Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Norway

The beginning of the trip can be found on the Sweden post here.  This post will start from our arrival in Norway.

Day 1 of Norway- Bergen
I had planned this trip as a Norway trip. When we thought about how close we were to Jake's ancestry we decided to also add Sweden. But I was definitely most excited for Norway. Boy did it live up to everything I could have ever asked for. I think EVERYONE should make it to Norway at some point in their lives. It was like taking the most beautiful parts of everywhere we had ever been and placing them all in one country. It was unbelievable. It was the most breathtaking place we have ever been. So I'll get more into everything we did that made this trip amazing.

First, we landed at the Bergen airport and caught a taxi to our airbnb. We were staying at a place right on the main street by the harbor. We were above a restaurant in a beautiful apartment with the loveliest balcony looking up into the city. When we got to the restaurant our host had been taking a nap. Apparently we landing the day after Norway's Independence Day. So the entire city had been up all night partying (and did so that night as well). While we waited for our host, the restaurant gave us drinks and let us hang out for a bit. Quinn fell asleep on the taxi ride in, then stayed asleep when we transferred her to her stroller, when we walked up to the apartment, and while we stayed in the apartment for a bit. We just kept her in her stroller the entire time. 
We went across the street for lunch. There was this random hot dog stand that was really busy so we tried it out. Oh. My. Goodness. They were heavenly. I got a cheese sausage with curry sauce. Jake's was a spicy with whatever sauces they recommended. It was delicious.

After lunch, my Mom and Paul went touring around on their own while Jake and I went up the Floyen Funicular, the train car that takes passengers to the top of the mountain overlooking Bergen. The view from the top was stunning. We had a great view of the entire city and the landscape beyond.

At the top, Jake bought us some ice cream while Quinn played at a park. We decided to take one of the many hikes down back to our apartment. On the way down there was also a house for all the mountain goats which Quinn thought was awesome.

We were hiking for a while and saw a path that looked like a shortcut through the trees. We decided to just see where it took us. Unfortunately, it did not connect to the main trail again and we just kept going. We ended up deep in neighborhoods of Bergen and added probably 2 or 3 extra miles to our hike. BUT the houses were so cool that it ended up being pretty neat to see them. Quinn fell asleep about half way through this and stayed asleep on Jake's back the rest of the time, including until after he took the pack off at our apartment.

That night, the Norway Independence Day celebrations were apparently still going on because there were the loudest parties in the streets until probably 3 am. Quinn finally slept through the night for the first time this trip, but we sure didn't.

Day 2- Bergen
This morning, we started the day with breakfast on our fantastic balcony. Then we made our way to the harbor with my Mom. We walked around the shops and the water. The alleyways at the Bergen Harbor (Bryggen) were really neat as well. It looked like one add on on top of another for years that essentially created the Weasley's house. They were awesome. We went behind the shops in the alleyways for a little bit. There were some old historical buildings and grassy areas where Quinn played and ate a snack.

We walked back to the harbor again and listened to some musicians while we looked at the water and the buildings. It was stunning and probably one of my favorite cities we've been to. We went into the bakery and bought ourselves some desserts (which were delicious I might add). We split one by the bakery and then went back to the apartment to eat the rest.

Jake and I walked through the fish market on the harbor. The shops all hand out samples so we tried whale and reindeer. The seafood looked incredible. So we made plans to make our way back that night.

From there we went back to the Floyen Funicular, this time with my Mom and Paul. It was a bit more crowded than the night before but still so cool. We looked over the city some more then went back to the playground to let Quinn run around.

After the playground we to a short hike to a lake at the top of the mountain. I was in awe of the forest.

My Mom and Paul took the Funicular back down the mountain. Jake and I hiked down again, this time the correct way, which took us to an awesome park and right to the heart of the city. I actually love that we got lost the first time because we were able to take two completely different hikes.
Back at the apartment, we all went to eat. We actually stayed at the restaurant where we were staying because when we inspected the seafood by the harbor there were no high chairs. We weren't willing to try to sit through a dinner with Quinn running around. It was unfortunate. But, we were at an Asian restaurant, so I got king crab sushi. mmmm.

After Quinn was asleep, Jake and I walked to the harbor to watch the sunset (at probably 10:30).

That night it seemed like the parties were over. The street outside was quiet, but then Quinn woke up with what sounded like Croup. So I got up with her for several hours while she had a hard time breathing. It was probably the worst night of the trip. And we had already paid for a tour the next day that I had been most looking forward to when booking this trip. I thought for sure that I would have to stay back with her and miss the tour.

Day 3- Norway in a Nutshell
We woke up the next morning however and Quinn was tired, but seemed fine. She had a little bit of a scratchy throat but was otherwise okay. So we headed out and all grabbed coffee because... none of us had really slept.

We boarded a ferry and tried to find seats that would work for us. It was already pretty full. But luckily there was a seat for a stroller and the people there got up and moved. I don't know if they moved for us and we never saw them, but we were grateful! The ferry had several stops throughout the tour and people got off along the way, but we stayed for the whole trip. I had booked us for 5 hours on the ferry! We traveled from Bergen Harbor, outside of the city and along the coast and up the North Sea. Eventually we headed East up the Sognefjord.




I remember at one point thinking that this trip had reached it's climax and it wasn't going to get any better than this. (It did) But the beauty and everything we were seeing was unbelievable. I couldn't believe that we were here, on this ferry in Norway, surrounded by such beauty.

Somewhere deep in the Sognefjord, Jake spotted dolphins swimming and jumping just past the boat. At another spot, the driver stopped so we could all watch some seals who were laying out on rocks. The nature, the views, everything, it was absolutely incredible.

There was a little girl on the ferry that was Quinn's age as well. They had the time of their lives running around and playing with each other. She got off before us so they had to stop playing, but Quinn took a great nap in her stroller.
We eventually turned into the Naeroyfjord and continued on to the town of Flam. Again, one of our favorite stops of the trip. I was so glad we did the full 5 hours on the ferry just to get us to Flam. The town was incredible. The views of the fjord, the cliffs and water were breathtaking. We found a restaurant away from all the tourist shops and ate while we looked out at the beauty. The food was a little bit pricey, not bad, but as Jake pointed out, "We didn't pay for the food. We paid for the view."


Flam gave me some of my favorite memories (and photos) of Norway. But it wasn't over yet. As part of the tour I booked, we then got on the old Flam railway to head back to Bergen. We could have just got one way and stayed in Flam, but I booked everything out of Bergen, so we did 13 hours of "touring" in that one day. Before we headed out of Flam, I was not looking forward to the way back. It had already been a long day and I felt like we'd seen all there was to see of Norway. But the railway was so awesome! You get into this old train with a very Hogwarts Express feel to it. The train starts moving and you're rewarded with amazing views of the heart of Flam, rivers, literally countless waterfalls and mountains.


The train then stops and we hear this enchanting music while everyone runs off the train. So we get down and go check it out. They stopped at this massive waterfall, Kjosfossen. It was impossible to not get soaked by the water just standing there. There is a "fairy" dancing and singing by the water. It was so corny but great.

We got the train the to the city of Voss. We were supposed to spend an hour in Voss and then catch the final train to Bergen. When we got there, there was a train leaving to Bergen in 5 minutes. We were done for the day. So we grabbed that train and went back to Bergen. From there it was a short walk back to our place.

This day was really so incredible.

Day 4- Skei
In the morning, we all got packed while Jake took an Uber to a rental car company. He went and picked up the rental car and brought it back to us so we could load up. We had this car for the rest of our trip. And though I thought the ferry would be the highlight of Norway, It was really neat to also see it from land as well. It was just as beautiful, if not more. On the way we stopped at a waterfall with just a short hike. That was pretty cool.


So this morning we headed to the town of Skei, where we were staying for one night. We thought we were getting a great cabin which ended up being right next to the owner's main house, really crowded. There was a sauna that was too hot to use and a hot tub, we had been excited about, that he wanted ridiculous amounts of money for us to use. We had been excited for this place and ended up not liking it. BUT the drive there was beautiful, and Jake and I went on a great hike.

My Mom and Paul took Quinn because Jake and I wanted to go on a long hike without her. We first stopped by the water's edge and then we found a hike nearby with lots of options from easy to expert. We picked a medium hike, thinking in our jeans and tennis shoes it would be a good option. No. This was the hardest damn hike of my life. It was so HARD! We brought one small bottle of water between us and this thing was 5 kilometers seriously STRAIGHT uphill. We wanted to quit like 12 times.
But we didn't. And we got to the top and it was amazing. There was an old, tiny home at the top. There was a beautiful view of the fjord. There was also a giant waterfall at the top. In all, it was worth it... I think. But man that was difficult. The way down sucked almost as bad too.

On our way back to the place we stopped at the grocery store for food to make. We got back to the apartment and put Quinn to sleep. This was difficult owing to the fact that the sun never really went down and there weren't window covers. We also only had 2 bedrooms here, as opposed to 3 everywhere else. Later that night we eventually moved her into the bathroom because Jake and I couldn't turn over without her waking up.

But she did eventually sleep and we hung out on the admittedly awesome deck of our place while we ate our home cooked dinner.

Day 5- Olden
We had planned to kayak this morning because the place we stayed had kayaks. But again, he wanted ridiculous amounts of money to use them, so we just headed out early instead. Dumb host.

But I will say, we could have just driven to our next stop, only an hour away, the night before, and skipped Skei. But I was so glad we stayed there because the hour drive to Olden was one of the prettiest of the trip. So I think we ended up taking 3 hours just stopping and enjoying the views. At one point we drove for one minute at a time and stopped probably 6 times in a row. It was just that stunning. We saw probably 200 waterfalls along the way and even stopped to take family photos, despite the fact that we didn't get ready, thinking we were just driving in the car... Regardless, I'm so glad we had the morning to really enjoy that drive. I mean, just look at the reflection in that lake!

 
We got to Olden and headed to the cabin Jake had picked for this stay. He insisted that whatever we did in Norway (I planned the whole thing) we had to stay in this cabin with the grass roof. I thought it was funny, but it was by far the best place of this trip. For me, Olden was the highlight. I could stay here the whole time only. I thought it couldn't get better than our tour day in Bergen. Olden was better. The cabin was amazing. We were so secluded, it was quiet and peaceful, and at the same time, there was so much to do around us. I loved this part of the trip. If you go to Norway, go to Olden, and even better, stay at this cabin.

After hanging out around the cabin for a little bit, Jake and I wanted to go explore the area by car. My Mom joined us and we went to nearby Lovanet Lake. This was another area I had wanted to see while in Norway and it didn't disappoint. It was stunning, I guess like the rest of the country, but really a great area. We put Quinn in the pack and hiked with my Mom to a waterfall that was flowing into the lake. It was beautiful. One of my favorite moments was Quinn throwing her arms out and her head up, just taking in everything around her.
After the hike, we stopped by probably the only restaurant in town and got delicious salmon and lasagna for Jake of course.

After dinner, we hung out more at our cabin. We watched the cruise ship in the Olden harbor set sail. We loved just sitting out on our balcony, looking out over the water. My Mom and Paul went into town and bought ice cream and cookies. So we ate ridiculous amounts of delicious sugar and hung out. It was perfect.

Day 6- Olden
Coffee on our balcony was one of my favorite things about this whole trip. So after we all enjoyed our morning coffee and view, we headed towards Briksdalebre. Another cruise ship came in this morning so we were unfortunately surrounded by other tourists here, in an otherwise really quiet area. But Briksdalbre is part of a National Park, and this particular part we hiked to the Jostedalsbreen glacier. This is the largest glacier in mainland Europe.


They had ATV rides to the glacier or you could hike it. Jake and I did the hike while Mom and Paul took the ATV. The hike wasn't horrible, but still tiring. It was gorgeous though. There were waterfalls on the peaks in every direction, plus one of the most stunning waterfalls we had seen along the hike.

Along the way, they had markers showing where the glacier had reached in 1980, 1990, and so on, showing the speed at which it was melting. When we got to the glacier itself, we were also treated to a lake of bright blue glacier runoff. I may or may not have taken a drink. It was a really neat hike.

We headed back down when we were done hanging around the glacier. It was really cold at the top and hard to stay for a long time. But we lasted as long as possible. We hiked back to the main entrance. The nice thing was that most people seemed to take the ATV so there was hardly anyone on the hike. We also got to the glacier before a group of the ATV's arrived, so we were able to see it without anyone there as well.

We got back to the main area with a gift shop. At one point I was in the shop with Quinn alone. The entire trip she had been walking into gift shops and hugging all the stuffed animals. I think she realized we weren't buying her one because I looked away for a minute and next thing I know, she's running for the door with 10 stuffed animals wrapped in her arms. haha. She was really upset when she had to put them back and say goodbye.

We ate our packed lunch at some tables in the main area overlooking yet another waterfall. From Briksdalebre we headed back to Olden. The drive was beautiful. So yet again, we took our sweet time, stopping, taking picture, chasing waterfalls. It was great.

From Olden, Quinn was napping in the car, so we headed straight to the city of Loen. We did a little shopping, and then went to the Loen skylift. Jake will say it wasn't worth the price, but I thought it was awesome. The skylift took you almost directly up the mountain in a ski tram. At the top, they had built a building and outlook where you could see Innvikfjorden, Lovatnet Lake, the surrounding towns, glaciers, the national park and all the peaks. It was breathtaking.

Seriously breathtaking
We stayed at the top of the mountain for some time. It looked like they had more building in the works, there were hikes and trails all over the place, they even had a toy room with so many fun toys for Quinn. She cried when we left. We walked around a bit but it was a little too windy for Quinn. Speaking of wind, there was a waterfall below the lookout, but the wind kept catching the water so it was just floating up to mountain. It was so cool!


We came back down the skylift and headed back to our cabin. We made dinner and ate dinner on the balcony and watched yet another cruise ship set sail.
Day 7- Drive to Alesund
We took our time in the morning, again, enjoying our covfefe with a view. When we were finally ready to say goodbye to Olden... that's a lie, we weren't ready, we headed out. Our final destination of the trip was Alesund. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, but we decided to take the long scenic route.

First we drove through Styrn. This took us through the beautiful Jostadelsbreen National Park. The views, again, were incredible. I don't know how many times I'm going to say that about Norway, but I'm not done yet.
We headed up the mountains and stopped at the yet another massive waterfall along the way. We got to the top and had planned on taking the Gamle Styrnefjellsvegen. A scenic route past glacier and all the mountain tops have to offer. The road was still closed though due to snowpack. We had also been hoping to take a half day snowboarding at their resort, but it still wasn't open yet. That's mind boggling! It was the end of May!

We drove around the scenic route and it was still incredibly scenic. This part of Norway felt a lot like Peru to me in places. It was much colder, but we were at a much higher altitude. We decided we were going to go through Geiranger to get to Alesund because it's one of the most renowned spot in Norway. We wanted to see all the beauty we could. On our way, we saw a sign to "the highest lookout" into a fjord in Norway. So we decided to take it. It was to Dalsnibba, a view of Geirangerfjord from 1500m above sea level. However, the higher we climbed, the foggier it got. From the top, we couldn't see anything. But the snow pack was worth the drive for me.

We came back from Dalsnibba and kept driving closer to Geiranger. Dare I say it, the drive, the views, the countless waterfalls along the way were stunning. We kept stopping again, just in awe of what we were seeing.

Then the road opened and we could see Geirangerfjord! It was incredible. This was one of my favorite views in Norway. Worth the extra two hours we took driving the scenic route. We stayed here and looked out over Geiranger for a bit.

We drove past the town and started climbing back up the other side of the fjord. On the other side,  was the ├śrnesvingen lookout. We stopped here as well and had an incredible view of Geiranger, the fjord and the Seven Sisters waterfall. This drive was amazing.

After that, I think we were just ready to get to our place in Alesund. We had already taken twice as long getting to this point because we kept stopping to see everything. From here we still had about a two hour drive. The scenery changed drastically on the last hour or so of the drive. We exited the tall cliffs and in turned more to islands and coast. It was a completely different type of beauty.
We arrived at last at our house in Alesund. At this point we were all quite tired. We rested a little bit and then headed out for food. Jake and I took Quinn and went on a mission to find our Norwegian Harry Potter book. I was also adamant about eating fish for dinner. So we found a place right by the water and I ordered fish... it wasn't that great.

Day 8- Alesund
This was our last full day in Norway. We had planned to all drive to the Atlantic Ocean Road, but it was going to be at least a 5 hour drive and after 6 hours in the car the day before, Jake and I felt like we couldn't do that to Quinn! So we went in the morning with my Mom and Paul to the look out over Alesund.
From there, they left to do the drive and Jake and I walked down the steps (which included another really neat lookout) into the city. This was my favorite part of Alesund. It was an amazing view, the hike down was quite neat, and there was a great park at the bottom. We just let Quinn play for a while and hung out.

We then made our way into the main area of the city. The city was beautiful. We had packed for really cold weather the whole time we were in Norway and they were going through an unusual heat way, so we were quite warm the whole time. This was the only day that really felt cold. But it was about what we had expected for everywhere else as well.
Jake and I walked around the city. We shopped, explored the harbor and boats, found some points of interest and looked out into the water. We took it rather easy and just stayed in the city. We saw everything we had wanted to see of Alesund. I could have gone for a hike or gone outside of the city a little bit this day had we had a car. But I'm glad I got to see the city before we left.
At one point, we sat down on metal benches along the water. They were definitely heated and put me to sleep. I fell asleep on a bench while Quinn napped in the stroller next to me! We got up to head back to our house and tried to find a public bus. We waited, waited, walked around, and finally found out that apparently, the bus we needed didn't run on Sunday. It was a really long and tough walk back to our place, but we finally made it!

This is where I slept.

When we got back I had the thought of, what if the airline didn't save Jake's seat like they said they would? (Remember, he missed his flight in. I had talked to them before he booked his one way ticket to Sweden and they said they would switch Quinn to his seat on the way there so that he didn't lose his reservation.) So I login to check us into our flight. Because we booked on points Jake and I each had our own tickets and logins. On my ticket, it had me and Quinley on lap. In Jake's login it just had Quinley as the passenger, no Jake. So I called the airline SAS, and talked to them about the situation and what we were told. I told them we needed the ticket in Jake's name. They said no. That's all. It was just, he lost his ticket, he didn't show up. I am hysterical by this point, telling them we had rebooked his one way ticket while standing at the SAS desk and they told us he was fine for the way back. I asked how Quinn was able to be on his ticket now and they said they had just changed the passenger name to hers. So I said "okay... then change it back". They went off on how she wouldn't have a ticket then (even though she was listed as the infant on my ticket). That they can only change the name one, that we needed to buy a one way ticket (another $1300). Anyways, after several hours of this, someone pulled through and helped us out. They changed the ticket back to Jake's name! Hallelujah! I really didn't want to buy him yet ANOTHER, last minute, one way, international flight.

So that took up our last night in Norway. We packed, ate dinner at our place and went to bed.

Day 9- Flying home
I mostly just want to talk about this day because it was interesting. We got to the Alesund airport with a couple hours to spare in the morning. This airport is TINY. There was nobody to return our rental car to. We had to literally throw the keys in the office. Nobody was at work yet to check us into the gate. We did finally get through however and grabbed breakfast in the airport.
We had a 1 hour layover in Oslo before boarding for Newark. It ended up being fine. Quinn miraculously slept TWICE on the flight to Newark. I was finally able to finish the movie I started on the way there.

Newark we had a delayed flight to Salt Lake. We moved gate 4 times. One delay after another really pushed us back. But we ended up getting on the plane not too late. However, we did sit in line on the tarmac for probably another 2 hours. Quinn fell asleep pretty on this flight (on the floor) but adjusted really well to going back home. We got home really late so she was thrown off, but by the next day, she was back to sleeping through the night.