TRAVEL PORTUGAL

I have been meaning to get this post out sooner but….such is life. It has been so great looking back in editing and remembering those sunny days as we are deep into winter here in Oslo. Enjoy Portugal!

Living abroad is an experience in itself, but the single best part about it is being so close in access to traveling the neighboring countries. We have taken some weekend trips to Sweden, The Netherlands, Copenhagen, and Lithuania among just a few. I feel like I start to get a little stir crazy if I don’t get outside of my normal and go somewhere new every now and then, especially with not seeing the sun as often as I would prefer. Ben and I usually like to go somewhere every couple of months (when work allows) to feel inspired + ease my wanderlust, even if it is to cabin a few hours outside of Oslo. We utilized summer 2017 to travel Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and France and this winter we had a nice cabin get away to Trysil, a few hours north of Oslo. So it has now been quite a while since we have packed up for a new  country.

By the time you read this, I’ll already have been to the Portuguese coastline and back! I landed in Lisbon, then headed on to the opposite coastline of Sintra to stay at a magical hostel, and made a final day trip to Colares and Casais Natural Park at the coastline. All of this was sans husband. I had not yet solo traveled abroad and Ben and I felt it was something I needed to do for myself and my soul. Once in Lisbon I met up with my friend Sasha, who also lives abroad in Prague, and is an avid easy going traveler, making for a great adventure companion. Portugal has been on the list for a while as it boasts a ton of history and rich cultural heritage, amazing beaches, lush mountains, delicious eats, and of course it’s distinctive late-gothic architecture. I’m so stoked to have made this travel happen and to be able to share! Portugal was seriously a dream country to visit!

LISBON, PORTUGAL:

Other cities have compass points and maps that tell you where things are, but Lisbon has only two dimensions: up and down. Wherever you set out to walk, your journey will end in stairs.

~ Alfama ~

The oldest part of the city is the Alfama, a hill leading up to St George’s Castle; within the Moorish quarter where poverty has weathered the area into a kind of determined picturesqueness. There are one-room grocery shops, and bars that might have dropped in from Africa, with concrete patios and corrugated-iron roofs. No one took any notice of us as we walked the streets and alleys. Up by the castle, the roads widen and become richer and more respectable. There are art centres, restaurants and a couple of hotels with views right across the city. It is all clean, modern and welcoming. But plunge down the hill again and you will start to see the poverty again; at the foot of the Alfama, where it touches the heart of the city, there’s a five-storey bazaar, with shops that are more like stalls, and staircases where a mall would have escalators.

~ Bairro Alto & Chiado Districts ~

Bairro Alto and Chiado are two closely related districts of Lisbon. The Chiado is the popular shopping and theatre district of Lisbon, which has a selection of historic monuments, traditional shops and interesting cafes and restaurants. The Bairro Alto is the nightlife capital of the city. There are a few hungry restaurant touts on street corners, but for the most part it is slow and civilized. On the side of the hill facing the river, the shops are international and modern. As you walk away from the river they become older and smaller, a reminder of the time when ‘artisan’ meant poor. I walked past shops selling a multitude of different items as well as the bars and shops that you find everywhere. It’s a unique style of commerce that has almost completely disappeared in Northern Europe. Eventually, of course, legs tire so I search for a wine and tapas bar to have a rest and a snack. Taxis are cheap but the public transport here is amazing – the metro is clean, quick, and efficient and the new modern trams are fun.

Pictured: the many trams in Bairro Alto

~ WHERE TO EAT DRINK + SLEEP ~

STAY

One of my favorite activities is hunting for places to stay and Hostel’s that inspire me. For our first few nights, Sasha and I stayed in a adorable airbnb in central Lisbon that had beautiful views of the main street and the ocean. While airbnb is a popular choice for many as of late, I would more so suggest to look into quaint or family owned properties and support the businesses locally where you stay. Instead of giving back to a corporation, you can have peace of mind that you are helping to contribute to where you are traveling – which in some cases, the locals could really use the support. Even though we had these places already set up, I researched a few places just for fun. Upon returning I would gladly stay in a hostel or small apartment again, but here are some more luxurious and romantic hotel locations I found for those who prefer that hotel life:

Hotel Lisboa Plaza A boutique hotel with tasteful public rooms and an air of unassuming luxury. The guest rooms are a little small but there is a fine terrace. Travessa do Salitre 7 (http://lisbonplazahotel.com). Doubles from €130

Pousada da Cascais, Fortaleza da Cidadela Set within the walls of a 16th-century citadel, 30 minutes’ drive from Lisbon. Avenida Dom Carlos I, Cascais (www.pousadas.pt). Doubles from €150

Heritage Av Liberdade Hotel An 18th-century hotel in the heart of the city. Ask for a room on the top floor, as these have the best views. Avenida da Liberdade 28 (www.heritageavliberdade.com). Doubles from €163

THINGS YOU NEED TO TRY!

Bacalhau – For a country with an unbelievable amount of fresh seafood, it may seem odd to some that one of their national dishes is dried salted codfish. Being that I live in Norway this is not unusual for me, and as I learned most, if not all, of the salted cod they use comes from Scandinavia. It’s delicious and not at all what you think. I brought back many tin cans of it to enjoy on a cold day when I’m missing the Portuguese sun.

Canned fish galore

Sardines – You simply cannot pass up the sardines while in Portugal – not to mention how much the cans themselves are beautiful. The store fronts who sell them are beautiful with tons of color. Even if you don’t like these small fishes, the shops are worth the trip. I have always loved sardines of all kinds, but the canned sardines found in Portugal are unlike any i have had; large, so fresh, and canned with multiple different ingredients and oils. They also have many delicious varieties of pate and roe, also in artful cans. I brought back 8 cans of assorted types because they are just that good! Some good porto, sardines in olive oil, and some fresh baked bread at a table in the sun is what life is all about.

Pasteis de Nata – The most famous food in Lisbon and they taste heavenly! Pasteis de nata is a golden puff pastry circle with a barely firm yet rich custard in the middle. You can never go wrong with custard. Apparently there is a centuries old copyright on the recipe and it is a secret with the local bakers. They are in nearly every coffee shop and corner in the city, you just have to find the best one! Sprinkled with a little cinnamon…you are guaranteed to end up eating more than 1.

 

 

DRINK

Lisbon is a city of seven hills, and therefore a city of spectacular views. Views out across the River Tagus, sweeping towards the Atlantic; views across the city itself, labyrinthine neighborhoods of narrow streets roofed in terracotta tile, grand neoclassical buildings painted bright colors, architectural landmarks from the Moorish castle to the iconic bridges…the list goes on! It is only natural then, that with either a early start to the day or after a long day of walking and exploring you should reward yourself . There are certain drinks that are not to be missed!

Coffee – The coffee in Portugal is delicious, dark, and strong. I had many an iced coffee with a little soy milk to start my mornings while in Portugal, as well as a mid day pick me up. You’d be wise to bring back a couple bags of beans (which I regret not having room for). If coffee is your drink of choice, take a moment to relax in some of the amazing coffee houses scattered about Lisbon.

Port wine – “Vinho do Porto” is a registered trademark that ensures that the wine came from a certified producer from Porto/ Douro region, much like “Champagne”. This wine is perfect anytime of the day, as an apéritif, or simply as dessert. There are four types; red, white, tawny, and ruby. We had the tawny and ruby, as well as tried the white, though it was not to my liking as much. We made sure to carry some in our packs for hikes as well as for sipping whilst sitting by the ocean.

Vinho Verde – This delicious white wine was my absolute favorite drink while in Portugal. This light, crisp, and fresh wine originates from the far north of Portugal and is a relatively “young wine”, which is what it’s name ultimately translates to. It may be rosé or white, which was what I preferred the most, and is perfect for sipping while sitting in the sun listening to some authentic Portuguese music.

Ginjinha – This sweet cherry liquor is delicious, and definitely an apéritif or to be enjoyed with dessert. There are lots of little shops and bars specific to the drink setup just to serve this sweet liquor, and we happened in on a random one while leaving Losbon’s biggest food hall. I would suggest checking out Ginjinha sem rival or A ginjinha for a more relaxed atmosphere and more education on the sweet drinks history.

Walking Lisbon, regardless of where you are going, you have to look both down and up. Not only are the old buildings walled with beautiful mosaic tiles but the walk ways are nearly just as beautiful. So take your time walking and truly enjoy the artful craftsmanship all around you.

SINTRA, PORTUGAL

STAY 

Once we had a few good days in Lisbon, we decided to head over to the opposite coastline of Sintra to stay at The Almaa Sintra Hostel. I used Hostelworld and Lonely Planet for the best and most honest hostel reviews. Sintra is an easy day trip from Lisbon that will fulfill all of your castle-related dreams. The lush mountains boast both strong rocky fortresses and delicate pink palaces where soldiers and royals could survey their land. The town of Sintra has three major castles with a few accessory castles thrown in there as well – all are stunning. Even though we went in November, Sintra was still a tourist hub. We were incredibly thankful that our hostel was off the beaten path and not close to the city center at all. Aside form the busy inner city, the weather was amazing in November and the city is truly beautiful.

Pictured: Beautiful Almaa Sintra Hostel

Palácio da Pena

Both the inside and outside of this palace are absurdly beautiful and strange and it honestly looks like something ripped out of a Disney movie. The palace was constructed as a vacation home for King Ferdinand and his wife Queen Maria II and is a classic example of 19th Century romantic architecture. Unfortunately we only viewed the castle from the gates as we opted out due to so many tourists as well as a lot of construction going on with updates (7 rooms were not viewable). We went mid afternoon and definitely suggest going early in the morning when they open at 10am. Entrance into the palace will cost you around 12 euros for a adult 6 euros for children (they also have family packages).

Castelo dos Mouros

High above Sintra sits this enormous crumbling fortress with views stretching out to the sea. The fortress was built in the 8th and 9th century and suffered damages during a earthquake in the 18th century, though it has since been restored. Pena Palace is definitely the showstopper but I really enjoyed this castle more for it’s impressive views and history. You can look down on Sintra and the view is incredible and the park walk through is beautiful.

picture*

Palácio Nacional

Unlike the other two castles perched high in the hills, this palace sits smack in the center of town. It was the official royal palace for half a millennium and is the best preserved medieval palace in Portugal.

Tips for Visiting Sintra

It’s really easy to get to Sintra from Lisbon. Simply hop on the train in Lisbon at The Central Train Station callled Rossio Station (buy your ticket via machine at the entrance, the cost is about €4.30 for a round trip ticket). Trains leave every 15 minutes or so, even on the weekends. The journey takes about 40 minutes.

Beautiful Rossio Station

Getting Around: Technically you CAN walk to Palácio da Pena and the Castelo dos Mouros, but I would only recommend it to the most dedicated hikers. By foot it has to be at least a hour of nearly straight up hill trekking on a narrow, heavily trafficked road, and on a hot day you will be cursing every bus that passes you by.

Likewise, there is no point in shelling out a ton of money for the Hop On Hop Off Buses that are advertised everywhere outside the train station. Unless you are planning to explore the area extremely in depth, there are only three real stops you’ll need to make. Instead jump on the 434 bus which stops right outside the train station. It makes only 4 stops: the train station, Castelo dos Mouros, Palácio da Pena and downtown Sintra. For €5 you can take it all day.

Adorably quaint train station in Sintra

Tickets to visit the palaces are certainly not cheap, but they are definitely worthwhile. Prices vary depending on age, time of year and how many of the palaces you visit (you get a discount for purchasing more than one ticket at time). You can view all the prices as well as a “price simulator” here. You can buy tour tickets online or at the entrance to each of the castles.

The castles each have a food court, but the food is overpriced and frankly not particularly tasty looking, so you are better off eating lunch in Sintra’s old town. Most of the restaurants are touristy and overpriced here too, but there are a couple of bakeries where you can buy a decent sandwich for cheap. Must try – the queijadas, a tiny but delicious cheesecake and travesseiros, a rectangular pastry filled with egg cream. So good! For coffee and pastries check out Cafe Saudade near the train station.

COLARES, PORTUGAL

On our second to last day in Sintra we decided to hike, with no real plan as to where we were going – all we knew was we wanted to get to the coast line just north west of where we were in Sintra. We ended up walking for a few hours and nearly 5 miles to the lovely city of Colares.

Sintra-Casais Natural Park

This very small town is a civil parish along the coast of the municipality of Sintra having only one grocery store, one pet store, two restaurants/bars, and a butcher. Upon arriving in Colares we opted to find a place to rest and happened upon the loveliest little restaurant and bar called Colheita 71 Mucifal, located in the very heart of this small village center. It was here, sitting on the patio in the sun with a glass of vinho verde and my good friend Sasha, that I heard Fado for the first time – Fado is traditional Portuguese folk music having instruments like guitars and mandolins and with one Fadista singing poetic lyrics related to darker elements of love, death and sadness. It’s incredibly expressive, and though I did not understand the language, the Fadista’s singing and emotion moved me to tears. An experience I will never forget.

Once we left the village it was nearly an hours walk to the coast, and night fall was upon us. Upon reaching the coast we headed straight to the cliffs to catch the ocean as the sun was coming down – it was great timing as we got to watch all the surfers catching the best waves of the day. After the sun went down and our jackets came out, we decided to stop in at a small local place called Crôa for a coffee while enjoying the sounds of the ocean and to map out our route home by bus.

Percebes 

Upon walking in they had a plate of barnacles on display, yes, those weird little things that grow on rocks and on the hulls of old ships. This particularly strange – yet apparently delicious – type of shellfish is something that people cannot get enough of around here: called percebes, or goose barnacles. I regret not having tried them as I’ve read they are reminiscent of a mildly briny oyster, but taste like heaven.  We stopped into a hotel next to the bus stop and had a quick cocktail to end the evening. It was an incredible and adventurous day of hiking, a great last day in Portugal that I will forever remember. Sometimes it’s just more fun to get out and just get lost – and I would get lost in Portugal again any day.

 

 

 

MY AUTUMN/ WINTER BEAUTY ROUTINE

Every season I like to modify my skincare routine to accommodate the change in weather. The winters in Oslo are very dry and windy, requiring extra care to keep my skin bright and hydrated. It may sound strange, but to me, practicing my skincare routine is a therapeutic ritual of sorts. It’s quite relaxing and satisfying to prepare for the day as well as strip off the day and go through my regular steps. My skincare always takes precedence over makeup and I prefer my makeup to be natural and minimal. With so many beauty products on the market it can be difficult to narrow down what works best for you, but in trying many brands over the years I have found my personal “go to” products that I always come back to throughout the years and seasons – which I’ve listed below!

 

 

Skincare:  I personally prefer a moisturizing cleanse and hydrating cleanse in the winter months and I like to reach for my Eve Lom cleanser in the mornings and Clinique’s Take the Day Off Balm in the evenings. Both of these oil based creamy balms melt into the skin to deep clean without over drying. The Eve Lom cleanser is refreshing leaving me feeling like I just had a spa treatment – I like to steam my face with this cleanser for extra pampering. With either cleanser I just wipe clean with a soft cloth or a Face Halo Cleansing Pad, these are also wonderful for travel and are reusable for months, washer friendly! For those more slow and low maintenance days Bioderma Crealine Micelle Solution  swept over my skin with a cotton pad is great, also nice for travel.  In the mornings my Emma S. Moisturising Eye Gel  works wonders to de-puff with it’s caffeine property. I like to sweep it on with the back of a chilled spoon from my inner eye to the outer. For both morning and evening moisture I absolutely love KOPARI Coconut Face Cream. This cream is super hydrating and also contains a smart emulsifier that adapts to the climate and your skin’s needs. My skin is always so soft and restored when I wake up.
 
Must Have Masks: As a treat to my skin one to two times a week I like to use Organic Honey w/ Royal Jelly on my face. I use this as a 15min mask as well as in tea or smoothies. Royal jelly has amazing anti-bacterial properties, and rich in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals (really amazing for acne and anti aging). When my skin is feeling more puffy or dull I head to the fridge for a Rael Sheet Mask. I love keeping these in the fridge to really wake up my skin and for some extra de-puffing and I like this brand for it’s natural properties. But my ultimate holy grail mask is SUMMER FRIDAYS Jet Lag Mask! While this 2.25oz tube is $48, it packs a serious punch of hydration and skin-loving ingredients. This mask leaves my skin ultra dewy, soothed, and so much brighter. It also lives up to it’s name – I always have this in my carry on to apply a thin layer on long flights before I go to sleep. When I wake up my skin feels refreshed and not clogged and dull from the in cabin air. I just sweep my skin with some micellar solution on a cotton pad and I am good to go.
Serums from The Ordinary AM + PMBuffet Serum is full of good skin food. 100% Plant-Derived Squalane Oil is one of my favorite moisturizers by far with great free radical protection! Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% is great for a healthy dose of Vitamin C. Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, these two ingredients work in synergy to bind moisture to skin.

ShowerLush’s Superbalm Scalp Treatment is such an amazing dry scalp treatment to leave on while you scrub up and exfoliate. The Korres Laurel & Echinacea shampoo and conditioner has been a great staple to my winter regimen (and my husband’s). It is 80% natural and has really helped with dry scalp in the winter months. The Sachajuan Intensive repair shampoo + conditioner is a Swedish brand I really love here and I like to use this when my hair is feeling a bit dry. I only wash my hair once a week, two at most and I love how soft both of these brands leave my tresses. For my skin I really enjoy Evolution Salt Co.  It is such a super moisturizing coconut salt scrub that smells great and leaves my skin soft with no need for lotion after. And of course we can’t forget the face! My only and favorite gadget to use is my Clarisonic mia Fit. I feel like I get such a deeper clean and I’m able to really get that foamy lather (which can be messy in the sink). The mia fit also is great for travel as it packs easily and is so light.

 

 

Makeup: I don’t wear makeup everyday, but when I do, I tend to keep it minimal and really stick to the basics. With makeup products (and skincare) I really try to be proactive in finding products that don’t have tons of chemicals, are as natural as possible, and are cruelty free. In the winter months my favorite foundations are always water based with light coverage and my go to right now is Tarte Rainforest of the Sea water foundation applied with a damp beauty blender. Or, sometimes I’ll wear Josie Maran’s Vibrancy argan oil foundation which gives me a transparent, dewy finish. I have a couple of concealers and highlighters that I put in rotation depending on mood –  BECCA Aqua Luminous concealer (my go to),  RMS un cover up (11 & 22)  ,RMS Living Luminizer, RMS Magic LuminizerBECCA Opal, and the Kora Organics Rose quartz luminizer.  I usually go for bronze or nude beige shades on my lids and RMS eye polish in Solar or Mac’s paint pot in Indianwood are great for achieving that. Both are a bronze neutral shade with a hint of shimmer, build-able, and I’ve been wearing them for years. For brows, I have experimented with so many different products and found that I really like Anastasia Dipbrow pomade or IT Cosmetics – both in Taupe using the Anastasia brush #14. The Tarte Amazonian Clay mascara is still my favorite right now, as is Bobbi Brown’s long wear gel eyeliner in black using the #08 brush from Wayne Goss. For some fresh color on my face I use Clinique’s True Bronze in Sunkissed. I often do not apply blush at all but when I do it’s always Josie Maran Argan infinity lip + cheek oil. It dabs on easily with a finger and melts into my skin. I don’t wear lipstick too often, usually only for nights out or events, but when I do it’s either a matte mauve color or a deep maroon/berry shade such as Burt’s Bees Lip Crayon in Redwood Forest 411. Otherwise, I keep a natural lip with just a hint of moisture and I’m currently using Balm Dot Calm by Glossier or Rosebud Salve that I keep in my bag.

*I know that MAC is not very natural nor cruelty free. I no longer purchase MAC products because of this reason.

 

Hair: I really try not to do too much to my hair. I have grown my hair out to my natural color with touches of highlights for dimension throughout my ends and I am thrilled with the little to no-maintenance. But since I do only wash my hair 1-2 times a week I do like to blow dry and style it. I start by applying Paul Mitchell Rare Oil styling cream to damp hair and blow out in sections with a paddle brush. I then use a medium round brush on my crown for some volume which is paired with Drybar Triple Sec sprayed at the roots. Once my hair is all dry I will pick up random pieces and using my Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron, lightly wrap pieces styling away from my face. It leaves light styled waves giving my hair more body. When my hair is feeling flat or I want the “look” of having styled it I will use Oribe’s Dry Texturizing Spray or Living Proof Instant Texture. In the case that I’m wanting more of a tousled lived in style my go to is IGK Rich Kid coconut oil gel applied in damp hair and I let that air dry or lightly blow dry. Since I don’t wash my locks often I like a little re-fresh with some hair perfume by Sachajuan. It smells so clean and pretty. For anyone like me, who goes for long periods with un washed hair, you now that after a few days it needs some TLC. I like to spray my roots and underside with Batiste Dry Shampoo or R&Co Death Valley Dry shampoo. Both work great for touch ups or for blow drying in some volume before you have to run out the door.

 

Body: My skin gets extremely dry in the colder months. I keep it hydrated with two amazing products. I use Ultra Repair Cream from First Aid Beauty and Lush’s Dream Cream after I shower and on rough patches before bed – so soothing! And it smells amazing, too.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

HOW I MATCHA

I am not one of the types that necessarily ‘needs’ coffee in the mornings to get going, and I really tend to sway more towards teas. But I do enjoy the ritual of it all and as a way to start my day prioritizing ME, and simply exist without the worries of daily life. Enter the matcha latte. Currently I have fallen in love with matcha and am loving the way I feel after a morning cup. It is loaded with antioxidants and does contain caffeine, though it creates more of a calming alertness with none of the jitters or crash associated with coffee. Matcha is everywhere these days, and I am so thankful that it is because I’m completely smitten.

After lots of experimentation and trying different concoctions, I have found my perfect blend – delicious, earthy, and chalk full of adaptogen goodness. – The adaptogens you choose for your potions are entirely up to you. Based on what benefits you are hoping to reap, there are SO many options – I personally LOVE Tocos as it is serious food to hydrate skin and connective tissue. It’s literally good on anything, eaten straight, or just mixed into your morning cup of coffee or tea where it will dissolve instantly, producing a creamy texture without actual cream. As a general rule of thumb, I don’t usually put more than 3-4 adaptogens in each potion. I’d also advise to keep portion size small. You only really need a 1/2 teaspoon of each adaptogen. In the recipes below, there are a few suggestions, but I encourage you to do your own research and see which adaptogens call to you. In terms of brands, I recommend Sun Potion, Moon juice, and Mountain Rose Herbs.

Additionally you can add in MCT Oil/Brain Octane – This is great to add if you need that extra pep in your step and is not something I add in everyday. With the addition of MCT oil or Brain Octane, you basically have a Bulletproof matcha. KAPOW! If you’ve never used either, I would start with a teaspoon or less. I prefer to use the MCT oil powder from Perfect Keto as it does not cause stomach upset and can literally be added to anything. It also leaves no oily film on the surface of liquids it is added to and actually adds a creaminess as well.

My Everyday Matcha Potion:

2 cups hot water OR 1 cup hot water + 1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons high-quality drinking matcha ( I like Wild Foods)
1 tablespoon tocos
1/2 teaspoon cordyceps (or adaptogen of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon mucuna pruiens (or adaptogen of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon ashwaganda (or adaptogen of your choice)
a pinch of raw vanilla ( Wild Foods)
1-1 1/2 tablespoons coconut butter or ghee
A hefty sprinkle of cinnamon

{If you prefer a sweeter flavor add 1 tsp raw honey or 4-5 drops liquid stevia)

Add the hot coconut milk and water to your blender – let cool a bit before doing so. Then just add all the other ingredients in and blend for 1-2 minutes. On days where I feel I need a little help with inflammation I will add in 1/4 tsp of organic Tumeric in place of the cinnamon.

 

*UPDATED* For Fall 

Pumpkin Spice Matcha Potion:

2 cups hot water (160°-175°) OR 1 cup hot water + 1 cup coconut (or any other kind) milk
1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons pumpkin purée
1 1/2 teaspoons matcha
1/2 teaspoon maca
1/2 teaspoon chaga powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of pink salt
Optional: 1 teaspoon raw honey

 

 

 

WEARING – SEPTEMBER FAVS

I love dressing to both look well put together as well as comfy so denim, Tees, boots, and chambray shirts are my go to’s. Give me a gray or striped tee and a chambray shirt and I swear I would be good on tops. My favorite place to shop long lasting denim and chambray shirts from is definitely Madewell (love this one and this one) although the one I am always constantly wearing is from Old Navy and it’s seriously one of my favorites. These staples are pretty much all I wear these days in shades of black, white, and earth tones. Here are just a few of my recent Fall favorites and some purchases that are both stylish and affordable.

– This post contains ad links –

SAM EDELMAN BLAKE BOOTIE – The rich hue on these booties elevate anything you pair with them. I love them. Retails for $150 at Nordstrom (purchased on DSW for $69.99)

 

PETITE Chunky Sweaterwith Twist Back – super comfy $45.00

 

 

Glamorous Petite Long Sleeve Shirt Dress In Spot $51.00

GUESS BESY CHELSEA BOOT – This cognac sued peep toe casually dresses up a T shirt and jeans. Retails for $120 at Nordstrom (purchased on DSW for $59.98)

MADEWELL 8″ SKINNY JEANS IN RIVERDALE WASH – These jeans are everything your  jeans should be and are perfect for those ladies under 5’4 (also available in tall). $128

New Look Tailored Coat $56.00

 

LUCKY BRAND LARISE BOOTIE – Not only are these comfortable but they are so versatile pairing with anything. Retails for $130 (available at DSW for $79.99)

Vero Moda Petite Clean Skinny Jeans $42.00

New Look Drop Neck Jersey Tee $11.50

GUESS GABRIELLE BOOTIE – These peep toes can be worn casually or bump a sexy look up even more. Very comfortable. Retails for $110 (purchased on DSW for $49.98)

15 THINGS LEARNED SINCE MOVING TO NORWAY

If you are just curious about life in Norway or are considering a move to this beautiful country, below is a list of facts we have grown to know, some we love, since settling in Oslo.

Photo from Norwegian constitution day celebration, May 17

After being here a year I feel like I’ve gotten to know this place very well. That said, some days I also feel like I don’t understand it at all. While on the surface Norway can seem somewhat similar to Australia or the United States, I assure you that the culture is quite vastly different. I am constantly getting used to things here, which is, of course, the nature of the life of any expat. Though some of the facts listed have definitely been more challenging than others, none of what is listed below is neither good nor bad, just simply the way life is here in Norway.

1. The honesty policy

This is definitely one of the nicest things about living here for me. People seem to genuinely trust each other and sometimes I feel like I am living in a village instead of a city. Nowhere else in the world would I not hesitate to leave my bag at the table in a cafe while I go up to order a coffee. You can drop or leave behind scarves, hats, high end jackets, groceries, and even identification cards and go back two hours later to find it still sitting there. I have even heard a example of this via another expat, having paid cash at the dentist but the office not have any change. Instead of giving this person a hard time about it, the dental office just took the largest bill they had and let them pay the rest on the next visit.

2. Taxes everywhere

In Norway you will constantly be paying taxes whether you are aware of them or not. This starts with the 25 per cent value-added tax (VAT or moms; 14 per cent for food and drink). Then there are property taxes, death (inheritance) taxes, fuel taxes, luxury taxes, TV taxes, new car taxes, income taxes (at least 28 percent, well over 40 percent) and the wealth tax (1.1 per cent on worldwide assets).

3. It can be difficult to be economical.

Forget about buying staple goods in bulk. Price competition is rare and importing things is not always a solution because of the VAT (see above).

4. You will pay A LOT more for vitamins. 

Norway has extremely restrictive supplement regulations. High-dose vitamins require a prescription and the prices for the ones that are sold over the counter are high. If you’re like me and take a lot of different vitamins, it’s going to hit your pocketbook. A normal sized pack of 200 mg Vitamin C tablets, for example, will cost around US$25. On a positive note, the quality of the supplements sold in Norway is tightly regulated. I usually request family or friends planning on visiting to bring them for me in bulk.

5. EVERYTHING associated with cars and driving is expensive.

From exchanging your licence to the price of a car, to the taxes and fuel costs, driving is expensive in Norway. You have the annual motor vehicle tax, periodic road-worthiness tests, different tires for different seasons and large fines for speeding. Despite having a good income, we have decided that it’s too cost prohibitive to purchase a car given the unknown amount of time we will spend here. Plus, the public transportation here is legit amazing and we really have found no use for a car other than for far a way ski trips, which then there is the option of renting.

6. Things can be very efficient here.

While some processes will seem slow, especially when dealing with government, many are fast, efficient and electronic. Norway was one of the first to implement the chip card and is quickly becoming a cashless society, where electronic banking and debit cards are fully integrated for easy bill payments. Because of the high cost to businesses when hiring employees, you’ll find that many interactions are streamlined. A place where this efficiency won’t be found is at the supermarket, where you’ll often line up for awhile because there are so few people working the checkout counters.

7. You will want to learn Norwegian.

Many Norwegians speak English, but that doesn’t mean they all want to. You won’t have much trouble at the shops or when obtaining basic services, but you won’t get much further than that. Much will depend on where you work and the culture there – In such a closed culture, speaking English will keep you that much more outside of it. In a Norwegian company, such as Ben’s company, most of the employees will want to speak Norwegian in social situations, as well as in meetings. This is true even when the work is done in English.

Also, your mail from companies in Norway will be in Norwegian. You will also encounter other non-English speaking foreigners to whom you may only be able to communicate in Norwegian. If you attend parties and social events, many people will be speaking Norwegian even if there are large numbers of English speakers present. So be sure to try and learn some basics as this is normal life here.

Photo taken from Norsk Folkemuseum, at Bygdøy

8.Sunday is for rest.

Sunday has always been a day I look forward to, but since moving to Norway it is now my ultimate favorite. Almost no Norwegians work on Sundays, unless they work Downtown in the shops or restaurants. This is very much a day for relaxing at home with family or getting outside into the forest. Business hours are generally Monday through Saturday, but most places either close by 3pm or are completely closed on Saturdays. In our area, nothing is open at all on Sunday including grocery stores. Only the smallest supermarkets like Joker is open. This also goes for the Vinmonopolet (the liquor store,). You will only have until 3pm on Saturday to grab any liquor or wine you wish to have for the evening on Sunday.

9. Norway is a great place to be a parent.

As we are planning to start a family, I have been researching this and looking into the benefits more than ever. Basically, if you are paying taxes in Norway, the government will look after your children from the moment of conception. All your doctor’s appointments for pregnancy will be free if you see professionals in the public system. A variety of benefits are available, including the pregnancy benefit and the parental benefit that provides you with income during maternity and paternity leave. These are generous – 100 per cent for 47 weeks or 80 per cent for 57 weeks, and they can be shared between the parents. Also, family allowances help to pay for the costs of raising a child until he or she turns 18. If you look after your young child at home or they go to barnehagen (kindergarten) less than 20 hours a week, you are eligible to receive a ‘cash-for-care’ benefit. If you’re happy with public schools, elementary education is free from birth to age 16. University fees seldom exceed 500 kr per semester (that’s less than US$100). Additionally, a variety of free counselling, welfare, mediation and women’s services are available for those with children. Of course, if you don’t have children, you’ll be paying for these services anyway through your taxes.

10. Getting correct answers to your questions can be difficult.

I have endless frustration when trying to get answers, especially from government offices. This doesn’t always happen, but often I may get a answer from one person and, if this doesn’t sound right or make sense with the information I do have on hand, I might call back for a second opinion. This second opinion can often vary from the first; and sometimes it’s a completely different answer. I’ve also found, and this is very important, that you have to ask a lot of questions because people won’t automatically tell you things. You may have a question about one part of something, but there will be additional information that could be helpful. Unless you ask about that specific information, however, it may not be given to you. This is not an intentional slight or anything like that, I’ve just noticed that it seems to be a cultural difference. We are now used to working with a checklist of sorts when providing information and being as thorough as possible. That isn’t always thought of here in Norway so just be sure to be thorough yourself in your inquiries.

11. Trade unions and collective agreements make a difference.

Norway does not have a minimum wage. Instead, numerous trade unions exist across many professions and enterprises. They look after their members’ interests and fight for improvements in pay and working conditions by creating collective agreements. If your workplace is bound by such an agreement, you will generally get paid more and have a better work environment. If the agreement has been given general application, its provisions will also apply to foreign workers and non-members.

12. Going out is expensive

Moving to Norway was a bit of  a shock to our wallets. To give you some perspective here are some percentage comparisons for U.S. based cities; living in Oslo is roughly 36% more expensive than Austin, TX, 42% more than Columbus, Ohio, 14% more than Oakland, California, and only 5% more expensive than living in New York City. Restaurants, alcohol, fuel, and accommodation seem to be the most costly. So for two 30 something’s with no children in Oslo, we learned fairly quickly that a night out for drinks and dinner can rack up quickly. The last time we went out for a meal of pizza and one beer each, we paid NOK 630 (USD $80). The meal was delicious and enjoyable for sure, but it was not any better than what I could make at home for a lot less. Fast food burgers at one of our favorite joints Munchies start at NOK 106 (USD $13) each, and a pint of good craft beer starts at about NOK 110 (USD $14). That’s high by anyone’s standards. Basically, you really cannot get a beer out for less than NOK 80 ($10). Going to the liquor store is a cheaper alternative, but not by much in the end. For locals, these prices are affordable with the wages on offer. People don’t seem too concerned with the costs going about their daily business and no one talks about how overpriced things are. This is just the way it is here and it’s best to just not think about it too much.

Hiking in the forests just by our home

13. Allemannsretten

You can roam and camp wherever you want, literally. In Norway, outdoor recreation has become a major part of national identity, and is established by law. The right to roam, also called allemannsretten (the right of access) is a traditional right, and since the 50’s it has also been part of the Outdoor Recreation Act. It ensures that everybody gets to experience nature, even on larger privately owned areas – as long as you pick up your rubbish and show respect for nature. The right to roam applies to open country, sometimes also known as “unfenced land”, which is land that is not cultivated. In Norway, the term covers most shores, bogs, forests and mountains. It does not apply to “fenced land”, which is private, and includes cultivated land. However you do have access to fields and meadows from 15 October to 30 April when the ground is frozen or covered with snow. And as long as you keep at least 150 meters away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin, you’re free to put up your tent anywhere.

14. Holidays are taken very seriously here.

Employees get five weeks of holidays per year, three of which can be taken consecutively over the summer period – forget about getting anything done in the summer because everyone will be on holiday. There are a few school holiday periods throughout the year and sometimes it can feel like there is a lot more play than work going on in Norway. They even stagger the school holiday periods from region to region so that the ski resorts don’t get overrun all at once. If anything else frustrates you about Norwegian systems, you’ll smile at how organized vacation is.

15. Friluftsliv

To really experience and enjoy life here in Norway, friluftsliv is a necessity (pronounced free-loofts-liv) – and one which I personally believe all need to incorporate into their lives to live most happily. This Norwegian word has come to embody Norway’s cultural enchantment with nature. It doesn’t translate easily to English, but the basic spirit of friluftsliv hides inside all of us – the word literally means “free air life” in Norwegian and it is a term that is used often to describe a way of life that is spent exploring and appreciating nature. This word and getting out into nature is a prominent philosophy that plays a vital role in all Norwegian life as well as children’s education. There is some flexibility in friluftsliv, and one consistent tenet of the philosophy is that exploring nature shouldn’t be complicated. The free air life, therefore, doesn’t depend on expensive equipment or glamping accessories that can create walls between us and the wild. Whether it’s a rugged mountain hike or a lazy walk in the park, friluftsliv is a minimalist communion between humans and their habitats. And as with most kinds of cultural heritage, it only counts as culture if you pass it on. Since the U.S  ranks 20 spots behind Norway in global happiness ratings, maybe it’s time to rekindle an American spirit of friluftsliv.
Check out this documentary on Vimeo to learn more about friluftsliv HERE
For more information on traveling to Norway you can check out VisitNorway.no