Lifes Little Adventures...

Lifes Little Adventures...

Monday, June 1, 2015

Skication in the Italian Alps

During Valentines day weekend we headed to the Italian Alps for a ski vacation. We flew into Milan and then drive about an hour and a half to Madonna Di Campiglio (The Domomites). 

The town of Madonna Di Campiglio is such a quaint cute area with beautiful views everywhere you look. The lifts were just about a 3 minute walk from our hotel (Hotel Alpina). I loved our hotel it was in the center of town right beside the best restaurant (Le Roi, so good we ate there twice). Hotel Alpina was a family run hotel and we enjoyed having a nightcap everynight in the hotel bar chatting with the bartender.

With me not being a great skier I loved being on a ski trip in Italy as you had the awesome skiing combined with great food and wine. Even the lunch stops on the mountain were AMAZING food and even netter views (Rifugio Viviani). The first day I sat enjoying wine and the amazing views while Matt checked out the slopes for me the only to report back that even the easiest slopes were not too easy at all. Regardless I went out the second day and had a great time! Compared to the slopes in the US it was like there was no one on the mountain, you would barely see anyone at all on a run, it was great! 

The day we left there was a lot of snow which made for a beautiful drive back to Milan through beautiful small Italian villages. 

Here are some pictures from our amazing Italian skication! Ciao!

Hotel Alpina

Alps on the plane ride home

The Northern Lights- Tromso, Norway

At the end of January we headed to Tromso (northern), Norway. We were after one thing...seeing the Northern Lights. This was a bucket list item for both my husband and I. We were very nervous because we were only there for 3 nights (Friday, Jan 30- Monday, Feb 2) and everything I read said you should at least be there for 5 nights to have the best chance to see the lights. Nevertheless, we were only able to dedicate 3 and just had to hope we would get lucky and see them and boy did we ever! 

We flew in late Friday night from London with a connection in Oslo (first time we have had a connecting flight visiting a European destination). We were staying at the Comfort Hotel Xpress Tromso. We were looking for a reasonably priced hotel in a good location, clean, no frills and this fit the bill perfectly.  We were there to see the lights and Norway is expensive enough as it need to spend a lot on a hotel.  Tromso is small and this hotel is in the center of the town. We got in very late and headed to Hucken Pub for dinner, which was a great local spot with delicious burgers.
Saturday we woke up and got out to see beautiful Tromso. While it did not snow while we were visiting there was still snow on the ground and LOTS of ice. Also it was COLD! Of course we knew it would be cold and I thought I had well prepared when packing  (basically bringing my thermals and ski suit etc.) but nothing could have prepared me for how cold it actually felt. 
We explored the main street of Storgata, had lunch at Aunegarden and some beers at Mack's Brewery (the northernmost brewery in the world)! Then it was Aurora Borealis time (aka the Northern Lights).

Between December-March there are lots of tours groups in Tromso that leave each night to see the lights.  Some will go as far as Finland or Sweden if they think they will have a better chance of seeing them. After much research, we decided on a group called Chasing Lights and I am so glad we did. It was a little more expensive than some of the other options but it was worth it. They never have more than 12 people in a group so you actually get to know the guides and others in the group. They really take care of you, providing you with warm snowsuits, boots, gloves etc. They also have tripods and will help you get your camera on the right settings to capture the lights perfectly. Also if you don't have a nice camera, not to worry, they take lots of free pictures and videos for you which they email to you. They also made a campfire for us to stay warm and served us a great dinner and lots of hot chocolate! Chasing Lights has a very high success rate for seeing the lights because if they think they can't be seen then they cancel the tour that night and reschedule you for the next day they predict the lights will be visible or refund your money if your travel schedule doesn't allow.
When I told people about our Northern Lights trip I got a lot of questions like; what exactly are they or what causes Aurora Borealis etc. If you're like me and want to learn more this video explains it well.
We were picked up around 5:30 pm by Chasing Lights and did not get home until after 4:00 am! We did not have to go far to see the lights at all, in fact we stayed in Tromso. We made two stops, at the first stop there was still some cloud coverage and we could see the lights but it was not a clear sky.
I thought this was great so when they told us we were going to leave as they thought there was a better spot I was disappointed at first. They have "spotters" in all different areas that alert them when there is clear skies and the lights can be seen. Then we get into our warm van that has a huge tv with a live weather radar and the guides explain where we are going and the conditions there etc. They make it truly feel like a "chase" that you are involved in. The second spot was a horse training field and the setting was between two mountain areas that seemed to hold the clouds back and were just beautiful! From here God started showing off for us. The lights came out and stayed out all night. They "danced" on and off for over 4 hours. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and the coolest experience I have ever been a part of. The lights were mainly green but at times we were able to see red and purple in them too. It was SO COLD out and we had the option to sit in the warm van but we just could not tear ourselves away from the lights because they were putting on such a show. Our guides were so excited as well, they said it was the best lights they had seen in quite awhile and we knew we were lucky to see them on such a great night. It was an experience I know we will never forget!  

Dinner with our group by the was unreal!

Since we got back so late Sunday morning we slept for a long time and took it easy on Sunday. We went and grabbed an early dinner and drinks at a pub before an early morning of dogsledding on Monday!

On Monday we drove about 30 minutes outside of Tromso to go dogsledding. They gave us some warm clothes and let us meet and play with some of the sweet dogs.

Then we set off on a two hour dogsled ride. These dogs LOVED it, they had so much energy! When we first met our "team" they were ready to go and so excited. If we would press the brake to make them stop for a minute they would start barking and stare at us until we let them go again and then they would go flying! They went so fast and were so sweet!  The wind was whipping in our faces and, I know I sound like a broken record, but it was so cold (the coldest time on our trip). I wish I had more pictures but my hands would go numb as soon as I took them out of my gloves- haha!

After our ride we went in one of the "teepees" and got warm with coffee and cake by a fire. It was such a fun experience!
We came back to the hotel just in time to change and get cleaned up before heading to dinner at Egon where we tried reindeer for the first time, a Norway specialty (sorry Santa)! We had a late night flight from Tromso directly back to London and right before we left it finally started snowing!
Tromso was such a different trip than anything we have done and between the Northern Lights and dogsledding they were two of the most amazing experiences we have had since we have been living in London. There are lots of different locations to see the Northern Lights and everyone always says pick the best location that you want to see with fun things to do so you can have a great trip in case you don't get to see the lights. That is exactly what we did and Tromso was absolutely beautiful and the best pick, I would highly recommend it if you ever want to do a Northern Lights Trip!