So finally found some time to detail some recollections and tips from our epic two week excursion to pick up my new XC90--LARS! I gleaned so much great information and input from this forum and my hope is to pay some of that back for future OSD planners. Thought the best way to do it would be to just go through the various points in our itinerary and give some thoughts/highlights on each. Know that I am in the wine industry and a bit of a foodie at heart so please forgive the culinary bent of the advice!
Started with an extended three day layover in Copenhagen thanks to the folks at the travel agency. Loved Copenhagen which was a great, very walkable city. Tivoli was just so-so for us. Interesting for an amusement park given its nostalgic feel but if you aren't that into amusement parks (we aren't) or don't have kids (we don't) I don't think it is worth a huge devotion of time. Definitely would do a canal tour and a stroll around Nyhavn.
LOTS of good eats to be had in Copenhagen. We had an amazing 9 course chef's menu with wine pairings at a place called Admiralgade 26 near the Christianborg Castle. It was a 3 hour meal with amazing service and incredible artful food. It was by no means cheap but well worth the price in our estimation. The same folks run a wine bar around the corner called Van Staden 10 which has a popup Monday night supper event built around one great dish by different local chefs they know. We didn't do this but if you are there on Monday night (when many restaurants are closed) it would be worth checking out for a fun reasonably priced dinner. I can also recommend a restaurant called Pony which is a bit of an off the beaten track gem. Finally for breakfast a GREAT bakery/cafe called Mirabelle which is known as having the best croissants in the city (try the eggs Spencer dish pictured below)!
Got into Gothenberg and had a great dinner at Norda with a bunch of other OSD folks. We ended up dining next to a couple picking up an XC40 who lived 10 miles from us--small world!
Our actual delivery experience was great. As suggested here, we asked in advance for Camilla to be our host if possible, the FDC obliged and she was just great! Fun, enthusiastic, and very knowledgeable. We met LARS and took him for a quick spin over to the Volvo Museum only getting lost two or three times along the way--right of passage. Had to get used to the Sensus woman telling me to keep left and turn right almost simultaneously! After a great lunch and the interesting factory tour we were off to Oslo suburbs, the first leg of our journey toward the fjord country.
Norway Night 1 (Sundoloven Hotel)
Driving was easy if slow due to Friday get away traffic around Oslo. We were aiming for the Sundoloven Hotel which I think was a great choice for those looking to do what we were doing which was skip Oslo and position ourselves at a crossroads hub for the longer journey over the mountains toward the fjords.
Norway Day 2 (Sundoloven - Aurland)
Of the many options to get from East to West to Fjord country we took the advice of others in the forum to take the road less traveled--16 to 7 to 50. Highway 7 and 50 were great. Started in golden autumnal valleys that reminded me of Aspen or Vail in the Fall. Gradually made our way up over the mountain pass which was a bit windy and snow dusted but a very well maintained road through a tundra landscape. We then went through a series of spectacular tunnels as we wended our way down the other side. Finally we emerged from a tunnel at the very top of a Fjord, which was an awesome site. We made good time and got to Flam in time for a late afternoon ride up the Flåmsbana Railway to Myrdal and back. It was by far the most tourist laden thing we did, even in late September, but the views were incredible and it was worth the trip. Stayed the night in Aurland.
Norway Day 3 (Aurland to Fjaerland)
I had hoped to do the Aurlandsfjellet scenic road, but only the end section from Aurland to the Stegastein lookout was open. The road up was narrow and required a bit of squeezing by the few others on the road, but the few folks we encountered were driving sensibly and were patient with the passing maneuvers entailed. The view from the lookout high above the Aurland Fjord was incredible and well worth the drive. After descending back down we made our way to Gundavagen for the last 12:00 PM car ferry of the Summer season over to Kaupanger, another tip from this forum. The two and a half hour trip through the narrow fjords was incredible. Once on the other side, we visited a cool Stave church in Kaupanger, and then meandered over to the small, off the beaten track village of Fjaerland, where we stayed in a cool Fjord side inn on their last night of the season (timing is everything!).
Norway Day 4 (Fjaerland to Voss)
Fjaerland was a bit sleepy at this time of year, but we woke up to a spectacular view of the Fjord with wisps of curling fog lingering up the mountainsides, under the blue sky above. The water surface was as usual calm and perfectly reflective of the beauty above, truly stunning.
I had hoped to do move counter clockwise along 5 to 13 toward Balestrand via the full Gaularfjellet scenic road, but I was feeling a bit under the weather and opted to go clockwise instead along the quicker route to Balestrand. Feeling a bit better as the day progressed I opted to do the end part of Gaularfjellet up the serpentine road to Utsikten lookout, which was just spectacular. Golden valley below, huge waterfalls, snow fields just above us, and an amazing rainbow which hung there forever above it all. Wish I had done the full road as planned but glad to have gotten this taste.
Another short ferry ride back to the south bank of Sognefjord at Vangsnes and on to 13 up the valley and into the mountains towards Voss. This road, while not an "official turistveger" was still quite pretty with a lot of varied scenery. Stayed at a great mountain lodge called Store Ringheim Hotel. Highly recommended.
Norway Day 5 (Bergen)
Weather was iffy in the morning so we opted for the direct route (16) to Bergen. We stayed at the Bergen Bors Hotel which was very cool, though a bit tricky to get to in the car amidst the slew of one ways and pedestrian only streets. Parking was a couple of short blocks away. Still we were given a great room that gave us an awesome weather vane framed view of the city from 5 huge windows. Breakfast was great as well. Its worth the slight hassle with the car to stay there. We were blessed with some rare sunshine in Bergen and enjoyed the trip up the tram to the city lookout.
Norway Day 6 (Bergen and Overnight Ferry to Denmark)
We lucked out with a delayed ferry arrival and that gave us several extra hours in Bergen, but this alas was the day we left beautiful Norway and began our trip back towards Gothenberg. Ferry ride was nice though a decent cabin doesn't come cheap. I was a bit worried about how the seas would be as I can get seasick in rough weather, but things were smooth, and it was a great way to travel while sleeping and cut out a MAJOR chunk of the return drive back. We arrived at Hirtshalls on the Eastern tip of Denmark in the AM and meandered up to Skagen to see the point where the Baltic and Atlantic meet. Made our way to the 2:00PM ferry from the Fredrikshaven for the two hour ride to Gothenberg. I wish the schedules synced up better between these two ferries (only 40KM apart) but overall I can recommend this routing as a way to get to Bergen or back while cutting down your driving a bit and maximizing your time. Only downside was upon arrival in Gothenberg with the nightmare of navigating the 2 miles from the ferry to the Clarion due to construction between the two. I knew about it in advance, and tried to be prepared to deal with it, but it was still a mess.
Quick tips on Gothenberg: Viktor Cafe is a great coffee/lunch spot near Art Museum, also great place for a reasonable chef's course dinner was this very hip champagne bar: Champagnebaren Forssén & Öberg
We left Lars with the friendly folks at the FDC who were anxious to hear all about Norway. We clocked 810 miles traveled by the time we bid adieu to our denim blue friend. Volvo whisked us away to our first class train to Stockholm. Loved the train but I would caution to take care when booking seats, as some window seats offer partially obstructed views that really cut down on what you can see. Unfortunately we got one of those, so it detracted from what would have been a very scenic train ride. Not sure if there is a way to identify those seats in advance or not but wish we had as it sucked. Especially irritating when those business men around us who had normal window seats were oblivious to the views fixating instead on their laptops and papers. Oh Well...
Gotta say as much as we loved Copenhagen and thought that would be the coolest city we would see, Stockholm was equally cool. LOVED the Vasa museum which is entirely built around an original 1600 era ship that was raised from the ocean floor and would highly recommend that to visitors.
The old town was great as well and it was just great to meander around the central core. The last night of our trip we splurged at what might have been the best meal of my life. We dined at the communal table at the Michelin starred restaurant Gastrologik. 20 courses with wine pairings served over four hours at the chef hosted communal table with an internationally diverse group all reveling in a night of sheer culinary bliss. They do the communal table every night, and English is usually the common language. It was NOT cheap but it was a true experience that we will remember for years to come.
Flight home from Stockholm to San Francisco via Copenhagen was smooth sailing.
Overall it was an epic experience which I would gladly do again. Put a lot of effort into the planning and was mostly happy with my choices. Only downside with the road trip was the being on the move each day and not really having a great deal of time to soak in each location, that kind of comes with the territory though, and we didn't want to have to choose between Copenhagen and Stockholm--glad we saw them both! Hoping some of you will find this useful for planning your own trip, and happy to answer any questions. Thanks again to all those who helped in my planning along the way, very much appreciated.
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