Tuesday, April 25, 2017

National Lampoon's the Cherrys Norwegian Vacation

The Family Comes to Norway

In March Mom and Dad and Grandma visited me in Norway.  It was wonderful to have my family see where I was living and working and get to experience this lovely new country.  

Mom and Grandma arrived first.
Aren't they cute?  Here they are on the bus headed to Moss from the airport.  They look pretty good after a long flight.  We spent the next couple of days in Moss.  I showed them around town and at school and we, of course, had to have a hot dog!
After Dad arrived we visited Sweden for a quick shopping trip.  The signs in Sweden were a highlight.
Moose crossing and the self-explanatory restroom sign. So cute!

All four of us then headed back to the airport to go to Bergen and see all the beauties for Norway.  We spent about a day and a half in Bergen, Norway.  I would say it is "picturesque Norway."
Here's a view from our hotel room.  
And the cute shops down by the docks. We then took a steep tram up the mountain to get a better view of Bergen. 
But....Mom got stuck on the other side of the gates so we had to wait for the next tram...poor Mom!
Once we got to the top of the mountain the view was gorgeous.  Here's the foursome taking in the sites.  
Mom and me enjoying the view.  At the top of the mountain there was a cute little restaurant that had hot tea and goodies and everywhere there were blankets to wrap up in or fur draped over benches to make everything cozy...or koselig (my favorite Norwegian word).

After we checked out Bergen we had to get up early the next day to begin our Norway in a Nutshell tour.  This tour is a self guided day trip from Bergen back to Oslo that allowed us to see the natural beauty of Norway via train, bus, and boat.  On that trip I saw some of the most beautiful sites I've ever seen.  There were places that I'm sure I've seen in pictures, but to see them in real life was amazing.  Here are some of the highlights.
Cute Norwegian towns from the train.
The reflection from the water was indescribable. 
All four of us bundled up on the boat in the fjords.

The fjords were stunning! 
Look at that!  It's like the world ends at the end of the water. 

I can't get over the beauty of this country. 

These last few pictures are from the train ride, which is said to be the most beautiful train ride in the world.  

It was a long trip, but I'm still speechless.  I can't imagine living in such beauty.  After we got back from our trip Grandma and I hung out in Moss while Mom and Dad celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in Vienna. And after their trip they all headed back to the US.  

It was wonderful having my family here especially in the middle of my stay in Norway.  And I must say I'm very proud of my family for making the trip.  I know many people whose family couldn't or wouldn't visit and I'm so thankful for mine.  Dad is a seasoned traveler, but Grandma was traveling abroad at 88 years old and kept up with some long days.  And Mom had never traveled abroad before and not only negotiated layovers in the airport, but even took a side trip with Dad and became quite the traveler! In full disclosure I don't want to paint the picture of a perfect family vacation, there were bumps, but overall it was a very successful trip and I'm thankful for their visit.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lovely Barcelona!

European Appetizer Sampler Part III: BARCELONA!

After Paris VA and I flew to Barcelona. Usually when we fly into a city we don't plan anything for that day so we can take our time getting our bearings.  Barcelona was different. We had tickets to go to Sagrada Familia that afternoon.  This spot was really the only thing we had on the agenda for our time in Barcelona.  I figured since it would be our fifth country we might want to take it a little easier.  

Saragda Familia was incredible.  It was perhaps the most incredible architectural structure I have seen to date.  
The outside does not do it justice.  The cathedral is unfinished and the detail on the outside cannot be seen as well from a picture.  
This is just some of the detail in the stonework above one door.   One one side of the cathedral it portrays the passion of Christ in stonework. 
Each one of the scenes above depicts Jesus' path to crucifixion.  The stonework was less detailed then some areas, but the abstract images were just as powerful as the detailed ones.  After we tried to grasp the outside we went inside and saw maybe the most unique space in the world.
Instead of traditional arches the designer designed this cathedral upside down.  When you look into the ceiling you feel like you're looking into the tops of magical trees with light filtering in.  It was stunning.  

A closer look at the tops of the arches.
The stained glass windows were designed to be dark at the bottom and lighter at the top to parallel the sky.
A look toward the alter.

After Sagrada Familia we headed back to our hotel but first stopped for dinner.  I can easily say it was the worst meal we had on the entire trip.  We stopped in a local place and went to order.  The owner helped us and pointed out rice dishes.  I recognised pollo and empanada and it was a rice dish so I ordered that and VA ordered the one next to it.  It came out as chicken fingers and french fries. Apparently when we thought he was saying rice he was saying fries and for two white girls I guess this is what they had in mind.  We were fed and had a good laugh and headed back to the hotel. 

The next day we headed to the beach.
It was so relaxing and nice to be in warm weather we just watched the surfers for a while.
And we had to take advantage of a photo op!

Next we took a gondola up into the mountains to get a great view of the city.
The city was gorgeous with mountains on one side and a the ocean on the other.  

Once at the top we walked around this old castle where people were actually practicing archery! It was a perfect day!

We headed back down to the beach to enjoy the water and have a cocktail! And there was delicious paella!

We knew our European Appetizer sampler was coming to a close so we just enjoyed the last few moments.
Before we knew it we were headed back to Oslo!
We were exhausted but had an amazing time!
Until the next adventure!


Monday, April 3, 2017

I love Paris! Part II

European Appetizer Sampler Part II: PARIS DAY 2

Paris just continued to get better and better.  Day one was focused on tourist activity and day two we got fancy!  We visited the cheese shop above on the first day, but I felt like it needed some more attention.  The cheese was phenomenal.  I bought two different kinds. We also learned not to touch the cheese...whoops!  We made a couple faux pas in Paris, but nothing too embarrassing!  
Before we began our day we stopped for coffee and a restaurant on the Seine. Then we began our day of fancy things we began with a river cruise down the Seine.  It was so lovely to see the beautiful architecture and bridges of Paris from the water.  

Here's the Louve from the water.  
Pretty bridge that probably has more significance then I remember.  
Nice architecture with cute boats.  

After the boat tour we headed to La Maroquinerie Parisienne.  Thank you Jen, you are a true friend and wise sage to tell me about this gem.  This place sells purses...and not just any purses, but gorgeous, leather, handcrafted, Parisian bags.  It is four stories, it was heaven.  There were purses purchased...I spent two hours there....it was worth it!  I don't have any pictures because I think they would have frowned on that, but if you are ever in Paris, skip the Louvre, skip Notre Dame, skip the Eiffel Tower, but don't skip La Maroquinerie Parisienne!  (I'm only kidding a little.)

After the purse excursion it began to rain and VA and I were hungry so we ducked inside a little cafe and had a wonderful meal.  VA had steak frittes (steak and fries) and she said it was the best steak she'd ever had.  I had salade fromage, which was a few greens and a ton of different cheese.  We also had wine.  Let's talk wine in Paris.  First, it's cheaper than the water, second the cheap stuff is good, and third they drink it all the time!  So, when in Paris!!!  

We then headed back to our hotel to get dolled up for our fancy night on the town.  

Don't we look like we're ready to hit the Paris night life? We hailed a cab (yes, we even sprung for a cab on our fancy evening) and we were off.  As we were driving we headed into a tunnel, which was not unusual, but the cab driver told us it was the exact spot Princess Diana had died.  Honestly, it was creepy and a little intriguing to know about that spot.  Our cab driver dropped us off at The Ritz..in Paris!!  Yes, that's right...we were at The Ritz!  ....in PARIS!!!  VA had looked up some of Hemingway's favorite old bars and The Ritz was his top choice.  VA told me that Hemingway used to say that heaven would be the bar at The Ritz in Paris.  
Isn't VA cute with her champagne cocktail with a white rose in it!  The bar had a $4 million dollar renovation and was reopened not too long ago.  It is precious.  It's small and cozy.
It has an air of bookishness.  
And there are several pictures of the man himself!

And here's my gin martini with an orchid.
Both our cocktails were beautiful and delicious!  VA said that Hemingway would have liked mine the best because it was so strong!

They also had a lovely table set up...I stole a napkin...don't tell.
When you leave The Ritz at night the view isn't bad.  After cocktails we headed to our dinner reservation at Ze Kitchen Gallarie, a Michelin star restaurant.  After all the cooking shows I have watched I've always wanted to visit a Michelin star restaurant.  Ze Kitchen Gallarie did not disappoint. Get ready for the food pics!

We had eight courses, plus an amuse bouche and bread and wine pairings.  It was a lot but some of the best food I have ever had.  Above is one of our first courses, a raw fish in a vinaigrette and herbs.
We also had this pasta that tasted like it was Thai influenced.  It was very unexpected because I don't associate those flavors with that pasta.  The restaurant is French/Asian influenced and the sauce on the pasta was spicy with coconut.  It was probably my favorite course.
Those are snails.  I like snails.  These were delicious.
Let's talk dessert...there were three of them.  The first picture is black pepper ice cream with chocolate and then wasabi ice cream with mango. Both ice creams were spicy and crazy good next to the sauces that sweetened them up.

And finally this cake, with vanilla ice cream and preserved lemons.  I know my food pictures could be better, but I was trying to take them all on the sly because I didn't want to be rude.  Now I just wish I had just been rude!  

After dinner we headed back to our hotel to get ready to leave Paris and head to Barcelona.  Paris is the best place I have ever visited and I want to back as soon as possible.  I fell in love with that city!