28.05.22 — Travel

Syttende Mai

Before we begin, I’d just like to warn that my little run of short blog posts officially comes to and end with this post – buckle in, it’s a long one! It’s all worth it, though, as I’ve just come back from seven days of fun and mayhem over in Norway!

As the last time I visited Heidi back in her home city was well over three years ago back in late 2018, it was high time that I went back to visit. I was supposed to nip over back in summer of last year, but a double bout of COVID put a swift end to those plans. Now that travel restrictions are all but lifted, I’m trying to make up for a couple of years of lacklustre travel plans!

This trip actually arose when Heidi messaged me out of the blue to ask what I was doing on the 17th of May and to make a proposal that I simply couldn’t refuse. She told me that the 17th of May (Syttende Mai in Norwegian, hence the title) is Norway’s national holiday, and said I should come over to join her and Axel in the festivities!

I didn’t need to be asked twice, and so within a week I’d booked flights, and last weekend I found myself on an early train up to Madrid airport and on a plane which ended with a beautiful sweep over the centre of Oslo. Heidi was graciously waiting for me at the airport to take me back to the beautiful flat that the two of them have bought together, where Axel was waiting for us with a cool fresh beer.

Heidi then had to head out, as she’d been roped into participating in a relay race at work. While she struggled through her uphill section, Axel and I met up with some of his friends for a drink and so that I could have something to eat – I hadn’t grabbed anything since having breakfast at the airport in the early morning!

After a good laugh with Axel’s friends, we made a quick stop to a pic-n-mix shop as my sweet tooth was making a spontaneous appearance. From there, we jumped on some of those electric scooters – something which would become an integral part of the trip – and headed to meet Heidi in a bar for a post-run beer.

The bar was called “angst”, Norwegian for “anxiety”. I felt attacked.

We then headed back to their place, where we begun preparations for the evening’s celebrations: it was Eurovision time! Heidi’s friend Charlotte came over for the big event, and Axel whipped up some delicious pizza (with pineapple, come at us). I had a great time watching all of the acts: I was gunning for Spain to win (and not just because I live here, Chanel did a great job), but I wound up casting a vote for Romania – the whole thing was just too cute!

Heidi and Axel’s flat is gorgeous, especially as the sun sets.

In the end, Ukraine won with a lovely outpouring of public support, and we all headed off to bed ready for the next day of adventures – and there were many of them!

Our first trip took us out of the city and up to the mountains, as I’d commented that it’d be lovely to see a bit of the Norwegian wilderness. Axel duly drove the three of us up to a forest where we began our walk, which took us uphill for the first leg of the journey – much to my despair.

As you can see, the walk was absolutely gorgeous, with winding paths between dense forests of fir trees. Although I bemoaned the uphill nature of the first leg of our journey, we were soon at our destination: a reservoir surrounded by rolling hills. I grabbed a drink from a little hut – a drink which turned out to be pretty gross, but you’ve to make do – and we sat by the waterside for a while whilst I took some photos.

The whole place felt like the setting of an indie coming-of-age film.

We then began our return journey back to where we’d left the car, which was a pleasant downhill experience following the river as it meandered down towards the city. We stopped off along the way at a gorgeous secluded clearing by the water which Axel knew had a picnic bench installed. There, we had the leftover pizza for lunch and talked a while about things that were on our minds.

Reaching the car, we then headed back to their place to get freshened up and head to where we’d booked a table for our evening meal. The special little spot is one that we’d tried to go to last time I visited Oslo, but which to our dismay was closed. I was excited to visit, as it’d been described to me as a waterside restaurant on a little island in the middle of the fjord that forms Oslo’s waterside – quite dreamy!

A bus took us down to the waterside, where we’d to wait for a little boat to come and sail us across to the island. The short trip took us to a gorgeous and quiet spot, from which we could look back over the city our out towards the open water. The few of us that were on the island were joined by a little family of ducks, who I managed to catch as they headed out into the calm waters of the fjord.

Our table had gorgeous views over the water and the weather was just perfect – it felt like we’d escaped from the world. The meal began with our starters – I’d ordered the seafood soup following their recommendation, and it was absolutely divine.

I had great surroundings, great company, and great food.

As I was still somewhat hungry and I’d been so blown away by how tasty the seafood soup had been, I ordered a salmon burger for my main – well, when in Rome…

I then excused myself to nip to the toilet, situated in a little red hut just outside the restaurant’s garden, but this quick trip soon turned into a little adventure. Upon leaving, I noticed that I was able to walk onto a little jut of land that stuck out into the water, and I couldn’t help myself but head out and see what I could see.

This small cape had quite the range of surprises in store: views back over Oslo city centre, hidden benches for watching over the water, interesting rock formations and textures, and even a view out to a house perched on a rock which was completely isolated in the middle of the fjord.

I could have sat on this bench all evening to watch the sunset.

A while later, I decided that I’d probably been gone for too long, and so hurried back to the table. I was duly informed that my burger had come and gone – Heidi had asked them to keep it warm for me whilst I faffed around taking photos.

Said burger, much like the soup before it, was delicious; it consisted of a whole piece of salmon in between the bread, accompanied by some of the best potatoes I’ve ever eaten. This reminds me of a debate that came up when I was in Sweden last year between some Swedes and Norwegians over which country has the best potatoes. I’m sorry, Sweden, but I think I’m going to have to give this one to the Norwegians!

With our meal over, and the setting sun allowing a cold breeze to set in, the three of us headed back down to the docks. There, the boat picked us up and we made the short journey back to the mainland, where we decided to grab a scooter back into the city centre.

Look at those happy little faces, ready to take on the cold Oslo air.

Our original plan had been to scoot down to the bus stop, but the lovely scenes that we passed along the way led us to keep on going all the way back home. This lovely evening trip took us past the royal family’s farm, through the city’s docks, and past the iconic opera house that I was so enchanted by last time I visited. All of this was accompanied by a full moon which shone strangely large in the evening sky.

The atmosphere as the sun set over the water was sublime.

Arriving back at Heidi and Axel’s place, we had a relaxed evening in as the two of them had to work the next day. I was in no rush thanks to a Madrid bank holiday, and so watched the sun set as I listened to some music and looked over the hundreds of photos that I’d taken that day – although it might not seem like it, what you see in this post is my best attempt at cutting them down to just a few!

I awoke the next day to an empty house, as Heidi and Axel had already headed off to work. I spent the morning throwing myself some breakfast together and mooching around on my laptop, before deciding to head off down into the city centre to do a bit more exploring around the city streets.

As I arrived down by the waterside, Heidi messaged me to ask where I was and to ask if I wanted to come and visit her office as she was leaving early. With nothing much to do and nowhere else to be, I headed over to the huge building and she met me there to take me up to meet some of her colleagues.

Heidi’s office was a huge and quite beautiful place with an inner courtyard.

As you can see above, we then headed up to the rooftop terrace, which offered some pretty cool views over the city centre and the city government building (the big redbrick structure). Heading back down to ground level, Heidi checked out of work and the two of us headed off to meet Axel, who’d also left work.

We found some funky coloured greenhouses in the street.

Reunited, the three of us grabbed a bite to eat at a place that Axel knew in the city. Wraps in hand, we then headed off to a park which contained the botanical gardens.

Once there, we were swiftly told by a security guy that we couldn’t have a picnic on the specific spot of grass that we’d chosen. It was probably to our benefit in the end, it gave us the chance to explore some other parts of the park and make our way to the designated picnic area, a huge grassy hill bathed in the evening sun.

Spots in the park included this gem, a load of tulips hidden in a little courtyard.

After enjoying our evening meal with views over the city, we grabbed some scooters and headed back to Heidi and Axel’s place. There, we set about preparations for the next day – there was plenty to do! The plans for the Syttende Mai celebrations involved hosting a big breakfast with Heidi and Axel’s friends, after which I’d been told that anything could happen…

With the basic foundations laid for the following day’s brunch, Heidi and I headed out for a wander round – she wanted to grab some wildflowers and I wanted to get my step count up to my 10,000 daily goal. We thus had a wander round her lovely local neighbourhood, stopping to wrestle a few white blossoms off a tree that had an abundance of them.

I enjoy nothing more than an evening wander to get me rested before bed.

When we awoke, the big day had finally come – the 17th of May was here! Heidi had been up bright and early to begin the final assembly of some of the dishes and the setting of the table, but found the time to present me with a cute little ribbon so that I wouldn’t feel left out of the traditional dress!

Everyone then began to arrive around 10am, and so we cracked open some drinks and the buffet was officially open. We sat down to eat, drink, and get to know each other, until we were all roused from our seats to take part in a series of challenges. This involved splitting into two teams, with each of us taking part in increasingly bizarre and hilarious tasks in order to earn points.

I wound up having to sing and dance (well, the dancing was an optional extra that I added) with some noise-cancelling headphones on. The idea was that my team should guess which song I was singing/acting out, and I think we did quite a good job!

The morning then turned into afternoon, and we continued the party with more music, drinks, and snacks. Eventually, it was time to head out of the house and down into Oslo proper to see what was going on. Heidi, Axel, and I grabbed the bus down, where the spirit was rousing and almost everyone was in traditional dress: men in a dapper suit, and women in their bunad, a beautiful traditional folk dress.

I should probably point out here that Axel is not in traditional Norwegian dress, but rather a traditional suit from Seville. I’m not sure what the reasoning was, but he certainly looked the part in his Spanish suit that he’d grabbed when visiting once!

We ended up walking around the city centre for a bit – both so that I could soak up some of the atmosphere and because we’d taken the wrong tram in our excitement. A quick metro journey rectified this, and we eventually found our way to the wine bar where some of the others were waiting for us.

We all eventually wound up stealing the excellent hat from Axel’s outfit.

We then had an absolute blast at the wine bar. I met even more of Heidi and Axel’s friends, and wound up being roped into trying an orange wine. I’m still not exactly sure what it was made of or why it was orange, but it tasted good and wasn’t too expensive (well, for Norwegian standards), so I was happy.

How fabulous does Heidi look in her bunad?

With the afternoon wearing on into the evening, we eventually bade everyone farewell and left the wine bar to search for something to eat before heading home. This took us down to the docks, where we managed to snag a table at a lovely Italian restaurant. There, we ordered some delicious pizza and spent a good while chatting away.

Fully fed and watered, the three of us then headed back to their place to spend the rest of the evening cleaning up and munching on some of the leftovers from the morning’s shenanigans. This journey back of course meant that we’d to take the scooters – they were the cheapest and funnest way of getting around!

I just had to include the above video, it makes me laugh so much. I love how Heidi’s bunad and Axel’s excellent hat make for quite the interesting silhouette as they exit back out into the daylight.

After the cleanup operation in the flat, I was shocked to learn that I still hadn’t reached my 10,000 step goal, given all the walking and dancing and general celebrating that we’d been doing. To amend this, I headed out for a quick walk around their neighbourhood, discovering some interesting sights along the way.

The next day was a Wednesday, and I’d to work from then until the Friday, so the trip then turned into a more relaxing affair. I have to say that the views from my makeshift desk over the city below were quite the treat, so those three working days flew by.

At lunchtime on Thursday, Heidi and I headed out for a trip to the supermarket and for a walk around an area of greenery near the house. This was our little farewell chat, as she’d to head off for the airport in the afternoon, where she was to catch a flight with her mum to spend the weekend in London. Her mum had nipped over earlier in the week to see me, and kindly left me with a lovely little present in the form of some smoked salmon!

When I’d clocked off work that evening, Axel took me down to eat a delicious prawn sandwich in a lovely little spot that we’d tried twice before to eat at only to be told that we couldn’t for various reasons – third time lucky! It was a lovely evening meal, even if the Norwegian prices were starting to sting a little bit!

Once back home, I once again saw that I’d some steps left to do, and so walked all the way down from Axel and Heidi’s place and down to the waterfront in the city centre. There, I wandered around the area by the opera house that I’d loved so much last time I visited.

The striking architecture and how it interacts with the water is always a treat to behold.

After a chat on the phone with Ellie for a good while, I then grabbed a scooter and headed back up to the flat, where I spent my last night with Axel. Much like Heidi, he’d also to dash off for a trip, in his case to Mallorca with work. Quite the life we were all having!

That same evening, the sky put on a spectacular show of colours as the sun set, and so Axel and I enjoyed a beer on their balcony until the cold got a little bit too much. I then said my goodbye to Axel as he headed off to bed, as the next day I was to wake up alone in their flat.

The next was then spent working alone at their dinner table, but thankfully I leave the (virtual, in this case) office early on Fridays. Once I’d closed my laptop, I headed down into the city for one last look around and to grab Heidi and Axel a little something for being such graceful hosts.

Oslo is pretty and vibrant yet refreshingly peaceful.

With the gift bought and set up in the flat for their return, I then set my sights on grabbing something to eat before my evening plans of a relaxing bath and evening of music. Heidi recommended that I visit a pizzeria nearby, and so I headed down and enjoyed a delicious burrata-topped pizza before heading back home.

I had an excellent night in by myself, with a nice hot bath surrounded by candles followed by an evening on the sofa editing the very photos you see in this blog whilst I listened to some music. It was pure bliss, and a lovely zen way to finish off a rather busy week!

The whole of Saturday was then spent travelling: I’d to lock up Heidi and Axel’s place, grab a bus down to the city, grab a train out to the airport, a plane over to Madrid, and then another train to my local neighbourhood. I still found the time to go out for a drink with a friend that evening though – it was a near miracle!

I can only end this post by saying a huge thank you to Heidi and Axel, who opened their doors to me so that I could spend not only the 17th of May partying with them, but also the rest of my working week in their gorgeous home. I can only hope to be back again soon, and hope that they’ll come and visit me here in sunny Spain just as soon as they can.

Ha en fin syttende mai!