The Faroe Islands

For a girl from the Arctic part of Norway, stepping out at Vágar airport was just like coming home, refreshingly cold in March. The raw nature sets you straight into Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones mode. A Song of Ice and Fire playing in the background. Met some fantastic people and got a failed Tinder match as souvenir…

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Tinder tourist & human connections

Did some swiping in Torshavn to see if I could get a local (& handsome) guide to show me around. I was there for a content marketing conference for the travel industry, where I met William from South Africa. We added each other on Snap and I think this is a strength of social media, by observing each others facade building attempts we get a feeling of acquaintance. In fact we only talked briefly, about great whites over dinner. When I saw William again in Norway recently, it felt like we’ve known each other for a long time.

Also met Avinash who makes virtual reality. I was inspired by his talk, we chatted for ten minutes and I got his LinkedIn. We’ve been talking ever since and hung out in Amsterdam earlier this summer. For me traveling is about the connections you make. I`ve been to Barcelona twice without seeing Park Güell, lived four years in England without visiting Buckingham Palace but that is not what matters to me.

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Back to Tinder…

Matched with a gorgeous ginger but he didn’t reply to my pick up line. Epic fail. On the third day I had dinner at rustic lamb specialist Áarstova, at a candle lit boat-turned-table. Conversation was about digital dating, naturally with four young single adults. Had just met these two Belgians and a Swiss, whom I’d been sitting next to the whole first day, when it finally dawned on me. It was ginger! I hadn’t recognised him. I had to bring it up. He seemed slightly embarrassed, but we ended up buying each other rounds and having a laugh about it.

 

 

Top notch eateries

For such a small city Torshavn does have excellent dining options. The award winning KOKS restaurant which focus on fermented food. Fresh seafood and particularly the gigantic horse mussels at Barbaras Fish House, plus meat heaven Áarstova. At Gudrun & Gudrun you get locally made knitwear, there are more sheep than people here. Price level is similar to Denmark and Norway, they understand Norwegian. Also had the pleasure of reminiscing over dried cod snacks, an acquired taste and memories of my childhood, we had it hanging out in the garage to dry.

Top tip: Rent a car to see the most scenic sights.

Fun fact: Atlantic Airways still do bottomless free bar on board

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Where are all the people at?

Scrolling through my Instagram feed I realise China doesn´t look crowded at all, which is obviously not how most travellers experience it. If you are allergic to crowds or just like to get clean shots of impressive ancient structures try this:

Go hike the Great Wall with Beijing Hikers

We did the Walled Village to Huanghuacheng Great Wall, which is two hours outside of Beijing. Our guide Michael was very knowledgable, as well as patient. Norwegians often underestimate their hiking abilities while the rest of you overestimate them. This hike was only 5 k, but the wall is steep and with temperatures hitting above 35 celsius the turtle wins the race. I went through three liters of water in three hours, but for photos like this it is all worth the struggle, and you get served the most delicious ten course meal afterwords.

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Hit the sights early in the morning or late in the afternoon  

You can have Tiananmen Square all to yourself 8.30 on a Monday morning. The Palace Museum was closed but the rest of the Forbidden City will be less crowded and very tranquil. A lot of Chinese tourists from rural areas will want to take photos with you, had the same experience in Uganda and Egypt, it is quite funny and made me feel very popular. All the tiny dragons on top of the buildings reminds me of Mulan.

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No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing 

Walk or bike the city walls of Xian in the rain. We had it all to ourselves and the grey adds an ancient touch to your photos. These red lanterns play a very calming Chinese tune all the way. In Norway we have respect for the weather, it`s called mountain intelligence. My hiking plans for the holy mountain of Huashan had to be cancelled due to the heavy rain, so I´ll have to come back.

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Experience rush hour at least once 

The crowds are part of the experience. Get on the metro at rush hour just once, I promise it`s not half as bad as the London tube (I should know, lived there for four years). Go to the Bund in Shanghai on a Sunday around twilight. People watching is fun and all of the lights mesmerizing.

What was your favorite China experience, please leave a comment!

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Sicilian lemons

That Sicilian lemonmarmelade is magic, makes you wonder what Bey used when making her Lemonade? It’s like this whole island is designed for bringing you closer to spirituality. Sanctuaries on every peak, black vulcanic beaches and friendly, good natured islanders. A little Spanish goes a long way here and it`s possible to avoid the crowds.


Alitalia was an hour delayed to and from Rome. Interesting how we excuse delays based on cultural aspects, because I expected them not to be on time I scheduled more than enough time for the corresponding Scandinavian flights. Do hire a car, you want to get around this place. Jenny and I started off in Palermo in the cosy Botique B&B Vintage on Via Bottai 30. Very helpful staff and right in the middle of everything. Got recommended a superb seafood restaurant, Garraffo, across the street. The swordfish was outstanding. Regret the visit to Antica Focacceria San Francesco where the tuna was dry and the arancini cold inside, a foodies worst nightmare. All the wine I was served for the entire trip was amazing.


Palermo is highly walkable, the sights are clustered in the centre. We spent a day strolling around. It is a run down city with a lot of charm and friendly people. Bueno sera and buongiorno are essential phrases. We also drove to Spiaggia di Mondello, a nice sandy beach a short drive away. Great selection of gelato on Touring Cafe Beach. On the way back drive up and look at the sunset from the top of Monte Pellegrino.


Next we head to Tindari, where it’s only us and the pilgrims. We visit the natural reserve Laghetti di Marinello and the islands Salina, Lipari and Vulcano. My bikini still smells of sulphate… do leave a comment, arrivederci!

The foodie stuff  

The mother of all food. China you rock my world! Super spicy, garlic-infused yumminess and filled dumplings in all shapes and colors. Frozen mango on a stick in the scorching summer heat. The trendy barista coffee of Shanghai. It was love at first sip.

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Messy crayfish feast

Even that one night I was dining solo, Carrie Bradshaw style, at Jardin de Jade on Maoming South Rd. Sat at a round table for eight in the middle of the restaurant. White tablecloth, cold modern abstract decor, all very 90s. Even then the roast duck and filled tofu skin had me like woah. I did however pass on the shark fin soup and bird´s nest, it`s not sustainable.

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Bread in Muslim Street

Had the most interesting dishes served at places with no English, no picture menus. Just pointing, intruding on neighbouring tables and also had a stranger explain to me in Spanish what was good. The cuisine reflects the cultural diversity of China, with regional and local varieties. I can assure you`ll find something of your flavor in the world’s most populous state.

Hot tip! Absolutely worth a visit while in Beijing, Great Leap Brewing in Doujiao Hutong. Expect lots of expats and locally made beer!

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So lost in Pokemon Go forgot about everything else…. obsessed. Works better than Tinder and all other dating apps, meeting guys hunting for Pikachu. Hipsters and nerds alike. Pokemania hit us like the great wave of Kanagawa, and it’s not even launched in Norway yet #teamvalor

That’s how we met, kids, hunting Pikachu in the park

China baby! 

I get the best travel insight from friends who live or lived abroad. On Facebook search you can also type in “friends of my friends who live in…” Was planning on riding solo, then put my plan on Snapchat and found my travel mate there.

Booking bonanza 

Booking China I used a plethora of sites and apps; Booking.com, Expedia, AirBnB, Hostelworld and Ctrip for train tickets. Speed trains are fun. Cross checked Momondo, Skyscanner and the whole lot, but the SAS Asia campaign drew the longest straw. Like to do both budget, mid range and luxury all in one trip.

Hostelgeeks tweeted me Peking Station Hostel, which is a quiet, green lounge two stops from Tiananmen Sq. and walking distance to Wangfujing St. and Beijing Railway Station. Feels more like a B&B really, with totally overpriced breakfast. Get your nutrition from FamilyMart up the road. One street down in the Suzhou Hutong you`ll find my fav pick`n mix noodle shop!

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Fitbit goals

China blew my Fitbit charts to smithereens. On average 25,000 steps and 15 km walking daily. Public transportation is gold and so cheap. Now Pokemon Go is making me walk great distances, oh the irony. In the next post I’ll tell you a great way to hike the wall – no tourists in sight…

Walk walk walk

Disclaimer: this blog is edited exclusively in the app, mobile only. Might not look right in desktop.


Martine goes to China

Confession time! It has been ten years since I last blogged. Cairo 2006.

A recent visit to China has woken this blogger-panda from hibernation, although pandas don’t really hibernate. As I find myself working with content marketing and social media in the travel industry, and being a traveller at heart, plus an educated anthropologist, China was really a pleasant surprise. Thus I want to write a series of China travel blogs, for a lot of the things I was told beforehand was total ludacris.

Let`s start with the language barrier! There’s an app called Baidu that translates live Chinese to English and vice versa, you just talk into the phone. Other apps translates text and menus, but the best way of ordering food in “no english” eateries, is pointing at whatever the neighboring tables are having that you fancy. And it`s fun! More on the foodie stuff later.

Mind the gap

Everyone I met in China were really helpful despite understanding no or little English. Sign language and screenshots of what you are after goes a long way. Getting around is easy, the metros in Beijing and Shanghai are all in English, 3 RBM one way. Download the metro map apps and you have it offline in your pocket. Point of comparison, rush hour in both cities ain’t half as bad as the London tube and air conditioning is much better. The Chinese and Norwegians alike, could however learn a thing or two from British queue-culture…  

While you’re at it, get a good VPN app and WeChat. Lot`s of free wifi. You can easily access all social media including Tinder, Happn, Bumble beyond the great firewall. Let`s get real, Tinder tourism is a big thing. Not just for hook ups; talking to peeps, getting local insight on clubs, restaurants and areas. You’ll swipe through lots of expats, fellow travelers, study abroads and Chinese repats. And please, stay sane. Shady people can be found everywhere on this planet.

If you, like me, enjoy going out dancing in clubs, another great thing about WeChat is getting a promoter. Free entrance and endless drinks at crazy clubs. The Belvedere might be a bit watered out or synthetic, so drink responsibly.

Cheat sheet

1. VPN app
2. WeChat
3. Baidu
4. Metro maps

Next up, how to avoid the tourist crowds.