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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.

A Weekend in the Urban Hotel Verso in Jyväskylä, Finland

Paula Gaston

A couple weeks ago when we were still in Finland, I drove to the city of Äänekoski and Jyväskylä with my little girls. We had all kinds of activities on our schedule and I will tell you about them later, but now I would like to show you where we stayed. I was finally able to stay in a hotel that I have really wanted to visit for a long time now, Hotel Verso. 

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

A MODERN URBAN HOTEL 

Before going to Hotel Verso, I read a little about it from their website. They kept calling the hotel an modern urban hotel, and I was wondering what that really means. I found out quickly after arriving there. They have really managed to create a totally different kind of vibe than in most hotels. With the colorful decor, fresh flower arrangements, local products and cleanliness, they have built a very unique place from this former chain hotel. I liked it!

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When we walked in, we saw a dad in a rocking chair reading a book to his son. What an idyllic sight in a hotel! Well, of course my daughter wanted to try out those rocking chairs which were in a lobby on every level... and of course, every single time we walked by. 

Hotel Verso is located in the city center of Jyväskylä where the old Hotel Jyväshovi used to be. The Verso is a boutique hotel which offers something different to those who are tired of all the same hotels. The key word in this place could be locality or Finnishness, since both of these things seem to be highlighted in the hotel. The Verso was opened in 2016 and behind it is a family company who also owns Hotel Yöpuu and the Restaurant Pöllöwaari in Jyväskylä. There are 128 rooms in the Verso. 

A CLEAN AND CONFORTABLE ROOM

Our room was clean and comfortable. With some fresh textiles and wallpapers, they have applied a new look to the old hotel room. Our 6 year old slept on the sofa bed and there was a crib for the baby. Still there was a lot of room to walk around. The bathroom looked recently renovated, and since there was a bath tub, our kids were able to take a bath just like at home. Most Finnish homes have a sauna and showers instead of a tub, so having a tub in the room was a pleasant surprise. 

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 We love taking baths and the bath salt in the bathroom was a big plus

We love taking baths and the bath salt in the bathroom was a big plus

When staying in this room though, you should keep your curtains closed during the morning. I guess this doesn't apply if your room is located on another side than ours was. I like to open up the curtains in the morning and let the light come into the room, but after I had been walking around the room in my pyjamas, I noticed that outside our room people were having breakfast. The view from the breakfast room was straight into our room! I hope no one choked on their bread when they saw this tired mama in pyjamas and hair sticking up.

TOP NOTCH BREAKFAST 

The breakfast at Verso is served in the Silmu Restaurant, and it is the pride of the hotel. When my friends heard where I am staying, they immediately mentioned the "awesome breakfast at Verso". There were all kinds of Finnish products and foods, and definitely a lot of things an average hotel breakfast doesn't have. There were many local treats, seasonal products and fresh baked breads. I especially fell in love with the apple juice from Åland Islands and the lingonberry pudding. That is something I don't often get, since we don't have lingonberries back at home in California. The kids seemed to love the blueberry juice and the bread baked with Verso's own bread root with cold smoked salmon. 

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There are also omelette chefs in Silmu who will make an omelette of your choice. This is one thing I always miss with a hotel breakfast. I also have to give a big thanks for the kids plates and cups they provided with the bibs. I got the feeling that everything was planned extremely well. For example they served some delicious overnight simmered porridge, but since it was made with milk, it wasn't suitable for our baby yet. I asked about the other options and immediately they gave me some oat meal made with water. Baby's breakfast was saved, thank you!

 Finally a hotel with my size coffee cup!

Finally a hotel with my size coffee cup!

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After having this breakfast I understood what my friends had been talking about. This is a meal I would gladly offer for my foreign guests.

THE DECOR TEMPED US TO SIT IN THE LOBBY

Hotel Verso's bar has a lot of personality. Among the drinks, the bar in the lobby offers some lunch during the weekdays. Unfortunately we were travelling on the weekend, so we didn't get to try it out, but we were sitting in the lobby just for fun. They also offer dinner during the weekdays. We loved the colorful decor and interesting furniture they had. And my daughter wanted to write something in their guest book.  

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 My daughter enjoyed writing in the hotel guest book. 

My daughter enjoyed writing in the hotel guest book. 

Thank you to Hotel Verso and their friendly staff for the great weekend!

 

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.  

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 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

BEST PART OF OUR ROOM WAS CLEANLINESS

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. 

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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.

SWIMMING, SWIMMING AND SWIMMING

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.  

THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR SPA DAY WAS THE DELICIOUS FOOD

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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. 

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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 Finland's Most Infamous 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 rapidly changing. 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 life in old Kakola was like. So we decided to head over to Kakolanmäki Hill Museum. 

KAKOLANMÄKI HILL MUSEUM SHOWCASES THE LIFE OF THE PRISONERS

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 directions and they told us that the museum is right around the corner. This store sells all kinds of prison related stuff and items made by prisoners. So if you are interested in things like that, you should give this shop a try.

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 access to most museums in Turku. After getting the ticket they unlock the museum door and the self-guided tour begins. The 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 photographed his work and his photos are now showcased in the museum. They truly show what prison life was like back then in Kakola. 

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In the last room of the museum you will get to know about Kakola granite, known as ‘Kakoliitti’. The prisoners were sentenced to hard labor to quarry 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.

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KAKOLA PRISON

Kakola prison was first built on order of Emperor Nikolai I, that Finland should have some prisons with hard labor. The facility opened in 1853 and in the beginning it was used to accommodate Russian soldiers who came to Finland from the Crimean War. They left in 1859 and the building become a prison. Over the years, many more buildings were built in Kakola, and at the most, there were 1,320 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. 

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One of the most infamous 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 numerous banks in Denmark while driving only Volvos. Some Swedish people told him that a Volvo can not be broken into, and he believed them. The worst murderer in Finnish history is 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's buildings. Part of them will be renovated into apartments and some part will become a hotel. For a few years now there have been prison tours arranged for visitors, but it is not known if a part of the prison will be saved for this kind of purpose. It is sure that every Finn knows Kakola, and there would probably be demand for the tours. Also the fate of the Kakolanmäki Hill Museum is still undecided. 

THE LOVELY CAFE KAKOLA

I really liked the cafe that was situated in the prison warden's house. The Cafe is only open during summertime, but it felt like we were sitting in someone's home. The furniture was 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 fine porcelain or like a prisoner from a tin cup? They were also serving a special muffin which had a file sticking out of it.

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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 - The 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 the Nightwish exhibition in Kitee, travelled to Vyborg, Russia via the 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 foodies. It was time to correct this oversight since Visit Turku offered us the Food Walk card for our stay in Turku. And what could be nicer than a walk by the Aura River looking for new restaurant experiences? 

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The 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 of ten participating businesses. Different restaurant offer different things, so one can choose to have an appetizer, main course and dessert all in different places. What an excellent idea for those who like to try out new restaurants! 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 at walking distance from each others so one does not need a car to get around. We found it actually quite nice to walk a little bit before the next course. In the mean time, we stopped at a local church or museum. We divided our restaurant visits on different days and tried different kinds of restaurants. There is everything on the list from fine dining to pub food or even cafeterias. Last time we visited Turku my husband got the best cinnamon bun (pulla) of his life at 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 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 on to Helsinki. We drove from my hometown, Kokkola to Heinävesi and visited the Valamo Monastery, and from there over to a summer cottage in Rääkkylä. We saw a Nightwish exhibition in Kitee, travelled to Vyborg, Russia via the 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 at the Radisson Blu Aleksanteri. 

 

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

ROCK'N ROSE ROOM BY REMU AALTONEN

We walk from the hotel lobby to a dark cellar floor. At the end of the hall way there is a room and on the door sign it 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 the base boards are golden coloured. Between the rooms there is a black velvet curtain. The cigar sofas invite 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 has stayed here, the rest of the family is playing pinball. I wonder if we will ever have time to unpack our suitcases. 

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The Rock'n Rose Room was designed by the Finnish musician Remu Aaltonen. Most people know him from the band Hurriganes. While designing the rock-themed room, he was given a free hand to do what ever he wanted. Part of the profit from the Rock'n Rose Room will go to the 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 hear any sounds from other guests. The windows of the room face the road so you can watch people walking by. However, if you plan to walk around naked, don't forget to close the curtains! The Coffee maker on the table is brewing and the smell of fresh coffee fills the room. I have to say that we enjoyed our time in this room. 

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The Radisson Blu Aleksanteri is located in Helsinki's Punavuori neighborhood, close to many attractions 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.

THE BEST BREAKFAST OF THIS SUMMER

I have always been a big breakfast lover, so I would like the hotel breakfast to have something unique or new. So many hotels just offer the same menu and a 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 whether we would like to have coffee or tea. The small things speak volumes! A stylish coffee thermos was brought to our table and we felt right at home. The buffet had many traditional breakfast foods, but also some new and fresh ideas. The breakfast chef was there to make omelettes which I absolutely loved!

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WISH FRIDGE

We were also asked to check out the "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 Magnum ice cream in the freezer. Mmmm... so of course we had to have some!

The Wish Fridge is included with all the business rooms and for others it can be added for a small fee. 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. 

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So many good things to say about our stay at the Radisson Blu Aleksanteri, but we truly felt this way and it is not always the case. If you read my blog a couple weeks ago, you might have noticed that we have also experienced slightly 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 the Temppeliaukio Church for example, which I have always wanted to visit. But more about that next time!