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London & Oslo – Day 6

Today started at 3:30am, giving me a grand total of two hours sleep.

We departed the Allen House by 4:30 using the arranged car service. For 50 pounds, we had hassle-free, door-to-door service. Gatwick tends to be more cost prohibitive, but I’ll only do car service to/from Heathrow going forward. It’s about the same cost of as the Heathrow Express / taxi from Paddington option, but it’s far less of a hassle.

Our flight to Oslo was blissfully uneventful. Despite the early wake up call, Emerson remained in a good mood and only slept a little while on the flight. As an airline, SAS is alright (though partnered with Star Alliance, which includes United/Continental/US Air… not SkyTeam)… they charge for all drinks on intra-Europe flights, but your first bag of luggage (per person) is free and they give away toys to the kids (Emerson got a small stuffed polar bear and some stickers).

Things got a bit more ‘eventful’ upon trying to exit the airport. My plan was to take the express train (Flytoget) into central Oslo (as our hotel is literally across the street from the station). At 170 kroner (about $30 per person), it’s not especially cheap… but it is (err… was supposed to be) convenient. Sadly, we learned the central Oslo station (the entire thing) was closed today. Thus, we’d need to take the “express train” to a more distant station than move ourselves over to a bus for the onward journey. That was less than appealing.

Enter “Plan B.” Instead of the train, I opted for the even pricier taxi option (at 500 kroner)… which ended up costing more (670 kroner — $120) because we needed a taxi with a car seat for Emerson. Undeterred, we loaded everyone and everything up in our shinny, new Mercedes taxi. Unfortunately, the Mercedes—to use the technical term—crapped out. So, we waited for baby-ready taxi #2… a reliable, safe, and more geographically appropriate Volvo.

Upon arriving in Oslo, we checked into our hotel (the “Radisson Blu Plaza”) immediately. It’s one of those slightly “trendy” hotels. Our upgraded room is on the 27th floor overlooking the Opera House (and the train-less station). The comedy of errors continued here. A few examples: 1) I can’t seem to work the door lock, 2) Libby happily allowed a member of staff—intent on setting up Emerson’s crib—to see me in nothing but my boxer shorts (an unhappy surprise to both of us), and 3) I learned to (re-)use a Nespresso coffee maker (a brand of machine that I own at home and with which I shot hot water all over the room… twice… before my remediation). On the plus side, the Radisson later provided a very nice welcome platter of desserts, fruits, and snacks.

After sorting ourselves out in the hotel, I headed out to get the girls lunch. This is when I learned that my $120 taxi ride was comparatively cheap when compared to, for example, the girls’ $30 lunch at Burger King (for two burgers, fries, and drinks). Indeed, I’ve always heard that “Scandinavia is expensive”… however, the full impact of that statement only made sense today. Holy kroners, Batman! You can literally pay $5 for a small Diet Coke at a 7-11. Room service hamburger? $30. And, it’s not just food and drinks, I noticed that electronics seem to be about 2 times the US retail price. I think cruising in Scandinavia will be an utter bargain compared to a land-based vacation.

In the afternoon, we took a brief nap. Then we went out to explore Oslo!

We did Rick Steves’ “Hello Oslo” self-guided walk, which allowed us to take in all of the major downtown sights. We also made a small diversion to the Royal Palace. Oslo’s city center is fairly compact and easily walkable.

Norway's Parliament (Stortinget)

Norway's Parliament (Stortinget)

Overall, I find Oslo charming. Unfortunately, our schedule (late start today and an early departure tomorrow) won’t allow us to take in all the city has to offer. But, we’ve got a pretty good sense now. That said, I suspect that Norway is a good bit like Alaska. While its cities/towns can be interesting, the surrounding environment is what one really ought to experience. Indeed, even the 30-minute ride in from the airport was highly enjoyable as we traversed a landscape of lush, green, rolling hills. I have to imagine the fjords are simply spectacular!

We brought take-away sandwiches and fresh fruit back to the hotel for our dinner, having found nothing that promised to deliver a better price-quality ratio.

Tomorrow we start our “vacation within a vacation” by boarding Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas for 7 days in and around the Baltic Sea.

Today’s box score: +1 country (Norway)

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