Thursday, February 24, 2011

Over the Roof and through the Woods...

The day after Christmas we packed up our bags, said good bye to Lillehammer and grabbed the train to Trondheim. We tried to buy some beers to bring with us but Norway is very tight with their rules for selling alcohol- only government run liquor stores can sell it and Lillehammer only had one, it was closed for a week over the holidays.

For 4 hours we traveled in our comfy (if not overly warm) train seats, sharing our 4 set with a Norwegian teacher who pointed out many things we would not have know about otherwise.  The forests again were beautiful with their heavy covering of snow. And as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains our teacher explained that the route we were on followed the pilgrim's route between Oslo and Trondheim. High up in these frigid mountains people would trek, even in the winter. There are mountain stations throughout the land where people can rest and stay for a bit. BRRRRRRRR!

The forests soon gave way to bushes and scrub. The light again was fantastic. The train slowed to a stop and we were told we were atop the Dovrefjell. It's considered the midway point of the country, dividing north and south. It's also part of what they call the Roof of Norway. The highest area in the middle of the country. 

The train stopped so that they could change conductors and for about 15 minutes we gazed out at this beautiful if not barren land. It was quiet and still and stunning. 
Just as we started up again I glanced out my window and saw wild reindeer running! Of course the camera was turned off and they were only in view for a moment but yeah! Reindeer! On the roof of Norway! Surely this is where Santa is from :)

The train was filled with skiers (natch) and we stopped at various ski resorts letting them off. In the restaurant/bar car there were floor to ceiling picture windows where you could sit in lounge chairs and take in the scenery. 


It was dark when we arrived in the port city of Trondheim (3:30pm) and we bundled up for the short walk to our hotel the Rica Nidelven. A business hotel of sorts but modern and very nice with a little bar (that closed at 6pm) and right on the water. Trondheim is the 3rd largest city in Norway with a population of about 170k people (compare that with Seattle at around 640k just in the city proper!) and the most north we would get in Norway. From the end of May till the end of July the sun never sets on this cute little town.

After settling in to our hotel we went out to explore. Once the capitol of Norway and founded in 997 (!) it has always been a place of shipping and trading. We passed by the cute old warehouses now refurbished as condos, restaurants and shops along the river. 


We came upon the Nadaros Cathedral, strikingly lit. It's the largest church in Norway and the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world! Surrounded by it's graveyard (as we noticed other churches in Norway have) it was both beautiful and spooky. 

By now we were feeling the cold, around 10F (it's so much warmer near the water, ha!) so we headed back to our hotel.  Through town, past the Christmas tree in the center and the cheery holiday lights. We may have stopped at a 7-11 for a chocolate covered waffle snack... as you do.


Our friend Caitlin was flying in from London and as we waited for her we sampled some of the local aquavit at our hotel bar. Dayne then made us martinis for our traditional happy hour and later we went out and had a great dinner of Norwegian style tapas at Bakgarden Bar

Additional photos here!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Walk Through Lillehammer

We took a beautiful train ride from Oslo to Lillehammer on Christmas day 2010. Sitting in our own compartment, enjoying free wifi & looking out at the amazing scenery was a perfect way to spend the morning. The trip took about 2 1/2 hours traveling northwest of Oslo & followed a really long lake much of the time.





Upon arriving in the tiny town of Lillehammer we walked 4 blocks to our hotel. It was cold, like minus 5F kind of cold! I had to stop and exchange my leather gloves for my ski gloves. That was the last time I'd wear the leather gloves on this trip.





Our hotel was perfectly situated right in the center of town. We checked in and found our rooms, both with small balconies and views of the lake. Then we bundled up & went out for a walk around before the sunset (3pm).






The streets were empty except for a handful of people & 3 cars. Snow was piled high in yards, on fences & on trees. The light and the sky reminded me of a watercolor, our cameras didn't do it justice. We passed cozy houses almost all with pretty Christmas lights in the windows & smoke rising from the chimneys. The town is really small & quaint.

We headed up to the Olympic Park, home of the '94 winter games. Although the center was closed there were still some interesting sculptures outside as well as the 2 big ski jumps to see. Some kids sledded on small hills while others played hockey on an outdoor rink.





By the time we got back to the hotel the sun had set and it was way too cold to be out. We got cozy in our room, opened our Christmas gifts and started happy hour. Soon after we took a bottle champagne (that we had chilled on our balcony) down to the lobby where they had a big fire going. The smell of burning birch was so homey!






Since the only restaurant in town that was open was in our hotel we had a short commute to dinner. A little dinner, some aquavit & a nightcap or 2 back in our room. The next morning we were off on another train ride headed just north of the arctic circle!

By the way, isn't Lillehammer just damn good fun to say?

More pretty pictures here


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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Whidbey Island Weekend

Well a bit more than a weekend really. A friend celebrating a milestone birthday generously invited Dayne and I along with 6 others to enjoy 4 nights in a private house rental on Whidbey last month.

The house was awesome! Right on the beach with fantastic views of the sound. There were 3 1/2 bedrooms in the main house along with nice living room, sun room, dining room and big kitchen. Just below the house on the path leading to the beach were 2 more guest houses.  Hot tub, deck, wi-fi, the works!

We had such a great time! With sweat pants the official uniform of the weekend it was a very relaxing occasion. We had a small outing to Langley one afternoon for lunch. And another day Dayne, Jan & I went for a nice little hike on the beach and in the woods.

 Other than that the days were spent movie watching, book reading, star gossiping & playing games.

Each night we had a feast in which everyone got involved. The first was an epic crab dinner served with artichokes and Jan's homemade mayo. The house didn't have crab crackers so a large ladle was used for whacking shells open. There was crab a flying and we had quite a little shell mess at the end of the evening.

The 2nd night we had a huge choucroute garnie dinner complete with Lauren's awesome sauerkraut, pork belly, sausages, hot dogs and pretzel rolls.

The 3rd night we used our mad skills to make tamales. A first time for all of us & a really fun group project. They were DELICIOUS and we'll be making more again very soon.
Before dinner each evening there was an official happy hour in which co host Paul made up a drink of the day.

And every night after dinner there was a dance party/sing along in which yours truly DJ'd when I wasn't too busy getting my groove on.
We watched eagles in the trees and tankers in the sound and the amazing scenery and how it changed daily. 

On the last evening we had a big fire on the beach and lots of champagne which was just a perfect way to wrap up our little mini break. 


And of course there was the birthday!
Just a damn fine getaway spent with damn fine friends! Thanks and cheers to Lauren and Paul our amazing hosts!

To see the rest of the photos click here