Saturday 8 November 2008

Can you spare a krone?

I'm sure Rowan will forgive us. After a brief birthday breakfast he was packed off to nursery and Sharon and I high-tailed it out of town. The flights to Norway were cheapest that day. At least Sharon baked him a cake to take into nursery.

With Michael and Marie holding fort, Sharon and I nipped over to Oslo for a two-night break (we couldn't afford a third night) to meet up with Adrian who is studying in western Sweden at the moment. He got the train across to meet us on the Friday. The flights to Torp were cheap, but thereafter it was a punishingly expensive break. The 70-mile bus trip to Oslo from Torp is about £29 return and the basic triple room we booked at Coch's Pensjonat in Parkveien was £90 a night (for the room, thankfully, not per person). The room was fine, but a curious, tangram-puzzle-gone-wrong shape: clean with comfortable beds but no frills, a shower-room, a fridge and a TV stuck on one channel. At least it was quieter than I anticipated from the TripAdvisor reviews. We were in room 323, at the back, not adjacent to the lift, and it was out of season so all the odds were in our favour of getting a decent kip. Although Sharon did complain about my snoring.

Normally we would expect to spend the minimum of time in a hotel room on such a short trip but Oslo is so expensive and the weather was so drab you can't just kill time in bars and cafes. Sharon and I enjoyed a nice tapas meal at Rust (£50) in nearby Hedgehaugsveien (Hedgehog Way?) and had a coffee/hot chocolate just off Stortingsgata as we wandered the streets on Thursday night. There was little respite in the supermarkets either, with a carton of apple juice coming in at £2.30.

Kid-free in Oslo!It took us a few minutes to get oriented on arrival at the Bus Terminal but our walk up to Parkveien took less than 30 minutes. Oslo is European, yes, with a turn-of-the-20th-century feel to it. Some of it reminded me of Glasgow with insulation while other parts were like Grenoble. Downtown Oslo is populated with a number of neon-lit glass-fronted tower blocks. The neon signs atop the more traditional architecture of Karl Johan's gate and Stortingsgata were somewhat incongruous. The place had a good buzz about it despite the dreary weather and drab light. We were in no hurry to get up in the morning as daylight struggled to reach a mid-grey hue.

We breakfasted in Cafe Kaffe, 50m along Parkveien, which was reasonable, a buffet at the discounted price of £6. Adrian led us down to the Den Norske Opera House down by the docks which was most impressive. The building rises from tilting slabs of white marble like an upthrust of ice cleaving through sea-ice. Inside there is a mix of styles; from a green and white-lit diamond-template wall to an organic-shaped helix of wooden stakes affording entry to the auditorium itself. This central feature looked like a giant wickerwork. Even the cloakroom and toilets were very much "architected" rather than just utilitarian.

From there we trod to the design and architecture centre (DogA) as Adrian had a book to purchase. The day was very much spent in "DogA mode" as we were discussing some of Adrian's work, principally a cafe table that could incorporate hooks on which to hang bags or coats. Sharon really enjoys giving rein to her artistic side when she is chatting to Adrian; it's not something that gets much of an airing when running her PC business or keeping the lads in check.

We enjoyed a coffee and a drink in a cafe on Langes gate, across from the theatre, then tramped through the rain and premature darkenss to Fru Hagen up Thorvald Meyers gate, the kind of cafe-bar that we could easily have spent the evening in - if we'd had money to burn! The food was good and reasonably priced by Oslo standards, about £60 for three mains and a drink each and one dessert. Fru Hagen had a shabby chic with its couches and chandeliers and large framed montages of photos plucked from parents' albums. It would have been good to see it fill up as the evening progressed (there was a set of decks waiting to play some laid-back beats, no doubt) but we headed back to Coch's instead, to chat, count our pennies and watch telly. Fortunately the rain had abated.

A sight we're familiar withOn the Saturday morning, after breakfast in Cafe Kaffe, we walked out to the Vigeland Sculpture Park which is a very impressive achievement, containing 212 (see link above!) bronze statues of nudes, depicting all ages of life. Vigeland was evidently a very talented sculptor: the expressions on the faces and the frozen motion in some of the pieces convey a sense of reality usually absent in formal, classical sculpture. From there we returned to Coch's to check out (Adrian was staying another night) and then we walked down to the bus terminal to begin our trip home. If we thought it was dreary in Oslo it was nothing compared to the heavy rain that greeted us on arrival in Prestwick.

We arrived home just after the boys were in bed although Sean was absent, having been lured away to a sleepover at Phoebe's. All in all it was a good break and good to see Adrian looking well and enjoying his work. We'd like to have stayed a bit longer but an extra few krone would have been required!

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