Flåm & The Sognefjord :: Sprague Adventures

9.08.2016



This day was a doozy! Filled with going from one place to the next, we traveled through "Norway in a Nutshell" to get a little taste of the Fjords we had heard so much about. Going this route allowed us to take in a lot of sights in a  very short amount of time.  While I understand the value of spreading this journey out and enjoying each location a bit more-even staying in one of the many locations-I think for our family with the time we had allotted, it was perfect.

We woke up early and headed to the train station in Bergen. We had a 6:55 Train to catch from Bergen to Myrdal. We found it no issue (it was the only train available) and boarded. We settled in on the right sight because I had read a tip that suggested it  was the more scenic side. It was a helpful clue and we saw some beautiful sights.

The train was relatively empty and midway through they stopped at a sweet little pit stop in Voss. Just enought time to use the toilets, grab some coffee and try on a few viking hats. Then we were on our way again.  Once we arrived in Myrdal, it was a quick transfer to the Flåm train. This train station  had much to offer for scenery with mountains in the background. I loved it.  For this train, be sure to sit on the LEFT as a lot of the sights are beautiful and you'll find yourself walking over if you dont. It stopped at a beautiful waterfall called Kjosfassen and let the passengers hop out. It is wild and fun. A quick stop and then you board again to arrive in Flåm.

We really enjoyed Flåm. We hiked over to some picnic tables and a beach, where we let the kids play for a good long while. They were wading in the water and playing with sand while we took in the beautiful surroundings. We then grabbed a bite to eat, and walked a bit more through the stores. We had a four hour time slot to enjoy Flåm which was a wise move on Ben's part (he suggested getting some down time there.) We then boarded the boat -which was our absolute favorite part.

The whole tour was pretty empty. This made moving about the boat and the trains a breeze. This is definitely one perk of going during off season.

The one thing that was  overwhelming was the fact that some of the tourists who were on the boat were really wild about Eowyn. This is pretty normal for us -Eowyn get's pictures taken here a lot by tour groups because of her curls and such. I was a bit more surprised this time however as there were women who were actually kind of aggressive. A few times they actually grabbed her and pulled her over for pictures. We had a talk with Eowyn about saying ''no' if she didn't want to have pictures taken anymore. She tried to say no at one point and they ignored/didn't understand so Ben and I sort of body guarded her and carted her around the boat.

Thankfully, A man from the group walked up to us and told me he would speak mandarin if needed to tell everyone let us be. I'm sure over 100 pictures were taken of Eowyn. Eowyn felt pretty special and didn't seem to mind and at one point even started dancing. She's a performer, that girl.

We then hopped on a bus with a french tour group and everyone left as entirely alone (Ha! Cultural differences are excentuated in such  small spaces of time) . The train back to Bergen was a commuter train and even had a compartment for children with a play area-the perfect way to spend two hours. We were grateful.

We slept well that night.

For those who want to go on Norway in a Nutshell....

You can buy your tickets online, then they'll send you them in the mail. This is nice because then you dont have to try and find a place to pick them up (also an option.) To set expectations: this isn't a tour with a tourguide-it's more like just buying tickets in bulk. This is our style of travelling anyways, so it worked well for us.

With the tickets, the train ticket master (conductor? Ticket wizard?) comes around and punches your ticket for each leg of the trip. The tickets are all held  in a nice little packet. I'd recommend printing off your itinerary that you will receive via email vs trying to read the times off the tickets. I saw SEVERAL people getting it wrong and after standing in line. There was a lot of feelings coming out- frusterated to hear they don't leave for another hour, confusion at not knowing when they ought to be going from one place to the next.

You can also buy all (the train, the boat, the bus) tickets separately on your own. I have had friends do this and I have read that it may be a more affordable option. I didn't even think to look into this option, but I was pleased with the route we went.

In Bergen, you go to the Train station for the train. I know this is intuitive but I was wanting an actual address, and it's not given. So-if you leave from Bergen, you'll leave via the train at the train station.

Extra tips: 

From Bergen to Myrdal ride on the RIGHT SIDE for the best views

On the Flåm Railway ride on the LEFT SIDE.

Stroller friendly? Totally.

 For the Flåm railway they actually put our stroller in a luggage compartment-we didn't have to fold it up. But we did have to ask a conductor. For the Bergen Railway we found the car that has a pram sign on it. For the Bus we folded it and they placed it under.

On the train back our seats were reserved, this was in the kid's car which is very pram friendly. We didn't specify, Norway in a nutshell just did this. Our actual seats were being taken (I dont think anyone realized they were reserved, no mind as we just stayed in a play place and sat next to our stroller.)

 The boat is very large and has plenty of room. We road in the " New boat." Not sure what the difference is in niceties-it was just leaving at a more prefered time for us.

Food & Toilets: There is food available at Voss, where you stop on the first leg about an hour in as are restrooms/toilets. There is also food available on the boat and in Flåm . Otherwise-bring snacks. Toilets are on the trains from Bergen and to Bergen, on the boat and in Flåm.

Kid friendly? The boat ride is fantastic. Our kids loved it. The rest is similar to trying to entertain kids on a roadtrip. There are some beautful sites that can be enjoyed by all, but our kids weren't keen on staring out the window for two hours. Bring a bit of entertainment, then let them run around in Flåm. There's a playground geard for older kids and there is a  big beach to play. We brought our rain suits and lots of extra clothes. The kids were good and dirty after it and we used up all their extra clothing. A good, fun time indeed.

Happy Travels!

Bergen, Norway :: Sprague Adventures

9.06.2016





Oh Bergen! With your beautifully painted buildings and rich history.  Did you know this city has beginnings dating back in 1070 AD? It holds a UNESCO world heritage site, Bryggen which is one of Northern Europes oldest large trading ports. This picturesque city is absolutely delightful to meander through....

Plus? It's the city that inspired Arendale in the movie Frozen.

There are a lot of places we would absolutely love to see in our lifetime. We, being the A-type personalities we are, even have an excel spreadsheet of the places and dates of the adventures we'd like to go. Having had the priveledge of spending some time in a quite a many airports coupled with checking a lot of flight paths and plans-we've started to see general trends of popular flight destinations. We know that there are a whole lot of flights to major cities and often at affordable rates. The smaller the city, often the more expensive. Because of this knowledge, we decided to set out to travel to a few of the lesser known-but equally deserving locations when planning quick trips during our time here. While in Europe, it has been drastically cheaper to fly to some of these smaller gemstones than it will perhaps be in the future. We're taking advantages as much as we can!

Needless to say, Bergen has been on our list as one of those littler gemstones we wanted to see. Rich with history? Check! Breathtaking views? Check. Entrance into the Fjords we've been longing to see? Check.

We're are so glad we visited.

We took a Friday through Monday holiday to visit Bergen, Norway. If you read travel blogs, which I did many, several suggest a day in Oslo, Norways capitol city and then a few trains, or even better, a train and fjord cruise to Bergen. Since we really wanted to capitolize on our time and we know that our small children do best if we let them get used to a place they'll be sleeping-we chose to fly directly into Bergen and go from there.

We rented a sweet little three bedroom airbnb in a quaint area of Bergen about a 15 minute walk to downtown. This was the perfect location for us to get a bit of the 'real life' feel of living in a different country, while also making touristy things totally accessible. Also three bedrooms? Dream Living righ there. We have a two bedroom flat here, so it felt like absolute luxury having everyone have their own room.

For the first day, we arrived around lunch time and took the bus into town. Bergen has a great airport bus system. You can buy the tickets in advance and get a discount if you buy round trip (it can be a bit confusing-a 'return ticket' is actually round trip and you have to write the return date in the comments.FYI:  It sounds more intense than it actually is and the drivers were really relaxed.) We walked out of the airport to the 'bus area' and there was the bus! They have several drop off and pick up locations in Bergen making getting to where you need to go a breeze. We got off at Festplassen and walked about 10 minutes to find our airbnb. After getting the keys, we headed out for some lunch. We had a hard time finding a place that didn't need a reservation beforehand, so we headed to the aquairium in hopes they would have a restaurant of some type. They really impressed us. Perhaps it was one part because we were starving, two parts we were desperately hangry,  but man was our lunch delish. Add that to having penquins out your window and sea lions swimming around to entertain the chicklets-it was one of my favorite meals while in Bergen.

After we meandered home in the very wet rain (as if it comes in any different variety.) We eventually acquired some groceries and then nestled in and had an early night. We had some big plans for the morning, so we wanted to be fresh for the sights that we were about to see.

The following morning we went on the 'Norway in a Nutshell' tour. This includes riding a train from Bergen to Myrdal, Then from Myrdal, riding another train to Flåm. From there we took a boat cruise through  the Sognefjord, then later we hoped on a bus to get to yet another train from Voss back to Bergen
.
Phew. But all that is for another post.

The last day we were in Bergen we were pleasantly gifted with totally sunny skies. This is unusual since rainy is the preferred state of Bergen. I swear Ben is the weather man when it comes to praying for good sunshiney days. We had a beautiful send off.

We spent the morning going up the Fløibanen funicular. A cable car that takes you up a mountain to see beautiful views of Bergen. If you get there early, you can avoid the crowds. It is stroller accessible, which is very helpful! You just stand in a different line. While we read the tip to come early-we decided to go ahead and enjoy a cup of starbucks located conveniently close by (America in a cup!) This meant we met a bit more crowds than had could have if we showed up at opening.

That being said, I think our kids really enjoyed this part. There were beautiful views from the top. Wooden trolls are every where and it has a pretty expansive playground. There is also a fun little 'troll park.' to the left of the enterance that was short and a sweet little way to let the kids get into the woods.  Eowyn talked to all the trolls and had a very sad farewell when it was time to go. Girl loves any friend-wooden statue or otherwise. Hikers can take the funicular up and hike down to Bergen or hike several other paths connected to it. There were maps and guides available. There is a restaurant but many families bring picnics.

We headed back down around lunchtime and had a quick lunch at 'Los tacos' which touted a sign that read "Mexican food so authentic Donald Trump would build a wall around it." Which made us laugh, and thus go in. While I dont know if I can support it's claim-it was a decent burrito. We headed home later and had naps. Just to head back out in the afternoon for a good taste of all the touristy things.

We ventured over to Bryggen-the old town of Bergen. It's filled with touristy shops and a good amount of people-but there's good reason. It really was cool to wander the streets and enjoy the sunshine. These Hanseatic wooden buildings are actually leaning as they age and are listed as a World Heritage Site.. It's such a fun area to explore. We found a burger place and ventured back for a lovely end to our vacation.

In the morning we walked to the city center and hopped right on the bus back to the airport. It being a small airport, the lines were a bit slow with the amount of people there, but it was still was run well. The people of Norway were exceptionally kind at every step of our journey-which really made the trip wonderful.

For planning your trip to Bergen:

Airport Bus

Fløibanen: website with timetables and things to do. We bought the tickets at the window.

Airbnb we stayed at. (Absolutely wonderful!)

Norway in a nutshell website link. (Post coming soon.)

Stroller friendly City? Definitely. There are a few cobblestone areas, but if you have a decent stroller, you'll be fine. We saw several strollers as well as had our Phil & Teds double (with both kids in it) and was fine. Be prepared for some hills if you are staying anywhere outside of the city center.

Child friendly? Exceptionally! With each bus we had to take the bus driver even went back and converted the seat into a carseat for our child without us asking. Pure kindness and Elias loved the novelty of a different seat.

Expensive? Yes. Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world because of it having it's own currency (NOK) and high standard of living. Expect to spend at restaurants 40-50 USD at cheaper locations. Grocery shopping will save you-which is what we did for both convienience and frugality. Also our kids aren't super fun to take into fancy restaurants, so that definitely played a part in it as well.

Just a special note for all my parent friends: This trip was wonderful for a million reasons, but to be honest, our kids were not feeling it for a good chunk of every day. Was it because of the rain? Just a weird weekend? Not sure.  Just thought I should make mention of it. For every smiley picture we have of our kids we have one of them crying as well. It was a bit more tense of a trip because of the perpetual carting reluctant kiddos around, but still a beautiful one. Just for all you parents out there wondering how a family can travel like this. I'll tell you: it can be really hard sometimes. It almost always is difficult and it would be much easier to just stay home.  Some trips go swimmingly and everyone is super happy always-we've haven't been on one yet. Most other trips? We have a single to 7 million meltdowns a day. This was more one of the triple digit trips. C'est la vie.

Still, everyone was kind, understanding, and wonderful to us. We even heard another kid throwing a pretty impressive showdown with his parents-more impressive than our children have yet to put on. So atleast our kids are in good company-or perhaps there's something in the water.

It was still worth it.

The next post will give you even more reasons why Norway is a really, really, really good idea.

Life Lately :: August 2016

8.28.2016


The month of August has seemed particularly slow to me. It seems like July was ages ago.  Yet, it's been a pretty fantastic last month of summer. We've been to beaches and islands. Had our fair share of ice cream and park visits. We're transitioning into rain boots and library visits and a good summer cleaning has got this mama feeling a whole lot lighter as we head into the months of schedules and more structured days.