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Thursday, February 18, 2010


It was snowing in Munich when my Lufthansa flight left, an hour late...but just in time before the pilots' strike. This was my final Lufthansa connection. Two hours later, there was not a cloud in the sky in Helsinki. The snowbanks were ten times higher than Munich, and here and there, taller than me.

I'll later provide some reviews of Hotel Kamp, but as over the top as these reports have been, I found it to be a bit old, somewhat dim, with a minimal lobby and no amenities (toothbrush, razor, free breakfast, evening canapes/cocktails, free internet--none of these). Of the ten hotels I've experienced on this trip, I would place it at number 8, above the Siem Reap Raffles and Barcelona Meridien.

Reading the Helsinki guide on the flight, I noted that Chez Dominique (lunch in two days) was only a block away, and Mecca, which read well (10 courses for 75 Euros), was also close by. As I have had no real meal today, the 4PM opening was appealing, so I walked over. Alas, Mecca was closed, and, anyway, this was a South American restaurant, not quite what I was expecting. That's another thing, strange restaurants: Himalayan, Turkish, Lapland...etc.

I walked around for an hour or so, mostly indoors, but still froze. My face will never be the same again. It was only 10 degrees Celsius below zero, with no wind chill.

I walked back to my hotel, and, of all the things, there was a Japanese restaurant right next to where I checked in...and I never noticed it. It was open. I went up to my room to take off my overcoat, jacket, hat which covered my ears, muffler, pants and snow shoes. I put on a t-shirt, vest with a pajama bottom and room slippers, went down, and saw that, at 5:30, YUME (the Yu is above the Me, so the juxtaposition is obvious) was packed. I got a table and ordered a small bottle of sake (would have cost $2 at Don Quixote, but $20 here), which tasted horrid, and a Finnish beer ($10). Men were mostly in coat and tie, women in sweaters and such.

As I gazed around, it occurred to me that people from Finland looked like Munchenese, that is, people from Munich. Somehow, I expected something different.

I ordered miso soup, bowl of rice (you don't want to know what this cost, and not even Niigata or Akita), teriyaki cod and three pieces of maguro. The entire meal cost $100. It was quite good, in fact, terrific. My first Japanese meal in a month.

I asked my hostess, who was the chef? She mumbled something like a Miyamoto. So I went up to see who he was and met him and his wife, Satu. Turns out he is Ryan Shibuya, who must be all of 35, if not younger, and from Pearl City. His wife is Finnish. He has been here for a year and they run one of the showcase dining spots in the highest rated hotel in the country. Amazing! What are the odds of a boy from Kakaako having dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Finland operated by a chef from Pearl City? You, too, can dine here by e-mailing:

Let me close by citing the Bradt travel guide on this city by Nigel Wallis. To quote, regarding Hotel Kamp:

1. "If money is no object, check into the best room in Hotel Kamp, and dine at the Michelin-starred Chez Dominique." (At least I don't have the best room, for I see the wall of the next building.)

2. "Helsinki has the only two hotels awarded five-star status by the tourist board, the decadently opulent Hotel Kamp and the Hilton Strand." (Ah, Nigel, if this is decadently opulent, try the Chiang Mai Four Seasons, so that you can challenge yourself with a few more exaggerated superlatives.)

3. "In 2005, the hotel was named 'Luxury Collection Hotel of the Year' and received the finest customer feedback ratings of any of their (Starwood) 850 worldwide establishments. (Yes, this is but a Sheraton! The italicized statements are mine.) Quite simply, if you want to celebrate a lottery win, propose marriage or just scare the pants off your bank manager, this is the place to do it."

The best I can guess is that Nigel normally stays at youth hostels and was once kicked out of the lobby of the Kamp for diminishing the wa of the establishment. The Hotel Kamp is an outstanding, but average hotel.

I do love the HD TV and terrific assortment of channels and music stations, though, maybe best of all ten hotels. You can order your system to play a CD album, and pay $7 for this privilege. The whole CD would have cost $1 in Bangkok. Make that three for $1. By the way. While German stations dub American programs, Finnish stations just add subtitles, so I can understand what is happening, for the first time on this trip. Even the China CCTV and Aljazeera channels are in English. In Munich only CNN, BBC, Bloomberg and CNBC were comprehensible. There are many strange stations, like one from Algeria and another from Egypt.

The Dow Jones looks to increase for the day, with crude oil seemingly headed back up to $80/barrel and gold surging at this point beyond $1121/toz. Check the boxes on the right. Whoa, what is happening to Sirius? I bought in June (after selling GMGMQ) at around 30cents/share, and it seems to be headed for $1.20.

Tropical Cyclone Gelane is strengthening, and if it moves much further west, Mauritius and Le Reunion can be in trouble:

Further, that disturbance south of the Big Island, is still there.

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