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The Lowry is a business hotel of reasonable quality in Manchester, England.  It rains every day.  Manchester is a cool town.

 

Room 223 at the Lowry is a nicely spacious hamster cage that is just fine, thank you.

Though the shower could use some water pressure and the HVAC system is a disaster.

The view is nice, but short.

Florence will break her foot kind of putting a major damper on the whole thing.

On a rainy evening, head on over to Home and see a movie.  If you’re lucky it will be as great as the Banshees of Inisherin.

Do some retail in the center.

Have breakfast at Côte.

Have dinner at 20 Stories  (which sports not only a great view, but an excellent bar).  Get Lisa to come up.

Visit Chinatown (open all night).

But maybe skip the Cloud 23  at the Hilton.  No skill.  Just view. (We went so you don’t have to.). An attempt at a CR#2 was just, well, just.

This cocktail should be renamed the “Lavender Yeah No.”

And by all means don’t go to the Lowry bar unless you must.  (And just for the record, sometimes you just must.)

WTF?

We did make them try an industry sour.

 

Finally, sort out your ride to the train station the night before.  Manchester traffic is a thing when it rains.  And it rains!

We’ll be back when Florence heals.  Can’t wait to do some dancing in Manchester.

Three showerheads for the Lowry.

We began in Bergen and made a side trip to Fondsbu on the way to Tyinkrysset.  Well maybe we started in Bergen.  Nobody seems quite sure.

We’re visiting Norway again (having lost count of our numerous visits) and the swanky new hytte where we spent some restorative time last year.  The cabin is a magical domain of peace, conversation and easy access to lots of great hiking and skiing.  Gøran and I are lucky to have known eachother for 20 years!

Read more about our side trip to Fondsbu here.

Nova was in the house, and on the trail, and in the car.  Superstar!


The back yard where some hiking is as easy as walking out the door.  Read more about our back yard hikes here. After the wild night and Fondsbu we stuck mostly to the back yard on the first day.  LOL.  Recovery mode for the old men.

The torrent (a small fast creek) beside the cabin features the second biggest backwards waterfall in Norway.  We’ll tell you more about the biggest one below.

A return trip to catch the full moon over Fondsbu the next evening was not a success—too cloudy.  The cold crisp air was beautiful at the top of the range.

The photographer at work.

Some maintenance for the snow plow?  That’s what we were told, anyway.

And then a trip to see the backwards waterfall.  Even the stuff by the side of the road is remarkable in the Norwegian mountains.   We made a short stop on the Kongesvegen to see some old mill houses.

   

Romey at peak Fall.

It was remarkable how much the colors outside changed with the elevation.  Peaking just a few kilometers away and well past peak and into winter at the hytte.  One night the water froze.

The backwards waterfall itself was, well, just a backwards waterfall!  Much fun was had.  Read more about that here.

A herd of reindeer showed us the way.

We determined last year that gøran and I had known each other for 20 years.  We celebrated our friendship with some bubbles (anne’s favorite).

The next day we did a more extensive hike on the Kongevegen to the a stave church built in the 1180s.  Both the road and the church are incredible.  Read more about our kongevegen hike here.

Then some cabin time.

 

A more extensive back yard exploration is always in order.

The next day we went on a spectacular hike and almost made it to see Vettisfossen.  So close!  And yet so far.  Absolutely stunning scenery.

 

So with just the right amount of cooking (including the ever popular lunch for breakfast), a nice round number of negronis, a few bottles of bubbly, actual hot showers (well, one anyway), some fun with music, and a bunch of incredible hiking, we were left wanting more.  As always.

 

We left our old well-travelled boots behind with our hearts.

There is nothing better than adventures with dear friends.

 

 

 

 

Well, there may not even be showers.  And people may steal your boots (accidentally?!) overnight.  But where else are you going to hear a folk story accompanied by live music recounted by Solbjørg Kvålshaugen?  Or run up an impressive bar tab for your 20th year festivities??

We started the night before in Bergen (maybe?).

And then got motivated in the morning and headed up into the mountains towards the Hytte in Tyinkrysset.  On our way, we took a detour to Fondsbu, arriving just in time for the last dinner of the year.  Here’s how Gøran describes it, “If you remember the ski trail we followed along the water last winter. Well, if we follow that road to the end, we get to a place called Fondsbu. They have their closing dinner on Saturday 8th with entertainment and live music.”

A stop by our favorite bakery in Norway.

The best way to spend the drive?  Definitely if you are a teenager.

We arrived and staked out our rooms.  The rooms are very basic and tidy with sinks and bunks.  It all feels like a ship cabin (especially after a bunch of rum).

Eidsbugarden

Dinner was delicious and communal.  Reindeer filet and some red wine.  During the festivities, the moon arrived (one day from full, still waxing).

The dinner marked the opening of winter (and the closing of the summer season).  The live music was great, even though this song is not at all about Norway.  It’s about boneheaded racism.

 

We partied late into the night, meeting mountain men, musicians, and hotel hosts.  Much fun was had.

The boots disappeared.

Late the next morning after fortifying ourselves with some porridge, we headed to the Hytte.

An incredible experience, about as Norwegian as you can get.  My only regret is that I failed to bring my fiddle along to play.  I guess in 20 more years, I will get another chance.

It is in Heidelberg, so that’s good!

And there are some great people in town at the same time to have some fun with.  So that’s good too.

For what it’s worth, NPS actually knows better!  We should have stayed at the arthotel or maybe even Hotel Ritter with the old people.

I mean, any hotel actually named Staycity Aparthotels is gonna be exactly like this.  So just don’t.  LOL.

Hamster cage 223 is just like every other hamster cage here.  Looks great in pictures because of the veneer and plastic.  But it is made of veneer and plastic.  And it has the design sensibility of a modern TV.  Big black slab with some fake wood veneer pasted on.

Speaking of the TV, here it is splotted prominently on the plastic veneer architectural feature.

The toilet does get its own plastic room.

What a nice touch to add those moth orchids!  They are easy to care for after all. And… Oh no wait, they are plastic.  LOL.

Whatever you do, do not steal the hangers!  They are very valuable as they are not made of plastic.

The shower area looks great and there is even glass!  But really, the floor is all thin bouncy plastic.  (We will give them props for good water pressure and plenty of hit water.)

So just don’t.

We’ll leave you with some Heidelberg to cleanse your pallet.

 

Over here on the “used to be an American Army base side (which is quickly transforming into a high tech center, Mandy’s Grill is a great place for breakfast.  Very much international and tasty.

The walk to the center is not too bad from here (about a mile), and there in tourist zone you can find most anything.  Read some science with a Hugo or a Capari Orange.

AAAAAUUUUUGGGGH!

Anyway, two showerheads and no hope for redemption for the Staycity Aparthotel.  We’ll be smarter next time.

 

There was that pandemic thing that put a kibosh on business travel.  Some hotels and hotel chains (looking at you Kimpton) slumped, starting with their customer experience department.  I mean, no customers so no customer service?  Or something wrong like that.  Others rose to the occasion.  The Umstead Hotel in Cary, NC rose to the occasion.  Well done Umstead!

First off, the hotel remembered that we have stayed on their property before.  They left a note.  They provided an excellent room.  The only problem was not a problem at all…that was that arrival was rushed due to late aircraft arrival and there was no time to appreciate the calm ritual of the umstead.  In the end, it all worked out.

After delivering a 6:30pm lecture, it was back to the Umstead and its world class restaurant, Herons, for dinner.  Just wow.  Excellent food.  Impeccable service.  Great company.  Dinner could not have been better executed.

Herons is still in pandemic mode

The host, software security professor Laurie Williams

The Prix Fixe dinner menu is world class, and fun too.  Elk, caviar, fois gras, and a cheese desert that was a blast.

Then it was up to 512 (a garden view balcony room) for some sleep on birthday eve.

512 bedroom. Very tasteful and comfortable.

 

The bar in the hall

 

Looking toward the balcony

 

An excellent bathroom featuring an NPS approved shower room.

 

The giant tub (alas, unused on this trip)

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NPS was greeted with presents hidden away in our luggage.  Yay!  Birthday.  (NPS is 38 for those of you wondering.)

 

Foggy morning view

 

Looking over the “lake”

 

The Umstead

What else is there to do around Cary on your birthday?  Well there is Krispy Kreme.

Hot donuts NOW

And a visit to the NCSU lab.

 

A little too secure if you don’t have an ID card.

Evidence of bribery (see the table)

Then a VERY early dinner with Michael Rappa, who once again is always right about restaurant choice.  Stanbury is fantastic.

The perfect Negroni

 

Three birthdays in the corner

 

Happy birthday NPS

After dinner it was back to Cary for a nightcap at Mayton Inn‘s bar.  Fernet was available.  The waitress was a newb.

All in all, a great celebratory day with three renditions of the happy birthday song…all terrible.

Much brighter morning

 

The umstead entrance

A walk in the park was in order before flying back home.  Umstead State Park is built around an old Mill complex.  A nice warm day for a walk.

 

 

Hurray for a visit with bright young grad students!

Five showerheads and a fervent wish for an early return (or maybe often…or maybe both).

 

Flip the Hytte

November 27, 2021

If you’re lucky, you will be greeted with love at the new hytte, which has become quite luxurious (now including things like hot showers, modern kitchens, floors, and a roof).  We spent 4 days and 3 nights in Tyinkrysset cooking, skiing, hiking, drinking, conversing, and reveling in a life well lived.

Brusebu is named after the sound the nearby creek makes.

We stocked up on Negroni fixings and wine in Oslo.  Then scooped Romey at the airport.  Her entry was smooth (unlike, say, mine).

 

Brusebu the hytte

 

Romey on her first skis (starting in Norway is the way to go).

 

The intrepid host Gøran

NPS tried using randonee skis (usually used to climb up mountains and ski back down).  This is a technology to explore further.

Anne the ski instructor and her star pupil

 

Gourmet cheese sandwiches were available for those on the tour.

 

 

The view from lunch

A quick trip to Øvre Årdal tested the snow tires and resulted in no purchases whatsoever.

Yule Nisse salmon

 

Crooked vimpel pole

 

Geared up for the walk

 

The walk behind the cabin.

Gin flower in the juniper

 

Over the bridge.

 

Face off one

 

Face off two

 

 

 

Roof repair

A visit to the Låve Museum (a locally curated collection of stuff from old fashioned Norwegian life).  The proprietor is a delight.

 

Self

 

Regional costumes

 

 

The infamous hat

 

 

Also see Art in the Corner for one of these farm implements.

Just like art in the corner

 

Stories of the war

 

Bubbles

 

To the hytte

Sharing pictures of construction (Romey buys a building).  The hytte has been basically reconstructed from scratch with a new roof (expanded roof line) and a new floor (including joists and subfloor).  Now it is a luxury hytte.

Table scene

 

Hytte life

 

The new shower (5 showerheads for this mechanism)

 

The all important hot water mechanism

What a pleasure.  Can’t wait to return.

Being back on the road again is so good!  And we’re not even stuck in the good old US of A.  Oslo even!  When in Olso, NPS always likes to use the Hotel Christiania Teater as the base of operations.  Heck, we even know our favorite room (620) which not only has an interesting shower but also features non-rectangular architecture.

Be forewarned, however, that the “getting into Norway” thing at this phase of the global pandemic is non-trivial.  The rules are tricky and they don’t have things set up for Americans to visit.  The problem is the EU covid passport requirement.  Since the good old US of A has its own digital records system (times 50, one for each state) there is no way to get the QR code signed by the EU authority.

What we did to prepare was download digital records from the Virginia Department of Health for vaccines (NPS is triple vaxxed) and then store them in the Common Health app on our phone.  We did the same thing with covid test results generated the day that we flew (get them done less than 24 hours before entering Norway).  Make sure you practice pulling up the records and displaying the QR code when the police ask you for it at the gate of your arriving plane!  And practice being super nice and explaining, “well, these are the records my government makes available.”

That’s right, even though we were flying in through the EU and had been admitted into Germany with our records with no issue at all, the police met the EU-origin plane in Oslo and asked all passengers for passports and vaccination/testing documents.  After ten minutes of “sweating it” in the hall, we were admitted.

Getting to the hotel from the airport is a breeze.  Just take the express train in from the airport and go one stop past the central station.  Even though we arrived a bit too early for checkin (which is a 3pm), the wait for room cleaning final check was only 10 minutes.

Waiting in the lobby to check in

 

The lobby is well appointed, comfortable, and quirky fun

Then it was up to 620 to shower off the metal tube and start the attempt to stay up until at least 20:00.

Here is the bathroom from 620, built next to one of the cupola rooms.  The shower is over a huge stone tub inside the shower room area.  Very not plastic, and a very nice shower indeed.

 

Here’s the rest of the room.

A small sitting entry way

 

The main living room (not at all rectangular

 

The very cool cupola window

 

Another cool window

 

The king size bedroom dominated by the bed and a closet.

Covid has put a small damper on the bar at the hotel, which is still good but is not as relaxing and excellent as it used to be.  We’ll hope that gets back to normal when the pandemic is over.

Breakfast is fantastic.  A beautiful room, a machine that makes fresh orange juice, excellent espresso drinks, and, well, just a great spread.  Sneaking in for breakfast would be a good move.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  First we had to stay up.  So we started at the bar with an arbitrarily constructed not very good Negroni (how can you fuck that one up?!), and moved on to an Indian restaurant in search of spicy food.

Seeing my friend Gøran was a great pleasure.  The food at The Great India was plenty hot, the wine was good, and they made a much better Negroni.  Soon it was time to slink off to bed and crash for 10 hours straight.

The next day, after an excellent breakfast and a visit with the orange smashing machine, it was time for some work in Oslo.

And then it was out into Oslo with friends old and new.  We started at Torggata Botaniske, a very nice cocktail bar where they were shooting a movie scene as we arrived.

A crazy Sazarac variant with absinthe foam (a bit too sweet and not hot enough for NPS)

 

Sami shall on marie

We had an excellent but way too risky dinner at Habibi.  Absolutely outstanding food, but crowded and stuffy.  No venues in Oslo are requiring vaccination proof (though the double dosed vaccination rate is 87.4%).  In Oslo on the street it feels like the pandemic is over.  It is most assuredly not over.

Then it was a visit to the always outstanding Himkok.  We were once again pressed to finagle the door.  Done.

 

Beetroot

Our obligatory bottle of Aquavit was delivered.

All in all Hotel Christiania Teater remains a five showerhead kind of place.  Tops on the Oslo list! Can’t wait to be back when the pandemic is actually over.

 

The thing about Bloomington is that though almost everybody at IU is vaccinated (in theory), none of the places in town ask for proof of vaccination.  Fortunately, masks are required.  But not when you’re eating or drinking.  Things seem a little lax.  NPS bets that one day pandemic processes will be more like NY or Portland.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

The old IU stomping grounds

Bloomington is an oasis of intellectual goodness in a sea of rural America.  This has its positive aspects.  The Midwest is a thing.  For example, though NPS has stayed at the Grant Street Inn countless bazillions of times through the years, this trip happened to coincide with an important big ten football game.  That meant that every hotel within 150 miles was filled to the gills with football fans.  Heck, even the Dean’s Advisory Council arranged to send people to the game. No sportsball for us though.  Instead, we focused our energy on intellectual pursuits.

The upshot was that we needed a place to stay Friday and Saturday nights.  Fortunately our friend (and thesis advisor of yore) Rob and his partner Katy put us up in their gorgeous house on Lake Monroe where we kayaked, fossil hunted, and ev