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Valletta Grand Harbour Cruise in Malta

As most of my readers know we recently were lucky enough to have a long weekend visit to Malta. I have to admit that before I went there I didn’t know very much about Malta. I knew it was an island state in the Mediterranean Sea, and that was about it. When I began researching this lovely island online I knew instantly it would be something very special.

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Three Cities viewed from the Harbour

The island is surrounded by crystal turquoise-blue waters and has sunshine throughout most of the year. I think what impresses me the most – besides the beauty of it all – is that amount of well preserved historical sites. Despite many wars which changed control over the island, and bombing in World War II many historical fortresses, churches, and buildings remain intact and one can wander in living history.

Ft St Angelo

Fort Saint Angelo with roots back to the Arabs in 870 AD

I used the time I had in Malta to see as much as I could manage in compact site seeing trips. I took a bus trip called the North Trip, which took me long inland into the countryside to see the oldest town in Malta, along with many charming villages and coastlines. Then I took the Grand Harbour Cruise in the capital area of Valletta.

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The Capital City of Valletta built largely of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as Knights Hospitaller

I think that the best way to see the beauty of Malta is to see it from the water. The limestone buildings do a wonderful job of combining different periods seamlessly so that architecture from different periods, including modern times passes wonderfully together.

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Fort St. Elmo built from 1530 and onward

Our trip to Malta was much too short. This lovely island deserves another visit, and I really only saw about one third of what I would have liked to have seen. None the less I am thankfull to have had the opportunity to travel with my husband RennyBA when buisiness took him to this magical place. We will have to plan a return trip to see the rest of it. My next post will show a bit of the beauty found on my trip inland!

Scenic countryside in Malta from the walls of Mdine

Mobile blogging again from beautiful Malta! The weather is awesome and I am doing a good job of soaking up the much needed sunshine. I will be paying for that later. Totally white and going around the mediterranian without sunscreen is not advisable. Especially after a dark Norwegian winter.

To make the most of a short trip I took the tourist bus around the island. Stopping for a while in the medieval walled village of Mdina. I chose the North trip of the countryside because the cruise covers the sea towns quite well. It was the right choice. The countryside was amazing!

Travel is addictive – flying off to Malta

Traveling is addictive. As I am writing I am flying over Italy and have just seen the Alps from above breaking light clouds with snow covered peaks. The earth is really beautiful from a birds eye view. Soon we will see Rome and after that Sicily on our way to Malta.

Renny has buisiness in Malta and I did’nt want to miss out on that one. To be honest Malta was a country I had to look up. I knew it was little and in the Mediteranian. Thats about all. But what I found was a virtual paradise. The weather is supposed to be sunny and in the 70’s. A trip to the beach is a must. Which will be no problem since the Westin Dragonara resort has it’s own. Plus three swimming pools.

Whoops there goes Europe! We flew off the edge. Goodbye Italy, you are definately on my list of places to go. Next stop Malta. Hope my computer catches up with me so I can send photos! Shining off from my Nokia somewhere over the mediteranian.

Round and about Lisbon

On the first day of our tour in Lisbon RennyBA and I explored the city on our own in the daytime, and later met up with Lele Batita and her husband for a memorable dinner together. The dinner has been well documented by RennyBA and I recommend you visit his post. We went to a unique restaurant and had a meal we won’t soon forget.

Our first day on many of our trips we find a tourist bus which can give us background information and show us around the local area. We joined the local hop on hop off trip of Lisbon’s center which gives us a panoramic sightseeing tour of all the major tourist attractions, and helps us get a taste of what we would like to see more of. We could easily spend a couple weeks in Lisbon, having only five days we can’t see it all, so here you have to pick and choose and remember that you can always come back another time.

Renny carried away
RennyBA Carried Away onboard our Bus

Here is just a little bit of what we experienced the first day discovering Lisbon on our own! The bus tour took us first up the “Champs-Elysees” of Lisbon Avenida da Liberdade which is crowned at the top by Marquês de Pombal Square, a monument to Lisbon’s rebirth, the statue of Marquês de Plombal honors the prime minister who was responsible for the rebuilding of Lisbon following the Great Earthquake in 1755. The Great Earthquake did extensive damage to Lisbon, and we can enjoy many of the older sites today because of the choice to rebuild them and keep their heritage rather than destroying and replacing with new structures. So we salute the Marquês de Pombal as well.

Marquis of Pombal
Marquis of Pombal

Opposite the statue Parque Eduardo VII, a park named after Britan’s Edward VII who visited Lisbon in 1903 and reaffirmed the Anglo-Portuguese alliance. Typical for this park is its neatly clipped box hedging flanked by mosaic patterned walkways. The park stretches uphill from Marquês de Pombal Square to a belvedere at the top with fine views.

Parque Eduardo VII
VII EduardoPark

Along the bus route we also saw Campo Pequeno’s bullring which was built in Moorish style in 1892. It features small cubolas atop its four main towers. The bullring accommodates up to 9,000 spectator, and I might add that the bull is not killed in the bullfights in Portugal as it is in Spain. The building appears quite modern, so I admit I was surprised to learn it was as old as 1892.

Campo Pequeno's bullring
Campo Pequeno’s Bullring

Mostly hidden behind its high pink walls we got a glimpse of Belem Palace. This is the official residence of Portugal’s president since 1910. It previously has been a royal palace built in 1559 and further altered and built out in the 18th century by King João V.

Belem Palace
Belem Palace

Crowning the river and facing out to see we find the famous Discoveries monument. A newer structure it was built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. The monument resembles a three sailed ship ready to depart and decorated with sculputers of important historical figures such as King Manuel I carrying an armillary sphere, poet Camões holding verses from The Lusiads, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers, at the bow we see Prince Henry the Navigator holding a ship in his hands.

Discoveries monument
Discoveries monument

At Restauradores Square we find an obelisk decorated with representations of liberty and freedom. Restauradores does not mean restaurants, although there are no lack of them here, it means restorer of the Independence. On the 1 of December in 1640, a group of nobles killed the regent of Portugal which then was under the control of Spain for a period of 60 years. In killing the regent at the time they restored Portugals freedom as an Independent nation. So it is called “restauradores” because they gave Portugal its Independence back!

Restauradores Square
Restauradores monument

Figueira Square we have a fine view up to St. Jorges Castle. Close to the center is a bronze equestrian statue of King João I, usually smothered by flocks of pigeons and surrounded by teenage skaters as it was when we visited it. Here on the south side we had a taste of some of Lisbons wonderful pastries at the charming Confeitaria Nacional, considered to be one of Europe’s most elegant pastry shops dating back to 1829.

Figueira Square
Figueira Square

Rossio is the liveliest square in the city, where people stop to sit and relax, or for a drink at the outdoor cafes. While we were visiting they were setting up the Christmas display which we would visit the last evening we were in Lisbon. On both sides of the square are baroque fountains, and in the center is a monument measuring 27 meters in height. It consists of a pedestal with marble allegories of Justice, Wisdom, Strength, and Moderation. The monument at the time was flanked by cranes which were setting up the decorations which is the reason why I don’t have a photo of the entire square. However I could not resist getting a close up of one of the gorgeous fountains, each figure on these was a work of art in itself.

Rossio square
Fountain figure.

Lastly I set in a youtube video which is sightseeing tour of Lisbon so you may experience for yourself. It is even accompanied by some traditional Fado music, which you may read more about at RennyBA’s Terella.

All of the sights on the video are places we have been. We did a good job with excellent hosts in such a short period of time. Some of them we will go deeper into, and therefore are not included now, but saving some good stuff for later!!

A dream of a trip to Lisbon

We have just returned from an indescribable experience in Lisbon. The word and photos don’t do it justice but of course you know I will try to give you an impression none the less.

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Lisbon from the Park above our hotel

Situated on the north banks of the River Tagus, the charm of Lisbon exists in its strong links to the past as well as the preserved culture which is celebrated today. Its renovated palaces, magnificent churches and an impressive castle bring new life to the city’s rich cultural heritage. Its eclectic blend of neighborhoods, culture and architecture distinguish this capital city uniquely from the other European capitals and make it a truly fascinating city to visit.

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Lisbon from the Christo Rei statue across the river

We were hosted by our good friends and fellow blogger Lele Batita of Pèrole de Culture who visited us in August 2010 and now we are returning the favor. They were charming and wonderful hosts and really gave their best to share their beautiful city and culture with us. We really wish to thank Lele and Louis for their time and efforts and have had a truly amazing experience!

sunset_behind_Torre_de_Belèm

Sunset behind Torre de Belèm

A city set on seven hills, with its cobble-stoned pavements and narrow streets full of Art Nouveau cafés Lisbon offers a lot to discover. Five days were not nearly enough and our tourist activities took on a whirlwind tempo, but we have at least had a taste of Lisbon in all its richness and variety. Most popular spots in Lisbon are; located around Rossio and Praça do Comércio, Baixa; situated on the hill around St. George’s Castle, and the river area around Belém. We were able to visit all these districts, although some more than others and have had the highlights tour of the city.

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Lisbon Bridge from the Christo Reo statue

I will likely be making several posts about Lisbon, but this is just the introduction with some viewpoints from our trip. We will share with you the food and some of our special adventures in the weeks to come, so stay tuned both here and on RennyBA’s Terella.

Cruising to the Islands in Oslo fjord

When you look at my blog you see lots and lots of lovely blue skies and nordic nature. It may then surprise you to know that if I am being truly honest the weather this summer has really sucked! It is statistically the 4th rainiest summer in the recorded database and the Oslo area didn’t have a single day over 30 C (85 F) this year. That said you can understand why we run out and make the most of summer anytime the sun shines.

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On board with incedibly large sunglasses

This is why I was so disappointed in myself when I slept away my day on Saturday. Because days like that have been few and far between. It was a relief then when I woke up on Sunday and found the sunshine was still there. We had a bit more clouds on Sunday but all in all a good enough summer day to get out and enjoy living by the fjord.

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Oslo Island Ferry Boat

The Ferry system to the local islands is part of the total public transportation in Oslo. In a land divided by fjords it is only natural that the boats are a part of the local transportation scheme. And since I need to have a montly pass to get back and forth to work it means my little boat trip out to the islands cost me nothing – nada – zilch – because my card works on the boat too.

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View of the Opera from the fjord

When sailing out from Oslo towards the islands I looked back and had a great view of the Oslo Opera House, which you can see is the white building right on the water. It looks like a glacier running out into the fjord. In the years to come all the traffic around it will be put into underground tunnels (the reason for the construction work you may see) and a renewed area of the city will appear.

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Family fun on the fjord

Private family boating is a popular recreational activity here. I would love to have a boat myself, having grown up with one in upstate NY, but in this area the cost of docking your boat is incredible, so I am quite happy to use the ferry and thrilled when friends who have a boat invite us to visit!

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Inviting green paths of Hovedøya

Hovedøya is a lovely green national park where all the plants and animals are protected. In addition it has a rich cultural heratige with monastery ruins from the 1100’s, the remains of a shipyard from 1640,and a bathing area from the beginning of 1914.

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Monestary ruins from the 1100's

Above the remains of the Hovedøya Monestery. In 1532 the monastery burned down and was demolished. Stone remaining from the Monestary was used to build Akershus Fortress – Castle. Fourteenth century recycling! Cool!

ExpertKiteFlying

Chinese kite flying on the beach

After crossing the island I came to the beach I was looking for. You didn’t think I forgot the beach did you? It wasn’t nearly as crowded as it is mid summer but as you can see there were people out enjoying the day. Like this chinese family who were really experts in flying a special kind of kite!

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Lunch break for the Kyak group

Or a group of (totally hot) Kyakers who stopped on the island to eat their lunch and take a break, and even a little swim.

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Romantic late summer swim

Not exacly the tropics, but romantic none the less!

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View across the fjord to Oslo City Hall

On the way back I just had to take this photo with Oslo City in the background. The town hall is directly in the middle and I thought, this photo will make my sweetie proud hehehe. The weather on the way back was if possible even better then on the way to the island but one learns the hard way. If you wait too long to leave Hovedøya you might wind up waiting for a ferry or three before you get room on board. The island wasn’t SO crowded this Sunday afternoon but I wasn’t taking any chances. Besides RennyBA was home from his adventures and I wanted to hear about his trip!

Oslo Opera House tour at OsloBG

We couldn’t invite our friends to Norway without showing them the new pearl of the city shoreline. The Oslo Opera House opened in 2008 designed by the award winning architect firm, Snøhetta. The Opera House is best seen from the water as you see in the photo below. I admit this photo was taken in July when my father was visiting, as we had better weather and a boat ride! As you can see it resembles a Glacier flowing out into the ocean. The surface reflects the natural elements of snow and ice and has a cold feel to it. Covered in pure white Italian marble it sparkles on the landscape.

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Oslo Opera House

The concept of the Opera House was that they wished it to be available to the Norwegian people in other ways. Therefor it is the only Opera House in the world where the roof is intended for use of everyone. It gives a wonderful view of both the city and the fjord and is a popular place for Norwegians and tourists alike. In the summer time free concerts are held on the roof for all to enjoy.

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Guests walking on the roof

Looking through the window increases the feel of ice, and yet you can see the warm “wave wall” which adds the element of Norwegian Oak Wood. The wave wall which contains the main scene and several others appears to rise like a great old oak tree right in the center of the opera house, and the large glass windows allow you to see inside, allow light to enter from outside, and even allows you to see the fjord right through the buildings.

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Lookinglass Opera

On the main floor there is also a restaurant -cafe serving fine dining both indoors in the main hall and outdoors in good weather on the Opera roof itself.

OperaCafe

Opera Cafe

RennyBA and Lawrence were kind enough to arrange a guided tour for us with a most excellent guide, in english of course. She brought us through the galleries elegently designed in fine Nowegian Oak, and into the main scene, which of course we were not allowed to photograph as they were setting the scene for Figaros Wedding.

Gallery

Galleries

We had a peek at the ballet as well! The Opera House is also the home of the Norwegian Ballet, and has rehersal rooms in the same high quality as the ballet floor itself (which is lowered from the roof onto the scene of the main floor to insure optimal quality for the dancers).

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Ballet Dance Floor

My favorite part of the tour, I have to admit to dreams of being a dancer or an actress when I was around the age of 5, was our tour through the costume rooms. We were allowed into some of the costume storage and had a peek at the beautiful creations being made. Here are some colorful tutus for this years presentation of the Nutcracker. Yes, already in August they are busy making the costumes for Christmas’ high point.

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Costumes

The guide, also a visial artist, showed us the elaborate details of the work.

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Nutcracker ballet skirt

And we also had a breif glimpse of the wonderful costumes to Figaro’s Wedding.

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Figaro's Wedding

Some of the best experiences from Oslo Blog Gathering was experiencing new things together with interesting and curious friends from around the world. It was also fun taking photos together and seeing how some of the others captured the details around them. All in all every day was an experience of a lifetime.

If you want to learn more about our experiences at OsloBG please visit my friend’s posts:
RennyBA
TorAA
Lelè Batita
Maria…
Claudie
Lifecruiser
My Grand Adventure II
Return to Norway