Scandinavia: Oslo

We arrived back in Oslo in the early afternoon. The bus ride from Gothenburg took about 3 hours, a nice drive through Sweden’s country side. Our hotel, the Hotel Christiania Teater, was located in the city center, close to city hall and the harbor. The room had a luxurious feeling with an orange and gold florentine pattern lining the wall, heated floors in the bathroom and a waterfall shower. Our location provided a lovely view of the city square and the national theater.

We took the tram to Vigeland Park, a large park filled with “Gustav Vigeland’s lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron.” The centerpiece is Monolith, a pillar comprised of 121 figures‚ÄĒvisible when you first step into the park. Hundreds of figures lined the paths the spacious park, many in expressive shapes and postures.

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We walked back to the hotel just as the rain was starting to fall. In need of a Chinese fix, we went to Honsan for dinner. When you want in the door you feel like you have either walked into a night club or a spa. The lights are blue and purple and the sound of trickling water creates a sense of calm. The plump laughing Buddha makes me smile as I walk to our table seated next to the fish pond which provided entertainment as we awaited our food.

We ordered spring rolls, stir fry black pepper beef and stir fry rice noodles with prawns. And we received a complimentary appetizer of meatballs.ūüėä  The presentation had a nice attention to detail, pairing with the ambiance of the restaurant and was quite tasty (with the exception of the spring rolls which were subpar).

 

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We woke up to a lavish complimentary breakfast buffet of countless breads, fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, hot items, cereal, yogurt, dried fruit… you name it they probably had it. It beat our first breakfast by a long shot!

 

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After we felt satisfied and awake, we walked down to the harbor to catch the Bygd√łyfergene to the museums. Getting off at the first stop, Dronningen, we trekked through the rain to the Viking Ship Museum, about a 10 minute walk. The Viking ships stood tall and noble in the open space. The dark wood and elegant curves creating dramatic shadows on the walls. Across the atrium space is a room filled with Viking treasures to admire.

 

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Bearing the weather, we set out to visit the Fram museum. We had no expectations of this museum as it wasn’t highlighted as a main attraction in my guidebook, but it should be.
Walking towards the museum I was drawn by the shape of the building and the other triangles along the way.

 

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When you walk in there is a massive ship, The Fram, whose body was taller than the three levels of the museum! A tour bus had just dropped off a large group of people, so we decided to bypass them and come back to the ship later.

Museum tip: If it’s crowded at the entrance of a museum or exhibit, go to the end and work your way back.
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The other building housed another large ship. The exhibit space had many interesting 3-dimensional components to it, pulling you in to learn more. We watched a short film in the theater about the Norwegian polar expeditions‚ÄĒquite interesting! After we’d explored this section, we headed back to check out the Fram.

 

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While the ship’s massive scale was impressive in and of itself, the attention to detail throughout the museum was remarkable. The lunch tables were little cabin nooks with pictures on the walls and a window looking out at various moving scenes, such as the Northern Lights. Plopping you right into a cozy little rugged Norwegian setting. There were several interactive games and displays; you could test out your sled-pulling strength, look for the constellations and more‚ÄĒfun for children and adults! Well-composed displays filled the other levels.

We were admiring the ship from the top floor when we saw someone moving from within. We quickly discovered you could board the ship!

I inhaled, breathing in the smell of the old, weathered wood. Inside, each cabin displayed memorabilia of the explorers. There was a kitchen, piano, phonograph, velvet couch and old photographs hanging on the walls. You could start to imagine life on the boat during their polar expeditions.

After we explored the ship, we thought we had seen everything. Then we caught glimpse of a old school horror-style poster that read ‚Äúmust see ice mummy!” The wall looked like a large wooden shipping container, like something you’d see at a Halloween haunted house. We pushed the button to open the door. You walk into a very small space where you push another button. When that door opens you start to feel the cold air. The walls look of ice. The deeper you go, the colder it gets. You see the frozen ice mummies along the walls as you meander through the ice tunnels.

 I loved this museum inside and out. 

 

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With the rain still falling, we took the ferry back to the city harbor. We walked back towards the hotel, and stopped in at a gallery I had seen the night before.

The artist on exhibit was, Trond Bredesen, whose illustrations can be found on food packaging, book covers, posters, Christmas Coke print ads, board games, you name it. His work was impressive work to say the least and a dream for any graphic artist!

For our last dinner in Oslo, we went to Prima Fila and Italian restaurant around the corner from our hotel. Neither the meal service were that notable, but the pasta did the job.

Summary

Norway is an expensive country and Oslo certainly lives up to that, so be aware of pricy dinners, souvenirs and shopping. The harbor is beautiful, take time to walk along the water and admire the ships. The Fram museum is a must! Vigeland park is worth the visit and a perfect place for a picnic if it’s a nice day. Check out the other things I did in Oslo in my first post of the series.

Check out the rest of the Scandinavian series: Oslo, Bergen and FlamCopenhagen and Gothenburg.

Follow @enjoisundae on Instagram and see where I’m off to next!

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Scandinavia: Gothenburg

Gothenburg was on our itinerary, but we hadn’t booked anything yet because we didn’t know if we would want to stay in Copenhagen, go to a different city, or what. That morning, we even briefly considered catching a flight to London and spending the rest of our trip there as that’s where our layover heading back would be anyway. But we decided to stick to the plan and head to Sweden.

We took a late morning train from Copenhagen to Gothenburg. I slept the whole way as I woke up feeling sick. The hotel we booked, The First Hotel G, was conveniently and oddly enough located in the train station. Pretty nice hotel with a gym, sauna and free breakfast (my favorite).

I was still feeling a bit sick, so we went for a mild¬†dinner at an Italian restaurant,¬†Joe Farell’s,¬†where I got a basic Caesar¬†salad. Then I went back to the room for¬†a little r&r.
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The next morning we headed out to the museums. We went to the Stadsmuseum where there was a Viking exhibit and an awesome temporary exhibit on Swedish music. We purchased the Museum Discount Card which gives you entrance to five museums for the price of one museum ticket entrance (Skr 40, about $5 USD). The museums included are: Stadsmuseum, Konstmuseet, Röhsska Museet, Sjöfartsmuseet and The Naturhistoriska Museet. You can buy it at any of the museum ticket offices.

The Swedish music exhibit was pretty sweet. There were drums and other instruments to rock out to, album covers lining the walls and band memorabilia, including that of one of my 90s favorites Ace of Base. I put on the headphones that hung from the wall and was briefly transported back to middle school, sitting on my bed listening to my cassette player.

There was also a room where you could pick a dance style and you were supposed to try and do it, kind of like DDR! I was not very successful at breakdancing.¬†ūüėÜ

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Making our way over to the Konstmuseet we saw a greenhouse and took a few minutes to enjoy the plants and get some extra fresh oxygen.

The Konstmuseet was a wonderful art museum with a large variety of works including some of my favorites Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso, Braque and Monet.

I was fixated by this piece for a good few minutes. I wish I had recorded more of it. The artist is Daniel Von Sturmer.

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And I found this random unicorn in a painting quite tickling.

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Our tummies were starting to grumble, so we set out to look for some¬†Swedish meatballs, which was not an easy feat! We walked to¬†Smaka¬†which apparently has “top notch Swedish¬†meatballs (husmanskost)“, but it was closed for lunch. We circled back to another restaurant, no luck. Then we walked to another area of town in hopes of meatballs and found¬†Saluhallen, a covered market with food stalls and we found exactly what we were looking for!

The stall we eat at was Kåges Horna. We got the meatballs and the soup of the day (a creamy shrimp soup). They hit the spot. The lingonberries are what made the dish for me! They added a sweetness and tartness that cut the heaviness of the gravy and meat.

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We went in a few¬†shops, then walked to¬†Skansen Kronan, a fortress on a hill in the Haga district to get a view of the city. We saw what we thought was a path in the woods that looked like it lead to a paved path.¬†Though it was muddy from the rain, we thought we’d take this shortcut as the beginning of the path was not in our line of¬†sight.¬†We ended up scaling the muddy hill all the way up. ūüėā

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After the mini hike, went back to the hotel to relax a little, look for a place to get seafood for dinner and escape the hail.

It was rainy, cold and damp when we headed out to dinner, so despite our streak of walking everywhere despite the weather we decided to take a¬†cab¬†the 8 minute drive to dinner. Big mistake! The short cab ride cost $30, nearly 1/2 the cost of our dinner (it probably would have been $50, but the driver paused the meter for whatever reason thank goodness! Maybe he heard my grumbling in the back seat.ūüôä )

Travel tip: Walk or take public transportation. It’s the easiest way to save money, get exercise and explore areas you might not have otherwise discovered.

Sjöbaren had a modern, refined wharf atmosphere. We were seated upstairs where it was quiet. We ordered a lobster appetizer and I had the small plate of shrimp for my main course. The waiter was very pleasant and accommodating, he even asked the kitchen to grate some fresh horseradish so I could make my own cocktail sauce. Now that is good service!

My shrimp were little and delectable, tasting different than American shrimp with a slight lobster texture and taste.

The star of the meal with the dessert,¬†princesses cake (prinsesst√•rta in Swedish). Ever since I saw it¬†on The British Baking Show I had to find it and try it. It’s presentation was modern and lovely. It consists of it’s classic layers of cake, raspberry jam, the iconic green marzipan, and whipped cream. Scrumptious indeed! I would have¬†licked the bottom if I could,¬†but¬†unfortunately¬†it was a small jar.¬†ūüėā

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Summary

Gothenburg is a nice city¬†with lots museums and culture to explore. Make sure to find some classic Swedish¬†dishes and seafood. Whatever you do, don’t take a cab, it’s too expensive!

Stay tuned for my last stop back to Oslo. Follow @enjoisundae on Instagram for sneak peeks and more!

Check out the rest of the Scandinavian series: Oslo, Bergen and Flam and Copenhagen.

Scandinavia: Copenhagen

We landed in Copenhagen in the late afternoon, and took the train from the airport into the city. Our hotel, the First Mayfair, was only a few blocks away from the train station. We dropped off our bags and set off to explore the city.

It was quite chilly and windy, but the forecast said rain, so we wanted to take advantage of the weather. I’ve never seen so many bikes! Everyone bikes in Copenhagen, which is awesome, but I don’t know how they do it in the dreadful weather! I wanted to, but it looked to cold and miserable to me.

We decided to walk towards Freetown Christiania, stopping in a few design stores on the way.

After some meandering through side streets to get there, we soon came to a large graffiti fairy wall and knew we were in the right place.

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There are no photos allowed in Christiania, so I’ll do my best to paint a picture for you.

Before you go in there is a sign that reads:

There are only 3 rules in the green light district.

  1. Have fun
  2. Don’t run it causes panic
  3. No photos ‚ÄĒ the buying and selling if hash is still illegal.

The first thing that came to mind was Skatopia, if you’ve ever heard of that place or seen the documentary. There is graffiti everywhere, which I wish I could ¬†have taken photos of. There was a warehouse style skatepark with Alice and Wonderland characters graffitied on the front. There were stalls lining the walkway selling “super pot” and food. There was also a stall with free donated clothes for people to pick through. Loud club music played in one area.

As we walked into a small park area there was rock graffitied with the statement ‚ÄúOnly freedom is holy.‚ÄĚ A little further in, there was an shirtless older man swinging his arms around his body, as if he were doing some kind of spiritual ritual. (Mind you, it was very cold out.)¬†

Other groups in their teens and 20s hung out eating pizza, brownies and just chillin‚Äô. We passed some abandoned buildings, which probably housed some ‚Äúresidents‚ÄĚ of Freetown, beat up bikes and junk piles then we reached the end and walked out onto a street next to a stream. That was it.¬†

Not sure if it was the weather combined with the grungy atmosphere but it felt kind of sad to me. Nonetheless, glad I saw it. Maybe it‚Äôs nicer in the spring?¬†ūüėĀ

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It started to rain and we were getting hungry. Walking away from Christiania and down some side streets we found an old world kind of restaurant Restaurant Skindbuksen that has been around since 1728. It was dark and tavern-like. Paintings on the walls and ceilings. Just the place to eat on a damp, cold rainy night.

We ordered an appetizer of herring and I got veal liver as a main. It was delicious! (I love liver, so it wasn’t a random ordering item for me.)

The next day we bared the cold and wind again and walked 6 miles to see the famous Little Mermaid statue.

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To improve the walking conditions, it started to rain. ‚ėĒÔłŹ So, we found a little place to eat for lunch, Gravy, then went to the free Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark). The museum was massive. They have a nice mix of time periods, styles, including contemporary installations, which most of the time I find nonsensical… Lol. We spent most of the rest of day there looking at the art and having an afternoon latte.

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We walked back in the rain and relaxed a little before our dinner reservations at the new Nordic restaurant, Radio.

New Nordic Cuisine at Radio

While Noma is what most people think of when they hear Copenhagen new Nordic cuisine, we wanted to try something a little less pricey and where we could actually get a reservation on short notice. I’d come across Radio a few times as I was researching restaurants and it was one our concierge recommended to us, so we chose that one.

We had first seating, which I like because it’s less crowded and quieter (plus I get hungry early ūüėč). They immediately brought out a complimentary appetizer. That evening it was a radish dish with dried capers and mustard seeds and a little yogurt sauce. Light and delightful.

You have the choice to get a 5 or 3 course fixed menu dinner and the option to add on extra dishes if you’d like. You can also do a wine or juice pairing for an additional charge too. We went for the 5 course, no drinks, just water option.

Before our first course we got a deliciously warm sourdough bread basket with another crunchy cracker kind of bread with homemade butter with caramelized onions. Yum! We ate it all and they brought us some more! Yay!

The first course was scallops, carrots and smoked cheese. Yes, those are carrots (photo below on the right)! They are sun dried and then cooked in their own juices. They looked like sun dried tomatoes, had the texture of sweet potato and tasted like it too, with a hint of carrot. Very interesting and very good.

The second course was salmon, cucumber and whey. Some of the cucumbers were trimmed and skinned to looks like celery. Really a trick to your eye and your mouth!

The third course was lettuce, seeds and rapeseed. We were already starting to get full!

The four course was a decadent veal, salsify and ramson. Delicious but a bit salty, even for my taste.

Dessert was mead, celeriac and licorice. I’m not a fan of licorice at all, luckily I couldn’t really taste it. The ice cream made of mead was interesting but I wasn’t a big fan. The marshmallow was very good though.

We were pretty stuffed by the end and our pockets weren’t¬†¬†too much lighter, which I love.

Overall the atmosphere was quaint and elegant without being pretentious. Food and price were on point and left feeling happy and pleasantly full.

The Opera

Next we were off to the opera to see Salome. We knew it would be in German, but I thought we would get a playbill to read the synopsis, but it cost $5 so we opted out of that and failed to read about it online before the performance began. Big mistake, lol. The subtitles were in Dutch.

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It was a single act show set in an observatory. Stars and sequin black and white costumes. Right from the beginning there were random gyrations of the actors. Then some blonde woman appeared (Salome) and the weirdness continued. People died, someone came up from a dungeon, people came back to life, a large head with a halo appeared from the floor, Salome got in its mouth, then came out if it, someone else died. The end. I got the vague gist of it, next time I’ll make sure to read the synopsis.

The opera house was beautiful and the tickets were reasonably priced. It was a nice outing on the rainy cold night in Copenhagen.

Summary

Copenhagen is a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be! The design and food scene are great. There are plenty of new Nordic cuisine options that won’t break the bank. The weather in April is miserable, rainy, windy and cold‚ÄĒbring a jacket, rain jacket, earmuffs, umbrella, the works! Freetown Christiania is worth the visit, even if only for 10 minutes. Would I go back? Maybe. But not anytime soon and probably only in the summer.

Next stop is Gothenburg, Sweden. Follow @enjoisundae on Instagram for sneak peeks and more!

Check out my first post of the Scandinavian series on Oslo, Bergen and Flam.

Scandinavia: Oslo, Bergen and Flam

I like to take some kind of international travel about every 6 months. Get away from the daily grind, free my mind and explore new places. This time I’m taking on¬†Scandinavia for 10 days.

My itinerary

Oslo | Bergen | Flam | Copenhagen | Goteborg

Oslo, Norway

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It was a brisk and sunny day. Everyone sporting their puffy jackets. We [the boyfriend and I] took a stroll by the harbour near city hall.
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Then headed to the national gallery to get an art fix. The museum is known for holding Edvard Munch’s The Scream. There were also many famous paintings by Picasso, Braque, Manet, Cezanne¬†and¬†Matisse,¬†¬†as well as many Norwegian artists. A great variety of art that anyone could appreciate. One unique thing this museum had was a room where anyone can come and sketch the sculpture. Being the art major that I am, I took a few minutes to do a quick sketch. (Made me want to take up another drawing class, it’s been about 7 years.)

After a quick bite, we headed back to city hall to take a look inside. Each year, Oslo’s city hall hosts the novel peace prize ceremony. The murals that fill the building truly evoke humanism.

We walked back down the harbour and sat down to enjoy the views and sunshine. Then went to check out the Opera house before catching our late afternoon train to Bergen.

Off to Bergen!

It was a nearly 7 hour ride to Bergen from Oslo on the NSB train. I took a little snooze then admired the  vast snow covered landscape out the window. It was beautiful. A majority of the passengers were off for a weekend of cross country skiing! Wish we had known about that!

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We arrived in Bergen around 10:30 pm. It was just getting dark. We checked in to our hotel (which is a story in itself… Some of the hotel employees were on strike lead us to stay in 2 different hotels Scandic Bergen City and Scandic Neptun… 3 rooms if you count the first smoke filled one we refused to stay in.) Despite the debockle the rooms were acceptable. And the free breakfast spread was lavish and definitely made up for the hassle! They even had the brown Norwegian goat cheese,¬†brunost¬†(I wasn’t a fan, but I tried it!)

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Flam and the fjords

The next morning we caught the 8:43am train to Flam for some fjord action. With one transfer in Myrdal it takes about 3 hours to get there. We grabbed a quick bite of Norwegian stew, then set off on what was supposed to be a hike to a waterfall. The weather changed a few times from snow, to wind, to sun and back again. We never did make it to the waterfall because we couldn’t find the path up. We blame the construction and the poor signage. Oh well, it was still a nice little hike to keep the blood flowing on the chilly day.

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After our hike, it was time to see the fjords in all their glory. We took the fjordsafari tour where you take a rib boat (speed boat) through the fjords. We got suited up and we were on our way!

Being on the water with such large mountains on either side of you was truly amazing. It’s hard to believe how people physically settled here so long ago, but the beauty of the fjords is one good reason why.

Thank goodness for the suits it was freezing on the boat and snowed at one point!

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Before taking the 6:30pm train back to Bergen, we grabbed a quick, but quite large bite to eat. The pork shank I ordered was truly Viking sized!

Bergen

It was another beautiful sunny day in Bergen! We went down to the harbor and took a walk around the historical area of Bryggen where we saw a few cats and some awesome graffiti. We walked to the second pickup of the funicular and took it up to Floyen where there were amazing views. Then walked back to get some exercise before finding a place to eat for lunch.

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We headed back to Bryggen where we had seen a quaint looking cafe earlier, Bastant. It far exceeded our expectations. The atmosphere and decor were perfect and the food was delightfully delicious! Yummy!

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We did some more wandering after lunch and came across an art gallery, Vault Studios, where I fell in love with a screen print of a cat on wood, which was unfortunately sold, but was lucky enough that they had a print of it! It is by an underground Italian artist, Ten, whom I am yet to find anything about online.

The next morning checked out the Fisketorget (Fish Market), then caught the Flybussen bus to the airport and were off to Copenhagen!

Summary

The fjords are a must! I highly suggest them as something to do in your lifetime. Bergen was a lovely town and I could easily have stayed another day. It is cold and windy, so bring a jacket and be prepared for snow.

Check out the rest of my Scandinavian adventures in Copenhagen, Gothenburg and back to Oslo!

Follow @enjoisundae on Instagram for sneak peeks and more!

Glory Hole Recreation Area, Angels Camp, California

For the next couple of months, my husband and I have decided that we want to try to go camping in Northern California at least once a month for as long as the weather allows (and seeing as we are in California, I am hoping it will be until the end of October!!)  So, being the spontaneous family we are, we took first chance we got which was last weekend, April 22nd Р24th 2016 and our first stop was Glory Hole Recreation Area, Angels Camp, California.

Now I am not going to lie, we strategically chose the Glory Hole because what it’s name represents in slang terms. ¬†How¬†awesome is it to be able to honestly say, “I have pitched a tent in California’s Glory Hole?” Ummmm…. maybe it is only funny to my husband and I… but I couldn’t get enough of it LOL.

Continue reading “Glory Hole Recreation Area, Angels Camp, California”