Las Vegas and Helsinki

Part of a collection of travelogues by Trevor Hopkins.

Las Vegas

I've just had a week with seven flights in it, preceeded by a week with seven flights in it! Partially self-inflicted, of course, but it's taught me one thing - never, ever fly with KLM! Every single KLM flight delayed - one arrival (trans-Atlantic) was eight hours late in arriving - and two separate instances of lost luggage. Most annoying, especially since the first set of luggage did not turn up at home until I had left on the next trip - and the biggest disaster was that the first lost luggage contained the charger for the mobile phone.....

The self-inflicted part of the lunatic world-travelling was a long week-end in Las Vegas. This was a freebie - first prize in the prize draw at the annual travel-agents black-tie dinner - four nights in Vegas. Oh, and a flight over the Grand Canyon thrown in. (Fly via Amsterdam and Minneapolis - accounts for 8 take-offs, since you ask...) Apart from the travelling, this was a huge heap of fun. We went with another couple - close friends. They're in the travel business (hence the dinner), and they were able to get very cheap flights. So, we did all the usual Vegas things - eating and drinking, shows, shopping - and a small amount of the gambling. (Think of it as a kind of tax...) Hardly slept at all.


The weather in Helsinki is roughly what I expected - completely covered with snow and ice, with the temperature varying between -3C and -22C - I was forced to go out and buy a woolly hat! I did look a bit of a twerp wearing it, of course, but it really did make a difference to my comfort level. Not that I was outside very much; the hat's just for the short walk from hotel front door to the taxi.

Taxi drivers in Finland are pretty extreme. Whizzing about all the time, with half-an-inch on compacted snow and ice between tyres and tarmac. Of course, everyone has winter tyres, and there is a requirement for skid training before you can pass a driving test; even so, now I know why Finland produces so many great Rally competitors - the taxi drivers are practicing all the time!

I rather like Helsinki - despite the weather. The people are very friendly, once you get over the initial reserve. The language can sound very brusque, even blunt. Apparently, there are rather few 'polite phrases', and no prepositions - so a Finn speaking English tends to be pretty blunt, too. But you get used to it.

Shooting in Scotland

What else have I been up to recently? Well, I had another one of those shooting trips (shotguns and clay targets) in Scotland. This was a trip with a small number of (male) friends - drove for hours and hours right up to the very north of Scotland, to the Duke of Westminster's estate. Michael (one of my friends) has a cousin who organises a regular shoot, so we went to help set up the site, and to take part. Last year, I came last - the lowest score! Nice booby prize! This year, I did much better - I beat all but one of the friends I travelled up with, every single one of the under-14's, etc. Wow...