Scandinavia felt so far away but after a 7 hours plane ride (which is not that different from going to the west coast, by the way) from New York, we landed on Oslo. Our excitement and jet lag were all mixed together and it made the long wait for the luggage pick-up and train ride to the hotel almost a blur to us. You have to keep in mind that this is a large family on the move - there were 9 of us, including 3 kids and 2 seniors. So nothing was going to be quick (or easy) in the coming 9 days during our stay in the viking countries.
But, the streamlined and fool-proof transportation and well designed city structure in Oslo made it quite easy for us to go from one point to another. The modern technology is so well incorporated into the traditional landscapes, it felt like we were in a modernized fairy tale land.
Now it was around 8pm local time when we settled in a cozy hotel (Scandic) right next to the train station. It was a good choice of logging for us since it is right next to the central station which made it super easy to get to and to go anywhere else. My ambitious foodie plan included going to a popular bar restaurant right after we arrived, The plan turned ice cold when we found out that we really should have made a reservation even if it was a bar restaurant because the place was fully packed. It also turned out that it was not that easy to find a quick eating place after 8pm as we can't even get a hot meal from a sushi shop. The first meal was a little disappointing but we shall never easily give up. Tomorrow would be another day!
I should point out that many of the hotels include breakfast buffet. It was THE best thing to us since it saved us all the pains to find place to feed the crowd in the morning. The energy was enough to keep us going from morning to the afternoon!
Oslo is not a huge city so it was nice to take a stroll all over the town. Our favorite sight-seeings included walking down the famous main street - Karl Johans gate , and it is the road leading directly to the Royal Palace. Even though it was not a long walk, there were plenty of relaxing sights for us to stop and enjoy.
It is also advised to reserve tickets to the Royal Palace Tour online or get there before 4pm to catch the English speaking tour. We found ourselves having to choose from waiting for 2 hours before the tour starts or going for an overdue lunch. Of course, we chose the latter. After all, when you are hungry, food takes priority.
Our choice turned out to be an absolute great decision when we reached the popular food market - Mathallen. It is a not huge market but provide enough high quality options of food.
There were the French cookery that utilizes local ingredients, authentic Spanish tapas counter and a dessert shop that captured my taste bud that day. Extremely fresh and great flavors. All the disappointment from the first night were completely swiped away by the joy from our happy casual meal where everybody got what they wanted.
The Oslo Opera House offers a unique experience in terms of its modern architecture as well as its "walk-on-rooftop" to gain a core view of the city.
We spent the next day visiting the Folk Museum. It has a large collection of houses from different locations throughout Norway and history. The tour takes you through typical houses representing different eras and enlighten you on the stories behind each of the house.
My favorite part of the museum is the traditional bread making illustration and we got to try the bread with a small price. The bread was hearty and mildly sweet. Together with the butter, it was a lovely snack!
Vigeland Park is another place well worth a visit. The many family themed sculptures were very inspiring and center fountain was breathtaking. This is a perfect place for a casual afternoon with the kids.
The bay area near the center of the city offers many food trucks to experience some of the street foods. It reflects the multi-cultural elements that are influencing Oslo today. Our best pick was this fish and chip one that made one of the best fried fish I've ever had. The use of local Norwegian cod fish gave that fresh and rich taste; the perfect batter that gave the most crispy crunch in the mouth - Outstanding!
Our sit-down restaurant was at Bacchus near where we stayed. Wonderful staff and service, very family friendly to us.
The desserts were the highlight of the meal, thick and rich cheesecake plus an apple and ice-cream pie, nothing too fancy but nicely done. The adventurous dish was the rhein deer steak, nicely cooked but the meat itself was too strong for me.
On our third day, we headed toward Bergen. This is a replica of what is known as the "Norway-in-a-nutshell" tour. The trip starts with a 5 hour train ride, exchange to a 45-minutes scenery ride, then change to a boat that would ride on the beautiful Fjord for 5 hours until we get the the coastal city. Despite the long hours, it turned out to be the most memorable and breathtaking sightseeing we have ever had and this is what best defines Norway - a beautiful Scandinavian country!
Once we get to Bergen, it hits the high point of the trip - a quiet and beautiful coastal town.
The food scene in Bergen is also quite enticing. Seafood seemed to be quite popular, after all, this is a fishing port. The Fish Market is right cross from where we stayed (Bergen Bors Hotel). The sight was filled with fish and seafood, however, not many shops offer cooking support. We decided to eat at the on-site restaurant - Fjellskaal Fisketorget, and it was not disappointing. They offer many choices and we had some of the best shrimps we ever had.
It was not as expensive as we set our expectation on so that was a double point!
To conclude our stay in Bergen, we celebrated with a dessert meal right at the hotel. Nothing too indigenous, many Italian influence, but it was still a lovely sweet time. Cheers to Bergen, we surely will be back!