Saturday, October 18, 2008

Economy on Crown of Scandinavia

Finally - Tuesday October 7th, I and my sister were on our way to Copenhagen enjoying my free tour from DFDS. We sailed on MF Crown of Scandinavia, one of two vessels cruising between Oslo and Copenhagen.

I am very hard to please, as the last times I have been traveling in business class when crossing the Kattegat. As a former board member, now web master for the Norwegian Security Association, it paid my fare - in a Commodore De-Luxe cabin.

Read more on the DFDS Commodore De-Luxe Cabin Experience on board Pearl of Scandinavia 2008 here

Read more on the DFDS Commodore Cabin experience on board Pearl of Scandinavia 2007 here

I am happy to say that this was a very good experience. We stayed in cabin 508 - a room with a view.

The cabin was quite small, in fact two beds had been folded up, making a room for 4 into two. The room was not big, you believe me - it had a Japanese feel to it. Still two tidy people could have a comfortable crossing on board.

The bathroom was equally tiny, toilet, sink and shower crammed into a small space, but it worked funny enough.

I traveled for free, but how much would a cabin like this cost you? For this coming week the fare would be around NOK 1200 (€ 150) for a round trip for two. Not bad, considering the fact you get two nights on board.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Irving House - revisited!

I have stayed at Irving House in Cambridge, MA once before, back in 1999 when I and three friends visited the US. In 2006 Enjoy Food & Travel co-writer Susanne Koch stayed a few nights in this charming B & B and fell in love with it. As I worked to book a hotel room in Boston the day before going back to Europe, Irving House was the only place to offer a decent room at a decent price. Staying at Irving House confirms that the small intimate B & B has so much more to offer than large luxurious hotels. Irving House is highly recommended when staying in Beantown.

Location: BBBBB

Irving House is located in Irving street, a 10 minute walk from Harvard Yard, in a quiet charming neighborhood, with the old university, bars, restaurants and shops nearby along Massachusetts avenue.

Service: BBBB+

Good but not great service at Irving House. Maybe a little more effort could have been made to make the guests feel a little more welcome. This would have emphasized the intimate feeling of this charming Bed & Breakfast.

And beware - if you have a large suitcase, as I did, there are no lift, so do ask to get a room on the ground or first floor. This is also stated in the booking confirmation. To drag it up to the 5th floor was not amusing.

Hygiene: BBBBB

Immaculately cleaned everywhere. Spotless!!

The room: BBBBB-

The room cost $240 a night, a high price, when comparing to European hotels, but cheap in a city where you may struggle to find a decent room for under $400 a night.

The room was a little smaller than I have been used to in Boston, but it had a decent double bed, but the room would probably have been on the smaller side for two.

A charming classic design with a traditional quilted bed cover, dark velvet curtains, a small desk, a comfortable chair to sit.

The bathroom had been newly renovated to a high standard. It had a bath tub, but when looking for a tap in order to use it, I discovered that it probably had been removed, or had it?

Whatever, I had to settle for a shower instead of a great dip in hot water.

There were enough room for the content of the toilet bag for at least two. All in all - a comfortable bathroom.

Breakfast: BBBB+

The breakfast is included. I may be a little spoiled, but I found it a little disappointing. No scrambled eggs or bacon, only boiled eggs available on a small buffet. A relatively small selection of cheese, no meats. A few variety of breads, one dark and one white. Coffee and juice. Jam, yogurt, muesli, and fruit. I am picky - but I do not care for sweet things for breakfast, and I missed more savory products on the buffet

As a tourist a breakfast is the meal getting you going in the morning to last you to lunch, and I found the breakfast at Irving House not too filling. A larger selection of cheese, meats, scrambled eggs and bacon would have been a good idea for travellers like me. The good thing at Irving house is that it is included (you get bed AND breakfast).

Facilities: BBBBB-

Irving House is not the place for those looking for inhouse restaurants, bars, swimming pool and fitness rooms. There are no facilities found in traditional hotels here. What you get is peace and quietness.

The breakfast room is located downstairs, a little small and there are certainly potential to get a more interesting interior here.

At the reception area you have a small room with comfortable chairs to sit in, and a mac (hooray) available for guests. So here you may check you e-mail (as I did).

Price: BBBB

I think $ 240 is expensive compared to what I would get for the same price in London, Paris or Berlin. But compared to $400+ it is an acceptable price, and you get what you need at Irving House. There are cheaper rooms with shared baths available. Prices vary with season.

Rating the Irving House experience: BBBBB- (4,55 points)

A classic Bed & Breakfast in a quiet charming area of Cambridge MA. Greater Boston area easily available by subway and bus-services. Harvard square with restaurants, bars and shops nearby.

Highly recommended by Enjoy Food & Travel. We will certainly go back.


Irving House
24 Irving Street, Cambrisge MA 02138
Phone: +1 617-547-4600
Phone: (Toll Free) +1-800-547-4600
Fax: +1-617-576-2814
Official website here

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Say cheese!!!!!

My cousin Erica brought me to her nearest Shaws Supermarket, located in Cohasset on Bostons south shore. I love US Supermarkets with their abundance of products and, for Norwegians, extremely low prices. I ended in the delicatessen, where you can get slices of meat and cheese, and what range of cheese!!

American Provolone

I found these large packages of Provolone cheese, originally Italian, but these are produced in the US. Provolone is an unknown cheese to me (probably most are, as Italy has a large domestic cheese production).

Provolone is a semi-hard cow's cheese from the Po valley in Northern Italy. The name is not protected, making it possible for the American to make their own variety.

The aged Provolone from Dietz & Watson is for sale at $ 7,49 pr. lb. and the Stella aged unsmoked provolone is priced at $ 5,99 after a discount of $ 1,50.

American cheese

For Europeans American cheese is an entirely different experience. It is a brand that covers a wide range of products, mostly processed cheese, i.e. a product made from regular cheese or dairy products.

It is very soft and melts easily, thus often used on hamburgers and other hot food. It is a product very different from European cheese.

Here you have a yellow cheddar-like store brand sold for $ 5,99 and a white from Dietz & Watson for $ 6,99.

These shelves of cheese are found in:

Shaw's Cohasset
739 Chief Justice Hwy
Cohasset, MA 02025

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New herbs and exotic plants in my garden

The 2008 season is definitely coming to an end. It has brought some interesting new herbs and plants to my summer garden. I am happy to see that my old thyme thrived through the long and warm summer. There are a few other plants that grow much further south in my garden, and I wonder whether they will survive the winter.

Fragaria cesca

I found this most delicate strawberry plant in my garden centre in May. It has provided me with small tasty strawberries during the summer, tasted one by one - not in large quantities.

It nearly died during the first drought period in May, as temperatures soared to 30C (84F) the leaves turning yellow and limp.

I saved it with cold fresh water and it has thrived in the shades of my flower bed and will - until the frost comes continue to share its harvest.

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

Lemon verbena is a native of South America, and I am very excited whether it will survive during the winter in the mild coastal climate of the Norwegian south eastern coast.

It was brought to Europe by the Spanish around 300 years ago, and grows in milder climates into a bush 1-3 metres in height. Its lemon character is created by three substances, citral, nerol, and geraniol.

It is one of three lemon spices in my garden as lemon thyme, lemon balm, to add to your fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings, and beverages.


Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, Remember me to one who lives there, For she/he once was a true love of mine.

(Scarborough Fair 1670)

As the lyrics of the 300 years old ballad shows, Salvia is a very old herb used to flavor food as well as for medicinal purposes.

I have never managed to get it to thrive in my garden, but I just had to try another plant on another location. This as it is a fabulous herb for poultry, lamb, beef and game.

Blue Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops cerifera)

Chamaerops cerifera is a native of the Atlas mountains of Morocco. This small, slow-growing palm grows up to 2000 metres being exposed to scorching heat, drought, snow, and freezing temperatures.

The trick is to plant it in dry soil, and even if it may endure frost down to -10 C (14F) in Africa, this requires much hotter summers than here in the North. I just cross my fingers.

Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia Humifusa)

Eastern Prickly Pear is more hardy than most other of its relatives. It has conquered Northeastern America up to Toronto - an area with a cold winter climate.

I found it in my garden centre and it was winter hardy and resistant to temperatures down to -26C (-15F). I was told that if my hens and chicks thrived, this certainly would be happy.

So we'll see - I'll keep you posted!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sexy, succululent - strawberries!!

I find strawberries and cava the ultimate sexy refreshments. As this bottle of dripping cold Freixenet and large red tasty strawberries served on our terrace a warm summer day in Sitges. Let your teeth sink into the soft succulent berries followed by a sip of fresh sparkling nectar.

You can enjoy it by yourself or why not try another twist, lipstick red frozen cava strawberry daquiri. Pour cold sparkling wine into a blender and add frozen strawberries, one by one into the blender as it runs until it freeze down.

See the recipe here

You will end up with the most delicious dessert to eat. Personally I prefer the ingredients separate, as here and a Spanish summer day is a perfect moment to enjoy them!