Jacqueline Jeynes - Author, Editor and Publisher

Travel Blog

An ongoing series of reviews on places visited

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November 1st 2019

I like to add a review about our travel experiences in the UK and abroad every time, hopefully to give you some ideas about new places to visit

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See the Northern Lights in Finland

September 2018

Menesjarvi – Wilderness Auroras during the Finnish Autumn

Aurora Zone, 4 nights, 5th September flying Finnair from Heathrow (went as a solo traveler)

£1870 all inclusive, including single supplement.

This is my last attempt to see the Northern Lights as not a sign of them on my trip to Iceland last winter!

Aurora Zone were very helpful in organizing everything, and include detailed information about what to pack depending on the time of year and type of trip. Please note that they do accept Euros everywhere in Finland, and also seem to have a better WiFi reception than we do at home! September is the Finnish ‘Ruska’ season, the autumn as nights are drawing in and the trees are changing to vibrant orange and gold colours, perfect for intense reflections in the calm stillness of Lake Minesjarvi. It is surprising to think of seeing the Northern Lights at this time of year, I always assumed it had to be during the winter months, but here in the northern-most part of Finnish Lapland, well within the Arctic Circle, the Aurora Borealis has been seen from mid-August. I was also unaware that “Lapland” is the area that covers the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland, apparently geographic distinctions lost on the wandering reindeer!

Sami herders have lived in this region for centuries, and the importance of their cultural heritage is being recognized more fully now with a growing base of information available in the nearby Slida museum in nearby Inari. With visits included to see husky dogs (that's me with a husky puppy), reindeer, an internationally-renowned felt-maker, wood-craft in local forest, and a session on how best to photograph the Northern Lights, it is a packed itinerary that also gives a few time-slots to just relax, explore (no shops in walking distance), or take in the beautiful surroundings.

We stayed at Hotel Korpikartano on the edge of Lake Minesjarvi, originally a boarding school now converted to comfortable wood-pannelled bedrooms, lounge area and dining room. It is very remote, but a perfect location with no light-pollution to hinder the look-out for the Lights. This is a lovely warm, comfortable hotel that provides real home-cooked food using many local ingredients such as mushrooms from the nearby woods.

Day 1

Stayed overnight for early flight from Heathrow to Helsinki then transfer for flight to small airport of Ivalo in northern Finland – I was very happy to see my luggage also arrive at Ivalo! I love Finnair travel, lovely plane and very comfortable journey. 

Timor from Hotel Korpikartano met us, just me for this trip plus two guests from Japan who had booked it separately, for around an hour’s drive to the hotel. It really is in the middle of nowhere, wonderful position on edge of the lake, a perfect spot for photographs with or without the Northern Lights. It was cloudy but due to be clearer by the weekend (I left on Sunday).

A lovely home-cooked meal was ready for us, especially the mushroom quiche with fresh mushrooms picked nearby. We had a session on how to set up a camera for the best shots and went outside to see what we could find. Mine is a digital camera, a good one but not easy to change settings even on manual settings. We were given a tripod to make photographs better as it needs a longer exposure for night-time shots. For those who want the details – 800 or 1600 ISO, 5-15 seconds exposure time, focus on infinity with Autofocus off (I think!). A good start to the trip.

Day 2

Breakfast includes eggs, meat and cheese, bread/toast, cereals and a different type of porridge each day, yoghurt and jam, so a good selection. 10.30am we met for a ‘woodcraft’ session with Martti and James, walking through woods of fast-growing birch trees and pine along the marked trail but sometimes through areas of soft, spongy, moss-covered undergrowth (so you need to wear boots). The whole area is rich with bilberries, this an ideal climate for soft fruits and berries used to make sweet dishes, jams, fruit wine and liquers – they do make some beer in Finland but not distilled spirits.

There are many different types of lichen and moss on the ground and trees, adding to the diet of the roaming reindeer. There are four resident reindeer in this area. It is also fungi land, fantastically-shaped mushrooms and toadstools everywhere. We had a great guide, very knowledgeable, and I can confirm that we now know the difference between reindeer and moose droppings…

Back to the hotel for lunch cooked over an open fire in the little hut next to the lake – how special is that! Coffee and tea brewed over the fire, we cooked our large reindeer/pork sausages at arms’ length enjoyed with bread and mustard.

Free time, dinner, then out to find best spot near the lake to catch sight of the Lights as the sky was clearer today. Beautiful reflections as sun setting, very dark by 11.15pm when something started to form across the lake. Yes! Two shapes across the sky, green, growing stronger with perfect reflection in the lake. Excellent. 

Prague city break

September  2018

A great city for a long weekend break although you do need to be in a central hotel rather than 3 miles out as we were - the Occidental Praiha. A beautiful hotel around 10 minute walk to the river or catch a bus to go into the centre.

The river is stunning at any time of the day, especially in the warm Autumn sunshine. Good for taking those shots of lights reflecting on its surface as you drift by on one of the tourist Dinner Boats.

Of course, there are reminders of the bleak times suffered by people over the last 100 years, so these statues are very moving.

Finally, of course, you cannot visit Prague as a city of beer without sampling a glass or two. And yes, it is difficult to find photographs of us without a glass in our hands!