Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Temple garden, London

Tucked in a little area and next to the Thames is an area of London called 'the Temple'. This was named after the Knights Templars, this was their headquarters when they were active. Today it is a very exclusive area, full of law offices and a law school. The lawyers who practice here are called Temple lawyers and they usually deal with human rights cases. Amal Clooney is a Temple lawyer. When I met my cousin Robert for lunch a few days after my visit here and told him, he said, 'I'm also a Temple lawyer!' I didn't know that because all my life, my aunt, his mother, has always joked that his human rights cases never got him rich. Anyway his wife is a corporate lawyer in London and he doesn't have to worry. But between those massive and impressive buildings is a sizable garden, with lush lawns, oak trees and some lovely herbaceous borders. After ploughing through all the magnificent sights in London, one longs for a little respite, a country garden, to sit and ponder, have tea or lunch and enjoy doing nothing, it is still possible to do this in the middle of London. The garden was actually closed at the time of my visit but they were in there preparing for an event and I snook in. I'm glad I did.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Musee de la vie romantique, Paris

Tucked in a little corner in the Montmatre district of Paris is this old house. It is very unusual to find a free standing old house in Paris. Paris is so built up but if you look and try very hard to find it, you'll happen upon it. I walked up and down, asking everyone I bump into. They (the Locals) don't even where it is but I did find it. It is a very pretty house, full of momentous of the original owner, Ary Scheffer and his friends. He was a Dutch painter and he held a salon in this house and famous people like Eugene de la croix, George Sand and Chopin used to attend. The tiny front garden is very pretty. Its like this little gem in a huge city of Paris, quite refreshing to visit and spend a little time, in the garden and the cafe.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sundborn, Sweden

This was the Lake district of Sweden and Sundborn, a few miles from Falun is a tiny little village. The attraction here is Carl Larsson's house. He was a painter and together with his wife and kids lived here. Today the family still owns it but is opened to the public. A bus from Falun takes you there and its a short walk from the center of town. Its a sweet little village. Inside one can see the areas where he painted, like a daughter watering the geraniums at the big front window. It was a fascinating visit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dove cottage, Grasmere, the Lake district

Besides Hill Top farm in the Lake district of England, there is William Wordsworth's Dove cottage in Grasmere, also in the Lake district. He grew up nearby, played in the area as a young lad, walked the whole Lake district area, wrote poetry about it. A visit here makes it easy to know how this area has influenced so many English writers. It is so beautiful, the sun is always gentle, the birds are always singing, the flowers grow in abundance without much coaxing. In the Summer, this area is inundated with tourists from everywhere in the world, from Asia predominantly. They come with their own guidebooks and check off everything that is mentioned in those books. There's ample transportation, buses and shuttles run almost none stop between most of the villages. There are tea rooms everywhere. It is like a festival here in summer and it is a festival, celebrating the beauty of the English Lake district.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hill top farm, the English lake district

A visit to the English Lake district always means a visit to Hill Top farm, the former home of Beatrix Potter. But it was not opened the day of my visit. However I was allowed to roam in the garden outside the house. The whole area is so beautiful. There's a shuttle that comes up here from Hawkshead, one of the many cute villages of the Lake district.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stavanger, Norway

If you are just now following this blog, I took a 3 month trip starting June 3rd, 2015 and finishing at the end of August. I posted everyday during those 3 months from wherever I was. I had my computer with me and my camera. I'm now revisiting the places I went to in no particular order. I knew it will be expensive in the summer months and also crowded. It wasn't anymore costly or anymore crowded. I did get locked out of hostels because of the crowds but there were always hotels. So by using a mixture of hotels and hostels I was able to bring the cost of travel down even though I went to some of the world's most expensive places and at the peak of the tourist season. The sun shone for most days but in between it rained. The best thing for the rain is a rain poncho, it covered my back pack which had my camera equipment, it covered my camera but I was able to expose it to take pictures even through the rain. I went through 5 cheap rain ponchos. I lost the one I brought with me, a gift from a friend who bought it in Seattle, Washington, I left that on a bench at a Finnish train station. The rest ripped but I still brought one home with me which is sturdier and I will use that for my next trip. I spent a few days in Stavanger, Norway. There's no easy way to go to Stavanger. I took the bus from Bergen, a 5 hour trip which I thought would be boring. There's nothing boring about Norway even on the longest train or bus ride! I was never bored. We had 2 ferry crossings on this bus, I met a girl from England and we kept each other company. We had to get out of the bus and wait in the upstairs sitting room that also had a restaurant, we ate lunch on the ferry before finally reaching Stavanger. You have to go to Stavanger if you want to climb Preikestolen or Pulpit rock.It is a very laid back city with a stunning old town.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Norway, the beautiful

It has been voted the most beautiful country in Europe by the London Telegraph. It is beautiful all year round though I was only in summer. Every place I've been in Norway is so spectacular, its plains (not much of that), its mountains and its waterways, it has a lot of both. Its cities are beautiful and its wild areas are beautiful. It is my most favorite place in the world.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fjord view

Imagine waking up to this. Here is a view of Sognefjord from Balestrand. My room did not have this view. I got up early and went down to the water front to take this pictures and many others. But there are hotel rooms that had this view. Norway is unforgettable.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Euro

Have you seen the exchange rate lately, the US dollar is higher, don't ask why. Just take advantage of it and book your ticket now. Fares are cheap too because its the low season. How about a few days in Paris, or Amsterdam or even Berlin? How about brunch at Roamers cafe in Berlin. Its a small place, serves good food and is always crowded. Take off and!

Flam, Norway

If you are like me, leave Norway till the last, you would have missed a lot. I've always been led to believe that Norway is so expensive that it is prohibitive. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not anymore expensive than Rome, London or Paris. Besides there are loads of ways to save. But the people who are brave enough to venture there, the Chinese, principal among them, has discovered a whole different world. The sights and experiences are something that is so unique to Norway. The best time to visit is in summer. Even though it still rains, you'll get many spectacular days. Flam is a very little village at the trail head of Sognefjord, the fjord ends here and even though it is small, the huge cruise ships are still able to get in here. The Flamsbana train runs in and out of here a few times a day and every trip is packed. Here people are lining up to board the spectacular train that takes through those high and dangerous landscape.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Flam hostel, Norway

This is true 'maximum thrills on a budget'. Flam hostel is probably the most unusual hostel in the whole wide world. For one thing it is very close to the city center unlike most hostels. Location is very important to me, close to the train or bus station so I can make my exit easily. This one was and besides Flam is very small and it tis at the end of Sognefjord. It is a very lively place. The grounds of Flam hostel is so beautiful, wide open spaces with fields of wild flowers. In the apple orchard at the entrance is where tents can be pitched. In the middle of the compound are the common facilities like showers and toilets and kitchen, round them are the dorms. To one side are the private cabins and to the hillside in the rear is where one parks their RV's. They cater to everyone. Let me plan your trip to Norway.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A raspberry farm in Norway

I took a hike out of Flam the afternoon that I arrived and walked past cute little villages with their cute houses. I passed this raspberry farm. No fence is going to keep me out. I climbed over but the field was already picked over. Anyway I found a few ripe berries. I just wanted the experience of fruit picking and foraging. I popped a few of the ripe berries into my mouth, took a few pictures and I was satisfied. It takes very little to please me, not big mansions, jewels or cash in the bank.....just nature and she'll do the trick.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mid summer celebration in Sweden

I went to Sweden specifically to observe their mid summer celebration. Instead of the lovely sunshine for most years, it was rained out. I went to Skansen, an open air museum in Stockholm and the ground was wet, muddy and soggy. It was a great disappointment but people tried to put on a brave face. The most important feature is to make and put on a flower crown. There was a stand where a few people tried to do that. ....I'm asking for a refund! and maybe a redo next year!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Royal Denmark

My hostel, the new Generator hostel, in Copenhagen was near the 'storget' a fancy shopping area. The Generator hostel chain is a series of very modern hostels popping up in the major capitals of Europe. All told I stayed in three of them, Copenhagen, Paris and London. I love the ones in Paris and Copenhagen. These are newly designed hostels and are really modern, with modern bunk beds, lockers, security, power and Internet hookups and shower/toilet facilities. Mixed dorms are beginning to gain popularity, not because of any hanky lanky, because there is none of that but it offers the opportunity of meeting a greater variety of people. Not only do hostels offer affordable lodgings, there is companionship, one is never alone, in fact, I have given my address to a few people that if they are ever in my part of the world, they can stay with me. We've become friends on Facebook. Having a hotel room to oneself has other advantages, I can do laundry and hang things around the room but I hide them during the day when the maids come to clean.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Copenhagen, Denmark

I had wanted to spend mid sommar on an island in Denmark but changed my mind. Instead I spent it in Skansen, Sweden. I had already booked my flight to Copenhagen and so from London I flew to Copenhagen to spend a few days there. ...and had some lovely and delicious buns.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Meanwhile back in London

I spent the first 10 days of my 3 month trip in England because I knew when I return after a few months it will be a different season. So I saw England at its splendorous peak. While it is very expensive in London, there are lots of free things to do, most of the major museums from the British museum are free to enter. There are lots of park lands and gardens that are free. I had time for only one, Regent's park. I've heard about the Queen Mary rose garden inside Regent's park and I had to go visit. I was not disappointed, far from it. They are said to have at least 4,000 varieties. I especially adore the old fashioned English roses. If you are like me, this is where you are going to see them. There were so many. They say, 'smell the roses' you'd better be prepared because there are a lot to smell and you have to fight the bees. It was truly lovely. You must visit and best during the first two weeks of June.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Next stop, the Lake district

Its quite a huge area with lots of cute little villages dotting the lakes and in summer is at peak beauty. One can access it from the south or as I did from the North arriving at Penrith by train from London and taking the bus from Penrith to Keswick. I based myself at Keswick at a hostel. There are at least 2 hostels and that makes staying in the Lake district for a longer period of time affordable. In summer lots of buses link most of the villages. Buy a day pass and hop an and hop off any or all the buses. The days are so long and you can do many things. There are all sorts of walking trails like this one that goes round the lake in Buttermere. Its no wonder many writers and poets called the Lake district home like Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth and John Ruskin just to name a few. It really is a must see.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Homemade blueberry juice

Blueberry juice is served on Finnair flights. I took a Finnair flight from Helsinki to Oslo and had this. I can't find it at home so I made my own. I bought some mushy blueberries and made this wonderful juice. Yeah!

Next stop Durham

I'm just reviewing here what I did last summer. I traveled alone for 3 months. Each day I uploaded my pictures and capture the trip almost in real time. So if you are just joining this conversation, search this site for the details. Before I took my trip I knew what I wanted out of it. One thing was English country gardens and a name popped up, Crook Hall and Gardens and it happened to be in Durham. I went to Durham to visit the grave of St Bede, an Anglican saint and the namesake of the church that I attend in Los Angeles. He is buried in Durham Cathedral. Durham Cathedral is massive and very beautiful. I was able also to pray at the tomb of St Cuthbert, another Anglican saint. Crook Hall and Garden is within walking distance from Durham Cathedral and it is very beautiful especially in June. If English country gardens are your thing then it is a must see. Its not huge but the owners have really made use of the space sectioning it off into various theme gardens. What a trip!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First stop England

This past summer I traveled alone for 3 months.My first stop was England. I wanted to see it at its most glorious, wild flower meadows, old fashioned roses and bright sunshine and of course sprinkled with the occasional rain drops. I did fulfill all these and more. Its been so wonderful that I want to repeat this experience next year. This was the city of Cambridge, in a church yard among the ancient tomb stones. I took the train from London. I had wanted to stay the night there but I couldn't find cheaper lodgings so I went was a day trip from London. It was a bright sunny day and a sunday. All the church bells were ringing and there were a lot of churches and therefore a lot of church bells. I walked outside and listened in to hear the familiar liturgy of the Anglican church to which I'm so accustomed because I was raised as an Anglican. I paid for a guided tour and got the most informative tour which brought us into places we otherwise on our own couldn't go. It was quintessentially England.

Monday, October 12, 2015

I miss it already

Its been a month since I got back and am putting together the stories for the books I'm going to write. But writing is difficult because I get distracted. I keep checking the airlines for cheap fares to get back there, to any of the Nordic countries. I'm a basket case. Here is a colorful neighborhood in Copenhagen.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Here in Christiania, Copenhagen, its citizens live free from the encroachment of the government of Denmark. Its a good place to b
'bug out' as they say. I was able to roam freely, poking my nose into people's yards and take pictures. The only place I wasn't allowed to take pictures was in Pusher street. No sooner have I lifted my camera to my face did I see a hooded person in front of me forbidding me to take any pictures. Its strictly enforced. But I could join them for a toke! I didn't, though my dorm mate chided me and said, I should! I'm glad I didn't. Its the only thing I never regret not doing.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Freedom to roam around in the world

I have gone to a lot of traveling sites and all I read is 'what is the reason for...' what did you learn...? I travel because I love it. I go somewhere because I saw some compelling pictures. Do I have to learn anything? I don't know. I've never been to any of the Nordic countries. All I hear is they are too expensive and that prohibited me from even attempting to go there. I just retired and since I had time, I decided to travel to Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway all at once instead visiting them one by one. What do I hope to learn? I don't know, besides do I have to learn anything? Can't I just go and see what is there? Yes, of course! Even as I write about my experiences, I'm not going to tell my readers why they should go and what they can learn there. Just read as a friend telling stories of her trip. We are free to choose where we roam in this world and why. I can only say that my experiences were so varied and amazing. I came to learn about their artists, their musicians, their culture, their food and their state of mind. Above all I saw a natural wonder so incredible that few words can describe them. I met peoples so magnificent that would make the Vikings proud.
Picture is of Christiania in Copenhagen.


When we were small and growing up in the jungles of Borneo we had a few opportunities to forage. We hunt for wood ears, they're a kind of mushroom that grow on old tree trunks and mushrooms too. I remember the fern heads which we take home to sauté. Fern heads are so rare these days even in the forests of Europe. Foraging is a big thing in the Nordic countries because they have huge swath of uninhabited land and berries grow in such reckless abundance. They even import foreign labor every year just to help bring in the berries every year. There was not much in terms of foraging when I was there in summer, it wasn't the season. The only thing to look for were the wild strawberries. Once in a while I'd stumble on a few plants and a few fruits just to satisfy my need to forage. I'm always happy when I'm able to pick some wild thing to eat. The locals usually string these up with a straw. I forgot to do that. Maybe I'll go back next year to do it and that will complete the cycle for me.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Turku, Finland

Here I was in downtown Turku, a very pretty town and very laid back. In fact, Finland, even in Helsinki, is very laid back. It was summer and most people are away in some remote area in their little red wooden cottage by the water. What a life, an enviable one. Here are some old wooden houses that is home to a craft store. I'm now writing the ebook about my experiences in Finland. I worked on the cover and its half done. Everything is homemade. The experiences are not anything you can find out there.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Traveling alone

I spent three months traveling alone this last summer. While it was a lot of fun, it was very trying and exhausting. I was in a new place every few days. Just as I learned to know a place, I had to up and leave for another. Sometimes it involved a new country which meant a new language, a new system and a new currency. I have enough different currencies in my house to start a money changing business. Every few days I had to make new travel arrangements, buy bus or train tickets, find a hotel or hostel to stay in. and were my constant companions. I get and still am getting emails from them regarding discounts. Sometimes during the trip I was able to take advantage of the discounts. I've been back a month now but I can take off at the drop of a hat if the opportunity presents itself. But I'm looking for new itineraries all the time.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Digital nomad

Just read some really good news. Norwegian air is going to offer $69 fares to Norway in 2017. I don't why 2017, can't wait that long. I've met people who flew Norwegian and they have no complaints. Just bring your food and snacks and pack lightly. I might fly them next summer. Anyway this last summer was the first time I brought my computer with me. It was heavy together with my camera and all its accoutrements. But it was fun. At the end of each day I was able to upload my pictures, post to this blog and my Facebook page and friends and family could follow me and know that I'm ok. Here am I in my hotel room in Oslo, Norway, eating stuff (dinner) I bought from the 7-eleven store downstairs. For some reason there are a lot of 7-eleven stores in Norway and Sweden. It was great because I could get some cheap food from there anytime.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Visit Norway

Norway is huge but most of its wonderful sights are in the South. It is possible to cobble together a wonderful trip to Norway for just a week. Fly into and out of Oslo, spend 2 days. Take the Oslo/Bergen train to Bergen, spend 2 days in Bergen. Take the ferry up the Sognefjord to Flam. From Flam take the Flamsbana train to Myrdal and connect with the Bergen/Oslo train back to Oslo. The Sognefjord ferry takes 5 hours to complete its trip to the end at Flam. One can stay at the little villages on the way like Balestrand and continue on the next day's ferry. A stay at Flam is also possible. If you know you are going to do this trip and you know your dates, it is important to book early your Oslo/Bergen train ticket. They sell out fast. One can buy the ticket online from home. There are options to pick up the ticket from the ticket machines. You'll be given a code which after you enter it, the machine will spit out your ticket. The other great thing is if you book early you'll get one of the discounted fares. For every trip the railway sets aside a few tickets at half price which sells out fast. I was able to take advantage of this one time. But the early train from Oslo to Bergen was sold out, I had to travel by a later train and on first class because the economy tickets were sold out. The best time is June and July and you will be fighting for seats with the huge groups of Chinese tourists. They take all the train tickets and the hotels. From Bergen, if you have time, you can always take a trip on the Hurtigruten ferry or go to the Faro islands or Lofoten and even further North in Norway. The options are there for an enjoyable long or short trip!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sunday in another country

How can I ever forget the Sunday in Bergen, Norway. I went to this old church just to see it but there was a service going on. It happened to be an Anglican service in English. Wow! I asked to join it and went in to worship with them. The usher standing next to me said that I should join their choir after he heard me sing. I'd love that, to join the choir of this English speaking Anglican community in Bergen, Norway. I can so live in Bergen, Norway! For a while I was wondering why there was a substantial English speaking community in Bergen, Norway until in Bath, England, one of the pastors told me they are probably oil rig workers. There is offshore drilling in Norway and this is quite close to the British North sea rigs also.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Memories of summer

Having lunch on the island of Sandhamn off Stockholm, fresh peeled shrimp salad. What a gorgeous day it was, one I'll never forget.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Mourning the end of Summer

Not me. I live in Southern California. We don't have seasons here. But I'm sure in Norway and the other nordic nations. I'm sure here in Gamle Stavanger, they are. Gardening activity intensifies in Summer and in a brief moment the little dance in the sun is over. But in the meantime, lets dance in the sun.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Last summer in Sweden

In the lake district, in Rattvik, Sweden, where I chased lupins. The lupins grow wild here and they are everywhere. I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life. Its a summer I'll always remember.