Two Months on Tour

Considering that we didn’t take an official summer vacation this year, the last two months have been a whole lot of all over the place. BV and I did spend five days in Oberbayern with his parents in July, but that was more like another extended weekend than an actual vacation. I’m hoping we make up for it next year but that all remains to be seen.

So what did I get up to in August and September (besides baking?), click on to find out…

Continue reading

Advertisements

Norwegian Road Trip 2017: Getting Historical in Oslo

While in Oslo, we decided to take advantage of the Oslo Pass deal. Since we had three days, we went with the 72-hour option, which costs about €76. As I said in the previous Oslo post, we didn’t have a huge agenda while in town, but thought that this would give us enough free and discounted admissions to decide things fairly spontaneously… a good choice given the unpredictable weather! Additionally, we were staying outside of the city center, but this gave us full access to the public transportation system and I do so love riding a tram. Want to see what we got up to? Click on!

Continue reading

Norway Road Trip 2017: 3 Days in Oslo

Our last few days in Norway were spent in Oslo. We spent one night at an Airbnb close to the airport, then said goodbye to our rental car and hauled all our luggage into the city on the train.

Our next Airbnb was a little bit different to our previous rustic and Hytte choices, but this was exactly the kind of Scandinavian cool I wanted to come home after a day in the big city. I mean, who doesn’t want to be greeted by a sassy Barbie when they walk in the door?

Well hi to you, too!

The whole place was colorful, cool, and fun of fun touches. We sadly didn’t meet our hosts as they were on vacation (and spend most of the summer on their boat on the Oslo Fjord anyway, which sounds like a fairly decent life), but they left a binder full of recommendations for the neighborhood, as well as the very-cool nearby area of Grünerløkka and the rest of Oslo.

I was very into my morning coffees on the balcony, and especially out of this mug. Granted it’s probably more applicable on the average workday than mid-vacation, but when in Rome (Oslo). 🙂

I didn’t have a huge to-do list for our time in the city, but the most important thing came first. I had been carrying around a fairly large box in my suitcase for our entire trip, as I had very unwisely tried to send my friend ECS (of the gorgeous Fjord wedding) a package riiiiiight when they moved house. At least it had come back to me*, and we’d have the chance to hand-deliver it to their snazzy new apartment.

They were heading out of town to the family Hytte the next day, but after a coffee and a tour of the new place, we strapped the baby into the stroller and she walked us all through the city center and harbor area. Neither BV nor I took a ton of pictures, considering we were busy chatting, and still had a few days when presumably we’d see the palace again (we didn’t), but oh well. If you want to know where the Norwegian Royal Family lives, Google away!

So what did we see?

A very moody-looking harbor

A fairly colorful food truck set-up next to the moody harbor.

A sauna boat.

A highly-questionable statue (note the reflection if you’re confused).

A dramatic square.

More colorful buildings… a favorite anywhere.

After the baby reached his wind tolerance, we parted ways, and BV and I headed back towards our apartment. E had recommended a few places in our area as well, and since we had worked up a thirst in all that fresh air, we swung by a microbrewery for a drink (or two).

Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggerei

I wish I could tell you exactly what we had, but a year later, I’m afraid I’m out. I can tell you that the bartender at Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggerei was knowledgeable and helpful, and that the patrons at the bar were eager to quiz a real-live German on what German beers he’s had, so that’s something, right? It was a nice place to rest our feet and enjoy some local beverages… so if you go, take better notes than I did. Which were zero notes. It’s a low bar.

Our second day was mostly museum-focused as we had bought an Oslo Pass, and I’ll have a post about that coming shortly, but we did do a bit of wandering around our neighborhood as well.

I particularly enjoyed this store nearby our tram stop. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve stopped to buy flowers and lamented the lack of jeans available!

After we filled ourselves up on culture and history, we decided to take our host’s advice and visit Lille Herbern. In the information that they left us, they described it as “one of the true pearls of Oslo,” and I really couldn’t agree more.

For starters, this is how you get there…

After we left the Viking Ship Museum (which itself is a bit out from the city center on the Bygdøy peninsula), we walked a few minutes in search of this pier. Shortly thereafter, a small boat appeared and for a few krone we hopped on board for a 1-minute ride to another island. The boat shuttles back and forth all day, and he deposited us on the other side just as enormous rain drops started to plop down on our heads.

We sprinted to the buildings in front of us and found more boat shelters, and, a bit wetter than we planned, the restaurant.

The Lille Herbern restaurant from the other side of the storm.

We only planned on a drink because we were saving our meal out in Oslo for our last night, but I regretted that a bit because everything smelled (and looked) pretty great. We enjoyed our drinks on the patio, safely undercover from the weather blowing in and out, and watched all the boat traffic.

It was late afternoon when we arrived and it filled up quickly. Next time, I shall be eating. But eventually we ceded our table and stretched our legs for a few photos before taking the boat back to Bygdøy.

BV getting those water and rainbow shots.

Old boats, new boats, all the boats!

We did very nearly lose our heads to some seagulls while walking around because we were so fascinated watching a guy prep his boat that we didn’t notice how close we were to nests and baby birds. We avoided incident, but if you go, watch out for the little guys! And eat dinner and let me know if it tastes as good as it smelled!

Back on the peninsula it was back on another boat that runs between the harbor and the Bygdøy museums. The weather continued to blow around dramatically and the Oslo harbor architecture is really built for that contrast. It was dripping and blowing like crazy so we don’t have too many pictures, but believe me, a stormy day is not always a bad thing.

En route back to our apartment we decided we were hungrier than we thought (darn you deceivingly long Nordic summer days), and stopped off at a brew pub that we had noticed this morning. As it turned out, after we ordered drinks we learned that their chef was sick, so it was just another drink this time. Oh well, it was another cool pub with a snazzy-industrial interior and all kinds of interesting things on tap.

And now that I’m googling this again, it seems the food reviews aren’t great anyway. So I guess it’s good that we just picked up pizza on the way home?

For our last morning, we decided to again take our host’s advice and walk down the river all the way to the city center. Piles of cool cafes with great coffee, parks, and literal waterfalls made this so different to any other city walk I had ever taken before.

I really cannot emphasize enough that THIS IS IN THE MIDDLE OF A CITY. It’s wild.

We also managed to find the most insane antiques store on the way. All the bars, restaurants, and shops that we’d seen thus far were chock-full of very cool old furniture and I guess this is where they all shop?

Please especially don’t overlook the giant moose head in this last picture. Slightly blurry as I was trying poorly to be sneaky.

I also wanted to stop by the Mathallen, as I love a good market. We got there at about 12:30 though, and it seemed most of the stands were already closed. The larger ones and restaurants that were serving lunch were still open, but since we mostly wanted to browse and not sit, it was kind of a wash. That’s what I get for sleeping in. Next time!

Mathallen Oslo

At least the area was interesting. Please note the motivational message on that back building.

When we reached the city center we did a bit more museum-visiting (again, more later), but then indulged in our vacation tradition of waiting until the last possible day to purchase, write, and mail (what feels like) 75 postcards. We popped into a souvenir store for the cards in question, then chose a fancy cafe with good foot traffic and healthy pours of wine to fill them out.

Get fancy in the city center on your last day!

Outside the train station.

Cards written, we headed for a busy square full of restaurants in Grünerløkka for dinner. The meal itself was fairly unremarkable but we enjoyed people-watching and meandering home through the still-bright evening. Luckily that great light meant that I didn’t miss this festively colorful bike display.

As I said, I had no major agenda for this city trip. That’s really not how I travel, but also it’s not like Paris or Rome with checklists of sights to see and must-dos. We managed to completely miss the famous sculpture parks, and didn’t even go into the new opera house to use the fancy restrooms (yes, that was really a recommendation that I got).

I’d love to have a little more time to get lost in another neighborhood or two, or to take the T-Bane out of town to where my friend likes to cross-country ski around the city when there’s fresh snow. I hear there’s a glorious lodge in the forest with a giant fireplace that’s heaven in winter, and being able to reach that kind of place from the capital city has to be such a treat. But since I’m also not the kind of traveler that says, “welp, I’ve already been there, no need to go there again,” I would hope that I can make those things happen sometime. Soon.

 

*For once. I have terrible luck with sending mail.

Norway Road Trip 2017: Gausdal

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Sometimes they are wrong.

Back when we first started thinking about this Norway trip, one of my first steps was to check out overnight options on AirBnb. We had no exact itinerary at that point, so I just scrolled around the map, clicking on anything that looked interesting. This extremely specific and technical search method brought us to Gausdal.

Evening in Gausdal

A little bit of background: the first chapter book I ever read was Little House in the Big Woods. It didn’t take long for me to collect the whole series, and I can’t tell you how often those books got reread. They’re all still in boxes at my parents’ house, in fact. When the new and snazzy annotated edition of Pioneer Girl came out a few years ago, yep, got that one too (thanks, M&D). I was fascinated by those books, by that life.

Luckily for me, I also grew up quite close to Old World Wisconsin, a most excellent living history museum run by the Wisconsin Historical Society. It was built as part of Wisconsin’s bicentennial project, and basically involved a bunch of hippies driving around Wisconsin in the 1970s knocking on the door of old farmhouses and asking if they could take their buildings. Eventually about 70 historic structures made their way, piece by individually labeled piece, onto nearly 400 acres in the Kettle Moraine forest. Going there as a kid was as close as you could get to pioneer life, and I loved it. I even went to work there, post-college. It’s very much one of my favorite places in the state.

At this point you might be asking yourself what in the world pioneer life children’s books and a museum have to do with a Norwegian road trip. Fair question.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that I saw a picture, fell in love, and decided that I would do my damndest to work a stay at this beautiful place into our trip. Which is exactly what I did. Behold…

Continue reading

Norway Road Trip 2017: Hiking Galdhøppigen

This way, folks.

By far one of the highlights of our Norway trip was our hike up Galdhøppigen, which at 2,469 meters high, is the tallest mountain in the country. I may never be a climber, or able to even get up one of those bouldering walls for kids, but hiking up that mountain means that I have climbed to the highest point in at least one country strictly on the power of my own two feet. That’s something, as far as I’m concerned.

However, when I’ve sat down to post about it, I’ve gotten too overwhelmed by the pictures and memory of the experience to continue.

I kept a travel journal on this trip, which I don’t always do, and I think the best way to do this is just to share what I wrote that evening. Maybe an addition or two will sneak in, we’ll see. And pictures, of course, because without pictures did it even happen? I’ll also share a bit of logistical info at the end, so if that’s your jam, stick around. Or just skip to the end. I won’t know the difference. So, to the hike!

Continue reading

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 12

I was just about finishing packing up for our trip when it occurred to me that I also needed to squeeze in the day’s writing before we go to friends for dinner. I also had one more task to do, which was to empty the card of the DSLR a bit, as I always forget that, and then end up trying to walk and delete things at the same time. Not great, especially as the card is 32Gb, which is not exactly small.

Short on time, I took a quick look at how many pictures were on the camera, and told BV to pick a number before 1 and 2800-somethingish. He opted for 2244, so here it goes.

Alsace, you are pretty.

After Christmas, we packed up and drove to the Alsace for a few days with my parents and sister, who were visiting. We spent most of the time in Colmar, but made day trips to Strasbourg and Kaysersberg. BV and I had been to Strasbourg before, but Colmar and Kaysersberg were new to everyone.

I took this while standing over the village of Kaysersberg, just outside its ruined castle. Like any good, old, European town, the castle sits on top of a hill, and looks out over vineyards on one side, and towards rolling green hills on the other.

It’s rather appropriate actually that he picked this picture, because we *almost* went back to France for his birthday trip. We celebrated in Strasbourg a few years back, and this trip just solidified my love of all the colorful little towns tucked under hills rolling with vines. In the end, we couldn’t decide exactly where in France to go, and opted for heading south again, but we will certainly be returning here in the future.

Kaysersberg is one of several towns in the Alsace that claims to be the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast, and it was easy to see why. Narrow streets, crooked houses, half-timbering galore, mulled local wine on every corner… that last part isn’t specifically Beauty and the Beast related, just a nice perk in this wine-growing region… it was beautiful.

There is a strong case for a future summer trip where we hike village to village, eating, drinking, and hopefully walking  most of it off before the next stop to eat and drink some more. I’m not sure what more one could want from a vacation, honestly.

Speaking of vacation, we’re off tomorrow and I’m going to try to continue the daily posts while we’re away. It worked for a few days last year until we got an epic storm that knocked out the internet for the duration of our visit. The forecast is pretty much rain every day, which means we’re 1) over packing like crazy and 2) not optimistic about the internet service. But if it doesn’t work, I’ll go analog and update when we get back. TBD, for those of you kindly following along. 🙂

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Five Thoughts From London

Last month, BV and I popped to London for a short city break. I’ve been dying to do a quick trip somewhere that involved just a backpack, as opposed to our usual “everything but the kitchen sink” packing trips, and this was perfect. We had a great time and my enthusiasm for the city remains. This post is a collection of my various thoughts on our short and sweet visit. Read on!

L.O.V.E.

Thought 1: This is a City

Nürnberg is a city. It is Stadt Nürnberg, not Dorf or Markt Nürnberg. But arriving at London’s Liverpool Street station at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday morning made me want to pat the “city” of Nürnberg  on the head like a small child. “Oh yes, you’re getting to be such a big boy!”

Why? Well, not wanting to be those jerks with backpacks trying to make our way through the Tube, we took advantage of the sunny day and walked through the city. People in suits hustled pasts us left and right. They clutched travel mugs and to-go cups, most of them speaking authoritatively into their phones about Very Important Business.

Via Giphy. I think about this scene a LOT. While working. And discussing BUSINESS.

Or if you prefer…

Via Giphy.

Even when we reached the more tourist-filled areas, it was still easy to see the locals. More men in suits boldly crossed the street at a red light, as a group of tourists waited patiently curbside behind their guide and his flag. Joggers wove in and out of people with iPhones and selfie sticks clustered around a red phone booth. It was truly, most excellent and varied people-watching. A sure sign of a City, capital C intended.

Trafalgar Square, with the crowds behind us.

Thought 2: It’s an Oddly Familiar Place

I have only spent 8 total days in London between this visit and my last one in 2012. I have, like most Americans, a drop of two of blood from some long-gone UK relation, but I can’t say for certain if they were English or Scottish or what else. However, a lifetime of reading, and a particular love of historical fiction revolving around the British monarchy, meant that nearly every turn showed me a name or a place that I already vaguely knew. Movies and TV contribute to this too, as if there are enough British accents in something, I will watch it.

A glance at the map in Hyde Park led to us making a quick detour on our route through Kensington Gardens to see the Peter Pan statue where Lady Mary dumped Lord Gillingham on Downton Abbey.

Sorry, Tony.

Shortly after that, we spotted and swung past the nearby Albert Memorial, though sadly there was no picnicking Dowager Countess of Grantham in sight.

Albert Memorial.

As far as ACTUAL history goes, I would’ve been perfectly happy to tour the Tower of London on this trip, even if I already did it. BV and I are currently watching (rewatching for me) The Tudors, though we’re only in Season 1 and shit hasn’t really hit the fan yet. Since there’s no way he’s going to read all the books I’ve read on the subject, maybe after we finish the series (before the next trip hopefully), he’ll appreciate the creep factor of the Tower properly!

Thought 3: Look What You Did

The history of colonialism is everywhere in London from monuments of various wars to the elephants and camels around the aforementioned Albert Memorial. The oddest reminder of it, however, we happened upon by accident. My friend A used to play darts at a Mayflower Pub in San Rafael, CA. While in London, one of the few things he really wanted to do was to go visit their sister pub and so off we went. A few steps away is this statue which, since it dates from 1991, seems shockingly appropriate to the current state of affairs. Though, if the artist wanted to update the statue, he would probably have to give the figures smartphones in lieu of the magazine. Lord knows, I’ve opened Twitter and had that similar expression on my face fairly often recently. Turn back while you still can, pilgrim!

Thought 4: So Many Pubs, So Little Time

We didn’t necessarily set out to do a pub crawl on our visit, and yet we managed to hit eight of them, plus a bar and cafe with outdoor seating, aka a beer garden if you drink a beer. Which we did. I wonder if any intrepid Londoner has taken on the task of visiting all of them, which ought to earn you some sort of award from the Queen.

Keeping in mind that we live in the customer service wasteland that is Franconia, it was shocking how friendly most people were. Bartenders, patrons, the whole lot of them… it was definitely not what we are used to. From the bartender(s, it happened multiple times) who let BV sample the various choices on tap so that he could make an informed decision, to the couple who chased me outside so that they could give us their cozy nook booth when they saw us searching for a spot, it was an excellent breath of fresh air.

The Mayflower.

If you’re curious about our favorite pubs of the trip, look out for a post on that subject coming in the next few days. 🙂 Update: here!

Thought 5: The Joys of Easy-Going Friends

As alluded to earlier, we weren’t entirely on our own for this trip. We arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday evening we met up with my old college pal A, and his lovely wife, J. We hadn’t seen them since they made their way around Germany back in 2014, and it was great to catch up. They’re fairly frequent travelers, so when they saw a good deal to London, they jumped on it and happily it worked out for us to fly up and meet them.

A and BV checking out the view from above Tower Bridge.

Anyone who has tried to travel with friends will tell you that travel style differences can be a major challenge, but this felt fairly simpatico. We stayed in different hotels (frankly, we couldn’t afford their place but its lobby was gorgeous), and met and separated as it suited us. We all had a few ideas about things we’d like to do, but no one had a checklist or a do-or-die schedule. Everyone seemed content to hang out, eat good food, see a sight or two (also from above), and wander around as long as the weather was good enough to do so. Hence our pub -> short walk to Buckingham Palace -> back to another pub on the last day. Darn you drastic temperature drop and snow!

The Tower and Tower Bridge from the Shard. A most excellent view.

All in all, it was a great, short city break. We could’ve had more time (so many more free museums filled with treasures!), but since Ryanair can get us there from Nürnberg for a reasonable price, hopefully we’ll get around to it again sometime.

Snowshoeing Inzell

Since last year’s attempt at snowshoeing was in March and basically a very wet and muddy bust, we were extra determined this year. That determination did not, however, mean that we reserved a place way in advance, which meant that we ended up going to Inzell, a place we knew nothing about. Why Inzell? Well, there was an AirBnb available and it was not as insanely expensive as the rest of the options in the area. It turned out to be an excellent location though, with piles of fresh, fluffy snow everywhere.

We were joined on this excursion by my sister, fresh off her 6-week European Grand Tour. She only had a few weeks left on her tourist visa, but luckily we were able to squeeze this little extra trip in.

After a loooong drive through the Bavarian countryside, in which we turned approximately 300 times without finding a bakery*, we arrived at our destination. We weren’t staying directly in Inzell, but in a village about a kilometer away. The village was entirely compromised of these grand old Bavarian farmhouses, and we were delighted to find that ours was particularly cozy (not to mention, nearly 600 years old).

Our host was kind enough to provide us with a map after we told him of our snowshoeing plans, and assured us that we’d find more than enough possibilities nearby.

Car unloaded and nerves calmed, it was time to get our bearings. We had spotted a path and the yellow signs for hiking paths at the end of the village, and decided a walk was in order…

Continue reading

Norway Road Trip 2017: Tindevegen, Our Road to Spiterstulen

Toll Road. What picture do those words conjure in your mind? For me, it’s the Illinois Tollway between Milwaukee and Chicago. If you haven’t driven it, it’s a thoroughly unscenic stretch of multi-lane highway. It’s nothing but office buildings, strip malls, and the occasional cheese shop near the border. Not really anything to write home about, in my opinion.

Today though, we’re going to take a look at another kind of toll road. The kind of road that would help us get from Bergen to the Spiterstulen Turisthytte. But unbeknownst to us, the kind of toll road that took more than two hours to drive its 32-kilometer length. This was down to the speed limit, the sharp curves up and down, and the incredible beauty of the landscape that called for many a photo stop. It’s called Tindevegen, and it is epic. Before that though, we had to drive through a little bit of this…

Just waterfalls everywhere.

followed by the 24.5-kilometer long (longest road tunnel in the world, Wikipedia tells me), Lærdal Tunnel, complete with light show.

Lærdal Tunnel

It even includes caverns to pull over, take photos and stretch your legs, at least for these bikers. Back in the light, more scenic kilometers rolled by outside of our windows, and eventually we reached the town of Øvre Årdal, which is where things got interesting. Click on for the usual photo overload because I cannot help myself…

Continue reading

Norway Road Trip 2017: Bergen in Color

Over hills and across water, another epic drive led BV and I into Bergen for our third road trip stop. We had booked a very sweet condo on Airbnb, which, while lacking a primo location (20-minute bus ride to the center and overlooking a fairly industrial area), it compensated with a real bed (not bunk beds), and a washer/dryer. This was a strategic choice on our part.

We figured on having two nights to explore the city, but after our morning in Vik and the long drive that followed, we were too wiped to do much on our first night besides enjoy some home comforts, do laundry, and watch bad movies on Norwegian cable. No regrets there.

Refreshed and relaxed the next morning we watched the bus to the city appear promptly at the bus stop visible from the apartment every 10 minutes without fail. Our hosts had left us tips on what ticket to buy, as well as a few sights to check out in the city, and armed with that information we were off.

Continue reading