Archive for » February, 2015 «

From Bergen to Utne


Since we’ve done the Bergen tourist loop multiple times now, we decided to do it a little differently with the Hills. We used Bergen as our jumping off point as usual, but this time rather than doing the actual Norway-in-a-Nutshell tour for the third time (you can see the previous 2 times here and here), we decided to turn the route into a little mini road trip in our own vehicle so we could travel at our own pace and to allow us to deviate from our path whenever our whims fancied a detour. And our whims fancied a lot of detours!
We traipsed all over the Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord regions, starting in Bergen and traveling from there to Norheimsund to Øystese to Aurland to Voss to Utne to Odda and back home. We visited apple orchards and had the best home-baked apple cake I’ve ever had in Norway with vanilla ice cream at Steinstø Fruktgård. We saw lots of waterfalls and gorgeous fjords. We perused some local museums. We walked up and down the misty shorelines of the fjords and we ventured to the tops of the mountains. We nibbled on lefse and we stopped at as many roadside cherry stands as we could to pig out on delicious Hardanger cherries. We traveled by car, bus, and ferry along many twists of both the road and fate and truly had a grand adventure.
Steinsdalsfossen Waterfall
(I feel ridiculous writing that because in Norwegian ‘foss’ means ‘waterfall’, but when I’m writing everything else in English it just seems weird not to include it!)  It looks small from far away, but close up…
it was a ton of crashing water! Out of all the waterfalls we saw on our trip this one was particularly cool because you could walk behind it.

It magical to get off the beaten path of the Norway-in-a-Nutshell tour and explore the rest of the region. You do get an awesome perspective on Norway in a short amount of time doing the tour, but it doesn’t beat getting to take things at your own pace and being able to stop and smell the cherry blossoms (and sample the apple cake!).

Next stop, Aurland!


Bergen with the family Hill

Bergen will forever remain one of my favorite Norwegian cities, no matter how many times we visit. It has the perfect combination of big-city-grandeur and small-village-charm with its eclectic architecture and fascinating history. So when the Hills wanted to see Norway we knew Bergen was top on the list of places to take them.


Emma gave herself a photo challenge for the duration of her trip to photograph as many flowers as she could. Here she is living up to her challenge and photographing some Bergenese flowers.


Mom loves to sew and is a part of a local stitching club. One of the stitches often talked about in her club is the Hardanger Stitch, so we knew we had to focus on the amazing artistry of embroidery on the Hardanger region bunads. We found an awesome shop that makes custom bunads and I think she was in her own personal heaven!
The rest of the family wasn’t so thrilled that so much time was spent in a sewing shop ;)
Exploring the outdoor fish market. Emma and I got to try samples of roasted whale!
These crabs were as big as small dogs!


The past two times Chris and I have been in Bergen we have passed this antique/flea market shop and each time it has been closed. This time it was finally open and we got to explore the treasures within! It was worth the wait! So many cool things crammed into every nook and cranny. Some of my favorites were antique newspaper letterpress type blocks and old nautical charts from WWII. Chris found a bunch of cool swords and Mom and Dad loved the antique coins. It’s probably a good thing they don’t have something like this in Stavanger because I would waste so much time just combing through everything in the store and trying to imagine its history. And of course, despite having a flea market feel, the prices were still Norway prices. Which, again, is probably a good thing because we would have left with half the store if they were cheaper :) If you are ever in Bergen and need a good souvenir, I would definitely try this place over any of the “tourist” shops any day!
The view from the top of Mt. Fløyen
Brother and sister.
Chris and his almost dream boat (This was the Hallberg-Rassy 62 and his dream boat is the Hallberg-Rassy 64). Someday when we have a million $$ or two just lying around burning a hole in our pocket she will be ours :)

In typical fashion, we used Bergen as our launching point for a grander Norwegian adventure into the mountains and fjords. More on that soon!



After getting back from our fantastic weekend at Bjergøy we had a day to “rest” before we jetted off on the next round of our adventures with the Hills in town. And by “rest” I mean mom and dad Hill got to rest while we dragged Emma up a mountain to sit on top of a cliff. Because that’s just what you have to do when you visit Norway!

Summer was definitely in full swing! We’ve never seen so many people swimming at the swimming hole!
The traditional feet-over-the-edge shot.
Queen of the rock, Emma!
Hello little baby bump! Glad you could join us on this lovely summer day now that your secret is officially out in the open!


An island called Bjergøy


While Chris’ family was in town our dear friends, Joanna and Johannes, invited us to join them for a weekend at their hytte (a Norwegian vacation home) on an island north of Stavanger called Bjergøy. As soon as Chris got home from his Arctic adventure we loaded up the car and made the gorgeous drive up there.


Norwegians LOVE their vacation homes and from what we’ve seen they escape to them quite frequently. Some are up high in the mountains and some are out by the coast. This particular hytte used Johannes’ family home where he grew up when he was a boy and it has remained in the family ever since. In fact their last name, Bjerga, comes from the name of the island (Bjergøy) generations and generations ago. Talk about some cool history in an absolutely idyllic place!



We swam in the fjord, we kayaked, we gardened, we laid in the sun, we picked raspberries, we played games, we grilled, we made s’mores with Reeses peanut butter cups, we had deep discussions about the intricacies and complexities of life and death, and most importantly we bonded with family and friends.


Nemi did NOT like the fact that we were swimming in the water and whenever anyone was out there she would leap in too and swim circles around us herding us together and keeping us safe. Such a good dog :)
Sampling the plums fresh off one of the many fruit trees on their property. Seriously so perfect. 
The growing baby bump! We still hadn’t broken the news to anyone there yet (including Chris’ family!) so I was all about the baggy shirts to try to keep it hidden until we were ready to spill the beans (even though we snuck in this one photo). Luckily no one noticed and I wasn’t so nauseous that I couldn’t hide it, although I later learned Joanna suspected. I suppose it was getting a little hard to conceal by that point! We finally told the Hills the night we got back from Bjergøy with a fun dinner reminiscent of the way Chris’ mom told his dad she was pregnant with Chris with “baby chickens” (aka cornish game hens). We thought we were pretty clever and it was fantastic to finally have it out in the open! Needless to say, they were pretty excited at the news :)


We absolutely loved our time with Joanna and Johannes that weekend and were so glad Chris’ family got to know them. Bringing close friends and family together always seems to create treasured memories and this time with the Bjergas will always be special for us. The Hills got a great taste of why we love it here in Norway so much: a peaceful atmosphere, beautiful scenery and truly amazing friends!


The Hills come to visit!
One of the best parts about living in Norway so far has been having our families come to visit. My family came for a week last summer and this summer was the summer of the Hills!
Mom, Dad and Chris’ youngest sister, Emma, spent a week romping around France and then popped over to Norway to spend 3 weeks among the vikings with their favorite oldest son!
Well, mostly with their favorite oldest son. Chris was still in Svalbard for the first few days they were here so they got to spend the first part of their trip with their favorite oldest son’s wife :) We wiled away the Chris-less days exploring the Gladmat Food Festival in downtown Stavanger sampling all of the delicious local foods they had to offer. I don’t know if I’m just not remembering past Gladmat festivals correctly, but I thought this year was the best we’ve seen before. We tried elk burgers, pickled herring tacos, fresh baked naan, wild Norwegian forest pesto, sheep sausages, ice cream, gelato, gourmet cheeses and I MAY have gotten a little overexcited at the fact that there was a stand selling fresh-fried churros! I’m not ashamed to admit we went back to that stand more than once.

This also happened to be the warmest summer Stavanger has seen in over 100 years. It got well up into the 80s fahrenheit, which sounds super nice compared to the Vegas/Utah weather we are used to… but when you factor in the fact that NOBODY has air conditioning here (because since when does it ever get that warm in the summer in Norway??) and the fact that our car’s air conditioning hasn’t worked in years (because our car has special needs and why get it fixed if you NEVER use it?) it can feel stiflingly warm really fast. The plus side was we had absolutely FANTASTIC weather during our time with the Hills as long as we were outside to enjoy it! The negative side was our apartment has lovely big southern-facing windows, which in this heat wave turned our living area into a greenhouse. When we tried to open all the doors and windows to get a cross-breeze blowing, all we really did was let in a swarm of flies and bees (because apparently the heat-wave also caused an upsurge in the breeding patterns of flying insects. Trust me, it was in the news). We tried to hang out outside as much as possible, but we only lasted two days before we set off in search of some good strong electric fans so make indoors more bearable. Much to our dismay, we found the stores completely sold out! We asked a clerk when they might expect a new shipment and he responded, “We just got a shipment in yesterday and they sold out again within two hours! We’re on hold for another order now because all of our suppliers are sold out all the way back to Sweden!” Only in Norway…
But seriously though, once you got out of our apartment the weather was absolutely fantastic! We couldn’t have asked for a better time for the Hills to visit! I think by the end of the trip we had them pretty convinced they wanted to move here with us :) Good show, Norway. Good show!
(Also, as a side note, we hadn’t broken the news about our pregnancy to Chris’ family yet. We were trying to keep it a surprise until after he got home! I tell you, THAT was an adventure trying to keep a secret while dealing with heat, nausea, and strange new foods for a few days! And my little baby bump was starting to show, so it was baggy/blousy shirts for me. What a secret to try to keep eh?)