Tromsø, day 1

After quite a nice scandinavian breakfast buffet, and an very brief chat with a friend 9 time zones away, I headed out. The weather was conveniently amazingly great – a little cool, but fairly sunny with spectacular, puffy clouds. First stop was Kaffe Lars, which Lars Ivar had said was the best coffee place in town. It was good – but I’m still working my way through some cafés to verify if it’s the best. One person ordered what looked like sugar and hot water. When I asked, I was told with a chuckle that it was some “turkish tea”, but was essentially sugar with a hint of apple and lemon, and hot water.

Interestingly, both here and in Jonas pizzeria, service was like a glorified cafeteria: customers retrieved a menu from around the cashier, placed the order, paid, then sat and waited for the food to be delivered. And like in Iceland, there’s no tipping, and they’ll happily tell you that. Unlike Iceland, however, there’s still a line on the credit card slip for a tip.

Everyone I’ve chatted with (and I make a point of chatting with as many people as possible) has been quite fluent in English and utterly cheerful and helpful… even when I’m not buying anything. Actually, there was one exception to the English fluency, but I’ll get to that momentarily.

I am borrowing a US to european plug converter from a colleague who cautioned that it had been his grandmother’s, so had sentimental value. I was not to lose it. I’d misplaced mine somewhere in Boston or Montgomery, so figured I’d get one here, since – conveniently – I was near a hardware store. I asked an older woman in the store but she said they didn’t have any. After relentless interrogation however, she confessed that I should ask “the boys in the TV shop,” in the adjacent store. I think “the boys” were older than me, but they did point out the store did in fact have the converters. So, now I have 5 converters, and I just have to keep grandmother’s safe until my return. Maybe I should reverse MikeEx it…

The also kindly provided a suggestion for a place to eat lunch, but my problem with a new language (we were all speaking english, but names were in norwegian, of course) is that I can’t yet associate letters with sounds, so it’s tough to hear a name, then find the store with that name. Whatever it was they suggested was just a few doors down the street, so I’d likely be able to distinguish the food store from the say, shoe store, without having to actually know the name.

From there, I wandered down to the port and walked along there. The views of the mainland with the snowy mountains and the puffy clouds was simply amazing. And then I just meandered around. People watching is always fun, and the weather is great so it’s a pleasure just to be out wandering around. The city center is mostly free of cars, and the ones that are around seem to have a higher regard of pedestrians than say, the French, or Bostonians.

And then it was time for lunch. I think I found the place that was recommended: Helmersen (looks simple enough to pronounce, doesn’t it?), a little Italian deli. Ah, food; I do like to eat, and my eyes got the better of me: one focaccia sandwich (59 NOK), small orange juice (35 NOK), a few marinated, pitted green olives (25 NOK), and how could I resist some Morbier cheese from France, which was cut in a slice a bit larger than I needed (200g, 6oz; 45 NOK), for a total of 163 NOK. Divide by 6 for dollars: $27. yikes! well, it was less than the pizza from the previous night …

As I was eating, another customer came in and was chatting in French with one of the people behind the counter, and the french of the employee sounded pretty native to me. When I was done eating, I asked, and he said he was from Alsace, on the eastern boarder of France, and in fact did not speak english all that well, so we switched to French. He’d liked in Norway for quite a while, just wanting to live “in the north” and had decided to move to Tromsø because while it was small and away from everything had quite a vibrant cultural life as well as being in the middle of beautiful surroundings. He asked where I’d learned french, since while we both agreed that my vocabulary was in decline *cough*, he said the “melody of speaking” sounded properly French. wøøt! better, he didn’t add “… for an american” like so many french do.

Then back to hotel to process a few photos which took longer than expected. Lars Ivar arrived in the hotel lobby when I did, so I uploaded, and we chatted. Since it was raining a bit we went back to my room, had fun with lenses and flashes for a bit (turns out that three do a very nice job), then headed out. I’m pretty certain that for his next lens, Lars Ivar would like a fisheye, a macro and a super wide angle. And a telephoto.

We stopped at the falling domino building, took some pictures, then met his girlfriend, Marte, and headed to dinner the Blå Rock Cafe (blue rock cafe). One Belgian beer: 61 NOK ($10), 2 small (100g) burgers @ 83 NOK ($14), one large burger (200g) @ 120 NOK ($20) and two orders of fries @ 26 NOK ($4) for a total of 402 NOK. $67 for one beer, three burgers and two fries. The food was good, but the company was excellent and it was fun to chat.

Back to my hotel room again where they were kind enough to endure the taking of a bunch of photos, and then they were off to catch a bus.

And thus nearly ends my brief time in Tromsø, which I have nearly learned pronounce. Or at least I think I have. It was really a fun time here, north of the arctic circle, but the best part is always meeting people, so I’m glad that Lars Ivar was able to take some time and show me around. Thanks!

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