Early last fall I embarked on an inspiring two-week journey through the spectacular landscapes of Norway. My trip began in the capital, Oslo, a peaceful and attractive city that is currently in the midst of an urban makeover centered on the dramatic new Oslo Opera House designed by the same [Norwegian architectural firm that was responsible for the September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York). I enjoyed my stay at a new boutique hotel, The Thief — located in the revitalized Tjovholmen neighborhood — which despite being rather arty proved conspicuously friendly and well-run. And afterward, I renewed my acquaintance with the family-owned Hotel Continental, a traditional property of great distinction.
Having researched Oslo’s “New Nordic” restaurants and explored the city’s cultural institutions, (including a new museum dedicated to the painter Edvard Munch), I headed west on a memorable 310-mile rail journey to the coastal city of Bergen. From there, I proceeded to the wonderful Solstrand Hotel & Bad overlooking the gloriously scenic Bjørnafjorden. The long, indented Norwegian coastline is served by the famous Hurtigruten passenger and freight shipping service, so I opted to take one of its comfortable modern vessels on a short 260-mile cruise from Bergen to Alesund, a snug little port that is the gateway to the country’s most spectacular fjord district. The highlight of my sojourn in this northern region was the historic Hotel Union Øye set at the edge of the long and precipitous Hjørundfjord.
By the end of my trip, I had come to the conclusion that there is almost nothing to dislike about Norway: It is clean, prosperous and astonishingly beautiful, while its charming and well-educated inhabitants, most of whom speak perfect English, are unfailingly hospitable to strangers.
This issue also contains an update on New York City, which never ceases to reinvent itself at breakneck speed. Aside from a summary of hotel debuts, I report on new restaurants, (including those from Tom Colicchio and Keith McNally), the city’s new passion for Asian cuisine, its burgeoning food markets and the rebirth of the legendary Union Square Café.