Today is a lazy day and we don’t even have room service deliver our breakfast until 8 AM! Nonetheless I wake up at 5 AM to get ready for the day. Our big plans are to look out the windows, sort our dirty clothes and give them to Von to have laundered, eat lunch, lie around, go to a wine tasting, have snacks, and eat dinner. It’s a tough life.
The cruise activity director is all abristle with myriad things we can do today. One thing is to put on a bathing suit, jump into a cold pool, kiss a fish, and get your nose painted blue. This is a ritual one does when crossing the Arctic Circle. We decline since the activity involves wearing a bathing suit, being with people, kissing a fish, and having our noses painted blue. Otherwise we would be all in!
We also have other exciting things to look forward to. There are some lumpy mountains called the Seven Sister Mountains (like the Seven Sister Waterfalls only mountains) and a mountain with a hole in it.
Here are some pictures of our “at sea” day.
First up is the famous mountain with a hole in it called Torghatten. We are looking out the window at this and there are a bunch of people sitting next to us who are asking all these questions about it to each other. I very helpfully Google it up and explain all about how it was formed during the ice age and that there is a path up to it and you can walk through. I even throw in the folk lore fable about it. These people are totally unappreciative of my effort.
Here’s the fable – According to legend, the hole was made by the troll Hestmannen while he was chasing the beautiful girl Lekamøya. As the troll realized he would not get the girl, he released an arrow to kill her, but the troll-king of Sømna threw his hat into the arrow’s path to save her. The hat turned into the mountain with a hole in the middle. (Wikipedia)
Other exciting mountains include –
Then I took some pictures of interesting-looking mountains.
Vikesh and his crew have talked us into going to the wine tasting that is being held in the Chef’s Table restaurant at 4 PM. All the nuances of wine tasting are explained. We have heard all this several times before but the head sommelier, Jude, does introduce a few new ideas. Mostly it is too much talk, not enough drink.
We have our pre-dinner snack and discover that they have Downtown Abbey on the TV. We haven’t seen that in a few years so we start from episode 1. Poor Lady Mary doesn’t realize her life is going to be pretty disastrous at the beginning, but we do.
Then we go down to have our second spice road dinner. Mmmm, even better than the first because my beef tenderloin no longer has weird spices on it. After dinner Vikesh shows us pictures of his cousin’s restaurant in Bangalore. The food and decor look pretty impressive. It is nice to spend a few moments where it is not just about us.
We head off the ship around 9 AM after docking in Molde, Norway. This is the third incarnation of Molde. It was first mentioned in the sagas by Snorri Sturluson as the location of the Battle of Sekken in 1162, where king Håkon the Broad-shouldered was killed fighting the aristocrat Erling Skakke, during the Norwegian civil wars. (Wikipedia) The area’s settlement probably goes back much earlier than that, however. The town grew through the ages due to its temperate climate, an artifact of the nearby Gulf Stream. Then 1/3 of the city burned down in 1916. After rebuilding, the Germans bombed it with incendiary bombs and basically wiped out the city.
So there really is nothing quaint or historic about Molde. It’s a nice little modern town of about 26,000. We are stopping here to see the Romsdal Outdoor Museum. It is kind of a Norwegian Sturbridge village with houses transported from other parts of Norway illustrating life in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century. We are greeted by children doing folk dances. The little boy is especially earnest in his dancing. Some of the dances are funny with girls vying for boys and making rude gestures at the other girls.
After the dancing we wander around and look at the various houses and exhibits.
Another interesting aspect of these houses are their sod roofs. These are made by first putting down a layer of birch bark to water proof it and then sod. Plants grow on the roof and the goats go up on the roof to graze. Sod roofs last for 20 years before needing to be replaced.
And now our adventure begins. The local guide on the bus says that it is a 10 minute walk back to the ship and that we can walk back or take the bus. Being intrepid adventurers we, of course, decide to walk back. We try to make sense of the little map we have been given and start out. We know that as long as we are heading downhill we cannot go too far astray. Over an hour later we reach the ship. The directions on the little map are hard to fathom and so we decide we will just head toward our ship. Unfortunately it turns out that our sister ship, the Viking Star, is also in port docked up in a different location. So first we go to the Viking Star. Nonetheless, unless you are some kind of Olympic race walker there is no way you are going to walk over a mile in ten minutes!
Finally we run into some other people from our ship. However, it seems that we are all trying to follow each other! Just a case of the blind leading the blind. But it is lunch time and we have promised ourselves a hot dog from the grill so that’s something to look forward to.
A woman with some lettuce leaves on her plate remarks to me, “that’s some hot dog!” I want to say shut up, bitch. But control myself.
We spend the rest of the day idling about. We have the room service team deliver some potato chips and wine and then sit out on our porch as the ship departs Molde, Norway. Goodbye, Molde, maybe now I can get “The Moldau” by Smetana out of my head!
Even though we have reservations at the Chef’s Table for tomorrow night and they will be serving the same thing again, we head to the Chef’s Table because Vikesh has told us we are always welcome. We love the team of servers, sommelier, and manager there. We are probably friendlier with them then anyone else on the boat. Tonight’s dinner is inspired by the spice route. The amuse bouche is a carrot and cardamom cream with an orange and star anise foam. It is very tasty and I am in too much of a hurry to eat it to take a picture. It is served with a Prager, Riesling Federspiel Steinriegl from Austria. I see in John’s notes that we think it is only slightly sweet.
Next we have a tuna tataki which is really good. The little dots are avocado and balsamic sauces, and the line of white stuff is a sesame oil powder made with tapioca.The tuna is coated with Szechuan peppercorns, coriander and sesame oil and served over a tiny brunoise of pickled carrots and cucumber. The wine has asparagus overtones but goes well with the dish.
Time to cleanse our palates with a spectacular ginger and tarragon granita.
The main course is a beef tenderloin with four warm spices served with mashed purple potatoes and mushrooms. We have this with a Brunello di Montalcino from Castello Banfi, Italy. The wine is very good but I am not so keen on the beef. I find the spice rub which is made up of coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika to taste odd. I try to cut around the rub but the flavors permeate the meat. I tell the server and the chef that I was not a fan and they promise to set aside a piece of meat for me tomorrow night that will omit the coriander and the cinnamon. They are so nice.
I am not usually a dessert fan but the apple tarte tatin is really delicious! Especially so when we add some freshly ground salt. We have this with some Santa Cristina Vin Santo. The apple is spiral sliced and then reconstructed.
I am really looking forward to eating this menu again tomorrow night1
Terrible sleeping night with rough seas last night. We are up in the middle of the night and spend some time mid-ship where the swells are not as apparent. Finally I talk John into thinking about the motion of the ship like sine waves and to relax himself and just go with it. We manage to get some sleep and towards morning the ship enters the fjord where everything is much calmer.
The Geiranger fjord is spectacularly beautiful as we head toward the little town of Geiranger with a permanent population of only around 220 people. There are many more here today with lots of summer visitors and cruise ship denizens descending upon it.
We disembark from the ship using tenders and board buses for a scenic ride through the mountains surrounding Geiranger. The ship looks smaller and smaller as we climb.
The bus driver negotiates the many switchbacks on the road with real know-how but so many busses on these narrow mountain roads are kind of scary. Finally we reach an overlook and stop for some pictures.
Next we negotiate our way back down the road and up another one which takes us behind the town of Geiranger.
Our local guide tells us that this morning when she drove over the hill from her little town to Geiranger that the temperature was -4C and it was snowing hard at the top of the mountain but that the snow plows were taking care to make sure that the roads were clear. As we continue up it is hard to believe that it’s summer! We stop not too far from the top of the mountain at Djupvasshytta.
After returning to Geiranger we do a little shopping with the thousands of other cruise ship folk from the various ships that have called into this port. Our tour guide has assured us that without the tourists that Geiranger would not exist but you have to feel sorry for these poor citizens of Geiranger who must put up with this onslaught on tourists every summer. I know if it were me I would be pining for the when the sun disappeared for six months along with the tourists.
John and I enjoy a glass of wine sitting out on our little porch as our ship departs Geiranger. The beautiful Seven Sisters Waterfall is on our side of the boat now. As we pass we can hear the roar of the water falling but it mysteriously enters the fjord with nary a splash.
Today’s on again, off again rain and clouds have cleared out and we are treated to a lovely ride back out of the fjord. We sit and watch this beautiful corner of the world go by as we have dinner at the Italian restaurant on the ship, Manfredi’s.
The Captain has promised a much calmer night tonight and we are looking forward to a good night’s sleep!
We are not embarking until tonight and so today is our Bergen day. We are lucky to have gotten a head start on many people, by having seen many things in Bergen on Saturday. However, there are things we haven’t seen and so we are signed up to take the Bergen tour.
We have breakfast in our room which is nice because we can stay in our comfy clothes for a while longer. The breakfast arrives mostly cold and we will need to rethink our choices. After breakfast we are off on our assigned bus for a two hour overview of Bergen.
Our local guide informs us that we are quite lucky that it is not raining this morning as it averages five days of rain out of every week in Bergen. He also lets us know that this has been the rainiest June on record. So, yay, after being wet for the last two days we are able to enjoy merely overcast skies. We bus around Bergen seeing old and new things and then are treated to a view from a vantage point from an overlook of Bergen and the fjord on which it sits. We take the obligatory pictures.
We have another stop downtown where we have a good vantage point to take a pictures of our boat and the Hanseatic district. Finally we stop near the Royal Palace where it appears that King Harold and his court are not home since the Norwegian flag is not flying from the top turret.
We get lots of facts about Bergen and Norway in general and are back in time for lunch. We try to choose some healthy things from the buffet but I know that buffet eating is especially difficult and I find myself wanting to check out the pizza and have a bite of cookie at the end.
We have considered going back out but it is spitting rain, windy, and cold plus we have been up since 3 AM. Thanks, jet lag. So we take a nap instead and go down to the theater later in the afternoon for a talk about our next day’s destination, Geiranger. After an embarkation toast we head to the World Cafe for dinner.
Dinner tonight is a pale comparison of the first night’s dinner at the Chef’s Table. First of all it is really noisy. We find out later that the restaurant is really crowded due to its being lobster night. I have a shrimp cocktail and poached salmon and John has foie gras and a pasta with boar ragu. The food is fine but the experience is not great. We will have to figure out what is best for us.
We head to our cabin for another night’s troubled sleep. Seas are very rough and being in the front of the ship exacerbates the motion of the swells. Sleep is hard to come by.
Getting to the ship does not go as smoothly as we had hoped. As we check out of the hotel John requests a taxi and is given a slip with a number on it. We are told it will take a few minutes. After 45 minutes of waiting in gusty, rainy weather and three additional slips with new numbers on them we finally get a taxi. In the meantime no taxi with our or anybody else’s number has appeared and the few that do show are commandeered by folks who are a lot more aggressive than we. But we get to the ship and find our suite and are very pleased with it.
We head out to find some lunch somewhere in the ship. The World Cafe is open and it is a buffet with cold and hot items. First things first, though, John needs to meet the bar staff and other staff associated with the food service. John is great with all their foreign names and soon Mr. John is having a conversation with Vikesh, the manager of the Chef’s Table. As we get a beer for John and a glass of wine for me, Vikesh convinces us to come to his restaurant tonight and really any night because they will always have room for us. We are flattered that he is so nice to us.
For lunch we find some nicely cooked salmon and salads of cactus and another of shrimp and squid. There’s also some tasty grilled radicchio and tomatoes.
After lunch we unpack and arrange to get a top sheet for our bed instead of a duvet. I still need to talk to Von, our cabin steward, about getting some additional standard size pillows. With the bed fixed up and our clothes unpacked around 3PM we or at least I take an extended nap. It is so nice to be organized and comfortable.
Around 6PM or so we head down in search of a drink and maybe some nibbles before dinner. We sit in the Explorer Lounge where John once again introduces himself to the staff and I have a glass of wine and John has a beer. We run into the people that we met yesterday at the hotel and sit and chat for a while. Audrey and John are putting a really good face on the fact that they had a horrendous flight and have still not received their luggage. I would have been desperate by now.
Then we head to the Chef’s Table where we have a really outstanding meal and some good conversation with a couple of ladies and Vikesh and Paul, the sommelier. Here’s our dinner –
It is all so good! My favorites are the lamb loin which we find out was sous vide at 60C and the cabbage. Also the sesame ice cream and the sesame tuile were memorable.
Even though we had a big nap we are exhausted and fall asleep immediately only to wake up for Monday at 3 AM!
After a night of off and on sleep we arise and go down to breakfast. Apparently the Radisson Blu is a destination for tour groups so they have to accommodate a great number of people for breakfast. The breakfast room is less than charming but the food is fine.
Our goal today is to see the Hanseatic Museum with its accompanying Assembly Halls and Fishery Museum. The sun is in and out early but as we start our walk towards the museum the rain comes and we are pretty much soaked by the time we get there. This is a scenario which plays out many times today. Sun then rain and over and over.
We buy the three part ticket which also gains us access to a bus that drives us to the Fish Museum which is our first stop. Inside we learn soooo much about fish and the Norway fishing industry. (See pictures for explanations) At the end we have a good discussion by the guy running the place about fishing but also about basketball. He was a great Celtic fan and as a youth mostly saw tapes from the 80’s about the team.
Then we hop back on the bus and go to the Schotstuene or assembly rooms and kitchen. Any place where there were open fires such as a cooking area or a place to stay warm were separated from living quarters for fear of fire. As is, Bergen burned down at least four or five times. The last big fire was in 1955. Most of the stuff that we are seeing are newer constructions from after the great fire of 1702.
We wander by an older church and think about going in but there seems to be some sort of ceremony going on so we have to take a pass and decide to have lunch instead. Our lunch is at Bryggeloftet & Stuene which is supposed to have authentic Norwegian food. We order fish soup and beer. It is good and satisfying on this cold-ish rainy day. Highs are only in the low 50s!
After lunch we finish up at the Hanseatic Museum where we learn all about trade in Northern Europe starting in the 1300s and lasting until the 1700s. It was exclusively a German affair. The Hanseatic area was an enclave within Bergen where only German men could live and they had to stay separate from the Norwegians. They controlled the trade of cod and cod by-products which were shipped in from the far North and then sorted and graded in Bergen. We see a reproduction of their living quarters and there is a lot of info about cod or “stockfish” and cod liver’s oil, a valuable commondity for lighting lamps. In some areas of the Hanseatic museum, as was true in the Fish museum, there is a lingering odor of fish.
Now it is almost 3PM and I am really tired. We go back to the room where I am pretty much zonked out until 6PM. Then we watch a little television and catch up on the news before heading down to the bar for a drink and a little light dinner. Here we meet fellow cruising people. They talk to us some. They seem nice, probably a lot nicer than we seem. Anyway we split a hamburger and exit dinner around 9:45PM. It has been a really full day!
The day of our 45th anniversary trip is finally here. I am so excited for this trip. It should be relaxing, interesting, and fun. Sarah drives us to the airport for our civilized 2PM flight. In 14+ hours we will be in Bergen, Norway!
After a breezy sail-through security we are ensconced in the KLM lounge. It’s not a great lounge but we have a chance to sit comfortably and have a lunch snack.
The plane is a 747-400 and we are on the lower floor in the nose of the plane. It is a small business section so we won’t have to battle for bathrooms. After we take off the crew waits just long enough to serve lunch that we eat trying to keep our food from flying off our trays due to a lot of turbulence. The first course, cauliflower soup, is quite good and comes with adorable Dutch clogs salt and pepper. The main course, beef curry, is very sweet and really not edible in my book.
The flight is around 10 hours and I sleep a little. John seems not to sleep at all. Our layover in Amsterdam is about 2 1/2 hours which we spend waiting in line for our passports to be checked, hiking to the B terminal where short flights depart from and is very far away from where we have landed, and sitting in uncomfortable chairs waiting for the next flight.
I am not a fan of this little plane. The seats are tiny even in business class and we are wedged in like sardines. For comic relief we are served club sandwiches on popsicle sticks for lunch. I should have taken a picture but it was too difficult to maneuver to get my camera. We are really tired now and I keep dropping in and out of sleep. But it is only an interminable hour and a half and we are in Bergen!
Riding in the taxi, Bergen seems much bigger than I thought. It has over 200,000 people and is half city with apartment buildings and commercial establishments and half charming houses perched on hillsides. We get to the Radisson Blu where we will spend two nights before the cruise. We nap and shower. We are really tired out.
Dinner is at the hotel restaurant, 26 North, and has gotten good reviews. Our first courses, pictured below, are very good. The main course, a sampler of first courses called a board is less so.
Finally it is time to sleep again. It does not matter whether the sky is still light out at 10 PM we are exhausted from our trip and go to sleep immediately. (Only to wake up at 2 AM giving me a chance to type this.)
Nathan and Sam have just finished up school the day before they arrive in St. George. John and I are really looking forward to their visit. They are flying to St. George airport which requires a change of planes in Salt Lake City. It is nice not to have to drive back and forth from St. George and Las Vegas.
Jonathan and I go shopping. What’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is an important question with two growing boys. One night we have burgers, the next, some tacos.
One hot afternoon we spend some time at the Dinosaur Tracks Museum and finish off with sundaes at Culver’s.
One of our big plans is to go to Bryce Canyon NP with a stop at Cedar Breaks NM.
After the overlook we head to Cedar Breaks National Monument. The site is at over 10,000 feet and I know that I will not be hiking. John and Nathan in the other car miss the turn off so we wait for a while for them to arrive. In the meantime I buy Sam a thermometer and a compass which happen to be connected to a whistle. What was I thinking?! When Nathan arrives he wants one too. So now we have kids in both cars we whistles!
Around lunchtime we reach Bryce NP. After a quick lunch at the restaurant at Ruby’s Inn, we take the shuttle out to Bryce Point. The view is fabulous.
Jonathan, Nathan, and Sam go for a three mile hike in Bryce Canyon. John and I go for a nap.
We return home in time for the show Shrek:the Muscial at the Tuacahn Amphitheater. It is great fun seeing the show. Eating frozen lemonade is part of the experience.
We spend three afternoons at the Sand Hollow Pool. It has a giant slide, a whirlpool, and a ropes course through an alligator infested pond.
We also go to the House of Jump two times. It is important to follow this activity up with a hot fudge sundae at Dairy Queen.
Our time together is almost over and we plan a little hiking in Zion NP. Instead of going with the rest of the tourists we take a hike on a little used trail and then go off trail to a slick rock area. Nathan and Sam mark the way with cairns so we will not get lost.
Before we head over to Oscar’s for lunch we spend a little time at the Lava Point Overlook.
All of a sudden it is Sunday and our visit is over. We take Jon, Nathan, and Sam to the airport and wish them goodbye and a safe journey home. I know they have had fun but they are looking forward to seeing Mom and Auntie again. The house seems pretty quiet Sunday night.
All that is left for John and me to do is to clean up and head home. We start the drive home on Monday and stop at Seven Magic Mountains on the way home. We had a wonderful visit and are already thinking of new things to do when they come next year.