24.03.2017 - 28.03.2017
Our stay in the fishing village has highlighted so many of the things that we have truly come to love and appreciate about living in Norway. It's amazing that, despite our location, or the type of house / apartment / mountain lodge / hotel / tent (and now fishing cottage!) that we have stayed in - some things are pretty darn consistent in the Norwegian lifestyle.
The most obvious to the eye would be the house paint. I'm convinced the paint color options are based on a hot dog condiment theme within the hardware stores. They eat a lot of hot dogs here, so this makes sense. The hillsides are splashed with ketchup, mustard, a pickle here and there, and a dash of salt and pepper. Folks must have some freedom when shopping for red, as Ketchup comes in three shades (Norge 1, Norge 2, and Norge 3). None of these are likely recognizable to the human eye or someone that isn't certified in Crayola, which simply means they can accurately name 12 colors by label, outside of ROYGBIV, at the drop of a hat. In case you’re wondering, a visit to the Crayola Factory in Easton, Pennsylvania IS on my Bucket List. It may only be plane tickets for Justice and me, but she is my partner in Crayola crime and color organization. Besides, we’ll each come home with our own box of personalized crayons. I’m actually beaming as I type. Yes, friends, I will have my own box of 64 INDIGO crayons. Don’t worry, it’s open to the public! You too can make a box of your own favorite colors (or just one color if you are as fortunate as J & me to rank on the obsessive side of the scale)!
I digress. The standardization of color truly keeps the country looking sharp. Their pre-planning of house paint squelched the clashing of colors that we run into with some of our neighborhood homes. I figure the King is probably thinking - 'Hey, we're paying for your health insurance and education. I want healthy people and pretty houses. Heeeeeeere's your paint samples.' Fair enough, King Harald.
In all seriousness, the basics are covered here and covered very well. Luke pointed out that, unlike many of the countries we've travelled to, water here is plentiful and easily accessible. Restaurants have pitchers and glasses ready, free of charge. Simple pleasure - but you don't realize it until it's gone. Italy made water nearly impossible. It was cheaper to buy the kids their own bottle of wine every meal than it was to buy a glass of water - or even a soda. Showers here are plenty hot and water pressure is fantastic! Simple pleasures - but in many places we’ve travelled, it’s common to get a drizzle of lukewarm water that fades to slow, cold drips after about 30 seconds.
Beds are what commercials are made of! We gave our bed a European makeover after our 2011 trip because we loved the separate duvets so much! Well, that - and I could have my own and steal Luke’s too! We're already wondering how we might bring back the Norge gift of sleep that is found in the puffy, thick white duvets and the pillows that feel like clouds. Simple pleasures - but it makes all the difference in the world to know you can consistently rely on soft, warm, quality bedding - especially when traveling!
Up to this point, we've not yet stayed anywhere longer than two nights at a time, so it felt wonderful to unpack, get (really) comfortable and settle in for almost a week. Besides, we were looking forward to finding and releasing the large reindeer that seemed to be hiding in someone’s backpack. He was continuing to shed profusely on everyone’s clothes, so scheduled use of the washer and dryer in the village was like a day at an amusement park! We started with a trip to the market and filled our fridge with goods - plus an extra box of cereal for Jaden's spare meals 14 times per day. The days have gone by quickly and all blended together with a cozy, familiar feeling to them. It felt good to wake up after having slept as long as possible, tangled in over-sized covers. Breakfast often ended up being lunch and lunch turned into dinner (or 'linner'). Time has been kept by cappuccinos and cocoa which occurred thrice daily: (1) Motivators for leaving warm beds, (2) Tea time (which followed my daily nap), and (3) Gin Rummy in the evenings. We've also played relentless rounds of Gin Rummy throughout the day and late into the night. Luke is currently in the lead, but the trip is not over and I refuse to lose at this game, so please hold.
The weather followed us in and we have had storms with every form of snow imaginable! The wind was unbelievable coming off the sea and at times, I thought our little cottage was going to leave its stilts and blow over! As we've seen thus far, the weather is quite moody and shifts quickly - with extremes. We were hopeful that we would be able to see the northern lights and have checked faithfully each night, but have had no such luck. Our days have been a bit brighter. One afternoon brought an opening with sunshine and I watched the fishermen digging in large plastic bins and pulling heavy ropes lined with pairs of dripping cod heads and flinging them over the drying rack. It was quite intriguing to see them in action! Even in its state of numbness, my nose couldn't ignore the smell of the fresh (?) dead fish. The locals say it smells like "money"; I might say it smells like something else, but what do I know, I'm a Norwegian Mountain Girl, not Fisherwoman!
We took off one afternoon for a drive, as Luke wanted to find the "end of the road" (literally) in the Lofoten Islands. Our village was near the tip of the island, but not quite there. I tried to tell him that the road wasn't going to just come to a dead end once we got to the very last island, but he wasn't having it. We had already driven 8 hours into these islands and he wanted to see them to the end! We came to a little town called Å which was the last on the map, but the road went further, so on we drove. Always curious. Never quite satisfied. That's Luke. This is an aspect about him that I love - and also sometimes want to strangle. He's always wondering what might be around the next bend. "No, really, what if we just went a little further?" The Blue Lagoon is a great example. I would have been very content with my half-melted facial, drink, and burning-hot water spot up against the rocks, but Luke couldn't contain his curiosity and we had to swim the Lagoon to make sure we'd seen it all - and that there wasn't a better spot waiting for us! In his defense, this is something we have all come to know and appreciate as he always keeps us looking forward - and out for more. Just as I started to tell him that I thought the road looped around and returned inland - we came to a parking lot. That was it. It was a dead end. We did it! We found the very end of the road! It was like a pot of gold! Hooray! Four cheers for the Gearhards! Wait, how come Luke just got quiet and what is he looking at? It was like a cat plotting to pounce on a fuzzy mouse toy... His eyes were honed in on something and his tail was wiggling back and forth as he was preparing to deploy quickly... Our cheering came to a dead halt when we saw it. He had found a trail that left the parking lot and went on over the hill down the island. (Insert large sigh). I could see that he'd already shoved the pot of gold over the edge and was ready to go chase it as he looked over at me excitedly. No way! I put on my 'serious' set of Ms. Potato Head eyebrows and shook my head at him. What on earth!? Nope! What am I going to do with him?! SNICKERS!! That's my only solution. The commercials say that Snickers REALLY satisfies. If the end of the island isn't far enough, we are headed to the market to buy this boy a candy bar.
We dumped our backpacks into heaps as we prepared for our day at the amusement park (i.e. Bathhouse with washer and dryer!). Luke ran across to make sure the washer was not in use before we followed him over with armfuls of reindeer fur and clothes. Who would have thought that Amusement Parks aren’t open during the winter?! We stared with horror at our mess of fish stench and reindeer fur that sat waiting in anticipation for its cleaning. Luke took the bathroom shower for the boys’ clothes and J and I took the kitchen sink. I gagged my way through the smell and fur like a Whirlpool washer set to ‘delicate’ until the boys brought their first clean load into the living room and I realized we had to dry everything. I kicked it into ‘heavy duty’ mode - with an extra rinse for my newfound nemesis, the rare reindeer fur, and we finished up the washing. We travel with a string for laundry - which we quickly filled - along with every square inch of our living room, including cupboard doors, backs of the chairs, curtain racks, and tables. Each time the room would hit its maximum with heat and moisture and we were sure everything was becoming more wet than it was dry, we’d open all windows to air it out and start the process again. Keep in mind, it was snowing outside, so this was cold as the flakes blew through the cottage, but we managed. At one point, I wondered if the washer and dryer weren’t actually working, but Luke just wanted to remind the kids of how fortunate they are to “be able” to do laundry at home. "We get to do laundry this weekend?! Hooray! Thanks, Mom & Dad! You're the best! Gee, can we do yours too?" Oh, you lucky little dogs, you! Thankfully, they didn’t ever make a peep - they washed and dried like champs and were happy to have clean clothes!
We had an incredible meal out in the village restaurant on our last night where we enjoyed the company of the chef, his wife, and their darling daughter, as we were the only guests around. I ignored the cod heads and their perfume that have encompassed us for days and joined Luke in ordering the "rare cod" that is available for about a month and a half each year. We paired it with a sample from one of the four Aquavit bottles that the chef brought us from the bar. It was an unbelievable meal! Jaden's reindeer, on the other hand, might have been more manageable had Luke gone a bit easier on the Rudolph jokes.
Norway, you are a tough one to leave. Beautiful country to get lost in, kind people, and great food and drinks - all simple pleasures - but what more do you need than this?
PS: We have a heavy snow forecast which will make our night at the Ice Hotel extra delightful; however, it's our last shot at seeing the northern lights! No more snow, please! See you soon Sweden!