Despite popular belief, Santa Claus is not from the North Pole – he is from Finland! So what could be more appropriate than spending Saint Nicholas in his homeland before the holidays?
Join us for a long winter weekend stay in the lovely city of Porvoo, the second oldest city in Finland, which offers a charming atmosphere this time of year.
We will go cross country-skiing, which is somewhat of a national sport in Finland. It is suitable for everybody and extremely good for the body and mind, with beautiful winter scenery serving as an inspiring backdrop. We will rent skis, shoes and poles on location. Please bring warm and comfortable clothes to ski in as it will be very cold! Beginners welcome.
We will also enjoy going to the sauna, which again is a substantial part of Finnish culture and will be particularly welcome after a long day of cross-country skiing!
Finally as it will be close to Christmas, we will head to Helsinki for a tour of the city and its Christmas market where we can enjoy some warm mulled wine and delicious cheesecakes or roasted almonds, as well as find knitted mittens and other wool products, wooden toys and traditional Finnish products. Perfect for your Christmas shopping!
Cost & Payment: To secure your place, you will be asked to pay a £75 deposit when you RSVP to this event. The full cost for this trip is £270, however there is an early bird fee of £230 if you pay in full by August 15 and £250 if you pay by September 30. From October 1st the full cost will apply.
The balance is to be paid in Kat’s account to avoid PayPal fees – please refer to this link for her details: http://www.meetup.com/Curious-Kat-Adventure-Club/pages/Bank_account/
The deadline to pay for the trip in full is November 22. If you have not paid by then you will be removed from the trip. Please note that the deposit is non-refundable.
2 nights’ accommodation
Ski equipment rental (skis, boots, poles, helmet) – you will have to bring your own skiwear
Sauna (inc. towels)
Local transport and airport shuttle
Guided tour of Helsinki
What’s not included:
Flights (see recommended flights below)
Bed linen and towels should you choose to hire some at the hostel
Flights: Friday 6 December 2013 at 7:30 from London Heathrow (arriving 12:25 in Helsinki-Vantaa), returning Sunday 8 December 2013 at 19:30 (arriving 20:40) from the same airports.
Make sure you book your flights well in advance as prices are bound to increase as we get closer to the holidays. Last time I checked (4/9/13) return flights were £154 with Finnair and £272 with British Airways.
Accommodation: We will be staying at the Porvoo Hostel.
Rooms are shared (4 to 6 people per room), include a TV and for most a refrigerator as well. Showers, washrooms and toilets are shared.
There is a self-catering kitchen where we can meet for breakfast. Towels and bed linens are available at an extra cost (1€ and 4€ respectively). It is well situated; the city centre, the ski resort and the sauna are all within walking distance.
Detailed plan of the trip (subject to alteration)
This time of year, the sun rises at 9:00 and sets around 15:20 so we will aim to make the most of the 6 hours of daytime we get as some activities will be closed shortly after it gets dark.
DAY 1: Friday
12:25 Our flight should have landed and by the time everyone picks up their luggage and goes through security it should be around 13:00. We will allow for some extra time to account for possible delays as well as getting Euros if you want to do it there.
14:00 We will meet at the bus stop.
14:20 We will make our way to Porvoo via express bus, which is included in the trip. There will be one transfer. The overall trip should take around 50 minutes.
15:10 Arrival at Porvoo bus station, which is a 10/15 minute walk from the hostel. We won’t be able to check-in before 16:00 though but there are a number of bars/restaurants on the way where we might want to snack while we wait.
16:00 We can check-in at the hostel and settle into our rooms, maybe freshen up a bit!
17:00 It will already be pretty dark by then so most shops will be closed already, but supermarkets are opened until 18:00 so we can buy food and drinks to keep in our room over the next couple of days, such as breakfast or snacks to bring with us on the ski tracks. It’s also a nice place to walk around so we can explore the area a little bit. There are also a number of bars, pubs and cafes open where we can relax for a bit before dinner.
DAY 2: Saturday
09:30 We will head for the ski resort (which is about a 20 minute walk away). It’s up to you to judge how long you need to get ready as we won’t be waking anybody up. You will also need to make your own arrangements for breakfast. We will meet at the reception at 9:15 and leave promptly at 09:30 – if you are not there you will have to catch up with us!
10:00 We can pick up our ski passes and get fitted for our equipment.
11:00 Once everyone is set, we have a ski instructor booked for 1h30 to get us into gear so don’t worry if you have never cross-country skied before – neither have I!
12:30 I expect we will be pretty tired and hungry by then. There is a restaurant in the middle of the resort where we can rest and have some food/drinks.
14:00 We can hit the tracks again, on our own this time. I doubt we will last more than a couple of hours though as cross-country skiing is meant to be pretty exhausting! The resort is open until 18:00 though so if you want to stay longer your pass is available all day. Those of you who are done skiing can drop their equipment off and head back to the hostel or explore the city if they want.
17:00 We will meet at the reception and walk to the sauna (about 10 minutes)
17:30 Time for a well-deserved sauna break! We will have our own sauna for 2 hours. Traditionally Finnish saunas are mixed gender and there are no bathing suits, but I’ve asked and we will be allowed to break that last rule! Towels will be available at no extra cost and we can buy refreshments on the spot.
DAY 3: Sunday
09:00 Everyone needs to be packed and ready to check-out. We will meet in the reception area. If you want to have breakfast before we leave the hostel you will need to give yourself time to do so before we meet for check-out.
10:00 We will take the express bus to Helsinki from Porvoo bus station.
11:00 Arrival at Helsinki bus station. There are lockers at the station so we can leave our luggage and walk towards the town centre for an early lunch.
13:00 I have booked us a guided tour of the city centre. It’s a 3 hour walking tour of the major attractions in the centre of Helsinki, including a few indoor stops and coffee breaks to keep us warm and going.
16:00 After the tour is over we will head back to the bus station, pick up our luggage and take the airport shuttle a bit further (10 mins walk) to the airport. There is a shuttle every 20 minutes and it takes 30 minutes to the airport so we should aim to take the shuttle no later than 17:00
17:30 Check-in, baggage drop-off, security, hugs and fond memories.
19:30 Our flight takes us back to London!