Category Archives: travel

It’s really not a small world after all

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Many moons ago, when I first moved to Norway and telephone calls were much too expensive for my budget, I was forced to write letters. Sit down, put pen to paper and write. That however, was not the hardest part. It was the waiting. It could take weeks, sometimes months to receive a letter in return. I felt far away, isolated, living in a garden of exile.

Facebook, FaceTime, Skype and Messenger are what now connect me (and everyone else) with the outside world. They enable us to feel close to people far away, which in turn makes the world seem smaller.

After living twenty-seven years in Norway, my husband and I recently bought a condo in my home state of New Jersey. The plan is to use it as a vacation home. Fly back and forth several times a year. Most of my family and a lot of my friends live there. Plus three Grandchildren! The condo is located at the Jersey Shore, about 25 minutes from the beach and two hours from NYC. Just perfect! Happy! Happy! Me.

But… Nothing is ever easy!

We just got back from our first mini-vacation to our new place and this is how it went…

We had a one hour drive to the airport (early in the morning). Fifty minute flight to Oslo. One hour wait before boarding. The flight across the Atlantic took approximately seven hours. We landed at 1:30pm in Newark NJ. Not bad.

I have a US passport, my husband has a Norwegian one. He has always been able to follow me through the US Citizens only line, at the Customs and Border Protection counter. Not anymore. Instead, we could either split up or both go through the Non US Citizens line. Knowing I’d have to wait for him anyway, I went with him.

The Non US Citizens line was long and slow. It took crawling at a snails pace, forever, to see why. Out of fifteen counters there were only four open. People were yelling to the officers guarding the line that they were missing their connecting flights. Babies and small children crying deliriously after long flights and their parents, tired and stressed trying to manage them. Elderly people pleading for assistance. I also noticed a pregnant woman looking drained and pale, inching her way through the line. We stood there like animals waiting to get in out of the cold. Welcome to America!

In the end, it took two hours for us to get through. I planned on saying something to the officer at the counter about the long wait, but after seeing how grumpy and unfriendly he was, I chickened out. It took another couple of hours to get through the airport and car rental agency. Of course we got stuck in traffic, so what should have been a one hour drive, took two. That’s like sixteen hours from door to door.

We stayed for one fun-filled week before heading back.

Our flight left the gate on time at 7:00pm. We sat on the runway for quite a while before returning to the gate, to fix an electrical problem. A short time later, with the problem fixed, something happened that I have never in all my years of travel seen before. Some of the passengers wanted off the plane! I don’t know if they were spooked because of the electrical problem or what… But they got off and then we had to wait for their luggage to be removed. We finally took off just after 10:00pm. It was a smooth eight hour flight.

Needless to say we missed our connecting fight and had to wait seven hours in Frankfort, Germany for the next flight home! In the end it took twenty-six hours to get home, which is more than double the time it should take.

Arriving safely is what really matters… And we’re going back in August :)

 

 

Ecstatic

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The word ecstatic means: Feeling or expressing overwhelming happiness or joyful excitement, and that is what I’m doing here today.

I haven’t posted in a very long time. I’m not sure anyone out there remembers this site or will even read this post, but that doesn’t matter.

Let me explain… I do not consider myself a writer.

I am a reader.

I wrote a book that did not come from talent or imagination. It was just me telling my life story, punctuation, spelling errors and all. I started this blog to publicise that book, but soon found myself happier reading other blogs than writing one myself. So I stopped.

Now why am I sitting here today?…  Writing. Good question!

The only answer I can think of is excitement. I’m so excited, I can’t sit still and I want to shout from the roof top.

I’m going to England!

I’ve been there before. Many times actually, but this time is different. This time I’m going on a ‘literary pilgrimage’.

My parents are coming to Norway (where I live) for a visit, this Spring. My mother suggested that maybe her and I could take a little trip, an excursion while they are here. My first thought was Paris but then a friend soon put another idea into my head. Her and her daughter had just purchased cheap tickets to London and asked if we would like to travel with them.

Except for seeing a show and afternoon tea, London didn’t tempt me. Knowing however, that my mother didn’t care where we went, a thought crossed my mind. The same thought that crosses my mind whenever I think of England. Jane Austen.

Jane Austen has long been my favorite author. I’ve read all her books and although pleasurable, not an easy task. At least not for an American like myself. It’s like reading in another language, new and romantic. I love everything about them. While there is plenty of plot and adventure, they are genteelly written and domestically structured around marriage. They are about women.

If you have never attempted to read one of Jane Austen’s novels, you should, or at least see one of the many films based on them. I’ve seen both the Hollywood and BBC versions, (many times over) neither of which disappoint.

For me it’s not just her writing, but the author herself that entices. I want to walk where she has walked. And that is exactly what I am going to do come June, with a trip to Bath and Chawton cottage.

We will be taking a bus trip from London to Bath, stopping off at Stonehenge. Jane Austen lived several years in Bath. Here we will see the Roman Baths, take afternoon tea and of course visit the Jane Austen Centre.

We will also visit Chawton. I have a friend living near London named Claire, who has kindly offered to drive us. We will visit the village and cottage where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life. The literary shrine where six of our greatest novels were first written or given their final form.

I can already hear the birds singing and I’m ecstatic…

A list of my favorite Austen books, in order:

  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Persuasion (surprise)
  • Pride and Prejudice (usually the most popular)
  • Emma
  • Mansfield Park
  • Northanger Abbey

Start reading, Mom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

France is always a good idea

Purple is my new favorite color

Purple is my new favorite color

I’ve been following a blog called My French Heaven for quite a while, it’s written by a Frenchman named Stéphane. Stéphane lives and runs a Chateau (B&B) in a small town outside Bordeaux. All of his posts are written in both French and English. I can’t remember how I came across the blog but what attracted me most, were the photos. Stéphane takes the most beautiful photos of people, scenery and food! Pictures that draw you in, and make you want to get on the next plane to France.

That’s why when recently planning a trip with friends, I suggested we fly to Bordeaux, drive out into the French countryside and stay at Stéphane’s Chateau. After showing my friends his photos, they were in total agreement. All info about the Chateau and surrounding area can be found on his blog.

Tucked between vineyards and not far from Saint Emilion, the Chateau was the perfect place to stay. It was especially nice to finally meet one of my many blogging buddies (I wish I could meet you all). Stéphane was a friendly and very helpful host.

Although I’m not quite the photographer Stéphane is, here are some photos from our trip…

Chateau St. Jaques Calon

Chateau St. Jaques Calon

Stéphane’s Chateau

An early morning shot from the balcony of my room

An early morning shot from the balcony of my room

A trip to the Farmers Market in Libourne

I haven't seen tomatoes this big since I left New Jersey

I haven’t seen tomatoes this big since I left New Jersey

I kept thinking how lucky these people are to have a market like this. There was nothing you couldn't find...

I kept thinking how lucky these people are to have a market like this. There was nothing you couldn’t find…

The charming city of St-Emilion

Steep cobble stoned roads

This quaint little town was built on and out of the limestone hill it’s situated on

St-Emilion

St-Emilion

A tour and wine tasting at Chateau Cardinal-Villemaurine

Touring the winery was both informative and fun!

Touring the winery was both informative and fun!

Tasting the wine at the end of the tour was the best part!

Tasting the St Emilion Grand Cru wine at the end of the tour was the best part!

A bicycle trip

A bicycle ride through the vineyards is a must!

A bicycle ride through the vineyards is a must!

On both sides of the road and around ever bend there were vineyards and old stone houses with shuttered windows

On both sides of the road and around every bend there’s nothing but vineyards, dotted with old stone houses

The vineyards

I've never seen so many grapes!

I’ve never seen so many grapes!

We couldn't help but sample...

We just couldn’t help but sample…

Les Macarons

I can't forget to mention this delicious treat

I certainly can’t forget to mention these delicious treats

The only thing missing from our trip was the sun and we hardly even noticed.

Somewhere above the Arctic Circle

 

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Every year it’s the same story… Where should we go this summer for a suntan?

The reason is simple, we live in Norway.

Here in Norway, you can never-ever count on good weather.

Not even in summer!

Most Norwegians head south but not us. We go west, towards New Jersey. The Jersey Shore is a great place to spend summer.

This year, with my granddaughter coming over from the States we decided to stay right here in Norway. We were invited to a friends place, way, way up in the top of Norway and so while everyone else was flying south, we flew north…

I promised the locals I wouldn’t give our exact location, because they don’t like tourists wandering around while they’re trying to skinny dip ;)

I will tell you this… We were above the Arctic Circle and no one was more surprised than me at how beautiful it was.

It was a perfect, Norwegian summer!

Flyers

flyers

tea-time

tea-time

This was towards the end of  july and even though the sun set, it didn't get dark

The sun would set behind the mountains but that didn’t mean it would get dark

This picture was taken after the sun set, around midnight

This picture was taken after the sun set, around midnight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Good-bye

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My heart broke today…

Twenty-five years ago I made the monumental decision to take my children, leave America and live the rest of my life as an expatriate, in Norway.

When my children were small I had to send them back to the US every summer to visit their father. Putting three young children on an Airplane heading for the other side of the Atlantic was never easy for neither him, nor me. Those children are now grown with children of their own, our grandchildren. As fate would have it, three of them live in Norway and two in the US.

Three weeks ago their grandfather put the oldest one, Maren (eight years-old) on an airplane, to visit me here in Norway. Today, I sent her back to him.

While waiting at the gate this morning Maren fell asleep and before I knew it, someone from the airline had come to collect her for boarding. I woke her, took her in my arms and started to cry. I could see a line of people waiting for her to go, so they too could board (unaccompanied minors are always boarded first). I had no choice but to let her go…

I watched the beast intensely through a nearby window until every piece of luggage and passenger was onboard. Then lost sight as it was taxied away. But in my heart I could hear its mighty roar, as it whisked down the runway carrying my grandchild farther and farther away from me.

I stood there a while groping with my emotions before leaving.

Such is the life of an expat.

Finding treasure

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Did you know…?

Northern Norway lies above the Arctic Circle and is a wonderland of treasure…

The Northern lights illuminate the dark skies of winter, and the midnight sun provides endless days of summer.

The midnight sun also gives extra energy making it very easy to forget to go to bed at night.

A landscape of skerries, boat-houses, lapping waves and the cries of gulls ease away tension.

Would you like to see the treasures I found on my recent trip north…

boat-houses

boat-houses

sea-cabins

sea-cabins

crabs

crabs

sea urchins

sea urchins

starfish

starfish

shells

shells

coral

coral

cloudberries (moltebær)

cloudberries (multebær)

wildflowers

wildflowers

reindeer moss

reindeer moss

Nobel prize winner Knut Hamsun's childhood home

The childhood home of 1920 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Knut Hamsun

relaxation

relaxation

and the midnight sun

and the midnight sun

A Sunday trip

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Magma Geopark is an area of unique geology. The geopark is located in southwest Norway and is a member of the European and Global Geopark Networks. These networks are under auspices of UNESCO. I live in this area.

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Yesterday my husband and I met up with friends in the next town over, called Sokndal. Our goal was to find the abandoned titanic, iron/ore mines at Blåfjell (Blue Mountain), which were mined between 1863 to 1876 and where a total of 90,000 tons of ore was exported. We followed an old railway trail, which was once used to move the ore from 106 m above sea level to the coast about 8 km away.

 The nature was breathtakingly beautiful, too beautiful not to share…

Me and my friend Benthe

Before reaching the mines we passed Ruggesteinen, which is a large “rocking stone”. It is a huge block of anorthosite that fell from a steep slope. When it came to a halt it was balanced on small rocks, which makes it possible to move slightly -if you push on the right place.

I was able to rock it, but I needed a little help to get started.

I was able to rock it, but I needed a little help to get it started.

We found some other interesting things along the way as well…

The work of a beaver

The work of a beaver

The remains of an elg

The remains of an elk

We saw many different types of moss on the mountains.

And all different types of moss on the mountains

We also came across an abandoned movie-set used in the filming of a Norwegian historical murder mystery called, Skumringslandet. The English title is The Veil of Twilight and is set in 1349. The production ran into problems when two of its men were swept out to sea and drowned while filming scenes along the coast, during a storm. The film has yet to be released.

The abandoned movie set of Skumringslandet

The abandoned movie set of Skumringslandet

Finally we came to the mines, which had chains across the entrances and signs saying, Enter at your own risk. We of course entered but didn’t stay long. It was dark, damp and I was suddenly afraid there may be bats lurking…

The mines at Blåfjell

The mines 

On my way out

The cave entrance at Blåfjell 

it was a nice Sunday!

 

 

 

Bonnie Scotland…

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Our trip to Scotland wasn’t exactly what I’d call a vacation, but it was however, a very interesting trip…

As our plane reached cruising altitude and the captain was about to give his customary announcement on weather conditions and flight time, I heard something odd. He started the announcement saying, Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen.

Hmmm… Could I have heard wrong? No one else seemed to notice, not even my husband or son. I took a quick look around and saw the whole first row was empty except for one man, sitting next to the window, on the other side of the plane. Behind him, in the second row there were just two men sitting in the isle seats. By now my mind was racing (out loud) and my husband had to tell me to calm down, but I couldn’t. I finally asked the flight attendant, right out… Is there a royal onboard this plane?

Sure enough, Kong Harold, the King of Norway was sitting fifteen seats in front of me and it turns out he always flies commercial.

The King was the first one off the plane where a car was waiting for him. I took this picture from inside the plane, it's the closest I've ever been to a king!

The King was the first one off the plane where a car was waiting for him. I took this picture from inside the plane, that’s him getting into the car. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to a king!

When my son came to me last summer and said he wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes, I thought it was a joke. Turns out he was serious and has worked diligently this past year learning to play the chanter, which is the part of the pipe with the finger holes. The next step is getting the actual bagpipes, which is what brought us to Scotland. We spent five (cool and drizzly) days in Glasgow, where we stayed and my son attended a piping course at the National Piping Centre. He got his pipes and his kilt should arrive in about six weeks (it had to be custom ordered).

This is the tartan my son chose for his kilt

This is the tartan my son chose for his kilt

Because he had four classes a day with a lunch break of two hours in the middle of them, it was impossible for us to get out and do very much. All the sightseeing points of interest closed at five, which is when his last class ended. I did however, manage to get in a wee bit of shopping on Buchanan Street. We took evening strolls in Kelvingrove Park and the Necropolis Cemetery next to the Glasgow Cathedral. I know it sounds weird to stroll around a cemetery but the gothic-style mausoleums and giant headstones are quite a sight.

The headstones almost look like giant chess pieces.

The headstones almost look like giant chess pieces.

The other thing I did, was drink tea. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the UK. I’m always in search of a tea shop and I found some nice ones in Glasgow. Among them, Bradford’s, The Willow Tea Rooms, which were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1903, and my favorite, Cup Tea Lounge. Where I had the most amazing cup of White Jasmine Tea imaginable! And the cupcakes weren’t bad either :)

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I’ll leave you with this:

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Words to live by…

You call this summer!

Here is where the salmon's journey begins as they swim in from the North Sea

Here is where the journey begins as the salmon swim in from the North Sea

Summer is suppose to be warm and sunny! Right?

Growing up on the Jersey Shore we had our share of bad weather, but summers were always spent at the beach, or in the pool. We’d pack up our winter clothes in May and wouldn’t need them again before at least October. I remember how hard it was getting use to wearing shoes again in the fall, when school started. I have such fond memories of how summer is suppose to be…

Now I live on an island off the southwest coast of Norway, where summer is about as predictable as the stock-market. This week alone we’ve had two days with a cold wind, one warm day, one day that started terrible and ended nice. That happens a lot, it’s gray and damp all day and then the sun comes out, just as we’re heading for bed… Today it’s raining.

There is however, one sure sign that summer has arrived here in my little corner of the world. The salmon are swimming in from the ocean and up into the rivers to spawn. To do this, they must swim through the sound and directly past my house. For the next month (with a special license) we are allowed to set nets from Sunday night until Thursday afternoon. This is a big deal for the locals, who check their nets several times a day and then gossip over who’s catching the most. I’ve seen two salmon hop through the water, just since I’ve been sitting here writing this post. (There’s a window right behind my computer screen).

Much to my husbands dismay we’re heading for Scotland next week and that means he’ll have to take a break from fishing. My son is enrolled in a week-long bagpiping course at the National Bagpipe Centre in Glasgow. I’m not exactly sure how an American/Norwegian teenager got interested in bagpiping, he just did.

And I doubt we’ll find summer in Scotland either…

My catch, holding his catch ;)

My catch, holding his catch ;)

 

Come fly with me

Chapter 22, I had some unforgettable and quite scary experiences in Dubai.

Chapter 22, I had some unforgettable and quite scary experiences in Dubai.

It’s Thursday and that means tomorrow is the last day to get your FREE Kindle version of Fly Away Home  (Just by clicking on this link)

For those of you who have already read, or are planning to read… Here are pictures from some of the different places I write about in the book.

Chapter 2, Jersey Girl

The Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore is the 130 miles of New Jersey coastline, where summertime tourists come to enjoy the white sandy beaches and boardwalks. By day they pack the beaches, soaking up the sun and cooling off in the rigorous Atlantic surf. By night they flock the boardwalks, emptying their pockets at the arcade, riding the roller coasters, enjoying things like snow cones and cotton candy. In winter the action slows and the locals can stroll along the boards, breathing the salt air and enjoying the peace.

Chapter 3, My Maiden Voyage

Egersund, Norway

Egersund, Norway

In New Jersey everything was spread out and people would drive here and there, for this and that. There was a constant blur of activity everywhere. Norway was the complete opposite, I never saw any traffic or crowds, just small towns with quaint little shops located in quite, pedestrian only areas. Egersund reminded me of a miniature town I’d once seen on a train board.

Chapter 17, Mixed Blessings

Our house in Norway

Our house in Norway, the same house that’s on the cover of the book

We could hardly believe our luck. We built the house of our dreams on one of the most idyllic spots on the island. I now had my own little place in the world and over the next few years, life couldn’t have been any better…

Chapter 19, Life Goes On

Alexander and I in Hawaii

Alexander and I in Hawaii

All I wanted to do is run away as far as I possibly could. In hope of breaking the circle of grief, Harry, Alexander and I took a trip to Hawaii. It was not a vacation, more of a distraction.

Chapter 20, A Window Opens

Harry and I in front of the house in Houston

Harry and I in front of the house in Houston

The house the company rented for us was on a shady cul-de-sac in a quite neighborhood. It had a built in swimming pool in the back yard and palm trees in the front. The house looked like a mini mansion with 4000 square feet of pure grandeur, which included Swarovski chandeliers hanging in both the marble foyer and formal dining room. A spacious living room with a fireplace, a game room, modern kitchen with breakfast nook, three bedrooms, plus a master suite and five bathrooms all for us!  The house was light, airy and adorned in crown molding, it was, in a word, elegant.

Chapter 22, Going Dutch

Brian and I in the Netherlands

Brian and I in the Netherlands

They say God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland. The Netherlands is an architectural masterpiece. It’s designed down to the last detail and only a minute portion of the country has been left in its natural state. Because of their struggle against water more than a quarter of its surface is below sea level. The Dutch leave nothing to chance, instead they create their own nature and this makes the Netherlands a beautiful and fascinating place.

Bicycling through Provence

Bicycling through Provence

We cycled through the most magnificent vineyards where clusters of dark purple grapes hung irresistibly from the vines. We rode through fruit orchards and dried up sunflower fields. We pedaled down tight little streets lined with crooked stucco houses painted in pale colors, with shutters hanging on every window. We stopped along the way to eat cheese on long loaves of French bread and drink wine among the olive trees. We spent our nights tucked away in tiny old provincial towns oozing with charm. After making our way down to the Mediterranean we headed up through the Alpilles Mountains of Provence and back to Avignon. The jagged rock formations protruding upward through the oak and pine forests created panoramic views at every twist and turn of the road. We were escorted everyday through Van Gogh country by a warm September sun, and the experience was unforgettable.

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