Norwegian Road Trip Day 1: Waterfalls (part 1)

Today I will bring you along on our road trip in Norway. If you have been following along you know that last we were last in Bergen. We only had three days to fit in as many stops as we could and make it back to Bergen to fly out. Most guides from Bergen recommend driving out to Flåm and driving same direction back. I thought it would be better to do a round trip, so that we would see more. I couldn’t find a guide that recommend a round route, so we kinda made our own and booked our accommodations to correspond with our stops.

The map below shows the general direction with some of the major stops. This route is totally doable in 3 days, even with a screaming toddler in the car. Some of these stretches are a bit long, which is because the mountainous terrain and the fjords that take longer to navigate. Many of the water crossings require a river ferry, which can take time and do require a fee. However this gave us unforgettable scenic views and made the drive definitely more interesting as the landscape was constantly changing. FIY, we paid about $80 AUD in toll for these 3 days and there aren’t many signs for speed limits, despite the speeding camera.

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Bergen: historic trader town (part 2)

The second half our of time in Bergen was spent visiting some of the sites outside of the city centre. By the time we eventually received our hire car it was the afternoon, but it was just as well, as it would have taken longer to get to the first two designations on foot or by public transport. So the highlights of our afternoon in Bergen include the Old Bergen MuseumFantoft Stave Church, Fløyen and a delicious dinner at Pingvinen. We did return to Bergen a few days later before flying out so I included the lunch we had from a great little Norwegian burger joint, Søstrene Hagelin at the end of this post.

 

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Bergen: historic trader town (part 1)

After the enjoying the breathtaking views on the Bergensbanen train from Oslo, we arrived to the beautiful coastal city of Bergen. Since we arrived in the evening, we only allocated the following day to explore Bergen before heading off a road trip. We tried to fit in as much as we could without spending too much. Did I mention how expensive Norway is? This is partly why we allocated only one day to Bergen, being a very popular tourist stop. Unfortunately, we were here on a Sunday which is the worst day to visit if you like to shop. All of the shops were closed (except for the tourist shops), as well as some of the cafes. Despite this we did fill our day with lots of site seeing. I have so many photos to show you that I have had to write two posts for Bergen. The highlights from the first half of the day include amazing Norwegian pastries at Godt Brod Floyen, exploring Bryggen (old town), visiting the Bergen Fortress and a delicious lunch at the famous Fisketorget (Fish Market).

Before I go on I will tell you a bit about the must-see Norwegian city. Bergen is located in Hordaland, facing the fjord of Byfjorden. It is the second largest city and is known as the ‘city of seven mountains’. It was founded by King Olav Kyrre in 1070, but trading in the area goes back to the 1020s. It was the largest city until Christiania (Oslo) surpassed it in the 1830s. Today it still maintains its old town character and is a major tourist stops for tourist and cruise ships. Indeed it is an expensive city, however its a great place to visit on the way to see the amazing fjords in this region.

 

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Oslo: botanic gardens & the Bergensbanen rail (day 3)

Our last day in Oslo was just really a half day since we had to travel to Bergen in the afternoon. I hate travelling during the day since it feels like such a waste, but with a kid it does make it easier. I tried to fit in a some shopping in Bogstadveien and a visit to the University Botanic Gardens before our epic train ride to Bergen on the Bergensbanen rail! If you would like to see the amazing landscapes I captured on our journey, scroll down towards the end of this post.

 

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Oslo: Cultural and heritage sites (day 2)

On our second day in Oslo we had a big day jam packed full of free cultural and heritage sites. There’s actually quite a lot you can do for free in Oslo, which you can enjoy all year round. Some of the highlights of day two include the Royal Palace and tranquil Slottsparken, the amazing art work at the City Hall, the historic Akershus Fortress, and the marvellous Opera House. I originally planned to also fit in the Free East Side Walking Tour (currently not on offer) in the afternoon, but I don’t think we could have possibly done it. My legs were still swollen from the flight and Octavia made it clear she was not going to be content to sit and be quiet. All in all I think we did pretty well and we also ate pretty well too.

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Oslo: Norsk Folkemuseum

During our first big day in Oslo we visited the Norsk Folkemuseum. Since I have so many photos and info to share about this museum I had to dedicate an entire post to it. I’m not sure if it will interest you, but since I’m studying museum studies and a history buff I wanted to document my visit. This was the first open-air museum that I have ever visited, however on this trip I saw quiet a few. I really enjoyed each one and the different ways they presented their rich cultural history. The Norsk Folkemuseum was probably one of my favourites for its large scale representation of Norwegian history, the visible interiors and towns people.

The Norsk Folkemuseum illustrates how people across Norway lived from 1500s until today. The open-air museum is a recreates the old town of Oslo and the Norwegian country side. Buildings from across the country have been brought and place in a life-size diorama to demonstrate the different cultural experiences of the Norwegian people. Throughout the open-air museum there are hosts dressed in traditional clothing. They welcome you into the homes, offer a wealth of information and make the whole experience more authentic. During the summer season many of the buildings are open, with visible interiors and activities. There are special theme days where the museum also offers folk music, dancing, handicrafts and baking. So if you planning your visit it would be worth checking out their calendar. The Norsk Folkemuseum also offers indoor permanent and temporary exhibitions, which feature many national treasures and artefacts. There are also a couple of places you can get something to eat, so you can really take your time and make a day of it.

If your in Oslo and have a 3-5 hours to spare I really recommend visiting the Norsk Folkemuseum. The museum gives you quiet a broad representation of Norwegian cultural history. The open-air museum is just enormous and is lovely to walk through and take in the cultural difference in the different regions. One of the stand out features for me was also the Stave Church, which has been well-preserved and was probably the best one I seen. The indoor exhibitions also cover quiet a lot of different topics to further give you a greater appreciation for Norwegian culture.

 

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Oslo: Norwegian metropolis (day 1)

Our first stop on our Nordic Adventure began in Oslo, Norway. This metropolitan city is the largest city and capital of Norway. It is known as a cosmopolitan hub for its architecture, arts scene, museums, great restaurants and fashion. We spent a couple of days in Oslo and it’s a city I could see myself living or revisiting.

Oslo has so many amazing museums, sites and public parks. With only a couple of days and a toddler in toe, we had to be picky to what we could see and do. Another consideration we had is that Norway has such a strong currency, making this the most expensive country we have ever visited. On the plus side, the public transport is really accessible and pretty cheap and can be purchased from 7/11. We decided against buying the Oslo pass, for this reason and also because we would not been able to see everything on offer in such a short time frame. However, we did get to see quiet a bit, so this destination needs at least 3 posts. Some of the highlights in this post includes breakfast pastries at BackstubeFrogner ParkVigeland Park, Karl Johans GateGrünerløkka and dinner at Mathallen Food Hall.

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National Orchid Garden

Only one more full day left on our Singapore trip and we save one of the best attractions for last. If your a flower lover or horticulture enthusiast you would really enjoy Singapore National Orchid Garden as much as I did. This garden is located in the Singapore Botanic Gardens and houses the most beautiful and exotic collection of orchids in the world.

The National Orchid Garden was open in 1995 by Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. However, the Botanic Gardens has been been cultivating rare and beautiful orchids since 1859 and their Orchid House was opened in 1899. The gardens were redeveloped in the 1980s into a three core concept. These three zones are Bukit Timah Core, Tanglin Core and Central Core. On the highest hills of the Central Core is where you can find the amazing National Orchid Garden. This garden has the largest collection of tropical orchids on the plant. It has over 60,000 orchids from 1000 different species and 2000 hybrids.

To get to the National Orchid Garden we caught an Uber there. This was the quickest and most cost effective way from the Harbourfront. The driver dropped us right near the Orchid Plaza, where got a taste to some of the beautiful orchids we would later see. In this area there are a couple of cafes in the Ginger Garden. The Orchid Plaza store is also here where you can buy tickets to the garden and souvenirs. The tickets are really cheap, only costing $5 for adults and $1 for students. They are open from 8:30 am until 7pm. There are many other gardens within the Botanic Gardens that I would have loved to see if we had more time. Most are open from 5am until Midnight and are free to visit.

 

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Sentosa Island: beach and attractions

After a fun day at Universal Studios, we spent day 8 of our Singapore trip on Sentosa Island again. On this day we had some fun at the beach and did a few of the other attractions available on the island.

 

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Sentosa Island: Universal Studios in pictures

I have a new dream people. My dream is not only visit all the Disney parks in the world, but also to visit all the Universal Studios parks. The Singaporean park is the first Universal Studios that I have visited so far and I really enjoyed it. This park was not as perfectly set out as the Disney parks I’ve visited but it still had plenty of nostalgia for many of my favourite movies and characters. Before visiting the park I made my own Guide to Singapore Universal Studios, so check out it if you intend on visiting.

What I loved about the Singapore Universal Studios is that its easy to get to, you can do it in a day, the lines weren’t crazy during the week and great themed areas and rides, lots rides for kids and express tickets. What could have been better is an evening show or parade (no available most of the week), better merchandise, more rides, character/movie themed food outlets and restaurants. I guess I may be expecting a bit much but I did leave the park little merchandise and don’t feel compelled to return to this park now I’ve experienced. However, I really appreciated that this park had so rides that my toddler could do and height charts out the front of the entrance gave us a good indications of what we could expect that she could visit. When we did the visited Florida last year, we decided against visiting the Universal Studios because there was little for her do it at those parks.

Another reason why this visit was so wonderful is that we were chosen as the First Family! Every day a family is chosen to open the park. We were chosen at the gates after Marco asked the nice attendant a question. We were taken in to a special room and were explained what we were meant to do to open the park. We were treated to free bottled water and 10 free Universal Express passes. We were actually going to buy some of those, so this was a big saving for us. Once we got out the park attendants introduced us, then Marco had to say ‘we are the [Surname] Family, Lights Camera Action’ and I click the directors clapperboard. Then we got a photo with Puss in Boots’, which we received for free later that day. Funny thing was is that Marco stumbled on his last name, since he pronounces different in English normally and I had already taught the announcers how to say it properly. He also held our family name upside down when we got our free photo. The whole thing was hilarious and is now immortalised in our photo.

During our visit we were able to do just about all the rides. I don’t do roller coasters, since I can’t somersault backwards, it just feels wrong. My favourite rides were Puss In Boots’ Giant Journey, Enchanted Airways and Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. Octavia’s favourites were the Magic Potion Spin and King Julien’s Beach Party-Go-Round. For lunch we had burgers and fries at 50’s diner, Mel’s Dinettes (Hollywood), which wasn’t too bad. We also bought the Cookie Monsters Chocolate Chip Cookies from Me Want Cookies stand (New York), which tasted as yummy as I imagined.

So here are my photos from my day at Singapore Universal Studios at Sentosa Island on day 7 of our Singapore Trip. For more in-depth info on the park see my Guide to Singapore Universal Studios.

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Clarke Quay: River Cruise

After visiting Tiong Bahru, we made our way to glitzy hot spot, Clarke Quay. We had intentions of doing the River Cruise, a bit of shopping and dinner there. This is actually my second visit to the quay. Its been about 8 years since I bump into a friend from back home while on holidays and went out to dinner with her and some friends at a fine dining Chinese restaurant. I just remember pretty colourful riverfront, the hoards of people and the extra $35 tea tax on top of our dinner bill.

Clarke Quay is a pedestrian mall that runs along the Clay Quay Jetty, on the Singapore River. In Colonial times, Boat Quay was the commercial center and Clarke Quay was where the warehouses were located and bumboats were moored. However, the Singapore River became so polluted that in the 1970s and 80s government moved the cargo services elsewhere and clean up the river. Later Clarke Quay was redeveloped into a commercial, residential and entertainment precinct. The Clarke Quay Festival Village was open in 1993 and Clarke Quay was continued to be revamped over the next 10 years. Today it is a bright and glitzy mall with colourful shop facades and riverfront dining, restaurants, bars and night clubs.

The best time to visit Clarke Quay is in the evenings, when everything is open and people are walking the strip. However, you can still visit during the day, like we did. If I were to revisited Clarke Quay I would definitely visit at night, unless I was in the area to see Fort Cannon Hill (behind Clarke Quay) or visiting the Asian Civilisations Museum and National Gallery Singapore (further down). If you do visit during the day there plenty of lunch deals.

 

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Tiong Bahru: hipsters paradise

On day 6 we visit one of the hippest neighbors in Singapore, Tiong Bahru. It’s not a really touristy hot spot and it was had a very different vibe to what I had seen in the city so far.

Tiong Bahru is actually the oldest housing estate in the country and was built in the 1920’s. It’s name actually stands for ‘new cemetery’ (thióng in Hokkien for “cemetery” and bahru in Malay for “new”), since there were a few cemeteries in the area. It  became quite a polluted and shabby part of town, so in the 1930s it got a face lift. Before I tell you about the interesting architecture, I first have to tell you what we had for breakfast.

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