By the end of June the city of Stavanger,in the south west in Norway, fills up with sand. It is time for the annual beach volleyball festival. Sand fields are made along VÃ¥gen, the harbour which lies almost in the middle of the old city. Here, games are played for early morning till late at night.
Stavanger, the 4th biggest city of Norway, after Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, is best known as the oil capital of Norway. Stavanger attractions worth visiting include the oil museum, as are the many modern and traditional museums. However my Europe travel tip and what Ilove to do when I visit Stavanger, at least once every summer, is to walk along the smallÂ streets in the old part of the city. Here the atmosphere hasn’t changed much during the last few decades. Although Norway’s biggest shopping mall, Kvadrat,Â is located on theÂ outskirts of Stavanger, here in the old town you can lose yourself among small original shops, buy a coffee, some homemade pastries, the bookshops florishes and here and there, between clothing stores, there are a lovely variety of arts and crafts galleries.
After a long day walking around, don’t forget to visit the old stone cathedral and to feed the ducks and the swans at the small lake, Breiavannet, it is time for dinner. Let me recommend the Italian Allegro where the atmosphere is charming, the food exellent and the service very good.
Then, do like we did, end your night watching the sunset around 10pm at VÃ¥gen.
Enjoy your day.
Next week I plan to take you to the only Palm Island in Norway, Flor og FjÃ¦re, 20 minutes by boat from Stavanger.
I only discovered aÂ couple of days ago that Monte Carlo Rally had, in the past, started in Norway. Now I know :-). From 1931 and for several years after, the rally started in Stavanger, in south west in Norway. After some 120 kilometers the rally reached the hill of TronÃ¥sen, which soon became a dreaded part of the race.
The roadÂ up TronÃ¥sen is narrow and steep, creeping up in one hairpin bend after another. When it was built it used to be part of the main road between Stavanger and Oslo. Today it is open only in summer, mostly used by tourists.
We visited TronÃ¥sen the other day, in two cars as there were too many of us to fit in one. My husband drove one of the cars, I drove the other. The roads up are the steepest slopes that I’ve everÂ driven up, and my husband didn’t feel sure that I would make it. Of course, as soon as I knew that, nothing could stop me :-) So while I drove, my heart beating fast, I had two teenage girls hanging out of the car windows with their cameras, dividing their time between cheering the mother chauffeur and shooting scenic photos.
To reach TronÃ¥sen today, you can fly to Stavanger, take the train to Flekkefjord and there rent a car. Or drive from Stavanger in the southwest or Kristiansand in the south. Along the way there are a lot of possibilities for scenic detours.
More photos here, quite amazing (Norwegian text)
Are you planning a visit to Norway in the near future? If so, let me suggest a few days on the Coastal Line along the western coast of Norway. The line goes all the way from Bergen up to Kirkenes and then down south again, but you can of course board the ship where you want, for so long as you want. Trondheim is a popular stop along the line, but today I am taking you to the small village of RÃ¸rvik, north of Trondheim.
The coastal line only stops for a short time in RÃ¸rvik, but long enough to take a walk to enjoy the old wooden houses, the sea houses, or may be the church is open and a concert is given for the tourists.
You can read more about RÃ¸rvik here.
Are you making plans for travels in Europe and can’t make up your mind where to go? Why don’t you choose something different this time. Let me suggest one of Europe’s outposts; Iceland and Reykjavik.
If you go to some of the official sites about Iceland you will find all the information you need about where to stay, where to eat, what to see, so instead I’ll take you on a winter walk in this charming, different city of Reykjavik. Let’s call it a window safari.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. With fewer than 125.000 people, it is a small city, and it takes only minutes to walk from the city center out to the areas where people live in small, colourful villas. The area around the main church Hallgrimskirkja (The Hallgrim Church) is my favorite area. And to look at the charming, often whimsical way the inhabitants decorate the window, I don’t think I am the only one doing “windows safaris” :-)
It was January when I did my walk, and many of the windows still had lights left over from Christmas, or to enlighten this dark season.
When you have seen enough, or may be rather when you want to see more but need a break, let me recommend Cafe Loki, close to Hallgrimskirkjan. Buy a skyr cake with your coffee and enjoy the view.
Follow this link to find more posts from Reykjavik and Iceland.
All along western Norway you find quite a few old, old treasures, the old wooden hotels. Many of then are originally from a period long forgotten (or almost forgotten?) when British and other European travellers came to Norway to climb in the mountains, to hike in the nature.Â These travellers were used to a certain style, and it didn’t take the owners of the guesthouses along their road long to adapt to the style required.
The old farm RÃ¸isheim is one of these places, filled to the brim with an old fashioned charm from days gone, at the same time all the needs of a modern traveller are catered for.Â Staying at such an establishment is my Europe travel tip if you’re visiting Norway.
Every night the huge matklokke at RÃ¸isheim chimes when dinner is served. Dinner at RÃ¸isheim, a 5 course meal which must have been prepared by the elves, the main elf being Fru Ingrid, who reigns in the kitchen today.
Every course served is a pure piece of art, in appearance, in taste, in an atmosphere which is found in very few places. If the old plates could tell their stories, if the walls could show glimpses from days way back in time…….. Well, when you eat your meal at RÃ¸isheim the rooms do tell their stories. Open your eyes and your ears, see, listen, and you will be surprised what you’ll learn.
Every bedroom at the old farm is different. The one we were given had this lovely bed, and it had a wooden bath tub inside the bedroom. Make sure you have time to fill the tub, before dinner, before breakfast the next morning. And enjoy your time!
Here are links to my posts Romance at RÃ¸isheim and Dinner at RÃ¸isheim.
Make sure that you come to Norway, at least once, in May. May 17th is Norway’s Constitution Day. Schools are off, offices and shops are closed. Everybody is out to celebrate. The photos today are from Trondheim, the third biggest city of Norway.
Here the day starts with a parade for school children and brass bands at 10 am, it continues with a parade for organisations and groups at 1pm, and has its last parade at 4pm for High School last year students. People dress in their best clothes, thousands of men, women and children wear their “bunads”, regional costumes, flags can be seen everywhere and the air is filled with cheers and the music from bands playing.
Many schools have their own brass bands, and they have practised for weeks now to manage the marching while playing.
Mid-May can be cold in Trondheim. Luckily the bunads are mostly made of warm wool, many children are lucky to have knitting grand mothers, like this young charmer.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Trondheim let me recommend one of the city’s nicest hotel, Rica Nidelven. While you are there make sure you have time enough to enjoy the breakfast for at least a couple of hours. The hotel has the best breakfast in the country.
You can read more about May 17th in Trondheim here and here. And about bunadsÂ here.
Venice and glass goes together like hands and gloves. And tourists visiting Venice often want to visit a glass factory. Out at Murano, the glass blowing island in the laguna, you can get that possibility. All through the day tourists are welcome to one of the many glass workshops to watch artists working.
You don’t need to visit Murano to meet glass artists though. You find them in Venice as well, and the best ones, the most charming ones, are those out of the busy tourists calles (streets). A few years ago we stumbled upon Mauro Vianello quite by chance. ThroughÂ his studioÂ window we sawÂ him working with his long, colourful sticks of glass, we opened the door, walked into his studio Glasshandmade, and right there and then we were hooked.
Mauro kept on working while talking with our daughter, asking her what she wanted him to make, all the time letting her see how he worked with his art, how he created small animals, a heart for a necklace, a pinocchio……… Marta, and also both her parents were hooked, and there and then we started a collection: glass art from handmade glass.
Are you interested in a quiet place to stay in Venice? What about choosing a small flat instead of a hotel? Let me recommend Nati House. It is a small flat situated in Cannaregio, well out of the tourist crowds. There you can make your own meal if you want to, shop groceries from the small local stores, you can sit on the small terrace watching the boats passing by, and still you are only a short walk from the railways station, Canal Grande and Piazzale Roma.
To find out more about Mauro Vianello you can visit his blog, or you can read about him at tripadvisor (where his is No 1 among Venezian attractions)
Only an hour north of Venice, close to Bassano, you find the small village of Asolo, where Freya Stark the travel writer, used to live, and where she died in 1993. The houses of Asolo are built along the steep hill, with an amazing view. On clear days you can see all the way down to Venice and the laguna.
Unfortunately Freya Stark’s house, its garden and the surrounding park is closed for renovation these days, but the village is still worth a visit. If only for the nice walk along narrow street where the houses seem to lean against each other, and where the spirit of several celebrities live on; among them Robert Browning who came here after the death of his wife Elizabeth.
A European trip is so much more than visiting the main places where everybody else goes. Why don’t treat yourself and factor in a few days to paths seldom taken when Europe travel planning?
Asolo can be one such. A perfect place to walk around, breathing the air, planning new trips (like Freya Stark must have done so many times). I can easily find myself living here between travels, with the possibilities of a cappuccino in Venice at least every week-end. And if you walk around the cemetery you might ever be able to find Dame Freya Stark’s grave.
The biography of Freya Stark is to be found in Jane Fletcher Geniesse’s bookÂ Passionate Nomad
Florence in spring must be one of the lovliest places to visit in Europe, the roses blooming along with ancient art, the pavement cafes busy, the lines in front of the museums long. After a morning looking at works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Artemisia (yes, there is a female artist as well) your head, your mind, your heart will need some fresh air. At least my vital parts did.
It was time for a fresh walk, and I headed up to Piazzale Michelangelo, one of Karen’s favourite Florence piazzas, from where the view of Florence’s rooftops is magnificent.
In the back corner of Piazzale Michelangelo, just behind a gelato stall, there is a path leading down to The Iris Garden which is open now a few weeks during spring. Hundreds, thousands of irises set between silver grey olive trees, charming paths, and always the view of Florence’s rooftops.
One hour or two in this garden, may be with a book, what about A Room With a View, and I am sure you are ready for more art……or may be a gelato first? Florence claim to have the best gelato in Italy, but then most Italian places claims the same I think :-)
It’s a bit of a walk from the city centre to the Iris Garden so you may want to book a taxi in Florence, to save your legs for walking around the garden.
You can find the best price for Florence hotels with HotelsCombined which quickly searches the databases of more than 30 accommodation suppliers.
Read Karen’s Tips for what to do and see in Florence for ideas for your Florence city break.
Up north in Europe, though still south of the Arctic Circle, you find Trondheim, an European city, the third biggest in Norway. Spring comes late here, we can still do cross country skiing up in the hills above the city, though if you take a walk along the river Nidelven, or in the park surrounding the Nidaros Cathedral, you will find the first signs of spring.
Early in the morning you will find the cathedral park quiet. A lovely place for walk searching for colours. The trees are still without much green, but look down, and you will find the bluest quilt imaginable.Â Scillas cover the ground, making it hard to find a place to put your feet.
Trondheim’s most famous building is the cathedral, built over the grave of Saint Olav who died not far from the city in 1030. Today pilgrims from all of Europe comes to Nidaros cathedral. They come all year, with a peak period in late July in connection with Olsok, the 29th of July which is the day King Olav died.
Trondheim has a to more to offer though. When your colour walk in the park is finished, what about visiting the harbour with its fish market Ravnkloa. There the fishmongers can show you the catch of the day, or you can buy shrimps directly from the fishing boats. If the day is warm enough I would join you there, sitting down on the edge of the canal, looking out over the fjord to Munkholmen Island, planning what to do next (which will come in a later post here at Europe a la Carte)
Hope to s ee you soon and I’ll take you onTrondheim sightseeing walk to my favorite places.
If you have visited the city, what areÂ your recommended Trondheim attractions?