Results tagged “Food” from Europe 2016

Gosh it all seems like so long ago, but it was only a couple of days.

The hotel in Brussels was decent enough. Cool enough room temperature (although still not cool enough to use the doona, so it went), hard bed and really good block out curtains meant a fairly good sleep. Breakfast was relatively small for such a big hotel.

Security outside the terminal was a bit silly. The directed some people through the bag checks but not others. ??? Weird. So got inside and confirmed that Brussels airport is very un user friendly. Because we were a bit early, there was no sign saying where Etihad checkins were, so we went to their little booth up the back to find out. They were on the end, but turns out it was the first day they'd used that section since the attacks a while back, so they were having *issues* - with the printing of boarding passes. So checkin took three quarters of an hour :( Then another half an hour to get through security and passport control.

We had an A330 for the first flight, but had been separated by the travel agent. So we asked at checkin if mum could get a window seat, which she could, which was good. Turns out we both had empty seats next to us. Go figure.

I watched Ratatouille first up which I hadn't seen in ages. Then I watched Rocky, which I'd never actually seen before. There were a few things that annoyed me about it, like how Adrian was clearly uncomfortable being in his house but he pushed on anyway. If it'd had been me I would have been out of there. Same with the fight with his manager. "Oh I hate you, no I really I don't can you be my manager". Whatevs. Didn't have time for a third movie, so watched the first half of Frozen.

At Abu Dhabi we parked way away from the terminal so needed a bus to the terminal. Which went around and around and took ages. By the time we got through security it was basically time to board our next flight. Luckily the gate was near the security end, didn't have to walk alllll the way down the terminal. But. We did need to go to the toilet, so had to walk alllll the way down the terminal. Ok not quite, but it was a long way and we were getting a bit stressed. Not that we should have been stressed, we sat on the plane for like an hour before we started moving.

So our second plane was an A380. And of course our seats were booked by a travel agent. So they were pretty bad - over the wing :( At least it wasn't too bad a flight to be stuck over the wing. Take off to the west at Abu Dhabi, but at night. Then over the Indian Ocean for the night. For the day we were flying over Australia, but there's really not a huge amount to see. Night time by the time we got to Sydney. That's the only time a better seat would have mattered, as we came in from the north and had Sydney on our left so that was nice. Could see it a bit over the top of the engines. The GPS had issues keeping on track. But the A380s are definitely a lot quieter than A330s. Or maybe that's just because we were in front of the engines instead of behind them.

The screens are also huge and bright on the A380s. Which makes them great for watching movies. The problem is you can see everyone else's as well. Which isn't really a problem unless you're trying to sleep and the lights flash in your face (Stu knows how much *that* annoys me). I had restless legs for the whole first half of the flight. Blerf. Watched The Martian first up. I'd been putting off watching this since I'd been hoping to see it on a bigger screen (Stu and EffanC watched it without me on their big screen and I'd been grumpy about it ever since). On the A380 screen it was perfectly adequate. Pretty decent movie too. Next I watched Eddie the Eagle which was just a lovely movie. Then I watched That Sugar Film - a documentary by an Australian guy looking into what effects processed sugar has on people's bodies. Quite interesting. Started to watch Rio 2, but was getting quite tired (it was about 3am Europe time). Finally my legs relaxed and I dozed for an hour or so. But then mum started fussing around and my gps lost its way and mum put on a movie which started flashing in my eyes (even with the eye patches on) so gave up on any more sleep. Finished watching Rio 2. Pretty silly movie.

If I don't get sick from that flight it'll be a miracle. The plane was full of sick people, including one behind and one beside us. Blerf.

Disembarked, picked up all my whiskey, breezed through immigration, and quickly through customs as well. Then trained it back to mum's, got to her place a bit after 8pm Sydney time, midday Europe time. I decided I wanted to go home and see the sweetie. The 7-Eleven at Sutherland was closed, as was a chunk of the M1 so had to use the Old Princes Highway. Got petrol at Sutton Forest, and got some food at The Scottish Restaurant there too, which helped keep me awake. Got home around midnight.

So all in all a pretty good trip. Saw lots of great scenery and had good weather for most of it. The biggest stresses were all the people. Not that I didn't get along with anyone, there were just so many (on the last tour at least) which just makes everything a bit stressful. Looking forward to a bit less stress at home, not really looking forward to going back to the dramas going on at work :)

Sleep and breakfast, rinse and repeat.

After breakfast, around 9am, we headed out. We wandered down to the fortress, expecting to have to pay to go in and possibly you do to go in the buildings, but you can walk all around the grounds for free which was pretty cool. We wandered around for three quarters of an hour and there's some great views of the city.

Then we headed up to the Historical Museum, because our tickets for the viking ship museum covered it. Didn't really spend all that much time there.

Then back to the hotel to sort out our bags and get ourselves ready. We'd done 10000 steps before lunch time!

The hotel was in a super convenient location - right on top of the station. So getting to the trains was super easy. We went and got some tickets for the regular train, not the airport express, because it's like half the price to do it that way. The train got up to 200 km/h for most of the trip and took about the same amount of time as the airport express anyway. And it had free wifi :)

Got to the airport and checked in. Check in and bag drop was all electronic and super easy, didn't have to interact with any humans at all. Oslo airport is generally quite user friendly. There's plenty of shops in the terminal too to look at while waiting. I finished up yesterday's photo sorting then grabbed a slice of pizza for lunch. Then mum and I went through all of her photos that I'd scanned recently and labelled what we could.

Our plane was about half an hour late leaving, I forget the reason why.  Technical difficulties I think. Took off to the south and saw Oslo as we flew over it. Then over the Netherlands - pretty sure I saw Schipol and Rotterdam but really need to see the gps track to be sure. Rain as we arrived in Brussels.

Brussels airport is *not* very user friendly. We wanted to see about our flights tomorrow, but we first had to try and figure out which terminal it would likely go from. After wandering around trying to find anything useful, but failing, we thought we'd just go check in to the hotel and dump our bags then come back and try again. Even trying to get out of the airport to get to the hotel (which is conveniently just across the road from the terminal we came out of) was a drama. I couldn't even see emergency exit signs anywhere. We ended up asking someone how to get out of the damned terminal! Fail fail fail.

So checked into the hotel (it was about 19:40 by this point and we were tired and hungry). Had a look at the restaurant downstairs, but it looked expensive and uninspiring, so we went back to the airport. Because of the bombings a while back, security is pretty intense. There's no car pickups/dropoffs outside the terminal anymore - people have to use the parking garages for that. Not even any taxis.  They must go somewhere, but don't know where. So the road between the terminal and the hotel is pedestrian only, with a security tent setup for access to the terminal, and a *lot* of heavily armed soldiers and police. Apparently from tomorrow the split terminal checkins are merging back into the one. Or something. Also apparently only passengers are allowed into the terminals at the moment - no visitors or people saying goodbye. Not that they actually checked that when we went back in so whatevs.

Anyway, found something to eat (just some pasta), then back to the hotel.

Slept mostly ok - the cooler temperature certainly helps.

Breakfast options were pretty limited, but the bacon was nice.

After breakfast we headed out for a tour of Oslo. We stopped opposite the Opera house for a photo stop. Drove around town for a bit. Went to the Vigeland sculpture garden which I quite enjoyed - the sculptures were quite interesting.

Then to the viking ship museum to see a couple of very well preserved viking ships which was pretty cool.

Then to the Fram museum to have a look at and on the Fram, a ship that explored both the north and south poles around the turn of the century.

Then got dropped back at the hotel.

We dumped some of our stuff then headed out for a good long wander around Oslo - alll the way from our hotel at the east central station up to the palace, then down to the water front, had an ice cream (Oslo was *hot* yesterday - 27C!!) then back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Had the "farewell" dinner which was nice enough, although I struggled to get through my food. Chatted to some people for a while longer and suddenly it was 10:30pm ?? So pretty much just collapsed into bed without doing any photo or gps stuff.

HOT!! HOT HOT HOT!!!! Horrible hotel room. And bright too. We turned the light off and it's like "did we turn the light off?" Of course at 4am it's like "is it morning?". Le sigh.

At breakfast I really didn't feel like eating - just didn't want to be hungry. And need to eat enough to only need a light lunch as everything is stoopidly expensive here.

After breakfast walked down to see the 3800-person carrying Costa ship in the fjord. We were pretty lucky that there weren't any cruise ships in port yesterday to clog up the trolls road. Today tour bus after tour bus was heading into town to take people places.

Had a morning pitstop in Lom.

Made an unscheduled stop at a small cemetery where another Insight guide was buried - she'd actually died on tour which was all very sad.

Stopped in Lillehammer for lunch. Had issues finding public toilets. In the end snuck into a Scandia hotel and went there (we figured we've given Scandia plenty of money over the past couple of weeks). Then had a cheese roll for lunch.  Went up to see the ski jump, which was in use!  Even with no snow - they just slide down slippery plastic.

Then carried on to Oslo. The traffic here (that we've seen of it) is pretty awful.

Got to our hotel and checked in. The hotel is literally on top of the station concourse. The room is a comfortable temperature, but the decor is a little disturbing - a dude beating up a lion (well a human body with a lion head - weird weird weird).

Then headed out again. Firstly we went to the station to check out the process for getting to the airport on Wednesday. Then we went down to the Opera house (pretty, but not as pretty as ours), checked out Noah's Ark (a theatre on a barge) and then went to look for some dinner. Ended up at the cathedral cafe with some others. Had a reindeer pizza, although there wasn't much meat on it.

Then back for the nightly ritual.

OMFG this hotel room is fricken HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT. Just miserable. Thermostat is as low as it will go. The heater is not on. Not even the fridge is on (I needed the power point for the laptop). I can't see any vents. So have no idea where the heat is coming from but it's unbearable. Woke up this morning HOT.

So I got up and ran a load of washing.

As you do.

Cost me 40 NOK and I didn't bother drying it, just let it all dry in the room (which it did no problems in this heat).

Breakfast had a lot of variety, and luckily the restaurant wasn't as crowded this morning as it was last night.

Our trip for today was the Trollstigen - the trolls road - a very spectacular road a bit north of Geiranger. But the whole day of driving was spectacular.

First up was going up the eagle's lookout just out of Geiranger which was amazing.

Then a ferry across a fjord which was very pretty.

Then a pitstop for petrol (they couldn't get any in Lom yesterday because of the car show).

Another pitstop at Gudbrandsjuvet for morning tea by a powerful little waterfall.

Near the top of the Trollstigen, right at the top of the pass, we stopped to build trolls (just piles of rocks). So I built a snowman.

As you do.

At the top of the Trollstigen we just kept on going - past the visitors centre and parking. It felt a lot like the Man from Snowy River - where everyone stops at the top but Jim Craig leaps over the edge. It was exactly like that. The road is a lot like the one we came into Geiranger on yesterday, and the eagle's view road this morning - very steep with many hairpin bends zigzagging down the mountain. And the views are *spectacular*. And we had awesome weather. Just an amazing day.

At the bottom they cracked out the Henkell and we toasted the drive. Then we headed back up, this time stopping in at the visitor's centre for lunch (I had an ice cream) and a walk out to the viewing platform.

Just awesome.

Then headed back the way we came. Most people snoozed but I had to look at all the amazing scenery.

Back in Geiranger we went for a little walk to the end of the fjord, then got dropped back to the hotel.

Dinner was much the same as last night, although we got in a little earlier so it wasn't *quite* as chaotic.

Then back to the hot house to do the nightly ritiual. I really need to wash my hair but I'm just too tired. Maybe tomorrow since we don't have a planned dinner so should be able to get back to the room earlier.

It's even later now because a bunch of the photos I'd downloaded yesterday had gotten corrupted somehow so Faststone was crashing trying to rotate them.  In then end I figured out which ones were having problems and redownloaded them from the SD card and they're fine now.  But that took forever to work through and now it's even later :(

Slept mostly ok I think. Woke up a bit before 6am. Average breakfast. Clear blue skies when we left at 8am. But it started to cloud over.

Had a morning pitstop at Kongsvold, a little guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. Then into the Dovrefjell National Park, but we didn't see any of the Greenland native oxen.

We did see another moose, a huge bird which I don't know if it was a large crane or a small ostrich, and another moose.

Stopped in Lom for a lunch stop. There was a vintage car parade going through town so the whole town was packed out and all these classic cars were coming and going so that was a lot of fun. Also had a look at one of the oldest stave churches in Norway.

The afternoon scenery was spectacular, especially the drive down into Geiranger. Absolutely wonderful.

In Geiranger we hopped on a cruise boat to see the fjord. Another fantastic experience.

All in all a great day.

Sadly our hotel room doesn't give us a view of the fjord, but I don't think anyone on the tour gets a fjord view, we all seem to be on the mountain side - probably you need to pay a lot more for a fjord view.

Dinner was in the hotel buffet. Pretty huge buffet. The drinks waiter was a bit hopeless though. Had to wait ages to get out of there and even then didn't sign for the drink I had. Oh well...

This room is *super* hot :( Can't open the windows more than a crack and the thermostats appear to not work at all. Sad times.

Woke up to a nice view this morning. Well really I woke up to all the light coming in the sides of the blinds. At 4am. Think I got a little more sleep after that. *Then* we opened the blinds and saw the view. I was too tired to really appreciate it though.

The hotel we had last night had completely retarded door locks, that sometimes you had to lock manually by swiping your card on the reader. Or worse, they simply didn't close properly at all, so you could just pull the door open. Dumb dumb dumb.

Pretty average breakfast (in the meh kind of way), and out the door at 8am.

Had a photo stop at Laksforsen to see a set of raging rapids, that also has a salmon ladder (which we couldn't actually see).

Then followed the river valley allll the way upstream, then allll the way downstream. The scenery was pretty enough, but mostly just forest, the river and some low mountains. Nothing super spectacular, although a few pretty parts in places.

Stopped for lunch in Steinkjer (Stinker!! ok not really). Shared some maccas fries with mum because we really didn't need much for lunch.

As we got further south there was a lot more gentle rolling hills and greenery and farmland.

Just before Trondheim we went to Hell! No really!

Then onto Trondheim. Checked in, then went out for a wander up and down the canal and looked for somewhere to have dinner. Bob and Joanne ran into us, so we had dinner with them and it was all very lovely. Finally got to check in a beer in Norway! Beer Traveller Level 5! W00t! The Norwegians, like the Germans, appear to revel in the sunny weather, and they were out in droves tonight.

Hoping the fantastic weather hangs around for another couple of days.

Last night mum stayed up late (11pm) reading and I had super restless itchy legs, so didn't get to sleep for ages :(:(:( Consequently woke up tired and grumpy. Then I was looking at the maps again and got depressed all over again at the really bad seat rotation scheme that doesn't alternate sides of the coach. Pissed off with the world and didn't want to be sociable at breakfast. In fact I was so upset I sat down looking at my food wondering if I'd even be able to stomach it.

*sigh*

Left a bit after 8am.

Once again, people with the awesome window seats on the right side of the coach slept most of the morning. Seriously why would you even bother coming on a trip like this if you're just going to sleep the whole way through it??? The only advantage of them sleeping was that they didn't take up half the window trying to take their own photos. There was one point where there was an awesome view to the left, and some other points later in the day I was able to lean across people to get some nice photos on the right.

We also took a ferry ride across one of the fjords because there's no road.

Lunch was at the lovely fjord-side town of Fauske. We had leftover chicken from last night's meal, and an icecream. The sun had also well and truly come out, so was feeling a lot better.

After lunch we left the fjords for a bit and headed into the hills, and I think most of the coach snoozed, including me.

On the way back south over the Arctic circle we stopped at the visitor's centre there for a break and we saw the little movie they had which was quite informative.  Of course the Arctic circle isn't there anymore, it's wandered north (at 14 metres per year) so is now a ways north of the current visitor's centre.  But it was still cool anyway.

Continued down and past more fjords and mountains, although not as spectacular. Watched a short film with Joanna Lumley about her trip to the Arctic to see the northern lights.

Followed a truck over a long detour which slowed us down quite a bit - didn't get to the hotel til nearly 7pm. The room is nice enough and has a lovely view of the mountain next door, but it's *hot* :( Thermostat is as low as it will go but the head from the minibar fridge is winning out. Not going to be using the doona again tonight :(

I was in a tshirt all day today. I did put my coat on for the ferry ride. But even in the snow at the arctic circle I was just in my tshirt. Silly really.

Dinner was in the hotel - buffet style. Pretty average meal really, but dessert was nice enough. A bunch of them were going to go for a walk after dinner, and I'd have loved to have gone, especially as we've done literally no exercise all day, but that would add another hour to going to bed time and I'm exhausted.

Slept reasonably well again last night. Taking the doona out of its cover certainly does seem to work. I just have this weird mental block against doing it, because that's not How Things Should Be Done.

Decent breakfast again. 7:30 out the door.

Long driving day today. Past lots of fjords.

But.

The seat rotation has put us on the wrong side of the coach to see them. As we're driving south, all the fjords are on the right, and we're on the left of the coach pretty much until the end of the trip. So this sux epically.

But what's worse is that the lucky people on the right side of the coach are WASTING IT!!!! We're in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and many of the people with the right side window seats were sleeping or reading or playing on their tablets. Why even bother doing this tour people?? If these people don't care about looking at the scenery they should swap with people that do (read: me). As it was I was hanging over people trying to see out the windows for the morning and get photos where possible. It was the most frustrating and then depressing morning so far. I. Hate. People. A lot.

Had a photo stop in Gildetun up on the side of a moutnain, a morning pitstop in Storslett and a lunch pitstop in Nordkjosbotn.

After that the weather closed in and made visibility pretty poor, and we were going over the mountains not next to the fjords so I ended up having a bit of a snooze.

Had a toilet pitstop in Bjerkvik.

Late in the afternoon we ended up back on the border in Riksgransen in Sweden to take beautiful train trip down from the border along one of the fjords and into Narvik. Very pretty, although it was very grey and dreary. Can see how it would be even more spectacular on a good day. At least I got a good window seat for it.

In Narvik the coach disappeared to the service entrance to unload our bags, so we gave up on the idea of bringing our own bags up. Went up the 16th floor to get some photos, then went for a wander to find some dinner. Ended up at the Italian restaurant with another couple which was nice, but the serving sizes were *huge*! Oops. I just keep getting fatter and fatter....

After the last two nights I decided I really needed an easy day today, so skipped the morning optional activity.

Bit of hurty in the morning so awake earlier than I wanted. Had a fairly leisurely breakfast with some nice choices.

After breakfast I came up to do computer stuff. And given that it rained all morning I'm not regretting my choice.

I used the time to various *stuff*. I checked the downloads of my photos, and I'm super glad I did as there was a day on the Reformation tour where I'd downloaded my photos before dinner, but had taken a whole heap at dinner, but hadn't downloaded them. I was super lucky I checked and that I hadn't already cycled that memory card, otherwise I would have lost all the people photos I took on the last night of the reformation tour. Backed everything to memory stick and external hard drive. Also completely repacked my suitcase which made me feel a lot better. I paid my phone bill (excess usage from being overseas). Blogged some stuff on my main blog. And just looked through photos.

The afternoon optional activity was a wilderness river "cruise". It's really not very well described so I had no idea what to expect. What it actually was was these motorised canoes that held between four and seven people in single file, and we motored up the river and back (20 km/h upstream, 35 km/h downstream). Unfortunately didn't get to see any wildlife except for a few birds. But it was somewhat exhilirating in the cool arctic air (not cold mind you!).

After the ride we got out and had some waffles by the fire sitting on reindeer skins (which are surprisingly warm, who knew) and got to see the remains of the ice hotel they build every year but has since melted. We got to see a bit of a promo video of it too which was pretty cool. Would be an awesome experience to stay the night!

The evening's activity was to a husky breeder's house for a dinner of bbqed salmon and veggies. After dinner was some stories from the owner who breeds and races her Alaskan huskies. She was a great story teller, it was really intersting. Then we got to go and play with the dogs and even got to hold some four week old puppies. Sooo cute!

Then back to the hotel.

So even though the room was the coolest, most comfortable room of the trip, the thick warm doonas meant overheating anyway. So that and all the lights from hopeless blinds meant I didn't sleep all that well. Did I mention we didn't get to bed til after 1am? And I had restless legs so couldn't get to sleep for ages? Although I didn't feel as tired today as I felt yesterday. Go figure. Probably because we had a fairly late start so slept in til about 7am.

Breakfast options were fairly limited. No bacon again! *gasp* Ended up having quite a lot of potato, so a very "carby" breakfast.

Then blogged yesterday from the hotel lobby (only hotel so far on this particular trip that we've not had wifi in the rooms).

Left around 10:30am. Had a couple of small photo stops which was nice - one for the town of Honningsvag, although the light was pretty bad, and one for the fjord, but that one had some reindeer just there which made the stop worthwhile, as it wasn't really a good place for a photo. Turns out the photo stops were just fillers to take up time - because otherwise we'd have been too early to the tiny restaurant we went to for lunch - which had another tour bus there and so we timed it to get there just after they left.  I just had an ice cream for lunch, as I felt like I'd just had breakfast.

Drove onto Alta and to the hotel, around 3pm. Went and found the laundry and thought we'd have a go at doing some washing.

Sigh.

The machine was a very complicated Bosch with way too many cycles all labelled in Norwegian, with no english instructions. Found one cycle that said it would take 43 minutes. It took nearly an hour, and even then didn't spin the clothes very dry. So then into the drier. Another Bosch with far too many options. Whatever happened to two dials on a drier: temperature and timer ?? Why so damned complicated?? After forty minutes we went back and the clothes weren't dry at all. Mum went back again later, fiddled, went to reception to ask for help, found out the drying tray was full of water, tried again, and after probably two an a half hours since we started, gave up and brought all the washing back to the room to try it here.

By this time of course it's 6:30 pm and all I've had to eat since breakfast is an ice cream so I was feeling pretty miserable. So we went out for dinner - just across the way to a little shopping mall. Found a little pizza place and shared a small pizza.

Feel like a big fat blob. Didn't do *any* exercise today (other than a few walks up and down three or four flights of stairs on account of the elevators in the hotel being out of service). It certainly hasn't helped that's it raining here (guess we won't be seeing the midnight sun tonight!), and we're not really anywhere near the fjord anyway, and all the dramas with the washing). At least the blinds look to be good shut out blinds, so hopefully we'll get some sleep. 

The further north we get, the more .. "quaint" our hotels get :)

Last night's hotel had a pretty awkward bathroom and the buffet breakfast was extremelly limited (no bacon! *gasp*). Temperature was still too warm (we're in the arctic circle and it's too hot!). Opened the window for a while, but we were on the ground floor so didn't leave it open for the night. We did have a lovely view out the window though.

Slept like crap though. Other than lots of young guys partying on after the hockey game finished and making an awful lot of noise, I also woke up stressing about hurty and other such things. So I ended up being super tired all day. :(:(:(

Out the door at 7:30. Drove up to Norway, and noone was even at the border crossing so just quietly passed into Norway. Had to turn our clocks back an hour which makes today even longer. Also stuffs up my photo numbering which is based on time. There'll be overlap of a few photos.

By 8:45 local time we arrived at a small Sami museum. Had some explanations of some of the things by a local Sami lady which was interesting. I was so tired I was falling asleep on my feet though.

Then saw real live majestic mooses! Three on the other side of the coach, then I saw one on just outside my window and managed a good picture of it as we zoomed past. Lots and lots of reindeer too.

Drove along a fjord which looked very pretty, although Peter our guide says as fjords go from one to ten, it's probably a two. The super sad thing is, for all the drives where we'll be going past fjords in the next week, we're going to be on the wrong side of the coach :(:(:( Super sad making :(

Continued on and stopped for lunch at Olderfjord. Really nothing there but a small restaurant and a camp site. Had some quite nice soup for lunch, which was 99 NOK. Which translates to $16.50 AUD. Ouch. This place is even more expensive than Denmark, which shocked me four years ago.

The drive north from there got prettier and prettier. The rock strata was quite spectacular. Saw an eagle sitting on a rock. Passed cute little fishing villages, including many candidates for Stu's dream home. Got up past the trees and into the tundra, which with all the snow and rocks looked an awful lot like our snowy mountains!

Finally arrived in Honningsvag and checked into the hotel and found an ATM to get some cash out.

Then headed out again. This time for an optional bird watching cruise off the northwest side of the island. It was pretty expensive (109 EUR I think) but it was super cool. Got to see cormorants, puffins, razorbills, guillemots, white tailed eagles, gannets, kittiwakes and a whole heap of seagulls (a couple of varieties). But we finished off seeing a small group of seals which was pretty awesome. Got some great photos.

Back to the hotel for dinner. They weren't very well organised, but the food I had was very nice.

After a break after dinner (and then having to go wake up Peter who had fallen asleep) we headed out again - up to North Cape. After a rainy start to the day it wasn't all that hopeful that we'd see the sun, but it had actually been clearing for the evening which was super exciting. When we arrived we all had a glass of champagne and some cavier and salmon canapes then got a bit of time to get our photos taken with the globe and have a look at the movie and museum dug into the rock. Then at midnight we were all out to see the midnight sun. Pretty awesome :):):) The lowest it dips is actually a little bit after midnight, but they didn't give us time to hang around for that. But it was pretty surreal to be able to see the sun due north in the northern hemisphere - coming over the top of the world. Also the most furthest north I'm ever likely to get on land.

Coming back Peter said that they only get to see the midnight sun about ten percent of the time, and for most tour groups they never actually get to see it. So we were extremelly blessed. It was "sunset" lighting the whole way back to the hotel, but it was weird knowing that the sun was actually rising - it wasn't going to set at all!

So this hotel, in the middle of the arctic, where the sun doesn't set for weeks at a time, couldn't be arsed putting in blockout blinds. We just had these flimsy things that let the light in all night. Fail. 

I think I slept a bit better last night. A bit hard to tell because there was no powerpoint by the bed so I couldn't run sleep cycle for the night.

Pretty standard breakfast again.

Headed out around 8am. We headed one hour south east to the Ranua Zoo, which is an Arctic wildlife zoo which was super cool. Had a really great two hours there.

Then back into town to pick up the others that didn't come out. Had a brief false start getting away again because someone left their purse in the toilet at the hotel. Fortunately, like last time, they discovered just a few minutes out of town so we could easily go back.

Then we just continued to drive north.

Had a brief pitstop in one little town with a very old wooden church, and ended up saying there for a full pitstop which took the full half hour for people to get through the single toilet we found. hrmm.

The only other stop was a drive up onto a small hill which had ski lifts at the top, and which overlooked Russia in the distance. There might have been a bottle of very nice Russian vodka which the entire coach shared.

We saw the trees start to thin out during the trip, and as soon as you get just a little elevation you lose the trees completely and it's just arctic tundra. Not that it felt arctic at all - it was postively warm in town and even up the top of the hill it was windy but not cold. I just had my thin jumper on and I was fine.

And we saw lots of reindeer by the sides of the roads.  No majestic mooses yet though (other than in the zoo this morning).

Then onto Ivalo to our hotel and dinner, which was a buffet dinner in the hotel. They had some very nice salmon and various sauces which were pretty yummy.  But didn't have any dessert because the only option was pikelets.

We also have a lovely view from our window tonight of the river by the hotel :)

Woke up in the middle of the night for an hour last night. Dunno why. Other than the static electricity I was comfortable enough, just not sleeping.

Breakfast was pretty decent. After breakfast went for a walk down to the river to photograph the Lumberjack Candle bridge.

After breakfast we had a tour of the town of Rovaniemi with a local guide. She took us to the Lutheran church in town and we got a very detailed explanation of the fresco there.

Then we headed up north of town to Santa's "office" and the whole tourist kitsch. It's advertised as being on the Arctic Circle, which I thought was pretty cool at the time.

Except.

It's not.

Not only is it a couple of kilometres south of the Arctic circle, it's not even on a horizontal line to match up with any meridian. If you look at it on your favourite mapping application it's on quite a sharp diagonal.

But I didn't discover than until later.

In the meantime, they gave us some time to explore Santa's village there. We wandered into Santa's "office" where you can have your photo taken with the "real" Santa. Mum wanted to do it so we did. Me, I took one look at the prices and declared it *completely* ridiculous. It was 30 Euro for a large print. 35 Euro for five small prints. Or 40 Euro for a digital copy of the photo.

What. The. F@#k. ?????

How can they get away with charging 40 Euro for a digital file that they don't even have to expend any media on?? It's criminal. Needless to say I was not amused. I said I'd given them 10 Euro for the file. The girl wasn't amused. I'm sure she gets it all the time. I certainly wouldn't be doing that job.

Not only that, but you could tell the queue lasted for hours at certain times of year. They had a whole huge setup for the queuing. What made it so bad was that you went in and sat with "Santa" but instead of just taking a photo he makes all this small talk, which later turns out you can buy as a video.

?!?!

If they wanted more money:
1) charge less for the photos
2) cut out the crap and just churn people through instead of making them wait forever

Anyways.

I'm not cynical at all.

Honest ;)

After that we had a wander through all the little souvenir shops which was fun.

Got back to the hotel and given a small lunch break so I had Subway. Because it was across the road. So sue me.

Then we headed out again for the first of our optional tours for the day.

The first stop was the Arktikum, a museum of Arctic life. We had over an hour with the guide which was good, but then only got twenty minutes of self exploration of the museum. Ridiculous.

The second stop was a "pioneer farm" which was an old family farm house which had been preserved and turned into a museum. That was a great experience too, but again, ended with only a super short time to explore all the stuff there. Frustrating.

Once back in town again there was a couple of hours to kill before dinner, so mum and I went down to the river to see the bridge, then ended up doing the whole bridge to bridge walk. Whoops.

Then we had the next optional tour, which was out to a reindeer farm. We got to see one week old baby reindeer which were so adorable, and got to feed some young male reindeer. Then we headed up to dinner which was reindeer with mashed potato and berries. Quite tasty and quite a lovely evening.

Then back to the hotel to do computer stuff.

As it turns out, we did actually cross the Arctic circle tonight when we went to the reindeer farm.  I saw a sign on the road, and later confirmed it on the map.  So I have actually been to the arctic :)

The hotel we had last night had an even more open bathroom door. This one you could into the toilet as well as the shower with a couple of clear breaks in the frosted glass. Weird. Also no plugs for the sink to do washing, *but* they do have a free guest laundry, which we used this morning before breakfast (thanks mum!).

Sleep was a bit broken last night. Aircon got it relatively cool, but still overheated with the doona on. I think I might pull the doona out of its cover tonight.

Breakfast choices were a little limited this morning, but still had mostly my usual breakfast (which is getting smaller by the day).

Headed out at 8am. Had a pitstop midmorning, and continued onto Oulu for lunch. We had subway for lunch (I haven't had subway in a month!) and then wandered around the foreshore area looking at all the cute buildings.

Sadly I've lost my mini usb cable :(:(:(:(:( It must have either fallen out at the hotel at some point overnight (maybe at dinner, or breakfast, or in the room), or when pulling the camera out during our stop in Oulu. I'm pretty sad about it too, because that was the cable that I got with my Sony DSC-F828 camera in 2004, and it's been in that camera bag that entire time.

So the GPS was complaining about low battery for a chunk of the afternoon and I couldn't charge it. But it hung in there til we got to Rovaniemi. I checked at the hotel to see if they had any in lost property but they didn't have any. So headed out into the rainy streets to find somewhere to buy one. Tried a couple of places without any luck, but found one in Clas Ohlson. 10 Euros :(:(:( Also super sad-making because I have like ten of the damned things at home but had to spend $15 on a new one :(:(:(:(:(

Dinner tonight was in the hotel restaurant. Salad for entree was nice enough. Mains was meant to be chicken with vegetables, but was actually chicken, fries and huge amounts of bbq sauce. The chicken was lovely but we were wondering what happened to the veggies. Dessert was a nice piece of chocolate cake.

So the hotel we had in Helsinki had these weird bathroom walls that were just glass with a bit of paint on them which plenty of see through spaces to see in from the outside. Managed to convince the thermostat to go down to about 19C (not sure that it actually did) so slept relatively well. In fact we had an early night (21:30) and slept through til 6:30!

Breakfast didn't start til 7am though, and they wanted to leave at 8am, so it was a very rushed breakfast for us (the room was pretty chaotic too, but we went to a second room which was a lot quieter).

Then it was driving driving driving north out of Helsinki.

We had a morning pitstop. I got frustrated with the people sitting in front of us (and will be for the entire trip) who just fuss around when the coach stops and block everyone else getting off the coach. Even the dude's wife was like "stand aside to let people out" but he didn't care :( I hate people.

More driving. Finland is like 74% forest so that's pretty much all we saw all day. Mostly young growth by the look of it as timber is Finland's primary industry.

After the first pitstop they put on some Sibelius. The first track being Finlandia. Except our tour guide will. not. shut. up. He talked for about 80 of the 90 minutes of the first leg this morning and as soon as Finlandia came on after the pitstop he talked just about all the way through it. Sad times.

Lunch was at a similar roadside combo of supermarket and cafeteria.

When we got to Kuopio in the afternoon we went up the tower overlooking the lakes and the town. I couldn't be stuffed waiting in the huge queue for the lifts, so walked up the steps! All 380 or so of them (mum counted)!

Drove into town and to the hotel. We actually got a room with a view of the town square which is pretty cool! And our room is 451.. how cool is that?! ;)

Dumped our stuff, accosted the bellboy and took our own bags up to our rooms, then went for a wander around the town. Lovely weather and we walked all the way down to the lake and back.

Tried to get onto the internet but my laptop refuses to connect to the wifi. The phones connect just fine though. Go figure. Also, turns out this hotel (and apparently the next one) has a free guest laundry. Maybe that's a thing in Finland. Good to know.

Since we couldn't listen to Finlandia on the coach, I found a beautiful video on YouTube (on my phone since the laptop won't connect - sad times) with Finnish landscapes and animals - just lovely.

Dinner was in the steakhouse downstairs in the hotel. Entree was a delicious vegetable soup (mostly tomato). Mains was "crispy beef brisket" whih was just amazing. So tender and tasty. Dessert was a nice enough pannacotta.

I've had something under my left upper eyelid since this afternoon and it's super frustrating :(:(:(  edit: managed to get rid of it before bed.

Slept reasonably well on the ferry. It was super calm so could barely feel the ship moving at all. Except we didn't close the blinds so could see a red glow on the horizon at 2am, and it was super sunny at 4am. Which is when we woke up. Whoops.

Breakfast was more chaos but otherwise pretty good.

Arrived at Helsinki at 10am and disembarked quite easily.

We had a local guide did a bit of a tour of Helsinki, driving around and seeing quite a bit.

We had a short photo stop at the Olympic stadium from 1952.

Then down to the Sebalius monument. Which was quite pretty in the morning sun.

Except. Could not get a clear photo of it. An Indian tour group turned up at the same time and they can't just take photos of things, every single one of them needs to have multiple photos of themselves taken. Which means I couldn't get a photo without annoying people in it. I was fuming by the time we had to leave.

Next stop was the Rock Church, which is a pretty cool church they built into a granite hill and put a roof over the top.

Continued driving around for a little while longer before being dumped in square next to the Lutheran cathedral and told to entertain ourselves for an hour and a half. hrmm. So mum and I went into the Lutheran cathedral, wandered through the waterside markets, and went into the orthodox church before meeting back at the square.

Got taken to the hotel next where we dumped out stuff and I checked out how the local public transport system worked. Decided to go back to the Sebalius monument by bus. Found the little kiosk that sells tickets and got ourselves a two hour ticket for EUR 4.30. Got the bus with no problems.

We had the monument almost to ourselves for a little while and it's quite photogenic. Then another couple of tour groups turned up so we got out of there.

Walked over to the trams and caught one back into town.

Walked around the foreshore a bit, taking photos of the old sailing ships, and then we watched the ferry leave back to Stockholm.

Took another tram up to Central to see the station, then another tram to near our hotel. So three trams and a bus - pretty good value for our two hour ticket!

At the hotel we dumped more stuff then headed out for dinner. Found a Japanese restaurant and had some very nice teriyaki salmon. Then back to the hotel where mum went and used the internet and I reorganised the suitcase and general got myself feeling more in control.

So the day started grey and rainy and miserable. Decent breakfast at the hotel then we headed out into the rain.

We had a tour with a local guide. Got driven around Stockholm to the town hall, where they have the receptions for the Nobel prizes. That was all quite nice.

Then to a spot to see the old town from another island.

Then into the old town for a walking tour.

By then it was mid morning and the program was done for the day.

Yeup.

There was an optional tour to go out to the Vasa museum so we decided to go on that. I'd toyed with the idea of doing it myself, as it would have been a lot cheaper. But then we would have had to negotiate public transport. But given how little time we had there on the tour, I'm regretting that. It would have been better to have done it ourselves and not been so rushed. We could easily have spent a lot more time there :(

Got dumped in town and told to entertain ourselves. We really had no idea what to do so ended up wandering at random. We thought about going up a temporary tower thing, but they wouldn't take credit cards (and we had no cash) so gave up on that idea. Just wandered around at random. Bit silly really.

Got picked up at 3pm and driven to our hotel for the night - the Baltic ferry the Silja Serenade. Quite nice for a ferry. Also probably the biggest passenger vessel I've been on. And it has free wifi!!

We went for a wander around the ship before the 5pm dinner sitting. Quite a big buffet of food, although pretty chaotic. After dinner we went to the Grease stage show. We'd gotten seats once we got on board, advertised as "obstructed" viewing. We expected to be behind people, but still be able to see. But no, you literally could not see the stage at all. So we moved to somewhere we could. Mum sat on the floor and I stood for the entire thing. Silly really. Although it did mean we missed pretty much all of the view - either while at dinner or while in the show.

Pretty late by bed time, and we lose an hour moving into Finland's time zone.

So this room has a thermostat on the wall but it doesn't actually do anything. Had to keep the window open all night to get any cool air. Which means a massive picture window letting in the light super early. I'm dreading getting further north where the sun doesn't actually set and sweltering because we can't open windows because we need to block out the light. What a strange thing to be concerned about - overheating past the arctic circle. There's another lady on the trip (from Brisbane) who feels the same way.

Fairly good breakfast range. Although I wasn't in the mood for being sociable with anyone.

We had to be out the door at 8:00 this morning. On the coach we went through the whole introduction and safety spiel. Then headed off at nearly 8:30.

We had a local guide for the morning and we drove around Copenhagen looking at some things.

Our first get-off stop was Amalienborg palace (we didn't get to go in), just for a photo stop.

Then up to The Little Mermaid. Going first thing in the morning meant we were looking straight into the sun which was a bit of a poo. Not that my photos from last time were much better.

Yet again I'm reminded how different tours are to doing things yourself. I think I crammed about five times as much in my three hour walk around last time as I did today on the tour.

Although today we did get to go into Christiansborg Palace which was very cool.

And then we were done for the day.

Yup, we did three things and were done by 10:15am.

!?

They left us to have some free time, or could get dropped back to the hotel if we wanted. This afternoon there was an optional excursion. For 51 Euro. So basically we pay for an expensive tour (not nearly as expensive as Outback Sprit though) and just get left to our own devices and if you want to see more things it costs extra. Seems a little rude to me.

Mum decided to go on the optional tour, starting at 12:30, so we filled in some time walking around until then. Went up to the round tower and went up it, then up to the botanical gardens, although really didn't have time to look around there because we had to get back so mum could start the tour. But I really needed some down time so had decided not to go. After leaving mum, I watched bits of the Copenhagen Carnivale which was wandering through town, then tried to find something to eat. Ended up grabbing something in 7-Eleven (not the first one I came to because I couldn't get any service).

Then walked back to the hotel where I washed my jeans, backed up my photos and had a little lie down. Even slept a little!

At 6pm we headed out for an optional dinner. 65 Euro, to a little restaurant in the old town. It was a "Christmas" dinner, so there was roast pork and various sides, and a rice pudding dessert. And a couple of drinks :) The pork was up at least in the top ten of pork I've had - lovely and tender with lovely crispy crackling. Yum!!

Then down to the canal to have a shot of Aquavit (weird right!) and then back to the hotel.

Last night we set the room thermostat to 5C. It barely got cooler than ambient temperature. And couldn't open the window either.

Breakfast had a bigger selection of food, on account of being a much bigger hotel. They had potato and mushrooms which was nice.

Hopped on the 7:36 #635 bus to the terminals (it was super packed :( ).

Got to terminal 2 and there was a Subway (I really felt like Subway for dinner last night but we didn't find it - doh!).

Used the machines to check out suitcases through and that worked pretty well. Went through security, where they got me to turn the camera on and take a photo to make sure it really was a camera. And got a tarmac tour to get to the plane.

The flight was on a CRJ-900 which I've never been on before. Much like a 717. And if I'd known that I would have tried for a seat much further forward in front of the wing. But it was ok because the engines are further back. Except the windows were full of condensation which frosted up and made photographs pretty terrible. No snackages on the plane (unless you buy them) so just had some water. The south of Germany was all cloudy, but it cleared up as we went further north. Flew over the Malmo bridge which was super cool :)

Got to Copenhagen but our bags didn't come up the appointed carousel. And we weren't the only ones missing bags. But they finally finally came up - they must have lost a trolley along the way somewhere. Got some cash out, then waited for our transfer to the hotel from our tour group.

We got a 15th floor room, but sadly facing away from the city. No aircon to speak of either. But the window opens so hopefully it'll cool down overnight.

When we got here I needed to grab something light for lunch. Except I've said before, Copenhagen is *huge*, and it took a full half an hour to walk from our hotel to somewhere with light food options. After walking up and down a pedestrian section near the town hall I gave up and chose the Scottish Restaurant, because you can get small meals there (I just had some fries with mayo).

By the time I got back to the hotel, two hours had passed :(:( So much for a quiet afternoon catching up on blogging, backing up photos etc. Only got an hour before we had to head down for the tour starting meeting and dinner.

Dinner was ok - a bit of a buffet, so could regulate what we ate a bit better. They also included a couple of drinks, which may be the last I have on this trip on account of the price of everything here.

After dinner we headed out again - up to Tivoli Gardens. This was originally on the itinerary for this tour, but in recent week wasn't on the itinerary for the tour on their website. So I was a bit annoyed that we'd paid to go see and wouldn't get to (it's ~20AUD just to get in). So that was pretty good that we did in fact get to go in. Had a lovely wander through the park. Wanted to go on some rides but it was all too complicated with bags and stuff and not really having enough time. Even got some freshly made fairy floss which you can't get in Australia anymore, you can only get packed stuff. So that was all very nice and it was all very pretty as the lights came on.

Except.

We got back to the entrance one minute late (on account of *hoards* of people coming in the gates) and there was *noone* there. So we thought we'd misunderstood the meeting place. Mum stayed there while I went to the other place I thought maybe we should have been meeting. Twice. But no. They'd all fricken gone off without us. So now we're going to have a reputation with the rest of the tour (forty fricken people) as being people to be late and hold everyone up. Completely pissed off about it all.

And it's late.