I had breakfast with Robin and Stephani. We have now perfected our system of "Do Not Disturb" sign placement so that we can properly coordinate activities without waking anyone who wants to sleep. When we went down to the dining room on the second floor, we found that Mike had arrived before us, so we joined him.
The Wednesday weather was a substantial improvement over what we'd had previously! Actually, things had not been too bad for any portion of our trip, but this was just a gorgeous day. We would have sunny skies for our drive to Lillehammer.
Unlike our prior road trip, this one was uneventful. ... Well, I think we did have a parting of the ways among our convoy of two Previas, the pickup truck with the basket trailer, and the big Mercedes with all the luggage; but we all knew our ultimate destination, and we ultimately found ourselves reunited. The drive was beautiful! Woods, fields, a huge lake, and the aforementioned blue skies all contributed to a fabulous trip. As we passed though the stunning countryside, Stephani dozen in the backseat, Robin and I discussed differing theories to explain the varying pigmentation in the pavement of Norway's highway system, and Mike installed software on his notebook PC.
We arrived at our hotel and checked into our rooms. Robin and Stephani, Mike, Annie and I are all in the same wing of the third floor, and we have it all to ourselves. The rooms are great! Stephani and Robin have a great abundance of porcelain fixtures, including three (!) sinks. My room's forte is its huge size ... plus its five huge windows overlooking a charming Lillehammer intersection. It's a great spot for a party ... so we quickly planned to have one in the evening.
But then disaster struck! When we went downstairs for lunch, we found Alf at the hotel desk. Apparently, he had already tried to connect his PC to the phone lines, and they were not working at all! ... To our shock and utter disbelief, we learned that NONE of the rooms in the hotel can handle modems, because they've wired the whole place with some lousy digital phone system. Don't these people know that this journal must go through? By the time we got downstairs, Alf had already tentatively planned to move across town to the Radisson, where they apparently had similar problems, but where they said that an operable phone line could be included in a room. There would be at an additional daily charge, beyond the room rate, of about $85 ... plus the hotel would need 12 hours or so to set it up.
We continued to pummel our helpless desk clerk with additional questions about the hotel into which we had all already checked, however. "Didn't you hold the Olympics here?" ... "Don't you have business guests? Aren't there, in fact, lots of business conference rooms here in your hotel?" ... "Hasn't this been a problem in the past?" ... Did you know that the Seventies have ended?" ...
Well, I guess we really weren't all that rude, although Alf and I were both totally incredulous. Alf was about to go to the Radisson to make sure things worked properly there, in anticipation of thereupon when we came up with the idea of just renting a separate room in some other nearby hotel for the sole purpose of having an available phone connection. Alf, Mike and I could all use it as needed, carrying our notebooks through the streets of town to this other building that actually had a working phone line.
Right around that time, however, we coaxed out of the staff another possibility: Sometimes, people used some of the meeting rooms for presentations that require a real phone connection. We could rent one of those rooms, right in this hotel, for about $100 per day. This sounded like it held promise. We followed a workman to a room that was littered with old and beat-up folding tables. There, after a couple of wiring adjustments, we were presented with a box that said "ISDN." This didn't seem like a good sign to me, and indeed, we still could find no dial tone through our modems.
Cutting to the chase: We finally discovered that one of the jacks in the meeting room did have an actual analog dial tone, and so we had our solution. Mike, Alf and I will be communicating with the world -- and this journal will develop -- through Meeting Room 103. While I am writing this up in my room, you will not see any of my words or photos until I carry my PC down to that room and connect through our special phone jack.
Alf and I will be providing exhaustive responses in this hotel's "Any Comments or suggestions?" cards.
This morning the skies were very clear. Each day seems to be getting a bit more perfect.
I checked the signs on people's doors, and then got ready for breakfast. Robin and Stephani were just about ready to go, and after just a few minutes we all headed downstairs. The Victoria has a fine selection of breakfast herring, although Robin and Stephani still seem to think that a heart-clogging dose of bacon and eggs is the proper way to greet each fresh new day. I continue to work on their conversion. The eggs were a bit cold and the bacon a bit moist, they said, but I found that both the tomatoed herring and the mustarded herring were excellent. Robin and Stephani also sampled the caviar paste; perhaps they would soon be ready for pickled fish in the morning.
I spent the time between breakfast and lunch connected to the Internet from our special conference room, telling you about what had been happening recently, and especially linking in some of the photos. At this point, the in-camera photo count is nearing 500 digital snaps, plus I have another 150 or so on Fuji and Ilford emulsions. (These, of course, won't be seen until they're swished through chemicals back home.) Anyway, I'm trying to keep caught up with things, so you know what we're doing and whether anyone gets eaten by a reindeer (or vice versa, as the case may be).
With uploads complete, I returned to my room and watched the Lillehammer street life pass by, right under my centrally-located windows, then we all gathered downstairs to meet the Previas. For today's lunch, we went across the lake to a lovely hillside farmstead. Our hosts were Annikken and Henrik Braastad, and they were extremely gracious. The meal was served in a beautifully rustic farmhouse that dates back about 360 years. The table setting was very pretty. The food was pretty impressive, too! We had various creatures from the sea, prepared in different ways, and for dessert we were served fresh berries and whipped cream in a wondrous pastry shell that was very much like what Grandma used to make. We were all very happy.
The sloping grounds provided some nice territory for post-prandial wanderings, and we were able to gaze contentedly across the water to Lillehammer as the crew posed for a group shot. (Annie cycled through about a dozen crew members' cameras, so they could each have a memento.) It was a great day for standing around and soaking up the atmosphere.
Back in Lillehammer, we all walked up the main pedestrian shopping street, which begins right under the windows of my room and is appropriately named Storgata. There are lots of bargains outside on the racks, although I have been told (by those more skilled in the shopping arts than I am) that the prices inside are a bit less forgiving. There were a number of interesting items available, but all I picked up was a Herald Tribune ... which later turned out to be yesterday's edition. (I was confused, at first, by its similarity to the edition I had seen on Wednesday. Eventually the underlying reason became clear.)
Late in the afternoon, we had our first flight over Lillehammer. The crew preceded us to the south end of town, and they already had the balloon spread out and ready to inflate when we arrived. When the fans were started, the noise brought a few people to watch the inflation.
I had a brand new perspective on inflation this time: Dan spread open the vents near the crown of the balloon, which allowed a clear view of Mike firing the burners into the envelope straight at us. This was an interesting new way to see the process.
We climbed into the basket and we were off. We were accompanied on our flight by Sam, the 16-year-old son of Annikken and Henrik. He was able to point out landmarks such as his high school and a dentist's office as we flew over, and he was very polite in answering our various uninformed questions about Lillehammer. It's amazing how almost everyone we meet here speaks perfect, essentially unaccented English. There are stronger accents in Minnesota, where I grew up, than there are here, and most Norwegians seem to be more fluent in English than I am.
Our flight was shorter than usual: We just floated from the south end of town to the north end, perhaps a trip of 35-40 minutes. It was lovely, though, and we had very good views of the town. We passed directly over our hotel and the crew hotel, and we saw the Olympic ski jump area and the Braastad farm. By the time we landed, the sun had gone below the hilltops, and it was starting to feel rather cold to those in our group who normally live in warm climates. The crew had cleverly thought to provide hot chocolate at our landing site, in addition to the usual cold champagne, Coke and bubbly peach nectar; this was greatly appreciated by the shivering set. Meanwhile, large crowds of children approached Mike and Alf for autographs.
Back at the hotel, we had another small pre-dinner party in my room. Its corner location affords us a nice central location for keeping track of things as we nibble our pretzels and popcorn. We discussed dinner possibilities and settled upon The Blue Man, just a block or two up the street.
The Blue Man has some interesting decorations, as well as some interesting menu choices. Mike hopefully ordered ostrich medallions, and upon its arrival this dinner turned out, he said, to more perfectly embody just what he wanted at that precise moment than anything he had had in a long time. It did look pretty good. Robin had reindeer. I was going to have whale, but I didn't feel that hungry, so instead I went for "Blue Fire (Hot!)," a Cajun-spiced steak. Everything was good.
As the clock neared 11:00, we headed back to the Continental, and we all retired for the night. I did a little digital photo editing and watched Adam's Rib (in English with Norwegian subtitles) on the Turner Classic Movies channel. At about 1:00, I surrendered to a deep sleep that held me fast until morning.
Food in Lillehammer today included whale for lunch, land-based creatures for dinner, and baked potatoes for a midnight snack. Unfortunately, there was too much wind for a balloon flight. Here is a brief Lillehammer photo album for today:
Today we transfered from Lillehammer to Stockholm. Upon our arrival, we checked in at the famous Grand Hotel and went out for dinner. The professional staff at the Burger King admonished Alf and me when we began snapping digital photos inside their top secret establishment, but we managed to smuggle out a few revealing images. (There are probably outstanding warrants for our arrest now in Sweden.)