Tag Archives: Bergen

Disembark Bergen, Bryggen in the rain, Norwegian Air, Stockholm

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On Top of the World

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Norwegian Snow Angle (with skirt)

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Solvaer Snow Man

Ellen takes the Cod Liver Oil, Back Across the Arctic Circle

Ellen vs PomPoms

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Mai Tai & Apple Pie in Norway? Ja

Disembark Bergen

Yesterday was a long lazy day. Ellen and I finished packing on schedule and put our bags near the elevator and headed off for breakfast.  We met Kristen on our way and ate together.  Dave slept through breakfast. 

The ship’s breakfast selection is varied and good.  After 11 days of the same buffet, I was a bit tired of it.  The muesli and yoghurt was good, egg with a single  very thin slice of bacon was good, the fruit was good.  Still some  additional variation day to day would have been welcome.

We sat in the Observation Lounge watching the mountains lining the fjord pass by.  The weather was gray and foggy over the mountains lining the fjord; good indoor lounging weather.  Dave arrived and mentioned we could store our “hand luggage” with Inge in a room beside the auditorium.  Dave, Kristen, and I headed back to the lounge.  Ellen arrived about 10 minutes later.  No surprise, she chatted with Inge for a while. 

Sometime later the four of us had lunch together.  Again a buffet and again with the same foods, though this time there were trays of last night’s cheese cake.  Yum.  I must say the deserts served on the Hurtigruten ship were great. 

We spend the afternoon before disembarking in the observation lounge.  At some point it was time to retrieve our hand luggage.  Not wanting to lose our seats, I kiddingly suggested I stay and have Ellen get my bag.  I thought this was funny because my bag was quite heavy with a DSLR camera, lens, batteries, binoculars, water, power cables, and some clothes.  I thought Ellen and Kristen would balk, but they headed off to get “our stuff”.  Later I was told there was a struggle about who would bring the bag up: Dave, Kristen, or Ellen.  If my spy is correct, Kristen and Ellen had the bag between them, Dave took it from them, and Kristen then took it away from Dave to carry up the three flights of stairs.  They could have taken the elevator, but we typically chose not to.  Thanks Guys for letting me be lazy.

Bryggen

Rather than taking the bus from the ferry terminal to Bryggen, we took a cab.  I think it was less expensive for two and it was much faster than waiting for a group to disembark, find their baggage, and mount the bus.  Then too with the luck we’d had with busses, it might never had made it to Bryggen.

We went to the Radisson Blu, dropped our bags, and walked Bryggen.  The shops along old town were open today!  Yay!  One shop had a variety of Dr Zhivago hats.  I thought one would be perfect for Ellen.  We stopped in.  The shop was a specialty shop that had mink, fox, gray fox, and other furs.  The furs are so soft, colorful, warm, and have such beautiful colors it is difficult not to be seduced by them.  We wear leather and eat meat from cows regularly.  It would be easy to justify purchasing a fur hat thinking that the fox was farmed for its fur just like cow is farmed for its meat and leather.  We did not purchase anything.  I’m torn even now. The gray fox fur was so gorgeous.

We walked bryggen, had lunch in a converted bank with dramatic columns, retrieved our bags from the Radisson Blu, and took the bus to the airport.  The bus stops right in front of the hotel.   The trip to the airport was a bit of a surprise.  We stopped to pick up passengers three times.  Ellen began to question if this was the “express to the airport”.  At one of the stops I pointed out the Express Airport sign at the bus stop. 

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Bryggen Coastal View

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Bank now a Resaurant

 

Norwegian Air

I had checked into Norwegian Air the night before.  I tried to do it on line from a PC and was directed to load an app on my phone.  What? No online checking from a computer?  I tried a number of different pages then gave up and loaded the Norwegian Air app on my phone.  The app is the key to check-in and to getting a e-ticket on your phone.  It works remarkably well.  We went through two checkpoints with the e-ticket bar code.  No passport, no fumbling for papers, just that barcode on the smart phone.

This flight was an hour and a half.  We had emergency seats and had an extended discussion about emergency scenarios, people’s behavior, the military, and life in general before takeoff. The flight was nearly empty!

On arrival at Stockholm we found our bags right away and headed to information.  How do we best get from the airport to Glama Stan, Stockholm’s old city.   The tall blond attractive woman at information suggested we take a taxi explaining that taking a bus for two then a taxi from the town center would cost just about as much at a taxi.  Further taxis had a standard rate of between 500 and 600 SEK (roughly 50 to 60 USD).  That simplified our dilemma.  Outside there were maybe eight rows of taxis waiting for customers.  The two drivers to our right began shouting “Taxi Here” and “Where do you want to go”.  I took a few steps toward them, realized there were eight rows available, and chose a nice looking volvo for our taxi.  The driver was very good and very fast getting right to our hotel.  Even so it was a long drive of about 40 minutes in little traffic.

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What is that Yellow orb in the Sky?

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Af Chapman at Port (er Starboard)

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Waiting for the Bus

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Touring Stockholm

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Great to be Right in Front (not us!)

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Only in Sweden.

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walk About

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Bells Rang Out, Not on the Hour!

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Stockholm’s Observatory near the University

 

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Tegnerlunden

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Historic and Interesting Architecture is Everywhere

 

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They Love love Love lights in Stockholm

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The Glass Obelisk, Cranes are Everywhere

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The Swedish Moose Everywhere Too!

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Not Just Any Kebab!

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More Architecture and Sunlight!
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View Over a Glama Stan Bridge

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Walking into Glama Stan

 

 

First Hotel Reisen

First Hotel Reisen sits right on the water on the island of Glama Stan. Carlos checked us in and suggested we get a larger room for “a few dollars more”.  He said we wouldn’t be happy for three days in the small room I had booked. “Yes, you will have a view of the water”.  Ok, we took his advice.  The major question at any hotel is: is the bed comfortable.  The foam beds on the Hurtigruten ship was really comfortable.  The beds at the First Reisen, felt soft at first, but firm under the softness.  In fact the bed is extremely comfortable.  Again, just as on the ship, the bed has two twin size comforters rather than one king size.  This works extremely well.  There is no issue with one spouse dragging the covers off the other, which of course never Never happens with Ellen and I!

First Hotel Reisen is a modest and inexpensive hotel.  Our room has very little storage for our clothes and the bathroom shower is very small.  The room and bathroom are modern with tile and very nice fixtures. All in all I like the room.  The restaurant has an abbreviated menu though with Swedish Meatballs on the menu, we were pleased with our dinner.  The side of mashed potato was most welcome and the  gravy on the meatballs was quite delicious.

Breakfast at the hotel is included and was quite the surprise.  The buffet was extensive and sufficiently different than the cruise ship’s that we loved the food.  Fresh bread, cheese and cold cuts, fruit, rolls and sweet rolls, three juices, cereals and yoghurt, eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, pickled vegetables, and coffee.  Scrumptious!

Right across the water from us sits the Af Chapman, a 3 masted square rigger now used as a youth hostel!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Af_Chapman_(ship)  This serves as a landmark for us as we walk a few of the islands of Stockholm.

Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus

This morning we took a “hop-on-hop-off” bus to see the city.  The brochure states credit cards are accepted and tickets can be purchased on the bus.  Not so.  Our driver looked confused, shrugged his shoulders, pointed to a bin of red things, and motioning us aboard said,, “take one”.  The red things, were ear buds to plug into the sound system that describes points of interest en-route!  We found our way to the top deck and listened to the pre-recorded guide of the city.  We rode past the the Stockholm Palace, the Vasa Museum,  the ABBA Museum, the pedestrian walkway, Central Station, the shopping district, and the Financial District,  In the 1960’’s old historic buildings were raised to build a modern shopping center.  The plan was to have central shopping in the city with residents living in the suburbs.  This decision is controversial in Stockholm today.

After one circuit on the bus, we rode back to a stop near the pedestrian walkway, stopped for a Starbuck cappuccino, then found and walked the pedestrian walkway to the old observatory on a hill overlooking the city and back to Glama Stan. 

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A Glama Stan Bridge

Polpette

We had an early dinner at Restaurang Polpette, an italian restaurant.  Again Ellen wanted soup.  Though soup was not listed on their menu outside, Ellen agreed to go in.  We had mushroom soup, and a salami and red pepper pizza.  Both the soup and the pizza was remarkable.  Unlike the soggy thing I was served in Bryggen, this pizza had thin crispy crust and (bonus) spicy salami.  It was great.

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Ellen Avoiding at Polpette

Our waiter, Louis, was from Lebanon.  He said he would never go back.  It’s too dangerous.  His mother visited and had a very hard time getting back into sweden.  Louis would love to visit the US, but figures he would have a  difficult time today.  I have to agree.  The rampant xenophobia in the US today would create problems.

The sun had set when we left the restaurant and walked “home”.  Stockholm is lit up like a Christmas tree in the evening.  As with so may other wonderful places in the world, I could easily live here.  Unlike in other parts of the world, the women here seem open.  They are much more willing to make eye contact and smile than in the US or even Italy.   On the bus we were told that Sweden is a secular country and that only 9% of the people of Sweden identify as religious.   That is a fantastic statistic.

Tomorrow we will actually pay for a hop-on-off ticket and use the bus to get to the Vasa Museum, the ABBA museum, and perhaps to see a production of Carmen.  It is playing here in Stockholm.  I’ll have to check date and time.  We could “get lucky”.

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Evening Lights

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Carmen at the Opera House?

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Close to, but not The Royal Palace

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Not the Royal Palace, again!

First Hotel Reisen

Our hotel is right around the corner from the Royal Palace. Assuming it is open to visitors, we’ll “drop by” tomorrow.  I want to see the Vasa Museum and how could we not drop in to the ABBA Museum.  We could take a boat tour of the city too.

Stockholm is the largest city we have visited since leaving Paris.  I really enjoy small towns like Bergen, Trondheim, or Tromso.  I can imagine visiting a small town for an extended stay.  I could never live in one.  Big cities, like Stockholm, appeal on so many levels.  I can imaging living in Stockholm. Stockholm, a secular city indeed!

Bergen, Alesund Norway and New Years Eve

Bergen

As promised here are some photos we took while walking the town of Bergen, the 2nd largest town in Norway.

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These old buildings stand at odd angles

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A view inside a shop, all were closed on Sunday

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1702, and not a street number!

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Open and tempting, though we did not.

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Radisson Blu, extremely busy for a wonderful breakfast

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Radisson Blu Bar and Social Club, empty early morning

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Live King Crab, chose your meal!

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The classic view of Ellen, Bryggen, Bergen, Norway

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Boarding the Hurtigruten Ship, Trollfjord

Alesund

I would love to regale you with tales of Alesund, the Art Nouveau capital of Norway, but I cannot.   After a late buffet breakfast aboard ship, we slept through lunch, through shore time at Alesund, and to the announcement for 1st dinner.  Jet lag and our colds had us “down for the count”.   

New Years Eve

There are regular announcements about upcoming events aboard the Trollfjord. One mentioned pre-booking champagne for tonight’s new years eve party by visiting the head waiter at dinner.

We are assigned first dinner seating at table 61.   There we met Dave and Kristen.  Dave is from Battle Creek Michigan.  His daughter, Kristen, is from Chicago.  It was fun for us getting to know them.  Dave is a retired high school science teacher who also coached football.  In his mid 70’s he is healthy and in good physical condition.  Kristen is a management consultant for a Chicago firm.  She is observant and sharp minded, though socially easy going.  The four of us are booked on the “most northern tram ride in the world” tomorrow.  Dave mentioned he’d enjoyed the sauna that has three windows opening onto the sea, and the open air Jacuzzi. The wind-driven rain, mist, and foam was quite cold beating in his face. Once we’re feeling better, we’ll hit the Jacuzzi.

After dinner, which included an abbreviated crab salad, lobster bisque, reindeer with potato, and a wonderful chocolate fudge with a dollop of ice cream.  Serving size was perfect (small). Dehydrated from our flights and colds, we drank a number of carafes of water.  Beer and wine is extra and not included in the cruise.  Wine and beer packages are available, but are only a “good deal” for those who drink a bottle of wine or two beers a day.  Until I’m feeling better, it’ll be water for me.  After dinner I did speak with the head waitress about pre-ordering champagne and it turns out that a complementary glass of prosecco will be available and that pre-ordering is for a full bottle for the evening.  We didn’t pre-order.

Sometime later in our cabin, we awoke to an announcement: “festivities beginning in the piano bar”.  It was now 11PM, we had slept for a few hours.  We found the piano bar and not a hint of a glass of prosecco.  The party started with a pianist and guitarist playing two Norwegian songs followed by our expedition leader singing Summertime.  The pianist and guitarist were accomplished musicians.  Our tour leader butchered Summertime, in an intentionally light hearted way.  Her performance was so startling and unexpected, there was a moment of stunned silence following her performance.  I immediately began clapping, others joined in, and an awkward moment was averted.  Her “singing” broke the ice.  Others were now free to sing along with abandon however they wanted.  In our search for bubbly we missed the sing-along lyrics sheets and “winged it”.  Strangely, my cold deepened my voice and gave it an unexpected timbre.  We had a fun time.

The party moved to the observation deck to watch the fireworks that literally encircled the ship and to have that glass of bubbly.

Happy New Year!

Tomorrow we have our first excursion: a trip on Trondheim’s historic tram, “The northern most tram in the world”.  We tucked into bed with an alarm set for 7 AM to be sure we have breakfast and time to change to catch the excursion bus at 8:30.

More pictures and some video will show up tomorrow, goodnight!

Bryggen, Bergen, Norway

We arrived at our hotel in Bryggen Saturday 12/28 at 5:30, right on time.  “It was a dark and story  night”. The express bus was waiting for us right outside the airport’s main entrance. Frank, our driver,  whisked us off to the town of Bergen.  On the trip we saw a surprising number of Tesla Model S cars going past.

Connections to Norway were less than perfect. The overnight flight from SFO to Paris was dreadful.  I did “upgrade” our seats, though that only meant Ellen and I were sitting together.  I have never had so little leg room, even on a domestic flight.  What has Air France done?  Never again, I will not fly Air France. Period.  On the bright side the flight from Paris to Bergen was pleasant with enough leg room that I slept the entire two hours!

The day before Christmas, we had John, my nephew, and his 9 year old son, Gavin, over for dinner.  Gavin was sick though he assured us he was “not contagious”.  WRONG!  We came down the a heavy cold that matured on our Paris flight compounding an already poor experience.

Let’s return to Frank for a moment.  As we boarded the bus, my credit cards would not work in his machine.  Not one card.  We tried Ellen’s as well.  Everything failed. Now what do  we do?  Frank smiled and said, get on and we’ll settle up later.  Cool.  Our hotel was near the last bus stop.  At the Bryggen stop, Frank patiently reset his machine as we tried a few credit cards.  The first attempt failed,, but the second went through!  We chatted with Frank about Norway for a bit.  Norway is a rich country based primarily on oil and fishing. 

Our hotel, the Radisson Blu, was located directly at the bus stop. It could not have been more convenient.  Our room was modest but with a remarkably comfortable bed, his and her feather down comforters, and a wonderful shower.  This would have been most enjoyable, but for Gavin’s Christmas gift.  We had a meal in the bar/social club: fish soup for Ellen and fish and chips for me. I had a 7 Fjell beer that was fantastic.   Fjelll is pronounced similarly to fjord.  J becomes I.  We slept fitfully hacking and coughing through the night.

The next morning, 12/29, was a Sunday.  As in Boston in the “old days”, everything closes on Sundays in Norway.  We walked the old town of Bryggen, found a drug store to replenish some supplies, and bought a warm knit cap for me.  We took a taxi to the Hurtigruten Terminal to check our bags.  Baggage check-in starts at 1 PM, check-in at 3 PM, and staterooms are available at 6 PM.   Checking our bags we made two mistakes: Ellen failed to check “her” coat (actually the coat that Cynthia lent her) and I had taken my documents our of my backpack and now had to carry them around with me. The lockers at the terminal take three 10 KRON coins.  I had dollars. What to do. Paula, a woman from Madrid arrived at the lockers and she too didn’t have coins.  We chose to share a locker, found a cab driver who gave us change, and Ellen/Cyn’s jacket problem was solved. Our documents went in Ellen’s purse.

Paula intended to walk around from the terminal.  Having never been in Bryggen, we thought we’d take a taxi back.  Imagine our surprise as a tesla cab drove up to the terminal. Yes, I can take you to Bryggen.  We met Sion, who said a single charge overnight is sufficient to run his cab the entire day.  There are very few superchargers  in Norway, though there is one that he uses if he pulls a double shift.  Taxis are everywhere in Bergen.

Walking we happened across the most fascinating fish market I’ve ever seen.  Live king crab was everywhere, many varieties of fish fillets, shellfish, some I have not seen available elsewhere.  Inside there was not even a hint of seafood smell.  It was clean and smelled clean.  There was a bar on one side of the market and a restaurant bay-side.  “This is where we’ll have lunch”, I said.

We passed an Italian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a taqueria, a very eclectic group of mostly closed restaurants.  Ellen wanted soup for lunch.  The Italian place featured “zuppa”.  No seafood for me.  I had a pizza that was barely ok.  Ellen’s soup was good, but not nearly as tasty as at the Radisson Blu.

To get back to the cruise terminal, I suggested we go back to the taxi spot where Sion dropped us off.  We should have not problem having one stop.  Ellen was not convinced and hid from the rain in a doorway.  Within five minutes we had our ride back to the terminal.   Checking went smoothly, we were aboard and in our diminutive cabin shortly after 6pm.

It really truly sucks to be sick while travelling.  It sucks so much more if you travel in the dead of winter to a cold climate.  Norway certainly qualifies.  Even so, the Norwegians and Norway have surprised my with their warmth and beauty.

What? No Photos?  You have Apple’s HIEC, coupled with Microsoft’s fee for the codec, coupled with international internet connectivity.

Norway & Sweden

 

Reservations for our trip to the Norwegian Fjords and Sweden are complete.  I am certain that January will be cold.  We plan to dress accordingly with no plans to freeze.  I hope the Northern Lights are aglow for us.  We loaded up on cruise ship daytime excursions and we’ll take two activities while at the Ice Hotel: a night-time Northern Lights photography outing and a visit with reindeer (thanks to Cynthia for this suggestion)

Now I can “relax” and “simply” plan an RV excursion to Yellowstone NP, Montana, Idaho, Washington State, and an excursion into Canada for this fall.  At some point ahead of our RV trip, I do need to plan out our trip to Europe in the Spring.  With the Blue Danube river cruise prepaid, we’ll shift our attention to Eastern Europe and book-end the cruise with time in Croatia, Slovenia, and perhaps Berlin.

Travel 2018-2019, Norway, Sweden, Northern Lights, and the Ice Hotel

 

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This year (2018) we installed a solar system and that put a crimp in our travel plans.  We’ve talked about an RV trip to Montana, Washington, and Victoria BC, but have no solid plans as yet.  I have to get that planned out or it may not happen.

Bergen

Bergen, Norway

Last year we took a very inexpensive trip to Vietnam through Gate 1 Travel.  To our surprise, we thoroughly enjoyed that trip.  Since then Gate1 has regularly sent teaser brochures advertising their “specials” for the week or the quarter.  Most times we glance through them thinking some would be fun to do in the future.  Last week Ellen pointed out a Northern Lights cruise offered by Gate1 in Norway.  It is unusual for Ellen to get excited about trip planning in the early stages.  Further research was in order!

Trondheim, the docks

Trondheim, Norway

The “Gate 1” cruise would be on either MS Richard With, MS Nordlys, MS Nordkapp, or MS troljiford in a standard inside cabin.  Look up any of these ships and you’ll find they are operated by Hurtigruten.  Hurtigruten is a Norwegian cruise line that operates a fleet of ferries that plies the Norwegian Fjords.  All are working ferries that make numerous stops up and down the coast.  They feature stops at a few ports of call with excursions.  A few of their cruises are billed as “Adventure”,  “Northern Lights”, or “Astronomy”.

I got all excited that I could book directly with Hurtigruten, get an outside berth, and opt for excursions at some of the destinations.  Great.  Now for the logistics: which destination city should we fly into: Bergen, Oslo or Stockholm?   What time of year is best to go? Some research showed that Stockholm is located on islands and is much more picturesque than Oslo.  Bergen is the port of departure and a direct flight there with an overnight might be preferable.  There are regular flights from Stockholm, Sweden to Bergen, Norway where we would board a Hurtigruten ship.  There is also a flight from Oakland Ca to Bergen with a stop over in Paris.  Cool.

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Northernmost Tram Ride in the World, Trondheim Norway

During my research Ellen mentioned wanting to visit the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden.  This complicates things.  We now have three legs of a potential “Northern Lights” vacation: 1. Stockholm, 2. Hurtigruten Cruise, 3. Ice Hotel.   In which order do we do this and during which month?  If we save the Ice Hotel for the last “leg”, do we fly to Bergen and do the cruise first or fly to Stockholm and spend a few days there before taking the cruise.  Do we do a round trip cruise.

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Arctic Ice Park, Kirkenes, Norway

Initially I thought we’d visit the IceHotel in November and actually booked a warm and cold room and a few excursions. Then I realized that there would be little snow on the ground for dog sled rides and a November cruise would push our return up against  our prior plans for Thanksgiving.  On Monday of this week (6/25) I called the Ice Hotel and cancelled our reservations with no penalty.  The fellow I spoke with was most gracious stating because I called within the two week window after booking there would be no problem with a full refund.

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The Northernmost Town in the World, Hammerfest, Norway

My thinking now is to book the Ice Hotel in January after our “Astronomy” cruise on Hurtigruten and either before or after spending a few days in Stockholm. Also of interest is a side trip to lulea, Sweden.  Lulea is the most northern city in Sweden.  It lies on the coast and is becoming a tech hub for the country.  We’ll most likely fly from Stockholm to Lulea and take a train from Lulea to Kiruna and the Ice Hotel the following day.

Art Suite 365, Ice Hotel Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Today it looks like a round trip flight Oakland to Bergen, overnight Bergen, take a 12 day Norwegian Fjord cruise with a zodiac trip in the arctic for the Northern Lights. Then we’ll fly from Bergen to Stockholm and tour Stockholm for a few days before flying on to the Ice Hotel.  We’ll stay first in a warm room, then in an “Art Suite 365”, a new addition to the hotel.  It is a cold room with an attached warm bathroom and seating area. A warm room right off the Ice Room?  It seems far to civilized!

All arrangements are now booked except a hotel for an overnight in Bergen and one in Stockholm for two nights.  We’ll be in Trondheim on new years day!