18.10.13 — Travel
As mentioned in my last post in which I took you all around the Spanish city of Valencia, I was writing maniacally from the plane to Norway in an attempt to try and get my blog up to date, but was eventually let down by the in-flight internet connection. No fear this time however, for right now I am sat in the lovely company and flat of my friend Thuy, and in good range of her lovely stable WiFi.
Anyway, after Heidi sadly left me (as well as the other members of Cake Club) back in summer, I promised that I’d make a trip to Norway to visit her and her mum at some point. A few months back I got round to booking just such a trip, and last Friday I was up at 5am in order to grab an early flight up north!
Upon arrival I was greeted by Heidi’s mum, Sharon, who had kindly offered to pick me up from the airport as Heidi was tied up working the first week of her new job. The two of immediately got up to some mischief, heading out for lunch and then a wander through the supermarkets in order to pick up some extra food for my visit. Once we’d arrived at their gorgeous home in the little town of Kløfta (which is pronounced something like klurrf-t’), I unpacked what little I had brought, and was then popped on a train headed into the city of Oslo itself.
Before waving me off on the train, Heidi’s mum had set me up with a rough guide for a walk I should take through Oslo city centre, and so as I disembarked in the Sentralstasjon (central train station), I followed her instructions on where I was to go. The route took me down the length of Karl Johans gate, the main street through the city, and to a few sights along the way.
The first stop took me to the area surrounding the city’s cathedral, where I had a wander but decided not to stop too long, as I was beginning to realise that it was actually quite a lot colder than I’d expected! I’d rocked up to Norway with nothing more than some boots, jeans, a shirt and a big thick hoodie – but it was evident that this wasn’t going to be enough.
Undeterred, however, I carried on down Karl Johans gate and came across the second point of interest, the Stortinget, Norway’s Parliament. In front of this building the street opened out into a lovely little plaza, and I headed off to buy myself a bite to eat before sitting down for a while. It was in buying this snack that I realised how expensive Norway is – 38 kroner (about £3.50/4€) just for a croissant! To top it all off, it was a very mediocre croissant, and I’d later discover that that price wasn’t actually too bad for Norway – crazy!
Once I’d summoned enough energy to carry on, I headed past Oslo’s town hall and to the waterfront. It was here that the cool wind really began its assault, and so I was doubly ecstatic to receive a message from Heidi to tell me that she was headed out of her office and that she’d meet me nearby! I was headed back the way I came when I spotted her heading my way, and we were reunited once again in the freezing breeze coming in from the fjord.
The first thing on our agenda was to go and buy me a nice big coat such that I might survive the next four days in Norway, and so we headed back into the city centre in search of something. I soon found myself a bright yellow monstrosity, and once I’d found a size that fit, I decided that it was a reasonable price for Norway and bought the thing without thinking too hard about it. I have it now in Madrid and it’s very, very warm!
After wandering around a bit more and catching up, we began our walk to Grünerløkka, a hip area of the city, where I’d been promised that there’d be a good pizza. Along the way we came across the fibreglass version of me, which entertained Heidi no end…
The restaurant we’d come to was already packed out by the time we arrived, but they said we could pull up a couple of stools and eat at the downstairs bar, so we opted to do just that. We were rather glad we did, as the pizzas we had were absolutely delicious, and we had a lovely time catching up over a glass of wine and a big plate of mozzarella-coated goodness.
After we’d finished, we grabbed the tram back to the centre and then a train back to Kløfta, where Heidi’s mum had been so kind as to allow me to stay for the few nights I was in Norway. We cracked open a round of beers, gathered on the sofa, and chatted about my first day of my first visit to Norway.
The next morning I awoke to the most delicious of smells, as Heidi and her mum were already in the kitchen preparing breakfast. After showering and getting dressed, I joined them in the kitchen and was served a delicious plate of toasts with omelette, smoked salmon and smoked trout. I also discovered that I like capers, having never tried them until Heidi’s mum popped them in the omelette!
Once we’d eaten, me and Heidi headed back on the train into Oslo, as she had a plan to show me all the sights before she had to head back to work on Monday. Our first stop was Oslo Opera House, an impressive modern structure made from granite and glass which sticks out of the water with quite the silhouette.
As it turns out, the roof is set on a gentle slope so that you can climb up and on to the very top of the building! We headed up in earnest, taking the selfie from halfway up before I tried to get all creative with the reflections of the surrounding architecture…
As you can see, at the topmost point of the building I managed to make a friend in the form of a seagull that was called Dave. Dave was very friendly and didn’t mind getting up close and personal – even if most of said friendliness was probably inspired by the bag of fresh chocolate croissants that Heidi was carrying – and he reminded me how quite terrifyingly big seagulls actually are…
Once we’d shuffled along to let other visitors take a few pictures from the top, we sat on a ledge out of Dave’s eyeshot and overlooking the harbour, and then proceeded to eat our croissants. Returning eventually to ground level, we headed inside to have a look at the interior architecture and enjoy a moment of respite from the cold.
After this we headed for a wander along the water’s edge, passing through an art installation and along the harbour’s edge as we headed for a spot where we were to catch a bus to another part of the city. Heidi had a plan to take me for lunch at a little restaurant on a tiny island in the fjord, so off we headed on the bus to where a little shuttle boat would set off from to us to said spot.
Things started to go to pot quite soon after we had alighted the bus, with the first drama being that Heidi noticed that she had lost her hat, a hat which she clearly loved rather quite dearly. Not letting that dampen our spirits, however, we carried on down to the dock to await the arrival of the little boat which would take us over to our lunch spot.
After fifteen minutes of waiting for said boat with not a human soul in sight, Heidi gave the restaurant a ring to see what was going on, and we were dealt with the second blow of the afternoon: the place had closed for the winter. As the two of us aren’t really the kind of people who let silly little things like a ruined plan get to us, we decided to make the most of the lovely location we were in and took some photos.
Once we’d headed back to the bus things started to pick back up, as Heidi found her hat by the side of the road exactly where we’d gotten off the bus, and we managed to grab some chips and cider upon our arrival back in the centre of Oslo. Not wanting to face another night of spending Norwegian prices on a dinner out, we headed back to Kløfta once more, where we tucked into a deliciously rich spaghetti bolognese which Sharon had made and was awaiting our arrival. After a glass of wine and another evening gossip session, we once again headed for a relatively early night – I warned you back in my Valencia post that I’m becoming an old man now!
On Sunday morning I was treated to yet another delicious breakfast, and then we jumped in Sharon’s car which she had lent us for the day. Heidi would be driving, and I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence as I entered the car to the view below, but I had to eat my words later on as she navigated the roads and tight parking spaces with effortless grace.
It turns out that our destination was Holmenkollbakken, a ski jump in the hills above Oslo which offered some amazing views over the city and its surroundings. Having climbed as high up the jump as we could, we took a selfie and enquired about how much it was to have a go on the zipline (740 kroner, or about £70/78€, so a definite no) before heading down the dizzyingly steep steps and back to ground level.
After this we headed a little further down the hill and to a place where we could get even better views out over the city and the fjord in which it sits, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Heidi was more interested in getting a photo in the ski throne – look at the joy on her little face!
Having worked up an appetite with all of our traipsing up and down the hill, we began our ascent towards the car and the traditional restaurant which lay just beyond it. Heidi spotted that I was beginning to blend in with the autumnal flora along the way, and so a photo session was called for…
Once in the restaurant I opted for smørbrød, basically an open-faced sandwich, on which was piled lettuce, egg, vegetables and a generous helping of delicious fresh prawns. Heidi grabbed a dish called rømmegrøt, a traditional Norwegian dish of a kind of porridge made with sour cream, intent that I should try it at some point during my visit. Not being the biggest fan of sour cream I didn’t really take much of a liking to it, but I enjoyed my sandwich, and then my share of the huge slice of apple pie that we treated ourselves to for dessert!
After a motorway journey involving a rowdy rendition of the Grease Megamix, we returned back to Oslo and to Frognerparken, a park most famous for its series of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. Heidi was insistent that I’d enjoy the sculptures and appreciate the art, but I was too preoccupied smirking at the nude subjects and admiring the trees to pay all too much attention. Heidi did try to be all cultured and stuff, so here’s a photo of her right now:
I did enjoy wandering around the park, but sooner or later I wound up getting quite cold, and so we walked back into the city’s streets for a coffee to heat back up.
After we’d warmed ourselves back up, we headed back to the car and then back to Kløfta for yet another dinner whipped up by Heidi’s mum. This was to be a roast with a bit of a twist, as Sharon had included a few vegetables I’d never heard of including sellerirot, which is apparent called celeriac or celery root in English. The main twist had to be the meat though, as instead of the standard fare of chicken or beef we were to have reindeer!
The meat and the whole dinner were absolutely delicious, and we cracked open a bottle of wine during and after for another cozy evening chatting away into the early hours. After turning in for the night, I was in no rush to move the next morning as Heidi had already headed off to work, but I eventually headed for a wander around Kløfta to take some photos before heading into Oslo.
In Oslo I took things pretty slowly, snacking and drinking and calling my mum for a catchup, all whilst waiting for Heidi to leave work. Just before she did, I headed up to the Royal Palace, taking some photos of the palace as the sun set. Whilst taking one, I got chatting to a Norwegian guy who was also taking some photos of the palace, and he ended up showing me a photo he’d snapped of the back of my head. After more chatting away, I added him on Instagram and he has since sent me said photo – which I’ve included below!
This awesome photo was taken by Frank Otto Pedersen, and you should go check out his work here! Anyway, when Heidi left work we met up with her friend for my last evening in Oslo, but after a delicious Japanese meal and a quick drink we had to head back to Kløfta quite early.
The next morning marked my last day in Norway, and so after thanking Sharon for her amazing hospitality over the last few days, I boarded the train into Oslo for the last time. On the way I stopped of in a town just outside the city called Lillestrøm, which Heidi had said offered stunning views down a fjord. After hanging my legs over the bank of the river and taking in the views for a while, I headed to a supermarket to buy some breakfast to take back for the guys at Erretres, and then finished my journey back into Oslo.
In Oslo I headed to the north of the city to check out an area I hadn’t been through, and then settled back down for a sandwich lunch before meeting Heidi momentarily to say a quick goodbye over a coffee. After what had to be a 20 minute goodbye – I’d got my boarding time mixed up somewhere along the line – we hugged each other off and I boarded the speedy train out to the airport.
After an hour delay, I boarded my flight and wound up back in Madrid just after midnight, followed what felt like a catnap before I hauled my breakfast of cinnamon rolls and brown cheese (yes, that exists) to the office on Wednesday morning. They went down very well, and since then it’s been pretty much back to the daily grind of design and heading out for tapas – I can’t complain!
All that’s left to say is that Oslo is a gorgeous city and Norway a beautiful country, and I can’t think Sharon and Heidi enough for all their hospitality in taxiing me around, putting me up, showing me around, and generally tolerating me during a wonderful five days in Norway. I’d definitely recommend that you visit if you get the opportunity, just be more prepared than I did and take a decent coat with you!