If you ask my dad, he will say “She’s going to Russia!”
I suppose he isn’t lying, but that’s one of the briefest parts of my trip!
It’s no secret that I’m prepping for a trip to Europe this summer. Everyone keeps asking where I’m going and in some cases, why there?
I’m going to England, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Norway and Russia.
Let me start from the beginning.
About a year and a half ago ago, I had the following text exchange with my mom:
I bought my Harry Potter tickets that night.
I started planning the next day. I figured it would likely be the only time my mom would go to Europe because my dad doesn’t like long or non-direct flights. If you only have one chance, you generally go to London and Paris, so that’s what we were going to do. We had it all planned. We would spend about a week in each place and then go to Helsinki, Finland where I had a friend who we would spend a couple of days with. It was going to be perfect!
We had plans go to a Paris opera, a French cooking class, and a do champagne tour in Reims.
(I don’t like Paris. I’ve been twice and I just don’t like it. I just thought my mom needed to see it.)
We changed our minds after about a year. There were lots of reasons, but amongst them – the theatre we wanted to see a show at had a fire and isn’t doing the show any more, we couldn’t get into the dessert class I wanted to take, and I didn’t really care to see the same things again.
Now we had a Paris-sized (aka five days) gap in the middle of our trip. We had booked the first and last hotel so there wasn’t any changing our available dates.
I thought maybe Ireland or Scotland would work since it’s near London but couldn’t find any tours that would work. I didn’t really want to plan anything out in a country I knew nothing about. None of the dates worked with our set days though so that was nixed.
Then I thought “What if we head to Helsinki sooner?”
Due to scheduling, we weren’t able to do the day trip to Tallinn, Estonia that I had desperately wanted to do. I knew that would fill a day that we weren’t in Paris. In my research, I had also found information on a visa-free St. Petersburg cruise. I researched more about it and found that the dates would fit perfectly in the Paris gap.
The cruise leaves from Stockholm, Sweden, so we had to get to Sweden. We booked flights from London to Stockholm. We will arrive there in the morning, stay the night, and depart the next afternoon. We will get about a day to explore the city! When we are in northern Europe, they will have about 19 hours of daylight so our nights will go on forever!!
Each day on the boat is spent in port. The first stop is Helsinki. We will be doing a guided tour of Helsinki so that when we return at the end of the cruise, we know what we’d like to see more in depth!
After Helsinki, we will spend two days in port in St. Petersburg. It’s all through a guided tour (part of the visa-free rules) and we will be able to see the both the Winter and Summer Palaces! And guess what else – we will be seeing the Russian Ballet perform Swan Lake! We will spend the night in a hotel before doing part two of our tour the following day. After that, we hop back on the boat for another night.
After St. Petersburg, the boat will drop us back off in Helsinki where we will check into a hotel for a few nights. Originally we were meant to visit Pori, about three hours away to visit friends. At the last minute, they had a change of plans and had to move countries. We still had our hotel so we decided to just spend some time in Helsinki instead of trying to completely reorganize the last half of our trip again.
One of our days in Helsinki, we will take a ferry day trip to Tallinn, Estonia to spend a day in the medieval walled capital city. We will also spend a day at a fortress island right off the coast of Helsinki.
When we leave Helsinki to return to London for our flight home, we also had some changes. We had wanted to leave Helsinki late in the evening so we would have some time in the city during the morning. We were staying at the London airport that night so we didn’t have to go back into London. When looking at flights, one-ways in the evening were too expensive. The only ones in our range were in the middle of the day.
Then I had an idea. Instead of a middle of the day flight that would prevent us from seeing anything in either city, what about an early flight with a long layover somewhere?
So now our last day, we will be spending about 9 hours in Oslo, Norway. The airport is only a 15 minute train ride from the city center and everything is right around the station so we’ll be able to see so much there! I wish we had time to do a fjord cruise, but you can’t do everything or else you’d never need to go back!!
My mom isn’t upset at all about taking out Paris in exchange for northern Europe. She said “Everyone goes to Paris! I’d so much rather go places that aren’t as popular!”
She isn’t as excited about having to buy another set of Russian nesting dolls though. She bought some when she was in Alaska because she never thought she’d be any closer to Russia than she was then. You buy those because of what they are. Not because they make a good piece of decor.
That’s all then! I don’t know if I’ll post anything else before we leave or not. It’s about two months away!