Saturday, August 8, 2009

Bronze Medal!!!

Today Jim won a Bronze Medal (3rd) place in the 3000 Meter Steeplechase event for men 55-59 years old at the World Master's Track and Field Meet! He ran his fastest time of the year and just missed second place by .24 seconds! Jim has a great kick and would have caught the guy if the event had been 3010 meters! Jim is thrilled with his "hardware" and I am so proud of him! Jim is on the left in the photo below.

Jim didn't run until 1 PM, which left the morning for me to entertain myself since he planned to lay low in our hotel room until it was time for him to go to the track. I had hoped to rent a bike but the tourist office that may have done that was not open on Saturday! Go figure! So I walked along the lake shore, thinking that since there was a nice bike trail that there may be a bike rental place, but I didn't find one, which ended up being fine. The World Masters Marathon was held this morning and I got to see a lot of it because I ended up walking along the course a good ways. I walked up to the main track stadium where the 3 ski jumps are located and got to see some ski jumpers practicing on the two lower hills. Apparently the large hill is not used during the summer because there is a large community pool at the bottom of it and today many people were swimming. So if you enlarge this photo (click on it) you may see the ski jumper in the air above the landing area.

After 2.5 hours of walking, I decided it was time for me to head to the track and find Jim. He was sitting in the shade, but still had an hour or so until his event. So I went and found a seat in the grandstand that was in the shade and got some knitting done. At 1 PM, on the dot, the gun went off for Jim's race.

After all the photos and congratulations and usual post-race talk, Jim took his cool-down run towards the main stadium where the awards ceremony would be held in about an hour's time. I took a nice scenic walk to get there. The medal ceremony was very nice and they even play a short segment of the national anthem from the winner's country, in Jim's race, the winner was a guy from The Netherlands. Second place went to a man from Japan. So here are the photos of Jim getting his medal. He was, and is, one happy guy!

After all the running festivities, we walked back to our hotel and then on to the train station, where we had a wait of about 35 minutes until our train departed for Helsinki. In the photo below I am snacking on a very popular Finnish snack, fresh peas!

I bought some, along with some yummy raspberries in the market square in Lahti before going to Jim's race. The Finns just sit and shell the peas and eat them raw and I now understand why~they are delicious!

I also got a fair amount of knitting done today, while waiting for Jim to run and on our train ride. Here is a photo of me making good use of my time until our train pulls into the station.

The hour-long train ride was uneventful and very pleasant. But things were busy when we arrived at the Helsinki station.

Our hotel is right next to the train station, which is most conventient. After Jim got cleaned up we wandered down to the harbor area, had a beer at the outside tables of a restaurant and then went in for a nice, celebratory dinner.
Tomorrow we take the 10:00 AM ferry to the country of Estonia for some day-long sightseeing. We will be back to Helsinki at 6:30 PM, because I then board an overnight train, at 9:20 bound for Rovaniemi where I can step over the Arctic Circle. I return on the overnight train on Monday night, arriving on Tuesday morning. Busy, busy, busy!
Hope all is well.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lahti, Finland

This morning we took the train from Helsinki to Lahti, a town about 100 K northeast of Helsinki. More on Lahti in a minute. First here a few of photos from our dinner last night.

The restaurant was right at the harbor's edge, with boats coming and going for entertainment.

Jim had the arctic char and I had the lamb.

And we had dessert. Jim had the blueberry and chocolate mousse and I had a piece of rhubarb and almond pie. Notice that there is no crust on my pie! It all was delicious!

After breakfast at our hotel this morning, we took a trolley to the train station where we made a quick stop to buy more strawberries and a loaf of bread for our lunch today. The train was a great way to travel, arriving in Lahti right on time (10:45 AM). We walked to our hotel, dropped off our luggage and walked to the facility where Jim could pick up his race packet. This world track and field meet is being held in several different locations around Lahti, but the place to check in was at the main sports center here in Lahti. In addition to a great track, this site features 3 ski jump hills and is one of the training facilities for Finnish ski jumpers.
We watched several hurdle races and I got a chance to practice waving my little American Flag as USA runners competed! From here we walked to the site of Jim's race tomorrow. It is another nice track at the top of the highest hill in Lahti!
Jim did not want to walk 30,000 steps today so we went back to the hotel so he could rest his legs for tomorrow. I have no reason not to walk, so while Jim made some work phone calls I went shopping here in Lahti. I bought some yarn to make some Finnish-styled mittens like the ones I saw in the market in Helsinki. I also bought a canvas bag from Merimekko. Jim had one more phone call to make when I returned so I headed out for a walk to the lake that on the north edge of town. I discovered a lovely park by the lake and took a nice walk through the park before heading back to the hotel. I may try to find a place to rent a bike tomorrow morning because it looks like there is a nice bike trail around a portion of the lake.

We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant tonight so Jim could "carbo-load." The place was full of runners! Jim returned to the hotel after dinner and I took one more walk through the park by the lake.

Jim races around 1 PM local time and then we will board a train for the return trip to Helsinki.

Something to look forward to, if Jim's race is not enough! We have purchased ferry tickets to take us to the country of Estonia, across the Baltic Sea on Sunday. The 1.5 hour ferry ride takes us to the capital city of Tallin, where we will walk around in the old town before taking a mid-afternoon ferry back to Helsinki.

Keep posted for a race update tomorrow.

Hope all is well.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Helsinki Anniversary

Happy 32nd Anniversary to us! And what a thrill to be able to have a Scandanavian celebration.

So I guess I had better do a catch up on the last 2 fun-filled days.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we toured some more in Stockholm after a restless night's sleep. We took a ferry to an island that is more park-like with several museums and a bunch of ritzy homes. We toured the Vasa musuem, which displays the ship, Vasa, which sank on its maiden voyage in the early 1600's. The ship was raised in 1967 and is now housed in this wonderful museum. This wooden ship is most impressive, especially all the ornate wood carvings. There are many displays that go along with the ship which was all very interesting

After the Vasa museum, we rented bikes on the island and did a one-hour ride around the island, ejoying the water views and the stately homes.

After lunch in one of the many cafes, we did some shopping ( yarn stores!!) and then headed back to our hotel to claim our luggage before heading to the pier for our ship to Helsinki.

We walked to the pier, about a mile, pulling our suitcases along behind us. Since we only had one night on the ship and we knew we'd be trying to sleep with jet lag, we booked the smallest 2 person room available, and it was tiny! Here is Jim showing you exactly how large the cabin is!!

It was fine, especially since the only time we were really there was when we tried to sleep. This ship is famous for their Swedish Smorgaborg and is was huge! We had the 7:30 seating for dinner which allowed us to watch the scenery pass as we moved through the Stockholm Archapelago on the way to the open waters of the Baltic Sea. An interesting couple, who now live in the country of Jordan were our table mates for dinner. She was originally from Helsinki and he called Northern Ireland home. She was able to answer many our questions about Helsinki and we enjoyed our 2 hours of dining time with them.

Another restless night, in spite of being sooo tired. After breakfast on the ship we arrived in beautiful Helsinki just before 10 AM. The approach to this Finnish city was again through a pinball machine of small islands. This time our hotel was just behind the ship's terminal and we were able to get into our room right away and then have the rest of the day to be tourists. We walked to the train station to get my rail pass upgrade to a sleeper car pass for my trip to the Arctic Circle on Sunday night. We also checked out departure times for our trip to Lahti tomorrow and my possible trip to Turku later next week. All seems to be in order at this time.

We shopped a bit in an open air market right in the harbor area and got some lunch, which we ate while waiting for a ferry to take us to the historic island of Soumenlenni, a 10 minute ferry ride.

This island is home to a huge fort that was built to keep out the Russians, but that was later taken over by the Russians~that plan did not work out so well for the Swedes.

Now it features lots of walking trails and green spaces for the local Finnish population to enjoy. Many families were picnicing and lots of people were laying out in the sun in their bathing suits. It was a beautiful day to do such things. Upon our return, I went for another walk and Jim took a short run.

Since today is our 32nd anniversary, we decided to go to a high-end restaurant. While on my late afternoon walk I discovered a place that was Helsinki's restaurant of the year and they had tables right by a harbor area. We checked the reviews and it sounded wonderful, so during our pre-dinner walk, we stopped by and made reservations for 7 PM. We ate at one of the outdoor tables and truly had a delicious meal. I have pictures to share, but am too tired right now to download them from the camera. This restaurant uses lots of local, seasonal food and it all was tasty. One of the vegetables in abundance at the open-air market today were fresh peas in their shells. My dinner included some of these peas and they were tasty! Two hours later, we walked back to our hotel and are ready to crash.

You may be getting the idea that we are walking a lot and you'd be right. According to Jim's pedometer, we are walking between 20,000 and 30,000 steps a day, not including his runs! You'd think we'd sleep better at night.

Tomorrow we take the train to Lahti, where Jim will race on Saturday.

Hope all is well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


We made it! Two uneventful flights, one from Rochester to Atlanta, and another from Atlanta to Stockholm. Those overnight over-the -pond flights are real killers to one's body systems, but it is now 5:20 PM, local time and we both are getting by on a couple of hours of very restless sleep on the plane.

The skies were clear as we approached the Stockholm airport, which is about 40 k north of the city. Stockholm is comprised of about 14 small islands connected by bridges and ferries. Everywhere you looked, there was water.

We took a bus from the airport to the bus station in the center of the city, got our tourist map and walked the mile or so to our hotel, crossing at least 2 bridges. Our hotel let us check in around 2 PM, and then so as not to fall asleep we went walking in the city. We were both impressed with the old feel of the city, but in a good way, not in a run-down way. There are many narrow brick streets with shops, businesses and restaurants and the sun made for interesting light and shadows. We stopped for a late lunch or early dinner at an Italian place. We are both so tired and were so hungry, we really didn't take the time to search out authentic Swedish food. I'm not sure what that would have been anyway~ Swedish meatballs??? While walking around we noticed that the Swedes must like their ice cream, because ice cream shops were all over. And the Swedes must like their ice cream in freshly made waffle cones because several of the shops had someone hand making waffle cones in the front of the shop using a turntable full of waffle irons! We are going back for ice cream before bed.

After our lunch/supper we walked up and around one of the big, historic cathedrals in town.

We followed that with a tour of the Royal Palace.
One of the docent/guards showed us the rooms that President Obama will stay in when he visits Sweden in 6 months for some big European meeting. The palace was impressive both inside and out. The palace we toured was rebuilt after a fire destroyed most of the original palace from the 1600's. We got to tour the only surviving portion of the 1600's palace and that was an impressive work of brick and stone.

We're back at the hotel, where there is free internet. While I am writing this, Jim is going for a quick run.

The weather here today has been great, mostly sunny and in the high 70's with a slight breeze.

Tomorrow we hope to visit another one of Stockholm's islands, one that is pretty much dedicated to being a park. There is a famous museum there that commemorates the day when large wooden ships sailed these waters. There is a chance that we may be able to rent bicycles while on this island, so we can get some exercise while sightseeing.

Speaking of bicycles~they are everywhere. Every road we have seen so far has a dedicated bike lane and they are as busy as the roads! The Swedes have the right idea about mass transit. For people not riding their bikes, here are buses, trains, and subways to move people. I like this city.

Later tomorrow afternoon we are boarding ferry, that looks more like a cruise ship, bound for Helsinki. This is an overnight ferry, which will arrive in Finland on our anniversary. Jim says he is taking me on a cruise for our anniversary! What a guy!

So that is all I can think about to write right now. My goal is to stay awake long enough to get that ice cream in a waffle cone and then hopefully get a good night's sleep.

Hope all is well.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Packing Up

This weekend has been fairly relaxed as we continue to get ready for our trip to Sweden and Finland. It is quite nice to be able to pack up at a more casual pace, instead of the usual frantic pace during the school year.

Friday night we went out to dinner with our friends Tony and Ann. We went to Hogan's on Park Ave and I was a little concerned that we would have to wait a long time for a table because the Park Ave Festival started the next day. Well, there was no need for me to have wasted one moment worrying about that because the place was only half full! We did have a good meal and a fun time with Tony and Ann.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and was forecasted to be the best day of the weekend, a real summer beauty. I had planned to go to the Park Ave festival right when it opened and be home by lunch. At the last minute Jim decided to go with me, breaking his continuous streak for never having attended this festival! As proof, he is in the red shirt in the center of this festival photo.

We got  there before it got too crowded and I was able to very quickly tell whether or not I wanted to visit the various booths. I bought 2 ceramic plates to match the ceramic utensil holder that sits on my kitchen counter. I love the design that this particular artist puts on her ceramics and was glad to see her at this festival. 

We were back to our car by 11:30 AM and made a quick stop at the mall farmer's market for a pint of blueberries and two ears of local corn on the cob. Jim ate the corn at dinner and declared it so good that he was almost sorry that we were headed out of town just as the corn season was starting. I assured him that there would still be plenty of local corn when we returned. 

This morning I went to church while Jim cut his parent's lawn and loaded up one of Grandpa's old ladders. While at dinner on Friday night, Tony made a comment about not having a ladder that reached his highest gutters. Jim offered to give him one of Grandpa's ladders. So Jim delivered that this morning and then he and Tony went for a run together.

This afternoon, we went to the Little Theater to see the movie 500 Days of Summer. Jim would describe it as a chick flick, but the movie got him to laugh out loud several times. I would recommend this film if you like light movies, with a little bit of romance and lots of laughs. 

Here is a photo that our friend, Curt, put up on the OARS blog. The photo shows Liz and I cooling off in a creek at our campsite that flows into the Salmon River. If you want to see all the photos that Curt put up,
click here.

In other news, Grandma and Grandpa sold their house this week!! It went on the market on Monday morning and an offer was made on Wednesday night! We all are thrilled with how quickly it all happened. They expect to close the deal by the end of September.

Hope all is well.