Utrecht, Netherlands

As our trip draws to a close, we choose to spend our last full day in Utrecht.

Similar to Amsterdam but a lot smaller, with fewer bikes and tourists and canals. But still oozing with oodles of charm.

Coffee is first on our list: Black Brew. Great flat white and filter coffee.

We then wander the streets: statues and canals and shops again but lots of variety and too many to visit.

In the centre of town is the Dom Cathedral which has been on this site since 43 AD although they’ve had to rebuild it a number of times. Inside it’s a quiet and contemplative sanctuary that marries a fascinating history with displays of modern art.

Outside again and we continue along the main canal, discovering art where you would least expect it.

And a delicious little lunch of feta & sun-dried tomato quiche and a leg ham roll.

Even this side street with it’s unusual lights is worth a look.

Alas, before we know it our time is done. We will just have to return anon.

Amsterdam | 02

Amsterdam in technicolor: blue skies, green leaves, white clouds, orange leaves, brown bricks, yellow leaves, red boats, no leaves, gold reflections.

After seeing so many wonderful artworks I’m inspired to try my hand at abstract photography.

Amsterdam | 01

Amsterdam in monochrome.

First impressions: adorable buildings, lots of bikes, quiet canals, some more bikes, lots of tourists, even more bikes, and bridges over canals, yummy cheese, sweet stroopwafels, exquisite art works & sculptures, the distinct waft of cannabis, and a few more bikes. What’s not to love?

Oh, did I mention tourists on bikes?

Apenheul, Netherlands

Our second day in Apeldoorn involves a visit to the local monkey park: Apenheul.

These little critters are very cute and may climb on you in search of food.

There are a plethora of monkeys, apes and adorable lemurs in the well curated zoo. The wildlife is often so close and docile that it’s difficult to think of them as wild at all.

The external grounds are extensive and would make a great place to simply stroll, have a picnic, or go for a run.

De Hoge Veluwe National Park

Sadly we must leave Oslo behind but we’ll have the chance to visit other family members when we hop over to the Netherlands. We will be staying in Apeldoorn, a convenient 1-hour express train ride from the centre of Amsterdam.

The weather is unseasonably warm so we head over to De Hoge Veluwe National Park with our hosts, Mike + Renate + Cate + Sylvester.

Riding our bikes around the enormous park is a leisurely exercise. After lunch we’re very fortunate to stumble upon a stag, apparently a rare sighting in the park.

Tilt, Oslo

On our last night in Oslo we meet up in the city with our hosts, Simon + Marit (+ Magnus who is fast asleep).

Our destination is a bar called Tilt which is opposite another bar called The Good Knight (apparently playing chess has become really popular again as the current world champion is Norwegian).

We order a couple of Brewdog IPAs (as I forgot to try the delicious craft beer when we were in Scotland). But they also have a really extensive list from which to choose.

And Tilt, as the name would suggest, has a huge assortment of retro arcade games, pinball machines, a pool table …

… and some really cool shuffle boards.

Too. Much. Fun! Pity the result is a draw: no bragging rights.

Oslo | 06

The Akershus Fortress dominates this part of town. But it’s relatively quiet around here, probably because it’s not high-season for tourists.

With all the changing colours it definitely feels like winter is coming.

I grab a terrific toasted sandwich from a street vendor near SALT. Eating it undercover beside an open drum fire when it starts to rain is a treat.

The Norwegian determination to have a positive impact on the environment is very encouraging.

And I especially love the many statues with a seagull perched on top.

Although too cold now, these floating saunas would be interesting during the warmer months.

Simon + Marit + Magnus

A short commute outside the Oslo CBD is the palatial residence of Simon + Marit + Magnus (the latter is the heir).

Exquisitely grand yet understated it could be used as a display home in a high-end home catalogue.

Within short walking distance are picturesque forest trails leading to breathtaking lookouts that make you feel on top of the world.

And the expansive lake of Sognsvann down below is incredibly popular all year round and perfect for trail running with wide, well-defined paths.

But by far the best part about Oslo is time spent with family (playing cards, eating brown cheese, drinking the home brewed craft beer etc) and especially cuddles with the adorable Magnus.