Thursday, April 30, 2009

To Hell and Beyond

First off, let me be very upfront here. If you could live in Norway on what you can live on in Vietnam or Cambodia, I’d be looking to relocate as soon as we get home. If you love the mountains and/or the water, Norway is about as good as it gets. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you saw some of that in the photos from our weekend at the mountain cabin with Blaine’s cousins. And we saw more of that in our brief journey to the Inderoy peninsula north of Trondheim. Older son wondered at one point if one could overdose on Norway’s beautiful scenery just as one seems to overdose on Cambodia’s temples or Hue’s pagodas and tombs. We were assured by someone who has lived overlooking the Trondheim fjord since 1974 that her heart still quickens each morning when she opens the curtains. She figures that when it doesn’t, it will either be time to move or she will be dead.

As for the title of this post, To Hell and Beyond, our first stop after leaving Trondheim was, yes, Hell, as in the train station in Hell, Norway. We stopped there 19 years ago and have a photo of the sons and me on the platform to show for it. The train station is a bit more modern today, but still as photogenic. Here’s one of my other photos from Hell. I really need to do a post, perhaps on my everyday blog when we get home, on just how far ahead the rest of the world is in the waste disposal business. I have not posted all the photos I’ve taken of the various bins we’ve encountered in our travels. In my informal rankings, Sweden is probably the most ahead, but Norway isn’t too far behind.

After Hell, we stopped at Stiklestad, where King Olav Haraldsson fell in battle against peasants and petty kings in 1030. Olav’s death is considered to be the breakpoint in Norway’s transition from paganism to Christianity. Olav had outlawed all religions but Christianity, and shortly after his death was canonized as a saint, thereby cementing Christianity as the Norwegian religion. Stiklestad and, by extension, Trondheim to the south became prime destinations for Christian pilgrims. At Stiklestad today, there is an outdoor drama in the summer, and a cultural center with exhibits on Olav’s life and death. The cathedral model in the cultural center was pretty impressive. The real church at Stiklestad was pretty impressive, too. There’s supposed to be a rock under the altar inside that figured in one of Olav’s miracles, but we weren’t able to get inside the church to see it.

Our destination in Inderoy was the home of yet another of the husband’s cousins. We’d never met her before, but we bonded almost immediately. She and another cousin were wonderful tour guides for our time in Inderoy. (Totally extraneous but fascinating fact: These two people were both first and second cousins. They are first cousins through one parent and second cousins through the other. I told them they must be first-and-a-half cousins.) The first evening, we walked through a wonderful sculpture garden containing works by a sculptor named Nils Aas. Inderoy sits on an arm of the Trondheim Fjord, and this sculpture represents the fish in the fjord. The scales twist gently in the wind but even more interestingly, the wires are rigged to produce musical tones, so that you hear as well as see the sculpture. Aas was a very versatile sculptor based on the variety of works presented in the garden. This one represents working women. Any cat owner can relate to this one. There’s also a wooden moose and a metal pole vaulter.
Finally, this one fascinated me because the Norwegian word for “squirrel” is so close to the English word “acorn,” which squirrels are noted for collecting. I need to remember to ask my friend the linguist (say hi to Gilbert for me, please, Virginia) about this. As for natural beauty, here’s a shot I took on the same walk, after the sculpture garden and while just walking through the town.
If you’re wondering what we were doing in Inderoy, besides getting out in nature, try this. Yes, that’s the husband’s family name on that lower road sign. The family farm in Inderoy, on which the husband’s grandfather was born and from which he and six of his siblings emigrated to Canada and the US, is still in the family, and it’s something of a pilgrimage destination in its own right for all the North American descendants. On the way there, we stopped to visit what’s known as “the new church” and “the old church.” The new one is from the late 1800s. I just realized that I really didn’t take a photo of the whole outside of the church, so this will have to do. I took quite a few photos inside the church, though. The cross in the above photo sits atop a spherical candle holder. When a death occurs, anyone who wants to remember the deceased lights a candle and puts it in one of the 30 holders around what would be the equator of the sphere. Above the main aisle of the church hang two large light fixtures and this. When I asked, I was told that there’s a ship hanging in most Norwegian churches. It symbolizes one’s journey through life. Another thing I found interesting about the church was that the only stained glass windows were at the front, around the altar. The side windows were all plain glass, which gave wonderful, natural lighting to the inside.
The old church dates from 1150 and was consecrated in the 1180s. They still worship there on occasion, but not regularly since there is no electricity and, by extension, no heat. Unfortunately, we were unable to get inside, but as you can see from the outside, there aren’t many windows.
Perhaps because of my interest in quilting designs, I was fascinated by the metalwork on the doors.

I also strolled around the graveyard. From the hillside above, you can see both the old church (the red roof to the lower right) and the new church (the white steeple) along with the fjord. From there, we headed to Norum. We were enjoying lunch in one of the houses on the family farm when the sons got their own nature moment after a bird flew into one of the large windows. It was only stunned, so the sons held it and stroked it gently as it came to. When it seemed to have awakened sufficiently to get by on its own, they left it on the deck railing from which it flew away a few moments later. After lunch, we toured the original farmhouse which is undergoing yet another interior renovation. About all that is left of the original house is the foundation, but it’s still somewhat awesome to know that six or so generations of the same family have lived on this spot. It’s also somewhat awesome that the fifth or sixth generation of babies is using the family cradle. We have photos from 19 years ago that show the then-four-month-old younger son lying in the cradle and the then-two-year-old older son sitting in it. The latest Norum to use the cradle is three months old; his grandfather is one of the cousins who gave us the grand tour of Inderoy. We also hiked through the woods to see the view of the fjord that the husband and I remembered from our visit 19 years ago. What wasn’t there 19 years ago were two very impressive anthills, so impressive that, like the fish sculpture we saw the first evening, you could hear them as well as see them.
Older son’s taking a photo of the second anthill provides a scale as to just how big the anthills were. And here’s the view from the point that was just as stunning as we remembered.

The ground cover on the point overlooking the fjord was pretty cool, too. I’m betting someone out there will recognize what it is, but I really don’t know. Finally, we drove by one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, the one connecting Inderoy to Mosvik at Fosen-peninsula. The cables don’t show up too well in this, unfortunately. They’re nominally red in color, but looked to me to be much more pink than red. We also drove over this bridge on our way back to Trondheim. We took a longer way back than the one we came on in order to see a bit more scenery and get a 35-minute ferry ride in the process.

Our final adventure in Trondheim was front row (as in about four feet away from the stage, on chairs in what normally would be the orchestra pit) center (as in the space in between me and one of the husband’s cousins was the middle of the row) tickets to the opening concert of Trondheim’s annual Nidaros Blues Festival. The concert paired the Grand Mothers, the Frank-Zappa-less Mothers of Invention, with the Trondheim Symphony. The symphony opened the concert by playing some Stravinsky, since Stravinsky was one of Zappa’s favorite composers. The Mothers then joined the symphony for some joint pieces before performing two long sets on their own. The symphony then rejoined them for the finale. While the acoustics might have been better further back in the auditorium, I really enjoyed being able to see the faces of the band and symphony members, and the eye contact back and forth. They were clearly enjoying immensely playing together. Sometimes it sounded very much like jazz, with one side playing off the other somewhat improvisationally. And the audience definitely got their money’s worth since the concert started on time at 7:30 and finished at 11:00 with only one 15-minute break.

I’m writing this on the train south from Trondheim; I’ll add the photos and upload it tonight in Oslo. If I get adventurous along the way, I can go roam the train wearing my Blues Festival t-shirt (an advance edition since they didn’t go on sale until today; we got ours early courtesy of the husband’s cousins who are on the festival’s board of directors). The Grand Mothers are supposedly on the train with us to Oslo, and I could use the t-shirt as an introduction. It might be fun to tell them how much we enjoyed last night’s show.

Here’s an interesting aside that I just decided to add since I decided against wandering the train in search of celebrities. In this post, I’ve mentioned a new church and an old church as well as how multiple generations of the husband’s family have lived on the same farm. Every time I have visited Europe, I have come away marveling at the history a European can mark relative to the average American. While we certainly have things in the continental United States that date from the days of Inderoy’s old church, they are not generally celebrated or appreciated. I think the county in which I live, Albemarle County, Virginia, had its 250th (I think) anniversary not too many years ago. The fact that I don’t remember exactly which anniversary tells you how big the celebration was. By way of comparison, in 1997, Trondheim, Norway celebrated its (pausing for effect here) 1,000th anniversary. Now, that’s history!

I will try to post something from Oslo over the weekend since we plan to see some interesting things there including the Viking Ship Museum and the Folk Museum, an open-air museum of Norse buildings and culture. At the same time, though, we need to repack the luggage so that the sons aren’t carrying anything they don’t need during the next three weeks and so that the bags the husband and I will take home are under the British Air weight limit. The sons also want to see about doing some laundry so that they at least start their journey in clean clothes. It probably should embarrass me to say that we haven’t done laundry since Cambodia almost three weeks ago, but it’s really not that hard to lower your standards in the interest of saving money and/or having more time to do neat things and see beautiful places. In fact, if I were packing for this trip now, I’d be packing even fewer clothes since I now know just how many times I will wear the same clothes without washing, and it’s many more than I would have thought two months ago.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Few Random Shots

We head back to Trondheim today from a very wonderful weekend at the mountain cabin belonging to the husband's cousins. Here are a few random shots from our time here. This is older son getting to the cabin Friday evening. Here's the view down the driveway. I took this shot yesterday morning as the sons were heading out for a cross-country skiing lesson. They both did extremely well given that they've never been on skis before or on anything similar like a skateboard. It must be their Viking heritage. Here are a couple of shots taken on our afternoon walk down the road. Here's the sauna and the snowbank into which we each jumped, naked, after getting nice and hot. It's actually not as unpleasant as you think it might be. "Refreshing" probably describes it much better than "unpleasant" would. Finally, here's the tree growing out of the sod roof on the sauna. The sod provides excellent insulation. I imagine it also looks very pretty against the red siding in the summer when the grass is green. There are more shots of Norway on younger son's photo blog, so if what I have here only whetted your appetite, head over there for another taste.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Morning Quickie

I'm sitting in a cozy, warm cabin in the mountains somewhere south of Trondheim, Norway, drining my second cup of coffee. Yes, there's wireless here. It's an in-between season of not being winter enough to do "real" cross-country skiing, but not spring enough to do "real" hiking. We'll find something to do today, though. One thing is to take some photos; this is a very beautiful place. I'll try to post a couple before we head back to Trondheim tomorrow because our Scandinavianly expensive hotel there doesn't have the free wireless that our Southeast Asianly inexpensive hotels in Vietnam and Cambodia did. Even with that fact, life is good.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Post Without Pictures

I’m in Aare, Sweden, with hang gliders filling the sky above me. The hillside over which they’re soaring is covered in snow, though the air temperature down here on the train platform is remarkably warm. Here’s what I wrote on the train this morning; I figured I should go ahead and post it now just in case our hotel in Trondheim has no Internet.

It’s Thursday morning here, and I’m on a train in Sweden heading for Norway. We have been transported from the summer weather of Southeast Asia to the spring weather of the Netherlands to the late winter of Scandinavia. You know it’s cold when you see a Swede wearing a hat, a scarf, a coat, and mittens, as I did Tuesday in Lund. As I look into the woods on either side of the tracks now, there are more than traces of snow. There’s also snow on some of the flat roofs of buildings we can see in the towns. Some of the lakes beside the train tracks appear to be frozen solid judging from the tire tracks on them. The husband has been warned that I may be shopping in Trondheim tomorrow for another Norwegian sweater to add to my collection. We are supposed to spend the weekend at a cabin in the mountains outside Trondheim, and while I assume the inside will be heated, I know that the outside won’t.

The sons and I amused ourselves yesterday in Lund, Sweden, while the husband did physics things at the University of Lund. We were staying at the Djingis Khan Hotel. The cab drivers pronounced the first name with a “j” sound as in “Jingis Khan,” but as I told the husband I preferred to think of it as “Dingis Khan,” Genghis’s nerdy little brother. The sons and I chilled at the hotel until the noon checkout time was almost upon us, then stashed the luggage in the luggage room and headed into the Centrum (downtown) area with no plan other than meeting the husband at the train station at 5:15. We started out thinking that we would be walking through a park; however, it quickly became apparent that we were, in fact, walking through a graveyard. More specifically, we were walking through the area of the graveyard in which were buried babies who had been stillborn or who had died on the day they were born. My stomach jumped into my throat, and I almost cried as I read the tombstones, most with just a name and a single date. One had the same date twice, and one had two dates about a month apart. Almost all had some small toys or stuffed animals; some had fresh flowers; none looked untended.

After lolling a bit and taking some photos around a fountain in what looked to be a courtyard at an older part of the university, we lunched on falafel (younger son and I) and meat (older son) from a Middle Eastern eatery. We then wound our way circuitously to the Botanical Gardens, though we again found ourselves in a graveyard on the way. We enjoyed the Botanical Gardens until it started to sprinkle rain, after which we found our way to the sort of coffee shop in which you can linger for some time over a lavishly decorated latte and an exotic pastry. We left with plenty of time for another circuitous walk to the planned meeting at the train station.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, we ended up walking down the street on which sat a store with the English name “Coins and Arms.” Sitting in the window amidst books, medals, some German World War I helmets (I already have one of these, that my paternal grandfather brought back from the war), and an engraved walking stick, was what appeared to be a vintage katana. We went into the store, and older son politely asked if he could look at the sword. The shopkeeper nodded. Older son removed the sword partway from the sheath, examined it, returned it to the sheath, and almost immediately excused himself. Younger son followed. I stayed and purchased some small coins for souvenirs, I also purchased an English two-shilling coin from 1951 as a gift for the husband (who was born in that year). For myself, I bought an English half-crown coin from 1956, my own birth-year. When I went outside, the sons were almost vibrating over the sword. Knowing the price of new swords not nearly as custom made as the one in the window was, they desperately wanted to split the cost and buy it. They knew, though, that if they asked my opinion, I’d say, “Sure!” and possibly even contribute to the cost. Their father, they knew, might look at it more rationally.

Off we went to the train station to wait for the husband and father. Coins and Arms closed at 5:30, so there was a general sense of disappointment when the husband failed to show at the appointed 5:15. At 5:20, I suggested that younger son return to the shop and ask the shopkeeper if he could stay open a bit late so that they could show the sword to their father. Not too many minutes later, the husband arrived, so I hustled him off with older son and a quick explanation, saying that I would wait at the station for them. The shopkeeper did keep the shop open, though he told younger son that he couldn’t stay for long since he had to go home and walk his dog before his bridge game later in the evening. When the men re-appeared, they were sword-less, though the plan is in place for the sons to investigate options for getting the sword back to the US either with them or shipped. If it appears do-able and if they still want the sword in a week and a half, their first stop on the way south from Oslo will be Lund to see if the sword is still available. There was also a knife in the window that they might be interested in instead of or in addition to the sword.

The excitement of the sword over, we had more excitement when older son realized we were walking by an outdoor store. He had meant to bring his handheld GPS unit with him but forgot it in the packing rush. We asked my mom to look in his room for it so that she could mail it to us in Hue. Older son’s room being a bit on the crowded side, she was unable to find It, so older son has been looking for one since then. The store in Lund did have the model he wanted, so he bought it. The first set of coordinates stored were those of Coins and Arms. There was no way they were going to not find that shop if they do come back for the sword.

We left Malmo, Sweden at 11:00 last night, arriving in Stockholm at 6:00 this morning. We waved farewell to Stockholm all of 30 minutes later on a train west. We had a ten-minute connection to another train an hour later, which turned out to be easier than expected since we got off the train from Stockholm, watched it leave, and then stepped on board the next train to pull up to the same platform. In about four hours, we’ll pull into Aare, Sweden, where we’ll get off and chill for a couple of hours before getting on the train for Trondheim. Train and weather gods willing, we’ll be there at a bit after 8:00 tonight. Assuming that the hotel has Internet access, I’ll post this. If there are any must-see photos from Lund or this train ride, I may post them separately. I don’t expect there to be Internet access at the mountain cabin where we’ll spend Saturday and Sunday. We’ll be back in Trondheim on Sunday night so that I can get my next rabies vaccine shot on Monday before we head to the Induroy area from which the husband’s grandfather emigrated to Canada.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tripping down Memory Lane: Netherlands Nostalgia

I’m sitting on platform 6 at the train station in Arnhem, Netherlands. Our train leaves in about an hour. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be at a hotel in Lund, Sweden which hopefully will have the Internet access lacking at our hotel in Beekbergen, Netherlands. We went out this morning and took photos of the various places we sat, using whatever unsecured wireless network we could find. Saturday night, driving back from dinner, I detected an unsecured network. There was a spot to pull off the road, so we did. Younger son left the car in search of a stronger signal, but the rest of us sat in the car, netbooks on laps, doing e-mail. That’s why I haven’t posted anything here about what we’ve been doing. The night I uploaded most of the photos for The Last of the Temples, my butt got mighty cold sitting on the pavement in front of a store that had closed for the evening.

It was an interesting five days in the Netherlands. As one might expect, some things have changed while others have stayed the same despite the passing of 19 years since we lived here for a year. The house we rented for that year, in the small town of Soest, looks much the same. The main street of town had expanded a bit. There were some new businesses, but some of the stores I used to frequent were still there. The toy store where we bought a couple of things that we still have, including one stuffed animal that older son wrote about in one of his college essays, looked much the same. The McDonalds we used to frequent was still there and still had an aviation theme to match its proximity to a museum of military aircraft. In terms of changes, the big one was that the hospital in which younger son was born was torn down in 2000. Here’s what it looked like when we used it; I took this photograph off the information board that now stands on the site of the hospital. Here’s what it looks like today. In the US, we probably would have (a) renovated the hospital to use it for some other purpose (this is a topic of discussion at home right now as one of the two hospitals in Charlottesville prepares to move into a new facility outside of town) or (b) torn it down and replaced it with another large building. Ziekenhuis Zonnegloren (Sunrise Hospital, if I remember the translation correctly) now shows up on maps as Zonnegloren, a nature preserve. We hiked partway around one of the trails, and the place is truly amazing. They are even working on restoring a large area of sand dunes.
Besides exploring the old hometown, we went to two places that older son remembered or remembered having been told about. The first was Apenheul, an open-air primate zoo. The first time we went there in 1989, I was pregnant with younger son and exuding some sort of pheromones that the spider monkeys found irresistible. People were taking pictures of me with all sorts of monkeys attached to my head, my backpack, my arms, my legs, all over. When we went back after younger son had been born, they ignored me totally. In the 19 years since then, they have had various problems with the small monkeys stealing items from visitors’ bags. Today, they use squirt guns filled with water to train the small monkeys not to get on visitors. They still come pretty close to you, though. All of the above were basically right there with visitors. And despite the fact that they are trained not to interact with visitors, they sometimes do. One of the type shown in the last photo above jumped into and then out of my lap while playing with another monkey. It happened very quickly, but it gave me the distinction of being the family member with up close and personal interaction with monkeys on two of our three visits to Apenheul.

The larger apes and gorillas are kept on islands, very visible to visitors while at the same time at a safe distance. There were orangutans. There were gorillas, several with babies. There was also the alpha male gorilla. The young human primates also found some of the children’s attractions quite enjoyable. It’s good to know that your kids are still young at heart.
The other place that older son claimed to remember was Madurodam, a replica Dutch “town” built on a precise 1/25 scale, and located in the suburbs of The Hague. Older son remembered “feeling like a giant” at some place we visited during our year in the Netherlands, and this had to be it. Here’s an example. Looks like a large office building, right? Wrong! Madurodam is constructed to convey information about Dutch history and architecture. For example, this is a “body farm.” The smaller building is the head, the narrow hallway is the neck, and the larger barn is the body. It’s not exactly the type of “body farm” we think of in the States. Here are some other shots, some of which show that everything is small and some of which don’t. Here’s the Alkmaar cheese market. Probably the simplest way to describe this next shot is to say that it’s Amsterdam’s monument to the Gay Pride movement, though in Dutch its name is the Homo-monument. There’s the Rijksmuseum complete with Rembrandt’s “Night Watch.” Below, the building to the right of the one with the red shutters is the Anne Frank House. The only thing they forgot to include is the line of visitors which often stretches down the street and around the block. This is one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions, as well it should be. We went through it on my first day in the Netherlands in 1989, and it is a very sobering experience.

Finally, there’s even the Red Light District, though I have no idea why there’s a Star of David on the door here.
Driving around the Netherlands, the first thing that comes to mind (well, my mind anyway) is the reliance here on alternative energy sources. There’s a very large wind farm on the coast of the country, but even in the interior you can’t drive or ride on a train for long without seeing a windmill of the power rather than traditional Dutch variety. These three were right along the interstate-equivalent road that we took to get the The Hague.
The other thing we did in the Netherlands was spend half a day in Amsterdam. We went on the obligatory canal cruise. Among the attractions you see is the world’s largest floating Chinese-Indonesian restaurant. It can seat over 900 patrons at a time. You see houseboats. This is not the most elaborate one we saw by any means. You see the narrow canal houses; they’re narrow because properties were taxed according to the width of the building along the street. Interestingly, the other place we saw this was in Hanoi. The “stick” you see jutting out from the top of each house is there to raise large objects that don’t fit up the narrow, back-and-forth staircases inside. Parking along the canals can be tricky. This photo, for example, fails to convey that the rear wheels of the middle car are almost perfectly aligned with the edge of the canal wall. Finally in terms of the canal cruise, I took this shot solely because the reds caught my eye.
We also visited two museums, the Hemp and Marijuana Museum and the Torture Museum. The Torture Museum was so dark inside that I took only one photo, that of a sign on top of the platform beneath the guillotine.
The lighting in one part of the Hemp Museum, while not entirely conducive to photography, was conducive to growing weed. In case you don’t already know, pot is legal in the Netherlands under certain conditions, but the folks who run the museum know that it’s not legal most other places and have the legal disclaimer posted throughout the museum. They also offer samples, which are free though tips are accepted. If you ask me off the blog which family member(s) chose to partake of the free samples, I’ll probably tell you. I just won’t post it here. Since pot is legal here, there are stores selling seeds. This one is run by the same folks who run the museum. This is one of the coffeeshops at which you can request the menu they keep under the counter that lists the types of marijuana they offer.
And speaking of businesses, can you imagine a condom store in your town? We saw the condom shop as we were walking through the Red Light District. Photos of the non-shop sort of business are strongly discouraged there, so this is all you’ll see of our walk through there.

Amsterdam's Dam Square always offers something unusual. On the day we were there, it was costumed figures with whom you could pose for a photo. Darth Vader and Batman were there along with a gorilla and some sort of robot.
Finally, UVa and UvA are not the same. UVa is the University of Virginia, while UvA is the Universitiet van Amsterdam. It was more crowded than I expected in Amsterdam given the season, though we were there on a Sunday afternoon. The sons were not that impressed with Amsterdam saying that “it was just a city, though it did have whores and weed.” I’m not sure that Amsterdam would want to adopt that as a city motto, but it is pretty descriptive.

Other things that hadn’t changed much in the Netherlands included the Dutch reliance on schedules. If you want to eat a late lunch, say at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, good luck finding a cafĂ© that is open. Lunch extends to about 1:30, but that’s it. “Convenience stores” are those open seven days a week, though they may close at 7:00 at night. The bicycle parking lot at a Dutch train station still rivals the bicycle parking lot at a Hue University dorm. The Dutch people still downplay their skill at English, responding, “a bit” or “a little” if you ask fi they speak English, after which they carry on a perfectly understandable, near-fluent conversation with you in English.

It’s now morning, and the train is chugging through Denmark. We’ll be in Copenhagen in a bit more than an hour. We decided to bypass doing anything in Copenhagen and will head directly on to Sweden. The husband is giving a talk at the University of Lund tomorrow and needs some time to prepare. The sons and I are hoping for wireless so that we can check e-mail and update blogs. If you read this, you’ll know we were successful. The next step will be 22 hours on four different trains, going from Malmo, Sweden, to Trondheim, Norway. There, we expect to visit the mountain house of Blaine’s second cousins as well as the “home place” that gave the Norum family its surname. Thanks to Blaine’s cousin, I have an appointment for my next shot of rabies vaccine, meaning that I won’t have to walk into a new hospital and start explaining about having been bitten by a dog in Cambodia. Our final event in Trondheim will be the joint concert by the Frank-Zappa-less Mothers of Invention and the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. The day after that, it will be Oslo and the Viking Ship Museum (among others). In less than two weeks, the husband and I will be home. It’s been a great trip. As one of the sons said at lunch the other day, “You’ve got a lot for the Christmas letter this year, Mom,” to which the other son added, “And it’s only April.” I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

And don’t think the above is a farewell in terms of this blog. The Internet gods willing, I’ll continue to post a bit about where we go and what we do in Norway, so check back from time to time over the next two weeks to see what you might see here. In the meantime, as the Dutch say, tot ziens!