June 3, 2015: Rest and Relaxation Day in Oslo

It is already the middle of the week in our one week in Oslo, Norway.  We were all still feeling rather run down today, once we got up, but were very happy to have gotten a good, long night’s sleep.  Most of us slept eight to nine hours.  Liesl, who was the most amazing, sleepless trooper yesterday having basically skipped a night of sleep and then walking all over Oslo while Luciana rode in a stroller, slept for something like fourteen to sixteen hours!  She had a lot of sleep to catch up on!

Dominica and I have decided that this is our final trip to be done with a stroller (let alone the two that we brought with us this time!!)  We have not needed a stroller at all and only ever used them only because it was easier to push one than it was to carry it.  What a terrible waste.  They are so heavy and the largest, most awkward piece of luggage that we deal with.  Every time that we are in an airport they are the thing that requires special handling and extra waiting and causes problems.  And when we are moving luggage around they are what cuts our hands or doesn’t fit through a doorway.  We would be in so much better shape without them.  So much so that we, several times, talked about just throwing them away.

I had not wanted to bring any strollers but Dominica wanted them this time.  Thankfully she has seen the light and will never consider them again.  Liesl never needs one, ever.  And Luciana needs them so little that it would be far easier to carry her on those rare occasions than to deal with even one stroller.  And every time that we do this, Luciana is much older than the time before.  This “tour of duty” she went from age three to four.  She will be four and a half when we are back in Spain which is a lot of growth at that age.  If she barely used a stroller at this age, she will need one far, far less by the time that we are back.

So on our next trip to Europe, instead of two strollers we will be dropping to zero.  That one, single change will be very dramatic and will make our packing and luggage moving greatly improved.  We definitely learned our lesson on this trip.  We hated them the moment we took them with us and even more when they did not fit into the Opal Corsa and had to be shoved beneath the girls’ feet on the way out of the airport.  And then they spent nearly the entire trip just standing in the doorway of our apartment in the way.

Today is our nothing day.  No travel, no plans, not even the slightest thought of trying to see anything in the city.

My one thing was running out to the grocery store, called Joker, that was right across the street from our apartment’s front door (we are on the third floor – also called the second floor in Europe.)  As always, I love experiencing grocery stores in other countries.  This one was really unique.

Grocery shopping for an English speaker in Norway is really, really hard.  First of all there is just tons and tons of extremely exotic food choices.  That makes things difficult right off of the bat.  Then everything is written in Norwegian which is the most foreign of any language that I have ever had to deal with first hand.  Much harder than German, Dutch or Portuguese.  But that was just the beginning.  The other challenge was just how tiny the grocery store was – so small that it was all that I could do to squeeze down the aisles sideways, and I mean that literally.  I had to turn sideways and push my way down the aisles.  I actually did not fit!

Another interesting aspect of the tiny little Joker (now I understand the name) was that the refrigerated food section was actually a walk in cooler so you had to go into a back room and freeze your butt off to get your food.  This is also the first place that we have seen cold milk in Europe in quite some time, in Spain it is kept warm.

I picked up about $40 worth of groceries (about one bag’s worth) and walked back to the house.  I managed to score brown cheese, Dominica’s one serious requested food for me to find while I was at the grocery store.  So with that, everything was a success.

We snacked on the groceries and just relaxed around the house today.  Dominica and I both played some Tropico 4 and watched some Love Boat.  The girls were happy to spread their toys all over the apartment and make a huge mess.  They had lost at least one day before we were even getting going here in Oslo and we are only here for a few days!

This evening, for dinner, we wanted to keep things simple so I just ran back to the exact same place that we ate at last night and got food from there again.  This time no pizza, though.

A nice, simple evening for us with me working and everyone getting to bed on the early side.

June 2, 2015: The Miller Family Goes to Oslo

Picking up at midnight, no sleep for me.  I started today by getting all of the bills paid.  We are nearly done paying off the little green car.  It will be paid off in June, which is awesome.  It is a tiny bill, but it will be great to have it disappear.  One fewer thing to worry about every month.

Just before three in the morning it was time to go.  So hard to believe that we are leaving our Spanish home.  This place has really become home to us.  We feel in our element here.  We have been comfortable.  We love this little village.

The car was sitting up in the plaza all evening, mostly packed and ready to go.  We took the girls out and got them loaded up.  They are sad to leave, they love it here too.

While loading up our car I heard something on a back street off of the plaza and I looked just in time to see the bizarre luggie hocking guy who bathed in the plaza fountain that one day go streaking up a back street! Oh Spain.

The drive out to Malaga was long and exhausting.  Nearly two hours but the girls were asleep in the back immediately and I have been working late so often that this was not bad at all for me.  Dominica and I are pretty tired, though, not nearly as much sleep going into today as we had been planning on .

It was just before three when we arrived at the airport.  Getting the car dropped off was a small adventure but took no more than twenty minutes.  Getting everything together and doing the key dropoff in Spanish was slightly challenging, but it was nothing compared to the mountain of luggage that we, for the first time, have to move around manually.  This is our first time doing it with the addition of the giant suitcase that we acquired in Motril.  This is more luggage than we have yet dealt with.

We used two of the really large, heavy duty luggage carts to get us into the airport.  It was a good thing that we did because it was all that we could to move stuff through the airport.

Getting checked in at the airport took a really long time.  But it was really nice finally getting the luggage handed over.  Then we were able to go through the security line and we had lots of time to relax in the airport before boarding the plane.

We had to wait in one area while we were waiting for our gate to be announced.  While we were waiting there I did some shopping at a little kiosk and got some flavoured water and Kinder eggs to surprise the girls with for the flight.

Our flight was early, at six fifty five.  We boarded as early as we could and were underway to Oslo, Norway.

The flight was about two and a half hours and the girls sat with me and Dominica sat across the aisle.  Dominica likes having time to herself when on flights.  She appreciates that the girls and I are happy to hang out together while flying.

We landed in Norway late in the morning.  It was a grey and drizzly day.  We got our luggage and made our way out of the airport, which was a really nice airport – it looks like it will be much nicer than many of the ones that we have been using but we will not spend any time in it until this weekend when we fly out of here to head to New York.

We got to the train station and caught the express train that takes just sixteen minutes to whisk us to downtown Oslo to the main train station there.  Getting the girls and all of the luggage loaded up onto the train was a little bit of a challenge but the ride on the train was really nice and smooth.  It was nice to relax for a bit and awesome to be in Norway.

By this point in the day I was already painfully exhausted.  Lots of travel with zero sleep overnight is rough.

Once we were to the train station we had quite a challenge figuring out what to do from there.  The train station was quite confusing and hard for us to figure out how to exit.  We spent quite a while in or around the train station trying to figure out which exit was the one we wanted.  We had so much luggage that any little movement was a huge deal.  At one point Dominica and the girls sat and waited in one area while I scouted out the outside area trying to get enough of a signal on the phone to figure out where we were and what direction we were facing and how we needed to walk to get to our apartment.  This was very frustrating and took a lot of time.

Thankfully Dominica was in contact with the person renting us the apartment and was able to arrange that he would meet us halfway and would lead us to the apartment.  He described how to escape from the train station and where to go.  We would have been lost for a long time had he not shown up to save us.

We walked out of the train station, across a bridge and through the bus terminal, which just went on and on.  Right as we were getting to the far side of it we spotted our host and he help with some of the luggage and led us on a long trek from downtown Oslo to Tøyer (the Silicon Valley of Norway, I am told) where the apartment is.

It was a really long walk, a painfully long one, and nearly all up hill.  With zero sleep and hundreds of pounds of luggage I was not in great shape.

The apartment was quite nice, although the toilet seat had been broken that morning and there was no time to fix it.  That was a bit of a pain as we are staying here all week.  The apartment was nice but the bathroom was almost from the third world.  Very strange combination of things.

The moment that we were into the apartment I had to get a nap in.  It was very early afternoon when we arrived in Oslo so I was able to get two or three hours of nap in with lots of time before work.  I felt quite a bit better after that.  The bed was pretty decent.

I got set up right away and got to work.  The goal of the move during the night and missing all of that sleep was so that I could get to work in time to be set up and not miss anything, which we pulled off beautifully.

I worked for several hours while the girls all played and relaxed.  In the evening I set out to see about finding us some food.

I walked way back the way that we had come to find a Subway that we had passed by on the way.  This was a long walk but I knew that getting Subway would make Liesl very happy and everyone that that sounded good.  So I went for a bit of a walk and found that the Subway was closed.  But only “locked”, the open sign was still on and the people who worked there were in there and had friends in there who were all just laughing at customers trying to get in.  I pointed out to them, through the window, that their “open” sign was still on and it was still open hours and they just laughed.  Not impressed with Subway’s commitment to customer service here.  This wasn’t a mistake, it was a big joke to them.  First impression of customer service in Norway is that it is not at all what we have come to expect in Europe.  First time we’ve seen anything like this since being here.

I ended up walking all over trying to figure out where to get food.  There was really a lack of restaurants to choose from and those that were there were not what we were really interested in.  Nearly everything was middle eastern food, which we like, but we were hoping for something with some degree of Norwegian flare.  No luck though.

After about an hour of hunting around all over the place I finally found a Turkish takeaway that did pizza and veggie burgers.  I got a pizza for the girls and veggie and fish burgers for Dominica and me to split.  After all that time and walking, the place that I ended up at was right around the corner from our apartment.  So the walk back only took five minutes at most.

Dinner was about $50 to $60 which was less than we had been expecting.  We have heard such horror stories of the prices of things in Norway that paying $200 for dinner would not have been all that shocking.

We ate dinner, which turned out to be great – we loved it, and as soon as I could, I was off to bed.  So tired!

Liesl had put herself to bed, having kept herself awake the entire plane trip last night so her only sleep was the time in the car on the way from the village to Malaga, very early in the evening.  She had sneaked into the room where I had napped and fallen asleep in there, figuring that that was where I would sleep tonight as well.

There were two bedrooms, a little tiny one where I had napped and where Liesl was now asleep and a big one with two beds in it.  Dominica had claimed the bed by the window and Luciana took the one by the door.  (We would end up with the same arrangement for the entire time that we were in Norway, Liesl and I took the small bedroom and shared the bed there, Dominica and Luciana each got their own bed in the big bedroom.)

So when I finally got off to bed, probably around one in the morning, I had a snuggly Liesl already very fast asleep there with many hours of sleep ahead of me.  Dominica and Luciana fell asleep quite quickly.

We know that tomorrow, much like today, is a lost cause.  Today was pure travel and tomorrow is going to be nothing but sleep recovery.  We are not even considering doing anything at all.  We need to not get too exhausted.

June 1, 2015: Sorrowful Final Day in Spain

June came so much faster than we ever would have guessed.  It feels like it was just March and we were just in Texas talking about how we would be going to Spain. And here we are getting the car packed to head to the airport.

This morning, just before ten, there was a loud knocking on our front door.  Dominica and I lept out of bed to go investigate.  It was Mike.  He had decided to get up and go down to Órgiva today and see if he could get the package from the post office’s package handling center that is only open until ten.  After much work he convinced them to give him the package and he paid the twenty three Euros delivery fee for it.  Then he drove it up the hill and brought it to us.

So I immediately got dressed, sent Rachel a message that I needed the address of where they are living, got ready and headed out the door.  It was just after eleven, I think, when I was in the car and headed out of Cáñar with her package and their lantern that they had accidentally left at our house.

It was a really nice morning for a drive, other than the fact that we are so crazily busy today and just have no spare time at all for something like this.

I just followed the road signs, it really was not a complex drive.  Up to Granada on the A44 and then the N432 towards Córdoba, the reverse of the drive that Dominica, the girls and I did the last time that we returned from Córdoba that we liked so much.  I had to drive out to Jaén province, about thirty minutes short of Córdoba, quite a long drive and at very slow speeds.

Rachel and Shawn are staying for two weeks in the little village of Cequia (like acequia but with the first letter missing.)  I had to drive through the village and up the hill behind town and up some really tiny roads to find them.  They were both out in the driveway “working” when I arrived.  It took me about two hours to get out to Cequia from our house.  A long morning.

We talked for about half an hour.  They showed me the house and the enormous spider that was hiding in the driveway that they were trying to figure out what to do about.  It was one of the biggest spiders that I had every seen.  So huge.

It was sunny on my drive but I could see rain out over Córdoba and the clouds rolled in while we were talking.  It did not rain while I was there, though.

I stopped and took a few pictures as I was heading out.  The drive back went fine.   I encountered some rain for maybe a third of the drive back.

I stopped to get gas and this was the first time that I have needed to do something and did not have a debit card! Thankfully I had plenty of cash.  That would have been pretty awful.  Nearly a disaster.

When I got back to Órgiva, a bit after three, I ran up to Baraka and got take up felafel wraps to bring home for Dominica for our lunch.  This is our last real meal in Spain!  We have been wanting to eat at Baraka again for nearly a month so were very glad that we managed to get one last meal from there.  And it is cheap to get take out from there, only about eleven Euros.

I got home, parked the car in the plaza so that Dominica could work on getting the car cleaned out and packed up so that we will be ready to go when the time comes.  Trying to save as little as possible for the end of the day.

We ate lunch and I got to work.  Have a lot to do today.

Dominica continued to work all day on packing and cleaning while I worked “at the office.”  So much to do when you are moving away from a place.

Luciana was working on something in one of her notebooks today and was drawing a place that she kept calling “Sofia” and saying how much she wanted to go back there.  I was confused and could not figure out what she meant.  She said “Sophia, with the streets and houses.”  Eventually I figured out with Liesl’s help that she meant Sevilla and that she was drawing a picture of Sevilla because she loved it there so much.

When Dominica and I were returning from loading up the car we saw Liesl and Luciana up on the terrace waving frantically at us.  They had gone up there to see the sunset because they love watching the sunset here.  While up there they had remembered about Liesl’s Special Sunset spot up the hill on the acequia. I had remembered this this morning while driving and had been planning on making a point to take Liesl there this evening but work and everything got busy and it had slipped my mind.

We explained that it was too late and that the sun had already set.  Luciana explained that we needed to go anyway because they had to make a memory of it!  So sweet.  Liesl said that she just wanted to go to the place and was not concerned that the sun had already gone down.  Liesl is like me and I appreciate the value to her of these sentimental moments so I had them get their shoes on quickly and I took the two of them up there again.  It has been at least a month since we were last there.

Liesl led the way and was very proud that she knew the way and needed no guidance.  We got up there and the acequia was really roaring. Ciana held her hands to her ears as it was running so hard.  We had a nice ten minutes up there.  Liesl really appreciated being able to go up to her special place and have some time there to take it all in.  There was just a little yellow sunlight left above the mountains to the west that we could see.  It was a very nice moment with just me and my girls.  Liesl gave me a big hug and stood there with me looking out over the valley.  Our last time here at Liesl’s Sunset Spot, one of the first little places that we discovered in this little village.

Liesl led the way back down into the village and on the way to the plaza saw a huge frog (or maybe a toad) in the street.  This is the first frog that she can remember ever seeing.  She was very excited about that and had to get home to tell Dominica.

Before going back to the house we sat on the bench on the plaza and just sat quietly for a few minutes.  It is sad leaving this town.  This place really felt like home to us.  Who knows if the next place(s) will have a similar feeling of belonging.  This place really fit us well.  We love it here.  This is our kind of place.  Liesl decided that she wants to write a book and tell the story of coming to live in Cáñar.

I took a minute to reflect on living here in Spain.  Liesl said that when she has kids (two little girls, she plans on having) that she wants to bring them to live in Cáñar.

We talked a bit about how they could not tell yet, but some day Liesl and Luciana will look back on Cáñar as a very, very special place.  This is the very first place that they lived in Europe.  This was the very beginning of what will turn out to be an amazing adventure.  The first step has been taken, the adventure is underway.

I just can’t believe that this first “tour” is now over.  This was one of the most momentous decisions of our lives.  It is so big that it is very hard to believe that we are really in the midst of it.

On the way back to the house the girls wanted to stop by the market to say goodbye to the woman who owns the shop.  The ran in and said “Adios”.  She gave them hugs and kisses and gave each of them a little bag of Cheetos which she knows that they love.  I had stopped by earlier to say goodbye.

Getting home it was back to work.  Then a little later taking load after load of trash out.  If you remember from previous posts, we can only take trash out here after 9:30 at night so it tends to pile up.

It took three trips out with the garbage to get it all out.

At eleven I shaved and took a shower.  My last chance while here.  That wraps up our Monday and takes us to midnight.  Dominica was working on the last minute packing and getting all of the furniture back into place as it was when we arrived so that we are ready to go.  We plan to leave home at two thirty to drive down to Malaga.  Two hour drive to there, drop off the car and be a little early for our flight.  Better safe than sorry on such a major flight.

I’m ending today’s update at midnight since I am not going to bed and otherwise the days would run together.

Next update… from Norway.

May 31, 2015: Last Real Day in Spain

This is it.  Basically we are done in Spain as of today.  Technically we are still around tomorrow but it is purely a technicality.  We are dealing with Rachel’s package tomorrow and heading off to Norway tomorrow night.  The house will already be “empty” and for all intents and purposes we are not really living there tomorrow.  Today is our final, real day.

Dominica got to work this morning on packing up the house and spent the entire day doing that.  Liesl put in a bit of time helping her as well.  Thankfully, as we live out of suitcases, there is only so much packing to do as it all has to fit into the suitcases.  And there is no “being selective” because everything has to go.  This makes it slightly easier.  But it is still a ton of work.

I did a lot writing today and SGL is pretty much caught up.  I did a bunch of writing elsewhere as well.

I played a bit of Tropico 4 today.  Dominica played a little while taking breaks from all of the packing.

We tried to stay up late tonight because we have an odd schedule tomorrow and need to be up super late.  So around one this morning Dominica and I went to bed and watched two episodes of The Love Boat before actually going to sleep.

Dominica has to be up around eleven tomorrow so that she can go on a hunt with Mike for the postman.  I am going to attempt to sleep until around three in the afternoon so that I have plenty of rest before we have to drive to Malaga at three in the morning.  I get no sleep tomorrow night so this is going to be really rough.

May 30, 2015: House Shopping By Accident

This is it, our last weekend.  We are so sad.  We really love this village.  We love the region of La Alpujarra.  We love Granada Province and Andalucia.

On the early side today, Mike, who lives down the hill from us and is the other English speaker in town, stopped by to chat with us about Rachel’s package and how we will be able to retrieve it, potentially, from the post office.

We chatted for a while, maybe twenty minutes, sitting on the front steps of the house.  We got a lot of the news from around town and made a strategy for talking to the postman come noon on Monday.  Things are getting tight for getting the package.  It was attempted to be delivered a full six days ago, on Monday, but we were still on our way back from Morocco and no one told us at all.  So we have been in the dark all week and we did not have tracking information so we had little idea of what to do.  Now the picture is starting to all come together.  It arrived with a ton of postage due and the people who handle that stuff for the house had no idea what was going on and were not going to pay a small fortune for a random package that they knew nothing about.  So now we do not know if the package has been returned or what the status is.

This is partially why we were in Órgiva on Friday morning.  Mike had gone to the post office there but found out that the building that handles packages closes at ten in the morning.  So none of us had been able to find out anything about it.  So the plan is, the hope is at least, that on Monday maybe we can at least get some information if not actually get the package somehow.  If we get it we might be making an emergency run up to the outskirts of the far side of Granada to a small village there to find Shawn and Rachel.  If not, Mike is going to see what he can continue to do while in town.  But there is every possibility that the package does not exist anymore anyway.  So, maybe, on Monday we can find that out.

While we were talking to Mike we asked about houses in the area and what kind of money that they go for.  We were visibly surprised at how much he was asking for his own house that was for sale and he offered to show it to us.  So we walked down the street and got a tour.  We were far more surprised by the house itself than by the price he had mentioned.  The house was truly amazing.

It was huge, much larger than we would have guessed with four or five bedrooms, two full baths, two full living rooms, a massive basement, two kitchens inside, an unfinished terrace, a big entrance, lots of cool feature then the big thing… the massive outdoor space.

The outdoor space, which is across a small semi-private road, was really impressive.  I mean really, really impressive.  They have a full private multi-level terrace space out there with two full vegetable gardens, lots of trees, a raised terrace dining area, a “gazebo” sort of enclosure with four stone pillars that is basically a formal, outdoor dining area, there was a large patio with a hot tub on it, a fish pond, double access to the acequia, a little flower garden, a storage building that faced the house and another building that had an outdoor kitchen that was in the gardens!  This was a really crazy outdoor setup!

We had no idea that there was something like this just down the street from us.  We were really impressed.

Dominica and I spent several hours out on the terrace today.  It was cloudy and a storm was rolling in so we sat up there with the laundry that was drying hoping to be able to take it down before the rains hit.  The girls came up and played for a while too.

We are very sad that our time here is ending.  We really love this region.

After the rain started, we took down the laundry and sat out in the rain for a bit but it started coming down rather hard so we moved inside.

I did a bit of catching up with SGL today and have been working on getting all of the pictures from our time here uploaded so that we are done with the Spanish and Moroccan pictures before traveling to Norway.  There will be plenty more pictures from Norway to contend with once we are there, I am sure.