Tag Archives: travel blog

Memories of Stavanger

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In 2006, one month after we got married, we moved to Norway (because one major life event in 4 weeks just wasn’t enough). We had never been to Norway before, but there we were with 4 suitcases and 2 new rings on our fingers. We arrived on a grey, rainy day in Stavanger, a small city on the Southwest coast.

Tall ship Stavanger

Three years later we left Stavanger with a toddler, a few more suitcases, and a deep love in our hearts for the city. It was truly a gift to live there for those few years.

I often think of Stavanger with a mixture of fondness and melancholy. I feel a strange heartache to think that it is all still there – our house, our street, our supermarket, the forest, the harbour – but I am not. Bizarrely, it seems to me that places that are dear to you should really freeze when you leave. It should all just pause and be preserved for when you return. I struggle to think that a city that holds such a place in my heart doesn’t hold me in the same regard; my absence doesn’t even register as a bit of a frown on the face of Stavanger. Gasp!

Harbour

This is crazy, I know. But not that crazy, right? Do you have places that you hope are just holding steady until your return?

Oh, but of course Stavanger is ticking along, as it should. And I will keep on loving it from afar.

There is so much to love: the cobbled streets of downtown that rose steeply from the harbour to the watch tower on the hill, the small tranquil harbour that somehow held enormous looming cruise ships, Gamle Stavanger (“Old Stavanger”) with its white wooden houses and cheerful flowers tumbling out of window boxes, the beautiful shops that adhered to the Scandinavian sensibility of effortless style, simplicity, and practicality with a quirky dose of fun.

Gamle Stavanger

Stavanger sign

Gamle Stavanger 2

Queen Mary cruise

Stavanger

I think about the Norwegian people who were fit and always so fresh-faced, who celebrated their national day by wearing traditional outfits called bunader, who valued family over work so much so that people would unflinchingly walk out of meetings simply because it was time to collect their child from school, who never balked at any weather but used every opportunity to get outside, who believed in the power of fresh air and would bundle up babies to nap outside in their prams.

People like our neighbours with their well-intentioned but unsolicited advice on everything from barbecuing to lawn maintenance, our Norwegian language teacher with her valiant effort to get us to say “Bare hyggelig” or “Jeg må gå nå” (any guesses?), or our midwives who proudly praised our choice of a Norwegian name for our baby.

May 17 Bunader

I picture the harbour where they held an annual food and wine festival called Glad Mat (“Happy Food”) at the height of summer that resulted in some of the best eating ever. There were vendors cooking over open fires, there were vintage boats serving cocktails, there was the French guy selling perfect creme brûlée in individual earthenware dishes, there was music and bunting, and the sky stayed light late into the night allowing everyone more precious time to taste and sip and be together.

Glad Mat

Creme brûlée

I remember the hills across the water just begging to be hiked on a sunny Saturday, beautiful trails through forests smelling of pine needles, clear pools of glacial water in the mountains and the way your feet ached as they soaked in the freezing water, the wild blueberries growing low and dense on the side of a hill.

Manafossen

Blueberries

I can still taste the Norwegian strawberries, too, so small, so sweet; the Skolebrød (“School bread”) – ubiquitous buns with a custard filling and a coconut topping; heart-shaped waffles with the heady fragrance of cardamom; the traditional, yet off-putting brown cheese that I happily and hungrily devoured in the hospital with my newly born baby girl swaddled next to me.

Boat house

I think of our cozy, but quirky house with its blue (!) toilets and wood-paneled walls. We had a backyard that was bordered by a beautiful forest and deer would visit regularly, usually to devour my tulips that had just emerged after a long, dark winter.  I also can’t help thinking of when I was accidentally locked out of the house in a torrential downpour by our 15 month old child. Hearing that bolt click closed was not a good moment.

Deer in yard

I remember winter days when the rain would come down in an endless drizzle and the sky would darken at 4:00 p.m, and I remember the lovely summer days when people would go to the beach in droves with their disposable one-use grills, and everyone would swim in the cold water until someone spotted a jelly fish and the kids shrieked. I also remember the poor boy who was stung by a jelly fish, and how his father propped him on the handlebars of his bike and cycled away to retrieve vinegar with his son screaming the whole way. Don’t worry – they were back 30 minutes later. You cannot waste a summer day in Norway!

Winter Hinna Beach

Coast

There is so much more about Stavanger that parades through my thoughts now and again from my favourite salad at Cafe Deja Vu to the resident swans at the pond behind the cathedral to the glass blower’s workshop to the funny shower curtains that were used to close off the alcohol sections at the supermarket after a certain time of day.

What an endearing, pristine place. If you have the chance, do go. As for me, I will remember it all with a smile on my face and hope one day that I can pick up where Stavanger and I left off all those years ago.

Winter Sola Beach

 

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Long Time Gone

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Well, I am not sure how this happened, but I haven’t published a post around these parts since October 2013. I am not certain, but I believe that leaving nearly 11 months between posts is breaking some kind of blogging rule…the rule of actually writing stuff, for example.

You know how it gets, though – you have good intentions and plans, and yet somehow the days pass by and nothing has eventuated. Like you and that plan to eat more chia seeds or to get rid of that pair of jeans that you bought one size too small. Y’know, it just doesn’t happen.

Mind you, I wasn’t being completely lazy during those 10 months. I was taking a lot of photos and doing some incredible traveling (and, let’s be honest, watching Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube). The trips I took were so eye-opening and wonderful that I think you will want to get your own glimpse of these places, too.

I will try to share the very best of it with you because we all love to know that special places exist, not so we can put them on some bucket list, but just to know that beautiful parts of our world abound even if they are not right outside our window.

Places like these…

NZ Beach

 

Argentinian lunch

 

Colombian hills

 

Brazil beach

 

Alberta rocks

Now, if these places ARE outside your window, then congratulations..and also, whaaaat?! Open those curtains for criminy’s sake!

I hope you are all still out there and willing to stop by for a blog visit from time to time. I do hope that these last 10 months have been good to you, or at least civil to you, or maybe just that you have survived them? I am not sure where our standards should be.

Okay, let’s do this! You go give away those jeans already and I will get writing! xx

Time’s Up?

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Hello travelers! Can you believe that this little ol’ blog started 1 year ago? I really think I must have blacked out for a month or two because I have no idea where the time has gone.

When I started this adventure with sweaty palms and photo files that were too small, I thought that calling it ‘A Year Of Travel’ meant that I was reaching FAR into the future, and I was really stretching myself. Huh. Turns out that 12 months is not really stretching anything.

So, this is where it all began: Sicily, where our car tried to do the backstroke, and we may have indebted ourselves to the Mafia.

These trips got some attention from you, too:

Malaysia where I was ready to saddle a rat.

Waterton where I nearly engaged in some Greco-Roman with the wildlife.

Edinburgh where I came face to face with Prince Charles.

I have many more trips to write about, so if you will indulge me further I will happily ramble along for another year.

 

I will selflessly continue to gaze longingly at baked goods (and eat them) for the sake of this blog.

I will continue my intrepid ways to experience the adventures for you to read about. (That hill was MUCH bigger than it looks.)

It’s beyond wonderful that so many of you have taken a moment in your day to stop, to read, to comment or to give me a “thumbs up”. I know there are a gazillion blogs out there to peruse. The fact that my voice is somewhere in that magnificent mix is an honour and a gift.

Thank you. xx

(Unless you are the person who searched for ‘flamenco rear’ or ‘the moon skaters’ and wound up at my site. To you, I say “I’m afraid you are mistaken.”)

I will continue to take photos to fuel your travel daydreams. (In years to come my kids will struggle to recognize me without the camera up to my face.)

Fortunate me

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We need to talk.

But don’t worry! It’s not one of those talks. I just want to check in with you to see how you are doing. It’s been about 4 months since I started writing this blog and you started indulging me by reading it.

Thank you.

You’ve vicariously traveled to 19 different countries. Wow! That’s better than those package tours that strap you and your backpack into a bus for a 10 day blitz of Europe. And, 4 months in, you have no pile of laundry to deal with after your trips (except for that pile of laundry that you normally have to deal with. I can’t do anything about that), you have no overtime to work to pay off that extra week in a hotel, you have no sand to vacuum out of your suitcase (where, oh, where does it all come from?!), and you have no extra kilos to shift after overindulging on your travels (except for those extra kilos you normally…oh, never mind).

And me? I am delighted to be writing these travel tales. Truly delighted. I am even more delighted that someone is reading them and enjoying them. Thanks for all of the kind comments and the “Likes” on the blog. I love hearing from you, so please do drop me a note when you’ve read something that resonates. Comments make the web world feel less like a black hole!

This is how I feel about this blog! No, not like a fish out of water…

There have been 832 views of my blog so far which is very cool or it just means that my family are taking it in turns to visit the site and bump up the numbers (if that’s the case, guys, can you get me to 1000?)! I must’ve done something right back in April because on one day my blog had 30 views. It’s a personal best, people! And records are made to be broken so I’m now aiming for 31 for one day in June. Dream big.

In other interesting news, someone searched ‘sisterdom taboo stories’ and was directed to my post about Mexico. Uh, I guess I am sorry that you didn’t find what you were looking for (taboo? really?), but hope you enjoyed reading about tostadas! I only feel a little creepy.

So, what’s next? Well, I keep writing and striving to post 3 times a week (if only kids could feed/dress/drive themselves). If there’s anything you need, let me know. A specific country you are curious about? More photos? Less…something? We’re in this together, you know.

I’m so glad we talked. Let’s do this again in another 4 months!

I’m ready to travel. Are you?