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Biking along the fjord – a little more strenuous than Copenhagen but much less crowded

Unexpected hike to the falls during bike ride

We began our day with disturbing news from a neighbor in Iowa that our house and street were hit hard by a flash flood. We are thankful for thoughtful neighbors who are helping us get the help we need to remove all the muck and mud and water from our basement and garage.

Along the romantic road

We managed to put the flood aside and enjoy yet another spectacular day of weather –it was almost too hot. My few warm weather clothes are getting a workout while I have yet to use my down jacket, rain coat or umbrella.

Breakfast in our little communal kitchen at Eplet Bed and Apple went smoothly. I am impressed by how well organized the kitchen is and how people follow the rules, from cleaning up to sorting trash. We ate fresh eggs and strawberries from Eplet’s chickens and orchard, using butter bequeathed to us from the Pennsylvania family that left today. As I was taking down our laundry from the line this morning, I met a nice young woman who is Chinese and works at an American school in southern China. She is here with her French husband — we are road tripping together tomorrow. (They don’t have a car. Been there.)

Also met a nice Norwegian woman. Meeting people from all over is the fun thing about staying in this kind of place. It’s a few steps up from youth hostels, which I loved staying at in my youth and where I met some great traveling companions. Over 30 years later, I can still remember some of their names: Lyndal from Adelaide, Australia; Astrid and Martin from Berlin; Jon from Boston; Jerry from Dijon.

Solvorn Beach

I digress. Back in Solvorn, we took free bikes from the hostel on a ferry ride across the fjord (the ferry man was the same guy who sold us groceries at the small store in town) and onto “the romantic road,” a narrow road with few cars or even bikes. It hugged the shore and was quite hilly. We passed a few houses perched on the mountainside and red cabins hugging the shore; two waterfalls including a high one full of water that rivaled Tauganock Falls in Ithaca. This place reminds us a bit of Ithaca with — a narrow body of water lined on each side with high slopes; the waterfalls, gorges and farm green fields. But Ithaca doesn’t have the snow capped mountain we rode past here. And there are hardly any boats on the fjord or even signs of habitation along the road.

The view from our room at Eplet

We returned late to Eplet, exhausted after a lot of biking (on a borrowed bike with dodgy gears and low handlebars) and hiking (to the waterfall and the Urne stave church on rugged uphill paths in sandals with dwindling tread). Wouldn’t have had it any other way – except maybe having my hiking boots. We took a late dip in the fjord which was cold but very refreshing at 8:30 pm, had a beer at the little cafe in the village and had our second meal of the day with farm fresh eggs. Lovely day!

One of many ferry rides

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Heavenly Solvorn — Norway Fjords

We are worlds away from even Bergen, in a lovely old white wood farm house overlooking an apple and raspberry orchard, a small village of old wood fisherman’s house and last but not least, the shining waters of Lustrafjord and the high grassy mountains beyond. The drive here took about 5 hours from Bergen, much longer than it looks on the map (as we had been warned) which is no big deal because it was gorgeous scenery.

As our hostel operators suggested, we drove from Bergen to Voss to Vik and then took the ferry to Helle and then drove through Sogndal, a bigger town, to this tiny village of Solvorn. En route, we stopped for lunch on the side of a two lane road running though a green valley with a road zigzagging up a mountain beside water crashing down some falls. Wow. In Vik, we stopped at a lovely old Stave church circa 1140, made of carved wood, with painted murals inside a rounded entrance.

Eplet Bed &Apple is a charming homey place. Our room is small but cheerful and has a spectacular view. There are mostly young people here , some from France, but also a Jewish family from central Pennsylvania. Two strange coincidences: we met a couple yesterday in Bergen from the Pennsylvania family’s town. Turns out it’s their dentist. And the mom of this family went to Grinnell for college.

We went down to the one business in town, a small cafe and store where they served surprisingly good Thai food, cooked by a Thai woman who usually cooks at a restaurant in Oslo. She is summering here. Another pleasant surprise: we can swim in the fjord. There are two little beaches and the water is not frigid. As dirck says, it kind of feels like we are in summer camp or Ithaca on vacation by the lake.

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Biking around Copenhagen

Near Narroport Metro

I haven’t seen this many bikes in motion since RAGBRAI, the annual ride across Iowa that lures about 20,000 riders. The difference here is the riders are sharing a lane along busy city streets, which takes some getting used to, especially since Danes don’t do the courteous Iowans’ heads up (“on your left”) when they pass you. Often the pass very closely on the left or the right, which can be unnerving. We found out that the street we ride from the Norreport station to Nørrebro is the most heavily cycled street in the world. I believe it. Other than the sometimes intimidating volume of bikes, this is a bikers’ city. Everyone is riding everywhere and there are designated lanes and traffic lights for bikers that help set them apart from the walkers and the cars.

Nyhavn canal

The terrain is also flat, although the brick streets along the canals are very rough riding. And the distances from one attraction to the next are easily ride-able. We rode to many of the main tourist spots and neighborhoods –the graffiti and psychedelic murals of the hippie neighborhood Christiana; the cool spiral steepled church in Christianshvan.

Christiana scene

We rode twice over the cool new bridge that connects christianshavn and Nyhavn, the famous canal lined with painted row houses in deep ochre, rouge and blues. We passed a lot of grand buildings we were not familiar with. We rode thru Vesterbro, another neighborhood I considered staying in, Vesterbro, and ate outdoors in the meat packing District at Pate Pate. (Inspired by that name, I had excellent chicken livers. Also lemonade with little bits of freshly ground vanilla bean.)

Tonight we went to Tivoli, which was fun but we don’t do rides and we didn’t get the full effect of the fairytale lights at night because it was still light out when we left at 10:15 p.m., which is amazing. It didn’t get dark until 10:45.

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Revival Food Hall, Bridgeport, The Wormhole/Wicker Park – frigid Chicago

With subzero temps and icy snow on the ground, Christmas 2017 in Chicago was not conductive to outdoor activity, which is a big change from last Christmas when it was so pleasant we took our dog for a romp on the beach near my stepdaughter’s condo in Edgewater. But this year, we walked as much as we could tolerate, with help from two pairs of socks, down jackets, thick scarves covering our face from the nose downward.

We enjoyed well-deserved hot chocolate at The Wormhole, a bohemian coffee house in Wicker Park and made it about a block in the bitter cold to a little boutique for some post-Xmas sale shopping. At Night, we met my old friend Polly and her husband Jamie (who drove down and around from their home in Traverse City) for dinner at a favorite restaurant, Andy’s Thai Kitchen (the one in Edgewater, which is not only more convenient to where we stay but takes credit cards).

On Wednesday we talked ourselves into thinking it was slightly warmer (it wasn’t but the sky was brilliantly blue over the icy pale blue lake) and walked from my aunt’s apartment on Astor Street to Uniqlo on Michigan Avenue for some sale-priced winter gear and then to chaotic Eataly, the Italian food madhouse for some fresh prosciutto, mozzarella and fungi pizza, sitting at a high top table in the middle of a rush of shoppers. Our only other purchase was rustic bread with cranberries and apples, which made a delicious breakfast today. We kept walking, over the river to Revival Hall, a new food court/Hall in an old building. I’m told the poke place, the bbq place (smoke) and the Thai noodle place are good to try but we only had coffee and some too-sweet bakery goods. I was Intrigued by the”Detroit-style pizza” place, something this native Detroiter never heard of before. Dinner was with my dear aunt at one of her favorite places, Shaw’s for fresh fish, creamed spinach, hash browns and peppermint ice cream with hot fudge.

Today was cold and grey. We wandered a few blocks in Andersonville, shopping at Foursided and the bookstore, Women and Children First, and ending up eating at the nearby Middle East Bakery & Grocery after we learned that Edzo’s was closed (we drove all the way to Evanston, only to discover this). Now driving in the dark across Illinois. Fortunately it stopped snowing after the city of Peru. Our best meal was Emma’s fabulous homemade Korean brisket, roasted rosemary potatoes, collard greens and chocolate cake (with ground coffee but no flour)…not available to the public, sorry.

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Prince Show and the Bachelor Farmer Cafe – Minneapolis

My favorite piece at the art show honoring the late great singer Prince at the U of Minnesota’s Weisman Museum was a portrait by an apparently well-known Minnesota “crop artist” who used a variety of crops (bromegrass, grits, canola, etc.) as her medium. The show was only two rooms worth of stuff – a lot of photos, some painted portraits, a giant mural and some glass sculpture but always nice to wander through the bright high-ceilinged spaces of the museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

my favorite bachelor

Lunch was at the bustling Bachelor Farmer Cafe in the warehouse district where we had fresh-tasting squash soup and an very Scandinavian-feeling open-faced toasted sandwich. The cafe is at the front of the Bachelor Farmer Restaurant, where we had a great meal over Memorial Day weekend.

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When next in NYC, LA, SF or London – April Bloomfield’s picks

This from a NYTimes Q and A with chef April Bloomfield, whose restaurants we’ve recently gone to (Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall; the Spotted Pig in NYC).

London recommendations:  in Hackney, Violet (cute tea shop/bakery); in Shoreditch, Lyle’s (“clean simple food”)

In LA: Hearth& Hound (her new place in Hollywood for “wood-fired food.”)

In San Francisco: her place, Tosca Cafe or Marin Brewing Company (in Marin)

In NYC: her places – Breslin Bar & Dining or the John Dory in Flatiron district; White Gold Butchers, Salvation Taco.; recommendations – Kunjip in Koreatown.


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David Hockney retrospective and a “highlights tour” at the Met – NYC

1hockney.jpgI arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Monday morning just as a free tour was starting, focusing on “museum highlights.” Curious about what constitutes a “highlight,” I joined the one-hour tour and saw things I’ve never seen during many previous wanderings around the Met. Later I asked our guide if the highlights vary by guide and tour and she said “yes.” Which only makes sense – there are far too many highlights to pack into one hour. We made six stops (I dutifully wrote them down on a brochure and then left my list, by mistake, in a bathroom) – I knew only the last piece well, because, interestingly, it was a 2007 mural by the Ghana-born Nigerian artist  El Anatsui, who had a big exhibit several years ago at…the Des Moines Art Center. Other works included a 17th century painted Japanese screen,  Winslow Homer’s The Gulf Stream, 1899,  (of a black man aboard a ship in very rough seas), the  Velasquez portrait of Juan de Pareja (1650) , an ancient Virgin and Child carved wood reliquary (late 1100’s) and a reproduction of an 1884 Rodin statue (Burghers of Calais.)

Schnechen “snail” at Greenberg’s

From there I went to my original destination – the David Hockney retrospective which I recommend also. His bright colorful paintings of Los Angeles, in particular, are enough to bring cheer on a drab winter day (not to mention the sunny fall day when I saw them). Here’s the original of a poster I have had hanging in my office for years. (The colors in mine, I realize now, have faded).

I also stopped for a little schnecken at Greenberg’s bakery on Madison Avenue, near the Met. And enjoyed the warm artichoke salad with my wonderful Aunt Shelby at Bella Blue on Lexington and 70th.


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