Wheeling Oslo – The River III

Akerselva, du gamle og graa! Akerselva, dig holder jeg paa.
Selv om Donau er aldrig saa blaa, kan den i skjønhed aldrig dig naa.
Slike farver vist aldrig man saa, som hvor du munder ut paa skraa,
i den yndige duftende vraa mellem Nyland og H.A.H.

Seilbar er du visstnok ikke; uten da med pram.
Vandet er for sterkt at drikke; (men vi drikker dram).
Naar det er for litet vand, gaar brukene istaa.
Det er leit nok, men det kan jo ingen si’ no’ paa.


Akerselva, du gamle og graa! Akerselva, dig holder jeg paa.
Selv om Donau er aldrig saa blaa, kan den i skjønhed aldrig dig naa.
Slike farver vist aldrig man saa, som hvor du munder ut paa skraa,
i den yndige duftende vraa mellem Nyland og H.A.H.

The last part of the river walk should perhaps be called the hipster route. It starts with a colorful silo in the area called Kuba, which some people believe to be connected to Cuba somehow. The Kuba silo belonged to Bjølsen Mill and was built in i 1953. Nowadays it serves as a student’s house with circular tailor made furniture.

Kuba Bridge

River approaching the area Vulkan

After Kuba you can enter the area Nedre Foss and Vulkan (which means volcano), which used to be a “whole in the ground” more or less. These days it’s a booming area filled with two hotels, a food court (Mathallen), restaurants, bars and a contemporary dance scene. This area has something for every taste whether you are a gourmand with a big wallet or a poor hipster wanting a cheap snack.

When leaving Vulkan, make sure you head in the direction of Brenneriveien which will take you through Oslo’s hipster zone number one finding your way to the river walk again. In Brenneriveien you will find grafitti and street art of variable quality.

Head into Ingens gate (nobody’s street) where you will find the bars Ingensteds and Blå, which are both clubs and music scenes. Blå unfortunately does not have accessible toilets, but you can probably use the toilets at Ingensteds (nowhere) if you ask nicely.

During the week-ends you can find an arts and crafts market on the bridge crossing the river from Blå. However – it’s usually very crowded, so if you want to keep your social distancing, it’s probably not the place for you. The same goes for the concerts with Frank Znort Quartet, who is a musical collective playing two sets every Sunday of the year. In fact they haven’t missed a single show since they started many years ago. And when Corona came, they managed to set up streaming in the very last moment. The show must go on. Because their motto is “We fuck up your Mondays”. We still haven’t had the chance to see them live. But thanks to Corona, we have now seen them perform.

After you have crossed the river from Blå you will pass the squatting area Hausmania.

And if you fancy a drink again or a singalong, you can get not too expensive beers and a karaoke booth at the bar called Syng situated idyllically close to the river.

At this time you are most certainly hungry. But this is no problem at all. Because several of our favourite (not too expensive) restaurants are situated above the bridge called Ankerbrua. The photos below are from Südøst, which has one of the nicest outdoor servings in town. They serve Asian fusion food and sushi and they have a very nice cocktail bar as well. In the basement you can also find a nightclub which is accessible via a lift. On the other side of the street you can find one of the best Italians in town called Trattoria Popolare. Enjoy!

If you should be broke or not hungry yet, you can always continue the rest of the river path. But unfortunately you will not get that far. After passing Hausmanns bridge (in the photo below) you will enter the area called Vaterland. This is still a bit scruffy area with the accidental drug seller. But unlike before there are also a lot of “normal” people there, so unless you are the very nervous type….it’s no problem to complete the river walk.

Unfortunately this is where the river walk ends. Because by Radisson Blue Plaza (Oslo Plaza) the river goes underground and doesn’t show up again before the Opera House. If you want to see the last part we recommend the following route: go left around the corner of one of the shabbiest bars in town (Stargate), head up Grønlandsleiret (Oslo’s Asia town) and head South at Tøyenbekken.

If you fancy a pitstop again we recommend the bar Oslo Mekaniske Verksted. If not…continue south, cross Schweigaardsgate and enter the pedestrian bridge Akrobaten. Unfortunately you need a pin code to use the elevator (send me a message if you need it).

If you don’t have the pin – you have to wheel yourself up the hill past Oslo Immigration Police. When you exit the Acrobat bridge on the other side – Voila! You will find yourself in the brand new area Barcode, where you can find the Opera House, the new Munch museum and the last drops of the Akerselva river….

The end….

Wheeling Oslo – The River II

Akerselva, du gamle og graa! Akerselva, dig holder jeg paa.
Selv om Donau er aldrig saa blaa, kan den i skjønhed aldrig dig naa.
Slike farver vist aldrig man saa, som hvor du munder ut paa skraa
i den yndige duftende vraa mellem Nyland og H.A.H. –

Trygt jeg tror, jeg sløife vover Dnjepr, Djnester, Don.
(Gamle Cæsar sprang jo over selve Rubicon.)
Petersburg er stolt av Newan mer end av sin Zar;
men det er det rene thevand mot det vand, vi har.

Ok, so you have walked the upper part from Maridalen already? Or you are too lazy or have too little time to use a whole day for exploring the secret. Then one alternative is to start your hike along the Akerselva river from Nydalen.

From Nydalen
Because if you want to start further down, you can take the subway or bus to Nydalen. Then you are close to Gullhaug bridge. The start of this area is pretty easy and not so steep, but when you get closer to the area Sagene – you will face several steeper hills.

As I told you in my previous blogpost, Akerselva was known for being dirty. And accidents still happen. A local business polluted the river with chlorine a couple of years ago and killed all the fish. But they managed to clean it up and now the fish is back again. And the ducks.

And even the people. During the tropical summer of 2018 with a heatwave that lasted for weeks and weeks – Nydalen became a popular place for a swim in competition with all the beaches and lakes in the Oslo area. Akerselva has several places where you can take a swim, but Nydalen is probably among the more popular ones. We haven’t tried it, but it should be possible to get all the way down to the water with the wheelchair.

Heading towards Idun bridge

After Nydalen you will enter the area Bjølsen. This is an area where you have to leave the river for a little while because it runs through a closed factory area. One of the bridges there are one of the special ones – a suspension bridge called Jerusalem bridge. I have no idea why it has such a special name…

Jerusalem bridge

This is an area of the river walk where it’s easy to get lost. Some might get lost into Sagene Lunsjbar, which has been around for years and years, and others might find their way to Lilleborg. This is a secluded area which used to be the home of soap factories and is now a pleasant housing area with the river running through it. The square used to have a cosy cafe, if you just want a coffee and enjoy the atmosphere. But in Oslo things changes rapidly, so we cannot guarantee that it’s there anymore…

Factory gate of the Idun yeast factory
Lilleborg

If you find your way into the right path again you will find yourself heading towards the area called Myraløkka.

River Walk from Sagene
If you want to start the walk from Sagene you can take bus 54 from Oslo city centre to “Arendalsgata” by Myraløkka. This is a natural amfi where everyone can see easily and is a perfect venue for the Oslo Philarmonic orchestra’s annual open air concerts in June. Myraløkka in June is the perfect place to get to know several of Oslo’s treasures in one day – both the orchestra and the river walk.

I have been there on several occasions and the highlight was the concert in 2017, where we “accidentally” walked right into one of the front rows.

Below is a photo from our experience in 2018 that was musically equally impressive with the orchestra playing Grieg’s “In the hall of the mountain king” in the middle of a thunder storm.
But it was oh so much more wet. We almost drowned and our Swiss visitors were amazed that so many Norwegians were out and about getting soaking wet for a free concert…

There is no such thing as bad weather. Oh yes it is…

If you move South from Myraløkka, you might stumble upon someone selling chai latte or a friendly elephant on your way.

The next bridge you have to pass underneath and then you will arrive at the are called Øvre Foss close to Sannergata. If you want to want to walk along the river here you need really good breaks and a seatbelt on your wheelchair. I used to have a view to the waterfall from my office for many years. And in the winter I could see people falling like domino pieces, because they tried to walk the very steep hill where the waterfall had created a very thin layer of ice.

If you are afraid of the very steep hill, you can do a detour around the NAV office buildings next to Ringnes Park. If you do the detour you miss the chance of tasting the waffles at the small wooden tree house Hønse Lovisa’s house. But whichever route you choose – make sure you catch a glimpse of the waterfall. Because it’s a really nice one.

Waterfall in Sannergata seen from above
Waterfall
Waterfall and Hønse Lovisa’s house seen from Sannergata

If you chose the not so steep path along Ringnes Park, you need to find your way to the river path again. Head to the right around the NAV-building in Sannergata and wheel West for 5 minutes until you can see the waterfall again. On the left side of the street you can enter the river path again, which takes you to a flat and very nice and peaceful area. If you only want to walk along the lower part of the river, this is also a good place to start. The 37-bus stops right nearby.

If you have walked for a while and feel like a detour at this point, you can always go up the first hill where you can find a biergarten called St. Pauli. It is situated in the garden of a home for the elderly. You can also have a coffee at Liebling – both establishments run by a friendly guy in a wheelchair. And if you are more hungry, you can have some really nice shish kebab and a beer at the Noahs Ark five minutes further, where it’s possible to go to toilet.

You have now entered the area Grünerløkka which stretches all they way from Sannergata to the city centre. It took me many years before I managed to understand the difference between the upper part with the park Birkelunden and the lower part with the park Olav Rye’s square.

After a German beer together with the hipsters and the 90 year olds, you can continue down along the river again, where you will face some of my favorite bridges and sights on the trip.

This is it! Rooftop of Oslo Art Academy

So is this it? No, there are still a couple of kilometers left. And they are packed with good food, nice bars and cultural experiences which could include:

So stay tuned for the last part. Until then you can let Frank Znort fuck up your Monday…

Wheeling Oslo – The River

I verden er der mange floder som ikke er av vei’n.
Frankfurt ligger an der Oder, men ogsaa til dels am Main.
London skryter svært av Themsen, og den er jo bra.
Men om De nævner hele remsen, siger jeg endda:


Akerselva, du gamle og graa! Akerselva, dig holder jeg paa.
Selv om Donau er aldrig saa blaa, kan den i skjønhed aldrig dig naa.
Slike farver vist aldrig man saa, som hvor du munder ut paa skraa,
i den yndige duftende vraa mellem Nyland og H.A.H. –

I Berlin er Spree paa moden da naturligvis. I Paris er Seinefloden alles
kjælegris, Hamburg holder mest paa Elben, efter hvad der si’s.
Men jeg tror nok Akerselven vinder første pris.

At the start of the Akerselva walk in the area Frysja

A while ago I promised you a blog series called “The secrets of Oslo”. I didn’t do a very good job. But now I will try to compensate with one big secret divided into three parts. Because I had lived in Oslo for many years before I discovered one of its biggest and nicer secrets – the Akerselva river.

Akerselva is a river that divides Oslo in two both geographically, politically, socio economically, linguistically and in many more aspects. We are not that far away from London – talking about the East end and the West end. In a developed welfare state like Norway, it’s pretty crazy to learn that the life expectancy increases more than 10 years if you live in the West compared to the East of the country’s capital. And the river divides it…

The water in Akerselva comes from Maridalsvannet – a big lake North of Oslo.

But for hundreds of years, the Akerselva river divided the workers from the managers. And a lot of factories and businesses were dependent on the water coming from Maridalsvannet, which is also our main source of drinking water today. And everything from mills to factories producing paint, yeast, textile and radios have been dependent on Akerselva, running through Oslo. This is why you can still find a lot of old factory buildings along the river path. But most of them are filled with offices and cultural activities these days.

Old factory gates of Idun’s yeast factory

For many years Akerselva was known for being dirty, dangerous to walk along, with poor lighting and an active drug scene, especially in the Southern end. But things changed gradually. And nowadays the path along the river is one of the really nice places to go for a hike. I usually bring all my foreign visitors for a walk there and most of them think really enjoy it.

There are still some suspicious individuals in the Southern area Vaterland unfortunately. But the lighting is better and there are many people walking their dogs or taking a stroll along the river – making it a much safer area than it used to be.

The Vaterland area is still a bit fishy, but during daytime it’s no problem to walk here…

And the entire Akerselva is a really nice area for a hike – also for wheelchair users. In theory it’s possible to wheel the whole distance which stretches out for 8-9 kilometers from Maridalsvannet lake to the city centre by the Opera House in Bjørvika. If you have a manual chair you will need someone to push you or help you break. A power chair is no problem. If you have a whole day to spend, we recommend starting at the top with functioning breaks on your wheelchair…

If you want to walk the upper part of the river – Teknisk Museum can be a good place to start.

The path along the river does not go in a straight line and sometimes you have to choose between different paths on the right of left side of the river. You might even get lost and lose the river path completely. But this is part of the charm. Because you never know what you might discover with these choices. A nice park, a waterfall, a food court, a good coffee shop, an art piece, some new street art, your new favorite bar, a new area etc etc.

If it’s your first time – it can be smart to bring a guide. Either an actual person who knows the area.r You can also download the one made by the city itself called “Turguide Akerselva”. It’s very good and explains the history of the river in an easy way.

This art piece popped up by the river after the attack on Oslo July 22nd…
#OsLOVE

In my opinion Akerselva is a true treasure waiting to be discovered. And since the tourist buses hasn’t discovered it yet (our tourists are too lazy to walk) – it’s still considered a little bit off the beaten track.

Nydalens Compagnie was a textile factory established in 1845. Today it serves as an office building.

From Kjelsås
If you want to wander along the entire river you can take bus 54 from Oslo city centre to “Frysja” in Kjelsås. Then you are close to Brekkefossen (waterfall) and Brekkedammen (pond). Parts of this first area is pretty steep with smooth gravel paths or asphalt. The path is mostly suitable for a power chair or a very strong manual chair user.

You can also start from Gullhaug square in Nydalen (see photos below) or from the area Sagene. But more about that in a later blogpost.

These photos are taken at Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri situated by Gullhaug bridge, and it’s a good place for beer lovers with a very large selection of imported beers and their own microbrewery. The wheelchair accessible toilet used to look like this when the restaurant was called Bølgen & Moi, but I think they painted it over. Maybe just as well…

But joke aside. There are a lot of great places to eat and drink along the Akerselva river. These are some of our favorites:

So now you have some suggestions for places to have a pitstop along the route. We wish you a pleasant trip along the rest of the river!

Street art near Mathallen

Wheeling Málaga – The Hotel

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone

Terry Jacks

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Best view in Málaga is from the rooftop bar at AC Hotel Málaga Palacio

Well, only some of it is true to be honest. The wine and the song we still have (as long as it lasts). But the joy and the fun in the sun seems a little bit distant at the moment. In many parts of the world, disabled people are stuck in quarantines and lockdowns with deep fear of getting the dreaded COVID-19, also known as the Corona-virus. Media and social media are full of chaos, fear, recession, germs, viruses, panic and tragedy. Because of my poor lung capacity, I am a member of the risk group community. I therefore self isolate, blog and look back at our seasons in the sun…

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Harbor area in Málaga has marble surface and is very easy to wheel

Our winter holiday this year was spent in Málaga, a southern Spanish city we had not checked out before. With direct flights (3,5 hours) from Oslo it is a popular destination for Norwegians, but more in late spring. Originally our plan was to go to Singapore, but we were too slow to decide and to book, and we didn’t really have enough free days for the long trip to Asia. Dubai came up as an alternative, because the flight was shorter. But we kind of didn’t feel like the Middle East either.

So we booked a trip to Málaga from February 9th – 16th, a city we had heard positive things about regarding wheelchair access. It was a bit of a gamble weather wise, because Málaga in early February can be everything from 13c and rain to 23c and bright lovely sunshine (equivalent to a good Norwegian summer). I guess we were lucky! We spent 7 sunny days in Málaga in temperatures between 17c and 23c with no raindrops and hardly any clouds.

And the the rumors turned out to be true. Málaga is a very nice and easy place to visit. Most of the city is flat and easy to wheel, there are plenty of things to see and do, and it was easy to find accessible restaurants and bars of good quality. Actually I read that the town had adopted d a special policy to “reward” businesses who made their places accessible for wheelchair users. And even if there were also places that were not accessible, there were plenty to choose from.

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Blossom Patagonia had only 3 tables inside, but very good alternative tapas (Feb 14th)

When I was searching hotels, I did my personal classic mistake again. I sorted the hotels according to reviews, and I immediately fell in love with this newly refurbished boutique hotel, in what seemed as the perfect location. Room Mate Valeria Hotel was centrally located between the old town city centre and the harbor area with a fantastic rooftop bar. The only problem was, it was a little bit too expensive for a week. So I continued my search. I found some airbnbs that seemed ok, some conference hotels which seemed accessible, but boring, and some more reasonable hotels who did not bother to answer my questions on access. The Room Mate Valeria Hotel answered all my control questions in a quick and positive manner. And then it was settled. With a relatively cheap air ticket from Norwegian since Málaga was still off season, we booked at Room Mate Valeria. Something we did not regret.

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Breakfast room in Room Mate Valeria

The breakfast buffet was also relatively expensive, so we decided to book without breakfast. We often oversleep anyway and there was a lot of coffee shops in the area. This also turned out to be a good choice. Even if the breakfast buffet at Valeria was open until 11.00, we found some really nice coffee places within 5-10 minutes wheeling distance. So we only tried the hotel buffet on our last day. In the photo below you see our favorite coffee bar Santa Canela in the SoHo district. The coffee was amazing and the crepes were also very tasty.

Besides the price – I would say that Room Mate Valeria Hotel was close to perfection unless you hate the colors green and blue. If you do – you should probably stay away. Our room was an explosion in dark grassy green, and it had no window to the outside – only to an atrium with light from above. But in spite of the lack of view, I really liked it.

I was especially happy with the bathroom in the wheelchair accessible room on the 1st floor. Usually in bathrooms supposed to be accessible, they always do something wrong. Here more or less everything was in place:

  • Wheel-in shower
  • Shower chair we had asked for was in place – no need to nag
  • Low sink, which was easy to wheel under
  • Low mirror – where I could see myself for a change
  • Low towel holder – how many times does that happen…?
  • Grab bars next to the toilet
  • Movable drawer to use the space as much as possible

The bathroom would probably be a bit small for a power chair, but could be doable. The room itself would also be small for a large power chair, but we managed completely fine with two manual wheelchairs and a big suitcase.

Next to the room itself – the rooftop bar was the best feature of Room Mate Valeria. The rooftop had a big bar with a great view to the fortress and the entire harbor area. The bar seemed like a popular place for both guests and hip locals. It had sun from morning to evening and umbrellas if the sun become too strong. Compared to other bars in the area it was expensive, but their cocktails were good. Even the cosmo was approved.

On the left side of the rooftop they had a large number of comfortable sun beds with real thick mattresses (and some thin uncomfortable ones). There was also a small pool, which even had a hoist to get in! There was a disabled friendly toilet up there, but it turned out to be kind of awkward to use. So we just used the toilet in our room instead. The sun bed area was reserved for guests and they stuck to the rule.

It was kind of interesting to watch the dress code up there. Or in Málaga in general. We were in shorts and t-shirts most of the day, and we even met some Finnish people in bikinis! But when the locals arrived, they were wearing winter coats, thick jackets, scarves and even fur coats! They dressed according to the calendar. We dressed as a Norwegian summer day with a small breeze. Lovely!

But the nights were cold. And when we were sitting at outdoor restaurants I was happy that I brought my scarf and winter boots.

Other things I liked about the Room Mate Valeria:

  • The wheelchair access – besides the disabled toilet on the rooftop, there was little to complain about
  • The smell in the reception (they even sold it)
  • The decor – it was a bit like The Great Gatsby with a modern twist (but you have to like green and blue)
  • The service was always friendly
  • The breakfast – we only tried it once, but it was nice
  • The bed was comfortable…too often the beds in Spain are hard
  • The location could not be more perfect

Things I did not like? The price? Besides that we cannot think of much.
I feel pretty sure we will be back to visit.

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We want to come back to Hotel Room Mate Valeria

Because even if we really liked the hotel, we did not spend the whole week inside our hotel room or at the rooftop. We did some sightseeing and eating & drinking as well. But I’ll leave that for another blogpost.

Stay safe everyone! And wash your hands…

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Museo de la imaginación was fun, silly and wheelchair accessible

 

 

 

Wheeling Kistefos – The Twist

Oh every time I close my eyes
I see my name in shining lights, yeah
A different city every night
Oh, I, I swear the world better prepare
For when I’m a billionaire

 

Bruno Mars
P1010142
What would the world do without art loving billionaires? Perhaps we would survive just fine. But the universe would be a more boring place without guys like Petter Stordalen, Christian Ringnes, Bill Gates and Christen Sveaas. That’s for sure…
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The Twist

Spanning the winding Randselva river, The Twist is a unique new building which connects two forested riverbanks at Kistefos — Northern Europe’s largest sculpture park. part museum, part bridge, and part sculpture, ‘The Twist’ has been designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and represents the companies’s first project in Norway.
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Dramatically torqued at its center, the structure not only allows visitors to cross from one riverbank to the other, but is also capable of hosting an international program of contemporary art exhibitions.
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Personally I had read about the opening of the Twist some months ago. Newspapers said that it was one of the most beautiful and striking buildings constructed worldwide in 2019. And it’s situated in the middle of nowhere (sorry Jevnaker…but it is) in Norway ca 1,5 hour drive from Oslo in the direction of Hønefoss. For some years the park had consisted of a sculpture park owned by billionaire and art lover Christen Sveaas, not that different from Christian Ringnes and his sculptures in Ekebergparken in Oslo. But now the Twist had included an interesting architectural attraction.
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After seeing photos from the park in the news, I had been curious to visit for a very long time. And when I read about the newly opened Twist, I decided that we had to make a Sunday excursion.
The weather was perfect for a daytrip in October. The sun was shining and autumn colours were still creating beautful surroundings in the park. We were not the only ones who thought that a Sunday trip to Kistefos would be a good idea though. A long line of cars met us after we left the main road. Fortunately the parking guards were in a good mood and had practical sense. They found a place for us even if even the disabled friendly parking at the main entrance were taken.
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Because my car was in a bad mood, we had decided to drive with André’s small Golf, which meant that we both had manual wheelchairs. We were curious to see if this was a smart or stupid decision, depending on how hilly it was and the surface of the park.
It probably turned out to be a good idea, although I’m in doubt of what kind of advice I should give others. The park was much more hilly than I expected and some of the hills were unusually steep. In addition the sculptures are spread out over quite a big area.
The biggest challenge however was the surface which was a combination of sand and deep loose gravel/sand, something which would have created big problems for the power chair, especially in the steepest surroundings.
We had brought our assistant, and without her we would probably still be stuck in a pile of gravel – whether we had a manual wheelchair or a powerchair. Thank goodness for independent living and BPA assistance!
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Except for the difficult surface, the park was pretty accessible. It had disabled friendly parking at two different entrances, accessible entrance to most of the buildings from what we could see, level entrance to the Twist and a newly built disabled friendly toilets (with a door opener) close to the café area. The only thing that was difficult was to buy a coffee, because the coffee was served from a food truck.
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All the paths were doable (no steps), although the hill from the park down to the river and the Twist was very very steep. An alternative would be to turn back and go back through the whole park and enter the Twist from the other side. But then you would miss the river and some of the most stunning sculptures.

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Yayoi Kusama

Because this is what Kistefos is all about. The sculptures are huge and specially designed to fit into the natural surroundings at Kistefos. It’s all very cool and impressive. If you have been to the Ekeberg park and liked it, you will definitetly love Kistefos.
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So my verdict over Kistefos is: If you have a strong assistant or a powerchair that can handle gravel – then give it a try!

You don’t have to be an art lover in particular. Kistefos fits for everyone in all ages – whether you are a fan of art, architecture or beautiful nature. Or if you just need something to do on a sunny Sunday…

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Wheeling Dublin – The Hotel

When will I, will I be famous?
I can’t answer, I can’t answer that (What’s the point of asking when?)
When will I see my picture in the paper?
I can’t answer, I can’t answer that
Bros
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The five days in Dublin, Ireland in August was our only real holiday trip during summer 2019, if you disregard some conference trips to Riga, Salzburg and family visit to Switzerland. So I wanted it to be nice, comfortable, enjoyable and relaxing.
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When I was Googling around for a nice and accessible hotel, my eyes landed on The Marker Hotel, because it came up with very good reviews. And similar to what has happened in other cities, I fell in love at first sight.
The photos were all super nice and it was new, wheelchair accessible and stylish in a not too bad neighborhood. But it was also expensive. So I kept googling. I searched and searched and searched, but there was always something missing. Either the location was in the middle of a cobble stone street, the entrance was not accessible, the furniture looked old or it was equally expensive as the Marker. So after checking out something which was probably between 40-80 other hotels I caved in and booked five days of luxury at the Marker Hotel in Dublin.

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Our plan was to try the pool on a rainy day – but we had only had 5 days of sunshine!

Our taxi driver was clearly impressed. “Oh, you are staying at the Marker? Now that’s a posh place!”. The rest of the trip he gave us a detailed lecture about his favourite soccer team. Or was it another sport? I don’t really remember…
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And the Marker is a bit posh, I guess. They have a door man with a top hat and when we checked in, we were a bit starstruck. Because before us in line was Little Steven and his whole crew, impatiently waiting for their rooms.
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I did not feel inferior though, because the receptionist came over the minute he saw us and asked us to come over to a lower table (accessible for wheelchairs) for check in. Unfortunately our room was not ready yet. But we enjoyed some coffee and cookies in the lobby bar, while waiting. We were curious to see if we would bump into more celebrities during our stay…
The Marker Hotel is situated at the Grand Canal Square next to a new concert hall. It’s a harbor area, which is pretty deserted in the evening. But during the day there is a lot of coffee bars and nice cafés catering the many office buildings in the area, including Google’s headquarter.
It takes about 30 minutes to wheel from the hotel to the city centre itself. It’s quite flat, so it was no problem to wheel the whole distance. Curb cuts and sidewalks are nice and even.
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One day we didn’t bother to wheel that much, so we took the local bus instead, which was completely accessible via an automatical ramp (right side photo).
There was originally room for only one (big) wheelchair, but our two small manual chairs could easily fit at the same time. Since we could not reach the ticket box without delaying the bus, we were allowed to travel for free.
In general public transport was ok in Dublin. Most buses had automatical ramps. The tram looked completely accessible (we did not try it) and the Hop on Hop off buses were all accessible via ramps. Some of them were very steep though depending on where the buses parked. The Hop on Hop off buses stopped just 3 minutes from our hotel, so this was also an alternative way to get around, if you wanted to see the whole city in one day. The Green buses had more buses in traffic, so I would recommend those, something we realized a little bit too late.
A normal taxi cost around 10 euros to get from the hotel to the city centre. And it seemed fairly easy to get an adapted car, because of the city’s policy for adapted transportation.
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And did the Marker Hotel meet my expectations? Indeed it did. There was more or less nothing to complain about. The service was very friendly, everything was new and clean, the design was cool, the accessible rooms were spacious with a nice view to the square and the bed was comfortable. And we had a a nespresso machine in the room.
And both the rooftop bar and the lobby bar were really nice and offered tasty cocktails and good coffee. We did not try the food at the hotel, because the breakfast buffet was extremely expensive. But we found some very nice breakfast places just around the corner, which I will tell you about in another blog post.
One of the little details I noticed at the Marker, which made me feel welcome as a disabled person, was their evacuation signs. In addition to the “clean my room” and “don’t disturb” sign, they had a sign you could hang on your door, indicating that you need assistance during evacuation. We fortunately never got to test it, but I’ve never seen the concept in another hotel.
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I was a little bit curious on how the location would work. And yes, it was not super central. But I actually liked to live a little bit outside the hustle and bustle of the Temple Bar district. By the Grand Canal we could stroll along the harbor in peace on even sidewalks instead of cobble stones. And drunk tourists were replaced with kayak students, ducks and young trendy people from Google.
Just to be clear, we also had the elementary pint in the Temple Bar district during our trip to Dublin. We saw live traditional Irish music, we visited Guinness, the EPIC museum, the Whiskey Museum and much more. We had five sunny days of great sightseeing in Dublin, which is more or less statistically impossible (weatherwise at least). And between all the sightseeing we could relax and enjoy some peace, quiet and tasty cocktails and the Marker Hotel.
Hopefully I have time to blog about the sights and the other highlights in another blogpost. Until then: Sláinte!
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Wheeling Chichén Itzá – The Maya

I’ve consulted all the sages,
I could find in the yellow pages,
But there aren’t many of them…
And the mayan panoramas
On my pyramid pajamas
Haven’t helped my little problem.

The Alan Parsons Project

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I’ve always had a dream to see the pyramids. Little did I know that I was going to get acquainted with the South American pyramids before an encounter with the ancient Egyptians. But it turned out that the Yucatan peninsula definitely has more to offer than amazing beaches and tacos, and that it’s an excellent place for what I would call wheelchair accessible pyramid sightseeing.

After some days of chilling in the garden of our air bnb, it was time for a real day trip. We had a rental car for only a week, and it was time to use it. My own batteries were also charged again after some days with pool & sunshine, and this was good because we had some hard core sightseeing ahead of us.

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Our plan was to visit the Mayans. Or the remains of them to be more precise. We were heading to Chichén Itzá, which is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico with over 2.6 million tourists in 2017. The area is most famous for it’s giant pyramid El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan).

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Chichén Itzá was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site.

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Our guide showing us the huts that the Mayans used to live in.

But before we could enjoy the mysteries of the ancient world, we had to drive approximately 2,5 hours from Cancún. We decided to buy tickets to the Maya pyramids by a roadstand, where we also got a very useful map over Chichén Itzá. I cannot remember if it was the same roadstand, but at least we managed to find an accessible toilet on our way. Which was very good, because we were not able to locate any wheelchair accessible toilets inside the park/archeological site.

I don’t know if it’s the Mexican driving style or what, but at least you are properly warned when you’re approaching a curve. Or a Maya pyramide…

We ended up buying the VIP tickets, because according to the guy on the ticket stand it would be much easier to find parking for us at the back entrance (by Mayaland lodge) and it would also be less crowded to enter the park. Since we never visited the main entrance, we don’t know if this is correct. But our gut feeling told us that he was actually right and that the back entrance is probably the best one if you arrive with a car (and a bunch of wheelchair users).

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Before we entered the park, we had originally decided not to buy a guide. But when we entered the park, it turned out to be a little bit more hilly than first expected. And some of the paths were a bit bumpy, which would probably make it quite physically challenging to wheel all by ourselves.

So after checking what a guide cost, we decided to hire Jonathan for a few hours guided tour. And this was probably the best decision we did during our two weeks in Mexico. Jonathan was an experienced guide from Mayan origin with lot of knowledge about the history of the site. And I think it would have been impossible to get the same experience from a guidebook, that we got with Jonathan’s assistance.

He was also able to help us at the most bumpy paths and being a group of 3 wheelchair users and one pedestrian, this was very convenient. Especially since Ingrid’s “mini engine” decided to go on strike before we entered the park.

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An example of some of the worst obstacles you will face wheeling Chichen Itza.

Sometimes when a stranger is going to help me on bumpy paths, I’m scared because the person is not used to handling a wheelchair. He or she might end up shoving your front wheels into a hole or a ditch, which might cause a nasty accident. But Jonathan had obviously met wheelchair users before. He was very relaxed about the situation and gave us a push when we asked for it or when he saw we were struggling. Otherwise he just left us to wheel ourselves, which is the perfect solution for me at least.

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And disregarding the wheelchair issue – a guide was a good investment because we understood much more of the different constructions on the site. The layout of Chichén Itzá site core developed during its earlier phase of occupation, between 750 and 900 AD. Its final layout was developed after 900 AD, and the 10th century saw the rise of the city as a regional capital controlling the area from central Yucatán to the north coast, with its power extending down the east and west coasts of the peninsula.

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On top of this construction they used to sacrifice people.

One of the “fun facts” that got stuck in my mind, was the stories about the violent nature of the Mayans. They basically liked to kill and sacrifice each other in all kinds of different ways. No matter if it was head chopping, pulling your heart out, using your head as a football or throwing your body into a cenote (natural pools).

The scientists disagree, but this thirst for blood might be the reason that caused the end of the whole civilization. It’s kind of logical. If you throw too many living or dead bodies  into your drinking water, you might end up polluting not only the pool itself, but the ground water in the whole area. A little bit similar to what we are doing with plastic in our oceans at the moment…

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One of the survivors…

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The observatory

So even if the Mayans were incredibly smart in mathematics (they invented the zero for instance) and astronomy, they were also incredibly bloodthirsty and stupid. Quite similar to several other ancient civilizations I guess…

The most impressive construction in Chichén Itzá is the giant pyramid El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan) in the middle of the site. Around the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, in the late afternoon, the northwest corner of the pyramid casts a series of triangular shadows against the western balustrade on the north side that evokes the appearance of a serpent wriggling down the staircase, which some scholars have suggested is a representation of the feathered-serpent god Kukulcan.

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There’s also a special sound effect that the Mayans created as a amplifier, so the sound from the speeches of the rulers on the top of the pyramid would reach a bigger area and not only the people in close proximity. This sound phenomenon can be tested by clapping hard at certain places in front of the pyramide. You’ll then hear an echo similar to a squeaking bird. Of course we had to try it…

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Archaeologists have identified thirteen ballcourts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame in Chichén Itzá, but the Great Ball Court about 150 metres (490 ft) to the north-west of the Castillo is by far the most impressive. It is the largest and best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. It measures 168 by 70 metres (551 by 230 ft).

Because of Jonathan we learned about the ball court, the different eras where Chichén Itzá was inhabited and developed and the different gods they believed in. We never really understood though if it was the winners of the ball game that got sacrificed at the end of it or the losers. Details, details…

We also learned that it’s probably smart to bring a cap or an umbrella. Because the heat was pretty intense inside the site, with little or no shadow to seek refuge in, except for the “shopping street” with numerous souvenir stalls.

And remember to bring cash! In general cash is king in Mexico. Both our debit card and credit card got skimmed in an ATM in Cancún – so watch where you use it! After a day of very interesting sightseeing and food for the brain, and a little bit of souvenir shopping, it was time for some food for the stomach.

First we ended up in a place that looked charming on the outside, but turned out to be a gigantic tourist machine full of grumpy tourist and staff members on the inside. From the decorations on top of the garden walls, it was clear that intruders were not welcome. Or just another example of the fact that Mayans are still a bit blood thirsty…

So instead of the tourist machine we ended up having the elementary tacos & guacamole at a smaller place down the street, which was nice, quiet and somewhat forgettable.

It was time to head back in the direction of Cancún to get ready for some relaxing days on the beach instead of Antonio’s garden.

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Wheeling Cancún – The Best

Pumpin up the volume, breakin down’ to the beat
Cruisin’ through the west side
We’ll be checkin’ the scene
Boulevard is freakin’ as I’m comin’ up fast
I’ll be burnin’ rubber, you’ll be kissin’ my ass
Pull up to the bumper, get out of the car
License plate says Stunner number one Superstar
Pink

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Cancún, a Mexican city on the Yucatán Peninsula bordering the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beaches, numerous resorts and nightlife. It’s composed of two distinct areas: the more traditional downtown area, El Centro, and Zona Hotelera, a long, beachfront strip of high-rise hotels, nightclubs, shops and restaurants.

We visited in February 2019. We came with a direct charter flight from Oslo (Tui Airways).  And before we went, one of my co-travelers who had been there before, told me to expect something similar to “Gran Canaria on acid”. So let’s just say I had low expectations regarding the tourist trap factor. And I guess he was right. But Cancún definitely has it’s positive sides as well. This blog post is about the good stuff…

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Cancún is a lot of things, but one of them is definitely a tourist machine. Mostly made for American tourists. They like it loud and they have (or like) cars to get around. What’s the point in creating a nice promenade along the beach, when you can hop into your SUV and drive to your next destination or gigantic beach resort? Fortunately we had rented a car for the first week of our stay. And we decided to rent a car for an extra day the second week as well.

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On our way to the shopping & harbor area Puerto Cancún

We were 4 couples travelling together (where 5 were full time or part time wheelchair users). The first week we spent in a nice Air bnb (owned by super friendly Antonio) in a gated community in the downtown area. The second week we spent in the hotel zone in a big resort by the beach called Chrystal Cancún.

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The view from the top floor in Chrystal Cancún

And here’s the best parts of our trip to Cancún & Mexico:

The Best:

  1. The Maya pyramids
    Our trip to the Maya pyramids in Chitzen Itza was nothing but amazing! A huge area filled with history and amazing sights, with a very friendly guide. A little bit challenging with the manual wheelchair, I must admit. But our guide Jonathan was very helpful, when he needed to. Hopefully there will be a separate blogpost about Chitzen Itza, because I have a lot of cool photos and travel tips.2019-02-21 18.38.30.jpg
  2. The climate
    It’s hard to beat temperatures between 25 – 30 celsius and sunshine every day. As the weather refugees we were, there are hardly more comfortable places to stay, while escaping Norwegian snow and ice in February.2019-02-17 15.21.15.jpg
  3. The people
    The Mexicans were very friendly, helpful, relaxed and easy going with the wheelchairs. Perhaps a little bit too relaxed in some circumstances, but I prefer that to creating a lot of fuzz because I’m disabled. If we needed help, we got it. If not – we were left alone.

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    People in Cancún have different skills…

  4. The beach
    It’s unfortunately not wheelchair accessible. But the beach in Cancún is so beautiful and long, that it’s relaxing just to lie around a gaze at it.2019-02-26 12.30.20.jpg
  5. The activities
    Whatever you prefer doing – there’s a lot of choices in and around Cancún. Beach, partying, water sports activities, cenotes, Maya ruins, activity parks, you name it. But make sure to rent a car! Public transportation is old fashioned and we suspect it’s not accessible at all. One of our highlights was the daytrip to Cozumel – the island outside Cancún, which is also one of the major cruise harbors in the Caribbean.
  6. Prices of food & drink
    The upscale restaurants in Cancún were surprisingly expensive, but to shop for one week in the air bnb did not break our budget in any way.2019-02-18 19.49.10.jpg
  7. People watching
    It’s hard to be bored in Cancún if you like people watching. No matter if you prefer people with or without very small bikinis. Or weird balloons on their head… 

  8. The airport assistance
    I had really low expectations, since we were five wheelchair users travelling together. But how wrong I was! I think we set a new record in disembarking a plane in no time at all. And our own wheelchairs were waiting outside. It was a bit hard to get rid of the assistance people (who also asked for a tip) afterward, but I guess they have to make a living as well…A greater challenge was getting the rental car. It took forever. Fortunately we had two able bodied friends who could take charge of this part of the expedition. They also volunteered to be our drivers in the slightly crazy Mexican traffic.

     

  9. The air bnb
    Antonio’s house was great. The biggest disadvantage was that you basically needed a car to go anywhere. We had to walk along the highway to get to grocery stores and restaurants, or we could walk along a smaller street with no sidewalks (also a bit dangerous). But the house itself was nice and doable even for five wheelchair users. The challenge was the bathrooms, where some of the showers were a bit hard to use and the some of the sinks were extremely high and difficult to use. 

  10. The tacos
    I’m not a big fan of Mexian food. But they do know how to make tacos, which is probably the best food you can get in Mexico. We also had good seafood in Cancún. And the home made guacamole is of course hard to beat.

     

And not to forget. Cancún is a very nice place to celebrate your birthday party if pool parties is your thing. Considering that your friends have bothered to come along with you to celebrate on the other side of the planet…

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Pool party time!

Stay tuned. The next blog will be about the worst of Cancún & Mexico…

 

Wheeling Vienna

Slow down at the castle
Things to straighten in her head
And she knows it’s not a castle
But that’s what they’ve always said
St. Etienne

 

Since I don’t have enough time to blog, I have tried to play around with the Google Photo app to create a small video from our visit in Belvedere Castle in Vienna, Austria.

We visited in May 2018 and the castle was very well accessible for wheelchair users with lifts and ramps throughout. Toilets were a little hard to locate, but did exist. It’s not possible to wheel through the entire garden however. In the lower part you will find a long staircase, where you have to turn and wheel a rather steep hill up again. Make sure you bring cash (and patience) to the garden café, which have steps to go inside to pay or to visit the toilets.

Best & Worst of 2018 – The Booze

Most any afternoon at five
We’ll be so glad we’re both alive
Then maybe fortune will complete her plan
That all began
With cocktails for two

Duke Ellington

It’s New Years Eve again. Many of my friends have posted words of wisdom on social media saying that it’s a night for reflection and contemplation. True! But it’s also an excuse to party and have a good time together with friends. That is why I have decided that the first (and maybe last) “Best & Worst of 2018” – post will be about…the booze.

Our plans for tonight are to leave the thoughts (or the afterthoughts) until tomorrow and open a bottle of champagne or two together with our closest friends. Hopefully 2019 will bring interesting travels, fun parties, good music, tasty cocktails, exciting experiences and new friendships. With this blogpost, I wish all my friends & readers a great celebration of the New Year! 

2018 was a good year for cocktail lovers like us. It started out with some educational activities, with two different cocktail classes for both our birthdays. The first one took place in January at Bar Bastard (Bølgen & Moi Tjuvholmen). The second class was held at Støtvig Hotel in Larkollen, where we were the only students. Full attention to cocktails!

Best Cocktail course

Extra lessons from the teacher at Bar Bastard

Spring offered travels to Stockholm, New York and Vienna. And with a memorable summer offering long summer days and nights for weeks and weeks, there were plenty of opportunities to explore the city and find out where the tastiest drinks were. And together with Google & TripAdvisor, my internal radar for good places offered some new discoveries as well as nice rendez-vous with earlier discoveries.

Here is the best & the worst of 2018:

Strongest drink
The party was nice, but the welcome drink was perhaps not the biggest success in history. Our New Year’s Welcome drink only qualified as the strongest of the year. Even if it was consumed in 2017, we could still feel the effect some hours into in 2018. I knew I should have left those infused strawberries alone…

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Best beach bar
The drinks are not memorable and are perhaps to be avoided. But Kongens Marina in Oslo offered a nice venue for the first outdoor drink in 2018.

 

Best view from a bar
It’s very hard to beat the view from The Crown rooftop bar in New York – with its two large terraces with a 360 degrees view of Manhattan. We celebrated Norway’s Constitution Day there with a custom made drink menu, Norwegian students, a brass band and Americans looking for free drinks! Hurra for 17. mai!

Best rooftop bar
It was our second visit to Azotea de Benito rooftop bar in Las Palmas. The first time we visited was December 2016 and I discovered it completely by accident because I had trained my internal radar for rooftop bars during my visit in New York in July. The Azotea bar is situated close to the cathedral in Gran Canaria’s capital and they offer a nice ambience and very tasty cocktails with attention to details. The bar is easily accessible via a lift inside a cinema complex.

Best bar
Himkok is the place to be if you want good cocktails. New York Times agree. You can read more about it in this blogpost.

 

Best summer cocktails
The outdoor serving at Grådi (situated in Tøyen, Oslo) offers very fresh and tasty cocktails with gin from Himkok and the best hipster tapas in the neighbourhood.

 

Best beer place
Kulturhuset in Oslo have a bar for beer nerds. Read more about Kulturhuset in this blogpost.

 

Best value for money
Omnibar at Sørenga in Oslo gives you the leftovers in a shot glass when you order a cosmo and espresso martini. Never throw away alchohol!

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Worst drink
As I said above, Norwegians usually never leave a glass of alchohol. At least not a full one. But the cosmopolitan at K1 food & lounge was not drinkable. Usually in Gran Canaria it’s better to stick to the wine…

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Best accessible rooftop bar Oslo
Neither the drinks or the weather were that memorable at Bar Social Eating’s Rooftop bar, but the view is pretty nice from the huge terrace vis a vis Mathallen.

Best hidden secret
Even with Google & GPS, Bryant & Mack Private Detectives is very hard to find. In a tiny side alley the establishment looks closed and abandoned. But look two times! If there is light in the window, there is hope. One small step to enter, but the staff will help you. As long as you follow the rules of the bar. Which are kind of special…

Best cocktail place for people watching in Oslo
Bettola at Schou’s piazza in Oslo offers the best combination of people watching, tasty cocktails and late afternoon sunshine.

 

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Best homemade drinks
Our homemade strawberry basil smash & strawberry daquiri were probably among the best drinks we had in 2018.

 

Best bar encounter that did not happen
When André almost met Metallica at Bern’s in Stockholm. But the cosmo was good…

 

Best neighbourhood bar
Human Mote is a stayer. At least we hope so…

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Best traditional pub
The Kenilworth in Edinburgh offer a good variety of beer, gins and bar snacks. And a nice atmosphere.

 

Worst name of a bar
Dirty Dicks had worn out bedpans as decoration. Do we need to say more? But the place was friendly and a nice place to end the holiday in Edinburgh.

 

Cutest wine label
Petit Ours looks cute and tastes good.

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Coolest hotel bar
The main bar at Baoab Lopesan in Meloneras has very cool decor, tasty drinks (best cosmo in Meloneras by far) and nice live lounge music. Only a pity that they have a long steep hill in front of the hotel entrance.

Best bar we never visited
Bonding with some Danish cocktail lovers at the Bryant Mack Private Detectives in Edinburg, we asked them where to go for cocktails in Copenhagen. And their answer was Balderdash. We have no idea if it’s accessible or not, but the are supposed to have good drinks. Maybe we’ll get to try them in 2019?

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Until then I wish you a Happy New Cocktail Year! But just remember…

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