A Travellerspoint blog

North from NYC: Central Massachusetts and Southern Vermont

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I've only written about our United States traveling when it was part of a round-the-world journey, but the fact is we enjoy taking road trips in the US and have done quite a number since we started having kids. Now that I've prioritized travel blogging a little more perhaps I'll go back and write up some of the road trips we've done in the Pacific Northwest, Upper Midwest, Deep South, and Texas. I'll start with the most recent because it's the freshest in my mind. The impetus here was our annual trip to New York City, our favorite destination in the world. When I thought about interesting places to combine with NYC, Vermont immediately came to mind. I hadn't been there since I was a kid, but the state is well-known for its beauty, great cuisine, and variety of activities. Once I started studying the map, I realized how close the northern part of Vermont was to Montreal and soon our trip expanded from one week to two and the NYC part of it shrunk to three days. There's just too much world out there to see to waste time in places we've already been, even the greatest city in the world.

Our arrival in New York was surprisingly painful, considering our flight was less than three hours. A choppy descent got everyone rattled, and then we had to take two shuttle buses to the rental car agency due to the neverending construction at La Guardia airport. The airport shuttle was particularly horrible, a stuttering and smoggy half hour to cover about three miles. Fortunately the minivan pickup went smoothly and we were on the road by seven. I'd decided to leave NYC for the final part of the trip, mainly due to the timing of things we wanted to do in Vermont but also to leave our most highly anticipated stop for the end. Finishing a trip with an anticlimax is no fun. Instead we decided to drive to Massachusetts from the airport to be ready to kick off our vacation in Old Sturbridge Village the next morning. I had high hopes of stopping for a good dinner somewhere in Connecticut but the family was exhausted and a little nauseous so we ended up snacking at a rest stop convenience store instead. The Airbnb in Massachusetts was a nice surprise, a cozy and beautifully-furnished colonial-style home on a quiet suburban street.

After an ample breakfast at a diner in Southbridge, we drove a few miles to Old Sturbridge Village. I still had vague memories of a field trip there from my grade school years, and I figured it would be an original experience for the kids. If we were really lucky, they might actually learn something. We arrived early enough to be ahead of the summer camp groups, but it seemed like the little town hadn't really woken up yet. There weren't that many actors around, and some of the ones who were didn't seem ready to demonstrate their 19th century skills. I remembered it from my childhood as more of a bustling town, but I easily could have been thinking of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia instead. It was still a pleasant place to walk around for a few hours, and the kids enjoyed the flintlock rifle demonstration.

We stopped briefly at Dinosaur Footprints Reservation near Holyoke, Massachusetts. The small park is adjacent to Route 5 and it only takes a few minutes to reach the ancient tracks left there millions of years ago. We didn't build up the kids' expectations, otherwise they probably would have been disappointed by the shallow, weathered impressions in the rocks. Honestly, if I had walked through the area without knowing the footprints were there I probably would have missed them. Fortunately, the kids are still young enough that I can still excite them by leaping around and imitating a dinosaur tromping merrily across the landscape. Cleo was curious how the dinosaurs crossed the highway, and was flabbergasted when I explained that when these footprints were made there were no highways, no cars, and no people.

The next stop on our northward route was the town of Shelburne Falls, which had a couple of unusual scenic attractions. The Bridge of Flowers was created all the way back in 1929, which is an amazing lifespan for a landscaping project. The peaceful path across the bridge lined on either side with beautiful plants and flowers is a testimony to humanity's endless power of creativity. It's unfortunate that we haven't found a way in this country to reclaim more of the industrial eyesores that dot the landscape.

Just a few blocks from the Bridge of Flowers is a geological formation known as Glacial Potholes. It's a big hunk of metamorphic rock filled with holes and depressions of various sizes that were formed thousands of years ago. Interestingly, the potholes aren't directly related to glacial activity but rather to erosion by water currents. We missed the turnoff to the overlook so we didn't see the potholes themselves, although there are lots of pictures in the link. Instead we found ourselves down at the riverbank with views of Salmon Falls, which descends into the pothole area, and the little hydroelectric plant that generates some of the electric power for the area.

Not long after that we crossed the border into Vermont and rolled into Brattleboro. Usually we don't meet the hosts at our Airbnbs since we prefer the flexibility of checking in and out whenever we want, but this was one of those rare cases where we got a personal welcome. Our apartment was on the third floor, and our hosts lived below us on the second. On the first floor they ran an art gallery and a catering business. We settled in and then headed to dinner at Three Stones, a local restaurant that served highly-recommended traditional Mayan cuisine. Even at six PM, we had to have our dinner at the bar but the delicious food was well worth the minor inconvenience.

We began the next day at the Brattleboro Farmers Market, which was our main reason for stopping in the town overnight. It was a good-sized farmers market with a wide variety of prepared dishes, artisanal foods, and crafts. It was our first experience with the wide variety of Vermont cheeses and the multiplicity of products that can be made from maple syrup, including liqueur. There was a huge sandbox as well to keep the kids out of our hair while we examined every stall.

Just outside Brattleboro is the Robb Family Farm, which was established more than a hundred years ago and is currently operated by the fifth generation of descendants. The farm currently focuses almost exclusively on producing maple syrup without many of the recent technological advances that have spurred output but, in their opinion, at the expense of quality. The patriarch of the family guided us around the operation, from the tanks that receive the sap directly from taps in the maple trees to their shiny new evaporator.

Next stop was Grafton Village Cheese, an enormous cheese store where they manufacture a large variety of their own cheddars. There's an observation deck for the cheesemaking operation but there wasn't much happening on a Saturday. The kids were fascinated by the free samples and I kept having to chase them around the store to make sure they were using the toothpicks instead of grabbing the cheese with their fingers. We bought some blue cheese and a couple of different kinds of cheddar. The shop felt like a temple dedicated to the worship of cheese.

On the way out of Brattleboro for good we stopped at a casual restaurant where the West River flows into the larger Connecticut River. The food and mojitos were forgettable, but there was a nice view of the little lake created by the confluence. Someone had installed a sculpture of a sea monster in the middle of the lake that twisted slightly in the wind and appeared to be moving against the current, and for a while we had the kids thinking it was the real thing.

A few miles north of Brattleboro we stopped in the famously quaint town of Newfane to admire the two hundred year old buildings in the village center. A lady saw me taking photographs in the green and handed me a pamphlet explaining the history of each building. Vermont is like that.

Our last stopover of the day was the beloved tourist trap Vermont Country Store in Weston. Aside from the vast array of Vermont food products and locally made clothing and crafts, there was a large selection of old-fashioned games that fascinated the kids. They spent a good ten minutes just trying out the Whoopee Cushions.

Thanks to our early start on the day it was still early in the evening when we reached Woodstock, our overnight destination in central Vermont.

Posted by zzlangerhans 06:56 Archived in USA Tagged vermont massachusetts weston brattleboro sturbridge newfane shelburne_falls Comments (0)

Around the World 2017: Odense and trip conclusion

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On a cursory inspection of the map of Denmark, the island of Funen (Fyn to Danes) might not appear to be an island at all. The Little Belt strait that separates Funen from the mainland is barely a kilometer wide for most of its length. On closer inspection, rounded Funen looks a little like a soccer ball being kicked between the mainland father and his son Zealand. We had chosen Odense as the last city for the trip mainly because it was close to the midpoint between Aarhus and Copenhagen, but it also had the advantage of having a famous zoo. We arrived in Odense in time to have a few hours at the zoo before it closed, so we made it our first stop. There was a diverse selection of animals that were in very natural enclosures yet were still easily visible. One of our favorites was the manatee, a testimony to the amazing power of natural selection to fill environmental niches. There was a pretty cool playground for the kids as well.

We had planned on visiting Bazar Fyn, another Middle Eastern mall, for dinner after the zoo but unfortunately the opening hours didn't coincide with what I had researched. Instead we made our way to central Odense but found most restaurants closed on a Sunday evening. Eventually we settled on a gourmet burger restaurant and ate as well as we could, considering there was nothing on the menu whatsoever except burgers and sides. Our Airbnb proved to be a disappointment as well. It was on a second floor that could only be accessed by a ladder-like staircase, so I had to haul up our bags and then the kids one by one. Once inside, we locked and barricaded the door to prevent any chance of the kids wandering back out and falling down the ladder. We also discovered that almost none of the lights worked and the host had only provided us with one stained dish towel for the shower.

In the morning we headed to the pedestrianized center for brunch. We soaked up that familiar Scandinavian atmosphere of cobblestone squares walled by rows of dissimilar townhouses and countless sidewalk cafes. Unfortunately, a large area in the very center of the old town was undergoing some extensive reconstruction and was completely dug up and blocked off.

Slightly away from the center we found a pretty residential street that led us to the Hans Christian Andersen House. Outside the small museum dedicated to Denmark's most famous author was an outdoor theater with a castle-like stage next to a shallow pond. People had started to gather on a grassy embankment in front of the stage. We were just in time to see a beautifully-performed play incorporating several of the famous fables. After the play, the characters came out and mingled with the audience. Naturally, Cleo's favorite was the princess from "The Princess and the Pea".

It was time to say goodbye to our last new city of the trip, but fortunately Denmark had one last amazing castle for us to see before our return to Miami. Egeskov Slot is also on the island of Fyn, half an hour south of Odense. We had seen several beautiful castles in Denmark but this 16th century creation was the closest thing to a fairytale that we'd seen since Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. The surrounding moat was filled with lily pads and carpets of bright green algae. The castle itself was just part of a huge complex including the gardens, an extensive collection of vintage automobiles and airplanes, and an adventure playground for kids.

The gardens provided quite a workout as we herded the kids along the paths through the rolling landscape. In one area the hedges were trimmed into the shape of squirrels, peacocks, and spirals that Cleo immediately identified as poop.

We skipped the interior of the castle and spent our remaining time in the play area, where the older kids tried out the canopy walk and the zipline.

We arrived back in Copenhagen in time for dinner on the patio of a Thai restaurant in the center of town. The meal was good enough to help us forget our misadventure with Thai food in Gothenburg.

We'd selected an Airbnb in the southern district of Amager, close to the airport, to avoid any risk of traffic on the way to our flight home the next morning. I still had to drop off the rental car in Malmö as there wouldn't be any time to do it in the morning. We settled in to our last Airbnb and I took off at about nine fifteen to return the car. I was under a little time pressure because the rental agency had told me their garage would be closing at ten. I filled up the car in Amager and then headed for the Øresund Bridge for the last time. Just as I approached the bridge, my heart sank as I realized I had neglected to bring my passport. Even though Denmark and Sweden are both in the EU and theoretically passports shouldn't be necessary to cross the border, they had checked ours the first time we entered Malmö from the bridge. I believe the policy has something to do with attempts to stem the flow of Asian and African migrants. I only had a few seconds to decide what to do. Returning to the Airbnb to get my passport would lose me half an hour and eliminate any chance of getting to the auto rental agency in time. If I got turned back at the border, I'd lose an hour and also the fifty Euro toll. I'm not sure how my thought process went in the end, but I decided to go for it and took the bridge. I spent the entire time on the span trying to gauge my chances of making it through. I paid the toll and nervously approached the checkpoint. A female agent asked for my passport and I told her I'd forgotten it, and handed her my driver's license. She frowned and told me she'd have to check in the office, and I waited in my car for what seemed an interminable length of time. Finally she reappeared and told me they'd let me through, but next time to bring my passport. That was a huge relief. Returning to Copenhagen at that point would have been a terrible way to end the trip. I raced to the rental agency but the checkpoint episode had delayed my arrival until a few minutes after ten. They'd given me a passcode to use to get into the garage but it didn't work on the only keypad I could find. In the end I parked the car at the curb just outside their office. I still had to walk to the Malmö train station, take the train to the Copenhagen airport, and then a taxi back to the Airbnb. It was almost midnight when I was finally able to get to bed.

The following morning we had one final hurdle which was getting from the Airbnb to the airport. Uber had been banished from Denmark earlier that year. I had attempted to reserve a taxi on a local app I had downloaded the previous night but based on prior experience with European taxi apps I didn't have much confidence. I had also figured out the bus route, but it required a two block walk to the stop as well as a change of buses. Around seven in the morning we brought all our bags to the curb hoping to flag down a taxi on the street, but we hardly saw any cars at all at that early hour. Just as we were about to start schlepping all our belongings to the bus stop, a taxi suddenly pulled over. It turned out to be the one I'd reserved from the app. It was a tight fit since the app didn't have any option for requesting a larger vehicle, but we packed everything in and got to the airport in plenty of time for our flight.

This had been our longest and most ambitious trip ever, but we made it through again without any significant adverse events. Looking back a year later, the most memorable parts were the night markets in Taipei and Shenyang, Copenhagen, and the Norwegian fjords. I can't think of anywhere we went that wasn't worthwhile, and the time allocation was perfect. Enjoying such a long trip gave me the confidence to plan our longest European road trip yet, a five week Odyssey through Iberia and Southwest France that begins two weeks from today.

Posted by zzlangerhans 05:04 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

Around the World 2017: Aarhus

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Now that we were back in Denmark, I could feel the circle of our road trip beginning to close. However, I knew that there was still a lot for us to see and do over the last three days of the trip and I wanted to end things on a high note. We'd already seen Denmark's most famous and international city, but our route back would take us through the next three largest cities in the country. I was curious to see if these lesser lights had their own distinct identity or if they were just miniature versions of Copenhagen.

I had already cleared a late arrival in Aarhus with our Airbnb host, so we decided to stop for dinner in Aalborg. We arrived just as dusk was settling in and didn't really have time to drive around the city. We headed for the center of town hoping to find a historic old neighborhood but instead found a gloomy and mostly deserted area that seemed more like a red light district. What little activity there was seemed to be centered around the numerous Irish pubs in the area. TripAdvisor guided me to an Italian restaurant nearby that seemed like a good prospect. I parked the car and went in by myself to scope the restaurant out. We've learned from experience that we can't always tell from a TripAdvisor listing if a restaurant is right for us. Sometimes the place turns out to be more high end than we expected, sometimes it's overcrowded, sometimes they have tall tables and barstools. It's no fun getting all the kids out of their car seats, walking a block or more to a restaurant, and then figuring out we aren;t going to be eating there.

In this case the restaurant seemed to be fine. It was pleasant but not stuffy, half-empty, with a decent selection of Italian food. I confirmed with the owner that they had room for five and retrieved everyone from the car. Things started to go sour pretty much as soon as we sat down. The kids had their iPads and a waiter immediately came over to grumble that we were disturbing the other diners, well before anyone could possibly have complained. Now I'm as considerate as anyone of the restaurant experience, and we're very careful with the kids to make sure we don't spoil anyone else's peace of mind while they eat. Part of that process is letting them have their iPads so they won't play with the cutlery, fight with each other, blow out the candles, or do any of the million other annoying things that small children normally do when they get taken to a restaurant. We're very conscientious about the volume too, and make sure the kids adjust it to the lowest level that they're able to hear. That's usually well below the ambient noise level in the restaurant, so the only people being disturbed at that point are the ones who just hate to see kids. Well, tough luck.

We had a table well away from anyone else, and the noise level in the restaurant was pretty high. I looked around and none of the other tables were paying us the slightest bit of attention. It was clear that the only displeasure was coming from the owner and the staff. I guess they felt that iPads didn't belong in the best Italian restaurant in Aalborg's red light district. The waiter was fairly nasty about it as well. I think he told us "This isn't a McDonald's". Now, if we weren't already on track to arrive at our Airbnb well after ten PM or if there was anywhere else to eat nearby other than Irish pubs, we would have cheerfully walked out at that point. As it was, I much preferred to get dinner over with and get back on the road. I smiled and asked the waiter if he'd prefer us to put all the iPads away. He had the sense to recognize what the alternative was, shook his head and took our order. The kids couldn't have behaved better. They were as quiet as mice until the food came, then we put their iPads away and they ate very peacefully. I think the staff was actually a little abashed by the end of the meal. We turned down dessert and Ronald McDonald held the door open for us on the way out. "You're the rudest person I've ever met," Mei Ling snarled at him as we exited. She takes these kinds of things personally.

So that was Aalborg. Not the greatest stop, but at least we were full and we could just fall into bed once we got to Aarhus. A little over an hour later, I was rummaging in the dark in a planter outside our Airbnb for the house key. There was a bad moment when I thought it wasn't there and then my iPhone flashlight caught a glint. Opening an apartment door never felt so good.

I was excited to get going the next morning, as I had a list of markets to visit. The first was the Saturday farmers market on Ingerslevs Boulevard, just a short walk from our apartment. There was a good mix of prepared food, produce, and crafts that took care of breakfast and kept us occupied for an hour.

When we retrieved the car I encountered a bank of large bins I initially thought were for recycling. On closer inspection I saw they were for donating clothes which are then sold, with the revenues earmarked for aid programs in Africa. Sounds nifty, but when I had time to research it a little I found the program is actually somewhat controversial. Is Scandinavia an altruistic paradise, or is it a haven for exploiters of human goodwill? It's funny how things are often not at all how they seem on the surface.

On the western outskirts of Aarhus is Bazar Vest, a large shopping center mainly devoted to Middle Eastern and South Asian goods. It was good to get our mulitcultural fix, but overall the atmosphere was a little gloomy and sterile compared to real Asian markets. When I took a picture of Mei Ling in the food court area, I noticed there was a guy next to her bent forward in his chair showing his butt crack. Gross. He sat up but as soon as he saw me taking another picture he bent over again. Either he really didn't want his face to be seen, or he really wanted his butt crack to be seen.

We got a quick bite to eat and stocked up on fruit at a Middle Eastern supermarket. On the way out we passed a barber shop, which was great because I love getting my hair cut when we're traveling. It's one of those experiences that always seems to bring me closer to the experience of actually living in the country I'm visiting. This time was no exception. My barber was from Kuwait and his coworker was from Ethiopia. We had a interesting discussion about their native countries and what it's like for them living in Denmark. I got a great haircut and Ian got to be an airplane.


We decided to continue onward out of town to Rosenholm Slot. The 16th century Renaissance castle is majestic and beautifully preserved. We were the only visitors when we arrived so we didn't have the heart to turn down the tour, although we weren't particularly interested in the interior.

Back in Aarhus we parked near the train station and walked into the downtown pedestrian zone. Our first stop was Aarhus Central Food Market, which seemed rather low energy compared to others we'd visited in Scandinavia. Or perhaps we just weren't hungry. Across the street was a pretty little Catholic Church.

We continued north along Søndergade pedestrian street until we crossed the bridge over the Aarhus River. On the other side were the Aarhus Cathedral and the Aarhus Theatre. Just south of the cathedral in Bishop's Square there was a jazz festival and people were relaxing outside and listening to the music.

The narrow river was lined with crowded cafes, and we followed the river bank under the bridge to the sounds of a party. Just after we found the band playing outside a cafe, the singer launched into a killer version of "What a Wonderful World".

Our last stop of the day was Aarhus Street Food, another food hall a short walk from the pedestrian zone. The place was similar to the Copenhagen version if just a bit smaller, and it also had a play area for the kids. At this point we were used to the food court style of eating and we collected an assortment of dishes quite efficiently. The informal setting was quite a relief after our stressful experience the previous night.

The next morning we had another delicious Scandinavian breakfast and then took a walk around a quaint older neighborhood we had seen from the car. We found a park with a great view of the rainbow panorama walkway atop the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum.

On the way out of Aarhus we encountered a strange sight from the coastal road. A crane appeared to be hoisting a waterlogged small car out of the North Sea. Even though the car was in my sight for just a few seconds, some thing didn't sit right about what I was seeing. The car was suspended motionless in the air, yet water continuously gushed from its undercarriage. How much water could fit in one small car? At the first opportunity, I made a U-turn and doubled back to the crane on the side of the road closer to the shore. Soon it became clear that we had not stumbled on the scene of a bizarre accident. A quick Google search revealed that we were actually looking at an abstract sculpture, part of a program of art installations along that stretch of coastal road.

Not much further, the road disappeared into a forested area and eventually brought us to Moesgård Strand, a scenic beach within the forest. A group of Danish kids in waders were milling around a rock jetty with nets. They didn't seem to be catching anything, but further up on the beach I saw a woman stirring a large pot. It turned out to be crab soup, but it wasn't ready to be tasted yet. They offered to rent us some waders and nets but the sky was overcast and the water looked quite cold, so we opted to drive on to Odense instead.

Posted by zzlangerhans 05:57 Archived in Denmark Tagged aarhus aalborg Comments (0)

Around the World 2017: Stavanger and Kristiansand

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Stavanger is the third largest city in Norway but the population is less than a quarter million, which would make it an inconsequential small town in most other countries. We definitely got more of the small town feel when we arrived. Our Airbnb was perfect for us: clean, spacious, and simple. As with Bergen, most of the action was around the small harbor. The old town was adjacent to the harbor, on a little peninsula jutting out into the North Sea. We had a good dinner at 26 North, in the Radisson Blu hotel, the night we arrived. We were lucky to get a table in the busy restaurant without a reservation, even though it was mid-week.

The next morning, we walked back down to the harbor area and found a miniature version of the wharf market in Bergen, except without the seafood stalls. All the seafood was in the market restaurant, but it seemed like a weak cousin of Fjellskål in Bergen so we gave it a pass. We checked out the small produce market nearby and then ate at a ramen shop at a shopping mall on the far side of the peninsula.

We had a little time to kill before our Lysefjord boat tour, so when we came across a cool playground called Geoparken we let the kids go crazy for an hour. All the playground equipment is made from discarded parts of oil rigs. It's not as dangerous as it sounds, hopefully!

The Lysefjord cruise was a lot shorter and simpler than the Norway in a Nutshell tour, but I found it more scenic and enjoyable. Lysefjord's cliffs are breathtaking, jagged walls of granite that plunge directly into the sea. It was less overcast than it had been on our Sognefjord cruise as well, which made the water much more blue and reflective.

Some of the other highlights of the cruise were an interaction with friendly and hungry mountain goats, a waterfall close enough to soak us with spray, and a fjord's-eye view of Preikestolen. This rock "pulpit" which juts from the top of a high cliff is one of the signature rock formations of the Norwegian fjords. People hike up there in huge numbers in the summer months, but I can't even look at pictures of it without feeling sick to my stomach. I've seen videos of kids playing on the rock and even eating lunch with their legs hanging over the edge, but the thought of my own kids being up there is unimaginable. Fortunately, falls from Preikestolen and other popular formations like Trolltunga are extremely rare, with far fewer deaths than have occurred at American sites such as Half Dome.

On our return we found the wharf area in full swing, with outdoor cafes full of customers despite the chill. The source of the crowd was clear, a huge cruise ship docked a few yards away. A fully-kitted rock band played on a stage next to the water's edge. We climbed the hill behind the wharf to the Valberg Tower, an old watch tower that once was the highest vantage point in Stavanger.


We wandered back through the largely pedestrianized old town to the Ethiopian restaurant we had selected, which proved to be one of the better Ethiopian meals we've had. According to the owner, there's a good-sized Ethiopian community in Stavanger.

The next morning we took one last walk down to the harbor and the old town. This time we got a closer look at Stavanger's Byparken. Like most of Norway's parks, it had its share of whimsical touches. Then it was time for a quick lunch and the three hour drive to our last destination in Norway.

We only had two reasons to be in Kristiansand. The first was that it was the departure point for our ferry back to Denmark the next day. The second was Dyreparken, a combination amusement park and zoo that has a lot of positive commentary in guidebooks and online. We try and mix the things we want to do with stuff that will make the kids happy and help them remember the trips. Watching our kids have fun is a good memory for us as well. We arrived at the park at around four in the afternoon, which gave us three hours before it closed. We paid the rather brutal general admission prices, foregoing the waterpark which required a separate ticket. There were only a few rides that were free with admission, and they weren't particularly exciting although naturally our kids wanted to try all of them. We eventually got them away from the rides and walked to Kardemomme by, a miniature town based on a popular Norwegian children's book. There didn't seem to be much to that place either, except for a little train that did a quick circuit of the town.

We ended up having to rush a little bit through the zoo, which was a pleasant arrangement of boardwalks through large outdoor exhibits. It was good not to have to see animals in cages, but of course the downside to that presentation is that many animals couldn't be spotted at all. On the way out of the park we found people standing in a long line for a luge ride that we'd missed earlier. Despite the line we managed to get a ride for each of the kids. The luge seemed quite fast and the track left the ground completely in sections which would have made for an interesting video, but unfortunately I wasn't wearing my video sunglasses for the ride.

We located our Airbnb with some difficulty, and found the owner hadn't left us any towels or bed linens. The bedrooms were in the basement that could only be accessed via a ladder descending from an unprotected hole in the ground floor. Not ideal. We drove to downtown Kristiansand and found ourselves dinner at a mediocre tapas restaurant. The downtown pedestrian area was different from the other Norwegian cities we'd visited in that it wasn't focused on a wharf. We encountered the first neoclassical McDonald's I've seen as well as an energetic outdoor concert. Unfortunately, the security wouldn't let us into the concert with the kids but we were still able to enjoy the band from outside.

We followed what seemed to be the main street and eventually encountered a small park with a beautiful square fountain and grassy embankments for the kids to roll around on. Once they'd tired themselves out it was time to bring another busy day to an end. When we got back to the Airbnb, we immediately hustled the kids down to the basement to neutralize the hole-in-the-floor hazard. Fortunately the mattresses were clean so the lack of sheets didn't present too much of a problem.

The ferry to Denmark didn't leave until late afternoon so we had a few hours to see Kristiansand in the day time. The historic quarter of town is Posebyen, the only neighborhood to survive a huge fire in 1892. Unlike the historic quarters of Bergen and Stavanger, Posebyen is very quiet and residential. We strolled up and down the main pedestrian street, and Spenser did his best impression of a chess piece. For lunch, we found a Mexican restaurant close to the train station which had a very unique interior decor.

I was a little nervous about the three hour ferry ride to Denmark after our experience returning to Sicily from Malta, but the ride was smooth and there was a play area which occupied the kids. Cleo got a kick out of some Norwegian cartoon characters that were patrolling the ferry, although we had no idea who they were.

We arrived on schedule at Hirsthals, in the far north of Denmark, but our day wasn't close to over. We still had to find dinner and get to Aarhus, two hours away.

Posted by zzlangerhans 08:31 Archived in Norway Tagged stavanger kristiansand dyreparken Comments (0)

Around the World 2017: Bergen

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Our Airbnb in Bergen was a pleasant townhouse on a ridge overlooking the harbor and the central part of the city. It was one of those places where the owners obviously still lived there part time and left it in its usual lived-in condition when they were hosting guests. It worked out well for our kids since there were lots of toys lying around for them to play with. It was already dinner time when we arrived so we didn't waste any time driving down to the harbor in search of something to eat. I had a couple of restaurants written down but before we had a chance to check them out, we saw a cluster of red canopies along the pedestrian walkway at the eastern wharf. On closer inspection, we found that it was a street market with numerous stalls selling seafood as well as other dishes. We managed to get ourselves a pretty good seafood dinner including wolffish sashimi.

After dinner we walked through the central part of the downtown area, enjoying the typically Norwegian townhouses and quirky sculptures that were everywhere we looked.

In the morning we headed straight to the harbor and the combination seafood market and restaurant Fjellskål. The market had all our favorites and the chef graciously prepared us a bespoke meal including a sashimi platter of whale and white fishes as well as broiled skate.

The outdoor market around the harbor was already in full swing. We walked to the northern side of the wharf to see the preserved old houses of the Bryggen neighborhood. Like the old houses of central Malmö, most had been converted into galleries and boutiques.

We decided to break away from the touristy harbor scene and found a more local vibe in the peninsular Nordnes neighborhood south of the harbor. The peninsula reminded me of Birgu in Malta to the extent that the ground rose steeply from the water to a central ridge. At the very top was a little yellow church. The houses in Nordnes were just as pretty as the ones in Bryggen, but the area had a much more warm and residential feel.

Returning back eastward, we found ourselves at Bergen's downtown park Byparken. The park was a beautiful open green space with an ornate gazebo and a large pond that was home to hundreds of seagulls.

We'd seen most of downtown Bergen at this point and it was getting into mid-afternoon, so we decided to take the Ulriken643 cable car to the top of Mt. Ulriken, the highest of the mountains that surround Bergen. At the top of the mountain was an overlook over the city and the North Sea beyond, as well as an incongruous collection of exercise equipment.


Behind us little trails twisted into the rocky hillsides, and we saw people and sheep scattered around the distant landscape. We couldn't resist the instinct to explore and headed down the most promising path. We made some pretty good headway along the choppy trail and eventually summited a hillock with far-reaching views over the otherworldly landscape. We returned and descended in the cable car feeling a warm sense of accomplishment.

The following morning we took our leave of Bergen. On the way out of town we stopped at the Fantoft Stave Church, which is a replica of a replica of a church that was initially constructed in 1150. The destruction by arson of the prior version of the church is a story almost too complicated and bizarre to be believed. Inside the church, Cleo asked me why Jesus had been crucified. Fortunately, I already knew the answer from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "Because he said people should be nice to each other for a change", I told her.

Just outside of town, TripAdvisor guided us to lunch at an unusual restaurant that was an homage to American 50's style. Part of the restaurant was a real yellow school bus that had been built into one wall. There was also the requisite jukebox and Elvis statue. The food was pretty good as well, if more American than Norwegian.

The drive to Stavanger took up most of the rest of the day, in no small part due to two ferry crossings. It was a good reminder of why we usually try not to drive more than three hours between destinations on our European road trips, but fortunately it was the only long drive of the trip.

Posted by zzlangerhans 03:29 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

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