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For the First Time in Forever...

Reporting from Bergen

sunny 14 °C
View Midnight Sun Run on aboo10's travel map.

Now, if you have an eight year old daughter, like we do, you would know that the title of this blog post comes from the Disney movie, Frozen.

So for the first time in forever, we are the furthest north we have ever been - we are 60 degrees north, and this is much further north than Harbin, China which was only 45 degrees north, almost level with Paris! We are even further north than the top of the United Kingdom!

But also for the first time in forever, Disney, when making Frozen, which is a computer generated movie, set what is otherwise a generic fairy tale (based on The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Anderson) in Norway. The developers visited Norway and drew inspiration for many parts of the movie from genuine Norwegian towns, costumes and forests.

When we were in the Historical Museum in Oslo, we came across a model of a Stave Church, which was not too far off the route we were heading along to get to Bergen... so we thought we'd stop by to have a look... And in the first time in forever, the Borgund Stave Church we visited was the inspiration for the castle in Arendelle...
For the first time in forever, we drove along through the stunning fjords, which were also inspiration in the movie, and at one point, Elsa freezes them all! And saw snow capped mountains

For the first time in forever, we drove through the world's longest tunnel - the Laerdel Tunnel - 24.51km long. It has 3 caves hollowed out along its length to give drivers a break from the claustrophobic feel of the tunnel, and you are allowed to stop in them! We didn't, but they are illuminated with blue lights and also give something to look forward to!

For the first time in forever, we got to Bergen, which is a UNESCO Listed Heritage Site, and was originally one of the Hanseatic Trading Ports, and so like in the movie becoming trading partners would have been desirable. The wharf area of Bryggen (where we had lunch and dinner!) is just gorgeous, with brightly coloured timber buildings, just like the township of Arendelle...

For the first time in forever, the whole family went on a hike! We got the venicular railway up to a view point to see a stunning view of Bergen, and then we started following a nature trail, complete with trolls, and streams and then realised that we could walk back to our AirBNB apartment... so we did...
and had a beer in the sun in the front garden.

Posted by aboo10 14:13 Archived in Norway Tagged landscapes mountains buildings children history norway ecotourism family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (2)

Next Stop... Copenhagen

Reporting from the Crown Seaways Ferry

sunny 27 °C
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On the way to Copenhagen, we managed to spend an amazing afternoon catching up with old friends from Shanghai. They have a summer house in Hojby, on the coast of Zealand. We got there about 2pm, and had a traditional and yummy late lunch... although the kids preferred to just graze on choc chip muffins....


We then wandered down to the beach, a dreamy 5 min walk down the road. We caught up about each family's changes since leaving Shanghai. They are in the process of relocating to the Hague - so we'll probably see a bit more of them in the near future!


We were a bit late getting to Copenhagen, but settled into our next AirBNB apartment, ready to explore Copenhagen the next day. It did not disappoint... we went to Rosenborg - an old Royal Castle built in 1606. We saw the crown jewels and marvelled at the amazing rooms in the castle.


And then we headed over to see the Little Mermaid, sitting on her rock in Copenhagen Harbour. We had seen her at the Shanghai Expo in 2010, in the Denmark Pavillion, so we knew she was little! But the crowds visiting her, proved her popularity. It was hot, and a long walk, and we found refuge from the heat in the Marmorkirken church, which was beautiful! Didi found it a bit far, and actually fell asleep during a piggy back ride on Mike's back! Although he perked up once we got there and he climbed around on the rocks.


We continued our walk (wish we'd been wearing a pedometer!) and had dinner in Ny Havn - a fabulous outdoor eating area right on the canal, in front of traditional Danish buildings, all brightly coloured. Loved it! I had a herring platter - delicious!! So good we went again the next night!!

Something we are still working out how to manage is that it is light until about 10.30pm, although the sun sets just before 10pm, and it makes it tricky for the kids to agree to go to bed! This has resulted in a build up of tiredness, and so after a lazy morning, we headed into town to visit Amalienborg - the palace where Princess Mary lives! It is a large gracious square with 4 (matching) palaces on each corner. One is Queen Margarethe's home, another is a museum (the one we went into) and one is for hosting State Events. The museum showed reconstructed rooms from each palace which were stunning, and as well there was information on the current royal family.


On our last full day we again headed into the city, this time to visit the HC Andersen Museum. Unfortunately it was part of the usual tourist attraction of Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, although we didn’t have to go into both, but it was a bit more tinny and tacky than I had anticipated. That being said there was a good history of Hans Christian Andersen, and scenes from many of his stories.

After the HC Andersen Museum, we went to Tivoli. A-may-zing! It’s the most beautiful garden with concert halls and amusement parks altogether. It was lovely to stroll through the gardens, and the day was divine… a bit cooler than our other days, but still sunny and blue. There were surprises at each turn, from the Pirate Ship Frigate to an elaborate Chinese Pagoda, the rides were spectacular - frightening upside down roller coasters and quaint old merry-go-rounds. We didn’t go on any rides, but enjoyed the carnival atmosphere. And we let the kids have a fairy floss EACH!


Today we had a quiet one, packing up the AirBNB place. We then went to the supermarket to buy lunch, which we had as a picnic in a local park, watching a soccer camp practise. Then we headed to the Ferry Terminal - because tonight we are sleeping on the ferry to Oslo. We have a tiny sea front cabin for four with two bunk beds and a mini bathroom. It’s minimalist to the extreme! The boat is huge. Our car is parked on the decks below and there are about 6 decks of cabins and entertainment… I feel like I might be on a mini-cruise - it’s quite fun! We pre-booked a table for a buffet dinner, and I’m planning on only eating salmon. Maybe a smoked salmon starter and a baked salmon main!

Posted by aboo10 10:51 Archived in Denmark Tagged buildings children flowers norway ferry denmark family_travel Comments (1)

Road Trip (Part 2)

Reporting from Dusseldorf

semi-overcast 13 °C
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OK - so it's no secret... I'm catching up on blog posts now that school's out for the summer holidays... I had done the first part of this trip, with Mum and Dad in the family truckster... so now here is the second part.... Belgium....

So we left Delft, to head to Ypres, or Ieper in the Flemish West Flanders province of Belgium. Again, the drive wasn't too far, only about 3 hours. And we enjoyed the countryside, were stopped for a while by a bicycle race passing, and then eventually got into the town. It was cute. We drove through the Menin Gate to find our hotel. It couldn't have been in a more convenient spot - just down a tiny side street, right opposite the In Flanders Fields Museum. So once again, Mike unloaded the car and us and then drove it off to park... not too far away this time.
We found a quick place for lunch, but were admiring the chocolate shops and cute cobbled streets, and adorable buildings. And working out what we needed to explore! The purpose of our visit to Ypres, was largely to hear the Last Post - which is played by buglers from the Ypres Fire Brigade in the Menin Gate Arch every day at 8pm, come rain, hail or shine, since 1928!! Ypres occupied a strategic position for both sides in WWI, and the town was pretty much destroyed.

The main square and Cloth Hall (now In Flanders Field Museum) were painstakingly reconstructed, and are gorgeous now. Ypres in known now as the City of Peace, and thrives on a tourist trade of visitors curious to see remnants of WWI. Including us. We went on a tour with a British group, to see the Commonwealth War Graves, German trenches and several sites of key significance in various battles and also within the history of Ypres. We loved the In Flanders Field Museum as well, and it told many personal stories of the effects of war and was very well done.
We then headed back home to Düsseldorf for a few days to wash clothes and celebrate Easter... before the next bit of the holiday!! The kids and Mum and Dad played games in the car, ranging from eye-spy to making sentences up using number plate letters... we all enjoyed travelling together and driving in one big car made so much sense!!

Posted by aboo10 06:49 Archived in Belgium Tagged buildings children history family_travel Comments (0)

Mont Saint Michel

Reporting from Düsseldorf

overcast 22 °C
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We left Bordeaux, not too early, but with a decent drive ahead of us, and a pin dropped on the GPS to take us to Mont Saint Michel. Our GPS has taken us on some magical mystery tours every now and again, with some odd route choices, and today, despite being a fairly significant landmark on the French coast, our search only came up with Rue de Mont Saint Michel, and delivered us about 40 km away from the actual site. Nevertheless, once we arrived there, we knew we were on the right track, and so continued on our way, following the signs to the Abbey, and finally we spotted it in the distance.


The parking lot for this busy tourist attraction is about 3 km from the causeway, but they do offer a free shuttle bus there and back. We had a moment worrying about what the tide might be doing, and whether that would affect us from visiting, but fortunately it was out, and they are also constructing a bridge to make sure it is always accessible.

I was impressed. The Abbey on the island seems to rise up from nowhere, and the walkways inside are steep, and closely packed with shops and people. You can just walk into the town, through the gates at the base of the island and wend your way up to the Abbey. There are a huge number of steps, and they are uneven and worn down through the effects of time and volume of use. The structure of the church is unusual, to compensate for being built on the top of a peak. The crypts were constructed first with the support of the church above to consider. The stained glass windows, the arches, altar, buttresses and the cloister were all beautiful, and looking through the windows over the beach, I felt the power in its isolation and unapproachability, could imagine that it was an ideal place for reflection.


I was not very impressed at the price of ice cream though!

Posted by aboo10 02:13 Archived in France Tagged mountains beaches churches buildings children family_travel Comments (0)


Reporting from Caen

sunny 25 °C

After a ‘French Breakfast’ of coffee and pastries, we headed into Bordeaux to have a look around. Our hotel is out near the university and is very basic, and seems to cater more to a long term business visits than tourists, so lacks things like a rack of brochures and maps. We are right on the tram line, and bought an all day ticket. Our first stop was at the Hotel de Ville.

The first thing that caught our eye, was the most amazing roof of the St Andre de Bordeaux cathedral. We went inside and a sweet young English university student offered us a tour of the Cathedral - just for the four of us, and pointed out a lot of the features! Including the one original wall from when it was first consecrated in 1096. The rest of the church was from the 13th and 14th centuries, and it is interesting to the changes in style throughout the church. A lot of the cathedral was destroyed during the French Revolution, and so over the last 30 years, a lot of restoration has been done, and some of it has been done to look like it would have in different periods throughout history. This was where Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII, and also Joan of Arc has a connection here too.

We then wandered down to the Musée d'Aquitaine (archeological and history museum), and saw lots of Roman artifacts, and this big round window which had been removed from a church. Interestingly, I discussed what it could be with the kids. They kept suggesting that it was probably a wheel, bearing in mind that this was at person level, compared to in a church when it is usually high up in the rafters, and we talked about giants, and machines, but they took ages to decide that it could be a window.


After making our way around, without really knowing where we were going, we decided it would be prudent to visit the tourist information office, and also to find out if it were possible to join a bus tour to a winery, so that when there we could both enjoy the wine tasting offerings. Bus tours were outrageously expensive, as there was no significant discount for the kids... I suppose they take up a full seat on the bus... so we decided to drive ourselves the following day.

Dad had recommended the Pomerol area, and so we headed out that way. We got to the town about 1pm, and there was nothing going on. All the wineries were desolate, and there was nobody there. We headed over to St Emilion, only to find out that all the wineries close for lunch between 12-2pm. I had been expecting fancy little cafes associated with each winery, a lot like those in the Yarra or Hunter Valleys back home. No food. We found one that showed some sign of life about 1.30 - and people were arriving there carrying baguettes and cheese, and setting up their own picnics (clearly in the know). I interrupted the staff having their lunch (which looked amazing), and they asked if we would like to join the tour at 2pm. Sounded fine. We went back to the car to see what we could scrounge up to eat - was not very appetising, trust me. The tour was terrific, it’s been a long time since I have been on a winery tour, so I really enjoyed hearing about the process. Didi and Jie Jie decided to document it all with their iPods, and are planning preparing a flow chart. They were particularly impressed seeing the grapes (which are not yet quite ripe for this vintage) hanging on the vines. I learned that in the Bordeaux region one of the regulations, is that there is no irrigation allowed, there is a clay soil on a limestone base, which retains enough water for the crop.

We then wandered around the medieval town of St Emilion, which was really charming, and had loads of little wine shops, some homeware stores and lots of restaurants and cafes.

One more sleep, then next stop Normandy...

(PS : more photos in my album!)

Posted by aboo10 00:53 Archived in France Tagged churches buildings children winery family_travel Comments (3)

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