Chillin’ in Norway: Friends, Falls & Fjords (and Food, and Saunas, and Climbing, and Fishing…)!

I’ve mentioned my Spanish & Italian ancestry but not the other Big Daddy: Norwegian!

Why I mention these connections has a simple 2-answer:

  1. It entertains me greatly. (a.k.a. “Norwegians love coffee? I love coffee! What are the chances?!?”πŸ˜‚ If you can hear Phoebe saying that, then you know the tone!πŸ˜†)
  2. It does actually make me perk up a little more in these places and pay attention. (Because whether some of us like it or not, we’re affected by our DNA passed down and that’s just so interesting how the “nature/nurture/design” blended to impact us. Fascinating!)

Let’s start with 5 pretty pictures of Norway to inspire your own future trip! πŸ™‚

Now I can walk you through the BEST things we did, with some recommendations (not just what to do or where to go but what FOOD you need to try! πŸ™‚ ).

WHAT TO DO IN NORWAY:

You’ll most likely fly into Oslo, which is what we did.

(There are other spots you can fly to, especially if you’re coming from another spot in Europe, but we had friends near Oslo so that’s why we flew into that airport, but we departed from Bergen as you’ll see later…)

We rented an apartment in the city center and enjoyed a few days of exploring the MANY, MANY cute coffee shops (really, Norway did coffee shops better than anywhere else we saw!), the Botanic Gardens, and of course stopping at the most interesting playground for our kids (for our “Playgrounds of the World” coffee table book πŸ™‚ mwahaha).

Our friends also drove up to the city one day and we enjoyed a day at The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (a super cool open-air style “museum” that covered several acres) where the kids played for hours while we adults talked and caught up. She’s Norwegian but met her husband (and us) in New Zealand so many years ago, and this was the first time we’d seen each other since having kids!

Who knew stilts were such a part of Norwegian culture? We all had some good laughs, especially as the adults hopped on! It was so fun!

The museum says this open-air area has over 160 buildings from all over Norway going back to the Middle Ages!

Inside the old church…pretty amazing all wood!

After Oslo, we drove 1 1/2 hours down to Sandefjord, the town where our friends live, and stayed there for a few more days before heading inland.

One of THE highlights of the trip for me was half-jokingly begging my friend to go on a trip to the grocery store with me before we left, in order to show me all the traditional and/or typical Norwegian food she’d buy (or that she grew up on).

Meny is a well-stocked grocery store you’ll find easy to navigate when you’re there! πŸ˜‰

I’m always into jams and jellies, and was impressed with the large variety they seemed to have.

“Oh yes, we like our jams,” my friend nodded.

I’m not posting pics of EVERYTHING we looked/bought/laughed about in the store, but I do need to draw your attention to this interesting banana product.

And I’d also been forewarned by her husband to look for the bacon and shrimp “pastes” in tubes…

Yum…note the shrimp in the tube!

Now, as for the GOOD food you need to try, I will draw your attention to the top 3 products per my friend’s expert recommendations (she was spot on!):

Matt and I were eating this in the front seat as we drove for hours and I suddenly did NOT want to share with my kids! πŸ™‚ haha

Anything from “Stranda” is considered top-notch, and the above was so so good! We ate a lot of the fun things I bought that day as we drove hours and hours from the Sandefjord coast to more of the Norwegian “interior” (although I never felt like I was too far inland when we had fjords everywhere! I liked it! Sea + mountains!).

Now, let’s talk about the “brown cheese” or “brunost.” If there is ONE Norwegian food I believe you must try, it’s this.

What is it? ADDICTIVE.

And I had to look up why…because it’s not exactly “cheese”…

Also, these crackers below WITH the cheese: STOP IT! My mouth is watering…

Pause to send my Norwegian friend a text telling her I’m reliving these memories and that my mouth is watering, so let’s continue:

Picnic stop. We were here in summer so…just so you’re aware, even if you come here in the dead of summer, clouds can move in!
The good news was they’d been having a lot of rain recently so the waterfalls were INSANE!

We took SO many pictures of SO many different waterfalls just off the side of the road we were driving from Sandefjord up north…incredible.

When it clears up, it’s beautiful!

I really wanted to do the Via Ferrata near the famous Ringedalsvatnet Lake/Trolltunga hike, but it was far too intense and difficult for kids (plus I don’t think they allowed under age 15 even though we did wish they’d make an exception for my daughter who had done a good via ferrata with me in Scotland…but their gear didn’t even fit a 9-year-old so Matt told me to go alone and he’d stay home with girls).

Even though I wish I’d had Matt and the girls to share the memory with, I had a great time! My buddy was a German guy whose wife didn’t want to do it, so at least we were there to take pics of each other and prove we’d done it when we get old and grey(er).

As the photographer, I’m not in many of my family’s travel photos so you’d better believe I’m including proof I was in Norway! πŸ™‚ Yeah!

When we finally made it up to the top, the most beautiful alpine area up there had berries we snacked on (our guide was SUPER into scrounging for edible plants and talked to us at length about it).

The lovely house we were renting truly felt like home. Not only did our landlord lady and I get along super well (she was Norwegian but also loved Spain and had a house there, so we spoke Spanish to each other!), but we got into a groove there that just felt good.

The house was in an old original house on an apple farm, overlooking a fjord, and her husband would bring us cider that he’d made right there (both an adult version and a child version πŸ˜‰ )!

Thanks to my Norwegian friend, I was educated in the best way to prepare my morning coffee!

Mornings we usually spent going out in the boat (which our landlord let us use) and exploring all the different “fingers” of the fjords…

After a day or two there, we decided to buy poles so the girls could go fishing as well!

Lunchtime usually included our favorite Norwegian foods plus the farm’s apple cider.

Afternoons were spent with all of us (or sometimes just me) going into to the sauna and jumping out into the freezing fjord to swim for awhile! We’d be gone for 90 minutes to a couple hours doing this every day…probably no wonder we were feeling so happy here. πŸ™‚

Matt and I did still have to work when we weren’t out playing, but we fit it in and some late afternoons we’d walk down our hill so the girls could fish from the dock and we could take a break from work…

Norwegian fairy houses outside our front door.

Eventually we had to say goodbye to that “life” and head even further north to another spot we had chosen to explore.

Note: When you go to Norway and want to get there faster, you will need to take ferries! A lot of ferries!

The biggest consolation to our girls for having left “our Norwegian house” was staying in a place with a trampoline…

…and an old-fashioned hockey game they could play on the deck…

Yes, it got cold enough in summer that we had to light the fire a couple times!

The view was lovely but we still missed the daily groove of our first “home”…

We stayed here only about a week before heading west to Bergen.

Fish market and we of course had to try the highly-recommended place with reindeer sausages!

Yep, that says reindeer.

Next…

“What about the rest of Scandinavia?” you might be asking. Have no fear! Finland and Sweden (including Visby!) are coming up! More reindeer (this time alive), saunas, and a lot of new things!

In the meantime, if you missed the earlier places we lived in (or traveled to) in Europe, you’ll enjoy seeing

  1. living in the Azores
  2. Madeira
  3. The Canary Islands
  4. living in Sevilla, Spain
  5. Morocco
  6. living in the Scottish Highlands
  7. living in Austria for the summer
  8. Northern Italy
  9. …and more HERE! (includes our trips through South and East Africa!)

PS: Following these steps has enabled us to make our dreams a reality, create a home that worked FOR us (instead of the other way around)!

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