Warsaw ūüáĶūüáĪ

Earlier this month, Bj√łrnar and I travelled to Warsaw for the weekend to explore the city and spend some time with our lovely friend Magda.

A return ticket with Wizz Air, from Bergen to Warsaw Chopin (with no luggage) only cost us 680 NOK each! (Around £62) Bargain!

We arrived at around 7pm, so our first evening was a chilled one – catching up whilst enjoying some wine, food and polish beers.

Our love for graphic design meant that we HAD to visit the Neon Museum, located in the Praga district. A small, but nonetheless, visually exciting exhibition of beautifully restored neon signs from the Cold War era. The array of designs, colours and typography were inspiring, and at only 12zŇā entry (27,50NOK / ¬£2.50), it was worth every penny.

Something I noticed quickly during our trip, was how easily I got tired out. My back muscles would cause intense pain (despite wearing appropriate footwear), which then had an impact on my abdominal muscles. I’m just not cut out for all of this exploring just yet! That, combined with the fact I need to eat very often, meant that we had to take regular breaks. On the plus side, it gave us a great opportunity to enjoy some polish cuisine and drinks!

Our first stop, was a floating bar on the river, where we had a drink whilst soaking up the sun.

Then we headed to NadwiŇõlaŇĄski Ňöwit – a restaurant close to the river. I opted for a delicious shrimp appetiser, and managed to scoff most of it! Magda and Bj√łrnar had Gnocchi with Beef Cheeks. It sounds unusual, but the meat was really tender and delicious. B also sampled a few Belgian beers, from a brewery called “Grimbergen”… Since it rains a lot here in Bergen, we figured this seemed like a more fitting name for the city!

After a walk beside the river and another drink in the sun (and a quick jump on some little trampolines in the kids park ūüôą), we made our way to The Heavens of Copernicus Planetarium (Niebo Kopernika) to watch “The Dark Side of the Moon”; a laser show tribute to Pink Floyd. The music combined with the psychedelic visuals and lasers was an incredible experience!

To end our Saturday, we headed into the city centre and made our way to Bar Warszawa, where we enjoyed pierogi – both Russian style and Polish. I’d tried the Russian style pierogi before, but the (Polish) meat ones were to die for! They reminded me of the filling in a Cornish Pasty.¬†ūüėč This was washed down with some 8% Polish Porter (I’m a sucker for dark beer, can’t handle too much fizz these days!)

Whilst eating and drinking, we had front row seats to a a live performance; a talented trio called “Ferajna z Baru Warszawa”, that played old “folk” Warsaw music from the 1920s and upwards. If I’d have had a few more porters in me, I would have been up dancing! I loved it!

After a well deserved lie-in on Sunday, we headed to the Chopin Museum. It’s free admission on Sundays, but make sure to book tickets in advance as it gets busy ūüėČ

I don’t know much about classical music, but after visiting the Greig museum in Bergen, I felt inspired to visit the Chopin museum. Both music and art history interest me a lot!

During our visit, we were able to listen to some of his compositions, and learn a lot about Chopin’s life and musical career.

Interesting Fact: Although he only played 30 public concerts in his life, five of these were in Britain during an ill-fated visit there for seven months in 1847. For a sick man with tuberculosis, the wet and windy weather of Scotland and England was hardly going to be good for him. He did, though, play for the new Queen, Victoria and Prince Albert; the Queen, who rarely spoke to anyone, actually spoke to him twice.

https://www.cmuse.org/frederic-chopin-facts/

The museum itself was beautiful! I later found out that it is also known as Ostrogski Castle; a Baroque style mansion, that was destroyed by the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and rebuilt between 1949 and 1954. Rumour has it that the the cellars below the bastion are supposedly home to a Golden Duck,¬†a mythical creature from one of Warsaw’s legends! ūüėČ

Afterwards, we went for a late lunch/early dinner at Oliva Restaurant. Again, I only had appetisers but they were delicious! I had olives and chicken liver¬†p√Ęt√© on bruschetta. They even had some coffee bean infused olive oil, which was AMAZING! I slightly regretted not having luggage allowance, as I really wanted to buy some to take home with me!

To finish off our day, we took a walk into the thriving city centre, this time before dusk, and headed to the Old Town Square. We went to¬†Bazyliszek Restaurant – a traditional Polish Restaurant. I sampled some Polish Chardonnay from Krak√≥w (who knew that Poland had their own vineyards?!) which was alright! We tried some¬†ŇĽubr√≥wka black vodka (it wasn’t actually black, it’s filtered using charcoal apparently), Soplica cherry and Soplica raspberry. We also enjoyed a delicious cheese platter! Quite possibly my favourite type of platter!

After arriving back at Hotel Tomalska, we enjoyed a little bit more polish vodka – (hazelnut Soplica), before retiring to bed. I definitely wasn’t ready for an 08:30 flight – especially since Wizz Air had decided to sit us over 15 rows apart! (No way was I paying extra fees just to change seats! Cheeky buggers!)

One of the great things about Warsaw is how easy it is to get around. It’s well connected with trams and the underground – but failing that, you can also get an Uber! Thanks to my discount code, the ride to the airport was only 3.59zŇā / 8NOK / ¬£0.75¬†ūüėā

Uber share code: x3st6k

It’s safe to say that the trip was a major success! We were both slightly apprehensive about me travelling 6 months after surgery, but I managed it quite well. Warsaw was a beautiful city and has a really good vibe about it. I would love to visit again soon, to do a little bit more sightseeing, learn more about its history and enjoy more delicious food!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last but not least, we want to say a huge thank you to Magda for being such a wonderful host! ‚̧

We had such an amazing time and look forward to seeing you again soon!

Basking in BaŇ°ka Voda

Last month, Bj√łrnar and I went back to our favourite place; Croatia! Initially, we had discussed doing city breaks this year with Amsterdam in the Summer and Iceland in late October. But with everything that’s going on, we decided to have a nice relaxing beach holiday instead. So this year, we went to¬†BaŇ°ka Voda, located in the Makarska Riviera.

My motto this Summer was to “Eat, Drink and be Merry”, so we definitely came to the right place!

On the Monday, we booked an excursion to go wine tasting in the mountains. Before we got to the winery, we stopped off at two different locations – the blue lake and red lake.

These are both sinkholes. The blue lake looked green whilst we were there. The red lake is named after the reddish-brown colour of the surrounding cliffs, coloured by iron oxides.

Afterwards, we arrived in Imotski at the Grabovac vineyard. Having sampled many of their lovely wines last year, we knew we were in for a great evening. We left with two bottles of red wine – one of which is still unopened! (We’re saving it for a special occasion once I’m fully healed from surgery – fingers crossed I can still drink wine then!)

During our stay, we decided to walk to Brela. This was a beautiful town that seemed bigger than BaŇ°ka Voda. There were so many beautiful beaches, but the one we headed to was the furthest away; Punta Rata (In July 2004, Forbes¬†magazine listed this beach among the 10 most beautiful beaches¬†in the world). I made sure to pack our swimming goggles that day, and I got to see lots of different fish around the rocks.

IMG_20170824_125417-1.jpg

On the Friday, we booked an excursion to Dubrovnik. The coach journey, although long, (4 hours each way) was wonderful as we got to see some beautiful scenery. An area of the coastline, a town called Neum, is actually part of Bosnia, so we had to pass through the border four times (into Bosnia – then back into Croatia as we reached Dubrovnik and vice-versa). We were told this could potentially take up to an hour both ways, but luckily we were allowed through without scrutiny each time.

Dubrovnik Old Town was beautiful! It actually reminded me of Venice with it’s stunning architecture, history and stone walls. I did however struggle that day with the heat and crowds. I was dehydrated and didn’t have enough energy to keep walking around. I felt like I didn’t get to thoroughly enjoy the day, and would like to go back there again but in Spring or Autumn – something that I also said about Venice.

It was a great week in Croatia, and we were glad that we had the opportunity to see a bit more of the country by also visiting Dubrovnik. Split Airport was of course the same as last year! But at least we already knew what to expect!

 

21984175_10155780999501079_1737512567_n

The Croatian goodies we came home with ‚̧¬†

Mum’s (2nd) visit to Norway

Earlier this month, my mum came to spend some time with us in Bergen again.

The first time she came to visit was the last weekend of¬†August in 2015. In¬†true Bergen style, it rained a lot! So this time, I told her to come around the start of May, and promised her a weekend of great weather. (Luckily, it didn’t disappoint… phew!)

Saturday

On the Saturday, we took a 6 hour round-trip to the Hardangerfjord.

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 19.43.14

During our journey, we stopped off at Fossenbratte, Steinsdalfossen, √ėystese, Hardangerbrua, Eidfjord¬†and Voss.

Steinsdalfossen was a magical place! We walked on the path that led us directly under the waterfall. As I stood underneath, I was more than grateful for the nice refreshing mist after walking up the steep path on a warm day!

After enjoying a picnic in front of the waterfall in the sunshine, we made our way onwards towards √ėystese.

Here, we stopped off at a lovely rocky beach. Whilst there, I managed to find a large, beautiful piece of quartz. ‚̧

IMG_5844.jpg

Hardangerbrua Рlongest suspension bridge in Norway Р1,400 metres (4,600 ft) long

Our final destination, was Eidfjord. Words can’t even describe how beautiful this place was!

Close to the water, were a row of trees that had something different knitted around each one! Our favourite (especially B’s) was the lady – she even had glasses and a handbag!

After a long day of driving and sightseeing, we made our way back to Bergen through Voss

Sunday

I’ve lived here almost 4 years and had never been to Fantoft stavkirke; a place I’ve always wanted to visit. So we figured we would check it out whilst my mum was here. Little did I know that it was closed until the end of the May!¬†ūüôą

Afterwards, we took the Ulriksbane (a cable car) to the top of Ulriken; the highest of the seven mountains in Bergen. Despite me being a wimp when it comes to heights and sitting down on the floor in a London Eye pod with my head in my hands many years ago, I managed the trip quite well!

In the evening, we went out for a lovely meal at Zupperia – Torget. The “Kokkens Krumspring” was to die for!¬†King prawns, squid, scallops and chicken with ginger in oyster sauce, served with crispy noodles. Yum! Afterwards, we took mum to Apollon Platebar – probably one of my favourite places in Bergen. A small, cosy record shop/bar that has many craft beers on tap!

Monday

Before she flew back to the UK in the evening,¬†we visited Gamlehaugen; the King’s residence in Bergen, and then Peppes for Pizza and wine in the sunshine. Unfortunately, King Harald was in Oslo so we didn’t get invited inside for a cup of tea…

It was such a lovely weekend, having my mum visit us in Bergen again and being able to spend some time with her. We both had such a great time with her and look forward to her next visit, so that we can plan another exciting road trip and make more new memories. ‚̧

Florida

ūüáļūüáł ¬†I’m all about the palm trees and 80 degrees (not forgetting the Vitamin D)‚ėÄÔłŹ

We’ve had some dark, dingy and damp months here in Bergen over the Winter period (nothing new there), so I was more than ecstatic when¬†I received a message from my mother inviting me to Florida with her this Spring!

Part of me, believe it or not, was a little reluctant at first as I was nervous about the long haul flight – but this turned out to be fine! The abundance of movies and tv shows, and food and wine, made it much more bearable and enjoyable than a regular flight from Bergen to the UK!

Since my mum’s three sisters live there, a lot of my time was spent catching up with¬†my aunts and cousins, as well as soaking up the sun. ‚̧

I¬†was also lucky enough to spend Mothers Day with my mum (it’s been many years since the last time we spent it together).¬†On the evening before, we went to Downtown St. Petersburg for dinner and drinks, and then spent the Sunday sunbathing¬†on the beach.

I’ve already been to Florida twice before; once when I was 12 and again when¬†I was 16. During those trips, we visited¬†Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Disney’s Magic Kingdom – so this was a much more relaxing and chilled visit to the sunshine state!

Overall, it was a fab holiday! It was just what I needed, and had a great time seeing my family!

The journey home was a bit stressful though! Our flight from Tampa to Philadelphia was delayed over an hour, which meant we would miss our connection¬†from Philadelphia to Manchester!¬†ūüôą¬†Luckily, I found out just in the nick of time, and spoke to the helpful American Airlines staff who¬†managed to pull a few strings and get us seats on a Tampa – Charlotte flight, and then Charlotte – Philadelphia! We landed in Philadelphia with just¬†enough time to board our Manchester bound flight. PHEW!!!

Tid for Syden

Syden –¬†Literally meaning “the south”, is a common Norwegian term for destinations with a warmer climate.

After visiting Pula in Croatia two years ago and falling in love with the place, the atmosphere, the wine and the friendliness of the locals, we have been itching to go back there ever since. Last year, we were focused on getting our business up and running, so we were more than ready for a vacation this summer!

Podgora

20160821_122528-1

This year,¬†we booked¬†to stay in Podgora in Makarska Riviera; a beautiful coastal area between Dubrovnik and Split. The weather was perfect, apart from some strong “bura wind” on some¬†evenings! The locals explained how this usually occurs during the winter but this year, they had been experiencing it during the¬†summer. Whilst we were there, the wind speeds were up to 65kmph (40mph)!¬†This sounded intense¬†at the time, but after finding out speeds have been recorded at 304kmph back in 2005, I¬†realise my worry was just an overreaction!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On our second day, we visited the monument “wings of a seagull” for a concert in the evening to celebrate Saint Vincent, the protector of Podgora. The monument, unveiled in 1962, is in remembrance to fallen soldiers during the second world war. There we sat in the filled amphitheatre-style seating, drank some Pivo and enjoyed some live Croatian music.

 

Wine

Last time we were in Croatia, we visited Trapan Wine Station; a vineyard in¬†Ň†iŇ°an and sampled many of their delicious wines along with other brands during our stay in Istria. Since our last vacation, we found that it’s near impossible to find Croatian wine in the UK or in Norway! So we made sure to sample some more beautiful wine whilst we were there.

A few of those sampled were:

  • PoŇ°ip ńĆara – Dalmatia
  • Zlatan Babińá – Dalmatia
  • Zlatan Opol Ros√© – Dalmatia
  • Vina Laguna Merlot – Istria
  • Vina Laguna Pinot Sivi – Istria
  • Grabovac KujundŇĺuŇ°a – Dalmatia

Makarska

On our third day, we eventually took the bus to Makarska (three buses never turned up!) and spent the day there, relaxing in the shade before heading to Grabovac Wine Bar in¬†Kańćińá Square. There we sampled five of their wines, tasted some lovely Dalmatian ham (don’t worry, I’m not referring to a black and white dog!) and cheese whilst learning some new and interesting things about wine tasting and winemaking. Whilst there, Bj√łrnar spoke to the winemaker and mentioned how we had been unsuccessful in¬†finding Croatian wine back home. Despite the fact they have been producing wine for many centuries and very successfully might I add,¬†they can only produce a fraction of wine in comparison to other countries. The winemaker explained that this was due to the fact Croatia only had¬†30,000 hectares planted whereas Spain for example, has 1 million!

Mystery solved!

Pivo

Another thing I love about Croatia is their Pivo! Their 2% raddlers are yummy¬†and refreshing! However,¬†I was a little bit gutted that I didn’t find the pink grapefruit OŇĺujsko this year. ¬†ūüė¶

Split Airport

As many people know, I hate flying so it’s essential¬†that I have a pleasant and relaxing experience in the airport¬†to help calm my nerves. I’d already braced myself for bedlam after seeing photographs taken inside Split Airport showing how insanely overcrowded the place was. Despite this, we did manage to¬†have a giggle about having to sit on the floor¬†whilst drinking crappy wine served in a tiny plastic cup! ūüėÄ

Anyway, goodbye for now Croatia! We’ll be back… ūüėČ ¬† ‚̧

Road Trip to Fj√łrtoft

Every summer, Bj√łrnar and I head to Fj√łrtoft; the beautiful island he grew up on in Sunnm√łre. In the past, we have taken the bus from Bergen to √Ölesund, and then another bus, before getting on the final ferry to the island. This usually takes around 12 hours and is very draining! So this year, Bj√łrnar decided to drive.

The journey itself is wonderful and I am always captivated by the beautiful views of the mountains and fjords. I¬†pack a book for the trip every time and never end up reading it because I’m either gazing¬†out of the window or sleeping! There are 5 ferries in total throughout the journey, allowing you to stretch your legs, breathe in some fresh air and grab a bite to eat. Since I’m a¬†fan of brunost, I opted for a brunost svele and was not disappointed! It’s safe to say my love for brunost has gone up a level. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!

Brunost = Brown Cheese  |  Brunost is a common, Norwegian name for mysost, a family of cheese-related foods made with whey, milk and/or cream.

Svele = Svele is a Norwegian batter based cake. By size and texture they may bear some resemblance to American pancakes, but are usually eaten for afternoon coffee or as a snack between meals, served with butter and either sugar or brunost, folded in half to the shape of a crescent.

 

On our way there,¬†we stopped off at this beautiful spot¬†at Vassenden.¬†The water was completely still and the place was overwhelmingly peaceful and serene. It was one of those views that takes your breath away; the photographs don’t do it justice.

13838295_10154388044841079_128699264_o

We stopped off at the same spot for another photo on our way back to Bergen. It’s amazing how different it looks when the sun in shining and the water is moving.

DSC_0090

During our stay, we travelled to Borgund to visit Sunnm√łre Museum. Here they have an open-air museum with 50 well-preserved old buildings, that display various architectural styles and lifestyles from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century.

At the museum, they also have¬†replicas of the two Viking boats that were found in a marsh on Fj√łrtoft in 1940.

The largest boat is about 10 meters long with the hull made of oak. The smallest boat, almost a rowboat, was much smaller and in very poor condition. They were set down in the marsh, with the larger one filled with stone. There was no other equipment or objects in the boats, leading them to believe they were sacrificial gifts.

Sealing material in the largest boat is C-14 dated to 860 AD. The boats were built some time between 500 and 900 AD.

DSC_0056-1

Some of our days on the island were spent relaxing, sunbathing and swimming. Whenever the sun came out, we made sure to take full advantage of the weather. Especially since we’d forgotten what a blue sky looked like!¬†

13833246_10154388043251079_1196562895_o
13838093_10154388046086079_161842526_o

13835767_10154388046321079_1367001774_oLuckily there was no sign of brennmanet this year, but there¬†were plenty of glassmanet in the sea! I initially freaked out when I saw one as I’ve never come across them before and didn’t know¬†they were harmless! The one we saw on our final day was huge, so I took a few snaps of it in the water.¬†Afterwards, I tried to push it far back out into the deep so that it didn’t meet the same fate as the others that had washed up along the shoreline and dried out that day.

Brennmanet = Lion’s mane jellyfish

Glassmanet = Moon jellyfish

 

Our journey back to Bergen took a little longer than anticipated due to increasingly bad weather. The closer we got to Bergen, the greyer and darker the sky became and as we approached Hordaland kommune,¬†we were greeted by¬†heavy rainfall and a thunderstorm directly above us!¬†We both laughed about it… After all, we wouldn’t expect it to be any different!

Money Money Money

I may have lived overseas for almost 3 years, but one thing I didn’t do before relocating¬†was to close my english bank account. For me, it just seemed easier to keep it open¬†just incase I ever move back. Plus, I use my card whenever I visit home and I also pay my masters degree loan from that account every month.

When I first moved here, I thought the only two options I had to transfer money to my english account were through my Norwegian bank account (which is expensive) or through PayPal (time consuming and difficult). For the first few months, I used PayPal until I came across TransferWise.

I’m not really sure how I discovered it, I think I just stumbled upon it when searching for a more efficient and easier way to do my monthly transfers! Anyway, I did a little bit of research into it first as I’d never heard of it before, and found that it was developed by the same people at PayPal. (So far so good…)

After signing up, another thing that appealed to me was their interface, which is very user-friendly and modern (another great thing to have when transferring money as it makes things so much easier!)

I’ve been¬†using this service since December 2013¬†and¬†so far, I have transferred ¬£9700 and saved ¬£225 in fees!

It’s easy¬†and free to sign up! If you use the following link, you receive¬†your first transfer up to ¬£500 for free.

transferwise.com/u/95fb

Reasons to use TransferWise:

  • Free to sign up
  • Low fees compared to your bank
  • Fast transfers
  • Supports many different currencies
  • Great customer service (Respond quickly and are very helpful)
  • Easy to use interface
  • Cheaper than PayPal

If you have any questions about how to use this service, I¬†would be happy to try and assist ūüôā

My review and opinions expressed here are my own and based on my experience with TransferWise. I am not affiliated with the brand nor do I endorse them and they do not endorse me. I am not paid for my review.