Tromso, Norway

 

LET'S GO:

Tromso, Norway is the most Northern City in the Arctic.  Before booking our family trip, I'm going to admit that I had never heard of such a place.  Our main goal was to see the Norther Lights in Norway, but where that was going to be... a little researching needed to be done on my part.  After a little googling, it's easy to see that Tromso, pronounced Tromssa, is one of the best places to see the Auroa Borrealis because of it's location!  So boom. Done.  Let's go to Tromso.  We didn't need much convincing.  Being that it was an island, and pretty isolated, was another plus.  We like islands, and we like exploring "off the beaten path".

We took off to Tromso a few days after Christmas, which means there is absolutely no sunlight.  Their polar nights last from about November 27 through January 15.  It's not a complete blackout, but there are only 5 or so hours of illumination throughout the day (0930 -1400).  It's like dusk most of the time with a beautiful blue that fills the atmosphere, and when the weather is really favorable you can see breathtaking hues of sunset in the sky.  If you've never experienced the polar nights, I definitely suggest you book a trip during the winter!  It's an experience and the lack of sunlight does not keep these people indoors.

What to Wear?!

Traveling in the winter... in the Arctic... calls for some major winter clothes.  Being from Hawaii, where we have NO changing seasons and are tropical year round, I rely on Pinterest, Amazon, and Google for reviews, and in this case, winter clothing.  For our boys I went with the Obermeyer Boys Turoa Suit, which has kept them nice and toasty without worry of them being cold!  The great thing about this suit is that it's a one piece which keeps out the snow and cold draughts!  It also extends a few inches so they won't out grow it for at least another year or two!  They've used it all winter and can last a good 4-5 hours of outdoor play until their faces start to freeze over.  The real test was riding the Huskies in the pouring snow and sleet.  These suits withstood the water and the cold 100%!  My husband and I had to use the winter proof suits the tour provided and we were still cold!  They also had on Sorrel Children's Commander Snow Boots, which are amazing in the snow and cold!  With good socks - feet do not get cold and definitely don't get wet!

For adults:  Good winter proof boots are a MUST.  There was snow, melted snow, rain, mud, puddles, etc!  I would suggest water proof boots that will keep your feet warm.  

Also pants made for snow are kind of also worth it.  Many of the tours provide snow suits (if you're doing a winter adventure type tour), but just walking around the town in the elements (snow, rain, and wind) my snow pants kept me super warm!  I wasn't uncomfortable at all when everyone else in our group were literally freezing wearing jeans.

As far a jackets go - I would probably recommend a winter proof one.  Just as long as you have a good outer jacket that resists wind and water - you'll be good to go (with layers inside of course).

Lastly, you can't go wrong with a beanie, scarf, and most importantly gloves! Whew!  Dressing for winter is a pain, but fun when you have the right articles! =)

 

 

TOURS.

I like to book a lot our family adventures on Viator, which is a Trip Advisor company.  They have an app and a website that allows you to look at hundreds of activities in 450 destinations worldwide!  I LOVE Viator because it's legit (a Trip Advisor Company), they have 24/7 support with a live person, and you can book basically anything.  We've experienced the Colosseum, Vatican, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, walking tours and museums in Berlin, the Northern Lights Safari, Fjords, sledding with Huskies and more!  Booking through Viator also alleviates the stress of looking at dozens of websites, tour companies, and always has the lowest prices available with many different options.  Check out their link here-------> www.viator.com or download their app in the app store.  Here's a quick review of the tours we went on.


Like I said earlier we booked all 3 tours with Viator.  

1. Northern Lights Chasing Small Group Tour with Polar Adventures.
We like small groups because we enjoy the small group setting.  We like to hear and learn from the tour guide and we feel it's just easier with kids.  The tour starts at 7 and ends indefinitely.  They vow to drive all the way to the Finnish border to chase the lights - and they do!  They drove us 2.5 hrs (one way) near Finland because the weather was not favorable in Tromso to see the lights.  The tour guides are very passionate about seeing the lights and even more passionate about sharing them with people from all over the world!  With expert and professional Northern Lights weather forecasters we were able to catch about 30 mins of this breath taking natural phenomena.  On top of getting you to the lights, the tour provided a bunch of tripods and individually helped us with what camera settings to use.  They also handed out hot chocolate, fruits, cookies, and sandwiches!  It was a long night, as in we got back to our hotel at 2:30 am, but more than worth it, because duh, we got to see the Aurora Borrealis!  



2. Fjord Excursion Including Mountain and Sea Arctic Scenery from Tromso with Polar Adventures.
I had always thought I would view the famous Fjords of Norway on a boat, but after doing some research and reading reviews, I found that people really enjoyed viewing them roadside and stopping at all the different lookouts.  After thinking about it for a little while we decided to go with this route because we like to get out, walk around, and take pictures, which we wouldn't get to do when on a ferry... and you still get to see the same thing!  It was also freezing and I figured we wouldn't stand out on the deck the entire time and would probably seek refuge in the warm indoors of the boat.  So Yes!  This tour was winnahs.  We saw Orca's, humpbacks, and eagles from the shore!  They drove us to this beautiful beach where we saw people braving the arctic temps and surfing, then to harbor where local farmer's were drying legs of lamb and fresh caught cod!  So many things we wouldn't have experienced if we were on a ferry.  I would still like to take a ferry ride and see the Fjords, but maybe in the summer and on the Geirangerfjorden.



3. Husky Sledding Ride Including Campfire Lunch with the Tromso Villmarkssenter (Tromso Wilderness Center).
This was, hands down, a tour that everyone should book.  These dogs are amazing and are treated with the utmost love and care.  We were fortunate enough to have met the owner of the Wilderness Center and Boss Lady of all the dogs, Tove Sorenson.  We were even luckier that she was our musher on the excursion along with her personal race dogs doing the pulling! She is a local of Tromso and her family has been there and dog sledding for generations.  She trains with her son and has done Europe's longest dog sledding race 15 times and the World's longest dog sledding race in Alaska 1 time.  What accomplishments!  And no no.. there are no whips involved... she directs them by calling out different commands, in which they all understand.  These dogs are smart!  We got to meet them, play with them, ride the sled, and at then end were served a delicious Reindeer Soup!  They even provided waterproof snowsuits and boots to ensure everyone would be warm and enjoy the trip.


Would we go again?!

YES, YES, AND YES!  Everyone was so nice in Tromso.  It is a beautiful Island with extraordinary sights, wildlife, and things to do.  It's unique and a must visit on everyone's Bucket List.


Happy Traveling All!

Italy Part 3: Positano

Positano!  My Pinterest dreams came true!  I had been pinning pictures of Positano for some time before we booked our trip and to see it in person was like that feeling I had when I went to Disneyland for the first time at age 10.  Hahaha.  All the pictures I had seen and blogs I had read about this fantasy of a place made my eyes light up and basically... when we got off the bus.. I ran all the way to the bottom with my hands up in the air like a child (except to stop more than a handful of times for photo op's). =)

Positano's iconic icecream colored buildings scale down a small mountainside all the way to the sea.  With many towns on the Amalfi coast, you wonder how the layout of these small towns were built?!  There's one main road where cars can come in and out of, but it's small slow moving.  Everything else are pedestrian walkways and stairs just like all the other towns on the Amalfi.  As much as I day dreamed about this place and all the things we would do - it's hard to hit all the good eatery's and gelateria's in one day and soak up the sun while exploring the cliffside!  So we took it all in and decided that what we really wanted to do was rent beach chairs and umbrellas and lounge, get tan, and swim.  If you're from a tourist destination like Hawaii then it was kind of like our turn on Waikiki Beach =)  

The umbrella chairs were amazing.  We lounged and when it got too hot we jumped in the cool ocean.  Leisure and luxury at it's finest.  We walked up and down the beach collecting little pieces of Italian beach glass, played with my GoPro... and did that on repeat.  I almost forgot what life without kids was like.  Don't get me wrong - we missed our 2 munchkins like crazy, but we definitely took advantage of this alone time together doing what we wanted to do when we wanted.

After a few hours we rinsed off grabbed a bite to eat and did a little more exploring while still in awe of the raw beauty of Positano.  


 

Italy Part 2: Praiano

Praiano, Italy is definitely a hidden gem and on my list of go-to's and places to stay while traveling the Amalfi Coast.  Originally, when planning this trip, I only wanted to see and stay in Positano, because it was all I was seeing on Pinterest, Trip Advisor, and on social media accounts.  We had 2 nights and 3 days to spend on the Amalfi, and I thought Positano was all we had time for... clearly I was and am soooooo wrong.  Positano is freaking awesome... and I'll have pictures and a write up on it next!  So when researching for an Bread and Breakfast nothing really caught my attention.  I was looking for something specific; ocean view, small and quaint, affordable, clean, and a bit private.  While scrolling through Airbnb for the 100th time I saw a listing for a Villa that met my criteria.  I noticed it was in Praiano - okay, but where is Praiano?  It's about a 20 minute bus ride away from Positano!  I figured... sure.  If it's that close to Positano, the place I really wanted to go to, then we might as well venture out a bit and stay somewhere else we hadn't been and kill two birds with one stone.  Yes - there are lots of places to stay in Positano, but they are all really expensive and we were going to splurge in Capri - so I had to look elsewhere.  Done - and - booked!  You can read more about Villa il Frantoio on Trip Advisor or on the Airbnb link below!
 https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/8027169?checkin=01%2F29%2F2016&checkout=01%2F31%2F2016&s=Mlkk6vNa

All these towns on the Amalfi coast, if you aren't as traveled as I and didn't know, are situated on the side of cliffs.  These little towns are built from the top of where the public road starts all the way down to sea level.  Yes there are roads - like one road that only goes down to the main square and back up to the highway, but that's it!  To get to and from the ocean... and the place you are staying,  you have to hike it up and down all those stairs!  Praiano is not for the physically weak!  There was a warning at the Villa we stayed at that said - if you aren't able to walk up and down hundreds of stairs with your bags - then it wasn't the place for you.  If you're thinking what about the children and elderly... how do they walk up and down these stairs everyday?  Welp - they do and have been since they were more or less born.  Many places in Europe are like this - we Americans would cry and scream if we had to walk up and down hundreds and thousands of stairs everyday.  It's always nice to see how other people live their daily lives.  The advantage though, is privacy (less touristy), it's quiet, the views are AMAZING, the people are nice and welcoming, and the beaches were unbeatable.  If you're like me and from an island - you know what I mean when we don't like hundred's of people at the same beach you're at.  Praiano is hidden and kind of a local spot - and we totally crashed it. =)  
If traveling with limited time and a strict schedule - this is a great place to stay.  You're close to Positano (major tourist destination), it's beautiful and quiet. and most importantly it's not too far in and it's fairly easy to get back to Sorrento and on a train back to wherever it is you are going.  The trains stop at Sorrento!  Everything past it is all on your own - taxi, bus, rent a car, or private chauffeur.  The entire Amalfi Coast is one road with two lanes!  Again - if you're from an island or the North Shore of O'ahu like I am - you know what I'm talking about.  1 road with only 2 lanes means one thing and one things only... when it's tourist season there's death TRAFFIC!  You can be sitting in 3 hours of traffic when without traffic it's supposed to take 30 mins!  I don't know about you, but when traveling so far away from home with limited time, you don't want to waste 6 hours sitting in traffic.  We had our Villa arrange a private Taxi to pick us up in Sorrento and take us to Praiano.  Way less stress - and they know exactly where they are going!  

We got in the water - duh - and did probably one of the best things you could do on the Amalfi Coast!  Check back for more!

Xoxo,

Ida

*Clothes by Matt Bruening Label and Salt Liko.
 

 

 

Italy Part 1: Sorrento

Being that this is my first written blog ever - I figured I'd start off with my most recent summer trip to ITALY!  I honestly can't get enough of Italy.  I took a trip with my Photography class to Europe (Italy was one of the countries we toured) when I was a senior in high school and it opened this small town (Kahuku to be exact) / island girl's eyes to a little portion of how beautiful our world is and all that I have yet to see!  I knew that I NEEDED to come back and see more!  I ended up going back to Italy to Study Abroad when I was 19 in a tiny town in the Marche region called Macerata.  It was beyond breathtaking and opened my eyes even more. Of course... I knew this wasn't going to be my last trip to Italy so celebrating my husband and I's 5th wedding anniversary seemed like the perfect time to explore more!

So here - first stop, beautiful SORRENTO!  We stayed at the ever so coastal posh, Maison La Minervetta, which I found Pinterest-ing my life away. I later confirmed it's legit-ness on Trip Adviosr... and hello... it was AH-MAZING.  It's located right above Sorrento's Marina Grande and has a private staircase of about 300 that leads straight down to it's historic beach community.  This stylish hotel has only 12 rooms, which is one of the reasons I picked it, aside from it's interior decoration.  Of course the decor is Italian coastal inspired.  There are bold colors of reds, whites, and blues, coastal stripes, sail boats, anchors, italian designed tiles, pottery, and dishes, etc. The hotel staff was so friendly and treated everyone as though they were family.  Definitely another perk of staying in a small hotel.  Big resorts can be fun, but attention to detail is much more enjoyable.

We actually only stayed one night then made our way to the Amalfi Coast the next day, which is where we wanted to spend the majority of our trip.  Because of our brief stay, we made it a point to make the most it!  We swam in their pool which had a panorama of Mt. Etna and Sorrento's skyline, sunbathed on the docks of Marina Grande, took a dive in the crystal blue sea, had an ono Italian seafood dinner then took a night stroll around Sorrento's main square.  Real Italian food is always a plus, but real Italian seafood takes the cake.  SO fresh, light, and full of flavor.  I could go on and on about Sorrento and Maison La Minervetta, but I'll let the pictures do more talking. =)  Ciao! xx

Bikini - Issa de mar
Dress - Cassandra Rull
Shirt - Matt Bruening