First Impressions

It was hot—the kind of hot that makes you feel like you’re melting. Not what we expected for Scandinavia, our last big summer trip while living abroad. 

After arriving at our hotel near the harbor in Oslo, Norway we quickly agreed to unpack and head down to the water’s edge for lunch. Standing outside the hotel I paused to take in the sounds and smells of the city. Flowers were blooming. Church bells were ringing. At this moment, we could have been in any city in Europe.

Every city we had been had its own personality and energy. Paris felt sophisticated. Dubrovnik was magical. Berlin was like walking back into history. At this moment, I couldn’t feel Oslo, she didn’t have a distinct pulse. 

It was quiet, no one was visible on the streets around us. The architecture was a mix of old and modern. You couldn’t figure out which way she was headed—backwards or forwards. She was void of any smells I could recognize. Clean, yes, but almost too clean. Sterile. Nothing memorable.

As we embarked on the short walk—the kids a few yards ahead, chatting and laughing—I began to notice more color: a vibrant mural on the wall of a utilitarian building and the chipped pink remnants of an old bus bench sign. 

New architecture emerged. Modern lofts with floor to ceiling windows offering 360-degree views replaced the confused architecture I’d initially noticed. Intriguing sculptures caught my attention. I experienced my first smell of Oslo, a faint whiff of fish that was being smoked or grilled nearby. 

As we got closer to the water, I began to feel the city’s energy. Even the kids picked up their pace, as though sensing a livelier vibration. We were enveloped in sounds of people in lively conversations, a distant boat horn honking as it pulled out of the harbor, music falling out of a local café.  

My first impressions were changing quickly. It was summertime in Oslo. Where else would everyone be but enjoying the sun near the water?

As we made our way past the lofts and cafes, the harbor appeared in historic and modern beauty.  Lining the boardwalk were dozens of restaurants, ice-cream shops and specialty stores. A small swimming area was quickly filling up with kids of all ages.

The harbor was confettied  with a variety of boats—ferries, yachts, sailing and cargo. I watched the kids pause from their chatting to admire it, looking back for the first time with a smile that said “this place is cool.” We snapped a cute photo in the "O" for Oslo.

Raegan ran towards the ice cream stand in the shape of a giant pink sphere with a drawing of three scoops of ice-cream on top.  It was doing its job—tempting kids to come take a peek. Braeden turned to see where she was going and quickly followed.  

“Mom!” he yelled.  

The ice cream quickly melted down their hands as they ran off toward the water’s edge. I closed my eyes, the sun warming my face. I was glad my first impressions had changed. So much so that Oslo was quickly becoming a favorite.  I took her pulse—she was lively yet refined.