Norway Road Trip 2017: Bergen in Color

Over hills and across water, another epic drive led BV and I into Bergen for our third road trip stop. We had booked a very sweet condo on Airbnb, which, while lacking a primo location (20-minute bus ride to the center and overlooking a fairly industrial area), it compensated with a real bed (not bunk beds), and a washer/dryer. This was a strategic choice on our part.

We figured on having two nights to explore the city, but after our morning in Vik and the long drive that followed, we were too wiped to do much on our first night besides enjoy some home comforts, do laundry, and watch bad movies on Norwegian cable. No regrets there.

Refreshed and relaxed the next morning we watched the bus to the city appear promptly at the bus stop visible from the apartment every 10 minutes without fail. Our hosts had left us tips on what ticket to buy, as well as a few sights to check out in the city, and armed with that information we were off.

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Norway Road Trip 2017: Vikøyri

The second stop of our Norwegian trip was a short but sweet night in and around Vikøyri, a village on Sognefjorden. The main reason for our visit was sheer logistics, as my original plan to drive to Bergen went out the window when we saw that the short distance on the map would take us nearly nine hours. Instead, we opted for a projected four and a half hour drive from Sæbø, which ended up being closer to eight in reality.

Why so long? Because driving in Norway is winding, twisting, up, down, and SO RIDICULOUSLY PRETTY THAT YOU WILL STOP FOR PHOTOS CONSTANTLY.

Don’t believe me? Click on to continue the tour!

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Norway Road Trip 2017: Sæbø on Hjørundfjorden

The first stop on our Norwegian adventure was in Sæbø, a small village about an hour away from Ålesund in western Norway. The Storfjord is the main fjord in the area, and many people pass through here on their way to and from the Instagram/Pinterest-perfect UNESCO Wold Heritage Site that is the Geirangerfjord, which branches off of the Storfjord. However, that was not on our list. We were invited to a wedding in Sæbø, which is located on Hjørundfjorden, another branch. Got all that? If not, check a map because I can’t say fjord that many more times without hitting myself. But there are pictures, so click on!

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5 Things I Loved About Norway

BV and I returned from our Norwegian adventure last week Friday, and I’m still riding high (apart from that whole “work” thing) from it. This was an absolutely incredible trip, and luckily I’ve got about 4,000 photos to flip through whenever I want to relive a piece of it. In the interest of preserving my memory, and friends/family just being able to scroll through a post rather than listen to either of us wax poetic about it for several hours, I do want to get a few posts organized on here, but no promises on when that might happen.*

In order to get my thought process flowing, and *perhaps* to whet the appetite of the lovely readers of this blog, I thought I’d start off with listing just a few of the things that made me go all heart-eyes-emoji for two straight weeks. To the list!

1. Friendly locals

“Chin scratches!”

Say hi to (not sure how this was spelled, but I’ll go with) Miku! This sweet pup lived at one of the places we stayed, and in between checking in on the cows and sheep, would wander past our terrace for a pet or two. Anyone who knows me knows that I lose my mind at the sight of most dogs, so nothing makes me happier than a furry friend coming around to join me for my morning coffee. But this wasn’t the only friendly local we met. Click away for the one with the best view in town…

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Sunday Snapshots: By Land and By Sea

Wisconsin Dells, 2013

If it’s hot today as it was on this day, then I am supremely jealous of my past self. Nothing feels quite like some Wisconsin lake spray on your face when the humidity is through the roof. Most Wisconsinites would probably live directly on a lake in summer, given half the chance.

On the other hand, taking a tour on the Original Wisconsin Ducks is hardly an every day occurrence.  But when taking your German boyfriend to visit the tourist trap capital of the state, it’s a must. Everything is a little cheesy (WI pun intended), but it’s pretty fun either way.

 

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31-Day Challenge: Day 24

Write about the places featured on postcards you’ve received in the mail.

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We have a little shelf space in front of our stereo where we always put the postcards we’ve gotten recently in the mail. I’m a big fan of both sending and getting postcards, although sometimes I am much better at writing them, than actually getting them in the mail. BV on the other hand, is extremely organized, with an excel spreadsheet of addresses for just such an occasion. The only flaw in the plan is that sometimes those addresses are not correct. We discovered this when once again, his mom did not receive the postcard we sent her from Ireland, and he learned that he was about three numbers off on the address. In a small town it would probably slide by and end up in the right place (my parents have a notoriously tricky address to spell), but her street is apartment block after apartment block.

I think my fascination with postcards goes back a long ways, as I remember my great-grandma Merry (of the aforementioned Norwegian heritage) having a whole photo album filled with postcards that she’d received over the years. Some were from nearby, some where from much more far-flung places, but they had all found their way to her, and to this little album. One of these days I might do the same thing, and start filing ours away.

My grandparents also sent postcards from their vacations almost religiously. The messages were mostly about what they did that day, and always included the weather. Not that there was much variation in Florida temperatures, but it was good to have the reassurance that everything was in order.

At our house the moment there’s a bit of a mix on display, as well as stacked up on top of the stereo. There are two wedding invitations, one that has passed, and one that is yet to come. There are two thank-you cards from last year’s wedding celebrations. There’s a birth announcement as well as a photo Christmas card.

There’s a blank postcard from Salzburg, which was hand-delivered by a friend of mine who knows of my eternal love for the most perfect city on the river. Another postcard comes from Reit im Winkl, from our Airbnb host that we’ve visited a few times now. Apparently once you’ve passed a certain visit number, you get a Christmas card as well as a summer favor. Can’t go wrong there.

Another postcard celebrates the German-Austrian border, and came from BV’s parents last summer. Yet another shows a cairn, and came from not so far away in the Oberpfalz. That one came from the Gardeners, who know of BV’s enthusiasm for stones. Our postcard from them last year was from somewhere around the Baltic Sea, and simply showed the smooth stones found on the beaches there.

Somewhere in the office, hastily moved away in the last rounds of pre-Christmas cleaning, are postcards from Africa, from the Mediterranean, from Asia. We have some well-traveled friends. I also tend to collect postcards from places, sometimes just to get those shots that it’s nearly impossible to get yourself. I’ve bought postcards from the Trinity College Library, and other places where taking pictures are prohibited.

Two of the best things that I’ve acquired in my years abroad are two vintage postcards. On a long, long, walk around the enormous Vienna flea market where my friend Cassie was hunting for gifts for her sprawling family, I happened to find these two beauties. Printed on heavy board and dating from the turn of the century, one pictures the Powder Tower in Prague, and one pictures the Opera House. Though I was still living in the Golden City at that time, I knew that these would be treasures to me long after I had moved on. On my list of things to do this year is to get them in frames. Practically speaking, vintage postcards do not fit in any off-the-shelf frames, so that’s a project to figure out exactly how to display them.

Postcards are incredibly simple, but such a bright light sometimes. There’s nothing cheerier than opening the mailbox to find a quick note from a far away place. When cleaning through my childhood bedroom over Christmas, I found quite a few that had made their way into the folds of books and corners of drawers. Most of them were ones from my grandparents on those frequent trips to Florida. I was okay with saying goodbye to a lot of things from that old room, but many of those postcards went into the boxes of things that are to be kept. For what, I’m not sure. But, for now it doesn’t matter.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge: Day 21

We’re packing up to leave and while neither of us are happy about it, we did just come back from getting ice cream. Also, we stopped to pet a very sweet foal on the way. That helped ease the pain a bit.

The first time we stayed here, our host offered us to stay another night for free, which we happily took her up on. This time it’s not possible as we both have to work tomorrow, but she said we could stay as long as we were able. On the last day of any vacation, that’s about the greatest gift there is.

Since BV and I have gotten together, we’ve only occasionally stayed in hotels, instead going for holiday apartments (very German), or Airbnb (German holiday apartments for hipsters). Our experiences have been overwhelmingly good, so I see no need for hotels. Anyplace that doesn’t let you check in until 3pm and throws you out before noon is not for me. The fact that you don’t even get 24 hours most places is ridiculous.

To be fair, one of the “less good” Airbnb experiences we had was also in Italy. Online it said that the check out time was flexible, and the host’s friend didn’t say anything different when he met us. He didn’t say much, in fact, besides “here it is, bye.”

Then at nine o’clock the next morning, we had cleaning ladies knocking down the door.

At nine o’clock this morning I also heard movement on our terrace. Peeking outside, I saw that one of our chairs had been moved so that it was sitting in front of the kitchen door.

Curious.

I went into the kitchen to get a closer look and what did I see? A plate with two fresh, homemade donuts on the chair. The door was closed over to deter cats and birds from our treats.

Breakfast delivery plus a thoroughly relaxed morning, makes the thought of returning to the real world more palatable. But maybe I should go back and pet that little horse again, just to make sure.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge: Day 15

The last thing I said…

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The last thing I said was, “I can wash the dishes since I’ll be here later. I don’t have to leave until nine. But you can pack the food bag.”

BV and I have pretty much been running around the house since we got home, me at about 7:30 and him shortly before. We’re off tomorrow to spend a few days in South Tyrol, but our plan to leave directly from work means that we are somewhat frantically trying to get ourselves together tonight.

We dropped Marry die Katze off at our friend S’s on Sunday, so she was taken care of, but I was out of the house for 12 hours today and the place is a total disaster. After I got home we threw together dinner, BV took the chance to haul all the plants out of the office and onto the balcony, while I put away laundry and packed my stuff together. Now he’s getting his bags packed, and organizing the last bits and bobs from the fridge that we’ll take along with us.

Normally on Tuesdays we ride to and from work together, but my first class is cancelled tomorrow. I’d love the chance to sleep in, but since we have to load up the car in the morning, that means I’ll still have to get up and going to get all my morning necessities in before he leaves. Then, (lucky me), I’ll clean up the disaster area of a kitchen with my extra bit of time here.

I would like to think of myself as an efficient packer, but the amount of stuff that we usually end up bringing for a long weekend, or in this case, five nights, gives me away. I imagine it’s a lot easier if you’re just planning on lounging at the beach or the pool, but since we’re planning on hiking, maybe visiting some towns, eating all the things, and going to a winery, I can’t take a “one size fits all” approach. Apparently I’ve adopted the German mentality of needing to have activity-specific clothing. That means hiking shoes, regular shoes, and house shoes, and that’s just footwear. No sandals, though the forecast promises some warmth. Inevitably it’ll be too much but hey, at least I have options. Sometimes I miss just wearing jeans, hoodies, and flip flops, but those college days are long gone.

I recently thought that it might be nice to just go somewhere for a weekend with a small carry-on bag. I can’t even tell you the last time I did that. My suitcase going and coming from the States over Christmas was so heavy that they managed to break the handle somewhere between Chicago and Dublin. I had to buy a new one while we were there and since I was still fully loaded with post-Christmas goodies and random things from my childhood room, I had to go with one of the larger options. I don’t even have a carry-on sized suitcase, only a big bag with a broken zipper. Needless to say, unless I get it replaced (repair was unsuccessful), that won’t be going under a plane anytime soon. It seems that anytime I’ve flown in the last couple years it’s been packed to the gills. I may have to talk BV into a last-minute long weekend in Greece or something, just for the luxury of traveling light.

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Editor’s Note: I’ll still be doing the challenge while we’re way. The internet connection was questionable last time, so we’ll see how this works.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge: Day 8

“Hey, if you’re going into Spare ‘Oom, can you grab my sketchbook out of the arts and crafts box?”

Sure, but what is it?”

“It’s a book that you sketch in? A sketchbook…”

“Okay, and what does it look like?”

“It looks like a notebook, spiral binding, white paper, full of drawings?”

BV returns to living room

“This thing?”

*nods*

“And why don’t you call it a drawing book?”

“Because it’s not called a drawing book. It’s called a sketchbook. As in, a book that one draws quickly, or sketches.”

“Alright, I’m going to go make more spreadsheets. You too.”

I will fully admit that my explanations on what exactly I meant by sketchbook were not particularly descriptive at the beginning of tonight’s exchange, but these things happen when you live with a non-native English speaker and this teacher is off the clock.

While we have been trying to speak more German around the house, I will fully admit that if we had tried to have had that conversation in German, I may have gotten half the bookshelf in the office before we got to the sketchbook I actually wanted. Or just huffed and puffed and gotten up to get it myself.

In my defense, I was deep into a Google search of a few things that we had been talking about after-dinner, regarding vacation plans and when I’m juggling tabs, listening to anything else becomes a challenge. While though the internet is a wonderful and useful tool, for me it has major limitations. Mostly it limits my concentration abilities and memory of what I was doing 30 seconds beforehand.

In fact, the reason I sent BV on the quest for the sketchbook is that today I decided it was time to brush off my trip-planning and map-making skills. When the internet makes me nutty, I turn to paper. I don’t love to plan every day down to the minute, but I am definitely a visual thinker and need a way to lay out all the possibilities. I have done this before with various online maps, but I always end up clicking in the wrong place and throwing the whole thing into disarray and making myself crazy. Plus then I get all cussy and the cats don’t like that much.

Instead, I’m going to take the approach I used when we planned out the Cinque Terre trip in 2015. Map out some routes on paper, and then compare and contrast. We’re working on a much larger scale this time around, but I really need a general idea on paper to wrap my head around it all. Here’s hoping that works out as well this time as it did then!

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

 

31-Day Challenge: Day 7

A few short days ago in this space, I wrote that I was not a travel blogger. I still don’t think I am, but today’s 31-day challenge post is especially late for travel-related reasons.

BV and I are currently trying to figure out the best course of action for our summer holiday, which this year will be in Norway. He has worked out a spreadsheet that calculated the cost for us to drive there, versus flying and renting a car on arrival. I had been operating under the assumption that we wanted to drive, and would bring camping equipment along, hopefully enabling us to keep the costs of notoriously expensive Scandinavia down. Turns out, according to his calculations, that for us to fly and rent would be marginally more expensive, but would avoid the headache and possible murders that might occur on a 24-hour drive. Drive, not drives plus breaks.

That led into a debate about what kind of camping gear we could bring along for the cost of an extra suitcase, which led to me googling if we could rent camping equipment (not so much), which led to me learning that most campgrounds have small cabins for rent, with varying levels of comfort.  Open fire seems to be a no-go in a lot of places, so there went my ideas of grilling supermarket sausages over a campfire, which were a childhood camping trip staple.

I reported my findings at that stage to BV, who is taking a well-earned break from spreadsheets, and the next step was to check out what the AirBnb options might be. That’s looking pretty good but as I scrolled across the map, I realized that we really have no idea what we want to do on this excursion.

This confuses me. I’m not the best planner in the world, but I should have an idea of what I want to do there, right?

To clarify, I grew up in a family that is more or less, half Norwegian. My maternal great-grandmother, Olga, was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants. When they arrived in the U.S., they settled on a farm in western Wisconsin, in an area full of Norwegians and other Scandinavians. They spoke Norwegian at home, and she was in touch with cousins and relatives in the “old country” for most of her life. She even went there in the ’70s, making her one of the only members of my family to travel abroad for non-military related reasons. Possibly the only one to do so, now that I think about it.

She lived into her 90s, and we spent lots of time with her when we were kids. I always loved visiting her apartment filled with funny Norwegian trolls, and a mountainous landscape painting on the wall. She had the traditional dress, was a member of the Daughters of Norway in Milwaukee, we had lefse at every holiday meal, and she painted beautiful rosemaling. She even knew my dad was a keeper when my mom brought him to meet her and he happily ate lutefisk. Oddly, I look quite like her, which means I have an idea what I’m going to look like in my old age.

So now I sit here wondering why, when after spending my entire life hearing about this place, these traditions, wanting to go and see it myself, I have no idea what to do there. Apparently I didn’t ask specifics? Uff da, younger Heather, what were you thinking?

I’ll end today’s post with a plea… if anyone has some must-dos (or definitely do not dos!) please drop me a comment!! And though I have done exactly zero sponsored posts in the pasts, I would happily change that if anyone has a sweet place for us to stay and review. Will shill for travel for Scandinavian prices.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.