Spain & Coming to an End

I had this post written and wanted to post it yesterday, but I’ve been so busy with working on my term paper and hanging out with friends for the last time that I didn’t get around to it.  I leave in exactly 1 week from today, which is definitely a bittersweet thing. I will really miss Oslo and everyone who’s been apart of making this a wonderful experience. Having to do a term paper during the last weekend that a lot of friends will be in Oslo is not the greatest, but I’ve tried to divide my time fairly between the two. 😉 Last night I got together with the group of people, who I’d say I hung out with the most, for the last time. It’s so crazy to think that we all met in our “Fadderullan” buddy group over 4 months ago and if it wasn’t for that, we never would have met. I’m just so thankful to have been able to study abroad at such a great school in a wonderful country, surrounded by good people.

20131213_220832edit

3 Fadderullan amigos! 😉

IMG_20131214_002145

So glad to have gotten to know all of you!

20131213_232417editg

I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture with Nickolas, so I had to add one of him and Sara! He’s my half American Norwegian! 😛

——————————————————————————————————————————–

This post probably won’t be as detailed as some of the others about trips in the past. I want to get this typed up and posted by tomorrow before the “72 hours” start of my group term paper. I’m just so tired and should go to bed. 😉 I went skiing today! I don’t think you can leave Norway without skiing. That was pretty fun, except I was not the greatest. It’s not like skiing in North Dakota or Minnesota, which are basically a joke compared to skiing in Europe.  And I didn’t get much sleep the last night and the day before I was up at 4:00am to catch a flight. So just bear with me!

This past Wednesday I arrived home from a lovely relaxing 6 days in Spain. My friend Amber is studying in Bilbao for the semester and since I had a little over a week off with nothing planned and didn’t need to use it to study I decided to take advantage, one last time, of being in Europe and take a long weekend trip down to Spain. Amber, and her roommates, were nice enough to let me stay at their apartment during their ‘finals week.’

When I looked for flights to Bilbao, the cheapest I could find left at 6:35am from Oslo Gardermoen. When I booked it, I didn’t really think about how I would get to the airport at that time since the metro doesn’t run that early. Luckily, there is a bus that runs all night near my residence to the central station and then I was able to take the express train to the airport. I had to leave my room at 3:50am to catch the bus and time it correctly so I could make it on the express train to make enough time to get through security at the airport. I had a 2 hour layover in Brussels, Belguim. It ended up turning out to be about 4 hours since my flight was delayed 2 hours. I eventually made it into Bilbao at around 3:00pm and took a bus to the city center in Bilbao to meet Amber. We stopped at a Café & Té, which I believe is a chain cafe throughout Spain before heading to her apartment.

IMG_9543

Amber lives in an area outside of Bilbao called Algorta, so it takes about a half hour metro ride to get to. For dinner that night, we went over to one of her friends apartments and had dinner with a few others. It was kind of weird being with a whole group of Americans. I hadn’t been around that many since before I arrived. That’s one big difference with her exchange is that they are not intermixed with the local students – they just have classes with the rest of the Americans who are on exchange. All the girls I talked to said they didn’t really know any of the local students. I’m really glad of how BI had all the exchange students distributed throughout all the buddy groups so we were given a great opportunity to get to know some Norwegian students.

Saturday morning Amber and I went to meet up with Courtney, a fellow UND student and another girl who’s in the same exchange program, try to catch a bus to Pamplona, the city famous for the running of the bulls. We ended up missing the 10:00am bus so we had to wait until 1:00pm for the next one. So we decided to walk around a bit and eat at a cafe. We got to Pamplona around 3:00 in the afternoon and we were quite hungry and found a place to sit down and eat. I can’t remember the name for it, but we had a three course meal for €13. I had a salad and fish, I also don’t remember what kind it was, but it was very good. For dessert, I had a piece of a chocolate cake type thing. We spent the rest of the day walking around Pamplona and then headed back on the bus to Bilbao.

IMG_9563

IMG_9571

IMG_9577

Sunday we went to 2 beaches which were amazing. Amber and I had fun goofing around and taking pictures on the beach. It was actually my first time stepping foot in to the Atlantic Ocean. ♥ I wish I lived by the ocean back home. I’d be sitting on the beach all the time. 😉 We spent a couple hours at Larrabasterra and then on our walk back to the metro stopped at a restaurant called the Indian Motorcycle cafe or something. It was sooooo American in there. It was weird. hahah  We then headed over to Plentzia which is another sort of suburb outside of Bilbao to meet up with Courtney, Alexa (who’s also a student at UND), and then 2 other girls from their program to watch the sunset on the beach.

IMG_9641edit

IMG_20131208_193445IMG_9687

Oh I haven’t mentioned this yet, but the weather was absolutely perfect! I guess the whole month of November was extremely rainy and gross and the day I got there was the first sunny day they’d had in a while. Everyday I was there the weather was perfect. Bilbao is in the north of Spain, so it was not like tank top and shorts weather, but I was in jeans and a tank top for a little bit at the beach. All in all, the weather was a lot warmer than Oslo, so it was a nice change.

Monday morning we again met up with the same girls at Casco Viejo or the old town. I really loved how European and culturally different Bilbao felt. With Oslo, it doesn’t feel too culturally different than home. I mean yes of course there are a lot of differences but probably more similarities to back home. With Bilbao hardly anyone speaks English and the culture is just a lot different. If you weren’t with people who all know Spanish, you’d have a bit of a harder time getting around. We stopped for a snack at a restaurant and all got churros con chocolate. It’s just churros with a cup of chocolate that reminds me of a mix of hot chocolate and chocolate pudding. I could have ate so many of those they were so delicious! We shopped and walked around a few other areas of Bilbao. I was able to buy a couple Christmas presents which was nice. Then we headed back to Amber’s for the night and just hung out. Amber had some school stuff to work on so I cooked us really good chicken taco sort of things for dinner since I had nothing else to do and I enjoy cooking. Hahah

IMG_9699

Tuesday was my last day and I wanted to go back into town to do a bit more shopping. Which I thank Amber for putting up with me and going back and forth from store to store not able to decide what to buy for certain people. 😉 Then we went to the last beach for an hour or so since we didn’t make it there on Sunday. Then we went back to her apartment so I could get my backpack packed and my stuff organized. It is so hard to pack for 6 days with just a backpack to put all my stuff in, plus the items that I bought. Thankfully, I was able to carry on a shopping bag in addition to my backpack and purse. Later that night, met up with Amber’s friend Phuong, who we hung out with us when we went shopping for a bit on Monday, to go get kalimotxos or calimochos. I guess it it originated in the Basque country and is quite popular in Bilbao. It just is red wine and coke mixed poured over ice. It sounds super weird, but is actually really good. Might be my favorite drink of choice that I’ve tried abroad. 😉

When we went out a bunch of the other exchange students from Amer’s program ended up being at the same bar as us. So before we left Amber had to say goodbye for good to some of them which made me sad! It definitely put how close to the end of this whole experience is in perspective. It made me realize that I literally will be going back to Oslo and having to say goodbye in a few short days as well! :/ I still have 10 whole days before I’m back in the US, but like I mentioned above I have my term paper to do this weekend and I’m going up north next Tuesday through Friday and then leave early Sunday morning. I don’t have many days left in Oslo and a lot of people are leaving this weekend.

I’ll probably have one more blog post while abroad after I get back from Tromso which is just crazy to think about! It seems like I just arrived yesterday!

Advertisements

Woahh, It’s December Already!

I woke up yesterday morning having a hard time believing it was December already. I seriously cannot believe how soon I come home – 20 days to be exact! 😉 Definitely getting excited to see everyone back home. Though this semester has flown by way too fast and it’s starting to sink in how little time I have left. I’ve had such a wonderful experience in Oslo and am so thankful for having the opportunity to study abroad and do a bit of traveling in Europe (My little thanksgiving speech for you :p ).

I have 2 exams left this week – both 4 hour written exams. The one I think will go fairly okay as long as I continue to study these last couple days before. On the other hand, the other one I’m not sure about because I’m already signed up to retake this course next semester at UND. I’ve mentioned in a previous post about that class. :p If you want to read about it, go back a few posts. 😉 So basically, it’s kind of a waste of time to take the exam, but I have to go take it anyway.

Early Friday morning I leave for Spain for 5 days to visit my friend Amber, one of my friends who I was in Paris with, who is study in Bilbao. I’m excited to go, minus the fact my flight is at 6:35am and still haven’t decided how I’m getting to the airport since the metro doesn’t run that early. 😉 It should be a good trip and great way to end exams. When I get back, the last school related thing I have is a 72 hour group term paper to do that starts on the 13th.

I had all intentions of posting this on Thanksgiving, but didn’t get time to edit it one last time. Then as you can tell, I planned on posting this the following day. Again, that didn’t happen. So finally here is my post about my trip to Bergen.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans reading this! (okay this actually didn’t get posted til the day after, so maybe it should say Happy Black Friday 😉 ) Being abroad, it does not feel like it should be thanksgiving at all. Which may be a good thing because I don’t feel so bad about missing it. I had my first exam today which went really well. Unfortunately this was the easiest of the 3 and I still have 2 more to go. But it’s one out of the way! 😀

In my last post I ended it mentioning I was going to Bergen for the weekend with Sara, so I shall tell you about my trip. We left on the train from Oslo S at about 11:20pm and arrived into Bergen just before 7:00am. The train itself was not bad, definitely nicer than Amtrak (for Americans to compare it with). There was free wifi, which for me is always nice. I tried to sleep, but had a hard time getting comfortable sleeping sitting up. Sara on the other hand had the window seat, which is always nicer and makes sleeping a lot easier. She ended up passing out right away. 😛 I think I got about 3 hours of sleep that night.

In Bergen, it was still dark when we arrived and not many people were out that early. We left the train station to find out Bed and Breakfast. Sara found a great deal on it, on one of those travel sites (I cannot remember which one it was). Bergen Bed and Breakfast, the name of the BnB, was only about a 10 minute walk from the train station and in a great location. We found the BnB and they were nice and let us put our bags there as soon as we arrived, even though check in was not until noon. We left our luggage and wandered off to find a cafe or bakery to get coffee and breakfast. We had no luck, since it was so early and had to settle on Deli de Luca. I’ve mentioned Deli de Luca in a few of my previous blog posts, but I would describe it as a luxury/high-end convenience store. I had a mocha of course and  Sara and I shared a couple Rosinboller, which is basically a sort of sweet bun with raisins. They’re very good and you can get them almost everywhere in Norway.

After sitting in Deli de Luca for some time, we went across the street to the tourists center, which is just above the famous fish market. At this point, it was after 8:00am and still fairly dark out. We decided to get the Bergen Pass, which is one of those tourist cards that gets you discounts and free entry to certain places. We didn’t know if we were going to get it because we were unsure of how worth it it would be. Luckily, with a student discount it was a great deal and decided to get it since it included entry into almost all the museums, free transportation on the buses and light rail, and because it was off season, it included the ride on the Fløibanen funicular, more on that later.

The only place that opened before 11:00am was the VilVite science museum. It reminded me of the Science Museum in St. Paul. We had some time to kill before it opened, so we walked around that area of Bergen and happened to stumble across their BI campus. Of course, being the proud students that we are had to take pictures in front of the sign and even attempted to get into the building with our student cards. Unfortunately, the swipe card machine, did not allow us Oslo students in. 😉

IMG_9410edit

IMG_9407edit

(Classiest looking McDonalds I’ve ever seen! ) ^

IMG_9426edit

We spent an hour or so walking through the science museum feeling like kids again. It was fun and there were some actually pretty neat experiment type activities that were cool. After that, we headed back to the more central area of town on their light rail. One of the stops was called Florida, which I had a kick out of because Bergen is so not like Florida as it’s always cold and rainy in Bergen for most of the year.

Our next stop was the KODE Museum, which has the second largest collection of Edvard Munch paintings, after Oslo. We spent about 45 minutes here and then decided it was time for lunch. We visited the fish market and both had fish and chips. I can not tell you how amazing,  delicious and fresh it was. 😀 One thing my mom always mentioned before I left, is that she bet I would come back liking fish (because before I only liked crab and lobster type fish – I guess you could call it crustaceans). I hate to admit, but she’s right, I sort of really like fish now. 😀

IMG_9440edit IMG_9441edit

After our lovely lunch we decided to spend the afternoon strolling along the  Bryggen, the Hanseatic Wharf. It’s the picturesque part of Bergen with colorful wooden buildings that house many shops.  It’s also part of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage sites. We did a bit of shopping and just walked around this area in the rain, of course. I can’t say exactly what I bought because somethings might have been Christmas presents for certain people who I know will be reading this. 😉

1397287_10153544592475182_2107023844_oedit

We stopped back at Deli de Luca, to warm up and get another hot beverage – coffee for me and tea for Sara. We decided head back to the bed and breakfast and relax for a bit since we were tired from not getting much sleep on the train and to leave some of the museums to do on Sunday since we thought none of the shops would be open.

For dinner, we took the suggestion of the bed and breakfast owner and headed just down the street to this small Italian restaurant called Da Stefano. Sara and I decided to share a vegetarian pizza. When the waiter brought the pizza out the candle on the table was knocked over by pizza, so we had to wait for a new one to be made. Though, the wait was worth it because the pizza was delicious. I didn’t think pizza would be one of the biggest foods I’d miss from home, but I guess I was so used to having it at least once a week since I worked at Papa Murphy’s. 😉 & Frozen pizza is just not the same and expensive here that I just don’t buy it. The pizza ended up being enough for dinner and we had left overs to eat for lunch the next day.

IMG_9432edit IMG_9428edit

After dinner we went to bed quite early as we were a bit exhausted from the day. Luckily, nothing opened before 11:00am on Sunday that we planned to do, so we were able to sleep in. We woke up Sunday morning with a lovely surprise of snow! ♥ I don’t think I’ve mentioned snow yet in any of my blogs, but there is still no snow on the ground in Oslo and I’ve only witnessed it snowing here once. The other 2 times I was either inside school or it was when we were in Bergen, but obviously none of it has stayed on the ground for more than a day. I, being the winter-lover that I am, waking up to the snow really made my day! It seems so weird not to have snow around and it’s almost December.

We got ready and decided to take advantage of the beautiful snow and bright sun that was shining and go up Mount Fløyen on the funicular. It’s one of Bergen and Norway’s biggest tourist attractions and I can see why. See here for more information on it. The top has the most spectacular views of Bergen and the fjords. We picked the perfect day and time to go up because the snow on the ground just added that perfect touch and true feeling of being in Norway. After enjoying the view and taking pictures, we stopped at the gift shop up there and surprised that it was open on a Sunday. We did a little bit more shopping because it had the best prices out of all the touristy shops I’ve been to here. I definitely recommend going there. There’s a cafeteria type restaurant there as well, so we decided to enjoy a Norwegian waffle with brown cheese and lingonberry jam. I still cannot decide if I like brown cheese or not. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. I’m quite unsure how I feel about it. 😉

IMG_9466edit

20131124_113212edit

20131124_120222edit

After going back down the mountain on the funicular, we visited the Rosenkrantz Tower and Håkon’s Hall. Both are part of the Bergenhus fortress, which is one of the oldest and best preserved castles in Norway. The tower was really cool and I always love going to things that have that super old historical feel to them. There were so many narrow spiral stairs and super low entryways into the rooms. Being an American from North Dakota, we are quite deprived from super old historical castle like buildings, which probably is part of why I love these types of places in Europe.

IMG_9488edit

We went back to the bed and breakfast to warm up and eat our left over pizza! That’s another thing European don’t really do – take home boxes. It’s just not a thing to bring half of your food home from a restaurant to eat it later. After warming up a bit, we realized we only had an hour until the last museum we wanted to see closed. We decided to try to make it the Cultural History Museum, since it was free with our Bergen pass. What we thought would have been an easier way to get there, ended up taking us a lot longer. We took a “scenic route” through a few residential areas before finally finding our way to the museum with exactly a half hour to go through it. Let me just say, I absolutely adore the houses in Bergen. I can’t really even describe them, I just want to live in one – they’re so darn cute with the narrow streets and adksghdigthghddg just thinking about them makes me want to live in one. Hahah seriously though, look at how cute these pictures are of them. (I wish the pictures did justice of how lovely they are)

IMG_9496edit

IMG_9504edit

IMG_9502edit

I actually really liked the museum and I wish I would have had more time to really look at the stuff. I’ve always sort of liked learning about history so I found it interesting when I think about how I have Norwegian ancestry on my paternal grandmas side of the family. I know it’s far off, but having somewhat of a connection to a part of the world or history makes it much more interesting. I really wish I knew what part of Norway her family is from and I think that is something I’m going to look into when I get home.

Before our trip to Bergen, we had read that there is this tradition in Bergen to build a gingerbread town each year. It also happens to be the worlds biggest gingerbread town. It was crazy to see how creative some of the gingerbread houses were and was very cool. It made me want to go home and make one! 😀

IMG_9514edit

We couldn’t decide where to go to dinner and after wandering around trying to pick a place, we just decided to go back to Da Stefano, the same restaurant as the night before, and order pasta instead. I had tagliatelle with a creamy pesto sauce that was delicious! We had a ton of time to kill since our train didn’t leave until 11:00pm, so we took our time eating and chatting away.

After dinner, we got all of stuff together back at the bed and breakfast and chilled there for a while before finally going to the train station. Again, the bed and breakfast owners were so nice to let us leave our stuff there all day so we didn’t have to carry it around. We arrived back in Oslo around 6:30am and made our way back to our rooms. I went right to bed when I got home and got a few more hours of good sleep because public transportation sleep is never great. 😉