Saturday, 2 February 2008

My Grandad Was A Viking

AT LAST, here is the joint account by Rachel and I of our New Year trip to Oslo. It has proven rather tricky to write, given that we are both busy people, live 150 miles apart and are easily distracted by doughnuts. (Black text = Simon; Multicoloured prettiness = Rachel).

And then I went to Norway.

With your amazing girlfriend.

(With my amazing girlfriend).

To Oslo to be specific, city of pretty buildings, cool Viking ships and lots of naked statues.

We arrived on New Years Eve, exhausted from a long night in Stansted airport, during which I had only managed to sleep (and snore) for mere minutes at a time. Nonetheless we were excited to explore the city. Feeling bruised after a £54 bus ticket we decided to forego a taxi to our hotel and walked. This was a decision Rachel soon came to regret as her suitcase kept getting stuck in the gravel helpfully scattered all over the pavement. Soon fatigue kicked in and we ended up spending the afternoon asleep.

I was so tired even your snoring couldn't wake me!

For the record, I don't snore. Much.

*rolls eyes*

ANYWAY, we awoke just in time to watch the fireworks over Oslo. From all directions came streams of pyrotechnic delight, stunning sparkles and booming rockets. Hundreds lined skyscraper rooftops with sparklers, making building outlines ripple as they waved them with joy. It was a tremendous sight. We 'oohed' and 'aahed' like appreciative spectators ought, celebrating the arrival of the New Year an hour before our friends at home.

It was made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we didn't have to bother changing out of our pyjamas! Then, at roughly 3 minutes past midnight, we went straight back to sleep again.

The next morning we rolled down to breakfast and amused ourselves trying the myriad of variations on the theme of potato and reconstituted meat.

Amongst other things, this was the day we went to the Botanical Gardens in Tøyen, got horrendously confused operating a Norwegian ticket machine in order to ride the Metro, and found ourselves in a park filled with dozens of nude statues!

They were rather shocking.

Not as shocking as the price of lunch, mind. We dined out in McDonalds, thinking we were being clever and saving øre, but my Big Mac cost more than £8! From here we wandered all the way back to our hotel through the centre of Oslo. We walked through a nice park and down Karl Johan's Gate, past the stunning parliament building (I definitely want to live there one day) and past a statue of a wench. No, seriously. Her name is Wenche Foss, an actress born in Oslo and star of the stage, screen and television for over 80 years. Her statue is the focal point of the National Theatre square, and we wondered how many friends over the years have agreed to "meet by the Wench".

On the way home we played 'count the 7 Elevens', which apparently are the equivalent of Starbucks, there being one on every corner. We stepped into one to experience Norwegian shopping culture at first hand, and came out the proud owners of Norwegian Pot Noodle.

The following day we went all cultural and went to the Viking Ship Museum, a museum containing Viking ships that were used in burials of important people. These ships were often full of treasure!

It was very exciting. We read the signs, we took lots of pictures, and at one point even found evidence of Viking chavs, because one of the "treasures" was a piece of Burberry-like fabric. We emerged feeling all wise and knowledgeable to discover that it had snowed! It was very slippery, but Simon was there to hold my hand and stop me from falling. Back on the bus we met a small American child whose grandad was a Viking!

In the evening we went to a traditional Norwegian restaurant, one of those places where everybody eats the same thing and enormous families crowd round the tables and share their stories. Only in Norwegian, so we had no idea what was going on. Nonetheless, our beef stew was delicious and a bargain for Norway.

On the last day we nearly got arrested due to our inability to follow Norwegian signposts. Looking to join a guided tour of Akershus Castle, we accidentally found ourselves trespassing through a military zone. Nobody really seemed to mind, however. The military compound contained a paddock of horsies, which we could find no purpose for, unless they were exploding horsies. Not wishing to test this hypothesis, we promptly entered the fortess to discover we had missed the tour.

But that didn't matter, because we wandered around the castle by ourselves, and Rachel had lots of fun tiptoeing down an icy hill.

It was terrifying! Afterwards we munched our Tesco Value tortillas in the rather swanky Aker Brygge shopping centre, before collecting our bags from the hotel and travelling back to the airport.

Our adventure wasn't quite over yet! Our flight was delayed due to the thick snow, requiring de-icing of the plane on the runway as we sat waiting patiently to take off. During this time, I fell asleep. I barely awoke during take off itself, which I am told was a rather hair raising experience.

There was rather a lot of skidding.

All of this meant that when we finally returned to Stansted we very nearly missed our bus. We were minutes away from spending another night in Stansted airport, but our bus driver waited for us especially. One bus journey and a taxi ride later and we were back at Westbury Towers, munching party rings* at four in the morning. We were home.



* Special thanks to DoctorJules for kind provision of midnight snacks.

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