Last day of this trip & Closing thoughts

 Considering that I only had about 1/2 a day to complete my time in Oslo, I was pretty productive. It certainly helped that it was another beautiful day! After breakfast, finishing up yesterday’s blog, and actually falling asleep again (because I woke up around 5:30), I went out to explore the Akershus Fortress at the recommendation of my host. On the way there, I stopped by Joe and the Juice, a juice and coffee bar that I’ve seen since I was in Reykjavik. I got a juice that I believe was called Joe’s Green Kiss. I had freshly squeezed spinach, apple, and ginger. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to try it before leaving Scandinavia. Yum!

Akershus was a short walk from there, and it is an old fortress area between Aker Brygge and the Opera House. There are many buildings to see and a nice view of the port, although the place wasn’t actually open when I was there. It was a nice place to walk around and take some photos, anyway. I thought I might go into the Visitor’s Center, which had some sort of exhibit, at 10:00, but when it wasn’t open at 10:03, I left.

      

I decided to just wander around the main shopping area, which is basically like wandering around 34th street in NYC. I went into Steen & Strøm, Oslo’s equivalent to Macy’s or one of the major stores in London. It is a very nice store, and of course, I was interested in their food court on the bottom level. They have several very nice establishments down there, including a sushi place called Jonathan! It must be good! They also had a Marks & Spencer (or M&S), a store I always enjoy in London. The Scandinavian people seem to have an obsession with stuff in tubes. When I was at Anne-Helene’s in Bergen, she served me caviar in a tube, but they have several varieties of tubular goo. Here they had BaconOst, SkinkeOst (ham), and BBQ Chicken Ost. The caviar at breakfast was supposed to be eaten with the soft boiled egg. Not sure of the use of all of this stuff, but I can imagine that it would go on toast. Using Google Translate, I found out that “ost” is cheese, so Bacon Cheese, Ham Cheese, BBQ Chicken Cheese…hmmm….

  

I went in several other stores, which I always enjoy since it just gives a good feel for the culture of the area. I noticed a lot of book stores everywhere I was on this trip, so I went in two today. I was most excited by, and tempted to buy, a 48 CD collection of Ella Fitzgerald because it was pretty inexpensive. It must be all of her recordings! I resisted, hoping that I could either find it at home or find the recordings that I want on vinyl.

Eventually, I made it to where i was planning to have lunch, which was Fiskeriet Youngstorget, a fish market and restaurant. When I got there, I noticed an outdoor area with some vendors setting up in the plaza nearby, including some food vendors, as well as a random assortment of vendors selling things like records and DVDs. I flipped through the records a bit but didn’t feel terribly inspired to buy anything. I went ahead and went to get my lunch. Considering the ridiculous eating I’ve done lately, I wanted something on the lighter side. What I had been considering all along was fish soup, which is apparently something very common in Norway. Bacalao is another thing they have often, and I was truly torn about what to order. Even worse, once I went ahead and ordered the fish soup, I noticed that they had salads ready to go, which is  less expensive than eating in. Oh well, I had chosen the fish soup, and I was happy with my decision. It was delicious and a good last meal in Oslo.

    

I walked through the rest of the building where Fiskeriet was, which houses a theatre, in addition to several other restaurants. I came across one of the oddest statues I’ve seen anywhere. Maybe it was in front of a dance center of some sort? I also thought I should point out the use of of firs on chairs in all of Norway. I’m not sure of the point, but many restaurants have firs draped over the backs of chairs. They also often have blankets available at places with outdoor seating. They sell these things at Ikea, so it might be an interesting thing to do in the USA.

  

I got back to the apartment and gathered my belongings. I weighed them on the scale in the bathroom first to be sure that I wasn’t over Norwegian Airline’s limit. I was just under. I was carrying more in the suitcase this time and less in the backpack. I took the airport shuttle train from the central station, which really is the most convenient airport shuttle ever. It costs around $23, I think and takes about 20 minutes from the center of the city directly to the airport terminal.

I had plenty of time to spare in the airport, especially since check-in and security were both extremely easy, so I wandered around some of the shops and bought a piece of chocolate and a refrigerator magnet with my remaining Norwegian Kroner. For certain flights, including flights to the US, as well as one on Qatar Airlines (probably all non-EU flights), there was another checkpoint to go through to stamp passports. Woo hoo, another country stamped in the passport!

  Rolls Royce engine. Not too shabby!  

Boarding the flight was easy, and I once again had seat with good legroom in the front of the plane. This time, it would be particularly important since this is about a 9 hour flight to Fort Lauderdale! Watching people as they board a plane is always an interesting event, and I got to see many of them, including the lady who sat in then window seat on my row. She was wearing a Versace fur stoll. I couldn’t tell if she was American and from the Palm Beach area or if she was European. Later on, after we took off just a few minutes late, she didn’t have any headphones for the entertainment system on the flight. They cost $3 to purchase, and she had some cash in her hand. She eventually got a flight attendant’s attention and told her that she had lost her purse in a taxi earlier that day so all she had was cash. Fortunately the flight attendant was able to give her a headset to use, although the only form of payment they accept is credit cards. 

Meals had to be pre-ordered on this flight, so I hope this lady didn’t need anything to eat for a while. They announced that after the main meal service, there would be a snack served to everyone before landing. I had ordered a gluten-free meal, not that the meals are usually a problem on flights, but I kind of wanted to see what was served. I got some sort of chicken with broccoli & rice, along with a salad and 2 small cinnamon roll things. I think that instead of being specifically gluten free, the meal was completely free of anything that would cause anyone an adverser reaction, such as salt, dairy, etc. It was not very good, but a bit of salt helped.

I began eating my salad and took one bite along with a spicy olive that was in it. Then I noticed what I first thought was a piece of dill. It moved. Out crawled what was attached to the antenna—a very live bug. I put the lid on the salad and rang for a flight attendant. They were busy serving everyone else, so they didn’t get to me until they were finished. Oddly, the flight attendant wasn’t horrified. She just kind of laughed and said she would see if she could find me something else. She came back with two options. The one I chose was some raw carrots and cauliflower with a curry dip. It was probably better than the salad anyway. The cinnamon roll things were OK, but I was jealous when I saw someone behind me eating ice cream. You live & learn.

Two men sitting next to me were laughing and enjoying themselves—laughing and talking—and they ordered some wine (3 small bottles each). They tried to order more wine, and the flight attendants cut them off. I don’t believe that the wine was causing them to be loud—they were just having fun. A bit later, one of the men asked a flight attendant why they couldn’t get the other wine they ordered, and they were told that in another hour they could get more. The man said that he hadn’t seen the other man for 25 years and that was why they were a bit rowdy. That conversation continued for a while off & on, and I got pretty annoyed with it, especially since the flight attendants started giving them a lot of water, meanwhile it was like the Sahara for everyone else!

Oh, and I watched “The Imitation Game,” which I had been wanting to see. Great movie! Later on I watched “Darjeeling Limited” and most of “Horrible Bosses,” in addition to a great episode of “Mr. Selfridge.” It was a long flight!

Overall it was a pretty good flight, and there was a beautiful sunset as we arrived in Fort Lauderdale. My legs were getting a bit restless by the end. When they served the snack, I was ready for it. It was a small sandwich with yogurt and apple juice. It was actually just what I needed to make it through the rest of the flight and customs & immigration. At some point, the fancy lady next to me was talking with a flight attendant and told her that she was on her way to Naples, FL to see her boyfriend/fiancee. She seemed to have a French accent. The 2 rowdy men nearby settled down for a while, and I think the flight attendants gave them free wine, which I found pretty annoying!

Arrival in Fort Lauderdale could use some improvement. First of all, you have to load a bus that takes you to the gate. Then, there were only two baggage carousels for all of the international flights arriving. To make this “work,” they clear the carousel and put the baggage from the previous flight in the middle of the floor so that the bags from the latest flight can load. It was a mad house, and apparently two or three huge flights had just arrived as well. They only had three people for the final customs check for all of these people, so after waiting about 30 minutes for my bag, it took at least 30 minutes to get through the final line.

I requested an Uber to pick me up, and my driver was great. It took him a while to get there because of the traffic from the other five million people who were waiting for rides. The place I was staying, another Airbnb place, was just a few miles from the airport, and it was easy to get to. The host had left a key under the door mat for me. As I entered, I realized this was the least nice place I’ve stayed from Airbnb. I know this area is really expensive to live, so having a nice place isn’t easy. I couldn’t figure out how to turn on a light to begin, and once I did, I saw that things were just a bit messy. It wasn’t necessarily dirty—just messy. The room I would be staying in was nice and neat, so I put my things down, got some water, and went to the Publix to find something for breakfast.

I got a cobb salad. Yes, a cobb salad for breakfast, but it has bacon, eggs, and avocado, and it’s low carb. It’s my best attempt at getting back to my normal eating ASAP. As you might imagine, I was exhausted, so about as soon as I got back and got slightly settled (around 10:30), I was ready for bed. I slept pretty well considering everything. I woke at 3:30, 4:30, and 5:30, then finally got up a little after 6:00. I think this is a good start to recovery from jet lag and the trip.

Now I’m just waiting for the final leg of this amazing trip, which will be a flight from FLL-ATL at 11:45!

  Great day to go to the beach!!

A few thoughts to sum up the trip:

-Scandinavian people are very nice. I think that being rude is something that they just don’t do. If you’ve experienced Americans of Scandinavian descent are from Minnesota or Wisconsin, you probably understand this.

-They’re happy to speak English and have to learn it in school. Someone actually told me that they don’t have any delusions that everyone should speak their language (like in certain countries). I usually catch on to some amount of a language when I visit a country, but it was really hard for me to grasp. If I had a diction book, it would help my brain to process the written and spoken language. If it doesn’t exist, well, maybe I’ll have to write it!

-Scandinavians love licorice. The candy aisles consist mainly of different varieties of licorice, covered in chocolate, candy coated, different fruit flavors, etc. I don’t get it.

-The water is really good in these countries. In Iceland, there’s a slight sulphur smell sometimes, but the water in Norway is great!

-If you love seafood, as I do, any of these countries are great to visit!

-It’s bloody expensive in Norway, especially. I way overspent on food, and now I’ve got to let my bank account recover!

-Unlike in other European countries, you don’t necessarily come across Norwegian, Danish, or Icelandic restaurants on every corner. They all have their traditional foods, obviously, but it seems that the natives enjoy eating other food just as much. You might find a traditional dish on a menu with other things, like Norwegian fish soup at a place that serves sushi, but you have to seek out a restaurant that serves purely local, traditional foods.

I definitely want to go back–especially to Iceland. I just don’t feel like I allowed enough time there. I need about 2 or 3 days to see more of the nature outside of Reykjavik. It’s so cheap to fly there, it could happen!

There are gypsies in Oslo!

  Yesterday was pretty much taken over by travel. I had to be at Reykjavik City Hall at 9:00 to leave for the airport. I was picked up by a small bus that would wind its way through the narrow city streets picking up quite a few passengers to take us all to the bus station. At the bus station, we got on the larger bus that took us all to the airport. They were quite prompt and left at 9:31. We were told that the ride would take about 50 minutes, and we were pulling into the airport at 10:21.

 
 It’s a good thing we were on time, because the line to check bags with Norwegian Air was quite long. It moved pretty quickly, though, and probably took about 30 minutes. Somehow, the security line was extremely short and quick! I had planned to buy lunch on the plane, because it seemed that they had some decent options. However, an announcement was made that our flight had “low catering,” so we should buy food in the airport to eat. I found a chef salad and a bar made of dates, rice crispies, butter, and chocolate.

Once again, I was in the front of the plane (aisle seat on the 1st row), because I paid a little extra for extra leg room. A guy asked if I would trade seats with him (middle seat in the 3rd row) so that he could sit by his girlfriend. Obviously, I had to disappoint him. However, the window seat in our row was available, so the couple got to sit together after all.

  The flight was about 2.5 hours and completely uneventful. When we arrived at Oslo Airport, I was first off the plane, but when I got to the end of the ramp off the plane, the door was locked! I have no idea why it was locked, but it opened after a few minutes. This was a much busier airport than Reykjavik! On the way to baggage claim, just like in Reykjavik, you go through the duty free shop before you get your bag. Duty free is serious business in Skandinavia! From what I understand, it’s because taxes are so high on alcohol sales (and chocolate & perfume, I suppose).

My bag was ready for me soon after arriving at the carousel, and I found the express train to Oslo. In order to take the train, you simply swipe your credit card at the gate and press a button telling your destination. So simple! As I arrived at track 3, the train was leaving! However, the next one showed up in about 5 minutes. It was quite posh, and it had a charger for the phone! It was a nice 20 minute ride to Oslo with some beautiful views of the countryside.  

  My house in Oslo is described as “great room close to central station.” OK, sounds great! In the grand scheme of things, it is close–less than 2 K–but it’s mostly uphill. Also, it was drizzling occasionally. For a few minutes, I did not like Oslo! As I passed the Oslo Hospital, which Ole (my host) described as a church in his directions, a group of gypsy women were standing outside. One of them smiled at me, and I kept walking. This just brought back memories of when my computer was stolen in Prague–supposedly by gypsies. I’m sure they can’t get into Ole’s house as easily as they got into Hotel Kafka in Prague! I’m sure these are nice gypsies, anyway!

Once I found Ole’s apartment, I got my key from the lock box by the door, and helped myself to my room. It’s nice and simple with Ikea furniture, as one might expect. Basically, this apartment is two rooms separated by a kitchen and bathroom–a pretty nice layout, actually. Ole showed up a few minutes later and was very nice and happy to answer my questions. I told him the walk was farther than I expected but that the exercise was good, and I asked how to buy a bus ticket. He said I could do that at the grocery store.

After a bit of rest, I went down to the grocery store, where I bough eggs, plums, and spinach for breakfast, along with my bus ticket. I put the food away and went off to find the bus, which would take me to opera night at the Underwater Pub. Somehow I found out online that every Tuesday and Thursday, singers from the Oslo Opera and the opera school sing there. My walk to the bus stop was through a cemetery. The sun was coming out after a rainy day, so the light was great. I love how the good weather follows me! 

    I arrived at The Underwater Pub at around 8:15 and asked the bartender how it all works. He was very friendly and helpful and explained that they have menus from three takeout places, and at the upstairs bar, you can place an order for food from one of them. You pay them, they call, and the food is delivered to your table. That’s a great thing! I ordered Penang Curry, sat down at his bar, which had a great view of where the singers would be, and ordered a glass of wine, which was on tap there.

I thought the singing was supposed to begin around 8:15, but I must done my math wrong when translating from 24-hr time. That gave me time to eat my food, which was delicious! The guy had assured me that the chef at the Thai place was very serious about his food, and he was right. You could tell that the vegetables were beautifully julienned–and it tasted great! 

 Finally, at around 9:15 the singing started. A man, who I believe was the owner of the place, announced the singers and what they would be singing. All I understood was that I would be hearing ‘Questa o quella” by Verdi, as well as “Non so piu” and “In diesem heilgen Halle” by Mozart. Sounds good. The tenor started with “Questa o quella,” and he was fantastic. I really liked the way he sang–very simple and easy–which is saying a lot! I don’t usually enjoy tenors! The mezzo sang “Non so piu.” She was very good, although there was something odd about her voice, but she was a great actress. Then, the bass sang his aria, which was also very good.  That was the end of that set. The break between sets is quite long, and I decided that I would stay for just one more so that I would get home before midnight. The second set was also very good. It was the same singers singing different arias. The mezzo sang an aria from Carmen, and the tenor sang some great aria that I do not know. I recorded about 10 seconds of it hoping someone can help me figure it out! 

        I got directions back to the apartment before I left. This time I took tram #18, which took my through what seemed to be some of the main parts of town. I made note of a few places I would  like to visit. The tram dropped me off at Oslo Hospital. I walked by the gypsies again and made it safely home!