My experiences as inspiration for others

These pages were originally written in Norwegian and for a Norwegian audience. When translated, they were slightly adapted to be more relevant for others.  

My vacations

There have been many trips in the 50 years since my first one. Most of them with my wife, and, for many years, also with my two children.

We started with the typical charter tours to the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean countries. Most of the companies we travelled with are long gone, e.g. Falkereiser, Club 33, Unisol, Tjæreborg and Saga Solreiser.

Over the years, most of our trips have been put together according to my own preferences and experiences, booking transport and accommodation separately. Most journeys are still based on traveling by air, but we have also used bus, trains and boats. Since neither my wife nor I like car driving, it has very rarely been relevant to travel by car, nor use a rental car at the destination.

I hope that someone might get ideas and find inspiration for their own vacations from the descriptions and memories that follow.

I live in Oslo, Norway, so Oslo has been the starting point of all my travelling.

Overview and clickable shortcuts to the content:

Vacations in Norway and abroad.

I will start with vacations   
outside of Norway

The ones that have taken place in Norway can be found further down the page. Scroll down until you see the Norwegian flag/map.
Indonesian coconuts
Indonesian coconuts

Vacations with the kids

Charter to Mallorca

The first time we went on a vacation with our two children, they were almost two and four years old. Here it was an essential point that the youngest was "almost two", because then there was one less to pay for. Children under the age of two will not be given their own seat on the aircraft. They have to sit on someones lap, but will travel for free.

It wasn't a huge amount we saved that way, as travelling outside of school holidays can be cheap. This was many years ago, but 395 NOK (Norwegian kroner) for one week and a hundred NOK more for an extra week was not much at that time either. We didn't dare to stay for two weeks, because we were not at all sure that the children would enjoy the stay. Fortunately, they enjoyed themselves very well. After a week, we deeply regretted not having paid the 300 NOK extra it would have cost for one more week for the whole family.

All our vacation planning with children has always been based on the following:
If the children are happy, it can be a success. If the children do not have a good time
, it is guaranteed to be a bad experience.

This holiday was in the late 70s in sunny Spain. As I have very fair skin myself, I have grown up with annual sunburns. By all means, I wanted to avoid this for our two children, and asked at the pharmacies in Norway:
- What can we use to protect our children from the sun in Spain?
I got a bottle of SPF 6 sunscreen. So there has been an important development there.
But fortunately the kids had no problems with the sun.

We had chosen to stay in an apartment with one bedroom and a balcony. It was important to have a separate room where the children could sleep at night, without us having to sit quietly in the semi-darkness. An apartment with a kitchenette gave us the opportunity to make some food ourselves, if iwas difficult to find food that was popular with children. This was never a problem, though, so we ate breakfast in the apartment, and the rest of our meals elsewhere. 

Back then, we got a "starter" with butter, jam and some other things when we arrived at the apartment, and then we got fresh bread delivered on the door every morning. A perfectly decent breakfast solution for us.

Arenal (low season)
Arenal (low season)

The apartment was a 10-minute walk from the beach, at a child's pace, and we spent time there and by the children's pool.

It was a very successful holiday.

  • What: charter trip with Falkereiser
  • Where: Arenal in Mallorca in Spain
  • Length: 1 week
  • Included: bus to the hotel, tour guide
  • Accomodation: apartment
  • Meals: selfmade breakfast

After this successful debut for the children on vacation, we had many similar vacations.

When the children started school we had to travel during the school holidays, and then, as it is now, the prices of charter trips were the highest. The discounts for children were quite small, and it became quite expensive. So we started looking for alternatives ...

At that time, timeshare was popular. You bought the right of use, typically an apartment in a resort, for one or more weeks. It didn't cost very much, and there was a lot to choose from. Timeshare was very popular in Spain, among others, both in the Canary Islands and on the mainland.
There were many more restrictions on airline tickets back then. And it was not possible to buy only airline tickets from the charter companies. Hence, a good number of charter flights were sold where customers never intended to use the included simple hotel rooms.
Scheduled flights were much more expensive than they are today. The first time I went to London, in the early nineteen eighties, the cheapest return tickets cost over 6 000 NOK. Now you can get them for less than 1 000 NOK.
We bought two weeks timeshare in a resort on the Costa Almeria on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Brand newly built, white, gorgeous houses of good quality, of course fully furnished and equipped with what was needed for a few vacation weeks. The seller contributed with affordable airline tickets in the early years, and we were very pleased with this investment.

The Almeria coast in Spain

With an apartment available for two weeks, and with cheap tickets for a flight to Almeria Airport, about 80 km away, we went on a family vacation to Spain. Transport from and to the airport was arranged by the apartment complex. We were met at the airport by a driver who spoke only Spanish, and he explained to us a little of everything, which we did not understand at all.

We were driven to a Parador where a couple of rooms were awaiting us. (Parador is a state-owned hotel chain in Spain, with a high standard.) Why we were brought there we didn't know. But we slept there and suffered no distress.

The next day we had a first-class breakfast, and a little later in the day someone came and picked us up. We were taken to the apartment complex and given the explanation: There had been a very serious gas explosion in one of the houses the previous day, and this house was right next to "our" house.

We were lodged in another, completely identical house. Those in charge at the facility decided not to use gas in the houses anymore. So we lacked hot water for a couple of days, but in the Spanish summer heat that wasn't a big problem.

"Our" timeshare facility
"Our" timeshare facility

Aside from this dramatic start to the vacation, this was the first of many lovely stays at this facility. Here we were right on an almost endless beach, and we had a swimming pool. There was also a restaurant and bar at the facility. Eventually, another restaurant was added, with a bar, and another pool, and a small grocery store. It was a cozy town within walking distance, and the area only got nicer over the years.

  • What: Timeshare apartment, flight from Gulliver's Travels
  • Where: Garrucha on the Almeria coast in Spain
  • Length: 2 weeks
  • Included: taxi to and from the facility
  • Accommodation: semi-detached house
  • Meals: none


The weeks we had available through timeshare were part of an exchange arrangement. It allowed us to use resorts all over the world. We took advantage of this several times, and exchanged weeks in Denmark, Portugal and England.

London and a Manor House in England

One of the times we "switched" to England, we had exchanged for a week at a hotel in a former Manor House near Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon. The hotel was located on a huge estate with a park, woods and a large pond, and it had an indoor swimming pool. It also had an excellent restaurant and bar and there was also a nice pub within walking distance.

The whole family of four was on this trip, and we started with a city break in London. Here we had found a good deal on a four star hotel in Mayfair. This was in the middle of summer, and it is quite common to find great deals at the better hotels at that time of year. In summer there are significantly less business travelers, and then there are opportunities for us tourists.

There is a lot to do in London for a family with children. Some shops are always tempting and Afterrnoon Tea is exciting, also for children. There are quite a few playgrounds around, and even a children's farm. 

We had booked tickets for Ceremoney of the Keys. In simple terms, this is the closing and locking of the Tower of London for the night. Tickets must be booked online well in advance, as there are less than 50 people allowed to attend each night. This started at exactly 9.53 pm in the Tower of London, and just being part of something that started that late was attractive to my children.

From the hotel in London to the manor house in Warwickshire, we travelled about 2 1/2 hours by tube, train and a short taxi ride. Efficient and straightforward, except that, to the taxi driver's amazement, I tried to get into the car's right front seat, the driver's seat. But he took it in good spirits.

The hotel
The hotel

We spent a peaceful week in the English countryside, returning home via London.

  • What: Hotels, Timeshare Apartment and Scheduled Flights
  • Where: London and Warwickshire, England
  • Length: 11 days
  • Accommodation: hotel room/apartment
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast/None

Vacations without the children

Charter to Thailand

There have been quite a few charter trips without the kids as well, and charter trips are what you expect, mostly: hassle-free and straightforward, and often absolutely delightful. But this type of trips can also be made a little more exciting.

Once we traveled to Thailand on a two weeks vacation, we stayed in two different places during those weeks. The charter company arranged all necessary transportation between the airport and the hotels.

We flew to Phuket Airport and were transported by bus to Khao Lak, which was an hour and a half north of the airport. Here we stayed in an excellent hotel directly by the beach. There were hardly any other hotels nearby, but still a good selection of small bars/eateries on the perfect, endless beach. The hotel also had several restaurants.

Khao Lak
Khao Lak

After a week we were picked up from the hotel and transported two and a half hours south, to Katahani on Phuket. The hotel here also had a very good standard, and was located directly by the beach. This was a very different kind of area, with lots of hotels, eateries and shops, and close to some even more touristy areas along the beaches.

Definitely interested to experience two such different tourist places on the same trip. For us, who do not drive a car ourselves, the transport between the places was fascinating sightseeing. 

  • What: charter trip with Ving
  • Where: Khao Lak and Phuket in Thailand
  • Length: 2 weeks
  • Included: bus to the hotel and transfer between hotels
  • Accommodation: hotel room
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

When we had found out that it was realizable to go on a long trip, it had certainly whetted our appetite. The world undoubtedly consisted of more than Europe. We had already traveled a few 7-8 hour trips by plane, but we weren't particularly happy with the experience. It was boring and it became uncomfortable, and it was almost impossible to sleep, sitting straight up and down in the cramped airplane seats.

Now I really became an extreme user of all sorts of flight search engines. It turned out that were enormous price variations. We planned to travel to San Francisco, Hawaii and home via New York. The search engines collectively provided several hundred combinations of flight distances, stopovers and airlines.
After much searching, I found an attractive business class option that "only" cost about the double of economy class tickets. It was a lot of money, but far cheaper than most alternatives in this class.

Plenty of legroom here
Plenty of legroom here

Business Class

Travelling in Business Class for the first time was truly an experience. We chose it primarily to get better comfort, since our trip involved many hours in several flights. The seats were wide and could be converted into a completely flat, full-length "bed". We were given a pillow and blanket, headphones, a water bottle and a toiletry bag with the essentials. We also had our own screen with a decent entertainment offer.

We were served excellent food and drinks, and someone came to see if we wanted drinks or snacks all the time, when we weren't sleeping. Once we had slept, we were served breakfast. The food was served in proper service and with cutlery that actually worked.

Already at the airport there were big differences from what we were used to. Both check-in and security checks took place outside the normal queues, as did boarding. Once checked in, we had access to the airlines' lounges, with plenty of comfortable seating, and free access to food and drink.

When we flew domestic business class in the US, i.e. from San Francisco to Hawaii and from Hawaii to New York, Business Class did not provide lounge access at the airports. There are probably too many people flying in this class, domestically in the United States.

USA including Hawaii

We flew to San Francisco via Zurich. Business class certainly met expectations, although a flight of almost 12 hours is a long time, anyway. Long, but not uncomfortable.

We stayed centrally in San Francisco for 4 nights, and made good use of the time. We  "hung" outside a cable car, visited Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, the Castro and Pier 39 with the sea lions, and we rode on bikes across The Golden Gate Bridge. A fantastic city, and lots more to see in the areas nearby, which unfortunately we did not manage on that trip.

Then we went to Hawaii, just changed planes on the island of O'ahu, where Honolulu is located, and went on to Maui. Here we had rented an apartment by the beach, in a resort half an hour's taxi ride from the airport. It turned out to be a wonderful apartment on the 11th floor, with balconies on several sides, with a magnificent sea view. With a swimming pool and an apartment directly on the beach, there was a lot of sun and swimming. In a bay, some 200 metres away from the hotel, there were lots of colourful "aquarium fish", and neither they nor the big sea turtles would mind if we bathed with them. Flippers and diving masks were lent us at our resort.

Maui onHawaii
Maui onHawaii

After 5 nights on Maui, we flew back to O'ahu and stayed at a hotel on Waikiki Beach. The hotel was actually good, but they had far too little capacity for breakfast, so there was a lot of boring waiting every morning. No big problem as we stayed there for only 3 nights. 

A spectacular beach and plenty to see in the area around Honolulu. Although the United States is extremely geared for everyone to have their own car, there was plenty of public transport here.

Then we ended the vacation with 3 nights in New York. Honolulu to New York was a flight of 9 1/2 hours, and we spent a night on a plane. Thanks to business class, we once again had a "bed" that could be used after dinner.

In New York, we had a decent hotel right on Times Square. Central hotels in big cities often cost a little extra, but I would recommend to reduce the hotel standard to be able to afford to stay centrally. In a big city, it quickly becomes a lot of travel time, and then it's important to have the best possible starting point. And New York is big.

Morning runs in Central Park, a walk on The High Line, lunch in Tribeca, and street musicians in Washington Square Park, and much more in those few days. And I made several trips to my favorite coffee shop: Joe Coffee in Grand Central Station. (It has moved now, and it never regained the same high coffee quality again.)

The return journey was via Düsseldorf and was very comfortable.

  • What: scheduled flights, hotels and apartment
  • Where: San Francisco, Maui og O'ahu på Hawaii, New York
  • Length: 17 days
  • Accommodation: hotel room/apartment
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast/None

Now that more and more is available and searchable on the internet, it is easier than ever to get exactly the vacation we want. Information about all kinds of transport is available, including the local one. Most attractions and sights are easily accessible online. Most of the accommodation options worldwide are accessible with a few keystrokes.

I'm so old that I've experienced a slightly different reality.

Tourist information

Once we were in Nice, on the French Riviera, we needed help finding transport to a nearby location. Nice is a tourist city and at that time they had several information kiosks, among others at the bus station. We walked over to one of these, where there was a man sitting behind the service hatch fiddling with some papers. There was no one in line, so we walked over to the hatch. Just then, the man in the kiosk got busy with something behind a wall at the back of the kiosk. We waited a while, but he didn't come back, so we tried to figure out some timetables that were posted nearby, while we waited. After a few moments we saw that the man was back in place, and we walked over to the hatch, but he just managed to disappear again. Once again we got tired of waiting, and continued with the timetables.

Then we saw an elderly lady, with carrier bags and a baguette, walking up to the hatch, and the man appeared and helped her. Then we lined up behind the lady and waited. When she had been helped, he closed the hatch without further ado and disappeared behind the wall again.

We gave up, because he undoubtedly saw that we were tourists. He clearly didn't want to speak English with us, or show that he couldn't.

Tour in Andalucia

We have had many vacations in Spain over the years. In the beginning it was because Spain was one of the very few beach and sun destinations we could afford. Cheap food and drink only made it better. The first few trips were with a bit of a guilty conscience, though, when we became aware of what Franco was doing. Pretty soon, fortunately, he was history.

The more we got to know the country, the more enthusiastic we became. Spain has a lot to offer in terms of magnificent cities, picturesque villages and beautiful scenery, and we wanted to see this. And Putting together an itinerary of Andalucia was a perfect challenge for a travel planner.

The first stop was Malaga. Many people used the airport there to visit  Costa del Sol, but it was not very common to visit Malaga city at that time. The city has a plethora of hotels, including two Paradors. We chose the one located above the city, with an incredible view. This parador is, unlike many others, not built in a historic building.

We had checked maps and timetables, and had found a bus that stopped less than 200 metres from the Parador. On the map this looked fine, but it turned out that the few metres "as the crow flies" also meant a height difference of about 130 metres It was a steep walk with our suitcases.  But the view became formidable as we approached.

Malaga has a fairly large old town, which is very charming. It has a huge cathedral and many beautiful churches, a castle ruin in the middle of the city, several museums, and lovely beaches close to the city center.

After a couple of nights in Malaga, we had a two-hour bus ride to Granada. Here too, we spent the night in a Parador. It is located inside the Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex that was built by the Moors in the thirteenth century. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Spain's most famous tourist attractions. Staying here was an experience. The complex is only open during the day for ordinary visitors. To come back there in the evening and be guided in, as one of the chosen ones, was special. Eating breakfast inside the patio, before the other tourists were allowed in, was also an experience.

On the 3-hour bus ride to Cordoba we saw more olive trees than I thought there were in the whole world. Also in Cordoba we stayed at a Parador, in a  modern and ordinary building. Fair enough, but we had been spoiled by now. Here we were only one night, so we didn't manage to do much .

Entrance area in Seville
Entrance area in Seville

The journey continued to Seville, it was about 2 hours by bus. The long-distance buses in Spain are equipped with air conditioning and are a pleasant way to see a little more of this beautiful country.

In Seville we stayed in a fairly simple hotel, quite a few minutes walk from the city center. This is a rather large city, much like Malaga. Lots to see in this city, which has hosted both the World Exhibition (1992) and the Summer Olympic Games (2008).

The old town, called Barrio de Santa Cruz, contains a myriad of narrow streets, alleys and squares. One guide claimed that some people had trouble figuring out this maze. It is certainly easy to panic in the guaranteed windless alleys, in summer, when the temperature exceeds 45 °C. We were there in March and then it was comfortable t-shirt and shorts weather.

The next stop on the tour was Ronda. We took a bus that drove through several of the famous white little villages, Los Pueblos Blancos in Andalucía. Unfortunately, we had no opportunity to have lunch in these, because the bus was going on. But I can promise it was tempting.

Ronda is often counted among these white villages, although it is a somewhat larger town. Clearly white and undoubtedly an attraction, with its spectacular location, around a deep ravine, which divides the city in two. Here we stayed at yet another Parador. It is located in the former town hall, on the edge of the 120-metre deep ravine, and right next to the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), which is by no means that new. It was built in the late 1700s, and has been used as a prison.

After Ronda, it was time to return to Malaga's airport and return home.

  • What: scheduled flights and hotels
  • Where: round trip in Andalucia, Spain
  • Length: 8 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

The tour of Andalucia was very successful and it was tempting to try similar trips.

We had already had a trip to Nice and stayed there, and gone on small trips by train and bus along the French Riviera. It is always a bit challenging with trips to countries where we don't speak any of the language, but we usually manage. Sometimes it was a little exciting what the pizza we ordered consisted of, as this took place before Google Translate was an option. Actually, it was kind of exiting.

We decided to go for a tour of Provence.

Tour of Provence

We started with a few days in Nice, which is a pleasant city. Big enough, fantastic location and with lots of alluring excursion destinations nearby. Monaco, Antibes and Cannes are names most people recognize, and these are all close to Nice. They are easy to reach by public transport, and that is a good choice, because car traffic and parking are hugely challenging in the area, especially in summer.

Fountain in Nice
Fountain in Nice

On a previous trip we had become quite familiar with the city and the area, but we had mainly explored the coastal area. There is a train station in the city that connects Nice with the other tempting places along the coast, and with the rest of the country. Less than 500 metres north of this central station, there is another station, which is the terminus of a separate 150 km long train line: Chemins de fer de Provence.

The inland train line runs between Nice and Digne-les-Bains. It is a very slow train with frequent stops, but it is a lovely ride. I see online that they have upgraded the carriages considerably since we took the trip. Back then, we had to look for two-seaters where both could sit fairly comfortably.

We took the morning and train arrived in Digne-les-Bains in time for lunch. We had booked a hotel in Digne, and after lunch it was time for check in. Digne is a medium sized town, with all the shops and services, and, like everywhere in France, with countless bars and all kinds cafes and restaurants.

We had found a small hotel with a restaurant, in a "chain" called Logis de France. I recommend this chain to "foodies", as they focus on good kitchens. The hotel was fine and the restaurant was excellent.

We had dinner in their restaurant late at night. After a first-class and surprisingly large main course, we were still persuaded to try their lemon tart for dessert. When we asked for the bill, they asked if we wouldn't try the cherry tart too, for free. They were going to close pretty soon, and it was better to give away the cake, than to throw it away. Nice offer, which we probably should have turned down. But we were on vacation ....

After a couple of nights in Digne, we took the train back towards Nice and after about an hour we were in Saint-André-les-Alpes. This was a peaceful little place, right next to a fairly large lake. Here we stayed in an inexpensive hotel, like a guest house, which served a breakfast that was more than good enough, even for breakfast-hungry Scandinavians.

The village was not very touristy, but here too there were various eateries and bars. Our lack of French skills was not a problem here either. Great hiking area around the village for both cycling and hiking, and opportunities for water sports.

After our stay in Saint-André-les-Alpes, our vacation days had come to an end, so we returned home, via Nice.

  • What: scheduled flights and hotels
  • Where: tour of Provence
  • Length: 7 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

It may be worthwhile to search a little extra

Elsewhere on these pages I have lots of links to so-called search engines or search pages for flights. In air travel, as in most other things, it is supply and demand that control the prices. . Therefore, charter flights are most expensive when there are school holidays, and scheduled flights that force you to get up in the middle of the night are the cheapest. Economy Class is cheaper than Business Class, which is logical, because you get more space and better catering. But on rare occasions you can find exceptions.

On the trip below we neaded one-way tickets from Oslo to Almería in Spain, and I found the cheapest tickets in business class. This was a trip in the middle of summer, and it is normal for airlines to lower the price of business class, because there are very few business travelers. Pricing it lower than economy class was probably a mistake.

So we had the advantage of priority check-in, airport lounge access and great food on the planes, all at a very nice price.

Southern Spain and France

Due to sheer luck, we started this trip by flying very cheaply in business class down to Almería in southern Spain, with a flight change in Madrid. In Almería we stayed at a hotel right next to the bus station. The bus from the airport stopped there, and it was the starting point for the next day's bus trip.

We were going to a small town called Garrucha, up north-east on the coast. The ride was by a regular, scheduled  bus, lasted 2 1/2 hours, and the air conditioning worked. Not insignificant this, in the summer heat in Spain, but luckily, it tends to be that way.

Garrucha was a town we knew well from before, as we previously had a timeshare apartment there. Now we had found a gem of a hotel, few metres from the city center. I believe the hotel had only two stars, but a charming little garden with pool, a 5 minutes walk to an endless beach and an excellent restaurant, made it a lovely place to stay.

A few days later we took the bus on to Alicante. There we were going to visit friends vacationing along the fantastic beaches just north of the city. Trams are not often used during our vacations, but from Alicante there is a tram line to Benidorm and on to Dénia. The whole trip takes almost 3 hours, so it's quite a tram ride . For us, it was only a 20-minute tram ride from the city center to the hotel, which was located by the San Juan beach. The 6 km long sandy beach had all the services that such beaches should have.

After a few lazy beach days here, we headed back into Alicante, to catch the train to Barcelona. Here there were only ordinary trains, not high-speed ones. We prefer the slightly slower trains, if we are not talking about very long distances. When the trains run at 300 km/h, it's almost stressful to watch the animals in the fields and towns and villages we are passing. It's just too fast. Of course, it's a matter of taste.

The train to Barcelona took about 5 hours and we ended up in the middle of the city, as you normally do when traveling by bus or train. Our hotel was located between Plaça Reial and La Rambla, and it was as central as it could be. In Barcelona we had been a few times before, so it was a relaxed and comfortable stay. It's always nice to come back to cities where you've already been to all the obligatory "must see" places. We just strolled around and enjoyed this amazing city, with spectacular architecture and first-class beaches close to the city center.

Plaça Reial, Barcelona, from our roof terrace
Plaça Reial, Barcelona, from our roof terrace

Our trip continued by train, and the next leg went to Nîmes in France. The train took about 4 hours and tit was never boring. The station in Nîmes is connected to the old town by a car-free public park. This was a perfect little walk, after a few hours on the train. 5-600 metres on a suitcase-friendly surface, and then we were at the hotel. The city is medium-sized, with 150,000 inhabitants, but we didn't see much other than the charming old town. We only had one night in this city.

The next and last stop on our journey was Paris. We took one of the fast TGV trains, because this was an  almost 700 km trip. Quickly it went by and comfortable it was. Strolling over to the bar on such a train, at 300 km/h, without having to lean on anything, is something special. Looking at the landscape racing past was fair enough, as long as I wasn't going to look at anything near the train line.

Paris is like Barcelona; There's so much to see. We had also been here a few times before, so we just enjoyed ourselves in this wonderful big city.

The train service between Oslo and the rest of Europe is quite poor, so we chose a plane.

  • What: scheduled flights and trains
  • Where: Spain's south and east coast, on to Paris
  • Length: 12 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

Germany with the Rhine and the Romantische Straße

Experience in planning our own vacations gave us more confidence. More and more sites on the web, which helped us do just that, emerged all the time, making the possibilities endless. We didn't have much experience with Germany, but there was a lot here that was tempting.

We flew down to the airport for Cologne and Bonn, and took the train further to Koblenz. This city is located where the great rivers the Rhine and the Moselle meet. The areas around both of these rivers are prime tourist destinations, with castles, vineyards and pleasant towns and villages.

Already in Koblenz I realized that I would not need the little German language I remembered from school. Germans are generally much better at English than I will ever be in German. I remembered the phrase "Ordnung muß sein", and we quickly noticed that this applied. There was a sort of order and system in everything, neat and clean. Even in the backyards, it always seemed like the cleanup had just finished.

We had planned the trip along the Rhine, and after a couple of days in Koblenz we took a boat up the river. We had beautiful weather and plenty to see on both sides of the river. There were castles and fortresses on both sides, small towns and villages, and we stopped 6-7 times on the almost 4 hour long leg. I have read that this is the most attractive stretch along the Rhine, and I have no doubt about it.

Oberwesel was our destination for the day. Accommodation was booked in a historic castle that towered a few, but steep, minutes above the city and the river. We had rooms in an old stone tower, with an elevator (!) serving it. The room had a secret door, fairly well hidden in a bookcase, which led into a lovely, modern bathroom. Both water and sherry were freely available in the room, and the room had a wonderful view of vineyards and of the Rhine.

A couple of nights stay was booked in Oberwesel, so we rented bikes one of the days, and went for a ride along the river. It was flat in both directions, and no hills suited us well in the windless heat. Separated cycle path all the way, and never far to a restaurant, so there were a few drink stops, and eventually also lunch.

The hotel on the left
The hotel on the left

A train ride brought us further up the river, to Manheim. There we experienced something unusual. We had booked a hotel for the night and we knew it was downtown. When we were about to find it, it turned out that they had a very special naming of the streets in Manheim. A single letter for all parallel streets, and a number for all intersecting streets. So the address of our hotel became M2. Logically enough, but unfamiliar to us, but we found the hotel without any problems.

We had a room that had neither air conditioning nor a fan. Opening the window made no noticeable difference and it was not possible to get an upgraded room. After a few minutes inside the room, we went back out and bought a fan. It undoubtedly saved our night's sleep. 

Only one nights stay in Manheim for us, so in addition to having a late dinner, we had time for a stroll in the city. A rose garden and parks with shady trees were attractive in the warm afternoon.

The next day we took a bus to an unforgettable town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Wikipedia writes: "An almost intact medieval city architecture encircled by the original city walls has secured it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List". It was almost unreal walking around there, not to mention staying in the middle of this city in a stately old house, which was our hotel. We walked around the entire city up on the old city walls, with perfect views of the old city and the areas outside.


The town was full of tourists, and it was only to be expected. As many people as possible should experience such a place. Fortunately, most of them were day trippers, so during the afternoon and evening it became considerably quieter. Then there was also ample space in the restaurants.

We spent two nights in Rothenburg, and also  enjoyed a beautiful bike ride in the area. The contrasts were great when, from this medieval town, we cycled right under a large and modern wind turbine. I thought they were both impressive.

From Rothenburg we took a bus, on a stretch called "die Romantische Straße", to Nördlingen. This, too, was a city partly surrounded by an almost complete city wall. Not nearly as well preserved as Rothenburg, but quite nice here too. The town is known for its crater after a meteorite impact 15 million years ago, the crater has a diametre of 23 km, and was not so easy to spot.

Our tour ended with a bus ride further along "die Romantische Straße" to Munich. On this stretch of the bus ride, as on the previous one, there was a lot to see. The bus stayed away from the highways and passed through a number of towns and villages along the way. A comfortable and interesting way to travel.

Munich is a city with a lot to show off. We hadn't been there before, and took a HopOn HopOff bus, which we often do to get an overview. Always a good start in a bigger city, in my opinion.

After a couple of days, we took a flight back home. We had an "aha experience" on the way to the airport. There have been many planes, airports, airport buses and airport trains over the years. It turned out it had made us indifferent. After a while on the train to the airport, doubts began to creep in:  We were heading away from the airport. The right train, the wrong direction. But we made it in time to the plane.

  • What: scheduled flights and round trips by boat and bus
  • Where: Germany along the Rhine and Romantische Straße
  • Length: 13 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

Choise of airport

When we fly from Oslo to London, we have the choice between at least three airports, and with several airlines serving them. We have Stansted in the north, Gatwick in the south and Heathrow in the west. All three are of course well connected to London, but they are also well connected in other directions. It may be wise to take this into consideration, if the first night of the vacation is not in London.
For example, if you are going to Brighton (and you should go there - it is a lovely city), then it takes 2.5 - 3 hours to go there from Stansted, but it's only 25 minutes from Gatwick.

Round trip west of London

We flew to Heathrow, which is an excellent starting point when travelling westward from the London area. We took a bus from the airport directly to Oxford, getting a glimpse of Windsor Castle on the way. In Oxford, we stayed in a central hotel located in a former prison. Pretty special, and very cool.

We had some quiet days in Oxford, strolling along the River Thames, and admiring all the old, genteel colleges and other buildings scattered throughout the city. The nickname "The city of dreaming spires" refers to all the towering buildings that make up the university in the city. We also visited some places known from movies and TV series.

North-west of Oxford is a wonderful area called the Cotswolds. This is a so-called AONB, "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". The area consists of many nice and well-preserved small towns and villages, all spread out over a beautiful landscape. From Oxford we could take trains or buses to several places in this area. Our destination was Lower Slaughter, and we got there by a couple of bus rides.

Our hotel was located by a small, quiet river in the middle of this tiny village. If you've watched TV series from the English countryside, this village looks like the best of each and every one of these. Pure idyll! 

Lower Slaughter
Lower Slaughter

Our hotel also had an excellent restaurant and a pub. The nearby area was ideal for rambling along paths and quiet roads. A few minutes' walk away were also other small villages that were great destinations for lunch excursions.

Bath was the next stop on this trip. We travelled there by train, after a short taxi ride to the station. In Bath we had found a simple and central hotel. It was a ten-minute walk, through lively city streets, from the station.

Not having visited Bath before, we took a HopOn HopOff bus on the first day. It was a pleasant way to see a lot and gave us an excellent starting point for exploring the city on our own. The city has many appealing areas and its size makes it ideal for exloring on foot. Some pedestrian streets in the center, lots of cafes, restaurants and pubs, and certainly a tempting shopping town.

After three nights in Bath we took a bus to London. There we stayed at our favourite hotel in Bloomsbury for three nights before heading home.

  • What: scheduled flights and round trips
  • Where: tour of the West of England
  • Length: 12 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

To reconsider

For many years, for some reason, I had overlooked certain holiday countries. Greece was one of them, but there I had some sort of reason why I ignored it.

This was at the time when I picked up a load of catalogues from charter companies, once or twice a year. These contained countless glossy pages with enticing destinations. Also in Greece there were lots of destinations, but those pictures they presented did not appeal to me . I perceived both beaches and hotels as unattractive, a little colorless, really. I remember saying that when one of the operators managed to make an enticing presentation, we should probably visit them.
It took a few years, but we've been there several times now.

Germany was also a country I just had ignored. It was an article in a newspaper that opened my eyes to Germany as a holiday destination, and not just something we looked down on from a plane. Once we tried it, we just found more and more attravtive districts, and have been there many times.

Moselle Valley in Germany

The journey along the Rhine left us wanting more. Now we wanted to visit the Moselle and it's surrounding area.

We flew to Frankfurt and stayed there overnight. This was our first visit there, and we were surprised by its size and the amount of high-rise buildings. Really quite classy.

A few hours by train brought us to a lovely little town called Trier. It was located far up in the Moselle Valley, only a few kilometres from Luxembourg. As usual, we had booked a central hotel.

One of the days in Trier we rented bicycles, and went across the border to Luxembourg for lunch. Probably the only time we will visit that country, so we had to use the opportunity .

When we returned to Trier, we experienced torrential rain. It emptied the streets of people and caused problems for some of the shops at ground level or in basements. We were just happy that the rain waited until we had finished our bike ride.

The next stop was in Bernkastel-Kues. As usual, we had booked hotels that we thought were central. Since this is not a large town, the hotel had an OK location, but it would have been even better to stay on the east side of the river. That's where the most charming and photo-friendly parts of the place were located. But it was less than a ten minutes walk over there, so no problem, really.

A castle ruin was located on the hillide, just above the village. A restaurant in that castle ruin offered lunch with a view, which we happily accepted. The restaurant had a young waitress who adressed us in Norwegian. She had never been to Norway, but had learned some Norwegian on her own initiative. She got plenty of tips 😊

The next stop on the tour was Cochem, and we could go there by boat. A pleasant way to enjoy the lovely landscape. Cochem also had a noteworthy castle, called Reichsburg Cochem. Magnificent and well maintained and, like all such facilities, in the most magnificent location.

Our nice hotel in Cochem
Our nice hotel in Cochem

In Cochem we could rent bicycles, as in so many other tourist-friendly places. Some of the local buses had its own trailer for bicycle transport, something we had never experienced before. The bus drove us up into the west side of the Moselle valley. Then we got an easy bike ride of about 20 kilometres back to Cochem. We had been equipped with maps and this helped us back to the town, via peaceful roads with minimal traffic. A popular and well-facilitated offer.

Our return journey was by bus and train to Frankfurt, and then a plane home.

  • What: scheduled flights and round trips
  • Where: Germany along the Moselle
  • Length: 8 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

Fascination for airplanes

I'm fascinated by airplanes and probably always have been. My only experience of flying is being a passenger on charter and scheduled flights. I've never been inside a cockpit or anything else similarly exciting, but I'm still fascinated. Especially the really big aircrafts, those wide bodied with space for two aisles, sometimes with two floors, have always been tempting. For a long time this had only been admiration at an appropriate distance.
When we planned a trip to the United States, we had the opportunity to try two of these giants. With flexibility and careful planning, we were able to travel with the Airbus 380 (Superjumbo) to the US and the Boeing 747 (Jumbo) back to Europe.
To make it happen, we flew via Frankfurt, one of the largest airports in Europe. At Gardermoen, these big planes were a rarity, but in Frankfurt there were lots of them. Seeing five or six of these giants lined up next to the terminal was pretty awesome.
Of course, with so many big planes departing that morning, there were huge numbers of passengers. We had so-called priority check-in, but there were probably 150-200 people in our queue as well.
Jumbo (New York - Frankfurt)
Jumbo (New York - Frankfurt)

Tour of the United States

After a short flight to Frankfurt Airport, with an overnight stay there, we were on our way to Miami the next morning. We had seats on the top deck of the plane, with comfortable "lie flat" seats. Unfortunately, it turned out that there was a problem with my seat: the motors adjusting the seat did not work. It wasn't really a big problem for me, I don't use this very much anyway. But when I wanted to go to sleep, the flight attendants had to change the seat into a bed manually. So the most fuss was for them, but we got a bottle of fine champagne, to compensate for the inconvenience.

In Miami, we stayed at a hotel in Ocean Drive at South Beach. It was an experience in itself. Lots of fun to watch of people and vehicles. There was no shortage of restaurants in the area either. A park was the only thing that separated us from the beach, but it was a little too windy to be much down there. The pool on the roof of the hotel was sheltered from the wind, so there it was much better.

There were several routes on the HopOn HopOff buses, and we took one that included an area called Little Havana. Interesting tripup there and a good place for lunch.

After a few days in Miami, we traveled by bus to Tampa, through the Everglades. We had paid an extra five dollars to get seats at the front of the bus's upper floor. There we sat comfortably, with the best possible view. A lot of nice scenery to see, and we saw many alligators in rivers and canals along the way.

We only stayed one night in Tampa and traveled on by bus to Orlando. The train station in Tampa had been lovingly restored, but the train service wasn't up and running when we were there. From Orlando we continued by train to Savannah.

Our hotel
Our hotel

Savannah was a medium-sized and very charming city. Surprisingly pedestrian friendly to be in the US,  and with some lovely parks. Down on the quay I saw the largest container ships I have seen, heading for the ocean two or three miles further east.

Our next stop was Charleston, which was about a two-hour trip north-east, by minibus. This too was a nice little city that was excellent to explore on foot. Many charming houses and areas. The city is surrounded by rivers and the harbour basin, but is still quite sheltered from the sea itself.

When I planned this trip, the idea was zig-zag by bus and trains all the way up to New York, via Washington. I realized pretty quickly that the United States was bigger in real life than the picture I had in my head, and we had to reconsider. A plane from Charleston to Washington DC ended up as the solution. After only an hour and a half we landed at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The airport was almost in the city center, and our accommodation was just a few minutes away, by metro. In Washington we ended up with a spacious, luxurious apartment instead of a hotel room. It was cheaper than a hotel room, served breakfast on the 1st floor and was located midway between the Georgetown restaurant area and the White House.

We had been to Washington before, so it wasn't something we had to see, this time. It was just a matter of enjoying the highlights, of which there are plenty in this magnificent city. With just two nights, we still got to see the White House, Capitol Hill, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and lots of parks, and still no stress. Much of Washington is gathered in a relatively limited area, with peaceful parks in between the highlights.

The bus ride to New York took just under 6 hours, with both start and stop for the bus ride within easy walking distance of our accommodation.

We had also visited New York a few times before. Still, no trouble passing the time on this visit either. I think it will take a few months or years before such cities become boring.

After three nights in New York, we returned home via Frankfurt.

  • What: scheduled flights and round trips
  • Hvor: USA, with Miami, Washington DC and New York
  • Length: 15 days
  • Accommodation: hotel and apartment
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

Tour of Spain

Once again we were going to Spain and this time we started in Madrid, by plane via Frankfurt. Our hotel was located in Gran Via, a popular street with a lot of exclusive buildings.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, in early July. It was of course extremely hot, but here the restarant's outdoor seating had cooling, something we had not seen before. A kind of sprinkler system had been set up around the outdoor seatings. It cooled the air, without us getting wet, and it was absolutely lovely. The vast majority had invested in such a scheme, and it was necessary, for those who did not have such cooling had hardly any customers.

The hotel was of course air-conditioned, so we suffered no distress. Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up and looked out into the street. It was full of scantily clad and happy people. People were strolling around talking, some had sat down on the sidewalk or in the street. Certainly plenty of alcohol among people, but no noise or visibly intoxicated people. And no one seemed to have thought of going home before winter set in.

Madrid is one of the greenest capitals in Europe, with overwhelming parks. Most of the sights are within a fairly limited area, so although the city is huge, a lot of sightseeing can be done on foot.


After three nights in Madrid, we headed for Toledo, about fifty kilometres to the south. The train took less than an hour, and a short walk took us from the station to the hotel.

Since the old part of Toledo was circular and less than a mile in diametre, everything was easily accessible. Very short distances to everything, but a little hilly, so we had no problems keeping warm, when the temperature was more than forty degrees Celsius.

Toledo has been an important city for two thousand years and is full of old buildings of all kinds. There was little room for green spaces within the city walls, but it was green and lush along the river Tagus, which runs in a semi-circle around the city.

Such a gem of a city so close to Madrid, means many day trippers. But at twilight all these were gone, and the city became more pleasant than ever.

Cadiz was our next destination and we also travelled there by train, via Madrid. From Madrid to Cadiz we travelled first class, with spacious, comfortable seats. The trip took less than four and a half hours, and passed Córdoba and Seville, among other places. As always, there was plenty to look at along the way.

In Cadiz we stayed in a hotel by the sea, close to the beaches and the old town. Very pleasant streets to stroll in, with lots of restaurants. Pleasant atmosphere throughout the city. The city is located on an "island", connected only to the mainland via a less than one hundred metres wide and two-three kilometres long slice of sand. In practice, there is water around the city on all sides, with lots of endless sandy beaches. Great to feel the breeze from the sea after the vibrating heat in Madrid and Toledo.

From Cadiz we travelled by train to Malaga. Our hotel was at the entrance to the old town, right next to the grand cathedral. This was a city we had visited several times, so this hotel was not a random choice. Malaga is a "small big city", with the advantages that entails.

Most days we took the local bus a few miles east, and walked back again along the beach. There was excellent walkway almost all the way, with beach restaurants, chiringuitos, every few metres. Most served sardines, which were fried in "campfire pans" shaped like fishing boats. A lot of other things on the menu as well, but it was these sardines they sold the most of. Clean beaches and pleasant water, and occasionally flocks of green monk parakeets all the way down on the beach.

Beach west of Malaga
Beach west of Malaga

The city has many areas with bars and restaurants to choose from. The old town has countless offers, but there are several other areas as well. Malaga is a complete city, with something for everyone, and it is of course also noticeable in the number of tourists. The number is growing rapidly, but the city is large enough to withstand it.

After five nights in Malaga, we returned home.

  • What: scheduled flights and round trip by train
  • Where: Spain with Madrid, Toledo, Cadiz and Malaga
  • Length: 13 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

France and Spain

There has been a large increase in direct flights from Gardermoen, which is "our" airport. A number of years ago, it was usually necessary to change planes if we did not travel with a charter company. At the beginning of the new millennium, this changed, and in 2011 we were able to fly directly to Bordeaux from Oslo.

Our hotel was centrally located in the big city, which has a city centre that was no bigger than that most things could be reached on foot. For those of us who love to walk, it was unusual and a little scary with almost silent trams - it seemed like they were on rubber wheels. We did not always hear that they were approaching, but would probably have managed to get used to it, if they could get such trams in Oslo.

We spent three nights in the city, and visited Saint-Émilion, which was close by. This village is located in one of the most important red wine regions of Bordeaux. It was easy accessible from Bordeaux, a little more half an hour by train and then a walk. As expected, we were not the only tourists there, but it was still a pleasant and interesting excursion. After strolling around for a while, it was time for lunch, and it was no problem to get decent wine with the food.

The next day we went on an organized sightseeing trip to other famous wine regions around the city. This also included visits to a winery with wine tasting. An excellent way to spend half a day.

Toulouse was just over two hours away by train, and here too we stayed for three nights. One day we rented bikes and cycled along the Canal du Midi, which runs from Toulouse to the Mediterranean. Flat and safe to cycle along the canal, and many nice lunch spots along the way.

We also attended a guided tour of Toulouse. Such trips are always interesting, with lots of information that is not always so easy to obtain in other ways. Always a little exciting whether it is easy or difficult to perceive what is being said. We don't speak French, so we chose guiding in English, but it was completely hassle-free to understand, even in noisy streets.

The next stop on the tour was Carcassonne. This is a large town where one part, the Cité de Carcassonne, consists of fortifications with double ring walls around medieval buildings.


We stayed in a 4 star hotel inside this old part of town. Here I discovered some of the difference between a 4-star hotel and the cheaper ones. In the bathtub I found neither cockroaches nor ants, but a beautiful little black scorpion. I didn't dare let it out of my sight, but beat it to death with my sandal. I didn't get a picture of it, but exotic it was, and clearly 4-star.

The journey continued to Tossa de Mar in Spain. It was a bit tedious to get there, but with a little taxi and a lot of train, we finally arrived. To real Spanish summer rain, of the heavy sort. We waited for some improvement in the weather, only a few hundred metres from our hotel. It finally calmed down, and we entered a lovely little hotel, right by the beach.

Here we spent some lazy days with beach life and walks along the coast. An absolutely amazing area. We have tried several of these small towns/villages on the Costa Brava and there are so many gems there. Highly recommended!

We ended our holiday with a few days in Barcelona. We knew the city quite well after several visits, but it is always exciting to be in that city.

  • What: scheduled flights and round trip by train
  • Where: France with Bordeaux, Toulouse and Carcassonne, and Spain with Tossa de Mar and Barcelona
  • Length: 13 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast
Tossa de Mar
Tossa de Mar

Alsace in France

For many years our local newspaper had a travel supplement once or twice a year. Of course a lot of travel ads, but also a lot of readable articles. One of these had interviews with some more or less famous people about their recommendations for the upcoming vacations. Here Alsace was recommended, and in a way that both my wife and I fell for.

This was a completely unfamiliar region for us, but fortunately the internet knew it very well. The more I looked, the more attractive this region became. Eventually, it became a matter of limiting oneself -  there were so many tempting places. Eager use of Google Maps and Google search in general was needed, but that's what I like doing.

We decided to fly to and from Strasbourg. It turned out that our "flights" to Strasbourg involved two and a half hours by bus between Frankfurt and Strasbourg. Unusual, but fair enough, and wonderful to travel directly to and from the city center, instead of ending up at an airport in the middle of nowhere. From Strasbourg we travelled on to Colmar, which was an hour's bus ride south, into the middle of the region of Alsace.

Colmar is a somewhat large small town. It has a nice, well-preserved old town, with canals and half-timbered houses, and plenty of bars and restaurants. There are also plenty of shops of all kinds, so the shopping enthusiast has plenty to enjoy.

We rented bikes and followed some tips we got from the bike rental. Just a small lap of less than twenty kilometres and with very limited climbs, but with lots of interesting to see. There were no cycle paths or cycle paths here, but traffic was very limited .

Local wine for sale
Local wine for sale

Everywhere in Alsace there is viticulture, which means green, lush and manicured vineyards as far as the eye can see. In some places, flowers were planted between the vines, apparently just to make it even prettier. Small clusters of houses here and there, too few to have shops or restaurants, but everywhere there was the opportunity to buy locally produced wine bottles. Not so relevant to bring a case of wine on the bike, but nice to see. There was lunch in the picturesque village of Eguisheim, who had several restaurants.

The next day it was a bus ride again, but only for twenty minutes. A short trip, but it really brought us to the heart of wine-producing Alsace, to the village of Riquewihr.

Riquewihr is the way you want a village to be, but you don't really think such exist in reality. It had cobblestones in the narrow streets, it was mostly free of cars inside the old town, lots of well-preserved, centuries-old houses and it was almost like wandering around in an old fairytale book. There were also plenty of eateries and accommodation options inside the old town, and many charming small shops.


After a basic breakfast, but with good coffee, we went on a hike. The map showed that there were several small villages nearby, so we headed for one that was only a few kilometres away. It was just a matter of finding the direction and setting off, for there were small roads everywhere in between the vines. These are certainly necessary access roads for maintenance and harvesting, and on rare occasions we saw some vehicles of various kinds. Some of the roads were paved, but most were dirt roads. Here it was comfortable to walk and certainly nice as a cycle path, too.

The village we went towards was called Kaysersberg. On the slope above it was an old castle from the 13th century. Part of this was quite well preserved and gave a superb view of the village and surrounding areas. We went down into the village and had lunch, and made our way back via a couple of other villages.

The market in town is held weekly, and there was a market the second day we were in Riquewihr. We visited the market in the morning, and there were a lot of exciting things to see and many customers. Tempting cheeses, sausages, bread and cakes, vegetables and berries, which were probably produced nearby.

Then we went hiking again, in the exact opposite direction to what we did the day before. Vineyards here too, with nice little roads we could use. The villages were dense, and in the hillsides were several castles and fortresses. We headed for Ribeauvillé, a slightly larger village and had lunch there.


On the way back we stopped by the Jardin de Papillons in the village of Hunawihr. A magnificent place with lots of butterflies, but also penguins, nutria, turtles and more than a hundred storks, some with huge stork nests. Definitely worth a visit.

After being in Riquewihr for a few days, almost everywhere else will become an anticlimax. But Alsace complied throughout. A small town called Obernai was the next stop. The old town here was also full of charm, so this stop was by no means a downer. Here too, there were flower-adorned, cobbled streets lined with well-kept old houses. Plenty of restaurants here too, with the best Alsace has to offer in terms of food and drink, and that's quite a lot.

The villages were close to Obernai as well, so a morning walk took us to several idylls that were great for enjoying a delicious lunch. No matter where we went, it was always possible to get a nice cup of coffee, an ice-cold beer or water, or why not a small glass of chilled riesling. Riesling was always served in special glasses.

Riesling glass
Riesling glass

The journey ended this time with a few nights in Strasbourg. Strasbourg was a big city, but not that big. Here the old town was like an island, surrounded by canals. In the old town was the enormous cathedral which, although parts of it are in the Romanesque style, is considered one of the finest of Gothic church architecture. And that's saying a lot.

To get around in city and it's surrounding areas, we rented bicycles. None of us like to ride in heavy city traffic, so we found some safe bike paths. We went to the outskirts of the city, where the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament are located. Even though we only saw it from the outside, it was pretty impressive.

We cycled a bit out of town and got to see some villages here too, of course with stop for lunch.

After a couple of nights it was bus and plane to get home.

  • What: scheduled flights and buses
  • Where: Alsace in France, with Colmar, Riquewihr, Obernai and Strasbourg
  • Length: 9 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

Italy with Venice, Florence and Lucca

Italy is one of the most diverse and attractive destinations in Europe, but we had not explored much of it. We had only been on a couple of charter trips, and we had missed many of the country's highlights. Now it was time to discover more of Italy.

The plane took us to an airport outside Rome, but that city wasn't in the plans this time. We took the train towards Venice, a four-hour trip. The train journey ended with a three-kilometre bridge over the sea, into Venice itself. At the station there were some giant parking garages, and that was the last we saw of cars in that city.

There are walkways and canals, but no roads or streets where cars can drive. All goods transport takes place by boat on the canals, and with trolleys and carts on narrow walkways. A quarter of a million people live in the city, and it has visits from many millions of tourists annually. In other words, there are always a lot of people almost everywhere in this city, so it often gets crowded on the narrow walkways. If you need to go a little further, there are plenty of water taxis. There is no shortage of gondolas, but these are mostly used for pleasant small trips with tourists. And they are popular photo motifs. 

We stayed at a hotel near St. Mark's Square. The first evening we went out to eat, we were a bit tired after the trip, and stopped by an anonymous restaurant in a small side street near the hotel. There is always plenty to tempt you at Italian restaurants, so it was not difficult to find food that appealed to us, at reasonable prices. But the wine list shocked us, because I had trouble finding a bottle of red wine for less than €60. This was at a time when we could get an acceptable wine at a restaurant in Norway for €30, and Norway was known for being expensive.

We quickly learned that location had a lot to do with the prices. A cup of coffee at St Mark's Square cost almost ten times as much as in slightly less central areas. A lot of money to save by walking five minutes away from the biggest attractions, before sitting down to enjoy something. When there are idyllically located bars, restaurants and cafes everywhere, you can just pick and choose. And the food, wine and coffee are no less good at these places.


The city is not big, but it consists of more than a hundred islands, with canals, walkways and alleys, and it is not easy to find your way around. Actually, it is just a matter of strolling around in such places, and when we end up in a dead end, we just try again. 

Joining a guided tour, to be sure to have visited the "most important" things, can be a good investment. Here the guides flew around with a microphone and the participants were equipped with a receiver with headphones. This worked and was a necessity, as there was almost never room to gather a group around to inform about something nearby. Guiding in this way required the participants to pay close attention, because suddenly you did not see your guide even though you still heard him. 

Florence was the next city on the programme. The train from Venice took less than three hours to get there, and as always there was plenty to see from the train.

The old town of Florence has long been on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Much of the finest from the Renaissance can be found here, and this was everywhere when we wandered around the streets. I think everyone is impressed by this, even those who are not particularly interested in history, art or architecture. And there was more than enough to see, without having to go inside any of the many churches or galleries. But it was almost like you wished for bad weather, so that you could spend the days indoors with the best conscience.

Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria

More than enough to see both outside and inside this city, and a city that many can travel to again and again, and still discover "new" favourites. In addition, it has everything else we associate with Italy: fantastic food, wine, cakes, coffee, ice cream and other temptations. For me, it can be enough to just stroll around and enjoy such cities. 

The last stop on this trip was Lucca and it was a bus ride of just over an hour. The old town there is completely enclosed by a kind of city wall, but not like old defensive walls usually are. This "wall" is 10-12 metres high, from 60-70 to almost 200 metres wide and about four kilometres long. It goes around the entire old town, with pedestrian and bicycle paths and parks on top. 

This has been a town since two hundred years BC and the old town has changed little in the last few centuries. In practice, this is a fairly car-free area; only those with special permits can drive in. It is about 1 x 2 kilometres, with lots of squares and streets where it is a pleasure to get lost. But completely car-free it is only up on the "walls" around it all.


Even though this gem of a town is located in the middle of Tuscany, close to both Pisa, Florence and Cinque Terre, it is not as touristy as its neighbours . Many day-trippers combine Lucca and Pisa on a trip. That makes it even more attractive to stay here for a few nights. All the day-trippers make it very good capacity at the eateries in the evenings. Then we can stay here and go on trips in the area during the day.

In addition to strolling inside and on the walls around the old town, we went on a bus trip down to the sea. The bus to Viareggio, an "art-deco" influenced seaside resort, took fifty minutes. It was not bathing season when we were there, but the lunch was excellent, and a fun place to see. I guess it's quite crowded on the ten kilometre long beach in August.

As mentioned, there was a good selection of restaurants in Lucca. Usually, when we are only a few nights in such places, we make sure to try as many restaurants as possible. But in Lucca we found one that we made an exception for; the food, wine and service were outstanding, and at an acceptable price. We just had to go back. 

From Lucca it took less than five hours by train and bus back to the airport outside Rome. 

  • What: scheduled flights and trains
  • Where: Italy with Venice, Florence and Lucca
  • Length: 8 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

Perception of travel destinations 

It took many years before we were tempted by New York as a travel destination. Newspapers constantly had articles about this "ultimate" city destination, but it didn't appeal to us. Then I found a cheap travel guide to New York in a clearance bin ....
The book was quite ordinary, but it was the person who sold it to me who changed my mind. He said something like: "New York is never wrong." And I replied, truthfully, that I had never really been tempted, but that the book was so cheap, so I bought it out of pure curiosity. Then he told me that he had had exactly the same relationship with New York, but he had gone there with some friends anyway. He fell in love, and after that trip, New York was always included in his considerations when he was going to a big city.

I read through the book, quite thoroughly too, as I like that kind of reading material. Then I talked to my better half about this, and it turned out that we wanted to try this famous city too. And we've been there many times since. 

Washington and New York

On this trip, we flew round trip from Oslo to New York. I think it was the last time we flew that far in economy class. We have since been able to afford business class on long trips, but primarily we have chosen to fly shorter distances. At the airport in New York, we just changed planes and continued to Baltimore/Washington International Airport, which is located just outside Baltimore and near Washington. That trip didn't take many minutes, and we were in Washington in time to check into the hotel. The hotel was located between the White House and Georgetown, with a short distance to lots of restaurants. The first day ended with an early dinner, due to the time difference. 

The first full day in Washington was spent on some of the obligatory highlights, including the White House and Capitol. The President's residence and workplace seemed smaller in reality than on TV, while the congressional building was colossal. 

The Capitol
The Capitol

Both of these buildings, and many other attractions in Washington, are located at or near The National Mall. This is a large park area that is a kilometre at its widest and a couple of kilometres long. This area is mostly car-free and well-suited for pedestrians. Many museums are located near this area and many famous monuments are located in the park. 

A few minutes from our hotel was the Georgetown district, which is one of the main areas for shopping and dining. In the evening, we went there to eat and watch the world go by.

One day we walked across a long bridge to the other side of the Potomac River. Then we left "District of Columbia" and entered the state of Virginia. Right by the bridge is the main entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. This is a war cemetery with nearly 400,000 graves, mostly soldiers, but also some other "selected". It was a place that made a strong impression.


We visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Exciting things in almost every room and hall, and set up so that we learned a lot along the way. It was such a place I would have liked to have more time, but I have since had the opportunity to visit it again. 

Washington is large, beautiful and impressive, and it has charming, small-town-like areas with little traffic. We also found peaceful areas with some forest and trails, and there we saw for the first time such squirrels, chipmunks, that we knew from Walt Disney's cartoons, like Chip and Dale.

We had booked tickets to travel by bus from Washington to New York. The bus ride took just over 4 hours and was an experience for us who had never been out on American roads. There were from 3 to 8 lanes in each direction and sometimes the lanes with oncoming traffic were several hundred metres away from us, so we could not see them. It seemed as if they had endless space to build roads. Some places had crossing roads over and under each other in such a space-consuming way, that the "road junction" became the size of a small town.

Centrally located hotels are always a priority for us, and in New York we stayed right by Times Square. By staying centrally, we were spared the transport in and out of the city center, but New York is so big that we used public transport all the time. The metro system, which is called the subway there, is enormous. We did not get to know all the 24 lines with 472 stations in the days we were there, but we became quite good at finding our way around. Even with an efficient transport system, things took time, because the distances quickly became quite large, even though we only moved within the most central district, Manhattan.

Harlem and Central Park are both located north on Manhattan, so it was convenient to go there on the same excursion. The park we had been to before, but it also contains so much, so there is always something of interest there. Harlem was new to us, and it was also a content-rich area. Great universities and lots of churches, and plenty of places to eat and drink. No problem finding a nice place for lunch.

One day we spent in the financial district south on Manhattan, with the stock exchange and Ground Zero, which is the site and memorial where the Twin Towers once stood. Right nearby, there is also a (free) ferry to Staten Island, which passes the Statue of Liberty on the way. Staten Island is a very different district in New York, and can be a great change from the more intense life in Manhattan.

We had been out on Staten Island before, so this time we walked up to Washington Square Park and enjoyed live music in the park and lunch nearby.

There are some viewpoints that give a slightly different perspective on the city. We had been up in the Empire State Building on a previous trip. This time we chose Rockefeller Plaza. There are certainly buildings in the city that are almost twice as high as this one, but here there was access, and the view was absolutely amazing. Of course, we knew that there were many skyscrapers in New York, but the number we saw from here was shockingly high. We also got an overview of Central Park from there.

View from Rockefeller Plaza
View from Rockefeller Plaza

Etter en slik uke var vi mette på inntrykk da vi tok nattflyet hjem til Norge. 

  • What: scheduled flights and buses
  • Where: The United States with Washington DC and New York
  • Length: 8 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

"That was the last narrative of my trips abroad (from Norway) for now. More will come here later."

 The following are some trips in   Norway
As mentioned earlier, I live in Oslo, so all my travels have Oslo as starting point.

A round trip on the West Coast

One of our first trips in Norway without children started with a 6-hour train ride from Oslo to Åndalsnes. Travelling by train is comfortable, and we had booked seats in the direction of travel. Great trip along Mjøsa and up the beautiful Gudbrandsdalen.

We changed trains at Dombås and had nice seats on the Raumabanen as well. This train line is a tourist attraction in itself. The famous travel site Lonely Planet describes this stretch as the most beautiful train ride in Europe.

When we arrived in Åndalsnes, we soon switched to a bus towards Geiranger. As I said, a regular bus, but still it stopped a couple of times so that the travellers could go out to see the view and take pictures. That's what I call service!

Trollstigen was part of this trip, so we were not the only ones who made sure to take pictures. It is a beautiful road in a stunning nature. It was very reassuring to have an experienced and skilled bus driver there, so that we could really enjoy the spectacular view. We got off the bus in Valldal, where we stayed overnight. 

The next day we continued by bus to Geiranger. We had had lovely weather the day before, when we drove Trollstigen, but this day the fog came when we got up in the heights, so we hardly saw anything. But then, a few minutes before we reached Ørnesvingen, which is known for the view over Geirangerfjord, the fog cleared up, and the sun shone from a clear sky. The bus also stopped there for photography. If the fog had not lifted, we would not have seen the place at all. Lucky! 

We took a little tour of Geiranger when the bus arrived, but it is mostly the nature around there that impresses. 

Then we took a ferry out of the fjord to Hellesylt, a trip of an hour and a half. The Geirangerfjord was no less grandiose to look at from the ferry than from the cruise ships, and I think it was a cheaper option. (I have never been on a cruise, so I don't know much about that.) 

From Hellesylt we took a three-hour bus ride to Ålesund. For us, who were not used to the western Norwegian nature, there was a lot of attractive things to see on that stretch as well. Varied and exciting, and quite different from the flatlands in Eastern Norway. In Ålesund we stayed centrally and everything was within walking distance. The city impressed in every way. The Art Nouveau style is still well represented, and the location by the sea, canal and fjord is perfect. We went on the almost obligatory hike up to the viewpoint Aksla. Impressive arranged path up there, and the view up there was absolutely phenomenal. Had the feeling of being able to see to Scotland or even further, and the city itself we saw as if it was a mix of map and aerial photo.


After three nights in Ålesund we took the plane home from the Vigra airport.

  • What: train, bus, ferry and round trip
  • Where: round trip in North-West Norway
  • Length: 5 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

These pages are about vacation planning, but it is possible to travel without using your holiday days. A trip on the weekend or a slightly extended weekend offers many opportunities. Weekend trips to cities have been popular for a long time, both domestically and abroad, but there are more options. If we don't use a plane, the travel time can be long. I myself belong to those who like both airports and flights, but other ways of travelling also give me amazing experiences. For hours on end. I like to travel by both bus and train. I always have reading material with me (digital), but it has hardly happened that I have read along the way. One of the advantages of avoiding using a car is that you can fall asleep along the way  - and wake up again. When you are curious about what it is like around, it rarely gets boring to travel by bus or train, so for me there is little sleeping along the way. With good seats, I can easily relax and just enjoy for hours on such trips. 

Short hike in Jotunheimen

The trip started from Oslo Bus Terminal, with a bus that would take us to Fondsbu in Jotunheimen. We had a really long journey of almost 6 hours ahead of us. A comfortable bus and a good driver made the trip very pleasant. 

There are many scenic areas along Tyrifjorden, through Begnadalen and into Valdres. When we had passed Fagernes, the real mountain trip began, up through Vestre Slidre. At Tyinkrysset we changed buses, and from there we travelled inland on the high mountain. Arrival at Fondsbu was in good time in the afternoon so that we could check in right away. We travelled with one of the children with spouse, and they were going to stay in a tent the first night. Again, this is a matter of taste and preference. But they ate dinner indoors, with us. 

The food at Fondsbu was absolutely excellent, albeit a bit surprising. We had checked out Fondsbu on the internet, and it was mentioned, among other things, that they focused on local, short-travelled products in the cooking. Therefore, we had not expected to be served saithe for dinner. Maybe it was the rare high mountain saithe they had caught in the net in lake Bygdin 😊 

After a plentiful breakfast, making sandwiches and filling thermoses, we checked out of Fondsbu. Those who had slept in a tent were also ready to be our guides on the trip to Gjendebu. Brilliant sun and almost windless meant that we could walk in shorts and T-shirt. In the climb up from Fondsbu we had no problems keeping warm. The path was easy to walk, even and nice, and not rocky and challenging, as it can be in Jotunheimen. We took a lunch break after a three-hour walk. The sandwiches tasted good, flavoured with mountain air, and the coffee likewise.

Down towards Gjende
Down towards Gjende

The continuation towards Gjendebu was even easier to walk, with mostly downhill in the warm sun. After about six hours of hiking, we arrived at the tourist cabin with the stunning location by Gjende. Here too, we had booked a double rooms, this time for all four of us, and the rooms were ready when we arrived. 

It was good to put down the backpack and freshen up a bit after the hike. Not bad to stretch our legs a bit on the bed either, before dinner was served. 

The return trip the next day, started with a boat trip on Gjende. The boat went via Memurubu, and it was a magnificent sight, with mountains on both sides of the water. High up there lay Besseggen, and my wife and I felt that we were the only ones on board who had not been up there. 

The return journey went by bus from Gjendesheim, and took about five hours. Even though much of the trip went where we had driven two days earlier, everything looked different when we drove the opposite way. At least for the one who likes to ride by bus. 

  • What: bus and hike
  • Where: Jotunheimen
  • Length: 3 days
  • Accommodation form: serviced tourist cabins
  • Meals: breakfast and packed lunches

Hurtigruta and Lofoten 

I have had a somewhat difficult relationship with Hurtigruta. It looks absolutely amazing, but it has always seemed scary for someone who got seasick on a 10-minute ride with the local ferry, as a child. We decided to start cautiously. 

It started with a flight to Evenes, and a bus to Harstad. In Harstad we stayed at a hotel with a view of the sea and a few minutes walk to the Hurtigruta quay. After a good hotel breakfast we checked out and walked over and waited for Hurtigruten. The ship we were going to travel with was called MS Midnattsol (now it is called MS Maud). A stately sight when it docked. The ship was quite new when we travelled with it, and was tremendously impressive for us "landlubbers".

We started with a day sail down to Svolvær, so no cabin. With some bad experience from some trips by boat to and from Denmark, where there was an endless hunt for available seats, we were a bit excited. Here there were plenty of seats, we could just choose from comfortable chairs and sofas. With little wind and no sailing over open sea stretches, there was no reason to fear seasickness, and it was a great trip. The stretch we had chosen must be some of the most beautiful we could get in just one day. Through wide fjords and narrow straits, along beautiful islands and under huge bridges and under steep mountains, there was so much to see. 

Of course we had to have some food along the way, but we barely took the time. The view was just as magnificent from where we ate, so it turned out to be no problem. 

A little before we arrived in Svolvær, the ship made a detour into Trollfjorden. It is a little over two kilometres long club-shaped fjord that is no more than a hundred metres at its narrowest. The ship we were on seemed as wide as the fjord as we sailed in there. At the end, the fjord widens and becomes more than three hundred metres wide. In there, the coastal express made two pirouettes, that is, it turned around its own axis. This made a powerful impression with a boat that was almost a hundred and fifty metres long. Proper carousel feeling.


We arrived in Svolvær in the early evening, full of impressions after a brilliant boat trip. We stayed at a small hotel in the city centre, and travelled the next morning by bus to Henningsvær. The bus ride to Henningsvær took less than an hour. 

In Henningsvær we had rented a kind of modernised fisherman's cabin for three nights. It had a decent standard and it was not possible to get closer to the sea. A few minutes walk to eateries and shops in Henningsvær, and a bus stop nearby. 

None of us had been to Lofoten or Northern Norway before, so we had to look around. We went on a trip by bus to Reine and to Kabelvåg. Surprisingly easy to get around by bus, and that suited us well. Lots to see wherever we went and easy to find places to eat. After our stay in Henningsvær, we took the bus to Stamsund. There we were going to take the Hurtigruten further down to Trondheim. The ship left Stamsund quite late in the evening, and we checked into our cabin immediately in the hope of sleeping over Vestfjorden. It worked well and luckily there was never any problem with seasickness. The trip down along the Nordland coast was scenic. To sit like that, with an ever-changing landscape outside, I could have endured a week or two. We only had one full day on board, and also managed a short walk in Brønnøysund, where the ship lay for just over two hours. The cabin was OK and the food on board was excellent. I would definitely recommend a trip with the Hurtigruten. We arrived in Trondheim early in the morning, and spent a couple of days there before we went home by plane.

  • What: scheduled flights, Hurtigruten and Lofoten
  • Where: Vesterålen, Lofoten, Nordland and Trondheim
  • Length: 9 days
  • Accommodation: hotel, fisherman's cabin and cabin on Hurtigruten
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast

Rogaland and Sørlandet

As I have mentioned before, I like to travel by bus and train. On this trip, there was plenty of both. We took the Haukeliekspressen all the way, from Oslo Bus Terminal to Haugesund Bus Terminal. It was a long journey of 8 1/2 hours, with only one meal stop of about 35 minutes on the way. 

The bus went via places such as Notodden, Seljord, Åmot with a meal stop, Haukeli, and Seljestad with the possibility of changing to a bus towards Bergen. The drivers were also excellent on this trip, driving in a way that felt comfortable and safe. 

This route gave us mostly everything Norway has to offer in terms of nature and beautiful cultural landscapes. I think there were only four times we had the opportunity to stretch our legs, and towards the end of the trip it became difficult to find a good sitting position. We had thought about splitting up the trip, and staying overnight at for example Haukeli, but we had dropped that. That was possibly a bad decision. 

Upon arrival in Haugesund, it was a short 15-minute walk to our hotel by Smedasundet, and we felt that the walk was good for our bodies. Once again, we had a centrally located hotel, with a good selection of eateries nearby. Dinner and good drinks tasted great after a long travel day. 

The next day we took the bus to Skudeneshavn. It was a lovely trip down the entire Karmøy, via places like Kopervik and Åkrehamn. In Skudeneshavn, we had a pleasant stroll around among well-kept skipper houses and other historic buildings. We found a nice place to eat lunch, before we returned to Haugesund


The journey continued by bus to Stavanger. The bus ride included a long underwater tunnel and a ferry crossing. Yet it took no more than just over two hours before we were in the middle of Stavanger. 

This is also a city that suits those who enjoy a "small town atmosphere", with its unique wooden house environments. We had walked here many times before, so this time we only stayed one night in the city. 

The next and last stop on this journey was Kristiansand. The bus there took less than four hours, and it was a varied and interesting trip. Scenic on that trip too, as it mostly is around Norway. 

After a night in Kristiansand, we took the train home to Oslo. A train ride of 4 1/2 hours is quite long, but this was a new route for us, so time just flew. On the train, it was possible to stretch our legs and get some food and drink, or just sit and enjoy the always changing view. 

  • What: bus and train
  • Where: Haukelifjell, Rogaland and Sørlandet
  • Length: 5 days
  • Accommodation: hotel
  • Meal Plan: Breakfast