Vidar, our friend Olaf’s son, a rock musician (who is now 29 and was 6 when I last saw him) picked us up in Oslo and drove us half way down to Arendal where we met Olaf and we all had an early dinner and then we continued with Olaf onto Arendal.  Olaf lives on Tromoy an island which is connected by a bridge to the mainland about 7kilometres from the town of Arendal.  The house is in a beautiful position right on the edge of a forest.

It had been 23years since I had been in Arendal but it was just as lovely as I remembered it with lush forests and water all around the town and the neighbouring islands.

On the Sunday we drove to Arendal and walked around the old town and had a coffee in the middle of town which wraps around the small harbour.  We then went and saw Heidi who has three children of her own now.  She was 11 when I last saw her. Olaf then drove us to Hove further around the peninsula to a very popular recreational place in Summer.  It was a bit cool for Maurice and me but we had our heavy coats on.  It is a beautiful spot and we walked around the lovely coastline for a couple of hours.    In the evening we went to Vigdis our friend and Olaf’s former wife for dinner. It was great to be able to catch up with both of them and have a meal together.  Vigdis had emailed me before we got to Norway that it had been raining a lot and she hoped for a bit of sunshine for us.  As usual we were lucky and brought the sun with us so we had another perfectly sunny day.

The next day we had a great time with Olaf who took us hiking along the coast to Bjelland. Luckily he suggested we wear sneakers as we had to negotiate small stones, large stones and boulders along the way. It was a bit of a  balancing act sometimes on the mid sized stones. He did estimate that it might take us one hour but it was a 2 1/2 hour hike instead but it was fascinating to see the stony beaches and outcrops along the way.  It only took us 1 1/2 hours back on the inland road.   We passed an old airstrip and also bunkers from the second world war. We were hoping for a nice cup of coffee at the end of the hike but the restaurant was closed as it was a Monday and now since it was autumn it only opened on the weekends.  I don’t know how a lot of the cafes and restaurants make a living as many in tourist spots are only open for a few months of the year.  The prices in Norway are very sobering and even the Norwegians say that everything is very expensive.  At the local pizza place  on Tromoy island we saw a price list and the large pizzas were between $30-$40.  A taxi driver who lives near the border of Sweden told us that he buys nothing in Norway but crosses into Sweden to do all his shopping.

Luckily it was only 1 1/2hour walk back to the car along the inland road where we passed some houses with a thick carpet of grass growing on on the roof.  These have a thick membrane underneath.  We also passed groups of letterboxes and rubbish bins.  There are no letterboxes on each house but rather groups of them alsong the street or as with Olaf’s street he has put them all on his garage wall away from the weather and the bins are further down the road.  Good for the garbos and the mailman.

We found a lovely hotel and got a cup of coffee there and warmed ourselves up (well Maurice and I did anyway).  Olaf couldn’t believe that we had heavy winter coats on as he most of the time was in a short sleved shirt or just with a windcheater.  He however is accustomed to the colder weather. It got to between 10 and 12 degrees on the days we were there and down to a few degrees at night. We went to a lovely Chinese restaurant with Olaf and Vigdis on Monday night and the food and service was excellent.

On the Tuesday we went for a hike to a place called Jettegryte which means  “Giant pots”.I managed to trip on some wire which I didn’t see and wasn’t expecting along the forest walk and fell flat but luckily it was on soft ground so just got more of a shock than just a wet bruised knee.  The “Giant Pots” are just that – they have been carved out by water but one is very deep and about 5metres across.  Apparently in Summer people bathe in it.  The coastal scenery is beautiful and we were very lucky as everyone kept telling us that we could have had just rain or snow instead of the sunny and dry weather that we experienced.  The autumn colours were beautiful.  Bright yellow, brown and red leaves amongst the fir trees.

We then went to a lovely town called Tvedestrand and had coffee in very large cups almost like soup bowls.   We found that most people in Sweden and in Norway speak either extremely good English or some English which makes life very easy.

In Sweden and Norway and sometimes in Germany people have the habit of taking off their shoes in the house.  This is especially the case in winter when shoes and boots can be messy so most houses have an area where you can hang coats and leave shoes.  A lot of the heating is also underfloor which is very comfortable.

Olaf couldn’t believe that we didn’t have our window open at night and that we had the  heating on but it was otherwise too cold for us.  He told us that they always had the window open and one day Vigdis kicked a hot water bottle out of bed and in the morning it was hard as it had ice in it!

We went over to Heidi their daughter’s place for coffee and it was nice to chat to her and meet her partner Tom and see two of the children Leave and Lotte.  In the evening we had a meal of what Maurice called “reindeer balls” which were actually reindeer meatballs.  They were a bit gamey for me so I had sour salted herring instead which was delicious.

Norway and Sweden are not experiencing the problems with the labour situation plagueing most of Europe and they happy with their own currencies, Norwegian Krone and Swedish Krone. In Germany in most smaller restaurants and establishments we could not use even “Visa” credit cards but in Sweden and Norway we could pay for a packet of sweets with a credit card.

On Wednesday Olaf very kindly took us up  past Oslo and over on the ferry over the Oslo fjord to Moss where we had an early dinner at a Greek restaurant and then farewelled Olaf who had to do the 3hour trip back to Tromoy.  We stayed there overnight as we flew Ryan Air out of the country and the cut price airport is located quite a way out of Oslo.  On the 11th October before we flew to Dublin it had been -4 overnight and 0 degrees when we left.  Olaf said there was snow forecast for the weekend so we just missed that!

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