Escape to Helsinki (Or: Why Sometimes Leaving the Kids Behind is a Really Good Idea)

Kafe Mokba – no children allowed!

Feel free to move along because this post is right off topic. It’s neither about Lewes and its surrounds, nor about things to do with kids. In fact, it’s about a weekend in which Mister LL and I left ours with my mother and took off in celebration of his 40th, to do what we used to do before we became parents: drift around a Scandinavian city’s museums and buildings of note, flea markets and beautiful design stores, punctuating it all with eating delicious food and getting pissed. So fun!

The Kampii Chapel of Silence

We spent our first weekend away together since our younger boy was born in Helsinki, Finland. This was a well chosen destination by Himself as this past summer I have gone a bit Fin-mad on Little Lewes, with posts about Tove Jansson, the centenary of whose birth has been celebrated worldwide in 2014, and designer/illustrator Sanna Annukka, whose collections for Marimekko are delicious.

Glassware at Iittala

It was a particular treat to go to shops. You mothers of girls may not know this, but us mothers of boys have to buy almost everything on the Internet. I revelled in wandering through the Iittala store, full to the rafters – literally – with glassware, with a whole wall of their classic cylindrical tea light holders in every shade. The damage my little bulls could have done in that particular china shop does not bear thinking about, but of course I couldn’t help but do just that (and smile smugly while doing so).

Coveted Cecilie Manz wall storage at Iittala

Speaking of china, there was also a whole corner of Klaus Haapaniemi’s whimsical ‘Taika’ tableware (which means ‘magic’). And then there was a wall storage system here by Cecilie Manz, one of my favourite Danish designers, that begged to join in the fun at the shared studio where I work, but that will have to remain in my dreams.

Pieces from Sanna Annukka’s Kukkuluuruu collection

Then there was the Marimekko flagship. Oh. My. All the money fell out of my pockets the instant we crossed the threshold. The A/W 14 collection by Sanna Annukka was out in all it’s glory, from fabric to calendars, tins, apronsmugs, trays, the lot. I loved the oilcloth of the animals, part of her Kukkuluuruu range, but feel very attached to the black and white herringbone you might have seen as a backdrop to stuff photographed for Little Lewes, so I did not indulge.

Oilcloth at Marimekko
The Unikko corner at Marimekko, Helsinki

It turns out it’s the 50th birthday of Unikko, the famous poppy fabric by Marimekko, so there was a whole corner literally decked out in the stuff. Our sofa and our mothers did well from our visit and that’s all I will say about what we purchased as I don’t want to be unkind and tell you about my early-Christmas-present coat. (Whoops, sorry).

The history of Marimekko, at the flagship for all to read

Of course Moomintroll, Snorkmaiden, Little My et al were everywhere, but the only Moomin merch we loved was all the chinaware at Iittala, and like I said, my little boys are little bulls so that was a no, and everything else was overpriced and under-executed.

Moomin mugs at Iittala

However one night, as we rolled from an incredible tasting menu dinner at the quietly wonderful restaurant Spis, to a cocktail bar called Liberty or Death (where your soul departs you through the bottom of a martini glass), we found Tove herself as a child, peeping from the brickwork of a residential building. Better than any blue plaque, this little commemorative sign was saying that this was where Jansson had her studio, and with her upturned nose and slightly defiant expression, it seemed so beautifully to embody her spirit.

Tove Jansson, forever peeping from the brickwork of her former studio…

I may not sound like the world’s best mother, but the point of this post is that while it is impossibly expensive and impossibly indulgent and almost impossible to justify and almost impossible to organise without willing relatives, I cannot recommend enough going away without one’s children from time to time. In fact I heartily encourage it, even if it’s a night at the Ram, or somewhere even closer! In the early years it can be hard to remember to even say hello to each other most days and now that we’re semi through them, we realise how important it is to keep the connection we had to each other before our boys came along, so that we manage to maintain it beyond them. It’s where our family began, after all, and it can only be of huge benefit to them that that foundation stays strong.

Drinks to die for at Liberty or Death

Besides, we are frighteningly good at partying together, and I am proud to say we conquered Helsinki in all ways (it is not hard to do, it is insanely minuscule and you constantly wonder where the heck everyone is as it’s so underpopulated). We managed to drink cocktails and go dancing until 2am two out of three nights, so I wouldn’t say we caught up on any sleep, but we nevertheless we feel utterly recharged.

So you’ll forgive me wrapping my head in sunglasses on the school run for at least a week. Middle age. Turns out it’s a bit rock and roll.

Disclosure: We went to Helsinki for my husband’s 40th birthday, and I started writing this post on the flight back because I felt so invigorated by having had a few days away with him. I wanted to share the best of what we did with Little Lewes’s readers.

As you can possibly tell, I write about design and I write about travel for a living, so this post was not an arduous task, but rather it was a joy to put together. I hope at least some of it is fun to read, even if not super-useful. I have followed it up with another post about practicalities in Helsinki

After we got back I discovered that some of the products and brands we had browsed and loved are stocked at John Lewis, who recently asked me to be one of their affiliate partners. Therefore some of the links to products in this post are affiliate links. I figured no one reading this would want to pay exchange rates and shipping on products from Finland, whereas the same pieces from Marimekkko, Iittala and Moomin are stocked at JL and with their Click and Collect, shipping is free if you pick up from Waitrose. This is entirely coincidence. I did not go on a long weekend to Finland to think about LL or write about products on behalf of John Lewis! 

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I’m Kate, a copywriter, brand consultant and editor who creates messages that are clear and clean. I create these for brands and agencies both big and boutique, in areas including design, homes and interiors, travel, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, and kids and families. I believe clear, clean messages bolster brands and businesses. They evoke emotion and ignite inspiration, and when written well, they’re easier to absorb – and respond to. I live in Copenhagen and am half-English, half-Danish. I write as comfortably in American English as in British, and behind the scenes I'm also studying Danish. Need help getting your message out? Contact me.

4 thoughts on “Escape to Helsinki (Or: Why Sometimes Leaving the Kids Behind is a Really Good Idea)

  1. What a truly inspiring and super fun post Little Lewes. I want to hop on a plane right now and your comment at the bottom about where your family began and that connection with your soul mate brought a tear to my eye. A wonderful read, thank you!

    1. I love that you read my posts Mrs Juba. There’s another one with all the shopping, eating, drinking, sleeping recommends coming in two days’ time… x

  2. I love this! And you are so right, it’s really important to have time away from the smalls. I think you’ve inspired me… *logs onto AirBnB*

    1. Your trip to Paris was pretty inspirational too Lori! I’m going a back-up ‘practicalities’ post in a couple of days, so you can get the full shebang of stuff to do… x

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