Saturday, March 21, 2009

Viva Las Vegas!

The magic place in the USA!

Yes, this is one place a “real” tourist can’t miss!

Even (the King) Elvis made a movie about this place!

Las Vegas downtown




So, lets forget about the nice nature and the lovely sceneries of Ireland and Finland. Lets get down to the  serious business, the place of “there is no such thing as a free lunch” and “what the heck is the Arc de Triomphe doing in Nevada, USA!”, and the Statue of liberty as well!?





 Arc de Triomphe Las Vegas


Well, if you don’t believe me, here is the picture to prove it. The “Arc de Triomphe” can REALLY be found in Las Vegas! It feels a little bit “odd” to find this land mark in a place where they have never even heard of “escargot” (snails), brie (soft cheese) , and where Brandy is a Very Poor substitute for Cognac. Well, to be honest, if you really want Cognac and the other “real stuff”, this is probably one of the places in the US where you can find it (if you are prepared to PAY for it).




To get back to the earlier statement “there is no such thing as a free lunch”, it’s a truth with some exceptions here in Las Vegas. Since the main means of revenue here is based on gambling, a lot of places offer really good deals on eating. You can get a lunch for close to nothing. This is provided as a means of “luring” people in to the gambling halls. The logic is “well, so what if I offer a really nice shrimp buffet for the price of a Big Mac, if I can get them to spend 200$ in my casino”. But, I don’t think it’s bad. As long as you are aware of the “deal”. To be honest, I have to say that there  are few places I know around the world, where you are completely free to use all this “offers” without commitment. YES, you can get that cheap (and very nice) lunch for close to nothing, without spending a single dime in the casino. That IS NOT so common in other places I have visited! So, “kudos” to Las Vegas for allowing you to make your own choice!

OK, so maybe this article has sounded a little bit “harsh” and negative so far. But if you go to this place, you have to leave all your “references” and previous “real” experiences behind. If you do that, and simply put your mind in to enjoying your trip, it’s a seriously AMAZING place!

It’s beautiful, it’s astonishing and it’s a singular place on Mother Earth!

I mean, where else can you find Paris, Egypt and Captain Crook within 5 blocks?

I think that any of the mayor hotels will be satisfactory to you.

I (in person) have only stayed at the MIRAGE and the VENETIAN my self, but in general, I think that all the mayor hotels has a pretty high standard.


The Mirage Las Vegas

The first time I went to Las Vegas we stayed at The Mirage.The MIRAGE opened in 1989 and had a construction cost of 630 million USD (one of the most expensive at that time). Here we can talk about SERIOUS investments!  The very “special golden look” of this place is actually due to REAL GOLD used in the tinting process of the windows! I mean, what the fu… is that all about! There were rumors that The Mirage had to bring in a million dollars a day to pay off a 7 year construction loan. But, The Mirage did so well that it paid off the complete loan in 18 months! How’s that for a return of  investment? This guys really know what they are doing.

Venetian Lobby

The second time I went to this magic place, we stayed at The Venetian (one of the most expensive construction at the time, again). So, what would you think if you faced this view walking in to the lobby? The Venetian is a Venice-themed hotel that was built on the same place as the remains of the old veneered “Sands Hotel”. Once “Sands Hotel” had been imploded, this Italian Venice inspired place was built in its place. Together with the neighboring Sands Expo Convention Center and The Palazzo Hotel and Casino Resort, the Venetian is a part of the largest hotel and resort complex in the world, with 8,108 hotel rooms and suites! That’s even bigger than the famous MGM Grand!

The Venetian room 1



So, I have to say, this is not your “normal run of the mill hotels”.


Here you have a couple of photos of a “normal room”.




The Venetian room 2




This is from the other end of the room.

I have to say that it’s pretty “tasty”







OK, so that’s how it looked inside a “regular room”. What about the “general areas” of the hotel.


The Venetian common



Here you have a picture of the “common areas” of The Venetian. It’s complete with gondolas that you can actually have a ride in! Yes, this is pretty amazing! The nice blue sky is actually the ceiling of the place! It’s all “indoors”.




The Venetian common 2




Wandering around in the “inner labyrinths” of this hotel, we suddenly came upon this typical Italian Piazza. It’s almost like “the real thing”, with nice little “trattorias” and such. The only thing missing is the insanely honking horns of the Italian traffic.



Caesars Palace 2



If you go to this place, I really recommend you to visit at least one of the “mayor shows”. OK, maybe it can seem a little bit expensive at the time, but, you will really remember it forever. When I was there, I was fortunate to find that one of the modern worlds best artists “Celine Dion” still had her show at Caesars Palace.



Caesars Palace 1





This hotel is well known for having “the best show i Vegas”.









So, to sum this up, if you go to this place without any expectations that the “statue of liberty” or the “Arc de Triomphe “ will actually be “the real thing”, you can have a really impressive and wonderful time! I mean, if you want to see the “real thing”, what are you doing in Vegas? Take it for what it is, and I can assure you that you will really enjoy it.

You can get a lot of good, and comparatively cheep food, a nice tan since some of the hotels has nice outdoor pool areas.

And, you can actually gamble i Las Vegas!

When I was there, I went mainly for the “Black Jack” or “21” as it is called in some other places of the planet. I highly recommend that you look in to the rules and “systems” well before leaving home. I did that for the specific game of “Black Jack”. The systems will teach you what to do, and if you just follow the rules (you need to apply some serious self-discipline here), you will not loose to much. My wife and I, were able to win about 150 USD during a one night of “Black Jack” at one of the “lowest bet” places (one USD minimum). I liked it a lot, because you get some excitement, and at a lot of the places you get free booze when you play! So, for me, that is a clear “winner” no matter if you loose or win!

Well, that’s all for today.

But, please stay tuned:

The next post will be about a tour we took from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon!

This will include wild excitement in small prop-planes and helicopters!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Helsinki, Finland


(Feel free to click on the photos to get larger pictures)

How we got there:PICT1002

My trip to Helsinki, Finland, was really started in Sweden. There are excellent communications between Sweden and Finland by boat. Really LARGE boats cross between Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. The boats are huge, and can easily be compared to “floating hotels”, complete with rooms, restaurants, pools, spa, nightclubs and shops. You can even bring your own car aboard if you want to.

Here you can see one of the “sister-ships” to the one that I traveled on (just so you get a idea of the size of these things).





Here you have a photo from the upper deck of the boat. What you see is actually a “pool and spa” area. So, there you can spend some real quality-time while you cross the Baltic sea.









This is a “shot” from inside the boat!

The quality is not the best (I have a cheap camera, and the light conditions were not the best).

But, you can still see that it’s pretty impressive. It’s like a small “mall”, complete with stores and restaurants and so on.








Here is a example of the lovely archipelago of Stockholm (Sweden). I guess this is about 20 min. on the way out from Stockholm. The shot is taken from the boat, so you can imagine the height of this thing!

The little house on the island is where I use to spend my vacations in my home country (YEAH, SURE, IN MY DREAMS ;-)





Arrival in Helsinki:




This is the sight you are presented with when you arrive at Helsinki from the “sea side”. You pretty much end up in the city center. If you are lazy, you can find city buses just outside the ferry terminal. You will also get all the necessary tourism information on the boat, including maps and “things to see”. In the background you see the “Helsinki Cathedral”





Here you have a typical street in Helsinki. It’s very nice and clean, and everything is in “good order”. You can do some serious shopping in Helsinki! The “Finns” are famous for their “clean and minimalistic” designs and you can also find the “usual” international fashion brands.

Since my wife hates to be seen in any kind of public photos, I had to convert her to “Mercury Woman” on this shot, heheh.




Temppeliaukio Church

I’m not much for going to museums and such boring things, so I usually end up walking around to “get a brush of the local color”. I did the very same thing on this trip, but to my amazement, I suddenly found my self in front of something looking like a WWII bunker. It turned out to be a Church! YES, a church that has been “blown in to the bedrock”! It’s called Temppeliaukio Church (click the link for more info). It was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. The interior was excavated and built into the rock, but is bathed in natural light entering through the glazed dome. The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics. The acoustic quality is ensured by the rough, virtually unworked, rock surfaces. Leaving the interior surfaces of the church exposed was not something that was in the original plans for the church, but the orchestra conductor Paavo Berglund and the acoustician, Mauri Parjo, contributed to the plans. The back wall of the altar is a majestic rock wall, originally created by a withdrawing glacier.

I have to say it’s one of the most impressive, and nice churches I have ever been to. This is clearly a “Must See” if you ever get a chance to visit Helsinki.


Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral (click link for more info). This church is definitely more “traditional” than the previous one, but it’s very beautiful as well.

The church was built in 1830-1852, in neoclassical style and was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel.

The church was originally built as a tribute to the Grand Duke, Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia and until the independence of Finland in 1917, it was called St. Nicholas' Church.



Bistro Finland


After a long day of walking the streets, I highly recommend a snack at this bistro that we found down at the sea-side. We walked trough the are of all the embassies, and when we reached the shore-line we found this place. Unfortunately, I don’t have the name of the place.  Maybe somebody can add more details in a “comment” to this post if you have more information?