The French LOVE school breaks. The first day of November is All Saints Day, and so the Vacances de la Toussaint happen at the end of October. And yes, for some reason despite the fact that this is a Catholic holiday, it does not break la laïcité (secularism) that the French school system is based on. One can’t really understand the French, just do as they do 😉
Thanks to the break, I completed 2 weeks of work and am enjoying my first 2 week break now. Love it. I’m using my 2 weeks to explore Scandinavia and started with Oslo, Norway.
Oslo is an expensive expensive expensive city. Also, they aren’t in the European Union and like Sweden and Denmark, use a currency that is on a scale approximately 10 times the euro/dollar. In Norway, this is the krone. It is extremely easy to spend way more money than you normally would because it is such a different number it feels like fake money. 100 krone isn’t nearly as meaningful to me as 10 dollars/euros. It is necessary to be alert, I keep on realizing I am about to spend $6 on a coffee!
All in all, Oslo was an awesome city. It isn’t as popular of a tourist destination because it is expensive and out of the way of other European cities, so it feels much more liveable/comfortable to me than a city like Paris. Also, everyone speaks excellent English. Three cheers for a break from the French language!
I arrived midday and just wandered around. I stayed in the Anker Hostel – one of the cheapest options in Oslo. Very close to Karl Johans Gate (main drag/shopping street), the train station and other popular spots. It was obvious how cheap it was though and I had no interest in spending much time there. It was a rainy few days but I liked it – rainy feels like home. I dropped my bag and wandered without aim (except to find the elusive ATM). Oslo has a harbor and is right on the water, has a lot of interesting shops, and about a million 7-11s.
At the end of Karl Johans Gate is a park and the Royal Palace. You can watch the changing of the guard every day at 1:30 and a kind of fun free thing to do in a spendy city.
I am addicted to soup, and found a nice cheap soup restaurant, What’soup. In a food court underneath the Steen & Strom department store, there were many good food options. The soup was still 100 NOK but that’s cheap for Oslo! And they have free Wifi!! Really, what more could a girl want?
I always try to find botanical gardens when I travel, they are free, pretty, and I really like them. So first thing was a trip to the Botanical Garden. Very pretty, although I would imagine it’s much better in the spring and summer. You can tell Fall is here.
It took me a long time to find the garden, so by the time is was done there, I was hungry! I found a good bakery and had a norwegian cinnamon bun and coffee and was fueled up for the rest of the day. Oslo has a lot of cool museums and viewpoints but they are pretty spread out, so I bought a 24 hour bus pass for 90 NOK and headed to the Munch Museum. The museum was fine, although I’m not sure I would go back because it was a little pricy for me. Art museums have the best gifts/souvenirs.The art postcards are the best cheap, packable thing to buy so I got some good ones.
I then wandered around the roof of the Oslo Opera House, which was fun. It’s a slanted roof you can walk on and a fun, free thing to do for a couple minutes.
I then took the bus out to the Fram Museum. This museum was awesome!! And only 40 NOK. It has 2 ships used for artic explorations around 1900 (the Fram and the Gjøa). I’m not a huge museum person, but any adventuring, science person would be interested in this museum. I learned all sorts of things about how the north pole was explored and the ways they studied the unique atmospheric and magnetic properties near the north pole. The museum was well presented and the absolute coolest part was getting to go on the Fram and walk on and below deck. I can’t believe people spent years based out of these small spaces.
The last thing I did was go to the Vigeland Sculpture Park on my way back from the Fram. This park has hundreds of sculptures and was a good way to end my day of wandering. Another free park to explore.
I went back to the food court for a cheapish burrito – the best burrito I’ve had in Europe! (not saying much) and went back to my hostel to plan for Sweden.
Oslo had many things I didn’t do that I would’ve liked to. There is the Holmenkollen ski jump and Kragstotten viewpoint for great views of the city, the Norwegian Folk Museum (an open air museum with traditional Norwegian houses), the Kon-Tiki museum, and the nearby forests. To make that affordable, you can buy an Oslo Pass for admission to all the museums but in the winter they have limited hours and it wasn’t feasible to shove them all into my day. I would love to come back to Norway in the summer for hiking and kayaking or in the winter for snowshoeing and skiing. A beautiful country. And if you head north, you can see the northern lights and fjords!!
To Stockholm we go ✈✈