Monday, September 23, 2013

Provence, Le France

One of my trips last summer went to southern France - the beautiful region of Provence. I had wanted to explore the region more for years. I had previously been in and around Montpellier a couple times, as a close friend of mine had moved there, but there were many other places I wanted to get to know.

I never got around to share any of that here on the blog, but one of my friends just went to Provence and asked me for tips, so I digged out the photos and was reminded of all those incredibly beautiful places I got to see!

I asked Sara Louise at Sara In Le Petit Village for help back then, and she gave me a fabulous list of names of cities and towns worth visiting. (Thanks again, Sara Louise!) All in all it was a great trip and I would love to do it all over again. We flew into Nice, and rented a car there, and had very little plans - we just went where the roads took us, found a camping site for the night and moved on the next day. Such a great, relaxed, trip. 

Good key words would be: 
  • Bread 
  • Cheese
  • Wine
  • And then some more of those three. 

On a side note, madre mííía, how the French drive! I have never been so scared, so many times, on the road before! But well, we survived ... I quickly understood why the car insurance was so ridiculously expensive. (We're talking 3-4 times more than at the same rental company in Spain.)

One of the things I really liked though, was how people in the villages said hello to me/everyone/anyone they met. I really got to practice my "Bonjour!", and although I felt silly and giggly every time, -how nice! 

Another thing was all that bread and cheese, and having picnics at the most amazing, incredible places. Do you realize just how beautiful Provence is? I always thought it was beautiful, but had not idea it was that beautiful! 

Many Norwegians go to the coast, Cote d'Azur, for some beach and sun in summer. If you'd ask me what to do in Provence in summer, I wouldn't even mention a beach but rather tell you to explore the interior. Ancient villages built on a mountain sides. Châteaux's. Lavender fields... 

OK, enough talking, right? Do you wanna see some of what I saw?

Moving on... 

This is already very long, and I will be back with more. There is one town and one experience that deserves a post of their own. In the mean time I would love to know:

Have you ever been to Provence, and what would be your suggestion 
if you were to give just one must-see/must-do-tip to someone?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pueblos con Encanto / Charming Canary Towns ~ Agüimes

It's been ages since I wrote about another Charming Gran Canaria village!
As I have said so many times, I am a bit saddened that so many people think Gran Canaria
is just a tourist circus with no personality and nothing genuine to offer.

So, in my quest to show some of the real Gran Canaria, today I thought I'd talk about Agüimes. There's a lot of history here, and it's a beautiful little town, definitely worth a visit when in Gran Canaria. I have brought most my visitors there and everyone have been charmed by the picturesque streets and plazas, and all the sculptures all over the town. 

More than thousand years ago, Agüimes already existed and was inhabited by native Canarians. After the Spanish conquest of the island about 500 years ago, the old stone houses were adapted to a more modern European way of living, or simply torn down to be replaced by newer, different houses (which can now be seen in the old part of the town). 

In the 16th century, when Gran Canaria had been conquered, the first colonies settled around the church. As the town grew, the old and new buildings coexisted with gardens and courtyards, and slowly but certainly the town grew into a little maze of winding, narrow streets. 

There is a neat little museum in the centre of the town which explains all about the towns history, the way of building and living in pre-conquest times. Entrance is free, and information is in Spanish, English and German. In the museum you can see a recreation of a typical outdoor 
pre-conquest settlement in this area of the island. 

The town is beautiful and something that surprises the tourists is 
all the sculptures all around the town ...

 ... the most famous one being the camel. So random, but so cool.

The church is like the icing on the cake of this town 
(as many other small beautiful towns when I think about it!)

The town at a distance:

If you're interested, 
I have previously written about the 
beautiful villages of Arucas, Agaete, and Teror.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How to travel in Norway on a budget ~Food and Drink

The other day I read an article in a Norwegian online newspaper about the impression tourists had of Norway. (The article via Google Translate in English here.) They had interviewed a group of foreign tourists around Vigelandsparken in Oslo.

I always find it fascinating to read how tourists experience Norway, what they hold up as good things and bad things, and how Norway compares to other countries. I guess my interest in this is simply that I love learning about the culture of other countries, and by hearing foreigner's thoughts about Norway I learn about their culture too.

For instance, a girl from Florida, US, mentioned that what had surprised her the most at first was that no one says 'hi' to strangers in the streets. She said that is normal in the US. Is it? How nice! In Norway, but also Spain, it's not usual to talk to strangers at all (In Norway: unless you are 1. Drunk, or 2. Mentally unstable. In Spain: number 1 and 2 + If you are a guy and you want to flirt.) I think it would be wonderful to greet strangers in the street with a smile without anyone reading anything into it!

Anyway, all in all, the tourists come together on the following about Norway:
  • Beautiful nature
  • Friendly people
  • Everything is waaaay too expensive. People especially mention they haven't really tried Norwegian food or eaten out at restaurants cause it's too expensive. 
That is a shame, but it's understandable too. Anyway, I thought I'd write another (and possibly last) post on how to travel in Norway on  budget, and this time I will cover food & drink.Yet another thing that can leave a big hole in your wallet. 

This is not an easy one though. If you are the kind of person who always eats all your meals at restaurants when on holiday, Norway’s going to be expensive. Restaurants are expensive on a general note. So is drinking at bars and restaurants. 

For the price of one big glass of Coca Cola in Norway I get 1-3 glasses of wine in Spain. 

For the price of one glass of wine in Norway, I’d get about 4-5 in Spain.

Of course there are cheaper alternatives for eating here and there, but self-catering is a good choice. Go to the supermarket, buy your stuff there and have a picnic. Or make sandwiches. Or whatever you’d prefer. There are several supermarket chains, but the cheapest ones are KIWI and Rema 1000. At camping sites and hostels you’ll have access to a kitchen. And a wonderful thing to do on a nice summer night is to get one of those little disposable barbecues (about €1.50  in most supermarkets), buy some food for the grill and head to a beautiful spot out in nature (by a river, lake, the sea! We wouldn't want you to start a forest fire or anything) for the most lovely dinner! (Just make sure to not leave the BBQ behind, please!)

Now that we’re talking about supermarkets, just a few facts about KIWI. They have a few deals that are worth checking out. 
  • Every Friday and Saturday, there’s a “Happy Weekend” offer, (Called "God helg", meaning happy weekend)- a piece of some kind of meat or fish, for just NOK 17 (€2). 
  • If you happen to find any products at KIWI that are expiring the same or next day, you’ll get it for free. If it expired the day before, and they can’t offer you an equivalent, you’ll get the money for the item paid out in cash! (Now that is a great way to save money on food isn't it?)
  • And if you are not happy with something you bought in the fruit and vegetable section you’ll get the money for the item paid out in cash + another new equivalent fruit/vegetable for free. 
  • KIWI (And also SPAR and MENY supermarkets) sell a brand called “First Price” with cheaper versions of the most popular products in most categories, and they are not necessarily worse in taste or quality than the more expensive equivalent although the packaging isn't as fancy as the more expensive ones. Worth checking out too.
(I am not sponsored by KIWI or anything, ha, I just think they have some great ideas going on!)

Other random tips for saving money on food and drinks: 
  • Tap water is pure and delicious in Norway and most people don't buy bottled water. Buying water is really not necessary (and very expensive!) It’s perfectly OK to ask for tap water with your food at restaurants, and it’s free. 
  • If you are a student with a valid student card you’ll get discounts on a lot of things such as transport, museums, sometimes even at restaurants. 
  • At bars, look for happy hour. Usually early in the night you will get cheaper drinks than later on.
  • Look for "Dagens rett" at restaurants/cafeterias (cheaper at cafeterias) at lunch time. This is one chosen dish of the day at a lower price.
  • One food tip is if you are staying at a hotel, breakfast is normally included. And it's heavenly. Huge and varied. So much food. Make sure NOT to miss breakfast and eat a lot! I hear people say they skip a meal later on because they ate so much for breakfast. 
  • Many supermarkets have take away food, sandwiches, fresh ready made hot meals. 
  • Do not buy your drinks, sandwiches and snacks at gas stations and kiosks, the prices are ridiculously high. Hot dogs can be reasonably priced at these places however. (But not necessarily!) 

Here, I've covered What to see and where to go, 
here- how to travel inside the country, 
and here- accommodation on a budget.