Rapellruta at Svolværgeita

I awoke today in Svolvær, relieved to be spending the next few days at this location and ready for some thrills to shake off any jet lag. It was around 8 AM at Benjamin’s house, and for breakfast I had muesli, blabær (blueberry) yogurt, a piece of cheese and a piece of ham. Then we walked into the town centre to pick up a rental car. It was a beautiful and refreshing sunny morning and on the way we passed over a bridge, under which the ocean flowed through to fill a mountain valley like a lake. Once we picked up the car, we made a quick stop at the Kiwi minipris grocery store to get some food for lunch. At the grocery store we learned that eplejuice == apple juice, but “appels in juice” <> apple juice.

Eplejuice and appelsinjuice

Next, we set out southwest to Kalle. The drive was nothing but gorgeous ocean coastline set against dramatic mountain scenery. The lodge Kalle i Lofoten was around the edge of a bay. There we met our guide from Northern Alpine Adventures who fitted us into climbing gear (helmet, harness and climbing shoes). Then, we headed back to Svolvær, at the trailhead to Svolværgeita.

We headed up the trail with our guide Charlie, who is actually from BC. He was friendly, chatting with us during the hike.

Our guide Charlie, and our final destination, Svolværgeita in the background
Already getting a glimpse of the town

The hike took 1 to 1.5 hours, entirely uphill. It was well marked, but we had to step over various large boulders. Luckily it was sunny and the trail was dry, so it was a good day for the excursion. Along the way, one could look back to see views of Svolvær, the surrounding mountains, and the Norwegian Ocean as we ascended.

Even from here you can get a great view.
A view of Skrova (the island in the distance)

We came to the end of the hiking portion, to a steep but grassy hill lined with rocks. The base of the Svolværgeita rock tower was very windy and cold. Here, we put on our climbing gear. There is more than one way up Svolværgeita but we are taking route 1, Rapellruta on the north face, as illustrated in this book below of climbing in the Lofoten, which we found at a later date in a café in Henningsvær. The description reads:

Rapellruta 48m. Fine climbing up the line of the abseil ascent, steep and juggy after a surprisingly tough start.

  1. 5, 28m. Struggle up the leaning groove to reach a resting ledge then step out onto the steep face on the left and plough up the ladder of jugs following a crackline to reach a ledge and double-bolt belay. Exhilarating climbing.
  2. 4+ 20m. Continue up the deep groove system on the left to reach the notch between the horns (view). Traverse right across the inner face past flakes (exposed) to reach the western arete of the Storhorn and climb this to the top. Cross the gap to a belay on gear on the Lillehorn. Take care with rope work on this pitch.
The way up the rock tower, as illustrated in a book

Charlie climbed first, then once he was at a higher section, Shawn went. I followed after. I climbed the rope ladders and had gone some ways, but it was not long before I was in a bit of a panic. I couldn’t find the next hand hold. The wind was also blowing strongly, and it was a cold wind so my fingers were going numb. I had a long way to go and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do other than fall off the cliff. However, there was really only one option, which was to carry on. Eventually, I grabbed at something and took a step up, then another, and the way to go started to get a bit clearer.

Right before the resting ledge was a bit of an overhang, which I somehow got over with a bit of a struggle and encouragement from Charlie who was now in sight. Here, I warmed my hands a bit before our group finished the final ascent. This last portion was easier for me, and the wind had calmed. Soon I was sitting atop the goat’s horn! There was a 150 m drop off the side, but a fantastic view of the area – Svolvær, Skrova, and the ocean and mountains in sunny weather. I also had the satisfaction of accomplishment and relief for having reached the top and completing my first mountain climb.

Hello from the top! We were actually both really scared here. Hahah
The beautiful view of Svolvær
Ocean and mountains in the distance

Note that we did not do the part in the book with the man jumping across the 1.5m gap from the Storhorn to the Lillehorn, ie. “jumping the goat’s (geit) horns”. You will find all sorts of pictures on the Internet of people making this ridiculous jump. Interestingly, we had picked Norway to travel to because this jumping activity was listed in Shawn’s book The Best Place to be Today: 365 Things to do & the Perfect Day to do Them as something to be done in June. Svolværgeita looked neat anyways, nevermind the jump. The climb itself was enough for me.

We were lowered down, then hiked back to the bottom making it back by 3:00 PM.

Going down. I have the green coat (Photo by Shawn)
I look happy because I’m almost back on solid ground (Photo by Shawn)
Going down. I have the green coat (Photo by Shawn)
Later we saw some Danish girls going up. They are at/near the top here.

We said goodbye to Charlie, who gave us some additional suggestions for places to go around the area. Wow, what an adventure.

The Ferry to the Lofoten Islands

The ferry ride to the Lofoten Islands was beautiful. It headed north along rocky coastline. I was weary from a few days of travelling, and yet with the excitement of being in this new land, my eyes were peeled to the window nearly the entire time.

This is the ferry we took, at the port in Bodø
This is the ferry we took, at the port in Bodø

It was a lengthy trip, over two hours with short stops to along the way, but the scenery was stunning. Even despite periods of rain. The trip was filled with rocky coastline, islands of rounded boulders and jagged peaks.

Little rocky islands

Most of the stops were along the mainland (Helnessund, Nordskot, Bogøy and Skutvik). Each of these locations were quaint little settlements. Too small to be towns, just small fishing villages or hamlets.

Second stop at Nordskot, 67°50’N
Third stop in Bogøy. While waiting at the port, I remember staring at a piece of fish hanging and drying above the balcony of a house.

In between these little villages stops, the landscape seemed quite remote. That being said, it was quite a surprise to see a long, narrow and sweeping bridge, which we passed under.

Modern feats of engineering in remote areas

Gradually, the mountains rose both higher and steeper straight out of the ocean as our journey continued on.

Dramatic, moody landscapes
Dramatic, moody landscapes
Some sharp peaks on that mountain!
Some sharp peaks on that mountain!

It was quite rainy when we arrived in Skutvik, but it looked like a picturesque little coastal village nestled among the mountains. Once past Skutvik, we crossed over to the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago off the coast of northern Norway. Across the water, the first stop was at the village of Skrova, located on an island with rocky terrain.

A lighthouse at Skrova
A lighthouse at Skrova
Rorbuer, little red fisherman cottages nestled in the rocks at Skrova
Rorbuer, little red fisherman cottages nestled in the rocks at Skrova

Once we left Skrova, it was not long before the approach to Svolvær, our final destination of this journey, and where we would be staying over the next few days.

Nearing Svolvær
Nearing Svolvær

 

Svolvær and the Lofotveggen (ie. Lofoten wall – the “wall” of mountains in the backdrop, )

We arrived at the port at 8:50 PM, entering almost directly into the main square.

Off the ferry and into the main square in Svolvær
Off the ferry and into the main square in Svolvær

It was about a 25 min walk with all our luggage to the outskirts of the town. There, we arrived at a house we’d booked through AirBnB. Our host Benjamin, a friendly Italian man showed us around before we settled for the evening and got a good night of rest.

Meandering through Bodø

First off, the pronunciation of Bodø is actually like “Booo-duh”. It didn’t take long to learn that Norwegian pronunciations often don’t sound like how one would expect from the spelling.

During this quick visit in Bodø we headed from the airport to the harbour on our walk. It was a short distance past homes, and as we began to approach the water we visited a playground, where there was also an old war bunker.

The war bunker

After going down the slide in the playground a few times, we continued on to the waterfront and along the promenade lined with small boats. It was a small and quiet town, with a mix of old and modern (though not as old as most European towns. Bodø is only 200 years old). While peaceful, it also has a bit of a “wild” feel to it with the cold Norwegian sea and backdrop of mountains. We had pleasant weather during our walk but a hint of storminess was on the horizon.

The promenade in Bodø
There were few people around, so it is quite peaceful here
All the yachts (Photo by Shawn)
All the boats on the dock. (Photo by Shawn)

We purchased our ferry tickets before buying some maps of Lofoten and Andøya at the local tourist centre and a bookstore in the Cochs shopping centre called Ark. Next, we headed back to catch the ferry for 5:15 PM. As we left Bodø it began to rain, quite hard at times but not enough to obscure the dramatic Norwegian coastline as we travelled still further north.

From Home to Toronto to London to Oslo to Bodø

Time for another new adventure, this time with my friend Shawn! We left home around 9:30 PM from Edmonton to the airport to catch a late flight. Passing quickly through check-in and security, we boarded our flight to Toronto around 11:30 PM, which left at 11:55 PM.

On the flight, I mostly tried to sleep, although I did not sleep the whole time. It was fairly uneventful. We arrived in Toronto at around 5:00 AM and played silly chance games on the free-to-use iPads at the Pearson airport. As the shops started to open, we got hungry and went to Lee’s Kitchen. We ordered some shao mai chicken and shrimp dumplings, and chiu chow pork peanut dumplings to share, where we also played a few games of Hive.

In Norway, there’s a 1.5 m jump that can be done across two rock pinnacles (more about this later). But anyways, we were trying to see if we could jump that far in the airport. (Photo by Shawn)

We boarded the flight from Toronto to London at 8:20 AM on a dreamliner. On this flight, I slept some and watched The Scorch Trials, the second movie in The Maze Runner series, which was good overall. The movie was action packed, though the plot build-up in The Maze Runner was better. I slept some more, then played some games on the flight entertainment system. We arrived in London, England late in the evening at about 8:40 PM. There, we met with Shawn’s aunt’s and uncle’s, greeting us with excitement. From there we headed out to get some food at a KFC, eating spicy chicken, coleslaw and french fries. It was very nice of them to all come out to meet us during the stopover and treat us to tasty fried chicken.

Randomly taking pictures at the airport near the Yo! Sushi restaurant

Back at the airport, we had to wait to check in, so we finished picking and booking our accommodations in Oslo for the end of our trip. I also tried to sleep, but the seats aren’t too comfortable in the London Heathrow airport and there was also a loud alarm thing that kept going off…  ugh. 😕 After checking in we ate at EAT. I had duck gyoza dumplings for breakfast. Finally, we boarded our next flight around 6:30 AM. The flight from London to Oslo took about two hours, but was slightly delayed. On this flight, I fell asleep, mostly the whole way. In Oslo, we picked up our bags and passed through customs very quickly. Then, we picked up food for lunch at the airport 7-11 and got a SIM card for emergency mobile use.

For our final flight of the “day” from Oslo to Bodø, we checked in again, and went through security. At the gate, we ate our pastasalat with curry and kreb from the 7-11. This flight left Oslo at 1:05 PM with a duration of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Finally, our stretch of flights (but not traveling) was done for the day, and we headed out of the Bodø airport at 3:00 PM.

It was exciting to finally get to explore our destination a bit! Bodø is a small town with a population of around 50,000, and just north of the Arctic Circle (in terms of latitude at 67°16’48″N, it is north of Iqaluit and Iceland). It was a 15 minute walk from the airport to the harbour, where we were to catch a ferry to the Lofoten Islands.

Houses and a peek at the harbour

Norway 2016 Gallery

All photos currently published from my Norway 2016 trip are displayed in this gallery.

 

Norway 2016

Gougères

What is a gougère? The French pastry version of a cheese puff. Since I happen to love cheese and pastry, I made some this weekend. These are a type of pâte à choux pastry (the same type of pastry as profiteroles, éclairs, etc). For a traditional gougère I added gruyère cheese and spices to my choux paste. These little treats baked up with a crisp shell, and interior of air pockets surrounded by gooey cheese and tender crumb.

Yum yum tasty little gougère
Yum yum tasty little gougère

Gougères would be perfect little appetizers to serve at a dinner party. And even better is that they can be made ahead of time and frozen for quick preparation. Just pipe them into two inch balls on a baking sheet (or use a teaspoon) and stick the tray in the freezer. When fully frozen, transfer them into another container for freezing until it’s time for baking. Of course, I did not do this today, as I was eager to bake all the gougères and eat them right away.

Gougères galore!
Gougères galore!

Mini Citrus Pavlovas

French meringue is sort of magical. It starts off as egg whites – liquid, clear, and sloppy. Then somehow it transforms with beating and sugar into a shiny, white, voluminous cloud-like dreaminess that’s also tasty. If that isn’t magic, what is?

If you can’t tell, meringue is one of my favourite things to make lately, so it’s about time for some pavlova! Pavlova is a light dessert with a French meringue base, topped with whipped cream and adorned with fruit. In January, citrus is in season, so orange, grapefruit, and mint leaves decorate my mini pavlovas.

Mini citrus pavlova
Mini citrus pavlova

I made these and brought them to a friend’s place for dinner. They actually transport quite well and are light. Just wrap the meringues in plastic, and place them, the whipped cream, and cut fruit in containers. Assembly can be done quickly at your destination. Pavlovas are also versatile and can be made in any size. I made mine in individual portions, but they could also be giant cake size for serving to many guests. You could also bake the meringue in a creative shape, like a heart.

A pavlova for one
A pavlova for one

I recently also had a discussion with my sister about the origination of pavlovas. As it turns out, pavlovas are from New Zealand (but were first published in Australia). They are popular desserts in both countries. It is said a New Zealand chef invented and named this creation after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova when she was on tour there.

Alsatian Tart

I was hungry and it was a Sunday afternoon, so I decided to make an Alsatian Tart, which turned out to be a pastry crossed with pizza sort of too good deliciousness. Too delicious to possibly be good for you, so I need to tell myself not to eat this every day. But hey, it does have all the food groups at least (fruits/vegetables, grain, dairy, meat, pastry).

Alsatian Tart, a savoury goodness from the Alsace region in France
Alsatian Tart, a savory goodness from the Alsace region in France

This tart looks quite akin to a pizza, and the topping pairings would work well on one. But this in particular is not a pizza, as the Alsace Tart has a pastry rather than bread base. I cut some homemade puff pastry out into a circle and baked it to let it rise. My thin piece of rolled dough rose nicely in the oven giving way to flaky layers of golden pastry.

See all those golden puff pastry layers
See all those golden puff pastry layers

I layered the top with thinly sliced potatoes. I believe this is a German influence, as the Alsace region in France is along the German border. (Yes, remember history class where you learned Germany’s prior annexation of Alsace-Lorraine from the Franco-Prussian War was one cause of resentment that led to World War I?) I also topped my pastry with caramelized apples and red onions, spices, Edam cheese and a bit of bacon. Bon appetit!

Having a slice!
Having a slice!

Triple Chocolate Glaze Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes are a crowd pleaser. Triple chocolate glaze cupcakes are also a crowd pleaser, but more importantly will get hoarded by any chocolate fanatic. I know this from experience.

I actually made these cupcakes a while ago, but just recently dug up the pictures of them. It all started with another fundraiser bake sale for EPCOR’s annual United Way campaign back in early October 2015. I was intent on participating, but didn’t have much time despite the fame and attention my 2014 “Put a CAP on Poverty” cupcakes conjured. I whipped up some chocolate cupcakes and then dipped them in a bittersweet chocolate glaze with leftover ingredients from my Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte. Similar to the Queen of Sheba, they are crumb coated in ganache first, dipped in the glaze, and drizzled with white chocolate to create a smooth coating with contrast. Quick, easy, and of course beautiful. Ta da!

Triple chocolate glaze cupcakes
Triple chocolate glaze cupcakes
Chocolate swirls
Chocolate swirls

I donated a dozen of these to the bake sale. Soon after, they had all disappeared. Reportedly, one person bought all twelve of them soon after the bake sale opened to the public. So there you go with the chocolate fanatic hoarding tendency. I hope that person enjoyed them, whoever they are.

2015 Christmas Cookies

This year I made a number of sugar cookies for gifts, and to share with others. I made quite a few, as the cookies from my first batch ran out very quickly! After I brought some to work and they ran out there, I was asked a number of times per day if I had any more cookies. I brought some more later, as I made a double batch the second time. Our family also enjoyed them over Christmas. 🙂

I like the cookie recipe used as it has a tender crumb. It also does not shrink or expand as it bakes, giving a well defined shape for cookie decorating. This is also nice, as you can bake the cookies close together on the pan without worrying about them crashing into each other. Also, you can get them all into the oven quicker. Overall they still do take some time to make. I make the dough one day and chill it, then cut and bake the cookies later. I make the icing and decorate them after that.

Letting the run sugar dry on all my cookies
Letting the run sugar dry on all my cookies

I made a number of different cookies. They were of the very simple theme of “cookies I feel like making”. These included trees covered in snow, “lederhosen und dirndl”, polar bears, snowflakes, crocodilians, king penguins, and various designs from round shapes.

The trees were decorated with run sugar (a thin consistency royal icing, which runs together after a few seconds, but is not so watery that it flows off the cookie). Once the run sugar hardened, the snow was created by stroking a stiffer royal icing with a brush to create the snow effect. This is called the “brush embroidery” technique. This is the first time I’ve used brush embroidery and I like the effect, but I think my icing was a bit too stiff so I’ll have to try it again sometime. I let my mom do some of the brush embroidery too, and she looked really happy about it.

Tree cookies using brush embroidery
Tree cookies using brush embroidery

The cookie cutters for my lederhosen und dirndl (German traditional dress) are two of my favourites, as they have such a unique, funny shape. My sister bought these for me from a shop in Germany when she was working there. This is the first time I’ve really decorated them properly with run sugar. Aren’t they cute?

Lederhosen (pants) and dirndl (dress) cookies!
Lederhosen (pants) and dirndl (dress) cookies!

Here are my assorted animal cookies. This is the king penguin, which has brighter colours than the emperor penguin. I bought this cookie cutter in the Falkland Islands. I also made polar bears and crocodile cookies. I had forgotten about the crocodile cutter but it also makes a cute cookie. These were all decorated in run sugar.

King penguin, polar bear and crocodile cookies
King penguin, polar bear and crocodile cookies

I also made some assorted round cookies. I experimented a bit with these. Some used run sugar, incorporating some of the leftover royal icing colours. I also used fondant on some of the cookies for the first time with good results both in aesthetics and taste.

Assorted round cookies in various elegant designs
Assorted round cookies in various elegant designs
Vintage cameo cookies. Maybe these could have had a border and some gold. Or maybe that's too much cookie OCD.
Vintage cameo cookies. Maybe these could have had a border and some gold. Or maybe that’s too much cookie OCD.

Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte

The Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte is sure to please any chocolate lover. It contains a lot of chocolate, but actually only a couple tablespoons of wheat flour. (Almond flour is used instead). Meringue is used to make it rise, as there are no chemical leaveners (baking powder, baking soda). The texture is crumbly and moist with a slightly gooey centre.

This unique type of cake (Reine de Saba) was first made by Julia Child in her book The French Chef. I used this recipe from famous baker and chocolate expert Alice Medrich, in her book Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate. See my final cake below.

Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte
Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte

This beautiful torte is decorated by first crumb coating with a thickened (slightly cooled) chocolate glaze. Then the glaze is reheated to a liquid consistency and poured over the cake. Milk and white chocolate, as well as a bit of the reserved dark chocolate glaze are drizzled over the top. Finally, toasted almonds fringe the bottom edge of the cake. I love how the milk and white chocolate drizzle matches the colours of the almonds exactly.

Voila! We have an impressively beautiful decadent chocolate cake. 😀

Chocolate glaze and drizzle
Chocolate glaze and drizzle
Side view of the Queen of Sheba with almond fringe
Side view of the Queen of Sheba with almond fringe

Chocolate and Almond Zucchini Bread

A tasty use for zucchini is chocolate and almond zucchini bread! It is a similar idea to banana bread, except it has squash in it instead… also some cocoa powder for extra deliciousness. I promised my mother I would add almonds to my bread as well, as these nuts are high in calcium, so I had to do as I was told. But, they do give a nice crunch to the bread anyways. Almonds are yummy, so it’s okay.

There's a whole zucchini in here
There’s a whole zucchini in here

This moist bread also uses pureed black beans as a healthy substitute for butter. The same colour as the cocoa, you can’t tell there are beans in this bread at all! I’ve never made a loaf with beans in it before, but it seems to work out quite well.

A soft moist crumb
A soft moist crumb
Slices of zucchini bread
Slices of zucchini bread