Day 1, 2 & 3
It’s that time of year again, where A Girl, Her hubs and a suitcase go exploring the world. This year we channeled our inner Viking to embark on the Nordic wonders of the world. First stop Oslo. But, first-just a brief word on the travel logistics. We started the journey in Tampa, Florida. A rather uneventful and quite pleasant half-filled plane took us directly to Frankfurt, Germany. With a Dr. prescribed “happy pill” on board, this girl alongside her hubs slept almost the entire flight. Flight anxiety usually percolating like a hot cup of Sanka is the norm for this nervous ninny, so the tranquil plane ride and much needed rest was an appreciated surprise. Additionally, the final short leg to Oslo went just as smooth.
We picked up our adorable Peugeot and nestled our bodies in the heated seats as we made our way through Friday evening rush hour traffic. The rain was pelting down as the slick road challenged the hubs keen driving skills. But, off in the distance, blue skies emerged and the sun slowly started to appear, a friendly and inviting welcome greeting.
Stone walls flanked the highway displaying jagged rock as rolling hills and mountains peeked off in the distance. On a tree lined street, as auburn colored leaves slowly tickled the ground we approached our hotel –Saga Hotel http://sagahoteloslo.no/. The unassuming, charming 19th century dwelling is our residence for three nights. It is a stone’s throw from the hustle-bustle of the city center, but situated in a chic, upscale, neighborhood with a young and energetic vibe.
We got ourselves settled in our quaint and cozy room, took much needed showers and embarked on a mission for food. The hotel suggested Agra Indian Restaurant http://agrarestaurant.no/, as traditionally The Girl and her hubs love to dine on Indian food the first night of any European excursion. A 10 minute walk later and we were sitting amongst the fragrant, spicy aromas of mouthwatering Indian cuisine. The meal was hot, flavorful and deliciously satisfying. The service was good. The meal was pricy and indulgent, but seemed to be in line with the inflated prices that seem to pervade Norway that we have seen so far.
From there, bellies full, feet sore and jet lagged we trudged on back to the warmth of the hotel for a nice night’s slumber.
Day 2 /Oslo
Our first real full day in Oslo began with remnants of sun poking through the curtains. After an uneventful shower scene (yours truly usually has some catastrophic international incident such as the Hong Kong shower flood of 2015, the Milan coffin sized shower event of 2014 or the Hubs bidet assault of 2016 in Turkey that would make the Sultans blush….) But, no issues here-thus far. We crammed our way to the crowded breakfast area, teeming with hungry and ambitious young Norwegians fully embracing the concept of free breakfast.
We made our way through Karl Johans Gate where the Royal Palace and the accompanying park called Slottsparken dwell http://www.visitoslo.com/en/activities-and-attractions/boroughs/city-centre/#! Lush green spilled out from the grandeur of the palace and it seemed every Norwegian was out soaking up the last remaining sunny days left- rambunctious dogs, enthusiastic kids and kissing couples all out enjoying a splendid Saturday.
We made our way to the National Art Gallery of Oslo http://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/. There was a special exposition on Japanese Art that was truly enjoyable. The highlight was the notable Scream painting from Edvard Munch http://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/. Of most interest were the annoying patrons, that took side by side pictures depicting their own agonizing version of the tormented face. This traveling twosome was no exception, displaying their unique version of this representation. All in all the museum was top notch, entertaining and well worth the visit.
As we piled out on the busy street, we made our way down towards the water. We stopped at a Norwegian version of Starbuck’s called Wayne’s Coffee http://www.waynescoffee.no/. Wayne could have picked up a few tips from Starbuck’s. However, the stop served dual purpose as we replenished our energy with a light snack, hydrated and refueled-for this brief stop would carry us over for many hours.
The sun was smiling down on the Norwegian peeps and according to the happy young blond faces-everyone was fully taking advantage of this gift from the climate Gods. We made our way to the pier, where outside restaurants were surrounded by ques of eager diners. Grateful for our light snack, we pulled up at comfy lounge chair/bench and took in the scene. We sat there for a long time, many moments in silence just relaxing the day away-a welcome respite in this thriving energetic atmosphere.
We walked on further down the wooden boardwalk, looking out at the blue sea, an isolated lighthouse in the distance-like a lonely soldier protecting its people.
It took many steps, some foul language and a stern pep talk from the Hubs to get me moving and in the direction of the hotel. For dinner, we went a couple blocks down to a bar/restaurant called Homan http://www.homanbistro.no/. As a vegetarian, my trips always involve preparation and research of the food in the region. For Norway, my potential prospects were limiting, so I really prepared for the worst. I have so far enjoyed the food and considering I thought my choices would be fish or reindeer, neither have I had to choose from. At Homan Bistro, the vegetarian options were scant. However, the very savvy Hubs asked if an omelet could be made. A couple audible grumbles from the waitress later, and Voila- I had a delicious omelet with mozzarella and tomato served in a hot piping skillet. We dined by cozy candlelight amongst a small crowd-the Hubs happily slurping his fish soup. Again, the prices were a bit steep, but were pleased with the meal and the service.
After dinner, we took a stroll as the dark autumn night settled in. The last remaining heat of summer slipping away as cooler weather just ever so slightly chilled the air. We stopped at Deli de Luca http://delideluca.no/ -an upper scale convenience store of sorts. We indulged in passion fruit sorbet for a bit of sweet pampering and then made our way back to the room to call it in an early night.
Day 3 Oslo
I awoke upside down, disoriented and sore. I guess all good things -when on vacation. I quickly got myself together preparing for our last real day in the “big city”. Another breakfast with the rest of the eager beavers, fighting like a real Viking over the last waffle (not really, but this crew is a feisty bunch and they do take their breakfast quite seriously). We got in our temperamental Peugeot and drove the 2 miles to the Viking Ship Museum https://www.khm.uio.no/english/visit-us/viking-ship-museum/ situated in Bygdoy https://www.visitnorway.com/listings/bygd%c3%b8y/2785/. It is an island literally right off the city center of Oslo. However, as you enter this region, there are cows and farms and it is anything but the energetic pull of the city. With impeccable timing we arrived a minute before the museum opened. As we breached the entry way, a tour bus of approximately 100 enthusiastic tourists dispersed, camera snapping ready to embrace all things Viking. On a serious somber note, the museum holds 3 ships from the 9th century. These 3 ships are sacred to the Norwegian people. The ships were used to transport the dead of high ranking chieftains. The ships are truly pristine and the chronicling of the excavation was meticulous. Several selfies later, a quick rampage through the gift shop, fighting off the rambunctious tour group, a splurge on “Moose Droppings” (a delicious cinnamon chocolate covered candy) and we were off.
About a mile down the road, we went to the Norsk Folkemuseum http://norskfolkemuseum.no/en. However, unclear as to how to pay for parking, we became annoyed and abandoned the idea only hitting the interesting gift shop for some overpriced souvenirs. Back to the hotel, we dropped off the car and walked on foot to Vigelandsparken http://www.vigeland.museum.no/en/vigeland-park. Within walking distance, it was a nice stroll through the quiet neighborhood. We were not alone in this idea as swarms of people were out enjoying the pleasant weather and family time. The park is comprised of 212 bronze sculptures depicting the many stages of life. Rising high up in the air 56 feet tall is a phallic sculpture called the Monolith. As one gets closer, it is easy to see they are over 100 human figures entwined around the column. There are many layers to the grounds with colorful gardens and vibrant flowers. Of particular interest/annoyance was a large population of school aged children, tethered to their phones, eyes planted on the screen chasing after phantom pokemons. Apparently, the Pokemon Go app was launched recently in Norway. Whatever the case, and however ancient this makes me sound-I was sad to see young children (and a lot adults) completely disengaged with life and careening through the park with no regard to anyone or anything around them. It almost felt as if it was the takeover of zombies, shuffling and scuffling through the park, eyes fixed on their phones.
A few words I would like to share on my interactions with the local people of Oslo. Although, I am viewing everything through a small microcosm- I have made note of some fine characteristics of the Oslo-nians. There is a true sense of family and community seen. Young nuclear families, sturdy and able bodied, sun kissed with the glow of innocence and youth. The mothers seem to display a juxtaposition of strength and will; however, they also seem to embody fragility and delicacy that is truly powerful to witness. The fathers have a child-like energy, fit and athletic as well. But, in contrast, they are in control and seem to be in charge of this unique family dynamic. I have been perplexed with the culture and feel of the city as strangely, it all seems so reminiscent of somewhere in Europe I have been. It holds the romance and allure of many of the European cultures. However, oddly, as familiar as this all feels, it also holds a mystery and a unique nature that I simply at this point cannot put my finger on.
Tune in for more travels of Nordic delight,
Well, let me set up the scene. Sitting in a cozy lodge, candlelight glowing, my view is of a massive Fjord. Below is a waterside village-a nautical still life, breath- taking and truly awe inspiring. So, let’s just rewind back 24 hours so I can catch you up…
Last night to wrap up our Oslo adventure bucket list we had pre-purchased tickets for a cello concert at the Oslo Opera House http://operaen.no/en/. We ubered to the other side of town. The Opera House is a unique architecture that is iconic of Oslo. It has a large open modern feel to it. It is right on the water and its characteristics are meant to represent a beach as its concrete sidewalks slant down towards the water. The whole area is fairly new and is under a state of growth and rejuvenation. The Cellist we were seeing was Sandra Lied Haga. We had front row, center seats. The very talented and entertaining artist gave a heartfelt, stellar 2.5 hour performance with piano accompaniment. She played a diverse selection of classical pieces with emotion and passion. We sat next to a lovely couple from Seattle and swapped travel stories. My neighbor promised to kick me if I started to doze. Which was a good thing as the artist was directly in my eye view as I could literally count the stitches in her dress seam.
After the enjoyable concert we ventured down town and made our way to Tommi’s Burgers http://www.tommis.no/ – a greasy spoon dive that only serves burgers and fries. We pulled up a crusty stool and devoured a pretty darn delicious veggie burger for me and carnivore choice for the Hubs. Fancy concert followed by greasy burger…That is how we roll- A perfect 24 hours from start to finish.
Ok, now let’s discuss the horror that the Hubs & I encountered upon the return to the hotel room. The weather in Oslo had been unseasonably warm. We cracked the window open to enjoy the fine Oslo climate. Apparently, during this action a nasty, ornery and possibly terrorist fly (the insect with wings) came in. This fly was like no other. This creature buzzed around our ears teasing and torturing us as we prepared for bed. He circled back and forth, tormenting us. We laid awake throwing socks and towels at this airborne nuisance. We left the light on hoping he would stay by the glow of the lamp. At some point, I think he got sleepy and slept with us. But, when I awoke, the buzzing began all over again. Exhausted, annoyed and merciless, I swatted at the little guy who must have been just as pooped as we were because I finally did get him. It was a battle of wills that has forever changed my view on those feisty little buggers.
We left Oslo slightly sleep deprived due to insect harassment, but a renewed spirit to embark on the rest of our journey. Our next stop was Eidfjord. We set up our navigator for the scenic route. Well, this course did not disappoint. With classical music providing perfect background harmony, our little Peugeot hugged the sides of the curving highway. The topography changed as our voyage continued. First, it was plush greens, cow fields and farms. Then, it progressed to scaling mountains, monolithic in height. From there, it turned into boggy fields and coastal communities. We took a break and got gas. The gas station was smack in the path of the tour bus. As we pulled up, a busload of 50 eager camera clacking tourists rushed out, hit the bathrooms, rushed the troll section, ambushed the snacks and then as quickly as they came, they were off. I am certain this will be the theme of the trip. God Bless these lovely people really. They are a pleasant harmless bunch contributing greatly to the Norwegian economy.
After many, many photo ops, roadside pop outs and nauseating driving footage, we finally made it to our home for the night- Fjell & Fjord Eidfjord Hotel http://effh.no/. The quaint hotel is perched up atop a hill, flanked by Fjords on both sides and the glassy mirror lake below. The hotel is not overly fancy, but has all the creatures of comfort needed. The big sell is the million dollar view. Upon arrival we took a nice walk. We witnessed a double rainbow, which was pretty magical as it bounced off the fjord.
We settled in and ate dinner at the hotel restaurant. We sat window side in the shadow of the Fjord as the sun set- dining on creamy vegetable soup and mountain trout (the hubs). The hubs ended on a traditional note enjoying the tasty veiled peasant girl http://www.mygourmetconnection.com/recipes/baking-desserts/other-desserts/veiled-maidens-apple-cream-parfaits.php -a concoction of apples, cream and biscuits.
Which leads me to this moment- in the lodge, recapping my delightful Norwegian adventure.
Tune in for more tales from a Girl, her hubs and a suitcase as we make our way through Norway…
I may have gone on a tangent (remember the Fly??) in yesterday’s blog entry, which completely distracted me from sharing the real excitement which was the drive to Eidfjord. I touched on it yesterday, but it really deserves more than 2 lines. The fascinating part was the landscape changed slowly transitioning from one scene to another- each one more interesting and unique than the other. For the majority of the journey, we were the only car on the road. An occasional truck zipped on by- shuddering our little Peugeot. At one point, we entered an area that had an outer space essence to it Hardangervidda http://hardangervidda.com/. We were as high as we could go, the land was flat and the terrain was unlike anything I have ever seen. There were no signs of life and the desolate ground absent of any fertile earth. There were miles and miles of rock fields akin to a quarry almost with big boulders, tiny pebbles and everything in between. I had a fleeting moment of panic due to two ideas that kept circling my brain in an ADHD fashion.
One was what if we blow a tire? Surely AAA does not have road service here. As handy as the Hubs is, I have never tested his tire changing abilities. The second more pressing concern was prior to our arrival, in an effort to understand Norwegian culture better-the Hubs provided me with a DVD for entertainment pleasure called The Troll Hunter http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1740707/. This “documentary” centers around the premise that there are evil trolls out there that kill people. The movie is gory, scary and has a Blair Witch Diary feel to it. More importantly is, one eerie region looked very similar, almost identical to where many of the frightening events occurred in the movie. Not one car passed us during this time, which heightened my already simmering paranoia.
This morning we woke very early (5am), the massive Fjord greeting us through the moonlight. We rose at this odd hour to view via youtube.com the presidential debate going on in the USA between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The hotel TV programming has been slightly disappointing. Having said that it really is important to disengage on vacation, but keep one “toe in the water” per se on current events.
The breakfast at the Fjell & Fjord Eidfjord Hotel http://effh.no/ was pleasant. We noshed on thick, brown bread and eggs and made our plan for the day. The friendly hostess and helpful chef came to the table to help us navigate a local excursion to a waterfall close by. Something in translation must have been off, because we never did find the waterfall. We did however, circle the Fjord and end up down a gravel path to nowhere. We circled back, took some last photos in the quiet and serene stillness.
We made our way in our trusty Peugeot to Bergen. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. In the old seafaring days it also served as the capitol (which is now Oslo). Getting here was a different driving experience than yesterday, but still quite entertaining. We made our way through countless tunnels, one after the other, corkscrewing through the mountains.
Arriving in Bergen, the light drizzle turned into a steady rain. We are staying at the Hotel Park Bergen http://hotelpark.no/en/. It is a white picturesque dollhouse perched on the very steep top of a hill. What it provides in charm it lacks in practicality. Rolling down a 180 degree angle with a suitcase full of dirty laundry was certainly a potential. We were greeted by a stoic receptionist who further informed us that all parking in Bergen requires a paid for parking sticker that they will gladly assist us with by including a substantial fee to our bill.
We then were informed that the hotel does not have an elevator. Fortunately, we were only on the second floor. Thank GOD for that lovely, strong and able bodied Hubs of mine. The room however, is quite lovely. It is a small shoebox, with an even smaller bathroom. But, it has free WIFI, a balcony and beautiful views of Bergen and mountains off in the distance. I have a desk facing a large window facing the street and feel like a modern day Norwegian Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City shout- out) as I tap away at my prospective great novel.
As the rain continues to gently fall with no signs of letting up-we chose to lay low, do necessary tasks such as laundry and stay dry-momentarily. One word on Norwegian engineering and their dryer….It took over 7 hours to dry and still all our laundry was moderately damp.
After laundry duty and a brief nap for yours truly, we set off for dinner. At the recommendation of our hotel we went a few blocks down and had some yummy Thai food at Allehjornet Thai http://xn--allehjrnet-5cb.no/. The food was pretty straightforward Thai cuisine. We have ironically been averaging the exact price for our meals-roughly $62.-which strangely varies from a 4 star restaurant to pub grub. The encouraging piece is we packed lots of snacks from home and have been conservative in our indulgences, all in an effort to appreciate our one good meal each night.
After dinner, the rain diminished for a brief moment. We walked down to the city center and then of course, the rain kicked in coming down steady and hard. Umbrellas in hand and yours truly grumbling the whole way, we took in a bit of the Bergen atmosphere. Only the real diehards were out, but apparently this weather is nothing new for them. They all seemed well equipped with stylish and useful raincoats and sturdy boots. Yours truly may have been lacking in one of these essential components. But, nonetheless, our days here are limited and we made the best of it.
Hopefully, tomorrow brings sunnier skies. However, I have a sneaking suspicion-tomorrow I will be soggy as well.
Thanks for tuning in for my Norwegian Adventure,
Day 6 Bergen
Well, A Girl, her Hubs and a suitcase are at the halfway point now. The Hubs and I have truly embraced the Norwegian way of life. Clean air, that Viking spirit and herring at every meal (just joking on the last part). This morning we awoke to grey skies, but no rain. After last night’s continual precipitation, this was a welcome event. We had a delicious breakfast offered by the hotel, with that same delicious nutty brown, thick bread that has followed us to every stop point so far on this trip. It is incredibly fresh, texturally delightful and consistently tasty. It definitely is lacking the GMO deal that our USA bread seems to be loaded with. At the end of breakfast we struck up a conversation with a lovely mother and son (Lyn and Jake-shout out). Of most interest, first of all they are from NJ (Yeah, Jersey!). But, even more interesting is they are traveling the world and have been for 6 months. We shared many of our travel experiences and they had numerous to add of places we have not been. Their stories and their experience were captivating. I truly could have curled up by the fireplace and listened for hours. However, they had a boat to Denmark to catch and we had to embark on our last day in Bergen. We parted ways and regretfully I did not get their information.
Down the hill we went to the KODE art museum http://kodebergen.no/en. KODE is a series of art museums all separately housed. The two we focused on was 20th century and Modern. We started off in the 20th century. We essentially had the entire museum to ourselves. With the exception of 30 over-excited rambunctious 5 year olds that would pass through in quick intervals. Quintessential Norwegian braided blond hair, adorable rain coats and squeaky galoshes. The loud crescendo of children’s voices would echo through the silent halls bouncing off the priceless pieces of art. It was jarring at first, but quickly a hush would fill the air. This happened rather periodically throughout the visit.
Despite the interruptions, the museum was truly enjoyable. Most of the work focused on Edvard Munch http://www.edvardmunch.org/. He was a remarkable and prolific painter with real raw talent. We circled through the museum twice just to savor every last enjoyable minute.
From there, we ventured right outside the grounds of the museum where a lake and a park were situated. We had a light snack and took advantage of the sunshine that started only briefly to emerge. As we finished our snack a very light intermittent drizzle began.
We popped into the Modern art museum. This truly was almost appalling. Phallic strange art instillations hung from the wall, weird placenta like bags of watery biohazard muck were placed on the floor all in an “effort” to represent art. Now, I always say art is subjective, but really some of this was just downright repulsive. For nothing else, it served as a “palate cleanser” for our brain.
From there, we walked with the busy lunch crowd over towards the dock where the hanseatic http://www.hanse.org/en/hanseatic-cities/bergen.php buildings are located. These buildings date back to the 1700’s but the history behind this culture goes almost as far back as 1070 AD. It is a “must see” when in Bergen as this is the iconic view that everyone relates this city to. We walked around the area exploring all its nooks and crannies, which surprisingly goes well beyond the facade of the buildings. We popped in a few of the stores and were horrified by the inflated prices for essentially Norwegian bric- a- brac.
At this point, exhaustion and foot pain were consuming this gal. We stopped into a Starbuck’s, plopped in a chair, and refueled our mind, body and spirits with some hot beverages. We sat there for over an hour, just taking it all in.
Just right up the street was the funicular Floibanen http://floyen.no/en/floibanen/. It is a quick 10 minute ride up 320 meters to sweeping views of Bergen below. At the top, are temperamental Billy goats vying for attention. They seemed to be quite a show stopper for the tourists. Strangely, from the high vantage point, we could clearly see our hotel, which coincidentally, from my writing post, I can see up there as well. We snapped some obligatory selfies and then proceeded to take the funicular down. It was roughly $12 US dollars per person for this activity. If in this area, I think it really is a must do as it gives one a real perspective of the entire area.
At this point, it was dinner time. We ate at Boha http://www.boha.no/en/- a very warm and inviting setting with good service and an elegant but comfortable atmosphere. I immediately informed the waitress I was vegetarian as there were no vegetarian items on the menu. I was accommodated with a simply divine beet and goat cheese salad. This was followed by a chick pea stew that was not bad, but not exactly good. The Hub was a bit more daring with a 6 course tasting menu. The dishes were miniscule in size but diverse in variety. All items were beautifully and delicately displayed-an edible masterpiece comprised of 2 bite fulls. The meal ended on a fine note of a cheese plate, which yours truly unburdened the overstuffed Hubs and consumed- as he enjoyed the petite dessert offering. This meal was indeed our biggest splurge, but our only significant expense for the entire day.
From there, we trudged on back up the hill back to the hotel to pack for our continued journey through Norway tomorrow.
Tune in for more tales of Norwegian adventures
It’s been 24 hours blog free and I am ready to bring you up to speed. Yesterday we left Bergen and made our way northeast towards our current destination Balestrand. We winded our way through a steady deluge of rain through long, dark cavernous tunnels and narrow, curvy breath- holding hairpin tight turns. The roads were slick and at times barely accommodated two cars. But, drivers respectfully pulled to the side followed by a wave of gratitude between cars in polite motorist comradery. A ferry took us and our car across the waterway as well, which was an exciting first for yours truly. After 3 hours on the road, we made it Balestrand our destination for 2 days. This is a popular summer resort that mostly caters to bike riding, hiking and water activities. None of which we will be partaking in. Nonetheless, it is a welcome port in the storm (literally). It is comprised of a small one street village with a couple hotels, a grocery store and not much else. After the hustle bustle of Oslo and Bergen we were grateful for some much needed downtime. We are staying at the beautiful Hotel Kviknes http://www.kviknes.no/, better known as the “jewel of the Sognefjord”. The Swiss style hotel built in 1877 brings you back to a time of opulence and luxury. The décor and original part of the hotel (which we are staying in) have unique furnishings, lounging areas, and sweeping views of Sognefjord. Our room has a large balcony with a beautiful Victorian overhang that covers from the rain. The fjord mirrors off the calm water, with snowcapped mountains way off in the distance.
We rested a bit, taking advantage of the fresh clean air and view. The rain continued to patter in a rhythmic tapping, but this did not deter yours truly and the Hubs from enjoying every minute of quiet and solitude.
Later that evening, we made our way to the main dining room. Masses of tour groups shuffled on through, all with that glassy, tourist glaze- camera happy, touching everything and oblivious to anyone not in the tour group. They annoyingly consumed every inch of spare space within the dwelling. They spilled out onto the several rooms adjacent to the dining area, depositing empty tea cups on century old furniture. The Hubs akins there pervasiveness with determined termites-munching and chomping their way about with gusto (or whatever is included in the cost of the tour). This is all meant in good fun as the Hubs and I back in our novice travel days went on a splendid tour and truly understand the mechanisms of survival within the tour group dynamic. It is a very different travel philosophy that what we subscribe to. We appreciate our freedom, the desire to explore independently and the absence of rigid structure. For others this suits them fine-to each his own, in the world of travel.
The good news is we were wise and made a later dinner reservation, so the dining room cleared out rather quickly. The dining room is massive in size and ready to serve hundreds. There are 3 dining options at the hotel. One is their bar. The other 2 are in their dining room. One is a pretty significant smorgasbord and the other is a 4 course set menu. We chose the smorgasbord for the first evening. Long tables display several categories of traditional Norwegian cuisine. There are numerous salad choices, a large array of fish options all indigenous of this region, hot dishes and vegetables. There is also is a large presentation of desserts. Conservative rationing, we paced ourselves knowing soon, we would need to wedge our rumps back in that airplane seat.
As we sat by the window, feasting on our provisions, the rain continued to trickle down. Full and satisfied, we sat by the fire listening to the intermittent snap and crackle of the firewood. The last of the tourists had long been tucked in their beds-leaving us alone in this time capsule of the lounge. I could almost hear the echoes of laughter from long ago of Norwegian socialites enjoying the jovialities of this luxurious setting.
Abandoning the blog for the evening, sleep beckoned us as we dreamed of fjords, Norwegian majesty and endless tables of savory edibles.
Awaking this morning, as I stared out the veranda- the sun made a small appearance. Thankful for the small reprieve of rain, I stood out on the balcony in the cold mountain air-grateful for all my travel opportunities. The Hubs puts so much time, effort and planning in these trips-and truly all I do is pack my suitcase and pipe in every now and then some requests peppered with complaints. Hence, the appropriate naming of this travel blog- A girl, her Hubs and a suitcase.
We made our way to the dining room for breakfast. Having slept in just a bit, we missed the tour group brigade-as they were all headed out for the day. The hotel was eerily quiet and the dining room even more so. A wide spread of breakfast items, as well as some reminiscent items from last night’s buffet made an encore appearance.
After breakfast, we made a stop at the tourist information center http://en.sognefjord.no/visitor-information/balestrand-tourist-information-p1361913. We devised a plan, map in hand ready to take on the fjord.
We got in that little Peugeot of ours and took Route 7-the tourist route –Gaularfjellet almost the entire way up Sognefjord. Again, winding, narrow roads, penetrating rain, mind harrowing road sharing ensued. My passenger view included waterfalls powerfully gushing down, roaring rapids robustly coursing under bridges, green pastures with dotted farm houses and sheep hugging the slanted hillside. Each turn up the mountain, despite the weather deterioration was more beautiful than the next. At some point, again, panic began to settle in my brain. Not used to this terrain, weather or height, all scary scenarios enmeshed themselves clogging my corpus callosum from any rational thought. The Hubs was more concerned with the gas tank gauge. Due to both concerns, we snaked our way back down, never fully, regrettably getting to the peak. (However, we will tomorrow-so please tune in).
Back to the hotel, we did some internal roaming around. Interestingly enough, there is actually a museum within the hotel – The Norwegian Museum of Travel and Tourism-https://www.visitnorway.com/listings/the-norwegian-museum-of-travel-and-tourism/12554/. This interesting museum takes one through the history and impact Norway has had on tourism. There are many interesting and colorful photographs of different regions of Norway. There are 4 very interesting films with nostalgic footage. We were literally the only people in the museum and enjoyed the couple hours we spent there. We ended our time with some hot beverages in the coffee shop overlooking the scenic Balestrand. We struck up a nice conversation with a local couple. We were invited to a gallery to view a local artist’s photographs of Balestrand. We popped over there briefly to see the photos.
For dinner we chose to go to the bar- Balholm Bar- http://www.kviknes.no/matvin/ instead of the potential gluttony of the food feast experienced last night. We were the only diners in the bar. The hotel itself had a palpable calmness to it, until a barrage of tour groups pounced through the doors on a mission to invade the buffet line. The Hubs dined on fresh blue finned tuna apparently just caught due to the ban lifted on catching tuna (according to our new found friend from the art gallery, earlier today). I enjoyed a stellar Caesar salad with the special of the day- a baked potato cooked to perfection with Norwegian details that put this spud as the best one I have ever had.
From there, we idled a bit in the lounge having coffee. We eventually made our way back to the room enthralled with re-run episodes of Modern Family, the only English speaking program we have found in days.
It’s been a fantastic trip so far, with so many highlights and beautiful images. It is hard to really relay them appropriately. I hope I have succeeded thus far in achieving this.
Tune in for more Norwegian adventures…
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru
This morning we left Balestrand and the glorious Hotel Kviknes http://www.kviknes.no/, 2 nights at each hotel has been very enjoyable for us. The driving itself really is the entertainment as the Norwegian landscape is an ever-changing kaleidoscope-each scene more breathtaking than the next. And, just when you think, well surely I have seen every possible splendor that this country has to offer-something more magnificent is looming right around the bend.
When we left this morning, we drove back up to the mountain peak to where we attempted yesterday. It was a zig zag wild mice ride ascending the elevations. The sun was not out but there were little signs of rain. We reached an overhang that overlooked the mountain. The views were slightly limited due to clouds and the start of rain. Regardless, we finished what we had started the day before and felt closure at least on that task (oddly enough, we were one turn away from the peak when we abandoned our mission yesterday).
We continued our trek to our next destination. For much of the drive, we were alone on the road. Every now and then another car whizzed on by, a tractor leisurely maneuvering down the road and a herd of sheep caused a photo op/road block as well. The backdrops changed drastically throughout the journey. The waterway rode shotgun the entire way. The aquatic activity varied from furious and ferocious waterfall, to fierce and dramatic river flow then mild and tame lake. We oohed and ahhed our way through the multi shifting views. We passed grass thatched roof houses, endless cows, thick proud forestry and the lushest green emerald fields a hue so rich and deep it is almost indescribable. The sun popped out for a brief short time, glaring in our eyes, a welcome friend that vanished as quickly as it had appeared. During that time, we ejected from our car seats to take advantage of all the photos we could take.
After 3.5 hours we eventually made it to our destination for the next 2 nights- Hotel Union Oye. http://www.unionoye.no/en/. The beautiful wooden chalet from 1891 lies between two massive mountains. It is based in the small village of Oye and according to the website it has been a favorite venue of royalties, writers and lovers. All the rooms are named after notables who have visited here. We are in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle room- the Scottish writer who created Sherlock Holmes. The décor throughout is dark and wooden with knights and moose heads, ornate chandeliers. One important note here- there is no TV. This is not a huge deal, but without Wi-Fi, I would feel completely off the grid. Fortunately, Wi-Fi is free. The room is really a tiny little box. Antique furnishings are everywhere, dangerously close to destruction for this clumsy twosome. We have inhabited every square inch of the room which has taken a way a bit of the romantic allure-however, the view more than makes up for this. A large mountain drop serves as our view with frisky cows showing off their calisthenics.
There is not much else as far as we know in this remote area, so luckily for us dinner is served here in the hotel. We made a late reservation as they have two formal seatings. There were many diners eagerly waiting their meal as we arrived to the fancy dining room. The setting is lavish with beautiful décor, candlelight and superior service. I won’t bore you with the courses, but the food was really delicious. They made vegetarian accommodations for me as it is a set menu. Of particular pleasure, I enjoyed a glass of nonalcoholic cider that was described to me as “only the finest of apples from the purest of orchards”.
After dinner, everyone retreated to the spacious lounge. The fireplace was toasting up the room. Leather plush seats were occupied by the other diners. At the center, one of the hotel staff began to tell the interesting history of the hotel. Sadly, for us we had no idea what was being said as it was in Norwegian. The audience of about 20 seemed to be thoroughly enjoying this. After some applause, a gentleman began to sing various songs that pleasured the crowd even more. The Hubs and yours truly due to heat and not being one of the “cool kids”, decided to sit in another area, another fireplace providing a bit better company than the indifferent crowd. I tapped away at my travel memoirs amidst nostalgic black and white pictures of a time of Norwegian splendor.
That’s it for tonight…
Tune in for tantalizing tales of Norwegian fun,
This morning I awoke to the mooing of cows. I am not sure I have ever uttered (a little cow humor) those words ever. As my husband lay upside down fast asleep in our tiny bed (sleep has been challenging at times)-I took a minute to really take in the moment. Here I am almost at the end of my Norwegian adventure and have seen so many -too numerous to name-beautiful things. I have lost the ability to creatively describe the intensity of the beauty further. If you are a Facebook pal, you will probably have your news feed clogged up with all my videos. This is only due to being the easiest medium for you all to fully grasp in some way how magnificent it is. I do apologize for the overabundance and saturation of footage, but it is also a video journal for me as well.
After my pre-dawn cow obsession, I shuffled my weary, achy bones to the shower. The shower has a 5 foot window full length overlooking the mountain and cows. Who would have thought you could suds and enjoy your view?
We made our way to breakfast where the same crowd from last night’s dinner were enjoying the morning meal. After breakfast, we got in our Peugeot and the plan was to go to Alesund for the day. Alesund is a town north of here approximately an hour. Its big draw is the architecture is all art noveau. The Hubs and I love this time period of décor (think the Great Gatsby). We took the sinuous roads leading to the ferry. We had to wait 30 minutes for the ferry. It was 32 degrees out, but the sun was shining brightly warming up the cold air. The water was completely still and there was virtually no sound present except in the far off distance the forceful stream of a waterfall.
As we crossed over onto the street from the ferry, our GPS wanted us to get back on the ferry once again. As we yelled and fought with our navigational system we realized that possibly we would need to get more than one ferry to Alesund. Confused, disoriented and no one to ask, we abandoned the idea.
Just a travel side note and tip here….Sometimes plan A does not go accordingly. I learned many trips ago, to just run with the punches and go to an alternative plan. Many times these spontaneous choices turn out to be the most memorable.
We decided to just drive. We had nowhere to go and no one to see. We took in the Glacier landscape, the old rustic farm houses and the many, many miles of absolutely nothingness. No other cars on the road just clear skies and sunshine ahead.
After a while, hunger kicked in. We stopped at a roadside picnic table facing a babbling creek and a bucolic stone bridge. We ate a light lunch we packed while warming our faces with the penetrating sun.
Afterwards, we followed a walking path through the woods. We took a moderate sized hike through the rocky and at times water logged terrain. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day that we had not planned. Back to the hotel, we walked around the beautiful grounds admiring the view of the waterfall, the romantic gazebo, the sleeping lazy cows and the quiet solitude.
After, we sat by the fire as log embers burned a luminescent red. The Hubs drank tea as classical music piped in the background. We were the only ones in the room, with the exception of the hardworking female staff in their traditional Norwegian apron and dress, tending dutifully to the firewood.
From there we took a luxurious nap and awoke just in time for dinner. Again, we dined in our hotel for a lack of any other supper options within 100 miles. This evening was a much tamer crowd of 2 other couples. The waitress remembered I was vegetarian and the chef provided me with sumptuous choices. The meal consisted of 3 courses starting with an amuse bouche. Many advanced culinary techniques were observed in the presentation. Everything was skillfully prepared, beautifully presented and tasty. The cost was absolutely un-reconcilable in my brain. It was an uncomfortable amount that lacks rationality. However, some important noteworthy items here—lunch each day was a light snack mostly of items we brought with us. Second, our actual costs for the day consisted of gas, ferries and tolls. Since we left the big cities, there has been no shopping, museums or Starbuck’s. I am sharing this with you because if ever in Norway—know and budget for the crazy inflated costs of food. We were aware of this before coming and tried to prepare mentally for the staggering prices.
Anyways, this does not take away from any of the experiences that we have had-I just share this as a cautionary tale for the future traveler.
I am finishing today’s entry as I sit by the smoldering fire in my cushy leather seat, Hubs at my side. My biggest dilemma entailed no caffeine free tea at the buffet. As the Hubs pointed out to me, this is pretty insignificant in the scheme of life. I am so grateful for this trip, my experiences and this venue to share it with.
Tomorrow is our last day. It is a full day of travel back to Oslo. The Hubs is killing it as the chauffeur on this journey. He is also one of the many things in my life and on this epic expedition that I am so thankful for.
Tune in tomorrow for the final entry and re-cap of my Top 10….
Final Day Summary and Re-cap
Today marks the end of this unbelievable adventure. This morning bright and early we left the beautiful Hotel Union Oye. I really cannot say enough good things about this fine hotel. Although it was a splurge, it was a once in a lifetime setting and experience all in all.
We embarked on a journey back to Oslo-an 8 hour expedition. As we made our final turn around the monolithic glacier by for the last time, I tried to memorize every nook and unique cranny in this giant wall of rock. My expectations for this leg of the trip was low as to me it was utilitarian and essentially served to get us back to our starting point. This portion was anything but…
The temperature was 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but the powerful glow of the sun penetrated the white dewy frost on the ground. As we ascended and descended the mountain ranges, an eerie fog rose from the valleys. As we passed by Jotunheim National Park http://jotunheimen.com/ we were in awe staring out the window speechless. The Hubs clutched the cold steering wheel as he stole side glances at the magnificent vista that stretched for miles-a panoramic splendor of aquamarine water that glistened against the sun’s rays against the scaling Fjords. At several hair raising moments we drove through one lane tunnels for miles not knowing if another car was looming around the curve. That part of the driving excursion was stressful, but the Hubs negotiated these encounters with ease.
Our next stop was Bismoen for a rest stop. However, the roar of a waterfall drew us close to the edge. The powerful water stream bounced off the jagged rocks in a glorious symphony. On the grounds were stellar walking paths and a bucolic grass thatched roof restaurant. We took a couple snapshots; grateful to be able to have accidently encountered this majestic wonder.
From there we drove by Lam and noticed a Stave http://www.lom.kommune.no/lom-stavkyrkje.137345.nn.html. There are only a few remaining churches in this wooden Nordic style. We sadly thought this would not be in our itinerary as logistics prohibited it. However, we took a fast U-turn, looked left, then right and took it all in. A somber cemetery flanks the church as well as sweeping views of Lam and a lovely gift shop. As I have not stumbled upon any shopping on this trip, I took advantage of the few minutes the Hubs allowed me and got my Norwegian shop on.
From there, we grew closer Lillehammer the home of the 1994 winter Olympics- http://en.lillehammer.com/. The traffic began to pick up, our one lane journey creeped up to 2 lanes and although this region looked pretty from the passenger seat, the Hubs weary from driving got in serious driving mode.
We made it to our final destination Hotel Quality Gardermoen http://www.gardermoen.no/reise/hotell-gardermoen/quality-airport-hotel-gardermoen/ Staying here is purely for convenience as we have an early flight out of Oslo in the morning.
Just a final re-cap ….
Top 10: (not necessarily in this order…)
10. The hospitality and settings of all our hotels
9. Sitting on the lounge chair on the Oslo harbor
8. Vigeland Park in Oslo (The park of statues)
7. Eidfjord and our yummy meal
6. Waking up to the cows in Hotel Union Oye
5. National Art Museum in Oslo & KODE art gallery in Bergen
4. The beautiful and powerful landscape of Norway
3. Sitting in Starbuck’s in Bergen people watching & relaxing
2. Kvicknes Hotel, smorgasbord and our lovely room and view
1. The lovely kind, polite and hospitable people of Norway
In summary, Norway is an amazing country rich in culture, art, pride, cuisine and landscape. My experience has been Norwegian’s are proud, strong and industrious, respectful and composed, cultured, refined and family oriented. At the center of it-Norway is a nation of superior growth, prosperity and vast beauty. I will forever carry a piece of Norway in my heart reminding me of the simple splendors in life.
Join A Girl, her Hubs and a Suitcase for a mini get- away in November to Los Angeles, California.