The Norway Diaries - Part One

Lance and I recently had the opportunity to spend two and a half weeks in Norway.  We had two main goals for our trip – see/meet his family and see the country – and I’m happy to say that we completed both goals with great success!  I’ll be sharing the tales of our travels with you in chronological order and there will even be pictures of food.

This post recounts May 14th to the 21st. 

May 14 Leaving on a Jet Plane
Lance and I left in the afternoon on the 14th.  It was an 8 hour flight from IAD to AMS followed by a 4 hour layover in AMS before a 2 hour flight to OSL.  International flights actually involve quite a lot of food, but I didn’t take pictures of any of it.  The highlight of the flight, at least for me, was the ginger ale made with sugar instead of HFCS. 

Once we got to AMS, we had a nice lunch at a Mediterranean sandwich place.  My sandwich was smoked salmon and a sign of things to come.  I ate a whole lot of smoked salmon on this trip.  Lance had a chicken sandwich. 

I really like the sandwiches we had on our trip and I wish I had thought to take pictures of them.  They were on long, thin rolls, sort of like baguettes, and panini-pressed.  As a result, they had grill lines and a nice, crisp exterior.  Most of the ones we had were chicken with some sort of pesto-type sauce.  Delicious. 

May 15 Strømmen
We arrived in OSL on the 15th and Lance’s mom picked us up from the airport after we successfully made it through customs.  We were whisked away to Lance’s parents’ house and I got my first glimpses of Norway.  The road between the airport and Strømmen has lots of farmland, so it felt quite a bit like home just with more roundabouts. 

Once we got to the house, had a tour, and spent some time catching up with Lance’s mom, the two of us headed into town.  The house is a few blocks away from the town, the bus station, and the train station, so it’s at a great location – walking distance to everything.  I’ve never lived anywhere that has been walking distance to anything!  We walked briefly around the local mall to try to get a sim card for our old iPhone before checking out the grocery store.  I took my first picture of this box of frozen whale steaks.  We also picked up a package of horse sausage, something I’d been interested in trying for a while, before heading back to the house. 

whale steaks

Shortly after getting back, Lance’s dad arrived home and we feasted on Lance’s favorite stroganoff which is made with strips of beef and a red sauce.  I have a recipe that’s sort of similar, but his mom’s version is a bit different.  Sadly, she’s one of those amazing cooks who doesn’t use (recipes.  I envy people like her!  We stayed up and chatted with Lance’s parents for a bit and I went to bed super early.  I can’t sleep on planes, so I was exhausted.  I slept for about 12 hours straight, best sleep I’d had in months. 

May 16 Oslo
After a good night of sleep, and a lovely breakfast of eggs, meats, and breads, Lance and his dad headed back to the mall to get the sim card for the phone.  Then the four of us headed into Oslo for a day of sightseeing.  We took the bus into the main terminal in the city and then, aside from a quick tram ride, we walked.

opera house

We started off at the Opera House which is a fantastic modern building with a flat roof that you can walk all over. 


From there we headed to Parliament,


the Palace,

fort america

and the American Embassy.


Then we went to one of the places I was most looking forward to seeing – Vigeland Park!  It was super impressive.  Vigeland was a master of bronze casting as well as stone carving. 


After the park we wandered back to the bus terminal via a few other sites such as the courthouse

Then it was just a short bus trip home for a fantastic “Christmas Dinner.”  The meal consisted of some sort of (mostly) boneless pork ribs, sausage, meatballs, boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam, sauerkraut, and gravy.  It was all delicious and homemade.  Super enjoyable and a great end to the day. 

You can view all the pictures from the day here

May 17 Oslo
This is an important day of the year for Norwegians – Constitution Day!  Schools throughout the country have children’s parades to celebrate and many people dress up in traditional dress (Bunad) to celebrate.  Since we were close to Oslo, we got to go into the city to see the celebration.  Lance’s dad drove us into the city and we spent the day with him watching the parade while Lance’s mom stayed home and prepared for the feast and party to follow.


The crowds of the day were quite a change from the calm of the day before. 


We even had a view of the royal family in front of the palace!

some meats

Once the parade wrapped up we headed back to the house via metro and car, then the party began!  Company started arriving and I met all of Lance’s family in one fell swoop – Lance’s brother and his partner, Lance’s sister, her partner, and their three children, and Lance’s godparents.  Everyone was fantastic and super welcoming to both of us.  We had a delicious smorgasbord of cold meats, bread, lots of salmon,


and wonderful desserts. 

You can view all the pictures from the day, including more food pictures, here

May 18 Holmenkollbakken, Viking Ship Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum
On the 18th, Lance’s parents were kind enough to drive us around the area near Oslo.  We went to visit the area that Lance grew up in which was a pretty great little community complete with store and school.  His parents were fantastic tour guides and it was neat to see where Lance spent his youth.

ski jump

From there, we visited the first of two ski jumps for the trip – Holmenkollbakken.  It has hosted the Olympics as well as many other tournaments. 

Viking Ships

Then we drove to the Viking Ship Museum!  Apparently there have been talks to move this museum, but the ships would crumble if an attempt were made to move them.  I was very impressed by the level of detail in the carving that is still visible today. 

kon tiki

After the Viking Ships, we visited the Kon-Tiki Museum.  It has vessels from the Kon-Tiki expedition and was quite fascinating and inspiring. 

Once back at the house we had a dinner of leftovers from the previous day’s party.  I was forced to finish off the salmon.  Poor me! 

You can view all the pictures from the day here.  (It seems like the more pictures I have on a day, the less I have to say about it.  I guess pictures really do speak a thousand words.) 

May 19 Cabin, Lillehammer
Lance’s parents own a cabin that’s about a two hour drive away from their house.  It was built by Lance’s grandpa back before there were roads to the area, so he had to float the materials in by boat.  It was cozy and lovely.  We spent a few hours there and had a picnic lunch. 


The view from the deck was stellar.


After lunch we headed over to Lillehammer and saw another ski jump!  This one even had an Olympic Torch. 

Lance’s mom made us delicious spaghetti for dinner.  Yum.  Then we packed up everything to be ready for our train ride the next day. 

You can view all the pictures from the day here

May 20 Train to Bergen
Lance’s dad dropped us, and our bags, off at the train station so we could catch a ride to Bergen.  Lance had gotten us first class tickets so we had great seats with plenty of leg room and endless free hot chocolate.  The trip was about 8 hours long and I took a ton of pictures. 


Most of them look like this.


But some of them look like Hoth, because this is where Hoth was filmed. 

We saw tons of beautiful scenery and it was an easy trip and fun way to cross the country on the way to Bergen.  Once we got to Bergen it was about a 10 block walk from the terminal to the hotel, all uphill.  All of Bergen is uphill, regardless of where you’re walking to and from.  This is because the city is between seven mountains.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  My leg muscles were pretty happy for a break once we got to the hotel. 

After settling in, we went to dinner at a local place called Zupperia that was recommended to us by hotel reception.


I had a delicious stag steak with veggies and rice.


Lance had chicken skewers.  All of our food was scrumptious and enjoyable. 

You can view all the pictures from the day here

May 21 Bergen


After a good night of sleep, we had breakfast at the hotel.  Most of our breakfasts in Norway were fairly simple – meats and/or eggs and breads.


We stowed our bags in the bag check room and then wandered around Bergen during the day.  We started off at the fish market, and then went up in the Fløibanen which is a funicular to Fløyen.  I’d never been in a funicular before, nor had I even heard the word before!  We had amazing views of the city from the top of the mountain. 

cable car

After that, we went to Ulriksbanen and took the cable car to the top of Ulriken, another mountain.  Ulriken is about twice as high as Fløyen, so we had even more amazing views of the city. 


Once back in the city we did a little bit of gift shopping before heading over to the Hurtigruten terminal to check it out.  Since we still had a little bit of time to kill, and needed to get our bags, we went back to the hotel to take advantage of the free internet before it was time to board our ship, the Vesterålen.


After we were able to board we checked out our cabin, unpacked a bit, and had our first dinner on ship.  This was a buffet and had free seating.  Then it was time to watch the ship leave port at Bergen and attend a meeting with our tour guide, Egbert, to tell us about the ship and the excursions offered. 

I should probably explain a bit about the whole ship thing.  We had initially planned on seeing the country like Americans – from a car.  However, many months out, Lance mentioned this plan to his parents and they convinced us that Norwegian roads are horrible and we shouldn’t subject ourselves to them.  They suggested that we book passage on the Hurtigruten instead. 

Now I’m not a huge fan of ships, oceans, or sharks but I felt it would be okay as we would always be able to see the shore.  Having never been on a ship for more than a trip around Annapolis, I also made sure we had Dramamine.  Just in case. 

The Hurtigruten isn’t like a cruise ship, as Egbert was happy to tell us.  There would be no karaoke. Instead, we would have lots of beautiful scenery, many ports, and excursions available daily.  The Hurtigruten is sort of like a cargo ship that just happens to have cabins for people as well.  It stops in a number of ports each day, most for no more than 45 minutes, and has a longer stop each day in a major city.  

Our meeting the first day briefed us on the rules of the ship and told us about how booking excursions would work.  We had booked three excursions prior to boarding, but I’ll get to those on the day they happened.  We also received a copy of a book written about the Hurtigruten experience and Egbert told us our experience would be enhanced by reading it cover to cover.  I tried, but ended up just skimming it and then using it as a reference as needed. 

You can view all the pictures from the day here.

Continue with The Norway Diaries - Part Two.