Sunday, March 30, 2014

Road Trip Weekend

The Clan has been on the road! 

Nothing like visitors to get you to clean your house and to get out into your local surrounds, and sometimes even go beyond them. 

Getting 4 kids up and out is difficult enough, so we aren't usually brave enough to leave the city. But we've had a house guest this weekend who we have taken to all our usual touristy haunts on his previous two visits, so even though the kids were ill all week, we decided to risk going out of the city to visit a few new places. 

We started off slow, Haltia Nature Centre just outside of Espoo, a half hour's drive from our end of Helsinki. The drive was quite lovely once you got off the motorway.I would love to do it when there was actually some colour in the landscape instead of the  early spring brown we currently have. We arrived just after it opened so it wasn't too busy, but by lunch time it started to fill up.

Haltia is listed as a nature centre, but the website doesn't really sell it well. It's pretty spectacular and even entertained to our rambunctious Weans. It uses video, interactive computers and displays, art and wraps the whole thing up in references to the Finnish national myth collection the Kalevala to show the changing beauty of Finland in all seasons.

It starts out looking like a museum. But once you're in the main space things are very different. 

The use of video was really well done, on the floor, walls, projections on the walls, on floating screens. Even the smaller exhibition rooms are quite stunning. 

Best of all for the Weans was the Bear's Den. They loved it. Amazing that a few darkened rooms with beanbags and a big taxidermed bear can keep kids entertained for hours. It even kept them entertained enough that I got some time to see a photo exhibition they had on display. We had to pull them out for lunch kicking and screaming. The cafe/ buffet restaurant was very nice as well.

The only thing I would have liked was an outdoor space for smaller children or interactive nature activities. There's a sports area and hiking right there in Nuuksio National Park but with a child with physical special needs and two under 4, and two adults with foot injuries, we weren't up for hiking any distance. Though the Chief and friend inform me that they have a space below the building right on the Pitkajärvi Lake that they are prepping to adapt to an outdoor activity centre for 2015. We'll be back for that

There is a tower you can climb, but the way the building is set up the view from the observation deck is the roof. I think they use it for night sky viewing in winter. Shame as the lake would be a nicer daytime view. 

The Chief wanted them to do YMCA, but Bumpshie wouldn't play. All in all, Haltia was a success.

Today we were a little less organised with the clocks going back, but were on the road before lunch for Hämeenlinna, to see our first Finnish castle. An hour away from north Helsinki, we figured it would be a slightly bigger challenge, but not as big as Tampere and Turku which are 2 hours away and what we're aiming for eventually. Again I wasn't quite sure what to expect because the websites weren't clear and were hard to navigate. I couldn't even find out if there was a cafe, so we ate in town which wasted time. There is a cafe/ restaurant, but we didn't use it. 

We had less than 2 hours in the end as they're on their winter schedule still, but that was enough for the Weans. They were excited about the moat, so that was our first stop and then climbing on the ramparts. The weather was cooler, but still springlike. 

Moat and edge of lake is still frozen. 

We didn't know what to expect as the website said none of the rooms were furnished and the first few rooms were a bit boring, but once you get into the second level of the main building, you get information on the archaeology of the area and then get into the maze of rooms it was more interesting. It would be nice if they could decorate something to give the kids more ideas of how life was like in a 13th century Swedish/Finnish castle, but they seemed to enjoy themselves running from one room to another. The adults didn't get a chance to see much though. The archaeology room and a few rooms with photographs looked intriguing if we would have had time to read the info. 

Foo later said he didn't have fun at the castle because there wasn't any kids' things there, though he did seem to be having fun and we did find a playpark right at the foot of the castle to wear them out just that extra bit for the ride home. 

All of them slept for at least a little bit. Job done. 

We'll definitely go back to Haltia again and the castle is good for guests, but not sure if I'd take the kids on their own. 

I hope you've made the most of your weekend. I've topped off our trips with well-deserved tea, chocolate, cherry cider and a sauna. Almost all at once, but not quite. Happy Mother's Day if you're in the UK or elsewhere that celebrated it today. 

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