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Monday, May 19, 2014

Bergen, Norway

Bergen, Norway

We are in the last days of our European sojourn before we fly back to the US. Tomorrow we fly from Bergen, Norway to London. We have one full day in London and then make the long flight to Phoenix.  It has been a grand trip, but we are all tiring and ready to be on our way home. We spent four full days in Norway, and two of them have been “lazy” days, where we’ve stayed at our Airbnb rental, slept late (as much as the kids will allow), done laundry, and watched the kids play in the garden.

The other two days here have been full tourist days. May 17 is Norway’s Constitution Day, and we spent it in downtown Bergen among the crowds of celebrating Norwegians. While I do not love crowds, the crowds on this day were fun to see. The majority of people were in traditional dress, and those who were not dressed traditionally wore their best clothes. There were many parades, people with flags, and lots of helium balloons in shiny-mylar animal shapes. At one point L1 pointed to the sky and said, “Look at the run-away horse!” and indeed, there was a balloon horse galloping across the sky.

Not everyone was in a party mood.

Near the fish market in downtown Bergen on May 17, Norway's Constitution Day.

The next day we took the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour, which strings together rides on trains, buses, and boats to give you a tour of the fjords.  We had a full day, getting up at 5:30 to catch the 7am bus to town for the 8:45 train, and finally returned around 6:30pm. All the grand adjectives apply to the fjords: magnificent, splendid, stunning, majestic, imposing, resplendent. The weather cooperated too, showing off the steeply carved mountains and smooth water at their best. L2 was thrilled just to ride train after bus after boat, and even L1 commented on the landscape out the window. We brought lunch because eating out in Norway is expensive, but we did have several snacks, including lefse and a waffle pastry, and which L1 kept mispronouncing, “Can I have another bite of offal?” (or maybe awful).

Bergen train station, ready for Norway in a Nutshell.

Sleeping on the train.

After two busy days and two kids a bit under the weather, we decided our last day in Norway should be quiet. L1 and L2 have played with the toys of our host family, and we found a playground hidden on the mossy slopes with a long slide that the kids slid down over and over. Now, only three more plane rides and three days before we are “back safe, home again” as Richard Scarry says.

Misty hike in the woods.

Favorite slide at the park. No ladder, just climb up the hillside and over the boulders.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Travel catch up

One of our last beach days in Rafina, Greece. Look at that lovely blue water!

Since I haven’t kept up with posting here recently, this entry is intended as a quick catch up of events. Since my last post, we visited Prague and said goodbye to Greece. Prague is a picturesque city where even the New Town is more than 600 years old. We stayed with friends and the boys’ favorite part of the trip was no doubt playing with their children. We have discovered that outings with other children are generally easier and more enjoyable because the kids keep each other entertained and the adults can trade off watching the kids. Our visit was too short, but we had a fantastic time in Prague.

Bubble street performer in Prague

The kids riding in a horse-drawn carriage around  Old Town. The Tyn Church is in the background. Tycho Brahe is buried there. 

We finished our stay in Rafina, Greece at the beginning of May. We enjoyed over-wintering there, and saw the spring arrive. A wide range of plants seems to thrive in the Mediterranean climate, from redbud (Cercis sp) to agave, orange trees, and pomegranate. As we left, the weather was starting to become truly beautiful and I can see why May is the beginning of the tourist season. But even through the winter we had lovely days and the water was always amazingly clear and turquoise blue.

Outside the Tower of London. Also note the Shard skyscraper.

At the top of the London Eye.

Tower Bridge

We followed spring to London, where we spent two days before taking the train to Aviemore, Scotland in the highlands. J attended TRACE (Tree Rings, Archaeology, Climate, and Ecology conference) and the boys and I enjoyed a few days in a lodge at the MacDonald resort. The daffodils and apple trees were blooming, and rabbits could be seen nibbling grass. The last night of the conference ended with a ceilidh; we hired a babysitter for the kids, and J and I made a date night of it. The banquet started with haggis ceremonially presented by a bagpiper, and ended with everyone taking part in traditional dancing. It was fun and chaotic, and we were all breathless by the end.

Woodland Lodge at MacDonald Resorts, Aviemore, Scotland

From Aviemore, we took the train to Edinburgh. Our first full day here was Mother’s Day. My pick for a Mother’s Day tradition has been to hike somewhere. We have done two Mother’s Day hikes in Indiana; last year was in the White Tanks, Arizona. And this year, we hiked Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh; this one will be hard to top. Clouds building up over the hills made the sky dynamic, and the hills were covered with the yellow blooms of scotch broom. The kids impressively climbed up the entire way, and rode our shoulders down. We tired L2 out, and he fell asleep almost as soon as we got to a path flat enough to pull out the stroller. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the National Museum of Scotland (free admittance and very kid friendly), ending with a full afternoon tea at the Tower Restaurant in the Museum (crust less sandwiches, scones, Dundee cake, cookies, and fruit tarts). When we left Rafina, with all the details of wrapping up our stay there, I felt more ready to go home than to start traveling again. But even with the planes and trains, this last week has felt like a holiday as every day we are treated to lovely scenery, venerable buildings, and even the sound of bagpipes out our window.

Edinburgh in the rain

Mother's Day hike up Arthur's Seat