Bagpipes, haggis and men in skirts

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Edinburgh at night

Some time around christmas a friend of mine and I decided that we wanted to go somewhere together, and it didn’t take long for us to decide that we wanted to go to Scotland. We looked at our calendars and found out that the best time to go would be sometime during easter. My friend had been to Edinburgh before and when she was there she fell in love with the place. Me, who had never been to Scotland agreed to go to Edinburgh, and when I think about it now I don’t regret the decision at all.

We found the cheapest tickets available and booked them at once. We were going to stay in Edinburgh from 2nd – 6th of April. I was so excited I didn’t know what to do. We found a cute little bed and breakfast at the edge of whats called the meadows. It is called 2 Fingal Place and it was a relatively nice b&b. As I’ve said before the accommodation isn’t the most important thing for me, but this place was nice and the owner Gillian was very welcoming and her dog, Noodles, was just adorable.

During our stay in Edinburgh we did a lot of different things. On the first day the weather was really bad. I have never seen weather like that in April, and i’m from Norway! It was snowing, the wind was so strong that an umbrella was out of the question and on top of that I managed to leave my awesome pink beenie at home. Well, despite the bad weather we set out on our way in to the city centre. We quickly decided that a day like this should be used for shopping. We went to Princes street which is the best place to go shopping. I found the cutest shoes from miss Selfrige and after drooling at them for some time I decided to by them. I will mention that I bought two more pairs of shoes on the trip and yes I admit that i’m addicted to shoes!

Miss Selfrige, 13-21 Hanover Street, New town, Edinburgh

We also went to this huge bookstore further down Princes street where they had their own little Starbucks on one of the floors. We sat down, had a coffee and while we sat there the weather got nice and the sun came out of it’s cloudy cover. After we were done with our coffee we walked around a bit longer and before we knew it, it was almost time for dinner.

We hurried home to the b&b and we both had a shower before we got dressed and headed out again. We looked for a place my friend had been before called Gordon’s trattoria and we found it very easily. The little italian restaurant is located on high street, or royal mile which is basically in the middle of town. It’s a cute little place with one of the best mushroom pastas i have ever tasted. We went back there again before leaving just to eat that pasta. The servers were very nice and if you like a restaurant with a homely feel to it, this is the place.

The next couple of days we walked a lot around the city. In the old part of town, around royal mile and the castle, you have a lot of small alleyways called closes. Mary King’s close is the most famous one and if you take a walk inside you can go on a ghost walk underneath Edinburgh. It’s a lot of fun and it is definitely something you should try.

One thing you simply have to do when going to Edinburgh is going to the castle. Situated on the top of a hill in the middle of the old town is the Edinburgh castle. The castle itself is huge and there is a lot of different places to visit. For me there was two places that imprinter on my mind. Number one was at the edge of the wall with a view over everything in Edinburgh and number two was the crown jewels.

Edinburgh castle seen from one of the parks.

One of the days we ended up taking a trip to the botanical gardens and i’m not usually very fond of plants, but that garden was spectacular. The diversity in plant life was enormous and they even had a huge greenhouse which contained species from different climates shown in their natural climate. There was everything from tropical rooms with very high humidity to dry cold rooms showing a mountain climate.

On our last day in Edinburgh we went to eat at the mort awesome restaurant ever! Food in Scotland is rather cheap compared to food in Norway, but at this restaurant the prices were about the same as in Norway. The restaurant i’m talking about is called the Witchery. It’s located almost at the start of the royal mile, almost up at the castle gates. The design of the restaurant was rather old fashioned, but at the same time awesome. I ate deer with potatoes and chocolate oil. It was AMAZING! It is definitely the best deer i’ve ever had in my 20 years of life.

A little part of the witchery by the castle

One more thing that happened the day we were leaving was that the whole town was invaded by men in kilts playing the bagpipes. Personally i like some of the tunes they play on the bagpipes and i thing it funny with men in kilts. The men actually look king of handsome with their knee-length hockeysocks and their small “hairy cockbags” as Michael McIntyre so nicely put it. So if I should decide to travel to Scotland again I could definitely come back to Edinburgh. (But I will go to the highlands next time and look at the furry cows!!)

Another thing you have to try is the scottish pure butter shortbread highlanders! IT IS DELICIOUS!!!

Om nom nom =)

 

 

All roads lead to Rome

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OK – one post now with no relation to travel! Back to my traveling life =)

All roads lead to Rome is a saying many of us are familiar with and in my 16th year of life that was very correct.

I mentioned that I got my trip to Australia as a present, well my trip to Rome was also a present. I think that getting trips as presents are better than getting a lot of money. With the trips I can experience new places and new things and add yet another adventure to my life story.

So, the time for Italy and Rome had come my way and after a little planning me and my aunt were on our way to the land of pasta and vespa scooters.

We arrived in Rome early in the day and took the train from the airport to the right outside the city centre. When we were on the escalator we rode past some middle aged men in fine black suits, and as the godfather fan I am I couldn’t keep myself from thinking – Italian mafia -! They were most likely not mafia, but slightly graying italian men in fancy suits are something you notice when you have watched a lot of mafia movies. Well, anyway, back to the trip. We took a taxi through the city to our hotel. I would later see that this would be our only taxi ride except for the one back to the train station. When we arrived at the hotel we checked in and got in to the smallest elevator I have ever seen. We were two people with two not to big suitcases and we barely fit. The room was plain, but nice. We were only staying for three days and for me the hotel is not the most important thing. It should be nice, but 5 stars isn’t a necessity when you plan on seeing everything.

When we had changed our clothes and fixed our makeup we headed out to see Rome. We were real tourists and got ourself a map and started our little adventure. After a little while we ended up on one of the bigger piazzas, which are everywhere in Rome. Piazza Navona. Fast facts about Piazza Navona: It is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The ancient Romans came there to watch the agones (“games”), and hence it was known as ‘Circus Agonalis’ (competition arena). It is believed that over time the name changed to ‘in agone’ to ‘navone’ and eventually to ‘navona’. In the middle of the piazza is a fountain with a big egyptian obelisk. It is covered in hieroglyphs and was brought there from the Circus of Maxentius.

We walked in to one of the smaller side streets and suddenly we came across this small italian restaurant. It was not mentioned in any books or anything, but there was a lot of italian people eating there. And if you travel anywhere and want to really taste the local cuisine, go somewhere the locals go. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I can say that I have never eaten a better carbonara then the one I ate there. So if any of you can find it you are very lucky!

After eating the wonderful food we went shopping. I mean who goes to Italy and doesn’t go shopping. Via Condotti is Rome’s version of 5th avenue with all the big expensive brands. I must admit that I did get one maybe two pair of shoes richer after shopping there. While walking around we stumbled upon fontana di Trevi or the Trevi fountain. In the area around the fountain there is a lot of shops worth a visit. Some of them are perfect for gift ideas to a special someone.

Fontana di Trevi

There are also tons of churches in Rome. They are very beautiful and everyone except a few are open to the public. So one thing that you should do if you go to Rome is to have a look inside some of the churches.

After hours of walking, for as I said before, except for to and from the train station we never took taxis or busses at all. But again, after hours of walking we felt kind of hungry and decided it was time to find a restaurant to eat dinner. We ended up at a nice little place near the spanish stairs where we ate a wonderful pizza.

The next day had been reserved for the sistine chapel and the St. Peter’s basilica. We decided to do the basilica first and when we came in my breath was taken away. I’m not christian and I don’t really believe in God, but I love churches. The interior of the church was so intricate with patterns and tiny details. I have never seen anything like it. We went all the way to the top of the tower and from there you can see everything. I think that st. peter’s basilica is something everyone should see, just remember to have your knees and shoulders covered or you won’t get in.

A part of the inside of the St. Peter’s basilica

When we were done at the basilica we went to the sistine chapel, but the line to get in was terribly long and the weather was really hot so we decided to go somewhere else.

I have been in the sistine chapel after this trip and it to is a must see for anyone who is planning on going to Rome. Michelangelo’s roof is amazing and the rest of it to is something worth seeing.

Since we didn’t go to the sistine chapel we had a lot of time we didn’t know what to do with so we decided to got to the colosseum and forum romanum. The colosseum is huge! It was built as a gigantic amphitheatre and could on special occasions be filled with water. The day we were there was one of the hottest days of the three days and inside the colosseum there is little to no shadow. I almost died, but it was worth it. To stand in the place where gladiators fought, emperors sat and lions roared is quite amazing.

This is a picture I took one night with little to no people outside. Quite spectacular, isn’t it?

The forum romanum is basically just a lot of ruins from ancient Rome. If you are interested in history and of course ancient Rome than this cam be a place for you.

The last day of our little Italy trip we went to see the Pantheon. The name means “to every god” and was as the name suggests built as a temple to all the god of Ancient Rome. The building is huge and if you go inside you will see that it is completely circular, and in the roof there is a hole. When we came to the dome they were just about to start a service. We sat down and decided to be there for the service and it was actually not so bad. Everything was in latin and I didn’t understand anything, but the experience was nice. After the service we ate lunch, went back to our hotel, packed and went to the airport. Our three day visit to Rome was over for now, but I decided that I was definitely going back and I did!

If you want a city vacation with a lot of fun, history, good food, shopping and wonderful people I think Rome is a place for you!

The Pantheon at night

Cupcakes!!!

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Today I made cupcakes! I love baking and making cupcakes is a lot of fun.

I made red velvet cupcakes with a creamy cheese icing and marzipan flowers for decoration.

They are very easy to make and after you pop them in the oven the only thing you really need to do is make the icing. Making the decoration is something you decide yourself. With the red color and white icing the only thing they really need as deco is some white edible pearls.

Red velvet cupcakes with a creamy cheese icing

Harnas – the adventure of a lifetime

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Move around at your own risk!

As you may have read in the previous post I went to Namibia to volunteer the summer of 2011. When I arrived at the farm there was a ton of new impressions and sights that stole your breath away. The african plant life may not be very welcoming, everything is covered in thorns (we’ll come back to that later), but it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. We were driven right in to what we later learned was the village. This was where the volunteers lived and had their base. The first person we met was our soon to be volunteer mom, Eve, and she told us a lot about the life on the farm and what we were expected to do and what not to do. We also got to meet the one responsible for the volunteer project Herman. He was a big man and I later learned that he had a heart bigger than Africa itself. In the evening we got to meet the other volunteers who had been there for days or weeks already. We had to introduce ourself and that is one of the most awkward things I have ever done. The introduction went like this: “Hi my name is Astrid and I’m 19 years old from Norway. I just graduated from high school and i’m waiting for answer from the university of Oslo, and I’m staying for 6 weeks”. It was like that for everybody and just as awkward. After dinner and introduction there was suddenly voices over the walkies that all the superiors had. Suddenly they ushered all of us in to the kitchen, turned off the lights and told us to be very quiet because the big baboons had gotten out of their enclosure. For those of you that doesn’t know big, grown baboons are extremely dangerous. They have canines longer than those of a lion and are many times stronger than a grown human. This went on and many of the volunteers were scared. A few of us thought that it may be a joke, but i decided to believe it until that told me it was a joke. And correctly enough it was a joke. Apparently they do this to all the new ones. After that we gathered around a big fire and talked until it was around 9 pm and then everyone went to bed. The next day we had to be out of bed and ready at 6.30 am. We were going on fence patrol. On a fence patrol you check if all the fences and animals are OK. If they are you can go to breakfast. Breakfast was easy. Some cereal, bread, jam, peanut butter and some kind of warm food. I don’t remember what the warm food was that day, but it wasn’t good so I believe it was millipop. Millipop was made like a tasteless porridge that tasted awful. After breakfast we got a tour of the farm and it’s animals. The variety of animals on the farm is amazing. They have lions, cheetahs, baboons, vervets, birds, bat eared foxes and more. At three we had a meeting by a tree in the middle of the courtyard. Here we got divided into different groups. The volunteers were divided into four groups on the farm. The Hounddogs which i became a member of, Snoobabs, Crocolisious and The one eyed owls. During the rest of the day and sunday we worked in foodprep. This was where all the food for the animals were prepared. A lot of cutting of meat, donkey for the most part, and some seeds, fruit and scraps for some of the animals.

Food prep =)

Cutting meat and dividing food soon became easy after a few hours of practice. With a lot of animals to feed comes a lot of work. On Monday we were finally allowed in to the enclosures. It was amazing to finally be able to get close to the animals. The first ones we went in to were two small baboon “babies” names Elvis and Loydie. Baboons as I said before can be really dangerous, but as kids they are very sweet. Well, they can be a real pain in the ass, but you’ll alway forgive them because they are so damn cute. Elvis and Loydie came to me at once and I was sold. When small baboons come up to you and sit on your lap wanting you to groom them there isn’t much in you that can resist.

Here they are. Elvis in the front and Lloydie in the back behind him.

There wasn’t a lot that happened until Wednesday that week. That day Herman came to me before breakfast and told me he wanted to ask me something. When we were alone he told me that he wanted to give me some responsibility and asked me if i was up for it. I always love a challenge so i asked what he wanted of me. He said that he wanted to make me the new animal caretaker. That meant that I had the main responsibility when it came to the welfare of the animals. Of course I accepted and from that day on my new introduction was: “Hi my name is Astrid and I’m the animal caretaker here at Harnas”. My responsibilities consisted of checking all the enclosures to see if they needed cleaning, be sure that all the animals got in and out in the morning and evening, that everyone got the right food and that they were in good shape in general. I had a little book that I noted things in which I handed to Herman every morning. The days went by and volunteers came and went. We worked hard every day and the mornings began at 6 am and the work ended at 6 pm. I thought I had experienced darkness, but I was wrong. Nothing is as dark as africa during the night. The only light you have besides a flashlight is the moon and the amazing stars. We had lots of fun during the days as well as work. We had one game that lasted from saturday till wednesday which was called silent murder. Here you get a not at the start of the game with your name and the name of the person you are supposed to “kill”. No one can see the kill or hear it. If you can do this you will get this persons note and your new kill. The one that is left on wednesday wins and his/hers team gets pions for the victory. After getting the job as animal caretaker I was placed in a new group called the awesome group. This was the group made up by the coordinators. I was one of the bosses! Another game we played was paintball. But not you usual paintball with guns, protection and rules. No this was paintball in shorts, sunglasses and with slingshots. We fought till we were covered in yellow pain and it was a lot of fun. We had some babies on the farm during my time there. There is nothing that can melt your heart more than four baby leopards and a baby cheetah.

Little Athena that later became Atheno ❤

Me and one of the baby leopards ❤

During the next weeks I worked a lot and got a lot of new friends whom I still keep in contact with and visit. A couple of week in to my stay two new faces arrived. I’m not talking about human faces as you may understand. Two new cheetahs came to the farm to be a part of the soft release program which allows an animal to slowly get uses to living in the wild and hunting it own prey. The two newcomers were the brothers Max and Maurits. I fell in love with the boys the first day and I spent a lot of time with them and in the end i bonded with them better than anyone there. Me an two other girls even slept out in the enclosure with them one night.

Here is one of me and my lovely boy Max!

I also got the responsibility of a little spring buck baby I got to name Winter. It hurt me deeply when we found him the day before i was leaving. He had died of unknown reasons and it wasn’t unusual for spring buck babies to die, but it came as a shock non the less. The last weeks went by with a blur and before I knew it, it was time for me to leave the place that had become a home to me. I had to leave my new family and friends and all of my beloved animals. The one it hurt to leave the most was Herman. At the goodbye “ceremony” he hugged me and whispered in to my ear: “You know you are like a daughter to me right?” And that kind of started the water works. I left Africa, my new home and my new extended family and it left a big hole in my heart. But one thing is for certain, i will alway be able to look back and say that i did something that helped change the lives of some animals, i got to meat new people and extend my family. My stay in Africa changed my life and made me want to help change the world even more, no matter how little the change was.

During my stay and in some time before a austrian/german film crew was at the farm. They were making a series about the farm and the volunteer project. If you are interested to have a look click on the link. There is no subtitles, but there was talk about a smaller amount of the episodes airing on National geographic or something.

http://www.daserste.de/information/zoogeschichten/waisenhaus/index.html

The cradle of life – Africa

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To travel to Africa is a dream many people have. I realized my dream last summer when I went to volunteer at Harnas wildlife foundation in Namibia.

The HArnas wildlife foundation was founded by Marieta van der Merwe and her husband in 1978 when Nick and Marieta saved an abused vervet monkey. After this the farm continued to expand and today they are working on building new farms around Namibia.

But enough facts. My trip started many years ago when I came over a project called Noah’s arc while surfing on the internet. It was a project where you got close contact with african animals and lived and worked on a farm while helping with the daily work and animal care. I thought that this sounded amazing and talked to my mom about it soon after the discovery. She was skeptical about the travel, but mostly it was because it was located in Africa. I read that the project was for people from 18 and up. I was 17 at the time, but I sent an e-mail asking if it was ok that I was 17. Which it was not.

Two years went by and I didn’t think much about the Noah’s arc project, and then my mom was a participant in a Norwegian television program and there she met a woman working with snakes. During the breaks they talked about their kids and my mom mentioned that I wanted to go to Africa. Vibeke, which was the name of the lady, said that she had been to Africa several times and after a while they realized that they were talking about the same thing.

After that the planning went smoothly. Instead of booking through a company like explore or something similar I contacted Harnas directly. This was a very practical way to do things. You had to do some of the stuff yourself, but it was cheaper and that is important to me when booking this kind of expensive trip. And yes, volunteer work costs money and is usually pretty expensive.

After getting my visa, date of arrival and where to stay my one day in Windhoek I was almost ready to go. Some things you should by before going to Africa, at least if you are going to work like I did is: pants that can take a lit of work, tops and tees you are not afraid to get dirty, good shoes, flipflops (it tends to get warm in the weather even in the winter), jacket, first aid kit, small bags of washing sope and dry shampoo.

The plane ride down to Johannesburg and to Windhoek was smooth and without complications. You have to book your own plane ticket both to and from Windhoek other than that they pretty much do everything for you. When I arrived in Windhoek a car was waiting for me with Blue crane safaris in big letters on the car. Two other people came at the same time as me. One from Norway and one from Denmark. We dropped off the norwegian girl at her hostel before driving to the danish and mine. The hostel was nice and OK for a one night stay. After a few hours another Harnas volunteer appeared and like me she was from Norway. The booking of the one day stay in Windhoen is arranged by blue crane safaris and as i said they also pick you up at the airport.

After a few hours of getting to know each other we decided to go to Joe’s beerhouse in the city to eat. We had heard about it from other people visiting Namibia so we decided to eat there. When we got there we were positively surprised and sat down to eat at once. I decided to eat something I had never tried before. I love visiting new places and try new food. In australia i tried kangaroo and crocodile. It’s quite tasty. So back to Namibia. I decided to try the zebra and that was a good choice. I had never thought that zebra would be that good.

The next day we got picked up at the hostel by the harnas bus and after about 4 hours of driving we were at the farm.

The biggest adventure of my 20 year old life were about to start!

The land down under!

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During the summer of 2008 I went on a language trip to Australia. I had decided the year before that instead of money as a present for my confirmation I wanted a trip to Australia. My mom, dad and my stepmom got together and planned out the whole thing.

The whole thing about the language trip is to learn to speak and write better english. Usually a trip like that includes you going to school in the country of your choice, but this trip was special. STS education offers a program called STS experience and is a program where instead of going to school, you learn english by using it in your daily life. The trip is for people between the age of 15 and 18, and you stay in the country for 31 days.

It is very structured and the teachers meet you at the airport the day you are leaving and travel with you. I had to meet at Gardermoen airport in Norway at 8 in the morning and the first short little trip went to Arlanda in Sweden where we picked up the danish, swedish and finnish students. The trip to Australia is really long and you have to be prepared for at least 20 hours of flying from Norway. We on the other hand had a traveling time of over 24 hours. When we came to sweden we had to wait for 5 hours before our flight to Bangkok left. The trip to Bangkok want smoothly and took about 10 hours. We flew with thai air from sweden to thailand and from thailand to sydney and there is only one thing to say about thai air and that is amazing!

The plane itself is big and you have a nice amount of space for your legs even at economy. I, myself are tall and have long legs so the extra space was like a gift from a higher power. At the beginning of the flight you got a little menu with the different meals you would get during the flight and what kind of food you could choose. Every seat had a little tv with different movies and games you could entertain yourself with during the flight.

When we arrived in Sydney I was so tired I could die. I had started my trip from Norway at 8 am and after a 15 hour travel we arrived in Bangkok and the sun had just started getting up. And then after 9 1/2 hours of more flying we arrived in Sydney at around 11.40 pm. I am never able to sleep on airplanes which made this trip really tiresome.

Anyway. We lived with host families and during the day we wandered around Sydney shopping and sightseeing. We had one day on a touring bus, which i can recommend. You get to see the most famous parts of Sydney and get a lot of info on all of the important places. We also had one day at the national gallery. This is a place i will only recommend for the specially interested. There is tons of beautiful art, but it can be boring for people not interested in art. One of the things I can really

recommend is Wesfield Sydney shopping mall. If you have money to burn this is the place to do it!

They have everything in this place! Everything from cheap stuff you can by for almost nothing to big expensive brands like Valentino and Armani.

One of the weeks of my stay we went to Airlie beach which is located further north than Sydney. First we flew to Birsbane and then then continued with another plane to Mackay airport and from there we traveled by bus to Airlie beach. The bus ride was nice and we saw a more of the australian nature that you can in Sydney.

The big fish that loved to be petted =)

The week at Airlie was amazing. 30 degrees every day, and I have to point out that this was during the australian winter (our summer)! During our time there we went on ocean rafting which is a big rib in high speed over nice sized waves! It was a lot of fun and on the trip we stopped by some islands so we could swim around and look at the life in the sea around there. We also had a trip out to the reef. Airlie beach is located very close so the great barrier reef and with a short boat ride you can dive at the edge of the reef and look at the amazing life. There was especially one thing that was awesome! There was a huge fish there and it was so tame. You could pet it and it just tilted over on its side and enjoyed the attention.

Other than this just walking around and enjoying the local life is wonderful.

Back in Sydney we decided to have a look at Taronga zoo. They had a huge amount of different species and a great seal show during which i almost died of laughter.

So if you want to give your kids or yourself a trip that will amaze you, take a chance and go to Australia. My meeting with the country has made me unable to forget the amazing animal life, different possibilities of finding something to do and the amazing people. To take a language trip to the land down under is expensive. I think in total, with money to spend and everything, my trip cast somewhere between 50 and 60 000 NOK, maybe more. But it was worth it. It is a trip I will never forget!

Aren’t I pretty with my face like that? Taken in a park in Sydney. From this spot you had a great view of the harbor bridge!

Hi world!

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Hi world!

Wow! blogging. i have never blogged in my life so this is going to be a new thing for me =)

I will put in a few posts now about the travels i’ve done earlier in my life and later i will follow the travels i will do in the future.

I will write about daily stuff as well, but as the title says, i’m a traveler and will mainly blog about that =)

I will give some tips on traveling and what you can do in the different places and maybe give some recommendations at the different places.

Hope you’ll enjoy reading and that some of the tips will be useful to you in the future =)