Ben and Ulia

Week 28: Scandinavian Adventure. My First Travel Video!

I am so excited to finally share my first YouTube Travel video! The channel is all set (please subscribe here!), and you can expect more and more videos in the future. All I need from you is to show some love, support, like, subscribe, share, so I can create better and better content for you.

This Scandinavian Adventure video we filmed mostly on GoPro, but we recently got a new amazing camera, so expect videos to only get more professional. Let me know your thoughts on YouTube or on our Facebook page!


Week 28: Scandinavian Adventure. Ice Hotel in Kiruna review.

North by North North - The Ice Hotel

by Benjamin Pillmore (my hubby!)


When most people think of the Arctic Circle, they imagine a cold, white wasteland devoid of even the smallest signs of life.

Good news!

The frozen north has a plethora of life (human and otherwise) and is quite manageable if you have a sense for adventure. Ulia and I decided to make the trek up to Kiruna, Sweden which is about 90 miles north of the Arctic Circle and Sweden’s northernmost city. There, resides the original Ice Hotel (Jukkasjärvi): a resort situated on the frozen banks of the Torne River that boasts the world’s first and most famous hotel made of ice.

The hotel is divided into three types of rooms, grouped into three separate structures. The first is the warm, which is, well, warm, as in not made of ice. The second is the newly-opened (November 2016) 365 building which houses a series of rooms that are maintained year-round at -5ºC. The third, and most renowned, is the original Ice Hotel; a building comprised of massive blocks of ice harvested straight from the Torne River but a hundred meters away.

Now, for those of you who are wondering why anyone would go that far north to stay in what essentially amounts to an oversized igloo, let me enlighten ye with the top five coolest things you can do at The Ice Hotel.


1. Airport Transfers

At this point, you have read the heading and are probably wondering what lavish or outlandish vehicle could possibly pick you up from the airport in Kiruna and drop you off at the Ice Hotel. A hummer? A snowmobile? Some Swedish cross-country skiers? Alas, no. But you can have a team of adorable huskies come pick you and three friends up for a dogsled transfer to the hotel!

The dogsled airport transfer is not cheap, but it is an experience unto itself and should definitely be considered if you want a very original method of getting from A to B or have a thing for dogs, sleds, snow and adventure.


2. The Ice Bar

For those of you who drink, you are in luck. The Ice Hotel crafts an awesome bar made of sheer ice every year and serves all of its mixed drinks in glasses made of ice, cut straight from the Torne River. For the hypochondriacs (I’ll save you the google: people who are scared of germs) in the crowd, the ice has been tested and verified bacterium-free before it is cut into the glasses you drink out of. The bar itself has a mascot named Mr. Fuzzy who happens to be the portrait of a lion that overseas the goings on in the bar area. There is comfy seating adorned with animal hides (probably reindeer, I did not get a proper look) and plenty of space and music for both personality types.


Ask for the off-menu drinks and make sure you keep your glass so you can break it later (for fun of course!)

3. Lingonberry Juice

Yeah, yeah: "oh this sounds so boring! ’Tis but juice!". Well, guess what? The idiom: 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do', is very applicable here. Backstory: in Sweden, there is a concept known as "allemansrätten" or 'Everyman’s Right" which essentially grants anyone the freedom to roam the land, sail the water, camp, and forage for food, pretty much anywhere in Sweden (this custom exists in many nordic countries). This centuries’s old edict is still just as strong today and as Lingonberries grow quite commonly all over Sweden, consuming them in various forms is a part of life. The Ice Hotel is no exception and makes it a habit of providing hot Lingonberry juice at opportune moments throughout your stay; from your first arrival to your morning wake up call, Lingonberries will be in your face and I recommend you be Roman.

A Song of Ice and Fire? 

A Song of Ice and Fire? 

4. The Ice Hotel Art Suites

Every year, ice artists and sculptors (from the cold parts of the world), descend on the Ice Hotel to showcase their woks in the form of exquisitely detailed suites made entirely of ice and snow. Each room has its own theme, ranging from the instantly recognizable 'Casablanca' with its Moroccan geometric embellishments, to the more subtle (and frankly unsettling) 'Faces' room which contains a 3m tall face staring at your bed while another ten faces gaze down at you from the ceiling, judging your dreams and snickering at your snores. The Ice Hotel commissions thirty five unique suites every season and offers one of the few places in the world where you can essentially sleep inside a sculpture.


5. The Northern Lights

The Sámi people have inhabited the northern portion of Scandinavia for a millennia and developed their own belief system, much like any other people, around their environment (think :sun gods, weather gods, ocean gods, etc). In this case, the Sámi people believe that the Northern Lights are the sparks flung from the tail of a fox as it bolts across the sky and represent the souls of fallen relatives. 

At this point you may be scratching your head over how we just went from a solar particle phenomenon to foxes, but just bear with me and I will connect the dots! The Sámi people stem from the northernmost portions of Scandinavia which, as some of you geography buffs are aware of, contains a little country called Finland. Now here’s the line between the dots: The Finnish word for 'Northern Lights' is 'Revontulet’ which literally translates as 'fire fox'. Voila! Pretty cool, right? Anyway, this is the main event at the Ice Hotel, this is the once-in-a-lifetime experience you drag your loved ones with you to see. Our guide advised us that it needs to be cold, clear and dark to experience the revontulet at its finest, so bundle up, be patient and keep your eyes on the sky.

Breathtaking Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland!

Side bar:

The Northern Lights experience at the Ice Hotel comprises three arctic adventures rolled into one. First off, you take a snowmobile on a 2.5 hour journey from the hotel to a secluded wilderness camp with Finnish style cottages. Secondly, your guide will prepare dinner for you and talk about the history and culture of the area. Last but not least: The Revontulet will hopefully make an appearance (I still have a lawsuit pending with the Swedes over the clouds that ruined our chances but I doubt I will hear back from them).


Until next time - BAP

Ice Hotel Kiruna review

Week 1: NYC. My New York

New York from Exchange Place in jersey

And so it begins. The first themed week of the is dedicated to where it all started: New York City. 

To be honest with you, I never even dreamed of living in NYC. I was born in Baku, the capital of a small country Azerbaijan, then spent years studying and working in London and thought that is where my true home is. Later, fate brought me to Miami, and then finally to the ripest of them all - The Big Apple. 

I moved here just over a month ago to live with the love of my life, Ben. This city is very special to both of us. Here we had our first date and made our most beautiful, first memories together. 

As an introduction to Ben (who I will probably write quite a bit about on this blog) and myself, I will give

you a glimpse of what we did during our first week together.  Hopefully it will help you to plan your own romantic (or just fun and single) little adventure in NYC!

I still remember how I walked out of the apartment on the Upper East Side where I was staying, and saw Ben for the first time in June of last year (we ‘met’ via Instagram two weeks before the actual date night). From a very first seconds we knew that was IT. We fell in love so fast and deeply that after just few hours together we could not imagine spending our lives without each other. He planned amazing dates for us and made me feel like the most special girl in the world.

So as I have promised, below I am sharing best places my boyfriend and I visited on our first week together in New York:

Times Square kiss, NYC.
Couple in NYC. Ulia Ali


On our very first date Ben surprised me with premium tickets to The Book of Mormon and we had a blast! Being one of the most dedicated musicals lover, I recommend to you my personal top 3 currently running musicals you wouldn't want to miss:

1. The Book of Mormon

You will like it if you enjoy: watching South Park, dark humor

It is not high on my list of favorite musicals, however, The Book of Mormon is definitely a must-see. You will probably end up singing its tuneful and funny songs for many days after!

2. Phantom of the Opera

You will like it if you enjoy: passionate love stories, corseted beauties, opera

I have seen the film adaptation of this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical more times than I can count, read the novel by Gaston Leroux and had Phantom of the Opera music on repeat on my iPod. Safe to say I am a tiny bit obsessed with it. Beautiful decorations, intriguing love story and soul-touching songs. What else could you wish for?!

3. Wicked

You will like it if you enjoy: stories about magic, Wizard of OZ, the colour green

For a long time I was postponing buying tickets to the Wicked musical, but it was so much more than I expected. The set was truly magical!



Board Game Cafe - The Uncommons

We stumbled across The Uncommons cafe when we were walking around Union Square. The cafe has more than 500 games you can play while sipping on your coffee or wine. You pay only $5 to play and choose whatever you want to eat or drink from their menu.

Ben and I were so excited to try and see all the different board games. At the end I walked up to a group of students sitting in the cafe and asked them to join us to play Cards Against Humanity. I love that game and Ben had never played it before, so it was a perfect choice. This game will make you cry from laughter, but it is definitely not for prudes or people who get easily offended, so beware! 

By the way, my boyfriend liked it so much he actually went on Amazon right after and bought all the expansion packs of the game (including the un-official Cocks Abreast Hostility). Now it is pretty much our go-to game and we often play it with friends.

Uncommons board game cafe in New York

The Empire State Building

The ultimate symbol of NYC. Ben took me on top of The Empire State Building on our third date right after a romantic dinner. At midnight! Kissing on top of one of the most famous buildings in the world and overlooking an impressive view of Manhattan at night should be on everyone’s bucket list!

Immersive Theatre

My friends know that I am absolutely crazy about immersive theatre experiences; especially the ones created by the British theatre company, Punchdrunk. I have been to their The Drowned Man play in London at least 5 times (unfortunately it's not running anymore), but they have a show in New York called Sleep No More which is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth story which takes place in the fictional Mckittrick Hotel

Immersive plays are like walking inside a dream (or a nightmare) or participating in a video game. It is a dense, intricate world with a story you can explore by following any character or actor you like. You can walk around the highly detailed and realistic sets, and you may even be selected to have a special 1 to 1 interaction with one of the characters. If you are ever in NYC make sure you check out Sleep No More. It is one of the first things I recommend to literally everyone who visits New York

Forbidden Planet

One of the first things that united my boyfriend and I, was that we are both nerds on the inside. I think we fell in love even more when we entered the Forbidden Planet store with all their Game of Thrones, Assassins Creed, Star Wars etc. souvenirs, figurines, books and graphic novels and were excited about the same things. We even grabbed the same book at one point and it was a very special moment!

Forbidden Planet is definitely a place to see if you like fantasy and sci-fi.

Bonus: it is located next to the Strand which is a huge bookstore with an impressive collection of new and old books.

Forbidden Planet: 832 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

Strand: 828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

New York Costumes

This is another great place near Union Square to check out. It is a huge costume store where Ben and I tried all sorts of hats and planned a couple of future Halloween looks together. 

Address: 104 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg, as NYC holds a lot of great, unique and charmingly strange places to visit. I will try to explore and write more about them in the future. What is your favourite spot or experience in New York?

Comment below, I would love to hear from you!