A bus from Aurland to Voss, another bus from Voss to Kinsarvik, and a ferry from Kinsarvik to Utne. After a very full day of figuring out our route, hunting down bus stops and ferry terminals, and lots and lots of waiting we finally arrived in town for the night exhausted and wet. Boy was Utne a sight for sore eyes!
Especially our lodging for the night, the Utne Hotel! I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a more quaint and charming hotel (and no…I’m not getting paid to write that) and for me it was one of the highlights of our trip! Perhaps it was the fact that it was built in the 1700s and had the antiques and architecture to prove it. Perhaps it was the cozy rooms (each one unique) tucked into every nook and cranny that made you want to creepily look into every open door you passed. Perhaps it was the amazingly glorious hot shower we finally got to take after an exhausting two days. Most likely though, it was the fresh Hardanger cherries that greeted us in little bowls in our rooms and throughout the hotel provided for our munching pleasure. Seriously, so cute!
That night we splurged and treated ourselves to a 3 course dinner at the hotel restaurant. The main course was some sort of lamb dish prepared with locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables (including Jerusalem artichokes, which I’d never had before) and it was the perfect way to end our fiasco with the van and send us off into a cozy night’s sleep to settle ourselves back down into a vacation groove.
After arriving back home, we had just a few more days with the Hills in which we introduced them to friends, explored the city, and celebrated their awesome visit with a night out at our very favorite Indian restaurant.
We will always treasure these memories with Mom, Dad, and Emma!
It wouldn’t be a good story about a road trip without a few speed bumps, right? (Get it? Speed bumps? Because it’s a road trip?? Wah-wahh. Don’t judge me. I’m writing this late at night.)
This particular speed bump was the gold Dodge Caravan that we rented from the NATO base for this trip. We rented the van because our little Peugeot wagon has a bit too many special needs for its own good, so who would have thought that the newer fancy car would have caused so much grief? I’m getting a little ahead of myself though. Back to the beginning.
Chris’ parents placed Aurland at the top of their list of places to see in Norway after they read about our stop there when my family came to visit. We basically built this whole road trip itinerary around visiting the fjord town. We rented a cozy cabin high up in the mountains surrounding the fjord and had grand plans to snuggle up nice and warm and eat the apple cake we bought at Steinstø Fruktgård while playing games long into the night (sounds pretty cozy for a summery July evening but hey, that’s Norway for you). In the morning, we would explore the town and visit the Aurland Shoe Factory and the glass blowing gallery and spend some time admiring all the darling little houses lining the fjord before continuing on our way.
We arrived in Aurland and make a pit stop at the little grocery store to buy some vanilla ice cream to go with the apple cake and game night. We piled back into the van, turned the ignition and NADA. Zilch. Not even a turnover. The worst kind of silence ever. After trying everything we could think of to get the car started, we are finally able to get ahold of someone from NATO to get advice, which ended up being to call a tow truck and see what they can do. We explored the Shoe Factory and glass gallery while waiting for the tow truck, hopeful for a good prognosis but alas, the van wouldn’t even jump for the tow truck and had to be towed to the local garage for a deeper inspection, leaving us to figure out how to get up the mountain to our cabin. We ended up resorting to hiring the only taxi driver in town to haul all of us and our luggage up the mountain with the promise of a pickup in the morning. And of course, being Norway, it ended up being a ridiculously expensive taxi ride.
We finally made it to our cabin just as dusk was falling, which in the middle of summer in Norway is pretty late at night. We were exhausted and barely mustered up the energy to grill some hot dogs out on the back porch in the rain before tucking in for the night. No games and no apple cake with ice cream. Only sleep. Which was a total bummer because the cabin was awesome!
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!
When someone asks if you want to be part of the crew on a sailboat to go hunting for icebergs in the Arctic Ocean, you say “yes”. Because really, that’s how all great adventures start.
This particular adventure for Chris happened to start when a friend of ours from church was looking for some assistants to accompany him on a 6-day trip up to the Svalbard islands to sail into the Arctic Ocean to collect iceberg core samples for a business venture. Basically, he’s creating a new brand of über-premium bottled water made from North Pole icebergs, called Svalbardi (apparently there is a really good market for that sort of thing. Who knew?) and he needed some able-bodied crew to come along and help him share the costs of the boat and aid in collecting iceberg core samples for purity testing.
When Chris heard the words “sailing” and “Arctic Ocean”, he immediately wanted in. Then he thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Then he thought maybe it was a great idea. Then he thought it was too expensive. Then he thought it was priceless. The timing of the trip was pretty terrible, what with it starting just after we got back from our trip to the States and overlapping a visit from his family at the end. And yeah… it was money we weren’t really planning to spend. But you know, there are always plenty of reasons NOT to do something and sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and say “yes” when life hands you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For us, we decided that 60 years from now the story of hunting icebergs in the Arctic is going to be worth all the money spent on the trip and more so Chris accepted and off he flew to Svalbard to catch his boat to the Arctic Ocean for 6 days.