Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Love Is In The Air

Well, I think it's love anyway that has the seagulls in an uproar around here..  It's been a few mornings now that Jeff and I have been wakened by these ..umm.. beautiful sounds of nature, seemingly right outside our window.




This audio clip is close but doesn't quite capture the madness that happens around 5AM.  Someone should teach them some manners! In other news, we leave for London soon and couldn't be more excited for a quick getaway.  Hopefully our "neighbors" will have it all out of their system when we return, too!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New, New, New

I recently asked Jeff if he noticed a change in us since we moved to Norway.  I think he was surprised at the level of depth our conversation was going (it was 7AM after all) and sweetly said "You're prettier". Always knows how to think on his feet, that one.

It did get me thinking, though, and I've noticed something.  We don't shy away from "new" anymore.  Don't get me wrong, we still enjoy the routine of everyday life but instead of going back to the same recipes, same entertainment, even the same grocery stores, we get excited about the challenge of something new.  This has probably come out of necessity since we run into something "new" on a daily basis - one of the many circumstances of moving to a foreign country.  I'm just glad we have come to embrace it.

So, what was new today?  Here are a few snapshots!


Homemade blueberry muffins thanks to Jeff and Betty Crocker accompanied by yummy coffee made by our French press (a little more effort for a cup of coffee but more fun AND more economical since electric coffee makers sold here cost $300+).

It was such a sunny day that we also decided to drive to the beach!  Obviously still too cold (and windy) for a typical beach day.  Or will my definition of "typical" be changing... only time will tell.  Can't beat that beautiful clear, blue sea though.






We've grown accustomed to seeing sheep farms versus cattle farms here in Norway. But nothing could prepare me for the cuteness of this little lamb. I almost hopped the fence to whisk him away..


Newest recipe - Madras Chicken Curry.  Found some curry powder at an ethnic store and thought I'd try it out.  After some internet searching, I mixed and matched some recipes and it turned out great! An added bonus: this may curb our cravings for the Tandoori Indian restaurant in the sentrum where Tikka Masala runs about $50 per plate (oh but it's gooood).


Hope you all had a great Sunday too! And for you friends in Tornado Alley, we were thinking about you this weekend and hope you are all safe.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Preikestolen

In Norway, the Thursday, Friday, and Monday surrounding Easter are public holidays.  Very few shops are open and most people are traveling to visit their families. Flights and hotels were more expensive over this time period so we decided to stay around Stavanger.   It's rare that we have this much time off work with nothing planned and we definitely took advantage of it.  Thursday was a completely unproductive, lazy, not-even-worth-fixing-my-hair-or-putting-on-real-clothes day.  Oh how I love those every now and then.  

Turns out, our day of rest was needed because we spontaneously decided to hike Preikestolen the next day.  Our friend, Leif Christian, was around for the weekend and he was eager to come along.  Jeff and I would have been capable of making this hike on our own but it really is comforting (and fun!) to have Leif Christian as our "Norwegian Guide" as proven on our last hike.  Now, we know exactly where to catch the Stavanger ferry to Tau and how to make the short drive to the parking lot where the hike starts.  I was also able to practice my Norsk on him, which I'm sure he appreciated :)  The only thing missing was his lovely wife, Therese, who was visiting family up North.  Next time, though!


Because the hike starts at 270 moh (acronym for meters above sea level in Norwegian), I was already impressed by the views just 10 minutes into the hike.  But Preikestolen is 604 moh so we had more ground to cover. Onward and upward!


Before actually going on these hikes, I would wonder how on earth I would know where the trail was.  Norway, with its penchant for getting people outside, takes most of the guesswork out of this while still allowing room to explore.  Each season, a network of volunteers scours the country and marks trails with red T's along the most desirable route.  Hundreds and hundreds of trails.  That's dedication!  My last question is... what do we do if it snows?...  Bring Leif Christian!  


I had also read on sites like TripAdvisor that there were complaints about the lack of safety features (railings, paved trails etc) and was anxious to form my own opinion.  What I found was that even as a major tourist attraction, Preikestolen has not lost its fundamental draw - that it is nature. Wild, rocky, hilly, steep nature.  It's true that there are no railings to keep you from falling off the very top or along the trails which I think just serves as a reminder that nature isn't to be trifled with.  Get too close to the edge, you might fall. It's actually pretty humbling.


After two hours of semi-strenuous hiking (made more difficult by the surprise snowfall the night before) we made it.  And there really are no words.





What we learned: pack layers for every occasion (or bring options in the car) because the weather can change/vary just in one hike.  Start the hike early so that you are one of the only ones at the top.  Also, a hot drink like coffee is the perfect treat once you make it to the top.  Now, I just need a Thermos.




 This is a MUST for visitors to Norway!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

On Holiday: The Netherlands and Belgium

When our household items were delayed back in January and we were unable to move into our house, there were a few weeks that we really didn't have much to do.  We had already made a weekend trip to Bergen and there was so much snow that local travel was out of the question in our rental car. We (I) were on the verge of becoming whiny when Jeff had a brilliant idea (he's prone to these epiphanies) - let's plan our first European trip!  So, we did. 

First, we decided to go at the end of March since the weather had better chances of being decent (relative to Norway) and our move would for sure be finalized.  Then the fun part - where?!  I knew March wouldn't be the ideal time to go to many places in central Europe so we focused more on urban locations where the biggest draw would be the city.  Finally, it was decided - Amsterdam and Brussels! 



We really lucked out with weather - sunny, clear skies the entire time and only cold enough for a heavier jacket at night.  I hadn't dared go outside without my down parka for the past two months so this was a real treat! The only downside was that I now had to pay attention to what I was wearing since it wouldn't be hidden underneath a puffy coat.  Give a little, take a little.


Amsterdam was probably my favorite of the 4 cities we visited on this trip.  I loved the mix of canals, cafes, cyclists, and boats.  Everyone was very friendly, too, unless you stepped in the bike line. Do NOT step in the bike lane.  Jeff did and luckily he survived to tell the tale.


We ate at some great places in Amsterdam, too - Seasons, Envy, Pancakes Amsterdam, and Kantjil en deTijgre to name a few.  I can promise that we never went hungry.  We didn't have the courage to try a pickled herring sandwich, though... I think I'm okay with that.



One quick train ride from Amsterdam and we were in Belgium.  Our base was Brussels but we spent our first day in Ghent which is just 30 minutes outside of the city.  Our friend, Brittany, recommended we go and we are so glad we did!   Everything worth seeing is in one compact center so we just wandered the streets and referenced our handy Rick Steves guide book every now and then.


We spent our next full day in Bruges, another city center stuck in Medieval times.    This town has more tourists which has been noted as one of the negatives of seeing this city, but it didn't take away from our experience at all! Between the fantastic beer (do they brew a bad beer in Belgium?), taste-testing different chocolates, and the piping hot frites all set against a picturesque backdrop of spires and canals, how could one complain?



We wandered around Brussels on our last day and followed a Rick Steves city walk through the upper and lower towns.  The Grand Place is named appropriately and the tiny Mannekin Pis dressed up for us that day. 



Thank you Holland and Belgium for a wonderful first holiday!