If you're in Huntington Beach, do yourself a big favor and go to Normita's Surf City Tacos. You won't regret it. After we had our fill of delicious tacos and beach walking, we drove down the PCH to Laguna Beach. For some pretty incredible views of the valleys, mountains, and ocean, check out Alta Laguna Park. On a clear day, you'll be able to see all the way to Catalina Island and there are lots of hiking trails that I'd love to go back and explore!
While we were in Orange County last weekend, we visited San Juan Capistrano. The popular draw in the city is of course the Mission but it's also worth checking out the Los Rios District, which is the oldest neighborhood in California. (There are still buildings there dating back to the 18th century!). We topped the trip off with some pizza from Selma's (the Pedal to the Metal Special was so good).
On our way to Nashville in January, we stopped at the National Corvette Museum. We had passed it many times and since we were driving a Corvette this time, it seemed like it was kind of mandatory that we stopped, right? While cars aren't a huge interest of mine, I'm always up for a museum and I thought this one was set up nicely and had a lot of interesting information. You may or may not remember that there was a sinkhole in 2014 that swallowed up some very rare and iconic cars. Many of those cars were beyond repair; they now have an exhibit set up dedicated to the event and have kept the damaged cars on display. Due to a little morbid curiosity in disastrous events, I found this part of the museum to be particularly interesting.
There is so much to love about Norway (and I can't wait to go back one day). As usual, I was excited for the food, and hoping to try some great fish dishes. While it's true that Oslo is not a particularly budget friendly city, I think you'll find that a meal here is well worth the money.
Amundsen Bryggeri og Spiseri: Don't screw up here and order a hamburger here like my husband did! (To be fair, the place initially seems like a good place to have bar food and not more upscale fish dishes.) Instead, try the Cured Halibut as a starter and then get the Arctic Char for your main (you can thank me later). This place far exceeded our expectations. And they make their own ice cream and sorbet - so don't skip dessert!
Elias Mat & Sånt: A small place with great food, this was probably my favorite meal in Oslo. We had pumpkin soup and baked chevre to start; oven baked salmon and trollkrem for dessert - a lingonberry mousse that was as light as air! (One of those dishes you eat up before you can even think about taking a picture!) I am also curious about the reindeer stew; I would love to try it.
Den Glade Gris: Literally means "The Happy Pig" and although I'm not sure how happy the pigs here actually are, they are pretty tasty. They're known for their pork knuckle, which is basically a giant pork shank with vegetables. It's a lot of food, so I would recommend splitting it. The appetizers were good, and I suspect some of their less popular dishes are as well. After you eat, you can go up to the Summit Bar in the Renaissance for a great view of Oslo.
Mathallen Oslo: Mathallen is a popular indoor food market with over 30 vendors to choose from, so you're sure to find something here that you like. And, if you're interested in saving some money, this could be a great place to check out while you buy some supplies to make yourself a meal one night or create a picnic lunch.
A note on bars and cafes: Norway has a growing brewery scene and I was lucky to try a few Norwegian beers while in Oslo. Make sure you try some if you can! There's also a great cafe culture in Norway, and Norwegians like their coffee (but, similar to the cafes in Iceland I mentioned in my Iceland post, they have some good tea selections, too!). I really enjoyed getting a cup of tea and a pastry or two and just watching people go about their day on the street. There are cafes everywhere, so stop into one when you have a chance! They're also great for a relatively inexpensive, quicker lunch as you're hopping between sites.
One of the things I was really excited about seeing in Norway were the fjords. To get a truly great fjord experience in western Norway, we booked a Norway in a Nutshell trip. It was a mostly convenient process (more on that later) to book and included train, bus and boat tickets for the whole itinerary from Oslo to Bergen and back. I love trains and didn't mind the long trip to get to the fjords, but I didn't expect the train route to be as scenic and interesting as it was!
Our tour was originally scheduled to leave on a Sunday, but since the train operators were going on strike, it was cancelled. The tour office called me and emailed me, and gave instructions to re-book. In the end, I was able to go to the main NSB office at the train station in Oslo on Monday morning prior to the scheduled departure time that day and exchange my tickets for a Monday trip with no problems. (If this happens in peak season when the fjord tours get very busy, you may have to opt for a refund, which they were willing to do as well).
As the train left Oslo, we began to climb up into the mountains and the scenery was incredible. Norway is a truly beautiful country and seeing it by train is definitely the way to go. Eventually, we were high in the snowy mountains, where we made a stop at the Finse station, the highest point on the route at 1,222 meters above sea level. The train stops here and if it's on time, you have a good opportunity to get out and take some pictures. Our train was running a little late so we stayed in to keep on schedule. The train passes over a mountain plateau, the Hardangervidda, before making it's way back down the mountain to Myrdal, where we switched trains and took the Flamsbana to Flam to catch our fjord tour. If you're not doing the tour, the train continues on to Bergen.
Despite being a long trip (the whole ride from Oslo to Bergen is about 7 hours), the train and scenery made for a comfortable and enjoyable time. During peak season, you can do the Norway in a Nutshell tour in a (long) day, returning to Oslo late the same night. When we went (late October) we had to take the night train back. Luckily, this gave us a little time to explore Bergen at night. Our sleeper car was comfortable and we got a fairly decent night's sleep, all things considered. If you're going to Norway, I would suggest this as a must do activity!