Chasing the Northern Lights...Come on, I'm running out of Time!



Noway


Part 3~Hurtigruten and The North Cape Excursion

Night one on the ship was relatively uneventful...no Northern Lights, no one overboard, and no sea sickness.

We woke up to a cold and chilly morning, that actually provided the perfect light for some great photographs!

Fjords




Fjords


Shortly after breakfast we docked in Honningsvag and boarded the bus on our way to North Cape, Norway.  This is the northernmost point of Europe, where the Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea meet, and it feels like the edge of the world.  As the coach drove up the winding road following a snow plow, I wondered how anything could possibly live in this remote location.  Apparently in the summer months there is an abundance of Puffin, Reindeer and even flowers on this desolate island.  But right now, there was only a bus load of crazy tourists hoping to have their picture taken in the cold, windy location.

I had chosen to leave my snow pants behind on this part of the trip, as foolishly I thought that we would be looking out at the ocean from the comfort of a "viewing area".  What was I thinking?  As I stepped off of the coach, I realized that this was going to be a huge mistake.  I have to say, this was the one time on the whole adventure that I was cold...really, really cold!



North Cape Norway

North Cape Norway

Yes, this was the cold, white North and I was experiencing it in jeans, okay and some really great long underwear, but nothing to break that wind.  I was a bit of a wimp on this one.  After I got my pictures, I ran inside, warmed up with a coffee and did some shopping...isn't that what one does at the North Cape?

Once back on the boat and showered for dinner, I walked through the lounge to head back to the deck..."please be there, please be there!" I repeated over and over.  As I was walking, I saw the most amazing photograph of the Northern Lights on a man's computer.  As I looked closer, I realized that he was editing the photo...he had taken the photo!  How, and where did he see them?   

"Where did you get that?''  I asked, like he had stolen something of mine.

"Oh, I took them as we were leaving the port a few minutes ago.  I'm sure that if you hurry, they will still be there."  He replied, ever so helpful.

"Thanks! " I said as excitement overtook me.  The photo that he had taken was amazing.  Dancing greens and pinks over a beautiful port village.  

Off I ran to get my coat and camera and tell the group to hurry, that they were making their appearance...

By now, the Barents Sea had begun to get a bit rough and walking on the deck proved to be difficult.  I didn't care.  Waves could wash over the damn deck and sweep me into the cold, icy ocean...I was getting a picture of the Northern Lights!  So, I waited.  I looked to the North, I looked to the South...NOTHING!   I was really beginning to think that I had paid to come on this excursion to be tortured!  Then, all of the sudden I saw a bit of orange on the horizon.

"Sorry Mom," my oldest said. "That's the light from a village."

But it wasn't, and as I looked even higher in the sky, I saw dancing green clouds swirling above!  By now the whole gang was watching the show.  I have to say, it was incredibly difficult to get a photo.  We were on a very rocky ship, I only had a small tripod and someone literally had to hold on to me to steady me, but I saw them!  I saw the elusive Northern Lights!

Northern Lights


Northern Lights Norway


Northern Lights Norway

I have to admit that they were amazing and I was so frantic to get the "perfect picture" of them, that I almost forgot to just enjoy the moment of seeing them.  They literally danced in the sky and for a few moments they were bright and other moments very light, but as you watched them, you realized just how small you are in this world of ours.



Still Chasing the Northern Lights...



Tromso Norway



Part Two~Tromso and The Hurtigruten

So, last night we ate the reindeer, this morning...we played with them.  Well, not all of us played with them; the dads and the kids played.  The moms organized suitcases and explored the town.  Organized the suitcases you ask?  Yes, we were living out of suitcases and getting ready to live in very small quarters.  It was important that we had long underwear, gloves, hats and fleeces, all dry and ready to go when needed.  Okay, maybe organizing the suitcases was an excuse for us to "re-group" before the really cold, sleepless portion of our trip began.

As we "re-grouped" the other half of our group had an amazing day getting to know the reindeer of Norway.  Tromso Friluftsenter took the group on a wonderful reindeer sleigh ride near the Norwegian Fjords.  

Reindeer


Reindeer


Sleighride

They learned about the reindeer, how they have webbed feet so that they can swim, and the Sami people of Norway.  After a peaceful ride, they enjoyed a meal in a Sami tent and played near the Fjords.  





Once they were back it was time for the portion of our adventure that I had been the most hesitant about.  The cruise!  We wheeled our suitcases towards the port, all very curious as to what the Hurtigruten had in store for us.  

Hurtigruten

I personally was convinced that this ship would take me directly to the Northern Lights as thus far they had eluded us.    Boarding was an easy, organized process and we were given our cabins.  As I glanced at the 2 packets that I held in my hand, I noticed that my husband and I were on the 5th floor, while the two younger expats were on the 2nd.  Ohhhh, this was so not going to work.  Anyone who knows my youngest expat knows that he has NO FEAR.  He will climb the tallest of play structures, and then jump off, resulting in a broken arm.  He will run around a wet swimming pool deck, slip and fall and bite THROUGH his tongue...he is fearless and I had fears of him playing the "king of the world" roll made famous by Leonardo Dicaprio and falling into the cold, frozen Fjord, and us being non the wiser.  So, back up to the reception desk, I went...

"Hi, we need two cabins next to each other please."  I stated as I handed her my envelopes.  

"Oh, I'm sorry, we don't have two cabins next to each other."  She responded, completely unaware of just how serious I was.

"No, really...this is NON-NEGOTIABLE." I stated firmly.  Then I went on to explain the antics that my youngest was capable of and that it probably wouldn't be very good when they had to turn the boat around at 2AM, because the child playing "Jack" from the movie Titanic had fallen overboard!


"No problem, here are two rooms next to one another!"  She said as she realized that I was probably right.  By the way, thank you to the staff of the Hurtigruten for being so understanding and accommodating.  

Off we went.  We all got settled in our cabins and meet at our agreed time with our contraband.  Contraband you ask?  Yes, contraband...


For you see, we had discovered that alcohol in Norway was extremely expensive, so we were now pouring the wine that we had purchased in Duty Free into our "travel cups" and sneaking it around the boat and oh yea, into the restaurant.  And we had been told on more than one occasion that we shouldn't be doing this.  Boy, between demanding a room change and demanding or should I say providing our own alcohol we were setting the theme for the trip...It was "non-negotiable".  

The first night on the ship was fun and easy.  As the kids explored the ship, I continually went outside to see if the Northern Lights were visible.  Nothing yet and I must say, I was beginning to get a bit disappointed!  So after an amazing dinner of Arctic Char and wine out of a soda can we decided to turn in for the night.  I was amazingly surprised at how calm the boat was.  No seasickness for me!  But, before I turned in, I had to give it one more shot;  I went outside!  It was cold, cold and windy and as I stared at the overcast sky, and it began to snow, I realize that I would have to continue my search for the Northern Lights...oh and surprise, surprise I did run into the youngest expat in the hallway!

Chasing the Northern Lights...


Oslo, Norway


Part One~Oslo & Tromso, Norway

When we moved to Europe, we made our "Bucket List" and at the very top of mine was the Northern Lights!  The Northern Lights were something I had always wanted to see.  For as long as I could remember I had the goal of getting an amazing photograph of this spectacular phenomenon.  

We slowly checked off trips on this list we had made, and finally last fall we began talking about the one on top...Chasing the Northern Lights.  I had a few friends who had gone on this expedition and raved about it.  It is cold, they said, and not relaxing, but it is the trip of a lifetime, one you have to take while living in Europe.  That was it;  someone said that we have to take it, we have to take it!  So, I started planning and talking to everyone that I could about this amazing trip.  During one such conversation, a friend of mine said "Oh, we'll go with you!" Was she serious?  I thought that I was the only one foolish enough to drag my family to the Arctic Circle in February!  Nope, she was serious and so the excitement of this trip gained momentum.  The kids would have friends to enjoy their trip with, and the adults could commiserate on the fact that we were indeed crazy, frozen and at the end of it...broke!

We counted down the days until our February 14th departure and finally 8 loud, crazy American's and one hesitant Brit boarded the flight to the cold, white North.

We arrived in Oslo and checked into our hotel.  We proceeded to order pizza for the kids and as they played games in the lobby, we had a civilized dinner in the hotel restaurant.   The next morning we woke to an amazing winter wonderland.  The light in Oslo was "low" as there are only 5 hours of daylight at this time of year, and the sun never seems to get very high in the sky.  That did nothing to dampen the spirit of the kids.  Hours were spent playing in the snow...snowball fights, snowmen and a few snow angels were had on this first day of our adventure.



The next day we boarded our flight to Tromso, Norway.  Tromso is considered the "Capital of the Arctic" and is actually located on an island 190 miles inside of the Arctic Circle.  It is a wonderful little city full of old wooden houses and a beautiful port.  This small town would turn out to have some of our favorite activities on our adventure!


Tromso, Norway

In Tromso, we were going dog sledding to view the Northern Lights and we were all very excited!  I had images of quietly riding on a dog sled, nestled under reindeer hides as the Northern Lights danced above me...oh, how wrong I was.  This was hard-core dog sledding.  Dog sledding that involved work.    Dog sledding where you got it...I was driving the dog sled! 

After changing into the arctic suit, because the three layers that we had on underneath our own snow suit weren't enough to keep us warm, we headed out to meet our dogs...

Dog Sledding

These are some seriously STRONG animals.  They are sweet, and friendly, but they want to run and when they are ready to go, they do not hesitate to do so.  Lyngsfjord Adventure maked this an amazing experience and the two guides that we had were great, the only thing that they couldn't help us with, was the weather.  It was a blizzard...okay, maybe not a blizzard, but for families from California and Florida it sure did seem like one!  Overcast skies and blowing snow prevented us from seeing the Northern Lights but it didn't stop the fun.  The adrenaline rush that you get from driving your own dog sled in blinding snow, while not killing your small passenger...shout out to "princess", was exhilarating.  Never once was I cold, and never once was I wishing it was over.  It was for me one of the highlights of the trip!  At the end of our ride we were able to spend a little time with the dogs that had taken us on our adventure and we were all amazed at the muscle that they had.  Our guide informed us that they eat 6 pounds of meat a day and they sure seemed to love their jobs!

After all of that work, I too had built up an appetite and lucky for me, this was waiting for us when we arrived back to the Sami tent.



This was the amazing reindeer stew we had been waiting for.  I have to admit I was a little hesitant about eating this because of the fact that the next morning we would be doing our reindeer sleigh ride, but I was hungry and it wasn't Rudolph, right?

Stay tuned to continue on this frozen adventure!!



Where did Flight MH370 go?




I am very, very afraid of flying.  I must admit that over the years it has got a bit better, but there were many flights that I have taken in which I was heavily sedated.  Living in Europe, I have had to "put my big girl panties on" and get on airplanes...  Often!  Flights to see the things that we are living here to see, and flights to go home.  I also live very near to the airport, and I must say that watching the numerous flights take off and land every day has helped me to see that the odds are actually in my favor.

In the horrible event that there is an airplane crash, I am constantly trying to rationalize it in my head.  When there is a bump from turbulence, I tell myself over and over that turbulence cannot take down a plane.  Whatever the situation, I desperately try to talk myself through it.  But how does one rationalize the absolute disappearance of one of the largest airplanes that flies in the air?  How do the families not wonder every minute if their loved one is out there...somewhere?  Where did flight MH370 go?  A 777 can not just disappear, can it?  Well, for now it has, and I have my thoughts on what happened and I am curious what you think happened?

You MUST do this!








I ran across an article that The Huffington Post Travel section put out.  It's a list of one thing that you MUST do in each state of the U.S.  I have lived in four different states; California, Colorado, Connecticut and Indiana and I have only done one of the MUST do's of these states; Drive State Route 1 thru Big Sur, and only ONE other on the whole list.  This makes me realize how much travel I need to do in my own country.

What about you...How many of these have you done?  Have you done your state's MUST do? And, if you live in another country, what would you suggest people MUST do while they are traveling there?

Happy Valentine's Day!



Thank you to my Valentine for encouraging me to see the world, and for always taking the time to make memories with me!



Happy Valentine's Day!

It could use a coat of paint...


One of my favorites from the archives...


My husband and I just spent an amazing weekend in Venice, Italy! It was our seventeenth wedding anniversary.  A friend said that she would take the kids and Venice is a sixty minute flight, so why not?

We haven't had a weekend away in a year and it was much needed.

After our incredibly quick flight we arrived at our hotel. The hotel was right on the grand canal and was well, let's say "charming", in an antique sort of way!

One of our favorite things to do when we travel is to play "spot the...American, Brit or... You fill in the nationality." sometimes this game is really difficult, other times not so much.

Venice is full of tourists unloaded from cruise ships and it's not hard at all to spot them. Most have large cameras, me included, most were waiting to get a gondola, me included, and we even got the occasional black socked, sandal wearing tourist...I can't be included in this stereotype...

The tourist that shocked us the most came on our final day in Venice. We had successfully eaten and drank our way through this amazing city, we had seen the sights, taken our gondola ride and experienced all that Venice had to offer a couple in love. Our final morning we were sitting at a quiet breakfast in our hotel when I had to break my husbands rule of "no talking to strangers" and asked the couple next to us where they were from. After telling me, and I won't say it here as to not offend anyone from that city, she asked me how I liked Venice.

"I love it, " I told her, "I love the charm, the architecture, the people, the food...I love all of it!"

"Don't you think it could use a coat of paint? Where we come from they have a covenant, and they would have had to paint the buildings by now."

Okay, at this point I was about to break into laughter, and I almost had to pick my husband's jaw off of the table...did she really just say that?

Yea, it is over 700 years old and I think that it's fallen at least a foot into the ocean over the past 40 years, but come to think about it, it really could use a good power washing...really lady, go back to your covenant controlled neighborhood and let me enjoy Venice!

What do you think...does it need a coat of paint? I think not!




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