Wherever I go I am met by an icy wind which whips round corners and across the wide streets like an angry mistress pursuing an errant lover. I wrap up tightly, flattening my hair with a woolly hat. An insufficient woolly hat, at that.
The concrete steps beside the hotel look forbidding, especially as I only get to see them in the dark; my daylight hours are stolen by work. Up the steps is the little Japanese restaurant where I order badly but eat reasonably well. I even drink sake, something I would never normally do.
Walking back the streets are almost empty. It’s not that cold yet, for Helsinki, but it seems that people are already building their winter cocoons. This I can understand. The authentic Finnish restaurant I try to eat at the second night is packed, people warming up with “ground elk meat patties” and potatoes.
Back in the hotel restaurant there is much less charm. The man at the adjacent table watches a movie on his laptop then argues about the bill with the pretty waitress. In the corner a group of Americans wish each other Happy Thanksgiving and the only Brit among them asks for egg nog – the only things she knows about the holiday.
I order a burger and write notes in my illegible hand while I wait. Tonight the icy cold makes me want simple food. And red wine. I settle back in against the superfluous cushions, a spectator.