Our first stop was Oslo.
I had to spend an hour or two at the Tourist Information office, so the kids had free reign at the plaza in front of the central train station.
Nothing says "we give up" quite like letting your 4 year old run around in public in his pajamas, which are also hiked up to his armpits.
In fact, let me take this opportunity to talk about this kid for a minute. Nate, who has been seemingly running for the World's Best Behaved Child Award since birth, decided to make up for all those years of easy-going, mellow, angelic behaviour on this trip. I promise he went through his terrible 2's, terrorist 3's, and eff-you 4's all at once. When we were driving in Germany one day, Sam started complaining, "Mom, can you move Nate? He's just really bothering me with his loud singing, wiggling, hitting, poking, whining, bad breath..." When he wasn't throwing tantrums, tormenting his siblings with his halitosis, and generally being ornery, he was perfecting a flair for all things goofy and silly. And nothing brought that out like posing for pictures. We have so many pictures of Nate being a goofball, I had to make another collage.
I think we have our future theater major.
So our first stop in Oslo, was the Norsk Open Air Museum, which should have been one of the highlights of the trip, as it is amazing, but Mia would have none of that, mostly because we made the mistake of telling her it was a museum. Tip #2: When traveling with kids, avoid using the M-word at all costs.
Old Stave Church? Mia says No Thanks.
Oh, Mia hated this.
I loved all the old cabins with grass roofs. Some of my children were less enthused.
I don't know if this some sort of Norwegian thing, but we found a four way drinking fountain. I seriously want this installed in my house.
We moved on to the Viking Ship Museum, which was equally despised by Mia, if not more so. Something about really amazing ancient artifacts just rub her the wrong way.
Perfectly preserved viking ships are soooooo 9th century.
Next to Legoland, the kids would probably tell you that playing in our hotel rooms was their favorite part of the trip. When we got back to our room that afternoon, they played happily for a few hours while we unpacked and looked up places to eat.
They were so happy in fact, that they seemingly lost all ability to listen and respond to any requests to get ready to go get some dinner. It should be noted that Mark, happily reunited with his phone and wi-fi connection, also lost touch with his listening skills. Well, hell hath no fury like a woman who is tired, hungry, and being completely ignored. It was decreed that everyone would go to bed immediately and there would be no dinner that night. There were protests all around, so the mean old witch stuffed the children in the oven and ate them for dinner. Oh wait, that's a fairy tale. In reality, Mark came to the rescue and brought in some greasy, overpriced hamburgers while I sulked and gave everyone the stink eye. That'll teach 'em.
However, the next day dawned bright and beautiful, and the promise of a day of biking around Oslo made everyone happy. Also, horned bike helmets helped quite a bit. (Side note: the helmets only fit Mark and Sam, and we were barely able to get Sam to pose for this picture as he refused to wear the helmet on the bike. In fact, he just saw this and begged me not to post it. Ha ha, sorry buddy. I'm still mad about being ignored.)
On the way to the Royal Palace. No horns for us.
All that euphoria lasted just until we got to the naked statues at the Vigeland Sculpture Park, and someone threw a tantrum and then got yelled at and then refused to pose for this adorable picture.
Hint: that person is Mia.
I believe this one is called "Mother Traveling with Small Children."
Cooling off, in more ways than one, at the Marina.
Reenacting Munch's The Scream (you can see it advertised in the background).
Then we went and saw the real thing.
The building where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. As you can see, Sam
got a lot of mileage out of The Scream. I think it really spoke to him.
Last morning in Oslo. We went to an old castle/fort looking over the city. Let it be known to all that in this picture, everyone is happy. Even Sam. That's his happy face.
Another example of Nate being Nate.
The rare thumbs-up assessment from Mia. Sam on the other hand...
So naturally, we joined the throngs chasing after, and ended up at the Royal Palace
for the changing of the guards.
And with that, it was time to leave Oslo. We took a train into the mountains and stayed in a small town next to this lake.
We stumbled onto a little Norsk Heritage festival, hiked around the lake, got a little lost, and ate at a pizza joint where I made Mark take this picture, and if you've ever traveled in Europe you will immediately know why:
Water!! Big, beautiful glasses of free, refillable water. This is why I love Norway, right here. Our pizza may have cost $50, but we had all the water we ever wanted-- with absolutely no beverage shame. Bless you, Norway.
Next, we made our way to the far Western coast of Norway to the charming city of Bergen.
With manholes like this, what is not to love?
We rode the funicular up the hillside, and took in the views that made me homesick for the Bay Area.
The Bergen Funicular offers a treasure hunt through the woods that the kids loved, and took VERY seriously. Really, don't try to suggest to them that it wasn't an extremely important treasure hunt. I'm quite sure they thought there were lives on the line.
Norway is known for it's troll mythology, and I love that they had these sprinkled throughout the woods:
Back in town, we try to walk through the historic warehouse district that is now an UNESCO World Heritage site, but suddenly our happy little treasure hunters could not possibly walk another step without complaining, loudly, about everything.
Here, I believe that Mia is in the middle of saying, "why do we have to stop every 3 seconds to take another picture?" By the look on my face, you can see that I agree.
So sometimes you just have to stop and let the kids climb some trees and draw in some dirt,
and catch the historic buildings on another trip.
The next morning we hopped on a ferry that took us through the fjords,
to a little town called Balestrand on the Sognefjord.
Postcard perfect, yes?
Word's cutest mail box shed.
Family photo op.
Viking burial ground.
Tiny little church.
Fjord jumping. I just need to point out that Mia loved this. She really loved it. So we did it twice.
The next morning we got up early to go on a little glacier excursion,
which involved getting on another boat.
The scenery was incredible, and we not only have the pictures to prove it, but also the pictures of people taking pictures of the scenery to double prove it.
Below the glacier.
It was so amazing, it inspired the kids to hug. That is one powerful glacier.
Someone, however, felt a little threatened.
The little town closest to the Glacier was known as a book town, and it had tons of these bookshelves and sheds of books for sale scattered throughout. How cool is that? Right Mia? In fact, let's take a picture because you love it so much!
And ended up like this, 30 minutes later when we stopped at a waterfall.
Mia isn't in the picture because she was in a time-out back on the train. Sam and Nate are clearly wishing they were too.
On that note, we hopped on another train back to Oslo, where no one was forced to look at the scenery, and we all lived happily ever after, for the next 5 hours.
One Last Funny story: The trains in Norway have Family Cars where there is a little play area for kids, because they are awesome like that. On the way back to Oslo, we met a kid in the family car, and when I saw him and his older sisters, I knew they were either mormon or from Utah. My mo-dar was going crazy. The boy was probably 9 or 10, and pretty soon he and my kids were playing, and it didn't take long to realize they all spoke English and came from the US. I asked him where he was from, and of course, he was from Tooele, Utah, but his family is living in Prague right now. Pretty soon he asked me if was familiar with his favorite podcast, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." I'm not making this up people. So I said, yeah, it's one of my favorites too. Then he had me to listen to his favorite episode of "Politics Takes a Holiday," a musical political satire show, which he had memorized by the way. He entertained my kids for an hour or so, and eventually we all went back to our seats.
So now it's time to play my favorite game: 6 Degrees of Mormon Separation. Someone out there has got to know of a family from Tooele, Utah, living in Prague with 2 teenage daughters and a 9 or 10 year old son who has a thing for political satire podcasts. And please, I hope that it's your cousin's roommate's old dentist's bishop's former mission companion who lives next door to a family that moved to Prague. OK, ready? Go.
Norway, we loved you, and your free restaurant water, and your rugged viking charm. Even Mia loved you, though it was hard to tell at the time. But you totally broke our bank account, so we'll see you again when we're millionaires.
Next up: Final destination, Portugal.