A major move to a new city and new jobs means it’s been several months without a real vacation (hence the lack of new posts!) The majority of our vacation time in 2013 revolves around wedding-related travel, and lucky for us we have the opportunity to see some pretty cool places as a result. In the fall we have a family wedding in Las Vegas, followed by the wedding of close friends in Dallas exactly one week later. In lieu of flying between the cities, my husband and I decided that the best approach was to road trip it on historic route 66 between Vegas and Dallas. Today we finally perfected our itinerary, so I thought I’d share with you!
Days 1-3: Las Vegas, NV
We will spend a few days in Vegas for wedding #1, so most of our fun will revolve around wedding festivities and visiting with family. Hotel is TBD, but there is no shortage of options. I am working on getting Mike pumped for his first visit to Vegas!
Day 3-5: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
In the morning of day 3 we will get a rental car in Vegas and drive the 4.5 hrs to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We decided to splurge and stay in Grand Canyon National Park rather than in cheap motels outside of the Park. Our hotel (http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/thunderbird-lodge-703.html) is on the Canyon rim, and has a partial view of the canyon. We have no set plans for our full day at the Canyon… maybe renting bikes or driving to viewpoints on the rim. And I have heard the sunrise over the canyon is amazing!
Days 5-7: Santa Fe, NM
Day 5 will be our longest drive of the trip, when we drive approximately 7 hours to Santa Fe. We debated staying in Albuquerque instead, but ultimately chose to drive the extra hour to Santa Fe since it’s developing a reputation as a culinary destination of the southwest. Also, we tried to like ‘Breaking Bad’ but we didn’t. Sorry.
We chose a small hotel near The Plaza in downtown Santa Fe, which is complete with a kiva fireplace for a real southwest experience. The Plaza sounds like a good starting point for exploring the cuisine and history of the area. And Santa Fe has a cooking school— so I already have one idea for a day activity!
Day 7-8: Canyon, TX
The stretch of land between Santa Fe and Dallas proved to be the most challenging part of planning the trip. Amarillo and Wichita Falls are just about halfway points, but we weren’t too keen on the idea of either destination. We tossed around the idea of a dude ranch (well, I tossed this idea around and Mike mostly rolled his eyes), and searched for unique lodging in western Texas. Through our searches we stumbled upon a bed & breakfast in Canyon, TX, about 15 minutes outside of Palo Duro Canyon National Park. The B&B looks awesome and has great reviews on tripadvisor (http://www.hudspethinn.com/), and there seems to be lots to do nearby (including this place: http://www.theelkinsranch.com/Movie1.html)
Day 8-10: Dallas, TX
The second longest stretch of drive will be the 6 hours into Dallas… but we will arrive in plenty of time for the weekend wedding festivities! On Mike’s to-do list: go to a Texas honky-tonk. It appears that this will be possible, and I don’t think we will have to twist our friends arms to go to this place: http://billybobstexas.com/
Any suggestions for things to do/see on our road trip adventure??
When I started this blog I was living in Boston, and in my first post I described my feeling of holiday nostalgia for my favorite bar in the City of Brotherly Love. What a difference a year makes! As a newly minted greater-Philly area resident, I am now experiencing my first holiday season in the area in a few years. And there is lots to see. We had two friends in town this weekend, and I thought the perfect way to show them around the city would be to hit up all of the downtown Philly holiday attractions.
First stop on our itinerary was Love Park. Home of the famous LOVE statue, the park is decked out for Christmas with a big tree and ‘Christmas Village’. We had fun walking around, enjoying flavored hot chocolates and shopping for German ornaments in the Käthe Wohlfahrt tent.
After Love Park, we walked a few blocks to Macy’s to see the Wanamaker Light Show. The show runs every hour on the hour during the holidays, and lasts about 10 minutes. It is short and sweet, and worth seeing once, though you’d better arrive early to find a good spot (as evidenced by my photo below). I still don’t understand why anyone comes to this Macy’s to actually shop during December— it is craziness in there!
After the light show we braved a trip to the third floor to Dicken’s Village. I had never been before, and as we waited 30+ minutes in a deceivingly long line I was really hoping that the display would be worth it. And it was! The village is a life-size rendition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ complete with animatronic figures and amazing artistic touches. The attention to detail was incredible. I would highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in Philly between Thanksgiving and Christmas! At the end of the village you can even choose to go visit Santa if you are so inclined.
After Macy’s we grabbed lunch and beers at McGillin’s, which was decorated for Christmas just as I had remembered it. We wandered around Reading Market Terminal and did some shopping/smelling while waiting for a train (I suppose you could eat here, too, but just smelling can be fun). And no day of holiday activities would be complete without seeing Santa, who for some reason walked on to our SEPTA train car on the ride home. So… check!
My whole itinerary took about 3 hours and covered a 10 block radius. It was a great intro to the city for our out of town guests. Successful day!
Merry Christmas to you and yours, wherever in the world you happen to be spending it!
In the past few weeks Mike and I have experienced some life/career developments, and we made a big change— we left our beloved city of Boston for a new adventure in Philadelphia. We are living just west of the city in a really cool area called the Main Line, and still adjusting to Pennsylvania living. Mike misses being able to watch Pats games on TV (thank goodness for Sunday night football!) and we still can’t figure out the beer situation here (Beer distributors? No beer at liquor stores? What’s the deal, PA?)
In our free time we’ve been adventuring into Philly via SEPTA (which apparently is only ever on time if I’m running to catch it) to start to learn our way around our new city. We took a walking tour this past weekend and got better acquainted with Center City and Old City, and our awesome friends have been showing us around as well.
Though there is much I could write about Philly, I had to dedicate this post to my favorite thing: food. Philly is a great city for a foodie like myself, and I’ve already found a few new favorite things.
My favorite Philly foods (so far):
1- Chai latte’s at Saxby’s
I developed a chai latte-a-week habit when I gave up drinking coffee, and until now Starbuck’s has the best one I’ve found. Enter Saxby’s. Saxby’s has 5 locations in the greater Philly area, and it is home to the most delicious chai latte ever. Not only does Saxby offer a chai latte, it offers MULTIPLE chai lattes (this blew my mind)— they have regular, sugar-free, cinnamon, and— just in for the fall— pumpkin! It takes all the restraint I have not to go here several times every single day and drink all of them.
2- Philly pretzels
I’m not sure what Philly’s obsession with the soft pretzel is… but I have stopped trying to figure it out, because Philly knows what’s up. Now, if you haven’t ventured to this city, your experience with soft pretzels is probably limited to the defrosted version you’ve purchased at a baseball game. Well, some wonderful person took this simple, cheap, ballpark food, and figured out how to make it fantastic (while still keeping it cheap!). There are so many soft pretzels in this town that people are as territorial about their favorite kind as they are about their cheesesteaks. And that’s not even the best part— these people are serious about their mustard, too. Along with the pretzel you can get HOME-MADE mustard in varieties such as brown, spicy brown, honey, hot, and yellow mustard. After all, what good is a pretzel without a good dip? Amazing. (P.S. Do not take the picture below as my endorsement of Philly Pretzel Factory— I fully intend to find the best pretzel in town and update you later)
3- Crab Fries from Chickie’s & Pete’s
I love french fries, and I thought they were pretty great served hot with some ketchup for dipping. But again, a wonderful person in Philly took something simple and gave it a make-over. A restaurant from north Philly called Chickie’s & Pete’s invented “crab fries”, which are essentially spicy french fries smothered in Old Bay seasoning (or an equivalent), and served with a home-made cheesy dip. We went to our first Phillies game 2 weeks ago and I spent the entire 6th inning waiting in line for these bad boys— but they were well worth it!
4- The Philly cheesesteak
Now, it will come as no surprise to you that Philly is known for its cheesesteaks… however, it may sadden you to learn that I am a vegetarian. And although those cheesesteaks look mightly delicious, I will not indulge. So imagine my excitement this past weekend when I discovered a vegetarian cheesesteak in Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philly. It was hot, greasy, cheesy, and delicious. I have had vegetables, cheese, and bread together many times, and it has never tasted like this. I don’t know how they did it, but this sandwich satisfied my cheesesteak craving. And now, in writing about it, I kind of want another.
Until my next adventure… happy eating!
Days 4-7: After our whirlwind trip to Barcelona we were ready to kick back and relax. We took a 30 minute flight from Barcelona to Palma, the main city on the island of Mallorca which sits just off the coast of Spain. We spent 6 nights at the Gran Melia Victoria, a hotel overlooking the Palma harbor and the Cathedral. Our hotel had a saltwater pool and a pool bar… so needless to say we spent many many hours lounging. The main promenade behind the hotel (on Passeig de Maritime) had tons of restaurants and bars, so we didn’t have to travel far to get meals ranging from tapas to crepes to Italian and Mediterranean food.
The “old town” of Palma was a 15 minute walk away, and features the Cathedral (which we did not tour). The island of Mallorca is very interesting, because at different points in history it has been occupied by the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Moors, and the Catalans. However, we were terrible (or awesome?) tourists on this leg of our vacation, and I was more concerned with my tan then with history. So read a book if you’re interested in learning more on this front!
Highlights of these first few days include going on a boat excursion during the 4 hours it was cloudy on our vacation, and renting bikes to explore the coast and beaches of Palma. And of course… lots of cava on our balcony, and naps by the pool.
Day 8: Adventure day in Mallorca! When we arrived in Palma, Mike decided he really wanted to go to the Caves del Drach on the eastern part of the island. We had booked a bus trip to take us there, but after our disappointing boat excursion we canceled it and decided to rent a car instead. This ended up being a great decision.
Our only options for car rentals were standard transmissions, so I was the driver for the day and Mike was my co-pilot. We had asked for a GPS with the car, but the guy at the rental agency handed us a map and assured us that it would be hard for to get lost on the small island. And he was right. There are only a handful of main roads, and by following signs that point you in various directions, you can get pretty much anywhere you need to go without a map. And if all else fails, all signs (literally) point back to Palma!
Our first stop was Manacor, a town on the way to the Caves that featured a Majorica pearl outlet. After spending too much money on gifts to take home, we kept going to the Caves del Drach. The caves were pretty cool, but the tour itself was strange. We had to sit and watch a string quartet play classical music while rowing boats on this large underground lake; it was as weird as it sounds. But Mike was happy he got to tour the caves, and thats all that matters!
Next we stopped in Portocristo, which is a small seaside town to the east. We walked around and had lunch in a tapas restaurant owned by a couple from England. Mike and I were discussing our itinerary over lunch; we had already accomplished everything we set out to do that day, and it was only 2 pm. We had the car until the next morning, so we decided to keep our adventure going. The restaurant owner and her husband assured us that the sites on the northern part of the island were only about an hour away, so we decided to head north.
We started to drive northwest towards Alcudia when we passed through a very commercialized, English resort town. The main strip was nothing special, but we could just make out peeks of an incredible-looking beach from the main road. We parked the car and walked on to Playa de Muro, a small slice of paradise on the northern part of the island. If we come back to Mallorca, I am definitely spending a few days here!
When we got back on the road I had one destination in mind: Formentor. I had read about the Cap de Formentor, a scenic view point overlooking the Mediterranean and the famous cliffs of Mallorca. When researching our trip I had essentially ruled it out as a possibility, because it seemed like it was quite a ways away from Palma, and tripadvisor reviews suggested that the road up to the top was very scary and windy. However, on this particular day I found myself with a car and with plenty of time, and I was feeling adventurous enough to conquer a windy road. I was so excited to see this place in person.
The reviews did not lie; the road up to the top is pretty scary. We took our time and we made it out alive. The views were absolutely spectacular; hands down this was the highlight of the whole trip. I was like a giddy school-girl. The pictures speak for themselves.
There was no topping Formentor, so we drove back to Palma and returned our rental car. We walked to the old town for dinner and had an awesome meal of tapas and mojitos. Awesome day.
Day 9: Our last full day in Palma was spent sun-bathing and being sad we had to leave. At this point I started trying to convince Mike we could just quit our jobs, empty our 401k’s, and keep traveling Europe. He said no. But I guess thats why I married him… one of us has to be sensible!
Day 1: We arrived in Barcelona around noon-time, after a long overnight flight out of Boston. We faced the challenge that most Americans face when traveling to Europe: stay awake! The week leading up to our honeymoon was absolutely crazy, exhausting, and wonderful (must have had something to do with that whole wedding thing….) so we would have loved nothing more than to crawl under the covers, but we knew we needed to tough it out.
After checking into our incredible hotel (Hotel U232), we walked about 15 minutes to Passeig de Gracia and made our way to Casi Batllo, a private residence designed by Gaudi. We were given hand-held radios, and by pushing numbers we could “tour” the house at our own pace. We were able to walk through the whole house, up to the terrace, the attic, and the roof. The architecture is beautiful and bizarre— hard to picture that a family actually lived here. Gaudi didn’t exactly leave room to paint the walls or hang pictures on them.
After the tour we were starving. Our search for food led to our first problems with the language difference. Barcelona is interesting because its in Spain, but in the province of Catalunya— which has the title of a “nationality”, meaning it is somewhat autonomous from Spain. As a result, many people in Barcelona speak Catalan, which is an interesting Spanish-French hybrid that I’m convinced was invented solely because some people felt that the letter ‘X’ was under-utilized. I studied Spanish in school, and carried my handy translation books with me around the city, but these were no match for Catalan! We learned this lesson on our first day when trying to order tapas, and resolved from that point on to only go to restaurants with Spanish or English menus.
After walking around the city a bit more we returned to our hotel. We managed to stay up until 9:30, and then proceeded to sleep for 12 wonderful hours. We woke up on day 2 adjusted to the time difference and ready to go!
Day 2: Day 2 in Barcelona was one of the busiest, most fun days of our trip. We hopped on the metro near our hotel and got off 2 stops later at La Sagrada Familia. We decided we weren’t interested in waiting to tour the inside; instead we just walked around the block to see the cathedral from all angles. The church is pretty ugly, but impressive nonetheless. It’s a fixture in the skyline, since most buildings in the city are not more than 4 stories tall. You can see the Sagrada Familia from the plane flying in to the city, and from most other high points in Barcelona.
On the advice of some friend and co-workers, we bought 2 day passes to the double-decker hop-on, hop-off bus tour that travels in two routes around the city. We got on the green line and took it a few stops to Park Guell, which is another Gaudi site that Mike wanted to see. Getting to the park involves a 10 minute walk straight up-hill… and then once walking through the front gates we realized that our up-hill journey would continue! The stone and marble creations in the park are beautiful, and we toured around leisurely. The views become more impressive as you climb higher through the park. After walking for about an hour, we reached the highest point, Tres Cruces. To reach the top you climb a narrow, spiral staircase to a small platform, where you are rewarded with almost 360 panoramic views of the city. The views were worth the climb!
After Park Guell we got back on the green bus and rode for about an hour through the city. It was a relaxing way to get in a lot of sight-seeing, since we got to sit in the sun and listen to the “tour” through our headphones. All of that climbing made us hungry. We had planned on stopping at Port Olimpico down by the sea, but then our tour informed us that we were passing through an area of Barcelona famous for its paella dishes— say no more. We got off at Barceloneta (an area right on the beach) and headed off in search of paella. We sat down at El Rey de las Gambas and had one of the best meals of our trip; seafood paella for me and chicken paella for Mike. Yummm!
Day 3: After a bit of a late start, we walked a few blocks to get on the orange line double-decker bus to tour the west side of the city. We took the bus down towards La Rambla, and got off at the Barcelona Cathedral stop. We stumbled upon an antiques market outside of the Cathedral, and I successfully negotiated (in Spanish!) for a few souvenirs to take home.
From there we walked to La Rambla and I successfully asked for directions (in Spanish— man I’m getting so good) to La Mercat de la Boqueria. We had read about this market in a National Geographic book called “Food Journeys of a Lifetime”… so even though Mike is not a fan of crowds or enclosed spaces I made him suck it up for a few minutes and go inside. And it was pretty incredible. A great place to stop for a cheap, fresh snack.
We walked down La Rambla a little further and got back on the orange bus line. The orange line took us through the mountain of Montjuic, past the bull fighting arena and FC Barca stadium, and back to our starting point. We went back to the hotel to get ready for the evening, and then headed back to the downtown area. We had an awesome dinner of vegetarian tapas and gin and tonics at Restaurant Sesamo, and then took in a flamenco show (my choice, not Mike’s— haha!)
Now, my philosophy when traveling is this: when in Spain I want to eat Spanish food, drink Spanish wines, listen to Spanish music, and see flamenco. After trying these things I will decide whether or not I actually like them. After the flamenco show Mike and I both agreed that we didn’t really understand it, and that we think it was essentially improvised. So I don’t think we will be going back anytime soon— but we (or just me?) are glad we experienced it.
I was a little sad to leave Barcelona after just 3 short days… but we were excited to finally get to relaxing in Mallorca!
In my last entry I confessed to having major honeymoon-related stress. Over the past week I’ve continued to fret over what to do in Spain. I’ve talked with at least 10 people who have been there, all of whom have different opinions on what is worth seeing, and what is not. I found myself elbow-deep in train schedules, bus schedules, and maps of various south-western Spanish towns, while continuing to second-guess the many drafts my itinerary.
As fate would have it, the stress had only just begun. I needed to look up our domestic flight information in Spain, because naturally the flight times I booked were conflicting with the bus schedules. I went to log in to Spanair.com… only to discover the sight no longer exists. Because apparently the company no longer exists. So those too-good-to-be-true flight prices round-trip to Malaga were just that… the company went bankrupt, suspended operations, and took our money with it.
After calming down from my mini-freak-out, Mike got on the phone with his credit card company to dispute the charge, and I did some soul-searching. Mike thought we should just book new flights and stick with the same itinerary. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this development was fate telling me that honeymoon plan 1 was not meant to be. Our flights in Spain no longer existed… and the hotel reservation we made in Marbella could be canceled with no money lost. I spent a few minutes trying to convince Mike that this train of thought was not crazy (I don’t think I succeeded), but eventually he agreed to let me research alternatives to our original plans.
Enter… Mallorca. Mallorca is an island off of the eastern coast of Spain that I kept reading about in my research. It is rich with history, culture, and yes it is probably a tourist trap because of its beautiful beaches… but I am a tourist, after all, and I am in the market for a beautiful beach! It seems to be the perfect location for us… the right mix of history, culture, and endless opportunities for day trips, bike rides, and exploring. Not to mention it reminds me of Santorini in Greece, which we would have loved to honeymoon to had flight prices been more reasonable.
So we booked it. Mallorca it is! We will stay an additional night in Barcelona on the first leg of our trip so as to not rush so much to take in the sights, and then we will take a 50 minute flight to Palma de Mallorca. We will stay 6 nights in a water-front hotel in Palma, and then fly home out of Barcelona. I feel very at peace with these new plans, and now I can truly say I can’t wait for vacation!
There are few things I love more than vacation planning. I love putting together an itinerary, and often offer my travel tips (unprovoked) to whomever is willing to listen. So that’s why I’m so surprised that honeymoon planning has been so hard as of late!
I am getting married in a few weeks and we decided to go all out and vacation to Spain. The traveler in me wants to see and do everything; my fiance reminds me that when I do this, I come home exhausted. He insists that a honeymoon should be relaxing— and I would have to say I agree. So we reached somewhat of a compromise, and decided to spend 3 days in Barcelona, fly south to Malaga, and then spend a week on the beach in Marbella on Costa de Sol.
But it’s Spain!!! Enter my dilemma. Is it possible for me to relax on the beach when I’m in a beautiful country full of history and culture? I’ve been second-guessing our itinerary lately (perhaps my wedding-related stress has been misdirected)— and that’s where I need some help.
We (or just me?) are toying around with the idea of cutting our week in Marbella short, and taking an overnight trip by train to Seville (which seems small enough to do in 1.5 days), and then possibly staying a night or two in Malaga (which is another beach resort town) to break up our travels a bit to and from the airport/train station. But I also want to take a day trip to Gibraltar and possibly Ronda while staying in Marbella. You do the math… I’ve found a way to kill the dream of 7 relaxing days on a beach.
So what to do? What to see? I want to lounge around on the beach reading just as much as I want to see a flamenco show in Seville. How can we fit it in while still coming home well-rested?
Any itinerary suggestions from my well-traveled friends?
I spent the past weekend taking in the sights and sounds of New York City. I had a few NYC ‘firsts’… my friends and I went bike riding in Central Park (which gave me a true appreciation for how big— and hilly!— it really is) and made a trip to the Museum of Modern Art. Since I’m not in NYC too often, when I do go I love seeing Broadway musicals. The more singing, dancing, and over-the-top costumes the better! Lucky for me there is a new musical ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ that fits the bill. I thought it would be a girls-night-out type of performance, since it is about drag queens and features a soundtrack with lots of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. However, the story was really quite good and the costumes were spectacular. I am still reeling over how good of a show this was! Check out some clips from youtube:
New Orleans has a reputation for being a great eating city… gumbo, shrimp po boys, jumbalaya, beignets, and other cajun delicacies are plentiful and delicious. In January I spent a few days eating my way around NOLA, and I’m still having cajun food withdrawal. Here are a few great spots we checked out around the city:
1- New Orleans School of Cooking
We wandered by the New Orleans School of Cooking on St. Louis street shortly after arriving in NOLA, and then returned the next morning for a class. The cooking classes are actually demonstrations, so unfortunately you can’t try your hand at making the dishes, but you can watch them being made and take notes on the recipes. We had ‘Big Kevin’ as our instructor. He talked about the history of cajun and creole cooking in NOLA while preparing shrimp and artichoke soup, crawfish etouffee, bread pudding, and pralines for the class of about 30 people. We had to sit for an awful long time before we got to eat anything, but it was worth it. The etouffee was the best I had in NOLA, and the bread pudding was amazing. We sampled pralines from several other places during our trip, and agreed that the pralines at the School of Cooking were the best. After the class my friends and I all spent a pretty penny in the school’s shop on cajun seasonings, cajun infused oils, boxes of pralines, and various hot sauces (all of which can be purchased online at http://www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com/). Now if only the roux I attempted to make at home from these recipes could come out quite as good as Big Kevin’s…
2- The Gumbo Shop
Our friend/tour guide Tracy took us to the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter Street (http://gumboshop.com/index.php) for dinner our first night in NOLA. Holy bread pudding. Everything about our meal was great, but the bread pudding was phenomenal. Had it at several other places during the course of our trip, but nothing topped the Gumbo Shop’s whiskey sauce…. yummm.
3- Cafe Du Monde
Cafe Du Monde is busy and touristy, and you will see their brand of coffee on sale everywhere in NOLA, from the most high-end food store to the Walgreens on the corner. But as one of the most recognizable places in the French Quarter, you can’t make a trip to NOLA without stopping by to try their famous beignets and cafe au lait. The beignets were yummy and we had a great spot for sitting (so that I could ponder how many pounds of powdered sugar this places uses in a day) and people watching over Jackson Square.
4- The Praline Connection
Before going out on Frenchman Street our last night in NOLA, we ate at the Praline Connection. Restaurants in New Orleans have a reputation for having great service, and this restaurant fulfills all of those expectations. Our service was awesome, and so was the sweet potato pie! I have never had sweet potato pie this good and I probably won’t again. Worth the trip for a slice before spending the night at a music club on Frenchman Street.
5- Jacques-Imo’s Cafe
Last… but certainly not least… Jacques-Imo’s. We had quite the adventure just getting out here. If you’re staying in the French Quarter and your hotel concierge tells you to take the street car to this restaurant, do not listen to her. Get a cab! After an hour plus journey we made it to Jacques-Imo’s, and after waiting another hour for a table, we were ready to see if the food would live up to the hype. Spoiler alert: it does. Aside from the eclectic decor and the cool laid-back vibe inside this restaurant, my favorite part was the slow, southern pace of this meal. We had several courses, and had plenty of time in between each one to digest and make room for the next. No servers rushed us out or pressured us to pay the bill, so the whole experience was enjoyable.
This restaurant is famous for its alligator cheesecake, which we naturally had to try. I am a vegetarian but I do eat seafood, and I was a little confused about where alligator falls on my radar. By the time it was on the table I was a few beers in, and decided I had to try it. It was decadent and delicious. The house salad and homemade corn muffin were also great appetizers. For an entree I had a BBQ shrimp dish served over rice, which consisted of whole, cooked shrimp staring up at me, antennas and all. The sauce was spicy and savory, so much so that I didn’t even mind having to peel them. Everything was perfect about this meal, and we left full and happy. It is absolutely worth the trip away from the French Quarter the next time you find yourself in NOLA.
We didn’t have a bad meal in this town, so I doubt you will go wrong wherever you choose to eat. Bon appetit!
In May of 2011 I made my second trip to Oslo, Norway (the first trip being with family in 1999). As anyone who’s been there will tell you, Oslo is a beautiful, clean, pedestrian-friendly city that sits on the Oslofjord. I was very fortunate to have family who were gracious enough to take me in for the week and feed me 80% of my meals, seeing as Oslo was just named the second most expensive city in the world (I can vouch for the accuracy of that report).
Public transportation in Oslo is amazing. Boston, take note. We took the train into the city several days, and on one day rented bikes through City Bikes (Oslo Bysykkel: http://www.visitnorway.com/uk/Product/?pid=46210). For about $16 USD you can buy a day pass that lets you unlock a bike at over 100 sites in the city. You can keep the bike out for 2 hours, and then return it to another bike site… and then take out another bike when you’re ready to leave, etc. etc. Using a map of Oslo and a map of the bike sites, we were able to cover a few miles worth of ground in just a few hours. It was a very cool way to see the city
New in Oslo since 1999 is the Opera House. The Opera House is made of marble and granite, and is sloped so that you can walk up on to the roof. We didn’t actually go inside the building, but we did enjoy the view from the top.
A beautiful spot in Oslo that is worth the short walk out of the way is Akershus Festning, a fortress that overlooks the fjord and Aker Brygge (a downtown area of sorts where you can enjoy a $30 salad on the deck of a boat, or pay $15 for a beer). The walk to the top is beautiful, as is the view.
Another beautiful spot in Oslo worth a trip is Frogner Park. We biked there one day and spent some time walking around and relaxing. Vigeland Park contains statues of all sorts of naked people, and boasts a giant monument called the Monolith. When in Oslo, certainly worth the trip.
Oslo itself is huge, and outside of the downtown are plenty of museums to take a day trip to, if thats your thing. If I learned one thing about myself on this trip, it’s that I am not a museum person. That being said, the Viking Museum is awesome, and can be done in 20 minutes if you’re so inclined. This was my second trip there, and I was happy to see it again.
Another cool trip is a boat ride around the Oslofjord. Our nice Norwegian tour guides gave us blankets to keep warm, and even offered us tea. Aside from seeing very cool scenery, the tour is full of cool facts about the architecture of houses built on small islands in the fjord, and the history of fjords (including one spot at which ships dumped passengers who had the plague overboard before arriving at the Oslo Harbor… that was enough to make me not want to swim there).
I could go on and on about Oslo. When we have the time and the funds, we would love to explore more of Norway. Our dream trip is to ride the Oslo-Bergen rail and make a few stops along the way (including a night at this hotel, which sounds ridiculous: http://www.finse1222.no/en). One day!