Category Archives: Hotels

On This Day – Vikings and Museums

Sure enough, in the morning, it was still steadily raining and over the first cup of tea of the day there developed an awful realisation that this might turn into a ‘killing off time’ sort of day. We took our time getting ready and then stretched breakfast out for as long as we realistically could and discussed our rather limited choices.

As we lamented the weather and talked through the options however the rain started to ease off and by half past ten, although it had not stopped completely, it was at last possible to go outside and only get slightly damp rather than completely drenched.

It was another depressing morning, the city crippled under the weight of a leaden grey sky, as we set out in a northerly direction along the black granite coast towards Huagesund’s most famous visitor attraction, the Haroldshaugen Norges Riksmonument a mile or so outside of the city.

We joined a handful of local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ Goretex jackets and stout hiking boots who were much better equipped for this sort of weather than us and were wandering along the meandering coast line rough cinder path stopping occasionally for no good reason other than to stare out beyond the boulders into the grey, unwelcoming vast expanse of nothingness that is the North Sea. Little wonder the Vikings sailed to England, it must have been the tenth century equivalent of Brits flying to Benidorm.

We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Viking Age and a starting off point for longships full of heathen bullies on their way across the North Sea to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.

The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes are part true, part fable and, although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio in their character of unwelcome guest or charming visitor and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.

Haraldshaugen was erected during the millennial celebration of Norway’s unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald I and was unveiled on July 18th 1872 . Truthfully I found it a bit disappointing I have to say, a seventeen metre high granite obelisk surrounded by a memorial stones in a Stonehenge sort of way, next to an empty deserted car park, a closed visitor centre and an empty vending machine but I’m sure I am being unfair because places such as these are not really meant to be visited on a cold, damp day in January.

On the way back it started to rain again so we quickened our pace and returned to the hotel and made for the tea machine and the television lounge. Twelve o’clock was checking out time so we completed the formalities and then wondered what to do. The city museum was open from midday today but I couldn’t persuade Kim to step out in the drizzle for a second time so I left her in the comfy chair next to the log fire that was crackling in the grate and went back out by myself.

I wasn’t expecting a great deal I have to say but it was something to do for an hour or so and I walked back and went inside the rather grey and boxy utilitarian building. I

t wasn’t very busy and a young museum attendant greeted me in Norwegian which meant nothing to me of course so I just said that I would like to visit the museum. ‘You speak English’ she asked, ‘I am English’ I replied and she gave me a quizzical look that asked what I was doing there so I felt obliged to offer an explanation about cheap flight opportunities and never been to Norway before etc. and she seemed genuinely pleased to see me and in perfect English explained about the museum and suggested that I might find it nice to return in the summer.

As it turned out I wasn’t disappointed by the museum at all and a spent an interesting hour looking around the exhibits. As I left the museum attendant reminded me to come back in Summer, preferably in August when there is an annual herring festival – a three hundred and fifty metre long table along Haraldsgate with 101 species of herring to sample.  The World’s longest herring table.  That sounded like fun.

I walked back to the hotel where we watched television and counted down the clock until waffle time and shortly before three o’clock the batter arrived and we had a snack just ahead of the taxi arriving at quarter past.

This seems unfair but I wasn’t desperately sad about leaving Norway. Unfair because Haugesund is probably a much better place to visit in the summer when the days are longer and the place enjoys relatively good weather so I think we will have to return at a different time of the year.

By a mocking twist of fate as we sat waiting for the flight the clouds broke up and at the end of daylight hours a blue sky opened up to greet the plane and the next set of visitors enjoying a cheap flight bargain to a place they have never heard of.

On This Day – Tallinn Christmas Market

Continuing with my early December theme of Christmas Markets on 7th December 2009 I was in the Estonian capital of Tallinn..

It is claimed (although this is disputed, especially in Northern Germany) that the picturesque Town Hall Square in Tallinn is the site of the world’s first Christmas tree. It was part of a ritual begun in 1441 when unmarried merchants sang and danced with the girls of the town around a tree, which, when they had had enough fun and drink they then burned down.

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Travels in Spain – Tapas and Sherry in Carmona

The bad news this morning was that Micky had gone down with a nasty little case of man flu and he wasn’t feeling very good at all. This was the strain that affects the sense of humour and after breakfast Mick invited us to go out without him. Naturally we said we would do no such thing and then as we watched his normally stoic temperament evaporating in front of us he demanded firmly that we should go out without him and we took the hint.

After a walk around the town and back at the Puerto de Sevilla there was a sunny pavement with café tables so we stopped for a drink before going back to the hotel to see if there was any sign of Micky.

Micky wasn’t there but the scruffy dog was and Christine started to play with the horrible thing and this unfortunately encouraged it to then join us as we continued our walk around the town.

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Travels in Spain – Driving Issues in Carmona

We set off and it soon became clear why we needed both precision and good fortune because if we had thought that the previous street had been narrow this one made it look like a six lane highway!

First of all it was necessary to negotiate a dog leg gate that was barely wider than the car and we all had to collectively breathe in so that we could squeeze through and after that the street narrowed down still further and I needed delicate keyhole surgery skills to manoeuvre through 90º bends and past carelessly parked cars and iron bollards strategically placed to impede progress at every turn.

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Postcard From Cahors in France

In the early summer of 1998 the Times Newspaper ran a daily competition one week to win a prize of an all expenses paid trip for two nights in an up market Relais and Chateau Hotel somewhere in Europe. One day the competition required answers to three questions about Santiago de Compostela in Galicia and the Way of St James.

I was confident of the answers and telephoned them in several times over the course of the day.

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Iceland, The Penis Museum and Dodgy Groceries

The Icelandic Phallological Museum claims that it exists for the purpose of genuinely serious study into the field of phallology in an organized, scientific fashion but you might not be inclined to agree with that when reaching the end of the tour and ending up in the predictable souvenir shop where rather tasteless and inappropriate items for sale included key rings and bottle openers each moulded into the inevitable shape of a human penis.

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Iceland – Reykjavik, Vikings and Explorers

We found the Hotel Bjork with no difficulty at all and once we had checked in and found our room I emptied my bag and hung up my clothes and we went through the contents to share them out equitably between us and I gave up my spare hat and pair of gloves but the offer of baggy underpants was rejected.

I told Kim that things could have been a whole lot worse – it could have been my bag that had gone missing!

By some curious twist of female logic the lost bag was still my fault and Kim remained tetchy and irritable but a glass of duty-free wine cheered her up a little (just a little) and when we left the hotel to walk into the city and the rain stopped and there was even a patch or two of blue sky puncturing the steely grey skies so things were beginning to look up.

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Iceland – British Airways and Lost Luggage

On November 11th 2007 I was travelling to Iceland

This was a British Airways flight so there was a level of sophistication to which we have become unaccustomed in our travels with the budget airlines and here are just a few things that British Airways do better than Ryanair; on this flight there were comfortable leather seats, flight attendants in smart uniforms, ample legroom for stretching out, a bag of breakfast, complimentary drinks and an attractive blonde Icelandic girl in the seat next to me and whilst we were in the air we had nothing but good things to say about the airline.

Things changed however when we arrived in Reykjavik and here is something that Ryanair do better than British Airways; they remember to put your luggage on board the same aircraft as you and deliver it to the same airport at the same time.

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On This Day – The Bridges of Budapest

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 1st November 2014 I was visiting the Hungarian Capital of Budapest on the River Danube for a second time…

The River Danube is the twenty-ninth longest river in the world and flows through ten countries, which is more than any other river in the World except the Congo in Central Africa, which also runs through ten countries. The River Mississippi in the USA runs through or borders ten different States.

The Danube starts in the Black Forest in Germany and then runs like a European timeline through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and the Ukraine before it finishes its journey by discharging its memories into the Black Sea at the Danube Delta. On route it passes through the four capital cities of Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade.

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On This Day – Padova in Northern Italy

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 25th October 2012 I was travelling to Northern Italy to visit Venice, Verona and Padova.  Instead of reading a travel guide in preparation I read a book about William Shakespeare and the Italian connection.

I’ll see you later in the Colosseum…

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