Monday, December 31, 2007

Norway for Christmas 6

We had to be up and on our way very early to get D to work; but as we were eating breakfast we spotted a beautiful red squirrel on the tree outside our window. We had to leave and D drove fast but safely and we dropped him off in good time. We headed for the flat and showers all round and then some shopping as the next few days would be shopless. D phoned when he was free again, and we went over to collect him. The plan was to try and fit in a trip to the Candle Factory at Byrkjedalstunet. This has become a must on our trips to Stavanger. They have a massive array of candles of all colours, shapes and sizes as well as other Norwegian souvenirs. They have also built a huge exhibition/ performance space for Stavanger 2008 . We spent some time choosing candles to buy and then had coffee and cake overlooking the new area, which is built against the rock face. This evening we watched the last of the Pirates of the Caribbean DVDs. Its New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay or A’s birthday! We decided to take a beach walk at Randesburg and got carried away with some great photos of the ice on the beach and reflections of boats in the little harbour.

When we got back to the flat, A opened his presents and soon it was time for us to get ready to walk down to ‘N. B. Sorensen's Damp-skibsexpedition’ for our special Nyttarsmeny dinner. This was four courses with a wine matching menu. Even now, there were some fireworks, tempting the photographers to the balcony and programmed exposures. More of that later! We were welcomed with a glass of fizz, then took our seats for a real gourmet experience. There was Kamchatka crab, trout in a pumpkin soup, venison, and chocolate cake with panettone ice-cream and oranges. Mmmmmm! We had to leave by 11pm and as we walked back up the hill, the fireworks were starting. We sped upstairs and started to take pictures as the show began. By midnight there was a fabulous show of rockets all around us. The eleventh floor is great place to view from and there are some lovely results with the cameras. So now its 2008.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Norway for Christmas 5

Friday and we are off to a cabin for a couple of nights. We can't start too early because of the office, but set off after lunch to get to the cabin at Saganeset, Sirdal. We whizzed past the Candle Factory and only stopped for a break at the felt place. The weather suddenly changes from the cold but snow-free Stavanger area to snow and icicle covered mountains. When we arrive at the cabins, we find an ice rink - everyone can hardly stand on the icy surface - melting and freezing has evidently gone on, and D parks the car with care, to make it easier to leave again. The cabin is cosy and comfortable and we can get on making dinner with little fuss. Our big mistake is to have forgotten to bring towels!! Ah,well, as its only family we can forgo the showers this time! The turkey risotto is very tasty, and we get to play several hands of canasta before retiring.

When we get up on Saturday morning, its still very slippery, but we are determined to make our walk up Haugen. We park at the bottom of the hill in the farm parking and walk up the road very gingerly. Soon we get on to the lane by the cross country track, and here the walking is easier. Its lovely to be out and we make great progress, but the cross country skiers do give us some funny looks. They are all speeding along on their skis - young and old alike. We have brought some sandwiches for lunch and find a place to sit - under the eaves of the shooting range, which is luckily closed. This is great as it started to snow. Now the icy surfaces will be covered and walking, driving and everything else will be a lot better. We walk on up to a gate and a bridge, then decide that to get back in good time, perhaps we should turn round. Downhill is much quicker, and it seems that we will be in plenty of time. D has been constantly in touch with the office, and it becomes apparent that we will have to go back early in the morning. Its turkey curry and canasta for the evening, then early to bed, after all that exercise!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Norway for Christmas 4

Its Boxing Day and we needed to get out for a walk after all that turkey and Christmas Pud! So, after D had been to the office, we all went off on another scramble up a hill to get some fresh air and exercise. This time we followed the red markers up Kjolleknuten. Although a bit misty and cold, we managed to get some views, and encountered a friendly flock of sheep on the way down again! This evening is a favourite meal of cold turkey, which we have accompanied with sweet potatoes and veg. Scrumptious. We also watched the second of the Pirates DVDs. What fun!

On Thursday, we need to do some shopping as we are off to the cabin on Friday. D is again working, so we three manage that at the local Meny store. After we catch up with D who arranged for us all to meet up with S at the Ostehuset for a great lunch (this link is mostly for the Norwegian speakers!). S is staying in Stavanger for work while we go off, so we all said goodbye for a couple of days. Fishcakes with roasted tomatoes, green beans and lettuce made a tasty dinner. We had a few hands of canasta before crashing!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Norway for Christmas 3

Its Christmas Eve and we have plenty of preparations to do for tomorrow. D had to be in the office first thing, then we wandered into Stavanger for a coffee. Sadly, most places were closed but we did manage to squeeze into a busy Cafe Francaise. Back at the flat, we decided to watch Polar Express, a great Christmas Eve movie! Then we ate pasta with a tomato, chillie and caper sauce. Before going to bed, we walked to Gamle Stavanger and strolled through the old town looking at the decorations and seeing families eating traditional Norwegian Christmas Eve Dinner together. Down on the harbour, there were some lovely reflections in the water and as we walked back the bells started ringing and lots of people were making their way to the cathedral for the late night service.

Christmas Day and we had a bit of a lie in. We planned to eat the turkey later on, so decided to walk up to Vaulen Tourette to work up an appetite. The view from there is panoramic. It was a swimming pool at one time and must have been amazing to swim with the views of the mountains and the city spread out around you! Now its a bit derelict, which is a pity, but they fly a huge Norwegian flag on high days and holidays and today was no exception.  We wandered back down, walking by the lake, which is partially frozen. The birds were having fun on the ice, skating along and making spectaular, skiddy landings. Lots of folk were out , so the display attracted quite a crowd.  We dragged ourselves away back to the flat and our Christmas meal.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Norway for Christmas 2

M did arrive around 2am and the lads got up early and queued to collect the turkey! They were number thirty something in the queue and the only ones collecting a turkey. Everyone else was there for the traditional Norwegian Christmas food. We went back to the supermarket for the rest of the shopping, which included a Christmas Tree. This we got from the filling station, then we had the problem of how to stand it up. We dropped it back at the flat, then headed off to Sandnes. We looked in all the shops, but no tree stands. There are some lovely shops in Sandnes and we even found a butternut squash for the risotto tonight. D and M bought glass shooting stars and reindeer for the tree. The shops all close around 4pm, so we were soon driving back again. When we got back, M needed a rest, so D, A and I went for a walk up to the lake. As it was dark and the houses were lit up, we enjoyed the cosy views of the interiors with their Christmas trees and decorations.

Its Sunday already, and we planned a walk to Rennesoy Hjornet. We had to drive about an hour to the start, along with one of D's colleagues. Then we walked over the rather frozen heath, which let us down a couple of times, meaning that I for one, ended up to my knees in mud!! It was so lovely to be out in the perfect air with fabulous views across the islands to the mountains. We could even see some snow. We had a tasty dinner of pork with oranges and lemons, which is roasted in the oven and served pots and veg with it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Norway for Christmas 1

We flew off to Stavanger Thursday morning, being met by D early afternoon. And we hit the supermarket to see how much we could find to make our British Christmas in Norway. D had managed to order a turkey from the very lovely butcher on the harbour, which we needed to collect on Saturday. We did bring mincemeat and Christmas pud with us and M is bringing the cake. I'd also sneaked in a couple of tins of Lyle's Golden Syrup for the chocolate crispies. This shop mainly concentrated on stuff to make mince pies, almond tarts and choccy cripsies; as well as meals for us all for the next few days. We can use the balcony, on the 11th floor, as an extra fridge! For dinner we are having Chicken with Lemon and Tarragon. I have started a recipe book on the Waitrose website to ensure I have a selection of things to cook as well as an instant shopping list. This is meant to save time.

Friday and M is arriving today. I cooked in the morning - the first batches of mince pies, almond tarts and crispies. Then we walked into town and met D for coffee in Food Story. Then it was another turn around the gorgeous Christmas shops. More coffee at Steam, and texts from M to say that she is delayed by fog in Amsterdam (Brum to Amst to Stav). We went home to wait for news and it even looked as if she wouldn't arrive until tomorrow - staying in Amsterdam overnight. We had Fish Carbonara for dinner and waited. Between texts and the Schipol and Sola websites, we eventual found that M would arrive around two in the morning! Good news and not so good news as we have to collect the turkey early Saturday morning - so no lie in!.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dinner at Le Sommelier

We had a date at 8pm on Saturday evening – dinner at Le Sommelier, Copenhagen. After a day spent partly on a bus and also having eaten lunch, we needed to get some exercise before we embarked on a gourmet meal at this, one of Copenhagen’s leading restaurants. So we declined our host’s offer of a taxi and opted to walk to Bredgade, instead. We strolled along H C Andersens Boulevard, passing Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and a busy, noisy Tivoli Gardens. Here people were enjoying all this famous entertainment park has to offer. This year ‘Oliver’ is the extremely popular show on at Tivoli theatre, but there are also all the traditional entertainments – the fairground rides, restaurants and bars. The Star Flyer is this year’s new attraction, from where squeals of joy – or terror – were emanating! The lights at Tivoli are lovely – with buildings outlined like gingerbread houses, willow trees weeping lights into the lake, and coloured lights looking like bushes of flowers along the waterside.
We crossed the road towards the Radhuspladsen, where there is a lovely Christmas tree decorated with lights and traditional heart decorations. Apparently, the heart decorations we see all over Scandinavia are pagan symbols. They originated back when Christianity came to the North and the pagan tradition of human sacrifice was abandoned. Before then, hearts had been cut out of the sacrificial victims, chopped up and scattered across the fields to ensure the ‘gods’ would bring a bountiful year. Our route then took us down Stroget all the way to Kongs Nytorv, where we watched the intrepid skaters negotiate the ice-skating circuit set up around the centre of the square. Across the square there is the Christmas market down the Nyhavn, where all sorts of grockle-ish souvenirs are on sale. The cafes provide blankets and brolleys with heaters for their ‘al fresco’ guests and much Jul Glogg and sausage can be bought and consumed. We soon headed for Bredgade to meet up with the rest of the party.
Le Sommelier is one of Copenhagen’s finest restaurants and we ate in one of their smaller rooms, being a party of nine. Some of us opted for their four course Christmas menu, others ate a la carte. The Christmas menu began with a lobster consommé with scallop ravioli; roasted cod with salted foie gras on celeriac mash; a main course of venison medallion served with a roast parsnip, dried cranberries and a cep sauce; and finally a cherry clafoutis. The a la carte choice was a warm goat’s cheese salad followed by fish of the day, which was flounder; and finally they chose pancakes with orange sauce and vanilla ice cream. It was so delicious and beautifully presented with a full explanation of each dish as it was served. We drank some lovely wine; first a Pouilly Fume and then Gevrey Chambertin, which was perfect with the venison.
When the meal was over, we again decided to walk back to the Marriott and this time we were joined by a majority of the diners wishing to aid digestion and thus a good night’s sleep. It was so enjoyable wandering back through the seasonally lit streets thronged with people all enjoying the crisp cold evening in Copenhagen. We said our goodnights and goodbyes as we all would go our separate ways tomorrow, and vanished up into our rooms. As I closed the curtains, I heard a few distant bangs and realised that somewhere there were fireworks. Yes! Just down by the bridge to the right of the hotel someone was having a display, and so our day was rounded off by a short celebratory firework display. What a fitting end to a day of celebration.

The Naming of Newbuild 210

Today is a special day as it is the naming day for AP Moller-Maersk’s Newbuild no 210. This ship is the last of a series of eight ultra panamax container ships – the E-series, which began in September 2006 with the launch of the much heralded Emma Maersk. The other vessels all have ‘E’ names – Estelle Maersk (Nov 06); Eleonora Maersk (Jan 07); Evelyn Maersk (Mar 07); Ebba Maersk (May 07); Elly Maersk (Aug 07) and Edith Maersk (Nov 07); and have been built at the Odense Steel Shipyard’s Lindo Yard.
We made the journey to the Lindo Yard in a bus with many other guests, all staying at the Marriott courtesy of A P Moller-Maersk; and we started out at 7.15am. Thank goodness breakfast was served on the bus, so we had an extra few minutes in bed! As we left Copenhagen, our guide enlightened us with facts and figures about Copenhagen, the Danes and life in general. Dawn broke and the mist slowly lifted from the fields. We spotted a few deer as we sped through the countryside, eating our rolls and drinking coffee or tea. Soon we were leaving Zealand behind, crossing by bridge to Funen. This bridge is in two parts and crosses from Korsor to Sprogo by suspension bridge, then from Sprogo to Nyborg by a box girder bridge. The suspension bridge (eastern bridge) is called the Storebaeltsbron and is 1624m long, which makes it the second longest suspension bridge in the world. Sprogo is a small natural island in the waters known as the Great Belt. It is now uninhabited and a nature reserve, but during the building of the bridge, archaeologists found that it was first inhabited some 8000 years ago. Once on Funen, it was not long before we arrived at Lindo Shipyard. Here we were given a short tour of the area, then we were taken to the quayside where Newbuild 210 was waiting for us.
We gathered in a marquee with some windows in its roof through which we could see the prow of this huge vessel. True to tradition, the name of the ship was shrouded in mystery and a long Danish flag! We waited just a short time for the sponsor to arrive. Lady Bond stepped from the car and two little boys dressed in sailor suits presented her with a posy of flowers, which she carried into the marquee, accompanied by the rest of the sponsor party. Then the head of Odense Steel Shipyard Ltd invited Lady Bond to step forward and name the vessel. This she did in the traditional style and the flag fell away from the name, revealing this to be ‘Eugen Maersk’. We all then cheered the ship and wished her good luck. The name is pronounced in a similar way to the word ocean but with zh instead of sh in the middle.

Now we were all invited on board to drink the health of the ship in champagne on the bridge. Its magnificent views were quite breathtaking – especially as we had just climbed up the equivalent of eighteen floors. We ventured outside and eventually managed to climb one more flight of stairs to the ‘sun deck’ over the bridge itself. But we had to see some of the facilities this giant ship had to offer its crew of 13, so we were lead down to the Captain’s quarters and those of the Chief Engineer; the saloon; and the laundry. We had gradually descended to deck level and all that remained were the three ladders over the side of the ship. Back down on terra firma, the ship towered over us and all we could do was marvel! This vessel is quite a bit bigger than the cruise ships we had seen towering over the city in Instanbul. Now we were treated to a superb lunch, prepared by one of Denmark’s top chef’s who just happens to have a restaurant close by. It was very good – a terrine of langoustine, Danish Marshland beef and a vanilla symphony for dessert. Wines matched the courses and speeches and conversation flowed.
You may think this would be the end, but there was more in store. Coffee was served in the training centre of the yard, and we walked across there, once more giving our coats to the attendants and taking seats around the circular tables. As we sat sipping coffee and nibbling homemade chocolates, the lights were gradually dimmed out and we could hear the sound of singing. We could see the flickering light of candles approaching down the staircase, and a procession of girls, all dressed in white and carrying candles appeared, led by one girl with a crown of lit candles on her head. She slowly brought the choir around the tables to the front and we were treated to a concert of Danish carols. This was the St. Lucia ceremony, which normally takes place on 13th December. As they processed away again, this was finally the end of the celebration of the naming of Eugen Maersk. The sun was dropping rapidly from the blue sky and we boarded our bus, heading for Copenhagen once more.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gifts, Glitter and Glogg

After a long morning we really craved a cup of coffee, so racking our brains for the memory of a lovely café we had once visited, we remembered one in a small courtyard behind the Angleterre. We did find it, but still can’t remember its name! Here we ordered cappuccinos and Danish spice Christmas cake. This looked wonderful – a ring cake made with Christmas spices with a topping of figs, which is then covered with white icing. It was delicious, and we loved the cosy atmosphere with candles everywhere and lots of Danes enjoying it, too.
Feeling refreshed, we made our way out onto Stroget again, walking back to the Bodum shop, Ostergade – four floors of Bodum products as well as Ordning and Reda stationery. They were cooking tiny bread rolls and making hot chocolate in the Bodum Chocolatiere, which we were invited to taste. Scrumptious! But we had to move on, as the Georg Jensen shop was pulling us towards its glittering windows and warm interior. This is one of our favourite shops on Amagertorv where they sell the whole range of Georg Jensen Design. The Christmas department is lovely, with special Christmas designs for each year, and also in the basement there is a small exhibition if their old designs. If you are clever, you can wander through the door at the back of the shop into the Holmegaard/ Royal Copenhagen shop next door. Here again are floors of wonderful Danish design in glass and porcelain and at this time of the year, there are some stunning Christmas displays and annual plates and glasses to tempt you. In the passage between this and the next shop there is a café, which we by passed, and walked on into Illums Bolighus. More ideas for gifts – all those beautifully designed things you never knew you needed. It’s breathtaking! Luckily by now, we know that you can just feast your eyes on all this splendour without crippling your wallet, as you can really spend a lot of money on all those lovely things. So at last we dragged ourselves away to enjoy the atmosphere out in the pedestrian area: Christmas lights; music; food sellers; people dressed in all sorts of garb from t-shirts to fur coats; others practicing tricks such as ‘find the bean’ using three matchboxes; a man being a statue of a Viking; and lots more. It was dark now, and feeling a lot colder, so we decided that it was time for a glass of Jul Glogg. If, like me, you thought that this was just another version of mulled wine, you’d be wrong. We had a short seminar on it from the man who drove us in from the airport, who is a chef when he’s not driving. Apparently, where he 'chefs' they start by soaking raisins in brandy until they are plump with the liquor; red wine is mulled with Christmas spices; almonds are cut into slivers. The drink is then assembled with the raisins at the bottom of a heat proof glass with a handle. The mulled wine is poured over the top and then the whole is topped off with slivered almonds. It is generally served with small spice biscuits. But looking at recipes, it is more traditionally made with aquavit. I suspect every family has its own version. So, we went in search of a warming glass and were not disappointed. It looked perfect with plump raisins lurking at the bottom of our steaming glasses topped off with slivers of almonds; and there were the little spice biscuits on the side. They also persuaded us to have some more traditional Christmas sweetmeats. This time we were served three small yeasty dough balls that had been deep fried and drenched in icing sugar. Could these be a Danish variation of the Dutch Oliebollen? It certainly looked that way to us! Whatever, they were very tasty and would certainly fill the gap to dinner.
More window shopping and a stroll back to the Marriott and our room with a view, which took us all along the perimeter of Tivoli. The rides were now in full swing accompanied by screams as riders were twirled into the air and dropped to the ground. Rather them than me. The gardens did look lovely with the fairy lights in the trees and coloured lights reflected off the water in the lake. The Marriott is situated on the Kalvebod Brygge, overlooking the water separating the city from the island. In fact, if you know where to look you can see the bridge across Oresund to Sweden and the planes coming in to land at Kastrup. We dined in the hotel at the Terraneo Restaurant, where we had a delicious meal before retiring fairly early as we have another early start in the morning.

Funeral in Copenhagen

On Friday morning we got up at about four as a car would collect us at quarter to five to take us to Heathrow. We flew to Copenhagen on the first flight out of T3. Why did we have to start so early? Well, sadly, we had to go to the funeral of a colleague who was diagnosed with asbestosis just over a year ago and who died at the beginning of December. He had worked only for a short time in a bad environment, but he paid a terrible price. The funeral was held in the beautiful Kastelskirken within the star fortifications of Copenhagen’s Kastellet. This church dates from the early years of the eighteenth century and is painted in the typical ochre colour of many old Danish buildings. It is a rectangle with six windows arranged symmetrical along the long wall, around a central door with four pillars supporting a portico. The roof sweeps up and is crowned by a central bell lantern. We, however, entered by the north door in the short wall. The tall clear glass windows allow light to flood the interior, which is painted a silver grey. The pews of dark wood march away from you on either side of the central aisle, to the altar with its altar piece – three paintings set in ornate gold frames. To the right is the pulpit which also has ornate plasterwork around its ledge and the canopy, picked out in gold. Simple iron chandeliers hang from the ceiling and along with one beautiful model of an old Danish boat. On Friday, the central aisle was covered in bouquets of flowers of every colour – a rainbow leading down to our friend’s white coffin crowned with many, many red roses. Most of the pews were occupied, and we slipped into one at the back. Soon the bell started tolling and the pastor appeared at the altar to lead the service, which involved some beautiful singing, prayers and a sermon. It was quite simple, and when it came to an end, the male family members carried the coffin out of the church, walking either side of the ribbon of flowers, followed by the rest of the family and eventually all the congregation. The coffin was loaded into the hearse and the family said their final farewells. The back was closed and the hearse slid slowly away as we stood by the church door in the cold bright air. Now the congregation began to disperse; some back to work; others to join the family for refreshments on the Langelinie. As we decided not to join the latter (we don’t speak Danish and it seemed a bit much to expect people to speak English at such a time), we walked slowly away towards the centre of Copenhagen down Bredgade.