Our night in Hel(sinki)
We had traveled to six countries in almost four months and hadn’t had any travel issues. No missed flights, no lost luggage, no transportation malfunctions. We were proud of this record. We marveled at our luck.
But all good things must come to an end.
The day we were leaving Oslo for Spain, we woke up extra early. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get to the airport. It was raining when we caught the train that would connect us to another high-speed train to the airport. This high-speed train required different (and more expensive) tickets.
We boarded the train and thought we would just buy the tickets through the app on our phones. But the app kept crashing. So we held our breath, hoping that we wouldn’t get caught because fines for not having tickets are crazy high.
But before we could complete the purchase or get checked by the auditor that was making his way through the car, there was an announcement. Something was wrong with the track and the next stop was the final stop.
We were nowhere near the Oslo airport.
So at the next stop, we spilled onto the platform with the other travelers and had to figure out how to get to the airport another way.
In this picture, everyone was flagging down and fighting over taxis and Ubers. People were shouting and pushing others away from their taxis.
How were we going to get out of here?
How long was this going to last?
Was I going to have to fight someone for our ride?
We finally found our ride and hurried into the car before we had to fight anyone off. We were grateful we weren’t able to purchase those train tickets because the ride to the airport was over $100. We cringed at the price but it was worth it to finally be on our way.
In this picture, a Celine Dion power ballad was blaring on the radio as I realized we were most likely going to miss our flight.
This is hell, I thought. I am in hell and this is the soundtrack.
This picture is when our fears were confirmed.
We couldn’t check in. We couldn’t board. The plane was long gone.
And because we weren’t able to complete the purchase of our tickets on the train that caused the whole delay, we couldn’t be reimbursed for the lost airfare.
The silver lining was that the folks at the Finnish Air counter were incredibly kind and helpful. They helped us get another flight that would layover overnight in Helsinki. It wasn’t ideal, but we learned that Helsinki is one of the best airports in the world to sleep in.
You win some, you lose some.
We spent the day in Oslo’s airport, milling around, napping, and pondering the creepy raven art installation. We actually found some enjoyment in not having to rush anywhere.
When we finally got to Helsinki, we found a comfy spot in a lounge. I suggested we buy a bottle of duty-free wine and pour it into Andy’s thermos to make our overnight stay a little more enjoyable.
We weren’t sure about the legality of drinking duty-free wine in the airport, so I kept my “get out of jail free” card that Aunt Nancy gave us before our trip handy. Just in case.
We drank our wine and watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Andy’s phone, then we tried to get some sleep. The day did not go as planned but we made the best of our situation.
Welcome Back To Spain
We woke up early the next morning, stiff and disoriented under the fluorescent lights. Time has no meaning on an overnight layover. We collected our packs and found our gate, then boarded our flight from Helsinki to Barcelona.
We were back on track.
It was a lot hotter in Spain than it was in Scandinavia, but I was excited to be back in Spain. I missed it in a way that is hard to describe. It felt weirdly familiar, almost like coming home. I wondered if more places would become this way for me.
We found our Airbnb, a small room in a shared apartment. There was no AC, so we dropped our gear off and headed out into the neighborhood. We grabbed breakfast from a cafe before we headed out on a Fat Tire Bike Tour that would introduce us to the city.
Andy had told me for a long time that he thought I would love Barcelona because “Catalonians are a bunch of fiercely independent hippies.” Only a few moments in the city, and I knew he was right on both accounts.
As we started the bike tour, I realized it had been a while since I’d ridden a bike. And I had never ridden one on foreign city streets. I was a little wobbly and nervous, but we survived and saw some cool sites: Palau de la Música, Sagrada Família, Catedral de Barcelona, Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona and Citadel Park.
We also learned more about the history of the fiercely independent Catalan people.
That evening we walked along La Rambla and through El Mercado de La Boqueria. The famous market was a sensory overload in the best way–brightly colored produce, spices, baked goods, and smoked meats. We grabbed some empanadas and fresh juice for dinner and called it a day.
The next part of our journey had begun and I was so excited to see what adventures unfolded.