Tilbake i Norge

Well, we are back in Norway.

It’s hard to believe we spent nearly two months in NZ. It all seems just like a distant dream now.

In fact, come to think of it, my entire year off seemed to have just whizzed by.

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that we were still going up our house?

Time dilation. It’s the first real symptom of getting old. And it only gets worse.

Right, better publish this blog post, before I turn 50.

 

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Flying long haul with an infant, part 2 – Premium economy

We upgraded our two long haul flights from economy to premium economy paying about 30% – 40% extra.  Because we were travelling with an infant, this meant we were also assigned the bulk head seats.

We flew British Airways on a shiny new A380 from London to Hong Kong (11 1/2 hours), and Cathay Pacific on an archaic A340 from Hong Kong to Auckland (10 1/2 hours).

So, was the extra money for Premium economy worth it?

Pros:

  • Heaps of leg room. You really could completely stretch your legs and then some. Also plenty of space for baby to safely crawl around in front of you.
Premium Economy bulk head infant seats on British Airways.  Heaps of leg room, and wide seats with generously sized arm rests - great for breast feeding and sleeping (at the same time)!

Premium Economy bulk head infant seats on British Airways. Heaps of leg room (and baby crawling space), and wide seats with generously sized arm rests – great for breast feeding and sleeping (at the same time)!

 

  • Significantly wider seats. The configuration is 2, 3, 2 (In cattle class it’s 3,4,3 or 3,5,3 depending on the air craft). We were seated in the middle row, meaning there was one other person in our row. We barely noticed them. Not only are the seats wider, but there is a very generous amount of arm rest space. You will not be rubbing elbows. At all.
  • You can actually sleep. Even while holding an infant.
  • You can use the airplane carry cot. Now, I wouldn’t recommend using these for actual baby sleeping. Baby is not strapped in. The cot is not very tall, and it’d be easy for baby to climb/fall out. It offers no protection from turbulence. And, if there is turbulence you have to wake baby, take him out, and put him into your seat-belt harness.  The cot is also at an awkward height so that you are unable to see the baby while sitting in your seat. We found it easier and better just to keep junior on our lap. However, the cot (or even just the table) did make for great fast access storage area.
Infant cot (up to 18kg).  Cot is strapped in, but baby is not.  We kept baby sleeping on our lap, and used the cot for storage space.

Infant cot (up to 18kg). Cot is strapped in, but baby is not. We kept baby sleeping on our lap, and used the cot for fast access storage space.

 

 

  • USB power and regular power outlets. Yep, you can run your laptop, tablet, or phone for the duration of the flight.
  • Extra classy meals with real metal utensils, and cloth serviettes. As an example, included in our breakfast was a croissant and mini glass jam jar with metal lid.
  • Welcome drinkies!

We arrived in NZ 7.30am having traveled for 34 hours. We felt surprisingly good, and refreshed. The baby showed no problems coping with the 12 hour time difference, and wasted no time exploring his new surroundings, before crashing at his usual bedtime of 7 pm much later that day.

Verdict: If you have the means to pay the extra 30-40%C it is well worth the money. Even if it is just for the one flight. You will be able to sleep. And if you are travelling with a baby, it makes everything just sooo much better.  In general, we found the British Airways flight slightly better than Cathay Pacific, but only because it was a newer aircraft.

In summary, it’s the extra leg room and wider seats that makes premium economy worth the price.

 

 

 

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Flying with an infant from Norway to New Zealand, part 1

I both sought and received much advice on flying long haul with a baby, or in our case double back-to-back long haul.

A repeating theme seemed to be that you can never have enough toys. Load up your iPad with baby apps, and photos, music and videos they said. Bring toys they said. Both old faithful toys, and new ones.  Book toys, soft toys, clangy toys, music toys, round toys, rattling toys, and blinking toys.

This caused me to go into a state of panic. I had no toys for the baby. Just what sort of mother was I? I frantically started scouring baby toys on Amazon and started wish lists. I sourced custom made plane-friendly toys shipped to us all the way from Kumeu Baby Supplies in New Zealand, and also from the US. My colleague dropped off a giant sized IKEA canvas bag of toys. (Who knew babies were so demanding?).

But at least now, I felt I was ready.

We were allowed three pieces of hand baggage, one was an optimal sized suitcase filled with nothing but toys. The second was a bag filled with various other baby bits, while the third was our entertainment bag, laptops, phones, and tablets all preloaded with an assortment of baby apps, German metal music (babies love Toten Hosen), and photos.

And, I never used any of them. The iPad didn’t even get turned on.

Instead it was the aircraft safety manual that this little baby found most amusing.

Studying the safety manual for the A319 heading from Bergen to London

Studying the safety manual for the A319 heading from Bergen to London for Leg 1 of 3.

Babies. So complex.

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You’d think with all our renovation experience, we’d be able to build a structurally sound gingerbread house…

Pepperkakehus

Pepperkakehus

 

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Å koser seg

The days are short now, and mostly dark. When talking to people in the southern hemisphere a repeating theme seems to be ‘oh it must be so depressing now in Norway’.

But, it’s not really.

There is something very special about this time of year.

The Norwegians even have a word for it – å koser.

The closest English translation means to be cosy and warm.  But it encompasses much more than that.

It’s sitting by the fire drinking hot chocolate and playing boardgames while it’s quietly snowing outside. It’s enjoying an evening glass of port, and watching some Sherlock Holmes after the baby has gone to sleep.  It’s meeting friends for a late afternoon tea and muffins. It’s going out for a walk in the wind, rain, and ice, dressed in layers of warm wind and waterproof clothing, with a baby soundly asleep underneath it all in a lambskin cocoon. It’s coming home from work on a Friday night, to sit down for a cold drink and some pre-dinner snacks (Fredagskos as the weegies call it).   It’s decorating your front door with a fir and holly wreath, and your windows with starry Christmas lights.

Å koser seg.

Downtown Bergen now has a different look.  Koserish. Something warm and inviting. Christmas decorations begin to light up the streets at 3pm.  Going into cafe to koser yourself with a hot drink has never been more inviting.

Å koser seg.

Whenever I go out now , particularly when I have a sleeping junior snuggly strapped to my chest, I am frequently stopped by old Norwegians who hve an irristable urge to poke him and say something along the lines of ‘awww så søtt. Han koser seg’.

Everytime.

During every other time of year, the locals are usually busily working away on their do-up projects, hiking, or fishing.  This time of year (with the exception of skiing, which in itself has much kosering potential), all that stops. Everything slows down.   It’s a time to just sit back and relax in cosy, warm home, and enter a quasi-hibernation state, just enjoying each other’s company.

It’s 9.30am now, and mostly light.  The rain has eased, and the last of the snow melted.  It’s time to wrap up the barn and head out på tur, kosering ourselves in our warm, snug attire.

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Driving on the right, driving on the right

In New Zealand the process of obtaining a drivers license is a long and drawn out one.

First you sit a theory test, which gives you a learner’s license.  This means you are allowed to drive, but a driver with a full license must be with you at all times.  Then, six months later you can sit the practical test.  If you pass, you get a restricted license, meaning you are allowed to drive on your own during the day, but need a licensed driver with you at night.  Then, 18 months after this, you get your full license.

There are no formal courses you need to take.  If you pass your practical test, and don’t do any driving after that, you will still get your full license.

Two weeks ago, Brian received his full Norwegian driver’s license.  The entire process took him a month, and was rather different to what we do in NZ. It was, in what can only be described as, intense.

First, despite knowing how to drive, he was legally required to take several 1.5 hour driving lessons from a certified instructor.  (Probably a good idea since they drive on the wrong side of the road here, and have some really weird give way rules).

Then, there were the courses.  So many courses, all taking at least 1/2 a day.

  • There was the ice driving course – this actually sounded like fun.
  • The mountain driving course
  • The night driving course
  • The risk management course
  • The first aid course
On the ice driving course

On the ice driving course

On top of this there is also a very thorough theory exam.

Then once all these are completed it’s off for a a 1.5 hour practical driving test.

And now after all that, and just one month later, Brian is legally let loose on Norsk roads.

We headed out this weekend in a rental car to give his license a test.

Now Norwegian roads are pretty unusual.  The top speed limit is 80, and most minor roads are windy, narrow, and one way.

There is no room for error

This is probably why they take their licensing process so seriously.  If you drive a little too fast and suddenly brake, you won’t just skid a bit, but instead will be hurled off a mountain, and plummet into a 1500m deep fjord below.   And, as we found ourselves on our own on some very narrow, rather terrifying although typically Norsk roads, I found myself rather glad that I could be sure any drivers we came across, even youthy ones, would have undergone very rigorous training with much less likelihood of thinking hooning is a marvelous idea.

Our driving adventure was a success, and we luckily avoided any major snow with the weekend falling into a ‘warm’ period.

Next step is to actually buy a car.  Very keen on an electric model.  Free charging, parking and no tolls.

But first, Brian just needs to stop uttering ‘driving on the right, driving on the right’ under his breath at every turn.

 

Old power station on Osterøy.  The new power station is next to it, deeply burrowed into a mountain, it's the Norwegian way.

Old power station on Osterøy. The new power station is next to it, deeply burrowed into a mountain, it’s the Norwegian way.

Bridge to Osterøy, Europe's largest inland island.  Bridge was built in 1997, prior to that access was via ferry only.

Bridge to Osterøy, Europe’s largest inland island. Bridge was built in 1997, prior to that access was via ferry only.

Feeding stop

Feeding stop

Fjord or lake?

Fjord or lake?

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

Norsk road up mountain on Osterøy.

Norsk road up mountain on Osterøy.

We didn't drive on this road.

We didn’t drive on this road.

Weegies hanging out in the Church of Norway

Weegies hanging out in the Church of Norway

 

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Først Snø

First snow is always an exciting time of year.  For us at least.  For the Weegies it seems to incite a nationwide mutterance of not having swapped from summer to winter tires, and inevitably followed by reports of traffic jams, and car chaos on the news.

Every year.

This time round we had ample warning.  Tuesday it would snow.  And a lot.  And while our norsk countrymen remained in a state of unimpressed denial, I excitedly counted down the days.

On Tuesday, I headed out to check out the action.  Curiously, I was the only one out and about.  The mommy strollers, dog walkers, and elderly baby pokers were all kosering* themselves at home.

Such thrilling excitement they missed.

Our balcony

Our balcony

 

Freezing, starving duckies.  They seemed especially happy to see us today, and relished the remnants of my homemade sunflower and pumpkin seed loaf.  Curiously,  there seems to be a lot less of them, then there were in the summer

Freezing, starving duckies. They seemed especially happy to see us today, and relished the remnants of my homemade sunflower and pumpkin seed loaf. Curiously, there seems to be a lot less of them, then there were in the summer

At the lake.  It turns out pushing a stroller in the ice is actually quite challenging as brakes are rendered useless, and it becomes a sled.  I googled chains for stroller tyres, but the google seemed to suggest there was no need because 'who would want to go out in the ice and snow, anyway'.

At the lake. It turns out pushing a stroller in the ice is actually quite challenging as brakes are rendered useless, and it becomes a sled. I googled chains for stroller tires, but the google seemed to suggest there was no need because ‘who would want to go out in the ice and snow, anyway’.

 

Back from our adventure

Back from our adventure

* Kosering: å koser – special norsk word. Possibly expanded in next blog post.

 

 

 

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