Thursday, August 31, 2006

The soul of the city

Yesterday the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten reported that one of the most traditional beer-halls in Oslo were to close. Olympen - or "Lompa" (Abbreviation really meaning a potato pancake) will be turned into another posh restaurant. As if we did not have enough of them......

"Lompa" has been the soul of Grønland - a place where generations have enjoyed their beer and eaten traditional food. With large paintings on the wall from old Oslo painted by Henrik Backer. A memory from a time when the city had small wooden buildings and narrow streets. Now they will axe this instituion and make into a trendy new eatery.

Lompa is the latest of several traditional eating and drinking establishments to disappear and will certainly not be the last. Gradually the memories of the old city is replaced by a new restaurant, a sushi bar, or a pizzeria serving uninteresting food. And the Norwegian conservation authorities does nothing at all.

When I lived in Brussels in 1999 the restaurant Falstaff close to the Stock Exchange went bankrupt. The belgian authorities demanded that the new owners should restore all the interior and that it should remain as a traditional restaurant. Here you can still eat Waterzooi or Carbonnade de la Flamande today accompanied by a Leffe Blonde or a Duvel.

I wish that our authorities could act in they same way before it would too late. The building itself is listed and so should the interior be. And the owners should be instructed to preserve the character of this institution. Lompa is a part of our heritage and links the citizens of Oslo to their past.

But will they? I think not....

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Evaluation of hotel reservation sites

How to get the best bargains on the net

I'm a frequent traveller to the US and in Europe. Using hotel reservation services online have given me some great bargains. I've stayed on the old classic hotel Metropole in Brussel, on the 26th floor of the Helmsley Park Hotel by Central park and at the Roosevelt Hotel, both in New York. In large first class rooms - all for less than $200 pr. night.

Still it seems that this has been just luck. I've tried to book the same hotels on later dates finding that the prices had increased threefold. And I also discovered that some sites that really gave great bargains earlier does not give the same good results any longer.

I discussed my experiences briefly with my friends Per and Susanne Koch that runs
http://www.pandia.com/. They wanted me to do some research on the subject for Pandia. I gladly accepted the challenge. I will present the results here late September or early October

I will concentrate my quest for the great hotel bargain on the following sites.
- www.hrs.de
- www.venere.com
- www.hotels.com
- www.ebookers.com
- www.travelocity.com
- www.hotelclub.net

The search looks for the best hotel bargain, i.e. the hotel that has the best rating, the best location at the lowest price. I've made a search in two US cities (Boston and New York) and two European cities (Brussels and Paris). As looking for hotels in cities of different sizes pose different challenges, I've decided to present my findings in two articles, one on reservation Boston and Brussels and one on reservation in New York and Paris.

The search will be for a booking of double room on a central location for a two day period for less than $170 a night.

I will also write later articles on the following subjects:
- On the sites, how to make a search, and how (or if) the reservation services guide you to the best location at the lowest price.
- Twinkle, twinkle, little star - which site gives the best value based on the rating that the sites give and how to decode their different rating systems
- Location, location, location - how NOT to end up in the suburb or countryside, but be close to where it all happens.
- On payment conditions, membership advantages, and hotel discounts.

A house as old as the hills

I am proud that I have deeper roots in one place than most people. My mothers family has lived in the same place for eight generations - and we still do.

This house as you see it today is a typical house on south coast of Norway the way they built houses in the mid 1700s. My ancestor Niels Reiersen and his wife Maren took over the house in 1773 and since then we have lived there. The windows are hinged the way they did it before 1820 and the oldest one is from the last decades of the 1700s, and it was lovingly restored last year. Many of the other windows have original glass from the period.

I thought that these houses were typical for this part of Norway. In fact they are a part of an older international tradition. You will find similar houses on the other side of the Atlantic. In the United States they are called New England Saltbox houses. They can be seen e.g. in many of the historic towns of the area. One house that give the same impression as our house is the Old Whipple House in Ipswich, MA dating back to 1650. But this is a much larger house.

But inside our house there may be structures that are even older. There seem to have been an older house with two floors connected by a staircase outside. These structures may date back as far as the late 1500s. We know for certain that there lived people there at that time. The old census from the early 1600 one man is mentioned, Bjørn Torsen. He may have been born as far back as the second half of the 16th century, and the funny thing is that even he is one of my remote ancestors. So our roots there are even older.

At that time Elizabeth I was the queen of England, and the Mayflower had not left for the new world with the first settlers.

The coming days I will stay in this wonderful houses with good friends. I will tell you more about the house, the gardens, and what grows in it. I will share some food and wine memories too and I will also write about a great brewery.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oslo August 27th 2006.

I've started this blogg today. Through this I'll share moments of enjoyment. Food and drink, at home or on travel. And on places and people that leaves a lasting impression in my life.

The blogger, i.e. me, is a 45 year old norwegian civil servant, will share my enjoyable experiences home and abroad with you.

Here are some examples of projects I'll work on this fall.

- The Provence of the North. A late summer weekend with friends at the south coast of Norway. How to prepare fried mackerel local style. I will also tell you about the marvellous beer from the local micro brewery Nögne Ö (Naked Island)(Vatnebu gård, September 1st to september 4th 2006)

- Scenes from New England, people and places. I will share enjoyable september moments from Boston, Scituate , and will be crossing over the border to visit Hampton Beach N.H. Food, hotels, sites - and people. (September 7th to september 18th 2006)

- Comparing apples and pears - how to get best bargain from hotel reservation sites on the internet. Review commissioned by the www.pandia.com.

- Wonderful Berlin - where to go, what to do, and how to eat in the german capital. (October 2006)

- Twinkle, twinkle, little star. Does the rating of hotels on the internet give you what you want? How to deal with the complicated jungle of hotel ratings. Commissioned by www.pandia.com. (October 2006)

- Provence off season. Travelling to Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon in November. (Late november 2006)