London, England, Oslo, Norway

Big Barbara Comes to Town

IMG_9234On Friday, I was actually more excited to be in the airport itself than to be in the new city I’d just landed in.  Why?  I was meeting Barbara in just a half hour at the baggage claim!  She was flying across the pond to hang out for almost two weeks, and the first part of our adventure would be in Nesoddtangen with her longtime friend, Trine (pronounced Trina).  I should clarify that I was excited to visit Norway, but I hadn’t done much research on what I wanted to see in Oslo.  This is probably because it was the first time I was traveling to a place where I’d know a local.  For me, the ‘must see’ sights would be any and all suggestions by Trine and her son, Julian.  And, of course, a highlight of the trip would be witnessing Barbara and Trine reunite after many years.

After meeting at the arrivals terminal, Barbara and I texted with Julian to get directions to get to their home.  Nesoddtangen is about forty kilometers from Oslo, right on the fjord.  We ran to catch the ferry at Aker Brygge, met Julian in the parking lot on the other side of the fjord, and enjoyed the short drive to their house. I felt like I was in a combination of seaside home with light blue walls and shells lining the windowsills, and a mountain cabin, cozy with furry blankets and birch logs lining the fireplace.  It made me realize how many big cities I’ve been to and how relaxing it felt to be in a home surrounded by nature.  I lost track of the number of times that I sighed ‘how beautiful‘ in just a 48 hour period.

When I visit friends and family, the first night I expect to stay up way too late because we’re so excited to catch up on everything in our lives.  This evening proved to be no different between Barbara and Trine, friends for over 30 years!


The next morning, after a long lie-in (British for ‘sleeping in’), Trine made us scrambled eggs, fresh orange juice, and gravlax.  We walked with Yogi down by the bath houses along the fjord.  The bath houses used to be connected to a property on the overlooking hills.  Families would use the bath houses as changing rooms before swimming or wading.

Taking the ferry to Oslo takes exactly 23 minutes and you get a great view of the fort, Aker Brygge’s promenade, and the city hall.  The first stop on our list was Vinmonopolet, or the wine monopoly shop.  The government-owned wine shop has limited Saturday hours until 3pm and is closed on Sunday. You have to plan ahead if you want to imbibe on the weekends.  When we asked the staff member to help us pick our red wine to pair with our dinner, she wanted to know what vegetables we’d serve and how the lamb would be prepared and other specific details that no one has every asked when I’ve picked out a wine for dinner. Who am I kidding…I just pick a label I like.

With our wine in tow, we rode a smaller boat to Bygdoy island to check out the open air Norsk Folkemuseum.  This museum showcases life in Norway from the 1500s to present day with 160 historic buildings that have been relocated from regions around the country.  Staff members wear traditional dress native to each region and give various cultural demonstrations for visitors.  Trine actually used to work here when she was in high school, and could remember bits and bobs about her time in these little neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, we were too late to visit the Viking Ship museum but we peeked through the windows to see the most famous ship on display.  After the ferry back to Oslo, we checked out city hall.  Lining the walkway to city hall are huge wooden panels telling the story of creation and depicting Norse gods in various mythical scenes.  We also visited the Nobel museum gift shop before resting our legs at Sputino for an aperitif.

For dinner, we had homegrown lamb!  The couple that rents the attic at Trine’s raises sheep, and that’s how we had Lulu the lamb as a treat for dinner.  Trine made broccoli and mashed potatoes which paired perfectly with our red wine just like the lady said it would.  I forgot to snap a picture because I started eating so quickly.

Here are a couple other random shots from our day.


Sunday, we had another lie in, but as I was up a bit earlier, I spent the time finishing up bits of my blog while watching the fog burn off the fjord.  I could make out boats dotting the horizon and neighbors walking along the path by the bath houses.  I felt so relaxed having Yogi, their black lab, at my feet and their calico kitten nipping at my pen as I was scribbling on the page.  Julian started a fire and we had another lovely breakfast of eggs, cucumber, cheese and marmalade.

Trine explained that her neighborhood is deregulated– no cops or authorities– just artists and alternative thinkers living their lives on the water.  The forest was also just a five minute drive from her street.

We hiked along Trine’s favorite trail that afternoon.  The pine trees were striking and the forest floor was soft with moss.  There were also sprawling blueberry and lingonberry bushes on both sides of the trail.  Berries weren’t in season yet, but seeing how many bushes covered the forest floor would mean more berries than I could imagine.  I can see why Trine considers the Bjornemyr forest her therapist, her gym and her church.

We had just enough time to take a very very chilly dip into the fjord before heading back into Oslo! Trine mentioned how exhilarating it would be, and Julian said it was highly recommended, so when in Rome… ahem, when in Nesoddtangen?!?!

Vigeland Sculpture Park was my last stop before I had to get on the airport tram.  It’s a beautiful park with over 200 naked statues in various still and active positions. Families, joggers, couples and tourists alike were giggling and posing with the statues, making their own fun.

There’s in a word I learned on this trip: dugnad, which means to do something together; create a garden, pave a road, or shovel snow with everyone from the neighborhood helping.  Being in Nesoddtangen, with such natural beauty, made me think about how small I am but how much we accomplish when we do things together in this way.  I guess I just felt a calm sense of possibility looking out over the water each day.  Big shoutout to Trine and Julian for welcoming us into their home, and I’m happily dreaming about what reunions will be like with my girlfriends after 30 years of friendship.




Barbara stayed an extra day in Norway, so our visit in London started Tuesday! Because Corey was home healing his kidney, he and ‘Big Barbara’ would have breakfast and plan out her days’ adventures.  Of course, he started the nickname ‘Big Barbara’ as well.  Here are the escapades day by day.

Tuesday: Corey and Barbara visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, and she climbed to the top to see the 360 view of London.  They spent time in the free exhibits at the Tate Modern, namely in the Rothko section. For a late lunch, we all met up at the National Theater for a proper afternoon tea! We shared sandwiches, scones, and even small meat pie.  The themed menu was based on the plays of the National Theater.  Our gift certificate also included a backstage tour where we saw the props and costume studios, as well as the three stages on site. I’ve only seen a show at the largest theater, but was inspired to check out more show dates in the future.  We relaxed that evening with a meal of roasted veggies at home.

Wednesday: Big Barbara went big! She conquered the West side, visiting both the Design museum and the V&A! She also walked Kensington gardens and still had energy to meet up with a friend of mine for a play called Posh. The play tells the story of a fictional drinking club (think fraternity) at Oxford that must confront their own definitions of brotherhood.  This modern version kept the exact same script but was played by an all female cast creating lots of food for thought.  It was also an experience to see a show where we could understand the literal words of the play, but where we didn’t understand most of the British context,  jokes, or references.

Thursday was Westminster Abbey, St James Park and Buckingham Palace.  Memorial flowers dedicated to the four victims of the attack on Parliament were laid out across the lawn in front of the Abbey.  With a stroke of luck, we saw the changing of the horses guard, and Corey met us for a lunch at Koya, an udon bar in Soho. I went to visit a school in the afternoon while Corey and Barbara made their way back to the flat.  After a day of walking, it was a perfect evening for a feast at Gokyuzu, my favorite Turkish restaurant.

Friday: She is still going!  Barbara checked off the Tower, Tower Bridge, and the South bank. We also had a tasty lunch at Borough market after I left my meetings.  It was a good day to have some Hendrick’s G&Ts at the Pig and Butcher before making a tasty dinner at home.

Saturday: We spent time at the Tate Britain, and then rode the Thames Clipper back to central London.  We wiled away the afternoon touring Spitalfields market, seeing Brick Lane’s graffitied walls, and strolling down Regent’s Canal.

Sunday: Rise and shine for Columbia Flower market, and a hefty Sunday Roast.  Then Kew Botanical Gardens and a final Sunday supper of Ottolenghi take out. Barbara said she felt inspired by the veggie dishes!


I hope that after reading about Barbara’s trip, you’ll feel inspired to visit us as well, and use this outline as a starting point for your own travels. We had such a good time adding new sights to our repertoire and thank you, Big Barbara, for bringing a bit of CA home to London.

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