Saturday, October 29, 2011

CANCELLED - Christmas 2011: Cairo, Egypt


Vis Cairo, Egypt - Christmas 2011 i et større kart
 Our trip to Cairo, December 2011, has been cancelled due to the current riots in the city. 

I am excited to travel to Cairo, Egypt this Christmas. Africas largest city is a major religious and cultural centre in the Middle East and the entire Arab world. The region house some of the most impressive monuments from human history, as the pyramids and the sphinx in Giza.
 
The Al Azhar Mosque goes back to 972. Photo: Daniel Mayer
Today Cairo has a population of around 6,7 million, but the metropolitan area has close to 20 million inhabitants, making it into one of the largest citys in the world.

The city's history goes back to 969 when the Fatimid Caliphate conquered Egypt from Tunisia and established a new fortified city northeast of Fustat, known as al-Manṣūriyyah, which later took its Modern name, Al-Qahira (Cairo) which was to serve as the new capital of the caliphate.

We are certainly going to visit these. Photo: Ikiwaner
Cairo is a religious and cultural melting pot and the capital of a liberated and revitalized democracy. This Egyptian spring has partly been a painful process, and lately there have been clashes between the Muslim majority and the Christian Coptic minority, that make up around 10 % of Egypt's population.

The Copts and Muslims have lived side by side for 1300 years. The Coptic Christian is one of the oldest Christian faiths may go as far back as the second century. These two faiths have left many important historic monuments in Cairo. We are certainy planning to see important historic sights from these two cultures.

But what would a visit to Cairo be without a visit to Giza to see the pyramids and the sphinx, and to see Tutankhamon at the Egyptian museum. And when we are tired, we can retire to our luxury room at the Kempinski Nile Hotel in the affluent Garden City area.

So I am convinced that this Christmas will be the best in years. I look forward to sharing my visits to historic sights, as well as culinary experiences with you here on Enjoy Food & Travel. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

€300 per night for regular hotel rooms in Bergen? Maybe, but not in November!

Single room at Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge
Bergen, Norway, is one of the most expensive cities in Europe for tourists to stay in. Norwegian papers reported that you may to pay up to €300 for a moderately sized room. Expensive hotels and bad service threatens Bergen reputation as one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Norway. That was back in August. Booking a room in November you will not have to pay that much. It is, after all, off season. 

Bergen hotels charge deluxe prices for quite ordinary rooms, and the number of tourists visiting this historic city may fall if this trend continues. There is a limit to how much tourists will pay for ordinary accommodation.

I have stayed in Bergen hotels several times the last years, but I have always been there off-season, i.e. from October to May. Here are current prices for hotels I have stayed in from 2007. Be aware that current prices will be lower than during peak season. 

The large atrium at Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg
Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg - same price as in 2007

The Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg is located on a hilltop at Sandsli, a five minute drive away from Bergen airport Flesland. I stayed there April 2007. I was given a large double room with a view towards Bergen.

The hotel is located outside of the city, and you may have to take a bus in order to get to the city. Another drawback is that you have to rely on the hotel in order to take a drink or dine, as there are no other restaurant or bars in the neighbourhood.  

My room at Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg was paid for, but the rate of the double room was € 130. Going rate at booking.com for two nights from November 4th to November 6th is €464.

The good news is that booking.com is offering a discount of 40%, so you can get a double room for two for €281 per night, more or less the same price as four years ago.

Read my full review of Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg here
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Bergen
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel - 35 % up since 2008
I stayed at Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in November 2008. Then I paid a discount price of 1170 NOK (€ 150), then a steep price for the room in question.

Radisson Blu Royal Hotel is located by the historic Bryggen area, in the city centre. It was awarded several architectural prices for its design.

In 2008 I found the only thing royal by the hotel was the price. Great breakfast, location and facilities, but partly rude, and inexperienced staff. My room, however, was terrible, in need of a total makeover. 

All rooms for two first weekends of November 2011 were booked. For the weekend November 18th to November 20 you can get a double room for NOK 3091,- (€ 403), an increase of around 35 %. Full price of a double room is NOK 2250 (€ 293) per night, so I do recommend using booking.com when booking here.
Read my full review of Radisson Blu Royal Hotel here

Double room at Bergen Travel Hotel
Bergen Travel Hotel - up 25 % since 2008

I stayed at Bergen Travel Hotel in November 2008. Then I paid a discount price of 790 NOK (€ 105). You can get the same room early November 2011 for NOK 990 per night. 25 % up since 2008.

I had left Radisson SAS Royal Hotel eager to find a better hotel. I had booked two nights at Bergen Travel Hotel, a small newly redecorated hotel close to Torgallmenningen , Bergens main street.

Bergen Travel Hotel provided a decent honest experience, and I had, back then,  no problems recommending it for visitors to Bergen.

You can get a non-refundable double room for NOK 1990 (€259) if staying in Bergen from November 4th to November 6th. Throw in an additional NOK 50, and you may cancel the room. Breakfast is included. Full price of a double room is NOK 1360 (€ 177) per night, so I do recommend using booking.com when booking here. 

Read my full review of Bergen Travel Hotel here 
Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge - exterior
Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge - 17% down compared to 2009, and breakfast included
I stayed at Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge in October 2009.  The price of the single room was NOK 745 per night (€ 97). Breakfast (NOK 69 / € 9) not included. Not a high price for a room, back then, and you can get a room at Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge even cheaper now.

Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge is a budget hotel at the lower end of the scale, budget as in feeling a little cheap, as well as inexpensive. Great location. Low in inhouse facilities.

You can get a non-refundable single room at Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge through booking.com for NOK 675 (€88) if staying in Bergen from November 4th to November 6th. Breakfast is included. Full price of a single room is NOK 1195 (€ 155) per night, so I do recommend using booking.com when booking here. 

Read my full review of Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge here

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Karlstad - a city by the Inland Sea


















Karlstad is the largest city in Värmland. It is located by Vänern, the third largest lake in Europe. Back in 2008, we visited this beautiful city. I had no prior knowledge on the history or sights of Karlstad, except one. Karlstad has a large masonic temple, famous for its role in Norwegian history. Here, in 1905 the treaty dissolving the union between Norway and Sweden was signed in this building.












The city of Karlstad is founded and named by King Karl (Charles) IX in 1584. Today there are not much left from this oldest period of its history. We did, however, find some buildings that had survived the large fire in 1865 as we wandered around in the city.

Gymnasium Adolpho-Fredericianum (1759)

This large yellow building is located on Lagberget, a small hill, by the Karlstad cathedral. It is one the oldest buildings in Karlstad, built 250 years ago, from a design made by the architect Carl Hårleman.

It survived the fire in 1865.

It has had many purposes during its long history. It has been a college, library, hospital and has also been used to store gunpowder.

The small tower once was an astronomical observatory.

Karlstad Cathedral (1731)

In the church there is a memorial plaque telling a short story of the cathedral:

HÄR PÅ LABERGET BYGGDES DENNA DOMKYRKA 1723-1730 AF CHRISTIAN HELLER OCH JOHANNES HASSELSTRÖM. HÄRJAD AV ELD OG UTSATT FOR ANDRA SKADOR MEN ALLTID ÅTERSTÄLLD I FORNYAD SKÖNHET, GJENOM FÖRSAMLINGENS OFFERVILJA

or

HERE ON LABERGET (name of hill) THIS CATHEDRAL WAS BUILT 1723-1730 BY CHRISTIAN HELLER AND JOHANNES HASSELSTRÖM. RAVAGED BY FIRE AND SUBJECTED TO OTHER DANGERS, BUT ALSO BROUGHT BACK TO RENEWED BEAUTY DUE TO THE SACRIFICE BY THE COMMUNITY.

The church did also survive the large fire in 1865, and its tall tower is visible over much of the city. The interior is classic in gold, clean white walls, under a dark wooden ceiling.






Hypoteksföreningens Hus (1852-1853)

This building was one of the largest buildings as it was built in the mid 19th century based on its architect and builder Jonas Jonsson Linköping.

After the great fire it became an important meeting point for the inhabitants of Karlstad after this devastating event.




Landshövdingegården (early 18th century)


The oldest part of Landshövdingegården or the Lindmark-Nygrenska building is close to 300 years old.

It was the residence of the Landshövding, the leader of Värmlands county 1793-1809. In this period the upper floor was added.



Doktorsgården (Late 18th century)

This beautiful large 200 year old building. Its name comes from the fact that early in the 19th century it housed two of the city physicians.

Doctor, later professor, Peter Sundberg had his offices on the first floor, whereas doctor Erik Högberg had offices on the ground floor rooms.




Flachska Gården (17th century)

The oldest parts of Flachska Gården may be found on the old engraving of Karlstad above, as the ground floor of this building goes back 350 to 400 years.

During the 19th century the upper floor was added. The name of this house comes from the the city mail inspector and major Erik Gabriel Flach. One of the wing building housed one of Karlstads first post offices.


Häradshövdingegården (Late 18th century)

This building, also called Pihlgrenska gården was originally a building with one floor. It is named häradshövdingegården as it once used to be the residence of the local judicial official, häradshövding Anders Jacob Pihlgren






Grevgården (18th century)

This large wooden building was the residence of a local nobleman. The house of the viscount, was the residence of viscount Carl Gustaf Löwenhielm, that also owned Apertin and Lökene, two other properties.

Viscount Löwenhielms building was one of the largest in Karlstad, and the large banquet room on the first floor was, with its six large windows one of the most stately rooms in its time.

Where to find these building?

Here is the map of Karlstad city centre marking the historic buildings in Karlstad city centre.


View Larger Map

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Direktflyg starts daily flights Oslo to Karlstad

A 19-seat Jetstream 32 will fly passengers between Oslo and Karlstad 
Swedish air carrier Direktflyg will start daily flights from Oslo to the regional capital of Värmland county, Karlstad, from November 7th.

An increasing number of Swedish nationals live and work in Norway. Many of them come from Värmland county,  just across the border. Most of them travel home by road or by rail. Now they may fly to Karlstad, as Swedish Direktflyg will start two daily flights with a 19-seat Jetstream 32 aircraft between Oslo and Karlstad from November. Flight time is 35 minutes.

Air fare starts at NOK 995 for regular tickets, whereas senior citizen and students may travel at NOK 695 per ticket.


View OCTOBER 2011: All non-stop flights from Oslo Airport in a larger map

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Café Madison, Albany NY


During my first (and only) evening, in Albany NY, I was taken to Café Madison a short way from the downtown area, where I was treated to a decent meal.

Café Madison is named after the passing Madison Avenue that leads down to the NY capital's downtown area. This is a nice area of the city with low buildings. It is located around 1 km or 0,6 miles from the city centre, only 5-10 minute walk away.

Good service, nice intimate interior. We were comfortably seated by a long table.

At Café Madison you can choose from a wide range of dishes from their dinner menu. I chose fish with a delicious salsa. As starters we were recommended their crab cakes. The meal was very enjoyable.

Address:
1108 Madison Avenue # 1
Albany, NY 12208-2276
(518) 935-1094
www.cafe-madison.com


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