Best Norwegian hospitality: Our Sunday lunch hosts Tove and Øystein win the prize here. Tove is the sister of Pusa Gundersen, the mother of my long-time friend Erik. I celebrated many a Norwegian-style Christmas dinner at the Gundersens’ home in West Newton, Mass., near Boston. Coincidentally, Pusa is also in Oslo on holiday, so it was fun to see her here as well. Tove and Øystein’s lovely home, a little south of Oslo, is near the Oslo fjords, which Wessel and I had a view of during our delicious meal.
Best transportation: Loved the public transport here, which include trams, subway, trains, and bicycle sharing. But the highlight was maneuvering a two-seater Th!nk City electric car through morning rush-hour traffic and onto the highway, hitting about 60 mph. Without Wessel navigating, I wouldn’t have made it. The cars, to be released in August, are coming to the US in 2009. Read all about it in my Ode magazine story sometime later this year. Very exciting! (I also drove a hydrogen-powered Prius for another story. That was cool too)
Coolest wool clothing and yarn store: Husfliden, which carries totally modern clothing and throws, including contemporary wool blankets made at Røros-Tweed, a historic textile factory with a wonderful story of reinvention that I can’t seem to find written in English anywhere. The store also carries clothing and accessories for the elaborate regional traditional folk costumes, called bunad.
Coolest cool-clothing store: Design Forum, a national chain. Reasonably priced for here, funky, feminine, great-for-layering tops, pants, skirts, sweaters, all made in Norway. Really great shoes too. Totally my style. Maybe I’ll convince someone to open an outlet in North Carolina. Can you imagine?
Hippest street: Grünerløkka is where the groovesters go, so of course Wessel and I were there, fitting right in with our American garb. The main drag of Thorvald Mayers gate (gate = street) has the usual assortment of trendy shops, cafes, restaurants and bars and from what I can tell is the only such street in Oslo. But since it’s become well known enough for us to find it, I’m guessing there’s something a little artsier and a little more fringe.
Best restaurant: The foodie favorite Sult, in Grünerløkka of course. The name means hunger, and it adjoins the bar Torst, or thirst. Small room, small menu, biggish meals at a reasonable price. Beautiful plating, ultra-cool photos on wall that matched the tabletops. Wessel had pork; I had catfish and we had one beer and two glasses of wine, for $130 plus a 10 percent tip. The waitress gave us a cocktail/cookbook from the original chef (now gone) that I wish I could read. It’s a great souvenir, anyway.
Most annoying smell: Cigarettes. Young people, especially women, smoke like chimneys, we were disappointed to discover. (They all have tattoos too.)
Best news out of Norway: Norway’s parliament last week adopted a new marriage law that allows gay folks to marry and adopt children and permits lesbians to be artificially inseminated.
Loudest music: Under our hotel window on a Saturday night. That’s because one of the many stages around town for the annual Musikkfest Oslo happened to be quite close to us, which made our downtown street – and many others — quite lively. Most of the music was rockin’ and surprisingly very good. (I say surprising because bands were free and plentiful, not because they’re Norwegian! I mean, let’s not forget a-ha. Or rather, let’s.) The live music stopped by 11, but not the raucous partiers, who were still going strong when I finally fell asleep around 2. And was it truly dark out? Not really!