A Travellerspoint blog

October 2019

The Dancing Northern Lights

Lights, Cameras, Action....


Absolutely WOW is all I can say! This experience was completely insane-The Northern Lights (aurora borealis) are gobsmacking when they are dancing in the sky; the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind. It's what we flew to the arctic circle for and we certainly saw it!


You can clearly see the 'Big Dipper' (or Plough) in the picture below


On one of the placards, Tromso proudly boasts to be the largest Polar City.....after Murmansk in Russia that is....so I guess it is the second largest after all. But it does have the most northerly University in the world....(possibly I guess!)


You can see the Northern lights from the town, especially up the cable car - but the lights have to be "on form" with clear skies if it is to compete with the light pollution of the city. The Cable Car is Tromso’s most popular tourist destination. It runs from Solliveien in Tromsdalen up to the mountain ledge Storsteinen. You really do get fantastic views from up here.

What a stunning view on our first night in Tromso - but no lights! Or so we thought

If feeling energetic, you can walk up the mountain via the Sherpa steps; 1300 steps that snake to the summit of the cable car. Walking a bit further you can clamber over more natural surrounds to the trig point of the mountain. From here you can see magical views of the Tromso Fjords- this was even better around sunset.


After apparently seeing the lights at the top of the cable car and not really knowing it, we booked to go on a Northern star chase. This would give us the expert knowledge and hopefully some spectacular locations.

Our first chase ventured 140km south as there was too much cloud cover. Our guide was quite amazing at finding clear skies on an evening that just wanted to pull up the duvet. Our first evening eventually bloomed into life with ghostly whites, gradually tinting green. The fire warmed the toes on an night that dipped to -4c in the middle of absolutely nowhere.


A spiritual face looked down on us.


Filled with the happy buzz of seeing the lights, our long journey back blew out with a puncture, snowfall and a broken spare tyre- limping in at 4.00am. We certainly had a midnight adventure!

The weekend weather was not great so we bunkered in. Wet wet wet. But a clear sky on the last night gave us one final chase. We were happy from the first experience, but the second was just incredible. We travelled east towards the sea, with spectacular snow capped mountains reaching from the fjords.
It was show time. Phenomenal. Starting sleepily, the lights woke up and literally danced, exploded, whirled as if some one was mixing water colours and then sending fireworks around the sky. Just wow!

Thanks to help from the guide, our photos came out well


Our guide from Greenlander Tours took these stunning photos below on the evening


On the mainland, before crossing Tromsø Bridge lies Tromsdalen Church, better known as the Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen). From here, we walked up the glacial valley to it's source. A lovely walk through the autumnal birch forest evolved, then thinned, as we ascended to see spectacular views on a monumental scale.


Tromso is a fascinating place steeped in history; mainly exploratory ventures to the Poles, whaling and seal hunting. A proud culture and location in the arctic circle quite different to anything we had ever seen before.


There was plenty to see in and around Tromso. This was the best time to see the Northern lights, but given another month, we would have had abundant snow to play in and whales to see feeding in the fjords.


Posted by PhilFhi travels 23:26 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Port in Porto

...and a half marathon too...


Porto is a picturesque city in north west Portugal, famous for it’s Port wine, terracotta roofs, tiled buildings and Dom Luis I Bridge spanning the River Douro.


After arriving to our apartment in Porto, with a stunning spiral staircase and a lift fit to send the adrenaline pumping of any claustrophobic person, we set about for our orientation walk…


Of course what starts at the top, must climb back up so we headed down to the beautiful river Douro at the bottom before eating closer to our apartment.

Our host gave us some fantastic recommendations for where to go. Antunes was a real “locals” restaurant. We had to expand our Portuguese rapidly as we played charades with the waiter. My pork dish looked like it would have fed the entire city. The flavours were simply out of this world.
We opted to travel by bus out to the coast and visit the fish market and sit by the sea as it was a stunning day.

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We loved exploring the narrow veins or arteries leading to the river. Each street had it’s own personality, as with many of the buildings.


The Porto Half Marathon was a lovely run. It was a little warmer than expected which sapped energy levels a bit, but once you got into the groove, the views and different perspectives on the city was a pleasure. Running on Don Luis 1 Bridge was really weird as it vibrated so much it was noticeable when running.


Strangely enough, after running a half, we did most of our walking around in the afternoon. This was a great “step-count” day.

Completing the run gave us the added bonus of enjoying the local food and wine afterwards.

Francesinha is probably the most famous sandwich in Portugal and an iconic Porto dish. Two slices of bread, layers of meat, melted cheese and a beer-infused sauce; this was certainly enjoyed after the run!


The grilled, or fried sardines, really are one of the greatest pleasures eaten in Porto.


The double-decker Dom Luis I bridge is an icon of the city of Porto spanning the River Douro and linking the Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia with the bustling downtown Ribeira district of Porto. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel!


Ambling the cobbled lanes, sampling different ports, using the cable car, visiting the food market, we just explored- stunning!


São Bento train station is certainly worth looking at with beautiful blue and white tiled walls telling stories. Buildings all over Porto line their walls with tiles and is something to see.

Taking an organised tour, we travelled along the Douro Valley for a couple of hours. Once into the rural, mountainous area, vines and river valleys transform the landscape.

The river has and still does play a huge role in balance with the river. Early on, the wine was transported via boats down the river and kept in Porto before being trading overseas or in the city. This was a hazardous journey through gorges and rapids. Boats were then towed back up to the vineyards by ropes!

Nowadays, with phenomenal engineering, the river has been tamed and locks enable tourist boats to use the stunning waterway. Locks, one of which is a hundred feet deep, raises and lowers river cruise ships safely.


Porto should definitely be on your bucket list... we loved it.

Posted by PhilFhi travels 00:02 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

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