Touching down in Bergen to calm winds and a snow-covered landscape gave me a sense of Christmas to come. Waking up the next morning to the happy sounds of my 18 month old grandson and seeing soft fluffy white flakes falling from the sky – picture perfect. The fact that ice and snow caused chaos on the roads didn’t worry me – yet! After four days of quality time with my grandson and a freezing cold shopping trip to Bergen, my husband arrived and we checked-in for a two night stay at our favourite hotel in the Bergen area, Solstrand Hotel & Bad. “Welcome back, Randi,” was the greeting I heard as I walked towards the reception. Welcoming smiles and personal attentiveness make Solstrand our return accommodation whenever possible.
Solstrand – a member of The Historic Hotels of Norway – was built in 1896 in Swiss chalet style by Norway’s first prime minister, Christian Michelsen, as a place of recreation for Bergen’s merchants. The hotel is privately owned and has been run by the same family for four generations – a family that’s very hands on and naturally very proud of their heritage. Walking through the corridor, a corridor filled with period antiques and old photos explaining how the hotel came about, gives you a real sense of history as you walk across the creaking floor on your way to the restaurant.
Solstrand is situated on exquisite grounds by the shores of Bjørnefjorden, just 30 km south of Bergen and Bergen Airport. A hotel where paying a little extra for a sea view room (especially in summer) is money well spent. Peace and tranquility are words that come to mind as I relax in a wingback chair in my hotel room overlooking the fjord and mountains – a view I never tire of.
Solstrand offers an exclusive spa and wellness facilities. The spa uses Kerstin Florian products, one of my favourite spa brands. Much to my disappointment – no journey to bliss this time! Note to self: Remember to book spa treatments well in advance before next visit. I would’ve gone for a dip in the all year round heated outdoor pool to de-stress, but what about my nose? No offence, Rudolph, but…
The first evening we enjoyed a delicious three course set dinner (Tonight’s Menu) as part of our half board package. Dinner was served in one of the smaller dining rooms adjacent to the main restaurant. Very charming indeed! After a lovely buffet breakfast the next morning we took a trip to Bergen for some last-minute Christmas shopping before returning to the hotel in time for the arrival of our son and his family. They stayed the night and dinner that evening was a traditional “Julebord” (Christmas Buffet) with a vast array of traditional Norwegian dishes and local specialties.
Of course the picture perfect winter wonderland couldn’t last – and it didn’t. The west coast of Norway has a mild winter climate and snow doesn’t stick around for long. The day we checked-out from the hotel to continue to our final destination, Uskedalen, the weather had changed. Watching fierce winds creating “fountains” dancing across the fjords is fascinating from the warmth of a hotel room or your home, but not when you’ve got to get to the other side – and the only way to get there is by an old ferry way past its expiry date. Of course it’s never as bad as I think and the ferry brought us safely across to the other side.
Arriving in Uskedalen three hours and two ferries later, our main concern was getting our old house (built in 1942) heated and ourselves ready for a Christmas party with friends… Unfortunately, the weather remained unsettled for the rest of our stay, alternating between rain, sleet and snow, accompanied by strong winds – fierce at times – making every outing on foot or by car an iffy undertaking. Happy to say no broken bones or wrecked cars! Weather conditions aside, we had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends before returning to Dubai to celebrate the arrival of a new year.
We are now writing January 2013 – a new year with new possibilities! My New Year’s resolutions: Lose weight, exercise and consume less champagne. Oh, wait a minute! I ditched New Year resolutions years ago, so life in 2013 will be “business as usual.” Wish everyone A Happy and Prosperous New Year!