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Travelblog Gone with the Wine Blog

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Quick Stop at Naantali Spa Hotel

Paula Gaston

Our road trip in Finland came into it's last destination when we drove from Turku to Naantali. We had driven from my hometown Kokkola to Heinävesi, and visited the Valamo Monastery, and from there to a summer cottage in Rääkkylä. We saw Nightwish exhibition at Kitee, travelled to Vyborg, Russia via Saimaa canal, and spent a day in Porvoo. Then we drove to Helsinki where we stayed in famous Rock'n Rose Room in Radisson Blu Aleksanteri and visited Temple Square Church. Finally we visited Turku we tested a Turku Food Walk cards as well as Kakolanmäki Museum. And now to Naantali...

*Our trip was made possible by Naantali Spa Hotel, but as always, all opinions are my own.

In Naantali our main destination was the Moomin World which is an amusement park based on a Finnish kid's character Moomin. Naantali is a beautiful town with a lot to see, but this time we had promised to our daughter that she will get to meet the Moomins. We stayed in Naantali Spa Hotel which also offers many things to do. It's definitely a resort where one can spend a whole day without having to exit the premises. Many of the customers seemed to be families who left to visit the Moomin World for a day, but at least we would have been perfectly happy just staying at the spa and other hotel areas.  

 The shopping area reminded me a bit of a taking a cruise

The shopping area reminded me a bit of a taking a cruise

 Free kids activities and play rooms were all over the resort

Free kids activities and play rooms were all over the resort


Our room was in the main building, and it was very clean and spacious. On this trip we loved rooms with some space since our baby had just learned how to crawl. And we also had an access to a balcony which was nice. A fun little detail in this room was a door bell. How many times have you seen one in a hotel? Of course our daughter had to ring the bell everytime we arrived back to our room. 


If you travel with some Moomin fans or with kids, you should ask for the Stroy Theme rooms which are decorated with plenty of Moomin products.


When you stay the night in the spa hotel, you get to walk from your room to the spa in your robe. They even had robes for kids which I thought was super cute. We didn't take the baby swimming this time, even though it was allowed in the spa. She is still so small that she is perfectly happy in a bath tub and this way we didn't have rush out of the pool. So we took turns in swimming.

The spa department was clean and pretty plain looking. I pictured in my minds a tropical place with some palm trees and plants, but the pool area reminded me more of ancient Greece. We mostly stayed in a regular pool practising swimming but of course we dipped into all of them. I think the highlight of the spa area was the pool which continues outside of the building. I always love to finish my time in spa in a hot jacuzzi, and so we did this time too. And like many times after swimming, we were starving when we got back into our room.  



We were pleasantly surprised that our spa day ended with a great restaurant experience. After swimming we were very hungry and we chose one of the restaurants at the cellar; TK's (Tammikellari). All the three waiters we spoke to were very friendly and so professional that I was very impressed. Also the food was delicious and we got it quite fast. I chose a traditional Fish and Chips portion but I think my husband's food won with it's unique presentation. It was Roasted Scampi, Mussels and New Potatoes. They also had a great kid's menu and our daughter chose a pizza with cold smoked salmon on top. Wow, they did not skimp with the fish. I just had to taste some! 

TK's was our choice also because it is open very late. It closes at mid night so that way you can enjoy the spa area as long as it is open. 


They did have some other nice restaurant as well. For example their thai place was still open but we figured that it might be too spicy for kids. Thai Garden in Naantali Spa Hotel is the only thai place in Finland which have gotten an Select recognition due to it's authentic food with good quality. 

We also enjoyed the way the breakfast was organised in Naantali Spa. It was served in Le Soleil restaurant which was very spacious. It was also very clean there even though the morning must of been quite busy for them. With the space I don't mean that they had tons of empty tables. The restaurant was just very spacious and there were a lot of free space to walk around and find your favorite foods. So we ended our visit with full stomachs and headed back to our room to pack.


Do you like to go to spas?

Life in the Finland's Most Famous Prison - Kakolanmäki Hill Museum

Paula Gaston

Next our road trip in Finland brought us to Turku where we tested a Turku Food Walk cards. We had driven from my hometown Kokkola to Heinävesi, and visited the Valamo Monastery, and from there to a summer cottage in Rääkkylä. We saw Nightwish exhibition at Kitee, travelled to Vyborg, Russia via Saimaa canal, and spent a day in Porvoo. It was time to go back to Helsinki, and why not since we were lucky to be able to test the famous Rock'n Rose Room in Radisson Blu Aleksanteri

*Our trip was made possible by Visit Turkubut as always, all opinions are my own.

For some reason I was interested to see the Kakola area in Turku which is changing very rapidly. I had read from some Finnish blogs about tours they make into old Kakola Prison which is no longer in use. I was thinking that the tour might be a little bit challenging for us since we were travelling with a baby, so we didn't book it. But now later I have realised that our baby has travelled so much already, that she probably would have been fine in a carrier. However, we didn't want to risk it and went for an easier option. We found out that there is a museum in the prison area which will show you what the life in Kakola was like. So we decided to head over to Kakolanmäki Hill Museum. 


Kakolanmäki Hill Museum is located in the prison warden’s old barn. At first it was a little bit difficult to find the place since the whole Kakola hill is one big construction site and there were no road signs to guide us. We stopped at the Kakola souvenir store to ask the direction and they told us that the museum is right behind the corner. This store sells all kinds of prison related things and items made by prisoners. So if you are interested in things like that, you should also stop here.

The tickets to the museum are sold in the prison warden's house next to the barn. Visit Turku provided us a Museum Walk card which gave us an access to most museums in Turku. After getting the ticket they will unlock the museum door and the self-guided tour begins. Museum is very small but very interesting. Most of the items there have been donated by the families of Kakola’s former prison guards. Kakola's priest, Ellilä was photographing his work and the photos taken at 20th century are now showcased in the museum. They truly show what the life was like back then in Kakola. 


In the last room of the museum you will get to know about the Kakola granite, known as ‘Kakoliitti’, and the prisoners were used as a  labour for quarrying it. Kakoliitti was used in many buildings inside and outside of Kakola. It was interesting to read about it since after visiting the museum we ended up visiting St Michael's Church in Turku where they also used this granite.



Kakola prison was first built when the emperor Nikolai I ordered, that Finland should have some working prisons. The facility opened in 1853 and in the beginning it was used to accommodate the Russian soldiers who came to Finland due to Crimea War. They left in 1859 and the building become a prison. During the year, many more buildings have been built in Kakola, and at the most, there 1320 inmates. In 1911 a huge Jugend style granite building was built. It become the place where all the most feared inmates were placed. Kakola inmates would take part in such jobs as gardening, wood work, metal work and quarrying. 


One of the most known inmates in Kakola was for sure Ruben Oskar Auervaara. He scammed numerous women by getting them to fall for him and then stealing everything from them. He used newspaper ads to find women and preferred wealthy ladies. We still jokingly call men who seem to be going after many ladies at the same time "Auervaara". Another famous inmate was Matti "Volvo" Markkanen who robbed many banks in Denmark driving only Volvos. Some Swedish people told him that a Volvo can not be broken into, and he believed them. The worst murder man of Finland's history was Matti Haapoja who killed at least 18 people. He also tried to escape from Kakola several times.

In 2007 a new, Saramäki Prison was opened in Turku, and all the inmates were transferred there from Kakola. Kakola was not considered to be very practical and the location in the city center was not convenient. Now there are many kinds of plans for Kakola buildings. Part of them will be renovated into apartments and some part will transfer into a hotel. For few years now there has been arranged prison tours for visitors but it is not know if a part of the prison will be saved for this kind of purposes. It is for sure that every Finn knows Kakola, and there would probably be demand for the tours. Also the future of the Kakolanmäki Hill Museum is still open. 


I really liked the cafe that was situated in the prison warden's house. Cafe is only open during summers but it felt like we were sitting in someone's home. The furniture were old and there were photos on the walls from Kakola prison. There is one decision to make when purchasing coffee; Do you want to drink it like prison guards from a porcelain dishes or like a prisoner from a metal cup? They were also serving a house muffin which had a file sticking out of it.


I have to say that we were not expecting much when coming to Kakola but the visit was actually very interesting. Definitely worth a visit!


Living Like A Foodie in Finland - Turku Food Walk

Paula Gaston

Next our road trip in Finland brought us to Turku. We drove from my hometown, Kokkola to Heinävesi and visited the Valamo Monastery, and from there to a summer cottage in Rääkkylä. We saw Nightwish exhibition at Kitee, travelled to Vyborg, Russia via Saimaa canal, and spent a day in Porvoo. It was time to go back to Helsinki, and why not since we were lucky to be able to test the famous Rock'n Rose Room in Radisson Blu Aleksanteri

*Our trip was made possible by Visit Turku, but as always, all opinions are my own.

When visiting new places we always like to walk a lot. We feel like we can see more local life that way and experience new things. Turku is not totally new to us, but we have never really explored what it has to offer for a foodie. It was time to correct this drawback since Visit Turku offered us Food Walk card while we stay in Turku. And what could be nicer than walk by the Aura River looking for new restaurant experiences. 


Turku Food Walk is a card sold by Visit Turku which will guide you through some tasty experiences. The card is valid three days from the first restaurant purchase, and one can choose five restaurants out ten participating businesses. Different restaurant offer different things, so one can choose to have an appetizer, main course and dessert in a different place. What an excellent idea for those who like to try out new places! The price for the card is 44€ (drinks are not included).  

 Panimoravintola Koulu; Brewery Sausage Plate along with the trimmings

Panimoravintola Koulu; Brewery Sausage Plate along with the trimmings

 Grill it! Marina’s Pulled Pork Burger

Grill it! Marina’s Pulled Pork Burger

Participating restaurants are located in a walking distance from each others so one does not need a car to drive around. We found it actually quite nice to walk a little bit before the next course. In a mean time we stopped in a local church or a museum. We divided our restaurant visits for different days and tried different kinds of restaurants. There is everything on the list from fine dining to a pub type of food or even cafeterias. Last time we visited Turku my husband got the best cinnamon bun (pulla) of his life in Cafe Art. So of course we headed there one morning for some coffee and pulla. 

 While hubby was enjoying pulla, I tried some mango chocolate cake

While hubby was enjoying pulla, I tried some mango chocolate cake

This concept is great for me since I often think that I would like to visit several restaurants on my vacation but there is not enough time. Usually one eats the whole meal in one restaurant but with Food Walk card it can be divided into several different spots. I recommend reading something about the participating restaurants and what they are offering beforehand. That helped us a lot while choosing where to go!

Rock'n Rose Room in Radisson Blu Aleksanteri in Helsinki

Paula Gaston

Our road trip in Finland continued to Helsinki. We drove from my hometown, Kokkola to Heinävesi and visited the Valamo Monastery, and from there to a summer cottage in Rääkkylä. We saw Nightwish exhibition at Kitee, travelled to Vyborg, Russia via Saimaa canal, and spent a day in Porvoo. It was time to go back to Helsinki, and why not since we were lucky to be able to test the famous Rock'n Rose Room in Radisson Blu Aleksanteri. 


*Our trip was made possible by Radisson Blu Aleksanteri
but as always all opinions are my own.


We walk from the hotel lobby to a dark cellar floor. At the end of the hall way there is a room which door sign says; Rock'n Rose Room. And in we go. The atmosphere in this room is as dark and mysterious as it was in the hallway. The walls are painted with burgundy and base boards are all golden coloured. Between the rooms there is a black velvet curtain. The cigar sofas are inviting us to sit down when we walk in. And then there is the center piece of the room; The real Elvis pinball game. Of course we have to try it right away! And later too. The room is decorated with copies of Remu Aaltonen gold records, with his guitars and some roses, of course. We had to admit to ourselves that the room is pretty cool! While I read the guest book about who else have been staying here, rest of the family is playing pinball. I wonder if we will ever have time to unpack our suitcases. 


Rock'n Rose Room was designed by a Finnish musician Remu Aaltonen. Most people know him from a band called Hurriganes. While designing the rock themed room, he was given free hands to do what ever he wanted. Part of the profit from the Rock'n Rose Room will go to HelsinkiMission project which is fighting against the social exclusion of young people. So while staying in this room, you are also doing something good!

The true attraction in this room, the Elvis pinball, is so loud, that I fully understand why this room is on the cellar level. On the other hand, when the pinball machine is off, it is dead quiet there. We don't here any sounds from other guests. The windows of the room are to the road so you can watch people walking by. However, if you plan to walk around naked, don't forget to close the curtains! Coffee maker on the table is brewing and the smell of fresh coffee fills the room. I have to say that we enjoy our time in this room. 


Radisson Blu Aleksanteri is located in Punavuori, Helsinki close to many attraction and services. This boutique hotel wants to give people a distinctive hotel experience and home like atmosphere. We love it that it is seems very tranquil in this place. It is nice to come in from the streets of the hectic capital city. The hotel buildings have a long history, since they are over 100 years old, and there are two buildings from two different decades.


I have always been a big breakfast lover but I would like the hotel breakfast have something unique or new. So many hotels just offer the same menu and lot of processed foods. This time, there was plenty of good stuff to choose from! And it's always nice to go to a breakfast when there is somebody greeting you and asking weather we would like to have coffee or tea. The small things speak volumes! A stylish coffee thermos was brought into our table and we felt right at home. The buffee had many traditional breakfast foods but also some new and fresh ideas. The breakfast chef was there to make omelettes which I absolutely loved!



We were also told to check out their Wish Fridge in the lobby. "What an excellent idea! Why haven't I seen this anywhere else?" I thought. The fridge is available 24/7, and it contains items that previous customers had wished for. In fact, there is a note on the fridge where you can leave your wishes. This time there were some salads, sandwiches, baked goods, fresh fruits, juice, and some ice cream in the freezer. Mmmm... so of course we had to have some!

Wish Fridge is included to all the business rooms and for others it can be added with a small charge. The hotel also treats its customers with a small coffee moment between 5 and 7 pm. Unfortunately we missed the afternoon coffee since we were outside. 


So many good things to say about our stay in Radisson Blu Aleksanteri, but we truly felt this way and it is not always the case. If you read my blog couple weeks ago, you might of noticed that we have also experienced little less flattering hotel stays. Kudos to Radisson Blu and the staff for making our stay so nice! We also enjoyed the fact that we could walk to so many places from the hotel, like for example to the Temppeliaukio Church which I have always wanted to visit. But more about that next time!


Escaping the Rain into Valamo Monastery

Paula Gaston

Our first stop on our Finland road trip was Valamo Monastery. We were a little bit unlucky when it started raining right while parking our car in the parking lot. At the same time part of the monastery also closed since it was 5 pm. We had only planned to stop there shortly, so we didn't mind that all of the buildings were not open. So we pulled out our new umbrellas we got for this trip and headed to the monastery area.

New Valamo is an Orthodox monastery in Heinävesi, Finland. The monastery was originally located in archipelago of Valaam in Lake Ladoga, but it got evacuated to Finland after the Second World War when Soviet Union took over the area. In 1940 the Old Valamo Monastery got completely destroyed with its valuable property. Luckily, some of the things had already been moved away. New monastery was opened at Heinävesi and 150 monks moved in from the Lake Ladoga area. A church was also built to New Valamo. Slowly, over the years, the amount of monks started to decrease and the buildings were left to decay. Later the monastery experienced a revival. New monks started to renovate the monastery and built a new church, which was opened in 1977. Today the monastery is self-sufficient. It runs a cultural center, a hotel, cafe and a souvenir shop. Among the tourism, the monastery gets income from distilling whiskey.   


Today, at Lade Ladoga where old Valamo used to be, there is also a new monastery. This monastery is also called Valamo, but it is now part of Russian Orthodox Church. The monastery was re-opened in 1989.

We were not able to visit the cultural center since it had just closed. They showcase a historical exhibition, and some other exhibitions that change from time to time. Also the main church was closed but we were welcomed to the service which was about to start in an hour. The brotherhood of Valamo welcomes everyone to join their church services. We started our visit from the restaurant Trapesa since we really needed some coffee, and also the baby needed to be fed. As a pleasant surprise, they also had a great family room in the lobby of the restaurant.

My husband was interested into see the wines and the whiskey that is distilled at Valamo. So we headed to their wine and souvenir store; Tuohus. After my he realised that all the wine is brewed from berries, not from wine grapes, he lost his interest quickly. Finland is not warm enough to grow wine grapes but berries grow during the summer. 


Even though our visit to Valamo was short, I can see how some people come back there just to escape the busy life, and to meditate. It was interesting to visit a place I had heard already in the school. Valamo is definitely part of Finnish history and for sure an important part of Orthodox Church of Finland.