It is now February 16, 2012 at 0016 Thursday morning. I am sitting at a small wooden desk inside the hotel room at the Clarion in Oslo, Norway. Justin is fast asleep behind me, and to my left sit 2 empty coffee cups and a half glass of water. I must complete this post, along with the over-200 photos I have yet to resize and publish, as we leave shortly after breakfast this morning bound for Finland, and then back “home” to Japan. So where did I leave off… Czech Republic. Split from Czechlaslavokia about 19 years ago, and has since became a part of Europe. Oh! I forgot to mention their toilet paper. Rectangles! Can you believe it? Perforated, not as crisp as Austria’s, but definitely thicker than most. But the interesting fact is that it comes in rectangles rather than the typical square, allowing the customer to get away with one sheet which would really be 1 ½ as opposed to 2 whole sheets. Neat eh? Moving on. We flew into Frankfurt, Germany, in which (much to our dismay) we discovered their to be no Starbucks. Our troubles were short-lived however, as we jumped onto the continuing flight to Paris. After gathering our bags and catching the hotel shuttle to our 5 star Jacuzzi-included loft high above the city hustle, we enjoyed a small cat-nap in preparation for the rest of the day. Our hotel was located about 7 blocks from the Eiffel Tower, 2 blocks from the actual park. It being Monday evening, we ended up eating out at a recommended diner down the street, and then headed to the Eiffel Tower. Dinner was extravagant. It was a small place, about 12 people could eat. The price was decent, and the food delicious! There happened to be more sets of silverware then I knew what to do with, and every time the next course came out and our waiter picked up the unused utensils, Goose and I would slap our foreheads in embarrassment and stupidity as it was obvious THAT was the correct fork or knife or spoon or pushing tool or serrated item we should have used… After enjoying the cooked beef, beef stew, something else too fancy to name, and salads, I finished my meal with a delicious plate of warm chocolate crepes. We headed out to the park, got some neat pictures, then came back to enjoy the hotel. The next day we arose and dined at a local café with orange juice, coffee, and croissants (the REAL ones of course!) An interesting note about France; they do not serve coffee there unless you specifically ask for “American Coffee, Big Coffee or Drip Coffee.” Everything else they serve in a tiny little espresso mug. Also to note, as you can see by viewing the photographs, French toilet paper LITERALLY has clouds on them. Rectangular pattern (again a great economical design), perforated, white and soft and imprinted with a cloud. How suitable! It was Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, and we certainly made the most of it!
We began with the Eiffel Tower again, the park itself, and then continued on to the Arche de Triumphe. Afterwards we stopped for lunch, then continued on to the Louvre. We passed through many arches, sculptures and neat treasures from the architectural past. We came back to get all gussied up for our Valentine’s Day 5-star dinner on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, then headed back out in the evening. Dinner was fabulous; champagne, wine, 5 course meal, music, views, and many neat couples. We met one couple from Chile, and another from London. They were all 4 cute together, and enjoyed the evening as much as we did. Justin and I toyed with the idea of finding ourselves 2 local French gals to join us for dinner, but the idea died away as our reservations came to 2. Nonetheless, we were handed two beautiful roses at the completion of our meal, and our light-bulb minds went off in unison. So we scouted out the perfect deserving pair of French gals on our brisk walk home to deliver the evening’s love. Out front of a local café we discovered 2 gals enjoying a glass of something sweet and with only a few minutes nervous hesitation we boldly approached their table, bowed low and gave them each the rose. They started to say something in smiles and French, to which we simply replied “Happy Valentine’s Day”, smiled, and flew away as eyes from other couples in the restaurant followed us out. It was a good feeling, after the fact, to think we were the highlight of some lonely girl’s Valentine’s Day in the City of Love…
And that was France. Our flight the next morning took us back to Frankfurt, and then on to beautiful Norway. We flew over seas of ice and island landscape, Poland, Sweden, and into Oslo. The snow is about 3 feet deep here, and yet it feels warmer than the other places we have been, despite being farther North. Aside from the scenery however, is the very noticeable fact that Justin and I, as brunette’s, fall into the minority of foreigners or fakes. Unlike the other countries we visited, Norway’s culture is easily recognizable by the almost-white natural blonde hair, the bright sapphire eyes, and the tall and broad-shouldered men. The women here are absolutely breath-taking, and Justin and I both found ourselves wandering through the local mall (the 4th biggest in Norway) passing H&M for the umpteenth time unaware of anything except the local population. The bus system here is not difficult, but they seem to take their time. We ended up on one headed for the end route at the bus station, and the British driver invited us in for coke at the station while we awaited the return trip. He actually lives in Sweden, 3 hours away, with his Swedish wife and 3 kids. He met her 26 years ago on a trip there, and has since learned both Swedish and Norwegian. He works here as the pay is better, and commutes back and forth every weekend. We had Burger King which cost us a little over $13 a piece, and the local currency “Norwegian Kronos” comes with a terrifying 25% sales tax already calculated in. Before heading back to the hotel to enjoy coffee and the huge pillows that came with the room, we decided to befriend the local Information Booth gal. Goose stood mesmerized off to one side while Benedicte and I chatted like old friends. Her English was remarkable, and her lower lip would curl up at any attempt to pronounce the letter “W” rather than say “V” as in “Welcome” instead of “Velkommen”. We spent about 20 minutes in good conversation in everything from culture to stages of life to work. At the end of the conversation, she allowed a photograph with me and we added each other as friends on Facebook (of all places) J She had returned from a class trip to Rome and wrote a book, complete with photographs, and was trying to sell them at a local store. She enjoys art by trade, and has a few pieces in the gallery tomorrow (or today) that we would have loved to see, if our flight had been any later. I paid her for a book and left her my address, and I look forward to receiving such a fine product of self-achievement. Justin says he is going to live his Facebook life vicariously through me, but we shall see. J The toilet paper here, to note, is also rectangular.
And that is up to date! We have Finland later today, then back to Japan for a local massage before we head up north that night to Ishinomaki for relief work, food distribution and witnessing! Love you all, and thank you for the prayers that have gone before us!
Countries Visited: Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Norway, Finland.
Counties I’d like to spend more time in someday: Norway, France, Czech Republic.