Thoughts About Oslo

On our way to Oktoberfest, we decided to spend a few days in Oslo, Norway. This stopover was prompted, in no small way, by the very inexpensive fares Norwegian Air Shuttle is offering from the US to various European cities right now. Neither my DH or I had been to Norway before, so we thought a small sample could be fun.

(I will be doing a separate write up on Norwegian Air Shuttle soon discussing it’s pros and cons, this was our second international flight on the carrier.)

Our flight was an overnight transit, so we arrived in Oslo just after 2:00 pm. Going though passport control was a breeze, I think we were the only non-Norwegian, non-EU passengers around, no line! Also, no customs really… Great circumstance when you are in the brain fog of no sleep and time changes. We had already purchased tickets on the express train to the central station in Oslo and found the train with no issue, all the signage was in English and everyone we met spoke English.

We booked a hotel that was located right in the old train station, so getting to the hotel was also a breeze. The hotel “Comfort Hotel Grand Central” is a cozy little space. Affordable, especially by Oslo standards, but somewhat lacking in “in-room” amenities as we soon found out. The room was a comfortable size with a nice bed and sitting area, but no wardrobe (closet) or dresser or in room safe. The bath also lacked any amenities, except for soap. The linens were clean but thin and minimal. The staff at the “barception” were welcoming and courteous and the in-house breakfast was held in a large area and had plenty of hot and cold dishes to accommodate any preferences.

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Powerful

All right, we’ve arrived! What to do next…!!! Our room overlooked the front of the station and directly down Karl Johans Gate, the (or a main) street in Oslo and mostly pedestrian We decided to go for a walk.

We stopped about a mile up the street at…you guessed it the Hard Rock Cafe… for a quick beer, then headed back out to look for some dinner.

As the Hotel was located at the train station, and this being Europe, there were many dining choices available to us right at the station. We ended up at an Italian place for a quick bite.

Good opening for our stay in Oslo.

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Reno, NV

Taking a quick trip up to Reno, Nevada to celebrate an anniversary. I am flying up on an unusual airline JetSuiteX . You fly out of the private terminal, easy on…easy off! Unfortunately my flight got delayed due to the incoming aircraft coming from Las Vegas getting held up by Air Traffic Control. I will up date on the flight on the other end. We are doing the return to the Bay Area on the train. Not a usual pick here in the states, but we got a direct trip on Amtrak and are looking forward to seeing the sights along the way.

Gate for flight

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San Miguel de Allende

We are off to spend a week in the quaint colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Let me start off by saying that my DH likes to handle the transportation and hotel side of our trips. Getting feedback from me of course, but he typically places the bookings. In over 20 years this has not been an issue…But everyone misses a beat and this time DH was not on his game.

From the SF Bay Area where we live there are many options for flying. We, like so many have gotten stuck in a rut… tied by loyalty points to one particular airline. When we were booking this trip I tried to encourage DH to look at other airlines maybe other airports than SFO, but he stuck with our usual.

Here’s how that went… We started driving from the east bay in rush hour traffic to SFO (1 hour 45 minutes) for the first leg of our flight (SF0 to LAX a one hour flight). Then had a 2 hour layover at LAX before the final flight to Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico. The flight to Leon was on a “Regional Jet” a Canada Embraer. For those of you who don’t recognize this aircraft, just let me say it’s really tiny for a jet aircraft… A colleague of mine used to call this the ‘Barbie’ plane. You can check them out here.. Embraer. The flight on this tiny plane was about 3 and 1/2 hours. From Leon, we had a 1 and 1/2 hour taxi ride to San Miguel de Allende.

So you don’t have to do the math, we left our house at 7 am PDT and arrived at our Hotel in San Miguel de Allende at 7:30 pm (6:30 pm PDT). 11 and 1/2 hours of travel. My DH has a lovely team member at work, whose family is actually from Leon Mexico, and had flown down just a week or so before, on a non-stop flight from OAK to BJX. This probably would have saved us half the time in getting to our final destination. This was not the most efficient way to go (and probably not the least expensive either as we were on a “Legacy” airline). But we were finally at the hotel… except we weren’t

The hotel we chose was the Dona Urraca … about 10 minutes walking from the center of town. However, Dona Urraca has two hotels, the one we wanted to stay at and the one my DH booked us at… In another town an hours drive away. As few people in San Miguel speak English and my DH speaks very little Spanish it took us a while to figure out what they were trying to tell us. The Hotel had a room for us for the night, but not for our planned 8 night stay. Good thing the Hotel offered free wi-if and we were able to search for a new hotel.

Options at the last minute were limited but we did find a place about a mile away, the Rancho Hotel El Atascadero. With that dilemma solved we enjoyed a nice dinner at a cute place a few blocks away, walked home and crawled into bed for the night… long day ūüí§

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Vietnam in Three Stops… Stop 3 – Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

¬†A note to anyone who is traveling to Vietnam on a Cruise Ship … the ports are quite far from the Cities.¬† When we docked in Ha Long Bay, we chose to stay in Ha Long rather than endure the 3 plus, hour long, one-way,¬†bus ride into Hanoi. You need to be aware of these travel times¬†as it will effect what you see depending on your choices.¬†

Last stop in Vietnam for us this trip is Ho Chi Minh City formerly Saigon. Here in the south, the locals seem to still prefer to call the city Saigon.  This city is a crazy, bustling, frenetic place. After an hours drive from the port, we arrive in the center of it all.

Motor bikes are the most popular form of transit in Vietnam, providing an inexpensive and agile way to get around.  The loads the locals are able to balance on their bikes is insane.  We have asked to tour markets and are soon dropped off at one of the local open air markets with our guide.

Everything is for sale here …and very fresh… even the brains

After walking through the market for about an hour, we stop for lunch in a local shop.¬† The eggplant dish was one of the best I’ve ever had.

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent tooling around the city looking at the architecture old and new. No tour would be complete without seeing the Saigon Central Post Office and the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon constructed in the late 1800’s when Vietnam was part of French Indochina.¬† Both¬†are great examples of French influence on the buildings of that time.

 

While our 3 stops in Vietnam were short, with the assistance of a local guide in each location, we were able to get a good feel for the country and it’s people.¬† The cities are filled with young, eager, hardworking people who love their home and want to show it to the world.

Categories: Architecture, Asia, cruising, Food, Saigon, Travel, Vietnam | Leave a comment

Vietnam in Three Stops… Stop 2 – Hue (Part 2 – The City)

After a great tour of the countryside, we headed into Hue proper.  Hue was the imperial city of Vietnam from 1802 Р1945 and you see the beauty of the people and the architecture all around.

The Citadel was the home to the emperor as was fashioned after the Forbidden City in Beijing.  Much of the Citadel is still under restoration.  However, you could spend hours wandering through the grounds and buildings.

Next we headed over the south side of the Perfume River to tour the Bao Quoc Pagoda, where  building began in 1670

There is so much to see in each City and province in Vietnam, but if you haven’t guessed already, we are doing this tour on a Cruise.¬† We try to pack as much in to a day in port as possible, but there always comes the time when we have to head back to the ship…

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Vietnam in Three Stops … Stop 2 – Hue (Part 1 -The Country Side)

The day after Halong Bay and we are up again at 6 am for our day in Hue (pronounced “way” for us English speakers). ¬†We again have hired a private guide and driver, who met us as we disembark the ship. ¬†Peter Pham of Da Nang Private Tours ¬†met us with his driver, Mr. Binh, and away we went in a comfy late model Toyota ForRunner. The outskirts of Hue are very agricultural and fishing is big. ¬†As you can see from this shot taken from my window, you are always close to the water. ¬†By the way there are still many water buffalo roaming the fields and highways and by ways in the area.

After stopping by a small fishing village we went to a local market and farming village.  The focus on fresh takes precedence in the market.  Most produce is harvested and sold the same day.  Shoppers are very focused on the ingredients.

In the village there was a quaint village museum that depicted the rice farming life… Let’s just say it wasn’t ( and still isn’t) easy . ¬†After walking around the small museum, our guide Peter,¬†introduced us to a very kind woman (70+ years old) who was a sort of docent at the museum, who showed us how the rice was farmed, husked and milled. ¬†Here are a couple pics of her at work.

                                     

This bridge is also there in the village, and has been standing there since 1776… Pretty coolūüĎć

 

 

 

 

Peter and his great and patient driver, Mr. Binh, then took us on to another village to meet one of the last wood block painters in the area. The artist Mr. Tranh Dan Gian Lang Sing makes his paintings using wood blocks he has carved.

After this whirlwind tour of the country side we headed into Hue Proper…

And that is for the next post ūüôā

 

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Wow! ¬†Been a while ūüėú

I’m sure I’m not the only one who ever started a blog and then left it.  There are probably as many reasons out there for not writing as there are people on Facebook.  I’m not going to get all blah…blah…blah… Job, family, life excuses.  I’m just  getting back in the game.

I’ve done a few quick trips this year, Palm Springs, Orlando, Key West, Anchorage… But we are gearing up for our fall trip now.  This is always the biggest trip of the year… And this year we are headed to South East Asia!  Hong Kong to Singapore in 14 days… I promise to blog the trip although some of the blogging may be a bit delayed as wi-fi on a cruise ship is somewhat iffy ūüėÜ

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Vietnam in Three Stops … Stop 1 – Halong Bay

After a whirlwind 3 days in Hong Kong, we set sail for Vietnam. ¬†First stop Halong Bay… This is the jumping off point for Hanoi… Most Americans would of course head to Hanoi, you know Hanoi Hilton and all… But after seeing that the trip from Halong Bay to Hanoi was 3-1/2 to 4 hours one way, we decided that was not for us. ¬†Instead we hired a guide and toured the amazing waterways and caves that make up this UNESCO world heritage site. ¬†Our guide Alex was a tall, 6’3″, young man recently out of the university. ¬†Alex and a few of his friends recently started their own company, HanoiNomnom

Alex arranged an all day cruise of Halong Bay with a traditional lunch served on board.


We made three stops during the day to visit the amazing limestone caves

Visiting the caves is physical, there are many stairs (my Fitbit clocked my flights climbed at 50 that day).  But the views are worth the workout.

The next morning, Alex took us over to the more residential side of Halong Bay where we had a traditional breakfast of Bun (vermicelli rice noodle soup) with barbecued pork and veggies.  Then it was off for the mandatory morning coffee and people watching.

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After the requisite long coffee break, we headed on to see a temple  and then finished up the morning at the Quang Ninh Museum. Almost every Asian city has a temple of great import.  It is necessary to visit and understand these temples to understand the people.

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We Are So Lucky …

I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much this year. ¬†But a quick trip to the coast ( a mere 20 miles from home) reminded me how fortunate we are to live in such a fantastic locale.
A couple weeks ago my husband and I headed over to the Marin Headlands to revisit this special part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. ¬†We exited the highway and started up the small road leading out over the cliffs. ¬†I was astounded at first by the ridiculous crowds. ¬†My husband and I both thought … Did we make a mistake coming here? ¬†There are so many people! ¬†Every place to pull over and look out over the cliffs towards San Francisco was crowded with cars and people. ¬† We finally made it past the crowds and headed down towards the lighthouse at Point Bonita. ¬†We found parking, hiked our way down to the lighthouse and were rewarded with this lovely, unobstructed view of the Golden Gate.

The lighthouse, in this location at Point Bonita, has been signaling to ships coming into the Gate since 1877. ¬† As you can see fewer people are willing to actually do the hike, so going the extra mile as they say is truly with the effort ūüėÉ

  
  
  

Categories: Coastal Views, Golden Gate, Lighthouses, San Francisco Bay Area, Travel | Leave a comment

Travel quizzes

I took another one of those travel quizzes on Facebook tonight. I did pretty well… In the top 5%!… But, honestly the reason I hadn’t been to more of the “100 places to go before you die” on this list, is I haven’t wanted to go there!

I get a little tired of people telling me where I “have” to go… My list is my list!¬† Also, I¬†don’t go places in any particular order… To reach any particular goal … Or to mark any particular place off some preconceived list. I travel because I love everything I find when I get wherever it is I find myself…¬†Here are some¬†pics of some of my¬†early jaunts¬†… What are yours? I’ll keep sharing… Please join in ūüėä

1996 – London, England

London 1996     Love the Beefeaters at the Tower of London

1996 – Paris, France

Paris, France 1996  We had lunch at the museum café over looking the IM Pei Pyramid.

1998 –¬†Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Great Barrier Reef, Australia 1998  Our view from the Helicopter as we headed back to the mainland.

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