I’ve not written for a while…my apologies. Things have been a bit busy, and I’m finally feeling the effects of it. In other words, I am sitting in my bed attempting to recover from a cold. Alas, there is still much to be done, but thankfully I can do most from my computer.
After finishing classes on December 4, I had a fun day with my friend Rachel. We walked her collie, Archie, in the park and then headed to her home for tea and freshly baked scones and leek and potato soup. The next morning, I got together with my international friends for a final hurrah before they left for home. We took a trip down to Belfast for ice-skating and the Christmas markets. I’d not ice-skated for ages, and it was a lovely time. On Sunday, Dori, Diana and I enjoyed coffee together after church and Diana bought be a miniature poinsettia to brighten up my room for Christmas.
On Monday morning, I packed my bags for the big trip to Edinburgh and Oslo. I would leave Tuesday afternoon to connect with Cara in Dublin for our 6:30 flight. However, in reviewing my boarding pass, I noticed that my flight said 6:30. Knowing that RyanAir uses military time, I realized that my flight was 6:30 am, not pm! This, of course, would mean that I would need to be in Dublin by 4:30 am…also meaning that I’d need to take the midnight bus. Mentioning this to Cara, we discovered that she had purchased the 18:30 flight we discussed. I’d been confused and purchased the wrong flight. Oh well. I spent Monday evening in Diana’s lovely new flat, where we had coffee, gingerbread and listened to worship songs. Then, at 11:30 pm, I headed to the bus station. Although this mix-up seemed to be a bother at first, I was quite glad when I arrived in Edinburgh at 8:30. It gave me a whole other day to see the city! My friend Anna met me at the bus stop and she took me to Kilimanjaro, her favorite breakfast cafe. Called “the ‘shroom,” my delicious meal consisted of poached eggs, cheddar, spinach and mushrooms on hearty toast. From there, Anna walked me through the city to her dorm, where I deposited my belongings. Then I set off to explore the city. My friend Krystyn lived there for 8 months when she interned at the Scottish Parliament. She’d given me a list of spots to visit.
I started with the Royal Mile, a central street which begins at Edinburgh Castle and ends at the Scottish Parliament. So, I headed toward the latter and decided to climb Arthur’s Seat, the large ridge outside of the city, before visiting the Parliament. It was a blustery day, but by the time I’d reached the top of the peak, I’d was in wind the likes of which I’d never experienced…much worse than the tropical storm I’d experienced in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was exhilarating to say the least! The view was magnificent as well. After my hike, I was quite flushed and windswept and therefore appreciative of the warmth of the Parliament building, where I sat in on a meeting.
Afterwards, I headed back up the Royal Mile, passing many kilt, fudge and whisky shops. Along the way, I stopped in a few museums free to the public and learned a bit about the history of the city. At the end of the mile, I viewed the majestic Edinburgh Castle, which sits at the very top of a large crag and overlooks the city. Then, I made my way down the hill to visit the Christmas markets. Later that evening, I met Cara at the bus stop and took her back to Anna’s dorm. Unfortunately, a cold downpour had started, so we were heart glad to get back to shelter!
After a long night’s sleep, Cara and I woke and explored a bit more of the city. In the afternoon, we meet Anna at the Elephant House, a cafe where J.K. Rowling penned some of her famous Harry Potter Books. From there, we saw the castle again and visited (but did not tour) Mary King’s Close, an underground part of the city. We then enjoyed a Thai meal and headed back to Anna’s place. The next morning, we woke to blustery snow. You can imagine we were rather slow at getting up and heading out. The walk from Anna’s place to the city centre is over a mile, and it was quite unpleasant. Snow was blowing in our faces and the sidewalk was slippery. We finally made it to the mall, where we thawed before catching our bus to the airport.
Our flight arrived in Oslo around 4 pm. Although it was cold, the weather was clear, making it highly better than Edinburgh. Oslo is quite the busy, metropolitan city. It was beautiful at night with many lights gilding the buildings. Cara and I went spent the couple hours before meeting our couchsurfing host in the Oslo City mall. We bought some groceries and struggled a bit with conversion between NOK (Norwegian Krons) and USD. There is a 7 to 1 ratio between them, so a coffee would cost you between 20 and 40 NOK! Then we sat in Starbucks to consume our makeshift meal. At 10:20, we met our host, Aase, and she drove us to her home 10 minutes outside of the city. She is about my age and works with mentally disabled people. She hopes to earn her degree in psychology soon. When we arrived at her place, we discussed plans for the next day. We wanted to see some fjords while in Norway, but found that the train to Bergen would be quite expensive. Aase recommended that we consider a flight on Norwegian Air to Aalesund, her favorite city. Here brother lived there and she asked him to show us around. So, less than 12 hours before the flight left, Cara and I purchased very reasonably priced tickets to Aalesund. We went to bed at 1:30 am and awakened at 5 am to head there! When we arrived in the adorable city, we walked around for a while before seeing the gorgeous sunrise (at 10 am!) Then we explored the city, bedecked with lights and stars for Christmas. We hiked the big hill which overlooks the city and exclaimed in awe at the snow covered peaks and beautiful scenery beneath us. Then, we met Albert, Aase’s brother, who drove us to the peak of the hill, where the view was breathtaking. He then took us to a lovely lighthouse, where we walked along the shore. During the journey between sites, we drove through tunnels underneath the sea. When it was time to return to the airport, Albert drove us back and we caught our flight back to Oslo. Aase had left us some tacos and after eating, we headed to bed.
The next morning, we slept late before heading out to the Norwegian folk museum. We caught the wrong bus and wasted some time, but we finally made it to the site around 1 pm. What fun it was! We toured the extensive grounds, seeing old Norse buildings. We participated in a carol service in an old Stave Church, enjoyed hot coffee and mulled juice in the brisk air while watching children folk dancing. We watched beer being brewed in an old farmhouse and tasted home the result. We watched bakers, heard a boys’ choir and toured the various market stalls selling their wares. What a lovely day! However, when the sun set at 4 pm, it got quite frigid. We bussed back to the city centre and walked through the Christmas Markets, where we sampled Reindeer meat. Then, we walked the walls of the Akershus Fortress, a WWII era structure that houses the Norwegian Resistance Museum. We did wish we had more time. There is so much to see in Oslo! We wanted to visit the Viking Ship Museum, but in winter, most sites close early.
When we got back to Aase’s flat, she had some shrimp on toast for us. It is a classic Norwegian meal, and it was quite good! She, her mother, Cara and I then enjoyed watching a murder mystery before we went to sleep.
It was quite the trip, and I enjoyed it immensely! I’d love to visit Norway again in the summer. Who knows what the future holds….