One of the major disadvantages to staying at a hostel is that it tends to attract certain crowd of folk, some of which like to return to the hostel at 3 am and hang out in the hallway to have protracted, boisterous conversations. Such was the occasion last night, which made for not ideal sleeping conditions. We groggily got our things together and opted to take a cab back to Central Station to make life easier, which also had the perk of giving us a bit more time. We grabbed a quick bite for breakfast and headed out to catch our train to Oslo.
As it was only $15 or so more for first class, I had decided to splurge and spring for first class, particularly as this was going to be one of our longer train rides, at around 6 hours. First class had nice wide, plush seats as well as an electrical outlet. We were soon on our way, and it wasn’t long before I was snoozing, catching up on missed sleep. D had some work to get done, so he spent most of his time on his laptop. It made for quite a quick train ride as the hours and miles flew by. The snowy landscape was quite reminiscent of the landscape we encountered driving across the western US–tall, snow-covered trees, fields and streams. After a comfortable journey, we pulled into Oslo Central Station. I quickly ran a few administrative errands, including getting out Norwegian cash, picking up our Norway in a Nutshell tour tickets and grabbing a couple transit passes, all of which were surprisingly easy to accomplish. While we hadn’t needed to use public transport in Stockholm, the place we were staying at was a little less centrally-located but was next to a tram stop, so it would be much more convenient to use transit.
We jumped on a tram and trundled our way towards Grünerløkka, an area just to the northeast of central Oslo. We did notice that the city, at least the area we were passing by, seemed a little rougher around the edges than Stockholm–more graffiti and panhandlers than expected. The neighbourhood we got off in seemed quite pleasant, and it was just a block or two around the corner from the tram stop to the place we’d be staying. Given the exorbitant prices in Oslo, I thought we’d try AirBnB, where people rent out a room or their apartment on their own. We had a bit of a scare trying to find the place, as the address I had wasn’t fully informative, but thankfully I was able to find our host’s name on a buzzer. Desiree was very congenial and welcoming and gave us a tour of her very cute apartment. We chatted for a bit about her travel experiences while we had some of our cheese and crackers that we’d brought with us.
As it was getting later in the day, we were only going to head out for a bit, so we hopped back on the tram and went back down to the central station. We strolled up Karl Johan’s Gate, a pedestrian street with its fair share of global clothing brands as well as touristy shops. We soon came upon Oslo Cathedral, which dates back to the late 1600s. It has an impressive ceiling–an ornate mosaic that stretches across the entire church. We lingered for a time, next craned upwards, before moving on. We walked down to the recently-built Oslo Opera House, a highly modern structure meant to look like a glacier or iceberg, I believe. Its angled exterior surfaces are meant to be walked on and so we hiked to the top for a view overlooking Oslo. The sun was starting to set, and the temperatures along with it, so we headed off in search of food.
As the central train station has wifi, we swung by for a quick coffee and internet search. Apparently the Grünerløkka area is quite good for restaurants and cafés, so we hopped on a tram and headed back in that general direction. We came across Fru Hagen, which I’d seen recommended during my search, so we thought we’d give it a try. It was already lively at 6 pm, so we grabbed a couple stools at a back table near the speaker. It definitely had the sort of bohemian chic style that’s becoming so popular, and D noted that we could easily be sitting in a Portland pub. The menu didn’t look inspiring, mostly burgers and the like, so we opted to just have a relaxing drink and a bit of people watching. I’d spotted a French restaurant right next door with a more promising menu, so we took a table there. Bistro Brocante had a nice intimate, quiet ambience. I ordered escolar (in the mackerel family I believe) with a carrot puree, cauliflower, green beans in a tarragon cream sauce. D went with braised veal. The meal was delicious–so good that I ate even the cauliflower! Though my eating it was mostly as a sauce delivery vehicle. The carrot puree and tarragon sauce were so tasty, and the fish also, firm and flavourful. D’s meal was similarly delicious. The veal seemed to be stuffed with some as yet unidentified tasty thing. We happily cleaned our plates and headed back to the apartment for a relaxing evening.