Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Oslo and the North Sea

We hit the city (Oslo) again today with P, Big E and Little e.

We drove down to the center city to see the Palace. We stopped first in a 7-11 for a hot dog. OMG, they are so good! Eating a hot dog at 7-11 is one of the cheapest ways to eat in Oslo. They are around 30 kroner, which is about $5. The Girl and I had three between us, stopping again on the way back from the outing. So yummy. Apparently, the hot dog is also a national food in Norway - it's practically requires that one eats hot dogs and ice cream on May 17th, Norway's national holiday.

I also got a cappuccino from the machine at 7-11 and missed my mouth completely in drinking it while at the palace square. We walked past the US Embassy on the way - it is a seriously ugly building.

There was a drive leading up to the palace, marked by a sign that read no motorbikes or cars, but there were no pylons or barricades blocking the drive. P says that most Norwegians follow the honor system and the government is not so worried about the small percentage who don't. The entire population of Norway is only slightly bigger than that of the city of Chicago -- 4.5 million. (Cook County has 5.1 million residents according to the 2010 US Census.) Anyway, we all slipped our way up the hill (red gravel under sheets of ice) to gape at the palace - a huge pale yellow building with white trim - and the funny guards holding sentry in front. There were signs of the New Year’s celebration in evidence on the gravel - champagne corks!

Then we turned to walk down Karl Johan's Gate (gate = street). Karl Johan was the king of Norway and Sweden for a period in the 1800s. He is depicted in a huge statue on a huge piece of marble in front of the palace and facing one of the main streets in Oslo. The palace is on a hill, so it's quite a pretty view to look down over the city. We slid our way down the hill to walk along Karl Johan. We passed the library, a few government buildings and a skating rink in the part of the street that allowed cars. We also stopped and Dean & the Deli in an attempt for another hot dog. They didn't have any, so we each got a bolle (bun) instead: chocolate for Little e and Big E, cinnamon for The Girl, currant and raisin for me. Mine was warm and flavored with a hint of cardamom.

After this, we went to a department store - Glas Maginset (I think) - that has a whole floor devoted to Norwegian gear - Dale Nordic knit sweaters, Norwegian mitts, felted wool jackets, etc. I was tempted by several gorgeous wool sweaters from smaller Norsk designers, but once I converted the kroner, couldn't justify a $400 cardigan. I did, however, buy a felted wool gnome hat for Teddy, a Sigfrid Kolmen petticoat dress for The Girl, and a blue gnome water bottle for Nate, all from the 75 percent off table (which made it all affordable), and felted wool slippers from Denmark for me. On this floor, they also had woolen skeins - gorgeous! I considered buying some for my mom, but I think she's still working on a sweater for my dad from wool she bought in Denmark last year.

After that, we pretty much had to skedaddle to drop Big E at home and pick up our bags so that we could make our DFDS cruise to Copenhagen. There was traffic on the way back into Oslo and Big E and Little e were egging each other on with nonsense and kicking the backs of their parents' seats. (This was pretty much as unruly as they got -- such a different parenting existence from life with boys, to paraphrase my friend Allison.)

Fortunately, we got on the boat with a half hour to spare. Dropped bags and stroller in our cabin - Little e thought we were on an airplane because there was lifeboat just outside our porthole - and headed upstairs to explore. We sat down at the bar to have a drink - Carlsburg for me and P, Shirley Temples for the girls - and watch the lights go by on the shore as we pulled out of port. We called my dad to wish him a happy birthday as well.

The cruise there was pretty uneventful. We had buffet dinner at 17:30 in the Seven Seas restaurant. The Girl had mussels and shrimp again and topped it off with ice cream with chocolate and sprinkles. I had meatballs, a delicious beets and peppers dish, bread and butter, salad and a gingerbread roll. After dinner, we walked around the ship a bit. The Girl really wanted to do the kids' activities, but for some really stupid reason, the ship put them in the same lounge where smoking was allowed inside. Both P and I said nuts to that. We did go in the shop when it opened and picked up some Lego surprises for the boys. After that, we were all pretty tired and went to bed. Little e did not want to go to sleep and gave her mom a hard time about it. She understands English, but speaks Norwegian. Most of the Norwegian we learned was from her. At bedtime, she crawled into the porthole, screaming "ni!" (no) at the top of her lungs and looking like a fierce little Viking. Anyone who has ever traveled with a toddler can picture this scene.

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