Nostalgia Work

Travel Associations, Assumptions, and Some Healthy Suspicion

Before kids, a trip to Tallinn use to mean an overnight stay at a spa hotel. One particular spa hotel which hubby liked. You could take the elevator down from your room in a bathrobe and slippers. One year, I forgot my hair brush home and it was Christmas, so I was unable to buy another one. I had entirely tangled hair all through Christmas dinner, like a bird had nested in my hair without my noticing.

The first times we did this spa trip, the hotel and spa were new. The rooms had a space theme and it was alright. But year after year, both hotel and spa started showing signs of active use without active upkeep. I guess it must be quite expensive to maintain a spa, since many Finnish spas have the same problem. They look worn and crummy. Rusty, even.

After a bit of a pause, hubby and I managed a day trip to Tallinn last autumn. We took the ferry, but actually had to hurry a bit to make it back in time. No spa this time, just lunch and these few photos that I managed to snap while walking. We passed the cafe that I used to like having chocolate cake in. Once quirky and cosy, it had turned into an imperium, and was no longer as attractive to us.

Since I was our travel secretary, I’d gone and booked us “comfort lounge” tickets on the way back. Finnish-Estonian ferries are notoriously full of drunk people acting obnoxiously, and I find it quite depressing. The lounge was nice and peaceful, and not crowded at all. And no drunks around. One party was having a quiet, civilised glass of wine and they met my approval.

I’ve always wondered about the need to get plastered as soon as you travel or are on holiday. When I worked at the airport, I had an office job that sometimes required me to start work at 6 AM. I’d pass security control and enter the terminal area. Tax free, cafe, pub… Tax free always had flight attendants buzzing around it. There was a saying that you had to choose between wrinkles and love handles as you aged, and since flight attendants weren’t allowed to gain much weight (must be fit to operate in an emergency), they were all worried about wrinkles. Tax free cosmetics were on every flight attendant’s shopping list.

But the pub… The pub was always completely full at six in the morning and lively as a nightclub. At six in the morning! Or seven, or eight. I’d barely had breakfast, I don’t know how they had the stomach for drinks that early in the day. It was like they’d found a loophole where time didn’t exist.

No doubt, some of them would later be writing a complaint letter to the mean airline that didn’t let them board due to their condition.

Back in my flight attendant days, I was once rostered on a flight from Oslo to somewhere warm (Thailand? The Dominican Republic? I can’t remember) and I was asked to stand in the terminal during boarding, along with the gate staff and the Captain. My job was to monitor passengers and see if anyone looked drunk – if so, tell the Captain, who would then decide if they were fit to fly. Heavily intoxicated people are a safety risk on board due to their probability for rowdy behaviour and the risk of needing sudden medical attention. And apparently, long hauls departing from Norway were the bane of this Nordic airline’s existence.

We all have our associations and assumptions, it seems. (Where’s the line between suspicion, assumption, and prejudice, I wonder?)

So, while Oslo might mean rowdy passengers for an experienced flight crew, Tallinn for me means a spa and rich chocolate cake, along with an unpleasant ferry ride amongst drunk grown-ups behaving badly. I once saw a man throw a cigarette into the Baltic Sea from one of these ferries and it made me sad. His appearance was too scary for me to say anything: he looked like a gangster. Also, he was standing directly in front of a No Smoking -sign and chose to ignore it, so I doubt my nagging would have changed anything.

This incident, and others, make me want to continue booking the comfort lounge, just so I can stay in my own bubble for a bit longer.

Staying in a bubble when you travel is a funny concept, isn’t it? I’ve done it before and will probably do it again. I once worked in an all-inclusive French hotel in Crete and I learned a lot of French that summer. Some Greek words, too, but everything was very French.

They had their own “animation” team, which I later understood meant that it was an entertaining team. (It had nothing to do with animated films!) They’d put on evening shows at the hotel and the shows were very popular amongst guests.

Speaking of travel associations, Lexi from One Foot Out the Door wrote an interesting post on the topic a while ago. How you might connect a seemingly random detail or event to a particular travel destination, and it makes complete sense to you.

Her post stirred up an instant memory for me: I’ll forever associate the FIFA World Cup with my summer in Crete. That summer, the French football team did very well in the World Cup (silver, perhaps?). But above all, I remember working at the poolside bar in the evenings, and all the guests drinking in a very civilised, French way. Just one drink. A small cognac (complaints if there was too much) or a local drink, Metaxa or raki. They wanted ice with their cognac, and I was so accustomed to serving it this way that I later got in trouble when I asked a Finnish passenger on an airplane if they wanted ice in their cognac.

My Finnish flight attendant colleague was younger than me, but she had been flying for much longer and so she had seniority over me on that flight. Luckily, we rarely met again, since you flew with a different crew each day (bliss!). But that time, she shouted at me in front of all the passengers, “You idiot! Cognac is NEVER served on ice!!!!”

A year before I became a flight attendant, in Crete, 2006, I served cognac on ice to approving French nods every single evening for 5 months, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just a dream. Mind you, it was 40ºC at night time, so ice was a nice addition to pretty much anything (yes, even wine!). Coffee was often cooled off with cognac or brandy. Another popular drink was a cocktail in the colours of the French flag. And what about the one where they wanted grenadine in their beer, I can’t remember the name? Google says Monaco, but I think it had another name. The atmosphere was unforgettable!

The French guests would be sitting at the bar, idly chatting amongst themselves and with us staff, while following the football games. Goal!!! Everyone would cheer and then go on chatting, and I’ll always love football for those summer evenings at work behind a bar, next to a pool that I wasn’t allowed to swim in. The World Cup has never been quite the same for me after that. Watching it on TV at home, I would be missing my French hotel guests. Some moments just can’t be reconstructed.

Here’s to safe travels in 2023! Cin cin!

(The photos are from Tallinn, 2022.)


44 replies on “Travel Associations, Assumptions, and Some Healthy Suspicion”

Oh Talliin. I did not take the ferry from Finland to Estonia, but from Stockholm. Even so, on my return there were a couple – drunken Russian passengers outside my door giggling at 3am in the morning. They were slumped on the floors, so drunk and unable to move but giggling. I also saw some Russian food on the buffet. Talliin was one of my favourite destinations – and it was steeped in snow! I recognize some parts of that amazing city wall from your photos. Sad to hear that the city has deteriorated at its spas – I guess it feels the lack of tourist dollars?

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Oh, you had the longer drunken cruise experience, great! 😃 We didn’t visit a spa this time, and the deterioration was already visible some 6 years ago when we last went. Or is it 7, wow – time flies!!! Anyway, I wonder how the spa hotel would look now. Many Finnish ones have closed down during these past years.


It is a bit sad to hear that so many establishments have closed down. I wonder where those people went for work. Speaking of which, how is the employment situation in Finland? They claim it is so buoyant at the moment – you could get a job anywhere and workers are hard to get. I don’t hear or see evidence of that here myself, but it must in part be true.

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I’m not sure about the employment situation – I just know that a lot of people are changing jobs. Apparently, working from home makes you feel less committed if you’re new. I work from home but have been at the same compamny for over 7 years, so for me it’s just been positive. WFH gives me more freedom and flexibility

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I sailed the Helsinki-Talinn ferry as well. The first thing my eyes fell on was the pricing list of alcholic bevarages. It was far to early for me to have beer, but I must say for the first time since weeks I felt it was financialy possible to order one again. 🙂 Talking about beer: there are people who mix grenadine with the heavy Belgian ‘trappist’ beer like Westmalle. Not me, I find the beer itself sweet enough, but it does excist. I love your flight attendent stories, Snow. They lift me up (wait…) and make me want to travel. Crete? Perhaps. Or Spain… Yes, Spain!

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Thanks for the laughs again, Peter! Oh yes, the weirdest drinks do exist and are so normal to some! Panaché in France (beer with Sprite), and I once knew some Mexicans (in France, where else) who liked Coke in their red wine… If you think of it, Spaniards have their tinto de verano where you add lime Fanta to red wine and it’s not that far from Sangria, after all…
Oh and yes, the Tallinn boats do have lower prices, explaining the booziness, but still not explaining how someone can start drinking at breakfast time.

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This was fascinating to read! I’m glad I found your blog.
One of my girlfriends is a flight attendant and used to just hate being on the Las Vegas flights because passengers would always be either really drunk on the way there, or hungover on the way home. Once I was flying back from Maui and there was a very drunk and obnoxious man, I was so worried as my young son was sleeping in his seat beside this man, I worried he would accidentally kick in his sleep and the man would be angry. As it was, he was pretty gross.
I don’t think I have ever had cognac, ice or no!

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Thanks, Nicole, and I’m very happy you found me! 🤗 I can imagine the flight with your son, stuck next to someone you’d rather not be near. I always thoughy flying was much nicer when you were working in the plane than being a passenger! You got to skip a lot of the tedious and annoying bits and you also knew what was (really) going on.


If it’s a “luxury” spa, it’s kind of problematic if it looks rundown, right?

When I was a teen, I flew to Hawaii to visit my grandparents. They bumped me up to first class, where I got to witness the horrible, fat, drunk dude from Texas squeeze every flight attendant’s butt possible. And I guess they had to put up with it. Would have given anything to see one kick him in the balls.

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Maybe someone did, at some point! Hope so!
There were certain flights with a certain profile and you knew what to expect in advance. Short flights to Stockholm were always business flights and really great to work on: short and easy, with quiet passengers who didn’t want anything other than to work on their laptops undisturbed.

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Golly – I put ice in everything which has gotten me yelled at by wine experts. I’m not sure why – they don’t have to drink it. I remember seeing Tallinn from the sea – it looked very gloomy but then it was a gloomy day.

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There’s a saying about never going back to places that you’ve loved and left. It’s hard for real places to stay as good as we remember them.

It’s hard for me to be sympathetic with early- or over-drinking, primarily because I have a low tolerance to alcohol myself. I get sick long before I get buzzed. So, I am bemused and disgusted with anyone who drinks so much that they’re out of control.

I’m sorry for all the flight staff who’ve had to put up with unruly passengers. I hope the situation’s different now than in the past. Last year, I read about a chartered airline that banned a group of unruly passengers after their flight to a vacation spot. The entire group was stranded at the destination and couldn’t return home. Serves them right!

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I always wonder about people who complain about being stranded at their holiday destination – is it really so bad to spend a few more days at the nice destination you had chosen for yourself?! 😃

And I wouldn’t want to be a flight attendant now that everyone is filming everyone. It seems like the end of privacy in so many ways. Imagine having to deal with a drunk or otherwise demanding customer. Tough enough, but then five passengers in the seats nearby are filming it – and your reaction – and posting it all over the web.

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Merci et à toi aussi! Bonne 2023!
No, we didn’t have Covid then (2 years ago, yes), but we had influenza and the kids had hand-and-mouth disease, and I had an operation… so your memory didn’t fail you: lots of sick leave last autumn! Hopefully that was the end of it! How are you? All okay?

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It’s fun when another person’s post shakes loose some memories; I’m flattered that it was mine this time! Now we both have our FIFA World Cup recollections lodged in a random country. Yours sounded fun when you told me in your comment on my post, and now that I see a few more details here, it sounds even better. What a great summer that must have been.

I have to comment on Tallinn as well. We took the ferry to Helsinki from there and didn’t even notice anyone rowdy … then again, it was January at the time. Maybe it was too cold for drunks and stag parties! Glad we did not try the spas although my sister did swim in some huge indoor pool while I ice skated one evening. Such a cute little city!

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Tallinn is a popular spa destination for Finns, and I’m sure there are some nice ones there, too. We only just went to the same one over and over again, because it was convinient and hubby liked it. Cool that you managed to ice skate, I’ve never seen a rink there but it must be a fun travel memory!

And thank you very much for the inspiration! I’ve been seriously lacking inspiration lately, so when I finally had an idea, I just had to go with it. I love it when a story just pours out.

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Loved reading this post! I can’t imagine a spa-hotel looking run down and “rusty”, I feel like all the ones I’ve been to were always very luxurious (not that I’ve been to many thought)… maybe I was lucky too!
I also have a very low tolerance for people drinking too much and behaving badly on airplanes, ferries, etc. The concept of getting almost passed-out drunk on holidays is also something I’ll probably never understand as for me being on holidays is about collecting memories and making the most of the time away, so drinking too much, being obnoxious to other people, passing out/getting sick and barely remembering what you did just doesn’t make sense to me, but well…!
As for the grenadine and beer drink, I know about the Monaco (though maybe it has lemonade in it as well?) and Tango… is that it?

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Hmm, I don’t think it was Tango, either… so many ways to drink beer, aren’t there?! (I don’t even like beer at all!)

Anyway, thanks very much Juliette, for reading and commenting! Oh, and speaking about drunk people misbehaving, I remember a young man who had fallen asleep on a plane after drinking too much. When we landed, he had to be woken up, and then we noticed he had pissed himself. Ground staff had to swap his seat cushion, because the plane was about to fly back with new passengers, fully booked. Not nice for anyone…


Lovely stories and photos. Back in the day I worked for British Petroleum on oil tankers. When working the 12 to 4 shift it was common to head down to the bar and have a drink or two before turning in. I don’t recall anyone getting plastered. It was more of an after work thing.

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Great post Snow!
I have travelled to Talinn once, in 2019 over an autumn weekend, with a bus from Riga. I wanted to do so many things and had thought that I would return and do all of that – one of them being taking the ferry across. But then 2020 came and all plans went out of the window! But may be it was good because I didn’t know about the drunken passengers! So if I manage to go someday, I know that I have to take the “comfort lounge”, thanks to you 😀. I also wanted to go to St. Petersberg as I’d heard from a friend that if you do it with the cruise from there, you don’t need a visa. But now, with the war, I guess it will remain just a dream, as we don’t know how things would’ve changed when the war finally ends (and if it ends)!
Another thing that I realized reading your post, even for myself, is that how difficult it is to forget an insult – even if it’s years ago! The compliments are forgotten pretty quickly. I must admit, I used to be a lot angrier at things before and may have hurt people especially those close to me with my words, but there is no way to take back those words, no matter how bad I feel about it now. So now I really try to keep my speech in control, especially when something is making me angry!

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I considered doing the cruise to St Petersburg, too. Obviously, this was before the war and now I wouldn’t go there for ethical reasons and also because it just seems like a very scary place. Also, the visa thing seemed sketchy: it was only valid if you took a bus tour, I think, and on the boat, and valid for like 24h or 48h or something. And I always wondered, what if there was a delay or what if you need the hospital? Would they just say sorry, no visa? I once worked on a flight where someone needed the doctor but there was a visa issue so the plane couldn’t land at the nearest possible airport.

Oh, and that’s such a good point! Insults definitely stay with you longer. I was actually browsing some magazine at the hairdresser’s last week, and there was an editor’s column about something a bit similar. It talked about how, if you ask a woman what someone would notice about them first, the women would pick their flaws and completely ignore the good things about themselves, like having beautiful hair or a radiant smile.

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Tallin is a special place for me, my one and only visit to Estonia, so I enjoyed reading this as an update to a city I enjoyed. It seems the past couple years are hitting some places hard but I could also still see the magic in your photos. You mentioned something me and my friends were talking about recently, “Staying in a bubble when you travel…” I think this is becoming more common and is a funny concept, but then travel is to both seek adventure and also to relax and enter a new reality… and being in a bubble is a great way to relax and enjoy. Wish you a great year of travel ahead!

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I agree with you about the bubble! There are so many reasons people travel, and they are all valid. In fact, I’ve been planning to perhaps do an old-fashioned package holiday at some point with my kids, just because of its convienience in this hectic, exhausting stage of life! Full-time work with kids means I really am the target group for this kind of travel, since we don’t have any pools to lounge by in my country, no resorts or warm winters. So I totally understand the attraction of staying somewhere where someone else cooks and cleans for you and your kids. No harm in it, it’s just a different kind of trip than one where you seek to experience local culture. Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts and happy travels to you, too!


Interesting things you tell us. I never knew a thing about cognac. Ohh, drunk people and smoking on the ferry, two of the things from my youth that I miss the least. Funny this: as I commented under the post by Lexi which you mention, she replied that you also have Crete World Cup memories. And now I see this. Funny that! I don’t remember your story with the French. Mine was that we just returned to civilization after spending a few days alone down the dirt road by the sea somewhere on Crete, just so that we could find a TV set to watch the finals in which the French played and we rooted for them. We found a small eatery in the smallest village and watched the TV with the owner and his wife. Only us. I joined the boys in front of the TV, while the other two girls chatted with the owner’s wife in Greek. Well, they were both students of Ancient Greek. I suppose certain words are similar. 😀 One of them, Jelena, later translated the Iliad into Slovenian. I remember that “Galia” means France.

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Oh, was your summer in Crete the same year as mine, 2006? Or just another World Cup year? Funny coincidence. And I don’t wonder at all that football didn’t come up when we last compared notes on both our Cretan summers! I’m not a big fan of watching sports – though I know you are 😊

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Your question got me googling and thinking and calculating and now I believe it was actually the Euro Cup of 2000. 😀 And yet I’m perplexed because it was not in August! I thought it was August when I was on Crete one whole month. My eternal August theory is gone. :p And I was only interested in soccer because that year Slovenia took part for the first time as an independent country.

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I, too, wonder about why some people see holiday travel as THE time to drink themselves numb. I’ve been on flights to Vegas where 50% of the passengers are blotto before we land there. When I travel I like a drink but not many, if any. I want to see what I’m going to see with a clear head, then come back home and have a few drinks while I reminisce about my vacation.

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Yes. I mean, there’s a line between good drinking and bad drinking. You’re the 2nd commenter to mention those Vegas flights! That’s definitely crossed off my bucket list for good now, if it ever was on it. 😆 If they want to get really drunk, perhaps they should do it at home and not ruin everyone else’s holiday!

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