A few weeks ago I took a biking and hiking trip in Norway. Before the biking/hiking portion of the trip, we spent a few days in Oslo. At the end of the trip, we made our way to Bergen, spent two nights there and then flew out of Bergen. For the biking/hiking portion of the trip we used my favorite outfitter for bike tours in Europe, a company called Blue Marble Travel, which is based in Paris. Blue Marble also took care of booking our hotel in Oslo, which was very well located. In Bergen, we stayed in private rooms in the YMCA, which was located right in the middle of town.
Norway has a lot to recommend. It is a beautiful, clean, peaceful country with spectacular scenery. We enjoyed good food, good beer and friendly people. Norway is not the least expensive country you can visit, but you get what you pay for.
Another nice place to go if you’re in Philly and looking for a little more space is Narberth. Narberth is the second stop out from 30th St. Station on the Paoli Thorndale Regional Rail line and the train station is in the middle of Narberth’s super-cute walkable downtown business district. It’s an easy drive too, or you can bike out from the city as well.
Right next to the train station is a State Wine & Liquor store. Across the street is Le Petit Mitron, one of the best French pastry shops anywhere, including France. Get there early to get the chocolate-almond croissants or call the day before and ask them to hold some for you. A few doors over is The Cheese Company, which also has sandwiches and other tasty items. A little way’s up the street is a bar called The Greeks and a craft beer shop next door called The Greeks Next Door. Pretty much everything you need for a picnic, and there’s a park down the street. And another quieter park a little farther away. And there’s a movie theater. You could make a whole day of it without going more than a 1/2 mile in one direction or the other. This is the perfect escape if you don’t have a lot of time, but need to get some fresh air.
Philly is great city and has lots to offer, but sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air. Thankfully, Philly has plenty of that to offer, too. You can get to Mt. Airy and the Wissahickon section of Fairmount Park by train, bike or car. Once you’re there you’ll find a some cute cafes and restaurants and a beautiful park that will make you forget that you’re still within the city limits. Make an afternoon or a whole day out of a field trip to Mt. Airy, but be forewarned, if you want to get to Valley Green Inn for lunch or dinner, it is down a big hill from the village (and then back up a big hill, of course).
Montreal is the largest Francophone city this side of the Atlantic Ocean. And if you’re on the east coast of the US, it’s the closest major city that speaks any foreign language. It’s amazing to me how isolated we in the US are from this vibrant metropolis. There are a lot more people going between Paris and London on a daily basis than there are between New York and Montreal. Of course, they’ve got a high speed train…
I spent a few days in Montreal in 2016 after a bike trip in the Laurentian Mountains, on the P’Tit Train du Nord rail-trail and it could be done before or after any of the Quebec bike tours I’ve posted on this blog.
If you go, tour historic Old Montreal by the waterfront, run or walk around Mont-Royal, take a day trip by bike to the southwest suburbs, visit the Jean Talon Market, go shopping for outdoor recreational equipment at Kanuk or Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and don’t forget to eat plenty of good food from a rich variety of cultural backgrounds.
I visited Quebec City in 2015 and again in 2017. It’s a small, but really beautiful city with lots of historical significance and plenty of modern attractions too.
In 2015 I stayed at the Hotel Manoir Victoria and in 2017 I stayed the Monastère des Augustines. I recommend either one. They’re very close together on the northern side of the old city, very well located. The monastery is not ideal if you’re traveling with children as breakfast is taken in silence.
If you like live music in the summer, check out the Edwin Bélanger bandstand at the Plains of Abraham, a little bit west of the old city walls and up above the St Lawrence River. It’s close enough that you can walk out there. Your best bet is to walk out there earlier in the evening, have dinner in the newer section of town and then walk over to the bandstand.
Also not to be missed is Montmorency Falls, about 20km east of town. If you’re arriving by car earlier in the day, consider going there first and then coming back into town.
Other recommendations for restaurants and sites to see can be found within the map.
Paris is one of my favorite places to go. I lived in Paris in 2005-06 and was back there again in 2014. Several friends have headed over there over the years. I originally did up this map of Paris for friend who was there in 2011. At first I just wanted to show her one walk worth taking and one museum to go to. Then more friends went to Paris and I added in items for them. Then I went to Paris and added in items that I was interested in and added in still more when I got back. Here’s my map of Paris, which has an emphasis on good food, outdoor spaces and less-explored places.
If you like Monet and other Impressionists and would like to go to a museum that many people don’t make it to, and to visit a section of town that is a little quieter and less touristy, I recommend the Musée Marmottan-Monet on the western edge of Paris, in the 16th arrondissement, up against the Bois de Boulogne. Be aware the Paris Museum Pass does not cover this museum. There’s also a nice cafe/restaurant here called La Rotonde de la Muette, which serves food all day (many cafes only serve food during lunch from 12pm to 2pm and dinner at 8pm).