Monday, October 8, 2012

Stavanger Site Visit!

Surreal. That's the first word that comes to mind when I describe our trip. We've been to Europe before so it wasn't the walking, the foreign language, or the unfamiliar sites that made it surreal. It was the knowledge in the back of our minds that in just over a month we are going to call this city home. And that my friends is surreal.

We left Monday afternoon for the airport. We didn't bring much with us- just six suitcases. Wait, rewind. SIX, you said?! Yep. We brought six suitcases with the intent of leaving at least five of them with our friends already living in Stavanger (thanks peeps!). We crawled up to the check-in counter expecting to leave four bags checked at no charge per Lufthansa's international baggage allowance. We were stunned when the employee told us it was only two (one/person) and that it was $100/bag additional. Jaws dropped.

We debated going back to the car to leave stuff and Jason pushed the gentleman stating the policy we saw on their website. He apologized, said its always changing, and that you have to look at your actual booking which stated one bag/person. Fail. He said he couldn't waive the bag fees and Jason asked to speak to a manager that could. She came over, explained the same thing, apologized, and asked to see our bags. She had us put the two smaller ones on the scale and said she would waive the fees because they weren't that big. Hooray Lufthansa!

We got to the gate, grabbed some lunch, and waited for our flight. As they got closer to boarding they announced that everyone could have only one carry-on due to limited overhead space. They asked people to bring their bags to the front where they would be checked to your final destination. We were struggling with our carry-on and personal item (large bags with PE study books) so Jason got in line to leave his. They told him his was fine and so then I got in line to leave mine. Hello checked bag number five with no payment from us! It was fabulous not to have to carry that with me.

We flew to Frankfurt on the most massive plane ever! We took pictures before heading to our connecting flight to Stavanger.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon and headed to our hotel with only a few wrong turns. Stop lights are a rarity in Norway and have been replaced with roundabouts. Quite difficult listening to a GPS say "enter the roundabout and take the first exit, enter the roundabout and take the second exit, enter the roundabout and take the first exit". And some roundabouts had been added that weren't on the GPS yet! It was an adventure but we made it to the hotel.

Gorgeous view right?!

After dropping our bags off and freshening up we met with our realtor, Olav, expecting to just walk around town, which we did, but he had also lined up some places for us to see! We fell in love with the first one. Without even giving him our Tier 1 and Tier 2 criteria he nailed everything on our list!! The second and third places just solidified our love for the first one. :-) (More on the apartment, including pictures in a blog post to come!)

We had some time to kill before dinner and so we spent it walking around the city center. We found a 7 Eleven!! Apparently they can't be in Houston, but they can be around the world. No slurpees though. :-(

Jason did find a Dr Pepper. Only $4 a bottle! Woohoo!! (In case you are wondering, the cost of living in Norway is ridiculously high. It's in the top five most expensive places to live in the world...)

We also found a small mall with a pet store. This will be Zoey's next challenge... Learning to walk on a leash!

And we made the mistake of going into the grocery store and converting the prices. Beer didn't seem too bad, just about $6 a six pack. Then we saw a larger number next to the other and realized that the $6 price was for a single beer. Yikes. And we found Ben and Jerry's!! And then realized it was about $10. We need to stop converting now...

We headed to a fantastic dinner at a place called Tango, recommended by our realtor and my friend Emily back in Houston. It was amazing! As we enjoyed our meal we discussed the apartment, moving to Stavanger, and just enjoyed the beautiful sea view from the restaurant. We decided to tell Olav the following morning that if the apartment would take our cats, then we want to put an offer at asking price.

After sending Olav the email Wednesday morning, we headed into the offices. Jason dropped me off at ConocoPhillips where I met my boss, the hiring manager, and HR. Everyone I met was wonderful and the work I'm going to be doing sounds amazing! I am so grateful that everything worked out so well with the swap (read about that here). Jason had an equally fabulous time at his office and is excited to start working something different.

We spent a couple hours that afternoon studying for our PE exam because Olav was in a conference and so we couldn't look at apartments. Later we went to our friends Megan and Loren's apartment to visit with them since we hadn't seen them yet. It was nice to catch up with them for a little bit! Then we headed to our friends Erica and Thad's apartment for dinner. They cooked a delicious meal and we caved and bought some Ben and Jerry's to go with the cookies they had for dessert. It was a wonderful welcoming!

Thursday, after our quick visit to the apartment, we headed to the Baker Hughes Technology Forum. We listened to talks all day and I got to meet Jason's boss and hiring manager. The talks were all in English and mostly related to the North Sea operations so it was a good introduction to our future jobs!

The evening program Baker planned was absolutely phenomenal!! They had a classical music concert followed by an amazing dinner with another more hard rock concert from a Norwegian girl band called Katzenjammer. They were fantastic and I will be looking them up on iTunes when I get home.

We had a fabulous time visiting with and getting to meet so many different people from Baker Hughes and even some future co-workers at ConocoPhillips!

Friday we slept in after our late evening and grabbed a fantastic lunch in the city center. I can't wait to walk here and do my grocery shopping and visit all the little shops since its so close to our new apartment! We tried a place called Godt Brod and loved the fresh bread and pastries we tried.

That evening we went to our friend Heather's house and met with some of the our ex-pat friends we have here- Megan and Loren, Xindi and Arturo, and Erica and Thad. (And obviously Heather too!) They did a potluck for us and we enjoyed getting to see all of them!

Saturday morning we met up with Megan and Loren to go hiking at Preikestolen (also known as Pulpit Rock, read about our hike and see pictures in a blog post to come). After returning to Stavanger we warmed up and changed out of our wet clothes before getting together for dinner at a traditional Norwegian place called Skagen.

The food was wonderful and we ventured into the traditional cuisine by trying, wait for it, whale and reindeer! The whale was smoked and tasted like jerky and the reindeer was delicious and tasted like a cross between a beef steak and venison.

It was a fabulous way to end a surreal week! We went to bed early for our 6:40 am flight back to Houston and are excited to return to Stavanger as residents next month!!

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