Monday, October 2, 2017

What I Did on Summer "Vacation": The Good, Part III

I've mentioned in the last two posts about how our August got complicated. It was supposed to be about our fun trip to Europe followed by a some long-awaited visitors. But instead it was followed with a trial by fire and smoke, i.e. the Lolo Peak Fire getting all up in our neighborhood business. I'm getting to that, but first the third and mostly final-ish leg of our trip!

The ferry trip from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia is only a couple-few hours. The ticket site I used was a little confusing so we ended up with a cabin that we hardly spend any time it, but did get to leave our luggage secured in at no additional fee* so that was cool. We ended up finding a lounge with live entertainment and seats by some big old windows.

It took me several tried to even get close to a succeeding at getting a panoramic shot of the view of the Gulf of Finland from our table in the lounge. Our crossing was not actually in the least bit treacherous.

We arrived mid-late afternoon, took a taxi to our hotel, and checked-in planning to drop our bags and head out to start exploring the old city. But first we had to find our way to our room... we had no idea just what an adventure that would be on our way to our room, so we shot this video on the way back out. Later we found a very cool Indian restaurant where we had moose vindaloo!

Clearly labeled.

I have now eaten moose.

I don't know the story behind the bronze cow sitting on a bench outside a restaurant. Don't let the color of the sky fool you, it was night and dark-ish.

The next day we explored more, seeing a few specific historic sites and a museum or two. Eric also arranged for a one-day car rental so we could get out to see some nature the next day. And that evening we had our tradition one fancy meal of the trip at a deliscious farm-to-table type restaurant. It was really, really good and really, really reasonably priced. YEY! Also they had a pretty kick-A taxidermy display up front.

The view from that medieval some kind of real old wall! Click to enlarge!

Old city fortifications kick ass. Actually this one is called Kick in the Cock. 

One the wall selfie.

Some old church.

Oh! Longdrink with cranberry. Not as good as regular. Oh, well.

Mayer Staircase with 7 vases... and one Bigfoot.

Great dinner and excellent atmosphere!

The car arrived around 9a and we headed east to National Park that's a big forest bog! Note: Estonian is a language that we could mispronounce understandably to each other for purposes of navigation. Not that it always worked out perfectly on the drive. Ahem.

The trail starts off like a pretty standard forest trail.

Yup, that's a forest all right.

Then it starts to get all boggy. Stay on the boardwalk!

Hey look! We ran into our old pal at one of the pond-y parts!

There's a cool viewing stand in there. 

After the viewing stand, the boardwalks get a bit more serious. And less friendly to cyclists.
This is a two-way path, by the way. We just take turns stepping onto those support pieces jutting out on the sides.

I do love me a lush riparian zone.

Our traditional selfie-with-rental-car.

When we completed our bog walk we headed further east and a bit north in search of a forest trail that we never did quite find, but we did find an inhabited part of the National Park not far from where we thought that trail was supposed to be! Where we were able to secure a yummy snack & beer, watch the roof be re-thatched, and walk some beach-side and wooded trails. We got back just in the nick of time to return the car then chilled in the room a bit before heading out for dinner. After dinner we stopped at the Depeche Mode themed bar (underground) for a reasonably priced, well-made drink and some Tara-specific nostalgia.

Such a lovely little rest spot in the fishing village of Altja.

The restaurant is a traditional Estonian building which they were busy rethatching while we were there.
Charming houses in the village, this one with lichen on the fence. I love lichen!

Some Baltic Sea action.

Some big crane-like bird!

Another scenic Baltic Sea view.

Cool bridge.

Some lush, non-bog forest.

Hiking sign posts, the international language

Peet-y water? I don't remember if that is why it is dark or even if we found out why.

On our last day we finally found our postcards and a few other souvenirs. We hit the Tallinn City Museum which was a really good one and well worth the few Euro price. Then at lunch we wrote our cards, found a mailbox, and prepared to catch a taxi back to the ferry terminal. No cabin this time and a much more crowded ferry. Luckily we hustled our butts and secured a seat in a quieter lounge... that didn't say quiet for long. More live entertainment and lots of generously-embibed Finns. It was quite stormy, but that didn't really rock the boat or anything.

The Tallinn City Museum was a very good one! Among many other exhibits, it had a room with several of these interactive dioramas. All the fun of being an abusive monk with none of the bad haircuts!

Look at this guy! Outside a history of healthcare museum.

I think this is the street our hotel was on.

Lucky for us, the crazy storm hit after we were safely inside the ferry terminal. We did see some drenched passengers.

We arrived later than we expected, but not because the ferry was late, but probably because not adjusting the 24-hour time. Then we found I messed up our reservation and we had to relocate and then there weren't restaurants near the new hotel that were still serving food, but we finally found one that was serving TERRIBLE, overpriced food. Iguana, it was called, and it was the kind of place that served blended margaritas in buckets. Super MTV Spring Break vibe. Oy. This is the night we got word of the Lolo Peak Fire getting serious for our town, our area was under Evacuation Warning, north of us was issued an Evacuation Order, and Eric spent much of the wee hours texting with our dogsitter and our emergency/fire backup. The next morning after coffee we tried some local bookstores looking for Dr Potter's Medicine Show which Eric's agent, Jennie, had spotted, but we did not find it. A little window shopping, then we hauled our suitcases over the cobblestones to the train station and head out to the airport. A few hours later we were in the Rekjavik airport hoping to finally try the rotten shark, but we didn't have time. It was a MADHOUSE. But we got on our plane without issue, tried to sleep, and arrived in Portland 7 or so hours later. We didn't have much time and really no attention span to see many folks, but our nephew dog did eat Eric's mom's chocolate out of my suitcase. It didn't phase him one bit.

No shame & no one goes alone... even at 4:45 in the morning.

The next afternoon we flew back to Missoula, seeing the fires from the sky. Well the smoke, anyway. Delia had moved to our emergency/fire backup location - some awesome friends' house a bit south of us and on the other side of the valley, out of danger. Since there wasn't an evacuation order for us and it didn't seem like there would be one that night we went directly to pick up Delia, then came home and immediately photographed all the rooms of the house.

Looking towards our place from the air above Missoula.

Driving down Hwy 93 towards home, this is where Hwy 12 meets 93.

A quick Lolo Peak Fire post coming soon.

* There are lockers that cost a couple Euro for storing luggage, but we had no cash and I'm not sure our luggage would've fit anyway.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Trials of Solomon Parker - ONE WEEK!

Neighbor Bob is always up for some Old West shenanigans and kindly played Solomon Parker for the trailer.

A couple weeks ago, while we were still under Evacuation Warning because the Lolo Peak Fire was practically in our back yard (for realz), Eric's old friend, Patrick Carew of Afflux Films, came all the way to Western Montana from L.A. to make book trailers for Eric's first two novels! WHAT!? First up: The Trials of Solomon Parker.

I know! SOOOOO COOOOOOL! Please feel free, like SO UTTERLY FREE, to pop through to YouTube and share that link all over your social media. This is too cool to be missed. Just like the book. Go buy it. Please.

I had some fun seeing how the sausage gets made.

I'm not going to saw Eric hovered around making sure his vision of Solomon Parker was not besmirched, but he did hover around making sure his vision of Solomon Parker was not besmirched.

You can pre-order on all the usual online sources. It will be in stores in the US on October 3 in the US and Canada and on 5 October in the UK, Ireland, India, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Pre-order: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Powell's - heck, even Target dot com.

After Oct 3 or 5: Support your local bookseller! Ask for this book by name!

Friday, September 22, 2017

What I Did on Summer "Vacation": The Good, Part II

Last time I talked a bit about how our August got complicated. It was supposed to be about our fun trip to Europe followed by a some long-awaited visitors. But instead it was followed with a trial by fire and smoke, i.e. the Lolo Peak Fire getting all up in our neighborhood business. More about that later; now it's time to share the second leg of our fun trip!

We arrived in Helsinki on the first afternoon of WorldCon, but we thought it wasn't starting until the next day. Not that it matters, but oops. We got a cab to our hotel which was located in a pretty great location! We were about a 8 minute walk to the main train station and then a 10 minute ride to Messukeskus, the convention center, from there. We were very close to a few good places to eat and drink, close-enough to many more, and far enough from the convention center to feel like we got a bit of a taste of Helsinki-for-Helsinkians. Helsinkiites? Helsinkers? Locals.

We had a little bay window in our room, this is the left side view.

We had some trouble finding a restaurant that was open for a late-ish dinner near the convention center, but we did find this spot for our first Helsinki meal with some of the Angry Robot crew plus.

Neither of us were taking full advantage or our Con tickets, but we each did attend some panels, Eric to support his friends and as a moderator! We did take full advantage of the in-person access to a few Angry Robot people, Eric's agent, Jennie Goloboy, other authors and such folk! I learned this part of it is called BarCon and it is hanging out at a Convention-adjacent bar and chatting and meeting the folks passing through during their daily coming and going.

There were not a lot of hotels near Messukeskus, just the adjacent Holiday Inn. Its bar was... what you'd expect: overpriced and under cool. Still we had our first adult beverages of the trip! GnT for T, beer for E.
I did take this panorama shot from the patio at BarCon, though. I think it'll get bigger if you click on it.

I realized that I hardly took any photos in Helsinki. I DON'T KNOW WHY! Maybe because it was more scheduled than a usual vacation? Maybe because we were going to the same place over and over? Not when we weren't at the con so much, but maybe? For sure WorldCon's Ask First policy for photos was a part of it while on site... maybe that just carried over into all the time we were not at the Con proper?

I did attend a few panels and a workshop. This one was about photographing costumes and cosplay. There were a couple of models for us to practice with, but the instructor didn't get the kind of room she wanted so we had to improvise with a public area in the center.

This was a panel on fan crafting that was fun and interesting.

This also meant lunches & dinners out and drinks after - sometimes into the wee hours. Our Helsinki dining experiences weren't outstanding, but we did have some delicious adult beverages. Helsinki is one of the most expensive cities in the European Union and had we not been to Iceland first we would've been as shocked as everyone else.

At a Nepalese restaurant that served exactly what you would find at an Indian buffet in the US. Exactly where were we being tricked!?

This was a pirate themed bar that was actually super cool! And super small, with just over a dozen seats. Very delicious drinks -some of them flaming, sand on the floor, costumed bar tender, the works.

Eric's author friend, fellow Red Sofa-er & Angry Robot, Carrie, and her husband arrived to Helsinki a little before the Con and scouted some cool bars!

I have begun the search for Finnish cranberries which are called lingonberries here. So far, only online, frozen, and spendy.

Again, we were very ill-prepared to speak any Finnish. And again we felt like jerks, but again it seems Finns don't expect visitors to speak Finnish and we were told that they expect foreign visitors to speak English with them. That said, plenty of the Con panels were held in Finnish (and clearly labeled as such) and the only bookseller in the marketplace was Finnish with mostly Finnish-language books. Represent!

Eric at his signing on Sunday. I took this at the beginning of the hour and wish I'd taken it later, because the author just out of frame on the right was Peadar Ó Guilín who wrote the YA novel "The Call." Not only was Peadar ("rhymes with 'blather'") friendly and fun to talk to, he and Eric traded books!
With a Sunday afternoon time, Eric wasn't expecting much of a turn out for the panel he moderated, but it was actually packed!

We sat way to the right and midway back, so this photo doesn't show nearly how big the room was. Penny, Nick, and I were lucky to get 3 seats together, actually. NICE!
As far as "celebrity spotting" I did pass George R R Martin in the hallway, met Charlie Jane Anders at her book signing where she signed my copy of All The Birds in the Sky and complimented my shirt, and passed Daveed Diggs in a hallway and then later saw him perform with Clipping which was nominated for a Hugo Award and was probably why they were there!

We showed up late to the Clipping concert. This was not at all what I expected and it was cool and fun! 

It was really great for me to finally meet several of Eric's book-world peeps! Some who even he hadn't met in person before! And I'm not just saying this, because Angry Robot Nick gave me some super special toothpaste out of his very own kit!

Our original plan was to leave Helsinki the day after WorldCon ended and find a spot close to some nature in Finland. Which is a lot of Finland. But so many people raved about and encouraged us to hop a ferry over to Tallinn, Estonia that we did that instead! The old city has all that Old Europe business that's so cool AND it was quite a bit cheaper, so done deal.

NOTE: While the weather was a comfortable for traveling high 60s/low 70s during the day, it does seem like what is considered a comfortable indoor temperature by Finns is perhaps deeply influenced by their beloved sauna culture: hot as balls. Sweaty, sweaty, hot, sweaty balls.