Posts Tagged ‘family


Norway: Lovely But Rainy Bergen

Bergen is Norway’s second largest city and the west coast’s largest port.  It is also one of Scandinavia’s busiest stopover for cruise ships. When we chose Bergen as our point of entry to Europe for our family summer trip we did not check much on its weather. Summer to us simply means sunny days and longer daytime.  We were in for a shock as we have just landed in one of the most rain-stricken cities in the world where it rains more or less 250 days a year! Nevertheless, in between downpours, we still enjoyed roaming around the city, visiting its beautiful sights.


Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf

DSC_1224The old Hanseatic Wharf features colorful wooden houses and it was once a center of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire.



DSC_1236It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.



FullSizeRender22Before a huge downpour we were able to get some photos in front of the famed wooden buildings.



DSC_1232The whole stretch is lined up with restaurants and boutique shops.  One just need to be very careful buying stuff here because the prices are really outrageous.  If we did not have the urgent need of buying our daughter’s coat (we wrongly assumed Bergen summer as hot &  humid instead of rainy and cold), we could have bought elsewhere.




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Here are more photos we took in front of the iconic wooden buildings.




FullSizeRender31The other side of the wharf gave us a different view of the colorful wooden buildings.



DSC_0022The buildings appeared more beautiful from afar with the mountain backdrop.



bergen1We needed to patiently wait for the rain to stop and the sun to come out even for just a few minutes to have a good snapshot. It did not continuously rain after all!





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Here are more snapshots of the wharf area and the houses high above Mount Floyen.




DSC_0021Finally, after being disheartened because of the rain, I was all smiles after that fulfilling photo shoot at the other side of the wharf when the sun came out for a short moment.



FullSizeRender32Here are some more photos we took as we were leaving the wharf area.



DSC_1235Indeed the area is dotted with impressive buildings.

Fløyen Mountain

DSC_1220Just a few blocks from the western section of the Hanseatic Wharf is the….



FullSizeRenderw….Floibanen Funicular lower station that takes you to a stunning view-point at Mount Fløyen. Aside from the panoramic views, there are also hiking trails. Although it was not in our original plan, we suddenly decided to go for the funicular ride, one of the most iconic attractions of Norway.



FullSizeRenderq 2Shown here is one of the cars that goes up and down the mountain.  We waited until everyone has disembarked and it was our turn for that thrilling ride to the top of Mount Floyen.



FullSizeRenderu 2The tracks going up the mountain.





There is a tiny building at the top that houses the Fløistuen Shop and Fløistuen Café close to the upper station of Fløibanen funicular. Souvenirs, gifts and useful artifacts are the main attraction of the Fløistuen shop. One can enjoy a hot cup of coffee or cocoa with freshly baked pastry or hot soup.



CSC_0027The views from the mountain top were really breathtaking.  Shown here is the Hanseatic Wharf and the surrounding areas.



DSC_0025Also seen from above is Lake Lille Lungegardsvannet in the city center’s public park.



DSC_0029Our climb to the top was indeed worth it.  The city views were simple amazing.




A climb up Mount Floyen is a must when in Bergen especially in summer.



Market Square

DSC_1238At the southeast end of the city’s beautiful main harbor is Bergen’s Market Square.



FullSizeRender33Its busy quays are where local fishermen land their catches each morning and along with the 700-year old Fish Market, it’s a fascinating spectacle for early risers.




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This is also where the city’s best restaurants purchase their seafood daily; be sure to make note of the catch of the day, so you can sample it at lunch and dinner.



IMG_0982That’s exactly what we did.  We tried a restaurant just around the square and everything was impressive.



CSC_0013First, the high ceiling and cozy atmosphere.



DSC_0001Next was the impeccable interior.



DSC_0006Finally, the sumptuous fusion of Asian and Western food.



DSC_0009We would never miss the Norwegian salmon, saving the best for last!



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Here are more photos that show buildings near Market Square.



Central Train Station & Surrounding Areas

FullSizeRender 2The Bergen train station is 15-20 minutes walk from the Hanseatic Wharf. I took this panoramic photo of the train station facade at around 11p.m.



IMG_0984There are only two platforms so only a maximum of two trains can be in the station at any given time.  The capital city of Oslo can be reached by train from Bergen in 7 hours.




IMG_0790We were staying at a hotel adjacent to the train station so most of the time we would pass through it coming from and going to our hotel.


DSC_1218 2We basically just walked around Bergen all the time we were there.  Above is one of the streets we took going to the wharf.



FullSizeRender 3The train station is spotless and airy.



FullSizeRender5We enjoyed our proximity to the train station where we can people-watch or get the food and drinks we need from the reasonably-priced convenience store inside it.



IMG_0990Adjacent to the train station is the Zander K Hotel, Bergen’s most modern hotel, where we stayed. Above is the hotel lobby and the Foodbar where the buffet breakfast is served.



Dobbelt-romThe rooms were contemporary and minimalist in design.  I definitely liked the rooms and the hotel facilities but I was not impressed with the service though.  We had two bad experiences:  one was the ridiculously long check-in process considering we just came from an overnight transatlantic flight and then we were told the requested crib was already in the room but we arrived inside with no crib.


IMG_0805Here are more photos around the train station area.  Shown here are shops along the railroad and main street as we walked from the train station to the Bryggen.



FullSizeRender1This is the Bergen light rail transit.



Getting In and Out of Bergen

We took an inaugural Norwegian Air flight from T.F Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island (U.S.) to Bergen, Norway. It utilized the Boeing 737-MAX 8 instead of the Dreamliners that are used in other routes like New York JFK to Oslo that we took before. I was not impressed with the ground crew in Providence but the best thing is that it is way less crowded and closer to us than New York JFK or Boston Logan.  Check-in, security & immigration checks were done in less than thirty minutes! Awesome airport experience!



Here is a short clip of our approach to Bergen flying over quaint villages settled between spectacular fjords. Bergen is said to be rainy because it is surrounded by seven mountains.



FullSizeRender 4 2Our return flight was cancelled so we were re-routed to Copenhagen the next day where we took a flight to New York JFK two days after. Meanwhile, we were housed in Clarion Airport Hotel in Bergen for the night.




Dinner and breakfast were great in the hotel’s only dining option, Kitchen & Table.



FullSizeRendere 2The sunset was spectacular.




FullSizeRender(30)The beds were ultra-comfy.

Until we meet again, BERGEN! Probably, when we have the chance to go to Lofoten Islands to experience the Northern Lights, we can drop by Bergen, again!






U.S.: Sedona’s Enchantment Resort

Our late summer family getaway began in scorching hot Arizona as we flew in to Phoenix from Boston via L.A. and met up with my West Coast-based parents and siblings.  We hurriedly drove northwards to beautiful Sedona where it was comfortingly cooler by 10 degrees and the stunning Enchantment Resort was chosen as our base for our quick stay in the town famous for its marvelous red rocks.



first impression

IMG_6436We arrived at the resort in pitch black darkness so we did not have any idea of how close and how stunning the red rocks would be from our room.  Early morning the next day I woke up before sunset and I was amazed by the view of the red rocks surrounding us just as the rising sun was turning the sky into fiery red orange.



IMG_6464I enjoyed gazing at the amazing red rocks and  it was indeed an incredible experience.  I immediately woke up everyone……



DSC_0197…..including my wife and 9-month old daughter.



DSC_0202Coffee time.



DSC_0211I checked the balcony next door.




IMG_6518With my parents at the balcony of their room that has a better vantage point to view the red rocks.



resort layout & rooms

SWFIMG_141024_15191416_NRW19Set on 70 acres of breathtaking natural terrain, the resort has its casitas and rooms spread all over the area surrounded by red rocks.



DSC_0217Our casitas were on one of the highest locations in the resort offering breathtaking vistas.  We were less than five minutes walk to the main building housing the receiving area, the pool and the restaurants.  We never utilized the complimentary resort carts except during check-in and check-out as everyone enjoyed walking and enjoying the views.  The resort also offers free parking located  just beside the main building.



DSC_0214To compliment its stunning red rock backdrop, the casitas have been painted in red too.



sedona1This became my favorite photo of the resort.



HI323562311There was nothing incredible with the Southwestern-style rooms but they were spotlessly clean, very spacious and well-appointed.



Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.The bathrooms were huge…..



IMG_6519..and had great views too!



food and dining

IMG_6423We had a room service just once and it was on the night we arrived at the resort.  We ordered salmon, chicken and pasta.  A standard tip was automatically added to the bill.  The food was a bit on the expensive side but everything tasted so good so I did not care about the price.  Also, we did not have any other option except the town center a few miles away.



sedona-restaurantsDuring lunch only the Che Ah Chi restaurant was open so we had to contend with just one option.  The amazing views of the red rocks made up for it.  The food was good but the service really needs improvement.



IMG_6544Oh, it was rather difficult to take a group-fie using a smartphone and a stick even with the white balance on. Anyway, at the other end of the table is my brother who was celebrating his nth birthday.  Muchas gracias for the lunch, bro!



IMG_6536This is part of the restaurant’s romantic patio offering the perfect backdrop for a family portrait.  Obviously no one would like to sweat and melt while dining so the area was completely empty.  This area would be crowded during late afternoon till early evening for tapas and wine. The hotel has two other restaurants, View 180 and Tii Gavo, that can satisfy one’s hunger.



the pool area

DSC_0220The resort pool with its spectacular views  is where we had so much fun taking our photos and swimming, of course. Ever since I saw the pool area as I was browsing about the resort, I was already decided to book it for our Sedona getaway.  The pool area just blew me away!



DSC_0225That’s me with my parents and two of my six sisters.



DSC_0221Then it was my turn to take the photo of my parents and my siblings.  We tried to get a family photo through a kind English guy but he focused more on our feet than the red rocks above so we took turns in taking the photos.



IMG_6533A family portrait.



IMG_6549A family group-fie.



IMG_6646My parents enjoyed the resort too!



IMG_6523Another view of the pool area from a different angle.



DSC_0230I really wished we could have stayed longer.



IMG_6538We spent some time in the pool.



DSC_0243My dear wife and my bubbly 8-month old daughter enjoyed the pool.



other resort facilities

000287-16-Mii amo pool-1Mii Amo Spa is perfect for those who want to invigorate and relax with its indoor and outdoor pools, heated whirlpool, steam rooms and a full menu of Native American-inspired treatments.



8360DE30-BA6C-07F1-8BB7588B8D172CF4One level lower and next to the pool area are the tennis courts for the outdoorsy and physically fit if the gym gets too boring and containing.



DSC_0213Overall, this has been one of the most enchanting resorts we have been to. Secluded, amazing views, incredible showcase of nature at every turn and exceptional service (except at the restaurants). We were offered with a needed late checkout of 4 p.m. on our last day for all rooms because we booked the resort on AMEX Travel.

Too sad we did not have the time to check more of the town center but we have concluded that Sedona is one of the most picturesque places in the world. We promised to be back!


U.S.: Siesta & Bradenton Beaches

Coming from an unforgettable trip to lovely Key West and the remote yet jaw-dropping  Dry Tortugas National Park, we moved on to visit the beaches of Siesta and Brandenton, a 3.5 hours drive west of Miami.


SIESTAWe finally stepped on Siesta Beach after moving around the huge parking lot for 15 minutes trying to find a spot. One doesn’t have to pay for any parking fees here but since the beach is magnificent and it is insanely crowded,  the parking lots are always full so arriving early in the morning is highly suggested. This beach has been adjudged as the #1 beach in the U.S.A. in 2011 by Dr. Beach.




DSC_5959The entrance area has shower and changing rooms, drinks/food dispenser and picnic tables and benches.



DSC_5968We spotted some security personnel on horses.




DSC_5950We only brought in a very unique nylon beach mat from the Philippines and we settled ourselves one crowd row away from the shore.  Can you spot me sitting on the mat with a white cap and blue shorts?



DSC_5936This is how crowded the beach was.  As you can also see the water appears crystal clear and the white sand looks sugar-fine.



DSC_5949Indeed this beach is unique. Unlike beaches elsewhere that are made up mostly of pulverized coral, Siesta Beach’s sand is 99% quartz. Even on the hottest days, the sand is so reflective that it feels cool underfoot. It’s estimated that the sand on Siesta Beach and Crescent Beach on Siesta Key is millions of years old, having its origin in the Appalachians and flowing down the rivers from the mountains until it eventually was deposited on the shores of Siesta Key.



DSC_5935Here are more photos of the beach.







11013529_10206384114630278_7658242733079957749_nDSC_5923This is me just sitting on our unique beach mat from the Philippines with the busy crowd as background.



DSC_5933That is my beloved wife after taking a swim in the gorgeous waters.



DSC_5921This beach proved to be really magnificent but disappointingly crowded.  We promise we’d be back someday hoping there would be lesser crowd or we would try to base ourselves farther from the crowd either to the left or right side of the main entrance.


From Siesta Beach we drove up north to Bradenton Beach in Ana Maria Island.  Compared to Siesta this place proved to be less spectacular based on the beach sand and water clarity.  What it lacked on the whiteness and fineness of its beach sand were easily covered up by the amazing choices of the dining places especially during sunset time.


The beach is wider and less crowded.  I did not even see people swimming on the beach.

1797367_10206385784672028_9165763336539045116_nThis was taken from the Beach House restaurant where we checked in to have dinner watching as the sun would disappear into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.


11081180_10206385785432047_340022473850304856_nAs we waited for our table to be ready, we walked unto the shore and took some photos.



11081311_10206385785072038_2551777463119039881_nA very nice and somewhat tipsy lady offered to take a snapshot of my wife and me.



DSC_5969As we waited for our dinner to be served, we enjoyed the scenery around the al fresco and seaside area of the restaurant.



bradenton sunset2Sunsets are amazing and our sunset experience here in Bradenton Beach would become one of the best we ever had.

bradenton sunsetThe restaurant ran a sort of a contest for all its customers to guess what time exactly would the sun actually disappear from the horizon.  I did not win. Someone else did.

DSC_5971Ahhhh we were just amazed at the breathtaking sunset unfolding before our eyes.



DSC_5975 2Indeed it was a a day well spent.  A few more minutes after the sun had set, we drove back to our base station in Fort Lauderdale to prepare for our flight the next day back to New York.

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