Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Norway - The Next Few Days...

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After a few days of pushing the limits in driving and sightseeing it was time to kick back a bit and relax.  Kristin and Bjorn have been lovely and more than accommodating and we don't want to wear out our welcome.  For two days we rested, enjoyed some sunny days on the deck, and caught up on correspondence and napping.  Bobbie took a couple of long walks with Bjorn and I started a new painting that I hope will be done before we leave.  It will be a gift to our hosts.

Sitting in their home is like being back in Alaska.  They have a lovely home, beautifully furnished and decorated, and are up on the slopes above town with a lovely view of the fjord and mountains below and beyond.  Makes us just a "bit" homesick.  Last night we had a venison roast with all the trimmings.  It was delicious.  Tonight I will make an Italian meal as requested by Bjorn...smile.

We enjoyed a day drive to Alesund, about an hour away.  We visited an architectural museum...lots of relocated and restored buildings.  Then we drove to the top of the lookout for some spectacular views of the city below.  Later in the day we walked the streets of the old city...completely rebuilt in 1904 after a devastating fire.  This is where Kristin worked after finishing school and before marrying Bjorn.






At the end of our stay we spent two days in the family cabin high up in a remote valley.  We took two cars.  Once were were settled in Bjorn drove back to Orstra and we were alone.  No phones or internet.  A solar panel to recharge our laptops let us watch a few recorded movies.  We enjoyed a few casual hikes.  We drove back on our own for one last day with our friends before heading off to Estonia the following day.






Upon our return a reporter friend from the local newspaper heard about us and wanted to do a story.  A few days later it was in the paper...we are now famous in Norway.....







Thursday, June 6, 2019

Norway - Country No. 56 - The Start of Two Weeks with Kristin Marie & Bjorn

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It took us most of the day to cross the North Sea with transfers at Oslo and waits for our flights.  Kristin and Bjorn met us at the airport in Alesund, on the far west coast of Norway.  We are at the same latitude as Anchorage and it all looks just a bit familiar...fjords, blue water, green forests.  We will be spending two weeks here enjoying the hospitality of our friends and seeing some of the fjords and amazing countryside.

Established in the early 1800 and built on a peninsula and several islands in the fjords of Norway, Alesund has about 30,000 people and it all about fishing and oil.
Kristin and Bjorn live in Orsta, a bit less than a hour drive south...two underwater tunnels and a ferry ride.  Orsta was established in 1835 and is a community of about 7,000 people.  They have lived hear and hear all of their lives.  For the next two weeks we will enjoy some beautiful, sunny days wandering the coastal roads visiting nearby villages and national parks.

We took a drive up into the mountains behind their home and visited the site of a family cabin.  The day was beautiful and we enjoyed getting to know Bjorn.  Later in the day I visited a local dentist for a check up and teeth cleaning.  It had been three years and I thought it was time.  All was well and the dentist, it turns out, was from Ecuador.  Interesting.



 This is called "keyhole mountain."
A closeup reveals why.

We did a full day of sightseeing with both Kristin and Bjorn.  We drive through many valleys, each with high walls of granite mountains an a quickly moving stream at the bottom.


We eventually reached our first ferry crossing and after 15 minutes found our way to the other side.  From there is it was a short drive to an historic hotel, The Hotel Union, and it remarkable rooms and decor.  We toured the hotel before moving on to our next ferry, a one hour guided tour through a UNESCO protected fjord...full of water falls and spectacular mountains.




 Grand valleys.
 Lots of herder cabins...grass roofs.  Some still used.
 On the sightseeing ferry with Bjorn.

 Lovely Korean tourist and I enjoyed a conversation.
 Amazing waterfalls everywhere.

 Village of Geiranger.  Small and busy with the cruise ship in port.
 And then this massive waterfall.

We ended our day in the village of Geiranger accompanied by a huge Costa cruise ship and a few thousand passengers.  There we enjoyed an evening meal overlooking the water before taking the two plus hour drive back home over one of the highest mountain passes in the area.  At the top is a year round skiing area and it was busy.

Incredible view from the top of the fjord looking down on the village.





Wednesday, May 29, 2019

England - Our Final Seven Days of the "Carol Ross" Adventure

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Having resolved, for the moment, the rental car damage issue, we were treated like royalty by our next rental car company with whom we rented another car for the English portion of our journey.  Our last five days would include two days in Birmingham, two days in Stratford-upon-Avon, and three days in London.  

It was a long six hour drive from Edinburgh and we reached Birmingham early evening.  It was a four and six lane motorway the whole time and at 70 mpg, thing passed quickly.  We checked into a nice new city apartment for two nights and went to work evaluating Carol's research on her family history, the sole purpose of our visit here.

We got up early and headed out to the church and cemetery.  There we wandered the grounds until finding the headstone of her ancestor.  An aunt from the late 19th century who also owned and operated the inn across the street.  Carol treated us to lunch.  We chatted with locals the whole time.  It was a lot of fun.


Then we headed into the city center...by now pouring rain.  We wandered downtown for a bit before calling it a day and heading back home.

The following morning we drove to Stratford Upon Avon, stopping in Warwick to take a photo of an old family home for Carol.  This time it was the childhood home of an uncle who worked as a gardener at the castle.  Unfortunately the house has been renovated again and again and did not resemble in any way a home from the mid 1800s.  We found our cottage in Stratford and settled in for the night.  A great place behind a manor home that Queen Victoria once slepted in...smile.

We spend the day touring...I should say watching Carol tour Stratford Upon Avon.  It is a small place, all about Shakespeare, and we had been there two years earlier.  We booked a Hop on Hop off bus and got on and off throughout the day.  Trinity Church, Ann Hathaway's Cottage, and Mary Arden's Farm.


We departed a day later for our last leg of the trip, and into London.  The traffic was a mess, as expected, and Ms. Google decided to take us on a full sightseeing trip of central London and instead around the chaos.  It took us almost three hours to get from the far west to the far east side.  Carol enjoyed the adventure passing all of the notable sites along the way.

We found our Airbnb easily and met the owner to be let in.  Another great apartment on the Isle of Dogs across from the Royal Observatory and 20 minutes to the city center by metro.  We had three full days left and

Our first day was spent visiting the observatory again, more of the walk under the Thames and through the park, than to see the site.  Carol tour the observatory and we wandered the grounds.  Next was a metro ride into the city to visit the Tower of London.  Once again Carol toured the site and Bobbie and I found a local pub in which to hang our for three hours.



For our next day Trump's UK visit disrupted most everything.  There were road blocks everywhere and thousands of police barricades.  Not a lot of spectators...at least not to see him.  We used the metro to get into town and around the chaos and eventually reached the Churchill War Rooms exhibit.  We had been here two years ago and thought Carol would enjoy it.  She did.



We had hoped to get a close up of Buckingham Palace and Westminister Abbey, but both were closed off as well.  We eventurally worked our way north of the area and into Coverntry where we had booked Carol to see "The Book of Mormon."  While she we in the theater we wandered around, took in a movie and had dinner.  She was thrilled of course and loved the show.
For our last day we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.  It was supposed to be a few hours followed by Windsor Castle.  However the park was so big and so full of things to see and do, we opted to give Carol the whole day.  She took advantage of it while we took a nap in the car.  That night we checked into our airport hotel near Heathrow.





We said goodbye to Carol that night.  Her flight left very, every early the following morning and she taxied to the airport on her own.  We drove to Gatwick a bit later, returned the rental car and boarded our flight to Norway.

This thirteen week adventure was probably Carol's last world tour and she made the most of it.  It was quite a time and we are glad we got to spend it with her.