With only a few hours left in 2012, we feel as though it is an appropriate time to sum up the last 31 days of the year. Here are our highlights for the last month of 2012!
Back at the beginning of the month we started getting into the Christmas spirit by visiting Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park. Over Christmas, Hyde Park is transformed into a Christmas wonderland complete with rides, markets, side-show alley and a gargantuan German beer hall. We spent an evening here sampling the beer with our friends, drinking Baileys hot chocolates, eating German sausages and Matt even won a massive bear in one of the side-show alley games.
Australia vs. Wales Rugby Game in Cardiff
The next day required an early start as we were given tickets to the Australia Wales Rugby game in Cardiff as an early Christmas present from Hannah’s parents. We caught a train at 6am and arrived in Cardiff mid-morning. There is no better way to describe the atmosphere in downtown Cardiff on a game day then electric! It’s almost indescribable. As the stadium is right in the centre of town, the streets are closed off and people spill out onto the streets from the pubs, walking down the street, beer-in-hand. The Welsh people are really into their rugby and have good sportsmanship; as they walk up to and wish you a good game before having a chat about the players and who is in good form for the day.
We stayed at the pub one drink too late and almost missed kick off! Luckily we made it to our seats just in time for the Australian National Anthem and then sat down to watch a nail-biting game. We thought we were going to lose as we were a few points behind Wales. As the final minute counted down however, Australia scored a shocking try just after the whistle that secured us the win and we couldn’t have been happier! Being Nathan Sharpe’s last international game, he was to kick the final conversion. Even though he missed the shot, it didn’t matter, because we had won! We had a few more celebratory drinks back at the Walkabout Bar before boarding the final train back to London that evening. This was our second visit to Cardiff for a rugby game and hopefully not our last!!
Getting Presents from home!
Our favourite part of living in London is recieving Christmas presents in the post! This year we were lucky enough to receive 2 big care packages! We spent Christmas eating the one from Matt’s parents and we received another one just before we left for our Christmas Holidays from Hannah’s family! We are going to enjoy this one in the new year! Thanks Parents and Grandparents 🙂 x
Santa Pub Crawl
Early December saw Matt participate in a unique Christmas event, the London Santa Pub Crawl 2012. This entailed 400+ young Christmas/pub enthusiasts dressing up as Santa Claus and riding the famous London route-master buses around to various pubs and London sites.
Christmas Celebrations at “The Charlton Mahal”
December called for another party at our house in Charlton! People who have visited the “Charlton Mahal” know that we will have a party to celebrate almost any occasion, but Christmas called for a special “house-mates-only” celebration. We organised a secret Santa, although everyone couldn’t resist sharing who they had and Santa even came by to distribute the presents! We were all feeling a little worse for wear the next day, (as was our kitchen floor).
24 Hours in Helsinki
School finished at 3:15pm on Friday afternoon the 21st of December, and by 4pm we were on our way to Gatwick airport to commence another overseas adventure! We arrived at Helsinki just after midnight and after a good night’s sleep at our airport hotel, we got up early (10am) and headed in the city of Helsinki for a day of exploring!
The first thing we noticed about Helsinki was that it was freezing! (-17c) and the second thing was how small it was for a capital city. We could easily explore the streets on foot and spent the morning taking in the beautiful old churches before catching a ferry across the water to one of the many islands; the island of Suomenlinna.
Suomenlinna is an inhabited sea fortress built across six islands and now forms part of Helsinki. The Swedish crown commenced the construction of the fortress in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. These days it has a permanent population of around 150 people and is a very popular destination for locals to picnic in Summer. As we discovered it is not such a popular destination in winter as its freezing but it was beautiful covered in snow! We had a quick walking tour of the island and then had a chance to explore the museum learning about the islands history before heading back to the mainland for some dinner in town.
A White Christmas!
The next day we had another flight – this time to the very north of Finland – also know as Lapland. Just over an hour in the air and we landed at Kittila airport before driving 20 mins north to the small ski town of Levi. Here we settled into the apartment that we would be calling home for the next few days over Christmas.
The next few days were filled with snow fights, snow men, tobogganing, snow mobiles, Husky Sledge rides and Reindeer Sleigh rides. We were also lucky enough to visit Santa at his home in the North Pole and meet the elves.
Christmas day was spent a little different than usual. In Finland people tend to celebrate more on Christmas Eve than on the actual day. So we had our main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve where we sampled reindeer, turkey and game meatballs. We then went home to open our presents and have a few glasses of Baileys on ice. The next day, we both skyped our families and ate a not so traditional lunch of left overs from the last few days including salami, cheese, ham, baked beans and spaghetti Bolognese.
The following day, we got up early to head out to the local husky farm where we got a chance to meet some of the animals such as arctic foxes, wolves, reindeer and of course huskies. It was here that we had the opportunity to go for a reindeer sleigh ride, as well as have a ride on a husky sledge. That night we put on as many layers as possible, and headed out in search of the Northern Lights. We were searching for them as part of a tour group, so after getting our riding gear on and having a quick lesson on how to drive a snow mobile, we headed out into the -30c night.
We spent 3 hours driving around on these awesome machines taking turns to drive in search of the Northern Lights. We had a short stop for dinner (traditional Finnish sausages), before continuing in the search – but unfortunately the lights never came out. We were a little disappointed, but this has now given us an excuse to visit Iceland over the next few months and have another crack at it.
Overall, we loved Lapland! It was the perfect white Christmas that we had been hoping for!
Next on the agenda was Stockholm. The city is built across 14 islands and therefore, one of the best ways to see the sights was by boat. We had an hour boat cruise on our first day; after spending the morning wandering around the old town seeing sights such as the Swedish Royal Palace and the Cathedral of Stockholm. We also made our way to a courtyard at the back of the Finnish Church, where we found a very small sculpture called “The Iron Boy” (also known as Jarnpojke). We had a lot of trouble finding him as he really is tiny! Matt had heard that touching the head of this sculpture would bring us good luck and wisdom, so of course, that’s just what we did!
That night, we headed out to a recommended restaurant called Pelikan. Here we sampled some fine Swedish delicacies such as Herring served with various sauces, cheeses, Swedish Meatballs and Roasted Elk. It was delicious! We were hoping to party on after dinner, but our stomachs were so full that we had to call it a night!
Our second day in Stockholm was spent at the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a Swedish war ship built 1626-1628. The ship sank after sailing less than a nautical mile into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. It was located again in the late 1950s in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor. It was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961 and after been restored, it was moved to the Vasa museum. The boat has been restored with 95% of it being it’s original materials. We spent a few hours at this museum and it was fascinating learning about this fateful ship, which was meant to be the greatest warship of its time.
The afternoon was spent wandering around the more modern part of town, which included a bit shopping before having an early night, as we had to catch the first train to Oslo in the morning.
Ringing in the New Year in Oslo
Currently, we are in Oslo where we will be celebrating the approaching New Year! We will update you all on our Norwegian adventure in the next few days and let you know how our heads are/were feeling on January 1st. Until then, we want to wish you all a Happy New Year and lots of health and happiness in 2013! It’s going to be another fantastic year!!
Hannah & Matt x