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29 August 2015

Norway Field Report 8 – Day 8

Well – that’s it!!  Vacation over and it’s pretty safe to assume that I won’t be back - not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I can’t imagine the circumstances that would ever bring me back to Norway. Places like France, Italy, Switzerland are guaranteed for return visits – but Scandinavia…. who knows.

I really enjoyed the tour – it was very comprehensive and very complete.  I feel like I saw the best that Norway has to offer.

The people on the tour were also great – we met a lot of nice people and had lots of interesting conversations.  Ironically, we also felt that this tour also included more slow people than ever before, people who could not keep times straight, could not follow simple instructions, were easily confused and for whom getting on a bus was so strenuous that it exhausted them.

Today we had an included city tour that included Frogner Park (a.k.a. Vigeland Park) and it was  amazing.  Having a local guide showing us around was invaluable!!!!  She explained the story behind the art, the meaning of the sculptures, the theme of the statues… SO WORTH IT! I’d recommend a guide for a visit through this park to anyone. It was a highlight for me.

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We stayed with the tour to visit the inside of City Hall and then dumped them to go off on our own and hit the places that were left on our list.

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First on our agenda was to visit the Norwegian Resistance Museum which was very interesting.  It’s SO PACKED full of information that you could easily spend 2-3 hour there; all day long if you can read Norwegian!  Not all the exhibits were translated into English, but nevertheless we enjoyed it and felt like we learned something. 

I loved the setting too - it looked like a quaint villa in the woods. Best of all: it was FREE!

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We were done around 12:30 and had to decide if we’d have lunch first and then go to the second museum on our list (Viking Ship Museum), or do it the other way around.  My guidebook recommended a nice place to eat near the museum so we decide to take the ferry over, eat, then hit the museum…  but we never found the restaurant so we just grabbed a hot-dog to stop our stomachs from grumbling, visited the museum, took the ferry back and THEN had lunch…  it was after 3PM by then!

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The Viking Ship Museum was just OK as far as I was concerned.  Nice, but not worth the detour. 

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We could have visited this museum and two others (The Kon-Tiki and Fram museums) with the group, but we didn’t want to spend all day indoors.  We also saved money doing just one museum on our own this way, because the price of the ferry and the museum entrance combined was less than 150 NOK and the group excursion was over 500!

What we saved on the museums we quickly “invested” in lunch. It was a GREAT meal in the Aker Brygge area which is the old shipyard turned trendy area with shops and restaurants along the waterfront. We had a wonderful full-service outdoor meal, but it cost a FORTUNE!! I know I’ve been complaining a lot about sandwich stops and buffer dinners, but Norway is SOOOOOO EXPENSIVE that I have to be honest and admit that it’s really the way to go because having “nice” meals everyday would mean mortgaging the house.  The prices are really prohibitive. 

My guidebook warns: “Think in kroner and avoid converting the Norwegian price into your home currency, otherwise you really might wind up emaciated”

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After lunch, my husband needed a rest so I set off on my own to soak up as much of Oslo as I could! I did manage to twist his arm to go out for one final nightcap after dinner.  No pictures to show you of that because I took them all with my Iphone so you’ll have to wait for Picasa to see them.

And so, that’s it, vacation over.  I’m really to go home now – I feel satisfied with everything we did.

I leave you with a picture of the Parliament building to tie you over….

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28 August 2015

Norway Field Report 7 – Day 7

Slow start / great finish! As I type this, I am enjoying a night-cappy-glow after (now that we are back in Oslo) my husband caved and agreed that we should go out for a drink after dinner.

Have you seen the 1965 movie “Heroes of Telemark” starring Kirk Douglas? If so, you’ll appreciate where we went for our first start today: The old power station in Vemork that is now the Norwegian Industrial Workers’ Museum.

I enjoyed the scenery, the optional walk from the car park across a 84m high suspension bridge over a gorge (also the location of the highest land-based bungee jump in Norway) and the trail up to the Museum more than the museum itself.  I felt like they rushed us through the entire thing, showed us a movie and kicked us out – but I suppose this is the kind of thing you have to endure when you are on a bus tour.

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The next stop was lunch next to the Heddal Stave Church which is one of the top sights in Norway. 

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For lunch, we had elk burgers – I found the meat very tasty, but there was a raspberry-yoghurt-like sauce in it that I didn’t anticipate. My husband said the taste of the sauce negated the taste of the burger; I didn’t dislike it but I agree it was weird. (you can see pics of the burger on Facebook or Instagram)

After lunch, we headed off back to Oslo. We arrived later than I would have liked (just after 3PM) but it still gave us enough free time to knock one of the things I wanted to do off my list before meeting up with the group again for the next excursion: The Fortress.

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When finished with that scenic stroll,  we stopped for drinks and some people-watching.

The optional excursion tonight was dinner with a panoramic drive.  The restaurant was up in the Holmenkollen area which gave us great views over Oslo, including a visit to the Olympic Ski Jump.

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I was very very very very hesitant about buying into this dinner excursion because:

  • Tour dinners are not that great
  • They feel rushed
  • It was expensive!!
  • The marketing of these things tend to oversell the positive

In the end – no regrets! It was a great night out!

We picked fish for dinner (the other option being pork) and it was trout.  EVERYONE at our table agreed it was not trout, but rather salmon.  Perhaps Norwegian Trout is salmony??? In any case, whatever it was, I thought it was delicious! It exceeded all my expectations. 

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After dinner, we had drinks on the terrace overlooking Oslo and a full moon!!  Fantastic!

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Back at the hotel, just before 9PM, I think my husband read my mind before I even had to ask and he agreed that we should go out for a night cap. YEAHHH!!!!  We found a place with a heated terrace and a view of the Opera House in the distance…  the BEST way to end the day!

(for more pictures, again see Facebook or Instragram / or wait for Picasa).

Tomorrow is our last full day and the weather forecast is perfect!

27 August 2015

Norway Field Report 6 – Day 6

Not much to report today, we spent most of the day on the bus driving from Bergen to Rauland.

In the morning we had a short visit to the Steinstø Fruit Farm to have some cider and apple cake. The rest of the day was riding on the bus, but included some nice scenery and a few scenic photo stops to stretch our legs. We also spotted our first cat!

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Views from the ferry dock in Norheimsund:

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Folgefonna Glacier:

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Låtefoss (There must be a zillion waterfalls in Norway, I swear!):

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And me, documenting all as we go along!

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We had a short stop to grab a bite to eat (at this point, I’m calling them Sandwich-Stops!) and arrived at the hotel around 5PM.

These are ski cottages on the hotels grounds:

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That’s it!

26 August 2015

Norway Field Report 5 – Day 5

We arrived in Bergen around 11AM and since we did the Flåm Railway yesterday, and did not sign up for any of the optional excursions today, we had all day to ourselves. We “dumped” the group and set off on our own.

Don’t get me wrong, we are enjoying the tour! But in larger cities where there is enough to do I always find it better to be in charge of our own time and make our own plans.

Exploring the Bryggen area is one of the top things to do in Bergen, I thought it was cute but if you are not into shopping the whole thing only takes about 10 minutes to visit. That doesn’t mean it’s not a nice place to explore – just not as “OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING” like everyone says it is.

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What WAS amazing were the views over Bergen from Mount Fløyen. It rained in the morning but stopped around 10AM and the forecast was no rain until about 4PM, so as soon as we saw the skies clearing up we jumped on the Funicular and went up to get some pictures.  It was such excellent timing because by the time we started down again (we only spent around 10 –15 minutes up there) the clouds were rolling in again. We were incredibly lucky.

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After this, it was time for lunch. We “resto-shopped” a bit but by 1PM we decided we had to stop and decide on the spot because it was getting late and we already knew we needed time to rebuild our appetites for dinner.  So, we ended up somewhere rather touristy but we didn’t really care. It was nice enough to eat outside and there was table service. All good!

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We spend the rest of the afternoon just wandering and soaking in Bergen – it’s a very quaint place and it was really nice to just set our own pace.

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We stopped for drinks when the rain started again, then went back to the hotel to unpack. We headed back out around 5PM but the rain was picking up so the wander was a not as pleasant…  and my husband’s umbrella broke!

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Supper was in the Fish Market – seafood is the thing to have here… I can’t get over the size of the King Crabs!!!! They are MASSIVE! over 3 feet long easily.  There was some on the menu, but the price was 1149 NOK which is about 183$!!!  Norway is insanely expensive, yes, but that’s just nuts.

It’s hard to tell in the pictures because you don’t really have an idea of scale and there is too much reflection off the tank but trust me – they were GINORMOUS!!!!

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Our meal was great, no complaints, we had grilled cod. 

JUST SO HAPPY IT WASN’T A BUFFET AGAIN.  I understand that when feeding a large group of people simultaneously, a buffet makes the most logistical sense (sometime there are 2 or 3 groups at the hotels) but to me there is something cheap about a buffet and they are not always the most sanitary things…

The rain should start cleaning up by tomorrow - fingers crossed!

25 August 2015

Norway Field Report 4 – Day 4

Well, the nice weather and blue skies left us – we had a rainy day today…  not rainy enough to ruin the day, but admittedly nature viewing is better done when skies are clear!! This is the last rain-free shot we managed before the weather changed around 9AM.

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We got “up close” to a glacier today… not close enough to touch, but closer than I was anticipating.  It was a comfort-stop at a cafe looking up at the Bøyabreen glacier. Examining the post cards for sale, it’s not as majestic as it once was, but it was still very neat to see!

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After that, we visited the Norwegian Glacier Museum which I think was skippable - more fun for kids than adults, the audio visual films were boring and the Ötzi display felt redundant since we visited the Ötzi museum in Bolzano in 2014 (that museum I DO recommend! wholeheartedly!)

I thought the most interesting part of the Glacier Museum was the building itself.

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Lunch was another pit stop in the middle of nowhere… we had sandwiches at the mall in Sogndal. I don’t care for shopping centers even at home – much less on vacation! It really bursts the being-on-a-foreign-vacation bubble. I had ham & cheese again, with bread so dry it could be mistaken for crackers.

We later drove through the Lærdal tunnel which is longest road tunnel in the world – 24 km.

The afternoon was taken up by the Flåm Railway optional excursion. We were supposed to do this tomorrow, but because of a fire in a tunnel a few weeks ago and subsequent detours the bus must now use, the itinerary had to be changed around and it made more practical sense to do this today. 

The train ride was “cute” but expensive (72€), still not with skipping because the alternative would have been to stay in Flåm which is little more than a fabricated shopping village for cruise ships.

There was a Celebrity Ship docked in Flåm – and it blew my mind! SSSOOO HUUUUGE!

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Hard to take nice pictures from a moving train:

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Because of this addition into our day, it makes it a long one – fine by me! Better this than working right? But a few people on the tour were a little annoyed because we won’t reach the hotel before 8:30 – 9PM.  While I generally don’t like eating so late – it’s only one day, and supper is (yet another) buffet so dinner doesn’t need to be big and long.

The best part of shoving this activity into today is that tomorrow we’ll have more time in Bergen to enjoy the town – we easily gained 3 hours.

As I type this, we are cruising the Nærøyfjord but it’s so rainy and foggy the there is nothing much to see! We have 2 hours on board so we’ll walk around a little later in hopes of a nice glimpse of SOMETHING, but I figure that since tonight will be especially late, it was a good opportunity to write up my blog for the day.

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I plan to upload this post at the hotel tonight, so far we’ve been lucky with the wifi…  except now that I’ve said it….