Friday, September 22, 2017

Travel on a Budget: Five Free Things to do in Oslo, Norway!

Oslo holds a special place in my heart. After spending nearly a week there with one of my best friends to give me tips on where to go, we were able to see so much of the city. I thought it would be fun to share five awesome free experiences in Oslo since Norway can be quite the expensive place to visit. Don't let that deter you because this city is amazing.

Side Note: I did this entire trip with a toddler, so everything I'm suggesting is kid friendly as well!

one. Explore the statues and wonders of Vigelandsparken

Vigelandsparken is the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland. This park contains all of his life's work! There are more than 200 statues made of bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland not only created all of the statues, but he was also responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park. It is one of Norway's top tourist attractions which I can attest to since there were tons of visitors when we arrived around 10:00am on a Saturday morning. That didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves. While you're there, be sure to play around and mimic some of the statues. I was able to capture a sweet picture {that JP failed to mention I was holding Chlo on the wrong side!}, while JP got an awesome shot with Chloe!

Take a moment to look at all of the flowers while you're there! There are tulips in the spring and roses in the summer that fill the park with color. I'm not sure of the exact story, but the flowers themselves play a specific role in the design of the park which is about the circle of life.

The obelisk is the large white granite colomn called "the Monolith" is actually intertwined human bodies. This may sound a little odd, but since the entire park revolves around life from beginning to end, not only is it fitting, it is beautiful.

two. Take a moment to play or relax at Frogner Park 

Vigelandsparken actually sits within Frognerparken or Frogner Park. The park originally was smaller and surrounded Frogner Manor, which you can still see today, but has become a huge, well known park today. It's mostly known for the Vigeland Sculptures, but there is even more. There is a wonderful playground if you have children with you. This was an awesome chance for Chloe to play for quite a bit. It's great for kids of all ages! Frogner Park is the largest park in the city and is a great place to walk around, take in the scenery and enjoy a beautiful day in Oslo! 

three. Visit the Natural History Museum {it's free on Thursdays!}

You read that right! It's free admission on Thursdays, so if you can make it work, try to visit then. If you can't, it's only 80 NOK for an adult {about $10 USD} and children under 6 are free! The museum is awesome with tons to see including a T-Rex skeleton which obviously stole the show for me. I can't help it, I have a thing for dinosaurs! You can also learn about the geography of Norway, animals and their habitats, the island of Svalbard and more. You can read a little more about my experience here. It's definitely worth the visit and it lies within my next location of choice!

four. Walk around the Botanical Gardens

The Oslo Botanical Garden is huge with over 1800 plants! There are tons of different gardens within that enhance different senses. There is a scent garden that was designed for the blind and mentally handicapped. Granny's Garden houses plants that are no longer commercially available that were collected from old gardens and preserved there. There's also a rock garden, herb garden, greenhouses from the late 1800's and a children's garden. If you have young kids, I highly recommend this. It's a great place for your little ones to jump and run around. The entire layout of the botanical garden is beautiful with lots of paths and things to see. You can spend an afternoon walking around or even go for a morning jog or stroll! The Natural History Museum sits within the gardens, so you might as well hit up both while you're there.

five. Walk up the rooftop of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet

Only picture that isn't mine or my family's! I didn't take one. Photo Cred: 

Because the roof is angled to ground level, you can actually walk up the slanted walk way to the top of the Opera House for amazing views of the city, harbor and fjord. It's one of the newer buildings in Oslo {especially compared to the Akershus Festning builting the 1300's} that was finished in 2007. The modern architecture is stunning against the city and fjord!

A few other options for your Oslo trip on a budget are:

  • Visit the Royal Palace and the surrounding gardens. You can tour inside the palace for about $15-20 USD with under 3 free.
  • The Akershus Festning or Fortress which you can walk around the grounds for free and tour the museum for about $10 USD. Check out more here!
  • Shop along the Karl Johans Gate shopping area! Obviously, the less you buy, the cheaper it is, but it's an awesome experience. It's a pedestrian street with tons of shopping in central Oslo!
I fell in love with Oslo while I was there for almost a week. It is a beautiful and clean city! There are flowers and parks everywhere. I had a special kind of experience since my friend lives there and was able to give me tons of options for what to do. We also had the chance to stay with them in their apartment and take each day slowly which made the experience even better. I know I'll be back one day and I can't wait! If you're thinking about visiting Scandinavia, Oslo should be at the top of your list!
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oslo, the Places You'll Go!

Life has been quite a whirlwind lately! It's hard for me to keep up with the blog, life, traveling and just everything! I want to keep up with our travel adventures, so today I'm sharing days 3 & 4 in Oslo. {If you missed days 1 & 2, check them out!}

On the morning of our 3rd day in Oslo, we set out for a touristy day! We decided to start by walking to the royal Palace. I had actually seen the palace when I went to visit in 2007, but it was dark since we went in winter!

Luckily this time it was a gorgeous day! The sun was shining and just a few clouds in the sky. We walked around the palace and the gardens before heading off to our next destination.

The thing is, we weren't actually sure where our next destination was going to be. We wandered around a bit. We found several fun shops and even this awesome Norwegian troll that Chloe wasn't too sure about!

Eventually we decided that we were hungry and bought sandwiches that we took to eat over by the Akershus Festning. We had gorgeous views of the Oslo Fjord and plenty of space for Chloe to run around for a bit.

We went to explore the Akershus Festning or Fortress next! The actual outside of the fortress is free to walk around and explore, but there is also a museum that you can visit and learn more about the history of the fortress for just about $10. I wanted to go in so bad {history nerd alert}, so we did!

Fun facts:

  • Akershus Festning is a medieval castle built to protect Oslo.
  • It was built around 1290 after an attack on Oslo in 1287.

  • It currently houses the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and the country's Defence Staff Norway. They share a modern headquarters in the eastern part of the fortress.

  • The fortress is still used for banquets and events for dignitaries and foreign heads of state.

It was fascinating going through each of the rooms and understanding what they were used for during different periods. If you ever get the chance, I recommend going through the actual museum! There is also so much to see around the fortress for free. Chloe spent quite a bit of time playing with and feeding the ducks!

The rest of the afternoon we spent walking around the shopping street before meeting up with Charlotte at the grocery store to get goodies for dinner.

Moving on to day 4! JP had some morning calls, so Chloe and I had an easy morning at the apartment. Later in the afternoon, we went to the Natural History Museum! The first thing you see when you walk in is a T. Rex skeleton!!!

This dinosaur loving momma was super excited. Chloe was pretty jazzed up about it, but maybe a little scared too. 

I thought this little flag below was super cool. It's the flag that flew to the moon on Apollo XVII in 1972! President Nixon gave it to the people of Norway as a gift along with a fragment of moon rock.

Part of the museum was actually under refurbishment, so the portion of the museum we were able to see was primarily different animal. Luckily, Chloe loves animals. She enjoyed walking around and seeing everything.

We loved learning about Svalbard which is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. It sits in between Norway and the North Pole. There are thousands of polar bears and it is known for whaling and trapping.

We spent about an hour and a half at the museum before taking little Chlo to run around at the park we went to the day before. She loved it so much that it just seemed right!

Later Chloe took a nap and we got ready for dinner! Since it was Friday, Charlotte and Ole were officially on vacation before their wedding and honeymoon. We decided to celebrate by going to dinner at Louise Restaurant.

Naturally we had to order the Norwegian starter platter, Prosecco and seafood soup. The starter platter had many traditional Norwegian foods including reindeer patte, dried whale, fermented salmon, duck, goat cheese, seared scallop, and a few other things that I can't quite remember. I ended up having a taste of everything because it just felt right!

Dinner was perfect end to our final night in Oslo. Next up, our final morning in Oslo and our first few days in Lillehammer! Stay tuned, I'll be back later this week!

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

For my brother.

I interrupt our travel adventures to tell you MY BROTHER IS GETTING MARRIED!!!

That's right my little brother is getting married this weekend and I can hardly believe it. Okay, he's not quite my little brother any more seeing as though he's got about 8 inches on me these days. But he'll always be my little brother since once upon a time, I was totally taller than him.

A quick history lesson in mine and Ben's relationship. As little kids, we got on just fine. We had your typical big sister, little brother relationship. Ben was always closer to Emily since they were close in age, and she was much more of a tom boy while I was the bossy big sister. As we got older, Ben and I definitely grew apart, and there was a point in our lives when we didn't like each other very much. I was in high school and early college while he was in middle school and high school, and we just didn't get along. We're actually quite alike. We're both sensitive souls, incredibly stubborn and set in our own ways. This caused us to argue a lot and drift apart. Luckily, with time, we both grew up and grew together.

I was able to visit him a few times while he attended Colorado School of Mines. I think through these visits, him being at home during holidays and just working on our relationship, we were able to become friends. I'm so thankful for that!

Ben has grown into an incredibly intelligent, handsome, gentle, adventurous young man. I couldn't be prouder to call him my little brother. He has definitely had some rough years in his life, but not only has he come out stronger, but he's a better person because of it.

Ben, I am so proud of the man you have become. You have persevered through the hardest of times and come out on top. You have graduated from an amazing university, traveled the world, started a job, lived overseas and now it's time to get married! Corbette is a beautiful person inside and out. I couldn't think of a better fit for you, and I can't wait to officially call her my sister. I love you so much. You are a great brother and uncle, so I know that you'll be an amazing husband. I pray that you and Corbette will grow even closer in love and faith as the years go on. I know that you will love and cherish one another. Remember to continue to be adventurous, have fun and live life together! Experiences are what make life fun. I love you both and can't wait to see where life takes you. Now let's spend this weekend celebrating!!!

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Every adventure has a beginning.

And this is ours.

On August 14th, JP, Chloe and I set out on a 3 week journey to Norway, Sweden and Denmark! After almost 24 hours of travel, we made it to Oslo to see Charlotte waiting for us. She came prepared, Norwegian flag in hand in attempts to woo Chloe. Let's be real, my stubborn toddler is pretty pick on who she shares her love and smiles with these days. I think the flag did the trick though!

We had to take a train from the airport into Oslo, and there was one waiting on the tracks as we arrived. We got Chloe, the stroller, pack n play, carseat one suitcase and the duffle bag on the train. Charlotte and I hopped on while JP grabbed the last two suitcases, and the doors closed. I kid you not. We banged on the doors, pressed the door open button, shouted, everything! And the train just left with JP standing there, two suitcases in hand. It was kind of dramatic. Charlotte and I were in shock! We immediately had to come up with a plan. Luckily the train leaves from the airport every 20 minutes. Chloe, Charlotte and I just waited on the platform in Oslo for JP to arrive since his train arrived on the track next to ours. It gave us a little bit of time to chat and hang out which was nice, but it was kind of a weird way for our adventure to begin.

Eventually we did make it to Charlotte and Ole's apartment. We got settled in and walked down the street to pick up some pizza for dinner. On our way back, Chloe passed out and was just done for the day.

Traveling and exploring is hard work for a little girl! She really did a great job with travel, but we were all exhausted. We let Chloe rest, but Charlotte insisted on JP and I staying up until 10pm. I know it's what I needed to do, but I was so sleepy! I did manage though. The first night's sleep was rough. Chloe woke up and saw us in the room and wanted to sleep in bed with us. Naturally we let her. It was more cramped then we're used to, but it was comforting for our tiny human. Let's be honest, when Chloe's happy, we're all happy.

We woke up to our first official day in Oslo. Charlotte had to go off to work and JP had to work from home, so I took Chloe with me on a little adventure! Just down the street from Charlotte's apartment is the Oslo Botanical Garden.

Of course it was a gorgeous day with blue skies and sunshine. The perfect day to walk around the gardens! From Large garden at Tøyen with ample botanical variety and diversity. Most of the area is designed as an Arboretum, with approximately 1800 different plants. The garden holds a large and varied collection of trees and shrubs planted in a systematic fashion after plant family.

It was so nice to just be outside, taking it easy and enjoying the day after being cooped up in airplanes and airports for so long. After Chloe got out of her grumpy morning funk, she really started to enjoy herself and run around.

There was a sweet children's garden that had stumps to hop across, logs to walk along like balance beams, plants that created tunnels and huts and more. Chloe loved running through the tunnels and jumping from stump to stump. It was all just a wee bit too big for her, but she loved it anyway.

The Botanical Gardens is an awesome free activity that you can do in Oslo! Chloe and I spent about 2 hours walking around and playing, and we didn't even cover the entire garden. 

We went back to Charlotte's apartment for lunch and to rest for a bit. Later when JP was finished with work, we set out again to explore and find a park for Chloe to play and burn some energy. 

Charlotte gave us directions to a really fun park that we loved! Chloe had a blast trying to swing like a big girl and climbing everything. Before we knew it, Charlotte was getting off of work!

We met up with Char at the grocery store because JP and I wanted to cook dinner! Salmon, veggies and potatoes. It was colorful and delish and of course we didn't take any pictures. We spent the evening relaxing and watching Last Chance U on Netflix! Ole also came home from a work trip that evening and we were officially all together!

It was the perfect start to our Scandinavian adventure. It wasn't over the top or fancy. Just perfect, calm and around our loved ones.

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