Dear travel, I miss you. I miss the anticipation of planning a trip. I miss putting together itineraries and researching hotels. I miss searching for out -of-the-way restaurants and cafes. I actually miss the airport. Yes, the airport. I miss our familiar airport rituals and the incredible sense of what awaits us when we land. For me, the airport is always the beginning of a new adventure. So, with travel plans grounded, I have been planning future trips in my head and keeping endless notes. Plotting and planning for the post Covid days. As some of you know I was a hotel reviewer for Mr and Mrs Smith, a travel club for hotel lovers, when I lived in Scotland. After returning to the US, I began writing travel articles for Huffington Post. Truly, there are few things I love more than seeking out unique hotels and quaint home rentals. For me, a room or house is not just a place to lay your head, I want the full experience. I want to be transported to another time and place.
Lately we have been researching European Christmas markets. I had a small tasting of these magical markets while living in the UK and now I want more. Not only is it something I have always to experience on a grand scale, the online images have put me in a Christmas mood during this very strange and sad year. I thought I would share my research with all of you in the hopes of spreading a little holiday cheer. Not to mention a bit of armchair escapism. If I had to choose just one place, it would perhaps be Tallinn. Located about an equal distance from Stockholm and St. Petersburg, Tallinn’s culture is both Nordic and Russian. The oldest capital in Northern Europe, it was built by the Danes in 1229. The medieval town includes 26 watchtowers topped by pointed red roofs. Below the steeples and towers, the Old Town is filled with inviting shops and restaurants. The Town Hall Square boast a glorious Christmas tree. In 1441, the first known public Christmas tree in Europe, was put up in the exact spot. Gorgeous trees can be found all over the city. All you need to do is grab a pastry and a cup of hot glögg from a little café and stroll the streets. Many of the shop windows become concert venues, dance stages and art galleries during the Christmas season.
NOTE: Estonia’s official language is Estonian. English, Russian, Finnish, and German are also understood and widely spoken.
Where to Stay
Again, if I could only choose one place, it would be the Schlössle Hotel. Situated in Tallinn’s Old Town, amidst courtyards and cobblestone streets, you will find this charmer, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. Drawing inspiration from 18th Century Nordic design, famed interior architect Jean Pierre Martel, was appointed to create graceful interiors. Set against a central chimney, small spiral staircases, and classic limestone architecture, the hotel boast 23 guest rooms and suites, two restaurants, and cigar lounge.
Restaurants Leib and Ö are rumored to offer the most genuine Estonian cuisine. Leib serves up traditional Estonian dishes with a modern twist. The team at Leib works closely with a network of small, local farms who supply everything. Ö transforms simple peasant food into praiseworthy dishes. The restaurant emphasizes nuanced rustic flavors. Another favorite of the locals and visitors alike is Rataskaevu 16. Offering a vast array of dishes, from fried herring fillets to elk roast, it receives rave reviews from travelers across the world.
Tallinn Airport (TLL) is the largest airport in Estonia and serves as a hub for the national airline Nordica. From the States I would book with Lufthansa, preferably a business class cabin on their Boeing 777-9. The German airline business class cabin includes luxurious seats that can be converted into beds that are up to 7-feet long. Yes, please.