Now that the Olympic Games in Rio are close at hand I felt this is the right time to tell you a little about the Olympics in Athens in 2004.
In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, and 108 years later I was present when several Swedish athletes made history in this mythical city. In 1999 I visited Olympia on the Peloponnese peninsula, where the Olympic Games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD. There, at the time, was for example the Temple of Zeus with the great statue of Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the world. The statue was standing till the end of the fourth century AD when it was removed. Today you can visit the ruins and museums of the site. In 1988 Olympia was declared a UNECSO World Heritage Site. Preceding every Olympic Games the Olympic Flame is lit in Olympia and then transported by a torch to the city hosting the Games.
Here the Olympic Games were held in 1896.
Athens is the capital of Greece, located next to the Gulf of Aegina and the Aegean Sea and surrounded by mountains, Mount Pateras, Mount Pentelikon, Mount Hymettos and Mount Parnitha. The climate is characterized by mild winters and hot, dry summers. The city can boast lots of sights and beautiful neighbourhoods. Before the Olympics in 2004 the city centre was redeveloped and the Attiko Metro was expanded to handle the transportation of all visitors.
Our preferred neighbourhood was Plaka, the historical city centre. That’s where we mingled among small tavernas and shops. Next to Plaka is the market neighbourhood of Monastiraki where we bargained with the ticket sellers. Right in the middle of the square were several desks where Olympics tickets were sold and bought. There we could get hold of tickets we were lacking for events where Swedish athletes were expected to win medals.
Another favourite site in Athens was Syntagma Square. Not because it’s the location of the Parliament, no we were more interested in the changing of the Presidential Guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The imposing guards perform a totally exceptional ceremony when relieving the guard … We loved halting there at night on our way home from the bars.
Relieving the guard ceremony at Syntagma Square.
Athens offered us fantastic weeks, in the morning we could go down to the beach for sun and swim, in the afternoons and evenings there were competition events and at night we had great parties!
A venue we came to love was the Holland Heineken House, a great party area next to the Zappeion building in the National Gardens. What memories! Every evening we were present in our wigs and matching yellow and blue attire …
Cheering on Sweden.
At the end of our journey we only paid half price in the bar for propagating so much joy … Several athletes and their families were there. We made friends with the swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband’s mother, so when she walked round with his gold medal of course we could touch it. We fraternized with Inge de Bruin’s family, but above all we made a later Olympic Champion laugh till the tears ran down her cheeks .. We sang ‘Devil in Diguise’ for Cathy Freeman from Australia, poor her … But anyway she laughed excessively ….
Cathy Freeman from Australia got to hear us sing!
When the Holland Heineken House closed for the night we used to go on to a bar where Swedish fans, athletes and journalists habitually gathered. At night spirits were high there and the Swedish athletes who had done all their competing partied with the fans. Many fun incidents happened, some of which would bear being described, others had better stay with us who were present ;) A classic night was when the Swedish Women’s National Team appeared after playing their last game in the tournament. That’s when we danced round the floor in the company of football players, athletes, wrestlers, journalists and fans. A marvellous night going on until 6 o’clock AM.
Party with the ladies from the Swedish soccer team.
Me and my buddy then went home to our hotel to pick up our tickets for the canoeing competition due in the morning… At 11 I woke up lying on my bed fully dressed holding the ticket in my hand. I had 14 missed called on my mobile phone and definitely 20 text messages. “Are you on site?” “Where are you?” “Congrats!” “Goooold!!” We had fallen asleep in our room and missed Sweden winning gold in Canoeing!! I got real mad and started packing up my swimsuit making an attempt to get to the beach, but I was much too exhausted so I went back into the room and fell asleep again, incredibly disappointed. Not until 7 PM did we get out of bed that day…. When we went into town that night my room mate met a pair of Swedish big fellows in a restaurant. My buddy told them how we had missed the canoeing race on account of falling asleep in the room and the Swedish guys laughed. They asked my buddy if he didn’t recognize them. No, my buddy had no idea, then the guys proved to be the canoeists who had won the gold medal!
We weren’t only partying, we watched quite a number of sports events, too. We watched the US Dream Team win over Australia in basketball. We watched Croatia win an Olympic gold medal in handball. I watched my first final in Women’s Beach Volleyball. The US team won, and afterwards they have won another two gold medals with the same team. I have watched all these three finals and in Rio I have a ticket for my fourth in a row, let’s see if USA will reach it again…. In Wrestling we were hoping for medals of the most precious metal, but even though we kept cheering and singing during Ara Abrahamian’s final the outcome was “just” a silver medal for the Swedish wrestler.
One of the highlights of the Olympics was Table Tennis. The legendary Swedish player Jan-Owe Waldner played dream ping pong and the hall was crowded with Swedish fans during his matches. Waldner is considered one of the best tennis table players of all times, and his resumé includes one Olympic gold medal and six World Championship gold medals. In China he is called “Evergreen Tree”. I remember the party nights with Waldner in Beijing in 2008, his popularity in China is certainly great! In Athens he progressed as far as the bronze match and there was an outbreak of chaos outside the arena when all fans were trying to get hold of tickets. I was lucky enough to get one for free from a guide passing me in the company of a number of sponsors…. Other fans had to pay up to 100 Euros to get in. Sad to say Waldner lost the match and with a great disappointment he threw his jerseys up to his loyal fans in the stands.
In the impressive Track and Field Arena we experienced quite unbelievable events. The atmosphere while waiting for the 100 metres final was totally frantic. The crowd stood up clapping their hands to Theoderakis’s famous Zorba song. We Swedes could witness three Track and Field gold medals, and that will probably never happen again in any Olympic Games. I will never forget watching Carolina Klüft running round accompanied by the music of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’, wrapped up in the Swedish flag after her gold medal in Heptathlon. In 2013 I was invited to a dinner party and had Carolina sitting beside me. I had brought my gold ticket from Athens, showed it to her and asked her to sign it, just imagine how delighted she was! The day after Carolina’s gold medal in Athens Sweden achieved more success in Track and Field. To begin with, we took our seats next to the Triple Jump where our Christian Olsson settled the final already with his first jump of 17.79 metres! Then we went over to the other short side where Stefan Holm participated in the High Jump. The guards were strict, but when they looked away we took the opportunity of sneaking down in the stands. And oh, what an atmosphere among some thousands of Swedish fans! Stefan was in trouble for a while, but after a few awesome jumps his competitors were not capable of clearing the heights any longer and the Swedish fans burst out in ecstasies! Stefan was so incredibly happy, running round with the Swedish flag! Afterwards the Swedish fans went for a wade in the fountain outside the arena, those are sights one will never forget! I had lost a bet with Stefan Holm so a couple of days later I had to treat him to an ice cream in Athens.
We had 17 marvellous days in Athens, and I often longed to return there. In 2010 I got the chance of another visit when U2 on tour made up their minds to have a gig in the Olympic Stadium. Me and my buddy Simon went to Greece and started our week by going by bus through Athens to the seaport of Piraeus. In the bus ride we passed several of the arenas where the Olympic Games were held in 2004, and many fun memories popped up. In Piraeus there are several ferries operating in the Greek archipelago and we jumped on board the ferry destined to the island of Aegina.
The Olympic Stadium in Athens, the Olympic Games were held in 2004.
There we opened our week with a few days of sun and beach before it was time to go back to Athens. We checked in at the Candia Hotel and discovered they had a most amazing rooftop swimming pool! Immediately there was a pool party! From the rooftop terrace we had beautiful views of Athens, one could see the Acropolis rock, and the sunset over the mountains was magical! Definitely a hotel to recommend!
View from Candia hotel.
My friends Tompa and Annelie joined us, and for some days we recalled our memories from the Olympic Games when we watched the changing of the guard in Syntagma Square and visited the Acropolis, Plaka and Monastiraki.
Acropolis by night.
When the concert in the Olympic Stadium was due we all got goose pimples walking in the area leading into the arena. So may fine memories being recalled. It was almost unreal entering the grounds of the Olympic Stadium. That’s where we had reaped three Swedish gold medals a few years earlier. The arena is very beautiful and an eminently suited concert venue. 90.000 fans welcomed U2 and this was an unforgettable night. We had standing tickets and found ourselves too far back since we hadn’t queued up for the pit in the very front, “The Circle”. Those who were admitted there had stamp marks on their hands so I suggested we should draw our own marks, and it worked. During the band’s final songs we were at the very front next to the stage. Bono caught sight of our Sweden jerseys and happily pointed at us. During the last song the community singing was so loud that Bono just stood there waving his arms, he looked almost stunned :)
U2 in Athens 2010.
Athens is well worth a visit, the old temples and ruins are awesome, and it’s an easy way of combining sightseeing, shopping and sun & beach.
Sightseeing in Athens.
NOW it’s time for my next Olympic adventure. I’m off for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to experience my seventh Olympic Games. I look forward to watching beach volleyball, handball, soccer, wresting, sailing, mountain bike, track & field, canoeing plus lovely days in Copacabana.
Welcome to follow my trip on Instagram: lengan11
Have a good time!!
Popular hotels to book in Athens:
Hotel Royal Olympic is located next to the picturesque Plaka (Old Town).
Athens Cypria Hotel
Situated in the heart of Athens.
Location near to Monastiraki, Plaka, Thiseion and the Syntagma Square.
Best Western Candia Hotel
Basic hotel situated opposite the railway station.
Events! Certainly I couldn’t miss the UEFA Euro 2016 in France. Five buddies and myself started planning this adventure together during the winter of 2015/16, and our choice was aiming at the Sweden vs Belgium match in Nice. The French Riviera tempted with sun, beaches and a beautiful setting. And then there was also the opportunity of increasing the number of countries visited, since Monaco is nearby. We had no problem getting match tickets and likewise there was plenty of accommodation available, so we started studying the guide books in the meantime till the departure. It might be important to have some command of the French language, too: “bonjour, bonsoir, bonne soirée …” I read about the rooftop bar La Terrasse du Plaza, the Hi Beach pizzas, the beach clubs and conscientiously made notes of the fact that bathing shoes are of great use … The last things I removed from my suitcase before leaving home were the bathing shoes, to reduce luggage weight. That was something I later regretted as I painfully stumbled along the scorching pebbles on the beach…
The beach in Nice.
Nice is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in the south of France. The city is situated between Cannes and Monaco along the Mediterranean coast and many people take the opportunity of enjoying the stunning views of the coastal roads. If you go by air to Nice you arrive at the Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport, located along the sea in the outskirts of the city. From there the city center is easily accessible by bus or taxi.
The beach boulevard in Nice.
I arrived in Nice late at night and my friends Tompa, Lotta, Johan, Jonny and Peter were waiting for me in a restaurant on the ‘Promenade des Anglais’ boardwalk. The strong resemblance to Santa Monica in Los Angeles struck me. A beautifully lit promenade with streets, pathways, beach and lots of palm trees. I immediately felt that I would have a good time, standing there gazing at the Mediterranean Sea in the evening with the light of the full moon being reflected in the waves.
Nice by night.
Behind my back the legendary Le Negresco Hotel was lit up and the famous pink dome beamed forth luxury up there on the roof. The hotel opened in 1913, and today it feels like entering an art museum in case you visit it.
The hotel Le Negresco.
We started Match Day with sparkling wine on the balcony, and then sparkling continued on the beach. Behind us was the Le Negresco Hotel and on our left the Neptune Beach Club. Pop pop, the corks of the fizzy bottles were launched across the beach while simultaneously Swedish cheers could be heard from the hop-on hop-off sightseeing coaches passing on the beach road. Swedish fans took the chance of touring the city and experiencing some culture while at the same time warming up for the game. The beach pebbles were hot and definitely uncomfortable to walk on if you wanted a swim in the cool Mediterranean Sea. Guess if I regretted leaving my bathing shoes on the floor at home …
In the afternoon we went to the historical city center where Swedish and Belgian fans had gathered in the bar streets. Naturally everybody was in high spirits and the fans tried to shout the others down while at the the same time remembering the importance of drinking a lot in the heat. We met many of our friends from back home among the fans and spent a nice afternoon in a wonderful setting.
Swedish supporters in Nice.
Then we were taken by bus to the Stade de Nice Arena, normally the home ground of the OGC Nice Team. Immediately we found ourselves in live broadcast in French TV, and Lotta was able to show off in an interview. It was incredibly hot and Swedish and Belgian fans began drawing their attention to drinking water in order to pull through the evening. Earlier in the championship horrible TV sequences had been broadcast from France with hooligans knocking fans about and smashing bars and restaurants, but during these days in Nice the supporters showed nothing but happy faces.
Time for Sweden vs Belgium.
My ticket was for the upper part of the stand but I didn’t want to sit there so I fooled the ushers and found my way down to row one near the pitch and stood beside the drummers of the Swedish cheering section. As regards atmosphere this would turn out one of the best matches I have experienced with the Swedish national team. The drums led the cheers and the whole yellow Swedish curve could sing along in the songs.
The writer on spot at UEFA Euro 2016!
Unfortunately the Swedish team didn’t live it up to the same extent. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the fixed star, had before the match launched the news that he would quit the national team after Euro 2016, so this might be his last game. Sweden had a good opportunity in the beginning of the game but after that Belgium was closest to having the ball in net.
But all of us fans went on fighting in the heat singing and clapping hands to the best of our ability!
The second half started, and the score was still 0-0. The Swedes were forced to win to progress in the championship so now nervousness began to spread in the stands as well as down in the pitch. In the 84th minute Nainggolan scored 1-0 for Belgium, curtain! The fans ran out of steam and the team never came back in the game, either. Belgium won and the Swedish players thanked the crowd and then left the pitch while the Belgian players celebrated together with their fans. Ibrahimovic had played his last game for the national team and walked off the grass with heavy steps.
We took the bus back to the Promenade and strolled beneath the palm trees all the time encountering happily dancing Belgians. Life goes on, when you attend heaps of events you get used to the fact that there are gloomy and fabulous moments, just keep a stiff upper lip, after all, we still had a few days to spend on the French Riviera :)
After lots of sun and beach hours we felt it was time for some culture. We had intended to go by train to the Italian village of Ventimiglia to visit their fair, but unfortunately there was a strike going on in Italy so our option was a 20 minute-journey by train to Monaco instead. In the heat of 30 degrees centigrade we strolled among enchanting buildings. The Principality is the most densely populated country in the world and the world’s second smallest sovereign state. Luxury cars shared the streets with sightseeing trains and hop-on hop-off coaches. Of course we visited the legendary Monte Carlo Casino. For an entrance fee of 10 Euros you are allowed to enter the casino at daytime and view the beautiful rooms. No dress code applies with no gaming going on … We walked round, dressed in shorts and T-shirts beneath chandeliers, golden details and beautiful pieces of art, and it felt self-evident … This was one of the few occasions that I was not on the minus side after a visit in a casino…
Monte Carlo Casino.
Beautiful indoors at the casino.
Then we walked down to the harbour with its fine views of luxury yachts and “small” leisure boats… It’s hard to believe that F1 races are run in these narrow streets. Furthest out in the harbour there was a show jumping event and I went looking for Bruce Springsteen’s daughter Jessica, who was said to be present, but I couldn’t see her. Most probably she was sitting in one of the luxurious lounges surrounding the arena. Strange to say nobody invited us in …
Horse jumping show in Monaco.
The streets and neighbourhoods were very cosy and defying the heat we strolled around in Monaco for a couple of hours before feeling the temptation of the beach in Nice again … The trains between the cities leave at short intervals and a return ticket is 6 Euros. A cheap excursion tip-off if you are visiting Nice.
One hour later I was swimming in the Mediterranean again, enjoying the sights of the Promenade in Nice. The water was pleasantly cooling and once more I regretted my leaving my bathing shoes at home in Sweden …. Later I also regretted my using a factor 10 sunscreen instead of 30 like my friends …
Tompa takes a dip into the sea.
Popular hotels to book in Nice:
Negresco is a classic luxury hotel with a superb location, right on the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The hotel restaurant Chantecler has 2 stars in the Guide Michelin.
Mercure Nice Centre Grimaldi
The 4-star Hotel Mercure Nice Centre Grimaldi is situated in the city center of Nice, about 300 m from the beach and close to the Promenade Des Anglais, the old town, tram and bus stops.
Boreal Hotel Nice
Charming hotel with a great location in Nice opposite the shopping centre Nice Etoile and within walking distance to the beach and the Old Town.
Hotel de Flore
This 3 star hotel is situated in the heart of Nice 300m from Promenade des Anglais and 350m from the beach.
Popular hotels to book in Monaco:
Situated 200 meters from Casino square and from port Hercule.
Forum Hotel Monaco
Located in the centre of Monte Carlo, just 150 metres from the Monaco train station.
I woke up in the hotel room and drowsily gazed round … Oh yes, we were in Oslo … The headache was like an explosive pain after a merry night out and I started checking that everything had come back home to the room … Wallet – check, Phone – check, my buddy Tompa – check, Bag …… Oh, Nooooo! My bag containing asthma medicine, specs and my fine camera was lost, panic breaking out …
Well, me and Tompa had come to Oslo, for I had won a package tour to the Eurovision Song Contest. The capital of Norway has much to offer, culture, sights, outdoor activities and sports events. Further below in this blog post you’ll get some hints from my Norwegian friend Mari.
Now back to 2010. The journey started with my arriving some time earlier than Tompa so I walked down to “Aker Brygge”, a neighbourhood that used to contain shipyards and engineering industry, but now it is housing elegant shops, restaurants, business offices and residential streets. Aker Brygge has a central waterfront location in Oslo, and strolling along the marina and all restaurants with terraces is is a very pleasant experience. In the inner part of the bay there is also the Akershus Fortress and from there you have fine views of the city and Aker Brygge.
View over Aker Brygge
I went on with my sightseeing into the city center of Oslo and walked along the famous boulevard of Karl Johans Gate all the way to the Royal Palace. The construction of the palace was completed in 1849 and it is surrounded by the large Palace Park. From the palace you can admire the magnificent view of central Oslo and Karl Johan Street.
The Royal Palace
My buddy Tompa had arrived at the hotel, so I contented myself with today’s sightseeing and went back to the hotel where we began the first party of our trip. When it was time to head for the arena where the Eurovision Song Contest was to take place we brought a bottle of rum just because it felt like a smart thing to do at the time … Out in the street we met a Russian sailor who did not hesitate to drink our rum from the bottle while wearing his sailor’s uniform. Bad luck for him that we took pictures of the incident and that we happened to show the photograph to his commanding officer later that weekend …
At the arena we used the VIP entrance of course, and had fine seats in the long side section. There was a tremendous atmosphere in the arena and naturally we cheered for our Swedish entry to the best of our ability. This was the contest Semi-final and in spite of our support the Swedish entry failed going to the Final. We might as well set off on an excursion into Oslo’s nightlife and forget all about the washout in the competition. We experienced an amazing and hilarious evening downtown and I assume we arrived back home in the hotel very late …. And then the anguish when I realized that the bag was lost …
Tompa remained in bed while I drowsily set out into the city in the morning to try remembering where the bag might have been left behind. After an hour’s search I just had to give it up, but it didn’t feel right considering the medicine, my specs and the camera ..
In the afternoon we went for a park picnic in Stensparken in the company of our friends Morten, Ulrika and Tanja. We told them about our adventures and our friends laughed till the tears came … I needed my asthma spray and didn’t know how I could get hold of one. Then Morten told me that he had some spray in his apartment and that I could have it. However the apartment was quite far away from the park. Then Tanja thought of the fact that her father was a taxi driver in Oslo, and he might be able to go and fetch the spray if it could be arranged that someone could get it out of the apartment… Half an hour later an asthma spray was delivered by taxi to the park!
Tompa realized that we certainly had a number of pictures from the evening in our mobile phones .. We laughed heartily at all pictures but at the same time found out that there was some detective work to be carried out. We could see many buildings in the backgrounds of the pictures so it might be possible to walk round in the city and figure out where we had been with the help of those pictures … We also found a short video sequence from inside the last bar we visited, and there the camera bag was seen coming into the picture, and one could also see a white roofing above the terrace .. Now we had a promising task for the evening!
We spent a fun evening in the city center searching for backgrounds … We made considerable progress but we never found that last bar!
The search continued the next evening in the company of Tanja, Tompa and Ulrika, how many terraces with white roofing could there be?? We met two Norwegian girls outside the City Hall and told them our story about the bag. Jointly we looked at the pictures and the girls instinctively felt which way we should go. We passed the small square outside the City Hall where I had been searching ten times and went on into a narrow alley. At the end of the alley we reached an opening … and there!!! I immediately recognized the place and certainly the terrace had a white roofing! This was the first place I passed as I left the hotel the first morning to go searching for the bag … My mistake then was not looking five metres further to the right as I was walking past that street … I didn’t dare start celebrating yet, any customer could have stolen the bag.. I entered the bar and nervously asked the bartender if they had a lost bag. – Yes, it’s there on the shelf! We saw the asthma medicine in the bag and assumed someone would have a hard time now!
What happiness!! The bag had been found with all its contents remaining. Just imagine the celebration that night, and the bag was safely brought home this time ….
Our journey was concluded with a visit to the Oslo Opera House. The Opera House, covered with white Carrara marble, opened in 2008. Strolling round on the roof of the Opera House while enjoying the panoramic views has become one of Oslo’s great tourist attractions. I was lucky to have my asthma spray and my camera on the roof …
The Opera House.
Stroll on the Opera House roof.
Sports. Oslo has a lot to offer as regards sports and outdoor activities. Ski competitions in the legendary Holmenkollen stadium are classic events. Tompa and myself certainly wanted to experience that atmosphere, so in 2011 we returned to Oslo and checked in at our friend Ulrika’s house, close to Bislett, another well-known arena in Oslo. Tanja also joined us and together we went up to Holmenkollen to attend the World Ski Championships during three sunny days. The weather was cold as we stood near to the ski track and the frosty trees beautifully glistened in the morning sun. The Norwegian people present took great care of us Swedish people and we were treated with food and drink although our own rucksacks were filled with supplies. NRK, the Norwegian broadcasting company, came up and made a live radio interview with me, I tried not to sound nervous … Suddenly a woman came running across the ski track up to us. She was the German skier Tobias Angerer’s wife. We had made friends during the Olympic Games in Vancouver the year before, and it was great meeting again. Then the Swedish television company appeared and made an amusing feature about me and Tompa. No cushy job looking cool in wigs and Swedish jerseys, haha.
Tompa and myself like to visit events around the world.
Today’s competition was a relay race and we had great expectations on the Swedish team. The Norwegian spectators were absolutely fantastic when cheering their team to a victory, Sweden was second. The atmosphere in the Holmenkollen stadium was altogether magic! A popular festival! If you are the least interested in sports a visit to Holmenkollen during a championship should certainly be in your “To-Do list”.
We spent three sunny days in Holmenkollen which we will never forget. The Norwegian fans really cared for us Swedish people since we did not win any gold medal during those days. After the competitions we attended an After-Ski event outside the arena enjoying the views of entire Oslo. The fans were singing and dancing together in the sunset, those were marvellous days and nights in Holmenkollen! In one of the evenings I forgot my Swedish flag in a bar, but this time we didn’t start any detective work the following day …
I asked my Norwegian friend Mari to let us share some of her Oslo tip-offs:
Oslo – the place to eat.
The Norwegian capital – Oslo. The winter is drifting away as the sun is making the grand entrance to greet the new season. On each corner you can see small cafés, bars, bistros and restaurants serving sun-starved Norwegians their first “ute pils” – beer enjoyed outdoors. But Oslo got so much more to offer when it comes to indulgement for the pallet than the beer. If you are one of those beer thirsty hounds – who really want a good experience when it comes to beer, I would recommend Schouskjelleren Microbrewery – it is a nice little brewery where you can have a wide selection of beer. Absolutely worth a visit!
When it comes to eating, I want to give you a quick tour around our capital, let you get a few tips and hints. There are many good gems to dig in some hefty soul food from dusk to dawn around here. Is there a better way to start the day, than a proper American breakfast? To do so, you should go to one of the hippest areas in town called Grunerløkka. It is here you will find the American diner called Night Hawk Diner. It is like taking a glance of the golden 50`s, jukeboxes, sassy waitresses, tin roof and barstools – and please order a tall stack of pancakes and Norway’s answer to a five-dollar-milkshake on the side. True American style! You should make a reservation a week in advance I would reckon, because this is a popular place.
So after some strolling around the opera, the royal castle and the pier at Aker Brygge I suggest you straighten your shirt and visit the Teatercafeen for a classy lunch in historical Art Nouveau surroundings. This makes a sever contrast from the all American breakfast. Here you could order some traditional fine lunch, tea, or a glass of Champagne while you look at the people passing by, or all of the portraits on the walls- old singers, actors and writers mostly Norwegian.
When you first find yourself in Oslo – I would absolutely recommend to have a walk at Akershus fortress, this is actually a castle from the middle ages. Some of our kings and queens are buried here – and also a guided tour is quite fascinating if you are in to history. After a few hours, dinner is perhaps on your mind at this point. You do not have to walk far for my next recommendation – there is a nice restaurant at the fortress called Festningen Restaurant. It is rather on the finer side, but it is not a require to have a jacket. But the food here is just as amazing as the view and surroundings. The food is classical continental – and you have a good sight in to the kitchen, so you might be amused or impressed by their clean work. You should make a reservation.
To finish off a wonderful food-bonanza like this, there is nothing better than to taste a few fancy drinks – and I know where to get your thirst covered. A good walk up to Grunerløkka, through all of those hipsters-vibes of vintage fashion, small bars and bistros you visited earlier, you will find Bar Boca. The interior is authentic 1950`s and the cocktails are fantastic – so is the music and atmosphere. Make sure to order a bloody Mary – because this is the best one I ever had.
I hope you will enjoy our humble capital. Eat, drink, live in the moment and enjoy life! /Mari
Have a good time! / Lengan :)
Popular hotels to book in Oslo:
Best Western Karl Johan Hotel
Situated on Oslo’s main street, Karl Johan, in between the Royal Palace and the Parliament in a building that dates back to 1899.
Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel
With 37 floors and breathtaking views of Oslo and the Oslo Fjord.
Centrally located in Oslo, between Karl Johan and cafes, restaurants and bars in Grünerløkka.
Best Western Oslo Airport
Sometimes it can be necessary to stay over night at the airport. The hotel is situated 3 km from Gardermoen Airport and have regular shuttle bus service to and from the airport.
- His father was a white brother from Liverpool, his mother was a black sister from Jamaica, there is a saying that goes: “He was like coffee-and-milk”. Surrounded by swaying palm trees and reggae music the guide tells us with enthusiasm about the origin of the legendary Bob Marley. Our location is Nine Mile in Jamaica, Bob Marley’s home village. Yet another travel dream coming true!
Bob Marleys Mount Zion in Nine Mile.
Jamaica is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. Sugar-white beaches intermingle with tropical forest and mountain ranges. The island’s highest point is Blue Mountain Peak, a paradise for hiking excursions. Moreover it is the home of the famous Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee brand.
The island is divided into 14 parishes, and the capital Kingston is located in its namesake parish. The official language is English, however the primary spoken language is Patwa, a creole language. Jamaica achieved its independence in 1962 but is still having Queen Elizabeth II serving as its monarch. The first inhabitants were the Taino Indians but they became nearly extinct when the Europeans arrived in the island in the company of African slaves. The Indians had no resistance to the diseases that the Europeans brought with them, smallpox for one.
In the sugar plantations they used to have great problems with rats and snakes so they introduced a predator from India, the Mongoose. The mongooses had no natural enemies in the island so they quickly increased in number while snakes at the same time became scarce. The snakes still remaining in Jamaica include no poisonous species. The country’s national animal is a small hummingbird, the red-billed streamertail.
Food and drink. In Jamaica people drink rum, Appleton is the best-known brand. The rum is included in many tasty drinks and if you get tired of umbrellas in your glasses you might test the local beer brand Red Stripe instead. The morning after you have been testing all drinks in the bar all newly pressed juices at breakfast are deliciously yummy! The cuisine comprises influences from all corners of the world. Jerk is a popular spice mix applied to shellfish, fish and meat. This seasoning mixture is a fine gift to take home to your friends who have taken care of watering your plants during your vacation. The national dish is Ackee and saltfish. Ackee is a fruit which resembles scrambled eggs when served.
Brunch in the Caribbean sea.
Jamaica’s most important source of income is tourism. The largest tourist resorts are Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. From July till November hurricanes are likely to hit the island. The climate is tropical, in other words hot and humid. The currency is Jamaican dollars which can be spent by tourists on colourful clothes, wood carvings, spices, rum, coffee and exciting excursions.
Our accommodation was in Runaway Bay and we had time to join some interesting excursions.
The Martha Brae river runs near Falmouth and there we coasted along on handmade bamboo rafts. We are not talking about white water rafting, you effortlessly glide down the river passing a jungle-like landscape. After all reggae music at the pool bar it’s relaxing to have some moments of peace just enjoying the scenery. Of course you can help “running” the raft if you feel like doing so.
Bamboo rafting at Martha Brae.
You can of course try to pilot the bamboo raft if you want to.
In 1970 Ross Kananga, Jim Gore and Stafford Lue launched the “Jamaica Swamp Safari”. There they presented various animals, for instance crocodiles, alligators, snakes, leopards and lions. At the entrance they put a sign reading “Trespassers Will Be Eaten”. When the James Bond film “Live and Let Die” was being made the film team were looking for suitable awesome locations for shooting scenes. They noticed the sign and checked out the park. It all ended with Kananga himself performing the stunt in the famous scene with James Bond jumping on some crocodiles to escape from a small island, surrounded by the reptiles. It took five takes to complete the scene and Ross Kananga was injured several times when performing. We visited the farm and watched the various takes of the scene on a TV. Beautiful jumping by Ross! We were allowed to hold a small crocodile and could walk among all the other animals of the park. Birds fed out of our hands and mongooses hissed and spat at us as we peeped into their cage.
Jamaica Swamp Safari.
Vistors can hold a reptil.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Jamaica is Dunn’s River Falls. The waterfall is 600 feet long and 180 feet high. It is terraced into small waterfalls with small lagoons interspersed among them. Often people buy a pair of swim shoes to use when climbing the falls. You start down at the white sandy beach where location footage for the first James Bond film “Dr. No” was shot. Then you climb up the falls accompanied by a guide. The falls are roofed over by lush vegetation protecting climbers from the strong sun and at the same time offering magical visual impressions. The guides are good at helping you by showing where to walk and they also assist by taking photographs of the visitors. Naturally they expect to be tipped by the group when everyone has finally reached the top of the waterfall. Dunn’s River Falls is a place you must visit if you spend your vacation in the north of Jamaica.
Dunn´s river falls.
Me, Johan and Jakob climbing up the falls.
In 1945 Robert Nesta Marley was born in the small village of Nine Mile. His parents Cedella and Norval separated before long and Robert grew up with his mother. They tried their luck in Kingston but soon found themselves in the slum of Trenchtown. Robert made friends with Neville Livingstone and in the sixties they performed together in “The Wailing Wailers” band, calling themselves Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer.
In 1966, Bob married Rita Anderson and they had several children. Later Bob Marley was a legendary reggae musician. Down to the very last he made very much acclaimed performances. He was stricken with cancer and died in Miami in 1981. If you visit Bob Marley’s House in Nine Mile the first person to meet you is a dealer offering marijuana to the tourists in the parking lot. After having kindly but firmly declined you enter the souvenir shop and after that you’ll find yourself in a restaurant/bar/exhibition. If you want to see Bob’s Mausoleum and Birthplace you must join a guided tour. The guide tells you about Bob’s life and shows you round at Mount Zion where the home of his childhood and the tombs are located. It’s a devout experience to visit the two houses where Bob, his brother and mother are entombed.
The childhood home of Bob Marley.
Bob Marley´s Mausoleum.
Jamaica is a Caribbean pearl and I would gladly return to the white beaches, the beautiful palm trees and the captivating music.
White fine sandy beaches and palm trees, Jamaica is a paradise.
Popular hotels to book in Jamaica:
Adults only in Negril.
Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort
In the heart of Ocho Rios, direct at the white-sand beach and close to local shopping and dining.
RIU Ocho Rios
5-star all inclusive beach hotel in Ocho Rios.
Rooms on the beach Negril
This 57-room hotel faces the Caribbean right on Negril’s seven-mile beach, famed for its powdery white sand and spectacular sunsets.
Sandals Montego Bay
Located on the largest private beach in Jamaica.
Adults only beach resort in Runaway Bay, with All Inclusive-program.
-Come here! I’m standing next to Lindsey Vonn’s mother! A minute or so after I had called Rickard our dream came true ….
In 2010 me and my buddy Rickard made a marvellous journey to Vancouver for the Olympic Games. We spent two amazing weeks in Vancouver and Whistler with experiences that will for ever remain in our minds and we tied bonds of friendship leading to subsequent golden lined reunions ….
Vancouver is located in South-western Canada in the province of British Columbia. It is a coastal seaport city with snow-covered mountains forming a beautiful backdrop. The city has earned the nickname of “Hollywood North” due to the fact that the third largest film industry of North America after Los Angeles and New York is found there. The city’s largest industries are forestry and tourism. The area surrounding Vancouver attracts many people in search of outdoor activities. Within 30 minutes by car there are three ski resorts. There are many mountain bike trails, you can try white water kayaking or why not joining a whale safari at sea?
I loved strolling about in Vancouver and sometimes it almost felt like being in New York when walking among the high-rise mirror glass houses in Downtown. The only difference was seeing the mountains as a background.
When watching ice-hockey in Vancouver we met a group of Swedish girls who had gone to live in the city, and thanks to Facebook I keep in touch with some of them even today. To give my readers some useful hints on Vancouver I asked Cissi Young who has lived in the city since 2003 if she had any favourites.
“There are so many things I like about Vancouver! It is incredibly beautiful, the combination of skyscrapers, high mountains, beaches and sea is hard to beat for a big city. The access to outdoor activities is marvellous, finding downhill skiing in the winter and fabulous hiking in the summer some 30 minutes away from the city center is wonderful!
Moreover I enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the city, and people are so friendly. All that combined with very good shopping and many excellent restaurants and bars/pubs, and in addition always feeling safe, that has made me having a wonderful time here.
As for restaurants there are definitely all imaginable types of style, atmosphere and food. It’s hard to make a choice but some of my favourites are:
For veggie I prefer Acorn
For Indian Viji’s is marvellous
For Sushi I prefer Miku
For Mexican I prefer Tacofino
For Latin flavour I prefer Cuchillo
For pizza and beer combined with an activity One Under is unbeatable
For Chinese I prefer Bao Bei
If you come from far away I think you must seize the opportunity of visiting Whistler, a Mecca for outdoor activities, located some 1½ hour away from Vancouver. It’s equally lovely up there regardless of season. Don’t miss the chance of visiting the Scandinave Spa when you are there for a silent and remarkably relaxing experience. Deep Cove is another fine area outside the city by the sea, where you can go hiking, rent a kayak, eat wonderfully tasting food and go shopping Honey Doughnuts & Goodies.”
What good hints! Thank you Cissi!! Later in the blog there are hints for Whistler.
Here is an account of some of our experiences during the Olympic Winter Games in 2010. So many memories from the trip reappear when I think back. Events we experienced live in the arenas as well as moments in front of the big screen TV in Robson Square or watching TV in our sports bar in the neighbourhood. The exaltation when Canada won its first gold medal in the games. The Figure Skating couple who had been skating together since they were seven years old and now won an Olympic gold medal in their home ground to the excitement of the commentators: -CAN YOU BELIEVE IT !! The girl who managed to win a Figure Skating bronze medal just a few days after her mother’s death.
Our journey started with Rickard passing the wrong gate in Copenhagen when going to Vancouver. Flight missed and he had to buy a new ticket …. I missed a flight during a stopover in Calgary, so the score was a draw: Lengan 1 – Rickard 1 ..
During the first week we stayed at a hostel in Vancouver, centrally located and with fun staff. We were close to Robson Square which was every day crammed with fans watching big screen TV or mingling among the sponsor tents. There we were in the spring sun watching Sweden win its first Cross-country skiing gold medal. The festivity during Olympic Games is like a drug, you just want more and more …
Festivity during the Olympics.
In Vancouver there were many places to party with other fans, German House, Holland Heineken House and Irish House. We celebrated the first gold medal in the Irish House and wondered why the Irish had a venue during the Winter Games but it turned out that they actually had six participating athletes…
One day I went on some sightseeing, and one of the places I visited was Vancouver Lookout. There you start with an elevator ride on the outside of the tower landing on top for a magnificent 360-degree view of the city. The sea and the mountains at sunset, a magic experience and an attraction that I greatly recommend.
View from Vancouver lookout.
The cauldron with the Olympic Flame was placed at Vancouver’s Waterfront and with the mountains in the background there were many opportunities of getting fine photos.
The Olympic Flame burning in Vancouver.
In Vancouver we watched ice-hockey and curling. That was the first time I watched curling live and the atmosphere in the stands was tremendous. Curling is a popular sport in Canada so the crowd was in high spirits, and so were we, celebrating new medals in the ski tracks with beer and wine :)
We had brought medals of our own which we used those days that Sweden had managed to reach the podium. In the curling arena we were applauded as we were wearing two medals each since the Swedes had been very successful in Cross-country skiing that day.
The Swedish gold winning curling team.
Having fun with our bought gold medals at the curling event.
The Cross-country skiing competitions were held up in the mountains around Whistler so you had to go by bus from Vancouver. Departure was early those days we wanted to go up there, but the bus ride from Vancouver to the competition area up in the mountains kept us awake. Even though we were tired we didn’t want to miss one second of the picture-postcard views outside the bus. On arrival we had to walk 1200 metres uphill, not an easy feat although we were still in the beginning of our trip. We shrunk back at the thought of how exhausting the uphill walk would be in a later part of the trip, we would probably not be more fit, we argued.
Having reached the Ski Arena we were met by a remarkably beautiful view of snow-clad mountains. We were lucky with the weather and during the Biathlon and Cross-country competitions in blazing sun we just wore T-shirts down to the waist. We got a reputation of bringing bad luck, for Sweden never won any gold medals in the competitions where we were present … But, eventually …
One day when the snow was coming down heavily it was time for the men’s Cross-country relay. Me and Rickard were in the stand next to the finishing line and we began painting a glorious vision of this being the day, now was the time!
Me and Rickard at the Cross-country relay.
The competition started and Sweden was one of the top teams. In a relay race four skiers compete for each country, and as Sweden’s last skier began to draw away from the rest of the teams everybody was in high spirits in the stands. Me and Rickard went into ecstasies and kept jumping around from nervous excitement. The area speaker yelled: – The Swedes are going crazy.
Just as the Swedish skier entered the stadium the sun broke through and when he passed us at the finishing line joy knew no bounds. At last we had watched a gold race live in these Olympic Games. People at home were laughing at us as we were shown on TV, and when it was time for the Prize Ceremony the Swedish Royal Couple waved their hands at us, they were in the same stand as us. We experienced several fine days in the ski arena, but the gold medal naturally beat everything else!
Swedish relay victory.
Down in Vancouver we watched a couple of ice-hockey games, among others Sweden – Slovakia in the ladies’ tournament. In the men’s tournament I watched during the first week USA – Norway and Sweden – Belarus. When Canada played their first game all Vancouver halted, not one person to be seen in the streets. Then I took the opportunity of visiting the enormous Official Olympic Superstore. A store with every imaginable Olympic souvenir. At any other time of the day there was a 200-metre queue to the entrance, but now that Canada was playing ice-hockey you just could walk right in…
The first week had come to an end, and now it was time to move up the ski resort of Whistler. There we checked in at the Thompson family who run the Bear Trail Inn guesthouse. We were welcomed by Pamela and Rod and their children Marielle, Broderick and Tess. We got a room inside their house and every morning home-made breakfast was served, what a luxury! We had a very good time and became good friends with the family.
The second week went on with Cross-country ski races and one day as we were heading for the bus in Whistler a woman shouted “Heja Sverige! “ (Come on Sweden!). She was the wife of the skier Tobias Angerer. We made good friends and later encountered each other several times that week. A few years later I made an interview with her in Swedish TV during the World Ski Championships in Norway ….. Talking about Norway, in the bus back to Whistler I was speaking all the way with an Norwegian man. He was very agreeable and we chatted about Olympic Games memories. As we got out of the bus I realized it was the legendary skier Vegard Ulvang I had been sitting next to the whole ride…
Me and Rickard thought that the Swedish team needed some challenge so we rented Cross-country ski sets one day in Lost Lake. That was the first time Rickard stood on a pair of Cross-country skis, but a couple of years later he managed to complete the Vasaloppet, a 90-kilometre race!! Well done! That’s something one couldn’t have imagined watching him in the ski tracks at Lost Lake, hahaha
Lost Lake, Whistler.
The long bus rides between Vancouver and Whistler had not come to an end although we had changed accommodations. One day we went by bus down to Vancouver to watch Sweden play a quarter-final ice-hockey game against Slovakia. Our seats were in the fourth row and several SMS messages from home indicated we had frequent TV appearance. However, we didn’t show any happy faces. Slovakia was so much better than Sweden. It felt unreal to be losing by 4-2 in the last period and finally it was a 4-3 loss. Downheartedly we also realized that the last bus back to Whistler had already gone. We made a few attempts at hitch-hiking but fund no car going north. Instead we found ourselves in a rainy Lonsdale where a nice night watchman took us to a café open all night. We had to wait there for almost five hours before the first bus to the ski arena would leave. At last the bus arrived and we went straight from Lonsdale to the ski arena …. I tried to buy a beer, but got the answer: -No beer before 9 AM! ….. That was a long tiresome day …..
The next day we were much exhausted as we took the ski lift up to the Slalom competitions in a rainy Creekside. During the whole Olympic Games we had had one goal, to take pictures of Lindsey Vonn, the US Downhill skier. Today was our chance since she was to compete in Slalom. After the first run we were chilled to the bone and we mingled around in different directions, me and Rickard. I observed a passage where a group of people were standing and after a while I figured out that the skiers passed there. I stood at the fence watching for a while and then I noticed that several American coaches came up to the woman next to me and talked with her. Suddenly I realized that Lindsey Vonn’s mother was actually standing next to me and we started talking. She was a really nice woman and I exchanged a Swedish pin for a cowbell with Lindsey’s name on. A coach passed saying Lindsey was on her way, so I called Rickard:
-Come here! I’m standing next to Lindsey Vonn’s mother!
Rickard arrived just seconds before our dream came true. Lindsey came up to her mother and talked with her and I could naturally not refrain from handing my ticket to her and have it autographed. There was chaos all around us, but me and Rickard were standing there holding the centre of the stage and having a wonderful time. Before Lindsey went away I wished her good luck, our mission was completed :)
Finally we met Lindsey Vonn.
You need to have a cowbell at the Olympics.
The days in Whistler were coming to an end and it was time to go back to Vancouver to spend a few days there before going back home. It was a sad moment saying goodbye to our hosts, the Thompson family, but together we had made up a plan. Marielle was very good at Skicross so we agreed to meet again in four years to cheer for her in the Olympic Games in Sochi …. Four years later I was standing in the company of her parents Rod and Pamela shedding tears of joy in Sochi when Marielle won the gold medal!!!! That story is found in another blog post in Zleeping Hotels’ blog. Search Sochi.
Me and Rickard went down to Vancouver. He returned home while I still had a few days to spend in the city.
For as long as a year I had been trying to get a ticket for the Olympic Ice-hockey final but with no success, and now it was impossible. Canada and USA were to meet and I read that this was the most sought-after ticket in Canadian sports history … On the last day of the Olympic Games I went out early to feel the atmosphere downtown. Everywhere there were already long queues to all bars to get in and watch the final on TV. I walked towards the Ice-hockey arena to feel the atmosphere on site, soon all eyes of the world would focus on that arena. I observed a volunteer selling a ticket for $2600 …. Unreal prices in the black market! Then I caught sight of a Russian supporter pointing with three fingers at a black-marketeer. I assumed he meant three thousand but I thought he was saying three hundred … Could it be possible? I went up to him and checked. He proved to be a disappointed supporter having the best tickets, Category A, worth $775, but he just wanted $300 apiece! Unreal! I argued that the seller just wanted to earn money, I was a real supporter longing to watch the game, I wanted ONE of the tickets. – OK, said the Russian man and I chanced it, the ticket just couldn’t be genuine to that price. It just couldn’t be true! Ten minutes later I called my father who was celebrating his birthday at home. – Happy Birthday! I’m standing inside the hockey arena!!
Actually a tear was running down my cheek, I had got hold of the most sought-after ticket in Canada at less than half the price! Those sitting in the row behind me had paid $2500 per ticket …
I love the ambiance at ice-hockey games.
I was sitting there in the seventh row, the only one wearing a yellow Swedish team jersey among all Canadians dressed in red. There was an atmosphere of magic, I have never experienced anything like it in an arena. The Black Eyed Peas’ song “I Got a Feeling” was played and everybody in the audience joined in singing. I had SMS messages from friends at home: “What the hell are you doing in the final?” I was easily observed on TV with my yellow jersey. It was an exciting game and the arena was reaching boiling point as Canada scored 1-0 and then 2-0. Most people probably thought it was already settled but USA came back and with 25 seconds remaining of the game USA equalized 2-2 …. Sudden Death was to follow – the last goal wins. Sports history could not possibly be more exciting, and there I was in the middle of it all, just drinking it in. By far the most awesome moments I have experienced in sports. Before Sudden Death Europe’s “The Final Countdown” was played. The nervous excitement was hovering like a lid above the ice, people in the neighbouring seats were biting their finger-nails and millions of TV viewers prepared themselves to watch who would win the last gold medals of the Olympics.
The puck was dropped in a face-off and now it was for real. Who would make a mistake? Or would a single feat settle the final? Canada’s player Crosby had the last word. The puck was shot into USA’s net and a deafening celebration gave all Vancouver a shake.
I had experienced something exceptional and Canada was celebrating its fourteenth gold medal, what an Olympic success for the host nation. A long time after the final whistle and the prize ceremony I was still sitting in the arena hardly believing that what I had experienced was true. With the successful settlement of the ice-hockey ticket in mind perhaps I could also be lucky enough to get a ticket for the closing ceremony…. Very well, I found a volunteer who sold his ticket to me, so a couple of hours later I could watch the Olympic Flame being extinguished while Neil Young was performing. After the closing ceremony I entered the streets of Vancouver where the hockey gold medal was celebrated. The streets were filled with happy fans drinking and singing. What a happy ending of my journey!
The ice-hockey Olympic finals.
To conclude my story I would like to give my good friend Pamela Thompson the opportunity of marketing Whistler to my readers:
“Whistler is a winter wonderland with excellent skiing and riding in the alpine, as well as great cross-country skiing in the valley near the village and in the Callaghan Valley Olympic Park which is just a 10 minute drive out of Whistler. If you don’t come in winter you can mountain bike in the bike park in summer, hike on many of the alpine trails, take a dip in one of the many valley lakes after hiking and biking and then walk, roller-blade, or run through the valley trail. Whistler also has a great array of fantastic restaurants to suit Canadian or European palates or enjoy Japanese Sushi, Mongolian stir-fries, Australian savoury pies, or U.S. casual burgers and pizza. The shopping is fantastic with an array of Art Galleries, clothing shops, and exclusive jewellers. Enjoy the many events such a free music concerts in the Olympic Plaza in the summer, Ironman sport event, Gran Fondo bike race, Tough Mudder team relay, Mudderella ladies team relay, 3 great golf courses, or for non-sporting people the Wine Festival and Film Festival shouldn’t be missed. Come and enjoy country ambience in the day and visit the hip night clubs at night. All ages both young, and young at heart enjoy Whistler Village and the valley offerings.”
Thank you Pamela and Cissi for the hints!
(Do you want to watch the video from this trip? Search lengan11 and Vancouver on Youtube)
You’ll hear from me,
Popular hotels to book in Vancouver and Whistler:
Hyatt Regency Vancouver
Pinnacle Vancouver Harbourfront
Pan Pacific Vancouver
Best Western Uptown Vancouver Hotel
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Aava Whistler Hotel
“All roads lead to Rome” so it’s a bit strange that I have arrived in the “Eternal City” on just three occasions, I must be a poor navigator ….
Few other cities can offer tourists access to just as many historical sights at a comfortable distance.Rome is the capital of Italy, located in the Lazio region along the west coast of Italy. The city has two international airports, Fiumicino and Ciampino. Rome is easily accessible by metro and tram. Most of the sights are to be found within walking distance so in the span of a weekend you won’t have any problem finding time to visit the most famous sites.
When my father celebrated his 60th birthday I gave him a trip to Rome as a present. We had planned to explore the city and attend a match in the Italian Football League, Serie A. Unfortunately there had been large-scale riots during the AS Roma team’s games just before our journey, so the game we had intended to watch was moved to another city. But after all it was a fun weekend with many experiences when exploring the sights of the city.
We arrived by bus to the Roma Termini station and there we took part in the classic tourist game of being scammed by a taxi driver… We made a long detour to get to the Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore and of course had to pay a much too high fare. But nevertheless we had reached our destination and finally my father had the opportunity to experience Rome.
We joined a guided bus tour going to various sights and made stops where we were toured by a competent guide telling us all about the sites. For instance we visited the grand Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II located at the Piazza Venezia. The monument was inaugurated in 1911 and was the result of a competition for the design of a National Monument in the capital.
The grand Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II.
The bus tour continued past several triumphal arches, Circus Maximus and eventually stopped at the highlight of the tour, the Colosseum. This magnificent amphitheatre was constructed in 70-80 AD and had a capacity of up to 87.000 spectators. Executions, animals fighting, gladiator games and drama were part of the “entertainment” people could experience in the Colosseum. When there was a shortage of iron in the city girders and clamps were removed from the Colosseum to be melted and used as weapons. This resulted in the collapse of large segments in earthquakes.
Daniel and me by the Colosseum.
The next stop of the guided tour was the Roman Forum, an exciting square with temples, columns and ruins. In the old times the buildings were decorated with marble and they must have been a grand sight for the visitors of that time. After that we visited the Basilica of St. Paul, lavishly ornamented with mosaics. The Pantheon with its beautiful dome was visited, ice-cream was enjoyed in the Piazza Navona and a football jersey was acquired in the AS Roma Store in the Piazza Colonna. At the side of the beautiful Trevi Fountain people were throwing coins into the water wishing a return visit to the city. The fountain is also famous from Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita with Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni wading in the water. In the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Santissima Trinità dei Monti) young people sat enjoying the spring evening while I was running along searching for the best camera angles.
Naturally we also visited the Vatican City, and in St. Peter’s Square we stood in the company of thousands of other visitors listening to Pope John Paul II making a speech. St. Peter’s Basilica is an enormous and immensely impressive building with hundreds of colonnades and sculptures. A good piece of advice is getting tickets in advance to skip the long queues to enter the church.
Pope John Paul II.
Travelling by metro we experienced the work of the pickpockets. I noticed a man groping for my dad’s wallet which he had in the inside pocket of his jacket so I told him to watch out. As we were getting out two other men stood in the doorway so my dad had to force his way past them. Having reached the platform my dad felt in his jacket and obviously the wallet was gone. He gazed into the the carriage and there was the pickpocket with the wallet in his hands! My dad decidedly walked straight ahead to the man and snatched back his wallet and then he stepped back onto the platform and the doors of the carriage closed. Even though we had been cautious they had managed to trick us and we felt furious and offended. Luckily everything turned out well but it was not OK being deceived.
The best dinner that weekend we had at the Gioia Mia, at 34, Via degli Avigonesi.
My second visit to Rome contained music, sports and culture. I had never watched Bruce Springsteen perform outside Sweden and I knew he had dedicated fans in Italy so me and my buddy Daniel booked a 25-hour trip to Rome. I had got to know a number of Italian fans during the concerts in Stockholm, and they helped me with tickets for the concert in Rome. Me and Daniel checked in at the Dei Mille Hotel, situated at 7 Via dei Mille, approximately 150 metres from the Roma Termini Station. We went by metro to the Colosseum to inhale some culture and get some compulsory pictures and then we went by taxi to the Stadio Olimpico where the concert was to take place. In the area next to the stadium there were several swim arenas and the World Aquatics Championships were going on.
During the Olympics I Beijing I got to know Alicia who is the goalkeeper of the Australian Water Polo team. Now we were lucky enough to know that Australia was to meet Canada that afternoon so in a couple of hours I could combine watching Alicia playing in the World Championships with Springsteen performing in the Stadio Olimpico!
It was not easy finding our way among all the arenas but finally we were in the right place and could join in the cheering from the stands as the announcer presented the teams and Alicia’s name was read. It was incredibly hot and we were dripping with perspiration. We had bought white straw hats to protect ourselves and looked like first-rate tourists! Our first live water polo game ended 6-6 and afterwards Alicia came up to us in the stands for a couple of minutes of chatting, a happy reunion.
With a great appetite for food we sat down outside the Stadio Olimpico and ordered something to eat. I was looking forward to the juicy hamburger I had ordered, but something went wrong and I got sausage and bread instead …. Daniel laughed heartily while enjoying his big pizza … My Italian friend Barbara appeared with our tickets and she helped us getting into the mosh pit right in front of the stage, a good friend!
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band entered the stage and opened with the classic “Badlands”, the community singing rang out and the Italian fans were just as good as we had anticipated.Springsteen’s mom and aunt were there and the cheering knew no end as the ladies entered the stage to dance with Bruce at 1:20 AM! After a show of nearly three hours we happily left the arena. We had been listening to many favourite songs and we were very happy with the concert. What a day!
Bruce Springsteen at the Stadio Olimpico.
I have made two visits to the fine Stadio Olimpico arena. In 2009 I was lucky enough to win a trip to the Champions League Final in Rome between Barcelona and Manchester United. We were a party of 30 included in the journey and there I got to know a number of friends whom I keep in touch with even today.
At 2:00 AM I returned home from a wild weekend in Liverpool and at 6:00 AM I rose from bed and got to the Stockholm-Arlanda airport. There I was met by the other travellers but also by a TV team recording a feature of the airport. They had heard of my trip and wanted to make an interview before departure. I had not wholly recovered from the Liverpool adventure so this was a shaky start of the day …
A couple of hours later we checked in at a hotel in Rome and the visit started with dinner, where I was lucky enough to be seated at the same table as a Swedish journalist and also Henrik Strömblad who was to be the commentator in Swedish television. Discussing sports events with those neighbours at table was interesting.
I had time for some short sightseeing and of course the first stop was another visit to the Colosseum. There you could have your picture taken together with the Champions League Trophy and a great number of fans were there.
The Champions League Trophy at Colosseum.
At the Trevi Fountain there was a huge crowd of Barcelona fans and their singing reverberated in the alleys.
Barcelona fans at Fontana di Trevi.
When it was time for the game to start we went by tram to the arena and it was a wonder no-one fainted inside the carriage, it was unbelievably hot and perspiration was dripping down our backs. We had a firm grasp of our longed-for tickets and I had goose pimples along my arms as I took my seat in one corner of the arena. Spirits were high and the fans of the two teams were singing their chants long before kick-off. Sitting beside me were two Barcelona fans who had come all the way from Mexico to watch the game. A few hours later they were crying with happiness … Barcelona totally outclassed Manchester United and easily won by 2-0. I was happy, having experienced my first Champions League Final and after the match I could watch the Manchester players in low spirits walking into their hotel, for our hotel was just next to it.
Champions League Final 2009.
Rome is certainly a city worth seeing and I recommend a visit – if you haven’t already been there.
Bring walk-friendly shoes and have your camera ready :)
You’ll hear from me,
Popular hotels to book in Rome:
Small hotel in a contemporary urban style with a perfect location on a quiet side street off Via Veneto – known from the movie La Dolce Vita with Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni.
Popular and centrally located hotel with e.g. Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps and shopping around the corner.
Located in Rome’s historic centre, just opposite of Porta Maggiore Square.
Family run hotel with a great tradition (Ibsen wrote Brand here) and a good location between Via Veneto, Piazza di Spagna and Fontana di Trevi.
In the centre of Rome, close to Via Veneto.
Located in an 17th century building a few meters from Piazza Barberini and a few minutes walk from the Trevi Fountain in central Rome.
Family run Daisy is something as unique as apartments in the most centric parts of Rome.
Now wait a minute, was that a herd of goats in the pasture ground with we just passed outside the football stadium in Liechtenstein? Or was it a gang of dressed up hooligans?…..
Me and my friends love attending various events and we preferably combine them with visiting new cities and countries. This has resulted in many sports and music journeys all over the world and I look forward to the pleasure of eventually writing my memoirs ;) My watchword is: “In Heaven I intend to be a Teller, not a Listener”. And if you plan is having a bunch of good stories for Heaven, you can’t very well sit at home on your coach, you have to gather in a number of memorable experiences, and some of them I let my readers share here in Zleeping Hotels’ travel blog.
We habitually follow the Swedish National football team and when it was decided that they were to meet Liechtenstein in the qualifying games for the UEFA Euro 2016 in France we felt like going to watch the away game. It finally turned out that we were ten football fans who had made up our minds to go to the Principality of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein is bordered by Switzerland and Austria, and Vaduz, the capital, has approximately 5,000 inhabitants. The city’s football arena, Rheinpark Stadion has a capacity of just over 6,000 spectators. (Plus an unknown number of goats grazing outside …) The city is surrounded by beautiful mountains and I guess those were the Alps where the ski racers Hanni and Andreas Wenzel were practising in the late seventies when they were greatly successful in the World Cup.
In Switzerland with the mountain tops of Lichtenstein in the background.
The Match-day started with our leaving Stockholm in the morning to go by air to Zurich in Switzerland. At the airport two rented cars were waiting and we set out on our trip in a beautiful landscape. The valleys were blazing in autumn colours and the impressive mountains had steep rocks and misty peaks. As we were passing the Walensee Lake our cameras almost got overheated with shots from inside the car, not even one picture was good …. certainly we ought to have taken the time for a short tourist stop but all of us wanted to hurry to the end destination.
There are beautiful views from the road between Zurich and Vaduz.
After a one-hour drive we reached Sevelen, a neighbouring city of Vaduz, but on the Swiss side of the border. After a hasty check in at our accommodation we rejoined at the Bahnhof restaurant where we had very tasty schnitzels. The sun was shining and the surrounding mountains formed the background setting. Onto our tables there appeared small schnapps out of the restaurant’s own plastic containers …… -We are not in a Scout Camp!! We tested schnapps of various colours and they didn’t have a nice taste, but they made a good start of the preparation of the evening’s match that was to take place some mile east of Sevelen.
Nice lunch in Sevelen at restaurant Bahnhof.
We arrived in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein after a short taxi ride. On a hilltop above us was the handsome Vaduz Castle, the residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans Adam II.
Vaduz Castle, the residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein.
The small streets were swarming with Swedish fans who had begun warming up for the game. In a square the was a big party tent where the official gathering took place. There was a tremendous atmosphere with hundreds of fans performing classic hits in the community singing. The restaurants in front of the square must have had the best afternoon of the year as the fans in yellow jerseys kept eating and drinking for several hours in the sun. The start of the game was approaching, so it was time for the traditional march towards the arena. The supporters paraded through Vaduz and the cheers re-echoed from the house fronts. Just before reaching the Rheinpark Stadion we passed the field with the goats, not a frequent feature in our supporter parades …
Swedish supporters gathering before the game.
The goats outside Rheinpark.
In front of 4,740 spectators the National Anthems were played and the the qualifying game was due. After some initial problems of finding positions Sweden totally took over the game and in the 19th minute Marcus Berg scored 1-0 for the yellow Swedes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a penalty kick in the end of the first half and at half-time the score was still 0-1. In the Swedish part of the stands we were not particularly happy about the outcome, but our spirits rose in the 56th minute as Zlatan with a hard right footed shot scored 2-0, which also was the final score. This was not a match going down in history as an enjoyable, entertaining game, but everything else related to it was great fun as usual. And I found some palm trees I Vaduz, a fine city …
Liechtenstein – Sweden 0-2.
The day after the game we drove back to Zurich and checked in at the Basilea Hotel. We took the opportunity of staying one whole day in the largest city of Switzerland. Celebrating victory had now transformed into celebrating the birthday of one member of the party. In the pedestrian area of Niederdorfstrasse we found the Vallocaia restaurant, where we drank Petri’s health and sang for him on his birthday. Some of us found our way to the Bahnhofstrasse shopping area, and there a pair of Swiss Army Knives were purchased, one real and one made of chocolate ….
Niederdorfstrasse in Zurich.
Exhausted from all shopping we sat down in an open-air café along the river Limmat that runs through the city. All sightseeing we had time for was our walking around in the city center, no sightseeing bus this time …
The river Limmat in Zurich.
In the evening celebrating Petri continued and we found time for visiting many nice pubs with dancing and roars of laughter. In the Niederdorfstrasse there were plenty of cosy bars and the night was concluded with Champagne at the Big Ben pub to celebrate our luck in horse racing betting that day ..
Fagged out football fans afterwards returned to Sweden carrying another marvellous adventure in our luggage. Many laughters, beautiful sights, a game victory and pleasant company. Everybody was very happy with the trip and we will be observed again when Sweden is out in Europe playing qualifying games for the next championship. As I said, combining events with visiting new cities is a fine travel concept :)
Popular hotels to book in Zurich:
Crowne Plaza Zurich
Hotel amenities include restaurants, bar, swimming pool, business centre and gym.
Best Western Montana
This hotel is in a central location, within a short walking distance from the shopping street Bahnhofstrasse and the Central station.
Pool topped tower in suburban Zurich.
NH Zurich Airport
NH Airport hotel is conveniently located close to the airport and 12 km from centre of Zurich.
Popular hotels to book in Vaduz:
Small Relais & Chateaux hotel surrounded by its own grounds located in Vaduz, the capital of the principality of Liechtenstein, with views over the Rhine valley, the Swiss Alps and the Castle of Vaduz.
As the sightseeing coach is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in the heat of the July night with Manhattan’s skyline glittering in the dark and the guide singing “New York, New Yooooooork” then I feel at my best. Or sensing the skin of my arm getting goose pimples all over as I sit in a bar decorated for Christmas in SoHo humming along in The Pouges’s “Fairytale of New York”. I love the city that has so much to offer, and the best thing is that after all my visits there I still have many things to see and experience, so – I’ll be back!
The Big Apple is situated at the mouth of the Hudson River on the US East Coast. The city consists of five boroughs: Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan. From the three major airports John F Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty you have easy access to Manhattan by bus, train or subway.
From the pier in Brooklyn there is a great view over Manhattan.
For a long time I had dreamt of visiting New York and in 1998 me and my buddies Magnus and Mattias went to see The City That Never Sleeps. We joined an organized NHL tour and in December we landed in a New York decked out for Christmas. We stayed at the Pennsylvania Hotel, a stone’s throw away from the classic Madison Square Garden arena.
Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden.
The very first night it was already time for the first NHL game of the trip and I remember several members of the tour party having difficulties in keeping their eyes open on account of the jet-lag. I for one had no problem with fatigue, as I was eager with expectation of watching “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky! What an experience to watch New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden, and the fact that they met Colorado with the Swedish star Peter Forsberg didn’t make it any worse. Forsberg scored and settled the game with Colorado winning 2-1. After the match we went to the player entrance where our travel agency had arranged for us to meet the players Peter Forsberg, Ulf Samuelsson, Niklas Sundström and Joe Sakic. Afterwards Peter Forsberg visited us at our hotel so I just had to run off and buy a 216-dollar Colorado jersey which Peter autographed ….
In between the games we had time for some sightseeing in the city, radiant with Christmas illumination. At Rockefeller Center we visited the famous ice skating rink and the tall Christmas tree, of course.
A visit to the famous ice skating rink at Rockefeller Plaza, is a must.
Just like King Kong we climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, possibly a Tourist Trap, but actually one is obliged to get up there when first visiting the city, the views are magnificent :)
View from Empire State Building.
We paid a visit to the bar on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center and rushed through Chinatown, Central Park and Harlem. This was a short weekend trip that made us want more, and even then I knew that I would return to NY. The trip was concluded with an NHL game in New Jersey: New Jersey Devils vs Colorado. The Devils won by 5-3 and everybody was in high spirits in the Continental Airlines Arena.
Central Park is a popular place for New Yorkers to work out, see a concert or just relax.
One of the great dreams I have nourished is watching Bruce Springsteen in the neighbourhood of his home in New jersey. I thought that dream would never come true, but in 2009 he was to perform several nights at Giants Stadium and I seized the opportunity! Me and my friend Anna booked the journey together but it almost came to an end before it started …. Anna went by air from Gothenburg via Brussels and I was to go from Stockholm. As I was queuing at Arlanda airport a lady checked my ticket with a small gadget, she looked hesitant. After a while she returned and told me that my booking was not to be found in the list of passengers …… My travel agency had changed my booking from another flight, and somewhere something had failed. I was given a standby ticket and had to wait until all other passengers finished boarding to see if there would be a vacant seat in the booked up aircraft. There I was standing with my and Anna’s tickets for two shows …… At last I was told there was a seat for me, a good start of the journey …. I was immensely relieved when I met Anna in New York and we could check in at the Pennsylvania Hotel. The hotel is located next to Penn Station and from there we went by train to Meadowlands in NewJersey. The Giants Stadium arena was to be demolished and Springsteen’s concerts were the last to be performed there.
We entered the arena, and what an overwhelming feeling to gaze at the big grandstands from the field down below. We advanced all the way to the edge of the stage where I met Elena, an Italian girl I had encountered at the concerts in Stockholm and Rome. Sometimes it’s a small world. Soon the time of waiting was over. When E Street Band entered the stage a deafening cheering arose, and finally Springsteen and his perpetual companion Clarence Clemons appeared. The first song was “Wrecking Ball”, a new song written for the occasion describing Giants Stadium history and the fact that the arena was on the point of being demolished: “Let me see what you got, give me your best shot, bring on your wrecking ball”. The whole album “Born to Run” was played in a row and many of my favourite songs were performed. Yet another dream had been fulfilled and the show was brought to a close with great fireworks.
We had places in the first row during Bruce Springsteens concert at Giants Stadium.
The second day of our trip started with a visit in the Empire State Building, and afterwards we returned to Giants Stadium to get good seats for the last concert in the arena. Standing in the queue we met Tom who had watched more than 200 Springsteen concerts, there we had met our match …. I also met my Italian friends Rob and Veronica whom I had got to know during concerts in Stockholm and Rome. As we took our seats in front of the stage we happened to sit beside the legendary basketball player Pat Riley, and many people wanted to have pictures taken in his company that night :)
In the course of this evening the band played the entire Born in the USA album. Nothing could have been more awesome for me. In 1985 I bought that cassette tape, the first time I encountered Springsteen, and 24 years later when he stroke the first notes of “Born in the USA”, in the USA, in New Jersey, it was such a grand moment that the goose pimples spread all over my body. For 3 hours and 20 minutes the band showered classic songs plus some new ones upon us. That was the last I saw of Clarence Clemons in E Street Band, he passed away in consequence of a stroke in 2011.
In 2014 U2, the rock band, launched their tour schedule for 2015 and I noticed that they were going to perform eight nights in New York that summer. I had never been in New York in the summer and I was also dreaming of going to New Jersey to visit Springsteen’s neighbourhood in Asbury Park so I booked a flight and bought tickets for one of U2′s nights in Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately I didn’t find anyone able/willing to come along with me so in June I was still doubtful whether I could go, but then I made up my mind that this was to be an outstanding week and planning began moving. I spent many hours in front of my computer and arranged a fantastic week in the US. To begin with I rented a room in an apartment for a couple of days, and then I went up to Boston to see a friend of mine who is a scientist at Harvard. Well there I also had time to attend the best concert of that summer, Taylor Swift in the Gillette Stadium. Finally my journey came to an end in New York City with accommodation at the fine Empire Hotel.
The cosy roof top bar at Empire Hotel.
I started my trip by ticking off an item of my Bucket List, watching baseball at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees played against Baltimore and even though I was not familiar with the rules it was still an experience to watch a game live. I didn’t watch the whole game since my jet-lag said it was time to go home and sleep, but all the same I think the home team was leading the game when I left the arena :)
Baseball at Yankee Stadium.
Day two commenced with a journey by train down to Belmar in New Jersey where I headed for the seafront and encountered a long sandy beach with beautiful small houses along the boardwalk. I made yet another dream come true, visiting Springsteen’s New Jersey. It was 32 degrees centigrade as I was walking the 2½ miles from Belmar to Asbury Park with the Springsteen album “The River” in my earphones. In Asbury Park I entered the iconic Stone Pony Bar where Bruce has appeared many times over the years. The walls of the venue were filled with pictures from concerts and parties, and in a way it felt like entering The Cavern in Liverpool where the Beatles have performed so many times.
The Stone Pony, a classic bar in Asbury Park where Springsteen has performed many times throughout the years.
I walked along the Asbury Boulevard till I reached the next classic bar, The Wonder Bar. There Springsteen had given a concert only four days earlier and I met a security guard who showed me photos of the concerts in his mobile phone. The crowd outside had been in a turmoil as the venue is small and there were many fans outside wanting to get a glimpse of Bruce at the windows. He dedicated one of the songs to the fans cheering outside.
This was a fine day in Asbury and I got a nasty sunburn lying on a park bench indulging myself in the atmosphere.
With train it is possible to travel down to New Jerseys wonderful beaches, here Asbury Park.
Moreover I had time to meet my friend Michael who lives in Belmar before it was time to catch the return train to New York City. There I went to Times Square, one of many favourite spots in New York. I love all neon signs and the throng of people there. There is a small platform with red steps in the square where you can sit enjoying everything with free Wi-Fi provided if you feel like connecting to send a photo home on the internet.
Once can sit for hours at Times Square, just looking at all the people passing by and all the neon signs.
Later I walked southwards and halted in the intersection of Broadway and W 34th Street. In the light of the sunset I could watch the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building and the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center). This was a good start of my journey and even at that time I felt that I had taken the right decision to make the trip even though I travelled alone.
After that I spent some days in Boston before I was back in NYC and checked in at the Empire Hotel. I immediately made my way to the swimming pool on the 13th floor and met a marvellous view in the sunset. The skyscrapers were glowing in the evening light and I felt myself being welcomed by my favourite city. A long evening walk followed, where I ticked off a number of sights like Times Square (once more) the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle and much to my delight I found some palm trees at Rockefeller Center :)
It is possible to find palm trees in New York! Here are some at Rockefeller Center.
Having ascended the Empire State Building a couple of times I now chose going up to the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center. From the 67th to the 70th floor you get enchanting views of the city. I was there at night and the city, illuminated by street lightning and neon signs presented an awesome sight. To enjoy the night lightning even more I joined a bus tour through the city after nightfall. It was a magical sensation crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and watching Manhattan’s skyline at night!!
Manhattan skyline, seen from Brooklyn.
Naturally I took my time to go on a sightseeing tour by Hop-on Hop-off bus, as you know I do so in all cities ;) The New York tour is comprehensive, all the time you recognize the environment from movies and TV series and the guides onboard are good at giving details about various neighbourhoods and sights. I hopped off at several stops, the first one was Ground Zero where the two Twin Towers stood before the terrorist attack in 2001. Surrounding the two memorial sites where the towers were standing is a wall bearing the names of those killed in the attack. I saw some people placing white roses on some of the names and asked why. It turned out that the victims are given a white rose on their birthdays.
I went on to the sightseeing boat included in the tour ticket and finally saw the Statue of Liberty at close range. In the blazing sunshine I also got some good pictures of Manhattan’s skyscrapers from the boat.
Go for a sightseeing boat trip and see the Statue of Liberty from the water!
After my visiting the squirrels in Battery Park time had come for one of the highlights of the trip, a helicopter ride above Manhattan. Actually I had been up in a police helicopter before so it wasn’t the first time I took off in such an aircraft but obviously I felt giddy as we rounded the Statue of Liberty and then went north above the Hudson River. My camera worked hard while we were passing Downtown, Midtown and Uptown. When we reached the Yankee Stadium area we turned back southwards and after a 15-minute flight we landed safely again.
If you have time go for a helicopter tour in New York!
I have always had a weakness for the Brooklyn Bridge, in a way it’s the symbol of New York for me. This time I crossed the bridge on foot from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The July heat made me suffer and I was dripping with perspiration but who cared as I ticked off yet another item of my Bucket List :)
To walk over the Brooklyn Bridge should be on everybodies to-do-list!
All in a sweat I headed for the subway but there conditions were no better. In Boston they had fans in the subway stations, but I couldn’t see any of them in New York, it was dreadfully hot before you could enter the cars having air conditioning. At Columbus Circle I got out and took a walk in Central Park where people were lying in the sun, playing games or performing physical exercise with skyscrapers hovering above the treetops of the park as a background.
I went to the famous Loeb Boathouse restaurant and watched all the people drifting on the lake in rented rowboats. This is a very cosy site and I can imagine the magic there at night. Bethesda Terrace is another beautiful site where you can go down to the water and watch the turtles swimming around. At Strawberry Fields there is a mosaic on the ground with the word “Imagine”, a tribute to John Lennon. Of course a singer was sitting there playing the song Imagine with the tourists joining in singing. A short walk from there is the street door where Lennon was murdered an shot dead in 1980 at 1, W72nd Street. Now I had just one item left on my To Do List, to visit the American Museum of Natural History. I didn’t have much time and that was the only occasion when my planning of the trip had failed. I was totally lost in the museum and had difficulties in finding my way out to get back to the hotel ….
The last night of my trip was the date of the U2 concert in Madison Square Garden. They featured an open stage and I sat beside it on the short side. I knew the show was going to start when Patti Smith’s “People have the Power” reverberated in the loudspeakers and when it was faded out U2 entered the stage and cheering knew no bounds. Just like in Los Angeles the show opened with “The Miracle (Of Joey Malone)” and the fans caught on and joined the singing. It was a good start but just like in LA the show lost speed as they played the songs of the latest album. The fans in the seating area sat down to stand up again when the classic songs were played. “One” concluded the show, and Bono made the audience join in a beautiful community singing. It was a super sensation sitting beside the stage, watching the crowd standing in front of it.
U2 performing in the legendary Madison Square Garden.
Still another incredible journey was coming to an end. I was exhausted after an intense trip packed with new experiences and sensations. The summer heat had made me tired, too, since I am used to going swimming when its above 30 degrees centigrade, not running around in tourist attractions hahaha :) On the last day I checked out from my room and spent the rest of the day beside the hotel’s swimming pool, a happy ending of my trip.
New York hints:
-Buy tickets for sights at home in advance, you’ll avoid queues and often get a better price.
-Take a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour the first day.
-Have a helicopter ride if you have the time.
-Enjoy the atmosphere in Times Square.
-Watch Manhattan’s skyline from Brooklyn and take a walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge.
-Watch the views from the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center.
-Have brunch in the 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar.
You’ll hear from me,
Popular hotels to book in New York:
This is a well-known hotel located in the heart of New York, one block from Times Square.
The hotel is located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, conveniently situated on Seventh Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Street, directly across from Madison Square Garden and Amtrak’s Penn Station.
Well known hotel in a great location in Midtown next to Grand Central Station, within a short walking distance from Times Square.
Hotel with an indoor swimming pool located within walking distance from Broadway, Times Square and Central Park.
Great location on 46th Street and 100 meters from Broadway and Times Square. Stylish lobby with sitting area, lounge with DJ in evening and Internet corner.
Now that the summer is coming to an end people will most likely start making plans for next winter’s holiday in the sun. I have the Caribbean very much at heart and one of my best sun and beach trips was in the Dominican Republic.
The island of Hispaniola is located between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Haiti forms the western part of the island, and the eastern part is the Dominican Republic with approximately 10 million inhabitants. It is a very beautiful country, mountainous with tropical forests, lots of palm trees, banana plants and sugar cane plantations. There are also some drier areas with cactuses. Apart from sugar and rice they grow fruit, vegetables and coffee. The average temperature is 28 °C (82.4 °F). In the 15th century Columbus landed on the island. The Spaniards made the whole island a Spanish colony and in just a couple of decades the original Taino Indian population had been exterminated. In the early 18th century the island had been divided between France (western part, now Haiti) and Spain (eastern part). In 1865 the former Santo Domingo colony was finally liberated and formed a republic of its own.
The Dominican Republic attracts travellers of all kinds. Paradise beaches and lots of adventure to experience. Columbus depicted the island of Hispaniola by crumpling up a piece of paper, tropical mountains, spectacular rivers and miles of beautiful beaches. If you are deep sea fishing off the “Silver Harbour”, Puerto Plata at sunset you fully understand Columbus’s enthusiasm with the glittering water and the mountains of the island in the background. You could easily spend the whole of your vacation on the wonderful beaches holding a Pina Colada but I advise you to explore the country, for there are many adventures to experience, at sea as well as in the “jungle” where scenes for the Jurassic Park movie were shot.
Fresh fruit taste best on the beach.
The small village of Caberete is world-famous for its fine windsurfing. In the afternoons the sea is filled with windsurfers and kitesurfers whose sails make up a magnificent colour palette combined with the turquoise water and the dark blue sky. At night the beach bars and the discos are crammed with visitors from all over the world and there is a laid-back atmosphere. I spent many hours on the long beach and the memory card of my camera was filled with pictures of surfers, palm trees and colourful umbrella drinks.
There were a lot of kite surfers in Cabarete.
The Sosúa beach is in a bay and the palm trees lean over the sandy beach, paradise pictures are guaranteed. There you can enjoy your holiday while at the same time watching aircraft with home-bound tourists taking off from the airport. Along the promenade there is a great number of small restaurants and souvenir stalls selling colourful paintings, T-shirts and other traditional keepsakes. There is also the possibility of diving, and I took the chance of adding some entries in my dive log book recording a couple of underwater visits. The sensation was not as great as in Thailand or Mexico, but still it was worth the money, diving is always fun.
During my two weeks in the country I joined several excursions. A truck safari in the countryside gave us a glimpse of everyday life, and I learnt that if a resident’s house is painted red or pink this shows that the woman in the house is in command, but if it is painted blue it’s for the man of the family to decide … The tour took us trough jungle and high mountains with marvellous views, the country offers many visual impressions. A tour that made impressions of another kind was an action-packed day riding beach buggies. We kept up high speed through plantations along muddy roads. We had a really nice stop on a paradise beach where we could wash off all mud from the ride.
Excursion with beach buggies.
In the harbour of Puerto Plata I found a boat offering deep sea fishing which gave me a fine opportunity of improving my tan and at the same time getting activated. Sad to say we caught no fish but we experienced a magical sunset as the last rays of sunshine were glittering upon the water.
Deep sea fishing outside Puerto Plata.
In the middle of the country, in the “Dominican Alps”, is Jarabacoa, a veritable adventure center. In the area you can for example ride mountain bikes, ride on horseback, climb mountains, practise various river sports or explore fine waterfalls. In one place you can climb up seven small waterfalls and then get down again, at times jumping and at times sliding down on your back. At the last waterfall you jump seven metres (23 ft) down into the frothy water, a wonderful sensation. Take a running jump at yourself, Indiana Jones! River rafting makes you feel giddy when going through roaring rapids with the guide screaming: – Right forward, left backwards, down, up, down, listen up!! The muscles of your arms cry out with exhaustion after a few hours of paddling. I’ll never forget one of the guides taking a blade of grass and passing it along my girlfriend’s arm while yelling: Spider! Then he pulled her down into the river with her shouting for dear life, hahaha, well it was actually great fun ;) The river rafting was recorded by the guides who took photos and filmed, and afterwards you could buy a DVD, an entertaining memory to watch at home after the trip.
River rafting in Jarabacoa.
I like snorkelling and one day we joined an excursion to Paradise Island. The bus ride took a long time and the road was miserable so we were immensely relieved as we finally reached the small village of Punta Rusia. From there we went by speedboat to the small sandbank in the Atlantic Ocean called Paradise Island. The sandbank is surrounded by a coral reef and the water was crystal clear so we just put on fins, diving masks, snorkels and brought the underwater camera. I also brought some biscuits and shredded coconut for the fish, and it worked well! There were heaps of fish of every colour and shape and I got some good pictures feeding the fish in front of the camera. We went on snorkelling for two hours including a few short breaks to drink and eat all the fruit that the guides provided. When we returned in the boats the waves were high and a number of people really looked scared, they felt relief as we we reached the mangrove swamp. The great roots of the plants formed a cool scenery where we glided on our way back to the harbour.
The best excursion we made was to Samaná. The Samaná Peninsula is a mountain ridge with many palm trees extending out into the Atlantic Ocean. Where pirates used to hide in the olden days you can now find magical beaches, as if taken directly from the type of picture postcards you think are made up, too good to be true. Due to the fact that houses are not allowed to be built taller than the nearest palm tree they are naturally integrated in the landscape. From Samaná we went by boat to the island of Cayo, also known as “Bacardi Island”. There we sat sifting sands between our toes at lunch while the local band was entertaining us with Merengue. The food in this country consists mostly of hot seasoned stews or meat with rice and beans, and I had quite a lot of chicken during my visit ….
After lunch we went by boat on a Whale Safari. If you are on site at the right time of the year you can watch a great number of humpback whales performing mating rituals. We followed a few whales and it was an imposing experience to watch the big animals. After the whale safari we relaxed on the beach of the “Bacardi Island” in the afternoon. I had really entered Paradise with the sugar white sand, beautiful palm trees and turquoise water.
Whale watching in Samaná.
We also had time for a visit in the city of Santo Domingo, and something that struck us was the fact that all car drivers kept hooting unceasingly, in the end it was quite comical. Bring earplugs ;)
Some beach suggestions: Playa Rincón, La Playita, Cabarete, Sosúa, Cayo Leventado and Dominicus. I will also take the opportunity of busting the myth that if you stay at a hotel with All Inclusive you will see nothing of the country’s culture or sights ….. The trip will be what you make it and there are no guards in the hotel reception stopping you from leaving the hotel … We had All Inclusive, but joined many excursions and indeed experienced what the island could offer. Then we fully enjoyed the choices of All Inclusive the days we spent on the beach ;)
If you haven’t booked next winter’s holiday yet, I really recommend the Dominican Republic, sun, beach and adventures :)
You’ll hear from me,
Our most popular hotels in Dominican Republic:
Area of Playa Dorada/Puerto Plata:
Gran Ventana Beach Resort****
BlueBay Villas Doradas****
In Punta Cana:
Catalonia Bavaro Beach Golf & Casino*****
Ocean Blue and Sand Beach Resort*****
Occidental Grand Punta Cana****
In Santo Domingo:
Hilton Santo Domingo*****
In La Romana:
Catalonia Gran Dominicus****
Casa Marina Reef***
The capital of the state of Massachusetts is located along the United States’ East Coast and its inhabitants, the “Bostonians” , give me a warm welcome in the summer heat. Boston presents many options for tourists who come here, there is a great number of restaurants, bars, museums and top-notch sports. If you come to the city by air you arrive at the centrally situated Logan International Airport and from there the most smooth and easy way is to go by bus to South Station, it will just take a few minutes. At South Station there is a Bus Terminal and Subway so from there you have easy access to many parts of the city. As soon as you have checked in at your accommodation you are ready to start your sightseeing :)
In Harvard University you can join a guided tour and in Downtown Boston there are many other walking tours to pick and choose. The most famous one is called Freedom Trail and this is a 2.5 mile walk through the city along a red stripe marking the trail. The walk includes 16 national historic sites where you’ll learn more about the city. You can either walk on your own or with a guide.
In 1773 American Patriots threw more than 300 chests of tea, belonging to the British East Indian Company, into the sea, an incident called the Boston Tea Party. This was to protest British Parliament’s tax on tea, and nowadays there is a museum in the harbour where you can try your hand at dumping chests of tea into the sea from a ship.
The ships and the museum where you can recreate the “Boston Tea Party”.
There are plenty of sports to watch if you are interested. The New England Patriots play American football, the Boston Celtics play basketball, the Boston Red Socks play baseball, the New England Revolution play soccer and the Boston Bruins play ice hockey in the NHL. Take the opportunity of watching one of these teams when you are visiting the city.
Do you know what I regularly do in most cities that I visit? Well of course I go sightseeing by bus – a Hop-On Hop-Off tour :) Boston, too, has its buses so I bought a tour ticket and hopped on at South Station. The tour went along the waterfront and I hopped off at the New England Aquarium.
Hop on hop off, a classic!
In the harbour there were various boat tours offered, including one where you go out to watch whales, but I chose the ferry cruising the harbour of Boston for 45 minutes. From the ferry you have a fine view of Boston’s skyscrapers and the beautiful Harborwalk along the waterfront. I hopped off at the USS Constitution museum ship, a frigate launched in 1797 and nowadays moored in Boston harbour. Near the ship there is a museum to visit, the admission fee is an optional donation.
Ferry cruising in Boston harbour.
USS constitution museum ship.
The bus tour then continued through central Boston and I hopped off at 84, Beacon Street. There used to be a pub there, called the Bull & Finch. It was a source of inspiration for the TV show Cheers and the pub later changed its name to the same as the TV show. Inside the pub there are lots and lots of pictures from the TV show and also great range of souvenirs marketing anything imaginable with a Cheers print.
The Pub Cheers, from the Tv-series with the same name.
I went on by bus and then I stopped at the Fenway Park baseball arena. From there I headed for the famous shopping in Newbury Street, Boston’s answer to Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive. I entered a couple of the trendy boutiques but without shopping, my excuse is the fact that I didn’t want to carry all the shopping bags in the heat …. Then I continued my bus tour with a ride in the Cambridge neighbourhood on the opposite side of the Charles River and finally the tour came to an end in Beacon Hill and the big Boston Common Park. An excellent sightseeing tour that told me something of the history of the city and made it easier for me to make myself familiar with the area.
Fenway park, the city baseball arena.
Berklee College of music has educated many stars.
A friend of mine from my native district is at the present time a scientist at Harvard so I took the chance of seeing her during my visit in in city, and we went up the Prudential Tower skyscraper where a rooftop bar is to be found on the 52nd floor. It is called the Top of the Hub. There we had a corner table with a magnificent view of the city. I sat sipping a Mojito while looking down at the Fenway Park arena. Visiting “The Hub” is a must if you come to Boston. Another “must” is walking along the waterfront of Cambridge at night watching the illuminated skyscrapers of Boston, an impressive sight reminding you of Manhattan’s skyline.
The roof bar, Top of the Hub.
Boston skyline, visible from the pier in Cambridge.
As usual I combined my visit to a city with an event, and the highlight of this journey was a concert with Taylor Swift. She is one of the world’s best-selling artists at present and I was looking forward to watching her show held at the Gillette Stadium located some 20 miles outside Boston. Outside the arena there was a big pre-party in the parking lot with people sitting beside their cars among barbecues and laid tables. The atmosphere was magnificent, but as for me, I went on to a pub where my buddy Yogi was waiting. We met in Dublin when we were there to watch U2 and from then on we have kept in touch on Facebook. He lives just outside Boston, and now we took the opportunity of meeting again. When it was time to go to the concert I said goodbye to Yogi and entered the impressive arena normally used by the New England Patriots in the National Football League. Now 60,000 fans were waiting for the concert and it felt like sitting in a glittering sky of stars. Everybody had a digitally controlled wristband twinkling in different colours and moreover lots of fans had signs fitted with lamps so indeed there was a spectacular sight opening before our eyes in the arena and its lofty terraces.
At length it was time for Taylor Swift and when the arena was darkened and the first notes of the song “Welcome to New York” were heard in the loudspeakers the music was drowned by ear-splitting cheering, just guess if I had goose-flesh all over my body. Exactly those seconds make all work, planning and travelling worth while, when you experience such atmosphere, no matter if it is a sports event or a concert. The wristbands given to all of us started twinkling white light in step with the music and then transformed into red, blue and green thus creating a marvellous visual experience. Taylor often invites special guests on stage during her concerts. Previously in her tour for instance, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team entered the stage with the World Champion Cup they had won in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She started the presentation of tonight’s guest artist in the Gillette Stadium by telling us about a song she had heard this summer, one that she just had to learn by heart: Welcome on stage, Walk the Moon and “Shut Up and Dance with Me!” Oh my God, what cheering from the audience! One of the summer’s top radio hits was now performed live and the stands were swaying as all fans were jumping on beat with the chorus. The wristbands were glistening in all colours and the result was one big party, a memory for life! Taylor performed some songs acoustically displaying her skills in guitar playing. The party continued and after two hours the show was concluded with “Shake It Off”. Confetti and fireworks provided proper setting for the incredible finish and the audience joined in a final ovation, unforgettable! I can do nothing but giving the concert grade 10 out of 10! Good entertainment should be just like this :)
Taylor Swift performed for 60 000 fans.
Boston is a beautiful city, well worth visiting. And don’t forget having a tasty drink up there in “The Hub”!
You’ll hear from me,
Popular hotels to book in Boston:
Marriott Copley Place
Well-known hotel in a great location in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay, where there are several restaurants and great shopping facilities next to the hotel.
Boston Park Plaza
This is a culturally protected hotel in a nice location next to Boston’s Public Garden and within walking distance from the lively Copley Place.
Copley Square Hotel
First class hotel set in historic heart of Boston, within short walking distance from Trinity Church, Newbury Street with its cafes, restaurants and world-class shops.
Boston Sheraton Hotel
Located in the historic Back Bay area and adjacent to the Hynes Convention Center.
Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill
The Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill is located at the base of Boston’s most historic neighborhood, Beacon Hill.