Surprising Horizons

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Tag: helsinki

St. Patrick’s Day in Helsinki 2019: A Trail of Guinnesses-es (and a Murphy’s)


In what is becoming a “coincidental” yearly ritual, Mrs. Horizons left me alone to ponder my Oirish existence on St. Patrick’s Day. In Helsinki this time. At least in Singapore I could sweat out the extra calories as I drank through my yearly ration of the black custard.

Anyway I decided instead of celebrating our lord saviour on a Sunday I would trudge through the brown-gray sludge of downtown Helsinki and darken the doorsteps of the handful of Irish bars that exist. Tasting a pint of black in each one. Two if they were any good. Three if they were as good as a pub in a field in the hhwhessttt of Oireland. I brought my bank card as I don’t carry enough money that would be able to pay for pints of Guinness in Finland.

Molly Malone’sYeah…
Molly Malone’s has a yearly family fun day from 2pm on St. Patrick’s Day. I went at 12:05pm. To give me time to get out of there before the younglings arrived with weary and thirsty parents. Drinking in peace is a comfort I don’t take lightly. Malone’s is a narrow bar; yearning for more width. I can only imagine its physical demands when heaving with punters. It has an upstairs area but early on in the day it is cordoned off lest you see something you shouldn’t. A pint costs €8.10 . That’s right. I like to call prices of Guinness in Finland (and around the world) Irish tax. Or bullshit prices.As I struggled sideways through the narrowest door in Helsinki into the establishment I was greeted by nobody and that continued until a member of staff appeared out of the gloom to help me out my thirst pit. That level of service kept up as people lined up and the barkeep made the art of serving drinks a monotonous chore, finding more solace in their phone.
The Guinness itself was served with the opposite of relish. The head a disappointed concave work of non art. With air bubbles at no extra charge. Taste wise it was sub par; a tad watery but with hints of home emerging from time to time. No food served here either to distract you from sub par service.

At one point the bar girl ran out the front door leaving some bemused customers waiting mid order.

Flogging Molly was the order of the day background music wise with similar faux Oirish American bands following suit. Made me want to leave quickly. An English bloke sidled up beside me and ordered a pint of coke and a pint of water. Another English lady asked for a half a Guinness with blackcurrant. Barkeep didn’t know what she was talking about. “We don’t have”. “Oh I think you have”. No they bloody don’t. Piss off. Next.

Actually I would have had another pint here if I was asked if I wanted another one as I pondered over the dying remnants of my Guinness. I wasn’t asked. I wasn’t surprised.

Kitty’s Public House

Kitty certainly owns a lot of bars around the world. So she does, to be sure. Don’t be fooled by the name as this is a Scottish bar. Their website mentions the word “British” a lot. Anyways I went to see if I could score a pint of Guinness. If not I would denounce it as any sort of Celtic bar and spend my life making sure everyone knows.It’s got tartan undertones in its decor so I’m definitely going for Scottish. Although I think it really doesn’t want to admit any nationality. It has Murphy’s on draught (and a wide range of other beers) so fine, okay, I will let it slide.Service was prompt and to the point. I asked if they had stout, he gave me the options, and we made the transaction. That’s fine. And €8.60 vanishes from my bank account ne’er to be seen again.

Murphy’s has an additional taste that Guinness doesn’t have. I don’t know how to describe it. Okay I will try. It’s a little malty…kick. There. I don’t mind it at all.Strangely enough with it not being an Irish bar the most Oirish dressed up person came in shortly after. Kiss me I’m Irish? Never thought that statement would work ever.

Kitty’s is a nice refuge from the city centre hustle and chill factor. It’s dark, subdued, and quiet with little cubby hole seating areas around. All things a bar should be to escape reality.

O’Malley’s Torni

Torni means “tower” in Finnish. It’s the only word when translated into English that has the same first letter and doesn’t expand and mutate into 57 letters. Fact. O’Malley’s actually looks like a normal Irish pub that you would find in Ireland. It’s also part of the Tourni Hotel which has a tower look to it. No piles of Oirish crap hanging off of every perceivable nook and cranny. Which is always welcome.


Back to the Guinness. €5. Very reasonable for this city at this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country. Service was fast but the pint was poured in a hurry which left the head a little depressed. I was asked if I wanted anything else like a Jameson… steady on there sunshine, it’s still a Sunday the last I checked. Work happens tomorrow. I think.Taste wise the Guinness was ok but slightly watery. The head was thin but stayed alive throughout sups. I guess at €5 there has to be some quality drop. Drinkable though.I used this establishment as my nose bag stop. Fish and chips. €10. Perfect.It must be said it feels like O’Malley’s actually went out of their way to celebrate the day that was in it. From the floppy Guinness hats strewn around the bar for people to adorn to the live traditional session they had on from 3pm. Fair play to them.If you find yourself in Helsinki on Saint Patrick’s Day and want to get a decent vibe then I believe O’Malleys is your best bet.

Kaivopihan Dubliner

A late opener this one. 3pm. Actually scratch that….4 pm! Google is wrong! I know this because I rattled their doors at 3:52 pm and felt like a worthless hobo drunk. Oh well I wandered around a nearby household goods store to bide my time and get some feeling back into my hands. Freezing. Did I mutter “Worth waiting for” ala Ice Cold In Alex by the time I got there? Not really.At €7 a pint of black it’s not the most expensive. Or least. Pint was poured with haste which left the head quite thin. Taste was fine with the head being a little too bubbly for my liking.This place is huge and links up with the next door bar Praha. Lots of seating in little corners and snugs around the floor. They even have a small closed off booth for smokers so that they can kill each other. There was no evidence of the day that was in it unlike O’Malley’s.Bon Jovi warbled out of the speakers at a reasonable level. If Bon Jovi can ever be at a reasonable level.

 


It started pouring down as I tackled the Guinness here and my appetite for the gargle waned somewhat. However a shining knight from my workplace decided to join up. So I had another. Then another. And then one more for the ditch.

So all in all, if you find yourself in Helsinki on St. Patrick’s Day you won’t be found wanting with O’Malley’s probably being the pick of the litter due to their actual celebrating of the day.

Flight Review: Finnair | Economy Class | Dublin – Helsinki | A319

I can see the future.

I can see myself flying this route quite a few times in the next few years.

The Departure

Dublin Airport is a secret shame of mine being Irish. It’s just not the best airport in the world. Or Ireland. Far from it. Terminal 2 has tried to up DUB’s game but it all still comes back to the infrastructure of Terminal 1 and the whole airport. It’s just not the best. An express train connection to Dublin or even Belfast straight from the airport? Hell no, line up for the buses or taxis. A stress free check in experience where open space is in abundance? No chance; it exudes franticness. This is DUB 2018 yo.

The Flight

AY 1382 departs from Dublin daily (apart from Tuesday and Thursday which doesn’t make it daily I guess) at 10:25 and arriving in Helsinki at 15:25. It is served by a mix of Airbus 319s and Embraer 190s. We had the A319 on our particular day. And this particular A319 was an A319-112 (OH-LVA) which was born in 1999; making it 19 years old.

Today we would be delayed by roughly 40 minutes by some late refueling of the aircraft. Shell happens.

The A319 is a squat little Airbus but seating room in Economy isn’t too bad on the knees and you end up thinking you’re on an A320 until you look back and see the fuselage ending quite abruptly and quite near.

Boarding was fuss free and flights attendants welcoming. Finnair’s A319s have little overhead monitors that drop from the ceiling to keep any eye on our flight progress and gate information at your arrival destination. The screens, sadly, are really hard to read and quite dim in the daylight of the cabin.

Food is available for purchase in Finnair Economy but for a 2hr 40min flight on average I tend to stock up on food before the flight (and in particular some Tayto from Ireland!) as I don’t want to take out a second mortgage on board.

The flight went by very quickly and if you’re given a clear sunny day on your way over from DUB to HEL you will get to see some beautiful white snowscapes and coastlines of Norway and Sweden as you come into the descent down to Finland.

The Arrival

HEL is not hell. It’s a very manageable and quiet airport to either arrive or transfer in. They have some major upgrades happening over the next few years which is increasing the number of gates available. Here’s hoping this will decrease the amount of times you have to hop onto a bus when you land (which was our experience) as that’s always a little bit annoying after a flight not to just walk directly into the terminal.

I’m looking forward to having HEL as my home airport for the foreseeable future as I believe it is a relaxing point of departure and arrival which doesn’t get the stress levels up too much. That’s always a help. Next time I experience HEL I will be arriving in my new home. A few days after I arrive I will be taking a short hop over to the Aland Islands on a Finnair ATR72 to scope out the main town Mariehamm. Watch this space.

Finnair Economy Comfort Helsinki to Singapore Airbus 350-900

As Finland will be our new home come June we planned a trip to check out our proposed city of dreams (Helsinki) with Finnair. People are surprised when they find out Finnair fly direct to Singapore daily but it’s a pretty popular route nonetheless. It takes about 11 hours and 30 minutes SIN-HEL and 10 hours 40 minutes HEL-SIN.

The Booking Details

Finnair’s website is fine; nothing to complain about. The upsell of Economy Comfort is not too “in your face” but on first glance there is not too much difference seat-wise and once you get on the plane and sitting down you realise how little a difference your experience is from the “normies” in normal Economy seating. Do not expect Singapore Airlines level of Premium Economy on Finnair’s fleet! This is what Finnair offers with their Economy Comfort model:

Our Economy Comfort seating option in the front section of the Economy Class cabin makes your intercontinental travel even more pleasurable.

  • 8–13 cm (3–5 inches) more legroom
  • Seats are located on the first four or five rows in the Economy Class cabin (depending on the aircraft type)
  • Better headrests (excl. A350)
  • Boarding and exit among the first customers
  • Only on intercontinental flights: Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Only on intercontinental flights: Personal amenity kit: earplugs, eye shades, socks, toothbrush & toothpaste in cotton bag with Marimekko “Kivet” pattern
  • Free Wi-Fi for 1h in widebodies

On Board

The 3-5 inches of legroom are welcomed, surely. On our flight from SIN-HEL we did not get an amenity kit but on this return route we did. Odd. The EC seats are part of the main cabin; there is no feel of this being anything more than a few inches legroom offer. They are the same seats and they don’t offer any more width than normal economy seats. Economy Comfort seats also get noise cancelling headphones which is good. Personally, I’m an ear buds person due to over-ear headphones pressing against my glasses making them uncomfortable after a few hours.
The seats.
Bare bones. Thinnest seats evar. I know this is becoming the thing to do to cut costs and weight on A350s and 787s but, man, these seats are minimalistic. Every movement from one passenger moves the row. Comfortable they are not. The headrest is fine and adjustable.
Foodwise, yeah, it’s airplane food. It was edible. Nothing at all to commend or to vilify here.
Flight attendants are cordial and communicable and on this route tend to be Singaporean based. I know this as I had a chat with one of them in the galley (swaying back and forth in the un-ending chop). They do the route, take two days off, and do the return route. Rinse and repeat.
One nice feature of Finnair’s A350 fleet are the two in-flight cameras; one on the tail and one underneath which gives some stunning views of the planet as you zoom along. On this particular route the camera underneath was not working but the top one was and it was interesting to see how the plane reacted to the turbulence; it actually was more reassuring to see how little the plane was moving when it felt as if we were bumping around quite a bit.
The in-flight entertainment is ok with a range of movies and TV shows but after flying Singapore Airlines a lot over the last seven years I found the range to be quite limited. I guess I will have to get used to that. The TV screens are big with a USB port situated underneath for phone/tablet charging.
Free wifi for one hour is available to Economy Comfort customers. It didn’t work. I tried several times.

Finnair own two versions of the A350 and we had the pleasure of flying both versions on this trip:

Version 1 Version 2

Version 2 is slightly more favourable to flying in Economy Comfort due to the bathroom proximity although if you are flying as a couple and you want a two seater then row 1 in version 1 is for you. The problem is you never know which one you’re going to get (just like chocolates so you could find yourself in a version 2 instead of version 1 and you will have the extra seat beside you in row 21.

The Flight

Roughly an hour shorter than SIN-HEL but it is still a double digit flight time at 10h 46min (which mentally makes it looooongggggg). We were lucky I guess as some days this route takes up to 11h 30mins.

The route is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately for us, on this particular day, no matter what altitude (we were at 37k, 39k, and finally 41k feet) we were at there was light chop nearly throughout the entire flight. There might have been maybe a half an hour when it was silky smooth. It made for an annoying flight experience to say the least.
With a departure at 23:55 from HEL; this flight suits people who can sleep during the night. So that counts me out. It took me 3 or 4 days to get back to normal once back in Singapore; that’s even with the A350’s extra technology bits to help combat jet lag.

End Result

It’s a unique route; one that might attract inquisitive travellers from each country. Obviously with Finnair using the latest and greatest plane it’s an attractive flight package for the average flyer. Looking closer though and you will see some distinct flaws in the flight package. The seats have to be the highest concern; too hard and too thin. In-flight entertainment needs to be more comprehensive; with the price and size of SSD drives these days Finnair must be able to get more movies and TVs squeezed in their platform.

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