Last Stop – Zion National Park

Our last stop was Zion National Park.   It felt good to be among the rock formations that were similar to the ones of home after all the week of trees.

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We have always loved the wind-swept red rocks of the southwest and they are one of the favorite things about home.

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Zion was designated as a National Park in 1919 and is known for its incredible canyons and views.

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It also has nearly 3,000,000 visitors per year.  It is also the one failure on this trip.   Zion is actually more than one area with different entrances.

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We arrived early but chose to go to the less popular Kolob area first.  By the time we got to the Zion canyon area, Zion was over crowded.   Zion requires that you take park transportation through most it.  Unfortunately, they have only limited parking areas and there were no parking left for us.  That meant we did not see a large portion of the park.   It surprised us since we were not there on a week-end nor during the high tourist time and in the morning. Lesson learned for us.

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The End of the Road Trip

 

Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming

After Yellowstone, everything was less dramatic.  What we did find in the Grand Teton National Park was a homey place where you could take your shoes off and sit a spell.   It was a place where you could find peace.

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It was an uphill battle to make Grand Teton into a national park.  In the late 1800s homesteaders arrived in the valley. Conditions for survival were difficult, with the cold and harsh winters and dry summers which made it hard to grow crops and ranch cattle. Then things changed with the wealthy easterners came to the west in early 1900s.  That stated the golden age of ‘Dude Ranching’ with cabins, gas stations, billboards and race tracks sprung themselves in the valley.

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Local ranchers wanted to preserve the beauty of the valley and finally in 1926, John D. Rockefeller started purchasing the land privately with the intent of donating it to the government later on to become a part of the Grand Teton National Park.   However, there was much opposition to Grand Teton becoming a park.  Anti-park sentiments hit an all time high because the deal was to include governmental jurisdiction over affairs within Jackson Hole – a concept received by many early settlers as a threat to personal freedoms.

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It took 50 years and three government acts but in 1950, the original park land, Rockefeller’s lands and the remaining federal land termed as the ‘Jackson Hole National Monument’ were merged together to establish what is the Grand Teton National Park of today.

We are definitely planning on coming back some day.

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Many of the places were closing down now that the summer and fall visitors were gone.   We did have lunch at the Ranch House.   We weren’t expecting much but were very pleased with the brisket sandwich we both had.   The pickled onions were the star of it.

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I wished we had made reservations at one of the lodgings in the park but since we didn’t it was on to Jackson, Wyoming were we did have reservations.

Jackson is a fun town that started in 1894.  The town has does a good job at keeping a western feel to it.  Now it is known for its food, art galleries, ski resorts and ranches owned by famous people.  We wanted to stay near the town square so we could walk to bars and restaurants.  We chose The Ranch Inn.  It is just a couple of block from the town square and had easy parking.  The place was older but clean and comfortable.  We even had a fireplace.  To bad to turned warm so we didn’t get to use it.

We did have some great food in Jackson.    We stumbled upon the Persephone Bakery for breakfasts.

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It was just one block from our hotel and a really cute place.   I loved to sit out in the patio and watch the world go by.

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We only had pastries but they were very good pastries.  I highly recommend it if you are in the area.


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Our fanciest dinner was at Bin 22.  This was a funny little place.  You walk through a wine store and then there is a wine bar in the back and to the side.   It is in a very small area with some patio seating.   We chose to sit at one of the three long communal tables.

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That was a great idea.   Another couple came in and sat across from us and we had a lovely chat with them.  We tried a number of the dishes and were pleases with all of them.  We were also introduced to Mohave Gold raisins. These are the worlds best raisins.    The dinner wasn’t cheap but it was really a pleasant way to spend an evening.

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One thing we wish we knew going in is that you can buy a bottle in the store and the will serve it to you.  That  really enlarges you wine selection.

Do you ever start missing your favorite foods while you are on vacation?   One afternoon we both had this over-riding desire for pizza.  The problem is that we like neopoleon style which you can’t find everywhere.   Lucky for us there was on Neopoleon style place in Jackson.   That was Pizza Caldera.  It is up upstairs, overlooking the main road.  You enter by this lone doorway on the ground floor that immediately leads you upstairs to the restaurant.

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You order at a counter and then the food is brought out to you. If you like traditional pizzas only, then this isn’t the place for you. You are going to be very unhappy.  We loved it.  There is a balcony area where you can eat but it was taken up by groups of people that didn’t look like they were going to leave anytime soon so we ate inside pretty much by ourselves.   We split a salad and had two wonderful pizzas.

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I had the Piccante Salsiccia that had goat peppers on it and instantly fell in love.   My husband had the Rucola which has a salad on top. His only complaint was he wish the salad went all the way to the edges stead of being heaped in the center.  He did enjoy the combination of flavors.

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You can’t go to Jackson without a stop at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.  It is totally a tourist trap but it is a requirement that you go and get a photo sitting at the bar.

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The drinks aren’t very good but at least they are cheap.   Stick to beer if you can.

 

 

Yellowstone

There is only one word for Yellowstone – beautiful.  Yellowstone is full of  amazing colors and textures.  Each place changes its looks depending on the time of day and the weather.  I am not going to try to describe Yellowstone but I am hoping these photos will encourage you to visit Yellowstone.

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Yellowstone – The animals

One of the reasons we try to go to Yellowstone in fall is for the animals.   The animals are more lively in the fall now that the hot weather has pass and it is time to get ready for winter.  This year the animals were kind of weird.  We are used to finding elk all over the park bulging for a mate.  This trip we found only one bull chasing after two females who didn’t want anything to do with him.  Every time he would get close, off they would bound.

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We would get up early in the morning and take walks.   We could hear the wolves howling, the coyotes yipping and elk bulging but they all remained elusive.

One animal that was plentiful was the bison.  We were use to only seeing a couple but they were everywhere.  You couldn’t go anywhere without running into them.

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They were at the geysers.

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They were in the roads

DSC02065In fact, every afternoon as we were heading back to the lodge, there would be this old bison wandering down the middle of the road tying traffic up both ways.  You just know he was really enjoying the havoc he was causing.

This was the first time we saw Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep.  There was a herd of them laying by the road.  I am still not sure with the whole park to lay in, why they chose the busiest road to lay by.   As you can imagine, it was a real traffic jam there.

DSCN2197Of course, the baby ones are the cute ones.

DSCN2199We did have one scary incident on our first morning.  We had gotten up at day break and went down some paths looking at geysers.   It was a great morning with very few others about.   We went down one dead-end path and on our way back, a grizzly was on the path.   We backed up very slowly and put some distance and a geyser between us.   The grizzly was more interested in finding berries and things instead of tourist meat and left the area.

IMG_0590We then understood why they were selling bear spray and bells in the gift store.   Later that afternoon, we passed an area on the road with lots of ranger vehicles and a couple of ambulances.  When we asked what the problem was, the ranger told us there had been a grizzly sighting about 1/2 mile down the trail.   After that, we were more careful about only going where there were other people.

I can’t close this out without talking about the ravens.

IMG_0876The ravens are tricky birds that like to steal things.  There were warning posted about them but that just made them more enduring to me.

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The road to Yellowstone – Part 2

Up bright and early the next morning with a wide world to go explore.   We asked what were the local (Beaver, Ut.) sites of interest and the only one anyone mentioned was Cove Fort.  So off we went.   I had seen the Cove Fort signs when we go to Colorado but knew very little about it.  It wasn’t a fort like I think of a fort.  A fort to me means military.  Cove Fort is a fortified Mormon way station.  It provided a safe place to stop for those traveling between Salt Lake City and St George.

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It was a home, telegraph office,trading post, and stage stop all rolled into one.   The church has done an impressive job of restoring the fort.

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It is also free and has nice bathrooms so it makes a great stop when you are on the road.

Our next stop was Ogden’s Union Station.   We didn’t really go for the Union Station but for the 4 museums that are housed in it.   One admission buys you all four.

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We will start with the littlest which was the cowboy/cowgirl museum.   It was a strange little museum and our least favorite.  If fact, we really liked the other three but didn’t think much of this one.  I think one problem was the other three museums were staffed with people who loved their subject.  In this one, the person couldn’t care if we were there or not.  The topic was really cowboys and cowgirls as they related to Ogden.  This included such topics as those Ogden Rodeo queens who went on to win the national title.

The next one was the antique car museum.   It is small but well done.  The person in the museum made her subject come alive through her enthusiasm.  It wasn’t the biggest car museum I had ever been in was it was a lot of fun to visit.

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The third museum was the Browning Firearm museum.   The museum included the history of the family along with the history of the various firearms.

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It definitely was not my favorite but my husband loved it.   We spent over an hour looking at all the firearms and bullets.

The last and biggest museum was the railroad one.   There was some general railroad information but it also had a concentration of information on the western portion of the making of the Transcontinental Railroad.  There was displays, a model railroad and even big locomotives.  Even though I had visited other railroad museums, this one kept my interest.

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Touring museums always makes my hungry so it was off to find lunch in Ogden.   T-boning into the Union Station is a street full of restaurants.  We chose the Two Bit Street Cafe.   Don’t you love the name. It actually brought tomy  mind two bit whores for the wild west days.  It is in an old building and has retained some of the charm but isn’t quite there.   We wanted something light so we had a Nicoise salad with Ahi and pork kebabs.

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The food was pretty good but they could do a little more with the atmosphere. The wait staff was good but the kitchen staff was talking very loudly about their personal lives including a conversation about vomiting.  Just what you want to hear while you are eating.

We took our time as we wandered over the hills to Yellowstone.  The leaves were changing making a gorgeous background for our drive.

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Our favorite site was the clouds laying in a valley as we looked on to them from a higher point.

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The road to Yellowstone Part 1

This fall we took a road trip to Yellowstone.  Yellowstone is one of our favorite national parks and we think it is extra special in the fall.    Our original plan was to mosey up through different points of interest with the first one being Antelope Canyon.  I don’t know if we just didn’t know or forgot but the road we selected to Antelope Canyon was closed from the earlier floods.  Instead of backtracking we just starting looking at other interesting things.

Lee's Landing

Lee’s Landing

Our first stop was Lee’s Landing.   It is a starting point for many of the Grand Canyon rafting trips.  I think it is mainly rafting and fishing.     Next stop was the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area.  I am still struggling with what is the different between a national recreational area and a national park.

 

Glenn Canyon

Glenn Canyon

I did enjoy this area.   I love rock formations and there were plenty for me.   I also learned something.   There is a road near the town I live in named Shinarump.   I had always thought it was unusual but must have been some pioneer’s name or something.   I learned in Glen Canyon that it is actually a geological term and has to do with the the rock pillars you see in the Southwest.   Think Monument Valley.

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shelter made from rock

The journey to Bryce National lead us through diverse and interesting scenery.

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We arrived at Bryce National Park in the afternoon.  It was a picture perfect day except that we could see thunderstorms heading our way.  By the time we were at the end of the road in the Park, you could see beautiful lightning strikes in the distance.

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I know that people disagree with me but I really prefer the Grand Canyon to Bryce.  Yes, it is beautiful but felt like a mini-grand canyon to me.

By now the rain had started and it was time to find lodging for the night.   After driving through the rain storm and several small towns, we ended up in Beaver, Utah.   And yes, they sell “I Love Beaver” souvenirs.

We spent the night at the Best Western which is an old style motel.  You know that type with the outdoor stairs? Management has done what they could ensure it was clean and comfortable.   The treasure of this stay was the Crazy Cow restaurant in its parking lot.   Our room at the Best Western came with coupons. I just can’t resist coupons. The first coupon was for either free fried cheese curd or cheese cake and the second coupon was for 2 free breakfasts the next morning.  Don’t you just love coupons?

Our dinner started with the free fried cheese curd. We had never had cheese curd but figured melty cheese can’t be all bad. I have no idea if this is how it is supposed to taste  but it was very good when it was hot. We had it with marinara sauce but it also came with ranch.

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I order a hamburger and my husband ordered the rib eye steak. My hamburger was very good. I enjoyed every bite. I had gotten onion bites but would opt for fries next time. The fries are great but the onion bites were not. No, this isn’t a miss type. They aren’t onion rings but deep-fried pieces of onions.

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After the first bite of the rib eye, my husbands eyes lit up and he was in meat heaven. It talking to the waitress, their meat comes from a local source. So those happy cows eating grass you drive by may be your steak next year at Crazy Cow.

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My husband still keeps reminiscing about the steak.   He loved it so much that he engineered our return trip to include driving by the Crazy Cow at dinner time.   The dinner was still good.  We tried the baked beans with it this time. They get a stamp of approval also.

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Bergen

Our last port of call was Bergen.  After being in so many small towns, Bergen seemed really big with 275,000 population. That makes it the second most populous city in Norway.   It was established sometime during the 1030’s as a handelsknutepunkt (trading crossroads for us heathens).

We arrived and started our visit in pouring rain.   This was the worse weather we had the whole trip.

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By afternoon, the sun was out and the city was a lot prettier.  We looked like drowned rats by that time.

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Bergen is a great walking city because there are so many  neighborhood, all that have different personalities.

I love thinking of her dancing in the rain.

I love thinking of her dancing in the rain.

The one thing about walking around the city was the changes in surface materials.  You always had to watch you step or you would find yourself tripping.

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Bergen has a famous fish market that has been around for 700 years.  When I read that I was expecting something old.  What I found was a very modern and  cleanest fish market I had ever seen.   There is actually two parts.   The indoor part was the more established sellers.

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They would also cook you fish while you waited though indoor seating was limited.

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The outside area was stalls that sold both fish and food.

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All the food looked so good and we would have had lunch there except for the weather.   We decided to eat in a nice, dry restaurant.     We chose an old restaurant named Bryggeloftet & Stuene.   It was started in 1910 and kept the old world feel about it.  It was like a big hug after such a blustery day.

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We started out with the traditional fish soup.  It was pretty good but not the best we had.

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For our mains, I had the most delicious steak sandwich I have ever had.   It was served with béarnaise sauce.  The fries were nice and crunchy with something sprinkled on top that I have no idea what it was.

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Lloyd decided to have just an appetizer for his lunch though he did beg some bites of mine since it was that good.   He chose the smoked whale.   Whale is a normal food for most of the countries that we visited this trip but this was the first time we actually tasted  it.  Before when we had talked to the natives, they kept saying it was like eating a very tender steak.   This dish was so highly seasoned, you couldn’t actually taste the meat.

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One thing that really impressed me was they gave me little chocolate bars with my tea.   Who wouldn’t love getting little chocolate bars.

 

Now settle back and come explore the rest of Bergen with me.

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Shetland – Not just for ponies.

 

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I wasn’t very excited about going to the Shetland Island.   I thought see a couple of ponies and my day was done.  Boy was I wrong.  Shetland was a wonderful place.   Shetland is a group of 1oo islands around 100 miles north of Scotland.   About 16 islands are inhabited.  The largest city has less than 7,000 people.

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The culture is a combination of Scottish, Vikings and Norwegian.  The earliest inhabitants date back to 4320–4030 BC.  There really is a lot to see and we only got to see about 1/3 of the main island.   I really wished we had more time here.

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Even the history is interesting.   My favorite piece of history I learned there was that the Shetland islands were pawned.   I think they use the term pawned different from I am use to.   It all happened back in the 14th century when the islands belonged to Norway.   The King of Norway pledged the islands as security against the payment of the dowry of his daughter to King James III.   King James was only a young teenager at the time.   The dowry was never paid and the debt was called in.  The islands exchanged hands and became part of Scotland.

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Even the modern parts are quirky.   There is road that goes through the airport runway so traffic must be stopped when a plane is landing or taking off.

I am going to leave you with some more photos but I hope they inspire you to put Shetland Islands on your bucket list.

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Stavanger

Stavanger is a wonderful town.   It has found a way to be comfortable in both its past and its future and to celebrate both.

Stavanger is the 4 largest city in Norway and was founded in 1125 A.D.    It is considered to be the center of the oil industry in Norway.   The city was smart because they protected the 18th -19th century wooden houses so the town retained that part of their cultural heritage.

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The cruise ship port is right in front of the old part of town so it was very convenient.   It was just a short walk around the harbor to the commercial part of town.   I have to say that I really adored this town.

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In the old part of town was the Sardine Canning Museum which was a lot of fun.   I know, I know, how much of a museum can they have on canning sardines.   But it wasn’t just about sardines, they had canned fish balls also.   They took an old cannery and left much of it intact.

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They used rubber sardines to demonstrate the process the workers had to do to get them from fresh caught sardines to smoked sardines in a can.

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Sardines threaded on a frame ready for smoking

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Sardines getting their heads cut off

 

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Sardines are hand packed into their tins

They had an Oil museum also but we decided to skip it since we had just been to one a couple of years ago.  Instead we visited Sjokladepiken which was a chocolate shop.   Not just a chocolate shop but a very good chocolate shop.  Oil or chocolate…..  there wasn’t a choice.

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Now I am going to let you explore this charming town on your own.

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The Oil Museum we didn’t go to

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I had never seen a parking meter for a boat before.

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Sunday in Kristiansand

Kristiansand was founded in 1641 and named for King Christian IV.  They added sand to town name because it was built on a sandy area.  It is the 5th largest city with a population of 84,000 and has the second largest harbor.  It serves as the trade and communication center for southern Norway so it is an important town.

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Sunday is always a problem for sight-seeing since most of the town is closed.  Without the Information Center, I couldn’t find the one things I wanted to see in Kristiansand.   That was the Stiftelsen Arkivet which is the only authentic WWII Gestapo Headquarters left and it now houses the Institute for Dialogue and Conflict Resolution.  We tried to find it on our own but got horribly lost.

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Kristiansand really did a nice job on their water front areas.   There is a lot of park areas and public PAY restrooms.   It was really funny watching all the tourists who didn’t have Norwegian money.  They would find a person who did have change and then that person would pass the open door unto the next person in line.

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We stumbled on a boat show in the harbor that made my husband’s heart go pitty patter.   Since I had been to more than one boat show here in America, it was fun to see the differences in boats.

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Christiansholm Festning is part of the water complex.   This is a circular stone fortress that was built in 1672 to defend the city.  It was originally built on an islet about 100 yards from shore though it is now connected the land.  It ended its military life in 1872.

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Today cultural and other events are held in the upper level.   There was an art show when we were there.   The main draw is the gorgeous views from the upper level.

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Like every other town we were in, there is an old area but not was interesting as  the other towns we were in.

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Of course there is a beautiful church in the middle of town named appropriately, Kristiansand Cathedral.  It is the third one built at that site and was finished in 1885.  The other ones burnt down.  Luck was with them when the Nazis invaded Kristiandsand since only one tower was damaged from the shelling on the current cathedral.

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I don’t know if it is only on Sunday or others days also but near the cathedral were stalls selling items.  Many of these items were wonderful looking food.  Unfortunately neither of us were hungry and we weren’t allowed to take food items back unto the boat so we only got to look, smell and drool.

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We had a wonderful day just wandering around but it wasn’t a place we would hurry back to.  I don’t know if it would have made a difference if we were there on a day when more was open or not but it didn’t catch our imagination like other towns did.

Here is a few more photos of our wanderings.

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