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Nice & Monaco

Events! Certainly I couldn’t miss the UEFA Euro 2016 in France. Five buddies and myself started planning this adventure together during the winter of 2015/16, and our choice was aiming at the Sweden vs Belgium match in Nice. The French Riviera tempted with sun, beaches and a beautiful setting. And then there was also the opportunity of increasing the number of countries visited, since Monaco is nearby. We had no problem getting match tickets and likewise there was plenty of accommodation available, so we started studying the guide books in the meantime till the departure. It might be important to have some command of the French language, too: “bonjour, bonsoir, bonne soirée …” I read about the rooftop bar La Terrasse du Plaza, the Hi Beach pizzas, the beach clubs and conscientiously made notes of the fact that bathing shoes are of great use … The last things I removed from my suitcase before leaving home were the bathing shoes, to reduce luggage weight. That was something I later regretted as I painfully stumbled along the scorching pebbles on the beach…

The beach in Nice.

Nice is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in the south of France. The city is situated between Cannes and Monaco along the Mediterranean coast and many people take the opportunity of enjoying the stunning views of the coastal roads. If you go by air to Nice you arrive at the Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport, located along the sea in the outskirts of the city. From there the city center is easily accessible by bus or taxi.

The beach boulevard in Nice.

I arrived in Nice late at night and my friends Tompa, Lotta, Johan, Jonny and Peter were waiting for me in a restaurant on the ‘Promenade des Anglais’ boardwalk. The strong resemblance to Santa Monica in Los Angeles struck me. A beautifully lit promenade with streets, pathways, beach and lots of palm trees. I immediately felt that I would have a good time, standing there gazing at the Mediterranean Sea in the evening with the light of the full moon being reflected in the waves.

Nice by night.

Behind my back the legendary Le Negresco Hotel was lit up and the famous pink dome beamed forth luxury up there on the roof. The hotel opened in 1913, and today it feels like entering an art museum in case you visit it.

The hotel Le Negresco.

We started Match Day with sparkling wine on the balcony, and then sparkling continued on the beach. Behind us was the Le Negresco Hotel and on our left the Neptune Beach Club. Pop pop, the corks of the fizzy bottles were launched across the beach while simultaneously Swedish cheers could be heard from the hop-on hop-off sightseeing coaches passing on the beach road. Swedish fans took the chance of touring the city and experiencing some culture while at the same time warming up for the game. The beach pebbles were hot and definitely uncomfortable to walk on if you wanted a swim in the cool Mediterranean Sea. Guess if I regretted leaving my bathing shoes on the floor at home …
In the afternoon we went to the historical city center where Swedish and Belgian fans had gathered in the bar streets. Naturally everybody was in high spirits and the fans tried to shout the others down while at the the same time remembering the importance of drinking a lot in the heat. We met many of our friends from back home among the fans and spent a nice afternoon in a wonderful setting.

Swedish supporters in Nice.

Then we were taken by bus to the Stade de Nice Arena, normally the home ground of the OGC Nice Team. Immediately we found ourselves in live broadcast in French TV, and Lotta was able to show off in an interview. It was incredibly hot and Swedish and Belgian fans began drawing their attention to drinking water in order to pull through the evening. Earlier in the championship horrible TV sequences had been broadcast from France with hooligans knocking fans about and smashing bars and restaurants, but during these days in Nice the supporters showed nothing but happy faces.

Time for Sweden vs Belgium.

My ticket was for the upper part of the stand but I didn’t want to sit there so I fooled the ushers and found my way down to row one near the pitch and stood beside the drummers of the Swedish cheering section. As regards atmosphere this would turn out one of the best matches I have experienced with the Swedish national team. The drums led the cheers and the whole yellow Swedish curve could sing along in the songs.

The writer on spot at UEFA Euro 2016!

Unfortunately the Swedish team didn’t live it up to the same extent. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the fixed star, had before the match launched the news that he would quit the national team after Euro 2016, so this might be his last game. Sweden had a good opportunity in the beginning of the game but after that Belgium was closest to having the ball in net.
But all of us fans went on fighting in the heat singing and clapping hands to the best of our ability!

The second half started, and the score was still 0-0. The Swedes were forced to win to progress in the championship so now nervousness began to spread in the stands as well as down in the pitch. In the 84th minute Nainggolan scored 1-0 for Belgium, curtain! The fans ran out of steam and the team never came back in the game, either. Belgium won and the Swedish players thanked the crowd and then left the pitch while the Belgian players celebrated together with their fans. Ibrahimovic had played his last game for the national team and walked off the grass with heavy steps.
We took the bus back to the Promenade and strolled beneath the palm trees all the time encountering happily dancing Belgians. Life goes on, when you attend heaps of events you get used to the fact that there are gloomy and fabulous moments, just keep a stiff upper lip, after all, we still had a few days to spend on the French Riviera :)

After lots of sun and beach hours we felt it was time for some culture. We had intended to go by train to the Italian village of Ventimiglia to visit their fair, but unfortunately there was a strike going on in Italy so our option was a 20 minute-journey by train to Monaco instead. In the heat of 30 degrees centigrade we strolled among enchanting buildings. The Principality is the most densely populated country in the world and the world’s second smallest sovereign state. Luxury cars shared the streets with sightseeing trains and hop-on hop-off coaches. Of course we visited the legendary Monte Carlo Casino. For an entrance fee of 10 Euros you are allowed to enter the casino at daytime and view the beautiful rooms. No dress code applies with no gaming going on … We walked round, dressed in shorts and T-shirts beneath chandeliers, golden details and beautiful pieces of art, and it felt self-evident … This was one of the few occasions that I was not on the minus side after a visit in a casino…

Monte Carlo Casino.

Beautiful indoors at the casino.

Then we walked down to the harbour with its fine views of luxury yachts and “small” leisure boats… It’s hard to believe that F1 races are run in these narrow streets. Furthest out in the harbour there was a show jumping event and I went looking for Bruce Springsteen’s daughter Jessica, who was said to be present, but I couldn’t see her. Most probably she was sitting in one of the luxurious lounges surrounding the arena. Strange to say nobody invited us in …

Horse jumping show in Monaco.

The streets and neighbourhoods were very cosy and defying the heat we strolled around in Monaco for a couple of hours before feeling the temptation of the beach in Nice again … The trains between the cities leave at short intervals and a return ticket is 6 Euros. A cheap excursion tip-off if you are visiting Nice.


One hour later I was swimming in the Mediterranean again, enjoying the sights of the Promenade in Nice. The water was pleasantly cooling and once more I regretted my leaving my bathing shoes at home in Sweden …. Later I also regretted my using a factor 10 sunscreen instead of 30 like my friends …

Tompa takes a dip into the sea.


Popular hotels to book in Nice:

Le Negresco
Negresco is a classic luxury hotel with a superb location, right on the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The hotel restaurant Chantecler has 2 stars in the Guide Michelin.

Mercure Nice Centre Grimaldi
The 4-star Hotel Mercure Nice Centre Grimaldi is situated in the city center of Nice, about 300 m from the beach and close to the Promenade Des Anglais, the old town, tram and bus stops.

Boreal Hotel Nice
Charming hotel with a great location in Nice opposite the shopping centre Nice Etoile and within walking distance to the beach and the Old Town.

Hotel de Flore
This 3 star hotel is situated in the heart of Nice 300m from Promenade des Anglais and 350m from the beach.

Popular hotels to book in Monaco:

Hermitage Monaco
Situated 200 meters from Casino square and from port Hercule.

Forum Hotel Monaco
Located in the centre of Monte Carlo, just 150 metres from the Monaco train station.

Oslo, Raiders of the lost bag ..

I woke up in the hotel room and drowsily gazed round … Oh yes, we were in Oslo … The headache was like an explosive pain after a merry night out and I started checking that everything had come back home to the room … Wallet – check, Phone – check, my buddy Tompa – check, Bag …… Oh, Nooooo! My bag containing asthma medicine, specs and my fine camera was lost, panic breaking out …


Well, me and Tompa had come to Oslo, for I had won a package tour to the Eurovision Song Contest. The capital of Norway has much to offer, culture, sights, outdoor activities and sports events. Further below in this blog post you’ll get some hints from my Norwegian friend Mari.

Now back to 2010. The journey started with my arriving some time earlier than Tompa so I walked down to “Aker Brygge”, a neighbourhood that used to contain shipyards and engineering industry, but now it is housing elegant shops, restaurants, business offices and residential streets. Aker Brygge has a central waterfront location in Oslo, and strolling along the marina and all restaurants with terraces is is a very pleasant experience. In the inner part of the bay there is also the Akershus Fortress and from there you have fine views of the city and Aker Brygge.

Aker Brygge
Aker Brygge

Aker Brygge
Aker Brygge

View over Aker Brygge
View over Aker Brygge

I went on with my sightseeing into the city center of Oslo and walked along the famous boulevard of Karl Johans Gate all the way to the Royal Palace. The construction of the palace was completed in 1849 and it is surrounded by the large Palace Park. From the palace you can admire the magnificent view of central Oslo and Karl Johan Street.

The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace

My buddy Tompa had arrived at the hotel, so I contented myself with today’s sightseeing and went back to the hotel where we began the first party of our trip. When it was time to head for the arena where the Eurovision Song Contest was to take place we brought a bottle of rum just because it felt like a smart thing to do at the time … Out in the street we met a Russian sailor who did not hesitate to drink our rum from the bottle while wearing his sailor’s uniform. Bad luck for him that we took pictures of the incident and that we happened to show the photograph to his commanding officer later that weekend …

At the arena we used the VIP entrance of course, and had fine seats in the long side section. There was a tremendous atmosphere in the arena and naturally we cheered for our Swedish entry to the best of our ability. This was the contest Semi-final and in spite of our support the Swedish entry failed going to the Final. We might as well set off on an excursion into Oslo’s nightlife and forget all about the washout in the competition. We experienced an amazing and hilarious evening downtown and I assume we arrived back home in the hotel very late …. And then the anguish when I realized that the bag was lost …

Tompa remained in bed while I drowsily set out into the city in the morning to try remembering where the bag might have been left behind. After an hour’s search I just had to give it up, but it didn’t feel right considering the medicine, my specs and the camera ..

In the afternoon we went for a park picnic in Stensparken in the company of our friends Morten, Ulrika and Tanja. We told them about our adventures and our friends laughed till the tears came … I needed my asthma spray and didn’t know how I could get hold of one. Then Morten told me that he had some spray in his apartment and that I could have it. However the apartment was quite far away from the park. Then Tanja thought of the fact that her father was a taxi driver in Oslo, and he might be able to go and fetch the spray if it could be arranged that someone could get it out of the apartment… Half an hour later an asthma spray was delivered by taxi to the park!
Tompa realized that we certainly had a number of pictures from the evening in our mobile phones .. We laughed heartily at all pictures but at the same time found out that there was some detective work to be carried out. We could see many buildings in the backgrounds of the pictures so it might be possible to walk round in the city and figure out where we had been with the help of those pictures … We also found a short video sequence from inside the last bar we visited, and there the camera bag was seen coming into the picture, and one could also see a white roofing above the terrace .. Now we had a promising task for the evening!
We spent a fun evening in the city center searching for backgrounds … We made considerable progress but we never found that last bar!

The search continued the next evening in the company of Tanja, Tompa and Ulrika, how many terraces with white roofing could there be?? We met two Norwegian girls outside the City Hall and told them our story about the bag. Jointly we looked at the pictures and the girls instinctively felt which way we should go. We passed the small square outside the City Hall where I had been searching ten times and went on into a narrow alley. At the end of the alley we reached an opening … and there!!! I immediately recognized the place and certainly the terrace had a white roofing! This was the first place I passed as I left the hotel the first morning to go searching for the bag … My mistake then was not looking five metres further to the right as I was walking past that street … I didn’t dare start celebrating yet, any customer could have stolen the bag.. I entered the bar and nervously asked the bartender if they had a lost bag. – Yes, it’s there on the shelf! We saw the asthma medicine in the bag and assumed someone would have a hard time now!
What happiness!! The bag had been found with all its contents remaining. Just imagine the celebration that night, and the bag was safely brought home this time ….

Our journey was concluded with a visit to the Oslo Opera House. The Opera House, covered with white Carrara marble, opened in 2008. Strolling round on the roof of the Opera House while enjoying the panoramic views has become one of Oslo’s great tourist attractions. I was lucky to have my asthma spray and my camera on the roof …

The Opera House
The Opera House.

Stroll on the Opera House roof
Stroll on the Opera House roof.

Sports. Oslo has a lot to offer as regards sports and outdoor activities. Ski competitions in the legendary Holmenkollen stadium are classic events. Tompa and myself certainly wanted to experience that atmosphere, so in 2011 we returned to Oslo and checked in at our friend Ulrika’s house, close to Bislett, another well-known arena in Oslo. Tanja also joined us and together we went up to Holmenkollen to attend the World Ski Championships during three sunny days. The weather was cold as we stood near to the ski track and the frosty trees beautifully glistened in the morning sun. The Norwegian people present took great care of us Swedish people and we were treated with food and drink although our own rucksacks were filled with supplies. NRK, the Norwegian broadcasting company, came up and made a live radio interview with me, I tried not to sound nervous … Suddenly a woman came running across the ski track up to us. She was the German skier Tobias Angerer’s wife. We had made friends during the Olympic Games in Vancouver the year before, and it was great meeting again. Then the Swedish television company appeared and made an amusing feature about me and Tompa. No cushy job looking cool in wigs and Swedish jerseys, haha.

Tompa and myself like to visit events around the world
Tompa and myself like to visit events around the world.

Today’s competition was a relay race and we had great expectations on the Swedish team. The Norwegian spectators were absolutely fantastic when cheering their team to a victory, Sweden was second. The atmosphere in the Holmenkollen stadium was altogether magic! A popular festival! If you are the least interested in sports a visit to Holmenkollen during a championship should certainly be in your “To-Do list”.

We spent three sunny days in Holmenkollen which we will never forget. The Norwegian fans really cared for us Swedish people since we did not win any gold medal during those days. After the competitions we attended an After-Ski event outside the arena enjoying the views of entire Oslo. The fans were singing and dancing together in the sunset, those were marvellous days and nights in Holmenkollen! In one of the evenings I forgot my Swedish flag in a bar, but this time we didn’t start any detective work the following day …

I asked my Norwegian friend Mari to let us share some of her Oslo tip-offs:

Oslo – the place to eat.
The Norwegian capital – Oslo. The winter is drifting away as the sun is making the grand entrance to greet the new season. On each corner you can see small cafés, bars, bistros and restaurants serving sun-starved Norwegians their first “ute pils” – beer enjoyed outdoors. But Oslo got so much more to offer when it comes to indulgement for the pallet than the beer. If you are one of those beer thirsty hounds – who really want a good experience when it comes to beer, I would recommend Schouskjelleren Microbrewery – it is a nice little brewery where you can have a wide selection of beer.  Absolutely worth a visit!
When it comes to eating, I want to give you a quick tour around our capital, let you get a few tips and hints. There are many good gems to dig in some hefty soul food from dusk to dawn around here. Is there a better way to start the day, than a proper American breakfast? To do so, you should go to one of the hippest areas in town called Grunerløkka. It is here you will find the American diner called Night Hawk Diner. It is like taking a glance of the golden 50`s, jukeboxes, sassy waitresses, tin roof and barstools – and please order a tall stack of pancakes and Norway’s answer to a five-dollar-milkshake on the side. True American style! You should make a reservation a week in advance I would reckon, because this is a popular place.
So after some strolling around the opera, the royal castle and the pier at Aker Brygge I suggest you straighten your shirt and visit the Teatercafeen for a classy lunch in historical Art Nouveau surroundings. This makes a sever contrast from the all American breakfast. Here you could order some traditional fine lunch, tea, or a glass of Champagne while you look at the people passing by, or all of the portraits on the walls- old singers, actors and writers mostly Norwegian.
When you first find yourself in Oslo – I would absolutely recommend to have a walk at Akershus fortress, this is actually a castle from the middle ages. Some of our kings and queens are buried here – and also a guided tour is quite fascinating if you are in to history. After a few hours, dinner is perhaps on your mind at this point. You do not have to walk far for my next recommendation – there is a nice restaurant at the fortress called Festningen Restaurant. It is rather on the finer side, but it is not a require to have a jacket. But the food here is just as amazing as the view and surroundings. The food is classical continental – and you have a good sight in to the kitchen, so you might be amused or impressed by their clean work. You should make a reservation.
To finish off a wonderful food-bonanza like this, there is nothing better than to taste a few fancy drinks – and I know where to get your thirst covered. A good walk up to Grunerløkka, through all of those hipsters-vibes of vintage fashion, small bars and bistros you visited earlier, you will find Bar Boca. The interior is authentic 1950`s and the cocktails are fantastic – so is the music and atmosphere. Make sure to order a bloody Mary – because this is the best one I ever had.
I hope you will enjoy our humble capital. Eat, drink, live in the moment and enjoy life! /Mari

Have a good time! / Lengan :)

Popular hotels to book in Oslo:

Best Western Karl Johan Hotel
Situated on Oslo’s main street, Karl Johan, in between the Royal Palace and the Parliament in a building that dates back to 1899.

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel
With 37 floors and breathtaking views of Oslo and the Oslo Fjord.

Anker Hotel
Centrally located in Oslo, between Karl Johan and cafes, restaurants and bars in Grünerløkka.

Best Western Oslo Airport
Sometimes it can be necessary to stay over night at the airport. The hotel is situated 3 km from Gardermoen Airport and have regular shuttle bus service to and from the airport.

Jamaica, One love one heart

- His father was a white brother from Liverpool, his mother was a black sister from Jamaica, there is a saying that goes: “He was like coffee-and-milk”. Surrounded by swaying palm trees and reggae music the guide tells us with enthusiasm about the origin of the legendary Bob Marley. Our location is Nine Mile in Jamaica, Bob Marley’s home village. Yet another travel dream coming true!

Bob Marleys Mount Zion in Nine Mile.

Jamaica is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. Sugar-white beaches intermingle with tropical forest and mountain ranges. The island’s highest point is Blue Mountain Peak, a paradise for hiking excursions. Moreover it is the home of the famous Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee brand.
The island is divided into 14 parishes, and the capital Kingston is located in its namesake parish. The official language is English, however the primary spoken language is Patwa, a creole language. Jamaica achieved its independence in 1962 but is still having Queen Elizabeth II serving as its monarch. The first inhabitants were the Taino Indians but they became nearly extinct when the Europeans arrived in the island in the company of African slaves. The Indians had no resistance to the diseases that the Europeans brought with them, smallpox for one.

In the sugar plantations they used to have great problems with rats and snakes so they introduced a predator from India, the Mongoose. The mongooses had no natural enemies in the island so they quickly increased in number while snakes at the same time became scarce. The snakes still remaining in Jamaica include no poisonous species. The country’s national animal is a small hummingbird, the red-billed streamertail.

Food and drink. In Jamaica people drink rum, Appleton is the best-known brand. The rum is included in many tasty drinks and if you get tired of umbrellas in your glasses you might test the local beer brand Red Stripe instead. The morning after you have been testing all drinks in the bar all newly pressed juices at breakfast are deliciously yummy! The cuisine comprises influences from all corners of the world. Jerk is a popular spice mix applied to shellfish, fish and meat. This seasoning mixture is a fine gift to take home to your friends who have taken care of watering your plants during your vacation. The national dish is Ackee and saltfish. Ackee is a fruit which resembles scrambled eggs when served.

Brunch in the Caribbean sea.

Jamaica’s most important source of income is tourism. The largest tourist resorts are Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. From July till November hurricanes are likely to hit the island. The climate is tropical, in other words hot and humid. The currency is Jamaican dollars which can be spent by tourists on colourful clothes, wood carvings, spices, rum, coffee and exciting excursions.

Our accommodation was in Runaway Bay and we had time to join some interesting excursions.

Runaway Bay.

Runaway Bay.

The Martha Brae river runs near Falmouth and there we coasted along on handmade bamboo rafts. We are not talking about white water rafting, you effortlessly glide down the river passing a jungle-like landscape. After all reggae music at the pool bar it’s relaxing to have some moments of peace just enjoying the scenery. Of course you can help “running” the raft if you feel like doing so.

Bamboo rafting at Martha Brae.

You can of course try to pilot the bamboo raft if you want to.

In 1970 Ross Kananga, Jim Gore and Stafford Lue launched the “Jamaica Swamp Safari”. There they presented various animals, for instance crocodiles, alligators, snakes, leopards and lions. At the entrance they put a sign reading “Trespassers Will Be Eaten”. When the James Bond film “Live and Let Die” was being made the film team were looking for suitable awesome locations for shooting scenes. They noticed the sign and checked out the park. It all ended with Kananga himself performing the stunt in the famous scene with James Bond jumping on some crocodiles to escape from a small island, surrounded by the reptiles. It took five takes to complete the scene and Ross Kananga was injured several times when performing. We visited the farm and watched the various takes of the scene on a TV. Beautiful jumping by Ross! We were allowed to hold a small crocodile and could walk among all the other animals of the park. Birds fed out of our hands and mongooses hissed and spat at us as we peeped into their cage.

Jamaica Swamp Safari.

Vistors can hold a reptil.

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Jamaica is Dunn’s River Falls. The waterfall is 600 feet long and 180 feet high. It is terraced into small waterfalls with small lagoons interspersed among them. Often people buy a pair of swim shoes to use when climbing the falls. You start down at the white sandy beach where location footage for the first James Bond film “Dr. No” was shot. Then you climb up the falls accompanied by a guide. The falls are roofed over by lush vegetation protecting climbers from the strong sun and at the same time offering magical visual impressions. The guides are good at helping you by showing where to walk and they also assist by taking photographs of the visitors. Naturally they expect to be tipped by the group when everyone has finally reached the top of the waterfall. Dunn’s River Falls is a place you must visit if you spend your vacation in the north of Jamaica.

Dunn´s river falls.

Me, Johan and Jakob climbing up the falls.

In 1945 Robert Nesta Marley was born in the small village of Nine Mile. His parents Cedella and Norval separated before long and Robert grew up with his mother. They tried their luck in Kingston but soon found themselves in the slum of Trenchtown. Robert made friends with Neville Livingstone and in the sixties they performed together in “The Wailing Wailers” band, calling themselves Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer.
In 1966, Bob married Rita Anderson and they had several children. Later Bob Marley was a legendary reggae musician. Down to the very last he made very much acclaimed performances. He was stricken with cancer and died in Miami in 1981. If you visit Bob Marley’s House in Nine Mile the first person to meet you is a dealer offering marijuana to the tourists in the parking lot. After having kindly but firmly declined you enter the souvenir shop and after that you’ll find yourself in a restaurant/bar/exhibition. If you want to see Bob’s Mausoleum and Birthplace you must join a guided tour. The guide tells you about Bob’s life and shows you round at Mount Zion where the home of his childhood and the tombs are located. It’s a devout experience to visit the two houses where Bob, his brother and mother are entombed.

The childhood home of Bob Marley.

Bob Marley´s Mausoleum.

Jamaica is a Caribbean pearl and I would gladly return to the white beaches, the beautiful palm trees and the captivating music.

White fine sandy beaches and palm trees, Jamaica is a paradise.


Popular hotels to book in Jamaica:

Hedonism II
Adults only in Negril.

Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort
In the heart of Ocho Rios, direct at the white-sand beach and close to local shopping and dining.

RIU Ocho Rios
5-star all inclusive beach hotel in Ocho Rios.

Rooms on the beach Negril
This 57-room hotel faces the Caribbean right on Negril’s seven-mile beach, famed for its powdery white sand and spectacular sunsets.

Sandals Montego Bay
Located on the largest private beach in Jamaica.

Club Ambiance
Adults only beach resort in Runaway Bay, with All Inclusive-program.

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