Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hunting The Light - Alesund

Hunting The Light - Alesund, Norway
March 6
By Sue McCarthy
I had not reached the Arctic Circle yet, but have passed by bucolic islands with sheep, colorful houses, sea birds and passing boats on our way to our next stop at Alesund.
We arrived in port at noon and would return to the MS Trollfjord at 3:00pm  A guide took us to one of the town's museums at the Art Nouveau Center, the "Swan Pharmacy."  This was a beautiful old pharmacy depicting how it looked in the early 1900's.  We entered a "Time Machine" and went back in history through a multi-media show "Ashes to Art Nouveau."  The whole town had caught fire, leaving thousands homeless and had to be rebuilt.  Neighboring towns and countries helped in the rebuilding and the wooden houses in town center no longer would exist, instead the new buildings were made of stone. The upper level of the pharmacy museum was the home of the owner and he was a man of wealth.  The furniture was carved with owl designs and stained glass. 
We boarded a bus to the top of Aksla Mountain and had lunch and a magnificent view of the harbor at Fjellstua Restaurant.  Fish was the menu choice since Alesund is known as Norway's fishery capital and is also known for dried cod.  Some of our group walked back down to the park in town and joined the rest of us for a guided-walk through the shopping district.  The stone buildings were adorned with carved flowers and figurines, designs in Art Nouveau, German, French and Italian style.
Since this was a winter trip the ship didn't go into the famous UNESCO World Heritage site - the "Geirangerfjord", but this is one site I would have liked to have seen.
Back on the ship and heading north...hunting the light.

Will Swine Flu Affect Travel

Sue was invited on Fox News Channel 2 in St. Louis, MO 7:15 a.m., Tuesday, April 29th, as the "travel expert."  She was interviewed by anchors John Pertzborn and Randi Naughton on "Will Swine Flu Affect Travel to Mexico and Will There Be Any Airline Discounts?"  The interview with Dr. James Hinrichs was also mentioned on-air.

Dr. James Hinrichs Interview

H1N1 - Swine Flu Interview 
Monday, April 27th Kevin and Sue interviewed and videotaped Dr. James Hinrichs, Medical Director of Infection Control at St. Joseph Health Center, St Joseph's Hospital West and Associate Adjunct Professor At St. Louis University School of Public Health and the Sub-committee of Bio-Terrorism.  The interview can be seen in Two Parts on

March of Dimes

Saturday, April 25th, Kevin videotaped the annual March of Dimes Walk/Run in Forest Park in St. Louis, MO. Sue and her sister Barb walked the 3.1 miles course for a good cause.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Sue was asked to be on Channel 2's "Travel Expert" at 8:45 a.m. today (Monday, April 20th) to talk about Top Dollar Stretching Destinations.  Check out

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hunting The Light

MS Trollfjord, Hurtigruten
Hunting The Light
By Sue McCarthy
March 5
We checked out of the First Hotel in Bergen and boarded the Hurtigruten's MS Trollfjord for our journey north to the northernmost point in Norway.  A little about the ship we'll be traveling on for the next 7 days. 
Our cabin had a bathroom with a nice large shower, sink, toilet and a heated floor.
The room had a lower and upper berth, a couch that could be a bed and a desk.  Our porthole was really a round window, except it looked out on a lifeboat.
Once Kevin arrived, there was plenty of room in the cabin for the two of us to move around.  I slept on the top berth and we kept the couch for our coats and equipment.  TIP:  Take suitcases that can fit under your berth to allow more room
for walking around in your cabin.  There are 23 suites, 5 with a balcony,  and 674 berths.
There is a self-laundry facility, an Internet Cafe, three meals daily (bkfst and lunch are open seating with two seatings for dinner), a gift shop, a ,concierge tour office;
hairdryers are furnished in each cabin (220 voltage).  My favorite spot to sit and read a book, visit with friends and observe the fantastic scenery passing by was the 8th or 9th deck in the bow or front of the ship looking out the panoramic windows.   
At 10pm we stood on the aft (back) deck and watched as the lights of Bergen reflected in the dark waters, observed the clear night with a thousand stars as the ship slipped smoothly under the Askoy Bridge (at 1057 meters it is the longest suspension bridge) as we headed out to "Hunting The Light", the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights.  The Hurtigruten line recommends this time of the year as a good time to observe the lights, but makes no guarantees.  The lights are elusive and the conditions must be right.  If a passenger or crew spots the lights while on ship (no matter what time of the night it is) a call is sounded and passengers scurry out of their cabins, leaves their plates on the dinner table and climbs the stairs to the top deck in hopes of capturing a photo of the elusive lights. 
Dress is casual, no fancy dress parties or tiaras.  Dress warm with layers for offshore excursions and sitting on the top deck.  Bring a swimsuit and take a dip in the outdoor hot tubs.
The Hurtigruten is like a cruise ship only smaller in size and is a working ship.  While passengers are sleeping the ship docks in many of the small towns along the way delivering passengers, postal mail and cargo.
We'd have time to explore the ship the next day before arriving in our first port of Alesund at noon.  I am traveling with a group of American and Canadian journalists, Harald Hansen of INNOVATION NORWAY - Tourism and Jennifer Rosen PR for Hurtigruten U.S.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fish Fire and Fjords

Fire, Fish and Fjords
By Sue McCarthy
As my journey began in Bergen, the "Gateway to the Fjords", I would hear many times about how fire, the commerce of the fish markets and the beautiful fjords played a part in the history of Norway.  Modern day Bergen has a population of 250,000 and is both a cosmopolitan and historic city.  Bergen, a UNESCO World Heritage City, was founded in 1070 by King Olave Kyrre and is now the second largest city in Norway.  Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains, has the most picturesque Hanseatic wharf Bryggen with colorful red, gold, blue and white wooden shops and houses, a Fish Market and cobblestone streets. The Great Fire of 1702 destroyed most of the wharf area and it was rebuilt
along the harbor. 
I spent one day and night in Bergen and did a bus sightseeing trip throughout the area, shopped in the quaint shops to buy postcards, a doll, hats and slippers for the grandkids.  When purchasing items be sure to asked about the tax-free VAT.
In Norway is included in your retail price and as a visitor you are entitled to a 12-19% cash refund.
Bergen is also known for its university, museums and culture.  I toured the home of famous composer Edvard Grieg at Troldhaugen.  Other notables from Bergen are the artist Edvard Munch (the Scream), Henrik Ibsen and Johan Christian Dahl.
The perfect place for dinner was at the top of Mount Floyen with a funicular ride 320 meters  above the harbor watching the sunset and the lights coming on in the town below.  The Bellevue Restaurant means "beautiful view" and sitting on the outdoor terrace is breathtaking and romantic.  The Floein Folkerestaurant has been family run for four generations and was established in 1899.  The  "continental cuisine is based on Norwegian traditions" and will definitely include baked bread, fish and boiled potatoes.

March 3-13 2009

March 3-13, 2009
Hurtigruten Cruise Norway Fjords
By Sue McCarthy
My 11-day journey on Hurtigruten's MS Trollfjord started in St. Louis, MO with my flight on United Airlines and connected in Chicago with SAS Scandinavian Airlines.  My SAS overnight flight took me to Copenhagen, Denmark where I claimed my luggage, got my passport stamped (you have to ask now) and boarded my next flight to Bergen, Norway where I would stay one night in Bergen before boarding the ship for my fjord cruise.  I had a carry-on, a large purse, my winter coat and one checked bag.  Since my husband, Kevin, would join me 5 days later at Tromso (north of the Arctic Circle) and he had several more connecting flights than I did, I decided to pack an extra set of clothes in my checked bag for him.  Read Kevin's blog...did his suitcase make it?
Packing Tips:  Winter clothing is more bulky, so wear your heavy coat and put your gloves, hat and scarf in the pockets.  For sightseeing in the towns I took long silk underwear (washes and dries quickly) and layered my clothing. provided me with the temperatures in Norway and I packed accordingly.  Cross pack your luggage with your husband's or traveling companion in case one suitcase gets lost you will both have something to wear.