“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." - Augustine of Hippo
This trip came about in such a spontaneous way, and that's part of what made it so special.
It all started with an email from Ryanair back in March, with an offer for 20% off on summer flights 2019. Immediately, I started looking for flights to a few destinations I'd love to go to, especially those on my bucket list: the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Isle of Man...
While browsing through the available options, Norway came to mind. And sometimes, a deal can be too good to pass up! I managed to find flights for £20, and I didn't even think twice: I booked them! I decided to treat myself to something good; a birthday trip, if you like.
For the past few months, I've been in constant countdown, waiting anxiously for the moment I would get on that plane! It still didn't feel real.
Bruno and I flew to Oslo from London, which meant we had to drive 5 hours down south to get to the airport. Our flight was at 9:40am on the 4th June, and we left Newcastle at 1:30am.
As soon as we arrived at Stansted airport, coffee was needed! We were both running on less than 3 hours sleep, so I was salivating for a good cup of coffee and something to eat. We decided to welcome our holidays with a 'welcome' in the shape of breakfast! After we passed security, we headed straight to Starbucks. I had a caramel latte with almond milk and a vegan wrap, and Bruno went for a black coffee and a breakfast bun with eggs and bacon.
We had a few hours to kill, but as per my request, I really wanted to have a little wander around the shops at the airport and take as much time as I needed before boarding the plane. The next thing I know, it was time to board, and I actually had to down the last sips of coffee like a caffeine addict. The gate number had been announced, and we rushed to the boarding area.
We boarded the plane on time, and the next thing I know we are in the air, on our way to Oslo. We flew with Ryanair and the flight took about two hours.
12:30pm was the time we touched-down in Oslo. Throughout the flight, I enjoyed the views from the airplane, especially upon arrival in Norway. I captured some beautiful photos of clear skies and water/land below the airplane. Bruno and I paid extra for window seats, and I took full advantage of it.
After we went through the border and security, we took the train from the airport to Oslo's Central Station. I was expecting this to take at least one hour, but it was only a 20-minute journey.
Nothing was smooth about this very first ride on the train, though. It was actually a little tricky: without realising, we both got in a carriage that was classed as a 'silent carriage'. Soon, a lady came to tell us off for talking on the train. While this wasn't the reception I'd wish to get, I thought it was a clever measure for those who like peace and quiet on the train.
I couldn't wait to get out and explore this beautiful city.
The weather was beautiful and sunny. As soon as we arrived at the Central Station, we looked at the map to find out how long it would take us to walk to the accommodation we were staying at. Since we still had a couple hours to kill, we decided to walk around and explore the city a little bit. We were also starving, and we'd been up for quite a lot of hours without proper fuel in our tummies. So the first priority was to find food!
Walking through the city, I noticed the amount of electric cars on the streets. I was impressed with the amount of measures the city has in place in order to be as 'green' as possible, and also with the environmental-awareness that you could feel. There was no trash on the streets, the toilets were super clean, the streets were quiet even when surrounded by lots of people. The peacefulness and tranquillity that I felt were the first requirement for a chilled-out holiday, and so far I was really impressed!
Bruno was even more excited! Not only couldn't he stop counting the amount of electric cars, he also counted all the Teslas' we'd come across. We came to the conclusion that probably around three in every five cars were electric.
We walked for about 15 minutes, until we arrived at an amazing place where we stopped for a late lunch.
Introducing...Nordvegan, a place that served only vegan food. I had a curry with fried mushrooms on top, and this was genuinely the smoothest curry I have ever tasted. It wasn't spicy, although it had a spicy kick, and it wasn't too creamy either. The sauce wasn't thick at all, it looked more like a soup. And yet, there was so much flavour on this plate!
On the downside...this meal wasn't cheap. Bruno got a different thing to eat, but he also really enjoyed mine. I would give this place 5 stars! Yes, it was expensive, but the quality of food made it worth it.
We couldn't check-in at our accomodation until 3pm, so we had to explore a bit more of the city after lunch. During this time, I realised how much I liked Oslo's architecture.
As soon as we got to our accommodation, we realised how tired we were. Needless to say, we fell asleep really early. It was probably 4:00pm, and we both slept through the night like babies!
On our first full day in Oslo, we woke up early, at 8:30am. Unfortunately, when I looked out the window, I realised it was raining, but we had the whole day to explore the city, and I wasn't going to let a little rain get in the way of the fun. We grabbed our waterproof coats and headed out the door in search for breakfast.
We stopped at the local supermarket to grab some groceries for the upcoming days, and £30 later (outch!, Oslo is expensive!), we had stocked up on bread, coffee, vegan cheese, water and snacks for the next few days. The water costed us 40p for 1.5L, but other than that, everything was ridiculously expensive. However, I do think we did really well on sticking to our budget during this trip.
It was time for breakfast! I had a Oatly cold latte and a cheese sandwich. The coffee was super yummy, and vegan, so was the cheese! Bruno had a starbucks cold coffee purchased at the supermarket and he joined in on the sandwich game! Low-budget travelling means you have to survive on the cheapest foods you can find. Although it was a little more challenging for me (price-wise, not stock-wise, since not once did we struggle to find vegan foods in Oslo), we tried our best to stick to our budget.
We left the house and headed straight to Vigeland Sculpture Park - a place with more than 200 sculptures, all by the same artist: Gustav Vigeland. This place is considered one of Norway's top tourist attractions, with more than one million annual visitors.
It started to rain quite heavily when we arrived, but a stranger on the street literally gave us an umbrella. He spoke a few words in Norwegian, but we could understand by his gestures that he was offering us the umbrella. I couldn't believe the kindness of these people!
As we walked through the park, I paid close attention to every single sculpture. Each sculpture told a different story, and the impact and beauty of this place was unreal!
Once we had finished exploring the park, we moved on to our next location: the Viking Ship Museum; the one I was most excited about!
I couldn't believe how disappointing the museum was. I was expecting a much more interactive environment, with 3D demonstrations, people dressed up as vikings, maybe some acting going on...I was expecting to see at least a dozen of Viking ships. Instead, the museum only has 3 ships and these are located on 3 wings of the building, which has a 'cross' shape. Still, the ships were incredible, and a huge piece of history. However, I don't think the price of the tickets really justifies the amount of stuff you can see on the inside. I was disappointed! The whole place felt bland....just a bunch of white walls resembling an abandoned building, where people decided to fit 3 ships into and call it a museum.
Don't get me wrong, there were also a few other artefacts, metal objects and other recovered items from the time of the Vikings, but I was expecting a little more...
Once the visit was over, we sat down on a bench having a little snack. We had prepped our sandwiches for the day, so we decided to fuel up before continuing with our plan for the day. Soon after, we were back on our feet, ready to walk towards the next museum.
Later on that day, we realised we had walked 20 km on this first full day in Oslo. Not once did we get a bus, and I'm glad! We pondered whether spending an extra £100 on a travel card valid for buses and trains, plus free entry on all museums was worth it, but I am so glad we didn't do it! It would have been a waste of money.
I fell in love with the neighbourhoods and houses in Oslo. Such pretty, big houses with gardens, carefully maintained. Once more, I felt the peace and quiet lived in this city that I was now starting to understand better.
Up next on our list was the Fram Museum. But before we arrived, we stopped for a few minutes to let our feet recover and to drink some water. We said hello to a few seagulls and ducks near the dock, and I took the opportunity to take some photographs of the boats by the water.
When we arrived at the Fram Museum, before we went in, we decided to walk towards the dock, and see the boats. We wanted to do things without rushing, so we sat on a bench by the water for a little while, before heading towards the actual museum.
How beautiful was this boat? I'm not the greatest lover of sailing and boats, but even I was pretty impressed with this. I was curious as to what I was going to see inside the Fram Museum. I was afraid to be disappointed like I was with the Viking Ship Museum. I really wanted this visit to be a positive one.
We slowly started walking towards the Museum, and it did not disappoint!
The Fram is the strongest wooden ship ever built and still holds the records for sailing farthest north and farthest south. When we arrived, we headed over to a cinema room to watch a short documentary about the ship's story, and I honestly LOVED it! I could feel myself getting so much into the subject, I couldn't wait to explore the rest of the Museum. It was off to a great start.
In one word...this ship was majestic! It was huge on the inside. So many levels and different rooms with different purposes. We came across a bottle of Portuguese wine from Madeira, dated back to 1905, and I obviously couldn't help but take a photograph of the wine that has been kept on board of the ship for all these years.
The ship was beautiful, but the highlight of the visit for me, was a huge wall filled with cartoons that are meant to be a satire to global warming, animal agriculture and human ignorance. The exhibition was called 'On Thin Ice, with Wumo'.
The museum also had a Polar Experience, and even though it wasn't the greatest interactive idea ever, it was still a good addition to the museum, making it stand out from the previous one we had visited.
On the way back, we snacked on some fruit and nuts mix, and I said hello to a very special friend. We walked past a farm, and there were cows and other animals surrounded by a wooden fence. There was a little boy with his dad who was laughing and petting the baby cow, and I couldn't have walked past without saying hello....
We arrived back at our accommodation, and we both couldn't walk any longer. Our feet were killing us, and the last 5km were...painful. I was dreading the following day because I was unsure as to whether or not I would wake up in any pain, so I was secretly happy we had rented a car to drive to a very special place for my birthday.
This trip to Oslo was incredible! If you'd like to see what else I got up to during this trip, stay tuned, because I will post a separate blog post where I show you exactly what I got up to on my actual birthday:June, 6th - our last full day abroad.