Books and coffee: the Pacific Northwest #2

After we went to Victoria, BC, we hopped the Washington State Ferry to travel to the San Juan Islands, specifically, Friday Harbor. We didn’t have a car, so the biggest town made the most sense. We spent another three relaxing days, one of which was even sunny!

This was not the sunny day, but probably was my favorite picture of the trip. It makes you understand why coffee and books are so popular in the Pacific Northwest.

Look, coffee and books are two of the things I really associate with Seattle. It has the most coffeeshops per capita in the US, and there are lots of bookstores and local authors. But we really didn’t do a lot of coffee and books.

This is the bookstore I wasn’t allowed to go inside because I basically already had a book per day for the trip. And look! They sold coffee!

I did read a lot on the trip though. In Friday Harbor, we went bike riding around the island on the beautiful day and to the Whale Museum on the day that was gross and rainy.

One of the beaches we visited on the lovely day.

I got A LOT of reading done on the trip and we ate VERY well. Overall, it was lovely and relaxing.

Books and coffee: the Pacific Northwest, part 1

I expected Victoria, BC, to be more like Seattle, honestly. Vancouver and Seattle are so similar in many ways. But Victoria was different. It’s smaller, and I think because it’s the capital of BC, it’s definitely got a touch of old world glamour, as evidenced by the parliament building above.

I have a thing for old fancy street lights.

It was a good walking city – a small city, but a city nonetheless. We ate very well.

Three days was about the right amount of time to spend. We saw the Royal BC museum, hung out in some of the city’s parks, went shopping, and watched A LOT of hockey.

A stuffed peacock from inside the Craigdarroch Castle

Overall, it was great for a long weekend. And hey, I only bought one new book – from Munro’s Books, a lovely local bookstore. No pictures of the store, though. I was too busy browsing.

Going to the desert and thinking too much about metaphors

Deserts are about getting rid of what you don’t need – you travel through them and leave behind whatever isn’t absolutely necessary. They whittle you down to your bare essentials, and leave you a better, if more battered, person afterwards.

Sand dunes only exist in a small part of Death Valley’s vastness. It was very windy the day we were there.

Let me tell you that a long weekend in Death Valley is neither so romantic nor so transformative. It was lovely and I learned a lot about the different types of deserts, but I also learned that all those rocks and so very little vegetation gets me a bit down.

This is the scene from Dante’s View. Death Valley National Park has lots of scenic points named after either the Devil or Dante.

The desert, the National Park Service would like you to know, isn’t desolate. There are lots of forms of life there, and they are just as deserving of protecting as more verdant areas, like jungles or forests. This is true. But it just seems so damn barren. It was a beautiful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Golden Canyon, aka, one of several places Star Wars filmed.

Am I a better person for having gone to the desert? I believe that travel always widens your perspective on the world, both in terms of what’s possible to do and what’s out there. But it’s not like we were roughing it. The National Park has a lodge, and we stayed there. It was lovely.

This is all salt, mainly NaCl, the kind you find on your table. I wasn’t brave enough to taste it.

There’s nothing like seeing the barrenness to understand why those literary metaphors of sloughing away what’s not important exist in the first place. You can’t have anything that isn’t necessary if you’re going to survive there. The land can’t support it.

The sunsets are pretty, though.

I would absolutely recommend a visit, though. The land is striking, you can channel your inner geologist, and maybe even pretend that you’re Gertrude Bell or Lawrence of Arabia.

There’s a creek! In the desert! This is Salt Creek, and it’s fed by an aquifer rather than any kind of run-off. The plants and animals in it have evolved to deal with very salty water.

Stockholm is also pretty

Stockholm was the last place we visited on our Scandinavian journey. It was a good almost-three-week trip. It spanned the summer solstice, so there was plenty of sunlight. Just look at the color of the sky in these photos – it’s amazing.

a city building
There’s a lot of water in Stockholm, as you’d imagine. Which means bridges everywhere.


b government and church
This is, I think, the parliament building. The steeple on the church in the background is great – an open steel structure. I like that as a way to make the top of a building interesting. I’m keeping it in mind for the palace I will someday build.


c german church
This is where the minister stands to deliver the sermon in the German church. It’s not too shabby. (Stockholm was a big trading town back in the day – and each culture had its own church – there’s at least a German Church and a Finnish Church in addition to the Stockholm Cathedral.)


d gamla stan street
When you build on an island with no cars, you build narrow streets and tall buildings. (This is on Gamla Stan, which is the original island of Stockholm. It’s mostly given over to tourists now.)


e gamla stan street
This is an actual, named street on Gamla Stan.


f a boy and his horse
A random statue of a boy and his horse. My palace is also going to have a large garden with lots of random statues.


g dragon slaying
Dragon slaying!


h dragon slaying
More dragon slaying! It’s the same statue, just different size and colors (obviously). This one is in the Stockholm Medieval Museum – which is both free and super-fascinating.


i smallest statue
The smallest statue in Stockholm. Those are normal sized coins. Someone knits hats for it; we were told that it changes about once a week. It’s in the park next to the Finnish church.


j artemis or athena
I am 90% sure this is a statue of Artemis. But maybe it’s Athena? There’s a small two-room museum off the Royal Palace full of ancient Roman sculpture. (My ancient-loving heart was warmed.)


k frederick
One of the King Friderics of Sweden. Sweden had more money than Denmark, and thus Stockholm in general is fancier than Copenhagen was. I think this is the Frederick that turned Sweden into that fancier place, with building initiatives and the like.


l fire
This is the little symbol over the door that you put up once you paid your dues to the firemen. They’d only put out fires at the houses of the people with the symbol. You’d be surprised at how few there were.


m doors
My royal palace is totally going to have a door that looks like this.


n town hall
Stockholm City Hall. This is where they give out the Nobel prizes every year.


o statue
An adorable little lion statue outside City Hall. It could be a nice addition to my palace gardens.


p park
Woo-hoo! This is the oldest park in Stockholm, and, in fact, a number of workers brought their lunches here to escape the dreary offices they work in. The buildings across the canal are hotels and department stores. Pretty fancy for a department store. Maybe I should build one of those instead of a palace….

I’m making plans for my own palace now…

We initially decided to tour the Swedish Royal Palace because it was hot outside and the stone buildings were nice and cool. But the palace? is also very elegant.

grand banquet hall
There was a royal wedding in mid-June (this was taken on maybe 1 July?). This hall was where they had the wedding dinner. It was HUGE.


hall of mirrors
If this room reminds you of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, well, it’s supposed to. They borrowed the design from the French.


A trunk from somewhere in the palace. The detail is amazing.


I’ve forgotten exactly where this detail was – over a door? Carved on a wall? Think about living somewhere with this kind of detail – I’d simultaneously love being surrounded by the beauty and be terrified I was going to somehow break it all.


e sitting room 2
A sitting room.


f sitting room
Another sitting room, but in this one I can imagine Lizzie Bennett and Caroline Bingley taking a turn around the room while Darcy covertly watches them, pretending to write letters.


g statue
When I own my palace, I’m going to put artwork in the front hall for everyone to admire.


And this will be the staircase they have to walk up to get to the living area.


This is an incredibly whimsical table layout. If you think it’s a flower, it’s porcelain. All of it. It’s both lovely and funny. And it was all for sale, too.


Your throne, milady.


The palace turned out to be a surprisingly fun detour. I’d recommend it if you’re ever in Stockholm.

Norway is pretty

These are the last of my photos of Norway. We took a cruise to see all the fjords; it is a lovely, lovely place. I recommend going.

fjord boat
I’ve forgotten which particular fjord this one is. The huge cruise ship is on the left.


fjord camping
This is Geiranger. There’s a big campground there and it was full. I can totally see why. There’s also a small town with all the amenities, including many cafes and a chocolatier. It’s civilized camping.


fjord views
A view down the fjord from a mountaintop.


fjord waterfall
One of the bigger waterfalls.


fjord waterfalls
So, so many waterfalls.


geiranger grass roof
We walked over to town from the dock. They’ve left up this old cottage with a robust sod/grass roof. The Scandinavians are big on the garden roofs; one of our tour guides pointed out that this is at least partially explained by the fact that the old houses all had sod roofs. It was the best way to keep the rain out.


geiranger pews
This was inside a church in Olden. Each pew was closed off by a door and had these decorations on the end. I thought they were unique.


molde garden
A park in Molde. It was a lovely place to sit and rest.


mountain stream
A mountain stream, possibly back in Geiranger.


nordfjord bench
This was in a town called Norddal. There’s a row of boathouses along the fjord, across the street from the town. People still use them (and the boats) to get around. I liked the blue of the bench against the dark wood. Pretty.


nordfjord boat
The boathouses at Norddal. I like boat in between the boat houses.


nordfjord church
The (well-maintained) church in Norddal. It’s octagonal.


stavanger boat
The cathedral tower in Stavanger. Those are hotels along the fjord for all the tourists.


troll eggs
There’s a lot of animal husbandry on the western edge of Norway; it’s not flat enough for a lot of farming. But goats? Goats do great. Goats also have to eat during the long snowy winters. During the summer, they let the grass grow. Then they mow and harvest the clippings, saving them in these giant white bags. You see them everywhere in the Norwegian countryside; they’re called troll eggs.

That is it for the Norway photos. Next (and last) is Stockholm.

Other Norwegian Cities

The cruise stopped at other ports too – we explored a number of towns. I’ve narrowed the photos down to a couple of the larger cities: Stavanger and Molde. Molde was the furthest north we went, and we were there only a day or two after the summer solstice. The sun rose at 3:30am and set at 11:30pm. How did we sleep? Blackout curtains.

old stavanger
This is the view of old Stavanger from the port (I took this from the balcony of our room on the ship). There are strict regulations about the buildings in this section of town, obviously. Including: only very small signs for stores are allowed. So there’s little in the way of tourist schlock available for sale. It was lovely.


old stavanger anchor
This giant anchor was outside of the maritime museum. It’s HUGE.


old stavanger flowers
Have I mentioned that there were flowers everywhere in Norway? People definitely take advantage of summer to make everything prettier.


old stavanger stairway
This was a little alleyway in Stavanger’s old town. I like the flowers and the lamppost.


Stavanger’s cathedral. It was closed to repair the organ – and had been for more than a year – and was going to be re-opened the week after we were there. Le sigh.


bright street
Stavanger had a regular shopping district, too. This was clearly the shopping center for the town, full of locals and tourists alike. This one street, though, is the brightly colored hipster center for Stavanger.


bright street - hipster
See? Hipster center. Look at the bunting and the deer and the colors. You could buy everything on Etsy, I’m sure of it.


bright street - manic pixie dream troll
There’s even a manic pixie dream troll. Where else but Norway would you find one?


bright street - mural
This mural – women supporting each other and looking cute – tickles me.


brigth street - bookstore
I couldn’t *not* get a picture of the local bookstore, could I?


The rest of Stavanger’s shopping district looked more like this: cobblestone streets, white buildings, colorful windows. This is a statue of an old seaman or viking. He has personality.


molde - statue
Then it was on to Molde. They love flowers so much, they’ve got their own rose variety. She’s celebrating that.


molde - torget
The town center of Molde – the torget. Molde is fairly small and very modern. The King of Norway hid here for a bit during WWII, so the Nazis destroyed the city. It’s all been rebuilt.


We also visited Alesund, which has lovely art nouveau buildings. Wilhem II used to vacation there with his family; there was a fire in the early 1900s that burned down about half the town. So Wilhelm foot the bill for rebuilding it, hiring the best European architects. The result is a fabulous art nouveau city. But I was sick during that port visit, so I didn’t get to see it. My husband and daughter tell me it was very pretty.

Baby goats are cute

We took a cruise through the Norwegian fjords while in Scandinavia. (In fact, the cruise was the reason for the trip.) We did two shore excursions that involved animals: we went to a goat farm and to the Norwegian Fjord Horse Centre. The center works to preserve the breed, which is the only one native to Scandinavia. Mountainous western Norway is particularly suited to goat farming, since the goats like the mountains – there’s not enough room for cows.

baby goat
My husband feeding a baby goat. Baby goats are cute.


Foals – baby horses – are also cute. And tiny.


riding on the horses
This is one of the handlers riding two horses at once. It was impressive.


An award-winning stallion. He’s a very good example of his breed, apparently.

A day in Bergen, Norway

Bergen is a lovely town of about 200,000 people on the coast of Norway. It’s the second biggest city (after Oslo), and we had a great time exploring it.


There’s a funicular that takes you to the top of the surrounding hills. There are tons of hiking trails across these hills – we saw at least two big groups of people with packs on getting ready for a multi-day hike. There’s also a restaurant and gift shop at the top. So you can go up for an hour or two as well.


There’s also a troll garden at the top of the funicular, hidden in the forest. This hipster troll is the one who greets you at the entrance. (You can see other trolls in the background.)


Sometimes, the trolls are hiding. (This one feels very Wallace & Gromit-y to me. I think it’s the hands.)

Hanseatic League
Remember your history lessons, where you learned that the Black Plague killed 1/3 of the European population? Well, the disease had a 50% fatality rate in Norway and 80% in Bergen. That’s right, after the Black Plague came through, only 20% of Bergen was left standing. That’s when the Hanseatic League came in to take over the business side of things.

d stockfish
This is a dried stockfish. I was told they keep forever, and to eat them, you just need to soak it in water for 24 hours. This is what the Hansa were trading.


e teapot
We took a tour of the Hanseatic Museum – this is one of the teapots.


f hansa buildings
This is a view across the harbor to the Hansa buildings. We were grabbing lunch and plotting out our afternoon. Note that the outdoor seating in Norwegian restaurants comes with blankets.

City Center

Bergen isn’t big, but we did leave the harbor for a bit to walk around the city center. There’s a nice pedestrian shopping district (I bought a sweater from Moods of Norway) and some lovely buildings from the 1800s-ish.

g grieg
A statue of Edward Grieg. He’s from Bergen and they’re very proud of him. If we’d had another day, we’d’ve gone to his house (it’s a museum now).


h gazebo
A gazebo in a park. I don’t remember much about it, except for the fact that I thought it was pretty.


i statue
This isn’t anyone in particular, just a violinist looking very intense. His intensity is mitigated by the tranquil sounds of the water.


j boulevard
Just beyond the previous statue, there’s a lovely boulevard leading to some governmental building. 

Old Town
Then it was time to head back. We went back through the old part of the town, exploring some of the twistier streets.

k husband daughter
My husband and daughter walking down one of the wider old twisty streets.


l manhole cover
My feet and shopping bag along with an interesting manhole cover.


m hansa buildings
More old Hansa buildings. Fun fact: because the Norwegians always built with wood, they had a fire problem. After a big fire, they’d dump all the burnt wood into the harbor and then build the new houses on the landfill. Then the landfill would settle. These might have been built straight, but they aren’t anymore.


n stag
Doesn’t every building need a golden stag head?


o alley
An alleyway between some of those buildings. Right angles, schmight angles.


p ladder
After you go down the alleyway, it opens up into a little courtyard full of cafes and giftshops. I imagine that ladder was important back in the day before this was the tourist section of town. Was that the front door?


q cafe
I didn’t manage to get any good photos of Rosenkrantz Tower or Hakonshall – the two big medieval buildings in Bergen. But they did have this lovely little minimalist cafe where I had a cup of tea and my daughter had a frozen snickers bar. (Ice cream is HUGE in Norway. HUGE. It felt a little like being back in Wisconsin – where I grew up – but with more ice cream shops.)

If you’re spending time in Scandinavia, I’d definitely recommend a day or two in Bergen if you can fit it in.

Antiquities in Copenhagen

We visited the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an art museum founded by a Carlsberg of the brewing family, while we were in Copenhagen. I wanted to go because it has a famous bust of Pompey; it turned out that we showed up on free admission day. Yay! (We splurged and ate lunch at the museum, an always expensive proposition. It compensated for not paying admission.)

It’s got a good collection of antiquities. I’m always (of course) most interested in anything Ancient Rome, but there was also a handful of artwork from the 1800s. It’s a lovely museum, worth a few hours of your time.


You enter the museum (after you buy your ticket) through a central atrium. It was a bright day in Copenhagen, this room was not air conditioned. (It’s clearly not normally that sunny; it was hot.)

The central statue in the atrium. It’s both impressive and disturbing. I can’t image that many babies needing my attention all at once.


I enjoy this little hippo statue hidden amongst the foliage. It’s cute.


Non-bust antiquities

There are a lot of heads on pillars (aka busts) in the Glyptotek. LOTS. These are a few antiquities that aren’t busts.

God of the Dead
I’m pretty sure this is Anubis – the Egyptian god of the dead. But don’t quote me on that.


Hieroglyphics that, I think, tell the story of an animal sacrifice. (I should really record what these photos are of when I take them.)


The Roman Emperor Nerva. He succeeded Domitian (who the Senate really, REALLY hated – he had a bad reputation for centuries) and was the first of the five Good Emperors.


Ancient Heads

You turn the corner and look into this room and it’s, quite frankly, a little disturbing. I definitely did a double take.


Pompey the Great, sporting Alexander the Great’s hairstyle. (All the ancient generals wanted to be Alexander – to the point of copying the way he did his hair.) This one is famous.


Augustus, Ancient Rome’s very first emperor. He looks like an awkward, if determined, young man to me, here, with his ears sticking out.


Livia, Augustus’ wife. She was probably not as evil as Robert Graves’ I, Claudius wants you to think she was.


Septemius Severus. He had a reputation of being a hard-ass, but he was also putting the empire back together after 100 years of mis-management. He needed to be a hard-ass.

Like I said earlier, there was also some art from the late 1800s, both French and Danish – lots of early Gaugin, actually – but this post is long enough as it is and the majority of the art in the Glyptotek is of the ancient variety. It’s a nice little collection.