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Trip Day 2: Yes Way!

August 6, 2015

At some point, it turned into Thursday for people on the European side of the world… for us, we were still back in Wednesday, but prepared to catch up, because we’re totally game.

We landed in Stavanger, Norway late on their Thursday afternoon, and convinced our bodies we’d not just stayed up all night. They weren’t buying it, but whatever. There was lots to see and do before sleep time.

Norway, for example!

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(The above was a photo taken later this evening, but it shall serve as my Norway establishing shot..)

Below is a photo also taken later in the trip, but illustrates perfectly the very first thing we noticed about Svein when he and Leslie met us at the Stavanger airport: he is also mid-implant, AND he, like the ever sensible Jim, also isn’t bothering with the pricy little vanity-serving cosmetic prosthesis. These guys hit if off right away.

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And speaking of Leslie….along with Svein, she’s going to be one hell of a fantastic host for the next five days… I just can’t tell you…

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[By way of a short introduction: I know Leslie because her dad, Fred, hired my dad, John, sometime in the mid-50s at what was a small-ish, budding aerospace firm in Redondo Beach. They went on to become vice-presidents of what became TRW, a huge, multi-national, government contracting aerospace firm. On the day of the interview, after my dad made what must have been a very favorable impression, Fred suggested to my parents that they rent a small beach bungalow across the street from where he lived with his wife Betty, a block from the water in Manhattan Beach. They did, and became not only colleagues but lifelong friends, as did the spouses, the six Hesse kids and the four Peterson kids (as yet unborn). The Osbornes and their three kids were another family on the block that comprise the famous triad… you’ve heard me talk about their daughter Betsy, the ER nurse who’s always on hand during family medical emergencies. Anyway… that’s Leslie, who also factors with her sister Karen in the 2011 Nepali adventures.]

[Also by way of a short introduction. Svein is an orthopedic surgeon by day, and Leslie is a geographer and cartographer by training working for the Norwegian national oil company, Statoil. The day before our arrival, they had just returned from a three-week vacation of their own.]

We had to deal with a couple lost-luggage administrative forms, then headed out of the airport and over to their house, which, interestingly, is only about a five-minute drive.

(Actually, the airport is in Sola, a smaller town a wee bit south of Stavanger proper. Leslie and Svein live in Sola.)

You think, really?, five minutes from the airport?, can’t be very nice… but it doesn’t work that way in Norway. They live on rolling farm and grazing land that abuts the Hafrsfjord. It’s property that has been in Svein’s family forever with an ancient farmhouse they thoroughly renovated about twenty years ago. Here’s a shot of the front of the house I grabbed off Google street-view:

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Here is the shot I took pulling up the driveway:

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We unloaded our stuff, moved Peter into his own room upstairs and Jim/me into a guest room downstairs. We sat down to have some tea… and look who fell asleep sitting up, thumbs poised over the keypad. At this moment (5:30pm their time, 8:30am ours), we’ve been up a little over 24 hours.

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Decided to go for a walk around the property to wake up. Here are a few shots:

Barn and storage…

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Multiple greenhouses…

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One of their horses…

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Fields that grow hay…

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Svein described how the hay is cut, rolled, bundled and wrapped. We’d never seen such things–they look like giant marshmallows–but have since seen gazillions.

As needed, these giant bundles get hauled into the barn; it may take a couple weeks to get through a single bundle (they’re feeding four horses):

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We returned to the main house.

Svein and Leslie’s daughter Marie (we’ll meet up with her twin, Elizabeth, in a few days) had arrived with her boyfriend Knute to say hello. We had an evening smorgasbord (it’s about 6:30 their time): breads, cheeses, eggs, ham, smoked salmon, herring, plum jam (homemade), sparkling wine, teas….

I swear. I thought I was going to die from sheer happiness. I was so overcome with nostalgia I thought I’d pass out. The whole thing–the scenery, the food, the language–was killing me. It was simple, but fantastic. Here’s our group:

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It stays light so late that we still had lots of time in this day.. even though it’s August–well past mid-sommer–and we’re pretty far south as Norway goes (a latitude equal to about Juneau, Alaska), and it’s cloudy. Still…. time to explore!

We decided to drive into Stavanger to look around. Here’s the skinny on Stavanger: It’s Norway’s fourth largest city (126,000 residents) and is also the oil capital of Norway. Norway’s largest oil company, Statoil, is headquartered there in a huge business park called Forus, and is where Leslie works. The town was essentially founded in 1125, when the cathedral in the heart of town was completed (we did not see this!). It’s in the heart of Rogaland, a county in the southwest part of the country.

Knute is an expert in historical Norwegian architecture, so Jim, Peter and I squeezed into the back of his Nissan Leaf and he gave us a tour of the housing developments outside central Stavanger, which radiate outward in concentric age-circles. It was interesting. Here’s a shot of typical residential in-town architecture…

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We went over to Knute and Marie’s new place in a lovely row house…

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With a tiny garage, smaller even than a Leaf can fit into…

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The house is charming inside with a great beer cellar.

We also toured the older section of Stavanger–Gamle Stavanger. It’s a designated UNESCO site and comprises 173 wooden cottages dating back to the late 1700-early 1800s, carefully maintained through the United Nations Architectural Heritage effort. Extremely charming.

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People in Norway really cherish their flowers. They are everywhere and are breathtaking. I think flower season is short, but it is incredibly mighty.

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Then we walked down to the Stavanger harbor…

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Wandered around the docks and looked at some boats…

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Then up a hill to the Valberg Tower…

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…for some really nice views. You can see where Gamle Stavanger is…

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And a little closer up…

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We drove over to a nice memorial on the Hafrsfjord, “Swords in Rock.” The monument represents peace, unity and freedom commemorating a battle fought in 872 AD that unified Norway into one kingdom. The Viking swords are modeled after swords found in various parts of the country.

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And now, it’s about 10:30pm. Their time.

All in all, it was a “charm and beauty through the haze of serious jet lag” kind of afternoon. Between the lack of sleep, disorientation of jet lag, and the high of Scandinavian nostalgia, I was floating on a cloud and so out of my head I could barely process. Jim and Peter were just cotton-headed zombies.

Went back to Svein and Leslie’s and crashed.

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