Seaside Days

This week my blog posts may deviate from the normal ones because I am staying in Blackpool for a few days. Hopefully I should get some reading done too, as I love taking a story with me on holiday,

Weirdly Britain is having a few weeks of crazy rain and windy storms but I am determined not to let that ruin my getaway. It is just another sad sign that global warming is altering our local climate markedly.

Although these pictures are dark and moody, I felt really happy to be back at the seaside resort I last visited in 1993.

Blackpool tower was based on the Eiffel Tower.
Trams have been around since Victorian times in one form or another.
This very traditional North Pier still has a theatre at the end serving musicals and comedy.

I may pop a few interesting pictures on once I have settled in. Thanks for checking out my blog.

5 Reasons To Visit Norway

Having seen the beautiful Norwegian countryside on television, I had it in my head that I needed to check it out for myself. So, I decided to go on my very first cruise and made sure that the Norwegian Fjords were my destination.

Have you ever thought about visiting Scandinavia?

If you have, then perhaps a good place to begin your exploration is Norway. This historic nation with its Norse Gods and stunning glaciers, is jam-packed with eye-opening scenery.

Here are five reasons why you should take a trip to Norway, preferably by cruise ship.

1) Cruise ships are packed with fun

Taking a voyage on the open sea had always appealed to me and so I was in my element after I’d checked into my balcony suite on the P&O Azura. The suite was spacious and had a butler service as well as plenty of technology available. On the balcony were some chairs on which we could sit and enjoy a drink whilst watching the sun set.

Activities on the ship were varied and I made good use of the gym, a massage, the casino and live music at nighttime. A shopping deck, choice of restaurants and a theatre all helped to pass the time, especially during the full day at sea.

2) Stavenger

I loved the shops and the ambience.

After a day on the waves, you then get to spend every day on land, at a different venue. You literally wake up in a new port every morning. If you travel by cruise ship, the actual travelling part mostly happens while you sleep. Then you are ready to spring into action and explore the attractions on dry land.

Stavenger was my first stop off and I absolutely loved it. Most cruises stop off at this popular destination on the south coast of Norway. Such a snug town with a large port and plenty of shops and eateries, is a way to acclimatise with Scandinavia.

I really enjoyed buying gifts here, taking in the art and architecture and getting a feel for Norwegian life. Surrounded by steep hills, this picturesque town was great for photos and had a really friendly vibe.

3) History

Throughout the trip I got to experience elements of Norwegian traditions and history. For example we visited an intriguing wooden church which was introduced by a guide and gave us some insight into village life as well as a deeper understanding of myths and legends.

As a bit of a geek, I am always intrigued by Norse mythology and so making that link to the place where such stories evolved was brilliant. Carvings, pottery and furniture often gave nods to those mysterious Gods and added to the fascination factor that Norway possesses.

4) Bergen and a nearby glacier

This glacier is slowly retreating, sadly.

Bergen is another beautiful town located by the mouth of one of the stunning fjords (wide rivers). It has shops and restaurants as well as museums. When I visited Bergen I also drove off into the mountains and walked up a pathway that led to a stunning glacier.

As a geographer, one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Norway was to witness its incredible landscape with enormous valleys forged by ice. This particular glacier sits high up in the hills and there are markings showing that it has slowly retreated in recent years. Nonetheless it was an interesting spectacle which was fascinating to learn about in the museum/ shop at the bottom of the walkway.

5) The general friendliness of Norway

There is a certain warmth about Norway. I could sense it everywhere I went. It seems as though the people who live there are extremely welcoming and are great at putting everybody at ease.

I sensed this in the hospitality and just generally out and about. One such friendly town was called Voss where we had lunch and spent time in a local library as well as taking in stunning views by a lake. We always felt very safe and comfortable and the people we came across were eager to help and didn’t mind speaking English when we wanted directing or more information about something.

I’m Voss there was a beautiful body of water which really took my breath away. Exploring the quaint little town, I genuinely felt like I could see myself living there happily one day. Certainly Norway is a place that has a caring attitude to the environment and harnesses it’s natural wealth cleverly. For instance, most if it’s power is now generated by hydro-electric stations and most of its cars are electric too.

The very futuristic looking library.

In fact I loved Norway so much that I now find myself watching Norwegian programmes on Netflix. I’ve recently enjoyed a series called ‘Ragnarok’ which is a modern day take on the Norse God stories.

If you travel to Norway, you are sure to want to come back. It has a certain magnetism which is magical, mystical and just incredibly beautiful. If you get the chance, definitely travel there on a thriving cruise vessel like the wonderful Azura.

All in all, there were two important elements to my trip.

1) The cruise itself was wonderful and is a slightly cleaner way to travel when compared to flying. Also you get to soak up the atmosphere of a floating community of holidaymakers.

2) Norway is intriguing, beautiful and steeped in history. Its heritage is fascinating and most of all, its people make you feel so very welcome.

I hope this blog article has made you consider visiting wonderful Norway and also got you thinking about joining a cruise. If you enjoyed the post, please leave a comment or perhaps follow my blog.

You may also want to check out my recent post about Switzerland: This is a link to a blog post about reasons to go to Switzerland

5 Reasons To Visit Switzerland

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Continuing my write-ups on holidays I’ve enjoyed which have not involved air travel, I want to share with you just how wonderful Switzerand is. Nestled in the Alpine region, between Italy, France, Germany and Austria, this incredible nation has everything you could wish for.

Beautiful Zurich

1) It has good rail links

For me, it became increasingly important to try and avoid aeroplanes and make more of an effort to travel in a less polluting kind of way. Trains in Europe are electric and depend a lot less on fossil fuels, so are easily the best option when journeying across some distance. From London to Zurich it was only six hours (two to Paris, then an easy connection and four more hours to Zurich). The best thing about travelling by train is that you get to sit back with a drink and watch as the beautiful scenery changes from flat farmland to mesmerising mountains.

2) Mountains and Valleys

There is nothing quite like being amongst mountains and Switzerland has some of the most stunning views I have ever seen. One November day I used a very steep funicular to get to the top of Stoos, a skiing village perched above the town of Schwyz. At times the vehicle almost goes straight up as it clings close to the cliff and gives you a majestic view of the surrounding valley and breath-taking countryside.

The incredibly steep funicular up to Stoos.

3) Cheese!

Switzerland is famous for Swiss Army Knives, chocolate and cheese. Every main street has a variety of intriguing chocolate sellers with astounding displays of the sweet stuff of the highest quality. I bought my friends plenty of chocolate and they all really appreciated it as generally it outdoes the standard sweets you get back home in the UK.

Cheese is also a delicacy and you can’t visit Switzerland without trying some deliciously hot melted cheese. Otherwise know as fondue, this treat for your tastebuds will knock your socks off. Don’t worry though, even if you are dairy intolerant, the fondue restaurants have other delights on their menus. There is always dairy free cheese, which in my experience is just as tasty.

4) Towns and Cities

Although I stayed in Zurich, which was lovely and full of energy, I also managed to visit beautiful Bern and lovely Lucerne. All three places were incredible in their own right. In Zurich I shopped, had a wonderful afternoon at the Zurich OperaHaus and sampled some amazing food. I also sampled the nightlife and enjoyed some cool cocktails as well as the great nighttime views of this old city, steeped in history and intrigue.

Lucerne was hot on the day that I visited and the lake looked stunning. Walking across its famous Chapel Bridge was great when wanting to take photos as it provided plenty of different perspectives of the town. I particularly remember sampling pastries at one of its brilliant bakeries and not only being full up but also thinking how exquisite everything was.

Bern was one of the government centres. In Switzerland the seat of government moves between Geneva, Bern and Zurich on rotation but some of the larger and architecturally interesting buildings are situated in Bern. It is also full of shops and when I visited it was raining a lot so plenty of undercover places to snack and browse proved popular with me.

Einstein was born here in Bern.

5) Lakes with views to die for

For me, the bodies of water that I came across in Switzerland were distinctly magical. From the entrance to Lake Zurich to the tranquil Lake Zug, Switzerland is full of watery views that will take your breath away.

Taking a ferry from Zurich to the other side of Lake Zurich, I was amazed by the delightful views of both the city in all its splendour and the surrounding hillsides. It felt so peaceful in the middle of that surprisingly clean water, taking in the incredible panorama. Our bus driver also showed us the mansion that Tina Turner now lives in, nestled right next to that enormous lake. It’s true to say that you haven’t seen anything until you have set eyes on the stunning Swiss lakes and mountains.

Charming Zurich is full of history.

Why not try taking a holiday by train?

This was one of the holidays I took by train and I cannot speak highly enough of the service I received on the journey. If you enjoyed reading my post, perhaps consider commenting your thoughts and following my blog for more of the same content.