Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

Our first full day at Kongsvold, and we had arranged to meet the guide at 9.30 to start our trek to find the musk oxen. Sadly Dougal couldn't come with us, so had a day to himself. We three set off and were soon climbing up to the plateau where the musk oxen live. We passed through the forest area where they shelter in the winter, and kept on upwards to come out on the plateau, which is rather boggy heathland. To start with we couldn't see any animals; then spotted one lone male up to our left on the hillside. Our guide decided we should stop for lunch before approaching the beast, so we found a suitable area. One of the group was constantly scanning the hillside with powerful binos and suddenly spotted a herd of oxen quite some way off. Our guide unpacked his telescope and set it up so we could all get a prime view. That was quite a sighting!

Now it was time to creep up the near hillside and get as close as possible to the large male we had seen earlier. It was quite a steep climb, but soon we were all grouped just below the ridge. Our guide explained that we had to keep most of our bodies below the ridge as we advanced. If not the musk ox would up and walk off. We managed to get plenty of photos, before the musk ox got fed up of heads popping up to look at him, and away he walked! It was a wonderful experience. So we headed back to find D and tell him all about it.
 Back at Kongsvold, Dougal asked our guide if there was anywhere not too far off a drivable track from where we could see the musk ox - so we could take Dougal to see them tomorrow. We got some good tips and hope that tomorrow that's just what we will do.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

Something of a driving day; but that didn't mean boring. The views along the way are spectacular. We drove from Geilo towards the Jotunheimen, skirting the edge of the giants to a stop for waffles at Gjendesheim Cabin.

Back on the road, Ridderspranget or Knights Leap was our next destination, where the waterfall has cut down into the rock. Apparently, a knight escaped the wrathful father of his beloved by leaping across the chasm, saving both of them from certain death. We refrained from heroics, and appreciated the beauty of the place.

Late in the afternoon we arrived at Kongsvold, which is another Historic Hotel of Norway. It is a really pretty place, and we have some gorgeous rooms decorated in the traditional Norwegian style. The cuisine here is superb - Michelin Star levels. How lucky we are!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summer trip to Norway

We took the train to Finse - as there are no roads into here, it is the only way unless you walk, ski or bike. We planned to walk to the edge of the glacier to see the blue ice. Dougal came quite a long way with us and we stopped for lunch before he headed back and we pressed on to the glacier. When we arrived, there was a party of folk on a trek across the glacier, advancing very slowly, roped together for safety. We took some photos and then headed back to FInse and hot chocolate and biscuits. Alan found Dougal in the hytte, snoozing by a log fire! Very cozy. We caught the express train back to Geilo, which sped on to Oslo as its final destination.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Summer trip to Norway


The first day of the trek took us up Hardangerfjord where we stopped at the Cherry Festival in Ullandsvang. Luckily the rain cleared by the time we got here. Then we drove on to the park centre in Eidsfjord and further on to the Hardangervidda to view the lovely ribbon waterfall. Even Dougal managed to get up here on crutches, if a little slowly. We spent our first night in Dr. Holms Hotel, one of the historic hotels of Norway.

Dinner at Dr Holms Hotel

Saturday, July 07, 2007


This auspicious date took us on an expedition to Brighton. Our intention was to re-visit the glories of the Royal Pavilion with a friend who had not been there before. It was a lovely day, and after our drive and a rather fraught hunt for somewhere to leave the car, our first stop was for a Costa coffee. Suitably refreshed we walked through the Lanes, soon arriving at the entrance to the Royal Pavilion. We walked in under the portico and bought our tickets and received our audio guides. Then began the adventure. As we had not really looked at the exterior of the building, our guest was to be suitably impressed with the opulent interior in the first instance.
The Royal Pavilion was built for the Prince Regent, fulfilling a dream he had had ever since renting a so-called 'modest' farmhouse in the late 1700s. His first villa, on the farmhouse site, designed by Henry Holland(1787), was built over by John Nash, using wrought iron frameworks. Nash took his inspiration from the domed Indian style stables George commissioned from William Porden (1803). Nash's building took seven years to complete and George loved it straight away. Every detail, inside and out, was finished to the highest standards; giving it an opulence hardly to be believed.
We walked down the Long Gallery, where guests of the Prince Regent would gather before dinner. Many guests came only for dinner, arriving in carriages and alighting at the doorway to enter through the Octagon Hall with its tented ceiling. The Long Gallery is filled with many Chinese treasures, which would have fascinated the guests as the waited for the moment when they were invited to enter the Banqueting Room. You can only gasp and look slowly around in order to take in the stunning decor of this unbelievable room. The huge chandelier which hangs in the 45 foot dome in the clutches of a silver dragon, is 30 feet high and one ton in weight. Everywhere you look are exotic decoratons incorporating lotus flowers and dragons. Guests must have been almost overwhelmed with the opulence; you would certainly know that this was a Royal residence
(Photo from the Pavilion official website)

What the guests didn't see, we were able to observe - the quarters where the suitably exotic dinners were prepared and served from. The Great Kitchen is set out as it would be for one of the many coursed dinners, George was know to host. It must have been an amazing place to work in, whether you were the head chef or the lowliest of the kitchen staff. We then moved back through the other side of the stunning Banqueting Hall and on into a succession of drawing rooms, to where the guests retired after their dinner.
Beyond these is the dazzling Music Room. It was designed by Frederick Crace and many people think that this is the most beautiful room in the Royal Pavilion. It is looking wonderful these days, but has been devastingly damaged over the years. A fire in 1975 severely damaged the room, and in 1987 the infamous hurricane dislodged a stone ball which crashed through the ceiling, embedding itself in the newly restored carpet. Now it has been returned to its former glory - and what glory that is!
There are also the King's Apartments and upstairs, other bedrooms as well as various exhibition rooms. All are suitably decorated including some of the original furniture of the Pavilion made from real or imitation bamboo. All this and they have also managed to fit in the Queen Adelaide Tearoom, on the first floor.
Now it was time to venture outside into the Pavilion Gardens. From here there is a wonderful view of the building. Its towers, domes and minarettes are fabulous as befits a Royal residence - and just begged to be photgraphed. The changing light reflects its many colours off the Bath stone and stucco. You can imagine yourself in some far off exotic destination, but for the very British flowers surrounding you. The Gardens are being restored to as close to Nash's original plans as possible.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Nymans is an estate in the Sussex Weald which has been created by three generations of the Messel family. When Ludwig Messel bought the Regency house in 1890, it came with a 600 acre estate. He began creating the garden five years later, appointing James Comber as his Head Gardener. They worked well together, creating several different gardens within the estate, including a Pinetum, a Heather Garden, a Rock Garden, a Wall Garden; bringing exotic plants from around the world that thrived in the micro-climate. Leonard succeeded his father in 1915, continuing the work his father started. The Top Garden was added and Leonard travelled to the Hymalayas and South America, collecting rare specimens to grow in his estate.

Leonard did not like the Regency house, and in the 20s he commissioned a mock medieval manor to be built in its place. He and his wife Maud brought up three children there; Linley, Anne and Oliver.

Then came the Second World War and hot houses could not be heated, and staff went to help the war effort, leaving only a bare minimum to run the place. But the real disaster came in the form of a fire, which virtually destroyed Leonard and Maud's house in 1947. But the garden survived and the house was partially rebuilt. Leonard passed away in 1953 and left the estate to the National Trust. Anne, now Countess of Rosse lived there with her husband and she oversaw the Garden as Garden Director until 1987; she died in 1992. Her rooms, the Messel Family Rooms, are open to the public and NT present them as the family used them in the early 20th century. 1987 brought the destruction of the hurricane to the garden, severely damaging the pinetum and other areas of the garden.

The garden has a romantic atmosphere with its ruins as well as the imaginative layout created by its founder. There are 'rooms' within the garden and far reaching views across the Weald. There are collections of rare plants as well as a 275 acre woodland where visitors can walk to lake and along the conifer avenue.

We visited in July and enjoyed the gardens as well as the few rooms open to the public in the house. The rock garden is being reconstructed after it became overgrown and will be magnificent when ready. Definitely worth revisiting in years to come.