Thursday, August 16, 2007

Almost home

Day 12: July 23

Today is the day we visited Sweden, and did not put many km’s on the road. We know that Grandpa, our driver, is not a morning person, but when we have a talk before heading out for the day, and specifically outline how we will NOT stop for a break until at least two hours have elapsed, it’s disappointing to stop after only an hour. (This was a common occurrence on the trip, generally speaking. The sudden and unannounced stop, that could send any or all of us tumbling forward in the camper with nothing to grab on to but the kids, or maybe a bread knife, and send books flying off the table. The stop could occur anywhere. At a market. At an information centre. Or simply at the side of the road. This is why, M. and I finally put our heads together and figured if we made a plan each day before heading out, and communicated such to the driver, we might be able to control the itinerary a little more finely.)
Anyway, Grandpa went into a market and a long fifteen minutes later came out with his cookies, pop, and chocolate, his morning sugar rush.
“I didn’t pay for any of this,” he said matter-of-factly.
“What are you talking about, Dad?” said a shocked M.
“I stood there for at least five minutes—I kid you not five minutes—at the till and no one would serve me. I didn’t see anyone. So I walked out. I thought that would get their attention, but nobody stopped me.”

What do you say to that kind of logic?

As for Sweden, there was some hope of needing our passports and getting a cool stamp, but I wasn’t so sure. I can’t remember any customs between Finland and Sweden. Sure enough, as we drove into Haparanda, Sweden (a “service town, not overly attractive or interesting”) there were no signs telling us we had entered another country, let alone any customs officials.

For this we went to Sweden. Really.

After crossing back into Finland, we didn’t get farther south than Oulu. I picked a restaurant from LP that sounded like it had good food and a decent family atmosphere, but it was really terrible. Yet another meal where the only redeeming aspect I can think of is that eating lots of ice cream for dessert is not only guilt-free, but necessary in order to satiate my appetite.
But when we wandered around downtown Oulu, I could see why it was a popular destination. A beer festival, lots of students, situated on the water, and lots of sun in the evenings.
We found a campground to stay at, but as in 2006 it earned the honour of being Finland’s best campground, there was no room for us. We stayed in the parking lot instead and paid a combined 14E to use their washrooms and showers.

Day 13: July 24

Today we drove all the way to Turku. I drove some of the way, and it was such a nice change I don’t know why I didn’t take over the wheel sooner, and we made good time because I did not stop every hour for a cookie and pop break.

Not much to note, but our campground in Turku is great. We’re right near a beach, so Geister can spend lots of time throwing rocks into the water.

Day 14: July 25

Moominworld today. I had really been looking forward to taking Boo and Geister to Moominworld. I remember going with Temo’s family when I was in Finland before. I was bored then, but now with children of my own, how could it be anything but great?

Easily. It’s a boring park. That said, Geister maximized the fun quotient but being in a good mood and doing absolutely everything. Boo amused herself by getting in and out of the stroller, running around, and then climbing in the stroller again.

However, Naantali, the home of Moominworld, is a gorgeous little town and so that was fun to see.

Once we were back in the campground we decided to do something unprecedented: cook our supper. We had all these groceries that we bought in Imatra; we hadn’t used most of them. Instead, each day we tried to have one meal out, and then eat fresh bread, cheese, fruits, cold meats, and veggies etc. for our meals. Because there was a kitchen in the building right next to our site, this seemed like an ideal plan.

Of course it wasn’t—Grandma couldn’t understand the Finnish instructions on the spaghetti dish she was trying to make, and I just cooked my own thing. Supper was poor, but then, this part of the vacation has never been about the food (except when reindeer is on the menu).

Day 15: July 26

We toured Turku today and I’m glad we could end the camping portion of our trip on a positive note. We saw the castle, went to the marine museum, where Geister pretended to be a pirate (have I mentioned that he’s addicted to watching the Backyardigans on the iPod? And that the pirate episode is his favourite? And that he goes around singing “What do you do with a scurvy pirate? Make him walk the plank! Arrr!”). We toured the 14th century church also. As we were driving back to Helsinki, Temo called us and told us we had to get the camper back immediately, because his neighbour had rented it out again. So, instead of finding supper on our own, which would have been our last detour, we threw ourselves on the mercy of our host family again, and it was the best meal we’d had all week.

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