Archive for category: Travel

Hunting high and low

08 Nov
November 8, 2011
Today was Real Estate Day. The dream of finding a Place in the Sun has always been present, albeit for long periods of time, dormant. Now were the time and the opportunity to see if anything was waiting for us “out there”.  We had made an arrangement to meet up with a real estate agent, well known by the generous owners of the house we are currently borrowing. Bright and early, wide eyed, fit for fight, we showed up at her office in downtown Albir. The deal was to have a little chat and then maybe view a couple of possible prospects. Our specifications for a property was quite specific and precise, but not being a novice in the game, the agent had picked out houses within different categories.
 We started off looking at apartments, went on to town houses, an eventually ended up concentrating on villas with the works; several patios, a range of bedrooms, more bathrooms than we ever would wish to clean, wardrobes fit for a Mrs. Beckham, pool, Jacuzzi, fountains, with big gardens which we had sworn we would never take on, and without sea-view and-access, which had definitely been on top of the list.
The more houses we saw, the more tired we got, and our judgement quickly deteriorated from bad to catastrophic. The agent, extremely nice, extraordinarily competent and of course eager to sell, sensed the onset of our weakened condition and started showing us estates, yes, that would be the word, way out of our price range. By now we were delirious from lack of food and drink, but she continued driving, showing us this area and that, hacienda upon hacienda. When she realized that we were now so exhausted that we weren’t able to see straight, let alone hold a pen for signing a contract, she took us, just to be nice, by the Norwegian Seaman’s Church and the location of the Englishman’s market. We nodded in appreciation, but there was not a braincell in our head capable of taking in neither location nor direction, so if we ever find our way back there it will be a sheer case of happy coincidence.
Back at the office, I dove into a fruitplate, probably there for ornamental purposes, but I would have eaten the fruit even if it were made of plastic. Trying, out of modesty, to restrain myself, I forced myself to only pick up a banana, which I gobbled up faster than a monkey can say, well …anything. The glass of water I was offered quickly went the same way, and I am positive that the other agents in the office, watching us, must have marvelled at the Norwegian lady, fairly well dressed, but obviously starving, eating away at their window decorations.
Thus having retrieved a few of our marbles, we got in the car and drove home, stopping only to pick up some essensials at the supermarket, to ensure that we didn’t have to move more muscles than absolutely necessary during the remainder of the day. It’s amazing though, what a little food and a short rest can do, because before the day was over, we had put in several hours of work, more food and just a sufficient amount of wine to agree that the day had been extremely successful.
But now you have to excuse me, I have to go in and remove book and glasses from my good friend’s pillow and turn off her light. That book will last her a loooong time, that’s for sure.

The Invation of Polop

07 Nov
November 7, 2011
I know it (the smile) was still there when I woke up this morning. It was overcast and windy, but the temperature definitely hinted of what we at home consider summer. A little later the sun broke through the clouds, and sitting outside, just wearing a bikini was actually both possible and comfortable.
Now this is the way to go, and work, in November! I rigged up myself and my computer on the patio overlooking the yard, the pool and the mountains beyond. What a “screen saver”! With a cup of tea and a sliced, juicy Sharon fruit, I was all set.
I surfaced a few hours later, when we took a break and made a salad from fresh, mostly local, produce. We continued working till around 3 o’clock, when we were ready for some adventure and took off in the neat little Mercedes at our disposal. We ignored both maps and GPS and just set off in the general direction of the mountains. The road did not take us where we had intended, but as we ended up in the little town of Polop, embracing a hill with remnants of a close to 1000 year old hill fort on top, we were more than satisfied. We parked the car and walked up the steep and very narrow streets which were definitely made for walking, but, as we soon realized, also frequently used for driving. The drivers had no way of seeing what or who was around the next corner, but that didn’t seem in the least to bother them or affect their speed.
The view from the hilltop was a beautiful 360 degree vista, including both valley, sea and mountains. Not difficult to imagine why one would choose to build a castle up here. The steep hillsides must have protected the residents from a lot of attacks over the centuries, and its strategic location probably made a perfect control post for traffic to and from the Mediterranean.
The entrance to the area within the existing, and for a great part reconstructed, fortress walls was closed. Too bad, we thought, despondent. But not for long. A sudden flashback to a similar stunt some years ago, then at an island monastery back home, made us determined to find a way in.

Walking around the wall, in silent understanding, we looked for a weak point in the defense, and found it. A protruding slab of rock made a perfect platform from which to climb over the wall, which right here was a little bit crumbled and provided the necessary footholds. Once inside, giggling and in a great mood, we quickly sobered up upon realizing that most of what lay before us were old, open graves. How old we couldn’t tell, and there were no information signs to be seen anywhere. The degree of decay was great, though, and a lone shovel and a wheelbarrow with a punctuated tyre did not do much in the way of promising a full preservation or reconstruction in a very near future. With no info whatsoever our imagination could work unhindered, which it did, until we snapped out of it and made our way out again, happy and only with some minor bruises from the climb.
Finding our way home was no problem, after we had involuntarily explored a huge residential area, with 75 % of the houses not finished, and not likely to be in a very long time. It was like driving through a ghost town, and we pitied the people who had actually moved in here, before recession caused an abrupt stop in further building activities.
My friend has a great sense of direction, and as soon as I got used to the fact that she 50 % of the time says “left” when she means “right”, and vice versa, and started focusing on her hand signs instead of her words, I leaned back in the driver’s seat and relaxed.
Arriving “home”, we continued working till 8 PM when we cooked and had dinner. After which my friend called it a day and went to bed intending to enjoy an hour reading her book. I passed her room 2 minutes later, and seeing her fast asleep, removed her book and her glasses and turned off the light.

Casa el Jardin

06 Nov
November 6, 2011
L’Alfaz del Pi, home of the free?, home of the Spaniards, quite a few Norwegians, and, lo and behold, for the next two weeks, me! The shuttle bus that I had booked from home, awaited me and my companion for the first week, right outside the customs, and took us, and on this occasion no others, to our designated bus stop…and left us there. By this time daylight was quickly fading, but through a combination of my friend’s map reading skills, a kind, Spanish man with a dog named Matt and an 11 year old son with the beautiful name of Marcello, my intuition and quite a bit of luck, we soon found ourselves outside the “pearly gates” of Case del Jardin.

“Pearly gates” is not casually used here, as upon setting foot inside both the garden and the house, we felt we had been admitted into a small corner of Heaven.  The Jardin lived up to its name, with an abundance of trees and plants, at home only found as tiny indoor versions or in botanical greenhouses; Palms of different kinds and sizes, succulents, cactuses, purple bougainvilleas decorating fences and framing entrances, hibiscus trees full of intensely red flowers, lemon- and orange trees, with fruits literally ready for the picking, and a several hundred years old Carob, or St. John’s bread tree.  And in this garden of Eden, on all sides of the house, a great selection of terraces and seating areas, a hammock, a pool, a fountain, a view over the mountains, and, if you stand on top the garden table facing the pool, even over the ocean.

As we aw’ed and wow’ed over it all, we fumbled with the keys in the dark for a while, and entered the Casa. Which was spacious and cozy at the same time. Homely, simply, yet elegantly furnished and decorated, the house welcomed us, manifold exceeding our expectations. And as we started “installing” ourselves, and finding our way around the house, we soon discovered that much care must have gone into planning it all. Everything, from kitchen equipment to wireless was in place and working. Electricity sockets were where you needed them, and even the wine opener was easy to find, when we after a long journey and some hectic grocery shopping, were ready to put our feet up, dig into bread, local cheese, ham and olives and, having in the supermarket tryed to avoid anything Norwegian, Scottish salmon.
We sat down, ate, drank, looked at each other. And smiled. Amazed at our good fortune, amazed at the generous people having lent us this jewel. And then we slept, the smile, I am sure, probably still on our lips.

Barcelona in October, Arrivederci!

23 Oct
October 23, 2011

The taxis were on time. Three little yellow and black SEATs awaited us with their trunks wide open, ready to swallow our bulging suitcases. Our chauffeur was in a good mood, but our effort to strike up a conversation with him, as is our habit, was futile. He was already deep in playful conversation with the other two drivers, judging from my modest understanding of the language, covering topics ranging from the world situation, via soccer to matrimonial issues. But as we were approaching the airport there was a definite shift, both in themes, behavior and mood. Now it was all about the soon upcoming coffee break and who would get there first. Laughing under his breath, with one hand on the microphone, the other gesticulating wildly and waving at his mates, only occasionally and absently touching the steering wheel, while moving in and out of lanes, our man was set on winning. Terrified, the ladies in the back seat and I looked at each other, and pictured ourselves getting a place in the huge, open air burial facility on Montjüic that we had just passed a couple of minutes ago.
Arriving at the airport we were so relieved to be alive, that when the driver charged us almost one third of the fare on top of the actual one, probably having heard about The Norwegian Airline’s lucrative policy…, we were ready to embrace him for not killing us, and willing to pay all that and more.
The flight Barcelona – Oslo was uneventful, thank goodness. I was standing in line for the youknowwhat, when the captain was announcing our descent over the loudspeaker. Among other things he also mentioned the temperature on the ground. It was + 1. +1! I was not ready for that, and promptly, without thinking, I turned to the purser storing away remnants of food and drink in the compartment next to me, and appealed: “Could you please, please, please, make the captain turn the plane around and take us back to Barcelona!” The friendly man took a good look at me and my sincere, but desperate expression, and said: “Sorry ma’am, but you see, my colleague and I are just making this and another short trip, before heading towards Tenerife where we are getting a whole day off!” He smiled.
He was still smiling, when a couple of hours later he welcomed us onboard the plane, heading for Trondheim. Obviously, this was the “short flight” he had been referring too. When he saw me, he grinned apologetically, and letting us off in Trondheim, both he and his female colleague, now laughing from ear to ear, probably delirious at the thought of the warm Tenerife sun, promised that the next time, at least if their day off was scheduled in Reykjavik, they would definitely consider rerouting the plane in a more southerly direction.

Barcelona in October 4

21 Oct
October 21, 2011
Park Güell, like many other ambitious projects of Barcelona, was initiated and financed by one of the many well to do citizens, in this case the industrialist Eusebio Güell. The place was intended as an English garden city, hence the spelling of the word Park, with mansions scattered around an elaborate and unique park, according to the unconventional and organic design of Gaudi. The project turned out to be an economic disaster, only two houses were actually built, but the park itself became and is till this day, an immense success. It is the work of a genius homo ludens, breaking all the accepted rules of architecture, plan and layout. Describing it is difficult, but being there is like being outside space and time. Your eyes and mind are constantly challenged and amused, as is your ears, because of all the incredibly gifted musical entertainers performing and adding to the pleasant, careful and playful feel of the park.
Playfulness is also an important aspect of another, but more recent project, the renovated Cosmo Caixa, the science museum. Apart from some oddities when it comes to  entrance area, layout and lack of sensible information about the same, it was a very nice experience. The natural phenomena part was great, but not very different from many other similar exhibitions. The presentation of the development of technology, from the first feeble and accidental efforts by early humans, on the other hand, was refreshing and interesting, suggestion qualities of both humor and empathy.
A huge surprise was the inner part of the museum, an enclosed area comprising a humid rainforest, fully equipped with regular rainfall and a varied flora and fauna. The first we enjoyed a lot, but the latter elicited mixed feelings: The fish were probably all right, although constantly swimming around and around, in a perpetual search for familiar seas and ocean currents. The most likely depressed green anaconda, on the other hand, curled up, immobile in a pool of water, and the poor capybara,, the biggest rodent in the world, melancholy pondering over how it ended up in these backwatersl, had no way of or inclination to behave in a remotely natural way, and might as well have been replaced by replicas.
Like the Einstein and Darwin lookalikes in the reception area, seemingly having a good time discussing, merely taking a five-minute break from further calculations and discoveries.

Barcelona in October 3

20 Oct
October 20, 2011
Monteserrat, much more than I had bargained for. The peak with an altitude of 1236 meters. The monastery further down, huge, impressive, but leaving me a little flustered; Once a place of recluse, solitude, retreat, peace. Now a full-fledged toursist machine. Or vortex; sucking people in by the grandeur of its site, the buildings. Centrifuging us through the cafés easily catering for a multitude of visitors of all ages and provenances, the museum, the Basilica, the shops, and spewing us out in the other end, overwhelmed, but a little lacking in the peace of mind usually associated with monasteries and hermitages.
Not yet fully satisfied, some of us took a funicular further up, to see more of the mountain, the unique rock formations, the view. Which was amazing.
 Restless, a little impatient, I agreed to meet with the others in time for the descending cable car, and took off uphill. First following a wide pathway, and after a while pursuing a steep upward path, through a thicket of trees. On the way, puffing and panting, knowing I was short of time, I met and passed some resting, out of breath Russians, a couple of sauntering Poles and two young Londoners, clampering up, step by step. The former two never made it to the Magdalena Hermitage further up, both due their wearing high heels, not well suited for the task and their heavyweight cameras and wallets…, the latter arrived a little later, obviously not being in a hurry like me.
The two English blokes and I shared the thrill when emerging out of the bush and onto a plateau, overlooking amazing rock formations and the valley beyond and bellow. We photographed eachother, neither asking the other to take a step back, which would have been a foolish thing, and probably the last of our lives, to do.
Allowing myself a few minutes of exhilaration, feeling high and on top of the word, in many respects, I felt inclined to stay, but knowing I had people waiting for me, took a last look, before I scurried down, again passing the Russians and the Poles, all smiling, but not uttering a word, now even more oxygen-deprived as they were.
Me, myself, I was high, a feeling that stayed with me on the way down, on the train back to town and all through the evening, and hasn’t quite left me yet. 

Bareclona in October 2

19 Oct
October 19, 2011
Montejuïc, 213 m high hill, on the south side of the city. Spangled with buildings and constructions erected to impress, for the 1929 World Exhibit and the 1992 Olympics respectively. With an infrastructure, both elaborate and confusing. For walking somewhat lacking in directions; a maze of small pathways among groves of orange and almond trees, laurels, mimosa, cypresses, pines…

After indulging in a museum saturated morning, the Barcelonetta beach awaited. Almost void of tourists, but full of locals …, and vendors. Offering anything from Mojito to massages. We escaped into the salty, temperate sea, enjoying the water, the waves, the utter feeling of bliss that wallowing in the ocean in October brings to a northerner.

We still had room for more input , and ventured into the Museo d´Història de la Ciutat,  sporting the most extensive subterranean Roman ruins in the world, featuring streets, houses, temples, baths, sewage systems, work shops, wine making facilities… The only drawback being that the exit was not to be found, and no wine tasting, which by the end of a very hectic day we reaaaly needed, was provided. The latter was more serious than the former, as we could have done well without the exit, providing the wine was served in adequate (ample) quantities…

Rounded off with a Catalonian orgy of food and wine. Shared and exchanged stories of the day’s events.  Much laughter and subsequent dancing in the street, our enthusiasm for a moment even surpassing that of the lively Barcelonans, and gaining applause from the same. 

Barcelona in October 1

18 Oct
October 18, 2011

Sunny, pleasantly warm, still teaming with life. Just enough tourists to keep it «going». Refreshed, young guide, eminent, knowledgeable, and like most Catalanes; for historical and political reasons, hungry for independence, autonomy. Proud, but friendly, open, easygoing, at least towards us, nonspaniards as we definitely are. She takes us around Barro Gotti, old town, with “palaces”, tall, often slim buildings (less land to pay for…), tiny balconies draped with dripping laundry, house plants.., narrow streets and alleys, open places, cafés, tapas restaurants, churches. The Cathedral,Santa Maria del Mar, scene of the book by the same name, which I haven’t, but now must read, and Sagrada Familia; after sunset, floodlit, a sight to behold and remember. Stunning, impressive, beyond imagination, before you actually lay eyes on it. Product of a creative mind, and a city generous enough to allow the necessary space for the dream.

Island Jumping Åfjord, Norway

03 Oct
October 3, 2011

You don’t have to go to Greece orThailand to indulge in what is referred to as island jumping. Even though the water may not be as warm, the sand not as fine, the palms non existing, amazing experiences await you many places here inNorway. Last weekend I went with a friend to the municipality of Åfjord, 2 hours northwest ofTrondheim, where a brand new cultural heritage “tinted” biking trail is laid out, covering parts of the mainland and two beautiful islands, Stokkøya and Linesøya.
 The trail takes you through beautiful landscapes, and features pointers to traces of prehistoric and historic life from different periods. Stone age cave dwellings, tools and ornamental finds, and quays, trading places, peat digging and other cultivated landscape sites of more recent times, are only some of what you get to see. All the while comfortably biking and, if you like, hiking, through a beautiful and varied landscape, sporting fjord and sea, rolling hills, mountains, lakes, caves and a similarly diverse flora and fauna.
 The trail can be covered in on, two or more days, depending on how much time you have/want to spend, and how many things you want to experience. If you choose to stay overnight, you have the choice between roughing it, tenting, sleeping under the stars (a little weather dependent) or doing it in style, by for instance lodging in the newly, and beautifully constructed Sub-houses (built partly below the turf) at Stokkøya Sjøsenter.
 If you’re a local, i.e. living in theTrondheim area, a life time experience is only a short drive away. If you come from out of town or from abroad, I’ll be happy to either take you there or show you the way. For a more elaborate description of the trail and our trip, click               

 If you don’t read Norwegian/Scandinavian, you may still enjoy the photos:-)

The Ebikon Challenge

01 Oct
October 1, 2011

In our house there is, among other things, a lot of cutting, hacking, churning, grinding, milling, crushing, mashing and beating going on. (Just to set your mind at rest, this is mainly referring to cooking…). So when I learned about a versatile kitchen machine actually performing all of these tasks, I, or rather the machine, was sold. The only obstacle was the price, but as I was soon going to Zürich on other business, I did a tiny bit of research and found that buying the “baby” in Switzerland would save me, while at the same time literally providing me with, quite a bit of “dough”. Still, to justify such a purchase, I would have to renounce at least a couple of years of Christmas and birthday presents. That would not represent a problem, though, as my live in partner was thrilled to have that load (thinking up presents for me) off his mind for a long time…

If you want to read more about a crazy, tiring, but fun day, follow this link: