Oslo always tops the list of most expensive cities in the world. So, visitors probably expect to pay a little more for a cup of coffee here.


The above info graphic from Bloomberg News illustrates the cost of, specifically, a 16 ounce cup of Starbucks coffee in cities all over the world. It's supposed to demonstrate Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), explained in detail in the Wall Street Journal's piece: On Currencies, What's Fair is Hard to Say.

Before that $9.83 price tag makes you do a spit take, let me point out a couple of the graph's weak points:


The sunniest, warmest day yet this year turned snow to slush, pushed the ice flows around in the fjord, and made me yearn for a sweet treat. Take one bottle of Coca-Cola from the Folkmuseet cafe plus one snowball, and what do you get?

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A free snow cone

Positive temperatures for highs all this week. Here's hoping spring has truly arrived! (It seems a little too good to be true...)


When Jonathan took the day off work on Friday, neither of us knew what we were going to do with that extra free time together. Unfortunately, we're not practiced enough with the cross-country skiing gear to pull off a last-minute run anywhere. So, it was up to me to choose something. I poked around Visit Oslo first because I would rather live like a tourist in my own city than be cool, in-the-know, and bored at home. 

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Turned out, the game plan for the day was easily settled once I came across a couple of bowling alleys in town. One we've passed many times because it's at Solli plass, just down the street from us. Solli Bowling.


And time marches on. This cool photo, taken from the heart of Oslo back in the 1880s (when it was still Christiania), looks from Stortinget (the Parliament buildings) down Karl Johns gate toward Det Kongelige slot (the Royal Palance).

Oslo 1880s - Christiania.jpg

It was originally shared by Visit Oslo on Facebook, a feed I definitely recommend following before you do visit or move to Oslo. When asked to point out what has changed in the last 130 years, commenters mentioned: 

  • The tram line no longer runs down this main thoroughfare.
  • This was taken long before the existence of Deli de Luca.
  • In the summertime, the trees lining Karl Johan are so tall and full, they would obstruct this particular view of the palace.
  • "Lasagna-drawn carriages and streetcars." (You read that right. Sadly, it's a joke referencing "Burger Gate," a recently terrifying revelation about European food.)

Though founded in 1048, when compared with other European capitals, Oslo seems quite new. This is both because the nation of Norway wasn't sovereign until the 20th century, and because a number of fires in the city destroyed so many medieval structures. Most buildings standing in the city today were built after 1850 (the royal palace was completed in 1849), but there are a few notable exceptions, most located in Oslo's Gamlebyen (Old Town):


Asker is an affluent suburb of Oslo. It's where Crown Prince Haakon and his family have their home. The city is known for its many beaches and wooded trails, as well as shopping options and beautiful churches. We went to check out the Galleri Trafo.


The gallery opened in 2006 and, according to the VisitAsker website, "has rapidly become an important location for Norwegian and International contemporary art." Housed in an old brick factory building adjacent to the Asker train station, the gallery includes three separate viewing areas on the first floor and one additional exhibit hall on the third.

As we stomped the snow off our boots at the entrance, I asked the lady at the desk for two tickets. She looked puzzled. Turns out the gallery is open for free to the public! Exhibitions change periodically, but the gallery's website seems to be fairly up-to-date.

In Kunsthallen (The Art Hall), we examined a series of contemporary landscapes by Norwegian artist Espen Røise. I stood in front of the focal piece for a long time, taking in the color and movement, the choice of shape. As the artist notes on the website, "Everything I do in my studio has its beginnings in the time I spend in nature, the landscape that touches me." 


Unfortunately, I couldn't remain soothed by these large, abstract paintings. From behind the wall at the far end of the room came a blood-curdling scream! Someone gasping for breath, panting, crying. Jonathan and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised, and walked toward the sounds. 


It was a day of Romance with a capital R:

  • Roses (Not a dozen. Apparently Norwegian blomster shops sell them in bunches of ten or fifteen!)
  • Root beer floats (with real A&W root beer, which made this expat very happy!)
  • Reservations at Pizza da Mimmo
  • Roman Holiday


This about sums it up. And if you need some help deciphering my gift to Jonathan (paper airplane? really?), don't forget to check out my Paperman Valentine.

Remember... this faux holiday is Ridiculous. Participate in Romance year-Round. It's more fun that way!


This is the way love should be. (And is.) Disney's Oscar Nominated short film, 'Paperman.'

Ten years ago today, Jonathan told me he loved me for the first time. It felt like a big deal then, on a beach in Sausalito, California. He'd just trounced me at Go. My beautiful new board and bowls lay in the sand, his gift to me that Valentine's Day 2003. I pouted. I hated to lose. But it was warm enough that February day to be barefoot on a beach in Northern California, a kind of miracle, so I couldn't be down long. I stood, jammed my fingers into the back pockets of my jeans, and stared out at the surf.

When Jonathan came up behind me to loop his lanky arms around my waist, I snuggled close to him, clasped my hands over his. We'd been together (like... together together) for only a few weeks. But it felt deeper than that already. Perhaps because our first real date had lasted something like twelve hours, and we'd been inseparable since. Perhaps because he was four years older than me and, almost by definition, far more mature than any of the young men I dated before him. Perhaps because we were meant for each other, soul mates, if you believe in that kind of thing.

He'd written it down on a piece of pink paper, a Post-it. I love you. And he pressed it into my hand. It had been in his pocket all morning, those words. They'd been in my heart much longer than that. Just waiting to be set free.

The waves arrived and flattened across the packed, damp sand, then retreated again. Seagulls spun cartwheels in the air. And even though I'd lost the game (oh, I hated to lose), these words held the promise of innumerable games on countless days to come. Plenty of time to win again. Time to learn how little winning matters. Or that, in being together, we will always both win. I threw my arms around his neck. That's love.




Are you Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? 

It's a stand which American society demands its participants take. This could have something to do with the rampant rise of ferociously conservative Christians in the Tea Party. Or it could be the natural aftermath of a still-raw wound since the strident political progress Feminists made in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Probably both. But the result is that everyone, even those technically untouched by the debate, must pick a side, and there is no secret option C.

As a Christian, I am familiar with this fight. There was a time when I gave Pro-Life speeches, debated Roe vs. Wade on the side of Wade. I manipulated statistics so they sounded as bad as possible. I played on sympathy and guilt. I used the famous photo of a doctor's finger being grabbed by the infinitesimal hand of a 21-week-old baby still in utero. Yes, I knew all the tactics cold. 

I was sixteen. As far as I knew, none of my friends or acquaintances had had an abortion. The three girls I knew who got pregnant in high school all opted to have and keep their children. More than that, I knew it was a choice I'd never have to make myself. I was committed to remaining sexually abstinent until marriage. This was a decision I made before converting to Christianity. I was influenced by my parents, who instilled in me a huge amount of self-respect when I was very young. Later, when the Church was vying for its young people to make purity promises to the Lord, I was a prime candidate to preach that one from the rooftops.

It was easy to be Pro-Life. 

Then life happened.


In Norway, winter is all about the cross-country skiing, a sport embraced by most of these healthy, active people.


Last year, Jonathan and I hopped on the cross-skiing bandwagon with both feet. And promptly slipped and fell into the snow with a big, wet, surprisingly-bone-jarring thwump! It's tougher than it looks, and the Norwegians do make it look easy. Of course, the big joke in Norway is that Norwegian babies are born with skis on. I'll give you a second to rid your mind of that image, but don't scoff. Head out to any set of cross-country tracks in the Oslomarka on a sunny day, and you'll see children as young as three glide right by you. Fast. Without poles. Without fear. Only the kids who are too young to walk get away with being too young to ski, and they get the best of this deal, let me tell you. Why can't I ride in one of these fancy contraptions? Mush, Mom. Mush!


Did you know that waxing your skis is an art form? Yeah, we didn't either. Jonathan read up on it, asked Norwegians about it, and practiced, practiced, practiced. But it isn't just the technique that counts. You also have to gauge the weather appropriately and run to the sports store to buy wax in the appropriate temperature category. If you use the wrong wax, the snow will ignore it completely. It will laugh at you meanly as you slide backwards down a shallow hill, in slow motion, feeling the pity of the Norwegians as they pass you. Oh, and you have to get to the store fast because, well, the Norwegians have a sixth sense for snow and will clean the place out of the 'right' wax before you're even out of bed in the morning.




The Girl Behind the Red Door has been nominated for a Liebster Award. It's a pay-it-forward thing, a way to find and support fellow bloggers. My nomination came from Diana Meets the Locals, a Canadian travel blogger who has worked at two Olympics and has a weakness for goldfish crackers. I've followed her via Twitter for a while now, but didn't learn these two intimate details until this nomination came through. That's the fun of it. 

So how does it work? When you are nominated you have to:

  • Share 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions given by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate new bloggers to pass on the fun
  • Write 11 questions for those bloggers to answer
I'm game!

11 Random Facts about Me

  1. ajc_viking.jpgVolleyball is my favorite sport. I played for four years; coached for three. Kerri Walsh is my hero. I could watch it all day every day.
  2. Living in Norway, I suffer from Kraft Mac-n-Cheese withdrawal. I cram my suitcase full of boxes whenever I visit home. 
  3. I love whales, but I hate the ocean.
  4. I haven't eaten an egg in 18 years. Why? Eggxiety: It's no yolk!
  5. When I go to baseball games, I always keep score. My dad taught me how.
  6. In fifth grade I kept a diary, and I ended each entry by naming a movie star I had a crush on. My list was a tad different than most eleven-year-old's... Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper...
  7. I scrapbook. 
  8. About once a year I re-read Pam Houston's Cowboys Are My Weakness. It's my creativity touchstone.
  9. I'm not bendy. At all. Like a pencil. It's terrible.
  10. Someday I'd like to own a whole pack of bloodhounds. 
  11. I miss rock climbing.


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