Oslo: A second chance

OSLO ROYAL PALACE
OSLO ROYAL PALACE

It’s one degree Celsius, and it’s not even winter yet. It’s late October in Oslo, but you can’t complain about the walk to the office or restaurant in chilly weather because the view on the way is just exquisite in its autumn glory.

It was my second trip to Norway’s capital, that cosmopolitan enclave of modernity and green living. But my wonder was so fresh still — even as I gravitated toward Karl Johans gate, Oslo’s main street, for its familiar shops and tourist attractions.

A newfound friend, Aurea from Manila, was the impetus for my renewed exploration of Oslo. She was a first-timer, so I became her unofficial, bumbling — but free — tour guide.

Together, we, Google Map-challenged sightseers, found the seafront Oslo Opera House at the Bjørvika district, as well as other sites, with the help of gracious passersby.

Home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Opera House features tall windows and stunning white granite and marble, and we would have spent more time on its walkable marble-covered roof had we not had a dinner at the charming Salome restaurant-cum-wine bar close by to get to.

Also in the vicinity is the main branch of the Oslo Public Library, which we mistook for the Opera House because it was also white and architecturally striking.

The Opera House marked the end of our two-hour walking tour de force that also took us to the Norwegian Royal Palace, Norwegian Parliament, National Theater and Oslo Central Station — all on Karl Johans gate; the red-brick Oslo City Hall downtown, and the Nobel Peace Center meters away from it.

Oslo City Hall is the site of the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. In front of it is a pier for sightseeing cruises that Aurea rued she wouldn’t have the time to take. After all, we were in Oslo not for tourism but for the World Association of News Publishers Editors’ Retreat and Newsroom Summit. So getting the chance to explore the enchanting city was just a bonus.

Feast

At Salome, which serves Venetian dishes, summit delegates feasted on the pan-fried guinea fowl terrine with creamy polenta, savoy cabbage and porcini mushroom, and a rich dessert, which powered—or, for those fearful of the effects of the meal on their figure, motivated — our walk back to our hotel.

Another lovely place we dined at was the Rome-inspired Olivia Eger Restaurant on Karl Johans gate (I told you everything wonderful was on that street), where we, editors from different parts of the globe, discussed industry strategy over pizza and wine.

Transport

People get around Oslo through trams and buses, as well as private vehicles. But there’s also a healthy vibe with bike rentals, such as the Oslo City Bike with 244 stations where one can grab a bike to rent for 29 Norwegian kronor (P150) for 24 hours. A year-long pass costs 589 kronor (P2,880) or just P8 a day.

E-scooters are available for rent too, but you ride standing on these contraptions. So if your balance is not good, just skip the experience. Avoid people riding bicycles and e-scooters too, as all the Norwegian hospitality will quickly evaporate if you encounter them on pavements or combined pedestrian/cycle paths and cause them to swerve or stop—as we soon found out.

I stayed at the cozy Comfort Hotel Xpress on Møllergata St. in the hip Oslo neighborhood around Youngstorget (Young’s Square). It’s a great place to stay especially if, like me, you want to be near a convenience store (in Norway’s case, Bunnpris) and a food court.

Oslo Street Food at the city center is a food hall where I expected to sample the local flavors but was astounded to find Korean, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mediterranean and Hawaiian fare instead.

As for the other culinary destinations I discovered in Oslo, I have two new Indonesian friends to thank—Citra, for picking and, through dogged determination, getting us a table at, the popular but tiny Fiskeriet fish market and seafood restaurant serving oysters, salmon, shellfish, and fish and chips; and Nana, for her rice craving that led us to the Tuk Tuk Thai restaurant, whose Thai cashew chicken rice was heavenly.

Both places were also less than a kilometer from our hotel.

There are shops aplenty in Oslo, but we were able to manage only lightning raids on a few of them because of our tight schedule.

Our new friend Umi of Indonesia, however, was able to snag a new bag in that short space of time, her quick purchase guided by the motto: “It is better to regret buying, than to regret not buying something.”

We did not regret any part of our Oslo adventure — the buying, eating, walking, learning, and the meeting of strangers bound not only by journalism but also by the verve and humor to tackle our common struggles.

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