Friday, 2 October 2015

Falling In Love With Norway: The People (Norway post #4) AND I'M ON T.V.!!!

(T.V. episode link is at the end of the post!)

There are many reasons to travel, we want to try new food, see beautiful landscapes, and immerse ourselves in an unknown culture. But probably my favourite part of traveling, is getting to meet other people. Now that I think about it, people are probably just my favourite thing in life. There is nothing more diverse than humans (okay maybe there are more species of insects or something but you get my point). Each with their own stories to share, countless components that make up an identity, layers of feelings and emotions, as well as having the ability of send someone to the moon (try doing that, insects!). But all jokes aside, humans are amazing creatures and getting to meet someone from another side of the world that has grown up in a culture completely different than mine is absolutely fascinating. So let me introduce you guys to some of the kindest people I have ever met.

This is Eirik, our tour guide for the Munch museum, never have I been so interested in visual art as when Eirik talked about it.
This is Annett, one of our two kayak tour guides in Oslo, here she is showing us how to peel fresh Greenland shrimp!
Renate (left) and Martine (right) took care of us the whole entire time in Oslo, and taught me so much about living in Norway.
I already mentioned that the Norwegians really care about their quality of life, and it really showed even in my first moments in Norway. There was an air of contentment all around me as everyone seemed to enjoy life. I have to admit, the thought of “will I experience racism in a place that does not have many visible minorities” definitely came up. After all I grew up in one of the most multicultural cities, if not the most in the world, Toronto. But I’m thankful to say, I experienced nothing but hospitality and kindness, and an abundance of it!

This is (left to right) Bol, Camilla, Blanca, and Christian, the family I had the pleasure of meeting in Son, such genuine and beautiful human beings!
This is Knut, the kayak guide from Camp Son, he gave me a hat he crocheted! It is now my new go to winter hat!
One of my favourite moments in Norway was the time that I spent with a family in Son, as well as our region guide, a kayak instructor from Camp Son, and the DreamJobbing team. We took a boat out to this small island that had a small wooden house on it. I learned how to catch crabs from the two small children, snorkeled for mussels/oysters, and just enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal with these people who went from being strangers to almost a family in a matter of hours.

This is Anders, the food blogger with such rich knowledge about Norwegian food. Also quite the pleasant dinner company! Check out his blog
Another interesting person I met was Anders, a food blogger that I started talking to in the Mathallen Oslo, because he told us about the history of reindeer meat. During my free time we ended up going out for dinner at this beautiful restaurant (check out his post about our experience here, and had some of the best food I have ever had in my life. Anders became a food blogger due to his love for food, and as food was one of the biggest topics that I was interested in, he was able to shed a lot of light on both traditional Norwegian cuisine, and new Nordic cuisine. He was funny, friendly, and ended up being from the city that we were headed to the next day, Stavanger, so he was able to give me more tips about what to see and even who to meet in the city.

This is Karl Erik the chef (, diligently working on the king crab legs.
This is Tobias, the chef at The Thief, he fell in love with food as he watched his grandma cook from a young age.
This is Anton, the head chef at Egget in Stavanger. They create their menu every morning depending on what ingredients they get for the day, so their food is always fresh and delicious. The customer never knows what to expect, and there's no room to be picky!
The person Anders connected me with was a chef named Karl Erik, the owner of the Fisketorget Stavanger (the fish market). Karl was such a joyous person, as I witnessed him serving each person with fresh seafood, he also did it with the biggest smile on his face. He genuinely enjoyed sharing his food with each customer and his spirits lightened up the whole room. Karl Erik was only one of the many chefs I met on this trip, each chef that I got to come across had a different story, and different reasons for why they loved food. Some were very quiet in demeanor, while others had the attitude of “I serve whatever the f*** I want, if the customers don’t like it, they can leave”, and of course, this restaurant was packed. As I talked to each chef, I fell in love with each of their stories, and hearing about how much hardship they had to endure and overcome to be doing the jobs they were doing now.

This is Reidar, the artist who had spent over 30 years building his fictional model city, and it definitely showed.
Another inspiring man was an artist named Reidar, who had a couple of museums dedicated to all the art he has created. This man was an artist in every way possible, he not only made paintings and sculptures, but also a perpetual motion machine, bred fish that were not supposed to be able to survive in cold water, to be able to survive in cold water, as well as the most detailed fictional model city I have ever seen. He was extremely genuine and unabashed, when I asked him why there were so many sculptures of naked women, he replied, “because I’m a man, I love women!” And when I asked him about what tips he could give me as an artist, he told me to “look through the camera like you have never seen before, by crawling on all fours, putting the camera on the back of your head, and just put the camera on your dick and see what kind of images you get!” Needless to say, I laughed quite frequently in his presence.

This is Bjorn, a tour guide at the Oscarsborg fortress. His deep love for history and wanting to share that with me was very evident and I was captivated by his stories. His insight allowed me to get a deeper understanding of Norway's history. Our time was cut short due to time restraints and there was a sadness about him as we parted because he couldn't show me everything he had wanted to, which not only made me admire him more, but also more curious about Norway.
This is James, an expert on street art, and the manager for the Nuart Festival that happens in Stavanger every year. 
This cute couple Aud and Evan, are the proud owners of Aegir microbrewery in Flom. I'm not a big fan of alcohol, but gotta admit, there were some pretty darn good beers there, not to mention the amazing food!
Of course it goes without saying there are so many other people who made my experience in Norway an amazing one, but if I wrote about each person this post would turn into a book. I do earnestly have to thank my sponsors and each person at Innovation Norway USA, who made this entire dream experience possible, the DreamJobbing crew for being my mentors and my best friends on the trip, and of course my friends and family back at home who believed in me to no end, even to the point of making their friends who don’t know me vote for me. Thank you all so much for making a dream come true and crossing quite a few things off my bucket list!

AND NOW FOR THE CULMINATION OF MY TRIP! You guys have all seen my picture but while I was in Norway, the DreamJobbing team filmed my experience in Norway, and it’s finally out! You can watch all my stuttering, awkward posing, and of course, the beauty of Norway, right here:

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Falling In Love With Norway: The Sights and Activities (Norway post #3)

Prior to going to Norway, the only things I had ever heard about Norway were Vikings, trolls, and fjords. And I had no idea what a fjord was. I eventually found out (basically just before I left for Norway) that a fjord is a deep body of water between high cliffs. A fjord was essentially my two favourite things in nature combined into one cool-sounding word! I absolutely love mountains/cliffs/high rocky places because the view is unattainable from any other perspective. It is a view only rewarded to those who are willing to make the climb (except for those times when I’m lazy and take transportation, but the view does feel less rewarding when I don’t work for it). As for water, it is free-flowing and meditative. It is the essence of life, and when I am submerged in water, it literally feels like I’m in a different world. So every time I got to interact with a fjord – whether kayaking, hiking, swimming, RIB, or photographing – it was such a breathtaking experience. Of course, Norway isn’t just built on fjords; there were so many other beautiful sights. As a European country, there was no shortage of beautiful historic architecture. And of course, any place with a lot of natural beauty comes with tons of outdoorsy activities, which are my favourite! Since this post is about the sights, rather than writing about them, I’ll spend more time showing you guys exactly what I saw through my camera.

The main harbour of Oslo, many people come here to enjoy the perfect blend of city and nature.
The Sverd i Fjell monument in Stavanger. It was created to commemorate the historic Battle of Hafrsfjord in which King Harald Fairhair gathered all of Norway under one crown.
This was literally the backyard of hotel Mundal in Fjaerland.
The front side of Hotel Mundal.. This place is seriously a sight on its own.
The street art scene is INCREDIBLE, if you are even slightly interested in street art, you HAVE to go to Stavanger!

Just before the trip in Norway, I backpacked through eleven countries in Europe with my best friend (if you want to read about that experience click here). We rode the train through Europe, and a lot of places resembled each other due to the old European architecture (probably pretty ignorant to say because there is definitely a lot of history behind each place, but by appearance alone even the most extravagant churches became another common sight). The first thing I noticed upon stepping foot into Oslo, the capital of Norway, was that the city was unlike all the other European cities I had been to. Even in the capital city, there was a very visible harmony between civilization and nature. Located right in the city centre was a beautiful harbour that led out to the Oslofjord, which goes out to the sea. Nature was a clear part of Norwegian culture, with a major harbor in each city of our trip. In the other European countries that I visited, I often wanted a break from seeing similar structures repeatedly. But in Norway, I would see a beautiful structure on one side, turn my head and see the vast fjords on the other. Nature was not separate from civilization, but it was very obvious that the Norwegians incorporated nature into their daily lives, especially in the ways they get their food (more about Norwegian food here).

Our view out the window on the train from Bergen to Flam. We thought we were in a fairytale.

The harbour at Bergen, one of the inspirations for Frozen the movie!

A part of the Sognefjord!

Why aren't more cities built like this? This picture was taken in Sognedal, where I got to make a T.V. appearance!

It just feels so right to have houses by water. This is another inspiration for Frozen the movie!
The Otternes farm houses in Flam! Simply gorgeous.
St Olaf's Church in Balestrand, such a beautiful building! Also ANOTHER inspiration for Frozen the movie!
Super cute houses in Stavanger!
City + Nature ALL THE TIME.

Another obvious way that Norwegians lived with nature was through the many activities that were available for nature exploration. One particular experience I remember very well is while I was kayaking on the inner Oslofjord, I saw a bunch of people jumping off the cliffs beside me, so I obnoxiously yelled out to the whole team, “OH MY GOSH CAN I DO THAT TOO?!” before realizing how entitled I sounded, so I added, “do we have enough time to do that?” (as if that made it any better haha). But my team, being super gracious and just wanting me to have the best time in Norway, obviously allowed me to. This was also my second day knowing my team, so doing this helped me open up and become more comfortable with the whole team. After I got to the top, it looked a lot higher than it did from the bottom, and I started to have regrets. But since my whole team stopped so that I could do this, I had to go through with it. As I leapt off the cliff and yelled “DREAMJOBBINGGGGGGGGG!” my whole body was shocked in pure fear, and in response I literally screamed out loud (I didn’t even know I had let out a scream until I watched a video after). When I go on rollercoasters, I don’t get an adrenaline rush because I know that I am secure, but this was my first time experiencing free fall from such a high distance. So for ten minutes (actually only one second), I legitimately thought I was going to die because no matter how hard I flapped my arms, my body was just going straight down. But afterwards, everything was okay and we had a wonderful picnic on the beach.  

Our delicious and fresh lunch prepared by the wonderful ladies of Oslo Kayak Tours, Annett and Tanya. This was after I thought I was going to die HAHA.
Learning blacksmithing from Trym at Fetsund Lenser! I made a beer opener haha. 
Found this little hole on Europe's biggest mainland glacier!

I got to paint a picture at the studio at the Edvard Munch's Ekely. I'm now an artist. I was definitely talking about the colour, texture, shapes, and the deep emotions in my piece.

The world's longest wooden stairs, at 4444 steps, I climbed about hundred to get this picture and my legs already burned...
Our first ride on the Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boat (boat), a lightweight but super fast boat. Our driver Simon took us over waves and it was such an exhilirating ride!

The view from the top of Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)! Breathtaking right?!
I was pretty tired after the hike up here.
The nets we slept in after the hike!
This was the backyard of another hotel, the Kviknes hotel in Balestrand.

The market in Oslo, Mathallen, with tons of delicious food!
This is the house of Santa's cousin in Drobak. Look at all the letters! He keeps every single one and actually reads them!
Our first kayak expedition!

One of my favourite nights in Norway. I got to snorkel for my own mussels and oysters! I also learned how to catch crabs here! We also grilled salmon on coals just outside the house and had a delicious meal.

There's even a park for adults in Stavanger! There is a beach volleyball court right beside these bouncy balls!

Homemade cider from Ciderhuset in Balestrand. The apples are growing in the back of this picture. Delicious pear cider in front of the fjords?! Yes please!
Our second cameraman, Freddy, going down the zip line at Holmenkollen in Oslo! 

If you guys have any questions about the things I got to see or experience, feel free to ask down below! Look forward to my next post about another of my favourite things about Norway: the people!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Falling in Love With Norway: The Food (Norway post #2)

Everyone has to eat, and enjoys food to some degree. While I am definitely no food expert, I can say that I LOVE to eat. Having not known anything about Norwegian culture prior to heading there, I had no idea what was considered Norwegian cuisine. In my two-and-a-half weeks there, I got to eat some of the most interesting and delicious food I’ve ever had in my life. I will be offering some of my personal opinions on the food I ate, and sharing about some of the things I learned about Norwegian culture. In no way is anything I’m saying representative of everyone/all of Norway. Oh, and warning: the pictures in this post will definitely make you drool. Do not continue reading if you are hungry. If you wanted an in depth review on one of the amazing restaurants I got to eat at in Oslo, my dear friend Anders Husa wrote a post on it on his blog, (@andershusa), more about how I met him in a later post! The next three pictures are from the restaurant, see the full set on his blog!

Chicken liver mousse with juniper berry gel and oatmeal chips from the Vaaghals Restaurant in Oslo. One of our five starters, and it was

Apple glazed ox short ribs with burnt onions, caramelized onion puree, baked redbeets, and Norwegian new potatoes with grain mustard. This was our main and it was so good I passed out for a brief moment.

Norwegian strawberries with almond and rye crumble and a sorbet of fresh cheese. The best dessert out of the three desserts. I could have eaten ten more bowls of these...

One of the many cool things that I learned about Norwegian culture was their high standard of living. Therefore, their food was something to be valued. Norwegians did not eat things out of season; so while we can buy any fruit/vegetable any time of the year in North America, they could not. But as a result of that, every in-season ingredient is high quality and fresh. One thing I didn’t expect at all was that Norway has the best strawberries in the world. Due to the temperature, length of seasons, and climate, Norway has the most optimal conditions for growing strawberries. I had the opportunity to try some myself and holy moly I had no idea strawberries that sweet even existed. I got to engage with food in a whole new way in Norway, as I saw exactly where my food came from before it arrived at my table. During our time in Bergen, a chef named Thibault took us to his diver, who brought us on his boat to forage for seafood. I got to pull up huge nets full of crabs, fish, sea urchins, scallops, and clams. Then Thibault opened the sea urchin and scallop ON THE BOAT and served it to us, just like that. LIKE WHATTTTT?! Every chef that I encountered loved food, and their relationship with the food was incredible. Things like never wasting their food, creating new dishes based on whatever ingredients were freshest, and using local ingredients as often as possible because they firmly believed in the quality of Norwegian grown ingredients, were some of the practices that were extremely admirable to observe.

This was just "some leftovers" given to us by the diver we went to forage fresh seafood with. A variation of Focaccia and king crab legs.

A vegetarian feast from the Skjerdal Spring Farm in Flam. This is where we got to see the creation of Norway's traditional cheese, Brown Cheese. The vegetables here were incredibly fresh and it's meals like this that makes me feel like I can be a vegan.

I got to try several foods in Norway that I have never had in my life: reindeer, brown cheese, and whale. I had reindeer as jerky, and it comes from the indigenous people of Northern Norway, the Sami people. They are the only people allowed to herd reindeer in certain regions of the Nordic countries. Reindeer jerky was similar to beef jerky except the flavour was richer – and I love rich flavours, so naturally I loved it. Brown cheese is the remnants of regular white cheese, boiled until the milk sugars become caramelized. So even though it’s cheese, it has a similar texture to caramel and can actually be used as a spread for things like waffles and toast. Whale is something that you might have heard about in Norway, but it is not a common food there. Whale cannot be found in every restaurant and most Norwegians don’t even like whale. There are very specific regulations regarding whale-hunting so that the practice is done ethically and properly. I tried it in a burger because I was really curious about its taste and also because I just want to try foods of all different cultures. I don’t know if it was just me but the taste was kind of similar to chicken liver. I like chicken liver but the taste was pretty distinct and unlike a lot of foreign meats that just “taste like chicken.”  This one definitely did not taste like chicken haha.

Fresh Greenland Shrimp that we had on the beach after a light kayak ride. This one had roe in it! I have never eaten shrimp without extra seasoning/flavouring/sauce but this shrimp was so fresh and had a natural sweetness to it that it didn't need anything extra!

The delicious fish soup from the famous fish market in Stavanger, the food capital of Norway. @fisketorgetstavanger

King crab legs infused with Thai flavours from the Fish Market in Stavanger once again. This market receives its seafood fresh daily, and they create their menus based on the fresh seafood that they get. It is half fish market, half restaurant so you can be sure that the seafood here is ALWAYS fresh and delicious. 

The last thing I want to say about the food is Norway’s main common specialty: the seafood. I found out that Japan (where we all believe has the best fish ever (because of sushi)), actually gets their fish from Norway! MIND BLOWN! I admit I have pretty low standards when it comes to food, so I will tend to think a lot of foods taste good and I am not the best judge of taste/quality. Most of the time I admittedly cannot tell between a $10 version of a food and a $50 version of the same food (well sometimes there is no difference, and it’s just the branding/ambiance of the restaurant), but the seafood in Norway was seriously on a different taste level – level “DANGGGGGGG D-D-D-DELICIOUS” (obviously I am the grand master of creating fictional levels for arbitrary things). Norway is surrounded by water, and the fjords enter the country so even cities in the centre of the country will have a lot of water surrounding the city. So naturally, all the seafood is extremely fresh. Even though I’ve been to Chinese restaurants that let you select the fish you want to eat from the tank, it is not even close to fish fresh from the sea. Every single seafood dish I had in Norway made my day. So my day was being made a lot… order literally any seafood in Norway and I guarantee that you will not regret it (unless you ordered something really expensive, and found the same thing in the restaurant next door for cheaper. Then it’s your fault. Sorry)!

You might have not heard too much about the food in Norway, but perhaps you’ve heard about how beautiful the landscapes and sights in Norway are. My next post will touch on some of those sights that I saw, because holy cow Norway took my breath away. But more on that next post!