A Rainy Day in Oslo

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Rainy Day Walk

Probably our very favorite day in Oslo was just a normal, ordinary day.  I’m writing about it because it just makes me happy, and I want to remember it.

While we’ve had great weather for the most part, this day was rainy and chilly.  Perfect to take a day off and just live like an Oslo-ite.

I spent the morning with a cup of tea at my mobile office.

Rainy Day Office

We took a walk I the rain.

Rainy Day Sculpture

To lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant. We first discovered Eataly in Florence – it was just the little grocery store around the corner from our apartment.  We were surprised when we discovered they were actually a tiny outpost of a huge New York emporium (which we have visited and loved).  So we were delighted to happen upon the Oslo version!

Oslo - Eataly

And then whiled away the afternoon at the local bakery/coffeehouse.  When I am working, Frank makes his daily rounds and has his regular espresso here each morning, so he wanted to show me.

Rainy Day Bakery

Normally a tea drinker, I had my first cappuccino (and loved it!).

Rainy Day Cap

Our time in Oslo is coming to an end. We have loved this city.  It is just easy and fun to be here.

Fortress

Next we are heading WAY up north – above the Arctic Circle!

P.S. The castle above is Akershuss Slott – which is across the water from us – and the inspiration for the castle in Frozen –can you see the resemblance?

EYC of Oslo: Lille Herbern

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Herbern Sign

My favorite thing to do on a trip is find a site or restaurant that is truly off the beaten path.  I scour guidebooks, study TripAdvisor, and check out local suggestions.  It is fun to get away from the tourist buses and go where the locals go.

And today we did just that- to a little seafood house on an island owned by the local sailing club – just like our own Eastport Yacht Club back home.

I had read a mere mention of this place in a guidebook and sounded intriguing, so I looked up their website – all in Norwegian.  Undaunted, I copied it over to Google Translate.  And was hooked.

But the catch was – since the restaurant was located on an island, they had to pick you up by boat, which, from my Google Translate, appeared to be on the half-hour.  However, since the instructions were in Norwegian, I was a little unclear how this would work.

I told Frank, “Follow me – I have an idea.”

He did, but I’m sure was skeptical.

This is where the road led:

Island Road

As we sat on the dock – all alone – I admit to being a little nervous this wasn’t going to work out either.

Island Dock - Frank

Island Dock CAT

But sure enough, on the half-hour, a little boat pulled up.

Island Taxi

And we hopped onboard.

Island Taxi - Frank

And found the most charming place. It is a local yacht club – with the small boats an all – just like Eastport.

Island Boats

And they open their clubhouse to those who are lucky enough to find their way to the little island.

Island Cafe 2

Although the front row is reserved for members.

Island Cafe - Members Only

We seriously had the best meal we’ve had in Norway at this little out-of-the-way spot – fish soup, grilled trout, and strawberry crumble.

Island Cafe

Sometimes it pays to forge your own path!

Island Dock

Oslo Sightseeing – Christy’s #1

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image descriptionTo narrow down all the sightseeing options in Oslo, Frank and I each made our #1 choices.  His was the Viking Museum (yesterday’s blog).

My first choice was the Fram Museum, which holds the actual ship (named “Fram”) that Roald Amundsen sailed to the Arctic and Antarctic.

Fram Ice Dogs

I had learned all about Amundsen on my Antarctica trip so couldn’t believe I could see the actual ship.

Fram

In 1910, Amundsen sailed the Fram north in an effort to become the first explorer to reach the North Pole.  En route, he learned that someone had beaten him to it, so he just turned the ship around and headed for the South Pole instead.

Admiral Scott from England also was headed that way, so the race was on!

Norway got there first, proudly planted the Norwegian flag, and began their return home.

Amundsen Flag

Thirty-three days later, Scott’s party arrived, only to see the Norwegian flag already there.  Disappointed, they headed back to their base camp but experienced extreme arctic conditions and died in their tents after writing messages to the world encouraging future exploration.  (These were found by a search party that was assembled when Scott’s party failed to return.)

Not only could we see the ship, we could board it-

Fram Deck

And even go below – here’s the dining room and Captain’s cabin –

Fram - Saloon

Fram-Museum-Captains-Room

Way cool – no pun intended!!  : )

 

Oslo Sightseeing – Frank’s #1

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Fortress - CAT

Oslo has more museums than you can possibly see in a short visit – unless you are very dedicated.   Art, Vikings, History, Culture – they have it all!

We aren’t quite that dedicated and subscribe to one of my mother’s favorite sayings – “Just because it is there doesn’t mean you have to see it.”  This is a perfect mantra because it lets you off the hook when you really just want to skip the museum and go to lunch.

She also created our favorite approach to sightseeing.  We each get to select our #1 choice and everyone has to go along with it and be happy about it.  So everyone gets to do their first choice, plus a few others.

But what to choose . . . .

Hop On

We first did the Hop On Bus to get the lay of the land – definitely touristy, but very useful (and fun).

Then decided on our #1 selections.

Frank’s First Choice

Frank chose the Viking Museum.

We had to take a ferry to get there, which was part of the fun.

Ferry to Museums

The museum has 3 Viking ships dating to the 9th century that were uncovered in the early 1900s.

Viking 1 side

Vikings buried important people in their ships, along with things they would need for the after-life (including servants).  So all of this was very well preserved, considering they are over 1,000 years old!

Viking - 2

I thought the most interesting part was that the ocean-going ship had holes for the oars (you can see above), which had covers the Vikings could slide over them for when they were under sail (very smart) – and they could go 12 knots!

Viking Frank

Tomorrow:  Christy’s First Choice

 

 

 

 

An Evening on Oslofjord

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Cruise - Lower Deck

Oslo has its own fjord – Oslofjord.

Ferry boats line up on the dock near our apartment to transport Oslo residents off and away, especially on weekends.  Tonight we got to see where all those people are going.

We boarded the Helena, a retired fishing vessel from the 1940s.

Cruise - Helena

Since we are early in the season, it wasn’t that crowded so everyone spread out – cocktails in hand – to take in the views.

Cruise - Top Deck

We spent 3 hours making a big circle around the inner fjord, which goes on for 100 kilometers to the open sea.

Cruise - CAT

Soon the captain told us dinner was served. On the menu?  Bread, butter, and shrimp!  How can you go wrong with that?

Cruise - Bread & Butter

Cruise - Frank Shrimp

Cruise - Shrimp

We peeled our way through a couple of plates – with sea gulls looking on hungrily.

Cruise - Peeling Shrimp

Many Oslo residents have summer homes on these islands, which can be elaborate compounds with guesthouses and docks – I like the one below with the diving board to the sea.

Cruise Scene

Or simple bathhouses – to swim and soak up the sun.

Cruise - Bathhouses

And there are more sailboats here than even in Annapolis!

Cruise - Sticks

Our kind of town.

Cruise - Lifeboat

 

 

Onward to Oslo!

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Flam Train

We reluctantly left our little cottage by the fjord and took the train to the big city!

We are in Oslo for the next week.

We have an apartment (via Airbnb) in the ultra hip Tjuvholmen neighborhood – we didn’t realize our digs were so trendy until we got here!

Apt View

Tjuvholmen means Thief’s Island – it is where Oslo hung their thieves in the 17th century and was the most dangerous spot in the city until a few years ago, when developers reclaimed the area, bulked it up with artificial islands, and linked with footbridges to the mainland.

Tjuvholmen Bridge

Now the area is filled with galleries, restaurants, shops, offices, and condos.

Tjuvholmen

No cars allowed – but lots of boats – perfect for us!

 

Apt View 2

Our apartment is fabulous – with king-size bed-

Apt Bed

living room/kitchen-

Apt Telescope

& bathroom (with washer AND dryer – a rarity in Europe).

Apt Bath

And best of all – a balcony overlooking all the action.

Apt View 3

Who knew Frank and I were so cool?!  : )

Apt Balcony

 

 

A Meal Fit For A Viking!

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Pub

One of our favorite spots in town is the local pub – Norwegian style!

You walk in an immediately know you are in Norway – fireplace, reindeer skins, and all.

Pub Fireplace

They serve a 5-course “Viking Plank” with samples based on Viking fare from back in the day – reindeer, fish, pork, and lingonberry cream for dessert. Delicious!

Pub Viking Meal

Plus a flight of local beers paired just for each course!

Pub Sampler

I am not usually a beer drinker, but even I got into the spirit – it was good! (Although I think I still prefer wine.)

Skol!

Pub Christy

 

Us

Undredal

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Undredal Boats

Today we went off the beaten path to a tiny Norwegian village of just 100 people (and 400 goats!). It was hard to find anything in the guidebooks about Undredal – even in Lonely Planet.  But the local ferry stopped there, so we decided to get off and explore.

Undredal Ferry

Our other ferry passengers (day-trippers just aboard for a fjord ride) looked a little shocked when we disembarked in this little town – and admittedly, the crew did, too! They explained that the ferry does not stop automatically at Undredal because it is so small.  We have to flip a switch on the side of the building to call them back.

Undredal Ferry Switch

We puzzled on this for a few minutes – and wondered as the ferry pulled away if this was a good idea.

Undredal Ferry Leaving

But what a charming place!

The town only had a couple of streets going up into the mountain, but was so picturesque.

Undredal

They had a little school (“skule”) with a playground.

Undredal Skule 2

Undredal Skule

And a store featuring local goat cheese, for which they are famous.

Undredal 2

But the highlight was a tiny stave church at the top of the town.

Undredal Church 2

The Undredal church (“kirke”) is the oldest continuing church in Norway, built in 1147. It seats just 40 congregants.  For 50 kroner ($6), we could go in.

Undredal Church

My great-grandfather’s family was from Norway, and I could just picture them worshipping somewhere just like this.

undredal-songbook.jpg

We ended the day back on the dock at the local café with the best salmon we’ve had so far – followed by crepes filled with local goat cheese.

Undredal Menu

And then we saw the ferry rounding the bend.

Undredal Ferry Coming

I ran over and switched on the yellow flashing light.

Undredal Light

Sure enough, the ferry stopped (and I turned off the light before I jumped onboard).

Undredal Ferry Flag

We left Undredal behind and settled in for a beautiful sunny ride back up the fjord.

We will miss this place.

Undredal Flowers

Work Day

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No blog yesterday – it was a work day in the Volpe Household!

Frank helped with laundry.

Laundry

I set up shop with my HIPAA regulations – with a view.

Office view 1

But eventually had to move myself to the upper bedroom for conference calls – and to concentrate. : )

Office

And take-out pizza for supper.

Real life on the fjord!

Pizza

 

A Day On The Fjord

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Waterfall Us

We decided it was time to pull ourselves off the sofas with our picture-window view and check out the fjord for ourselves.

We had a big excursion planned for lunch at a famous hotel up in the mountains.  Being the intrepid travelers that we are, we decided to forego the big tour buses and strike out on our own.

Gudvagen

Gudvagen

First, we took the bus to Gudvagen, a town down the fjord.

It was adorable – we couldn’t resist stopping for waffles (a Norwegian specialty).

Gudvagen Waffle

We also liked the sod-topped buildings – done for warmth in winter. Notice that they are watering the roof!

Gudvagen Sod House

Next, we called the Gudvagen taxi to take us to the mountain hotel.  But oh no – when I called the number the Tourist Information desk gave me, I got a clipped pre-recorded message in Norwegian.  Hmmm . . .  I approached a souvenir vendor and asked them to listen – bad news – the number was disconnected.  So – you guessed it – we had to call our old taxi back in Flam to come get us (a lot more expensive since he had to drive all the way from Flam – the route we had JUST taken by bus!).

When the taxi arrived and we explained that we had called the Gudvagen taxi, he simply said, “Disappeared.”

I raised an eyebrow at Frank.  It turns out the taxi driver and his wife (“a local girl”) had a falling out, and the driver ran off in the taxi.  Our Flam driver sort of whispered this – obviously the word had not gotten out yet.

But with that problem solved (and a little poorer), the Flam taxi dropped us up way high in the mountains at our lunch destination.

Stalheim Hotel

Stalheim Flag

What a site!  My parents had been here on their trip 20 years ago and told us not to miss the historic Stalheim Hotel, which dates from 1885 (although there has been an inn here on the old mail route since 1700s – where the royal mailmen would swap out for fresh horses).   The inside is filled with heirlooms of the old days.

Stalheim Inside

The Stalheim has been called one of Norway’s most scenic hotels and was featured in Conde Naste’s “Room With A View.”

Stalheim View

We made a bee-line to the lawn, where we had had a delicious picnic of smoked salmon bagel sandwiches overlooking the valley below.

Stalheim Lunch

Voyage Home

We caught the bus back (much cheaper than taxi) down the the old mail road – one way and with corkscrew turns down the mountain – the steepest road in Norway.

Once back in Gudvagen, we hopped a ferry back to Flam. We timed it all just right, so only a dozen passengers sailed with us – we had the whole first floor to ourselves!

Ferry Stern

We traveled down what is called Naerofjord (because it is so narrow).

Ferry View

I kept jumping up to take pictures. It is hard to capture the expansiveness of the mountains.

Ferry Village

Magnificent Norway!

Ferry Flag