Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Planning for the fall of 2007

Some bargain flights from Norway to European destinations

Do you have some vacation left that you plan to spend this fall? If you are looking for the cheapest airline tickets - start now! For those you that live in Europe, you have many options through the growing numbers of low cost airlines that operate small and large airports in the EU. For us Norwegians, living in a small country in the periphery of the European Union, we have less to choose from. But even we can get some very good bargains if we would like to escape shorter days and lower temperatures.

From Norway to Europe we have to settle for three low cost carriers. Norwegian Air Shuttle has the largest numbers of routes and operates direct services to European destinations from most of the main airports in the country. The Irish carrier Ryanair have services from Torp airport outside Sandefjord to many locations in Europe and have one service from Haugesund airport to London Stanstead. Danish air carrier Sterling run their business out from Oslo Airport Gardermoen to a growing number of destinations.

These three companies have some good deals for this coming fall, and can bring you from Norway to Europe for a very low price. This, however, depends on how early you start to look for your tickets, and you might as well start to surf the net now to get the best air fare. Remember there are often a limited number of cheap tickets under offer.

I browsed through the websites of these three airlines. I wanted to check whether they could offer me any round trip ticket to European destination for less than 100 EUR. And I was amazed that they had several very good deals. If you can leave Torp October 25th and return October 30th, Ryanair offers right now a roundtrip ticked to beautiful Bergamo in Northern Italy for a little over 40 EUR, included tax. (However - be aware that the carrier charge you for every item you check in.) Still this is one of the cheapest flights you could ever get from Norway to a European destination. And for those of you living close to an airport operated by these air carriers - check the price the other way, and visit us.

Here are some other bargains from Norway tor Europe for less than EUR 100,-:

  • Ryanair to: London (Stanstead), October 19th - October 25th - EUR 62,-
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle to: Copenhagen, Oct 15th - October 19th - EUR 63,-
  • Ryanair to: Barcelona (Girona), November 7th - November 12th - EUR 68,-
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle to: Gdansk, December 23rd to December 27th - EUR 69,-
  • Sterling to: Nice, November 13th to November 18th - EUR 71,-
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle to: Valencia, October 16th to October 20th - EUR 75,-
  • Ryanair to: Marseille, October 20th to October 25th - EUR 80,-
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle to: Gdansk, November 4th to November 8th - EUR 81,-
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle to: Berlin (Schönfeld), September 17th to September 21st - EUR 84,-
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle to: Belgrade, November 3rd to November 10th - EUR 87,-
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle to: Paris (Orly), November 14th to November 18th - EUR 91,-

So with this in mind......

Go to your computer and plan your break this fall now! And if you are lucky, you may get even better deals from where you live. Good luck - and have a nice vacation!

Are you a DINK?

Read my 10 good rules on how to get cheap airline tickets here

10 tips on how to enjoy Bangkok

I spent last week in Bangkok. It is a city of contradictions: Stunning beauty and appalling pollution attack your senses; ancient temples and brand new shopping centers compete for space; Buddhist monks and prostitutes walk the same crowded streets. I am totally fascinated by this strange and wonderful city.

By guest writer Susanne Koch.

Here are my top 10 tips for your first visit to Bangkok:

  1. If it is at all possible, try to spend more than a couple of days. There are so many impressions, sites, sounds and smells, you’ll need a week to find your bearings.

  2. Bangkok traffic is infamous. Whenever possible, use the Sky Train, a network of fast, efficient, air conditioned elevated trains. There are only two lines, but they take you to many interesting destinations like the weekend market at Chatuchak, shopping around Siam Square, relaxing in Lumpini Park and gawking in Pat Pong.

  3. If you are going anywhere near the river, you don’t have to worry about traffic jams. Use the river boats. This is a great way to see the city – you can even design your own sight seeing trip this way. Take the Sky Train to Satorn Pier and catch the Chao Phraya River Express – it’s so cheap it’s practically free. Not all boats stop at all piers, so ask the staff for help if necessary.

  4. Stay away from the helpful “guides” loitering around the most popular sightseeing spots. They will tell you that the spot you are trying to visit is closed for the moment, and will then go on to recommend an alternative sight in another part of town. The whole point is to get you to the shopping centre that is paying them for hijacking tourists. Be warned, they are very charming and have even learned all major capitals by heart. “Where are you from? Norway? I have been to Oslo!” etc. etc.

  5. If you are suffering from a “Far East Culture Chock” (which is not unusual), start slow. Visit one of the amazing super malls before going out into the noisy streets. Paragon at Siam Square can be easily reached by Sky Train, and is the largest, most professional and modern mall we have ever seen. Make sure that you visit the exotic food department.
  6. Drink a lot of water. Then drink some more. The heat will wear you down sooner or later, but with plenty of water inside, you will last longer.

  7. Think twice before you try the tuk-tuks. These 3-wheeled moped taxis are an integral part of Bangkok and they look very charming. But riding a tuk tuk places you – quite unprotected – in the middle of Bangkok’s crazy traffic. And the air pollution is so bad it literally made my eyes water. I’ve never experienced anything like it!

  8. The regular taxis are safer than tuk tuks. Select one marked Taxi Meter, and make user that the taxi driver turns on the meter. Alternatively, ask for a fixed price. If you don’t, you risk seeing more of Bangkok on that trip than you bargained for.

  9. Enjoy the food. By going to a foreign country you always risk getting stomach problems. Still, you can reduce the risk significantly by going to clean establishments with a lot of visitors. (If the restaurant is full, queue up! If it is empty, avoid it!). Do eat the salad. Do not avoid Thai food, even if you are having problems with spicy food. Not all Thai dishes are hot, and the waiter will normally be able to help you along.

  10. The Thai people are very polite and friendly, but do not misuse their hospitality. They find it hard to stomach displays of anger – be polite. Learning a couple of phrases in Thai helps.
Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Pandia.com. Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pesto-marinated halibut with bacon

Halibut is a fish that can take strong flavours, and after I tasted it prepared this way, it has become a favourite. The most delicious way is to substitute the bacon with large paper-thin slices of parma or serrano ham that clings to the marinated fish. But bacon works great!!

You need the following for prepare this dish

2 large slices of halibut fillet (350 grams / 14 oz each)
4-6 tbsp pesto
8 slices of bacon

If you cannot get homemade pesto, as the delicious sauce made by Øyvind, look for any good pesto at your grocers. My favourite is the Barilla brand, but use the one you like best. Be aware that the amount of salt in the different brands varies, so taste before you start preparing this dish and adjust the amount you add to the fish. Remember that also the bacon and fish contains salt!!

Place the slices in a tray, skin down. Spread 2-3 tbsp of pesto on to fillets. Cover the tray with cling film, and allow marinating in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.

Place 4 slices of bacon of a cutting board. Place fillet on top of the slices. Fold bacon over the fish.

Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Sear the fish until it gets a nice, lightly brown surface and the bacon clings to the fillets. Place in an oven proof dish and bake in a moderately hot oven (175C / 350F) 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Be cautious not to overcook the fish.

Serve with baked asparagus, tomatoes and potatoes.


Knutstad & Holen - A culinary oasis

In Hamar, you get the best fish and seafood Norway can offer. Here you find one of the best fishmongers in the whole country. It is quite unexpected to find such a large variety of products here, so far away from the sea, but there are few places in Norway that rival Knutstad & Holen. They are well stocked and there are supplied with seafood of excellent quality. But the shop has much more to offer than just fish. Here you get products you have to struggle to get hold of, even in Oslo

And the citizens of Hamar and the whole region certainly seem to appreciate the abundance of products under offer. As we entered the shop, Jun 16th, there was a long line of customers waiting. I planned to buy a large piece of halibut to serve for dinner, and a few slices of parma ham.

As I had to wait, I used my time to check their supply. Here you could get fresh lobsters, langoustines, king crab, shrimps, prawns, large fresh scallops. Mouth-watering! The supply of fresh both saltwater and freshwater fish was equally impressive. They could also offer a large range of other fish and frozen seafood products of high quality.

Knutstad & Holen had several products that you, if you live in Oslo, have know where to buy. I saw frozen raw foi-gras. This is a product you really have to struggle to find in, even in Oslo. As all foi-gras is imported, the price is extremely high, as abroad, where this product belongs to the most luxurious you can get.

They had a large selection of cured meats, both national and imported. Sadly, I hoped to get four large slices of parma ham for my halibut, but sadly enough, they only had large packets of parma. So I went for the next best thing - bacon.

When it was my turn in line, I ordered 1 ½ lb (750 grams) of Halibut fillet, and paid only 17 Euros. As my friend Øyvind does not care much for fish, this large chunk was to be prepared for me and Stian. And that is another story.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The great view from Parc Guëll

I have written from Parc Guëll after my visit in December. My friend Terje recorded these two films from the top of the park. From here you can really get an impression of the size of this city.

I miss it already.


A trip to Montjuic

Here I am, on our way up to Montjuic, one of the best view points of Barcelona. If you are lazy you can take a funicular from Paral-lel (Line 2 or 3), or a cable car from the harbour. We - however - walked up in the scorching heat.

We took the subway to Espanya and walked through the area built up for the World Exhibition in 1929.

Montjuic either means "Hill of the Jews" in the Catalan language, or is a corruption of "Hill of Jupiter" in Latin. It is a hill by the harbour, and the best view point close to the city.

The start point are Placa Espanya, with the magnificent buildings built t the world trade fair in 1929. The two buildings in the picture remind me of the campanile on Piazza San Marco in Venice and are the gateway to the exhibition halls that are still in use today.

We walked through the gates and into the trade fair area. Then you are clearly impressed by the wonderful Palau Nacional, built in 1929, that house Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.

This is a magnificent building, visible from much of the city. Situated on the lower part of the
hillside of Montjuic it house an impressive collection of art from Catalan artists, as well as old and contemporary masters.

As you walk up the stairs (or use the escalators), you slowly get an excellent view of this city.

Terje and I had decided to walk up Montjuic, and decided not to visit the museum. But this is clearly something I would like to do the next time I visit the city.

As you get further up you get an extraordinary view at most directions.

You can admire the hills surrounding the city centres, and on clear days, you may be able to see up to Montserrat.

This picture is taken facing north. Here you see most of the Eixample area, and you can see the towers of Sagrada Familia reaching up over all the roofs of the city.

Montjuic is a remarkably green hill, with dense vegetation growing along the hillside. Here you find the Botanical Gardens, a place I also plan to visit when I return.

We were particularly impressed by the Palau Albeniz.

This is a small mansion or villa overlooking the city. It has the most remarkable garden. Neatly planned ornamental flowerbeds, fountains and other water features and a large variety of flowers, shrubs, and trees.

A lovely place to visit during the hot Spanish day, as all the trees provided shade for us.

A great way to get down in the city is to take the funicular back into the city centre. We did, and it was very convenient. And it is a part of the metro, so you can use your regular metro pass.

Montjuic is definitely the place to return to, as it is the home of so many attractions. Both the Palau Nacional and the Botanical Gardens are places to visit in the future.

More sights?

See other sights in Oslo and around the world here on Enjoy Food & Travel - your travel source!


A cathedral under glass

Hamar is the largest city in the county of Hedmark. It is located by Mjøsa and is surrounded by some of the most fertile agricultural areas in the whole country.

Today's city was built up early in the 19th century. But there has been a city here also in the Middle Ages. It was abandoned 400 years ago. There are, however impressive architectural remains from this early period of settlement.

The remains of the old cathedral and the fortress that once used to be the home of the local bishop are the most important. They are located on a small peninsula, north of the city centre, and you can get there by walking along the beach. Here you can admire the view of the large lake.

As transportation on large bodies of water were among the most convenient far back, the cathedral and the fortress had an excellent strategic location. The fact that it was located in some of the most fertile and wealthiest areas of the country meant that they could build in a much bigger scale than in most other places.

The history of the cathedral

The old cathedral goes 850 years back in time, to 1152. This year the papal envoy Nicholas Breakspere (the later pope Hadrian IV) founded the diocese at Hamar. The farm of Åker had been a political seat of power since the late Roman era, and a seat of a Thing, an old norse political assembly.

The construction of the cathedral started in the same period. It was a basilica built in Romanesque style with its characteristic rounded arches. It had one main nave and two lower aisles divided by two large arcades. Today only one is arcade is back.

It had two side ships, one central tower and two towers in the front. It may have looked like this drawing made by Øyvind Nordhagen. It was an impressive building, by far one of larges of its kind in the country and an important symbol of the power of the bishops of Hamar.

The End of Medieval Hamar

Well what happened? How could an important seat of power disappear like this. Up until the 16th century Hamar was one of the five most important cities in Norway. In the 16th century the Danish-Norwegian kingdom was at war with Sweden. At the same time an important rival to Hamar gained strength. The Norwegian capital Oslo, felt the competition from Hamar to be the most important city in the Eastern part of the country.

In 1537 the last Roman Catholic bishop Mogens gave up, as the Protestant reformation established itself in the country. In 1567, during the northern seven years war, the army of the Swedish king Erik XIV, lead by Johan Siggeson, destroyed most of the cathedral. In 1587 the city market was closed down by the king and the city lost its privileges. That was the end of old Hamar. The ruins fell into disrepair.

The fate of the remains of the cathedral and the fortress

The ruins at Domkirkeodden (cathedral peninsula), continued to decay. Some parts of the old fortress was preserved as barns for the Storhamar farm.

In 1985 the condition of what was left of the cathedral reached a critical point. It was wrapped in plastic to avoid further decay.

Thanks to generous donations from an American of Norwegian descent, Mrs. Gerd Thune Ellefsen Perkins, a glass building was built over it. This great building, designed by the renowned architects Kjell Lund and Nils Slaatto will preserve the ruins for coming generations to see.

The new building is spectacular. Its ground breaking design creates a new church room. The glass filters the light through in a remarkable way and you feel that you are out in the free - inside!

Today this building is a great venue for concerts, and the day we visited four weddings were in process. We were lucky to see this architectural wonder, as we sneaked in during one of the breaks.

You are hereby advised to visit this beautiful spot, if you are on you way north through eastern Norway. You will certainly not regret it!!


The ruins are today a part of the Hedmark County Museum. Visit its website here (Norwegian only)

More sights?

See other sights in Oslo and around the world here on Enjoy Food & Travel - your travel source!