Christmas Vibes in Lecco, Lake Como






A pre-Christmas visit to Lecco, located in the eastern branch or “foot” of Lake Como pampered us with sunshine, tasty pizza and the beautiful combo of the lake and the mountain range in the background. The highlights of our extempore yuletide visit included:

A long and sunshine filled Saturday outing which began as a jog, continued as a stroll by the pretty waterfront, turned into an afternoon coffee moment by the lake (tasty freshly squeezed orange juice and espressos in a small café at 6 Lungolario Piave) and culminated in sharing two juicy slices of pizza on a park bench – with the appropriate gelato for dessert. My favourite kind of a workout.

The Xmas spirit created by abundant Christmas light decorations all around town, the  Christmas market on Piazza Mario Cermenati – with booths selling roasted chestnuts, thick hot chocolate, Italian cheeses and ham and knitted wear – and as the most  impressive sight: creative light projections on the facades of the houses in the town centre. And not to forget the classic lake boat ride in Santa’s sled.

And third, feasting on Italian treats, of course. Yummy pizza was found at Il Forno di Nonna Pallina (Piazza Venti Settembre 35). And the best seafood dinner at Mamaioa Bistrot (Via Carlo Cattaneo, 80): fresh and purely delicious. The menu varies according to the catch of the day.

Lecco really delivered. A delicious and sunny getaway on the base of the Alps.


Discovering Antwerp, the Hotspot of Chocolate, Diamonds and Fashion


The city of chocolate, diamonds, fashion, art, antique and architecture. And beer! That’s quite a list of highlights for one city. We visited this Belgian gem two weeks ago and now I’ll share my selected tips.

Antwerp is convenient when it comes to getting there: a 2,5 hour flight from Helsinki and then a half hour train ride from the Brussels airport. We took the afternoon flight on Friday and were strolling along the cobbled lanes of Antwerp in search of an atmospheric mussels restaurant during (late) dinner time. And found a tasty one (Xaverius, Oude Koornmarkt 21)! Let’s dive into the culinary delights shortly.

First, must say that on Saturday, November 16, it was slightly tricky to find a nice and cosy late breakfast spot with two available seats as that day marked the yearly arrival of  Sinterklaas to Belgium,  an occasion we were utterly unaware of. The streets around the Bonapartedok were packed with families, strollers and children who had exceeded their sugar overdose for the upcoming week as well.

The Sinterklaas festivities begin in mid-November as he arrives by boat from Spain. In Belgium he always arrives in the port of Antwerp. Then he parades through the streets, the children are singing and the assistants of Sinterklaas, the Zwarte Piet, throw small spiced biscuits and candy to the cheering crowd. In the coming days children leave a shoe out by the fireplace or on the windowsill in hope that Sinterklaas will come and bring some presents during the night time. The anticipation culminates on the eve of the Feast day when the main Sinterklaas parties take place. This tradition has received criticism because of the Zwarte Piet character but based on what we saw that Saturday, the tradition, or at least the parade, is still very popular.


Now, back to my Antwerp favorites. The best restaurant, without doubt was Fiskeskur (Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai 20b). This place is excellent. We both had a fish curry: super rich and delicious, fireworks for the palate really. The wine list was delightfully impressive, the service was warm, and the mood was cosy and laid-back. Extra points for the Latin rhythms. We found the place by following the tempting fish aroma when we were walking towards the Port Authority.

The architectural wonder: the Port Authority Building. Its architecture combines tradition with futurism. The building is captivating, a real eye-catcher, and the stroll to see it makes for a good (and windy, in November) afternoon walk. Antwerp is Belgium’s biggest port and infact world’s fourth largest port complex and back in the day (like more than 400 hundred years back) it was one of Europe’s most important cities. On the way back the yummy fish curry awaits. Architecturally impressive is also the Antwerpen-Centraal train station, check it out!



The most interesting chocolate experience was the Chocolate Nation (Koningin Astridplein 7), which manifests itself as the Valhalla for chocolate lovers. The visitors are taken on an audio-guided journey to the history of Belgian chocolate. It was quite exciting: the execution was creative and interactive and I bet it appeals to both children and older chocolate aficionados. And, as one would expect, in the end we got to taste many different flavors, in liquid form. As they say, the only thing better than chocolate is more chocolate.

As for the diamonds, didn’t buy any (I’d rather save up for the next adventure, be it big or small); antiques (carry-on baggage pretty much excluded purchasing any antique dressers or mirrors) and fashion: I bought one beautiful leather hand bag from the Old town, an item which I’ll very likely use for years. And the Leonida’s chocolate ended up in a very safe place as did the Belgian waffles: the best one was purchased from a tiny cart on the street while we were on our way to the Grote Markt (market square).

I Amsterdam


I think it was in March when I said Darling, I signed up for the Amsterdam Marathon.

Exactly two weeks ago, on a sunny Sunday on October 15th was the day of the big race. The day when all those countless training hours and certain moments of positive stress were measured.

But, this is not a marathon report, though I might write one next. This is my compact tip guide to Amsterdam. So, hop onboard and let the canal tour begin.

There are cities I like (Reykjavik for example), cities I love for their intense beat (New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong) and cities where I can picture myself living one day (Berlin, Copenhagen and, as the latest discovery: Amsterdam). The atmospheric waterways, numerous flower shops and flower markets, the leaning old narrow buildings, broad biking lanes and the fact that everyone bikes everywhere. Amsterdam is a verdant city which exudes art and interesting vibes.



My favourite thing was strolling along the canals, both in the soft and peaceful afternoon light and in the evening time, before and after dinner. The many canals have had the task of keeping the city above water. Also, the windows in the gorgeous apartments right by the canals are so huge that one gets a little glimpse of the local décor trends.


After a long walk what would better hit the spot than some gin? Let’s head toward the gin distillery Wynand Fockink (Pijlsteeg 31). It is a small tasting house established in 1679, serving jenever and liqueurs. There are guided tours with tastings during the weekends: a strong recommendation. We booked the tour online a few hours before it started and it was a fascinating experience. The host was superb, and we got to learn the stories behind many of the bottles: for example, there are drinks for all the phases of a love affair, from courtship to celebrating a new born baby.  In Dutch, by the way, pregnancy is referred to as Hansje in de Kelder. It is interesting to compare idioms in different languages.

The foodie in me rejoiced of the wide selection of Indonesian restaurants. A special recommendation goes to the rice table, Rijsttafel, at MAX Amsterdam (Herenstraat 14): the menu includes several Indonesian specialties, such as a spicy aubergine salad, a vegetable curry and seasoned seabass filet on a banana leaf. Yummy food in a warm atmosphere.

If you have time: visit De Hallen (Hannie Dankbaarpassage 47), a cultural concentration with a cinema, bike rental and repair store, fashion shops and a food market. The food hall offers flavours from dim sum to Lebanese and Vietnamese delicacies. The food was tasty and fresh but how the logistics were organized there could afford to be improved.

The last tip: the TSC Amsterdam Marathon. The route was scenic, the cheering was energetic and the weather in Mid-October was gorgeous with sunshine and around 25 degrees Celsius. There were even some families who had set up their own refuelling stands for the runners with bananas and water. And if you are not running and have a good three hours to yourself, head to the Van Gogh Museum. The doorman was arrogant, the masterpieces are purely impressive.