Sarah and Cordelia, two of our European Travel Consultants, recently went to Norway to discover what this strikingly beautiful country has to offer. In this blog, Sarah writes about their road trip from Bergen to Alesund and Cordelia writes about her days spent in cosmopolitan capital Oslo.
Bergen to Alesund, by Sarah
Cordelia and I like to explore new lands and that’s why our latest adventure took us to Norway. With just one hotel in the far North of the country in the Scott Dunn portfolio, we felt this remarkable country needed to be discovered. So off we set at the end of September hoping for Fall colors, fantastic fjords and famed Nordic gastronomy – and we weren’t disappointed.
With just 10 days to play with we needed to focus on certain areas so Bergen, the fjords, Alesund and Oslo seemed to us a good start. With direct BA flights into Bergen daily we set off for this harbor city not knowing what to expect. Once there we found charming guesthouses (To Sostre), stylish hotels (Admiral and Number 13), incredible food (Boha and Lysverket) and amazing Norwegian hospitality (too many people to mention!). We climbed to the top of Mount Ulriken – our first taste of Norwegian hiking which made us realise it’s not for the faint-hearted, wandered the pretty streets with painted buildings and stopped for a cinnamon bun or two at organic bakeries (Godt Brød). Then we ventured further afield for our first foray near the fjords and found Villa Charlotte which we decided would be perfect for anyone looking for an alternative summer villa vacation.
Hiring a car from the get-go was a must as there’s a lot in Norway that needs to be discovered. The road trips were a visual feast in themselves with plunging waterfalls, vast canyons, hairpin bends and vast panoramas. Self-drive itineraries in Norway are the way to do this country properly and with an incredible road network, efficient and ample car ferries across the fjords and an impressive tunnel network you can expect driving to be easy rather than stressful.
This time we didn’t have time for the Flåm railway but it definitely is worthwhile given its touted as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. But we did venture on to the “snow road”, a road over Aurland that took us across an incredible landscape of snow and rocks to 29/2 Aurland – a jewel in the crown of all the amazing hotels we encountered. This place is heavenly and Tone and Bjorn welcomed us like family. We just wished we had more time to stay and go hiking, biking and foraging with our amazing hosts! Also worth mentioning is the Norwegian National Tourist Routes which have been hand-picked to form 18 epic journeys across the country, each with impressive contemporary viewing platforms, stunning artwork and breath-taking lunch spots.
Edging further north and into Sognefjord territory we marvelled at the vast scale of this 200km long fjord. It really will take your breath away as your eyes are constantly drawn to another of mother nature’s stunning vistas. Kviknes and Walaker hotels vie with each other for the trophy of most historic hotel on the fjord but each offers something different to its guests. Stave churches, fjord cruises, splendid walks and more gruelling hikes await from whichever base you choose. Ours this time was Kviknes which meant a challenging but thoroughly satisfying hike up to the top of Raudmelen that boasts a dizzying height of 972m and breath-taking views over the Sognefjord.
Next stop was Alesund to dip our toes once more into Norwegian city life. Staying at Brosundet was a treat with its supremely stylish Scandi décor and incredible restaurant, Maki. Our dashing guide Tom took us on a thrilling rib ride but sadly the inclement weather meant we missed out on the proper sea safari to see the puffin and seal colonies. Instead we hopped on the free hotel bikes to explore Alesund at leisure and then retreated back to deep bathtubs at Brodundet.
Next stop was Brosundet’s sister hotel, Union Oye which we were both waiting for with bated breath. Never has this phrase seemed more appropriate as our amazing host Gro Linn had regaled us the evening before with tales of this historic hotel’s resident ghost Linda! At check-in we were offered the haunted Blue Room and the accompanying silver salver of garlic which you use to entice or deter Linda but we both declined and instead slept soundly amidst antiques and plush fabrics in Queen Wilhelmina and Kaiser Wilhelm themed rooms. The rest of the individually decorated rooms boast past guests such as Karen Blixen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Princess Victoria. A highlight was sitting in the Belle Epoque drawing room with Katrina, the hotel’s front of house, who delighted us with the marvelous history of this hotel from its association with Kaiser Wilhelm, to its brush with World War II when a giant boulder landed on its roof having been sent rolling down the mountain behind by a German bomb!
Our last stop before Oslo was the third in this perfect trio of hotels in and around Stofjord, Geirangerfjord and Hjørundfjord. Hotel Storfjord nestled above the fjord of the same name is a luxury ski chalet of one’s dreams, transported to a magical verdant setting. Spacious rooms, delicious organic food and roaring log fires meant we finally could relax and enjoy a well-earned break by the fire with a book!
Oslo, by Cordelia
Early the next morning Sarah and I waved goodbye to one another and I went on to Oslo to finish our trip in the country’s capital. I had heard mixed reviews of Oslo; some raving and other underwhelming so my expectations were low – and absolutely surpassed! The weather from start to finish was glorious, bright and warm sunshine and barely a cloud in the sky apart from in the evenings, which meant we had the most spectacular sunsets. Oslo is a wonderful cosmopolitan city brimming with world class restaurants, impressive architecture and a real variety of neighborhoods all within walking distance of each other; within 40 minutes you can walk from Tjuvholmen, the city’s newest addition of modern buildings and contemporary art galleries, to Grünerløkka, an edgy Shoreditch-esque district with food markets and fun bars and restaurants, where all the cool kids live.
Tjuvholmen is where I was lucky enough to stay, at The Thief, new to Oslo’s hotel collection – it was fabulous! I spent my first day looking around Hotel Continental, a beautiful hotel steeped in history. In doing so I navigated my way along Aker Brygge and around the charming city center complete with squares, fountains, cafes, restaurants and great shopping. Despite all the attractions, I found myself drawn back to Aker Brygge which sparkles in the sunshine from the rippling Oslofjord to Tjuvholmen which really is just so incredibly pleasant! Aker Brygge is the harbor front which has a row of excellent bars and restaurants, all with huge heated outdoor areas, looking out across the fjord and the walkway – ideal for people watching with a glass of wine.
The next day after an incredible breakfast at The Thief I hopped onto the subway and headed for the suburbs to work off last night’s dinner. Although the trails were not comparable to the steep inclines Sarah and I had endured, it was great to get fresh air and to have a forest within such a short distance. I stopped for a Gravadlax sandwich at Frogneseteren Restaurant; a mountain/ski style restaurant with incredible views across the city to the Oslofjord, before returning back to the city for a quick change, a few drinks and on to the next meal – a delicious dinner at Nedre Foss Gård which began with a cocktail customized by a waiter who also happened to know a thing or two about spirits. Not convinced that the weather was going to hold out for the whole weekend, I had saved Sunday for exhibitions and shopping…only to discover that the shops are in fact shut on Sundays, and that Sunday happened to be the most glorious day of all! Still after an amble around my favorite part of town – Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge, I headed to the Edvard Munch museum which was definitely worth it, and after an hour or so of admiring his finest works, I stalked the stalls of the Mathallen Vulkan food market until I settled for some exquisite steak and the most amazing peanut, chocolate and caramel pie from Hello Good Pie, Cordelia’s Urban Eatery no less. Sadly I had to dash after realising that my flight departed 2 hours earlier than originally anticipated, but perhaps that was a blessing in disguise because there were plenty more pies winking as I waddled off.
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