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Christmas in July

Reporting from Helsinki

overcast 16 °C
View Midnight Sun Run on aboo10's travel map.

'Tis the season to be jolly - as a relocated Australian, I certainly think that the summer season is a perfectly sensible time to be celebrating Christmas, and so as we were in Rovaniemi, which is the official hometown of Santa Claus, THE Santa Claus, the TRUE Santa Claus, we thought we better go and say hi!

It was a bit weird hearing Christmas Carols piped through the music system and seeing Christmas paraphernalia everywhere, but the Christmas decorations don't look tired or like they've just been left up since Christmas, so a lot of attention is obviously given to their maintenance. The shops are glistening, just like the 6 weeks before Christmas in Melbourne or London...

It is also village made for bus loads of tourists and winter, and bus loads of tourists would come, and visit Santa and the shops and then vanish. We were there for a few hours and I suppose because it is not winter, and it is in a good location for a coffee and shop stop, that's what they did... By being made for winter, I mean that all the entries into buildings have grates - to stamp or scrape snow off shoes, double sets of doors - to keep the heat in, and there are loads of hooks and rails - to hang up winter coats.

Santa Claus Village is also right on the arctic circle, but compared to the other spot where we stopped on the 66 degree north latitude, was less of an ordeal to get to it! So no cairns or congratulatory awards!

There were loads of shops including Marimekko and iitalia outlets, and a huge number of shops selling Christmas trinkets, and Lapland or Finland souvenirs. Some stores had specialty items, ranging from handknits, or leather goods, or reindeer antler everything, or silver, but most had mass produced souvenir type objects. Not that these weren't cute to look at too, and of course I didn't leave empty handed!!

We also saw some reindeers, and were able to feed them and pat them. They were much smaller than I expected. The reindeer handler answered Didi's question about flying, with a very clear explanation - they must be harnessed to the sleigh, and the sleigh helps them fly, and Santa has to be there too! Didi and Jie Jie were listening very carefully and appeared to think that the answer was well supported!

There is also a post office, which does issue special stamps and has a special postmark. I particularly loved in the post office, the huge tables with pots of pens at which you can sit and write cards. (Please note - No Christmas in July cards coming! Sorry!) Also the mail that Santa has already received in 2015 has been read and is filed by country of origin here too.

The highlight for sure though was visiting Santa - and we saw some top secret things, like how he has engineered a way to slow down the earth's rotation on Christmas Eve to ensure he can visit everyone! The kids were pretty stoked to meet him, and especially to receive a stuffed husky dog each. The magic of Christmas is certainly alive in Rovaniemi!!

Posted by aboo10 12:54 Archived in Finland Tagged children shopping christmas magic family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (1)

The day after...

Reporting from Jinqiao

all seasons in one day 12 °C
View London Wedding on aboo10's travel map.

There's a bit of a feeling of relief the day after a big event. Everything went off smoothly, the rain didn't really upset the day, it was good to catch up with friends and family in such a convivial environment, the dresses were a success, the flower girls were too cute, and MARNIE AND JAMES GOT MARRIED!!

Also because Mike was only in London for 3 days we had arranged to meet some friends for lunch. So partly because I hadn't eaten enough over the last two weeks (lie lie lie) we decided to go to Jamie's Italian for lunch. It was great!! I do love the way Jamie puts his restaurants together!! We have now been to Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant in London, and Italian restaurants in Kingston, Cardiff and now Islington - loved them all!! We went with a friend of Mike's from Uni and one of his longest term friends ever, Diana, who did a reading at our own wedding, and spotted my Mum and Dad on the station at Kings Cross on her way to meet us! She said to them, 'are you Abby's parents?', and they were caught a little off guard as the point of this trip to London has been as 'Marnie's parents', and Diana hasn't seen them since our wedding years ago. Anyway, was lovely to catch up with them both, despite the pouring rain.

After lunch we headed back to pack up the flat and check in for our flight the following morning. After two weeks living there we had to check every nook and cranny carefully for hidden objects. Mike had rather cleverly brought over a suitcase within a suitcase, so my purchases from Sainsburys, Tesco and Marks & Spencer could all be packed to take home to Shanghai, and we wouldn't exceed our bag limit as we were all entitled to a piece of checked in luggage up to 23kg.

Then the rain stopped and the sun came out, as we headed up to the newlyweds house for a champagne and some more celebrations and to give them our wedding gift of two lamps made from Chinese porcelain candlesticks. (I think I might get us a pair too!) The extended family were all there, so was nice to catch up with my aunt, uncles, cousins and Grandma too. Also for Mike, who was still reeling from only arriving on Friday, and already preparing for the return journey!! There was much talk about how quickly the time has passed from arriving in London, to all the events scheduled occurring, to of course the actual big day, and now the end. It was all over.

Saying good bye to Grandma was sad, her flight back to Australia was the next day, and she and Tom left to pack their own stuff. We went back to the flat for another clean up, and to bath the kids, and then met up with the remaining family again for one last dinner. Ironically, we went to Magreb, the same place we had our farewell supper last August... maybe it will be a tradition...

Posted by aboo10 18:42 Archived in England Tagged london flight shopping goodbye family_travel Comments (0)

Dali Dongxi

Reporting from Dali

sunny 25 °C
View Summer in China on aboo10's travel map.

Dongxi is the Chinese word for stuff.

On our first day in Dali I think I met all the local Miao tribe women, admired their jewellery and embroidery, and have started loading up our suitcase while lightening our wallet!

It all started when we were having coffee and biscuits at 'The Sweet Tooth', a western style cafe run by and employing some of Dali's hearing impaired people. They had these cute little tables balanced on their front steps with cushions. So of course we sat out there. An old woman came along and showed me some silver bracelets, and told me it was 30RMB. Thought that sounded OK, so bought one. Insisted that I only wanted one, and that we were now going to enjoy our coffee and biscuits (which incidentally were just like Mrs Field's nibblers). I made the mistake of complimenting her on the pretty embroidery around the base of her apron...

We started wandering around, and more people showed me identical bracelets, and hair pins, and kids bracelets, and silver toothpicks. And then the kids fell asleep in the pram, so we stopped at another cafe for a Yunnan coffee (coffee is grown here, and it tastes pretty good, especially as a cappuccino!) The lady saw us again, and came over asking if I wanted more bracelets, I reminded her I'd just bought one. And then she decided that she'd take me to her place (when we'd finished coffee) and show me some embroidery.

She took us up into a small attic room, which was packed to the rafters with dongxi - bracelets, necklaces, bags, ribbons, cushion covers, hair accessories, hats, you name it! I really didn't feel like I could leave without buying something, so bought 2 bags. One a tiny one, which I've started using already, it only holds my purse and phone, but it's really pretty. And the other a decent size bag with two panels of lovely embroidery.

Later we came back down into the Old Town for dinner. We went for a little wander, and I saw some embroidered cushion covers on display. I went over and had a good look at this person's stall, and it was totally unsolicited, which I really prefer. And then I asked how much one cost, and quick as anything she replied 120RMB. Pfff, I told her it was too expensive, and I wasn't really interested and walked off. She then yelled after me, 50RMB. I turned around and shook my head. Then suddenly it was two for 30RMB - now we were talking... so I have two exquisite cushion covers.

At dinner, we sat inside the restaurant, thinking that would give us some privacy from the insistent sellers, but no, another lady, a friend of the first lady, who I had met earlier, stuck her hand through the window and thrust a pile of bracelets into my hand. 10RMB she said, how could I refuse - another bracelet. So how cross was I - ripped off earlier in the day! I'll have to buy another one for 5RMB to make a better average price!!!

Other things I intend to buy, are a long flowing skirt, or maybe dress of pretty patterned material and a batik tablecloth. I negotiated with a woman today, and went from 70RMB to 30RMB without trying - so I think everything is two for 30RMB now!!

Posted by aboo10 06:42 Archived in China Tagged shopping Comments (3)

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