Lahti – Cottagers’ Paradise…

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So says the Finnish Tourist Board – which perhaps should have checked its copy through with a native English speaker before posting that gem of a heading on its website.

Finland probably isn’t an obvious first stop for a world tour, but even the longest trip starts with a single flight. In this case it was Heathrow to Helsinki on BA, where the airhostess clearly had some understanding of what it is like to travel with children. “There is wine,” she pointed out anxiously when I requested a cup of tea and a sparkling water. I declined on the basis that it was only noon. Must be growing old.

At Helsinki, the only thing more pleasing than discovering that the airport accessorises its baggage carousels with stuffed beavers was the appearance of Jamie’s friendly face at the airport.

We’ve not visited our friends Jamie and Marja in Finland for ten years- when we travelled here for their wedding. I have (predictably) hazy recollections of snow, husky dogs, saunas on the edge of frozen lakes and quite a lot of vodka.

A decade and six children between us later, it is delightful to visit their ‘summer cottage’ (which they frequently use in winter too, but it’s particularly pleasant at 20 degrees).

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The Finnish tourist board might be oblivious to innuendo, but they were pretty right on the ‘paradise’ issue. The cottage is beautiful in a distinctly fairytale way. Wander too far, and I feel you might find Hansel and Gretel searching for home via a trail of stones. The forest is full of berries and mushrooms – some tasty, and some poisonous and looking like they might be used for a fairy ring and to shelter a couple of Moomins.

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The children have quickly taken to composting loos, foraging and saunas. Clover and Maia spend most of the day picking berries and arranging them into attractive fruit salads (slightly gritty to taste) while Daisy, Helena, Olavi and Leo play pirates in the tree house.

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Olavi is aghast that Paul and the girls have never caught a fish (and I’m scarcely any more experienced) while there’s also the possibility of lake swimming and many healthy walks. And endless opportunities to sing that song from Monty Python, which I should imagine Jamie and Marja find quite irritating.

The girls are in Finland heaven. Delhi is going to be quite a shock.

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