Hey, we went to Norway! It was unreal! Our shared photo album has 1808 photos and videos (literally!) so I had a hard time picking a few to share here. Feel free to browse the album if you want to see all of the photos.
Day 1: Travel
On July 2nd we took the bus to Logan Airport for an 8:50 flight to Iceland. While we were all waiting at the gate, they announced that an emergency slide had accidentally deployed AT THE AIRPORT and therefore they had to drop the passenger list by 35 people. They did not pick and choose who got booted, instead they offered some compensation and a hotel, then waited for over two hours before 35 people eventually volunteered. It was like a tedious game of chicken between the airline and the passengers.
Finally we boarded and flew off into the sunrise!
Day 2: Travel/Oslo
After a smooth flight and boring layover in Iceland, we arrived in Oslo. We took the flytoget (airport train) to the central station and found our fancy hotel right there, conveniently located right next to the station. Like someone was thinking when they booked the hotels!
We were all pretty tired by this point, so we rested a bit, then tried to figure out food, ending up at a pricey pizza place in the hotel. Dinner, then much needed sleep.
Day 3: Oslo
We decided to visit Frogner Park and the Vigeland Sculpture Park within. The park has “more than 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943) in bronze, granite and cast iron.” The sculptures depict man’s emotions and relationships to others. I read somewhere that the city of Oslo gave Vigeland free studio space and all the room he wanted in exchange for his commitment to spend his life beautifying Oslo. There were lots of his statues around the city, but most were within Frogner Park.
After visiting the park and marveling/laughing/thinking/headscratching over his statues, we hung out with some swans, got a little snack at the park’s cafe, then moved on to the Fram Museum. The Fram Museum tells the story of Norway’s polar exploration. The boat “the Fram” is the centerpiece of the museum, allowing visitors to climb aboard and experience (kind of) life on the ship. I thought the history was neat, but the place was soooo hot and weirdly dark, so I had trouble staying focused. Last year I read an excellent book about Antarctic exploration last year that included the story of Roald Amundsen, one of the explorers in the museum. It was neat to have some prior knowledge already.
From the museum we took a ferry back to our hotel area and did a little relaxing at the hotel. Rose and I went for a little walk and found the Parliament, the Royal Residence, and a Ukrainian demonstration. Then we collected the kids and went out to dinner at Norway’s version of the Olive Garden, without the breadsticks!
Day 4: Oslo
The hope for day four was to visit the Viking Museum, one of our original goals for this Norway trip! I read in various places that it was under construction, but that much of it was still open to the public. We got there (with the help of Lex’s excellent public transportation navigation) to discover that the WHOLE museum was closed and NOTHING was open to the public. The teens gave me a hard time for trusting old web pages, but we got past that and went to the closest nearby attraction: the Norsk Folkemuseum. This indoor/outdoor museum showed various parts of Norway’s cultural history. We all enjoyed some parts and found other parts boring. Rosy and I reminisced about family trips to Hannaford Mills and kids/teens and our level of interest then versus now.
From there we hopped another ferry to an island Lex found with an old monastery on it. It was a VERY old monastery with nothing but crumbling stone walls remaining. We had a little lunch and did some exploring. We also happened across a random art sale on the same island. The work was beautiful, but this was not a vacation for purchasing fine art.
We were all pretty tired by this point so we got back on the ferry and just rode it for the full circuit, about 40 minutes. Then back to the hotel for some DIY dinner and down time.
Feeling rejuvenated, we girls decided to take a walk to Oslo’s newest library, the Deichman. I loved this library! It was so huge, but also calm, quiet, natural, bright, well organized, and just super interesting to look at. I enjoyed it so much I went back again on our last day in Oslo too!
After the library we walked next door to the Oslo Opera House. This building is made out of tons of white marble from Italy and designed with striking angles you can walk on all the way to the roof of the building. It is a beautiful building. It was closed when we got there, but I’m guessing it’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside!
Day 5: Travel to Trondheim
Day five was a travel day on the SJ High-Speed Trains. The website says the train can go “up to 125mph” but I don’t think we ever went that fast! It felt like normal highway speeds, but we loved the roominess and big windows. The trip took seven hours, which was great, but also we were ready to be off the train by the end! Trondheim is a touristy city on the water (aren’t they all?!) with cobblestone streets and lots of eateries. When we got to the hotel we grabbed some pizza, then crashed. The one adventurous eater in our group was very tired of pizza by the end of this trip.
Day 6: Trondheim
Our Trondheim adventure started at Nidaros Cathedral, “the world’s northernmost medieval cathedral and Norway’s national sanctuary.” We walked around the property and marveled at the sheer size and complexity of the cathedral (while reminding chatty teenagers that we are at a church and some people might be offended by their teenage internet meme ramblings!). We decided not to go into the cathedral, but we did go into the nearby Crown Regalia to learn more about the royal family and see all the fancy royal regalia. We were not allowed to take photos in the Crown Regalia, so you’ll just have to rely on the professional ones available on their site. :)
Tired out from religion and royalty, we crossed the Gamle Bybro (Old Town Bridge) and headed to Bakklandet, “a charming neighborhood cobbled with history and filled with cozy restaurants, bars and store fronts.” We were either too early or too late or just expecting too much, but, while cute, this neighborhood did not fascinate us nearly as much as I was led to believe by the books and internet. We wandered the main street, so a cool/weird bike lift, got snacks at a cafe, then decided (sort of ) to walk up hill a bit to see the fortress.
It ended up being a very big hill, but also a pretty cool fortress with amazing city views. Kristiansten Festning was built to watch over the city of Trondheim way back in the 1600s. We explored the building, the cannons through the years, and the grounds. We also found a fun rope swing on the way up the hill that the kids all had fun trying out. By the time we were done at the fortress we were all worn out and cranky (not me, of course, but everyone else!) so we headed back to the hotel.
After a little rest, Eve, Rosy and I headed back out for more exploring. We found the place we would catch the ferry in the morning, we found lots of cool shops, we found umbrellas in the sky (that made me ridiculously happy!), we found some weird statues and buildings, and then we found the boys and all had dinner at the Norwegian version of TGI Fridays.
Day 7: Cruise to Bergen/Kristiansund
I wanted to see the eye-popping, jaw-dropping cliffs of the fjords that you hear so much about in Norway and I though the best way to accomplish that was from the water, so we took a two-day, one night cruise from Trondheim to Bergen. We boarded the good ship Vesterålen (which I learned just this moment is a also the name of district and archipelago in Norway!). The boat was not super fancy, but it did the job. We spent two beautiful days cruising the Norwegian coast, checking out the desolate outcroppings of homes, adorable lighthouses, and outstanding vistas. We didn’t see the sharp high cliffs, but fear not, those came later.
We spent a lot of time in the deck 7 lounge, which had comfy seating, tables, beverages, large panoramic windows, and (best part for the teens!) outlets. I enjoyed sitting on the deck (I really enjoyed it!) but I was worried about sunburning. Is that even possible in Norway?! I didn’t want to find out the hard way. So I alternated between the deck and the lounge.
The ship made a few port calls along the way, including one in Kristiansund where we had an hour to get off and explore. We were all jonesing for some fresh water, so we got off and took a walk. The town was very touristy, of course, and mostly closed for some reason (because it was Sunday?), but we enjoyed the walk and found the provisions we were looking for.
At night we slept in tiny windowless rooms (cabins?). It was not my best night sleep, but that’s ok because it was one of the best midnight views ever.
Day 8: Cruise/Bergen
We arrived in Bergen in the afternoon of day 8. This was the first time we would have an apartment (instead of a hotel) and we were looking forward to spreading out and doing some laundry. When we pulled in to Bergen it was a beautiful, sunny day and probably one of the hottest of the summer. There were people out everywhere! The restaurants and streets were packed. People were sunbathing on sidewalks on the piers near the boats. It was crazy. We were joking that they were going to be seriously sunburnt and hung over the next morning. Worst Monday morning ever! LOL. The 10 minute walk to the apartment felt like forever due to the heat and crowds, but it was worth it. The apartment was great (mostly) and had a great street view.
Rose went right to work doing laundry, only to find that they had a washer and a washer/dryer combo, which (as she remembered very well from the weekend we had one at our house on Perkins) does not work AT ALL. So basically we had two washing machines and zero dryers, five people’s worth of laundry to clean, one warm night, and one very rainy day. Needless to say my room looked like a Parisian Laundry. (I don’t really know if that’s the right term, but it’s the phrase that kept coming to mind!)
With rain in the forecast for the next day, we took advantage of the beautiful evening and took the Fløibanen funiculars to the top of Mount Fløyen. It was a 5 minute ride that took us to a beautiful mountain top! They had a store, cafe, museum (maybe?), a playground, a troll forest, and goats at the top of the mountain as well. We were there at 10:30pm though, so most of it was closed, which was fine. We were there for the views! (and the goats)
Lex and I took the last funicular run down the mountain at 11pm, while the other three decided to take the 3km walking path back. They found some beautiful scenes along the way.
Day 9: Bergen
We spent our rainy day in Bergen trying to get our laundry dry and exploring under umbrellas. We found two malls, across the street from each other. Both were tall and narrow. City malls, I guess. We found a fun comic book store and delicious street waffles. Somehow the “no plans” rainy day went by faster than any of us expected!
Day 10: Ferry to Flåm
This might have been the most beautiful day of all. It’s hard to even decide. We took a ferry to the tiny fjordian (is that a word?!) village of Flåm. According to Wikipedia, “Flåm is a village in the Flåmsdalen valley which is located at the inner end of the Aurlandsfjorden, a branch of Sognefjorden.” The ferry was hot and crowded, but once I found my way to the deck all was right in the world. I secured a bench there and spent the entire five hours on the deck, enjoying the view and the breeze.
We ferried through the fjords and as the waterway got narrower the cliffs got taller and more gorgeous. I was surprised and awed by the number of waterfalls we saw the whole way along. The ferry made several stops along the way at adorable little villages, including one called Vik that I wanted to hop right off the boat and visit.
We arrived that afternoon in Flåm and were shocked to find a giant Norwegian Cruise Line ship parked in the bay. We all agreed that it was WAY too big for that small little village. We walked the path over to our lodging for the night and discovered it was a beautiful hostel run by two men. I thought the listing said they were brothers, but Rosy heard somewhere that one from from London and the other from Australia. Wherever they were from, they were both very nice and their house was awesome. We settled into our rooms and then enjoyed a cup of tea on the deck overlooking the marina and water.
We took a little walk into the village to check out the train museum and make sure we knew where we were going the next day. Then we headed to the marina for dinner. While enjoying our falafel burgers (me and Rosy, anyway) we watched the giant NCL pull out of the harbor. We joked that they were going to bump into the coast once or twice while doing their K-turn, but nope, they did a great job. Of course!
Day 11: Travel to Oslo
The next morning we sadly checked out of our adorable hostel and headed into the village to catch a ride on the Flåmsbana, a beautiful scenic railway straight up to the top of the mountain and a tiny village called Myrdal. The train had AH-MAZING views of the valleys, mountains, and waterfalls. It was outstanding! Along the way they told the story of huldras, a seductive forest creature found in Scandinavian folklore. Lots of shops around Norway had books about Nora the huldra. On the Flåmsbana they stopped at Kjosfossen waterfall, which falls over 300 feet! The train pulled over so we could get out and have a nice look see. Then a huldra appeared! The mountains filled with music and a huldra in red did some magical dancing. A lovely touristy experience! LOL.
The Flåmsbana ended in the little village of Myrdal, population zero. The only way in and out of that village is via train, either the Flåmsbana or the Vy fast rail. Can you imagine taking the beautiful Flåmsbana to work and back each day? World’s best commute?
We hung out there until our fast train arrived to take us back to Oslo. After sailing the waterways, then climbing the steep mountainside, the Vy train took us across the TOP of the mountains, giving us views of barren homes, rocky ledges, snowy landscapes, and shimmering ponds. It was very cool. Even when rainy weather swept through it only added to the vibes, as the teens might say.
When we got back to Oslo we checked back in to the same hotel from the first time. I had originally booked a different hotel, but after spending a few days in Oslo earlier we decided the first hotel would be better, so I rebooked.
We checked in to the hotel, then I took the kids back to the Oslo library and opera house. That was my choice, their choice was Domino’s for dinner. LOL. We got Domino’s takeout and brought it back to the hotel. We all decided Domino’s in Norway isn’t as good as Domino’s in the US, though there was some debate about just how good Domino’s in the US even is. :) We reviewed travel plans, TSA requirements (and what is the Norwegian version of the TSA?), and then we all parted ways for our final night in Norway.
Day 12: Travel
On the morning we flew home, Rosy was up early and went for a final walk around Norway. She came across the Palace Park and within it the Princess Ingrid Alexandra Sculpture Park, containing statues designed by elementary school children. She said they were a little terrifying! The park also had a statue of a giant spider. When I was home and showing pictures to my friend who is an artist, she got very excited about the spider and told me all about who made it and what it represents. Art is often more interesting (and maybe less terrifying) when you know the story behind it.
The flights home were pretty easy. Right on time and no deployed emergency slides. As we flew over Iceland Eve got some cool pictures of the Reykjanes volcano that had just started erupting.
We landed in Boston safe and sound, then took the bus home. We checked into our own house at midnight and went straight to bed!
The trip was awesome, despite a surly teenager, rain, heat, and flight delays. It was awesome. I loved the scenery, breakfast at the pastry shop, the awesome public transpiration, the art, and the views. Most of all I loved seeing Lex and Eve both confidently navigating their surroundings, figuring out the public transit, dealing with cranky people and less than ideal food suations, and doing it all with poise and confidence. Were they perfect, no, of course not, no one is, but they were confident and maintained a positive attitude throughout. It made my mommy heart feel at peace knowing they will thrive as they spread their wings and leave the nest next month.
Now… to start planning my visit to Sweden!