Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Cloutier's Conquer Norway!

It's hard to believe September has passed us by, and we have officially entered into a new season.  One of my favorite seasons, FALL!! Not to say I don't enjoy a good ol' Minnesota summer, but fall signifies bonfires, comfy sweaters, long walks, apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and scarves!  My mom taught me to knit while they were here, and I just finished my second infinity scarf.  I love it! Luckily, yarn isn't so expensive here so that's one hobby that we can afford.  I'm a knitting machine! Ready to learn how to make other apparel.  I have the time, so I will be letting Youtube teach me!

On October 4th, we will have already been in Norway for 2 months.  Wow, that unfortunately makes a typical, 1 week vacation seem like a day trip!  September was a busy month for us.  With the official start of Gino's hockey season and my parents visit, our calendar was jam packed!  (When I say "jam packed" I'm referring to coffee dates, hockey games, market visits, entertaining my parents, hikes and of course the start of the new fall tv series).  But, I've loved every minute of it!
 Lillehammer hockey is well underway and they've had 6 games and won 4 of the 6.  Pretty good!  Gino's been playing great and jumping right back into the swing of things.  Again, if you would like to follow the stats you can by clicking on the link below.
Pointstreak LIK

Oh! before I forget again, here's a great article about Gino on the MN Star Trib Hockey Hub website.  He was chosen as one of the top 100 greatest players in MN high school hockey.  Wonderful accomplishment!  He was contacted by one of the reporters and gave a little interview a few weeks ago.  We weren't sure at the time what number he was going to be.  I'll let you find out for yourself! 
NOTE: Please no comments on the hair...he's sensitive:)
100 Greatest Minnesota Highschool Hockey Players Of All Time

My parents arrived in Norway on Thursday 15th.  It marked their first trip to Europe with hopefully many more to come.  I took the 9am train to the airport and got into Oslo, Gardermoen at 11ish.  Their plane was getting in at 11:05am, so it was perfect timing.  I'd told them to stop in the Duty Free shop, before retrieving their bags, for a few bottles of wine!  For those of you who aren't familiar with Duty Free, it's a one stop shop where you can purchase items that aren't taxed.  In some countries it's worth it....Norway being one of them!  I can buy a "cheap" bottle of wine for around 90 NOK (~$16).  They were able to purchase 3 bottles of wine for 160 NOK ($27).  So it was definetely worth it.  Anyways, after picking up the wine and their bags, they met me outside of customs.  They looked suprisingly rested for an 11 hour plane ride! I was so excited to see them! After a few hugs and a bathroom break,  we ran over to the train ticket counter to purchase our tickets back to Lillehammer.  At this time is was about 12:00 and the next train was scheduled in 5 minutes, which again was perfect timing!  The train ride was a great way for them to be welcomed into Norway.  The ride is a little over 2 hours and follows Lake Mjosa most of the way with views of the mountains around every corner.  Its really beautiful.  (If you want to see pictures of the train ride, you can look in my archive at my first blog entry...I think I have a few there)
Gino was waiting for us at the train station with the car when we arrived in Lillehammer.  Thankfully, the weather was cooperating, so we gave them a quick drive through of the city and back up to the apartments to unpack.  The team had an extra apartment open that just so happened to be on our floor so my parents were able to stay there.  It was fully furnished and equipped with dishes, pots/pans, bed sheets, towels etc.  Gino and I stocked the fridge with a few basics before they arrived so everything was ready for them.  After unpacking, they came over to our place for a quick coffee on the patio and then were ready to take in the scenery!  Talk about troopers! 
Gino had a game Thursday night so after coffee my parents and I went for our hike and left Gino to rest up before heading out to the game.  I took them to the trails near our apartment to show them the waterfalls.  They just loved it!  Again, everything was so green and lush.

After a little hike, we headed back to the apartment for dinner and relaxation before the game.  Side note...this was the first game that my parents have ever seen Gino play! Seems strange after all these years.  When he was playing for Anchorage,  my parents were at their condo in Fort Myers and Gino was going to be down for a few days playing against the Everblades in Fort Myers.  I flew down to see all of them and out of 3 games Gino didn't play one! Such a bummer.  Anyways, everything worked out for the best because he ended up leaving Anchorage to play for Phoenix a few weeks later, but thats another story!..moving on.   My parents were really excited to FINALLY see him play.  Well, they obviously brought the luck because Lillehammer ended up beating Manglerud 7-1.  Better yet, they saw Gino score!
It was beautiful on Friday! So, we ventured into town for coffee and a waffle at our favorite cafe, Nikkers.  It was nice enough outside to sit on the back patio and enjoy the creek.  My parents were just in love with the scenery.  You forget how beautiful it is here until someone visits and you see it through their eyes for the very first time.  I have a whole new appreciation for Lillehammer and Norway! 

We strolled down Storgata for a while and stopped in a few shops along the way.  My mom wanted to find some Norwegian decor for the house and after seeing the prices in some of the shops they were a little suprised.  We happened to walk buy the Fretex (a "nice" salvation army) and decided to browse.  This was not a typical salvation army we have back home...that's for certain.  Alot of the items sold still had tags on them and the place was packed with people just like us.  My mom ended up finding a pair of cheap leggings with the tags still on them. She was now ready to walk the streets in European fashion:)  After such a great find, we ended up venturing back into Fretex numerous times throughout the week.  
Before heading back up to the apartments, we strolled down into the central park and over to the cemetery by the old Protestant church.
That night we took them out to eat at Toscanas, a local Italian restaurant that we had been eyeing up since last year!  It was really great food and pretty resonably priced for Norway standards.  After dinner we showed them the brewery/restaurant built into the side of a hill.  As we were walking in, my mom ran into a stuffed grizzly bear......she was scared.  Sorry mom!  Just too good of a pic not to post.

Gino had a game on Saturday in Hamar, which meant he was pretty much out of commisson most of the day leading up to the game.  So my parents and I took a long hike up the mountain.  As we were walking to the start of the trails we saw a herd of people in running gear trying to take a group picture.  I asked them if they needed me to take the picture so I did and we proceeded to ask what they were up too. They said 15,000 people were going to be running in a 24 km race starting at the top of the trails and the finish would be at the Olympic Park (where Gino's arena is).   I've noticed in the last year that Lillehammer hosts a variety of sports events throughout the year.  A few weeks ago they had a huge bike race and this week a running race.  In winter they have a cross country skiing race etc.  It was a cool set up for my parents to see. After mosying around Olympic Park for a bit we continued to walk down a few side streets just to explore.

Saturdays are always great days to walk into town because the streets are very lively!  They have street vendors selling food, pan handlers playing music for money, and all the patio's of the cafe's are packed.  We headed to the farmers market to purchase some cheap fruit, which my parents loved.  There's just something about farmers markets and buying fresh fruit and vegetables from the growers themselves.  It makes you feel like you've done a good dead or something!
On our hike back home, we took a little detour and found this great photo spot!  I ended up taking Gino here a few days ago since he missed it.  Just spectacular panoramic views of Lillehammer
 When we returned to the apartments we had to quickly get ready and head out to Gino's game in Hamar (biggest rival and about 45 min from Lillehammer).  Since I have the luxury of driving an automatic WOO HOO, I drove my parents there and Jillian picked up the rest of the girls and followed.  Gino ended up giving us directions to Hamar via Google Maps.... they were awful!!!!  Not Gino's fault at all, but none of the street signs Google Maps told us to look for were right!  Luckily he wrote down the name of the arena and as we were approaching Hamar there were all these random signs saying Ol Amfi (the arena).  We followed those and made it to the game with 20 min to spare!  The game was pretty intense and my parents had alot of fun.  Lillehammer ended up beating Hamar 4-3, scoring the 4th goal with 3 min on the clock.  It was so exciting!  That makes it the 4th game in a row that Lillehammer has won in their arena dating back to the playoffs last year.  I think I can officially say, my parents are hockey fans!

Sunday was a little rainy and cold so we had planned to do a few indoor touristy things.  But first we took a drive to the ski resort town, Hafjell (about 15 min away) to show them around and also to stop at the grocery store to pick up some pasta sauce.  Side Note:  Everything is basically shut down in town as far as clothing and grocery stores go and we found out that there's a Kiwi (local grocery store chain)  that is open on Sundays in Hafjell!
It was a really beautiful ride through the mountains, even in the rainy drizzle!  We stopped for a photo of the man holding the Olympic torch that's cut out of the trees on the side of a mountain.  I guess it's supposed to be a pretty neat view as you're skiing down the opposite hill. Not the best photo.... but you get it.

On our ride back to Lillehammer we took a drive up the mountain on the opposite side of the town to  see a new view point.  I wish the weather would have been a little better but it was so neat to look down on the town!

You can see the arena with the white dome on the left.  At this point it was 3:30pm and we had wanted to see the Olympic Museum but it closed at 4:00pm.  We ended up driving over just to see how big it was and if we could get in for a quick walk through before 4pm.  When we went to the enterance it was locked so we started walking away a little disappointed but a little blond Norwegian girl quickly came around to open it for us and let us in.  I guess there was some creepy man causing some issues around the building so she had the door locked.  She actually wasn't sure if he was still in the building somewhere or not but let us in anyways... strange.  Since we were there so late she just let us in for free!  Nice, considering its about $20/person to get in!  I had thought the museum was going to showcase only the 94' Olympics in Lillehammer but there was a little display on the history of the Olympics and every city its ever been.  Afterwards, we walked around the huge arena where the hockey was played for the 94' Olympics and also saw the Olympic egg used during the opening ceremonies.

Monday was my parents last full day in Lillehammer.  So naturally, we started the day off with a coffee and waffle at Nikkers.  I love how cozy this looks!

We took them down to the lake after Nikkers and enjoyed the serenity of the water.  It's always so calm down there.  I haven't really ever seen any boats or jet skis tooling around the lake so it must be pretty cold year round. 

This has absolutely no relevance but, I had the creative bug and made everyone pose for a "head" shot.hehe

Anyways, we had just one more thing to show them before the trip was over and we happened to wait until the last day to take them.  It just so happened to be the best day to go!  THE TOP OF THE SKI HILL.  As you can see, we live in a relatively small town and the hike to the ski hill is a big deal!  We actually decided to drive up because of all the hiking and walking we had done all week.  At the top of the ski hill is this beautiful restaurant but unfortuanatly closed a few months ago... I think it's just seasonal.

I was able to zero in on a picture of our apartments from the deck of the restaurant. You can see the two twin apartment buildings...ours is on the left.

We started walking towards the ski hill for a few pics and noticed there were people jumping!!! How exciting.  Here's a pic of us walking down the stairs to the area where the ski jumpers started their descent.  I have so much respect for ski jumpers...and have no idea how they can do it with only a suit and a helmet!

Where the jumpers started....ugh. 

What a perfect time for my parents to see the ski jump and witness ski jumpers in all their glory!

Oh and we had to obviously take a picture with one of the jumpers.  I couldn't resist being a complete tourist.  I'm sure he was flattered...or maybe weirded out. Oh well, not my problem!

It was such a great trip with my parents and we're so thankful they were able to make it out here and visit.  They can now understand why we love the lifestyle and know what we are experiencing over on this side of the pond.  After the week in Norway, they traveled to Paris for a week.  We skyped with them a few times and I think it's safe to say they left their hearts in Paris! What a great 34th Anniversary trip. 
Our next set of visitors will be Gino's parents in November!  This is the year for visitors.  Again, we are so blessed they can also make the trip out to see us and we're excited to show them around our town!
This update has been SUPER long so I will post my reciepes of the week in the next entry.  Gino was SOOOOOOOOOO jealous that I was blogging about recipes and decided he would like to join in on the fun and cook 1 new meal a week to add to the blog.  His day is Friday.  Can't wait to see what he comes up with:)  Stay tuned!

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