Short trip to Pärnu

Last week my father-in-law turned 80 and decided to ”escape the country” so that he did not have to arrange a party. The solution was to gather his five siblings and their significant others and travel to a spa in Pärnu, Estonia for six days. Pärnu is a resort city in southwestern Estonia with some 40,000 inhabitants. The city overlooks Pärnu Bay and is bisected by the Pärnu River. The city is known for its 19th-century timber villas and for sandy Pärnu Beach, with its shallow waters and promenade. The city has several spas and is a popular vacation destination, especially in summer.

The birthday celebration was planned for Friday, so me and hubby joined the sibling gang on Thursday evening. We took the 4.30 pm Tallink Megastar ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. We decided to splurge on the comfort lounge (EUR 20 or 24 per person depending on vessel) and on a priority position for the car (another EUR 20). The comfort lounge is a separate area with extra services, including a selection of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, newspapers, TV, wifi, power outlets, toilets and a bar. We really enjoyed the lounge, it was quiet and calm and you didn’t have to suffer the usual drunks, long queues and less than fresh toilets. The priority car service means that you are among the first to leave the ship once you arrive in port. This means you beat the traffic. So after relaxing in the lounge for a couple of hours we drove out to Tallinn and headed towards Pärnu.

Comfort lounge

The drive to Pärnu took around two hours and once we arrived at Tervis Medical Spa Hotel and checked in we caught up with hubby’s relatives. I must say this was not a hotel I would’ve personally chosen but since this was where the rest of the birthday party was staying, we decided it was easiest to stay at the same place. We had booked a standard suite, which turned out to be quite run down and in need of some upgrading. Turns out the standard rooms the rest of the party were staying in had been renovated more recently. The plus side of the suite was that it offered free bathrobes and a hairdryer, which the standard rooms did not. Once we had unpacked we headed to Muuli bar for a small nightcap and then it was time for bed. The next morning we visited the water center after breakfast. I had booked some salon treatments at Helmi Beauty Salon for the afternoon (a pedicure and facial) and before this we had a small lunch at the Book café Purje.

The suite had a living room
…and a bedroom
Lunch time
View from Book cafe Purje’s terrace
View from Book cafe Purje’s terrace
After my pedicure

On Friday evening it was time for the actual birthday celebration which was in the form of dinner at a restaurant called Trahter Postipoiss. As we were a group of 10 people the restaurant had asked us to preorder our food. This was actually quite handy as we only had to contemplate what to drink once we arrived at the restaurant. The food was good for the most part (there seemed to be some variation between the different foods as most were delicious but a couple of portions were a disappointment). Based on my meal, I would eat here again. Once we returned to the hotel we had a nightcap at the lobby bar before heading to bed. The next morning we had breakfast, packed our stuff and checked out. Before we drove back to Tallinn we took a stroll in the small old town of Pärnu.

Restaurant entrance
Inside the restaurant
The birthday party
Russian-style buckwheat and wheat blini with trout roe
Pan-fried pike perch fillet breaded with panko served with potato & pumpkin purée,
pumpkin & marrow salad and apple cider sauce
Pear cake with ginger and raspberry sauce

The trip was a nice way to celebrate a birthday and it might be interesting to return to Pärnu in summer and see the city in full swing.

Christmas cruise

As January is almost over it is about time to blog about Christmas. Ever since my grandma became immobile and moved into a care facility several years ago, we have the same conversation with my family every year: Where and how to celebrate Christmas. There have been several variations through the years and my mom has suggested a cruise a couple of times. I never really got excited about the idea of a cruise but last year I figured why the heck not – I’ll try anything once. So on the 23rd of December we (me, hubby, my parents and my father-in-law) boarded a rather old Viking Line cruise ship called Mariella from 1985. I have to apologize for this post not containing links, I have trouble accessing the Viking Line site.

Picture from Pinterest

The ship left Helsinki in the early evening, we got settled in our cabins, had a look around the ship and had some drinks. Then we decided it was time for dinner so we opted for the Ocean Grill. The ship was fully booked so we had to wait for the food for quite a while. The food was tasty and we got our tummies filled. The next morning me and hubby chose to have breakfast at the buffet. After breakfast we walked to the old town in Stockholm. We walked around for a while, popped into a café for some refreshments and headed back to the ship. As this was a special cruise, the ship stayed in Stockholm only for four hours.

Enjoying some glögg (mulled wine) in Gamla Stan
My travel companions got caught on film

 Back at the ship we did some shopping, the men went to sauna and we had an aperitif. The cruise price included Christmas buffet on Christmas Eve and so we headed to dinner. The buffet consisted of both Finnish and Swedish Christmas specialties and had been designed by the Culinary Team of Sweden. There was plenty to choose from and the food was really tasty. On Christmas morning we arrived back in Helsinki, the cruise price also included brunch on Christmas morning in the buffet restaurant. The brunch included some leftovers from the dinner. After we had filled our tummies with brunch it was time to say bye to the ship and head home.

Christmas Eve buffet
Christmas Eve buffet
Christmas Eve buffet
Joulukinkku – the traditional Christmas ham
Christmas Eve buffet

I must say I am not too keen to repeat the experience of the Christmas cruise anytime soon. Admittedly it was nice to be able to enjoy a vast array of Christmas food that somebody else had prepared and not having to discuss what should be served at Christmas dinner for weeks. But apart from that the cruise in itself was nothing special (maybe I´ve been on enough them already) and having to spend 1 ½ days “trapped” on an old ship is not really my idea of fun.

Bday at Haikko Manor

Hubby had his birthday in early October and I decided to pamper him with an overnight stay and dinner at Haikko Manor & Spa. This is one of those places where we return regularly for relaxing minibreaks away from the daily grind. The manor hotel was opened in 1966 and expanded in 1974 when the spa hotel was completed and again in 1983 when the congress center was opened. Today the hotel has over 200 rooms of which 24 are in the manor house and 184 in the spa hotel.

The first historical recording of Haikko manor is from 1362 and the manor was owned by the Stenbock family until 1871 when it was sold to General Sebastian von Etter, whose family owned the manor for nearly 100 years. The manor has housed many famous guests including the grand duke Kirill Vladimirovitš Romanov and his family, painter Albert Edelfelt, and Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. The current manor house was designed in 1913 when the previous manor house had burned down. Due to the war, the construction was not completed until 1932.

The Mano House, picture from booking.com
Inside the spa, picture from booking.com

We arrived at Haikko on Saturday afternoon and spent time in the spa, after which we withdrew to our room to have some champagne and relax before dinner. Dinner was a four course Menu Nordic  designed by Chef Pekka Terävä, who is the co-owner of the one Michelin star restaurant Olo in Helsinki. The dinner was served at the Manor restaurant, in the main dining room, which was originally planned as a chapel. The restaurant has an historic ambiance of the Russian imperial era.

Manor House entrance hall, picture from booking.com
Dining room, picture from booking.com

We started with an aperitif, I had a G&T and hubby had a Bloody Mary. Then we were served Cep soup with deep fried kale. The soup was lovely with good-sized chunks of mushroom. Next came a Tartar of lamb from Åland served with pickled chanterelles. The meat simply melted in the mouth and the pickled mushrooms provided a nice vinegary contrast to the meat. The main was fish: Roasted trout with horn chanterelle consommé. The fish was very well seasoned and cooked. Dessert was Apple porridge with Kyyttö’s milk ice cream, which was a nice refreshing dessert. With dinner we enjoyed a nice bottle of white wine. The menu was a well though through whole that was very tasty. To round off the meal that left us stuffed we headed to the Manor Club for a night cap. The surroundings were a bit shocking but the whiskey went down well.

In the morning we went for a morning swim, had breakfast in the Romanov Dining Room which is part of the Manor restaurant, and then we headed back home. This was a great way to spend a weekend relaxing in historic surroundings with a cozy spa and delicious dinner. And the best part is it’s only a thirty minute drive from home. We will probably be back again in a few years.