Our summer vacation brought us to Norway--not the usual Europe trip, but a magical one for our family. I shared a look at our time in Bergen and Oslo. The bulk of our trip was in the fjords--you know the land of Olaf, Elsa, Anna and Disney's Frozen. For our time in the fjords, we stayed at the Hotel Ullensvang. Here's a look at our magical vacation.
We started our drive from Bergen and headed towards the Hardangerfjord--voted as the world's most beautiful fjord.
Before we visited the fjord, we made a visit to the Dale of Norway outlet. In 1879 the knitting factory opened. Since then, Dale of Norway has developed iconic ski sweater designs. We stocked up on ski sweaters at a savings of 75% off prices in the US. These are heirloom quality and really pricey in the states. Everything is expensive in Norway (they have a booming economy thanks to oil)--this was one of the few bargains to celebrate.
The drive from Bergen took us through many tunnels and along some take-your-breath away vistas. It's about 3 hours from Bergen to the Hotel Ullensvang--our destination.
Why Ullensvang? It's nestled in the pretties place we've ever seen. Walking, hiking, strolling, everywhere we looked we had stunning views. If I had to choose, I say the best way to take in the fjords is on the ferry. We were able to hop in the ferry from Kinsarvik--just a short drive from our hotel and visit the quaint towns of Utne and Kvanndal. The local fee for the ferry ride was a steep discount compared to the tour junkets. It's a value play. We got great views of the fjords from the sea at a value rate and took our guide book along to create a self-guided adventure. It was in the low 60s on the water during the day--so bring a coat!
In general the August weather will be crisp with little to know humidity (unless it's raining of course). We had one day of rain and the rest was highs in the 70s during the day lows at night in the 50s.
The fords were amazing-we could see snow on the mountain tops. And the best part--no crowds. Wherever we went it was wide open. Most people visit the fjords on tour buses and cruise ships--we decided to map out our own adventure.
Norway is rich in culture, a nearby church was located right in the port--it was probably built between 1250 and 1300 and was a nice spot to visit before hopping on the fjord ferry.
Whether on a ferry or on land the fjords were stunning. Here's a few view from our hotel. Even after four days of staring, we never failed to be wowed.
You can see where Frozen got inspired. Look around and get inspired by the rich history. So many of the buildings look like trolls or princesses could be just inside the door.
Mossy roofs are SO charming. We saw these cool turf roofs everywhere in Norway--theyare traditional Scandinavian design and I'm told a good insulator in a cold climate. The key is the birch bark underneath the moss--it makes everything waterproof.
It was cherry season in Norway. Hardangerfjord was in the middle of the "Fruit Loop" an area rich in agricultural history and tasty produce. There were honor stands along the roadside and the tasty fruit made a great midday snack.
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One of the big activities is hiking. Norwegians are crazy about nature and the country has preserved some of the best land to be parks. Around the fjords there are majestic falls created by melt water from the glacier. It's a classic activity to hike near the waterfalls. Our hotel was in Odda valley--the site of some of the country's most famous falls. The hikes were fierce but worth the trip. Don't even think about taking them on without proper shoes and a thought out plan.
Along the way, you're family just might make a moment like this one. Two girls embracing nature.
Mr. Momtrends and I were happy the girls have hardy compositions and strong legs. The workout was worth the views.
The hotel was a great spot to refuel between adventures and to soak in some culture. Our hotel was home to Europe's longest pool as well as housing Edward Greig's musical hut. The hotel was founded in 1846. Grieg had a little cabin built on the Eidnes farm on the hotel property so he could seclude himself and write. There was a mini museum honoring the artist.
Even today an artist could find solitude. The hotel was mostly available for groups and is BUSTLING at breakfast and dinner. At 4 pm the buses arrived and the international travelers descended. The buffet was packed at night and the morning--to the point of being unpleasant. Norway is not quite set up for the individual family if you don't want to crack the code. We figured out the system. We switched to late dinners and later breakfasts. We were the last ones seated and therefore missed the throngs. They never ran out of food!
Here's the trick. Though the hotel was packed from 7pm to 7am, during the day it was our personal paradise. The lawn was ideal for yoga and the soccer-field sized lawn was all ours. Though there are a couple hundred rooms at the hotel NO ONE IS THERE DURING THE DAY!
I had my own personal yoga retreat. We all loved the pools. There's an indoor adult area with a sauna and lounge area. An indoor family area with a rocky hot tub enclave the girls coined "troll grotto." The highlight is the lap pool--at 88 meters this is the longest pool in Europe. There's also a fitness center, squash courts and an indoor tennis court.
The hotel also has small boats you can take out on the fjord.
The hotel's fancy a la carte restaurant closed for the season in late July. Though we figured out how to manage the buffet, we did think two nights of it was enough. One night we stopped by the local grocery store and made a picnic--we found a table (open of course) in a public park and made a glorious night.
The staff was friendly and laid-back. It's not the over-the-top European service we usually experience. Frankly that was refreshing. We liked the pace of the DIY Norway vacation we created and definitely recommend stepping off the tour path to experience Scandinavia.
For more information on http://hotel-ullensvang.no/
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