Sunday Snapshots: It’s Hoppening

Franconia, 2017

Not so much this year, sadly. This was September 3rd last year, and I cannot say that our garden hops look anywhere near as good right now. The long, hot summer has been absolutely epic on the fruit front… we’ve had piles of pears and apples already, and the markets are overflowing with plums at the moment. Even the Federweisser, or new wine, has had an extremely early harvest in some places.

But here in our garden, our hops looks much smaller than in this picture. They’ve perked up a bit with the last few rainy days but it’s not nearly as full and lush as this time last year. We don’t use it, so… no major loss for us. Here’s hoping the hop farmers down south have been vigilant about the watering… if not, we may have to stock up on beer while we still can.

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.

Sunday Snapshots: Ch-ch-changes…

Prague, 2017

BV and I were searching for a beer on the Malá Strana side of the river last year in Prague, when we stumbled upon this place. Just at the Újezd tram stop, and down through a passage that had been home to a produce market (with extras, like most Praha produce markets), was now a huge courtyard beer garden. I don’t know how long it had been open at this point, but it was nearly empty. That seemed rather odd, given the size, and given the fact that the menu was full of unusual beers*, but maybe the kids were all hanging out somewhere else that day? If you’re in Prague, check it out and let me know what’s going on…

*Unusual to us, anyway. The market has expanded a TON since I was there and we were all Gambrinus, all the time.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 1

Ah, May. How I have missed you. Having the first day of the month off as a public holiday really does serve as the perfect kick-off to summer. The day dawned a bit drippy and gray, but around noon the clouds parted and by mid-afternoon it was high time for a walk through the forest.

We had heard that the Felsenkeller, a great local spot, was under new ownership, and indeed it is. Previously this old barn in the forest was staffed by a fairly elderly couple, with an extra person or two helping out occasionally. They served Zirndofer beer, some basic Brotzeit staples, and a few other odds and ends. No more.

We came around from the other side of the barn today, and we heard it before we got there. That it was busy was no surprise on a day like this, but I was shocked. They’ve easily doubled the amount of tables outside, and added a tented area with sand and kiddie-sized tables. Tap beers were poured outside as well, and there was a trailer for the sausages and grill specialties. The Grüner brewery from Fürth has taken over ownership, and it’s a whole new vibe.

I’ve got nothing against them doing a brisk business on a beautiful day, but the staff running around in branded t-shirts and wires in their ears was a far cry from the old folks behind the bar. I did like the Lederhosen on a few of the staffers, but… it’s different.  As long as there’s a Biergarten under the trees in walking distance, I’m happy, so hopefully this will remain a favorite summer spot.

The days getting longer and warmer has made me a bit itchy again this year. I’ve had a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head lately and think the time is ripe for another attempt at a writing challenge. I’ll shoot for 15 minutes per day at least again, and be putting it up here for accountability purposes. Let’s see how we go.  Day 1 down, with a mere three minutes to midnight. Strong start.

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

Our Top Three London Pubs

In my previous post on London, I mentioned that we managed to visit eight pubs plus an outdoor cafe and therefore Biergarten to us. We put little to no thought into our selections beforehand, picking things strictly based on proximity and a decent review on Google. The only exception to this was the Mayflower Pub, as A wanted to go there. This means that these recommendations are completely random, I have no idea if they can be found in any guidebook, we just really liked all of them. Our gift is planning not to plan, we just find what we find and usually it works out well enough. To the pubs!

1. The Devonshire Arms (Kensington)

We went here on our first night and would’ve happily had a pint here every other night of the trip as well if we hadn’t had to visit some other places. Contrary to the pictures below, there were a lot of friendly people, great food, and a very cool rustic-chic interior. The bartender let BV take samples, there were colorful characters to watch, and a dog or two doesn’t hurt the situation. We were completely bushed by the time we went out for dinner (that 3am wake-up was a killer), so that fact that this was just a 5-minute walk from our hotel was a total win. I had a burger and BV had a steak and cheese pie, and I’d go back in a second for either choice. Most excellent.

2. The Mayflower (Rotherhithe)

Their website advertises this pub as the oldest on the Thames, and since it’s named for that famed ship which set off to the future U.S.A. just outside, it’s easy to see this place getting really kitschy really quickly, but it doesn’t. Apart from us, an American flag on one side of the deck over the river (Union Jack on the other side, of course), and the one or two other U.S. accents we heard inside, this was a solid pub. We grabbed a spot on the tented terrace as the wind had kicked up on the deck, but I would’ve loved to settle in next to the massive stone fireplace inside if that table had been open!

As I mentioned in my previous post, A used to play darts at the Mayflower’s sister pub in California, but sadly we didn’t see a dartboard at the original. That was perhaps the only disappointment in our visit, so if we missed the dartboard please let me know! It’s really for the best though, my darts skills have seriously deteriorated since our epic college Happy Hour Free Darts and Popcorn Bar Crawls of yore.

Creeping.

3. The Harp (Covent Garden)

Feet aching and slightly parched from several hours of looking at All The Art in the National Gallery, we stood outside on Trafalgar Square looking to see where we could quench our thirst and kill a few hours before meeting up with A and J. We found The Harp just a few minutes and a few turns away.  Again, despite the primo location, most of the patrons were in suits and/or with lanyards and company badges dangling from purse straps and belt loops. I’m sure there were a few other dawdling tourists around, but it seemed much more like an after-work crowd packed into the narrow downstairs bar.

Creeping again.

The taps were numerous, which meant that BV once again managed to get a tasting flight before making any decisions. Even more impressive than the row of taps was the vast wall of labels, covering every bit over the bar. Whoever collected all of them, I salute you. There was plenty to look at, as you can see. Besides the labels, the walls were packed full of paintings and prints… who knew we didn’t even have to go to the museum? Plus it gave us a chance to indulge in a bit of the statue game, here adapted to the paintings…

Oh, hai.

Honourable Mention*: The Blackbird (Earl’s Court)

We didn’t drink anything besides coffee here, but we did stop in one morning for a traditional English breakfast. The food was good (I went with eggs benedict, regretted it slightly when the other three plates came out), as was the atmosphere and service. It felt very “typical” pub, which meant lots of wood and leather, but it was on a street corner, had lots of windows and so was very bright and cheery.

So there we have it. My three (and a half) favorite pubs from London. Very unscientifically chosen, but that’s just how we do things around here. Let me know if I got it right (or horribly wrong), or if you’ve been to any of them in the comments! And cheers, of course!

 

*I’ll even use the UK-appropriate spelling of honourable. You’re welcome.

Sunday Snapshots: Lights On, Wheels Up

Nürnberg, 2015

Saturday marked the return of the Volksfest here in Nürnberg. The spring version heralds the return of warmer weather (hopefully) as well as the opening of the festival season in the surrounding area. We don’t always get a chance to go, but I do enjoy the signs of it around town… from the flags on the buses and trams to the wafting scents of roasted almonds. One piece of advice if you do go… just avoid the Tucher. Any other beer is a better choice!

Nürnberg’s Frühlingsfest runs from March 31 to April 15 this year… Prost!

 

31-Day Challenge: Day 23

Today was my first real day back to work. My last class yesterday ended up cancelling, which I expected, but that meant there was no easing back into the week. Perhaps it’s better in the end though, as this week is shortened anyway due to Thursday’s holiday. I think I work Friday morning, but I haven’t had confirmation yet so we shall see.

A full day of class today was almost enough to knock me out of commission, but since the weather was sunny and warm, the beer garden in the next village beckoned. We’re fairly regular visitors over there and on warm summery days, there’s not much better.

There was the usual village traffic on our walk over, from little girls on rollerblades to dogs leaping through the grass. This time of year I usually see enough cats wandering around in the evening that I start to get suspicious that they’re organizing something. The beer garden is on the “main road” in the village, but the vast majority of the traffic is from the tractors as they run in and out of town to the fields and back. My favorites are the old men who take the grandkids with them, the little ones hanging off and around the driver’s seat. There’s also a guy who often travels with his dog in the cab. He appears to be secured with a leash, but it’s hard to tell. No leashes on the kids, as far as I can see.

The beer garden is attached to a small country hotel, and there are always a few dogs  on the terrace as well. Those typically belong to the visitors, but there are usually a few cats wandering about that belong to the hotel. On warm summer days, you have to look before sitting down as often a cat will have curled up on the chair cushions.

In between the tractors rumbling past, there are often people whizzing by on race bikes, or the local beer truck making deliveries from the drink market. There are a fair few regulars that we see there as well, including the waitstaff.

Even if it’s the same place, it’s always nice to go there and see the changing flowers in the window boxes, and to track the progress of the enormous chestnut tree that pokes up through the middle of the terrace. This time of year, it drops light pink flowers on your head, and it’s necessary to put the beer coaster on top of the glass to prevent bees as well as flowers from falling in. The air above hums the whole time from the number of bees in the tree and flying around town. Across the street the first posters have appeared for the surrounding villages upcoming Kirchweihen, and if that’s not a sure sign of summer, I don’t know what is.

***

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.