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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Kviknes Hotel

I reviewed many tours of Norway prior to our trip and noticed that quite a few of them stayed at the Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand. The Kviknes was built on the Sognefjord in 1877 and was voted Best Historic Hotel of Europe by the Water in 2014.

When you arrive on the ferry, the Kviknes is just a few feet away.

The historic part of the hotel, facing the Sognefjord. There is a modern wing to the hotel but it didn't have as much charm.

View of the fjord from the front of the hotel.

Charming, or is this a scary, hallway?

There were 4 of us so we had a family suite--2 rooms with adjoining bathroom.

There was a small sitting area and a sink in each room.

We had a private balcony facing the fjord.

Our room rate of $150/person/night included buffet dinner and buffet breakfast. The buffet dinner was quite a spread. This was a delicious squash soup.

There was an amazing seafood spread with stone crab legs. I generally don't like stone crab legs because they're usually previously frozen. These were fresh out of the water and delicious.

I love the Norwegian shrimp. The shell is rough but the meat is so incredibly sweet. I could eat platefuls of these.

There was quite a salmon spread--poached, grilled, smoked, gravlax. There were hot items and salads  as well but I mainly loaded up on the seafood. After dinner, coffee & tea was served in one of the public rooms. Since we were there in May, it was light until 10 pm so we still had a great view of the fjord while enjoying our after-dinner drinks.

Breakfast the next morning was also quite a spread. Again, every imaginable salmon, along with eggs, bacon, beans and brown cheese. The brown cheese is slightly sweet and it grows on you.

We spent 2 nights at the Kviknes but you could probably get away with just 1 night. There is only 1 ferry from Flam every day and it departs Flam at 15:30, arriving in Balestrand at 16:55. When you arrive, you can take a walking tour of Balestrand and maybe even take the rowboat out for an hour on the fjord. The next day, you can go to Vik then leave in the afternoon.

2016 05 18

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Norway in a Nutshell

A popular thing to do in Norway is to travel from Oslo to Bergen via a series of trains, ferries and buses called Norway in a Nutshell. You can book the entire trip online through a tour company or piece the trip together yourself.

We wanted to spend some additional time in Balestrand and chose to book the trip ourselves. It was a good thing we did and had flexibility because the trip was disrupted by a power outage on the rail from Oslo to Myrdal.

We left Oslo Sentrum at 8:25 am. Ticket from Oslo to Flam cost us NOK939 for the 4 1/2 hour ride. If you book early, it can be as low as NOK839. Book online at

The train leaves Oslo on Track 3. Choose a seat on the right for the best views--you reserve the seat when you purchase the ticket. When we reached Al, we were informed that we could not continue to Myrdal by rail because of a power outage. Buses were brought in to transport us to Flam. Unfortunately, we would miss the most scenic part of the trip from Myrdal to Flam.

The bus ride took us through some beautiful scenery including snow fields, before bringing us to Flam. Flam is a village and transportation hub at the edge of Sognefjord. We were able to get a refund on the Myrdal to Flam leg of our trip and rebook Flam to Myrdal when we finished our stay on the Sognefjord. There is a rail museum in Flam, many tourist shops and several restaurants.

Flam is a popular stop for cruiseships. If a ship is in port, it gets very crowded.

We were headed to Balestrand and boarded Fjord1. Cost was NOK199 for the 1 1/2 hour ride.  

The trip was in the Sognefjord. It was a beautiful ride and the captain took the boat close to waterfalls so that we could take pictures.

Little hamlets along the Sognefjord.

2016 05 18

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Albion River Inn

It was such a hot weekend that we escaped to the coast. We had dinner at Albion River Inn.

Soup Special for the night--Sweet Corn, Tomato & Jalapeño Soup--$9. Slightly spicy vegan soup with organic yellow corn, sweet onions, garlic & vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp tortilla garnish. This was the perfect summer soup. Brothy, not to thick and with a slight kick.

Tossed Green Salad--$11. Organic greens tossed with tender beets & toasted pumpkin seeds with tangy mango & rice wine vinaigrette, crisp sweet potato garnish. The dressing was delicious. I couldn't really tell the garnish was made of sweet potato but it, along with the pumpkin seeds, provided a nice crunch.

Steamed Shellfish--$17. This was a starter but I order it as an entree. Prince Edward Island mussels, Manila clams and tender rock shrimp with caramelized bacon, brandy & lemon, finished with a touch of cream & fresh basil. The sauce is delicious. I sometimes take home the leftovers. It makes an amazing pasta sauce when added to linguine.

Orecchiette Pasta--$19.50. Medley of domestic & wild mushrooms with caramelized onions sautéed in olive oil and finished with a sundries tomato & basil pesto cream sauce, with shaved Asiago cheese.  I wasn't a fan of this. The cheese shavings were actually more like thick slabs of cheese. The orecchiette was overcooked and there wasn't much of a mushroom tastes.

2016 06 26

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dinner at Circle K

Note to self: never travel on Constitution Day. There was no place to eat dinner except at the Circle K gas station.

My friend chose the taco & salsa hot dog for NOK39.

My husband chose a superburger for NOK 69.

I chose nothing. I refused to waste calories on a Circle K dinner.

2016 05 17

Sunday, June 26, 2016

To Pulpit Rock

Since we only had 11 1/2 hours in Stavanger (9 1/2 hours, if we took into account when we needed to be back at the airport), it was easier to get a rental car than use public transportation.

There are 2 car rental locations--pay attention to which agency you used.

It's 1 1/2 hours from the Stavanger airport to Pulpit Rock. At some point, no matter which route you use, you will need to take a ferry. We chose to drive south and take the Lauvvika-Oanes ferry. NOK73 for car & driver, NOK30 for each additional passenger for the 10 minute ride. 

View from the ferry.

Pulpit Rock is known as Preikestolen. Parking is NOK150.

It's a 2 hour hike from the parking lot to the top--330 meter elevation gain and 3.8 km.

Sometimes, you hike through meadows.

At other times, you hike on rock.

Once you get to Pulpit Rock, follow the signs to a lookout just above Pulpit Rock.

There are cracks everywhere.

Crack on the rock itself.

On the way back to the airport, we had planned to take the northern route through Tau. Unfortunately, we were stopped by a Constitution Day parade, which closed the entire road. We had to turn south and follow the Oanes-Lauvvik route back to Stavanger. The Tau ferry would have taken 59 minutes and cost NOK155 for car & driver, NOK52 for each additional passenger. Total travel time was still 1 1/2 hours.

2016 05 17

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Flight to Stavanger

May 17 is Norway's Constitution Day. It's a day to celebrate the signing of the constitution in 1814.  Children's parades take place all over the country and people dress in traditional costumes representing their hometowns. The royal family come out on the balcony of the palace to greet the people.

Originally, I had planned our trip to Norway so we could see the celebration in Oslo. Unfortunately, due to bad planning on my part, it was the only day we had to visit Pulpit Rock. At 5:30 am, we took the Flytoget (NOK180) to the airport. NSB (NOK92) wasn't operating yet so we had to pay double the cost to get to the airport.

Since it was Constitution Day, there was hardly anyone at the airport in the morning. It was a little frightening though because we didn't have to show an ID anywhere. Not in the security line and not before boarding.

View out the window just outside of Oslo.

View out the window as we neared Stavanger.

The greeting at Stavanger airport.

2016 05 17

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thursday Night Dinner

Another great dinner at Flavor Bistro in downtown Santa Rosa. Four courses with wine pairing for $24.95.

Gamberoni Con Couscous--Grilled Marinated Jumbo Prawns Served with Olive-Herb Couscous & Persian Cucumber Salsa, paired with 2014 Calera Wine Company Chardonnay, Central Coast. I'm not a chardonnay fan but this paired so well with the shrimp and couscous.

Orecchiette E Fagioli--Organic Italian Macaroni Cooked with Toy Box Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans, Sweet Basil, Garlic & Pecorino Romano, paired with 2013 St. Francis Winery & Vineyards Old Vines Zinfandel, Sonoma. The sauce was so delicious!

Bistecca Alla Griglia--Grilled Marinated Flat Iron Steak Garnished with Organic Fingerling Potatoes, Arugula, Sweet Corn & Roasted Peppers Served in Barolo Wine Sauce, paired with 2011 Séka Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Blend Tuluk'a, Capay Valley. The Barola sauce was amazing.

Crostata Di Ciliegie--Cherry Galette Served with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream, paired with 2014 Colli Euganei Vignalta Moscato L.H., D.O.C., Italy

2016 06 23

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Walking Home

Walking back to the Scandic from the Opera House, we passed several sculptures.

Coffee cup with spilt coffee.

Tiger--Oslo is known as the tiger city. The name was first used by Norwegian poet Bjornson whose poem "Sidste Sang" from 1870 describes a fight between a horse (representing the safe countryside) and a tiger (representing the dangerous city).

Not sure why the cigarette butt is representative of Oslo.

This was a sign outside the Mexican restaurant next door to the Scandic. Problem is, the food was not authentic at all.

2016 05 16

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Opera House

The Oslo Opera House is an easy walk from the Oslo Central Station.

It sits on the harbor and appears to rise out of the water. You can walk on the roof and enjoy views of the harbor.

Sculpture arising from the water just outside the Opera House.

The interior is unique. You can take a 50-min guided tour for NOK100, 20% discount with Oslo Pass.  Tours are offered every day at 1 pm, except Saturdays when the tour is offered at noon.

There's wood everywhere and windows everywhere, bathing the interior in natural light.

There are 2 restaurants in the Opera House. Restaurant Argent is the fine dining restaurant open Mon-Sat. Brasserie Sanguine is more casual and located in the foyer.

2016 05 16