A long long time ago Bryan and I stayed in a little cabin in the woods in upstate New York. It was owned by a Norwegian lady and she talked her country up so much I wondered why she lived in NY! It sounded heavenly: especially the trip of a lifetime aboard the Hurtigruten – the coastal ferry that cruises from south to the very north and back again. She even gave me a tour book of it that I’ve worn thin with dreaming. It’s not cheap, and that is my style… The cheap. But this spring I found a very good special deal on the Hurtigruten website and now, it’s Easter week -Semana Santa in Spain – and the daffodils and trees are blooming, but I’ve lugged my family to cold blustery Norway. And we all love it! She wasn’t exaggerating, that lady from the WellNeste Lodge.
Our flight came direct from Alicante to Bergen on Norwegian airlines – the best of the euro low fare airlines in my opinion. It was a quick 3.5 hours; kids watched a movie and Bryan and I napped or read. Before we knew it the plane was decending and we saw dozens of rocky islands with adorable cottages on them.
I arranged a car rental so we could self explore for these first couple days. Many websites recommend going on the Norway in a Nutshell tour which slogs you onto train and bus and ferry in a whirlwind around the fjords, but that was too crazy busy and expensive for us. We have to pay for four people, and a car rental for two days was less than the adult tour. Plus I hate arranged tours. So, in our tiny budget car we drove out of the airport and found a grocery called Coop to stock up on snacks and lunch – “self cater” it’s called and saves a ton of money. We did not find grocery prices to exorbitant like we had heard. Anyway, from there we hit the road and were very soon out of the city and into amazing scenery of massive snowtopped canyons that drop steeply into deep lakes – fjords that outlet into the sea. The snowmelt is making waterfalls everywhere; huge streams of water descending hundreds of feet into the valleys. It’s breathtaking and even more alluring as we only got it in odd snippets as the tunnels in this place are extraordinary and frequent. They look as if trolls carved them with pickaxes as well: rough and uneven, dimly lit, and just wide enough for two cars. The longest we traversed was 11km, but the areas longest is 23! The kids slept in the car, so Bryan and I stopped as we pleased and quite enjoyed a grown up conversation.
Our first night we spent in the hamlet of Flåm. This a a tiny port far into the canyons and mountains at the very top of a fingerling fjord that spread out to giant Sognefjord. It was gorgeous and empty! I’ve read it is a bit of a tourist trap, but there were no other people anywhere. We had a nice evening at the waterfront and crashed into beds at the Brekkegard hostel, but not before givin Bryan a birthday surprise! Tomorrow we are skiing! He was quite excited. Off to bed…So comfy, these Norwegian beds.
Our first full day in Norway was one of the most active any of us has been in a long while and made for another great night of sleep. Our first goal was hiking up and up and up to the Brekke waterfall- it was sloppy and steep but so beautiful a view over the valley and the falls. We found a register book, but discovered it’s for the local school kids only…how cool is that?
For the rest of the morning we drove up the Flåm – Myrdal valley on a route considered to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the word. It was even better by car! We passed no one and stopped whenever we wanted to get out and take pictures of the steep granite canyon walls, crystal clear river, little secluded villages, ice waterfalls, and massive, truly massive mountains. There is no comparison: Bryan felt it bested Yosemite and I think it superior to Switzerland. And, in this beautiful place is the Flåm school for those lucky kids who can get credit for hiking to a waterfall.
From that incredible scenery we drove back to the city of Voss, which we had come through yesterday. This is a town I could stay in for a long while. It sits on the edge of a huge lake which is currently frozen with people using para-sails to skate around on it. The downtown is alive and walkable; this weekend is a jazz festival. The town sits between that lake and the base of a giant mountain… Where we went to the Voss Resort and rented gear for afternoon skiing. This was Avi’s very first time, and only Zoe’s second so we began on the little beginner slope they had right next to the rentals – It was especially easy with a moving sidewalk lift and lots of parents encouraging their kiddo’s. Zoe regained her confidence quite quickly, though she can’t slow down too well:) Bryan spent a lot of time picking Avi up and trying to get him to spread his legs and snowplow a bit, but Avi wasn’t much listening. He would spread his arms in the way he wanted his legs to do like a sympathetic gesture. It was a fun little slope, with some baby slalom and even two little teeter totter jumps. Eventually Bryan took Zoë up the big chair lift to the top while I worked with Avi a bit longer. Now, I am not a strong skier, but I can do a mean snowplow and watched the other parenting techniques to see that holding him under the armpits between my legs – his skis inside of mine – just might work. We practiced that a bit so he got the feel of going down without falling, then he went himself a few times with a tad more control and still no snowplow or spread skis, little control, but no falls! He and I were getting bored of the bunny slope, I wondered if Zoë and Bryan were at the second kid-trick area halfway up, and the beautiful rainbow over the valley made us feel happy and confident. So, I took him up the chair lift to the other green slopes – familieslope – at the top.
The rainbow should’ve been my clue… The top of the mountain was a blizzard! Maybe not quite, but it was extreme snow and very high up. This was a looooooooong chair lift. Avi did amazing getting on and off, but the weather made him (and me!) scared. We got our bearings and started down, but it was so snowy and blowy that he couldn’t stay beside me – even holding my pole, so I put him between my legs again and we took off! It turned out to be an absolute blast!!! He did great just staying between my skis, though I had to occasionally yell (the wind was so loud) that he needed to stand I’m not holding him up. It was a super super long trail through-the-woods-and-all-over-the-mountain kind of slope. My favorite! A few steepish places, but usually with a nice flat spot afterword to regain control. When we neared the bottom we ran into Zoë and Bryan who had gone to another easy slope on the other side of the parking lot thinking we were there. They said it was cool, but we all wanted to gontogether on the big long one again – even knowing about the blizzard at the top – and had so very much fun. Avi went with Bryan and I got to hang out with Zoë. Before we knew it, the slopes were near empty and it was quitting time.
A quick drive into Voss town found us parked at our AirBnB arrangement for the evening, but with no host. The neighbor called for us, with no answer. So, with two sleeping kids in the back Bryan drove the car around Voss to explore and we found the coolest canyon on the top side of the lake! It had a short icy trail with a railing along a cliff to the center part of a deep and slender gorge carved by a fast flowing river. There were insane blue ice waterfalls! We took turns walking back to see it or snooze with the kids in the car park. It made us glad our BnB host was late (I had said “after skiing” so it was a bit vague), and occupied a good hour before finding the host still missing. We tried to walk into town and get motivated for food but were all grumpy and sleepy (Avi sleeping on Bryan) that we resigned ourselves to napping parked in the driveway when he showed up. He had emailed earlier in the day to confirm a time, but I had no way to check it. It’s jazz fest after all, and he was glad to get us checked in so he could be on his way to a late night out. Matters not to us! our room was so great and toasty as the loft above a garage is not usually wont to be. The bathroom was, though, in the main house across the yard. We had a key and it had heated floors and a double shower, so the distance was made up for. We snuggled in, got refreshed with some coffee and downtime before walking downtown for dinner of falafel and hummus. I read to the kids and we all crashed hard.! Another wonderful sleeping night after such a big day!