Updated: Jan 1, 2018

In August, I had the most amazing experience when I traveled to Europe. This trip permitted me to travel to Finland and France with our family's high school exchange student, Vilma @vilmaahonen. Vilma, born and raised in Finlandia, showed me all that Helsinki, Finland's capital and largest city, had to offer...

The trip was non-stop. When I told people I was going on vacation to Europe it was usually followed by them saying how they "loooove to just lay by the pool and do nothing" when vacationing. I couldn't be any more different. I want to go. I want to do. I want see. I want to experience. I want to emerse. I want to LIVE. And that is exactly what we did. Between ferry rides, restaurants, shopping, museums, hiking, wine-ing and so much more, there wasn't much time for being jet-lagged. I must admit, I'm not superman and I certainly felt it two days in, but I pushed through. I was in Finland after all!!

Helsinki, located along the coast of the Baltic Sea, has a very nautical feel to it. I was visiting during the end of the Finnish summer, so there were still plenty of boats in the water, creating a beautiful backdrop to the city. Oh, and the long days of sunlight made it even better!

One of my favorite excursions was when we took a ferry ride to the Suomenlinna, where we picnicked and enjoyed the vast views. Pictured on the right, you will see what is part of a greater Fortress which is the main attraction on the island. The structure has been around since 1748 and has been under Swedish, Russian and now Finnish control.

During the trip, there was no shortage of Finnish culture - including food. We ate and drank. Then, we drank more and ate more. After all, when on vacation, eat. Can you say, Rose all day?!

With such a limited number of sunny days in the year, Finns spend most of the time outside whenever they can. If we were dining, we were outside. And with the amazing water views, can you blame us?

I mean, comeonnnnn. Finns know how to make a restaurant so cute, especially Holiday Bar (below)!

While we did so many more things, for the sake of your travel envy or pure boredom, I will keep it brief with the best part of the trip: meeting Vilma's family. My family has known Vilma for 12 years (she lived with us in 2005). Before this trip, our families had not met each other, so Vilma planned the trip so that we stayed 2 days at her parents home in Espoo, Finland.

Espoo is about 20 minutes from Helsinki and is easily comparted to as a suburb. It is a very green community (much like the majority of the country). In Espoo, we ate traditional Finnish meals (think fish soup) hiked the Haukkalampi National Park (pictured left) had high tea to celebrate a milestone birthday, visited Vilma's school, and met Lempi - The Ahonen family's new puppy!

Overall, the trip will be remembered forever. I'm ready for my next trip and look forward to seeing where life will take me next. Enjoy some bonus pictures of the trip below:

Juuga, Emma, Vilma, Cody in the city center looking for trouble!

Finland has a city bike system, which is sponsored by the popular grocery store, Alepa.

Traditional housing in Helsinki, Finland. Absolutely beautiful architecture in the city.

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