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Monday, August 31, 2009

What I Did on My Bank Holiday by Tracy Miller

It started off innocent enough...a 2-for-1 deal on Zorbing. Zorbing always looked fun and cool - so we said (ok - I said) "What the hell - let's go for it!!". This decision was met by raised eyebrows from Brian. But he was a good sport and agreed to play along.

Fast forward to today. Finally time to go zorbing!

The directions seemed easy enough...take a train 35 mins outside of London, take a quick right out of the train station and walk for 10 mins...begin zorbing!

In reality, it was a bit...weirder...

They neglected to tell us that the "10 min walk" was actually up a really steep hill, in the middle of the forest, with no sidewalks...

And then we had to follow a dirt path, through the woods, in the middle of a paintball park...

And then we came upon a tent where we were greeted by a young girl with release forms for us to sign. I have to say, it didn't look that official, and it looked a wee bit sketchy. There were two other guys there at the same time as us, and we were able to watch them do a Hydro-run (where they throw water inside the zorb before you enter it) while we got ready (read: took off our shoes).

And then, our time had come...I'm not going to lie I started to feel VERY claustrophobic when I got inside the hamster ball...the inner space was much smaller than I had thought. I stepped back out of the zorb to collect myself and dove back in to get this thing over with. Literally, I had to dive in face first. Very elegantly I might add...

Once we were strapped in - we had feet and body harnesses - we were ready to go. A few deep breathes, a worried look to Brian and we were off!! And man did I scream my head off. An kept my eyes shut for 95% of it. And was completely mashed up the side of the ball while we were rolling/bouncing down the track. And then - it was over! All that for a measly 25 seconds of fun.

Brian and I looked at each other and just laughed. What a bizarre experience! We made our way back up the hill and prepared ourselves for our second trip down. I have to say, it went much smoother. We had a different hamster ball which was more comfortable and roomier inside - and I even managed to keep my screams to a minimum and my eyes open for 80% of it!! Victory!

Our zorbing package only included two trips down the hill, but we were perfectly ok with that. We watched a couple other people that had arrived after us and made our way through the sketchy woods back to the country road to head back to the train station.

The jury is still out on how we felt about zorbing...are we glad we did it? Sure, yes ok. Would we do it again? Hmm, I don't think so. Perhaps we had a spare one in our backyard, but I don't think its something we would travel outside of London to do again. But hey - variety is the spice of life...right?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bank Holiday

This weekend is a Bank Holiday weekend in London - meaning its a three day weekend. An early Labor Day weekend if you please - London is dead quiet much like NYC is during the summer.

What are we going to be doing on our extra day off?

A little thing called Zorbing.

Beyond excited.

Here's hoping I dont break a bone.

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kayaking - Day 2

When I woke up the next morning - I was greeted by this amazing view...

Not too shabby.

However, the last thing I wanted to do was put on my soaking wet wetsuit and kayak 12km. Alas, that was the only way back. So we packed up the campsite and were on our way. We stopped mid-trip to take a detour to see the largest waterfall in the fjord that we were on (largest waterfall by volume, that is). We hiked pretty close to it - I felt like I was on the Maid of the Mist! After a quick break for lunch, we had a one-track mind - getting to the end. Brian and I paddled our hearts out and we so happy to step back on land with our wobbly legs at the finishing point! It was an amazing experience, but we were happy to be done paddling.

After we got the boats packed up we made our way back to Voss for our last night in Norway. We were originally supposed to be camping our last night, but upon our return to the Nordic Ventures office (which is conveniently located next to a hotel) we took one look at the hotel and ran as fast as we could for a real bed.

We took the train the next day from Voss all the way east to Oslo where our flight was later that night. We decided to take the longgg train ride (6 hours to be exact) because we heard the scenery was amazing. It certainly was amazing, but after 5 days in the country to be honest all we wanted to do was get home. A very long 14 hours after we started our journey home, we made it back to London. We were exhausted but it was worth it!

Kayaking - Day 1

The original reason for us going to Norway in the first place, was to go on a 2 day kayaking trip down the fjords with a few of our friends. Some friends of friends had gone on the same trip with a company called Nordic Ventures and highly recommended it. So, we ended up booking a trip with two other couples that we knew from New York, that now live in London. They all arrived late Friday evening and joined us in Voss early on Saturday for our kayaking trip.

After we packed up the van, our guide drove us to the starting point of our trip. We packed up our kayaks with 2 days worth of food, tents, gear, clothes and wine (woohoo!), had a brief tutorial on kayaking and we were off! It took a few mins to get used to kayaking (for me anyway) but we quickly caught on. It had rained a little in the morning but the clouds were starting to break as we began our trip. We were to kayak 25km over two days, with the longer day being Day 1. We kayaked a couple of km and then took a break for lunch. It was amazing to see the sheer size of the fjords - the water was as deep as the mountains were tall. The sea was so calm, usually it was like glass, and if we stopped paddling it went silent. In one word - it was amazing.

Our guide told us to keep a look out for seals, otters and dolphins (keep in mind, this was sea water we were paddling in!) - and low and behold we actually saw some dolphins! Thankfully we were in 3 double kayaks, so Brian shared the paddling with me (ok ok - so he did most of the paddling, who am I kidding). Even though the journey was long, we did it at a slow and leisurely pace, so we could really enjoy our surroundings and appreciate the beauty that was all around us. It really was a once in a lifetime experience.

We finally made it to our base for the night, quickly set up camp and had a delicious grilled dinner. A few drinks around the fire and everyone forgot about their sore arms - and the remaining 12km we had left! Life was good.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Day three found us on a train heading to Voss. Voss is a small town about an hour and a half east of Bergen. We were headed there because that is where our kayaking tour was due to start from the next day.

We arrived in Voss and were...underwhelmed. After coming from Bergen, a smallish bustling beautiful city, Voss was a wee bit different. A bit older, MUCH smaller, and generally much quieter. We got to our campground (and decided to get a cabin for the night since the forecast for the weekend was rain) and decided to take a hike to the top of the mountain in Voss. We got muddled directions from the tourist information office on how to reach the trail but once we found it we were good to go. Oh, and I should mention that we were racing against time. We decided that we wanted to hike to the top and take the cable car down. But the cable car (and most other things in Voss) stopped running at 5pm. It was 330pm when we set off from town. One person told us the hike would take 4 hours, another said 1 hour is we went "very fast". So very fast we went.

And I should mention that this hiking path was more like a dried up river bed that people used as a guide to the top. And it got VERY muddy since it had been raining all week. That made for some interesting hiking. But we got some amazing views of the town and of the forest. As usual, the view from the top was worth all the blood, sweat and tears it took to get up there. I hate it when Brian is right :)


On our second day in Norway, very very early in the morning, we caught a flight across the country to Bergen. Bergen is the adventure capital of Norway - any kind of outdoor activity that you would ever want is available in Bergen, or relatively close by. We flew to Bergen because our kayaking trip was due to start about an hour and a half outside of Bergen.

It was too early to check into our hotel so we headed straight into town. The harbor in Bergen is so pretty and picturesque - the leaning wooden houses from generations ago, the harbor filled with yachts and fishing boats, and the fish market that takes place every day in the center of the harbor. We decided to take a train tour of the town. And by train I mean a Chou Chou train - it had tourist trap written all over it but it was suggested by one of our guidebooks and we only had one day in Bergen, so we figured why not?

Big mistake. We both hate to do touristy things like that, and we were reminded why. The tour was mostly older (MUCH older) people, and we had to listen to a pre-recorded tour of the town, but when we got caught in traffic the tape didn't pause. We almost jumped off the train mid-tour. So, to punish ourselves for making a stupid decision like that (and wasting a lot of money, Norway ain't cheap yo!) we decided to hike to the top of the mountain that overlooks Bergen. There is a funicular railway that you can take to the top - but we decided to hike it instead.

As usual I complained all the way to the top...and as usual the view was breathtaking once we got there. The sun came out and the weather was amazing!! Ill let the pictures speak for themselves...

We enjoyed a great seafood dinner in the harbor that night and toasted to a great day!

Next up - Voss

Oh - here is the link to the pictures. I'm warning you now - there are a 300 a lot...have fun :)


Hi everyone! We are back from Norway and finally caught up on some sleep! I just finished uploading and labelling all 300 pics from our trip (we got camera happy, what can I say!) - so now I can finally start our recaps!

We started our trip in Oslo. Brian had work to do all day so I was on my own for sightseeing. The weather was ok - mostly overcast and a little chilly - but there wasn't any rain, so that was a plus. I didn't really know anything about Oslo but I knew I only had an afternoon to explore. I admit - I did some poor planning.

My plan for the day was to wander around central Oslo, see the harbor, the palace, etc. Which I did. And it was OK. Oslo isn't the prettiest or most exciting city that I've been to. So while I had a great time seeing the Fortress and all the shops down by the harbor, and even the Royal Palace and a very organized children's bike race - there are many other cooler sights I could have seen (such as the sculpture park or the Viking museum).

Ah well - c'est la vie

What I did see I like and I got to do a lot of window shopping since I was on my own, which I thoroughly enjoyed as well! But I couldn't help wanting to get out of Oslo, and onto our next part of the trip....Bergen and the kayaking trip!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cross your fingers....

that the weather forecast isn't correct for our trip to Norway this week...

That's right...rain is predicted for every single day we are there. The British meteorologists are usually wrong in their weather forecasts (how they can screw up a 50/50 chance of rain I have no idea), so I'm hoping the same is true for this forecast! We will be back next Monday - have a great rest of the week and weekend!

Sunday, August 16, 2009



As much as a love a crepe (especially the ones filled with nutella) - good old american pancakes are still the best. Especially enjoyable when slightly hung over. Oops...too many Pimms last night. Best breakfast ever.

Copenhagen recap - Day 3

Oops - somehow this post got saved in my drafts instead of published - sorry for the delay!

We spent most of Saturday wandering around Malmo. Not that there is a lot to do there...although its Swedens 3rd largest city, we managed to cover most of it in a couple of hours. We went to the two largest parks in Malmo, the weather was still gorgeous so we had to take advantage of it. A quick tour of the city center and then we headed back down to the Western Harbor, hoping to take in another beautiful sunset.

We wandered around the apartment complexes and around the Twisted Torso for a few hours and marvelled at the architecture. Each block had its own unique look...very different from the row apartments in London and huge apartment complexes in NYC.

We ended the day back in the Little square with a pint of Pilsner Urquell (of course Brian managed to find the only Czech bar in Malmo) and some more delicious seafood. We were headed back to London the next day, so we tried to enjoy it all in the little time we had left.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Copenhagen recap - Day 2

On our second day in Copenhagen we decided to take a canal tour of the city. Along the Nyhavn Canal there are a good handful of tourist-trapping-must-see canal boat tours. And we walked right into one of them. Considering all that we saw, the amazing weather, and a chance to see the city from a different angle, we would walk into that trap all over again! It was also good because Brian was able to see the major sites of the city (which I saw on Day 1). We toured around the city for an hour and a half, had a great tour guide who explained what each of the buildings were (in 3 different languages) and had a great time!

We had checked out of our hotel that morning, with plans to take the train over the Oresund Bridge to spend a couple of days in Malmo, Sweden. After the boat cruise, we walked over to Christiania (the tracy-friendly part of it!) and had a nice relaxing lunch. With happy, full bellies we made our way to Sweden! The train ride from Copenhagen - Malmo is only about 30 mins long. The bridge consists of 4km underground tunnel and 8km bridge. Unfortunately we were on the underside of the bridge (the top is cars-only) so we couldn't see the amazing architecture of the bridge, but we could still the the water and all of the wind farms.

Once we arrived in Malmo and got settled in our hotel we decided to go for dinner in the "little square". Right off of the "big square" (these are technical terms people, go with me), the "little square" is famous for its social atmosphere - filled with bars, restaurants and cafes, it is the center of Malmo nightlife. We had a great sushi dinner (Malmo is famous for its super fresh fish, especially salmon!) and then wandered over to the Western Harbor.

We managed to go to the Western Harbor right at sunset! It was amazing to see the Twisted Torso and the Western Harbor at sunset. Unfortunately our camera battery died during the canal cruise earlier that day, so we were only able to get a couple of pictures. After a llloonngg journey back to the hotel (we may or may not have gotten lost once or twice) - we called it a day!

I forgot to add this in my Day 1 post - here is the picasa link to all of the pictures!

Copenhagen recap - Day 1

I better get my butt in gear and recap our Copenhagen trip for you - we are off to Norway in a few days and I don't want to wait a couple more weeks to show you pictures!

We arrived in Copenhagen in Thursday morning. After getting settled in our hotel we made our way to the Nyhavn Canal - the infamous, picturesque canal in downtown Copenhagen - for lunch. There is a very large pedestrian shopping area that spans almost 3/4 the length of the city, and we had to walk through it to get to lunch. It was really cool seeing all of the Scandinavian stores and fashion (well, I thought it was cool). They are very edgy and fashion forward over there - so jealous! We had a great lunch by the canal and then we had to split up - Brian had work to do (the original reason we went on the trip!) and I had some major site seeing to do!

Our hotel was basically on one edge of town, and most of the sites were in the middle and on the opposite side. This girl walked her butt off. For being a "small" city, I seriously must have walked a million miles. I wanted to see the famous Little Mermaid statue (once a symbol of Copenhagen and major tourist trap) - and of course she was located at the furthest opposite side of the city. Luckily, the weather was AMAZING (read: HOT), so not only did I get to explore a cool city, I got a great tan as well! Be sure to check out the pics, I must have seen every major site in Copenhagen on my first afternoon!

In the evening I took a bus over to Christiania, a separate island and more "alternative" area in Copenhagen. Known for its alternative lifestyle (aka rock and roll punks and laid back attitude towards drugs) it is a very eclectic neighborhood. I basically took 5 steps into that area, looked around and noticed that I stood out like crazy. What, danish punks don't wear J Crew?? I high tailed it out of there stat - at least I checked it off my list! There is another area of Christiania that is much more my speed - along the canal! It basically looks like the main canal in Copenhagen, but on a smaller cuter scale. Lots of cute bars and restaurants, and more cool houses.

I went back to the city center for dinner, a glass of wine and to put my feet up. What a great first day!

Monday, August 10, 2009

And the verdict is...

Two very enthusiastic thumbs up for Copenhagen and Malmo. As I mentioned last week, we really hadn't done any planning for this trip (much like our very successful trip to Ireland...I'm seeing a theme here) and we were so happy with this trip. We had AMAZING weather the entire trip and found Copenhagen to be an amazing city - fantastic architecture both old and new, friendly people and lots to see and do. Malmo was also a great addition to the trip - a small city on the coast of Sweden with some amazing architectural achievements in the last few years (more details and pics to come!)

We struggled a bit with the language though...and found things like this highly amusing...

'Rea' means 'Sale' in Swedish....he he he...

A full recap and link to pictures will be posted shortly - hope you guys had a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Next Stop - Copenhagen!

Hi all!

We leave for Copenhagen tomorrow morning! We will be splitting our time between Copenhagen and Malmo, Sweden (just across the bridge from Copenhagen). Can't wait to check out these Scandinavian cities! You can bet I'll be checking out these in Copenhagen....

mmm...i love me a danish!

This trip has kind of been shoved to the back of our minds because we have been doing a lot of planning for our Norway trip in a few weeks, and our trip to Slovenia in September. Poor Copenhagen, its kind of like the step-child trip this month. So, that being said, we haven't really done any research into what there is to see and do - but I'm sure we'll find something! Cross your fingers for sun :)

Have a great weekend!