Working in Saudi Arabia comes with several perks, one of which is celebrating – in a purely secular sense - two national Eid (read that “religious”) holidays that each last a week. I enlisted my good friend, Kevin, from college, to join mesomewhere in the world for some much needed D & D. That’s Dining & Drinking. The antithesis of R & R. Yawn. We decided on Oslo, Norway, whose foodie scene is “trending” and, besides, neither of us had ever ventured to the land of our Viking roots. (We pretended we had some.) Kevin picked up Rick Steves’ tour book like nano-seconds after Oslo won our D & D destination contest and the planning began.
Fast forward six months, too many flight delays, taxis, and “close calls” to count and I woke up as late as I wanted at the Ullevaal Stadion Thon Hotel on a bed as soft as a cloud. Breakfast was pure Norway: local smoked salmon on rye crackers with a dollop of fresh yogurt and tea with honey. That’s all we needed before setting off on the first day of our Scandinavian adventure. We purchased an Oslo Pass, something I highly recommend, as it includes free metro transportation and entry into select museums.
The very first stop was Domkirke Cathedral aka Church of Norway, the bucolic Lutheran church, dating back to the 1600s designed in the classic Baroque style and still serves at the pleasure of the royal family for civic functions. Kevin and I ogled the awesome stained glass windows before hopping on a tour bus that made an hour-long loop through the city, noting places we wished to return to spend more time.
Hunger called, so we strolled down the main street of Oslo and rolled our eyes when we saw that the Norwegian TGI Fridays was absolutely PACKED. (Close your eyes and hear the gnashing of our teeth.) Sadly, TGI Friday in Jeddah is equally popular. Kevin and I wondered amusingly if anyone outside the U.S. even knows what “TGI” stands for.
Nonetheless, we found a real restaurant just a few blocks away and I gleefully checked off two things on my "Temporary Saudi Escape” checklist. Alcohol and bacon. We ordered the freshly caught cod topped with pesto and a fat slab of bacon. All washed down with a cold, refreshingly tart, pear hard cider, also from my newly, albeit adopted country. My taste buds – and my soul – were in satiated bliss.
We made our way back to “home base” to take a nap and hatch tomorrow's D &D plans. Stay tuned...