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Aurland: The Quiet Place
Sometimes, it’s really good to just slow down.
Last time we did the Norway-in-a-Nutshell tour, we did the entire trip in one long day, rushing to see as much as we could in a short amount of time. This time around, we (mostly my parents at the time) decided to take things a bit slower and try lingering in one of the quaint towns lining the steep cliffs of the fjords. We decided to stay overnight in Aurland, a tiny little town perched on the edge of the Sognfjord with a population barely topping 1500 people. After doing a bit of research (i.e. a Google search of “What to do in Aurland”), not much came up and I was quite worried we were all going to be bored out of our minds an hour after disembarking from the ferry.
I really need to learn not to judge small towns by their Wikipedia pages. Aurland turned out to be fantastic! It was quiet, peaceful, and absolutely GORGEOUS, settled right there in a crook of the fjord. We spent the better part of our time there just wandering around the winding streets, checking out the darling neighborhoods, admiring the scenic views, eating ice cream, sitting on the docks watching the occasional ferry pass by, and just enjoying a place where time seemed to pause for a bit. No stress, no obligations, nowhere to be except present right there and then, enjoying our time together.

Plus, there actually was a surprising number of things to do and see, once you decide to accept the slower pace and just wander. We spent a good hour following a mouthwatering smell of baking butter and cinnamon across town hoping it was coming from a shop from which we could purchase said tantalizing treat. But alas, we ended up pastry-less at a dead end. We concluded it was probably a sweet little Norwegian grandmother lovingly baking up an heirloom family recipe in her rustic home kitchen. Her grandchildren were lucky souls indeed.

We checked out an old church built in the 1100s. It was the oldest thing Cameron has seen to date.

We walked around the cemetary for a while as Mom and Dad picked their favorite Norwegian names for our future children off of the gravestones. Odd, Ingeborg, and Sven were some of the top contenders.
The Aurland Fjord Hotel where we stayed the night.
The kid in the middle spotted the camera around Chris’ neck and kept trying to ask in Norwegian if he would take a picture of him. When we finally figured out what he was asking he grabbed his friends for a “PHOTOSHOOT!!”
Getting an up-close look at the making of a beautiful blown-glass bowl at Merete Rein Glasblaseri & Galleri.
Did you know Aurland, Norway is apparently the histoic home of the penny loafer? How’s that for a random fact to stumble upon on your vacation! Originally called the Aurland Shoe, it is still handmade at the…you guessed it… Aurland Shoe Factory. Someday this will be the million-dollar question on Jeopardy.
I mean, for real guys. Does it get more beautiful than this?
I think my dad described it best the next morning when he told us how, after waking up for a bit in the middle of the night, he sat by the open window and just listened to the dark midnight silence. We don’t experience peace and quiet often enough in our daily lives I think.

 

Stockholm or BUST!

It takes 18 hours or so to drive from Stavanger to Stockholm. By some definite divine intervention, our plucky little station wagon made it to and from Sweden in one piece. We had some worrisome moments, but I tell ya…blessings come from going to the temple!

We carpooled with our friends Amerigo and Sarah and caravanned with the Steffensen clan. Amerigo and Sarah are originally from the Philipines, which meant that our car was full of a combination of English, Tagalog, and Norwegian the whole drive! So much fun!

Amerigo

 

Of course, we had to stop along the way for a Norwegian hot dog picnic.

Cousins

Rotten watermelon discus

Cousins

Mother and daughter.

 

We wound along the southern coast of Norway, stopping for church in Kristiansand along the way. It was a seriously gorgeous drive! We passed fjords, lakes, rivers, and countless waterfalls. I don't think I will get over how beautiful Norway is as long as we live here. We stopped for the night in Drammen (just outside of Oslo and about half-way to Stockholm) and stayed the night with our stake president's family.

Our stake prez. and wonderful son-in-law.

 

We crossed the border into Sweden the next day and the difference was strangely immediate. For one thing, the speed limit suddenly increased from 70 km/h to 110 km/h! (Go Sweden!) In addition, I had never noticed there were no billboards along the side of the roads in Norway until we started seeing them along the highway in Sweden. The landscape also suddenly became rather boring (sorry Sweden!). Where Norway is full of winding roads and small quaint towns, Sweden was one loooong tree-lined road. With red barns. Lots and lots of red barns.

Ikea in the Motherland!!

Speed bump tee hee hee! (yep, we're still 12 years old ladies and gentlemen)

 

A visit from cousins!!!!

Do you guys remember my awesome cousin Patrick?? He was our very first visitor back when we moved to Stavanger in 2011. He was only here for 3 days, but he must have liked it… because he came back and brought his new wife, Anna! Patrick actually had a conference in Oslo for his master’s thesis on LARPing, so Anna came to hang out with us in Stavanger for a few days while he was tied up.

The next 3 days were full of “girl time” as we hiked to waterfalls, explored the fjords, and wandered around Stavanger. I basically love Anna. We discovered we are ridiculously similar and I’m so excited to have her as part of our family!

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Patrick met up with us in Stavanger when his conference ended and the cousin adventures continued! We went to the Oil Museum, the Three Swords, and then proceeded to hike Preikestolen much too early in the season, as you can with all the snow and ice in the photos. Patrick and Anna definitely earned their Norwegian tiger stripes! They have the bruises from the slipper slopes to prove it!

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Patrick and his Norwegian doppleganger.

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Skittles found a new best friend.

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Cousins are seriously the best!