Renting a car and driving at Crete

IMG_0021Skjermbilde 2016-01-16 kl. 14.39.32When abroad I’m usually not the one who drives. I’m not sure why, it’s just how it is. However when we were at Crete, me and my photographer, I was the only one with a driving-licence, so I had to be the driver this time.

When we arrived at the airport in Iraklio we followed the signs “car rental” and found our agent whoithout any problems. Having a smart-phone with a map-application made it easy to navigate. You have to roam in the beginning, but after the application has found the route, you can turn off roaming and the application will still help you navigate. The only time you have to roam is when you have to re-route.

Last time we were at Crete, 15 years ago, we had a rental car and I can remember being up in the mountains on very narrow, curvy roads, kind of scary. We never went to the mountains this time and driving on the highway was like driving at home. The only thing I found difficult was to drive in the afternoon/night as ther roads were very dark many places. However it didn’t scare me from renting a car at Crete. Actually I can recommened it as it’s so much easier to get around when you have a rental car!

A week at Crete in the end of October

IMG_0049Skjermbilde 2016-01-16 kl. 14.39.32In the end of October most of the tourists are gone and the island, that is very busy during the summer, is more relaxed and everybody is prepareing to closing down for the season. I was aware of this when we planned a week at Crete in the end of October and was prepared to meet an island that was tired of tourists, empty hotels and so-so weather.

What surprised me was that I was wrong in everything. I have been to Crete many times before, but it’s 10-15 years since my last visits, so comparing is not fair. However it seams like the Cretans were more relaxed and even more friendly. Most people were smiling and were very helpful and of course, very curisous when my photographer and I stopped to take pictures (and me posing…) everywhere.

Some shops, especially those close to the chartered hotels, were closed and most were quite empty, of course. There is no need to have a shop fully stocked when the hotels are closing! In the city-center of Iraklion the market and everything was still going strong with locals and the people, again, was relaxed and very friendly.

What about the weather? Although we were quite unlucky with the weather: overcast, rainy and windy, it was still 20 degrees. When the sun showed up it was actullay very warm!  (The week before we arrived the were 25 degrees and sunny.) I was prepared for cold days and was, again, surprised by how nice the weather was when it was not raining. Actually I fell in love with the island and if I was thinking of buying an appartment in a warmer climate, I would absolutly consider Crete.

Leipzig Christmas market

julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap 3


Skjermbilde 2016-01-16 kl. 14.39.32 If you haven’t gotten into Christmas-mood yet, I’m sure going to the Christmas market in Leipzig will help you! It’s freezing cold, but you get gluwhein on every-other stall, so if you can tolerate it, I would suggest to drink a lot to keep you warm.

julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap 10

The smell from all the different stalls is delicious, a blend of gluwhein and christmascakes and… sausages, or whursts, like the Germain call them.

Although you can eat yourself through the Christmas market I would sugguest to take a look at all the handcrafted goods. I must say I was quite impressed with the market in Leipzig as I have been to some other Christmas markets in Europe and mostly of what you get there have, unfortunately, been “made in China”. Nothing to write home about…

At the Leipzig Christmas market, you can get everything handcrafted. It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a special Christmas-present I would absolutly advise you to go to this market. Just be aware of where your wallet is as it can easily be stolen… More of that in another post.

julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap 1 julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap 11 julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap 5The Leipzig Christmas market is open from the last week in November to the day before Chrsitmas Eve. The main-area for the market is at the Marketplatz, but for me, it looked like there were stalls all over the city. You can’t miss it if going to Leipzig during December!

  • This post was written in cooperation with Leipzig Touristboard when doing research for my Norwegian travel book: “lavFODMAP på reise” or in English “travel lowFODMAP”.

5 tips for bicycling safe in China


Getting a bike/e-bike when living in Hangzhou/China is one of the best investments you can do. You can get a new bicycle for as little as 300 CNY/350 NOK and an e-bike for around 2000 CNY/2500 NOK. I’m not sure if the smallest e-bike goes faster than a bicycle, but it’s for sure easier. In the morning- and afternoontime, both e-bike and bicycle are much faster than a car! Because of the traffic congestion it’s not always safe to bike. Here are my 5 tips for bicycling safe in China:


  1. Be aware of both cars and people walking in the cycle-path.
  2. Yes, cars and other “cyclers” do “beep” with the horn. They don’t always do it to tell you you are in the wrong place, but to warn you that they are coming behind you. E-bikes are very quite and because of that they may warn others that they are coming.
  3. Remember that a green light in China is not always only green for you!
  4. Don’t be stubborn, but give way to others.
  5. Take it easy and don’t rush. Although you don’t have control over what’s happening around you, you will have a better overview if you are slow yourself.

Happy cycling!



Electric bike in China

From the first time I was in China, two years ago, I have wanted an electric bike. I love to bicycle around, and I used to do that when we were in Sevilla and Valencia some years ago, but at that time my knees and general health was better. Today I don’t trust my body to hold up on a longer bike-ride, so an electric bike is ideal.

Now when I am going to stay here in Hangzhou, at least part-time, both me and Mr. No-Backpacker thought it was an excellent idea to buy me an electric bike. The problem was: How and where? Our Chinese friend said we could buy it online (it seems like the Chinese buy everything online), but because I wanted some more information I wanted to buy it in a real shop so we decided to do some research ourself.

The answer was Walmart. They have everything at Walmart! We brought our Chinese friend to Walmart and, after some waiting, bought an electric bike. I don’t know much about this, but here is what I know: The weight of the battery is 18 kilo (less then my suitcase, so I take it I will manage to carry it into the elevator if Mr. No-Backpacker is not at home) and it will last for around 30 km. I’m sure there are more information in the booklet we got, but that’s in Chinese….

And the price? 2059 CNY/2500 NOK.

There are of course some disanvantages with an electric bike and the worst is that accidents with electric bikes have increased dramatically in China the last years. However when I see how some of the Chinese ride, I can understand why there are many accidents. Some are just crazy! My plan is to be careful and never rush, never take any chances. Of course I know this isn’t always enough, but at least it’s all I can do to prevent. After all I think having an electric bike is easier than getting around in a taxi everytime I want to go out.


THE apartment

After a small week we have started to settle here in Hangzhou. We had seen some pictures of the apartment, but as most of you know, seeing pictures is not the same as real life. However I had the apartment in Chongqing in my memory, so didn’t expect that much. Chinese standard of living is NOT the same as Norwegian…. I knew there were a kitchen, two bedrooms, a big livingroom, bathroom, aircondition, gastop (no oven, only the top), microwave-oven (all Chinese have that) and a refridgerator with fridge.

When we arrived we were NOT expected to have some extra tenants: COCKROACHES! I’m not squemish, but to be honest, I wasn’t very happy. We went straight to walmart and bought all we could carry in washingclothes, liquids, sprays etc… and started to clean. I thought we had gotten rid of the cockroaches, but this morning I saw two newcomers… Maybe because it’s raining outside?

The building we live in is very old and we were told this is why there are cockroaches even at the fifth floor! If I was going to stay here for a long time, I would have found another place to live, but as I am going to comute between Norway and China, it’s ok’ish. As I said, I’m not afraid of small creatures!

IMG_4958.JPGThis is one of the bedrooms, the smallest one. It takes forever to upload pictures, so I don’t have a picture of the biggest bedroom. However it looks quite much the same, with a bigger bed and more space! The bed… The matress is made of wood, I think. At least it feel like that! If you knock on the bed, you can hear it like you knock on a door. Well… For our bed we bought the thickest bedcover we could find, still it’s not enough. It looks like we will have to take a taxi to IKEA when it opens the 25th. of June to buy something softer….    The sofa…. everything in China is rock-hard!




As you can see, the sofa is the same standard as the bed – rock-hard! We were thinkning of byung something for the sofa, but we don’t use it that much and never watch the antique television, so we’ll see…



The kitchen is small, and I don’t have a picture, but I can tell about it… No warm water in the kitchen so we’ll need to go to the bathroom to get warm water. Not very effective, but we have a neighbour, Dima (from Russia), who told us we can buy an electric heater for the kitchen. Where we can buy it? Online, of course…. There is no oven in the kitchen, but yesterday I saw a small one at Walmart (our new friend, they have everything!) for 350 CNY/400 NOK. I will have somebody order it online for me because we will then get it on the door.

The bathroom… It’s not the best I have seen…. BUT I will manage! At least we have a washingmachine – no warmwater, but I know how to fill it with warm water, so that is not a problem.

After we spoke with Dima we understood we should be happy with this apartment. He had been in another one before he got this, and said that this is luxury compared! Compared with the apartment we had in Chongquing this is bigger and in a way brighter, but the one in Chongqing was better, cleaner and more new. Well, I think I will adapt. After all this is an adventure only a few people is lucky to experience, so I don’t complain. One have to do the best out of the situation and I am planning of doing that.

How to get a work VISA in China

Because Mr. No-Backpacker is a so-called “foreign specialist” we’ll both (hopefully) get a work VISA. I’m not going to work in China, but because I’m going to commute between China and Norway (!) it’ll make my life so much easier to have a multi-entry VISA so I don’t need to apply for a new VISA every time I want to visit my husband.

To get a work VISA is not that difficult if you know all the steps, but it’s really time-consuming, at least if you forget one step in the middle… I’m sure it’s doable on your own, but I take it it’s easier if you have a Chinese-speaking friend to follow you. Let’s take it from start.

First you will have to have 9 pictures with a 2 inch white background. If we knew this we would have taken them from home, but we didn’t and needed to find a photographer to take the pictures. There was one at the Zhejiang campus, but to be honest, I can’t explain where…

After we got the photoes we took a taxi to a special medical office  to get a medical test. THAT was an experience!

IMG_4973.JPGThere is one queue to get a number and then one to registere.

IMG_4971.JPGYou then get a scheme to follow. You don’t need to follow the scheme one after one, but you have to go through all the test before you are finnished. Outside each office there are queues of people waiting. Stand in line in the shortest queue and wait for your turn! Looking at the scheme it seems like a very complicated examination, but in reality every step is finnished within 1 minute. My biggest problem was that I went to the toilet when we arrived and didn’t know they wanted a urine-sample!

I think the whole seanse took around an hour. Becasue we needed the results for the medical tests for the next step, we had to wait until afternnon the next day.



After picking up the medical test results (yey, I passed, but for a strange reason got a new diagnoses from the x-ray: Scolioses… I might need to check that out when I get back to Norway…) we headed for the “Zhejiang provincial administration of foreign experts affairs”. We thought we had all the right papers, but unfortunately we didn’t have the right insurance, at least not in English… We had to come back the day after… At this time I got a feeling I was doing “The big race”!

Third day: We got up early, got a taxi and back to the office. Unfortunately the woman who could help us was out for an hour and we had to take a walk. Luckily the West Lake, one of the most beautiful attractions in Hangzhou, was very close and we had a coffee by the lake. (Hangzhou is one of the “greenest cities” in China, morea bout that later….)

IMG_5016.JPGAfter an hour or so we got a call from the right woman and headed back. Luckily we had the right papers (we used the Norwegian travel-insurance where the insurance-company had a statement written in English) and Mr. No-Backpacker got the blue book telling he is a foreign expert (and I am the wife… for this we knew we needed an official paper, written in English, telling we are married).

New taxi… To the Visa-office. While waiting there we suddnely understood we needed a statement from the local police-office that we actually were living in an appartment… Oh well… new taxi… When we arrived to the police-office it had closed for lunch, 2 hours… A quick call to the administration-office where we live told us we were anyway at the wrong police-district!

IMG_5024.JPGWe decided to have lunch before a new taxi-ride took us to the right police-office. We got the papers and after yet another taxi-trip we ended up at the VISA-office again. “Hello, been here before!”

The people working at the VISA-office spoke English, but our Chinese friend helped us and everything went smooth until we realized that the VISA would not be finnished before 2 days after I was gong to leave! Fortunately I had the printout of my e-ticket and they made a note on my VISA to do it faster! At this office you have to hand in your passport, but you get a note you can use for travelling within China if you need that. (You will need it not only for airfares, but also to take the train.)

Fingers crossed I will get my VISA (and passport) before I’m returning back home, if not… well… I don’t want to think about it!

In summary, the list is like this (please be aware that this is for people who seek work VISA as a foreign expert):

1. Take 9 pictures, white background, 2 inches.

2. Go to the special medical office to get all your test done. I THINK there are people there who speak English. At least I saw lots of people there who didn’t have a Chinese translator!

3. Pick up the test the day after.

4. Go to the “administration of foreign experts affairs” to get the blue book. They speak English at this office.

5. Find the local police-office and get a statement that proves you live where you live (to be honest, I don’t know how you do this as we had our Chinese friend to help us). They don’t speakEnglish here.

6. Go to the VISA office and fill in the papers there. They speak English here.






What to buy in London/UK if you are on a low FODMAP, glutenfree or lactosefree diet!

2014-12-30 10.43.02 HDRPeople often ask me what I usually buy, and where, when I am abroad. The selection of low FODMAP ready-made food is not very good in Norway so usually I tend to find a better variety outside of Norway. The best thing with UK is that everything, obviously, is written in English and it’s easy to read the list of ingredients.

One thing I always buy when going to UK is Gingins. Gingins is hard ginger-candy with 16% ginger and I they do help if I have a stomach-ache or feel sick. I have seen them at Whole Foods Market, very close to Piccadilly (20 Glasshouse Street), but I usually buy them at Holland & Barrat (the Gingins link will take you to their online-shop). I have been in contact with Holland & Barrat asking if they sell and send to Norway, unfortunately they don’t so I will continue to stock up when I’m in the UK.

At the Whole Foods Marked they also have a selection of glutenfree products. Not as big as the one I found in Toulouse, but more than good enough.

2014-12-30 10.47.23The also have a big selection of alternatives to milk, like rice-milk, soy-milk, outs-milk etc… However getting that kind of milk and also lactose-free milk, was not difficult to find even at smaller Tesco and Sainsbury.

At the smalller Sainsbury and Tesco they have some glutenfree food, fresh “garden salad” and packed, cooked meat. I take it the seletion is bigger in larger shops, but those are not located in cetral London.

Although it’s not at all forbidden to buy medicines over the counter in the UK and bring back home, I am not comfortable with telling what kind of medicines I usually buy in the UK (Norway has strict regulations on what you can buy over the counter). If you want to know my list, feel free to e-mail me:

At the legendary Fortnum & Mason I found lots of jams and marmelades suitable for the low FODMAP-diet: Rasberries in whiskey, orange and champagne marmelade, bluberry jam… and mustard.

2014-12-31 10.49.44Remember to bring a close to empty suitcase to London, not only for the shoes and clothes, but also to bring back home some fantastic, yummi food!


London on a restricted diet

2014-12-27 19.54.58London, and I think UK in general, is easy to navigate if you are on a restricted diet. With that said, I don’t know how it works if you have celiac desease, but I take it it wouldn’t be that difficult. At least most food in the grocery-stores are marked.

Obviously, as long as you speak English, there will be no language-barriers when explaining your needs. However, this time, I took the chance not to explain and just ordered what I thought would be low FODMAP (no wheat, no garlic, no onion, no lactose).

For breakfast I bought eggs and ham at the grocery-store. I cooked the eggs in my egg-boiler (sounds strange to bring an egg-boiler, but I can assure you, it has been a life saver more than once) and an extra one for lunch, just in case.

For lunch you can either go to a pub, eat sushi or find wheat-free pre-packed food at the grocery-store. There are several options for sushi in London, Wasabi being one of my favorite. Not because they have exeptional nice sushi, but because it is convenient that you can pick what you want and that each sushi-bite has been pre-packed. I wouldn’t opt for Wasabi if I was going out for dinner though, but for take-away it’s great. Many of the coffe-shops like Pret A Manger and Eat also sell pre-packed sushi-meals.

Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Saintbury’s have pre-packed meat and chicken in smaller bites, refridgerated and pre-packed. A plain salad with low FODMAP-vegetables (lettuce, tomatoe, carrot…) is also for sale at most grocery-stores and together with some meat or chicken it will make a nice meal.

For dinner your safest option is to order meat or fish with fries or rice. In London you can get a steak on every corner/pub, and I found it extremely easy to not walk around hungry. In fact, I didn’t eat much of the food I brought from home!

This was my first time going to UK after I started the low FODMAP-diet and even I have been there 2-3 times a year the last 10 years, and haveing lived in Liverpool for a year, I was surprised how easy I found it to get a full meal all day long.

Hotel review: Hotel Indigo Paddington, London – UK 4*

2014-12-26 22.58.57Hotel Indigo is a brand I have stayed at only a few times and I think I like it. It’s usually small’ish, “cool”, colorful, boutique-hotels.

Hotel Indigo Paddington is located only 50 meters from the Paddington tube- and trainstation. Heathrow Express goes to this station, so if you arrive at Heathrow the train will take you to the hotel in 15 min. Unfortunately the Heathrow Express didn’t go the day we arrived (the 26th. of December, boxing-day in UK), but we used the train when we left. The price is 36 GbP for a return ticket and 21 for a one way fare. If you take the tube from Heathrow, use Piccadilly-line to Piccadilly and change to Bakerlo-line, Northbound. The journey will take around an hour.

When we arrived at the hotel we were welcomed by a nice, but somehow confusing, receptionist. We were told he wanted to upgrade us, but that the former guest had reasently left, but the room was ready and we could have a look at the room. I didn’t understand the problem, nor did Mr. No-Backpacker. In the end we got the upgraded room.

Entering the room I understood the problem. It was reeking of cheap perfume, with an underlying odor of sigarette. We thought about chaning the room, but becasue we were tired and wanted to go to bed we opened the windows and went to bed. (The smell didn’t disappear until the last day….)

Before I booked this hotel I read that the rooms are tiny. I don’t know what room-category we got an upgrade to, but I didn’t find my room too small. The only complaint must be that there were not much space in the closet. For 3-4 days I would say it was ok though.

Our room had a Nespresso-machine. The only drwaback was that we got only 1 pod with normal coffe and 2 with defacc. I would say mot people drink normal coffee so I don’t understand this… Maybe they wanted to save some money… Well.. The good thing was that there were also a kettle and instant coffee! (Not the same, but still caffein… )

The mini-bar, with soft-drinks, are free for all the guests and it will be refilled every day. (2 Pepsi, 2 Diet-Pepsi, 2 small bottles of still- and sparkling water and 1 orangejuice.) There is still some space left in the fridge, perfect for those of us who need to bring our own food!

2014-12-26 22.57.42The bathroom was smallish, but nice and clean. The water-pressure in the shower was very weak, but there were plenty of warm water!

2014-12-26 22.58.15The toiletries were ok’ish. In Liverpool they use Aveda and I was hoping for that here too…

We didn’t have breakfast included. There are lots of places to either eat at or just grab a sandwitch in the same street as the hotel, so didn’t pay for the breakfast at the hotel. At the railwaystation there is a Marks&Spencer and Saintburys too. I bought eggs and ham and cooked the eggs in my egg-boiler for breakfast!

The last night we had dinner in the restaurant. Mr. No-Backpacker had a hamburger and fries, I had a steak and fries. Not exactly gourmet-food, but perfectly fine! There are lots of cafes, pubs and restaurants nearby the hotel, I’ll come back to that later!

Located so close to the tube, connected to the Bakerlo, Central and Circle-line, I would say this hotel has a very good location in London. Although I do like Intercontinental Park Lane, I think I prefer this location, both because of the tube, but also because there are cafes and restaurants at the door-step.