Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Weekend in paradise

We had a gorgeous summer weekend and Monday. The temperature rose – again – to +30°C (+86°F), which is unusual for our May and a bit too hot if you ask me.

But it felt like paradise. The apple trees were in full bloom. The sun was shining nonstop. You could stay outdoors all day and it was warm enough for short sleeves even very late in the evening.

If you are not familiar with Nordic summer, take a closer look at the photos. All but the first four ones were taken between 8:30 and 9 pm (although daylight saving time). And there is one more month for the nights to get lighter.

This kind of a summer surely is the only true paradise for our kind of people. Now we are being sent to the vestibule of summer season hell for a while: rain is expected and daytime temperature is supposed to drop some 20 degrees overnight. Never mind. We’ve just been lucky to spend four whole days in Eden. (I bet it will be less busy in the real one.)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

A rough cape

Before the approaching summer completely overwhelms me and I forget what I have promised, I am taking you further into the easternmost area of Spain, the Cap de Creus peninsula in Catalonia.

France in the distance.
The peninsula bulges out to the Mediterranean only some 25km south of the French border. It is an area of extraordinary beauty, a rough and rocky region with hardly any trees. The mountains carved by wind and erosion are, in fact, the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees. Cadaqués and Portlligat are about the only inhabited places on the cape. Here you can truly understand why the Catalonian coastal region is called Costa Brava, the rugged coast.

The area is a natural park ideal for trekking and cycling, for example. It is also a marine nature reserve with lots of lovely sheltered coves to protect you from the fierce winds. Furthermore, the sea around the cape is famous for having little environmental pollution being an underwater paradise for divers.

I took most of these photos at the tip of the peninsula. We had a late lunch at the restaurant there by the lighthouse that stands at the spot where a Roman watchtower used to be. I don’t even remember what we had but I do remember the spectacular wild landscapes that opened up all around. Indeed, even I felt tempted to take a path down to a cove. Maybe one day with a picnic basket plus some things you might need for a swim or, more likely for me, for a nice afternoon nap.

If you missed my posts on Cadaqués and Portlligat have a look here and here.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Had some elixir

Lucky for me, this spring stayed cool for a long time. After 12 years in this country place of mine (he moved in only nine years ago), I finally managed to drip some birch sap.

Birch sap can be collected only during a period of a few weeks in early spring just when buds start to develop but before leaves appear. That’s when the fluid is transported intensively up to the tree.

Sap is collected by drilling a small hole on the birch trunk and leading the fluid through a plastic tube to a bottle. The diameter of the trunk should be at least 20cm. The larger the trunk, the more sap it will be able to deliver, up to 20 litres or more per day if you are timing your collecting optimally, I’ve heard.

I succeed in dripping a dozen or so bottles of sap out of four birches some 10 days ago. However, sap is a highly perishable beverage. It can be frozen but it is generally drunk fresh. Even when refrigerated it will stay good for a few days only. So we drank it all the time last week: in the morning, at lunch time, with dinner, and a glass every once in a while in between.

In case you are wondering about the texture and taste, it is like water with a slight sweetness and a hint of something organic vegetable like. All in all, a very subtle and agreeable taste. According to tradition, birch sap is considered a sort of an elixir providing energy, increasing immunity and helping in relieving the symptoms of certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, for example.

By the way, all of a sudden we were taken from an unusually cool spring to an unusually warm one. Yesterday, the temperature rose to +30°C (+86°F). A couple of more days like that and the apple trees will be in blossom. I certainly spent my afternoon with the sap at the very last moment. With the present greenery all around, it would be far too late for any sap collecting now.

NB. Even though we have rather far-reaching everyman’s right in our country meaning that everyone has the freedom to roam in the countryside and wilderness, to use the waterways, to swim, to ski, to pick wild berries and mushrooms, etc, as long as the landowner or other people are not disturbed, this must be done without harming anyones property or the natural environment and wildlife. Therefore collecting sap on either public or privately owned land does not fall within our everyman’s right.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

To mothers

Happy mother’s day to all mothers who are celebrating it today, the second Sunday in May. I hope you will have a wonderful time with your loved ones.

This spring, our patience is really being put to a test. Despite the early promises, we still haven’t seen practically any proper blooming anywhere else than in a vase but we are getting there, bit by bit.

PS. Did you notice the Proud Maiden in the first photo?

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Time certainly flies: we had another anniversary. Just like every day, we shared the best bits of the experience.

As we have issued ourselves a travel ban until some ‘urgent’ things in and around our house have been sorted out, we were hoping to spend a couple of hours in Rome but had to settle for Paris instead. The showing time of La grande bellezza, the movie that won the Oscar for the best foreign film this year, didn’t suit our schedule. Our second choice The Grand Budapest Hotel was fully booked in both the theatres where it was playing.

The third grand one Yves Saint Laurent wasn’t at the very top of our wish list but as the film only opened a few days ago it was shown in a large enough theatre at a convenient time. I do appreciate his anniversary-like gesture to suggest watching that one together.

When we left YSL and were walking to the car the sun was starting to set turning the top of the neoclassical Helsinki Cathedral all pink. Quite a rosy end to an evening out for the two reluctant merrymakers.

It is beginning to look worryingly prosaic. I had better start planning some serious celebrating at a faraway location for next year’s 10th anniversary.