Norway Mountain View

Lisa’s Amazing Trip to Norway

Norway, home to the Midnight Sun in summer and the Northern Lights in Winter, is an absolutely stunning destination at any time of year.

Being married to a Norwegian, I have visited the country many times and was lucky enough to go again this summer for my nieces wedding.

Our first few nights we were staying just outside the coastal city of Stavanger. The city itself is a lovely port town with a 12th Century Cathedral, which we enjoyed a guided tour of. There is a lovely historic part of town with quaint traditional buildings.

When we were there, there were two enormous cruise ships in port, dwarfing all the traditional houses, as this is one of the first stopping off points for the cruise ships sailing up the coast of Norway. Cruising is an excellent way of seeing Norway as you get to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the fjords as you sail up and down the coast.
Being a University city, Stavanger has a lively atmosphere and a varied assortment of shopping and dining opportunities.

Within the Stavanger region there are many scenic attractions, one of the main one being the world famous Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock, located 604m above sea level. We walked to this famous landmark, which took a couple of hours each way from the car park. However, for the less active, you can take a scenic ferry ride up the Lysefjord and view it from below.

After a few days in Stavanger, we flew up above the Arctic Circle to the city of Tromso. In the winter months Tromso is a great viewing point for the colourful Northern Lights which sometimes light up the night sky. Obviously, we didn’t get to experience that wonderful natural phenomenon as we were there in summer.

Although we were just slightly too late in the year for the midnight sun, it still didn’t really go dark and was a strange experience still sitting up at 11pm in the evening, still in broad daylight.

The scenery in the North of Norway is absolutely stunning, with snow-capped mountains all year round. It is extremely popular these days with many tourists driving the Northern Lights Route in campervans and caravans!

We enjoyed a walk up to mountain glacier one day, which was quite exciting. You can walk on the glaciers but you must go on an organised walk where you are roped together for security.

Another fantastic experience was walking up a mountain through quite thick mountain fog but then rising above the fog to experience fantastic views of the mountain tops, blue sky behind them and the whole valley below just thick sea of cloud.

Whilst in Tromso, there was one of the Hurtigruten ships in port, which sail up and down the coast of Norway 365 days a year. They are working ships but you are able to book a coastal cruise for all or part of the journey. This is an excellent way of seeing Norway as the ships stop at many ports en-route for you to get off and explore this fascinating country. In the winter, it is a great way to see the Northern Lights as there is little or no light pollution from the ship. As we sell Hurtigruten I asked if it was possible to have a tour of the ship and they were happy to oblige. On board it reminded me of the traditional cruise ships of the past with wood panelling, relaxing lounges and piano bars and, of course, excellent food. It is a far cry from the large cruise ships with on board night clubs, west end style shows etc!

Norwegian food is wonderful, with lots of fresh fish and seafood. We managed to catch our tea one day, whilst out on a fishing trip. We also sampled Reindeer, cooked in a lovely sauce. They also enjoy lots of fresh baked cakes and puddings so it is a good job we did so much walking!

Norway is a very long country and there is so much to experience. On this trip we only did 2 parts of the country but there is so much more to see, with its capital city Oslo and other major towns such as Trondheim, Bergen, Lillehammer and Alesund to name but a few. Then there are the wonderful mountain ranges to hike or drive across, such as the Jotunheimen National Park and many, many fjords to sail on. We have experienced a lot of these places on previous visits and I am sure we will be returning again in the future to visit many more. My husband is already planning his next walking routes!

By Lisa Mousley, Chic Boutique Travel

Mini cruise to Bruges

Nicola – Mini cruise to Bruges

We were greeted by the friendly staff at Hull as we boarded the Pride of Bruges, P&O ferry on the overnight sailing to Zeebrugge. The check in process was very quick, we were given our cabins keys, whilst the children were given balloons by a Pirate entertainer.

We stayed in an inside cabin with pull down bunk beds, there is an option to upgrade to outside cabin which gives you a little more space and sea view.

There are two options to eat on board – The Kitchen ,a buffet style restaurant or The Brasserie, a la carte restaurant. We opted for the The Brasserie for our evening meal, we were really impressed with the food and service. The prices were reasonable a starter costs around £5 , main courses around £15 and a desert for £4.50. The Children’s menu was also really good value. After dinner we headed to the bar area to watch the Children’s entertainment show which was followed by live music.

After a comfortable night’s sleep, we disembarked in Zeebrugge where a coach was waiting to take us into Bruges for the day. The journey only takes about 30 minutes.

One of the best ways to see Bruges is from the water, so we hopped on board the canal boat tour of the city. We really enjoyed the half hour tour, the guide was very informative and there was lots of beautiful architecture to admire. Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact, making it one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe.

We headed down the cobbled streets lined with little chocolate shops, bars and cafes to the Choco Story, Chocolate Museum – a must for Chocolate Lovers.

Tickets were very reasonable, we paid 8 Euros per child and 13 Euros per adult for a combined ticket with entrance to the Friet Museum included. The aroma of chocolate fills the air as you walk around the museum. The children were given a fun quiz to complete on the way round with a chocolate prize at the end. The Museum has alot of information on the history of chocolate and also includes a chocolate making demonstration with lots of free samples of the famous Belgian chocolate to try!

The Friet Museum is the first and only museum dedicated to potato fries, I was surprised to find out that they actually originate from Belgium! The children really enjoyed it, there are lots of fun quizzes for them to take part in and we also got to sample the famous French fries in the cafe!

We stopped for a drink, of course to sample the famous Belgian beer, and ice-cream at a lovely cafe on Markt Square (Market Square).

The Square is surrounded by the most striking buildings which includes what is perhaps the most beautiful building in Bruges, the Gothic Town Hall or Stadhuis, dating from 1376, also the Belfry of Bruges a medieval bell tower in the centre. I was not daring enough to climb the 366 steps to the top, but I can imagine the views from the top would be amazing. There are lots of horse drawn carts in the square ready to take you on a tour around the city, they cost around 50 Euros for a 30 minute tour. Bruges has so many art galleries and museums we did not have enough time in the one day to see them all!

At the end of a busy sightseeing day , we made our way back the coach to be taken back to Zeebrugge port to board the ferry for the overnight sailing back to Hull.

There is still so much more to see in Bruges that we couldn’t fit into one day, we would definitely like to return maybe at Christmas time to enjoy the famous Christmas Markets Bruges has to offer!