Skimbaco Lifestyle | online magazine » SKIMBACO TRAVEL Skimbaco Lifestyle, online magazine inspiring you to live life to the fullest. Travel, home, food, fashion, family. Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:11:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Must do for Finnish Design Lovers: Visit Arabia Factory in Helsinki Tue, 21 Oct 2014 06:38:48 +0000
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Artists are the rocks stars of Finland

I recently visited Arabia factory in Helsinki. More about the factory, it’s history, amazing historical findings done from the factory attic, the showroom and why Arabia is the best known Finnish home ware brand in the world in this post, but first: why Finnish everyday design is different and how come the artists are the rock stars in Finnish culture.

It sort of has always been self-evident to me that you just know the names of the most famous Finnish textile designers, ceramics artists, and even artists who design hand-blown glass art. Let’s take the Marimekko’s iconic Unikko-print with bright poppies as an example – Finns just know that it was Maija Isola who designed it. Another example is home ware company Arabia’s Teema dishes, most of my Finnish friends probably could name that the dishes were designed by Kaj Franck. Even with the newer Finnish design brands, such as Ivana Helsinki, you know that the designer behind the brand is Paola Suhonen. The designers in Finland may be shy of using their own name as a brand name (although huge props for show designer Minna Parikka for going with her name as the brand name as well), but they do share the spotlight alongside with the brands.


The Finnish textile designers, ceramics artists, or home ware designers don’t have TV shows like Nate Berkus does, and they are not promoted by PR geniuses, nor they are in the covers of magazines or interviewed by morning TV shows all the time. Many (famous) Finnish designers work in small work shops like any other artists, and they do both commercial work for large brands and one of a kind art. I was thrilled to visit the Arabia Art Department, a rare creative art work shop co-op next to the factory where artists can concentrate on making art. This way unique art ceramics and design form a firm interaction, and the top artists of Finland can exchange thoughts and ideas. The Art Department Society’s goal is to advance the status of ceramics art in the field of modern culture, and aims at developing the Finnish culture and establish new contacts internationally through ceramics.


Peeking through the door of Fujiwo Ishimoto’s work space felt almost equally intimidating as meeting George Clooney at the Oscars. Really, I couldn’t believe it was really Mr Ishimoto, who designed for Marimekko in 1974–2006, and has been designing ceramics for Arabia since 1989.


Seeing the work shop of Heljä Liukko-Sundström was thrilling as well, her ceramic art was already part of my childhood home.


Applied arts has been an important part of Finnish culture since 1870′s. It has been important part of Scandinavian design that even the manufactured products are well-designed – and often by artists instead of pure industrial designers. The entire idea of applied arts comes from products designed by using traditionally handmade processes and methods, but then (machine and) mass-produced in a factory. The emphasis has always been put for the designers and the artists and their handicraft skills, even when the products are designed to be mass-produced. This all really comes back what we Finns tend to think: everyday design should be beautiful, and everyday objects should be well-designed and last a lifetime – both with high quality and with visually timeless design.

History of Arabia


The Arabia factory was built in 1873 in Helsinki, and still today reminds in the same location. It has been a Finnish custom to name companies by the location of the factory, and the entire company Arabia got it’s very non-Finnish name from the area where the factory sits in Helsinki. The rumor goes that the city blocks in the fairly remote area from the city center were named by a sea captain, who had visited exotic locations, like Arabia. Nowadays many think that the area in Helsinki has been named after the ceramics brand giant but it simply was the other way around. Regardless, 140 years later, thousands of ceramic objects are still fired in the long tunnel kilns of the Arabia ceramics factory.


The Arabia factory is the largest ceramics factory in the Nordic countries and it is nowadays part of the Fiskars Group. The name Fiskars most likely rings a bell even for our non-Finnish readers – it’s the bright orange scissors you might have in your kitchen or what you buy for your kids for school. Fiskars Group now owns several well-known brands besides Arabia in the ceramics/glass ware/porcelain category, for example Hackman, Höganäs Keramik, Iittala, Royal Copenhagen and Rörstrand. And as you can guess – the original Fiskars scissors were designed with the principles of applied arts – everyday objects had to be designed in a way the function and form unify. The scissors were designed in 1967 and over billion pairs has been sold worldwide.

fiskars tools

You can learn much more about the history of the Fiskars Group at the Arabia Factory, and see several art installations designed with the everyday objects from their brands.

fiskars factory

My favorite was the colorful glass votive installation created with iittala’s candle votives.

colorful glass votive installation created with iittala's candle votives.<br />

Arabia factory visit

Iittala is another Finnish home ware company, also owned by Fiskars Group, and nowadays both Arabia and Iittala products are developed and produced in the Arabia factory.

You can visit the Arabia factory and have a guided tour and learn more about the makings of the Arabia ceramics and home ware products.

You can visit the Arabia factory and have a guided tour and learn more about the makings of the products. It was fascinating to learn how the products are designed, and then the molds built for each product. Even more interesting was learning about the glazes and the colors in the ceramics, and why the Arabia Iittala products last a lifetime due the high quality process and materials used, and the decades of research of the best ways to manufacture ceramics.

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

I can’t even start to explain the process in detail, but it was interesting learn little details like that the color red is the most difficult (and expensive) to produce. After also hearing how long the manufacturing process of many of the products takes and the high amount of individual steps involved, I swore I never complain about the high prices of Arabia and Iittala products anymore. (And I have been collecting Arabia dishes for 20 years now, and still use the same plates I used back then, and the quality truly stands the time).

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

The Arabia factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940's.

One of my favorite stories from the factory tour was to hear how the factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940′s and some of them were in production until 1950′s and some of them never made it into production. What an incredible time capsule!

he factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940's and some of them were in production until 1950's and some of them never made it into production. What an incredible time capsule!

Arabia Memories collection in production at the Arabia Factory in Helsinki, Finland

Factory showroom

Last, but not the least, the Arabia Factory also has an excellent showroom where you can find ideas for home decorating with the products from Fiskars Group. And of course, who could forget about the outlet store, where you can score many of the products for lower price!

Arabia Factory visit in Helsinki, Finland

Modern Finnish design for home - minimalistic Scandinavian style

iittala glass - helmi candle votives in multiple colors

Fall home decorating ideas from Arabia

More information about visiting the Arabia Factory, read from

My visit to Arabia Factory was part of a media trip in Finland organized by Visit Porvoo.

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

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Haunted Jekyll Island, Georgia Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:05:49 +0000
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Haunted Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Historic Hotels, Haunted hotels

It’s not that I seek out haunted hotels in my travels. Far from it. I’m actually a scaredy cat when it comes to anything haunted, but I like hotels rich in history and character. When you find hotels rich with those traits, you just happen to stumble upon a little extra that may go “bump in the night” sometimes. Well, that’s what I’ve been told anyway. I prefer not to think about ghosts when I sleep, but I couldn’t help but think about them when I visited the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Rumor has it that this former island, founded by the millionaire’s club, has a few millionaires who don’t care to vacate this Southern island, once reserved for America’s most famous and elite.

The hotel even hosts a Ghost Hunt Weekend where ghost lovers seek out the paranormal. I stayed in the Annex building of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel which is often referred to as one of the most haunted buildings on the island. I personally didn’t notice anything suspicious, but I certainly slept with one eye open.

haunted islands, Jekyll Island Club Hotel,

I did chat with the hotel’s guest services manager while on property, and he told me that he has had some rather unusual experiences while working late at night. He says that he occasionally hears laughter in the hotel’s courtyard, but  every time he goes to check out the noise, he finds no one.

ghosts at Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, Georgia

I asked, “Is it really loud?”

His response was, “Yes, it’s quite loud and it’s loud enough that you want to tell them to be quiet so they won’t disturb other sleeping guests. It happens about 1 a.m.”

The noise remains a mystery because he never finds anyone there when he searches for the source of the laughter.

ghosts sightings at Jekyll Island Club Hotel,

But the most mysterious encounter for this hotel employee was the time he was working late, and the switchboard kept ringing from areas that he knew were closed and no one was present in the hotel. He said, “I would answer and no one would say anything. I would hang up the phone then it would the phone would ring again.’ He said he finally unplugged the phone.

Haunted or not, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel is definitely worth visiting.  Afternoon tea is a delight at the hotel, and the perfect opportunity to visit this grand hotel as a day visitor.

jekyll Island, georgia

And if you notice that your scones are missing then that’s just the ghost of me who can’t quite get enough scones. This hotel has some good ones.

Jekyll Island at Christmas, Holidays on Jekyll Island

For more information, visit the hotel’s website. With this being a historic property, rates and room sizes vary. Prices range from $189 to $479 per night.  2014 Holiday packages are on sale now.

This story was made possible by a media visit.

Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

“I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.” Leigh Hines of Hines Sight Blog

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Relaxing in the Quintessentially English Landscape Gardens Wed, 15 Oct 2014 08:24:12 +0000
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English Garden_3

Welcome to the quintessentially English landscape garden! You probably already know what the essence of the English garden is – unlike the formal and symmetrical French garden, the English ones are more natural. I always thought of quaint little tudor cottages surrounded by endless amount of colourful flowers, all happily mixed together. And yes, that is what typical cottages gardens are about, and then some more.

English Garden_16

The English landscape garden represents an ideal view of the garden pictured in pretty little paintings – typically comprising of a lake and a stream, sweeping lawns on rolling hills with beautiful trees and shrubs as a backdrop. With the amount of rain falling in England, that means a lush landscapes in a hundred shades of green. English Garden_9 Recreations of classic-looking temples, statues, gothic ruins and bridges also belong to the classic English landscape garden. And who could forget about the flowers, often planted in layers to have bloom all throughout the season either with an explosion of colour, or in gently colour-coordinated areas with lined, gravelled walkways criss-crossing and leading from one themed garden area to another .

English Garden_10

No trip to England is truly complete outside the winter season without a visit at least to Hampton Court Palace in the outskirts of London, or some other stately countryside home with lavish English gardens. These gardens truly are for the enjoyment of all senses: listening the birds chirping and bees humming, admiring the beautifully landscaped surroundings and smelling the blooming flowers – and of course a garden tour is always completed with a tea in the tea-room, or a picnic in the meadows, complete with chocolate-coated strawberries, scones and a bottle of the bubbly, or dry English cider.

English Garden_1

As there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing gardens to see in England it is important to decide first what it is you want to see the most: formal and symmetric gardens with skillfully clipped topiary, secret walled gardens described in the childhood books, imaginative Palladian temples scattered around rolling hills, and white peacocks strolling along lily-filled lakes, wild meadows and orchards – or possibly an estate that is a combination of all that and more.

.English Garden_2

The time of year is also crucial for selecting the perfect destination – for me the highlight of spring gardens would include those with wild meadows filled with bluebells and daffodils, whereas for late summer I would go for explosion of scents in the famous rose gardens.Autumn would be the perfect time to visit one of the moated castle ruins surrounded by bright foliage- catching a burning sunset in a cool evening with the mist rising from the moat is one of the most breathtaking moments I can think of.

English Garden_6

The English landscape gardens are something special- a mystery waiting to be explored. You can find temples, grottos and pavilions in unexpected places, get lost in mazes, relax by rowing on a lake, wander amongst  flocks of sheep or a herd of deer, just let your imagination run and have fun.  Walk down the path where Winston Churchill went in his time, or maybe follow the hunting trail of Henry the VIII or Anne Boleyn – the possibilities are endless. Enjoy the beauty passed on generation after generation in these well-tended, or more wild English gardens!

English Garden_4

reeta laaksonen

I love luxury travel and bringing global inspirations to our daily life. As a mother of three, I am always in the look for best places to visit with the kids. If you like the global lifestyle as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Lifestyle weekly feed.

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Walk Through the Latin Quarters of Paris Wed, 08 Oct 2014 04:48:10 +0000
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Streets are narrow in Paris Latin Quarters

I’ve been asked about the walks I’ve done in Paris, and here’s  my latest one – exploring around Rive Gauche – the Left Bank, and more specifically around Latin Quarters – as the hotel where I stayed was in the heart of this area. I had no specific must-see places on my list this time other than Saint Sulpice, as I enjoyed reading Da Vinci Code -book and wanted to see the church from that perspective.

Paris Latin Quarter stores In general I just love walking around and admiring beautiful buildings and flowers, as well as visiting shops and getting style tips from passing chic Parisiennes. So I did also take time just to walk up and down the little streets of Latin Quarters, stopped for some music, enjoyed the street performers, and of course had a traditional crepe with chocolate and a cafe au lait: that’s just an unbeatable combination! Paris Walk from Select Hotel Rive Gauche This loop walk from the Select Hotel Rive Gauche is around 5km/3 miles depending on which roads you take and how much you keep side-stepping when you spot a lovely little store or a building. Time-wise it’s 3-4 hours depending on whether you want to climb up the bell tower of Notre Dame (always a long wait) and how many times you stop for a coffee or something else. This route had six main stops:

  • Jardin de Luxembourg – lovely Palace and gardens with a great cafe by the basin
  • Saint Sulpice Church
  • Abbey of St Germain-de-Pres
  • Notre Dame
  • Pont de l’Archevêché – the Bridge of Love
  • Panthéon
Jardin de Luxembourg - Paris

Jardin de Luxembourg also houses the charming French Senate building

Jardin de Luxembough - children with boats

Children racing their little boats in the little pond of Jardin de Luxembourg

The distance from Luxembourg park to Saint-Sulpice and further on to St Germain-De-Pres is not long, but certainly a very beautiful one. Paris has so many grand and memorable churches to explore, and by far all that I have visited have been free of charge.

Saint Sulpice Church in Paris

Saint Sulpice is almost as large as Notre Dame and well-known for being part of the Da Vinci code book. The interiors are baroque style and very ornate

From St-Germain I continued to the river and to the most famous church of the City, Notre Dame, which is celebrating 800th anniversary in 2013. As a memento one can buy a souvenir coin of this anniversary inside the church. The wait time was only about 5 minutes to enter the church and the entrance is free, but if you want to climb up the tower be prepared to queue 1-2 hours – and probably even longer on summer weekends. Crossing back to Left Bank of Paris, there is the narrowest bridge in Paris , Pont de l’Archevêché, also called the bridge of Love as there are probably thousands of locks left by couples declaring their love. Very romantic indeed!

Romantic Paris Bridge Pont de l'Archevêché

…Pont de l’Archevêché is the narrowest bridge in Paris and the ultimate bridge of love with thousands of locks on it

There is also the famous Panthéon to explore nearby (although it’s partially under restorations at the moment), not to forget of course the key attraction of Latin Quarters: those narrow little cobbled streets filled with stores and restaurants. The whole world is on display with restaurants, and one can enjoy a lovely three-course menu for about 10 euros, then move on the next place for some drinks, or a coffee and those delicious crepes. And then there is the hotel itself – there is a little bar and several cozy little lounges to sit down and chat away with friends.

Street Music in Paris Latin Quaters The best part of being in the latin Quarters is just exploring around – walking up and down those narrow, cute little cobblestoned streets, peeking into fun shops, stopping for delicious parties or drinks in the evening while enjoying streets artist performing or little bands playing music. Just take time to enjoy the local life and relax!

reeta laaksonen

I love luxury travel and bringing global inspirations to our daily life. As a mother of three, I am always in the look for best places to visit with the kids. If you like the global lifestyle as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Lifestyle weekly feed.

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My Finland in 20 Instagram Pictures Thu, 02 Oct 2014 09:41:07 +0000
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It’s Instagram Travel Thursday again – and now with a new format. Starting this month, we will be hosting Instagram Travel Thursday link collection only once a month, and a new collection linky will be published every first Thursday of each month. Scroll down this post and you will find many more Instagram Travel Thursday posts and please add your own link you publish an Instagram Travel post this month.

I use hashtag #skimbacofinland for my photos from Finland, and here is a semi-random collection of my 20 Instagram photos from Finland, and what I love about Finland.



When I miss home in Finland, I usually miss the archipelago. There is quite nothing in the entire world like the archipelago in the South West waters of Finland. The Archipelago Sea is part of the Baltic Sea. In fact, you can’t find that many (over 50,000) islands in any island group in the world. Finland has this gorgeous archipelago thanks to Ice Age, and the thousands of years of ice slowly melting and moving, and ripping the earth in little pieces as the ice mass moved. It has always fascinated me how the islands were born, and I never get tired of the sea view in Finland, and sailing in between the islands.


The islands in my country don’t have palm trees, but pine trees.

finland islands in porvoo

The islands in my country don’t have white sandy beaches, but gorgeous round rocks, formed by the ice and water shaping them year after year. A side note: can you see how clear the water is? These pictures are taken in Porvoo, in the South East coast of Finland.

porvoo islands

While the archipelago is my personal favorite, you can enjoy the water views almost anywhere in Finland. Yes, even miles away from the coastal shores – Finland is the country of tens of thousands of lakes. Whether it’s lakes or the sea, Finns spent their summer vacations and weekends on the cottages by the water.

midsummer sun in finland

All you need is the nature, and of course a sauna and a dock so you can jump to swim in the (most likely) cold water.


Finnish design

Finnish design principle is that everyday object should be beautiful, yet not many objects are made only for decoration or for the show. Finns are practical people, and “to be beautiful” is not a function that is as highly appreciated in objects in Finnish culture as in many others. Yes, there is art, but the most known artists in the country are still more well known for their commercial work or the functional objects like home ware goods or furniture they’ve designed.

The Scandinavian minimalism is at its best in Finland, and I can’t say enough about Finnish architecture and design. Simple can be beautiful. I grew up in Paimio, where the world famous architect Alvar Aalto designed the now world famous hospital. The chair in the picture was designed for the hospital in the 1930′s, and carries the name of my home town.

alvar aalto paimio chair

It is hard to believe that this chair that looks so modern, was already designed in 1930′s. But that if something tells you of the long roots of minimalism and design in Finland.

moomin mamma

Today’s collectible everyday design in Finland looks something like this. A coffee mug made by Arabia with a picture of Tove Jansson’s beloved Moomin characters, a Finnish literary stable. The first collaboration between Moomin Characters and Arabia was already in the 1950′s, but the mass production of the collectible Moomin mugs started in 1990′s and since then Arabia has released 2-4 new Moomin mugs per year.

oiva toikka

Of course I have to mention glass art as well, from artists like Oiva Toikka.

Stay tuned for a longer post about Finnish design.

Small villages and small cities

Even the capital of Finland, Helsinki, is small compared to the cities of the world. Oh, how I love Helsinki. It has it’s quirky sides, like knitted or crocheted street art, or over 50-year-old DJ in a Spanish Tapas bar, neither of you would think of seeing in Helsinki.

street art in helsinki

People follow their own fashion trends, and while part of it is fearing of not quite being on trend with the rest of the world, part of it really is just being who you are and just not caring what the rest of the world says. Some trends come to Helsinki a little late (first Starbucks just opened), but some trends are being created there (like Restaurant Day when everyone can open a restaurant for a day).


It would do such injustice to only talk about Helsinki though. It’s like in most countries, there is the capital, and then there is the rest of the country, and they are not always the same, and you can perhaps see more of the real Finnish culture outside Helsinki. Although even in Helsinki, you can go in the market square by the harbor, and see all of the food stalls filling up every summer day, equally with tourists from around the world and locals on their lunch breaks. My favorite cafe the Cafe Esplanad is a Helsinki must do both for locals and tourists alike.

mami restaurant turku

Turku in South-West Finland will always have a place in my heart. The Aura river flows through the city, and I just want to spend my day in the coffee shops, at the library, in the restaurants and the museums by the river. Just people watching as they bike through the city, sometimes taking the Föri, the small pedestrian ferry, cross the river with their bikes. Turku was the original capital of Finland, and you can still feel the powerful history as you walk the streets and discover the city. Of course, it’s the Turku Archipelago that I love the most.


One of my newer loves in Finland is Porvoo in South-East Finland, only an hour drive from Helsinki. And yes, just like Helsinki and Turku, also Porvoo is a coastal town. I can’t help it, but my Finland always has boats, and sunsets over the sea. Porvoo has a colorful history, and its old town is still today a charming place for people to go shopping and to enjoy their day in the coffee shops and restaurants.

Finnish Forest – serenity and outdoor activities

When in Finland, you can’t escape from the forest, but you should escape to the forest. 78% of Finland’s landscape is forest, and in fact, Finland is the tenth most foresty country in the world. Finland has the highest percent of forest landscapes among all European countries. Being close to the nature is important to Finns, and forest is a place for everything from soul-seeking to outdoor adventures to picking up berries.

mushrooms in Finland

Everyone has a right to pick up berries and mushrooms from the forests and enjoy the nature. The Finnish concept of ‘Everyman’s Right’ gives a legal right for people to enjoy also the fruit of the green lush forests. Picking up your own blueberries or mushrooms for fall time dishes is as important as cooking the food. It’s an experience of slower life, and appreciating it, even though you could easily pick up the berries from the supermarket.

feeding squirrels in forest

While it might be more difficult to get to this close to the forest animals in the larger forests of Finland, it is easy to have animal sightings close to the cities. You will find forest everywhere in Finland, even in the capital, Helsinki. Read the interview with Konsta Punkka, the Instagram-famous squirrel whisperer from Finland, and how he shoots nature pictures in his secret forest location in Helsinki.

Finland in photos: feeding birds in the forest. Photo by Katja Presnal @skimbaco

Forests, of course, offer the perfect playground for outdoor play. All you really need is good clothing and good walking shoes, and you can experience the best of the forests by going for a walk or hike, but that’s really just the beginning. Orienteering is a big sport in Finland, mixing navigating and running in the serene forests, and of course when the winter time comes, the nature trails turn into ski and/or snowmobile trails.

lapland finland winter forest

The forest adventure possibilities in Finland are countless. lapland Safaris offer forest adventures in the most rural forests of the country – in Lapland. Closer to larger cities in the south, Flowpark offers tree climbing in parks that have been designed in the forest in a way that even if the park closes, everything has been built in the trees in a way that it will be easy to take down, and leave no harm for the forest. Forests are respected and everything is built around the forests in Finland. Of course, it is also a large industry in Finland, but that’s an entire different topic.

flowpark in turku finland


Finnish cuisine may not be world famous, but Finland is worth to visit just to taste around the country for their unique flavors. Many of them involve the different varies of fish, cooked in different ways. One of my Finnish treats is dark Finnish rye bread with smoked salmon.


Stay tuned for more posts about Finnish food, design and places to visit!

Your Finland

discovered my inner finn

What about you? Did these photos make you want to discover Finland on your own? If Finland is already known to you, please share how your Finland looks like with your photos. Use #skimbaco and #igtravelthursday in your Instagram photos.

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Read more Instagram Travel posts from these new blog posts this month and add your own blog post. Linky closes on the last day of the month.

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Instagram Travel Thursday

Join us every Thursday on Instagram by sharing your travel photos with #IGTravelThursday hashtag.
Follow @skimbaco and @IGtravelThursday and we will feature the best photos on Instagram and on our Facebook page.

Instagram Travel Thursday is a fun community project to connect travelers on Instagram, read more.

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Also get my ebook Instagram as your Guide to the World – How, What and Who to Search and Follow on Instagram to Help You Travel the World FOR FREE when you subscribe to my newsletter.

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Combination travel: Train from London to Paris, then Cruising French Country Side Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:44:32 +0000
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I have written before about combination travel – combining different destinations on the same trip – and often also combining different transportation methods, either as means of getting from one place to another, or as a unique experience. Combination travel also makes a lot of sense if you are travelling to another continent: the incremental cost on terms of time and money is smaller since you are already there.

Combination travel with rail, cruising and flying

Combination travel with rail, river cruising and flying

last Spring I did a combination travel to France, but instead of flying like I normally do I finally took the Eurostar train – and it was an excellent choice! This is an experience I’d definitely recommend for overseas travellers: a return ticket cost me just £67.50, which translates roughly to $100 USD, so it’s  way cheaper than flying.

The key allure of the train travel is not the cost though, but a combination of factors: the speed: it took me 3 hours from home to the center of Paris vs. 7-8 it would with driving to the airport, parking, checking in etc (but note that I boarded in Ashford, not central London), there is no limit to the luggage (but might be a small surcharge if you bring a ton), no worrying about liquid limits and no tasteless plane food.

The train is fast, silent and clean – and has great food on offer too. The end station, Gare du Nord, was within a walking distance to my hotel vs. 15 minute walk and an hour’s bus drive it took to reach the Charles de Gaulle airport on my way to Spain after the river cruise. So train vs. airplane from London to Paris goes 6-0 for the Eurostar!

Walking distance to hotel Westminster

Romantic Hotel Westminster was only a walking distance away from Eurostar stations Gare du Nord

So train was my first leg of the journey and a great experience, which was followed by a couple of days in Paris, and then I continued to a river barging cruise in Burgundy. The last leg of this combination journey was a few days spend under the basking sun of Spain exploring a historic city: now the weather was quite sunny in Paris too, but all but the last day were still somewhat cool temperature-wise, so Spain was a welcomed final leg for this trip.

Exploring Beaune

Exploring the delicous French foods in liltle town of Beaune

This trip lived to the full expectation of combination travel as it was filled with different experiences from wine tasting and culinary journey and cycling French country lanes to sampling night life and busy tourist attractions in Paris: a great mix of fast life and slow lane and something in between! If you are interested in trying something new and booking your next adventure – possibly even a combination travel there are a few ways to go about it: do it all yourself, have a professional agency organise your itinerary, or a combination of the two.


Biking to a restored abbey for cocktails and canapes

If your choose do do it yourself, be aware of the stress and amount of work it takes to find the information, book, confirm and coordinate everything – so start early enough. If you decide to use a company there are many available such as Shearings Holidays , which offer a bit of everything from self-drive itineraries to rail and cruises, tours and multiple-stop flying holidays (note that Shearings is UK based but offers global destinations, so works well if you are coming from US as many people start from London their European adventures)

Night in Alcala

Ending the holiday with a high note – trying something new again: guided night time city tour, which bring a whole new perspective and of course some great tapas and wine at the end of the tour!

reeta laaksonen

I love luxury travel and bringing global inspirations to our daily life. As a mother of three, I am always in the look for best places to visit with the kids. If you like the global lifestyle as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Lifestyle weekly feed.

Let’s connect!

Visit reeta’s profile on Pinterest.


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Roccafiore: Winelover’s Destination in Umbria Italy Fri, 26 Sep 2014 07:08:04 +0000
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Located in the heart of the Umbria region of Italy, Roccafiore offers a unique experience with nature ranging from its winery to its spa and halls filled with art. The Roccafiore project was founded by Leonardo Baccarelli when he fell in love with the location in the 90′s, which then began to serve as a place for him to reconnect to nature. Roccafiore, managed mostly by staff under 30, is located near Todi and combines a winery, resort, restaurant, and spa. It is truly a place to immerse yourself in the countryside while tasting strictly organic wines.


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Leonardo realized that wine had to be a part of his Roccafiore project, and thus wanted to craft a wine unique to the Umbria region. He had a seemingly by chance encounter with expert wine maker Hartmann Dona of the Alto Aldige who become the consultant on the project. The winery utilizes a unique system of planting vines on terraces for maximum sunlight. This system demands up to 7 times more labor than planting in rows. This classic method of planting is among just one of the many classic methods Roccafiore uses to keep the process as harmonious with nature as possible.

The Roccafiore winery produces 9 varieties of wine and 1 extra virgin olive oil. These wines range from intriguing whites such as the Fiorfiore Todi Grechetto Supeiore to lucious reds like the Rosso Roccafiore Todi Sangiovese Superiore. The former has a deep straw yellow color with hints of apple, small yellow flowers, and sweet spices. The Fiorfiore restaurant on-site chef recommends pairing with cold cuts. The latter is a ruby red color with hints of ripe plum, tobacco, and liquorice with recommended pairings of sausage, salami, or roast beef.


Interview with Luca Baccarelli, son of Leonardo:

What does wine mean to you? When did you get to know it for the first time?
I started to learn about it when I was still very young, picking grapes in my grandfather’s vineyard when I was 6 years old. At 21 I started at Roccafiore, with the first vintage we made. I deepened my knowledge by studying the wine scene at an international level, a step I think is fundamental if you want to be competitive in the market worldwide. My goal is a constant search for quality and the best way to learn about this world, in my opinion, is to taste the wine during its evolution and consider how it is going to develop. It is for this reason that today I follow every stage of production with the same enthusiasm as when I tried to remove the bunches from the vine at the age of six.

You were born in 1984, and you were managing this winery a good while before you reached 30. All of your staff is made up of young people. Is this by choice or by chance?
It’s a choice: the energy of young people and their innovative drive are an essential resource for this type of work. We have focused on young people so as to give them some prospects at a time that is anything but easy in our country. The younger generations bring a different approach; they are attentive to technological developments, in every sphere. Among the innovations that we have introduced, for example, is an App that guides one through a tasting of our products. Everyone in the company has the opportunity to carve out their own space and follow their own inclinations. As soon as I joined the company I had to do everything, from the vineyard to the cellar. I remember when, at the end of an exhausting day when we had filled about 10,000 bottles, my father asked me, “Now who’s going to sell all of these?” That’s when I realized that I’d be taking care of the commercial side of the business.

How has the company changed in the last few years?
We are constantly evolving; our goal is to keep on improving, so as to offer consumers a wine that we have thought up and made in a responsible manner. I believe that today wine has to have a modern approach, one which combines respect for the vocation of the terroir with listening to the needs of the marketplace. I believe that making simple wines is the hardest thing. Our commitment is paying off and we are now featured on the wine lists of some of the best restaurants in Italy and around the world. This goes to show that if you work seriously, nothing is impossible.

How many countries do you export to?

At least 50% of our production is destined for sale abroad. We export to the United States, to Asia, in countries such as China, Japan and Taiwan, and we sell our bottles in Australia and Israel, but also in the European market. As regards the latter, I should mention for example Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Norway and England. The foreign consumer pays great attention to quality and to choosing organic wines, produced by companies that respect the environment. This is a challenge that we have invested in since day one. A major contribution has been made by Valentina Davide, our consultant for foreign markets, with whom we have been working for three years now. She is a very experienced professional who has enabled the company to grow in a rational way, by choosing the most strategic countries.

Since the very beginning, Roccafiore has only produced organic wines. Why did you take this decision?
It’s a matter of being consistent. We wanted to be a company that respects the environment and to do this we decided to make a drastic choice: to use organic farming methods for all our crops. We accompany the wine in its development, but we have to intervene as little as possible: that’s our philosophy. Everyone who opens one of our bottles has to have the perception that that product is made with us protecting the ecosystem that surrounds it. Hence the decision to also focus on renewable energy, on recovering used-up grape pomace (which we use as fertilizer in the vineyards), on the use of lighter bottles and the adoption of biofuels for our agricultural vehicles, as well as on reducing our water consumption.


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From the beautiful winery to the resort and spa, Roccafiore is truly a winelover’s destination in Italy. A place to reconnect with nature, the winery is a modern project with an ode to classic methods.




Monsieur Curations - Men's Lifestyle at Skimbaco Lifestyle, feature by Wes Holland

I dream of being a business leader in the fashion world. Whether that be creating and running my own luxury retail consulting firm, or heading a department for a renowned fashion house, I want to mix the intellectually stimulating side of business with the creativity that the fashion world offers. Make sure to subscribe to Skimbaco Fashion weekly feed.

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Something Sweet and Luxe at The Langham Chicago Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:18:09 +0000
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The Langham in Chicago is known for its signature afternoon tea on Wedgewood china, which debuted at its sister hotel The Langham, London in 1865. Now, it may also become known for its sweeter, luxury side. The Langhham, Chicago has opened the Parlour at Pavilion, so you can enjoy some more decandence following afternoon tea. The Parlour at Pavilion, a retro-ice cream parlour featuring adult ice-cream treats from pastry chef Scott Green, has a crown jewel on the menu.

Langham Chicago Ice Cream Sundae

The Victoria: Tahitian vanilla ice cream, Guittard Complexité 70% Chocolate Ice Cream, 24k Gold Leaf and Gold Dust, Hennessy Cognac VSOP, with a hand-crafted dark-chocolate crown. This jewel is served in a Wedgewood crystal bowl — yours to keep. The sundae is accompanied by a bottle of 2003, Dom Perignon.

When I saw it on Instagram, I told the hotel. “That looks big!”

The hotel commented, “Large, indeed. It’s meant for sharing.” Someone may need to share the price. This dessert will set you back $1,000.

Don’t worry. You don’t need a $1,000 to enjoy the Parlour at Pavilion. All other adult-ice cream sundaes are an everyday price. But, you may have a hard time grabbing a table without reservations. The Parlour will be open daily from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and reservations are highly recommended.

Photo credit: The Langham Chicago on Instagram

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Hot Coffee Trend: Nitro Cold Brew Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:28:37 +0000
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At Skimbaco, when we experience something we love then we like to share it. We thought it was fitting since Satu wrapped up the Ride Wild 2014 through Ireland this month that we toast her with coffee that pours like a Guinness.

Nitro Cold Brew in Raleigh

I tasted my first-ever nitro cold brew at the new coffee bar, BREW, in Raleigh, N.C., which serves serves both coffee and craft beer to its customers. Nitro cold brew isn’t just an iced coffee. Without getting too technical, craft beer lovers are probably used to the term because many bars usually have a nitro tap as part of their draft system.  Nitro taps have less carbon dioxide, which means nitro beers are smooth and silky. When you keg a cold brew,and mix it with nitrogen, it creates a coffee that resembles a beer. It’s smooth, delicious, and so good that I didn’t even need to add cream and sugar, which is something this Southern girl always puts in her coffee.

Nitro Cold Brew on Tap

BREW uses the local coffee roaster, Raleigh Coffee Company.  Here’s to you Satu! We are so proud of you at Skimbaco for your fabulous accomplishment of biking through Ireland. And, I’m elated to discover Nitro Cold Brew in my own hometown. I love Raleigh, y’all. 

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Southern Food: Savor the South Weekend in N.C. Wed, 10 Sep 2014 10:06:46 +0000
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Savor-the-South Event in Greensboro

Peaches, biscuits, bourbon, sweet potatoes, okra, buttermilk, tomatoes, pecans, pickles, preserves, and good ole’ Southern holidays. These are the foods that define the South. As a Southern girl, I’m really partial to biscuits, tomatoes, and okra. Oh, how I wish I could fry okra like my grandmother did.

Skimbaco has been invited to cover the Savor the South Weekend in  Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 26-28. I’ll be traveling to Greensboro,and checking into the O’Henry Hotel to  meet the  authors behind the Savor the South cookbook series and experience some of the recipes in the series.

The event is sponsored by O’Henry Hotel and Our State Magazine. Limited space is available for this once in a lifetime foodie weekend so I hope to see you in  Greensboro. Be sure to follow @HinesSightBlog on Instagram for this special weekend.

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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