I can’t believe that I still haven’t taken the time to write down my experiences in Norway and England. My life has been nothing but a whirlwind since the beginning of the year, really. Meeting up with my [now] sister Krista in Norway was definitely one of the absolute best experiences of the year–nay, my whole life. I will start from the beginning. This will bore you to tears, most likely. I am writing this for myself so that I remember the details years from now. Thank you to Daniel and Sheryl Jorgensen for making this trip possible.
Friday, May 17- Saturday May 18:
Today’s Agenda: Arrive safely in Oslo and maybe do a little sight-seeing
My dad drove me to the airport on May 17th where I was to depart from Seattle and land about 9-10 hours later in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. After a warm goodbye from him, I successfully checked my bag, went through security, ate lunch, and began waiting for my flight to start boarding. No problems–except I got an email from our home loan officer telling me she needed more information from me when I specifically asked her a few days ago if she had everything she needed. That put me in a bad mood, but I soon rebounded. Suddenly, a middle-aged gentleman sat next to me and started talking to me. He was definitely from The Netherlands. I automatically got the creeper vibe since usually strangers who randomly talk to me in America are creeping on me in some way–but after talking to him, he wasn’t creepy at all. I told him why I was going over to Europe and how I was worried that I wouldn’t catch my connecting flight on time, but he told me not to worry and he ended up being very helpful. He wished for me “lots of tail wind” on the way over.
Goodness- thank the lord, that a few weeks before my trip I upgraded my seat on the plane to an economy comfort seat that was towards the front of the plane. I had loads of legroom, it felt like more space for my arms, and just a nicer seat. I firmly believe that me upgrading to that seat was the reason that I was able to make my connecting flight. We landed in Amsterdam on-time, except by the time the plane was actually parked in front of the terminal, it ended up being 15-20 minutes later which was dreadful because by that time my next plant was already boarding. When I finally got off my plane, I was frantic. The gentleman that I met before the flight found me and tried to help me and lead me over to some screens to see where my terminal was because I had no clue where to go. We found the terminal number. Now where do I go? Turns out I had to go SO far… I can’t even explain to you..but if you have been in that airport then you probably know how it works. I think I ran past 40 or more other terminals in total to get to mine. I dropped my stuff (jacket, passport, tablet, purse, etc.) slipped and fell, was sweating, and felt like an utter mess. What made matters worse was hearing my name over the loud speaker–multiple times (which was pronounced wrong of course!). I’m hurrying, please wait for me! Finally, I made it to the terminal. I swear it was E38 (which means I had to run past 37 other terminals first). After I got on the plane, they immediately disconnected the terminal gate and five minutes later I was in the air headed for Norway. What a dream. Hooray, I didn’t have to leave Krista worried and confused at the airport where she was going to meet me. It definitely worked out for the best…
…except for one thing. The baggage that I checked didn’t make it to my connecting flight. I was faster than my bag. As I waited in Oslo by the baggage carousel, the disappointment on my face kept growing. I finally had to go to the service desk and explain my problem to the people who worked at the airport (side note: Norway seems to have bad customer service in general. We definitely have it better in America). I asked to use their phone so I could call Krista’s cell phone and explain to her what was going on because I knew she would be getting worried. The people working at the service desk in Oslo tracked my luggage (thank goodness I saved my luggage tag/didn’t misplace it!) and notified me that indeed it was still in Amsterdam and would be in Oslo either tonight or tomorrow (it was 11 a.m., May 18, when I got to Norway). I said “alright” and went around the corner where there was absolutely no security. It was strange, but I liked it. I saw Krista and gave her a huge hug! What a relief, a joy, and stoke of luck (slash amazing step parents) to be able to meet her over here. It didn’t matter what stress I went through, I was so happy to see her and be there. She was a pro at figuring out public transportation already. We rode the train, transferred to the T-bane, and drove the host family’s Range Rover back to the house she was au pairing at. Actually, I think we might have stopped at the store at some point, but I will talk more about that later. I wasn’t too tired considering I just traveled for about 15 hours because I was able to nap on the airplane in my awesome seat. I settled in a bit at the house in her flat, then we decided to go to Vigeland Park. We took the T-bane and walked a little bit to get there.
Wait just a dang second. No one told me that Norway was going to be this hot. I expected it to be in the 60s (F) at the very hottest. It was 79 degrees! That may not sound that hot, but oh, trust me, it was scorching. I was not wearing shorts, sandals, or sunscreen, and I was regretting it terribly. But of course, I didn’t have my shorts with me because my luggage had been left behind in Amsterdam. Krista and I took some pictures and explored the park which consisted of some beautiful landscaping and many many statues. The statues were pretty outlandish. I didn’t quite understand them. They were sexual and perverted; many of them seemed sexual towards children.
I didn’t really get it completely but it was still a fun experience and there were SO many people at the park. There was even a statue of Abe Lincoln which I loved. Because it was so hot, Krista bought me an ice-cream treat which was really nice of her. After we were done at the park, we explored the streets some more and finally decided to take the T-bane home. That was fine and all, except for the T-bane decided to quit moving for about 45 minutes. I was extremely annoyed because I was hot, tired, thirsty, and felt like a complete mess. We were just so confused and no one could explain what was happening to us/they didn’t really know. All we could do was wait. Fun stuff. Eventually it continued its route, we got off, and after walking the mile back to the house, we were finally home. It was time to rest. I am almost certain that this is the day we went swimming in their big pool, ate pizza in their backyard, and watched the sun set as the family played with each other across the yard. That was a great evening in Norway–so much beauty and calamity. Krista and I talked about a lot of things and soon it was time for bed. I’ll tell you what, I had no problem sleeping while I was in Europe. I was always tired from the day’s activities.
The next day, Sunday, May 19:
On today’s agenda: Holmenkollen ski Jump and Frognerseteren
I got my luggage in the morning! Yay! Luckily, the whole ordeal wasn’t that bad because I was a smart packer and packed the essentials in my carry on luggage.
Krista and I took the T-bane to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. We had to hike up a ways to get to it but it was so worth it and such a huge jump! I have so much respect for the athletes that do these crazy stunts. At the same time, I do think they are a little insane, of course. They used this ski jump in the winter Olympics and I saw the five Olympic rings posted on the jump. After sight seeing the outside on ground level for a little while, we decided to go on this ski simulation machine–it is basically like a tube/box with 3 rows or so in it, a big screen for you to look at, and fans so you can experience what the skiers are going through. Oops. I forgot that I am really prone to motion sickness ever since I turned twenty. Luckily, it wasn’t too long and I could keep myself together. It was intense, but fun! After that, we went into the Holmenkollen Ski Museum (skimuseet) which featured very Norwegian things. People fishing in their gear, antique skis, Norwegian flags, hunting, moose, snowy scenes–I loved it. I love cold climates. There were souvenir gifts from little mouses in sweaters, to Norwegian sweaters, shot glasses, trolls, and very warm winter wear. I wanted to buy it all! But sadly, Norway is probably one of the most expensive countries on the earth so I didn’t get anything. I need to go back to Norway one day when I am richer and go to that museum and buy a few things. We bought tickets to actually go to the very top of the ski jump and after waiting about 30-45 minutes in line, we went up the diagonal elevator (yeah- it was weird, maybe it was actually a tram) and we were on top of the ski jump and we could see for miles. I can’t believe how beautiful Norway is. It was truly breathtaking.
After we were done there, we went down the tram and trekked down the hill back to where the T-bane would pick us up but we stopped at the Holmenkollen Restaurant first. We looked at the menu that was posted outside and actually decided to go in and eat! It was funny to me because Krista said that we weren’t going to eat at any restaurants because they are so expensive. Boy was she right. All we got was a burger meal with fries, coleslaw, and water for each of us. Do you want to guess how much the grand total came to on our check? Ninety dollars. Ninety U.S. dollars. That is so ridiculously expensive, but I can say without doubt that it was the best burger I have ever had in my entire life. The meat, the cheese, and the bacon…OM NOM FOR DAYS. It just tasted so different because it was very authentic meat. Anyways, we really enjoyed that experience–eating outside and having a beautiful view of the water and Oslo on a sunny day. The only bad thing–once again, was the service. We had to wait so long to get the check that we went back inside and just stood there waiting to ask when we could pay. I am a server myself and I know sometimes things get hectic and service gets slow but they didn’t really have that excuse!
After we left the restaurant, we took the T-bane to a lovely place called Frognerseteren. This was the place where Krista took her cross country skiing lessons during the winter. It was funny to see her reaction when we got there since there was absolutely no snow on the ground. The last time she was there, there was probably a couple of feet of snow. I loved Frognerseteren. It was so quaint. That’s honestly what I love so much about Norway too–its quaintness. There were gorgeous views at Frognerseteren and we walked around a bit. Then, we went into this building where they sell treats like pastries and really anything that is scrumptious. We decided to get ice-cream/frozen yogurt/ I can’t remember. I remember I got this lemon sorbet thing and it was the most lemony and tart thing I have ever experienced. I couldn’t finish it. When we felt ready, we left and went back to the house–this time, the T-bane cooperated.
Nothing could have prepared us for what was going to happen next. As we were trying to prepare for our trip to London the day after next, we knew we still needed to print out our Ryanair tickets (because they charge about $100 if you don’t print your own electronic copy) as well as our tickets for the London Eye. The problem was, as we found out, none of the printers in the host family’s house could print. One printer had a wrong part along the cord/ that box thing (whatever it’s called) so we would need to get a new part for it. The other printer had no black ink in the designated black ink cartridge. EVEN THROUGH the color cartridge had black in it, it wouldn’t use it! And I don’t know how to make PDF files a different color of ink like dark grey so we could have fooled the printer. That was so stinking frustrating. We were thinking of going to an electronics store the following day (Monday), but it was a holiday in Norway and everything was going to be closed. Seriously, in Norway they close everything on holidays which is a blessing and a curse. We were going to try a library, anything–but everything was really going to be closed. Krista and I were a little hysterical at one point, but we sort of laughed at ourselves through the stress. We were in a very rich country, filled with people who have computers and printers yet it seemed so coveted and was just out of our reach. Luckily, later at night, Krista messaged her friend from church on facebook and asked him to print out the pages and meet her at church to give the tickets to us. [He didn’t reply until morning]. It was a little harder to sleep that night, not knowing if we would actually get our tickets in time for London.
Monday, May 20:
On today’s agenda: Fjord sight seeing cruise, visiting the Fortress, and exploring the main town area in Oslo
Krista’s friend messaged her back and said that he would print out our tickets and meet us at the Jesus Church and give them to us. Hallelujah! We felt a lot better but still wanted the tickets in our hands. We got up, and got ready. It wasn’t as hot as it was on the weekend, so I put on more of a fall outfit. As extra insurance that we got our tickets, Krista asked her neighbor who was outside if she could print our tickets as well. She said yes and that she would leave them in a bag the door to Krista’s flat. So, if either the neighbor or friend from church forgot about the tickets, we had a little insurance since we asked two people to help us! We took the T-bane to the main town area (I don’t really know what it’s called but it’s more touristy) and we walked along the Karl Johan’s Gate street (I think it was called). Lots of cool shops. It was busy but not too crazy or bustling. That’s what I love about Oslo–for being the country’s largest city, it is not too much for someone like me to handle. It’s just very pleasant. No hustle and bustle, nothing outrageous. Anyway, we found out where the Fjord cruise was loading up which was obviously on one of the docks, we boarded the cruise and waiting for it to begin. While on the cruise, we saw so many different areas of Oslo that we wouldn’t have even got near. In addition, it was cool to see landmarks like the Opera House from the water.
I would kill to see the Opera house in person in the dead of winter. It would be breathtaking. So the cruise lasted a few hours and thankfully I didn’t have any motion sickness. I took tons of pictures of the buildings, water, and land. One of the coolest things was this school that completely looked like a castle. I guess the equivalent thing in Washington would be Stadium High School, but this one in Oslo was much more secluded and fairy-tale-esque. What I sight! Then we went through the Fortress which as I remember has buildings up from the 1300s I believe (medieval times) and it was beautiful. All of the walking paths were stones which ended up hurting my feet a little bit, but I wasn’t wearing good walking shoes anyhow. Love love love. I can’t explain to you how I just love the simplicity and natural beauty of Oslo. After the fortress, we walked to Krista’s church and got our London tickets from her friend who was a really nice guy. We felt so relieved, happy, calm, and ready to enjoy the rest of our day!
Next, we walked and saw a lot of landmarks like the parliament building, national theater, opera house, royal palace, all while admiring the well-designed sidewalks, water fountains, statues, and architecture. I remember these two girls were walking a dog that looked like Jaki and it jumped into this water fountain… so cute! Later after the royal palace, there were these adorable parks to walk through and I remember there was a little dog loose in it the whole time. I don’t know why, but it was so entertaining to me at the time. I didn’t manage to get a picture of him though. What we saw last was the opera house, and after a good trek up to the top, we had another gorgeous view of the city. Just writing about Oslo makes me miss it. Can I go back there already? Goodness!
By now, I have probably walked more than I ever have in my life, because you have to walk everywhere! That is something that I like about Europe. You get to walk so much, but not an absurd amount because they have great public transportation to get you closer to where you need to be. I love walking, and I love Europe. Can. I. Go. Back. Now. Please.
Krista and I packed for our jaunt over to London the next day and it was quite interesting trying to pack our suitcases! They had to weigh less than 10 kg (if I am remembering correctly) which is 22 pounds..and you can only carry on your suitcase. No purses, no laptop bags or camera bags. JUST your suitcase, unless you want to pay an outrageous amount of money to check your bags. Heck nah, we were not going to pay more for our baggage than the $45 plane ticket was from Oslo to London round-trip. Eventually, we hit our marks for the weight limit. That is the lightest I have ever packed in my entire life. My camera bag took up half of the space in my suitcase.
P.S. I said that I would talk more about the “store.” They have tons of little grocery stores, it seems. There was one less than 1 mile from the family’s house, and can I just say, that the clerks in the store had to wear the corniest, most leprechaun-y, ugly, weird, gaudy clothes ever. It was truly hilarious in my opinion. Also, Krista said that you can’t get very many things that you can in America–in Norway, they sell a lot of base ingredients so you have to make more of your own food. Like, “you can’t go out and just buy Alfredo sauce,” was her example.
Monday, May 20 @ 10:00 p.m.- Tuesday, May 21:
Today’s Agenda: Get to London, Check in at our Hostel and drop our stuff off, Explore the Westminster Bridge/Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace, Exploring Piccadilly.
This is a continuation from the previous day, obviously. I went to sleep at 10:00 p.m. for only one hour because I had to wake up at 11:00 p.m. to leave for London. And that is exactly what we did. Krista and I went upstairs and made ourselves a beverage and were out the door around 12:15. It was raining! Thank goodness it wasn’t raining very hard and that was the only time that it rained while I was in Norway. We walked one mile to the T-bane with our suitcases and took the T-bane to the bus station which would then take us to the Ryanair Airport. The thing is, we had to wait at the bus station for about 3 hours (until 4:30 a.m.) until we could take the bus to the airport. That was so boring and tiring, but I had my phone and Krista had her Zune/ipod/idk and we both were able to listen to music and stuff. I had to use the restroom but it costed 10 Norwegian Kroner to use it. No thanks.
After the wait for our bus was finally over, everyone started lining up at the bus to get on. HOLY CRAP, that was the biggest cluster-fudge of my life, but Krista could not help but laugh. I felt like I was surrounded by people who were all taller than me, and they all had no regard for personal space! Some man was behind me just pushing up and I just kept looking straight up at the sky because that is the only place where I felt like I could get clean air to inhale. I started laughing along with Krista because it was just so ridiculous. That bus filled up fast and we got some of the last seats on it (right next to each other) which was quite lucky. I think we might have missed our flight if we didn’t get on that bus.
Krista fell asleep on the bus and I did for just a little while; not as good of a sleep as she seemed to have gotten. The sky was bright as we got to the airport. Then we went through airport security, blah blah blah, and I got a sandwich that I brought onto the plane. The plane was so empty that most people got their own row. I ate my sandwich while the plane was taking off which I realized probably was a terrible idea, but luckily, there were no off-putting consequences. I tried to sleep while we were in the air but I didn’t have very much luck. Everything was way too damn exciting. London had always been the main place I wanted to travel to in my life. My dream was coming true and I simply couldn’t sleep very much on that short flight. Finally, we landed at the Stansted airport! The weather was very London-y; cloudy, and a bit chilly. Uh-oh, maybe I should have brought something a little warmer than this tiny coat, I thought. I was wearing a short coat that only comes down to the bottom of my chest and it wasn’t that warm either. Heh, oh well, who cares, I was in London and I would have to be cold for a little while! Plus, I was so worried about packing light that I didn’t pack any other jackets. It was stupid. Sidenote: Ryanair doesn’t seem to have any terminals, you have to go up and down stairs outdoors to get on your plane. That was different! And there seem to be mostly male stewards. Interesting.
When we got off of the plane, our next step was to take the train to the Liverpool Street Station. We already had printed out our train tickets and we got on with no problem, (Krista’s public transportation skills really helped us out in London). Pretty much the entire way into London, there was beautiful countryside with cute animals eating grass. It was so adorable. It was about an hour-long train ride and we then reached the Liverpool Street Station where we needed to take the tubes to find our hostel; the Walrus Hostel. We went underground and bought tube tickets that would last us the duration of our stay, then found a map and tried to get to where we needed to go. We did it pretty easily considering how many stops there are and how many different tube lines there are–I really can’t believe how large their system is. It is amazing and I loved using it! I wish I lived in London so I could travel on the tubes and get lots of walking in. We got off at the Waterloo station and walked the rest of the way to our hostel which was literally right next to train tracks. The hostel building and train tracks were literally connected; touching. That may sound pressing to some of you, but I was smart and brought ear plugs which solved any potential problems involving sleeping, loud neighbors, bar noise, and the aforementioned train tracks. Anyways, we dropped off our stuff because they said that our room wasn’t ready yet and they had a closet for luggage for people like us. The staff really was kind, but we wish our room had been ready a little earlier than it was. After very awkwardly struggling to touch up our makeup in that tiny, dimly lit bathroom and pee, we were on our way to exploring LONDON!
We went outside and walked straight to Big Ben and Parliament ever-so-giddily and we kept exclaiming that we couldn’t believe we were there and how surreal it was. Seeing Big Ben and the London Eye across from it was so extraordinary and uplifting, and I couldn’t have been happier! We took so many pictures; a ridiculous amount. After walking over the Westminster Bridge, we threw a right and made our way down to Trafalgar Square, and at some point I purchased a new jacket that said “London” on it and whenever I would zip the zipper all the way to the top, it would get stuck. I had to have Krista help me get the zipper down. It was so fun to see the red double decker buses, people driving on the left side of the road, and on the left side of their cars. It made crossing the streets a little more tricky, but I had already calculated that it would be before I got there. Trafalgar square presented me with a pleasing surprise–a statue of Charles James Napier who was a General. When I saw Napier, I exclaimed, “Napier!” and ran over to the statue, really proud that some of my heritage might have had to do with him even though I am pretty sure that it doesn’t. Oh well! It was still very exciting. Over here, we saw the some of those famous London telephone booths, magnificent buildings, and little school-aged children in uniforms that reminded me of the fictional character “Madeline.” I cannot believe how beautiful the architecture was in the entire city. At this point, we were getting hungry for lunch, so we walked down a random road that was right off of Trafalgar Square. We both saw Garfunkel’s and decided that that was the place to eat. It was such a relief– meals for 6 pounds or so which was a much better deal than what we would ever find in Norway. Krista got the salad bar and I got a tomato soup and some sort of wrap. The design of the restaurant was lovely. The only negative thing about going to the restaurant was realizing how exhausted we were when we sat down (at least that was the case for me). My eyes wanted to fall shut, my body wanted to lay on the table, and I wanted to take a nap so badly. But this was only the beginning of our day! I had to just power through it, hydrate, and enjoy everything I could before I was to depart (which would be in less than two day’s time). After lunch, we made our way back to our hostel and tried to see if we could get into our room. We barely managed to do that and claimed our beds and two out of the three lockers that were in there (which was awkward since there were going to be four girls staying in there total). Oh well, first come-first serve. While we were there we met the other two girls that were going to be rooming with us, they were a little older than us and it turns out they were from Vancouver, B.C. Small world! We chatted with them briefly. One of them was going to be living in Paris.
After getting situated in our hostel, we made our way over to Hyde Park. I won’t go into too much detail about it, other than it is massive and I would love to live near it and jog or bike through it. There is so much nature, beauty, and… nice fountains. Krista’s favorite thing was in here: a statue that was in the movie “Hook.” She reveled in seeing it and went up and hugged it because it was a big symbol of her childhood. I thought it was a neat statue, but didn’t have any nostalgia because I never saw the movie when I was a child. Now I wish I had! Connected to/within Hyde Park were the Kensington Gardens which happened to be closed. All I could tell was that it looked extremely well-kept and fancy. By this time, Krista and I were extremely exhausted. We had been awake for basically two days and according to my step tracker, had walked probably 7+ miles that day in total. After walking a bit more, the sun elegantly shined through the clouds as if to tell us “keep going, there’s more to see.” We sat down on the bench and gathered ourselves a bit, did some people watching, and continued on our journey. The next place we visited was Buckingham Palace. Now that was definitely surreal. To think that British royalty was right through those doors was unbelievable. The guards inside of the fence, I was thinking, must have been some very short men (shorter than me, and I am 5’7″) because they have to fit under these overhead covers of some sort. The front area outside of the massive gates at Buckingham Palace was gorgeous. The sun was shining, and there were places you could stand so that you could see the London Eye in the distance. We explored all around, and then soon took the tube closer to where our hostel was. We explored more streets and ended up getting dinner at a cafe around 7 or 8. It was really just a coffee shop– I ordered a chai tea latte and white chocolate raspberry muffin. That treat was certainly heaven on earth, but not really much of a dinner. It was time to go back to the hostel, shower up, and hit the sheets. And that is precisely what we did!
We decided to skip getting a drink at our hostel on the way in. The shower and bathroom situation was strange. Each shower/bath room was different and you had to search on different floors to see what you could find. Some rooms only had a toilet (with no sink! Disgusting!) Some rooms had two sinks and a shower, and all of the showers were weird, but luckily we never had the problem of running out of hot water. After we showered and got situated, we put on our earplugs and I know for a fact that I was out within about two minutes. We couldn’t exactly sleep in though because we had a London Eye adventure planned early the next morning. But why would we want to waste time on sleeping in while in London anyways?
Wednesday, May 22:
Today’s Agenda: London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, British Museum, Shopping, Dinner, Drinks, and Night Stroll
We woke up the next day well-rested and ready to go. After getting ready in the bathrooms, we went downstairs for our complementary breakfast that the hostel was serving. I, for one, was expecting it to just be some pastries, but they actually had quite a little selection. I was impressed. Cereal, juice, biscuits, toast, and I know there was more but I just can’t remember all of it. I tried to eat a lot so that maybe I wouldn’t be too hungry later and perhaps we could skip lunch or get just a little snack. I was worried that there would be a crowd for the London Eye really early, but that definitely wasn’t the case. We walked our way over to the London Eye which was just a short jaunt over from our hostel and there was no one lined up. Cool. So we decided to explore a little bit and we ended up walking on the Hungerford Footbridge and took pictures of the city from the middle of it. This just made me love London even more. It was cloudy and chilly, but nothing that we aren’t used to. We also looked in the London Eye gift shop to kill time. After killing about 20 minutes or so, it was time to line up for the London Eye and BAM! Suddenly, there was a crowd forming, so we hurried over and waited to get on. We got on these tubes that they could fit about 15 people on, and before we knew it we were rising up higher and higher, slowly but with increasingly impeccable views. In each tube they have ipad type of gadgets that would show you what the buildings were that you were looking at and and tell a little bit about them, so it was incredibly interactive. What was cool was if you wanted to hand someone your expensive camera to get a picture of you, you wouldn’t need to worry about them running off with it! The London Eye is a must-do if you are visiting London. It is the only way to see the city quite like that. I am definitely one for great heights and mesmerizing viewpoints.
After the London Eye, we made our way across the Westminster Bridge and found Westminster Abbey–the most beautiful church I have ever seen. This monument was my favorite part of the whole London experience and I am so sad that I didn’t get any pictures inside of it (pictures aren’t permitted for a number of reasons). We went through most of the areas and saw the burial sights of Kings and Queens. The church honors heroic men and women and really gives off a humbling, kind, and gracious glow. There was an area where you could light and candle and put in a prayer for whoever you wanted. The statues and architecture was the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. Outside and inside. And to think they still use it in similar ways that they did hundreds of years ago. England has such a rich and extensive history. Not to mention, Kate and William were married there and we saw the exact area where they were joined in matrimony. This church is just enchanted. I completely fell in love with it and must go back someday. Even though there were a lot of people in there, it was such a cleanse to think about others that have stood before you on this earth, honor and cherish them with the time and attention they deserve. Krista and I didn’t go on a tour or anything, we just explored it ourselves. One elderly woman heard Krista and I conversing and asked what part of the states we were from. I said “Washington” and of course got the usual “DC?” response. But she was a sweet woman and it actually feels pretty cool to know that people actually noticed our “accent” especially since in my opinion, the pacific northwest accent is the most boring one. Haha. I definitely didn’t want to leave! We did inevitably become hungry for lunch and so we ate in the Westminster Abbey Cellarium Cafe. I don’t remember all of what I ordered, but I know I ordered chips and ended up getting potato fries. Classic. I should have remembered that Brits call fries “chips,” but I had forgotten. Oh well, fries are better than chips anyhow! After lunch we explored some of the outdoor areas–we could finally take pictures. The College Gardens were pretty neat, and there was a friendly cat that hung around. I, being me, had to chase it and pet it of course. There were school-aged children playing on the lawns in their cute school clothes. Pictures, pictures, and more pictures. We finished looking around and decided it was about time to leave and we passed by the Westminster Abbey Shop. I felt that it was necessary to buy some souvenirs from the shop because it was such a magical experience inside the church. After buying a few things (I definitely bought more than what was necessary, hoping that our bags wouldn’t be weighed on the flight back to Oslo) and Krista buying a sister book of the one she got in Paris, which she was extremely excited about, we were on our way to see the Tower Bridge over the Thames River.
We walked by the Tower of London which was a great structure and around the corner to observe the Tower Bridge. We didn’t go on a tour of it or anything; just observed it from the ground. We didn’t take much time there. I was definitely getting cold. But on the way back, I noticed a neat little area: The Tower Hill Memorial; “1939-1945, the twenty four thousand of the merchant navy and fishing fleets whose names are honoured on the walls of this garden gave their lives for their county and have no grave but the sea.” We got some coffees and went to the British Museum. It was an amazing place, especially the fact that it was free, but we simply didn’t have a proper amount of time to enjoy everything there, and thus, we ended up not spending too much time there. It was a massive place and had history of most areas in the world. Definitely a place that I would like to revisit, but only if I had a bigger chunk of time in London. We made our way out of the museum and to go on the tube for Harrods and Top Shop, but before we made it to the tube, there was a protest going on in the middle of the street which was blocking cars and buses. I got some footage of it, but not much of it was telling. There was some yelling and chanting but nothing violent at all. It had to do with people living on disabilities and there being cuts to that program or something. While that was entertaining and there was a huge swarm of people around it, we didn’t have much time to waste so we got on the tube. I remember when we got off the tube we started walking toward Hyde Park again and that reminded me of all the walking we did yesterday…and of all the walking we still had to do. Phew. It was a sort of long walk (again) to Harrods and good god, I wish I was able to dress up more for going to Harrods (and I wish I had about £10,000 more before I walked in there). Absolutely one of the most spectacular and high-class shopping areas I have ever been. It was exciting, yet my excitement was sort of killed by the fact that I felt completely, poor, under dressed, unprepared, and like I wouldn’t be able to buy anything. It was so nice, yet I just wanted to get out of there. Apparently there are sections of Harrods that aren’t that pricey, but I thought the whole place was like that. My dad was the one who recommended that we go there. Anyways, right across the street was Top Shop and both Krista and I definitely wanted to go there. We expected it to be reasonably priced but oh boy was it expensive. I was able to afford something though–a wallet on clearance–which was nice, because I desperately needed a newwallet. It was £12. I liked the clothes, but just couldn’t buy very much. After Top Shop, Krista led us to a store called Primark and Jackpot! Tons of really cute clothes for cheap. I got a white lice 3/4 sleeve shirt, a mint green dress, and a London flag sweatshirt. I know Krista got the same sweatshirt and a couple of other things too. Yay, clothing souvenirs! Shopping took a while and the purchasing lines were LONG but we got through it and explored the streets a little more. Thank God that I didn’t accidentally leave any bags or my purse behind—just yet.
We were getting tired and hungry and realized we should find a place for dinner. We weren’t walked by any places that sounded good and out of the corner of our eyes, I think Krista actually saw a little corner-in-the-wall place that said something along the lines of “Breakfast served all day” and we booked it over there. Breakfast sounded amazing! After some classic English breakfasts, and some poor service (especially considering we were like the only ones there) we eventually made it back to the hostel.
It was getting late, and it was almost time to wind down. But considering we were staying at a hostel/bar, we decided we had better at least go get a drink down in the bar. Maybe we would meet some people that were interesting, and the bar was a really fun and social place from the looks of it. First, we ordered the most amazing scrumptious delicious perfect flavorful yummy-in-my-tummy ciders ever. Rekorderlig. It is not available in the US and I am very sad. So let’s just not talk about that anymore. As we were chatting, these two ladies came up to us and started talking to us. There was a blonde one and a brunette, and the blonde one was doing most of the talking. Let me just say, she was the most nosy, condescending, weird, rude, invasive, socially inept, rude, rude, idiot, person that we met on our trip. They were London natives, so maybe because they could tell we were American, they thought that we were stupid? The entire time that she was talking to us, she was asking about everything we were doing and then scoffing at it. She wanted Krista to hate me because I was marrying her twin, she found it weird that I was even visiting Krista, that we came to London, and that we were going back to Oslo soon. She was giving us the Spanish Inquisition. And every time we answered her, she would either laugh when it wasn’t funny, or give us this confused/disgusted look. Finally, we started being sort of rude back (but nothing comparable to her degree of rudeness) and we just stopped talking to them even though they were sitting RIGHT next to us. Oh and did I mention Krista and I were wearing our identical sweatshirts we just bought?
Next, Krista went up to the bar to get us AMFs and lo and behold, the bartenders had no idea what those were (which I thought could happen). They were so sweet about it though, they tried to look up the ingredients and sort of winged it. It was fine, so we finished them. I proclaimed “let’s ditch this bitch” (talking about the rude English ladies) and we decided to just go for one more walk over the Westminster bridge for a night stroll to see Big Ben and other nearby attractions. You couldn’t have convinced me in 1,000 years that on this stroll we would be stalked by mimes. Yes, mimes, and ones that freaking talked too. Now that’s certainly contradictory and a bit annoying if you ask me. So these guys were dressed up as mimes and wanted us to shake their hands, take pictures of them, and hug us (and probably other stuff I can’t remember) and we just wanted them to leave us alone! When they asked me to shake their hands, I threw my hands up and said “I have OCD!” as if that mattered, but Krista and I laughed about that later. We took some nice pictures and pretty much had to say goodbye to London that night. We returned to the hostel, showered, and got ready for bed and packed most of our things for the morning when we were to return to Oslo. London was sure lovely!
Thursday, May 24
Today’s agenda: Go back to Oslo…& Sleep
It is really interesting because I don’t have any pictures from this day… it was pretty much a traveling day. Tube, train, plane, bus, t-bane, then a mile walk (if I remember correctly). Oh! But in the Stansted airport I was naughty and bought some Marc Jacobs perfume…no regrets! We had a later flight (around 1pm) and got back into Oslo around 4pm and since London and Oslo are in different time zones, we lost an hour getting back to Oslo. By the time we got back to the family’s house, it was probably around 5 or 6. We put our bodies through a lot when we went to London as far as exhausting ourselves, and so we both just rested the rest of the evening, and I think at some point Krista made porridge for me (she was the absolute best host for me EVER! Krista is so kind!) in her little kitchen which was delicious and much-appreciated. I know that at some ridiculously early time, I laid down on my mattress and put the covers on to get comfy and BOOM I was out. The bad part was that I hate falling asleep with my makeup on and my teeth not brushed. But, I tell you, I had no trouble sleeping while I was in Europe. Krista stayed up a lot later and I felt bad that she probably felt like she had to be quiet because I was sleeping, but I think it all worked out.
Friday, May 25
Today’s agenda: Norsk Folk museum, Ice Bar, and Shopping
First, I woke up and realized that I fell asleep with my makeup on, obviosuly. Just gross. No. But, I was extremely well-rested with probably about 12 hours of sleep or something. After getting ready for our day, we made our way to the museum. We had a little trouble locating it but nothing monumental. Krista always knows where to go! The Norsk Folk Museum was quite a treat, and probably one of the most quaint places I have ever been. (I really love using the word “quaint” to describe places in Norway). There was not one thing that was spectacular, but everything was so unique and it really brought me back a few hundred years and thought that I probably had Swedish relatives that lived in these types of cabins (except in Sweden) because I don’t have Norwegian ancestors. It was fun to watch Krista getting into what she was looking at and recognizing which houses her ancestors could have actually lived in. Basically, the Norsk Folk Museum was a lot of original houses from hundreds of years ago that were uprooted from various areas of Norway and brought to one place. There was information posted on the little cabins so that we could see where they came from and when they were built. It’s great they have things from so long ago! It kept making me realize that the United States is so new in comparison.
In the midst of the cabins, there was a little petting zoo type of thing (or maybe it was just animals that we were supposed to observe) and Krista and I encountered this MASSIVE pig. He was so cute though! I really enjoyed seeing this pig for some reason (reason being I am an animal lover). His name was Seyfried, and when we called his name, he turned around and looked at us. He was so smart! Also outdoors, up a steep hill from where the cabins were was the Stave Church. What a gorgeous exterior it had, and it dates all the way back to the 1200s. The indoors were pretty archaic looking, but I did not expect it to be ruined by modernizing it. Although they had just recently painted the exterior black. Indoors, there was a museum of traditional Norwegian clothing, table ware, linen, furniture, and other every-day things. Dolls, toys, and tons of display cases. I don’t remember very much more of what was indoors. Krista and I were hungry for lunch so we stopped and got a bite. I got a slice of apple cake (not apple pie) and oh my word, it was delicious. I actually have that queued up on my list of recipes I want to try soon. Amazing! We left the museum and headed over to the Oslo Ice Bar– we had an appointment.
The famous Oslo Ice Bar was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am glad that we went and did something so stereotypical (well a lot of things I did while in Europe were stereotypical of me, but you know what I am saying). Basically everyone got to put on cloaks before going into the freezing cold room and all of the walls and furniture were made of ice, including the cups we used. The floor and ceiling weren’t made of ice though. I got a vodka cranberry and we looked at the various ice sculpting art that was in there and took photos. Soon enough there were a lot of people in there! All in their cloaks. It really looked like a room full of dememtors, and unless you kept your eyes glued to the person you arrived there with, there was a good chance you could lose them since everyone looked about the same. It was a pretty cool experience, but soon there wasn’t really anything left to do in there so we left.
Next, we did a little bit of tourist shopping. Krista described the H&M stores in Oslo to be located almost EVERYWHERE. She compared them to being like Starbucks up in the Pacific Northwest and she was definitely right. There were so many H&Ms around in Oslo. We stopped in there and I was so pleasantly surprised by their prices. They were not bad at all! In fact they were great prices considering how expensive Norway is. I bought 2 summer tank tops and felt accomplished. Then we went to a little Norway-themed touristy shop. I got a cheese slicer, Norway hat, and shot glass (I believe). Lastly, we wanted to go to the grocery store to find some lefse to eat and for me to bring home. It wasn’t the kind we wanted, but I actually really enjoyed it. Oh, but at some point before we actually got to the grocery store, I realized I left my H&M bag in the tourist shop. Luckily, it was still there by the time we ran back to get it. Honestly, I am surprised that I made it all the way through London without leaving behind something. I am SO glad that I didn’t.
And then we went back to the host family’s house…and it was time for me to pack up and get prepared to wake up at another ungodly hour (1:30 a.m., I think it was, because I had a 6:00 am flight). Krista was really nervous about the drive to the airport but luckily, the family let us take their car (we weren’t even sure if they were going to let us!) After looking up the directions on Google Maps, pretty much street viewing the way there so that we knew what to look for, we finally went to bed. It was nearly the end of my European adventure. What a perfect whirlwind.
I plan to go back.