If you’ve been to Flam, Norway, it was probably a quick visit during a railway trip or group tour. I’d been twice before, without ever taking the time to explore much of Flam outside of the most touristy areas near the port and train station. I made my third visit to Flam with the Azamara Quest, and this time I went deeper with one of Azamara’s Insider Access excursions. I can now say that Flam is more than a stop on a railway. There are people and there is life…and amazing views too!
Most guests from the ship went on the Flam Railway tour and rightfully so – if you haven’t been, it is fantastic. Meanwhile, myself and five other intrepid cruisers went on the Insider Access tour that took us to two local farms.
The first farm was called Li Farm. A lovely woman who was actually born at the farm ran it. We toured around the farm and she basically showed us how she lives and what types of things she does, and she talked about the town itself. The weather wasn’t great, so we went inside and had coffee and snacks. That was my favorite part because it gave us the chance to get to know her a bit and hear about what it’s like to live in such a remote place.
While I fully admit that I won’t be moving to Flam anytime soon, I was fascinated by her story and how the town has changed over the decades she’s lived here. Luckily, she has an awesome dog that follows her everywhere. Just don’t take her seat in the tractor – she gets feisty about stuff like that!
Next we went over to Otternes where it was some of the most picturesque scenery in Flam. This was easily the highlight for me of the tour.
The farm itself was like a 150-year history of Flam and it is still in pretty good shape. It really gives you a feel of what it was like her a century ago. Not too much has changed!
The views from Otternes were outstanding and again, the scenery around the farm was excellent. Almost as excellent as the massive Norwegian meal we had. After the feast, dessert, beer and everything else; I may have to add Norway to my 30 best countries for food list!
The owner of Otternes was a very nice and genuine person and we all enjoyed her hospitality and company and I definitely recommend heading up for a visit if you’re in Flam. Flam is more than a railway after all!
Azamara Club Cruises has two upcoming voyages calling on Flam, in 2016 and 2017.
Bergen, Norway is the gateway to the fjords and probably the most beautiful city in Norway. It rains some 250 days a year and is very expensive. The people are nice, the food is good and there’s a lot to see and do. There’s nothing stressful or outlandish about Bergen itself at all. So after three visits, I was thinking ‘why do I like Bergen so much?’ The answer is Bergen, Norway is simply a nice place.
I first came to Bergen 10 years ago, and I liked it even though it rained the entire time. I returned in 2012 and the weather was pretty nice and I remember thinking I liked Bergen and the whole Norway in a Nutshell tour again. Now, after just visiting for the 3rd time and it raining or at least being cloudy the majority of the day I can plainly say I like it again.
I arrived in Bergen onboard the Azamara Quest, after four unique days in Edinburgh. I wasn’t too keen on doing too much in Bergen in the rain as I had pretty much seen and done it all in the past, but I signed up to hike to the top of Mount Floyen. I wanted the exercise and the photo opportunity.
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On Saturday, I boarded the Azamara Quest for the 3rd time in 2 years and I have to admit it feels like home! All the familiar faces make it easy to feel that way and I was particularly excited for this cruise to begin as the first activity was the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
This year’s Open Championship, or the British Open, was being contested, as it is every 5 years, at the Old Course at St. Andrews-the home of golf. I was fortunate to play there last year and it was simply put-amazing!
The Open at St Andrew’s
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Amsterdam is a place that everybody knows about but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Popular culture has tagged Amsterdam as the epicenter for legalized drugs and prostitution. While admittedly, the culture in Amsterdam is very liberal, it is also very controlled and the city itself offers so much more. Amsterdam is a city that needs to be experienced and seen to be believed. It is perhaps the most beautiful city in Europe and certainly a capital of culture.
Dam Square in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is home to some of the top museums in all of Europe. The Van Gogh Museum is one of my personal favorites and I’m not a big museum person. However, seeing Van Gogh’s masterpieces, some of the most famous paintings in the world, in person, is pretty surreal. The Rijksmuseum or the National Museum is also very fun to walk around and has some great exhibits in a great part of town.
The Anne Frank House is the big “can’t miss” site in Amsterdam. In fact, it is mandatory that everyone visits this hallowed house on a non-descript street in Amsterdam. If you don’t know the history of Anne Frank and her diary, please do yourself a favor and brush up on it so you really appreciate the significance of visiting the house. It is something that will stick with you like visiting Auschwitz or Birkenau in Poland-trust me on that one.
Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
As I previously noted, Amsterdam is known for its famed Red Light District and controlled drug use. The Red Light District is a little seedy for sure, but it is also fascinating to walk through and no visit to Amsterdam is complete without walking through it. Day or night it is a fascinating piece of Dutch culture and to be honest, there’s nothing else like it on Earth-it’s one of those places that you can’t believe actually exists.
The Heineken Brewery is also in Amsterdam and is very popular with tourists. I have done the tour and thought it was pretty good. Plus, you get free samples at the end! It’s worth checking out if you like beer but even more so, much like Guinness to Ireland, Heineken and Amstel have become engrained in the culture of Holland.
But what I love most about the city of Amsterdam is simply walking the gorgeous canal lined streets and getting lost. The city is so gorgeous, that people often forget to look around as they rush from museum to museum or district to district. Amsterdam is best enjoyed on foot or by bike.
If you hire a bike, you will feel like a local as just about every Amsterdam local rides a bike. While this is very cool, if you are walking you have to be careful not to get nailed by a bicyclist…or a streetcar!
All that said, Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in Europe and should not be missed. Any preconceived notions about the city will be dispelled immediately on arrival. It is truly one of the worlds great cities.
View all of Azamara’s upcoming cruises to Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Dublin, Ireland is a great place to visit. It’s a must for everybody who enjoys travel and the simple things in life. In Dublin, you can drink and dance all night, and hang out with like-minded people exchanging stories. Basically, Dublin is a great place to hang out. However, Dublin does have more to see beneath the surface.
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