Orange County, California to Norway
March 30 – April 13, 2013
Part 1 of the Epic Adventure
We had the most excellent two week trip in Norway! I’m compelled to recap our adventures before my memory completely fades, but I will break down our journey into a few different posts out of consideration for short attention spans. Although traveling with kids is not necessarily the most relaxing or fun, we feel it’s very important for our kids to experience the fun traveling and exposure to other cultures to broaden their knowledge of the world. I also wanted them to spend time with our Norwegian family and learn more about our ancestry (as much as what’s possible with a seven, five and two year old.)
This first post will cover the craziness that ensued just to arrive in Norway, the main highlights of our first two days as tourists in Oslo and I’ll finish the post with a thoughtful interpretation of a missing stage of life from the famous Vigeland Sculpture Park as told to me by our Air BnB apartment host, Christian Krogh.
Throughout our trip, I took travel notes on my smart phone on a simple notepad app. It was the easiest and most accessible tool and as it’s an Android phone, it was easy to speak into the microphone to record my notes. The fun began at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning, March 30th. We had an 8:30 flight on American Airlines, so we woke up 4:30 am. Everything went smoothly and we were confident of our travel mojo on the runway waiting to take off, until the pilot got on the intercom to tell us that the plane had a broken part and we needed to go back to the terminal to inspect it. After inspection, they said they needed to shuttle a crew of mechanics from Los Angeles to fix the broken part, so everyone needed to get off the plane, get their luggage from baggage claim and go to ticketing for new flights. !!WTF?!! Didn’t they realize our luggage was practically 6 feet tall since there was five of us traveling?! And only two of us were capable of carrying it (oh, actually one because it was too heavy for me.)
Luggage Cart: (1) 50 lb. suitcase, (1) 40 lb. duffle bag, (2) big backpacks and (1) bag of car seats.
7:00 am – Excited Traveler
7:30 am – Happy Traveler
9:30 am – Angry Traveler
9:45 am – Weary Travelers
But, we forged on and did as we were told. Round 2 with luggage, ticketing and security (not so easy)- we had new flights. We got to our gate and discovered our flight was delayed 30 minutes. No problem, we thought, we had time. The agent at the gate told us that the delay would make us miss our connecting flight, however, so we needed to be booked on yet another flight and there wasn’t showing anything available for us in the system. She recommended we go home and come back the next day to take the first flight out or that we could fly to London and stay the night there and fly to Oslo the following day. I would have chosen option #2 before choosing to go home and come back the next day. As a last resort she offered us the solution of taking a shuttle to Los Angeles airport, taking a red eye flight to London that evening and then flying to Oslo direct. We all agreed it was the best option, so we took it, however, we had to get our luggage out of baggage claim again, but by this point we were experts.
The rest of the flight details were a breeze once we got out of Orange County airport; they gave us excellent customer service throughout with food vouchers and bulkhead seating which were golden. I was so glad we weren’t pinched in the regular seats; the passengers were all trying to sleep and get comfortable in extremely cramped seats. I enjoyed watching Silverlining Playbook before drifting of into a nice slumber.
Some mishaps that occurred which kept us on our toes included our two year old son ‘doing his duty’ in his diaper right before landing and it went up and out of the back of his pants. Luckily, we had a change of clothes and did a quick presto-chango in the bathroom. Next, at airport security for our connecting flight in London Heathrow, he somehow gagged on his lollipop and started throwing up on himself just as we were taking off our shoes and laying everything out to go through x-ray. It was messy and smelly and distracting. Since we weren’t entirely focused at this point, we neglected to take out our iPads and other items from our bags to be scanned. Therefore we were flagged for closer scrutiny and Jonathan was frisked for good measure. But we pressed on and were rewarded with the most awesome indoor playground for kids where they could burn off energy while waiting for our connecting flight to Oslo. Our five year old peed her pants, because stopping playing to go to the bathroom is just a drag. Again, we were fortunate to have packed a spare pair of pants for such occasions – I’m a pro.
London Heathrow Airport Hitchhiker
The final leg of the trip was a blur of shuttling, screening, waiting and various forms of transportation. We arrived in Oslo Gardermoen airport at 12:30 am Monday morning (eight hours ahead of California time) so we’d been on the go for over 34 hours at that point and still needed to retrieve our mound of luggage, go through customs, take the express train to Oslo Central Station and take a taxi to our rental apartment. We were all frazzled and extremely fatigued, but we made it happen. It wasn’t fun or easy, but we did it (with a lot of stares from onlookers.) We finally laid our heads on our pillows at 2:30 am (36 hours from start to finish) and although the kids were excellent travelers keeping their spirits and resilience up throughout, my daughters were in tears at that point saying that they didn’t like Norway and they wanted to go home.
I questioned our rationale for taking this big of a trip and assessed whether or not it was too ambitious of us. But we were certainly not going to go home at that point. After a solid night’s rest, everything looked sunny and bright again and we were ready to explore Oslo. We downloaded the Visit Oslo (tourist sites), NSB (trains) and Ruter Billett (bus) apps as well as Google Maps and our portable WiFi to navigate Oslo with relative ease. We also brought our Anker portable external battery chargers to help recharge everything on the go as needed.
Highlights from Monday in Oslo included: me slipping on a sheet of ice while walking to find a neighborhood restaurant that was recommended, eating pizza and a falafel at a “Friends” store when we discovered the restaurant and everything else was closed for the Easter holiday. Interestingly, the man at the counter asked me, “Do you want little or small falafel?” I said small and lo and behold, the ‘small’ was quite huge; I should have clarified before ordering.
Friends Store in Kvaernbyen Oslo
Everywhere we go, we take over the place.
Our tourist highlights that day was viewing the Palace and the changing of the guard and walking around the beautiful Aker Brygge harbor area and the kids played on an outdoor playground.
Oslo Royal Palace
Changing of the Guard Oslo
Rower water sculpture Aker Brygge Oslo
Aker Brygge Oslo
We dined at a cozy restaurant called Rorbua that had a rustic and nautical decor. The menu had seafood and traditional Norwegian food and everything was delicious. We had a valuable economics lesson after that meal; it ended up costing us $200 USD! But still I’m happy we ate there instead of the alternatives of Big Horn Steakhouse or TGIF’s. I could justify and embrace spending that much on this fantastic dinner because we were still recovering from airplane food as well as an exteme case of travel fatigue.
Rorbua Restaurant Aker Brygge Oslo
Steak at Rorbua
Salmon at Rorbua
On Tuesday one of the highlights was Vigeland Sculpture Park where the kids played on the snowy playground, observed all the beautiful, naked sculptures and sledded down the icy steps near the phallic monolith in the center of the park.
Southern Californian girl at home in the snow.
Everywhere we travel, there must be a playground. Vigeland Park Oslo.
Universal playground fave. Vigeland Park Oslo.
Peek a boo. Vigeland Park Oslo.
Making friends in Norway.
Vigeland Park Oslo
Vigeland Sculpture Park Oslo
Here’s how we feel about traveling with kids.
Nordic Mama. Vigeland Park Oslo
Girl huddle. Vigeland Park Oslo.
A rare photo of the the couple taken by their daughter.
Traveling Troll at Vigeland Park Olso.
Sledding at Vigeland Park Olso.
Real life family sculpture. Vigeland Park Oslo.
We then went to the open air Folk Museum to see how Norwegians lived from the 1700s to present day.
Folk Museum Oslo
Folk Museum Oslo
Traveling Troll at the Folk Museum Oslo
Folk Museum Oslo
Then we walked around the beautiful Opera House and took in the breathtaking views.
The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet House
Photo Credit: VisitOslo.com | Karianne Lund
Statue of Norwegian Opera Legend, Kirsten Flagstad
Opera House Oslo
Annika at Opera House Oslo
Norwegian ingenuity and determination. Opera House Oslo.
We ended the day at an outdoor cafe called Skansen and enjoyed a glass of wine, apple cake and ice cream near Akershus Fortress.
Akershus Fortress Photo Credit: VisitOslo.com | Nancy Bundt
Apple Cake and Ice Cream at Skansen Cafe Oslo
Our host at our apartment rental, Christian, wrote in his ‘Guide to Oslo’ notes that there is a theme of life throughout Vigeland Sculpture Park but that there was one mysteriously missing. He challenges his guests to discover what that is, but if they can’t, to email him for his theory. We attempted to find the missing stage of life, but ultimately had to resort to emailing Christian. Here is his detailed explanation of Gustav Vigeland, the sculptor, and the missing stage of life.
“Gustav Vigeland was undoubtly a great artist but not a very sympathetic person. He was very focused on leaving a memorable location about himself and his art. He never got married but had a lot of female relationships. Why do so many girls like the bad guys? He did not treat the women nice. In fact it is stated that he was confronted on several occasion for beating them up. The theme of the park is “Life”. The park is supposed to show all shades of life. The “Monolitt” is supposed to symbolize the male genitals. As you so in the park you have newborn babies and old people. However, a pregnant woman is missing. Why when the theme is suppose to be all shades of life? We don’t know for sure but what we think is that G. Vigeland did not think that a pregnant woman was a pretty picture to portrait.
G.Vigeland had a younger brother that also was an artist. Gustav made sure that nobody credited his younger brother’s work. During the war the younger brother got the nazi occupation authorities to give him a small chapel to decorate. He did a great work in this chapel. When you enter the chapel there is a big box right over the entrance door to the chapel. Vigeland was asked why he had placed this big box over the entrance door. Anyone entering the chapel had to bow their head to get in to the chapel. The younger version of Vigeland said that “I put it there because when I die I will use it as my coffin. If my older brother drops by to see what I have made, I want to make sure that he has to bow his head.” – Christian Krogh
WOW! Talk about a fascinating art history lesson!
Next, “Norwegian Vacation Part Two” will cover our five days in Larvik, my maternal great grandfather and great grandmother’s hometown, where we spent quality time with family.