Archive for the Category »Travel «

One day in Oslo
Since Lily is our little foreign baby, we had to take a trip to the U.S. Embassy in Oslo to get her birth certificate and passport squared away (FAQ answer: Lily is solely an American citizen. Norway doesn’t grant dual citizenship if both parents are foreigners). We had been to Oslo so many times previously and didn’t want to spend money on a hotel, so we booked flights there and back in the same day. That was a first for both of us!

 

I’m not going to lie, I felt SUPER cool going to the embassy. I don’t really know why (probably something to do with spy movies) but I was really excited. The embassy is considered American soil and I had in my head an image of a sleek building with ultra-shiny floors, people in black suits and discreet earpieces hurrying up and down the halls on confidential errands and a whole lot of this:
laba.ws_USA_Independence_Day

 

What it actually is is a very 1970s building that is the love child of airport security and a DMV. ::spy movie dreams crushed:: We got Lily’s documentation all settled after a few hours in the waiting room though and spent the rest of the day enjoying the parks in Oslo and eating BBQ ribs on the veranda of TGI Fridays, because AMERICA!

The park and duck pond in the backyard of the royal palace.
 Family selfie in Frogner Park

 

Category: Adventures, Spawn, Travel  Tags: ,  One Comment
A Summer in Sirdal
Our landlords are awesome. They are the sweetest family and are so helpful with whatever we might need as renters. They are kind and caring and we love living in their basement. To top it all off, they VERY generously offered us their hytte in Sirdal, a local ski resort, for a week for our summer vacation.  Hytte directly translates to cabin in English, but as is typical with Norwegian it encompasses much more than that.  Hytter commonly ARE cabins, but the word can mean all sorts of vacation homes as well.

 

Our landlords’ hytte was GORGEOUS! We spent a full week there with just the three of us and it was very, very nice to get away from it all up in the fresh air of the mountains. We spent our days relaxing (as much as anyone really can relax with a curious and energetic 5 month old around), going for walks when it was sunny, playing with Lily, spending time with Skittles, reading, blogging and grilling lots of yummy food on the porch overlooking the lake. Sometimes we take crazy vacations, but this one was chill and low key and exactly what we needed at this point in our lives :)
I mean…this view!!
This little trip was the sole reason I have finally been able to get caught up on the blog. I was able to sit and finish all the posts I wanted to write during Lily’s naps without feeling guilt for not doing the myriad of other projects I need to do around the house. Like cleaning our fridge. And organizing our bathroom. Yes, this ended up being a much better vacation than if we had stayed at home ;)
Lily spent the week practicing her sitting up skills. I can’t believe how big she is already!
Are we sure it’s the middle of July??
The Grill Master
This is how we do burgers in the Hill household.
And this is how we do babies. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three-generation date in Oslo

During Grandma’s visit Grandma, Lily and I took a day trip to Oslo just because we could. We took the night train there (sleeping in a sleeper car), bopped around Oslo for the day, and then took the night train back. Oslo is surprisingly doable in a single day, especially in the off-season. Mom got a huge kick out of spending the night on a train for the first time (just like me on my first time!) and even Lily enjoyed it! It was hard to really tell at that age what she liked, but the motion of the train calmed her right down and she slept like a rock!

We hit 4 of my favorite museums (The Fram, Kon Tiki, Viking Ships, and the Norwegian Folk Museum) to give my mom a good dose of Norwegian history and culture. Lily spent the whole day in and out of naps in her Solly Baby wrap and handled the long day like a champ! We’ll make a world traveler out of her yet!

Grandma and Lily taking in the Northern Lights show aboard the polar ship Fram.

 

The Viking Ship Museum
The Royal Palace

 

London: Churchill War Rooms
The very last thing we squeezed into our trip to London was the Churchill War Rooms. We almost didn’t make it. We had planned to go earlier in the week, but lines being what they were over the Christmas holidays we didn’t get to see as much as we had intended. Our London Passes had already expired, but Dad really wanted to visit the War Rooms so he, Chris, and I paid the entrance fee anyway and spent our last evening in London below ground in the bunkers while Mom and Rick visited the London Science Museum.
If you read my previous post about Hampton Court, you already know that I love the “slice of life” sort of experiences when it comes to historical destinations. The closer I can get to feeling like I traveled back in time the better (if I could only be granted such a superpower…). The Churchill War Rooms fit the bill perfectly! They were the secret underground headquarters of Churchill and his cabinet during the London Blitz. As soon as World War II ended packed up, turned off the lights, and locked the doors sealing it off exactly as it was the day the war ended (right down to someone’s sugar rations left in a desk drawer). The government understood the significance of such a place and such a moment to Britain’s history and they had the foresight to keep it sealed until it was reopened in the 1970s and converted into a museum for the public to see. So with the exception of some glass walls, information placards and wax war officials, it was as close to being there during the actual war as you could get!
Hitler doodle on one of the maps.
From our current methods of modern warfare with drones, computers and satellites it’s absolutely incredible to think that an entire world war was conducted and won from these very rooms with just little pins on giant maps. It was only three generations ago, but we’ve come such a long way since then! The methods they used back in the 1940s were simultaneously primitive and ingenious and it still blows my mind thinking about it as I review these photos.
So many pin holes!
The daily reported death toll during each night of the Blitz. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for Londoners during that time. I expect it must have been terrifying.
Why hello there Mr. Churchill.
Chris’ favorite part of the experience was the part of the museum dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill. In the US we don’t learn much about Churchill outside of the context of WWII but he was apparently quite a character! It was really amazing to learn about Churchill before he was CHURCHILL (you know, the politician Churchill we always read about). We spent almost as much time in this section of the museum as we did in the rest of the war rooms learning about his aristocratic heritage, his adventures as a war correspondent and heroic POW during the Second Boer War, his daring political career and more. Did you know he single-handedly saved an entire army division, but was captured himself and held hostage, later escaping and traveling almost 300 miles to safety after hiding in an old mine? We sure didn’t! There was way more to Winston than we ever heard about in schools. So much history contained within one short and stout person!
Dad’s and my favorite Churchill quote.
The kitchen that sustained the war.
An officer’s bedroom.

We all left the Churchill War Rooms with a much greater appreciation for England and it’s efforts during World War II.  Overall, London just added fuel to the fire that is my ever-burning desire to be able to travel back in time and see history in person. It was a fantastically exhausting trip for this pregnant lady, but so worth it to be able to spend this time and create these memories with my family. We sure love you guys!

London: Hampton Court
I have a problem. I tend to pass quick judgement on things before I even give them a chance.

 

A perfect example of this is movies. When I was younger, my mom had to force me to watch The Princess Bride. It sounded horribly boring and I remember putting up a big stink about it when it was announced we were watching it for family movie night. But of course I ended up loving it! It happened again with Pirates of the Caribbean. My mom and my friend, Julie, wanted to see it while we were visiting San Diego together so I had no choice but to go with them, but I secretly thought it was super lame that Disney couldn’t think of any better ideas and had to resort to basing movies off their Disneyland rides. Then BAM! It ended up as of my favorite movies of all time.

 

You would think I would have learned by now after a lifetime of this, but no, it happened AGAIN in London when one of the top things on my parents’ sightseeing wish list was to visit Hampton Court. To me it sounded like a huge hassle to waste a full day of our trip to take a train outside of London to see some country home of one of the hundreds of English kings. Why don’t we just stay IN London and see all the cool things there are to do there? Then BAM! It ended up as one of my very favorite things we saw on the entire trip. As usual, my parents were spot on and we all had a blast spending the entire day wandering the halls of this HUGE country palace of King Henry the VIII.

 

 

We learned all about the opulence and extravagance of King Henry the VIII’s court and his wives and the royal culture of the time. I had heard of King Henry the VIII and a few nuggets of information here and there sounded familiar (probably due to my world history classes in high school), but if I was asked a question about him on Jeopardy I would be a lost cause. However, being there and seeing it all in person suddenly made it all so much more fascinating and real! Henry the VIII was a pretty sketchy dude and the story of his life and the lives of his many wives could fill episode after episode of a TV drama (oh wait…it has.) 16th century English history suddenly became soooo much more fascinating.

 

 

Both mine and Chris’ absolute FAVORITE part of the entire palace was the kitchen. His Highness would frequently entertain a court of over 1000 people PLUS servants and therefore his palace had to have the kitchen facilities to accommodate all those hungry people at least twice a day. It was fascinating to see how food was produced on that large of a scale back in the day. I really think food can give you more insight into a time period and culture than almost any other historical artifacts. The kitchens at Hampton Court were huge! Rooms and rooms of food production, giant vats of boiled meat, tables and tables of meat pies and giant fireplaces with huge roasting spits. We saw where they had almost a steady stream of wagons delivering meat and produce day after day and learned all about the ingenious ways they devised to store it all. I can’t even imagine what this place would have looked like in full production!  According to Hampton Court’s website:

The annual provision of meat for the Tudor court stood at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar. This was all washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer.

A Spanish visitor to the Tudor court in 1554 said that the kitchens were ‘veritable hells, such is the stir and bustle in them … there is plenty of beer here, and they drink more than would fill the Valladolid river.’

I left this room craving British meat pies. All I wanted was a steaming hot pastry filled with gravy, vegetables, and meat. It was immensely satisfying that later that night we ate at a pub that happened to serve them.

 

I also stumbled upon my new dream job (believe it or not decorating cakes is not actually my dream job) there at Hampton Court. These guys working in the kitchen dressed in costume were Experimental Food Historians. Basically, they work at Hampton Court researching methods of food production in 16th century England. They create all the pots, pans and tools using old techniques based on the designs of the actual artifacts they found from the time period and then cook food in them to try to figure out how they did it, what it tasted like, and what it means in terms of history. They base their studies off of old records, historical accounts, and paintings to try to figure out what food culture was actual like for the royals and servants at the time. They do a lot of their experiments in costume during opening hours so the tourists can watch them prepare the food and listen to them tell about the history of the kitchens and they roast their preparations on spits in the huge fireplaces like they would have back in Hampton Court’s heyday. Unfortunately, due to British health codes they aren’t allowed to feed the food they cook to the visitors, so at the end of the day they all gather together and have a big feast. Here’s a really good story from the New Yorker about the work of the experimental food historians at Hampton Court. I would SERIOUSLY love this job. I didn’t even know a job like this existed but now that I do I’m seriously looking into it for the future. I don’t plan on decorating cakes forever!

 


Today the food historians were trying to recreate a cockatrice, or a centerpiece dish that involved a pig and a goose being sewn together to create a “mythical” animal. We didn’t get to see the finished and roasted dish, but it sure sounded cool.


The giant roasting spits. 


It might only be interesting to you if you’ve been there (or if you have an interest in Tudor England), but just for reference here is a fascinating fact sheet about the Hampton Court kitchens and here is a cool article about a chocolate kitchen run by Henry the VIII’s chocolatier they recently unearthed. We thought it was all so cool!



Clearly we thought the kitchens were the coolest part, because we didn’t get very many pictures of the rest of the place (except for this room decorated with weapons!) I feel a little bad about it because the rest of the palace was almost just as impressive! We got to see the royal apartments, the chapel, the room where King Henry was married to Catherine Parr, and loads of other rooms all built to house the giant Tudor court. The whole palace was absolutely fascinating and I couldn’t get enough of all the history. I spent a good portion of that evening soaking in the bathtub (it was a whole lot of walking for a pregnant lady!) reading as many articles as I could find on King Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty on my iPad and shouting facts to Chris (who was outside on the bed trying to relax with the TV and who was a really good sport about it :) ).  The best fact of all? What happened to Henry when he died! Totally grody.




Thanks Mom and Dad for another major win!