Today was the official start of our tour with Cruise West. We had to be out of the hotel room by 11 but would not leave the hotel until 1PM, so that left us a bit more time on our own. We had lunch at a delightful pub across the street, with delicious hamburgers and good beer.
All of us then boarded buses for a private guided tour of some of the city's highlights. First, we stopped at the Oslo Opera House, which, of course, we had visited the previous day on our own. While we were there, a concert was being given on that floating stage I told you about, with the audience watching from the roof slope. Next, we visited the Gustav Vigeland sculpture park. Vigeland was a prolific and talented sculptor, but his works are not well known outside Norway as almost all of them are in Oslo. The park has 150 of his statues, the most prominent of which is the Monolith, some 46 feet tall with 121 intertwined human figures, all carved from a single piece of stone.
One thing I loved about this set of sculptures, and really, what I saw elsewhere in Oslo, was how parents let their kids play in and around the sculptures and how this seems to be encouraged. There were dozens of young children climbing in and around the various figures. We were told that Vigeland created his human figures without clothes, because clothes go out of style but the human body is timeless. Apparently the most famous of his statues in this park is of a boy peeing. We did not see this, but the park's web site directs visitors to it.
We passed by the Holmenkollen ski jump, under construction (again, for the 18th time!) and took in a view from high above Oslo, looking out into the fjord where the Spirit of Oceanus awaited us.
Last, the tour visited the Viking ship museum, which we had also seen on our own, so we enjoyed the sun outdoors and treated ourselves to an ice cream cone. I had spent all my Kroner and the ice cream stand didn't take credit cards, but they did agree to let me pay in US dollars (as other vendors often did.) $5 each for a single-scoop ice cream cone was pretty steep, but it was actually not too far off the mark from the Kroner price. While we were there a man drove up in a bright red Morgan Plus Four. We chatted with him for a while - he's a local artist named Pål Hansen, who has lived in the US. Leslie got to sit in the Morgan, which thrilled her no end. Pål even offered to drive us to the pier, which we seriously considered but worried about being separated from the group. Later we were told that it would have been OK - ah well. Pål did drive down separately to the dock and hung around until we boarded!
It felt good to be back aboard the Spirit of Oceanus again, it was sort of like coming home after being away for a long time. An unexpected delight was learning that Meriwether Gill, who had been an Exploration Leader on the earlier cruises we had taken, was aboard again, this time as Cruise Director responsible for all manner of guest programs and more. Other members of the Cruise West team new to us were Exploration Leader Geoff DeVito and Ship's Doctor Bill Yeaton, both fellow New Hampshireites,and Guest Speakers Rupert Pilkington a "large mammal" specialist originally from Scotland, and Ron Wixman from Oregon, a font of knowledge about Scandinavian and Russian life and religion.
After the ritual mandatory safety drill, the ship pulled up anchor and sailed away from Oslo.
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