kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
After returning to the hotel with our purchases, Lisa and I stopped to have one of the sodas we bought and rest our feet. I checked messages and saw on Facebook that Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley were back in their hotel room as of only an hour earlier. I called Kevin and asked if they would like to meet for lunch, and they agreed, so we collected our things and headed back downtown.

A second reason for going back to the hotel was that I had a poster tube with the small vinyl WSFS banner (made by Sasquan) that hangs from the front of the Business Meeting table with me, and I wanted to mail it home rather than somehow try to fit it into my already overloaded luggage. The post office is downtown between the train station and the Sokos hotel where Kevin and Andy were staying, so this worked out well. The trains are running again, and there were no queues at the post office, so we managed to connect with K&A roughly on time to head off on a Viking Expedition.

We're Gonna Starve! )

After lunch, we bade K&A goodbye because we were aiming for one more hobby shop for Lisa to look for trains. It was a longer walk than I thought it would be, partially because I rather unnecessarily went up and down hills getting there. We didn't find anything Lisa wanted to get, but we found yet another person who described herself as a "con-goer" who had known about Worldcon but had not gone. We told her that Worldcon would be in Dublin in two years and she sounded interested.

Given our location, we took the opportunity to ride the Helsinki Metro. Because Cheryl's friend Otto gave us a lift from the ferry terminal when we arrived and our other trips didn't take us along the axis of the Metro, we'd never had a chance to sample it. This was more of a joy-ride, but when you've bought a multi-day unlimited transit pass, you have the ability to hop on and off systems like this.

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An afterthought from this morning: We had an interesting piece of equipment follow us down the tram tracks when we first set out for our first round of tourism and shopping.

A Tidy System is a Safe System )

After a brief recovery time in the hotel (and a final short grocery stop for a snack for tonight and for tomorrow morning), Lisa remembered something she had seen in Stockmann's department store downtown, so we made one final round trip downtown. I think we got good value from our transit pass.

Returning from the last trip, we threaded our way through the latest batch of tourists trying to figure out the elevators, Lisa took a bath, I composed journal entries, and we continued our packing. The alarm for tomorrow is set for 4:15 because we need to take an early train to get out to the airport for the flight to Iceland tomorrow.

We have had a wonderful time here in Helsinki. I would love to get a chance to come back here someday. Everyone was so good to us, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
Today was our final full day in Helsinki. We had no big tourist attractions left to visit. Lisa wanted to do some shopping, and she also was looking for us to track down a transportation oddity that she wanted to see.

Riding the Paternoster )

After our Adventure in Elevators, we had a "target of opportunity," in the form of a train hobby shop just a couple of doors down from the first stop. Lisa had a look through the store but did not find anything that caught her fancy.

Next was a search for an electronics store to which she had been referred in search of a particular kind of power outlet that the hardware store didn't know about. That turned out to be fruitless as well, but it was interesting to walk around and see new places.

As we were riding the #7 toward that electronics store, Lisa spotted a small appliance store and we rode back up the line to continue her search for an electric kettle not Made in China. This time, we succeeded!

Fine Czech Manufacture )

There are still a handful of Worldcon attendees staying in the Holiday Inn, and we saw a few of them in the lobby when we headed out this morning. However, now the hotel is mostly full of Chinese tour groups.

Elevator Clog )

We had to go back to the hotel to put away Lisa's newly-acquired kettle, which actually does fit in her luggage. (She says she can make it fit by putting some of her clothing inside the kettle, so the total additional cube doesn't increase that much.) That led to our final meal excursion of the trip, but that's another story.
kevin_standlee: (Worldcon 75)
With the trains (but not trams and other local transit) shut down on Tuesday, we were limited to Helsinki. However, that's not really that big a limit, and we had made our plans today to visit Suomenlinna, the former fortified island in Helsinki harbor that is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

Expecting to be walking a lot today, we sprung for the hotel breakfast buffet (not included in my points-based hotel nights). I think this was the right call, but as there were still Worldcon fans in the hotel, chatting and socializing slowed down our departure. (Also, I had slept in for a couple of hours this morning.)

A Day on the Island )

If you're interested in the full set of my photos from today's island-hop, I created a Suomenlinna album on my Flickr site.

Coming off the ferry, I was seduced into buying an a fruit-filled crepe from one of the vendors in the Market Square. I told myself that I'd already walked 12 km today and had earned this one; besides, it was the fruit-filled version and I didn't add the ice cream. I classed this purchase in the same way as my buying an elephant-ear pastry when in Seaside, Oregon.

Lisa and I walked back toward downtown through the Promenade area, eventually finding ourselves in Stockmans Department Store, where Lisa did a bunch of shopping but did not find anything she wanted to buy. Among other things, she was looking for an electric kettle that was not Made In China, even if it meant wiring a 220V European plug into our kitchen. Alas, this quest was unsuccessful.

Apparently while the train drivers strike ended at 1800 today, regular rail service will not resume until tomorrow, so we hopped on the #9 tram and started heading "home" to where we've spent the last eight nights. There we had an important but mundane errand: laundry. We dug out everything, packed it into the oversize zipper-locking plastic bag I brought partially for this purpose, and got back on the #9 to go to the S-Market and the 24 Pesula coin-laundry. We used the larger €18 washer to do everything in one load. An hour or so later, we had clean, dry laundry and a small number of additional groceries, and we set off back to the hotel.

At the hotel, we started the initial round of re-packing, putting away as we could the stuff that we will not need until we get home or at least until Iceland, and confirming to our own satisfaction that we aren't going to exceed our luggage capacity. If we bought too much, we have the option of buying another piece of luggage, which we can do because our homeward luggage allowance is more than our outbound, thanks to using points to fly in IcelandAir Saga class. Fingers are crossed, however, that we can make it all fit for the trip back.

We have one more full day in Helsinki, but we need to not stay out so late, because the flight out on Thursday is much too early, requiring an early departure from the hotel to get to the airport sufficiently early.

One final note. Lisa was wearing a Worldcon 75 t-shirt while we were riding the tram back to the hotel. A woman sitting next to us with her daughter in a pushchair noticed the shirt and told us she had been to Worldcon and that it was her first-ever science fiction convention. She had been there with both her children, and the older one participated in Children's Programming. All of them enjoyed the convention immensely, and they hope to be able to come to Dublin in 2019. After all of the negative things I've heard from some people, I'm very happy to hear good experiences of people like this. We all were first-time attendees once, and I started my adventures in fandom at the largest Worldcon (by attendance) ever held, so I hope that many of the people who started with the largest Worldcon ever held in mainland Europe also have the positive feelings toward Worldcon that I have.
kevin_standlee: (Worldcon 75)
Today's WSFS Business Meeting took four hours including the first half-hour of Site Selection business and half an hour of Worldcon Chairs Photo. I'm pleased that this part worked out, and that we got the chairs reorganized in time to call the meeting back to order at 11:00 for the roughly 2 1/2 hour Second Main Business Meeting.

Lisa took photos and video of the former Worldcon Chairs gathering. I'm uploading the video to the YouTube Worldcon Events channel as I type this, so it should be online soon. I'll post the photos as well as soon as I can find the time.

Lisa and I had lunch with Linda Deneroff and Elanor Busby in the food court, which also gave us an opportunity to spend the "groats" (tokens for hours worked as a volunteer, redeemable in most of the convention center food outlets). Lisa went off on her own while I spent the afternoon in two separate back-to-back panels with overlapping subjects: "How to Start a Worldcon Bid" and "Friends Don't Let Friends Run Worldcons."

By the time my last panel was done, we were already reaching dinner time. Lisa and I met up with Linda and Elanor again. I suggested going downtown, but Linda told me that a bad storm was moving in, making it a bad idea to go off-site. We managed to get a table in the restaurant. Shortly thereafter, the threatened storm (which apparently had moved here from central Europe, where there were people reported killed by it in Poland) arrived, blowing open the door next to our table, and sending the large gathering of fans on the patio running for cover.

What a Mess )

After dinner, we borrowed umbrellas from the hotel (which it turned out we didn't need) and took the #9 tram back down to the S-Market (which has a better selection than the Lidl within walking distance). Linda came with us in order to get out of the hotel for a while.

Returning from our shopping errand, Lisa turned in, while I went downstairs and met Linda. I was able to show her where the ATM is located in the convention center, and pick up issue 7 of the newsletter with the Business Meeting report I submitted this afternoon. (Turns out that I made a mistake — I'd forgotten that one of the items I reported as coming up tomorrow had already been killed by being postponed indefinitely.)

Linda and I walked through the Winter Garden, where the Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon victory party was in full (and very loud) swing. Neither Linda nor I had any stamina left, and I fear that I'm finally starting to get some sort of con crud despite trying to use hand sanitizer and drink lots of water. We both headed for our respective hotel rooms.

There is a bunch of "housekeeping" I need to do, but just getting the video files off of Lisa's camera and starting the upload of the Worldcon Chairs Photo is proving to be about all I can manager. I must get more sleep. There's one last Business Meeting tomorrow, followed by the Closing Ceremonies. I'm really glad that we're not leaving Helsinki for a few days and that we're staying here in the same hotel. I'm not sure I could face doing move-out tomorrow or even the next day.
kevin_standlee: (Go By Train)
This evening, we made plans to take Chris Carson out to dinner for his birthday. We were to meet at Japanese restaurant northwest of Helsinki Central train station. The most straightforward way to reach it would have been a bus ride from the convention center, but Lisa and I, having already purchased a day pass on the system, decided to ride the train downtown, then walk to the restaurant.

Spot the Bear )

After dinner, we once again could have taken a bus, but we preferred tram (Line 4) to Central Station. Line 7, which would have taken us straight to the convention center, is replaced by the 7x bus due to construction of Pasila Station. We'll take buses if we must, but we prefer rail transit even if it's not the shortest journey.

A Couple of Train Station Photos )

Four minutes after departure, we got off at Pasila. We'll be on the trains again tomorrow. We wish we'd done a bit more research over the cost of transit passes. A 1-day pass (which you can buy on board the trams and buses) is €9. A 2-day pass (which you must get from a ticket machine at a station) is €13.50 and is obviously a much better value. All Worldcon members will receive transit passes good for the convention days, but that does us no good on the "shoulder" days like today and tomorrow.

The restaurant? Well, I can't say as I recommend Umeshu. I've had much better. It wasn't bad, but I don't think it was all that great, either. But we enjoyed the company.

Between the past two days, I've logged more than 20K steps, but 3/4 of them were today, because of the semi-enforced idleness on board ship. My feet already hurt, and we're only at Worldcon day -2.

Now I hope I can get some sleep because we have to be up early to get Lisa back downtown for the 8 AM departure of the tour to the nuclear power plant.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
The initial hotel announcement from Worldcon 75 in Helsinki went out yesterday, and as is usual with such things, has triggered Outrage and Horror, particularly from people who are unaware that most European cities do not build convention centers with mega hotels with thousands of rooms adjacent to them. We're facing next year roughly the same thing as we had at the Worldcons in London and Glasgow (and other European sites before that): a bunch of hotels, spread out all over the place, and some or even most of them requiring a ride on transit. One good thing about Helsinki is that apparently Worldcon members will get transit passes; however, the details of where you get them and for how long they are good haven't come out yet. For instance, we don't seem to know whether you'll have to pay a transit fare to go to a place where you collect the credentials that include the transit pass, or whether it's good for any of the "shoulder" days before and after the convention. I assume that these details will be forthcoming.

Most galling to most people is that all of the rooms in the only hotel that's connected to the convention center have been held back by the convention for people with access/disability issues. The Holiday Inn at the conference center is apparently not that large. Even this far out, and even for someone like me with a Spire membership in their program (that's the highest level there is), can get no rooms there during the core of the convention. (I looked outside of the hotel block; no room at the Inn.)

Another complaint is that the rooms are more expensive than what was originally promised. Well, yes; as the committee have said, these are only the initial rooms for which they have blocks reserved. They're negotiating for more. And don't make the mistake of assuming that the hotels listed there are the only hotels in all of Helsinki; far from it. For example, I'm seeing availability at the Holiday Inn City Center (adjacent to the main train station) as low as €116/night (includes tax, but not breakfast; some discounted rates are advance purchase/non-refundable). That puts you two stops (about 5 minutes on the train) from the Convention Center with very frequent train service (Sometimes the headways appears to be less than what I've had to endure for an elevator at some conventions.) It's not ideal (and I certainly hope that the convention arranges for a check room so people can store stuff they'd normally haul back to their hotel rooms on site), but it's not the apocalypse that some people seem to be making it out to be.

Me? I've booked the run-of-con at the Holiday Inn City Center (at a somewhat higher and refundable rate that includes breakfast) and will move to something better if possible.

Cheryl Morgan has written today about her previous site visit to Helsinki, which I hope some of you will find helpful. Just don't expect things to be like a standard American Big City.
kevin_standlee: (Kuma Bear)
Although he's not allowed to vote, [livejournal.com profile] travelswithkuma knows who he'd be voting for in the 2015 Worldcon Site Selection if he could. He'll do his part to campaign for the Bid With Bears.

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