Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Random Acts - The lowly shopping cart

The sun is FINALLY shining and that makes me feel joyful and reborn.  I originally moved to the Pacific Northwest from Southern California to experience more seasons.  To see things growing because they could, not because they had been watered daily. When I first stepped out of my car in Seattle, I remember vividly being surprised to smell the grass coated in dew.  That said, after a spring like this one, I find myself craving sun like a junkie. Now that it has finally appeared, my mood has turned euphoric.  Hence this becomes a good day to write on Random Acts of Kindness.

It's been more difficult that I thought coming up with ideas. Working from home doesn't put one out in the general community where opportunities arise naturally.  One early idea I had was to put money in parking meters.  I have paid more than my fair share of tickets when interviews went longer than expected, but with the advent of pay by credit card, there is no way to tell which person needs your help.

The other day I realized the lowly grocery store shopping cart might provide the perfect opportunity.  How many times have you searched your pockets and realized you didn't have the right coin to get a cart?  Then it's into the store where you have to wait patiently for a clerk to exchange your money. Voila - an idea is born! Now every few shopping trips, when no one is in the parking lot to observe my skulduggery, I leave my cart without taking the coin out.  I have no idea if it makes someone's day or not, but it makes me smile.  My hope it that when they find a cart with the coin already in it, they feel like it's there lucky day.

Here again is proof positive that those Random Acts of Kindness don't need to be huge and significant, they can be just small - what I would like to label "Surprise Bombs" - that pop out of the blue to brighten someone's day.  BTW - did you know there is a Random Acts of Kindness Organization that includes a list of ideas?  It's my next stop today.  

Now just for a little fun - a few shopping car cartoons to make you smile! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

standing armed - Lindsay Walsh

Eco Fashion Week runway photos courtesy of Peter Jensen

It has been my pleasure to write on Lindsay Walsh - the talented designer behind the standing armed label - several times in the past.  The first was after viewing her S/S 2012 collection launch at the Waterford Gallery.  I was so impressed, I immediately submitted and received approval to tuck an article in the next month's issue of Fame'd - October 2011.  Fortunately local photographer Kelly Jill had some beautiful editorial photos ready to go.  Next was a series of articles for this blog on 5 up and coming designers to watch.  In January 2011 I wrote on Walsh, covering some of the many reasons I felt she would have a long career in Fashion Design.

With her successful showing at Eco Fashion Week in April 2012, I wanted to do an update on standing armed's F/W 2012 collection. Somehow this ended up very delayed.  As Fame'd has ceased publication and will be going off line in the next few months, I have copied that article at the very bottom for those who are interested.  To read the previous blog click here.

First I want to talk about the meaning behind the brand's name. For Walsh, standing armed is a reflection on her personal feelings about fashion and what it can offer women in today's world.  "It's about the power of clothing to transform.  I believe clothing can act as an armour, lending a sense of confidence and empowerment."  When looking at the F/W 2012 collection, it is readily apparent this is not armour in the traditional sense.  The garments are designed to accent and empower the woman wearing them.

S/S 2012 had the exotic inspiration of Morroco and gypsies. For fall/winter the line moved in a totally new direction - 90's minimalism and fluidity juxtaposed against 50's structure. This is most evident in the silhouettes and fabrics - structured wool garments alongside fluid silks and textural laces. White, gray and black dominate the palette with sparsely inserted accents provided by a vibrant red, warm olive and an understated white/red watercolour print.

This is Walsh's most diverse collection to date, thoughtfully created to meet the needs of her busy clientele.  "While I design with evening in mind, many of the pieces can carry over from day to night.  This is something that adds value for the standing armed customer.  She is a woman who needs to transition from a busy day at work to an evening function with ease." Included are 23 pieces - 15 looks - that can mix and match to meet the needs of any occasion.  My personal favourite must-have item is the softly draping, slender legged black Format pant. Sewn in a buttery silk, they just exude luxury.

Each season has it's surprises. It's an interesting journey from original inspiration, to finding fabrics, to sampling, to the final line.  Changes always occur, and sometimes a design conceived at the last minute can end up being a front runner in the collection.  F/W 2012 was no exception. Walsh remembers, "I always fully design my collection before going into sampling, but usually end up adding a few styles at the last minute.  This season, some of the very last minute additions ended up being the most well received.  The moral of the story?  Never ignore a feeling.  If an idea presents itself, see it out."

In April 2012, Walsh debuted standing armed's F/W 2012 collection on the runway at Robson Square during Eco Fashion Week. A very positive reception from media a fashion watchers alike validated the direction taken this season.  Silhouettes and proportions are strong, there is an easy comfort to the fit that is so important in our West Coast lifestyle and the finely honed palette mean separates will blend easily into most wardrobes. When asked about being a part of EFW she shares with a smile, "Showing at Eco Fashion Week was a great experience. As well, Vancouver is my home, so it continues to be important for me to build the brand on the West Coast.

For more information on Lindsay Walsh and standing armed or to shop online, please check out the website here.


From Fame'd Magazine, October 2011
Moroccan Markets and Gypsy Culture
Article by Marilyn R. Wilson
Editorial Photo by - 
Photography by KELLY JILL -
Styling - ELIM CHU -
Make-up and Hair - TALYSIA AYALA using MAC Cosmetics and Tresemme Hair Care
Models - LILIAN and LUCY @ Lizbell Agency

Walking into The Waterfall Building for the September launch of standing armed's S/S 2012 offering, the first thing you noticed was colour. 16 models were arranged along the walls in a wash of inviting hues including ivory, hot coral, olive and mud. One could almost feel a warm breeze bringing thoughts of the Mediterranean. Designer Lindsay Walsh soon shared her secret. The inspiration was Morocco and her collection captured that essence beautifully.

Growing up, Walsh's family enjoyed sports. Winters were spent on ski hills and summers at a lakeside cabin. They also travelled extensively, exposing her to culture and fashion aesthetics from all over the world. In her mid-teens, the move to a new high school saw her focus change from sports to the arts. It was while taking a career prep course she discovered fashion was an option. "It was a turning point for me. I realized I didn't have to do a BA to just check it off the list. Fashion is what I loved." For a year after high school she travelled around the Mediterranean soaking up the culture and then it was back to Canada where she enrolled at Ryerson University.

Ryerson's technically demanding four year fashion degree program saw many of the less determined students walk away that first year. Walsh not only persevered, but excelled. In year four she wanted to design a grad collection that both showcased her creativity and challenged her to explore couture skills. The result was a mix of extravagant gowns inspired by palace life in historical Versailles. "I had to stay up all night many nights, but the results were worth it. There was a lot of hand beading and quilting plus really luxurious fabrics." Her collection caught the eye of Holt Renfrew and was chosen as one of ten to be displayed in store windows. 

Travelling again beckoned. This time it was Australia followed by a year and a half in England - the perfect jumping point to explore from. Morocco became an instant favourite. "Morocco was just different. I loved the markets - the combination of all the textures and prints created almost an overload on the senses." Then it was back to Vancouver where she settled into a job at lululemon while the dream to create her own line continued to simmer. It all began in 2009 with the decision to do a name search. Next? Where would the raw materials come from and who would sew the garments? Everything snowballed from there until the launch of standing arm's first mini collection for F/W 2011. "I knew I wanted the collection really small until I had the production figured out. It was a line of classic dresses inspired by the cocktail hour." 

Walsh loved the freedom and creativity of owning her own business, so there was no turning back. The creation of Spring/Summer 2012 came about via a very organic journey. There were travel photos from her time in the Mediterranean and an old Gypsy Caravan photo shoot by Kate Moss she stumbled upon. Then came the unexpected discovery of mud-dyed silks and a white cotton lace in the Telio showroom to compliment the Thai Silk already incorporated These separate influences all lead to the final garments that in Walsh's own words are of "...elegance and ease. Inspired by Moroccan markets and gypsy culture; rich colours, prints and textures are contrasted against stark ivory. The result is a collection perfect for any urban landscape."

For more information or the new e-Commerce store, please visit her website at

More Summer Salads

Now that we have a bit of sunshine and hot weather - it's time to explore some new summer salad recipes.  I actually ran across most of the offerings below last fall, but wanted to hold off until the spring/summer season when produce is at its freshest.  Aida's Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad came to my attention while watching the Food Network.  I liked the fact it was marinated with no lettuce, spinach or cabbage, so would hold up well for a make the night before dish, a picnic, or to enjoy as leftovers the next day. Most of the other recipes were from an article in The Vancouver Sun. There are a few, however, I have forgotten the source.  Now that summer is finally arriving in Vancouver, the time seemed right to offer this assortment.

The first salad is one I tried and enjoyed immensely, BUT it is unusual. Best to serve it when you have guests with a wider palate who like new experiences. It also needs VERY fresh corn on the cob to start with, so use it as a seasonal offering when local corn hits the market.  The other recipes are totally untested so be sure and let me know what you think if you try them.  These recipes are being worked into my menus over the next 3-4 weeks so I will update with comments (or remove if a disaster) as I go along.

(Note - I apologize for the odd spacing in the ingredients section.  There is no tab feature to line them up in blogger and when I copy and paste from a word doc today, it just isn't working properly.)

Aida's Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad
Recipe courtesy Aida Mollenkamp for Food Network Magazine
Serves: 8 servings


For the dressing

1-1/2 cups       packed fresh cilantro

1/2 cup            good-quality extra-virgin olive oil

2 TB                fresh lime juice

1 tsp                finely grated lime zest

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

4                     ears corn, kernels removed (about 3 cups)

1-1/2 lbs.        grape tomatoes, halved (about 3 cups)

1 lb.                fresh mozzarella, diced (I prefer to use mini-boccocini cut in half)

2                     medium avocados, diced


Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender, using 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste; process until smooth. Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Chilled Vegetable Salad
Adapted from
Makes 8 servings

1 cup (250 mL)       sugar
3/4 cup (180 mL)    cider vinegar
1/2 cup (125 mL)    vegetable oil
1                             medium green bell pepper, washed, chopped
1                             medium onion, peeled, chopped
3                             celery ribs, sliced
7-oz (207 mL)         jar diced pimento, undrained
1 cup                       frozen peas, thawed
2 cups (500 mL)      haricot vert, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
1 cup (250 mL)       fresh yellow corn (can substitute frozen, thawed)
1/2 tsp                    salt
1/4 tsp                    pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar and oil. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove dressing from heat and cool 30 minutes. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Gently stir in dressing. Cover and chill salad for 8 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon. This salad may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.

Mediterranean Crunch
From Whole Foods Market
Makes 4 servings

1 15-oz can (443 mL)   no-salt-added garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1                                  cucumber, chopped
1 cup                            small broccoli florets
1 cup                            grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup                            finely sliced kale, tough stems removed
1/2 cup (125 mL)          finely chopped red onion
2 TB(30 mL)                 finely chopped Kalamata olives
3 TB (45 mL)               red wine vinegar
1                                  small garlic clove, minced
1 TB (15 mL)               chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp(5 mL)                  chopped fresh thyme

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.


Garden Panzanella
If you are not using day-old bread, dry the bread slices in a 300-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. This salad is best served immediately.
6                              med. tomatoes, washed, cut into chunks
1/2 tsp (2 mL)          salt
1 lb. (454 g)             loaf of thick-crust bread or 1- or 2-day-old French 
                                baguette, cut into 1 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes
1                              med. cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm)pieces
2                              roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2                           med. red onion, thinly sliced
2                              green onions, washed, thinly sliced
1/3 cup (80 mL)       fresh chopped herbs such as basil, tarragon or oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup (125 mL)    olive oil
1 to 2 TB (15-30 mL) white wine vinegar or white vinegar
2 tsp (10 mL)          Dijon mustard or more to taste
1 tsp (5 mL)            sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1                             garlic clove, pressed

In a large bowl, place the tomato chunks and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) of salt. Set aside for 15 minutes. Place the bread in a large serving bowl. Add the cucumber, red pepper and red and green onions. Add the tomatoes with any juices. Sprinkle salad with herbs and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients until the mixture emulsifies. Drizzle the vinaigrette lightly over the salad and toss gently to coat. Use only enough vinaigrette to coat all the ingredients. Leftover vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Season the salad with salt and black pepper to taste and serve.
Makes 12 servings

Potato Salad w/Artichokes and Herbs
Makes 6 servings

2 lbs (908 g)            red potatoes, cubed
1 TB (15 mL)          white balsamic vinegar
5.3 oz. (150 g)         fat-free plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup (60 mL)         low-fat sour cream
3                              scallions, thinly sliced
1 TB (15 mL)          Dijon mustard
2 tsp (10 mL)          minced fresh dill
2 tsp (10 mL)          minced fresh thyme
¼ tsp (1 mL)           garlic powder
Ground black pepper
4-oz (110 g)            chopped pimentos
14 oz (400 g)           artichoke bottoms, drained
2                              ribs celery, diced

Place the potatoes in a large pot, then add enough cool water to cover by 1 inch (2.54 cm). Add 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of salt, then bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the vinegar and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sour cream, scallions, mustard, dill, thyme and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the pimentos, artichoke bottoms and celery.
Once the potatoes have cooled, gently stir in until thoroughly coated.
Chill until ready to serve.

Servings: 10

16 oz            Israeli couscous
1/2               small red onion, finely diced
3                  cloves of garlic, minced
3                   ribs celery, finely diced
20 oz            cocktail tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup          fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup          grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup            small fresh mozzarella balls
1/4 cup          extra-virgin olive oil
2 TB              balsamic vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper

Cook the couscous according to package directions. Allow to cool. In a large bowl, combine the cooled couscous with the red onion, garlic, celery, tomatoes, basil, Parmesan, mozzarella, olive oil and vinegar. Stir to combine, then season with salt and black pepper. The salad can be served immediately, but the flavours improve if it is allowed to sit for 30 minutes.


Makes 4 servings

4                       raw beets, peeled and grated 
1 TB (15 mL)   olive oil
1 TB (15 mL)   white balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly  ground pepper
Chopped dill, to taste
¼ cup (60 mL) seasoned sour cream (see recipe below)

Combine the beets, dill, olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the seasoned sour cream.

Seasoned Sour Cream
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream
Zest and juice of 3 lemons
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Makes 2 1/4 cups (300-310 mL)

Other Posts with Salad Recipes - 
Macaroni Salad

Monday, June 25, 2012

Norwegiean Fjord and Glacier Tour - The Final Days

This is the 7th and final post in a series on the Norwegian Fjord and Glacier self-guided tour we took offered by Authentic Scandinavia.  If you missed the other 6, just click on the travel tab.  As we booked extra days in Oslo - 3 at the start and 1 here at the end - this was actually Day 11 and 12 for us.  The final day of the tour (their day 8) just had breakfast at the hotel and then departure.  We wanted a day at the end to relax, unwind and perhaps visit a couple galleries that were closed when we were here earlier.  With the loss of my passport, that changed. Thank goodness we had this extra day to sort things out.

The phone/desk was to the right of the check-in counter
and over the course of the hour I had hotel staff and
guests helping me by translating recordings and talking
to those I phoned when needed.  I was extremely well
taken care of.
Day 11 - 7 a.m. I was up and ready to work on how I was going to get on the plane the next day, only to find the phone in my room would not dial out. Glen headed down to the front desk to call the credit card companies for me while I made a list of numbers. Then down I went to sit at the courtesy desk in the Thon Opera lobby with phone and computer. What was most frustrating was it took over an hour just to get the name and number of the gift store at the Voss Train Station.  After confirming no one had turned in my passport, and calling the U.S. and Canadian embassies in Oslo (I am a landed immigrant in Canada), it was apparent I needed a temporary replacement. With no photo ID at all, I was obviously apprehensive. Fortunately the U.S. Embassy could not have been more reassuring and helpful and I was scheduled for an emergency appointment at 11 a.m. I cannot say enough about the respect I hold for the people I met with. They were both kind and extremely efficient at dealing with my dilemma.  I was out the door 20 minutes later with instructions to return at 2:30. A great weight lifted off my shoulders.

Left - 1906 Coronation Gown. Right -another royal garment.
Glen and I decided to use this free time to visit the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design and see their collection of Queen Maude's garments - something Ivan Sayers of the Original Costume Museum Society had strongly recommended.  There were 2 areas to visit. In a room placed off a landing between the 1st and 2nd floor was the royal carriage and 4 sets of garments (king's and queen's).  If I remember right, 2 sets were worn by King Haakon VII and Queen Maude and 2 by the current royalty - King Harold V and Queen Sonja.  The gold dress Queen Maude wore to her husband's coronation in 1906 displayed here was my favourite garment in the entire collection. Particularly intriguing was the lightly padded hem edge and a barely visible pleated under-ruffle that the train floated on.  On the top floor of the museum was a larger historic display.  In the royal section were garments from several royal family members, but Queen Maude's were the most lovely.  The newer garments just weren't as interesting in fabric, construction or design. Even when the dress was simple, the cut and detailing on the earlier garments were inspiring.  I think we have lost something in recent times.

Per Spook exhibition
Two adjoining rooms also housed displays of garments, both worth seeing.  In the room preceding the royal display is a large selection created by retired Norwegian designer Per Spook.  I loved his design work and was sorry to learn he was no longer in the business.  In the room following there was a great selection of mens and womens period clothing going back to the early 1600's, with a description in both Norwegian and English next to each. We also walked through the furniture exhibition and I was again struck by the amount of ornate decoration on each piece.  Up to this point I had seen mostly painting and carving, but here I also saw very intricate wood in-lay.  

There museum had a lot more to offer, but we really needed to relax and unwind from the stress of the morning. After lunch and a bit of time spent in the park at the Royal Palace, it was time to pick up my temporary passport.  The evening held one last outing over to the Opera House to walk around the roof for our parting look at the Oslo skyline.  One thing I forgot to mention in my earlier posts was the tremendous amount of construction going on along the waterfront.  Below is a view we saw in just one direction. Construction cranes could be seen everywhere you looked.

 Day 12 – Time for the long journey home by plane.  It's hard to stay in one seat for so long, especially with the excitement of the trip over.  Thank goodness for e-books, tablet computers (movies and games) and on long flights like this – KLM's great food service.  We were happy but exhausted when we finally stepped off the plane in Vancouver.  It was an amazing trip and there was so much more we could have seen.  We're both hoping to return sometime in the near future.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Norwegiean Fjord and Glacier Tour - Hardanger Fjord, Eidfjord and Ulvik

6th in a series on the Norwegian Fjord and Glacier self-guided tour from Authentic Scandinavia.  As we booked extra days in Oslo, this was actually Day 9 and10 for us.  Sometime during these 2 days was the moment I realized we were on the downward slide to heading home - a sad moment. Looking back over the time spent in Norway so far we had learnt and seen so much.  It was a charmed trip right down to the weather which was always sunny exactly when we needed it, with only the occasional drizzle of rain to mix it up.

Day 06: Cruise on the Hardangerfjord to Ulvik

Day 9 for us.
  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • Travel by bus from Bergen to Norheimsund.
  • 3-hour cruise on the Hardangerfjord.
  • 3 hours at leisure in Eidfjord.
  • Recommended activities:
    • Relaxing by the fjord
    • Exploring the village
    • Excursion to Hardangervidda Nature Centre & Vøringsfoss
  • 30-minute cruise to Ulvik (arrival at 3 pm).
  • Accommodation in Ulvik.

Day 07: Travel from Ulvik via Voss to Oslo (bus/train)

Day 10 for us.
  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • Day at leisure in Ulvik until 3 pm.
  • Recommended activities:
    • Relax by the fjord.
    • Swim in the fjord.
    • Rent a boat or bike.
    • Go for a mountain hike.
  • Travel by bus from Ulvik to Voss.
  • Bergen Railway from Voss to Oslo (arr. 10.30 pm).
  • Accommodation in Oslo.  (Note - I would add one more day here as you can arrive at midnight and have to be at the airport the very next morning.)

A hillside of orchards along the Hardangerfjord
Day 9 we had to get up and out the door early.  No way we could do justice to the buffet breakfast as 6:15 a.m., but we did our best.  Then it was a quick hop by cab to the Bergen bus station.  As much as we love to walk, it was too far towing suitcases and too early in the morning.  I don't enjoy planes and buses.  Fortunately this was only a short ride to my favourite transport - the express ferry - which we boarded in Norheimsund.  Today we were cruising a new waterway - the Hardangerfjord.  While the express boats on the Sognefjord were focused on transportation, this one gave us a more tourist oriented journey. We each received a brochure with map showing the route.  All stops were numbered on the map with a paragraph on the history of each for those who wanted to know more.

View from the dock at Loftus
The Hardangerfjord is known for the numerous orchards seen along its banks.  They are cultivated in straight lines down the vertical hillsides to the waterfront.  It wasn't until we were off the boat walking among some of them that we realized how steep those slopes could be - some up to 35 degrees.  Imagine riding a tractor up and down that incline and turning at the top and bottom.  Probably the most beautiful display of orchards we saw was around the town of Lofthus.  It was here that monks established the first orchards in the 1200's. Today the fields teem with cherries, apples, pears and plums.

We had one 3 hour stop at the small town of Eidfjord.  For those keen to see more there was a bus tour available that took you to the Hardangervidda Nature Centre and Voringfoss waterfall. Glen and I had no desire to sit on another bus and had already viewed several waterfalls, so opted to spend that time relaxing and walking in the town.  We headed up the hill and found a local just opening his cafe - the Vik Pensjonat Hytter.  The question, "What do you have for lunch?" received one strong recommendation - a hot beef sandwich.  Ensconced on the outside patio, we sipped a couple of pints of Hansa beer while enjoying the view and sunshine.  The open-faced sandwich that arrived at our table was a delightful surprise and turned out to be one of my favourite meals in Norway.  It started with a slice of toast.  On top was layered carmelized onions, a seasoned beef patty, a slice of tomato, a leaf of lettuce, and then crowning all, a sunnyside up egg.  This knife and fork meal was warm and satisfying - in other words PERFECT!  I only wish I'd taken a picture.

AMBULANSESTASJON - Ambulance Station
Relaxed and content, it was time for our favourite past time - exploring.  With little guidance we began to walk around Eidsfjord. I took one picture - above - of an ambulance station.  Why?  Just another example of how the Norwegian word was sometimes eerily similar to the English word.  We stumbled upon the Eidfjord Old Stone Church - a James church dated to 1309 - surrounded by a graveyard full of old headstones.  The earliest we could read were from the 1800's. A few had become unreadable; others had been cleaned up or had new plawues put on them.  We then found a dirt path to follow that meandered behind the homes. Small waterfalls were cascading down the hillside and there was the sound of the stream they fed into in the distance, but we never found it.  Then it was back to the boat and our short hop across the fjord to Ulvik.

From the Old Stone Church Graveyard.

Ulvik was the town I found most beautiful on our trip.  It was a mix of mountains, interesting buildings, orchards dotted on the hill sides (there are over 100 trees per person) and a beautiful rolling valley scattered with farms.  After checking into the Rica Brakanes, we headed out to walk one of the upper roads for a bird's eye look at the area.  The sun was shining and the view could only be described as bucolic. Ulvik is known not only for the orchards and farmyards, but for 3 local cider producers - the Hardanger Juice and Cider Factory, Syse Farm and Ulvik Fruit and Cideri.  Unfortunately tours and tastings were by appointment only and we only had a half day today and a half day the next.  I realized I missed mentioning one thing about Norway that was special.  I LOVE Lilacs and they could be found in bloom city/town we visited, filling the air with their lovely scent. I grew up with them and the smell took me back to my childhood.  Most were white or pale to mid-violet, but I found one bush in Ulvik that was vibrant deep tone.  The photo below actually turned out lighter in hue than it was. Along with this are some random photos taken while walking around this area.

Strange Fire Hydrant
My Favourite Lilac

Love this photo.  Notice the house near the centre has been updated
but still has the sod roof.  The barn has been left old and gray.

A few interesting old buildings
Unusual roofing - right is old, the left is a type of tile we saw a lot.
Another "Campground".  Just field with a few miniscule
cabins.  Would have loved to look inside one.
Day 10 we only had until 3 p.m. this day and then had to catch a bus to the Voss Train Station.  It was time to head back to Oslo.  We woke up to clouds and light rain, so I decided to enjoy this last morning peacefully reading, walking and purchasing a few gifts.  Glen headed to the tourism office after breakfast and rented a bike.  Ulvik is such a wonderful place to ride that he spent a good 2 hours exploring.  Then it was time to check out, have some lunch and fill the hour or so of dead space before the bus arrived.

Such a cloudy day that I took this photo off of Wikipedia
Our journey took an unexpected turn at this station.  On the platform was a small gift shop that sold coffee.  I went in, money in hand, to purchase 2 cups but noticed the last calendars I needed as gifts.  Out came the passport wallet that held all important ID's and cards. I exchanged the 100 Kroner note for a credit card and set down the wallet.  Then I was distracted adding sugar and creams to the coffees, stuffing the calendars under my arm and trying to get everything out to the platform.  Somewhere in the confusion I left the wallet on the counter.  The trip back scenery wise was a repeat of the trip before although cloudier, but I did remember to snap a shot of those isolated cabins up in the show zone.  I didn't realize it until just before we arrived in Oslo that I had left everything behind.  

The cloudy day and shooting through the train windows
are the reason it isn't clearer, but you get the idea.
We had one more day in Oslo before I had to get on a plane and no passport or picture ID to show. As we checked back into the Thon Opera Hotel, we were both dreading the next day.  Despite the wonderfully comfortable bed and the scalding hot soak in the room's enormous tub to try and help me relax, neither of us slept well that night as we worried about the unknowns we would face.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Norwegiean Fjord and Glacier Tour - Travel Day and Bergen

That's me there tucked by the
 flag enjoying the scenery?
5th in a series on the Norwegian Fjord and Glacier self-guided tour from Authentic Scandinavia.  As we booked extra days in Oslo, this was actually Day 7 and 8 for us.

Day 04: Cruise along the Sognefjord and coast to Bergen
Day 7 for us.
  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • 4-hour cruise along the Sognefjord and coast.
  • Accommodation in Bergen.

Day 05: Bergen - day at leisure

Day 8 for us.
  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • Day at leisure in Bergen.
  • Recommended attractions:
    • Bryggen Wharf
    • Fløibanen funicular
    • Edvard Grieg’s home Troldhaugen
    • The Fish and Flower market
    • Old Bergen Open Air Museum
  • Accommodation in Bergen.
View of the changing landscape
Day 7 was another express ferry travel day, our farewell journey on the Sognefjord. If I remember right it was 4 hour ride and I ended up only spending part of the time up top and the rest napping in the comfortable seats below.  

First the scenery was very like what we had seen the day before, but as we grew closer to Bergen it began to change. There was a sparser area without as many trees. Then as we and began winding through smaller fjords, we could see up small inlets to the right and left where there were small groups of houses accessible only by boat as far as we could tell. The setting was beautiful, but I don't think I could live someplace I couldn't take off for a long walk. Unfortunately I was down below when we passed this area and couldn't get a proper picture through the window. The one below is as close as I could find in a web search, but really doesn't give a feel for how tucked up the inlets and intimate many of these small communities are.

The most stressful moment of the day was when we hit the dock at Bergen. It was Saturday and we were walked off the ferry into a teeming sea of people. It was the annual Market Day at the historic Bergen Fish Market with numerous kinds of vendors selling everything from food to locally made items. After being in such a small village, the congestion was overwhelming. Somehow we managed to get through the crowd with our luggage in tow to our hotel - the First Hotel Marin - located only 2 blocks off the waterfront and conveniently near many tourist sites. It was too early to check in, so we stored our luggage at the and found a quiet spot a block away called the Aroma to relax over a couple chicken Caesar Salads accompanied by a pint of local brew.  Glen had hoped to rent a bike here, but looking at how busy and crazy the streets were with no bike lanes, it quickly became apparent that it would not be either pleasant or safe.  In fact we saw very few riding here and online guides discourage it.

2 views of the Bergen waterfront and houses climbing the hills
After eating, I left Glen someplace quiet and did a quick swim through the intense crowd at the market to get a feel for the event and see what it was about. Energy was high.  Boats were rafted together 4 deep along the pier.  Some had been turned into open air bars or party venues with accordions playing and beer flowing.  When the market closed around 6, locals and tourists headed to drinking establishments where the party continued. This was the time we headed out for our first walk around Bergen.  The city went wild again around 1:30 in the morning as this same sea of humanity - now very drunk - spewed out at closing time and filled the streets.  It might have been worth getting out of bed just to be on the street and enjoy the moment.
Party or bar on one of the boats at the dock
An idea of the crush of people you had to navigate
Day 8 – As we had already visited quite a few museums in Oslo, we looked for other opportunities in Bergen. First we walked around the old part of the city going up and down small one lane roads lined with interesting buildings and steep little alleyways with lots of steps that turned out to have apartments all along them. Then we rode the Floibanen Funicular (a cable car) to a stunning viewpoint high above the city. It was a great discovery to also find a network of hiking trails here filled with locals out enjoying the weather.  

We spent several hours stretching our legs climbing the hills and lucked into opportunities to speak with Norwegians about their lives - including one who lived in one of the small boat access communities. Europeans, especially Norwegians, are in amazing shape and we were smoked by 70-year olds covered in sweat running up the hills as well as a woman with MS on crutches. They LOVE their time outdoors. Unfortunately I tried a panorama and it didn't turn out so pulled the viewpoint photo below from the web. 

After we returned, we rested for a bit and then headed out for supper and to explore another part of the city. Below are just some random photos.  My favourite discoveries were when I found something up a narrow alley.  Enjoy!

Some of the large ships in the harbour
Love the small house tucked in this alley.

Imagine moving in furniture
or carrying home groceries!

Wish I could find a link
on this sit ski - a wild ride!
Graffiti - a scourge everywhere

This is how all streets signs are displayed - on the
side of a building making them very hard to read if
driving a car.

Narrow shopping lane near the waterfront
Got a kick out of this McDonalds.
At least there were no golden arches.
Some antique cameras in a store window display