We were up early today and out of the apartment by 7:00. We took the subway to T-Centralen then an airport shuttle to Arlanda airport, located north of Stockholm. It took about 40 minutes from downtown to the airport and we arrived around 8:45. We were a little confused about the check in system for our flight to Helsinki. First we got in a long line at the SAS terminal, then, because everyone else in the line had their boarding pass, decided we needed to do the self-check. We'd checked in online but needed to check the luggage. So we figured that out, then returned to the long line with our boarding passes. The SAS employee told us that since we were going to Helsinki, we just needed to go to a special place and scan our baggage tags (that we'd printed at the self check terminal) and put our bags on the conveyor, then go to the gate. The system worked nicely once we'd figured it out.
We found a cafe with free WiFi so we just hung out there until it was time to go to the gate. The flight time from gate to gate was about 55 minutes. We collected our luggage and found Riina, who was waiting for us in the arrivals hall. For those of you who don't know, Riina was our exchange student in 2012-2013. She lives in northern Finland but came down to Helsinki on a train to spend time with us.
We took a bus to the Helsinki train station. It may have taken 30 minutes? I really wasn't paying attention. From there we walked to our hotel, Scandic Simonkenttä. It is a very nice hotel in a great location. We got settled in and left to take a walk around 3:30. We stopped in a little shop for cake and coffee, then we walked to Temppeliaukio church, which is a beautiful church built into rock in the 1960s. The acoustics are fantastic. A woman was playing the organ and I could have listened for hours. After maybe 20 minutes, we took a tram to the Helsinki Cathedral. This is a beautiful Lutheran church that was built in the mid-19th century.
By this time we were getting hungry so we went to a Tex-Mex restaurant. That's about the last thing I expected to see in Helsinki! It was called Sante Fe. Riina had been there before. She and I had grilled chicken nachos that were quite good. Karl had a burrito. Both dishes were a little different from what we'd expect, but definitely kept to the Tex-Mex theme. After dinner we walked through a pricy shopping area with a nice park. Riina had just finished telling me that celebrity sightings were not uncommon in Helsinki. She'd been to the theater with her family recently and had sat behind a famous singer and a couple of actresses. Karl was walking behind us and he caught up to us and asked Riina if she knew the man and woman in front of us because everyone was gawking at them as they walked by. Riina's eyes popped out of her head. The man was a Finnish politician, Ilkka Kanerva, who resigned because of a sex scandal.
We did some shopping in a mall on our way back to the hotel. It was a fun and busy day. Photos here.