Archive for June, 2008

Brooks Lake Dubois Wyoming

// June 27th, 2008 // No Comments » // Dubois Wyoming

After visiting my nephews for the first time in 2 years we went fishing at Brooks Lake West of Dubois Wyoming. It is an amazing beautiful lake with many many fish. The ice was not yet cleared off of the lake in one corner. The water was 38 degrees and extremely cold. The fish were biting. Very slow to react. We tried fly fishing without much luck. Turned to worms and artifical bait while letting it sit on the bottom. Rainbows and Browns for a while and then the Lake trout started hitting. After about 5 hours 2 other boats showed up and a bunch of fly fisherman. The wind started picking up and we decided to call it a day with a very successful catch. Maybe next time we’ll hike up to the Lower and Upper Jade lakes. Here are a few of the photos.

Chad

Stavanger, Norway

// June 13th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Rhonda: Well, for our last weekend in Europe, we decided to visit Stavanger, Norway which is located in the southwest part of the country. We have heard how beautiful the fjords are in Norway, so this is what we wanted to see. This was a definitely a different type of trip from our previous trips because we wanted to view the country side instead of touring the city.

We left Gothenburg at 2:30PM Thursday afternoon and drove to Oslo for our flight to Stavanger. The drive was not easy because there was construction for more than half way. It was a 3 ½ hour drive and for a good 2 hours, we had to go through construction. When we arrived in Norway, customs stopped us and pulled us aside…I think only because we spoke English, since they didn’t stop the cars in front of us. Oh well, no problem. We just had to answer several questions and then we were back on the road.

The airport in Oslo, I think, is the most efficient airport in the world. We checked in, went through security, all within about 5 minutes! There were no lines. One thing to mention though is their medal detector is very sensitive. Chad’s billfold set it off with only credit cards in it. (Chad: I love the Oslo airport. The airport makes it worth traveling on a airplane.)

Rhonda: After arriving in Stavanger at 9:15 PM, we took a bus to our hotel. I think I will mention now, our hotel (Rica Forum) was the worst hotel that we have stayed in during the last 3 months. It’s unfortunate because I had hoped it would be a good one with the only down side being it was outside the city center. When I booked our hotel, my selection was limited because everything was totally booked! Very few hotels had rooms available. So with that mentioned, when we checked into our hotel, the first incident (out of 4) that happened was that they had us down for a single room which was not what I had booked. For us to have a double room, we would have to take a smoking room. “Ok”, I said, since there was nothing else available.

Friday morning after breakfast, we took a bus to the city center. We had scheduled a boat ride at 10 AM down one of the fjords! Since we had some extra time before our tour, we found a 7-Eleven shop to buy some sandwiches and stuff for our trip. We then found the old Stavanger Cathedral. It was a beautiful old church. We walked all the way around it because I wanted to find an open door to see inside! We never found one though.

Our ferry was called “Strand” and it would take us down the entire Lysefjorden! Both Chad and I could not wait to see it. Our ferry also was a tourist ferry and had audio to describe the different sites along the way. It would take approximately 3 ½ hours one way down to the end of the fjord.

We had heard that the fjords in Norway were beautiful, but I didn’t know how beautiful until I saw one of them in person. I could not believe my eyes. It was truly amazing! The water level was as deep as 1400 feet in some areas and the mountains were as high as 3000 feet. Chad and I grabbed a seat at the front of boat so that we would have a good view. Our ferry went very slow down the fjord, which was good because it gave us a chance to see everything.

The first main site was the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen). This rock is a huge rectangular shaped rock at the top of the mountain over looking the water. The Pulpit Rock is a popular tourist attraction for hikers. We actually hiked up to the top of the Pulpit Rock the following day which I will describe later.

Next, about half way down, our ferry made a stop in a very small area between the mountains. Our captain was definitely good at maneuvering the huge boat in tiny areas, but I guess he gets practice every day!

At the end of the fjord is a town called Lyse. It is also the location for the famous destination Kjerag. Kjerag is where there is a rock that has fallen and is wedged between two cliffs. We have seen pictures of people online standing on this rock and we heard that you have to jump onto it from the edge of the cliff. I assume it’s not a big jump because so many people have had their picture taken there, but who knows! Also, Kjerag is the perfect spot for base jumpers! Base jumpers from all over the world travel to there to jump off of the cliff. I definitely don’t blame them because this has got to be the most beautiful spot to base jump. It is 3000 feet high and there is a landing area just beside the water. The small landing area is not pleasant though due to the rocks everywhere, but if you have good accuracy skills, then you will probably do ok.

Our ferry then reached our destination of Lyse. It is the base camp for the jumpers. We had one hour to look around before we made our return trip to Stavanger. We decided to visit the base camp and have a drink. We met the owners of the bar/pub and they gave us the discounted jumper rate. It was still expensive, but we were very grateful. After hanging out there for a while, Chad and I thought we might have to make another visit to this location in the future!

We then made an uneventful trip back on the ferry to Stavanger. For dinner, we found a nice restaurant right on the water. One thing I will now mention is that Norway is THE most expensive place to live. Everything is outrageous. One beer costs about 12 dollars compared to our 3-4 dollar beers back home. And that is just one example! Basically everything is about 3-4 times the cost that it is back in the US. (Chad: Yes, Norway is the most expensive. Bring a dump truck full of money.)

Rhonda: After dinner, we took a bus back to the hotel. At this time, I can mention the second incident that occurred at our hotel. Somewhere outside of our room, there was a party going on with some very loud music. We thought it was coming from the 21st floor in the bar since we were located on the 19th floor. But when I called down to the front desk which was around 11 PM, to ask when the music would end, they told me that they thought the music was coming from a car on a street near by. Very unlikely, I thought, but oh well, I didn’t complain anymore. I finally fell asleep around 1 AM.

Ok, now for the 3rd incident at the hotel. Since we were leaving early on Saturday morning at 7 AM and would miss breakfast, we had scheduled a take-away breakfast. The front desk had taken down all the details. When we stopped by the front desk to pick up our breakfast, there was none to be found. They had forgotten about it! So, thank goodness, we had made some extra sandwiches and were able to have them for breakfast.

For Saturday, we had scheduled a hiking trip up to the top of Pulpit Rock. Chad and I were very much looking forward to it. We had to take a ferry then a bus ride to the base of where the hike began.

One of my co-workers told me that the hike was easy. She said that her 80 year old grandmother made the hike with no problems and that it would take about 1 ½ hours to complete! We could not believe it. I think it was the most difficult hike we have ever been on. Unlike the hikes in NC, there was no real path. There were only boulders to walk on and the hike was uphill all the way. It was approximately 3 ½ miles one way. Older senior people were passing us like it was nothing and parents carrying small children on their back also were passing us. I could not believe it. I had thought Chad and I were in shape, but we definitely were not compared to the Norwegians. It took us 2 hours to get to the top!  But what an amazing view when we got there! We could see the entire fjord. Everyone was sitting near the edge of the rock and I even laid down in order to take a peek over the edge! We spent about an hour on the rock taking pictures and had a picnic lunch.

Chad told me later after we had finished the hike that he wasn’t sure if he could make it and was thinking about turning back just after the first fourth of a mile. I was concerned too! The hike was very steep with a rocky path.

We were so tired after the hike that we went straight back to the hotel for dinner and to turn in for the evening. We ended up going to sleep at 8:30 PM!

Chad: We were very tired after the hike and I made a decision we would shower up and eat at the hotel. After cleaning up we went to the 21st floor for dinner. We were immediately seated. After a big hike, I was hungry for a hamburger. In fact I was going to get it with cheese and bacon. I couldn’t believe they would serve such a thing at this nice restaurant. Then Rhonda warned me not to get the dressing on it and said it would not be like a hamburger from the States. Well, it’s gotta be close. What can they do different? This was a learning experience for me. I ordered it without dressing and unfortunately it came with dressing. So I just scraped it off and proceeded to eat it. The first bite was unlike any hamburger I’ve had. It was more like a burger that has been cooking on the fryer for hours and then warmed up. This was not good. However, I guess it is a standard for Europe. The lesson I learned is never order a hamburger in Europe. The meat is not good and it is not cooked like I’m used to. Plus it has every sauce on it in the book to cover up the taste. Plus when you byte it, it is difficult to tear from the main burger. Anyways, if you order a burger in Europe, just realize it is not an American style burger. It is European style and that’s the way it is. I didn’t like it, but ate as much of it as possible.

Rhonda: Ok, now for the last and most upsetting incident at the hotel. Upon checkout Sunday morning, we had an unusual conversation with the front desk clerk. He started to finalize our bill and asked us where we were from. We told him that we were from the US. He immediately mentioned that he was from Brazil and that he was a diplomat and knew many languages. Chad then asked “How did you end up in Norway”? (Chad’s intention was to find out how he ended up in such a great place.) Then I think that was all it took for this guy to go off on us. He had found out that we were from the States and now we were asking how he got there. He was all of a sudden very angry and took it out on us. He said “Well, how did you end up here”? Not meaning us specifically, but people from the US. He said “Are you here to help people? Are you here to solve our problems?” I think he was trying to tell us his opinion that the US always gets involved with other countries when they shouldn’t. I finally spoke up and said, “Excuse me, Listen, Can we just check out”? Chad and I were so upset after this had happened. If this guy was really a diplomat from Brazil, how did he end up working as a front desk clerk in this hotel?

We ended up missing our bus to the airport because we went to the wrong bus stop and had to pay $60 for a taxi which would have been a $15 bus ride.

In summary, Stavanger and the view of the fjord was one of our best trips in Europe. It ranks very high along side with our trip to Rome and Kiruna! We highly recommend this unique and beautiful place to visit and Chad and I will hopefully be able to see it again sometime.

Check out some of our great pictures in the gallery below! On a side note, our pictures don’t do the place justice. It just gives us a little reminder of what our trip to Norway was like. We took about a 1000 pictures and we have posted 89 of those we really like.

Norway Update

// June 8th, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

We finished our trip to Stavanger Norway this weekend and it is going to take us until around Thursday to get the final article completed. We have the bulk of the write-up done, but we took way to many pictures and we are having difficulty picking which ones to post. I ended up taking about 650 photos and Rhonda took about 250 photos. Now we have to whittle them down to about 50 to process and use.

Also, we are traveling back home this week and that will take up a lot of our time.

We hope to have everything complete by the end of the week.

Thanks,

Chad & Rhonda

Our Weekend in Stockholm

// June 3rd, 2008 // No Comments » // Trip to Sweden 2008

Chad: We took a trip to Stockholm for our 2nd to last weekend here in Sweden. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Gothenburg on mostly very good roads. We left on Friday afternoon around 5 pm. Rhonda drove the whole way and I was very thankful. I don’t like to drive here at all.

Rhonda: Chad has not driven at all since we arrived on March 10th! Oh well, I don’t mind. Chad: Yeah, right!

Chad: Rhonda’s co-worker, Freppe, loaned us a GPS. It has been a lifesaver. Without it, traveling would have been extremely difficult if not impossible. I think driving through the downtown streets of Stockholm is challenging for even the local drivers.

This weekend turned out to be a busy one for the city. A large number of international dignitaries were leaving Stockholm on Friday from the Iraq conference which messed up traffic a bit. Along with that, it was graduation evening for over 20 high schools. Lots of teenagers out driving around. Finally, they were getting ready for the Stockholm marathon on Saturday. We were told about 18000 people were entering it. So navigating Stockholm at about 10 pm at night still proved to be challenging and, like I said, the GPS saved us more than once.

We scouted for a parking lot before leaving Gothenburg and saved several possible locations since downtown was full and every hotel was booked. Our hotel said they could park our car for about $75 per day, so upon arrival we went to the first parking garage instead of using the hotel parking. Rhonda’s eagle eyes found it buried in the side of a building going underground. We almost missed it. Only about $55 per day to park. What a great deal!

We stayed at the Radison SAS Strand Hotel. No, it wasn’t the “Grand Hotel” where the Nobel laureates stay, but it was almost right behind it. While we were checking in, they were turning people away since every room in the downtown Stockholm area was booked for the marathon and graduation. We were very lucky we were able to stay at such a central location.

After we checked in, we made our way around Gamla Stan, “Old Town”, to take photos. The sun was finally going down about 11 pm so we could finally see buildings light up for the evening. We took some photos of Old Town, the Grand Hotel, and finally went to an outdoor bar where we had a glass of wine. By the time we made it back to the room, it was 1 am and time to get some fast sleep.

The next morning we had our $25 dollar breakfast downstairs. European style with a few things that looked like scrambled eggs. If you are in Europe, in most hotels it is better to eat the European style breakfast and skip anything that is “American” like. (Eggs, bacon, sausages, etc.) It just is not right. However, eating the cereal, fruit, yogurt, and their excellent coffee is perfect.

This morning we took the Grand Tour. It was a 1.5 hour bus ride around the city with a 2 hour boat ride around the islands.

We saw the following areas: Nybrokajen, Stromkajen, The Royal Palace, Stadshusbron, Gustav Adolfs Square, Kulturhuset, and Mynttorget.

Rhonda: One of the highlights on the bus tour was that we got to see the Swedish Guards riding the Royal horses through the streets of Stockholm. They were heading to the Palace where the changing of the guards ceremony was going to be held.

On the boat tour, the best part was going through 2 of the many lock gates. Stockholm is situated between the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren and is made up of 14 islands.

Lake Mälaren is actually 3 meters above the Baltic Sea, so water lock gates are located between the sea and the lake due to the water turbulence. In the locks, the water is raised or lowered depending on which direction you are going in the boat. During the short time in the locks, the water level is adjusted and boats are anchored to the sides. It was a neat experience.

Chad: After the tour we took a short break at the room before going out again to the Old Town to do a little shopping. After shopping we found a café to sit at for an afternoon break. While walking the old town, we found an old sign shop were we purchased a little sign that was labeled “kitchen” in Swedish for way to much money. It was a interesting store and we talked with the keeper for about 20 minutes before we were hooked.

Rhonda: Before our shopping experience in the Old Town and our mid afternoon snack, we were able to watch the marathon for a short time. I couldn’t believe how many people were in the race. I think this was the first time for both of us to see a marathon.

Chad: Once the afternoon was done we made our way back to the hotel again and found a great place for dinner. We went to Restaurant Milano. Rhonda had spaghetti with scampi and that was definitely the best. If you are ever in Stockholm, you should give that a try.

We ate too much that evening, so we decided to walk to the far side of the harbor and try to take some sun set photographs. Our first stop we found 8 air balloons going over the city and took a few pictures of them. Once I got my stuff set up, a bunch of other tourists joined me in trying to take their photos.

We then walked to the other side of the Old Town and ended up walking up a huge flight of stairs to an area with a great view of the city. It ended up being a lot more interesting than taking the road that everyone else used.

After that we again walked along the edge of the old town again and turned in for the night.

Sunday was our last day and we decided to go to the House of Photography Museum and the Royal Stables. The museum was in a temporary style and extremely small. We were given a short video and ended up looking at about 15 large photos. We also found extra photos for sale starting at about $1300 dollars each. Way to expensive for us, but some of them were very good.

After that, we waited for about 90 minutes until the stables opened up. They only accept the first 30 people in line each day for a single tour. We were lucky and only about 10 people were in line. We were shown all the Kings horses. The King owns 14 of them and the rest of the staff owns the other 16 horses. The staff takes care and trains all the horses. We got to meet a few of them and were shown their stables.  After that, we saw all of the different carriages. They are made of gold and silver and some are very old. It’s amazing. Some of the carriages are over 100 years old and still in use today. Everything is taken care of extremely well.

Rhonda: The Royal Stables was a great place to visit. I truly enjoyed it. We got to see the gold and silver harnesses that the horses wear and the old carriages! We also got to meet a couple of the horses. We learned that all of the horses are Bay horses with the exception of one and they all are 100% Swedish blood. Each of them are giving a new appropriate name when they are brought to the Royal Stables. The horse we met was “Balder”! He really liked his neck scratched.

We had a great time in Stockholm! Check out all of Chad’s photos below!

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