September 19, 2014

Friday I'm in Love

Finally Friday. Hope everyone has fun plans this weekend? Last week we did a fun run (the kids are so proud of their medals), and this week I'm hoping we can get out to climb. However, the rain is supposed to come. Don't you just hate it when it is perfect all week long while you are stuck at work and then cold and wet on the weekends?! I think it happens here more times than I would like to count. Here are some fun finds this week:

September 16, 2014

Finland Vacation

So, after Stockholm, came Finland!

Our adventure to Finland started on a five hour cruise through the Swedish and Finnish archipelago aboard  an amazing boat, the Viking Grace.  The ship was so fantastic we didn't want to get off! We had the most perfect day for the ride, fresh air and sunny blue skies, and a not so crowed ship full of so many fun things to do from playgrounds to restaurants with amazing food and fun live music and the most beautiful views of all the islands of the archipelago. The views along the way were ridiculously gorgeous with windmills, beautiful sailboats, and amazing mansions along the sea.


Views from our family cabin though we spent little time inside.

I know this is fuzzy, but I find it hilarious. Trying to carry duty free beer and Lillian to our car as we arrived in Aland.
After an amazing and relaxing ride, we hopped off the ferry in Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland islands, pronounced "ohland", while the other 99% of the passengers on board stayed on the Viking Grace for the final destination Helsinki. While we plan to visit the mainland of Finland next time around, one of the big reasons we chose the islands of Aland was because they supposedly have some of the best bouldering in Europe.  I can say we were not disappointed.

After driving through the adorable touristy town Mariehamn (population 11,500), we drove 30 minutes north to the city of Geta (population 800) passing apple orchards, sheep, and forest to our cabin we rented on Airbnb. Our cabin was located at the very end of a gravel road, right on a lake with not a person in sight. Heaven. Honestly, I felt so at home at this cabin, and it reminded me ever so much of my family's summer cabin haven in Lake Leelanau Michigan. The cabin was quaint but had plenty of room for us, plus it had the most picturesque red boat houses on the water, and two beaches. Frank spotted boulders in the backyard right away and began exploring. Some of my favorite family moments  from this vacation involved hanging out at the cabin, playing in the water, searching for critters, dancing without abandon, and playing goofy games with the kids all hours of the day.


When we weren't at the cabin, we were out doing what the Byron family does: climbing. And lots of it.

Even Lily got into the action this trip. We would take turns bouldering, and Cooper couldn't wait to help show Lily the beta on problems.

When the weather took a turn for the worse during the middle of our trip, it gave us an excuse to do some touristy things. We went to an awesome indoor pool, toured castles, walked the towns and ate at some great restaurants.  Frank and I were so impressed with how much local, organic, and small producers there were all over the island.  We were able to enjoy apple juice, beer, chips, cheeses, breads, and meat all produced right on the islands.

This is Kastelholm founded in the late 1300s.

Plus, we visited some amazing parks in Mariehamn to include an entire children's island complete with bunnies, birds, and reptiles, and a large playground on the beach, totally for free.

 One evening, we visited the local brewery called Stallhagen (means Slow Hand) for a tour and dinner. We missed the tour but stayed to sample some beers and have dinner. Turned out to be my best meal ever at a European restaurant I do believe, with all local, organic fare.

 We headed back early on a Sunday morning disparagingly via the Viking Cinderella. Perhaps because the Viking Grace was so new and nice and our moods about leaving versus coming to Aland were so different, the Viking Cinderella was such a let down. The floors were covered in sticky beer and the majority of customers were drunk partiers who only take the ship for the cheap booze. In other words, disgusting. No plush couches for lounging or nice playground on deck, just sticky, dirty beer tables. A harsh goodbye to Finland, my new favorite bouldering destination in the world.

Such a wonderful and wild summer vacation! We miss you Aland and can't wait to come back again one day.