A Travellerspoint blog

Oslo - Lasting Impressions of an Odd City

Visiting Oslo I learned that first impressions are not always the best impressions.

View Scandinavia trip April 2005 on littlesam1's travel map.


I did not have the best first impression of Oslo. I was not sure what to expect. Outside of elementary school Social Studies class and ninth grade Geography class Norway was not a place that I had thought about very often. It certainly was not a travel destination that I had dreamed about visiting. My traveling partner at the time had a business meeting in Copenhagen he had to attend. We were looking at the map to see what other places were near by that we had not seen before. So I found myself in Oslo. We boarded the train from Gardermoen Airport to the city of Oslo. We were soon put off the train in a little town called Lillestrom. We had boarded the express train by mistake and they would not accept our non express train ticket. Stupid tourists.



After our little mishap on the train we finally arrived to the train station in Oslo. We walked out of the station to the little square in the photo on the left of the page. I was not impressed. The square was not very large. There was a small unattractive tower in the corner. And there was a man with a Middle Eastern musical instrument sitting in the square playing some very strange sounding music. Nothing about this reminded me of anything I knew about Norway.

In spite of our little delay in Lillestrom we were still too early to go to the Bed and Breakfast we had booked. So we took some time to explore the square before looking for a taxi. The first thing we found was a large statue of a large anatomically correct tiger.



This was not the first thing I expected to see in Oslo. So why was there a tiger in front of Central Station in Oslo? There is a reason for it being there. For the 1000th anniversary celebration in 2000 for the city of Oslo the city requested a bronze statue be placed in the square, Oslo's nickname is Tigerstaden or the City of the Tiger. The name most likely came from a poem by the Norwegian poet Bjornstjerne Bjornson. His poem "Sidste Sanq" was written in 1870 and describes a fight between a horse and a tiger. The tiger represents the dangerous city and the horse the safe countryside. My first impression though was not a dangerous city. It was just a small odd city and I was not sure what I really thought of it yet. There were a few other odd statues in the square that I was finding interesting also but odd.



We finally found a taxi and gave the driver the address of the Bed and Breakfast we had booked. Like everything in Oslo, the Bed and Breakfast was not quite what I had expected. It was an old white clapboard house across the street from Frogner Park. More about Froger Park a little later. But needless to say I found it somewhat odd also. We were a good ways out from the center of town, but fortunately there was a tram stop right in front of the house which we could use to go back into the city. The house was clean and the owners were friendly. But once more there was a lot of oddness around us. We were in an upstairs bedroom without a lot of heat, Our bathroom had a toilet and a bidet. And oddly for some reason the owners used the bidet for a magazine rack. It was filled with unusual Norwegian comic books.

<<<<<Sitting on the steps by the door to our room.


Statues at Frogner Park

Directly across the street from the Bed and Breakfast we wound Frogner Park. Frogner Park is home to the world famous Vigeland Installation. Although many times referred to as Vigeland Park, it is actually just the name of the sculptures in the park. They were created by Gustav Vigeland between 1920 and 1943. So what was odd about the park? Every statue was a nude statue telling the life cycle of man.

I have been using the term odd a lot. I don't mean it in a bad or derogatory way. I found Oslo any thing but unpleasant. It's not the most beautiful European capitol I have visited. But it's also not the least interesting. The people of Oslo could not have been friendlier. The owners of the Bed and Breakfast were very pleasant and made us feel very welcome. I was growing to like Oslo more each day and finding it somewhat unusual made it all the more interesting.


So what odd things did we find in Oslo? We found a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. This honestly was the last thing I had expected to find in Oslo. The memorial is located in Frogner Park. The monument was created by Paul Fjelde from Valley City, North Dakota and was donated to the people of Oslo by North Dakota Governor Louis Hanna.

We took a brief train ride out of the city of Oslo up into the mountains to do some hiking and also to see the historic Holmenkollen Ski jump from the 1952 Olympics. There was nothing odd about this. This was something I had expected to see in Norway. The train runs from Central Station in Oslo to the top of the mountain in Frognersteren. There is a wonderful restaurant located near the Frognersteren station when I did get to sample reindeer which was something else I had expected to do in Oslo.


Larry on the ski trail at Frognersteren


We left Frognersteren and hiked to the Olympic ski jump. I had seen ski jumps on television watching the Olympic many times. But that did not prepare me for what I saw. The jump is much higher than it appears on television. It's very overwhelming just to see the size of it. And it wasn't just some cold looking structure. It actually had a beauty to it's design. I understand the original jump that I saw in 2005 no longer exists. It was replaced in 2010 with a new and more modern jump that is considered to be one of the best in world today. I am glad I got to see the original though. There is something special about the history of it and also for me it was special because it dated back to the year I was born.

I left Oslo with a deep appreciation of the city and the Norwegian culture. I had the opportunity to visit the Edvard Munch museum and to see his famous painting The Scream. I spent time walking through the Akershus Fortress. I meet some wonderful and kind people. I learned to appreciate that finding something odd is a good thing. First impressions are not always the best impressions. It's the lasting impressions that really count.


Last impression of Oslo. The beautiful Akershus Fortress

Posted by littlesam1 19:43 Archived in Norway Tagged oslo holmenkollen park travel jump tiger norway lillestrom frogner_ ski_ akershus_fortres oddness Comments (2)

Tuk Tuks - not only in Southeast Asia

Exploring the world in Tuk Tuks. From Thailand to Portugal. You never know when you might need one. Especially if happen to have a broken ankle.


Tuk Tuk's and traffic in Chiang Mai

When I think of tuk tuk's I immediately think of large Southeast Asian cities with lots of traffic and tiny little tuk tuk's weaving in and out of the traffic to transport tourists quickly to a special destination. I took my first tuk tuk ride while I was in Bangkok, and yes it was large southeast Asian city with lots of traffic. The guide books all said to be careful of tuk tuks. They over charge. They are expensive when compared to using a bus or a tram. I did not find them all that expensive in Bangkok. Once I assured the driver I did not want to visit the tiger sanctuary or any other tourist trap on his list it was a pleasant and quick way to get to my chosen destination. Mark and I used tuk tuks' several times while in Bangkok. We found it fun to zoom through the busy traffic blocked streets. And the breeze blowing through the tuk tuk was a welcome relief to the heat in Bangkok.


Mark and I in Bangkok in the back of a tuk tuk

After leaving Bangkok we visited the city of Chiang Mai. We decided to hire a driver with a taxi in Chiang Mai instead of using tuk tuk's. Our driver was a very nice lady named Ebon. We spent an entire day with her for only $45. She was delightful and showed us many interesting places and taught us a lot about the city of Chiang Mai and surrounding area's outside of the city. We met her at the airport when we arrived in Chiang Mai. She drove us from the airport to our hotel and gave us her business card to use if we were interesting in hiring her the next day.

After our day with Ebon we decided we would spend the rest of our time in Chiang Mai on foot visiting the many side streets, temples and shops. As we walked the streets we say many tuk tuk drivers parked along the streets. Each tuk tuk we passed called out to us "Tuk tuk?" After a day of hearing "Tuk tuk?" at least a hudred times I started to find it humorous. We saw one last tuk tuk driver on a very hot afternoon and as he called out to us I responded with a friendly laugh "No. No tuk tuk's today". I was looking back at the driver and was not watching my step very well. Mark had walked on ahead of me. I slipped on a curb and had a very bad fall right in front of the tuk tuk. I called to Mark ahead of me frantically. I knew something was wrong and I could not get up on my feet. I had broken my ankle. I looked back at the tuk tuk driver I had just said "No" to hoping for a ride. I must have made him angry when I said "No tuk tuk" the first time, as he just looked at me and started up his tuk tuk and drove away. Mark helped me to my feet and I realized I could not walk back to our hotel. Luckily we were able to flag down another tuk tuk and he took us safely back to our hotel.


After leaving Chiang Mai we flew to Phuket and stayed in the city of Patong. I had no issue hiring tuk tuk's in Patong. My foot was very swollen and it was painful walking. At this time I thought it was just a sprain. I did not find out it was actually broken until I returned home and went to the emergency room four days later. Four days of tuk tuk rides in Phuket gave us the chance to see the variety of different tuk tuk designs in the city. Some had fancy lights inside the cabin that blinked on and off. One had a Winnie the Pooh decor which I found amusing.


It's a Winnie The Pook Tuk Tuk in Patong



We traveled to Portugal in June 2015. The last thing I expected to see was a tuk tuk. We were not in Southeast Asia. We were in Western Europe. We took a day trip from Cascais to the city of Sintra. We had been in Sintra in 2009 for a day also but did not get the chance to really explore the city. We made the big mistake of walking to the Castle of the Moors our first time in Sintra. We had wanted to see the Castle so when we saw a sign pointing to the trail to walk to the castle we thought it would be a good idea. We did not really research this very well. The sign made it look like just a brief hike. In reality the Castle of the Moors is on a very high hill way above the city. We spent our entire day climbing the hill to the castle and we too tired afterwards to really explore any of the city itself.


Castle of the Moors - high above the city of Sintra

When we were at the Castle of the Moors in 2009 we were able to see the beautiful Pena Palace located above the castle on an even higher hill. We did not have the time or energy to visit it that day. So on our return trip in 2015 we planned to take explore the many side streets and alleys of Sintra and then take a bus up the hill to visit the Pena Palace. As we explored Sintra we walked past a tuk tuk stand. What kind of sorcery was this? Tuk tuk's in Portugal? We also noticed that the drivers of the tuk tuk's were very attractive young men.

So it was decided. We would hire a tuk tuk to take us to the Pena Palace. It was a bit more expensive than the tuk tuk's in Thailand. But it was worth the price. We had a very pleasant driver who took us to the palace and showed us quite a few beautiful over looks on the way to the top of the hill. It was a lot easier and more fun than the long climb we had on our first visit.


Our driver was not only pleasant and a good guide but he was also a very attractive young man which made the day all the more pleasant for these two "older" gay men. At the end of our trip I asked the driver if we could take a photo. His thought I meant for him to take a photo of Mark and I together. When I explained that I wanted a photo with him he kind of blushed, smiled and said of course.


Our friendly tuk tuk driver in Sintra

So if your in Sintra take my advice. Do not follow the sign to the walking trail to the Castle of the Moors or the Pena Palace.


Take a tuk tuk instead.


Larry home from Thailand with crutches and a broken ankle

Posted by littlesam1 21:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand bangkok chiang_mai phuket portugal sintra accidents tuk_tuks broken_ankle Comments (5)

Lost travel photos - Shaken Not Stirred

Finding lost and forgotten photos from Piz Gloria located above Murren Switzerland. The fantasy vacation of all James Bond fans


Travel photos. There are few things I enjoy more than travel photos. I love taking them. I love coming home and editing my photos. I love posting them on the Internet and in blogs. And I love looking at them over and over many times after my vacation ended. Each time I view them I relive the experience of the trip all over again no matter how long ago the actual trip happened.

If you know me at all you probably know I am a huge James Bond fan. And I have visited many James Bond movie locations in my travels. I don't go out of my way to visit Bond sites, but if I am in the area and one is near by I do want my photo taken there. In 2003 I got to visit one of the Holy Grail sites for Bond fans. I was in Switzerland with my then partner. I let him know with no question that while we were in Switzerland that I had to see Piz Gloria, Blowfeld's fortress from the movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Piz Gloria is a rotating restaurant on top the peak of Schilthorn towering above the tiny Alpine community of Murren. It's very isolated. It is not easy to get there. It is not one of those places where you can take a train, walk out of the station and say there it is. You have to plan your way to get there. There are no roads to reach Murren. There are no cars in Murren. We had to take a train from Bern to Interlaken Switzerland. From Interlaken we took a train to Lauterbrunner. Then from Lauterbrunner we had to take the narrow gauge train up the mountain to Murren. The train station is at the north of the village. From there we had to walk through the beautiful village of Murren to the Schilthornbahn . This is a mountain cable car that takes you to the peak of Schilthorn at 10,000 feet in the Alps. There is also a stop and change in cable cars half way up at the station called Birg. So you have to plan and prepare your journey if you are going to Piz Gloria.


It was one of my favorite all time travel experiences to stand on the top of Schilthorn and see Piz Gloria. And it was such a wonderful photo opportunity. Neither my ex partner nor I had digital camera's at this time. We were still taking photo using film. And with film you can't take hundreds of photos to bring home and edit and delete the bad ones. You only have a few chances to get the right photo and then hope it turns our well when you get it developed. We ended up with a couple of good photos of he and I together at Piz Gloria and I had a couple of him alone at the location. It never dawned on me until we ended our relationship two years later that I did not have a photo of me alone at this Holy Grail of Bond fandom. I only had the photos of he and I and of him alone. So I have spent years angry at myself for never having my own individual photo taken at Piz Gloria. It was just a stupid mistake.


The one photo of me at Piz Gloria and not by myself

Every time some one chats about Piz Gloria in one of the Bond fan groups I get angry all over again because I don't have of photo of myself to share with the group proving I had been there. And as each year passed I realized more and more that I would probably never have that opportunity to return there and take my photo. Last year my husband Mark and I went to Switzerland. It was my first time back since the trip with my ex back in 2003. I really wanted to return to Piz Gloria and take that long lost photo. But it was just too difficult. We were no where near Bern or Murren on this trip. And it would have been really out of our way to try and get there at this time. Although that was a disappointed I was still thrilled to be back in Switzerland and share this wonderful country with Mark. We visited my favorite city of Zurich. We went to several other mountain peak restaurants much like Piz Gloria. And I made sure to have solo photos taken as well as photos with Mark this time.


Since the beginning of this new year it's been a very cold winter. I have spent a lot of time inside my house. I decided to take the time and organize some of my junk that I have need to sort through for a long time. Right now I am working on my home office. It's a bit of a disaster. I have a closet full of old scrapbook papers and supplies that I have not used in over ten years. I am taking them all to Goodwill. Hopefully some one will find good use for them. I also found several boxes of old photos. A lot of these were very old family photos. So I decided to scan them and share them with my daughters. Also in the box was several envelopes full of photos that I realized had been taken by my ex. I remember when we broke up almost 13 years ago now that I had gone through all of our photos and divided them up. We had duplicates made of all of our photos together so I took half of mine and left them with him and then took half of his duplicates and brought them with me. I really had no desire to look at old photos of him and I at the time so I just put them all in a box and packed them away when I moved. I had never really looked that close at his photos before as I was usually more interested in the ones that I had taken not ones he had taken . I was really surprised at some of the photos and have scanned them to save digitally. And then suddenly there it is. A photo of me at Piz Gloria. I did not even remember him taking the photo. All these years being angry at myself for being so stupid about not having a photo taken and now here it is. The photo below is og me at Piz Gloria from this collection of photos. The one above of me at Birg is also from this collection. I was really happy to see them. And seeing the Alpine peaks of Schilthorn seems kind of appropriate with all of the cold weather and ice outside. Below is one last photo of me at Piz Gloria. I will be using this in conversations in James Bond facebook groups and posting it to my Flickr account also very soon.


The missing photo All by myself at Piz Gloria

There is one last photo of me sitting inside the rotating restaurant having lunch. I will post it below. There is only one problem. I am not holding my James Bond martini in the photo. Can you believe that. I am so mad. No martini photo shaken not stirred. How stupid could I be. I will just have to find a way to get back to Schilthorn and Piz Gloria again. I guess some people are just never satisfied. Hey Mark can you book those tickets for Murren?


Posted by littlesam1 21:10 Archived in Switzerland Tagged switzerland bern james_bond 007 piz_gloria birg_switzerland murren_switzerland lauterbrunner schilthornbahn Comments (1)

To Helena Hand Basket

Visiting possibly the worst city in Arkansas


We dine out a lot. We have a lot of respect for waiters and bartenders. My mother was a waitress at one time. We have many good friends who are bartenders and waiters. When traveling we always appreciate the advice of local waiters and bartenders.

We recently took a road trip with our friend Gillian through the southern part of the U.S. Gillian flew from her home in Manchester, England to meet us in Baltimore. From here we drove south through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. While in Mississippi we stayed at a Casino in the town of Tunica. It's a very small rural community but it has several very large Las Vegas style casino's.


Tunica is very near the Arkansas border. We decided we wanted to spend an afternoon driving to Arkansas. We were nearby and it would be fun to add one more state to our car trip. We asked one of the bartenders at the casino if there were any places nearby in Arkansas that would be of interest to visit. We wanted to drive someplace for lunch the next day and wanted to cross the border to Arkansas. The bartender had been very friendly to us and gladly gave us some advice. She told us to drive over to Helena, Arkansas. She told us there were places we could have lunch and that there was an active blues music scene in the city. So we trusted her.


We drove thirty four miles through some of the emptiest landscapes I have seen. We followed US 61 through miles of mud filled empty cotton fields. There was nothing to see for miles and miles.



We really didn't mind the boring drive at first. We were assured there were some interesting places for lunch in Helena and we looked forward to exploring a small town.

We found that Helena is located in the eastern portion of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. It's located in Phillips County. And it has a population of 6,323 people. Had we asked Alexa on my google app she would have said to us "Why in the hell are you going to Helena, Arkansas." When we arrived in Helena there was absolutely nothing there to see. We found no place for lunch. And we did not really feel safe to even stop for photos. We saw open drug deals happening on the street corners.



I still have no idea why the bartender sent us to Helena. Maybe she was still fighting the Civil War and didn't like us Yankee carpetbaggers coming down from up north. Perhaps she did not appreciate Gillian's English accent. Whatever it was she did provide us with an interesting afternoon. We laughed about it after wards.

After we returned home I did some googling on Helena. I found out it was listed as the number one worst place to live in Arkansas. It has a 20.6% unemployment rate. There is a 1 in 88 chance of being robbed in Helena.

I was curious about the music scene the bartender had told us about. I found that there is an annual blues festival in Helena every year in October. But we found no music in April. I guess we were just six months too early. But I don't think we will be returning in October.

No regrets. The experience gave us a good travel story to share. We never saw the bartender again. She goes on my list of interesting people I have met while traveling. I'm sure she will remember us also and is probably still laughing at the gullible tourists she sent to Helena and back.

Posted by littlesam1 20:25 Archived in USA Tagged casino tunica_mississippi helena_arkansas waitresses bartenders helena_handbasket car_trip Comments (0)

Return to Paradise - Hawaii Calls

Turning 65 on Diamond Head

View The Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes Tour - Nashville & Never Ending Birthday - Oahu Hawaii November 2017 on littlesam1's travel map.


Diamond Head overlooking Waikiki

I turned 65 November 2017. It was not a joyous thought. Turning 65 bothered me very much. I started thinking about it and dreading it November 2016 when I turned 64. Birthdays had not bothered me in many years. The last birthday that I dreaded was my 30th. I honestly thought I was getting old and was over the hill. Thirty seemed so ancient. After that birthday I was fine. Turning 34 was easy. Turning 40 never bothered. But turning 65 was a jagged little pill to swallow.

My daughters wanted to do something special for my birthday. But I told them I did not want to do anything. I was not wanting to celebrate this birthday. I just wanted the day to pass and get it over with. No thoughts, no party hats, just a quiet day to not thing about the dreaded 65. Then my husband Mark asked me "What can we do to celebrate your birthday?" I told him the same thing. I did not want to do anything. Maybe sit at home, turn on Turner Classic Movies and have a bottle, not glass, of wine. But Mark knows my heart. He knows my love of travel. He said to me let's go somewhere. Name the place and I will make it happen. We talked about Italy as a possibility and a few other places. And then Mark said "What about Hawaii." And my eyes lit up! There is no place either of us have enjoyed more than Hawaii.


Ashton Waikiki Circle Hotel

So in mid November we found ourselves at the Ashton Waikiki Circle Hotel right on the beach in Waikiki. We saw the hotel on our two previous trips to Waikiki and it had always caught our interest. It's one of the older hotels on the strip but it's a fun hotel. The round shape of the hotel gives the rooms an interesting shape and also great views from any angle. Although our room was in the back we could still see the beach from an angle on our deck. It was an affordable and interesting choice.


Shaka brah - cruising in our rented convertible

We rented a convertible car and with the top down we enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air driving around the island. And not once did I think about the dreaded birthday. We drove up into the mountains, explored historic graveyards, and explored secluded beaches.


We spent our evenings dining and drinking local Hawaiian brewed beers.

Where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster embraced in waves in the movie From Here To Eternity

Two days before my birthday we explored the beaches on the north shore of Hawaii. It's the winter season when the waves are tall so it was great fun to watch the big waves at Waimea and the other beaches. We got to see the famous beach where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster embraced in the surf. I even got to take this 65 year old body for a nude dip on one of the north shore beaches. You can thank me later for not posting photos.

My plan was to climb Diamond Head on my birthday. I thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate. I had climbed Diamond Head three years earlier and knew it was a good hike. So I did not want to wear myself out the day before and not be able to enjoy the hike on my birthday. While we at the Maui Brewery Company, one of our favorite bars in Waikiki, the bar tender told us about Manoa Falls. He said it was between Waikiki and Honolulu and had an easy trail and was very worth seeing. Manoa Falls is located in Manoa Valley in the rain forest between Honolulu and Waikiki. The falls is 150 feet high and empties into a small pool of water. Since the area around the waterfall is considered a rain forest it is prone to heavy rainfall often raining daily. We were told it was a beginner trail so we should not have problem. So we decided why not? We wanted to see the falls and it sounded like an easy hike. So it should not interfere with out plans to hike Diamond Head the following day,

Manoa Falls - Oahu

The falls were beautiful. And yes it does rain in that area every day. And no the trail was not a beginners trail! The first half of the hike was not difficult. The trail was paved and wide for the most part. But the second half was another story. The trail narrowed and the tropical plants grew taller and thicker. We ended up climbing wet slippery rock formations and sliding in muddy trails. It was quite a journey. It was a lot more than I had expected. But it also was not an advanced or dangerous trail. We were tired the next day, but we both agreed the climb up Diamond Head would happen.

Mark and I on the trail to Manoa Falls

The next day was the big day. And also it was our final day on Oahu. So no matter how tired we were from our many days of walking and swimming this the day we had to climb Diamond Head

Field below Diamond Head as we begin our hike

We arrived at Diamond Head the next morning. I was now officially 65 and it was time to finish the planned celebration. The volcano seems impressive from the bottom. But the hike is not difficult. The hike up Diamond Head is only about 45 minutes. It was much shorter than the hike to Manoa Falls the previous day. The path is wide and well paved with hand rails and benches to stop and rest if you need them.

Mark on the trail to the top of Diamond Head

It's an easy climb but with heat and humidity on Oahu it is a bit tiresome. There are wonderful views as you climb the base of the mountain. When you get near the top there are steps you have to climb a set of steps so it best to know this in advance. There are 74 four steps that lead to a tunnel.

I survived the 74 steps and then made it through the tunnel

After leaving the tunnel you still are not at the peak of Diamond Head. Once you leave the tunnel you see another set of steps. 99 steps this time. You can hear the sighs and the voices saying "Oh no" as you leave the tunnel. But it's really not that bad.

The final 99 steps to reach the top of Diamond Head

Mark on top of Diamond Head with the volcano caldera behind him

And we made it. We climbed the trail, steps, and walked through the tunnel. I turned 65 and I climbed Diamond Head. And it was worth it. I spent the dreaded day not thinking about the age, not dreading the moment. I realized once more, just as I did turning 30, that age does not define you. It would have been a lot easier at 30 than at 65 to climb Diamond Head. But it would not have been a major accomplishment at 30. And I would have not appreciated the experience as much. We are going back to Hawaii again this coming November. I do not know if we will climb Diamond Head again or not. I may just save that for turning 70.

Happy to be 65 on the top of Diamond Head

(Thank you Mark for making all of this happen. You will never really understand how much I appreciated this.)

Posted by littlesam1 14:10 Archived in USA Tagged oahu hawaii honolulu waikiki diamond_head birthdays manoa_falls Comments (0)

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