Aug 29-30, 2017, Tues-Wed, Floro – Rorvik

imageSome of the  Hurtigruten ships, such as ours, double as cruise lines and ferries along the Norwegian coast.  Throughout the day and night the ship stops to let travelers get on and off.  When there is enough time in port,  the cruise passengers escape for a few minutes or hours to stretch their land legs.  While we pass up Floro (2 AM), Maloy (4:15 AM), and Torvik (7:15 AM), we are awake when we dock in Alesund.   This town is distinguished by its renown Art Nouveau Architecture used when the city was rebuilt after its 1904 devastating fire.  It is a busy fishing port and entry point for reaching the Geirangerfjord by land.

Our afternoon was marked by the 10-mile ride into the Geirangerfjord, known as the Pearl of the fjords, with its pristine water and panoramic mountain views of water falls and houses tittering on the narrow banks at water’s edge.   This UNESCO World Hertitage site is breathtaking from every vantage point.   We return again to Alesund to pick up those who chose to bus over to the fjord.

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Wednesday,  we are motivated to get an early start since Jon is scheduled to take a local bike ride in Trondheim and I want to see the town.  Unfortunately, wires were crossed and Jon was left standing on the pier forgotten by his excursion leader.  Since Care had remained on the ship until his intended departure, she included him in her walk around the town.   Taking off, we had a misfire on our starting location and wound up back tracking to correct our course for the city center.

Trondheim, founded in 997 AD by Viking King Olar Tryggvason, it was Norway’s original capital and named “Nidaros”.  The River Nid wanders around the city with colorful wooden buildings sited on its banks and bridges for pedestrians and bikers adding to the intimate scale.  We explored the Nidarosdomen, a national shrine, built  over the burial place of St Olav,  a patron saint of Norway.  It supports a mixture of Norman, Romanesque and Gothic styles and is highlighted by the Chartres-like stained-glass rose window.   Following Munkegata, we walk through the heart of Tronheim passing several museums including the Museum of Applied Art, the royal residence – an old timber mansion completed in 1778 in Rococo with Baroque details, and the operating fish market.

Back on the ship, we complete our stops for today at Rorvik while fast asleep.

 

 

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Aug 27- 28, 2017, Sun-Mon, Bergen, Norway

Waking at Th e Thief to their Sunday brunch, we collected our stuff and headed over to the train station where we hopped on the 7 hour train through the mountains to Bergen.

Traveling by rail is a relaxing and beautiful way to enjoy the scenery, which is reminiscent of Switzerland, the high climbing in Peru, and Germany.

Our arrival in Bergen was late afternoon.  We checked into the Admiral Hotel and made a walking tour around the central town in order to find a dinner spot.   The area is geared to tourists and cruise line passengers.  Uncharacteristically, we ended up choosing Thai food.

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Monday, the weather forecast correctly predicted rain and wind.  We were not disappointed.  After a not-so-interesting breakfast,  we geared up in our rain suits and made it to Starbucks for our first real coffee.  Half the town was crowed in the shop trying to avoid the rain.   Fortified we took up our walk up the hill to the funicular .  Similar to Hong Kong’s  Peak  ride,  we made it to the top in less than 10 minutes.  The wind drove the rain into us and the fog moved to open up views of the city.  We watched the Hurtigerten boat come into dock for its preparation of our arrival.

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Lunch was right on the dock area with a great selection of seafood/fish.  The yellowfin tuna was a tenderloin of fish cooked rare inside.  Peel and Eat shrimp were the best starter for such a nice meal.   We walked a little more around town and then camped out at the hotel until our bus came to take us to the ship.

Although Bergen is the 2nd largest city in Norway, it does not compare to Oslo’s design and urban planning, hospitality scene, cleanliness, and diversity.

The MS Finnmarken was docked waiting for our check in and safety talk around 5 PM.   We had an hour on the ship to poke around before our cabin was ready.  The 6th floor suite is comfortable for our needs.  Dinner was a buffet; however, we found our appetites were limited due to our amazing lunch earlier.  Although we were scheduled to depart at 8 pm, maintenance issues with the car ramp pushed it back until 10PM.   We had a brief, briefing at 9 and then headed off to our cabin to wait for cruising.  In the rain, we left Bergen heading north.

 

 

 

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August 25-26, 2017 Fri – Sat, Oslo, Norway

We arrived  in Oslo mid-Friday afternoon and headed directly to our hotel, Th e Thief, located on Thief Island.   The hotel is in a trendy section of town developed for mixed use: residential, shops, restaurants, bars , and the hotel.   We had dinner on the roof restaurant with a great view of the harbor.  From our vantage point we were able to view the Akershus Festning- fortress and City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.

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While we wanted to get an early start in sightseeing, a sleepless night resulted in a sleepy morning.  We made it to breakfast/lunch at Jamie Olivers.   Once we got started we took off for central Oslo.   Walking along the Aker Brygge waterfront,  we pass the Nobel Peace Center on our way to Karl Johan’s Street.

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it was a sunny Saturday, the streets and parks were packed.  We turned up toward the Royal Palace and caught the tail end of the changing of the guard.   The grounds surrounding the Palace are known as Slottsparken and people were making use of the space for picnics and lounging.

We took a few moments to view the Parliament National Assembly, Stortinget, and the Grand Hotel where we will stay when we return from our cruise.

Walking down Karl Johan Street, we pass the University and continue through the retail disrict until we reach the central train station.   Set up in front of the station was a serious 3 man volley ball court complete with sand, a competive game, and a raucous audience.

We returned walking toward the Palace until we arrived at the National Gallery,   Nasjonalgalleriet, the emphasis being on 19 and 20th Centry art including Edvard Munch’s famous  “Scream”.  While there were several of his other works including the Madona,  a study of the his sister’s sick bed, and the more lively party on the lake.   Our time did no permit us to go up to Munch’s dedicated museum.

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Our evening dinner was across the canal at a trendy sushi restaurant.  Although the fish was authentic, we flustered the staff by ordering a dry sake, served in a wine glass.

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August 24, 2017, Thur. Departure Norway

Contemplating Jon’s double knee replacement,  we were unsure of his mobility in the spirit of our traditional vacations and sabbaticals.  Since we wanted to visit Norway including its coast, this became the perfect opportunity for us to cruise.  In February, we signed up for our multi-modal excursion: plane, train, bus, ship.   We fly San Francisco to Frankfurt and then on to Oslo.  We should be there tomorrow afternoon.

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May 15, 2016, Sun, Hong Kong

We wake up to a few clouds but no rain and it is surprisingly cool. Things heat up while we wait in line for the Victoria Peak Tram.   Claiming through the mid-levels the sun breaks through for clear but hazy views of the skyline.  The tramway building has been over hauled since our last visit.  It actually was under construction at that time.  There are more retail opportunities and eateries plus an audio tape for listening while viewing the skyline.

We leave the crowds for a leisurely walk on the Circle Peak Trail. It is frequented by joggers, hikers and locals walking their dogs. It is an enjoyable hour of lush foliage and some great city views. Upon completion, we have lunch at the red hilltop restaurant which has been in business for many years.  We

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May 14, 2016, Sat, Hong Kong

Following a late arrival last night, we woke to a gray drizzle, a first for our trip.  Nonetheless, the view from The Upper House is amazing (pics from our room).

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By mid morning we were out walking around enjoying the cooling effect of the showers.  The Upper House consists of the upper floors of the Marriott Hotel.  At one time it was marketed as residential space and later renovated as a boutique hotel separate from the lower floors.  We walk from Pacific Place through Hong Kong Park with its fountains, aviary, thi chi plaza, and, small Olympic stadium, then  down Queen Road with all the high end retail known to man.  We continue on to Central Market and up the escalators to the top of mid -avenues.  We backtrack a little onto Hollywood Road with its galleries and antique stores.  We make our way down to the central retail hub of Landmark Atrium and Mandarian Oriental for a great Thai lunch at Mak Mak.

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Dinner is in Kowloon on 28th floor of One Peking Road with a colleague of Jon, Jake.

 

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May 13, 2016, Fri, Ho Chi Minh City

Early morning we have our final plunge swim, dress, pack up, and check out of the Amano’i.  It is about an 1 1/2 hour drive to the Can Ranh Airport (major US airport in American war).  A 35 minute flight and we arrive back in Ho Chi Minh City where we pick up our previous guide – Joe – and driver.

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Since we spent little time exploring in the central city area, we decided to do some walking starting around the Post Office, Notre Dam church toward the Opera House (above).  The construction of the subway has torn this area up almost to non recognition in some areas.  The old hotels, Rex, Continental, Caravel, have received or in the process of receiving make-overs.  The era of high end retail has managed to capture the street real estate’s eyes and wallets of visitors to this area.  We checked out the lobby of the new Revierie Hotel- on par with a Dubai Lobby.

We checked out the Park Hyatt for a Vietnamese lunch at SquareOne.  It remains an excellent refuge in the city.  The salon lobby of the hotel was packed.

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To round out our tourist edges we visited the Bao Tang Phito, Fito Museum, the museum of Vietnamese traditional medicine.  The wood house of one of the Vietnamese fathers of traditional medicine was moved from Hanoi to the south to this site.  The wood structure and carvings are extremely detailed.  The artifacts of herbal pharmacology including early jars, grinders, and potions stored in rice wine were worth seeing.  We managed to obstain from purchasing any of the local healing aids.

The last temple of the day was the large and more recent Chua Vinh-Nghiem Pagoda.  Since the Buddhists were celebrating the date of baby Buddha’s birth, many people were in the temple chanting along with the monks.

 

 

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