June 28, 2014

Norway Trip - The Boat

On our cruise we had two days at sea to enjoy the activities on the ship. We were on an older boat, but it still had a mini golf course and a rock climbing wall that were really fun. We also enjoyed participating in several of the trivia challenges (general trivia, cartoon theme songs, famous places, brain teasers, classic rock), and sometimes we did really well, and sometimes we didn't.  In the evenings we went to a few of the dancing and singing production shows, played games, and soaked in the hot tub.

The guests on this cruise were mostly of an older demographic so any sporting event was usually our family against just one or two of the other passengers - you can guess who won most of the time :)


Just when we thought we were getting really good at the mini golf course, they changed things up a bit. It was a fun challenge even if I didn't do that well!


My dad scored a 38 out of 40 at the classic rock trivia event. To put it in to perspective, the next closest team had a score of 8. They would play only 3-5 seconds of a song, and never a part with lyrics, and you got one point for naming the song and one point for the artist. My dad sure knows his music!



And the scenery from the boat was beautiful! This trip was different from most cruises because we spent so much time sailing down the fjords, rather than just open water, so we saw many waterfalls, farms, and villages. I was amazed by how close we were to the edges at times - sometimes the passages got pretty narrow!

One of the neat parts of our trip was the long daylight hours - on one day the sun rose at 3:57 am and didn't set until after 11:00pm.


The Geirganger fjord was especially beautiful - it was very narrow and the mountains seemed to rise straight up out of the water.


 
The Severn Sisters Waterfall

A mountain farm - our captain told is this is one of the most remote farms in Norway, only accessible by a series of ladders


While we were at dinner the room steward would turn down our bed and leave a fun surprise for us. Every night he got a little more creative. On the last night he told us he was going to do something funny, but when we got back to our room, we couldn't find anything. A few minutes later I opened the bathroom door and busted up laughing. I'm not sure all guests would appreciate his creation, but we sure enjoyed it!




One of the best parts of going on a cruise is the food. We thoroughly enjoyed breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all the snacks in between each day. I really liked that I didn't have to cook or clean for an entire week. Dave loved getting to try lots of different types of foods. On the last night he ended up having a 9 course meal - 3 appetizers, 3 entrees, and 3 desserts because it all sounded good and he didn't know what to try. Yum!

Two of the nights were considered "formal dress" and while we didn't dress up super fancy, it was fun to get a little more dressed up than we normally do for church.


Some good looking guys!


Our table on the last night - there were about 15 entrees for the 7 of us. I couldn't even fit all the plates in the picture!


And since Nat showed no shame in the dining room, I didn't think she'd mind if I posted this on the blog either. At one point they had all the kitchen staff come out so we could recognize and applaud their efforts. I'm not sure who chose the music, but it's not what I would have expected!


June 27, 2014

Norway Trip - Bergen


Our last port was Bergen, Norway's second largest city. Bergen is located near the coast, surrounded by mountains, and like all places in Norway, is beautiful. They say that in Bergen babies are born with umbrellas because it rains so often, and it did rain on us. We went out despite the rain and were able to enjoy our last day in Norway.

We briefly stopped at the Bergenhus fortress, but did not pay to go inside. It was originally built in the 12th century, was damaged during WWII when a ship carrying dynamite exploded, and has since been restored.



We then walked over to Bryggen, the old wharf of Bergen. The city has a long history of being destroyed by fires, but in this area many of the old buildings still stand. It's a very charming place - we walked down the alleys between the rows of houses and bought a nativity set from one of the shops.

The buildings are also as crooked as they look in the pictures. We walked up a staircase in one shop that was completely slanted. I guess the buildings must all be holding each other up, because otherwise I'm not sure how some of them are still standing.

Nat and Brodie in Bryggen - you can see why this area would be fire prone with all the wood buildings so close together


I loved all the different colors - I wish we had more red, white, and yellow houses here in the States


After Bryggen, we split up and went our separate ways. Nat and Brodie went to a Norwegian thrift store in hopes of finding a few treasures and the rest of us went back for lunch. We then went out and walked through some of the neighborhoods up in the hills, visited a couple churches, and looked around the fish and flea markets. 

Such cute buildings!


Back on the boat - farewell Norway!


Internet on this day was brought to you by the Radisson Hotel. While it was nice to be disconnected for the most part on this trip, I was so glad to be able to check email once a day. I knew Sophie was in good hands, but my mama heart still loved seeing her each day. 

Story time with cousins and Aunt Liz


First experience with stickers

June 26, 2014

Norway Trip - Geirganger



Geiranger is tiny town (pop. 300) at the end of one of Norway's most beautiful and famous fjords. At the beginning of our trip I was having a hard time remembering the name "Geiranger," so I started calling it "Gergerland", a name that did stick in my brain. No one knew quite what to expect from Gergerland. Of our four ports, it was known for being one of the more scenic stops, but the guide books didn't have much to say about it, and there were not many publicized excursions available to give us any ideas.

Cruising down the fjord


Approaching Geirganger


Since there was no "must see" destination, we decided that the best way to enjoy the beauty of this place would be to take a hike  After getting off the ship we grabbed a map and started walking. There is a roaring river that flows right through the middle of Geiranger. We followed the river up through the town, to where it was a waterfall! There were stairs up to some platforms that let you get a nice, close view of the falls.

The siblings - we missed you Amy!


The family


Dave and the waterfall


At the top of the waterfall we stopped at the fjord center to plan. I wanted to play the giant game of pick-up sticks that was out on the lawn (the sticks were as big as me!), but was overruled. It was decided that we would hike first to a waterfall, and play pick-up sticks later. Unfortunately people were eager for lunch after the hike, so I never did get to play :(


The girls at the beginning of the hike


My mom decided that she wanted a walking stick, so Brodie and Dave each found one. Dave is not sure why she chose Brodie's stick over his...


Unfortunately the trail map we were using did not have very clear directions and after going up for a long time, and seeing the waterfall get farther and farther away, we knew we had done something wrong. Just as the troops were starting to grumble and talk of mutiny began, we ran into a farm! There were sheep, llamas, and goats everywhere. These furry friends were the perfect moral boost. 



I don't think these goats know how good they have it - what a view!


The trail through the farm eventually led us to the Vesterasfjellet lookout. From here we had great view of the town down below, the cruise ships, and the fjord. We never did make it to a waterfall, but no one had any complaints about where we ended up.


Our boat is the one connected to the retractable dock


After leaving the lookout, my dad and Brodie doubled back to try and find the waterfall trail (which they did), and the rest of us went back down to the ship. Not long after we got back, the clouds rolled in and it started drizzling. The rain didn't deter us from doing some shopping in the town and we ended up leaving with some fun souvenirs and some great memories!


Today's "Back in Texas" photo was Sophie eating lunch with her cousin Liam. Look at how much they have both grown since their banana breakfast during our Christmas trip 5 months ago! 

June 25, 2014

Norway Trip - Alesund



Our second port was Alesund, a city located on the Norwegian coast at the mouth of the Geirganger fjord (which we would sail down the next day). Alesund is built on a chain of islands, with houses and buildings going right up to the water's edge. Definitely a unique and beautiful city!

We took a local bus out to the Sunnmore Museum, a collection of old houses, buildings, and boats from Norway's earlier days. It's an open air museum, so we were lucky that it was another sunny day! We had fun walking around and through a school, farmhouses, stables, a store, a boat house, and several others.

Mrs. Fish teaching us a lesson in the schoolhouse


Derek and Brodie tried on some chain mail (really heavy stuff), and then my mom came out to show them who's boss


Many of the houses had "natural" roofs, and Brodie told us that to keep the growth in check they will occasionally toss a goat up there to do some trimming.


After returning from the museum, we got back on the boat to eat lunch - it was so nice that our boat was close to the city in each port. It made it super easy to get on and off  to eat and change clothes if needed. After lunch we walked to the town park, and then climbed up 418 steps to the Aksla viewpoint. From the top there was an amazing panoramic view of the city, ocean, and outlying islands. I got in trouble for standing on one of the table benches to get a better view, but the pictures were worth it!

View from the boat - Aksla is the building on the left edge of the hill


Dave and I at the top - amazing view!


After climbing back down, we did some shopping and sightseeing in the city. I loved the architecture and colors of all the buildings in Alesund. 


We also ran into this lovely troll outside one of the souvenir shops


A kiss for the handsome fellow :)


 In Alesund we were trying to borrow wifi from the hop-on/hop-off buses. They are everywhere, but tricky to catch since they only stay put for a moment or two. Later we found another another Norled fjord ferry to mooch off when we walked down to the water's edge - thanks again for sharing your internet so I could see my baby!


Today's picture was Sophie enjoying the pool at grandma's house - she's a water baby!



June 24, 2014

Norway Trip - Flam



After a day at sea, we made our first stop in Flam, a gorgeous little town at the very end of one of Norway's larger fjords. We quickly realized why one of our guidebooks said we would start to think "oh, another waterfall" - they are every where you look! I'm not exaggerating when I say we saw hundreds on this trip. We also got incredibly lucky with the weather. In early June Norway is normally cool and often rainy, but we had sunny skies.

After getting off the ship, we boarded the Flam Railway for a trip up into the mountains. It was probably one of the most beautiful train rides I will ever take. We saw tons of waterfalls (surprise!), rode through lots tunnels, and enjoyed the cute little houses in the valley.

On the train




Rjoandefossen - we passed this waterfall on the train. It has a freefall of 480 feet. 


Kjosfossen - our train stopped at this platform for 5 minutes so we could get out and take a closer look at this amazing waterfall


The railway ends at the Myrdal Station at the top of a mountain pass. It's a tiny place with just a cafe and a few houses. From here you can either go back down to Flam, or catch another train to one of Norway's larger cities. Rather than ride the train back down, however, we got off at Myrdal and went on a hike that would take us along the river, and then meet back up with a lower station.

Myrdal


There was still snow near the top, but only in the shadows, and the trail we were on was clear


Family picture where the river split into two falls


Dave and I where the trail leveled out and the falls turned back into a river



We got to the station just a couple minutes before the train arrived to take us the rest of the way down to Flam - perfect timing!


After returning to the port, we got back on the ship to eat lunch, and then off again to walk around the town. We visited the railway museum and I bought Sophie the cutest pair of Norwegian slippers in the gift shop, that now I can't find :( I'm still hoping they will turn up somewhere, but it's killing me to not know what happened to them.

View from the boardwalk that we strolled along after lunch


 And don't forget Sophie! We were lucky enough to find free internet in each port so I could check email and see some pictures of my baby girl back in Texas. Thank you to my Howe relatives for loving her while I was gone and sending me these pictures of her! And thank you to the Nordled fjord ferry for not securing your wifi!

First experience with bubbles 


Playing in grandma's yard with cousins on Sunday