Tag Archives: wanderlust

A long weekend in Edinburgh

22 Jun

This time last week I was getting ready for an early night for a subsequently early morning flight back to the homeland.

I normally take the morning flights because they are cheaper and then normally run like clockwork. Not last week though. To my frustration, the flight was delayed by over an hour because of “technical problems with the aircraft”: a reason that I find a little nerve-wrecking to hear as I am about to board. Because of this delay, I missed the train I had pre-booked and had to buy another, more expensive ticket.

Nevertheless, we arrived in Edinburgh at around lunchtime. I had booked a serviced apartment on The Royal Mile for us to stay in. It took a while to find it because the GPS had us walking around in an area not near where it was and the name of the place was different to the name I had received on the confirmation booking. The apartment was really nice and we had the option of self-catering as well. The only problem was it was on the top floor and we had to go up 7 flights of a spiral staircase to get to the top.

The rest of the day we wandered around, saw the castle and had dinner at an all-you-can-eat Pan Asian buffet. It was a bit unhealthy but the choice of foods was surprisingly good and I limited myself to one plate of desserts!

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On Friday, we did one of my favourite things to do in an unfamiliar city – a free walking tour! We were told some really interesting stories, from the Middle Ages to the 18th century to more recent times, about the city of Edinburgh. We were lucky that the tour leader was a student of the University and had been brought up there so the information was definitely reliable. We even visited the grave of Tom Riddle, which was the name of Lord Voldemort, before he became Lord Voldemort, in the Harry Potter books. J. K. Rowling wrote the books while living in Edinburgh and it is thought that this was one of the many inspirations for her writings that she took from the city.

In the afternoon, we thought it would be a good idea to walk to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is moored in Edinburgh. I completely underestimated how long the walk would take and promptly complained for every step at the end of the journey. We got the bus back.

IMG_6622In the evening after a lovely and slightly posh looking haggis, carrots and tatties and a few drinks. What better way to finished the day off than with a Ghost Tour! Wooooh! Spooky! Or in this case not. As the summer nights are with us, it wasn’t all that spooky, walking around hearing, not so much ghost stories, than gruesome happenings, which we had mainly heard about on the morning tour. All in all, there were only about 2 stories about ghosts and hauntings and I wasn’t really all that scared at all.

The next day we visited The Real Mary King’s Close. This was a live museum tour, where a person dressed in the costume of the 17th century takes you underground for a tour of how life was like in Edinburgh in the Middle Ages and beyond. Interestingly, because the city is so hilly, over the years they have just built on top of houses rather than knocking them down and starting again. This means that the city today is just one layer of the city, many more lie beneath. We were able to go underground and see the houses and the conditions that people would have had to endured. It was a really interesting way to learn about how life was. I think that this is far more effective than reading about history from books.

It got quite hot underground so I was glad when we could resurface. It wasn’t just escaping the heat that I was excited about; it was also our next stop: a gin distillery.

I have been to plenty of breweries but never to a gin distillery. The distillery was Pickering’s Gin at Summerhall Distillery and I can highly recommend it. The distillery only started in 2013 and is still relatively small but is already the official Gin of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is quite some going. The actual distillery is just three smallish rooms in an old veterinary school which is now one of the biggest arts centres in Europe and is home to many start-ups and art projects. We had the lovely Lisa, who had left Australia to come to Scotland to distill gin, explain to us the process and the challenges that the business faced in the beginning. It was fascinating from a business point of view and also to see how a kraft distillery operates. Of course, the best part was the tasting! Pickering’s currently have 3 gins: the original, the 1947 reciepe and the Navy Gin, which is 52%! My favourite was the 1947 reciepe gin as the flavour was a bit smoother than the others. On these sorts of things, I normally feel obliged to part with money and buy at least something but this time (and maybe it was because of the gin) I had no problem parting with my money for a bottle! As I say, I highly recommend this tour if you ever go to Edinburgh.

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After a nap in the afternoon, we headed out to see some former work friend of mine, who now live and work in Edinburgh. It was great to see Martin and Katie. I don’t think we have seen each other for 4 or more years but it was like we had never been away from each other. No awkward silences. This for me is a true sign of friendship: when you can carry on as if no time at all has passed. We had some cocktails at a bar and then headed to an Indian restaurant called Mother India for some delicious food. There is indian food in Switzerland but somehow it is not the same as in the UK when you go out, have a few pints and a good curry.

On the Sunday, we were heading back to Liverpool after lunchtime but there was time to walk to Holyrood Palace and see the Scottish Parliament. I don’t wish to offend anyone but the Scottish Parliament really isn’t a nice looking building. It’s sort of a mismash of ultra modern with a bit of traditional but too many glass surfaces. Just my opinion. And it doesn’t look as big as it does when you see in on the TV.

A 4-hour trip back to Liverpool, through the lovely green Lake District, meant that there was time to appreciate the beauty of the English countryside as well. A relaxing evening drinking beer in the garden and the weekend, as ever, was over too soon….

Siem Reap

25 Apr

After exploring the capital it was time to head off to Siem Reap. Along the way we stopped at a food market where some of the food looked like it belonged on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here – think deep-fried tarantula, cockroaches et al. Luckily I had had a big breakfast so I didn’t need to eat anything. Apparently Cambodians only eat these as a snack with a drink, a bit like a Cambodian tapas. Still probably best to give it a wide berth.


The next stop was a trip to a Silk factory. We learnt all about how the silk is made from the cocoons of the silkworms and how the thread is transformed and woven into silk scarves. It was an interesting story but as my home town is famous for silk it wasn’t anything that was new to me. Having said that it was interesting to see how it works in a completely different country with oodles of heat. They actually wet the silk to prevent it from breaking when weaving. I was also pleased but surprised to her that the women working there get 3 months paid maternity leave which is what women are entitled to in Switzerland!

The next stop was a floating village – a community that lives in boats and lives off the river. We even spotted a school. 

After a long time on the road it was finally time to arrive at the hotel. After food some of us headed to a local bar for drinks. At 1 Dollar for a beer I was not complaining. The bar staff were super friendly. We got caught up in a battle of Connect 4 with one of them. I knew when he offered to play us for drinks that he was Cambodias Grand Connect 4 Master. And he was! The four of us only managed to beat him once and that was with the help of another barman!

The next day we went to see the temples. The first on the agenda was Angkor Wat. This is one of the most famous temples in Cambodia and is on the national flag. Even at 8 in the morning the heat was oppressive and I was beginning to struggle already. The actual building is mind blowing. The intricacy of the carvings is incredible and the building is well preserved. But walking around in the heat was too much for me.

We left this temple to visit the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom. We explored around and learnt a bit more about he place from our guide. Again, it is incredible to think that this temple was built so long ago with limited technology compared with what capacities technology offers to us today. 

Finally we visited Banteay Srey temple. This was the oldest of the temples we saw and was one of the more beautiful. 

After a rest in the evening we went to a Traditional Cambodian dance show. I won’t say it was like Strictly Come Dancing because it wasn’t but it was interesting to see this style of dance with is similar to Thai dancing. The costumes were colourful and dazzling and the stories behind the dances were, not always clear, but entertaining. 

The next day was an early start and I mean early! 4am to be precise. Today was the day that we would see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Despite the early morning, it didn’t disappoint and was worth skipping s couple of hours kip for. We also climbed to the top of one of the towers that he hadn’t done the day befor because it was too hot to wait in the queue in the heat of the sun. 


After this, and it was still only early now, we went to visit the temple made famous by Lars Croft and The Tomb Raider movie. This temple is a lot different to the other temples in style and also in condition. Large parts of the temple are structurally unsafe and major reconstruction work is underway. 

I went back to the hotel and slept and watched some tv before heading down to the pool for a swim. Imagine my surprise when I realised it was raining. It didn’t put me off, I still went out for a dip in the rain and it was really refreshing.

Later it was time to visit a street food market where we tried some exotic foods. Our guide was keen for us NOT to try the street food as Cambodian street food is not as fresh and clean as in Thailand or Vietnam. I was happy to take his advice.


I was sad to be leaving Siem Reap. I misch preferred it to Phnom Penh. The streets were cleaner and a lot wider than in Phnom Penh which means it didn’t feel as hot in Siem Reap. I still got bitten to death by insects though despite my jungle formula insect repellent…

Miss Saigon – Part 2: Exploring

19 Apr

On Tuesday it was an early start as I had a trip to the Mekong River Delta. The Mekong River Delta is called the Nine Dragons because there are 9 rivers that flow into the sea. To get to the Delta, it was a 2 hour bus ride, luckily with air-conditioning!

During the bus ride we stopped at the equivalent of a motorway service station and the guide told me that Vietnamese people don’t like to say toilet so they say they are going to the Happy Place, which is better than the American equivalent of bathroom.

At the Delta we took a boat and visited Coconut Island where the local economy is centred around coconuts. We visited a family who make charcoal from coconut shells. The shells are burnt for about 10 days and then taken out of the kilns to cool and are bagged and sold at local markets. 


We hopped back into the boat and visited another community who break open the coconuts and use the fibres to make door mats. They then sell on the coconut shells to other families who can turn the shells into charcoal. 

We then took a xe-lói which is a bit like a Tuk Tuk to see where they use the stalks of the coconuts to make brooms to use in the house. The women who make the brooms can produce 100 brooms a day. They get paid by how many brooms they produce each day so a lot of women are able to work when their children are at school and earn extra income.

We stopped for a short break at a local orchard and ate some of the seasonal fruit – pomelo, mango, banana and pineapple. Then we went kayaking on the River. I have kayaked a few times before but, even so, I was a bit sceptical about kayaking on this huge river where there was a lot of river traffic but also where the depth could be up to 10 metres. Still it was an enjoyable experience and not as nerve wrecking as I thought it would be. Apart from fish, there are no predators in the water (allegedly).

After that we got onto bicycles (it was beginning to be a bit like a triathlon or multi-event race) and headed to a local house for lunch by the river. 

The lunch was a traditional Vietnamese lunch including Snake head fish which is a member of the catfish family. I have never heard of this fish before but it was delicious. 

We took the bus back to the city after the trip and arrived back in Ho Chi Minh City just before 5. I had a beer in the bar and relaxed. It had been so hot during the day that I was feeling wiped out so I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing. After some tips from my guide about how to cross the road, I went for a walk around. Crossing the road here is an experience! I worked out that the best thing to do is to wait for a gap in traffic and walk across in a constant and steady space – the bikes will be able to judge the distance that way and end up not hitting you.

The next day I had a half day tour of Saigon which stopped first at the Notre Dame Catherdral and the Central Post Office. I had seen both of these buildings before on the Street Food tour but it was nice to learn a bit more about the buildings and to go inside. The cathedral was built during the time when Vietnam was a French colony and the Post Office was designed by the same man who built the Eiffel Tower.


I also visited the Reunification Palace and toured the Presidential rooms as well as the Bunker and the kitchens. The next stop was the War Renaments Museum which was an eye-opener. I wrote in an earlier post that I didn’t know much about the Vietnam war. In hindsight this was an understatement. The museum provides an excellent insight into the conflict and the aftermath which is still being felt in modern-day Vietnam.


The tour guide told me that his father had his leg blown off in 1986 by a stepping on a landmine while working on the family farm. His uncle saved his life and soon he was back working on the farm with a prosthetic leg. It’s easy to forget that this war was only 40 years ago; the first war that was documented in black and white photographs and later in colour film. There is a really good photography exhibition which documents what actually happened, including some very distressing images. 

Shortly after returned to the hotel and had a nice lunch of Vietnamese prawn pancakes  (basically a bit like a Yorkshire pudding with a prawn in the middle and some herbs). Delicious! I said this to the waiter and he looked at me a bit confused. A few minutes later his friend came up to me and asked what word I had said to him and asked me what it meant. I may have introduced the word Delicious to Southern Vietnam. You heard it here first!


I changed hotels in the afternoon to join up with the group that I will be travelling through Cambodia with. I am looking forward to having some company and visiting my third country in 5 days!

Current insect bite count: 14 😦

Miss Saigon – Part 1: Vietnamese Food

17 Apr

After swapping my Swiss Miss (via Thailand) for Miss Saigon, I was eager to get my teeth into something tasty. I’m not sure I could name one Vietnamese dish, apart from maybe a noodle soup.

At 6pm, only a few hours after I booked into the hotel, I was collected for a Street Food tour which also included a tour of the the most famous places at night. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting for the guide to turn up on a motorbike, pass me a helmet and tell me to get on the back!

I’ve never been on a motorbike before and from my limited experience so far I’m not convinced that Vietnam was the best place to start. Ho Chi Minh City has a population of 10 million people and a motorbike population of just of 5 million. If Holland rode motorbikes instead of pushbikes this is  exactly how the Netherlands would be like. It doesn’t seem that there are too many road rules. People go where they want to. Roundabouts are a logistical nightmare. You round a corner on a main road and in the middle of the road is a man in the road struggling to push a cartful of mangoes up the hill. Gulp!

Luckily my guide was a careful driver and didn’t drive too fast or wildly. At first, I was hanging on to the poor sod for dear life but I soon got used to it. He left me outside a shopping centre while he parked up the car in the multi-storey. It wasn’t long before 3 children came up to me. Instantly, I put my guard up: I wasn’t sure if this was a trick to somehow distract me while an amigo helped themself to my bag. In the background, I could see a woman smiling ear to ear and I realised these were her children. The children simply wanted to practice their English with me. They told me they learn English at school and they practice as much as they can with foreigners visiting the city. One of them asked me if I was sad because I was on holiday alone? I said, no, I was having a great time anyway.

My guide took me to enjoy broken rice and poor spare ribs in a small restaurant. Broken rice is very common in Southern Vietnam and the grain of the rice is actually very small. The food was tasty as was the apple and grapefruit juice. We wondered around the main plaza which was alive with people. There are water fountain displays and lots of people were out enjoying the weather because it was Sunday. In the middle of the plaza and in front of the government buildings is a statue of Ho Chi Minh who the city is named after. I had no idea that the city is named after a person and I’m not sure there are many cities in the world that can claim that. 


After we met with a friend of his, who is also a tour guide. I think she wanted to practice her English, which was fine with me. We set off on the bikes again and crossed the Saigon River. On the bridge we made a quick stop to collect some corn that is typical Vietnamese. It was warmed with chili, spices and onions. Next stop was a few minutes away and was where the action was happening. In the evening young people gather on the bank of the river and barbecue. We found a street seller and had some fish kebabs, sausages (a bit like a German wurst), deep fried eggs in batter and a Vietnamese-style lemonade that had passionfruit in it. After stuffing myself to bursting point (as usual), we drove home in the tunnel going under the River and was back at the hotel.

The next morning was an early start. I had a cooking class to go to! Because of the bad traffic I was left waiting in the hotel lobby for 40 minutes, but the tour company had phoned in advance to tell me they would be late.

After getting stuck in traffic and arriving even later, I arrived for the class. I was in a group with four other ladies (2 Swedes, 1 from Portugal and a British lady who has been living in South Africa for almost 30 years). To being with we went to collect our ingredients and learn more about them. All of the produce is grown or produced at the site, with the exception of sugar and oil which they buy from the local market. It was so interesting to pick my own lemongrass and see how it is grown. They also grown their own oyster mushrooms in a really unique way in rubber plant shavings and plastic bags. 

I also found out how peanuts are grown. Did you know they were grown underground? When you taste them before they are roasted (like we did) they taste like peas. Really! They do! That must be why we call them peanuts in English. Thinking about it some more in German the word is Erdnuss coming from Erd for earth and Nuss from nut, which is exactly how they are grown!

On to the cooking and I was so glad to hear that we were cooking 4 courses! The first was spring rolls with a homemade dipping sauce, which I have always wanted to have a go at but I was too nervous to give it a go. They are so easy to make and I will definitely be making them when we get home and no we didn’t make that rice paper! That would have been a step too far for this amateur chef! 

Next up was a papaya salad with fried beef with lemongrass and ginger! Delicious and more and so simple to make again! Luckily, the chili was mainly for decoration for this dish or I would have been suffering later. Next was a chicken and mushroom dish that was marinaded and cooked in a clay pot. Again deliciousness personified! It didn’t look as attractive as the other dishes but the smells and flavours were incredible. 

Dessert was a banana spring roll. I have never heard of this before and to say I was sceptical was an understatement. Served with coconut icecream (I’m not a huge fan of anything coconut), it was a dream and a perfect ending to a fantastic experience and meal. Throughout the day I had learnt a lot about marinades and sauces as well as ingredients and flavour combinations. 


Our chef for the day was Mi (pronounced Me) and she helped us to prepare the dishes and answer our questions. She was a great head chef and was knowledgeable and funny (even though she told me off for forgetting to put herbs in my second spring rolls). The whole operation is run by Chef Tan who has appeared in cookery programmes with Gordon Ramsey. He told us he has two restaurants in Melbourne as well as his cookery school. If you are in the area, I highly recommend this experience to anyone and everyone. The atmosphere and staff are excellent and, even though the  course is commercially designed, it loses none of its charm and authenticity.

After the cooking class, I went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is a large network of connecting tunnels underground that the Vietnamese people used during the Vietnam war to evade capture from the Americans. It’s incredible that people lived underground with living rooms, workshops and medical quarters. It was also possible to go underground and see the size of the tunnels, which have actually been enlarged for tourist to see how life was like. The tunnels are narrow, dark and oppressively hot. I have no idea how much willpower these people must have needed to survive.


I don’t know very much about the Vietnam war but I will go home and read up about it. It’s a war on recent history that I never learnt about at school and is definitely a war that has shaped modern day Vietnam. History is important and it can helps us understand the world today.

Traffic jams stop me getting to the hotel in good time but enough time to relax by the pool with some very cheap beer before another long day tomorrow.

Two Days in Bangkok

15 Apr

After a short delay leaving Zurich, I arrived in Bangkok on Friday morning a little later than planned but safely. After getting through customs and collecting my bag, I took the Airport Express into the city centre, where I took the Skyline to my hotel. The hotel is only 3 minutes walk from the Skyline which is one of the reasons I booked it. The transport was clean, fast and air conditioned. It was only 10.30am but I was already a baking in the heat.

The hotel itself was not entirely as I expected. It’s amazing how good photos can make a place look (this is also applicable to house hunting as well) but the most important thing was it clean, convenient and pretty cheap.

I only had about 45 minutes until a tour guide was arriving to take me to The Grand Palace complex. I was collected on time and we headed to the Palace. The guide (whose name I forget) told me that the traffic is normally a lot worse but because today was Thai New Year the city was a lot less busy than usual as many people leave the city to go to their homes in other provinces to celebrate. The road still looked pretty busy to me.

The Grand Palace itself is impressive, not just because of its size but also in how it was constructed. The Palace is adorned with handmade murals, gold leaf fixed by hand and mosaics. Also important to know is that the late King, who died in October, is lying in state in one of the buildings in The Grand Palace before he is cremated at the end of this year. Thai people line up for hours and hours, dressed head to toe in black each day to be able to spend 2 or 3 minutes in the same room as his body and pay their respects. In fact, memorials to him are everywhere you look – in the airport, at the train stations, along the streets. It’s hard to image how much he meant to the people of Thailand and how respected he was.

There is also a Emerald Buddha (which is actually made of Jade) you can visit. My guide told me that some times policitians come to the Buddha to make a vow that the policy or promise that they have made will be carried out and, if they don’t do what they promise, that they should be struck down with an illness if they don’t! I wonder how British politics would be if this happened at Westminster?

I got back to the hotel and, after not a great night’s sleep on the plane and the time difference, I was feeling pretty wiped out. I had already booked a Street Food Tuk Tuk tour for the evening and I was considering not going and having an early night. But I went anyway.

I’m glad I did go. Although the start didn’t go as I planned. The Thai New Year  is celebrated by a 3 day Water Festival which involves people lining the streets with water pistols and buckets of water. Guess what time of year I arrived? Yes, New Year! Any passerbys get covered in water. So far I had managed to not get wet. It was unavoidable this time as I had to walk from the hotel to the Skyline station. To say I was drenched was an understatement. One man even walked up to me and tipped a bucket of water all over me. It wasn’t very subtle and not fair, I was completely unarmed! I had to take the train in very soggy clothes and squeaky sandals!

On the actual tour, there was some really interesting food that we tried which was really tasty. Is it wrong that nothing was all that exotic? There wasn’t a deep fried grasshopper in sight! The other people in the group were really nice and chatty and it was nice to meet some fellow travellers and here what their travel plans were. 

By now I had started to dry off. The open sided Tuk Tuk combined with the water night air was proving effective. Until we turned the corner and completely unaware of what was about to happen, I took the full force of a bucket of water. Great, just great!

Along with the food, we also visited a few other places as well. My favourite place had to be the Flower Market. The smell of the place was incredible and the amount of flowers that are sold there on a daily basis is mind-boggling. So is the fact that the market is open 24/7! Apparently Thais like to have fresh flowers in their homes but lots of people take flowers daily to the temples as an offering. The market itself is always packed wih people running around with flowers on trucks and ice to try to keep the flowers fresh. 


The next morning I was collected from my hotel for a Temple and River Cruise. Overall I wasn’t so impressed with the tour guide. It was more of a “here’s a temple go and have a look and come back to the bus in 30 minutes”. I noticed that other people doing the same course as us had the guide taking them round so I don’t know why ours didn’t. So I’m not sure how important or impressive the temples were that we went to.

However , there were some impressive sights. At Wat Maha That (Wat is Thai for temple), there is a Buddha’s head that fell off from the statue and had some how been incorporated into the roots of the tree.

My favourite place we visited was Bang Pa-In Summer Palace. The grounds were so well maintained and so green, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in an English country garden on the warmest day of the year. The buildings, like most of the buildings in Bangkok, are impressively built and look stunning. 

Here is one of my favourite pictures I took while I was there:


While on the River Cruise, an all you can eat buffet was available. I’m always surprised by the selection of food on offer. It’s understandable that they try to cater for  international tastes but who want to eat a badly made Lasange in a 35 degree heat? If I want a Lasange I will go to Italy. Serve Thai food please but not the really spicy stuff – my lips are still tingling from the street food from the night before! 

I got back to the hotel and I’m exhausted now. Maybe a few beers and a chill out this evening. Tomorrow I fly to Ho Chi Minh City, former Saigon, Vietnam! I can’t wait!

Happy Holidays!

13 Apr

When I booked this holiday in November, I think it was, it seemed like an age away. But it’s already here and I am ready for holiday. Big Time. I have been ready for a least a week. I really start to get excited and in the holiday mood when I collect the money that I have ordered from the bank and I start taking a look at the exotic looking notes. I genuinely have no idea if I have an average person’s annual wage with me or if it will all be gone in a few hours.

Everything is organised, planned and packed. Or at least I hope it is. People have been making me feel a bit anxious about travelling to Asia on my own. In the last 3 hours, two separate people have warned me about the Bangkok Hilton. I am not sure what this says about me if people are warning me not to deal drug while on holiday! Once I arrive and I get to the hotel, I will be feeling more confident and ready to enjoy myself.

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This trip (I have said this before and failed) I have packed as light as possible. I always start off with a list (something that my mum always used to do before our family holidays) of everything that I need and just before I finish packing I decide I must have forgotten something and end up throwing more stuff into my bag at random just so I don’t feel like I have forgotten something. I was very tempted to do this this morning. I have resisted temptation for a few reasons.

Experience tells me that being a light as possible while you are moving between countries (3 in 17 days in fact) has many advantages. I think that the day we travel from Vietnam to Cambodia we use public transport so the less I have, not just to carry, but also to keep an eye on the better.

Apart from one in-case-of-emergency lipstick, I have not got any make-up packed whatsoever. I don’t wear a lot of make-up anyway and I figure that when the weather is forecast to be 37 degree with 95% humidity, a layer of foundation is the last thing that I will need. After my children’s Factor 50 suncream has been applied, it is not really worth trying to get an even coverage with my MAC make-up.

I took so many T-shirts with me to South Africa last year that I came back with 5 clean ones in the bottom of my bag that I didn’t even realise I had brought with me. This trip was a bit tricky because it involved camping and we moved every day so I didn’t have the luxury of being able to get everything out of my bag to see what was clean and what wasn’t.

There is one thing that I have been agonizing over – my electric toothbrush. If I was stranded on a desert island my electric toothbrush would be my luxury item. But only if it had unlimited battery life or was solar-powered because there would be nowhere for you to plug it in would there? My teeth never seem clean when I use a manual toothbrush but taking it with me means I need to take more cables with me and it is one more thing to forget or lose in a hotel room.

Discipline is the name of  the game! I do still have the niggling feeling that I have forgotten something. If I have it’s nothing that I can buy when I am out there or nothing that I can’t go without….

…. just had to quickly check that I had packed my glasses. I have! Panic over. Phew!

All being well, I will try to keep up with the blog on my travels but it is a bit fiddly to write on the WordPress app with my sausage fingers.

In the meantime, have a great Easter, whether you celebrate it or not. I’m not sure that my chocolate egg is going to survive the Asian heat…

A Norwegian Getaway

2 Apr

After having the first BBQ of the season on Thursday evening, I was ready for holidaying to start. On the Friday, I jetted off early to Oslo in the hope that the weather forecasts were completely wrong. Up above the clouds and seeing the sun, I was thinking that the weather was going to be a lot better than predicted. My hopes were shattered when we descended under the clouds and I could see a coating of snow on the ground! I was glad my gut instinct of bring layers and hat and gloves had been correct.

The train from the airport to the City centre was quick and I had arrived by 10am. Although there was no snow in the city, it was foggy and grey but at least not the rain that was forecast. As the weather was not great and I had bought the Oslo Pass which includes entrance into 30 museums, I decided to be a culture vulture.

After a wander round to get my bearings, the first stop was the Nobel Peace Centre. Last year I went to the Nobel Centre in Stockholm, Sweden so I thought it would be nice to see the exhibition about the Peace Prize. The museum itself was quite small and, in my opinion, not as good as the museum in Stockholm. The main display was an exhibition of all the winners of the prize on iPads. When you walk up past the iPads, it activates the screens and gives more information about the prize winner. It took me a while to realise that when a screen is activated a musical note plays, so that when there are more people in the room looking at parts of the installation it produces a, well, for want of a better word, a peaceful atmosphere.

I moved next to the Munch museum (which is apparently is pronounced “Monk”). I was expecting to see The Scream, which seems like a reasonable assumption but it wasn’t there. In fact, the museum doesn’t have a permanent exhibition. The paintings are changed regularly so it could happened that it’s hit or miss what you see. I personally wasn’t a fan of what I saw.

The Natural History Museum was the next stop and I came face to face with a T-rex. I had no idea that the museum had a T-rex so it was a nice surprise. I always found Natural History Museums a bit macabre as a child and I guess I still do. But the stuff about dinosaurs and fossils are pretty cool.

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I had already booked a Fjord cruise but by the time I left the museums, it was rain. The weather forecast was right. It was bucketing it down. The boat had no sides and the only roof was a canvas. Luckily there were blankets provided but it didn’t do too much to keep me warm. My idea of what a cruise on the Fjords would be like was not what I expected. Because of the foggy and the mist, there wasn’t anything to see. It was just grey. The only way I can describe it is that if Manchester was on the sea and they put on cruises it would be exactly like that: Raining, cold and grey. I can imagine that in the summer when you can see all the islands with their greenery, with the sun beating down that it has a certain majesty about it. By the time, I disembarked I wasn’t able to feel my feet. I was glad to go for something to eat to warm up.

The weather on Saturday was unfortunately much the same. So, it was time for more museums. On the Fjord cruise an American family had told me that they had been to the Fram museum and highly recommended it. I headed there first. The Fram museum houses the Fram, a boat that was used in Polar exploration. There was lots of information about the race to get to the North Pole between Scott and Amundsen, who was Norwegian. It was even possible to board the Fram and go into all the cabins and see how the ships worked. I have no idea how it must have been to go into the unchartered territory with limited provisions, nevermind having to cope with the cold all those years ago without the technology that we have today.

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Next to the Fram museum are also the National Maritime Museum and the Kon-tiki Museum. I’m not all that interested in martime history and I only really went because it was free. I am sure that it would be really interesting if boats through the ages was your thing. The Kon-tiki musuem was dedicated to the work of Thor Heyerdahl who in 1947 made an expedition from South America to French Polynesia because he wanted to prove that the people of Polynesia had a link to Peruvians. To prove it, he took 5 other friends on a raft, called Kon-tiki made out of wood across 4,000 miles of ocean. The original vessel that they sailed on was in the museum. It’s an incredible story – not least when Heyerdahl not only had a fear of water and wasn’t able to swim. One of his most famous quotes is: “Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard they exist in the minds of some people” Perhaps if more people had this view of life that there would be less conflict in the world.

Next I headed to The National Gallery because, after a bit of research, I had found out that this was where The Scream was kept. It’s quite bizarre that it is just housed in a normal room with no additional security when it had been stolen about 3 times in the past. It was a surprise just to come across it in one of the side rooms. I only realised it must be there because so many people were sitting looking at it.

After a small stop for lunch, I went to the Ibsen museum. I had heard of Ibsen before and I could name a few of his works but after visiting the museum, which is on the site of where he last lived, I will make a conserted effort to read some of the things he has written. It seems like a man who was ahead of his time, writing about women’s role in society, for example. Some of the details of his private life are not so pleasant but that doesn’t stop his plays from being good.

There was just enough time to look around the Akershus Castle and to go to the Opera House where I was treated to an incredible sunset over the city (by now, the weather was improving and I even saw some blue sky). It is possible to climb up to the roof of the Opera House and the view from the top is something to behold.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Norway. The weather was the major disappointment. It meant the weekend was more of a damp than I was hoping but I made the most of it.

Next weekend I am back in the UK to go to the Grand National for the first time. The weather can’t be as bad as the weekend in Norway, can it?