Smile #162 – Nice to Meet You, Oslo, Norway! [Part I]

Nice to Meet You, Oslo, Norway!  [Part I]

A year ago, Bubble met Europe and Europe introduced him to a whole new adventure.  He connected with the people, tasted the local cuisine (pasta and pizza, anyone?), and experienced the Italian culture.  A year ago, Bubble fell in love with Europe.  Now, Bubble is ready to return and experience another facet of Europe.

Welcome to the Scandinavia!  

Our flight landed at 8:20 am Norwegian time, which is equivalent to 1 am EST.  We were basically walking zombies at this point.  Luckily the Oslo airport is very easy to navigate.  It also helps that all signs are written in both English and Norwegian.  And there are attendants standing by to offer any assistance.  I mean how much easier can this get!  Shh, here is a secret, take the regional train instead of the airport express.  It saved us $20+! And every bit counts when you are visiting the most expensive city in the world!

Despite our hotel is only a 5 mins walk from Oslo S, it was still a test of our geographical navigation skills.  After a bit of circling, we spotted our hotel at the end of the street.  We dropped our bags and immediately headed to the local coffee shop next door.  Coffee is much needed!  Once we stepped inside, my attention was shifted to the pastries.  Bubble and I shared the famous Skillinsboller buns.  Boy, oh boy did it live up to its reputation!

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City map spreaded across the table.  We flipped through the Oslo guide book and started planning our route for the day.  I guess the two Norwegian guys at the table next to us overheard our conversation.  On their way out, they came up to us.  One guy asked how long we have been in the Oslo.  Without thinking, Bubble replied, just two hours and you?  The guys chuckled and replied we are from Oslo.  LOL.  Clearly our minds are still in zombie mode.  So far, the plan for the day is explore the city a bit, make our way to the Viking ship Museum and maybe stop by the Royal Palace.  They nodded in unison.  Instead of going straight to the pier, they recommended starting the route near the harbor at Akershus Fortress.  From there follow the road up to the pier and make our ways to Bygdov to Viking Ship museum and maybe check out Kon Tiki Museum as well.  Before we parted ways, we thank them for helping us plan our agenda.  I might be falling in love with Norway already!

We took up the two Norwegian guy’s recommendation and headed toward the Fortress.  Akershus Fortress is a medieval castle built to protect Oslo.  Unfortunately the castle is closed for maintenance, but visitors are free to roam the ground.

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While on our stroll, we noticed a strange high pitch chirping noise.  It seems that a little brown bird was trying to charm a white/greyish bird.  The little brown fella trailed behind the white one, chirping in his best vocal in attempts to get her attention.  The white/greyish bird just marched on with no regards.  When she jumped in the pond to avoid him, he followed her and never left her side. Hopefully they have a Nicholas Sparks ending!

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Without disturbing the birds’ love story, we continued up the massive fortress.  We followed the cobblestoned walkway to the top of the hill.  The overlook offers wonderful views of Oslofjord and the city.

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On our way over to the pier, we stumbled across Christiania Torv, a giant finger pointing to the ground.  The unique statue supposedly marked the spot where King Christian IV pointed to the ground and declared, “the new town will lie here!” after a great fire burned large portion of city down.

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Across from Radhuset (City Hall) is the vibrant waterfront area, Aker brygge.  Lined with restaurants and great view of the harbor, it is no secret why it is a busy attraction.

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Right by the pier, we took the ferry to Bygdoy.  This residential area is Oslo’s museum center.  Bubble has been excited to check out Viking Ship Museum.  This museum houses three original Viking ships, the Oseberg ship, the Gokstad ship and the Tune ship, along with other artifacts that were found in the excavations.

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At the entrance, we fought our ways past tourist groups and greeted the first viking ship.  We climbed up to the balcony viewing platform to admire the massive ship at a bird’s eye view.

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The Oseberg ship was used as a burial ship for women. The Gokstad and the Tune were used for men.  The dead were buried with food and drinks, animals and gifts, such as jewelry, wood carvings and pottery on the ship.   When scientist excavated the ship, they found four Viking carts in the burial mound with the Oseberg.  It is believed these carts represent a huge value, but the true purpose is unknown.  These carts are decorated with  detailed carvings of animals, people, and symbols.

Bubble was very impressed with the well preserved ships and all the history.

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Moving on to the our next destination, Kon Tiki Museum.  This museum documented the famous Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl’s attempts to cross from Peru to the Polynesia.  It was a journey most experts had predicted failure.  Thor defeated the odds.  With his multinational crew, they  completed the quest in victory.  How inspiring!

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“Borders?  I have never seen one.  But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people” – Thor Heyerdahl

This was my favorite museum and it has nothing to do with the name Thor…I genuinely enjoyed the laid out of this museum.  I like the dual story line approach, a cartoon based story line for children and a factual version for adults.  This allows adults and children to both experience the exhibition at a similar pace.  To be honest, I might’ve liked the children version more.  🙂

Browsing through both museums have shared with us a great view of Norway’s past.

To end our first night in Norway, we spoiled ourselves with homemade Norwegian food at Cafe Elias.  This little spot was a trek from our hotel and we definitely had multiple second thoughts   I am so glad we didn’t submit to other options and stuck to our goal!

We were mesmerized by the menu.  We could’ve ordered the whole menu!  Wolfish fillet?  Barley risotto?  Lamb shank?

After some serious consideration, we decided to split a fish soup.  It was so creamy.  The seafood was flavorful!

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For entrees, Bubble ordered Norway’s iconic reindeer stew.  It was amazing!  It lived up to its hype and more!

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Norway also has a reputation for its salmon.  I was excited to try their oven baked organic salmon.  I am not even sure what shallot sauce is, but mix that with the fresh salmon paired and it is to die for!

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Because alcohol is ridiculously expensive, thanks to the government’s strategy to prevent people from turning into alcoholics, we only ordered one drink to share – Elias’s Aquavit.  Aquavit is Norway’s national liquor.  It is distilled from potato and flavored with herbs.  Our drink tasted just like orange juice.

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The meal might have cost us an arm and a leg, but it was totally worth it!

Time to get ready for our next adventure – Norway in a Nutshell Tour!

Smile #161 – Blogger Bubble

Bubble went on his first solo business trip last week.  He successfully navigated the airport all by himself!  I am so proud!  Ah, my little Bubble is growing up!  🙂

He, along with a few coworkers, flew out to the California for a week to work.  He got to try all the tasty west coast only restaurants, like In-and-Out Burger and Habit Burgers.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll just retreat to a chicken sandwich from Chickfila.

Even when his work kept him pretty busy, he still managed to surprise me.  He bought me a new LA keychain.  One day, LA, I’ll come for you and your food!   In addition to the keychain, he brought me two postcards, one from LA and one from Long Beach.  They are no ordinary postcards.  Bubble actually took up my usual habit of documenting about each day of on the back of the postcard!  🙂  Little Blogger Bubble.

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Funny story:  After he handed me those postcards, I attempted to read them out loud.  Except Bubble’s handwriting is so tangled that I can’t make out half of the words.  HAHAH, it was like a child attempting to read her first chapter book.  Bashmess…no…badness…no…business.  It took me a good five minutes to read these postcards.  Nevertheless, it was still a sweet gesture though!  🙂

Smile #160 – Say Yes to Wedding Podcast

To grasp how to plan a wedding and to get wedding inspirations, I have been flipping through wedding magazines, reading wedding blogs and websites, browsing through Pinterest and watching wedding videos.  To add to my latest madness, I just discovered wedding podcasts!

I’ve been an avid podcast listener over the years.  I turn it on whenever I get a chance to catch up with current events.  With so many podcasts, it is hard to know what is all that’s out there.  That’s when a light bulb suddenly went off, why not see if there are any podcasts about weddings.  A simple search returned several wedding planning podcasts.  Jackpot!

Despite these podcasts all revolve the major keyword – wedding, each one takes a different angle.

  • Put A Ring On It hosted by photographer Daniel Moyer and wedding planner Danielle Pasternak share their wedding industry knowledge through stories and interviews.
  • Engaged hosted by Kali and her fiance, Ryan is a personal journal documenting how they are planning their wedding.  It is personable as they invite friends to talk about how they feel before and after the wedding.
  • The Bridechilla Podcast is hosted by comedian Aiesha McCormack.  I love her witty comments to helps brides to be bridechillas and not bridezillas.
  • To Dos Before I Do hosted by Shaina Franco is devoted to help engaged couples from the exciting moment of saying yes” to the unforgettable moment of saying “I Do.”
  • From Ring to Veil is hosted by two wedding industry professionals, Shannon Palmer and Kim Mills catering mainly to North Pacific region.  However it is very informative for all.  Their guest interviews shares knowledge and secrets about how to plan the perfect wedding.
  • Wedding Planning Podcast is my favorite go-to.  Kara Lamerato focuses on budgeted wedding and shares helpful guidance on wedding planning without breaking the bank.

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75 episodes in, I honestly learned a whole lot about weddings.  From how to select a venue to questions to ask a wedding coordinator, from types of flowers available for each seasons to how to DIY centerpieces.  All these knowledge will certainly come in handy when we start assembling our vendor team.  🙂

Smile #159 – Cinque Terre Completed

Part of my Christmas gifts, Bubble got me a brand new puzzle.  The image is Cinque Terre, more specially, Manarola.  It is a reminder of our happy place!  🙂

I was giddy like a child pouring the 2000 pieces onto the dining table.  Within the pile, I first found all the edge pieces to assemble the frame. Moving on to the easy parts, the colorful buildings and the sunset skyline were completed in no time.  Surprisingly, the toughest part wasn’t the ocean.  The different shades of green helped narrowing down the right home for each pieces.  On the other hand, the rocky terrace was a challenge!  These pieces have no pattern.  Each piece has the same tannish colors with some specks of white and grey.  Nevertheless, the puzzle is finished!

We can’t wait to hang this in our future apartment…wherever that will be.  🙂

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Smile #158 – Nice to Meet You, Parasailing!

Nice to Meet You, Parasailing! 

August has quietly creeped up on the calendar.  Students are stocking up on school supplies and parents can finally let out a relieved sigh. Things will soon return to their ‘normal’ schedule.  Before we welcome that dreadful morning traffic, let’s celebrate summer with one final adventure!

EC, Lil Sis and I took our final beach drive down to Charleston, SC.  We made reservation at Tidalwave Watersports for our very first parasailing trip!  Yup, 600 feet-in-the-air-kinda parasailing!  Honestly, we didn’t quite know what to expect.

We hopped on the motor boat and cruised to the middle of the ocean.  One of the operators helped us get into the harness and handed us each a life vest.  A total of 5 groups, including ours, will take turns going up.  A group of two girls volunteered to go up first.  All eyes on them as they get strapped in and released in the air.  They returned with a big smile on their faces.  We were up next.

While the boat continued to make waves in the ocean, we climbed to the back of the boat.  The operator strapped us in and instructed for us to sit.  Once the the boat speed up and the chute open, we immediately shot up in the air. EC let out her loudest scream.

It took us a second to recognize just how far up we were.  The world looks different when you are looking from 600 feet above.  At such height, everything below is lego size.  We could see the ocean far beyond reach.  We were so high, only the birds could reach us.  For ten mins, we were just hanging on to civilization by a thick rope.  All safety concerns disappeared for the view is absolutely stunning and our surrounding is so peaceful.

We rented a gopro…that was an experience all by itself.  None of us had ever used a gopro; we had no idea if it is running on camera mode or video mode.  It is even more hilarious when we reviewed the footage.  As it turned out, the gopro was running on video mode the whole time despite us ‘switching it to camera mode’…or so we thought we did.  There were clips of boobs close up and unflattering double chin angles.  Sexy, right?!  Fortunately we managed to get some neat clips of us in the air.

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Time flies when you are having fun.  Our time slot is over.  Before we were reeled in, the operator lowered us to dip our feet in the ocean. Luckily, there were no sharks in the water!  The water splashed against our legs cooling us from the summer heat.  We landed back on the same end of the boat.

We did it!  How about that!  Parasailing, check!  It was absolutely fun and adrenaline filled.  Now I am ready to go again, who is with me?!