kristiansand.

Do you ever think about the origins of the word ‘blog’?

It’s a shortened version of ‘weblog’, or web log.  Blogs started out as a sort of online log or diary and can be public or private.

I’m bringing this up today by way of explaining that sometimes I look at my blog as a way of conveniently keeping track of my life.  I refer back to my blog all the time.  If I can’t remember exactly what color I used on a particular piece of furniture, or what topcoat I put over it, I look it up on the blog.  I also go back and look at the various different combinations of plants I’ve used in my window boxes and remember which ones worked well and which ones didn’t.

But I also enjoy looking at posts about trips I took and reminiscing about the experience.  When I went on the Danube River cruise a couple of years ago I sort of dropped the ball on posting about it.  I managed a couple of posts, but I definitely left a lot of stuff out.  So I’m determined this time to feature each of the ports of call on my last trip in a blog post.

I’ll admit, it’s pure selfishness on my part.   But based on the comments I’ve received, I know that at least some of you are enjoying these posts too!  I plan to post these travel posts every Wednesday for the rest of the summer, so if you are bored by them you can avoid Wednesday posts!

But for the rest of you, today’s post is about our third port of call, Kristiansand, Norway.

I have to admit, Kristiansand was not my most favorite stop on this cruise.  But keep in mind we visited 11 ports of call, and they were all pretty amazing.  They can’t all be the most favorite!

Maybe it was the public toilets that required a coin I didn’t have?  Or maybe it was the tiny historic area, or Posebyen, that I had such high expectations for but was rather disappointed by.  I don’t want to imply that Kristiansand was bad, it definitely wasn’t, it just wasn’t as incredible as the other ports we visited.

However, there was this door in the most perfect shade of aqua …

And another thing in Kristiansand’s favor was that it had an awesome antique shop.  Let’s see, vintage garden chairs with chippy paint …

and a stack of old suitcases?  Yeah, this place drew me in like a magnet.

If I could have just purchased this vintage luggage tag I would have!

It only took us about an hour or two to wander around the town, antique shop included, then another 30 minutes to sit and have a cup of coffee and use the free toilet at the coffee shop (two fancy coffees, $11.21 paid with Mr. Q’s phone app; two uses of the toilet, free).

Then we started to wonder what we should do with the rest of our day.  I had grabbed a tourist brochure after getting off the ship though and noticed that there was a park, Ravnedalen, with hiking trails just at the edge of the old town.  So we headed over there to check it out.

This turned out to be a great choice.

Mr. Q takes a break and enjoys the view!

It was beautifully serene in the woods, and the hiking trails were amazing.

And they led to beautiful views of some small lakes.

For you local Minnesota readers, looking at these photos you can see why so many Norwegian immigrants felt right at home in Minnesota, right?

After hiking around for a bit, we headed back through town towards the port and of course we had to stop for a moment to check out the Neo-Gothic cathedral in the middle of town.  It was entirely surrounded by construction that was taking place (and this actually was the case in many of the places we visited on our trip), but I managed to get a nice photo of it anyway.

All in all, Kristiansand was a lovely little town, but not terribly exciting.  As you continue to follow along with my Wednesday travel posts and see some of the other stunning places we visited, you’ll understand that Kristiansand had some pretty fierce competition for ‘most favorite’ port.  Hope you’ll stay tuned!

norwegian blue.

Kim left a comment on one of my posts about my trip asking if I’d been inspired by any of the colors I saw in Norway or Scotland, and the answer is a resounding yes!

As I mentioned in my post about Oslo on Wednesday, I loved the vibrant blues that I saw at the folk museum.  The bright blue on this bed is stunning.

While the faded blue on this trunk may not be as bright as it once was, it’s still lovely.

And in fact, beautiful shades of blue were everywhere, like on this door in Stavanger.

I don’t think I even realized just how much blue had caught my eye until I started going through my photos.

Even the Norwegian posters were blue!

I just love the perfect chippy, worn blue on this chair.  If I could have brought this home as a souvenir, I definitely would have.  Do you think I could have shoved this into the overhead compartment on the plane?

Probably not.  Instead, I had to create my own version of it at home.

I purchased this little stool at my ‘breakfast meeting‘ the other day and it was the perfect candidate for a Norwegian blue paint job.

Funny enough, Behr actually makes a color called Norwegian Blue (N470-5), but nope, not the color I wanted at all.  So I chose to use Miss Mustard Seed’s Flow Blue milk paint, it’s the perfect Norwegian blue.

I followed my usual m.o.  A little sanding, followed by a cleaning with TSP substitute, followed by two coats of paint.  And this time I finished with Miss Mustard Seed furniture wax.  I got just the right amount of chipping/distressing on this adorable little stool.

Although it looks pretty great paired with the desk in my Q-branch, it’s definitely not comfortable enough for the amount of time I sit here writing my blog.  So it won’t be staying in this spot.  But I’m going to carry it around my house for a while and see if I can come up with a spot for it.  Just a little something to remind me of the beautiful blues of Norway!

By the way, did you notice?  There is a little sneak peek of one of my upcoming travel posts on my computer screen.

We’re not going to get to Flam until sometime in July though, so you’ll just have to stay tuned for that one!

 

oslo.

The first port of call on our recent Northern European cruise was Oslo, Norway.  There is nothing quite like waking up in your stateroom, looking out the window and seeing that you are silently sailing through the mist down the Oslofjord.

An hour or so later our cruise ship pulled up to dock in the most convenient location directly across the street from the Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle that was built sometime around 1290.

We were on the starboard side of the ship and right from the get go it seemed like this was the best side to be on.  It was so thrilling to just look out the window of our stateroom and see this amazing old stone fortress right there in front of us.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to visit the Norsk Folkemuseum on the Bygdøy peninsula while in Oslo, and that couldn’t have been any easier.  We simply walked off our ship and over a couple of piers to the Båtservice ferry.  We purchased two tickets (for about $15.50 total) at the kiosk and paid with a credit card.

Quick sidebar:  we paid for everything in Norway using a credit card.  They are accepted nearly everywhere, as long as you have either a card with a chip and a pin number or an app on your phone like Android Pay.  We never got any Norwegian cash and were simply able to use either a card or Mr. Q’s phone.  It was so convenient.  The only time this backfired on us was when we found that the public toilets in Kristiansand were coin operated, but it was easy enough to find a coffee shop, enjoy some delicious brew and use the free toilet located within.

A quick ride on the ferry took us over to Bygdøy and from there it was just a short, well-marked walk to the Folkemuseum.

We purchased our tickets and headed in.

This open air museum has 160 historic buildings relocated from all over Norway.  The area is laid out with sections representing an old town, the countryside and a stave church.

We started in the old town and pretty much had the place to ourselves.

As you can see, it was a little drizzly on our day in Oslo.  The sun would peek out periodically though and it never really poured rain so we were perfectly fine walking around and never really even needed an umbrella.

The countryside areas were separated by region such as Telemark, Hallingdal, Ostlandet, Hardanger, Sunn-og Nordfjord, Tondelag, Osterdal, Numedal and Setesdal.  It was interesting to read the information plaques about the different styles of building in the different regions.  To me they all looked the same, but there are subtle differences that help identify which region each style belongs to.

Many of the buildings were open and were furnished with traditional pieces from the time period or region.

I noticed a lot of blue painted furniture.  Hmmm, it inspires me to get out some blue milk paint.

The stave church is probably considered the crowning jewel of the museum.

It’s also where we found all of the other tourists.  Apparently the bus tours of Oslo take people to this museum and then just to the stave church and not the rest of the grounds.  I felt a little bit bad for those people because they were missing so much!

After we’d seen all we wanted to of the museum, we just walked back to the ferry dock and used our round trip tickets to head back to the port where our ship was docked.  There was a ferry schedule posted, but they seemed to run rather frequently and we didn’t have to wait long for the next ferry.

I’m going to take a moment here to tell you my one of my biggest complaints about cruising.  Any cruise line in the industry is going to work hard to convince you that the best, most convenient, safest and sometimes even ‘only’ way to see things in port is via a ship sponsored shore excursion and this is just simply not true.  This is one of the places where they make a good chunk of their profits (well, this and liquor sales).  The ship’s shore excursions are sadly overpriced and frankly not usually that great unless you enjoy riding around in a bus with 60 other people and only getting to see the stave church and not the rest of the museum.  It’s not really in their best interest to tell you about the inexpensive, convenient options that are easily available as an alternative to their overpriced shore excursions.  I’m not saying this to scare you off cruising, I’m saying that if you are aware of this and do your homework in advance you can avoid falling into this trap.  I’d say that nearly every port I’ve ever been in has offered some sort of independent transportation and/or tours.  I’ll be sure to share a lot of that info in my upcoming posts about this cruise.

Cruising is a fantastic way to see Europe and we had an amazing time on our trip.  If you just keep some simple tips in mind you can really make a cruise work to your advantage!

We sailed past this picturesque spot on our way back down the Oslofjord as we left Oslo behind …

It’s the Dyna Lighthouse, built in 1875 (or 1874 depending on where you look).  In addition to being a functioning lighthouse, it’s also available for rent as a banqueting facility.  Check out their website {here}.  Wouldn’t that be a fun place to attend a party?

Two ports down, nine to go!  I hope you’ll stay tuned to hear more about my trip each Wednesday.  Or check back on Friday to hear more about an Oslo inspired milk paint project I finished up this week!

cool original people experience nice hygge-ing a ‘gen.

Our recent Holland America cruise sailed out of Copenhagen, Denmark and the last time Mr. Q and I were there we absolutely loved it, so we decided to fly to Copenhagen a few days before our ship sailed and spend some extra time in this gorgeous city that is known for its hygge.

Hygge?  I thought this was just the popular blogging buzz word of the moment.  But oh no!

hygge

Pronunciation /ˈhʊɡə//ˈh(j)uːɡə/

NOUN

  • A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)

    Comfortable conviviality indeed!  Copenhagen positively embraces its hygge!

Upon our arrival Mr. Q and I checked into The Strand Hotel.  We chose this hotel on a whim, after all our last name is Strand.  How could we resist?  It also happened to be in a pretty great location.  It was kind of amusing to see our name above the door, on all of the floor mats, in the elevator … and even engraved in marble above the ‘throne’!

What can I say?  We are easily amused.

I was hoping we’d get some sort of perk, like a really great room or some kind of freebies, but nope.  The fact that we shared our name with the name of the hotel didn’t even raise an eyebrow.  The very friendly and helpful clerk who checked us in didn’t even mention it!

After dropping our bags in our room, despite being overcome with exhaustion after having been up for well over 36 hours (I just can’t manage to sleep on a plane), Mr. Q and I headed out for Nyhavn, the 17th century waterfront district in Copenhagen.

It was only a block away, so it seemed like the best choice considering our condition.  We immediately hopped on one of the tourist boats that regularly depart Nyhavn for a scenic cruise around the canals of Copenhagen.

Despite being super touristy, these boats are still a fun way to get your bearings and see some of the sights without too much effort.  It’s a great way to get acclimated on your first evening without having to worry about whether or not your brain cells are functioning properly.

We had originally been planning to head outside the city to visit some castles the next morning, but when we finally managed to drag ourselves out of bed we realized that plan was maybe a little too ambitious for our current state of mind.  Instead we fortified ourselves with some Danish coffee and pastries …

and then did our own little walking tour along the waterfront passing Amalienborg Palace and the beautiful Frederikskirke or Marble Church …

and ending up at the Kastellet (the citadel), a star shaped fortress built in the mid-1600’s.

For lunch Mr. Q insisted that we walk across the ‘kissing bridge’ from Nyhavn to the street food market on Papirøen (Paper Island).  I resisted because my feet were starting to complain, it was starting to drizzle a bit and it looked like it was a long way away.  But distances can be misleading and it turned out that the walk was not far at all.  In the end, I was so glad he insisted.

This place was full of stalls featuring street food from all around the world.

  We wandered around looking at all of our options.  Many of the stalls offered free samples so you could test-taste their food.  I loved the old vintage campers they used for some of the food booths.

The drizzle had ended by the time we finished lunch, so we decided to head over to Christiania since it was nearby.  If you’ve never heard about Christiana, follow this link to read more about it, but basically it’s a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood that was established in the 70’s as a sort of hippie commune of free-spirited people.

I was thinking of it an unconstrained liberal place with no rules, only to discover that I was breaking the number 1 rule, which is ‘no photos’!  Leave it to me, a pretty dedicated rule follower, to manage to break the one rule in a place known for not having rules.  I took quite a few photos before someone finally yelled at me when I tried to take one a little too close to the area where marijuana was being sold quite openly.

It was an interesting little detour outside my normal comfort zone, but we didn’t stay long.  And in case you’re wondering, no, we didn’t buy any ‘souvenirs’ in Christiania!

That evening was probably the highlight of our time in Copenhagen.  Several years ago Mr. Q was contacted by a woman from Denmark, Susan, who was working with a Danish writer with a brain injury.  Since Mr. Q has a brain injury and has published several books himself, she was given his name as a potential contact.  They shared some emails and became Facebook friends, but had never actually met.  As it happened she was going to be in the city when we were there and we arranged to meet up with her.

She is a lovely person, so welcoming and so generous with her time.  She took us on the Metro out into the less touristy parts of Copenhagen, and then we had a long dinner in a charming, cozy (or should I say hygge?) restaurant where we quizzed her endlessly about what it’s like to live in Denmark.  It’s always so much more interesting to hear about a place from a real local rather than a tour guide.

Just one of the many topics we discussed was the Danish practice of leaving your sleeping baby outside on the sidewalk in a pram while mom and dad shop or enjoy dinner in a restaurant.  This is a very common practice in Denmark and something parents there have always done.  Even in cold weather.  First of all, you have to realize that the prams are totally kitted out for the weather, and the baby is bundled up appropriately.  But also, as Susan explained to us, people don’t steal babies in Denmark.  So parents just don’t worry about leaving their babies outside unattended. And she’s right about that.  If you google it you’ll find that there has only been one single incident involving the kidnapping of a child in Denmark and it was over 30 years ago.  Susan said people still talk about that today because it was such a rare and shocking occurrence.

After polishing off a bottle of wine, we took a couple of buses followed by a really lovely walk through the rain washed streets of the city to our hotel.  One of the many things I love about Copenhagen is that you feel perfectly safe walking the streets at 11 pm.

The next day we had a few hours to kill before boarding our ship so we walked over to Rosenborg Castle.  Rosenborg was built in 1606 as a ‘country summerhouse’.  Ha, if only we all had simple little summerhouses like this!

We didn’t take the time to see the inside of the castle, instead we explored the Kongens Have (or the King’s Gardens) surrounding it.  It was such a lovely morning that we wanted to stay outside.

Check out these amazing pruned trees …

I’d never seen anything quite like them before.

You may have noticed that there is one word I’ve used a lot in this post (aside from hygge) and that is ‘walked’.  Copenhagen is a very walk-able city.  If you ever go there, be sure to bring a good pair of walking shoes.   Although they have fantastic public transportation and it’s very easy to use, I always feel like you see so much more when you just walk around.

Sadly it was time to leave Copenhagen behind after our visit to Rosenborg.  We checked out of our hotel and took a taxi to the port to board our cruise ship, the Zuiderdam.  Be sure to stay tuned for more posts about our amazing trip over the course of the summer.  Coming up next week: our first port of call, Oslo!

But not to worry, I still paint furniture too.  It felt great to finally be back out in my carriage house workshop this week and I have a pretty french provincial piece to share with you on Friday, so stay tuned!

 

there’s no place like home.

Whenever I take a trip, I always feel like I’m back home in the blink of an eye.  How is it that they always go by so quickly?  Next thing you know you are waking up in your own bed at 4:30 a.m. totally unable to go back to sleep.  So here I am with my cup of coffee waiting for the 1,500+ photos that I took to load on my computer.

That’s Nyhavn in Copenhagen, taken the first day of our trip.

Unfortunately, unlike Dorothy I didn’t just click my heels together three times and wish myself back home.  Instead Mr. Q and I suffered through a very long, long day full of frantic moments of rushing mixed in with hours of waiting in long lines and enduring uncomfortable airplane seats.  Oh how I envied those lucky souls in first class with their down filled pillows and duvets.  I always love how the airline makes you walk through that area to get to your tiny cramped seat in the back of the plane as if to say ‘just look at what you are missing!’

So I added it up, Mr. Q and I waited in no less than 15 really long lines yesterday.  The worst line was either the 2 hour line to check our bags in Copenhagen, or possibly the 10 minute wait to use the bathroom at JFK in New York (I really had to go).  It’s a toss up.  We left our cruise ship at 8 a.m. Copenhagen time (the equivalent of 1 a.m. Minneapolis time) and we got home around 10 p.m.  So 21 hours.  Ugh!  I might have to burn the clothes I wore.

A funny little tidbit about the 2 hour Copenhagen line.  They seemed to be trying out a new form of security questioning.  In addition to the typical “did anyone ask you to carry an item on board the plane?” and “what is your final destination?” they also asked things like “what was your favorite thing from your trip?” and “do you have any hobbies?”  No lie folks.  They were lovely, friendly people and they made their way down the line chatting with each person in this fashion while they looked over your passport and I assume tried to guess whether or not you were a terrorist.  By eavesdropping I discovered that the people behind us were retired firefighters from Minneapolis whose hobbies were fishing and hunting.  Perhaps they are thinking that potential terrorists will be put on the spot by these unexpected questions!

We had an amazing time on our trip, so in the long run it was worth it to put up with those long hours of travel.  I have so many fun things to share with your guys.  My plan is to write a post a week about each of the places we visited.  I think it will take most of the summer to get through them all.  But don’t worry, they will be mixed in with more posts about furniture makeovers, gardening, garage sale finds, Debbie’s new house and whatever else strikes my fancy.  So I hope you’ll continue to stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’m really happy to be back home again in my own space.  There truly is no place like home.  Hang in there while I recover from jet lag, get caught up on blog comments (by the way, a big thanks for all of the congratulatory comments sent my sister’s way, she loved getting them and she is over the moon about her new house), and then I’ll see if I can remember how to paint furniture!

leaving Debbie in charge.

Hey everybody!

Mr. Q and I have officially set sail for Denmark, Norway, Scotland and England.  Woo hoo!

We have some great plans made for our trip.  We’re taking a castle tour in Copenhagen to see Kronborg Castle, Fredriksborg Castle and Fredensborg Castle all in one day.  That’s alotta castles!

I’m really looking forward to visiting the open air museum in Oslo.

We’ll wander around Bryggen, the old Hanseatic wharf area in Bergen.

Maybe we’ll take the Funicular up to Mount Fløyen for the view, or maybe we’ll just wander around enjoying the overall ambiance of Bergen.

source

We’ll sail up the Sognefjorden to Flåm and do some hiking around the fjords.

We are looking forward to visiting Castle Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod, chief of the Clan MacLeod.  Mr. Q’s step-dad is a McLeod, so we have to see it just so that we can report back to him.

Our tour to Dunvegan also includes a whisky tasting, which should be interesting since neither of us are whiskey drinkers!  But when in Rome … or in this case Scotland …

We plan to take a book lovers’ tour in Edinburgh, and maybe we’ll manage to also find the Circus Mews …

We’ve hired a private guide in Inverness to take us to Dunrobin Castle …

Can you tell that I like touring castles?

And we have the guide and her car for six full hours, so we plan to tour around and see as much as we can of the surrounding area.  Perhaps we’ll run into Jaime and Claire (fingers crossed!) …

Most of all we are looking forward to having two solid weeks to chill out and not even think about things like day jobs, house work, yard work, and yes … even blog writing!

Although I was originally planning to take a blog break while on vacation, I ended up writing and scheduling a couple of blog posts to keep you mildly entertained while I am gone, but I won’t be posting from the ship.  I also probably won’t find the time to respond to comments, so I’ve left my sister Debbie in charge of that.  She’s under strict instructions to respond to comments and answer any questions that you might pose (if she can).  By the way, my blog is set up to allow comments from anyone who has previously had a comment approved, but if you have never left a comment before your first comment will need to be approved and Debbie won’t be able to do that.  So if you are new to commenting on q is for quandie, don’t think your comment got lost or is being ignored.  I promise to approve you when I get back!

Debbie will also be holding down the fort at our house.  She’s going to be house sitting so that our cat Lucy has some company.  I’ve convinced her to mow the lawn for us while we’re gone, and hopefully she won’t let my houseplants die.  But she flat out refused to paint any furniture for me, so that will have to wait until I come back too!

road trip.

One of the best things about having my sister and niece living in Minnesota now is that they like to explore the area and Mr. Q and I go along for the ride.  Last weekend we took a road trip south to visit the National Eagle Center.  Apparently this is prime eagle viewing season.  By the way, if you’re curious, that photo above is of Lake Pepin which is the widest naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River and is taken from the Wisconsin side looking towards Minnesota.

One of the things that my sister really loves about living here is our bald eagle population.  We often see them flying overhead, and occasionally even see one perched in a tree.  She gets excited every time she sees one.

We followed the route suggested in my sister’s Minnesota guide book, Quick Escapes.

We headed south on highway 61 through the charming towns of Hastings and Red Wing about 75 miles to Wabasha.

I love these old main streets with their brick buildings and beautiful ornamentation, don’t you?

We had some lunch in town and then headed over to the National Eagle Center.

There were some interesting displays with facts about eagles and other birds of prey.  One thing I learned is that eagles are actually much lighter than they look.  The average weight is between 6 and 13 lbs.  They look big but are mostly feathers.  The farther north you go, the bigger they get, so our Minnesota bald eagles are on the lighter end while eagles up in Alaska tend to be bigger and heavier.  It’s a total myth that an eagle can scoop up your dog or cat and fly away with it.  They can only lift about 3 lbs.

The best part about the center, in my opinion, was seeing the eagles up close and personal.

Don’t worry, these are not birds that were snatched out of the wild and put on display solely for our amusement.  They are rescued animals that are no longer able to fly or survive on their own in the wild.

I also enjoyed taking a quick photo of my sister and niece in the eagle nest.

After leaving the eagle center, we crossed over to the Wisconsin side of the river to head north again towards home.  We’d heard that this was the more scenic side, and I have to say those rumors are true.  Mr. Q claims it’s only because you’re looking across at Minnesota from that side.

You also get to see fun things over there like this fence made out of old skis.

Since we were feeling adventurous … well, OK, maybe it was just me feeling adventurous … when we passed a sign saying “this way to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthplace” I convinced everyone that we needed to make the slight detour to see it.

Of course this is not the actual home she was born in, it’s just a replica of her ‘little house in the big woods’.  You are able to go inside and get a bit of a feel for what living in a log cabin might be like.  It certainly wouldn’t be worth the trip all the way out to Pepin, Wisconsin just to see it, but if you happen to be passing by it’s a good spot to stretch your legs.

Plus, if we hadn’t made this little detour we also wouldn’t have chanced upon the Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery near Stockholm, Wisconsin.  This place was pretty much deserted, I suppose it’s not really winery touring season and by the time we got there it was overcast and drizzling.  However, the proprietor was pouring free samples to help warm us up.  We managed to leave there with some Honeycrisp Hard Cider and some Cyser.

Yum!

When we finally met back up with highway 35 along the river, we had our greatest surprise of the whole trip.  Although we had seen dozens of bald eagles flying overhead, it was a real treat to see them roosting in the trees along the highway.  We saw so many that we lost count!

This was the perfect time of year for seeing them since there were no leaves on the trees to interfere.  Ironically, after a whole day of eagle watching, we had our best view as our trip was coming to an end.

This was a great way to spend the day and I highly recommend this little road trip to any of you locals.  As for the rest of you, do any of you have eagles where you are?