Sunday, 10 July 2016

Luxury cottage life at Havsvidden, Åland

Havsvidden at Åland's norterhnmost corner offers such luxurious surroundings for a cottage holiday it needs to be seen to be believed!

* * * 

As a concept luxury is a bit like gourmet. The label is applied on variety of goods and services with such overly liberal generosity I almost wish that this bureaucracy-loving country of mine had an authority solely dedicated for overseeing its appropriate use.

The fact that you slap cold smoked salmon on top on a soggy pizza base does not make it gourmet. The fact that a cottage has running water is no reason to call it luxury. 

Seldom is the use of the word "luxury" more suitable than it is in regard to Havsvidden, located in the northernmost corner of Åland.

Throughout our journey we'd been puzzled by the reactions of people we'd met uon learning where we'd be spending the last night of our Åland excursion. The knowing smiles, approving nods...

"Well, seeing how you Finnish people are so keen on solitude and holidaying in cottages in the middle of the woods..." the rep from Visit Åland,which organized our trip, explained as she drove us to our destination on a forest-lined driveway that seemed to go on forever.

The Cat Blogger and I exchanged an alarmed (and slightly worried) look. Oh, no. Not these Finnish people...

Just check out the itinerary for our last trip together in Latvia: Champagne, spas and fine dining galore. What in the world had we gotten ourselves into?

The drive from Mariehamn to Havsvidden takes less than 40 minutes, but during that the scenery changes dramatically. Looking at the barren rocks that spread around it was almost impossible to remember we were still in the archipelago.

The view instantly transported me back to my chldhood holidays in Lapland, place I hated already then. "One night", we messaged each other telepathically as our eyes kept frantically searching for a way to get out of a moving car unharmed so we'd still be able to Über our asses back into the civilization. "One night we'll survive anywhere, even in the woods". 

As we saw the reception we started to understand all those smiles we'd witnessed. This clearly wasn't just any old camping site...

Havsvidden consists of hotel which has 33 hotel rooms of varying sizes (prices start at €125/ night) and private cliff houses which at largest sleep up to 6 persons (depending on the size €320 - €570 per night).

Our attempts to hold on to our sarcastic selves backfired miserably as we looked around, sighing with awe. The only thing we could find to criticize was the size of the villa. It was simply too big to fit into my lense. 

Surely that wins the prize for most tragic #firstworldproblem?

Inside the decor continues with the clean cut, minimalist style of the exterior. Full height windows bring in phenomenal light and showcase the surrounding nature so beautifully even we, two sworn urbanites were speechless. 

(Ok, not entirely speechless: at this point the silent sighs had given way to hysterical giggling. Oh, yes. We'd survive one night here just fine. Rest of our lives, if needed, actually...)

Our villa (no 11) comprised 2 en suite bedrooms (both with double beds) out of which one (mine, naturally!) had a bath tub.

(Yep, this is where I was lingering as I had my epiphany and wrote that earlier piece)

The balconies that go around the entire villa offer spectacular views over the sea. No-one ever said cottages could be like this!

Some of the villas even come with their own outdoor jacuzzis (oh, yes). The others will just have to make do with the indoor pool and outdoor jacuzzi of the sauna department located next to the guest harbour (decidedly not too shabby either, I can tell you...) 

So, don't forget to pack your swimsuit!

At evening we made our way through the path back to the hotel, still feeling a bit dizzy. Here we are! In the woods! The companion had blissfully forgotten her phobia of ticks and nature ("too much green stuff", apparently) and was genuinely pondering the prospect of cottage holidays in the future, too.

Nothing in Havsvidden is done halfway. This became evident as we sat down for our dinner in the hotel restaurant, featured in the White Guide Nordic

We started our evening with Champagne (well, how else?) and concluded that this was indeed our kind of glamping.

After a couple of breakdown in communication we were finally on the same page with  our waitress and managed to get the order right. The starters consisted of fish trio (scallops, archipelago delicacy made of shrimps called Skagenröra and Asian-inspired fish) and tartare.

The tartare was so excellent that it only came second to the one I had at Speceriet in Stockholm, but the pistacchio ice cream it was served with.... Oh. My. Gaaaaawd.

It might sound like a weird accompaniment for tartare, but it couldn't have been better executed. The serving temperature was spot on and combined with the wonderfully emulsion-like consistency... helt suveränt. According to the little birds the kitchen really took their time to perfect the recipe and that's exactly what it was: perfect.

Lamb shank could have used a bit more salt, but other than that no complaints there either. Succulent as heck.

Zander, served with cray fish sauce was summery and a very good as well.

The dessert wine our waitress recommended was a great choice and went nicely with both our desserts: sea buckthorn ice cream and my wonderfully dense and fudge-like carrot cake. 

After the dinner we finished the wine off at the balcony, watching as the sun setting in the sea gilded everything with similar amber glow, which reduced us back to that silent awe. 

As we exchanged looks again, the message was clear in both of your eyes and retarded smiles. Life just couldn't be better right now!

Breakfast didn't disappoint us either. The selection wasn't terribly extensive, but quality was obvious. Most come from local producers. The only thing I was left missing was Åland pancake, which I by now had developed a bit of an addiction for...

So, how's that for wilderness? Any glamping experiences you can recommend?

* In collaboration with Visit Åland *





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