Thursday, 29th November 2018 – Helsinki, Day 1
And so, at stupid o’clock, we loaded up the car and headed for Heathrow to get the 10:20 Finnair flight to Helsinki. It was quite a blustery day with the tail end of the latest storm blowing itself out over the south of the country, and there were a couple of white knuckle moments on the motorway, but we made it in good time, checked our bags in, and were soon settled in one of the Terminal 3 business lounges, and enjoying some breakfast. It had been too early when we got up, and so the bacon roll was very welcome.
The gate number was finally listed (gate 24) so we did as instructed and headed that way. On reaching the gate, there was no trace of any Finnair staff, just a long queue of people standing around waiting for boarding, and a Japanese lady who seemed to think her bag was entitled to one of the very few available seats all to itself (it wasn’t and she was very quickly made to understand that).
About five minutes later a member of Heathrow staff came down the stairs, shouted something about needing to go to Gate something-5 instead, and then vanished. We all headed off towards Gate 35, and were almost there when the people ahead of us started to turn back, having been told to go to Gate 7! It’s a big building, not everyone was as young as they used to be, and the departure board was still showing Gate 24 at this point. However, we duly fetched up at Gate 7, where yet again there was no trace of anyone who might be able to tell us what was going on. The only staff member I was able to find suggested I should go to the information desk near Gate 1. My response to that was pretty short and sharp, and luckily some airline staff then showed up, so I wasn’t going to have to stomp halfway back across the airport.
It took an age to check everyone’s tickets, and by now it was 11:00, so we were already 40 minutes late. An announcement was made that boarding would commence at 11:15. It didn’t. Finally, at around 11:40 we started to get on board. As this flight is one of the long haul airbuses, this means 58 rows of passengers to get on board. It’s not a quick process. Eventually, around noon, the doors were shut and then we sat around on the Tarmac for another 20 minutes or so before we started to push back. There were a lot of very twitchy people with connecting flights on board, so at least we were better off than they were.
We finally arrived in Helsinki only to find that we were pretty much at the far end of Vantaa airport as well, but at least by the time we’d walked all the way to the baggage carousel we didn’t have to wait long for our bags, and we found our driver straight away. We made it to the Hotel Klaus K with about two hours to spare before dinner, so had no option but to unpack, shower and get ready to go out again, with no time for anything else.
Our room was one of the artist-decorated “special rooms”, even if the decor was somewhat odd. We were in the Art room Riiko Sakkinen, which is described thus: “The Hong Kong Curry Flavor Cup Noodle Robot is one of my favorite figures after finding the image in a supermarket in Kowloon a few years ago. It is an explosive mixture of cultures equipped with the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues. The Robot craves everything in the Finnish cuisine from Karelian pies to fast food. Now the robot stays permanently at Klaus K.”
Apparently, Sakkinen is the founder of Turbo Realism, a movement that may only include him, and if we had wanted to we could have taken a small painting by him featuring one of the listed dishes, if we’d been happy to shell out €300 for it. We opted not to, though the art work still amused me, especially the overspill into the bedroom.
After we’d run round in circles for a while, and showered, we were ready to go for dinner at Natura, just a couple of blocks from the hotel.