Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Oslo, Norway.

I'm jumping over my few days in Svalbard to do a quick photo purge from my few hours in Oslo. No real tips here either; I couldn't gather much from walking around half a day (and a dinner one eve). I do expect to be back here though, since it's a hub to get to Svalbard -- where I for sure expect to go back. 

(Maaaaaybe I have one tip, since I can't seem to resist: even if you have travel-sized bottles in your carry-on luggage, there's a one liter total maximum at the Oslo airport - and they're strict about it. I went to this airport four times in six days, and it was rough. So if you don't want to keep throwing stuff away, or if you want to forgo a fight with an airport employee because you're being forced to throw stuff away - even though you are under the maximum - adhere to these guidelines.)

I love me some good street art.
I passed by the notorious Storting building (Norwegian Parliament), known as the country's "most important symbol of democracy." 
And then The Royal Palace! Not too shabby of a place to call home, right? (It's apparently the most important of all the King's residences.)
The prettiest tulips, blooming all over the city...
And lastly, a little street message that I'm glad my eyes were open to see. (Love you, Ingrid!)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Stavanger, Norway.


It took me far too long to figure out the correct pronunciation of Norway's third largest city, but I'm always determined to not sound like a total tourist, and I finally figured out. Stavanger.  

When booking my trip to Norway, I knew I wanted to do the following: see the Northern Lights or Midnight Sun, and hike Preikestolen (AKA Pulpit Rock). I didn't realize when I booked my six-night trip exactly how much there is to do in Norway - there's a lot - so narrowing my choices took quite some time because I felt like I was sacrificing something really cool no matter where I chose to visit.

Stavanger was nailed down pretty early due to the hike, but for the second leg of my trip, I was torn between the Lofoten Islands, Trondheim, Tromsø, and Svalbard (among others, if you can believe there were more). In order to see the Midnight Sun, I realized I had to trek pretty far North - like above the arctic circle North - so, Svalbard won. (More on that later.)  

First up was Stavanger, described as an "extremely vibrant cultural hub," which I think the photos (below) will confirm. I booked a hotel near the airport (actually, on top of the airport). because after three flights, the last thing I wanted to do was spend anymore time traveling anywhere. 

Wham bam thank you ma'am, Scandic Hotel.  

I won't outline my little "trip tips" for what to do/see/eat since I only had one full day in Stavanger, but I will say a couple of quick things:

Stavanger Center
  • Re: transportation - don't buy bus tickets on the bus itself; buy them in advance (online or from a station) to save some dough. They are significantly cheaper this way. Students get a discount, so bring your student ID (if you have one).
  • Most of the shops in the center of town close pretty early - by 4PM, even on a Saturday - because they are independently owned. So if you want to shop, walk around the town center mid morning-midday (I learned this one the hard way).

  • To get here from Stavanger, you can take a ferry to Tau and then a charted bus to the hike's starting point. (I booked this one that combines both.) You can also rent a car if you would prefer to drive. You'll drive the car right on the ferry in Stavanger and right off the ferry in Tau, where you will continue the drive to the hike. There's a parking lot with plenty of parking at the base of the hike, as well.
  • Make sure you are on the correct side of the harbor should you catch a ferry in Stavanger. The ferry right in front of the restaurants by the harbor is not the only one that takes you to Tau! (I also learned this one the hard way.) 
  • You do not need a guide for the hike; the trail is very clear with well-marked trail indications along the way. Bring shoes with good tread, and water (and snacks) for each hiker!
  • Of course, bring a camera. The views are nothing short of incredible.

Okay I lied earlier, I'm giving a tip of where (and what) to eat. Go to Evaremegvel Bar and Restaurant and order posjert egg på toast med bacon, rødvinsaus og asparges (poached egg on toast with bacon, red wine sauce and asparagus). A bit fancy, but fancy is fun sometimes. 

And a final two from Stavanger center that make me laugh, below...
I titled this one "Me, Maggie, and a Swan's Ass."

Friday, May 6, 2016

Wading Pools.

"Put yourself out there!" 

"What do you have to lose?"


All of which are solid reasons from my friends in favor of me jumping back into the dating pool. It's more like taking my first jump though, because I, for one, am not a recreational dater. I never have been. Interestingly enough, my past relationships didn't even have a real courting stage; it was sort of like I met a new buddy who then stuck around for the next couple of years (not to downplay any relationship). SO, that makes me a thirty-year-old who has never entered the dating pool - until now.

I'm thinking of it more as a wading pool though, and I dipped my big toe in a few weeks back. 

Every year, an Irish pub downtown hosts a huge St. Patrick's Day festival. I usually try to avoid the chaos (think a mob of drunk people in the street at 7AM, clad in green, spilling their green beer while trying to ride my big dog like a horse), but last year I learned it was Ellie's favorite holiday. She convinced me to join her - and to even be somewhat festive - so out I went, wearing olive green pants (mine) and a green boa (hers).

To be honest, I had a blast. It felt less hectic than I had anticipated, which I'd attribute to good company. For that reason, I didn't even think twice about going this year, but I did opt for jeans and a black tank top instead of rocking anything green.

Ellie and I walked around for a bit, did some people-watching, and at one point began chatting up two guys on the corner of our street. One was talkative and one, well, he wasn't. (He did have "pretty eyes" though, as Ellie pointed out.) Not much has ever stopped me from talking before, so I tried my best to carry a conversation with Pretty Eyes while Ellie was talking to his friend a few feet away.

"You live downtown?" I began.

"Yeah, just moved here," he said, a bit distracted.

"Oh, from where?" I continued.

"Up North."

Mkay.  "Nice. What do you do for work?"

"'s complicated," he muttered, still distracted, looking beyond me into the sea of green.

"Okaaay," I said in a sing-song voice, taking the obvious hint. Pretty Eyes was pretty uninterested.

I shot Ellie a look. Help! She came right on over with the friend, and we thankfully swapped conversations.

"Your friend isn't very talkative," I joked (but not really) about Pretty Eyes, who was just out of earshot. "So, what does he do for work? His job is complicated?"

"You wouldn't believe him if he told you," the friend replied.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued by the evasiveness at that point, but it wasn't enough. I was ready to go and made that clear. I heard the friend whisper something to Pretty Eyes about getting my number (you're fucking stupid if you don't get her number) and I was flattered - until I quickly wasn't. We had just waved goodbye, and Pretty Eyes still hadn't asked for my number.

"Hey," he called out to me as I was walking away. "Can I give you my number?"

Well that's new, I thought. I couldn't tell if I should be offended, or if I liked the idea of not being harassed by some guy I'd just met (and hardly spoken to). Still undecided, I handed over my phone and watched as he typed.

And with that came a ripple in the wading pool.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tempe, AZ.

Not to be confused with LA palm trees, these are Arizona palm trees, guys. South Mountain, to be exact.

I made my way to Arizona to visit Carli and her boyfriend, Tyler, who was there for Spring Training, and to clear my head of the city for a couple of days. It was exactly what I needed: friends, food, sun and fun. (And a lot more work than I had anticipated on my little "vacation," but what can you do.) We walked, we hiked, we cooked, we dined out, we watched a baseball game, we watched the Bachelor finale (since blogging is about keeping it real), and I couldn't have wanted anything more. Except an elongated stay, of course...

The cutest place ever, The Farm, was walking distance from where Carli was temporarily living, and we'd head over each day for a bite to eat. (I'm still dreaming of their brownie bites.)
Breakfast was here. I mean, a cafe called Morning Glory? Cutest. Ever.
We made a quick trip to Camelback Mountain on my last day - quick because it's not a very leisurely hike and I, of course, had my camera. I immediately learned that rock climbing while holding a large camera wouldn't work, so we did as much as we could without jeopardizing my camera. (Noted for next year.)