crossing.

On arrival in Tallinn, we checked into our next Airbnb, which was a 2 bedroom flat inside of the ‘Old Town.’  Old town, once the partially-walled medieval city, is now the hub of tourist activity and also of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.  Our flat was on the edge of the Old Town, which was a good thing since this meant it was quiet at night.

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Our Airbnb host even left a crib for us, even though we brought our own.  If you travel with infants, be sure to see what baby/kid amenities are available if you decide to go with Airbnb/HomeAway/etc. properties.

Old Town is actually only a 15-20 minute walk from the ferry terminal.  If the weather’s good, and you don’t have a ton of bags, it’s entirely reasonable not to try and get a cab for the short drive.

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Estonia welcomes you!!

This part of Tallinn is all historic courtyards, narrow streets, and cobblestones.  It’s buzzing with pedestrians taking in the architecture in the day, and people out enjoying the cheap(er) food and drinks until late at night.  It’s common for the ferries to fill up with Finns on weekends headed out for some fun at a fraction of the prices of ‘true’ Scandinavia.

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View of Old Town from our top floor Airbnb.

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The old architecture has been beautifully preserved, yet the city is modern through and through.  The Old Town is divided into ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ areas, upper once upon a time having been home to the fortified castle and grounds, and the lower the sprawling town connecting it to the port.

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Heading up the hill from the lower part of town to the upper.

Though the streets are winding, it’s hard to get lost here for too long simply because it’s not a large area.  Eventually, you come back to where you started.

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Now….for the family travel review of this part of the trip-  First off, cobblestones are not pleasant with just about any stroller, and definitely not the smaller-wheeled travel models, our Citi Mini Zip included.  This was a place we were really wishing we’d brought her Ergo Baby carrier, especially because of the daytime crowds.

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A walk through the Torniade Valjak park, just outside the walls.

Still, we had some nice exploring time, and there’s plenty of green space within and just outside of the Old Town to let kids run around and play.

One thing we will say though, this was our favorite city of the trip for food!  It was easier to find and more relaxed than in Helsinki, and much much cheaper than in Copenhagen.  The service was family friendly, and everyone could find something they wanted.  Even picky Baby Flyer tried some new food and flavors.

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Quinoa and goat cheese with beets.  She hasn’t eaten this healthy before or since…

As simple as it is, I think some of our fondest memories of the city were of the restaurants close to our Airbnb that we stumbled upon by chance.  The first, Must Puudel, was our choice for dinner (twice).  It’s a fun (if a bit hipster) bar and restaurant tucked away off the beaten path, that included a hidden garden patio behind.  The menu had fresh, innovative dishes and very reasonably priced drinks.

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Yes, there are pea sprouts on everything.  This will not be the last garnish we knowingly ate on this trip.

As well as the good vibe inside, the cobblestone street out front was quiet- the perfect setting to let a restless and newly walking Baby Flyer stretch her legs while the rest of the crew finished up eating.  What’s better, it’s Estonia, and no one cares if you take your wine glass with you on baby duty.

 

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Taking an after (during) dinner walk in her new ‘See Kai Run’ shoes.

As luck would have it, just around the corner, we found a little cafe called Kohvik August, that we fell in love with as well.  They made great coffee and mate lattes, and had fun lunch specials, including the Estonian version of Aperol spritzers, just for a treat.

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Happy vacation!

While Old Town is fun, it turns out there’s more to Tallinn than that.  The next day we hopped the local transit to Kadriorg, an expansive park that includes both playgrounds and gardens, and the site of the historic palace grounds.

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The palace and the gardens really are beautiful in the summer.  The playground areas were decent, but not overwhelmingly modern or creative (just wait for the post on Copenhagen!!), and we’d had some rain in the morning so things were wet enough that Baby Flyer preferred to run around the other parts of the park instead.

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Through the secret passage!  Baby Flyer’s outfit by Ittikid

The park was our last attraction before gathering up our things again, and heading back to the boat.  All in all, Tallinn was a pleasant surprise in many ways.  I didn’t do too much research on it this time around, but it really wasn’t needed.  You can easily hit the highlights of Old Town in 48 hours, enjoy some good food and drinks, and return to your Scandi holiday satisfied at the diversion.

~CET

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Baby Flyer’s rating of Tallinn: Good times, much enjoyment. Would recommend – 10 out of 10!

Next up- “God Rejse og Velkommen,” or “Hygge With a Chance of Downpour.”  (Denmark…the next stop is Denmark.)

Trip Preview: Summer in Scandinavia

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen.  No, we’re not staying at this floating hotel….but It looks nice, right?

We’re packing again!!  This Summer has already been busy, with trips to Mexico and Seattle, among others, but this next trip is the one that’s been on our calendar for almost a year now.  We’re getting brave, and taking Baby Flyer to Europe!  It’ll be a week and a half of Oneworld award flights, Scandinavian Airbnb rentals, and a few side jaunts here and there.

Our itinerary starts off with a 787 Dreamliner flight to ORD and two nights in Chicago, which we added because our tickets start there.  Since we love that city, we added some time so we’ll have a day there to take Baby Flyer back to Millennium Park.  From there, we head to Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia), and Copenhagen (Denmark).  The international part of the trip lasts 10 nights (plus one on the flight out), and includes plenty of planes, trains, but not really many automobiles.

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The canal in Ruoholahti where we’re staying in Helsinki

This trip was inspired by Finnair opening up some award seats to Oneworld partners in business class for the summer.  Since premium mileage tickets are notoriously hard to find without big taxes and fees, we jumped on them and booked a round trip ticket from JFK to Helsinki in business class for some miles and about $60.  It will be Baby Flyer’s first long haul international flight, but hopefully having the extra space and lie-flat beds will make it reasonably comfortable.

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How Finnair claims we’ll sleep** on their international flights.  **Baby not pictured

Once we get to Helsinki, we’ll have three days and nights to explore the city.  Given that this is a family trip, we’re planning baby friendly activities, and luckily, Scandinavia in general is overall safe and welcoming for family travelers.  Highlights we’re hoping to hit include the ‘Children’s’ Town’ museum- an interactive exhibit where everything is play-with-able for the little ones, and importantly, is indoors, making it a good rainy day option since we’re likely to get at least one of these this time of year.  We’re also hoping to take the boat out to Suomenlinna island, for a little outdoors time, hiking, and sightseeing.

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Tallinn’s Old Town

The next part of the trip is taking the Eckero Line ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia for two nights.  We’re staying in the ‘Old Town,’ which is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.  Our plans here mainly involve exploring the medieval town, food and shopping.  We may venture out to Kadriorg Park, which includes palace grounds, as well as gardens, and several museums, and checking out the KGB museum at the Hotel Viru.

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Eckero Line- M/s Finlandia

As for the ferry, we booked the Eckero Line through Direct Ferries.  It’s a 2 hour crossing on a ‘ferry’ that looks more like a small cruise ship, and we went all out (all extra $40 of it) to book a 4 birth cabin with our reservation.  It’s not really necessary, but since the crossing times just about hit Baby Flyer’s naptime, we thought we might find a little privacy nice.  It also means we’ll have a private bathroom as well.

Once we get back to Helsinki, we’ll be off to the airport once again to catch a short flight on Finnair to Copenhagen.  We booked these tickets separately, and they were reasonably priced, so we didn’t use miles.  Technically, if we’d flown Norwegian, we could have saved a few dollars on the ticket price, but this was one of those lessons for people who don’t look hard enough at discount carriers.  Given that we’re Oneworld elites, we have free checked bags, and free advance seat assignments as long as we stay on partner airlines.  Had we flown on Norwegian, our ‘savings’ would quickly have been more than eaten up by the added charges.  Plus, because we’re flying Oneworld, we’ll have lounge access at Finnair’s comfortable and full service lounges before our flight.

We’ve been to Copenhagen before, and it’s stuck in our minds as one of the places we really wanted to get back to.  We’re spending four nights this time, and are looking forward to seeing the city as a family.  Copenhagen has plenty of kid-friendly places to visit and things to do.  It’s full of parks and playgrounds in the city center (Danish companies design the majority of new playground equipment around the world), and since everyone bikes, walks, and takes the train, it’s easy to get around.

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Central Copenhagen

This trip will be the test of our planning, and also of our Airbnb skills.  We’re staying in a suites hotel in Chicago, but once we cross the ocean, it’s all Airbnb all the time.  To start things off, our accommodation in Helsinki is a three bedroom flat in Ruoholahti.  It looks to be an easy walk to the city center, or a very short tram ride.  It will be nice to have the space to give Baby Flyer her own room, so she can go to bed before we do (hopefully!)

Renting an entire flat or house really makes traveling with babies more enjoyable over a traditional hotel.  Having the space, as well as a kitchen, and if you’re lucky, laundry goes a long way.  There are of course some draw backs as well.  If you haven’t seen the property before, there’s really no guarantees on what it will be like, aside from reviews.  Plus, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s really baby-proof, but the same goes for hotels in general.  If you’re lucky, you can generally find a reasonably priced rental as well, especially when compared to the pricey hotels in this part of the world.

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Deer Park (Dyrehaven).  One of my favorite pictures from our last trip there.

After our time in Copenhagen, we start the trek back home again.  We first have a flight back to Helsinki, then a couple of hours to enjoy the airport lounge and collect ourselves before flying Helsinki to JFK, and JFK back to Los Angeles.  That will make for a long day, but it gets us back home seamlessly, and I managed to find some award space in business class on American’s premium transcon plane, so we’ll have space for the three of us.

Wish us luck & happy summer travels to you all!!

-CET, CAR & Baby Flyer