The title being so because I've calculated that I was up for about 18 hours straight today - with no regrets at all, mind you! So, up at about 6am. We had already checked in online so we didn't need to go through the whole check-in-two-hours-before-flight procedure. It was about a 20 minute drive from where we were in Surrey to Gatwick, predominantly down deserted country lanes. Surrey is quite pretty and a lot more rural that I had thought it would be. The short stretch of motorway we got onto was completely empty, a rare sight, even for 6.30am, and we made it to the Terminal car park with plenty of time. I felt like a proper hitch-hiker, with no luggage other than a relatively small green rucksack, which contained everything I would need for the weekend - and which saved us money on the already cheap flight with EasyJet (or SleazyJet, whichever you prefer).
I don't think I've ever got through to Duty Free so fast, even considering that the whole contents of my carefully-packed rucksack were emptied out and searched going through security; fortunately the lady who did this was nice enough to put everything back in place - with no dangerous objects found. We were early enough that the gate number hadn't been announced yet, so we grabbed some breakfast and some food for the plane beforehand. Whilst Dad was in the loo, and I was checking the departures screen, waiting for the gate to be announced, I bumped into a Nightwish fan who commented on the hoodie I was wearing (the main reason of this trip was for the purpose of seeing Nightwish's last show of their Dark Passion Play tour in Helsinki
), which was nice and we had a chat about Helsinki and how excited we were.
Then he went off to the gate, whilst I waited for Dad. Once we arrived in the departure hallway (I won't call it a lounge, because, well, it wasn't), it became quite clear that this flight was full of fanatic Nightwish fans, all with the same idea, which was quite a nice sight to see - I don't bump into other fans very often in this country, where they're still relatively unheard of. I knew of three other people who would be on this flight, all from the band's Official Forum, one of whom I had met several times previously, her living quite locally to me. They all arrived together, and it was quite a cool, and weird moment, meeting people who you've only spoken to online before. We were all quite groggy, but quite excitable and took seats near each other on the plane.
I should mention that I really love flying, when there's a visible view, that is, and take-off is always good for me to get my adrenaline fix. My first view of the country was of lots and lots of trees and open space: perfect. I already knew that Finland was a very pretty country, but seeing it in the flesh for the first time was just amazing. So, I would say touch-down in Helsinki was a quiet affair, but I would be lying... it was actually quite amusing. First quote being, "Finland smells funny". At the arrivals part of the airport, we were greeted by more forum members, from Germany, Sweden and Finland. Lots of hugs, friendly greetings and laughs ensued, everyone conversing as if they had known each other for years, which I suppose was kind of true for some people! Then we all headed off to our respective hotels (see review).
Hotel staff very friendly and welcoming (and with the most AMAZING accent ever - gosh, I love Finnish accents a little TOO much). Also, MOOMIN PILLOW. Just awesome. After settling in at the hotel, Dad and I headed towards Helsinki Market Square, which was only a few streets away from our hotel. Mainland European cities are very similar in essence - with a lot of them having some kind of tram network, but for me, Helsinki has a certain charm about it - and emphasised by my quite frantic picture taking throughout the whole weekend. In particular, Helsinki is very green, with a very efficient transport system and a friendly vibe about the place. So, after stopping at a Finnish shop to purchase a Finnish flag, which I had been after for a while, and a new woolly hat (I lost my last one, when skiing in the States), we made our way to the Market Square, which was interesting itself, and offers a nice lookout across the sea.
Helsinki is quite a busy port, both for ferries and... other boats. There are two very nice cathedrals - "Helsinki Cathedral" overlooking the impressive Senate Square, and Uspenski Orthodox cathedral, which is quite Russian in looks, both worth a look at - even more impressive if you can catch them both in the same shot. After a nice taster of trams and market Helsinki, we headed back to the hotel, only to head out again almost immediately for dinner with my friend at a nice Mexican place near the Central railway station. Dinner was very nice - had some chicken thing, and then off to get the tram for a slightly more official forum meet up at a huge Holiday Inn, near the Hartwall Areena. So we all invaded a hotel lobby ("we all" being comprised of 6 Brits, 3 Yanks, 1 Finn, 1 Swede, 1 German and 1 Russian at this point) and chatted and took an awful lot of photos.
After which, the majority headed off to a pub somewhere, with the remaining few being either too tired or too young :P.
Then, back to the hotel, and sleep! Finally! The end of a crazy, amazing, incredibly busy day.