Ports in Norway & Amsterdam v2

Apologies for the delay in blog posts and posting so close together. I had much less time than I anticipated to blog while on the cruise, and then I thought I would in France but our internet access was not strong enough (or maybe I was drinking too much wine… ;-).

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Our cruise stopped in three ports in Norway during our trip. Below are the highlights!

Stop 1, Wednesday August 10: Geiranger

On the day of our first stop in Norway, we all woke up early to sit on our balconies as we cruised into the fjords.  While the weather was a bit cloudy there were several rainbows and it was gorgeous in every direction.

Just one of many rainbows as we cruised into the fjords towards Geiranger.

Similar to our time in Iceland, there were waterfalls everywhere we looked. The clouds were constantly shifting, which also created an amazing changing landscape.

More of the fjord as we cruised through. It was surprising to see the snow up on those peaks on the right in August. It was not that high in elevation, but it had clearly snowed within the past couple of days!

Passing the waterfall called the Seven Sisters. The little ferry on the bottom left gives a nice perspective for how high the fjord walls rose above the water.

The fjord as we approached Geiranger.

Just another beautiful waterfall…
In the port, Andrew had arranged for us to do some kayaking with a local outfitter, Active Geiranger. Lots of work went into organizing our own excursions outside of those offered by the cruise line but it saved us a TON of money (thanks to Corinne and Andrew for doing the majority of the research for the group). It started to rain shortly after we got on the water but it was still fun to see the fjord from water level.

Corinne and my Mom in their kayak.

Andrew’s parents in front of our destination waterfall

I think this is when the water started to creep through some gaps in my kayak skirt and down my back 😳

After kayaking the rain let up a bit and despite being pretty wet bottomed, we went off to do a short hike. We hiked up to a view point above the village with a gorgeous view of the fjord and the town.

The view from our hike. Down below is our cruise ship along with two of the orange tender boats to get us from the ship to shore. Something pretty cool that we learned during the interview with the ship captain is that they used a so-called “virtual anchor” instead of a real anchor. Apparently they can use the power of the ship and an automatic system to keep the boat at exact GPS coordinates, within 1 meter of accuracy!

Despite the rain, we never got cold and we all had a great day in Geiranger. The clouds stayed high enough to be able to see quite well and we were still able to do our hike and kayak trip as planned. Gregg and Kelly did a nice bus tour to the tops of some nearby vantage points and Andrew’s parents explored and did part of the hiking trail with us. Not surprisingly, when we boarded the ship by tender at the end of the day with 30 minutes to spare before the required boarding time, there were only 100 people left on land out of about 2,500 passengers. We were some of the braver ones to make it through the weather!

Stop 2, Thursday August 11: Bergen

Cruising into Bergen, there were islands all over the place, and each was dotted with cute, colorful houses. It made you wonder how post addresses work and what it is like living life with a boat as your main mode of transportation to reach the rest of your community.
Bergen was the biggest city we visited and had our best weather day in Norway. We started the day with a walking tour that Andrew found online, which as always gave us a great intro to the local history and architecture.

A traditional neighborhood of Bergen, with clapboard houses.
After the tour we stopped for lunch at the Bergen fish market and then went for a 6.5km  round trip hike to the top of one of the surrounding mountains, Mt Fløien. There was an excellent view from the top of the town below. Gregg and Kelly took the funicular down from the top as they have never ridden one before and the rest of us did a little more walking through the park at the top of the mountain before walking down to the town to re-board the ship again.

View from Mt. Floien

View from Mt. Floien
Stop 3, Friday August 12: Eidfjord

We arrived early in the morning in Eidfjord, with clouds and rain in the forecast. But that didn’t stop us! Andrew had arranged with the local tourist office to rent bikes. Just for perspective to show how tiny these towns are that the ship stops at, this town info center had TEN bikes for rent and we took 8 of them! Also helps that most people hop on a cruise line sponsored excursion for the day and not many people appeared to have been taking our method of exploration with the weather so soggy.

View from the ship of the town of Eidfjord (the entire town)

Our ship, the MS Koningsdam, docked at Eidfjord
We took a 20 km ride through the fjord to one of the biggest nearby waterfalls.

Riding along the fjord. The water was crystal clear.

It was raining quite a bit, but we all managed to keep a smile on our faces and enjoyed the solitude as we were nearly the only ones on the road. The fjord walls towered above us on all sides and there were plenty of waterfalls to gaze at.

With the lighting and my poor iPhone photography skills, these don’t really do the day justice, but hopefully it helps to portray what it was like during our ride!

We didn’t walk any closer but this was the waterfall we rode out here to see. It was beautiful!

bike group
Smiling in our delirium of having ridden 10 km to this point through the rain (and two bee stings for Corinne). We were having fun together!
I was so sad that this was our last point in Norway as it was such a beautiful country and I felt like there was more to see. But, it was time to go. I would highly recommend others make their way north to this country as I hope to return again some day!

Last day at Sea:

On our last day at sea on the cruise ship, we all relaxed and enjoyed what the ship had to offer. Nice breakfast, relaxed coffee and reading in the Navigation café at the front of the ship. Andrew and I signed up for a cooking class in the ship’s culinary arts center, which had potential but was a big disappointment (complete lack of instruction, unfortunately). We look cute in those aprons, though!

cooking class
Andrew and I at the cooking class on the ship.

Last night on ship
View from the ship of sunset over the North Sea. Those dots on the horizon are oil rigs as we passed a ton.
Our last night we had a nice dinner in one of the restaurants of the ship, Pinnacle Grill and then caught one of the shows. They used excerpts from the BBC’s Frozen Planet and had a live orchestra play music along to the film. It was very impressive and enjoyable to watch.

So, my overall impression of the cruise. Keeping in mind I have never cruised before, the ship itself exceeded my expectations. Our room was very nice, our shower was way bigger than I expected and I loved having a balcony for the purpose of our room feeling bigger and then also to sit out there when the weather provided. The ship itself had plenty of food options, all were very good, and more bartenders and drinks waiters then you know what to do with. The entertainment options were great and I felt like there was always something going on. We took advantage of a lot of their shows, trivia contests and live music. I think the best part is to be able to have your hotel room follow you as you travel from place to place and to not have to pack and re-pack every day. However, in the end, I still feel like I missed out on little things like going to the grocery store, getting gas, speaking with hotel staff and going to restaurants that gives you more of an insight into how a country works and what the people are like. Though the cruise did truly save us time as we were able to dine in restaurants and sleep while the cruise trip transported us from spot to spot, which I appreciated!

Amsterdam last day:

We all tacked on a day and night in Amsterdam before everyone flew out to go their separate ways (my Mom, uncle Gregg and Kelly to the D.C. area, my sister Corinne ultimately to Vancouver, Canada and Andrew’s parents to San Diego).

Accommodation: For our last night in Amsterdam we switched locations and stayed at The Hoxton. It was an eclectic style hotel, a mix of modern and retro. We absolutely loved it for the style, convenient location in a nice neighborhood on a canal and wished we could have stayed longer.

Eats: 

For lunch on Sunday Andrew, his parents, my Mom and I all got a to-go lunch at an Indonesian take-out bar called Kantjil to Go. As Indonesia is a former Dutch colony, it is fairly common fare in Amsterdam. The serving style was similar to Chipotle where you add your base, protein and veggies into a to-go container. We ate while sitting on a canal and people watching. It was really very good.

Sunday night we all did one last meal together in Amsterdam at Café De Jaren. Corinne’s friend Christiana even joined us as she and Corinne were meeting up to hang out (Christiana lives and works for KPMG in London!). The menu was one everyone would enjoy, and we sat by the doors that opened onto a terrace overlooking the canals. It was a great spot to have some last conversation in person before saying goodbye.

Sights: We visited the Van Gogh Museum and did a few walking tours through the city and the Red Light District.

IMG_2649
As per our trusty Rick Steve’s guide: Amsterdam was built in a marshy delta and on top of millions of wooden pilings. The wood survives if kept wet and out of the air. Many of the city’s old buildings lean this way and that as their pilings settle. I thought this was one decent example of this as we saw leaning buildings all over the city!

Tour AMS
Andrew, our tour guide, reading to the group from the Rick Steve’s guide.
That’s it! I couldn’t believe Norway and Amsterdam were over. Overall, it was over a week of our vacation and it was so memorable. It was nice for Andrew and I to get to go to a colder climate after the heat of the Iberian peninsula, and I can’t say enough how much we enjoyed getting to spend so much time with our family, together, without having to fly to back to the States. Next up, Burgundy wine country in France!

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