After an action packed five days in Stockholm, where we crammed as much sight-seeing as possible into my short stay, I was almost glad of the eight hour car journey we had ahead, taking us to Vickersund, Norway.
Our ‘girls road trip’ turned into a family holiday so we packed up the Jonsson family car and settled in for the long journey. Not usually one to willingly sit down for any extended period of time, I wasn’t expecting the next few hours to be quite so enjoyable but, the time seemed to fly by. Caro and I resumed my Swedish lessons from Australia and by the time we arrived in Norway, I was beginning to think that perhaps I could pass myself off as one of the family.
The scenery in Vickersund (home to the highest ski jumping hill in the world) was even more breath-taking than that of the Swedish country-side. Miles and miles of rolling hills, broken up by beautiful lakes and the odd winding road, with picturesque houses dotted along the side-lines.
We were all set to stay with Caroline’s cousins in their remote village, so we headed straight there to settle in for the next few days. The house was incredible – similar to the typical Swedish style home but surrounded by acres of grassy fields and their own converted barn which doubled-up as a guest house / party venue for the family’s friends and acquaintances.
The only English at the table
Having spent so much time hanging around with Swedes both during my visit to Stockholm and during my time in Australia, I’d gotten used to their perfect English and although I’d mastered a few phrases, I was unprepared for the next few days in Norway. As we sat down for dinner and everyone began catching up in their native tongue, I began to feel like a bit of an intruder on this family get together. For the first time ever, I began to understand the concept of being homesick.
I went to bed early that night feeling a little dejected. The next morning, having sensed my unease and wanting to escape the incoming showers, Caroline’s lovely mum took us out to an art gallery and for lunch. I felt guilty for taking them away from their family after only just arriving but we had a lovely afternoon and by the time we headed back to the house, I was feeling much better and ready to test out a little Swedish on Caroline’s cousins.
Later that afternoon, Caro, Elisabet (mum), Helga (aunty), Anna (cousin) and I headed over to Utoya to pay our respects. It was a strange and unsettling experience seeing the tiny island up close after the devastation of Anders Breivik’s attack earlier that summer. Having spent a day or two experiencing the peaceful and almost innocent lifestyle enjoyed in this quiet town, it was incredible to think that someone could disturb the peace so shockingly.
That night the mood changed to more positive things as we sat around the garden table to toast to Henry – another of Caro’s cousins, who had just turned 18. Aunties, uncles, friends and grandparents arrived to join in the celebrations and we all enjoyed a delicious BBQ feast by the pool. The whole family were incredibly friendly and welcoming, interested to know what I thought of Norway and also to hear more about my life in London.
As the evening drew to a close and the guests drifted off one by one, we got chatting a little more to one of Caro’s uncles who mentioned that they were going away for the weekend and had an apartment free in central Oslo. Norwegian hospitality being what it is, the couple were soon welcoming us to take their spare keys so that we could stay over and have a night out in the capital – we couldn’t believe our luck!
The next morning we set off to get the bus to Oslo. We arrived a few hours later, dropped our luggage at the apartment and began taking in as much of the city as possible in the few hours we had there. We walked from upper Oslo city, right down to the harbour and the Opera House, taking in as much as possible in between.
When we eventually reached the harbour , it was time for a well-deserved break.
Despite my earlier homesickness, I’d had an amazing nine days experiencing the laid back lifestyle of the Scandinavians and wasn’t quite ready to head home (especially with the London riots taking over my home town!) but there was still one more night left and so, time to see how the Norwegian’s like to party.
Oslo by night
We headed back to the apartment to make dinner and get ready for our night out. We took a short walk to some local bars which Caro’s uncle had recommended. There was a great atmosphere, it reminded me of some of the laid-back bars in the Northern Quarter in Manchester – no pretentiousness, just people out to have a few drinks and catch up with friends, my kind of place.
It wasn’t long before we got talking to a couple of guys who ‘casually’ dropped into the conversation that they were in a band. A few drinks later and they were ready to head to the next bar but Caro and I decided to stay put a little longer. Caro swapped numbers with one and we made plans to meet them the next day to watch them practice. We were mostly just humouring them but when they text the next day to check if we were still coming, we thought ‘why not!’ There were still a few hours to kill before I had to catch a train to the airport and so we had a stroll through Oslo one last time and headed to the studio where they were practising.
It turned out they were better than we expected and it was a fun way to wile away my last couple of hours before it was time to head back to London (or what was left of it). I was also arriving home just in time to wish Rich a happy birthday and surprise him with a trip to Madrid, which you can read about in my next post.
Next up, I surprise Rich with a birthday trip to Madrid…