Happy 90th birthday, Finnair!

Finnair, the trusty airline of my home country, is celebrating a big birthday this year. Only 10 years to go until the BIG 100! Woohoo! ūüôā In January Finnair was named the world’s safest airline in 2012.

While just five years ago I didn’t have any particular ties to Finnair,¬† nowadays I have quite a lot: in 2011, I was selected as one of the seven Quality Hunters bloggers traveling on Finnair for seven weeks. That gig saw me zoom from New York to Europe, Japan and India in my own personal record speed. I also now have a couple of friends who work at Finnair as flight attendants.

In addition, I’m a frequent contributor to Blue Wings, Finnair’s in-flight magazine, where I’m currently in charge of compiling the monthly calendar of events. So if you are flying with blue and white wings anytime soon, check out my event recommendations under the “This Month Around the World” pages. My favorite event for this month is the breakfast buffet festival for monkeys in Lopburi, Thailand. Would love to check it out one day. ūüôā

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With all these Finnair connections I’ve got going on, it was only suitable that Blue Wings asked me to write an article about Finnair’s 90th birthday – but to do it from the perspective of the passengers. Without the passengers, there would be no Finnair. So back in July I spent a day at the Helsinki Airport interviewing families and individuals for the story (and visiting the Book Swap that I helped create!). The point of the article was to show who flies with Finland’s national airline, and what they think about it.

Though I had to get up super early to get to the airport by the time the 6 a.m. rush starts, it was a really fun day of reporting. I was roaming around the airport together with photographer Tuomas Kolehmainen and our Finnair liason Markku Remes. Markku and I worked together during the Quality Hunters project too, so it was nice to catch up again. We met tons of interesting people, from international business men to Croatia’s official athletic team and Finland-loving Japanese tourists.

And here’s the result! The article is a pretty cool-looking three-page spread in the November issue of Blue Wings that is just now hitting the seat-back pockets of every Finnair flight from Hong Kong to New York. So if you are flying with the airline this month, keep an eye out for my story and my calendar. You can also read the latest issue online here (scroll to pages 24-25 for the birthday story that is pasted below, and to pages 64-65 for the start of my events listings. Just so you know – “sivu” means page in Finnish.). Hope you like reading the story as much as I liked reporting it!

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Have you flown with Finnair? What was your experience like?

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My article about Morocco in Helsingin Sanomat

Yesterday my first article that I reported from the African continent was published in Finland. It’s a hotel review of sorts that I wrote for Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest newspaper (that I modestly like to call “our New York Times“). I contribute pretty frequently for the travel section of HS, often about New York but sometimes about other places around the world as well.

This most recent article was part of a series called “A One Night Test”, where the writer spends a night in a unique hotel ¬†and reviews the experience. I wrote about the dreamy desert oasis hotel of Ait Isfoul in Morocco, where I actually spent a whole week, as you may remember reading earlier.¬†¬†This was not a story that I pitched myself, but instead one of my editors read my blog post¬†and thought that a write-up of this sand castle would fit well within the “One Night Test” series. And here’s the result:


Unfortunately the print is tiny so it’s impossible to read the article online, and it is also in Finnish, which might be a small problem for some of you. ūüôā

But since the article is not too long, I quickly did a rough translation of it for you. Those of you that prefer to read it in Finnish can find the original Finnish version pasted after the English one.

So here you go:

In the sand castle hotel, you’ll even be dreaming of sand

MOROCCO. Even in the pitch-black darkness you notice it. The hotel is like a carefully crafted sandcastle.

The fine sand of the Sahara crunches under our feet and smells in the air when we step out of the desert hotel owner’s black BMW. Millions of stars shine above us – the sky is even brighter than in Finland in the dead of winter. The temperature has gone down to zero.¬†(I’m talking about Celcius here – that is -32 Fahrenheit.)

The main building’s high towers poking in the sky are reminiscent of the palace in Nintendo’s Mario Brothers game where the evil¬†demon is holding the princess hostage. But here it’s not a princess who is held in captivity, but a price of sorts. Kamal Yassine, 26, has inherited the hotel and runs it with four of his friends.

My room is in the annex building. Cold air seeps in through the windows. All three blankets come into good use.

IN THE MORNING the donkey’s hollow cry welcomes the new day. Rays of sunshine light up the room. The walls are made of clay, there’s a blue-orange rag carpet on the floor. The window of the bathroom has been tucked shut with thin pieces of wood and scraps of plastic. Still, ¬†the overnight sandstorm has caused sand to pile up on the floor.

Outside, an unreal view awaits: there are wave-like sand dunes  as far as the eye can see. They start right underneath the window as gentle ripples and grow into 30-meter tsunamis further out.

The breakfast consists of white bread, jam and overly-sugary tea. Our host Yassine has traded his black leather coat for a traditional North African outfit, a mossy green turban and an ankle-length jilaba jacket.

“I didn’t wan’t to scare you with these clothes last night. Maybe then you would have been too afraid to get into my car,” he laughs.

THE DESERT HOTEL stay includes a full board. A room for two costs 15 euro per person, or 30 euro per person with your own bathroom.

In the winter season the hotel is quiet and the host has time to entertain his guests. We go camel riding, admire the sunset from the dunes and listen to Berber songs by the bonfire.

www.aitisfoul.com

AND THE SAME THING IN FINNISH:

Hiekka tulee uniinkin hiekkalinnahotellissa

MAROKKO. Säkkipimeässäkin sen huomaa. Hotelli on kuin taidokkaasti taputeltu hiekkalinna.

Saharan hienojakoinen hiekkaa narskuu jalkojen alla ja tuoksuu ilmassa, kun astumme ulos Ait Isfoulin aavikkohotellin omistajan mustasta bemarista. Yläpuolella loistavat miljoonat tähdet Рtaivas on säihkyvämpi kuin Suomessa sydäntalvella. Lämpötila on laskenut nollaan.

Päärakennuksen korkeuksiin sojottavat sahalaitaiset tornit tuovat mieleen Nintendon Mario Brothers -pelistä tutun palatsin, jonne ilkeä örkki on vanginnut prinsessan. Mutta täällä ei ole vankina prinsessaa vaan pikemminkin prinssi. Kamal Yassine, 26, on perinyt hotellin ja pitää sitä nyt pystyssä yhdessä neljän ystävänsä kanssa.

Majoitun sivurakennukseen. Viima tunkee sisään ikkunoista. Kaikki kolme huopaa tulevat tarpeeseen.

AAMULLA aasin ontto kiljunta herättää uuteen päivään. Auringonsäteet valaisevat huoneen. Seinät ovat savea, lattiaa koristaa sinioranssi räsymatto. Kylpyhuoneen ikkuna on tikattu umpeen ohuilla puilla ja muovinsuikaleilla. Santaa on silti lentänyt lattialle öisen hiekkamyrskyn jäljiltä.

Ulkona odottaa epätodellinen näky: meren lailla lainehtivia hiekkadyynejä silmänkantamattomiin. Ne alkavat ikkunan alta loivina liplatuksina, kasvaen kauempana kolmekymmenmetrisiksi hyökyaalloiksi.

Aamupalaksi tarjotaan vaaleaa leipää ja hilloa, sekä ylisokeroitua teetä. Isäntämme Yassine on vaihtanut mustan nahkatakkinsa perinteiseen pohjoisafrikkalaiseen asuun, sammaleenvihreään turbaaniin ja nilkkoihin ulottuvaan jilabatakkiin.

‚ÄĚEn viitsinyt s√§ik√§ytt√§√§ teit√§ viel√§ eilisiltana n√§ill√§ vaatteilla.¬†Ties vaikka ette olisi uskaltautuneet autoni kyytiin ollenkaan‚ÄĚ,
hän nauraa.

AAVIKKOHOTELLISSA on täysi ylläpito. Kahden hengen huone maksaa 15 euroa henkilöltä, oma WC nostaa hinnan
30 euroon.

Talvikaudella hotellissa on hiljaista ja isännällä on aikaa viihdyttää vieraitaan. Ratsastamme kameleilla, ihailemme auringonlaskua dyyneillä ja kuuntelemme berberiheimon lauluja leiritulella.

www.aitisfoul.com