Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon

In Vieux Lyon, the old city, you find the Lyon's old cathedral. It is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. This Gothic church building was constructed between 1180 and 1400, on historic ground. In fact it marks a Christian centre going back to the earliest origins of the Christian church.

Lyon is one of the oldest Christian centres in western Europe, and there have been church buildings here for at least 1600 years, and traditions states that one of the buildings goes back to the 2nd century. Adjoing you find the house of the cathedral choir, the Manécanterie, a beautiful ancient Romanesque building.

Lyon cathedral is a monument of the Gothic era, from the hands of the stone masons that shaped the pointed arches of many great churches in Europe. Compared to the churches in Reims, Paris, or Strasbourg, Lyon cathedral is less ornate, more modest, and is not very impressive in size.

The work started during the reign of the powerful monarch Philip IInd August, and ended ended some 220 years later when Charles VI le Bienaimé, le Fol (The beloved, the fool) was king. It is very different from many other churches from this time, more solid, and not as ornate as e.g. Strasbourg Cathedral. The two towers of the facade flat, but the main towers do not have the impressive spires found on other churches, but have a square and rather flat roof.

Lyon was one centre of the Huguenot uprising and many buildings were ravished during this period and later the French revolution. It has survived a long and dramatic history and was the main church until the construction of the impressive new cathedral Notre Dame de Fourvière, that is clearly visible all over Lyon.

There are many historic event connected to the old cathedral. It was here Henri IVième met his wife to be Maria de Medici in 1600, and where they married immediately, as he found her pleasing enough for a royal spouse. .

The church has several attractions. You may visit the Bourbon Chapel, or you may study another interesting attraction - the ancient astronomical clock.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Beijing Palace - Oslo

(Reviewed January 12th 2009) Beijing Palace is a small restaurant in downtown Oslo. I have been served decent dim sum here, so I decided to dine here, on my way back from work. I expected, as earlier, to get a good meal for a low price. The price was low alright, but forget the food - it was boring.

Location: BBBB

Easy to reach by public transportation, but located in hardly a charming area in Pilestredet, a busy business street in downtown Oslo, 5-10 minutes away from Stortinget T-station.

Service: BBB+

What service? There were nobody there as I arrived, but one, then a second waiter appeared. They were not grumpy, in any way, but this was communication on a minimum level. Exchange of information only - one mineral water, then the main dish. You order - we bring!

Design & Atmosphere: BBB

Beijing Palace has a classic, boring and rather outdated Chinese interior. Beige walls, dark wooden tables, decorated with ornamental objects in wood. Wall to wall carpeting in red, beige and brown colours.

Th interior is in need of some maintenance, as there were stains on upholstery, and marks on the walls. One of the waiters worked hard to remove stains from the synthetic table cloths.

There are a small number of tables in Beijing Palace, but there are generous space around them.

On the table was a small saucer and bowl in cheap quality, a pair of plastic chopstick and napkin. Beige tablecloth in syntethic material.

Food: BBB

I was served roast duck with vegetables in an oyster soy sauce. Here are my remarks to the food:

Very plain presentation. Heap of rice with vegetables and duck on top. No fresh colours.

Texture: The duck was seriously overcooked, grey and soft, and no crispy fat. Some of it was tough. A waste of good meat. Vegetables were overcooked and soft, but bamboo shots were nice and crunchy. The rice too sticky and partly dried out.

Balance: Very little taste, low in salt and no other contrasting tastes. I had to add some sweet chili sauce in order to improve the seasoning, but it did not work very well.

Taste: Very little extra taste from other ingredients.

Price: The only nice thing was the price. 10 Euros, is cheap for a dinner, but you should not expect to pay more for such a meal, rather less.

Beverage: Not rated

Rating the Beijing Palace Experience: BBB+ (3,37 points)

I have enjoyed decent dim sum and Beijing Palace, but my latest visit was a disappointing experience. If this is the overall level, I cannot recommend a visit here. A better alternative is Kowloon at Øvre Slottsgate 15B, by Stortinget T-station.

Beijing Palace
Pilestedet 27, N-0164 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 11 08 00

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sophisticated fusion at restaurant Valuta

(Reviewed January 10th 2009) I have already shared memories from restaurant Valuta, located in Kunstbanken, Hamar Art Centre in the middle of the city. A very cold day in January I invited to fusion lunch, and I am happy to say that it met my expectation. Restaurant Valuta has brought an interesting part of the world to Hamar.

Location: BBBB

Hamar is a relatively new city with an architecturally heterogenous city centre. Restaurant Valuta is located in an old bank building, just a five minute walk from Hamar railway station. Close to any public transportation the city has to offer. Charming and scenic? Not really.

Service: BBBB+

We arrived at noon when the restaurant opened, and there were only two other guests. The waitress was kind and welcoming. The communication between us and her was quite business like and it did not take us long to order. I ordered a Tom Yum soup with noodles, mushrooms and scampi, and a bottle of mineral water.

Interior & Atmosphere: BBBB+

The restaurant is located in what once was the local affiliate of the Norwegian National Bank, a classic greco-roman style building. Where cashiers once counted the riches of the state, you now find Kunstbanken, a large art gallery. A new addition has been connected to the old building - metal, glass and concrete creates an interesting contrast to the old classic building.

I would rate Valuta as a restaurant with a designer interior. Dark / black handcrafted tables and chairs, no table cloth, wine glass, fork and knife and an orange paper napkin. A little bare maybe, but tasteful. There are a generous amount of space around the tables, and you are well seated.


The Tom Yum soup was served in less than 25 minutes, peeping hot, in a rustic ceramic bowl. Delicate green grey colour topped with a thin layer of fresh red oil on the surface.

The soup felt more like a broth than a soup. Good consistency of ingredients. Shredded crunchy carrots, succulent mushrooms, noodles and scampi slightly al dente.

Medium hot, well balanced. Sweet, sour and salt - and interesting distinct background aroma (coriander?). The seasoning enhanced the taste of the ingredients. Price NOK 139 (Around 15 Euros), but quality assures Restaurant Valuta a full score.

Beverage: Not rated

Rating the Restaurant Valuta experience: BBBB+ (4,40 points)

A good, borderline recommendable restaurant with a classy, but a little cold designer interior. Some room for improvement of service. Great food makes a visit to Restaurant Valuta worthwhile.

Restaurant Valuta
Parkgt. 21, 2317 Hamar
Phone: +47 62 53 23 33
Mobile: +47 95 14 15 82

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Strasbourg - an international centre

Strasbourg is home to several international organizations. At the Robertsau, Wacken and Orangerie areas you find The Council of Europe, The European Court of Human Rights, and the European Parliament. Alsace has been partly German and partly French during the centuries and its location between two of the most important powers in the Union, has made it into a natural centre of European cooperation. The first institutions settled here nearly a hundred years ago, but its international role grew after World War II.

The Central Commission for Navigation of the Rhine was set up after the Vienna Congress in 1815 and is the oldest international organization in the world. The Central Commission made Strasbourg its home in 1920, but when the Council of Europe chose the city as its location in 1949 a new era started for Strasbourg.

The Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is located in several buildings in the Robertsau area, the largest being Le Palais de l'Europe. The Council is the oldest body working for European integration and cooperation. The Council has 47 member countries with a population of 800 million citizens.

My knowledge of the Council of Europe goes back 30 years. I attended a political seminar as a high school student with fellow students from Norway, Denmark and Germany in 1978 at Jugendhof Scheersberg in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. First we had classes at the centre before travelling to Strasbourg to visit the European institutions. It was strange to arrive there again visit my good friend Øivind Grimsmo that works as a HR coordinator in the CoE.

Read Øivind Grimsmos articles on Enjoy Food & Travel here

The current Palais was brand new when I visited the Council as a high school student, as it was inaugurated the year before on January 28th 1977. It contains 64000 square metres of meeting rooms and offices for the large CoE staff.

The European Court of Human Rights

The history of the European Court of Human Rights goes back to 1950. The European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was adopted by the Council of Europe and a European Court was set up to monitor the compliance of the member states. Today 47 countries has signed this convention and are obliged to grant their citizens the fundamental rights secured in the Convention.

The court was instituted as a court with full time judges in 1998. Today you find its headquarter, designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership in 1998 close to the Palais d'Europe.

European Parliament (Louise Weiss building)

Whereas most of the work of the main European institutions takes place either in Luxemburg or Brussels, European parliamentarians meet 12 times a year in the Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg. Strasbourg once was the only seat of the EP, but a large new building (l'Espace Leopold) was opened close to the HQ of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers in Brussels.

Still the French government insisted that the parliament should continue to convene in Strasbourg and a new impressive building was opened in 1999 named after the Alsatian activist and politician Louise Weiss.

The Louise Weiss building is located further down the waterways that criss cross the European Quarters of Strasbourg. It is an extraordinary, yet architecturally controversial building. It is inspired by a Roman amphitheatre with a round shape, large glass surfaces broken by wooden frames.

All these institutions is easily accessible by tram E from Strasbourg city centre, and worth while visiting when you are in the city. A visit to the buildings may be combined with a walk in the beautiful parc Orangerie near by.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Financial massacre at sea

2007 and 2008 have been two turbulent years for those companies operating ferry services from the continent to Norwegian ports. 13 of 28 services to 8 Norwegian ports have ended, three have been redirected and one more may close down the coming summer.

The companies have experienced less interest in the traditional “booze and meat” trips to Denmark and Sweden. The wealthy Norwegian travelers prefer other and more interesting destinations and means of transportation.

The services from Bergen to the UK, Iceland, Faeroe Islands, and Shetland have also ended due the slow market. The company Kystlink went bankrupt and their services to Langesund ended in October 2008.

Fjord Line applied to Kristiansand Harbour authority to have a summer route to Hirtshals. It has a policy that they want traffic all year around, and this service may stop coming summer, if Kristiansand Harbour Authority do not make exceptions from its policy.

Fjord Lines services were redirected from Hanstholm to Hirtshals in November 2008, as the port authority at Hirtshals could offer the company better conditions.

Here you find an updated list of services to Norwegian ports also showing the services that ended in 2007 and 2008

  • Bergen (Fjord Line – redirected to Hirtshals November 2008)
  • Bergen (Smyril Line – ended operation December 2008)
  • Egersund (Fjord Line – redirected to Hirtshals November 2008)
  • Haugesund (Fjord Line – redirected to Hirtshals November 2008)
  • Bergen (Color Line – ended operation December 2007)
  • Bergen (Fjord Line – redirected from Hanstholm November 2008)
  • Egersund (Fjord Line – redirected from Hanstholm November 2008)
  • Haugesund (Fjord Line – redirected from Hanstholm November 2008)
  • Kristiansand (Color Line)
  • Kristiansand (Fjord Line – may end operation Summer 2009)
  • Langesund (Kystlink – ended operation October 21st 2008)
  • Oslo (Color Line – ended operation May 6th 2008)
  • Stavanger (Color Line – ended operation December 2007)
  • Stavanger Fjord Line NEW November 2008
  • Oslo (Color Line)
  • Bergen (Smyril Line – ended operation December 2008)
Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Bergen (DFDS Seaways – ended operation September 1st 2008)
  • Haugesund (DFDS Seaways – ended operation September 1st 2008)
  • Stavanger (DFDS Seaways – ended operation September 1st 2008)
  • Bergen (Smyril Line – ended operation December 2008)
  • Bergen (Smyril Line – ended operation December 2008)
  • Langesund (Kystlink – ended operation October 21st 2008)
  • Sandefjord (Color Line)
  • Bergen (Smyril Line – ended operation December 2008)