Photos of the Day: Life’s a Beach

It’s been less than a week and I’m already missing the beach.¬† Something about water calms me…it’s like an instant shot of happiness ūüôā¬† Maybe I need to get an “ocean waves” app or something…but then I’m nervous that it will make me want to pee all the time.¬† Hmmm…I guess the next best thing to being there is staring at pictures!!!¬†¬†As I started looking thru my online photo albums, I realized that I’ve been BEYOND BLESSED to visit so many amazing places!¬† And I’d like to share a few of them with you.¬† So, get your pretend swimsuit, a very real cocktail,¬†sunglasses and let’s go!!!

Mimosas on the beach? Yes...please & thank you! (Cancun)

Mimosas on the beach? Yes…please & thank you! (Cancun)

A Hilton Head sunrise...best way to get your day started!

A Hilton Head sunrise…best way to get your day started!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it's absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it’s absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

I know this may be a stretch...but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands...and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey :) So serene & peaceful!

I know this may be a stretch…but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands…and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey ūüôā So serene & peaceful!

The famous Santorini caldera sunset...

The famous Santorini caldera sunset…

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The marina in Monte-Carlo

The marina in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

The “Norway in a Nutshell” Experience

‚ÄúGod dag‚ÄĚ from Norway! A couple of months ago,¬†I saw a picture of a Norwegian¬†fjord on Pinterest.¬† It was so breathtaking that¬†I promised myself that one day¬†I would¬†visit.¬† I was blessed to have a business trip here so I added a couple of days to experience as much as I could of this country.¬† Getting to the fjords isn’t as easy you think.¬† You need to take a series of trains, buses and ferries.¬† After a lot of research, I found that the easiest way is to take the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour.

This tour is a series of pretty well-organized connections from Oslo to Bergen (and back) via rail, bus and ferry.¬† Along the way, you will take a train halfway across a mountain, then¬†ride the Flamsbana¬†train down to the Sognefjord for a ferry ride thru 2 off-shoot fjords (Aurlandsfjord and N√¶r√łyfjord). There are also other city & fjord combinations (for more information, check out Fjord Tours). You can buy your ticket directly from Fjord Tours or at¬†the train¬†stations.¬† One of the great things about this tour is that if one segment is delayed, your next segment will wait as they are all connected.¬† Since we are short on time, we decided to do the roundtrip tour from Oslo to Bergen‚Ķwhich was 22 hours long! During the summer, you have more options for a shorter tour.

Schedule
8:11 = Train leaves Oslo S train station
12:53 = Arrive in Myrdal
13:02 = Flamsbana train departs Myrdal
14:00 = Arrive in Flåm
15:10¬†=¬†Boat/Ferry departs Fl√•m¬†(cruise the Aurlandsfjord¬†and N√¶r√łyfjord)
17:00 = Arrive in Gudvangen
17:25 = Bus departs Gudvangen
18:20 = Bus arrives in Voss
19:20 = Train departs Voss
20:34 = Train arrives in Bergen
22:58 = Night Train departs Bergen
6:26 = Arrive in Oslo

How was the Sognefjord created?

“The process began during the ice age about 3 million years ago.¬† A glacier about 6,500 feet thick slid downhill an inch an hour following a former river valley on its way to the sea.¬† Rocks embedded in the glacier gouged out a steep, U-shaped valley, displacing enough rock material to form a mountain 13 miles high.¬† When the climate warmed, the ice age came to an end.¬† The melted glaciers retreated and the sea level rose nearly 300 feet flooding the valley now known as the Sognefjord.¬† The fjord is more than a mile deep, flanked by 3,000-foot mountains (for a total relief of 9,300 feet).” [quote from Rick Steves’ Scandinavia]

Oslo – Myrdal Train

Rick Steves’ Scandinavia describes this as “the most spectacular train ride in Northern Europe.”¬† You are climbing over Norway’s “mountainous spine” where the scenery gets more dramatic the higher you go.¬† Honestly, I didn’t find it all that spectacular.¬† Of course, I fell asleep about an hour into the ride so take it for what it’s worth.¬† It may actually be spectacular in the summer when the land isn’t barren.¬† For a beautiful train ride through a winter wonderland, you should check out Interlaken, Switzerland.

Flamsbana Train

Now this train ride had beautiful scenery.  Waterfalls frozen mid-stream, bubbling creeks, snow-capped mountains and rustic little towns.

    

Flåm

This small town is really catered to tourists.  During the winter, most of the restaurants are closed (we were able to find 1 that was open for lunch).  The souvenir shop was open from 1-3pm.

  

Fjord Cruise

This is the real star of the entire tour!¬† The cruise takes you through Aurlandsfjord¬†and N√¶r√łyfjord (which is the narrowest fjord).¬† While it was very windy and cold, you easily are caught up in the beauty and serenity of the area.

   

Gudvangen

Rick Steves’ says it best, “Gudvangen is little more than a boat dock with a giant kiosk.”¬† Seriously…there is nothing more than that (other than a bridge and a bus stop).

  

Voss

This is a plain town that has a beautiful church and a lovely lake.¬† There isn’t much to do other than walk around while waiting for the next train out.

  

Bergen

I really can’t review¬†this city.¬† We arrived at night while it was raining and just found a restaurant for a quick bite to eat.¬† It is a bigger city and recommended as a stop-over by Rick Steves.

Overall

The Norway in a Nutshell tour was fine.  I wish there were an easier way to reach the fjords because, for me, that was truly the highlight of the trip.  Other than the Flamsbana train ride and the fjord cruise, I could have been okay with not doing the rest of the tour.  However, during the summer, it is probably very good as the land will be lush and the days longer.

The night train back to Oslo was great though.¬† We upgraded to a sleeper car (totally worth the extra 850 Kronor!).¬† I was so well-rested upon arrival that I didn’t even bother with a nap today.¬† This tour is a bit expensive (2240 Kronor = approximately¬†390 USD¬†(without the sleeper car)) but you do have a fully packed day.¬† While this is officially a “tour”, there is no actual guide.¬† You receive your tickets and a schedule.¬† I highly recommend bringing along a guidebook (Rick Steves’ Scandinavia has an excellent step-by-step guide of this tour which helps you to understand what you are seeing and what to expect next).

Looking for a hotel in Oslo?  Check out my review of the Thon Hotel Astoria here.