Tag Archives: Norway

Five Favorite Foreign Cities

As the friend who is “always gone somewhere,” a lot of people ask me where my favorite place is (or what city I enjoyed the most).  The truth is that after visiting 20 countries abroad, I can’t pick “one favorite.” So instead, I have five!

I put this in chronological order, not in order of preference:

Aix-en-Provence, France (2014)

  • At this time, this was the longest period I’d been away from the United States.  I spent three weeks in Germany when I was 18 (two years prior) but this felt different, because it WAS!
  • I was truly immersed in the culture.  I lived with a host family as well as someone from New Jersey (who is now one of my closest friends) and learned more about how the French saw world issues, like the Holocaust for example.  Aix will never be Paris, but on the same note, Paris will never be Aix…think about it…
  • My mother’s side of the family is predominantly French.  Although they weren’t from Southern France, I felt close to my roots here.  The experience of living in Aix for two months was something I wouldn’t trade for the world, no matter how insane my host mother was!!

Amsterdam, Holland (2014)

  • My boyfriend and I visited Amsterdam together once my two months in Aix was over, and boy was I pleasantly surprised!  There is such a bad reputation of Amsterdam here in the United States (sleazy, dirty, etc.) and although some of that can be found here, Amsterdam was one of the greenest, cleanest, beautiful cities I’ve visited!
  • Amsterdam is such a melting pot of cultures, languages, and lifestyles.  Hearing Norwegian, Spanish, French, German, and British accents all on the same street is something you can’t experience in Michigan very often!
  • There is absolutely no judgement here!!

Kiruna, Sweden (2016)

  •  On a school trip during study abroad round two in Sweden, we visited Lapland (in the Arctic Circle).  As a third grader, I wanted to visit the ice hotel SO BADLY and my dreams finally came true in Sweden!  It was more breathtaking than I imagined…
  • Being in Lapland was one of the best weeks of my life.  Still is two years later.  I was in love with every aspect of the trip, from dog sledding to seeing the Northern Lights (twice!!) and everything in between – it was perfection.

Bergen, Norway (2016)

  • I visited my mom’s family’s foreign exchange student, Kjell, after studying in Sweden for one semester.  My mom and Kjell haven’t been able to physically see each other once he returned home in the 80s, but they have been able to talk on the phone and write each other letters ever since.  Meeting Kjell, his wife, children, and basically all of his immediate family was something I’d been wanting to do my whole life.  Bergen itself is beautiful, but the sentiment behind my visit made it even more memorable.
  • Um, well…Bergen is absolutely stunning!  I think the photos above speak for themselves…

Bangkok, Thailand (2017)

  • Although I volunteered in Chiang Rai for one month, Bangkok was the best possible way to end my Thai adventure!  I had previously booked a room for myself to explore Bangkok, but then my friends Kaila, Karl, and Hee Cheol decided to join.  I’m beyond thankful that they did because I know I wouldn’t have had as much fun without them!
  • On our first night together, we ate at one of the best restaurants I’ve been to!  And right after, we had drinks on a rooftop bar, which was the perfect way to end our volunteering and begin our weekend together!  I think Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai were places I’d rather be long-term; however, because of the people I was spending my weekend with, Bangkok (and its memories) make the list for me!
  • And aside from what I’ve just mentioned, WE HAD A ROOFTOP POOL!  People, it doesn’t get any better than this!  For a month, I was taking cold bucket showers, squatted down to pee, and had mosquito spray on me 24/7.  This 180 was exactly what I needed 🙂

Where are YOUR favorite places?!

Askøy & Bergen, Norway (Part III)

At the beginning of 2018, I hope to go on a trip to Europe with my brother.  He will graduate college in December of this year and has never gone to Europe, so I figure this would be the perfect gift for him (expensive, yes, but perfect…) 🙂

And if that doesn’t work out, then my mom is willing to take his place!

Until my next adventure in Europe, I can look back on the past and cherish the memories I have already made as I excitedly plan on making some new ones in the near future 🙂

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I hope you all have a great Monday and a great week ahead of you! 🙂

Askøy & Bergen, Norway (Part II)

It has been MONTHS since I last wrote about my Norwegian adventure!  I haven’t stopped reflecting on my time in Norway with such incredible hosts.  I stayed with Kjell, who was my mom’s foreign exchange student in high school.  I hadn’t met him prior to staying with him, and it was great to hear about his time in America with my mom, uncle, and grandparents!  I was also touched to meet his wife and children; they are truly a second family to me.

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The view from Kjell’s home on Askoy

One of my favorite, and perhaps most memorable parts, of my two weeks in Norway were the boat rides Kjell took me on.  We were able to see his many summer homes and have great conversations along the way.

Above is Kjell’s parent’s home.  The red shed is where I would be asked to help him gut the fish we caught in the North Sea, little would I know!

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I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday; Kjell was taking me through the neighborhood on one of the family’s fishing boats.  He was showing me all of his favorite fishing spots, while sharing childhood memories.  I felt so close to him and I felt like I reliving his fondest memories.

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We eventually stepped out of our fishing boat and hiked a little bit.  He showed me his favorite spots where he, his siblings, and neighbors would play; Kjell even showed me the only spot where small flowers could grow along the sea!

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After some light hiking, Kjell and I had to cut the fish we caught in the North Sea (Kjell: 5, me: 2).  I didn’t have it in me to cut the fish, so I kept his mom company as Kjell prepared the fish for cooking.

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I remember feeling guilty for “taking the life of two fish,” but Kjell cracked a joke that made me feel so much more at ease!  He said, “Well, think about this, you’re feeding my sweet mother.  Without you, she wouldn’t have dinner tonight!” It made me laugh more than I probably should’ve!  And that was the best seafood I’ve ever had 🙂

Askøy & Bergen, Norway (Part I)

Truth be told, I have been avoiding this post for a long time.  Norway was the second-to-last country I visited while abroad, and I have been home for a little more than two months now.  Things haven’t been the same upon my return; this post solidifies the idea of my big adventure being over.  I finally gained the courage to write about my time in Norway because I have to face reality.  Although the best chapter of my life is now closed, I know more opportunities will come!  I miss Europe, traveling, and my life abroad, but this drives my determination to find a job overseas even more!

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My view for two weeks!

I left Kalmar, Sweden extremely saddened; I was leaving not only the best part of my life behind, but also several new friends from around the globe!  However, with that said, I knew that my two-week stay in Norway would be a great transition into my normal life back in Michigan.

I visited Norway for two main reasons: 1. It has always been my “dream country” and 2. While my mom was in high school, her family hosted a Norwegian exchange student!  His name is Kjell and I was FINALLY able to meet him and his (entire) family!  It was such an incredible experience to meet a family I have been connected to through my mom’s stories, letters back and forth, and a montage of photos and Christmas cards over the years.

When Kjell and his daughter, Martine picked me up from the airport, I instantly felt at home.  I remember walking with my heavy backpack down this long flight of stairs to pick up my luggage, and as I looked down I could see them waving up at me with Norwegian flags (was it THAT obvious I was an American?)!  My heart was full in that moment.

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Norway’s islands are connected by several bridges 

Kjell and his family live on the beautiful island of  Askøy, which is about a half-hour (not even) from Bergen.  It was a surreal feeling to drive Kjell’s boat to Bergen and several other small islands in the area.

When I travel, I often find parallels between cities I have been to.  Oddly, I found similarities between the countryside of Southern France and the route to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.  I cannot compare Bergen to anywhere else; it is truly one of a kind…just like my time in this beautiful country.

The first few days of my new adventure consisted of visiting mainly Bergen, and you know, the typical tourist-y stuff.  Although I try to avoid cliche attractions and events, there are exceptions.  I had to visit Bergen’s famous fish market and visit the highest point of the city!  The market didn’t smell the greatest, but the taste of the fresh fish from the North Sea made up for it.

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How could I miss this view?!

With Martine and Kjell, I was able to take the Ulriken cable car to the top of Mount Ulriken.  Because of all the islands and mountains in this part of Norway, the Ulriken wasn’t the only cable car/ski lift I traveled on.

The city of Bergen itself has a rich viking history, something Kjell takes much pride in.  During my first visit to Bergen, Norwegian royalty were near Parliament and university buildings.  Kjell is a police officer in Bergen and Askøy, so he was hoping we would have a better chance of seeing the royalty if he was talking with his friends and coworkers!  It was a good strategy, but unfortunately I didn’t meet a prince or anyone close.

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Courtyard in Bergen
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Traditional, iconic wooden homes (Bryggen)

I would have to say that my favorite thing about Bergen (aside from the food and people) are the Bryggen that greet you as you ride into the city by ferry or boat.  Inside the wooden buildings, there is a famous nightclub and also a traditional Christmas shop.  I live near Frankenmuth, Michigan (a faux-German town with a world-famous Christmas shop), and I was impressed with the Julehuset in Bergen!

My boat rides with Kjell were some of my most cherished memories of my time in Norway; I was able to learn more about Norway, his family, and even my own family through Kjell’s stories.

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Historic cruise ship boarding near the Bryggen

I will be sure to share more stories and photos in other blog posts!  This is only a mere sample of my Norwegian adventure.

 

 

My Personal “March Madness”

To whoever is reading this and for those who keep up with my blog, I sincerely apologize for not writing in awhile!  Hopefully after you see these photos and read these stories, you’ll understand why blogging has been out of sight this month!

For starters, I went to Prague at the end of February/early March.  Prague was beautiful, cheap, and gave me a true taste of what central Europe has to offer!

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Myself, Bethany, and Johanna enjoying the castle tour and the gorgeous view!
The castle tour was freezing cold, but it was totally worth it! The next day, the three of us also went on a city walking tour, which was something I got more joy out of than I imagined!

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Prague was flawless; it was equally beautiful and dirt-cheap (something that I appreciate having been in Sweden for a little under three months now)! And of course, being the Beatles fan that I am, we couldn’t leave without seeing the John Lennon Wall!

The next adventure was Swedish and Norwegian Lapland!  I went with a group of fifty-something from my university in Kalmar, Sweden; it was great becoming closer with so many students I don’t usually see on a regular basis.

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Stockholm was our first stop, and I wish we would have had more time there.  The Gamma Stan, or “Old Town,” was so medieval and old-fashioned!  The town square was beautiful with all the colorful and rustic buildings; the photos from my low-quality digital camera don’t do it any justice!

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After Stockholm, we finally arrived in Lapland!  It was bitter cold, but worth every shiver and shake!  We stopped at a reindeer ranch and met a Sami couple.  Samis are the native people of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia!  They live off of the reindeer and their lives, meals, and conversations revolve around these magnificent creatures.

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The Norway-Sweden border was such a neat experience; being in two countries (essentially) at once is something that I thought was pretty awesome!

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Although Lapland was full of traveling between hostels, long days of sledding, dog sledding, and snowmobiling, the travel bug didn’t become tired in me!  The next weekend, I visited one of my best friends in Germany!

She was a foreign exchange student at my high school during my junior year (five+ years ago) and we have remained close friends ever since!  I visited Hamburg, Germany in 2012 before I began college, but this time was different; I felt like I was coming back home in a way.

Saskia and I have remained so close, and I’m so blessed for that!  Whenever we get together, it’s as though we never missed a beat; we pick up right where we left off!

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The two of us went dancing two out of the three nights I was there; we had to go out on St. Patty’s Day!  Aside from the excellent nightlife that Hamburg has to offer, we were able to have a nice dinner by my favorite spot: the Alsterhaus!  The walk along the harbor the next day was lovely, too.

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My teddy bear, @pierre.the.bear, had to join us, too!
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I returned on a Sunday feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  Then, the very next morning, I left on a school trip with a small group to Estonia, Russia, and Finland!  I expected Russia to steal my heart, and although I enjoyed all three countries, Estonia was by far my favorite.  The culture was rich, the food was delicious and gluten-free, and the nightlife may have even been better than Hamburg’s (dare I say it)!

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Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, was so peaceful and medieval at the same time.  The town was almost an eerie kind of quiet, but the kind that all of us needed in between the hectic ferry rides and hostel-hopping!

I honestly didn’t want to ever leave Estonia, but I was excited to see St. Petersburg, Russia!  I just wish my time in each country didn’t feel so rushed.  Despite the trip being so fast-paced, Tallinn stole my heart.

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In less than 24 hours, I saw a Russian folk show, went on a limo tour of the sites at night, walked around in the Hermitage, and stayed in the sketchiest hostel I will ever stay at!  Russia brought just what I thought it would: adventure!

The last stop was Helsinki, Finland.  Two students are on exchange from Finland and downplayed Helsinki so much; I was amazed to find out that Helsinki had quite a bit to offer!  All of us (especially the Americans) LOVED Finland’s capital.

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Helsinki had the most unique churches (made of wood and rocks) that I have ever set foot in!  Also, surprisingly, it had one of the best Mexican restaurants I have ever experienced!

So now do you see why the title is “March Madness?” 😉

For more photos, visit my photo site: https://catherine-yankley.squarespace.com