It’s always bittersweet to come home after a wonderful trip, but I must say sleeping in our bed last night felt so good! We forced ourselves to go to bed at a relatively normal hour, and to sleep in until a normal hour. (I was ready to prowl the house at about 3:30AM, but I knew that would lead to a longer jetlag recovery.) Our purring fur-baby was very happy to see us, so much so that she sat outside our bedroom door and meowed until I finally let her in with us. (We don’t generally let the fur-babies in our bedroom, so this was a special treat for her!) We unpacked essentials last night, and my other half will attack the laundry over the next few days.
Some of the smaller details of our trip for those who may be looking to travel to Norway or Italy, or those who are just curious-minded like me.
We flew British Airways between the US and Oslo with a layover/transit in London’s Heathrow. Not the worst flights, but certainly not the best we’ve had either. (The best is still held by Singapore Airlines in my opinion.) BA has a new computer system that crashed multiple times on both of our main travel days. Customs & Immigration was a breeze in each country, and the airports were easy to navigate. Oslo and Heathrow both had plenty of assistants available to answer questions and point you in the right direction.
From Rome to Oslo we flew Norwegian Airlines. For the price ($327 total for two of us, including travel insurance), we got a brand new airplane (although the WiFi had not been hooked up yet). Flight crew was very friendly, but they charge for all beverages (250 NOK for a water) and you can only eat food purchased onboard. If it’s a short flight, I would definitely fly them again.
The first night in Oslo we stayed at CityBox Hotel. Reception and concierge were Ipads. Very hip and modern, and we didn’t have to worry about a late check-in! Room was clean and comfortable. There was a wonderful French cafe just off the lobby for breakfast. If you are traveling from the US to Europe, you need to quickly adjust to the size and room amenity differences. Closet space is small or non-existent throughout Europe, and only the hotels in Italy had a mini fridge. Granted, we stayed in moderately priced rooms at 3+ star hotels. 4-5 star hotels might be somewhat different – I prefer to spend my money on the daytime experiences, food and shopping. A hotel room to me is where I get my rest and freshen up each day, so I don’t require much in the way of amenities.
The hotel in Verona, Hotel Gardenia, was probably the worst experience of the trip. Fortunately it was only one night (technically about 5 hours)…the front desk clerk was essentially incompetent, and wanted to keep our documents (passports, etc) until morning. No, thank you! The ladies took the room keys and our luggage and set off to find our rooms and left the guys to wait for the documents. The clerk did not tell us which way to go to get to our room until we showed up again in the lobby to ask for directions. I did not go into the lobby in the morning, but I was told the desk clerk then was as rude as the evening one. A review was left on TripAdvisor, so at least others can be informed as well.
Our flat in Trequanda is available on VRBO (https://www.vrbo.com/440247). I cannot express in words how wonderful this little town is. The flat is situated conveniently to the square and parking area. (On street parking is very limited due to the narrow streets.) An early morning stroll for a cappucino and pastry in town, then off to explore the surrounding areas, of which there are many.
Tuscan towns are built on top of hills. We walked an average of 3 – 6 miles per day (at least according to my Samsung Gear Fit2). Comfortable, supportive walking shoes are a must, especially as most of the roads in town are all cobblestone. There are plenty of benches and places to sit throughout the towns if you need a rest. The shopping was wonderful, and a great selection of items. We generally browsed at the bottom of the hill and checked prices for items, then compared as we went up. If the shop at the bottom was still the best price, we made our purchases on our way back to the car rather than carrying bags with us the entire day. If you travel to Italy in the summer, bring a fan – it is hot and humid, and very few places are air conditioned. There was a wonderful breeze most days, but that alone will not keep you cool. I finally purchased a fan in Montepulciano, and was using it daily through the flight home yesterday.
Always throw a bathing suit in your luggage, even if you are positive you won’t need it. (That’s a reminder for me, mostly.) The Mediterranean coast of Italy is rocky and slippery, so beach/water shoes are recommended.
Rome really needs more than 2 days to see it properly. We did the quick tour because of time, but next trip will be a longer stay. Taxis are easily found and relatively inexpensive. (A 15 – 20 minute ride for 4-5 of us averaged €9 – €10.) Grab a street map from your hotel as Rome is not easy to navigate without one. We stayed at Grand Hotel Olympic near Vatican City. Donatella, the hotel manager, was wonderful. My other half taught her how to reset the WiFi when it became overloaded. It is an older hotel and showed signs of wear and tear. The shower was very small, as is the case with most European hotels, but this one seemed extra small. Breakfast was included, but the food was fair. One morning the cappucino machine was broken, the pastries did not seem particularly fresh, but there was a large selection of meat and cheese. I would have liked some fresh fruit as a option.
Our final nights in Oslo were at the Comfort Hotel Børsparken. A huge lobby area with tables and chairs, free coffee 24 hours/day, and a small selection of snacks and beverages for purchase by the front desk. There is apparently one of the largest and best gyms in the area on their lower level, but we didn’t check it out. Very conveniently located to the train station and a slightly longer walk to the waterfront and ferries. Ask ahead of checkout if there are tour groups staying at the hotel…we had to take the service elevator to get down to check out on our last day as the main elevator was consistently full. Turned out there were two tour buses checking out the same time we were.
Not sure when or where our next Big Adventure will be, but we will be checking out areas closer to home in the coming months. I do get a daytrip to Chicago with my mom in 10 days, so there may be a quick post then. Not sure what she has planned, other than a train ride up and back!
Until the next time…thanks for traveling with us! We hope you enjoyed our trip virtually as much as we did in reality.