THURDAY, JULY 8TH AND FRIDAY, JULY 9TH – USA TO VINSTRA, NORWAY:
Departed to Norway again this morning. Wasn’t I just there a couple of weeks ago? J Doesn’t look like it’s gotten any warmer either. Highs still in the upper 50’s. Nice break from the upper 90’s in Nashville though.
Have Lee Ann Womack, Aaron Tippin, Mike Stinson and Miss Leslie performing at this year’s Vinstra Country Music Festival. Vinstra is about 4 hours Northwest of Oslo. This is one of two festivals that I had worked with Jonny Minge on for more than 10 years. We lost Jonny to cancer last year and it’s going to be really hard to be there without him. One thing that will make it easier is the fact that we are staying at a different hotel for the first time this year. I always met Jonny for breakfast each morning at the other one.
I made a list of everything I forgot on my last trip so I wouldn’t forget it this trip. Then we had last minute changes to the itinerary and I left the new hotel rooming sheets in the copier. Lindsey had to come back to the airport to deliver them to me. Hope that’s all I forgot.
I am flying with several of Lee Ann’s group. She had to change her flight at the last minute because her father-in-law passed away. She’s now flying out of Houston and meeting us during our 5 hour layover in Newark. One of her musician’s fathers passed away last night as well.
Our flight departed Nashville on time. First time I’ve flown Continental to Europe and not sure I am looking forward to it. Think it might be one of the old planes where even business class seats suck. We shall see. The flight from Nashville to Newark was the tiny jet I hate so much. One seat on one side and 2 on the other. At least there wasn’t any turbulence. Hope that’s true on the return as well.
Landed on time and I’ve been in the “President’s Club” working for 2 hours. Have to say it’s much nicer than some of the other airline’s lounges.
Aaron Tippin was flying out later today on US Air via Philadelphia and planning to land an hour after us in Oslo. Office called and his flight was delayed out of Nashville which meant he would miss his connection. He is now on an American Airlines flight through Dallas, then London, and not arriving Oslo until 4 pm tomorrow afternoon. Just hope all those connections are on time. Mike Stinson was connecting with him in Philadelphia from Houston and his flights are all okay. Miss Leslie arrives by train tomorrow night.
My dear friend Ben is meeting me in Oslo to help me with this event and go sightseeing with me on my days off after Vinstra and before the Breim Festival the following weekend. Not enough time for me to go home. I’ve always wanted to do the “Norway in a Nutshell Tour” but didn’t want to do it alone. Not a good idea with my lack of a sense of direction. It involves taking a train, boat, and bus from Oslo to Bergen through the fjords. Might never see me again. We’ll do that all day Tuesday and then have Wednesday to sightsee in Bergen….where I was 2 weeks ago! Ben has never been to Norway and I’m looking forward to showing him around. It’s the most expensive country I visit but also one of the most beautiful. Ben has helped me before with an event in Switzerland and does a great job. And yes, Scott, it’s “that” Benji! J
When we were leaving Nashville, we heard they had just captured two Al Qaeda terrorists in Norway who planned an attack on the Norway train system similar to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Sure glad they got them before I start traveling by train!
Flight to Oslo was on time and all my people made it. There are still thunderstorms in Dallas and don’t think Aaron will make his connection. Probably won’t know until we land.
Continental has at least “refurbished” their Business/First Class section so that it’s a “little” better than their domestic flights. But, I think coach is even smaller than flights in the U.S. Coach is a 3-3 configuration and the guys said there was NO leg room whatsoever. The flight attendants were super nice and the food was really good. (Yes, I got my pasta J). They brought me water on a regular basis, too. Movies sucked and I only watched half of one. Sat next to a very chatty, very sweet Norwegian lady who married a U.S. Naval officer and now lives in San Diego. She was flying back to Trondheim to visit her family. Said she would connect out of Oslo and then go straight to the pub to party when she landed in Trondheim. I asked her if she wouldn’t be too jet-lagged and she responded that she would be too drunk to care! Typical Norwegian. LOL
No turbulence and the flight was only 7 hours. Short for me. Guys in coach didn’t think it was short. All our luggage and gear made it to Oslo with us. Ben was waiting for us with “Linn”, the promoter’s daughter. She had the bus waiting and we got it loaded. I received a text message saying Aaron had missed his connection out of Dallas and the earliest he would arrive would be 8:30 pm that evening. Since Mike Stinson had just landed, we waited for him and his 3 guys so they could ride with us and leave the other bus for Aaron. One of Lee Ann’s management team brought her little 9 month old daughter and I spent the first half of the trip holding her – missing my grandchildren already. Had horrible news before I left Nashville. A business associate who I met through video production lost her little 22 month old baby this week. Evidently, the grandmother babysits the child and the news said she was getting into a shallow pool with the baby when she evidently had a medical issue. Neighbors found the baby and grandmother at the bottom of the pool. The grandmother is still in critical condition (as far as I know) in the hospital but the baby did not survive. It just breaks my heart and was all I could think about on the flight. Couldn’t sleep for thinking about it. At least with an elderly person, we have the comfort of knowing they hopefully had a good life and death is expected. But why this has to happen to an infant, I just will never understand. Makes me even more protective of my babies.
The “new” hotel is great. Much better than the one we usually use. No stuffed grizzly bears or wolves in the lobby (always reminded me of “The Shining”) and it has an ELEVATOR!!! They were supposed to put wireless in each room but only got it in the lobby. However, the promoter brought over a wireless card for me to use which is a lifesaver. Not fun to take my laptop, external hard drive, printer, paper, headset, and all the cables and files into the lobby every time I want to work. He also brought over the fans I asked for although it is “cool” outside. Won’t need it tonight but if it is sunny tomorrow, will be happy I have it.
Miss Leslie came in via train and arrived in time to have dinner. The food here is MUCH better than at the other hotel. Everyone was “accounted” for and most had not slept yet. They will crash tonight. Me…I have to stay up and wait for Aaron. They landed and departed the Oslo airport at 9:30 pm which will put them in here at around 12:30 am. I have to be ready to leave for the venue by 8:30 am tomorrow. Short night….again.
My room is on the side of the hotel with a fantastic view of the lake and mountains. It’s 11 pm now and still very light outside. Might get dark for about 30 minutes at midnight. J
Going to post this road report because I have a feeling I’ll pass out once Aaron gets here.
SATURDAY, JULY 10TH – VINSTRA, NORWAY:
Aaron’s group got in at almost 1 am. Had “dinner” and wine waiting for them, gave them their room keys and I went to bed at around 2 am. Could not sleep. Was still trying to go to sleep at 4 am. Finally fell asleep at around 4:30 am but alarm went off at 6. Showered and had a quick breakfast and rode over to the venue with Lee Ann Womack’s guys. Sound company wasn’t even at the venue. Our promoter called them and they said they were told to be there at 9:30 am when we were told 9:00 am. Once they arrived, things moved quickly.
Aaron and his band came over at 11:00 for their sound check. Ben and I counted in the merch for everyone while Aaron was doing his sound check.
I left Ben in charge of Miss Leslie and Mike Stinson and went back to the hotel with Aaron. Glad that I did. The lunch was supposed to be scheduled for 2 pm and the hotel had it down for 2:30 pm…much too late to be eating lunch. Got that sorted out and stayed there and worked for a few hours. Checked out the exercise facility and it was really pretty nice. Hope I get to use it tomorrow before we leave for Oslo.
Came back over to the venue with Aaron for his performance. He goes on from 10-11:30 pm and Lee Ann is on from 11:45 pm until 1:15 am…late night for us. L
Had a quick dinner and ended up holding Miss Leslie’s 3 month old daughter so her nanny could eat. She is a little doll – Emilee. But, boy did she have gas! She was so loud, Ben and the nanny were staring at me and I kept saying, “it’s not me. It’s the baby” and they are looking at me like, “yeah SURE it is”! LOL
The weather has stayed absolutely beautiful – sunny and highs in the 60’s.
Went over to the venue where Mike and Miss Leslie had already performed several shows and had several more to go. With three stages, it kept them busy. The venue wasn’t packed when Aaron took the stage but only took a couple of songs to draw everyone in from the “beer tent” to watch his show. His truck horn worked this time and he uses it frequently. He also added the part where he puts together a child’s bike on stage as he sings “Workin Man’s PHD”. The audience loved his high energy style.
Lee Ann was, of course, the headliner. She looked fantastic and had on the highest pair of heels I’ve ever seen – at least 6 inches. My feet hurt just watching her. She is one of, if not THE best female vocalists of all time and she upheld that reputation tonight. The crowd did start thinning out near the end of her show but it was 1:15 am, turning very cold, and they had been drinking for 3 days and were passing out where they stood or sat!
Got everyone loaded onto the buses and back at the hotel by 2:30 am. We don’t depart to the Radisson airport until noon tomorrow.
SUNDAY, JULY 11TH – DAY FOUR, VINSTRA TO OSLO:
Actually got 4 hours sleep AND a workout. Feel so much better. Had a really quick breakfast and then packed for the 3 hour bus ride to Oslo.
I was so tired this morning when I typed the road report that I didn’t mention what wonderful people I work with on this event each year. The promoter and his staff are first class and make sure the visiting entertainers and all their entourages are treated the same way. I actually look forward to coming back each year and seeing my friends that I’ve made over the years.
Everyone was on time for departure and we left at around 12:15 pm. Arrived at the Radisson Oslo Airport hotel at 3:30 pm. It had rained on us most of the trip but looked like it was clearing up to me. Everyone bailed on going downtown except for Mike and Leslie’s groups and me and Ben and the 4 people from Lee Ann’s group who are staying in Oslo a few days. I told them it would not be raining in downtown Oslo but couldn’t convince them to come along. The only thing there is to do at the airport hotel is watch the planes take off and land! And even though the dinner was free of charge, the food has never been very good here.
We dropped Lee Ann’s group off at the Grand Hotel and the rest of us started walking to an Italian restaurant that the concierge recommended. I had the map and directions and of course, got us lot right off the bat. I let Ben take over and that was a smart move. I had eaten at a great Italian restaurant last year during my one week in Oslo but this was a different one. It was terrific. I had the caprice salad (imagine that) and a pasta dish where the noodles were homemade and had mushrooms, garlic and fresh truffle oil. After we ate, the boys wanted to go drinking so I sent them down to the waterfront. Ben and I walked up to the park where all the statues are. It’s pretty amazing. I was there last year and remembered how impressed I was with it. We spent about a half hour there and then got on a tram to go back to the train station. We were talking and walking slowly through the terminal to the bus station when we realized the last bus departed at 10 pm. We ran to the lane where it was supposed to depart but just missed it. We had to take the train instead. Train is much faster but also a LOT more expensive. It was worth it.
Tomorrow everyone flies home except for me and Ben. We’re going to the Radisson Hotel in downtown Oslo for one night. Then Tuesday morning we’ll go to Bergen on the “Norway in a Nutshell Tour”. I don’t have any more “babysitting duties” until Patty Loveless arrives on Friday.
MONDAY, JULY 12TH – DAY FIVE – DOWNTOWN OSLO:
Decided to forego a couple of hours sleep to work out. They have a good workout facility at the Radisson Airport and I was in there at 6 am this morning. Then had breakfast at the hotel. This very large man rushed in front of me to get in the buffet line. When he came to the container for the bacon, the dish with the bacon had been removed to be refilled. There were a couple of pieces of bacon floating in murky water in the container and he fished those out to eat. GROSS!!!
I had just gotten out of the shower when Aaron’s road manager called and said they were going to the airport at 8:30 am. Now, their flight didn’t depart until 1 pm! I suggested one person walk over before they checked out of their rooms and see if the airline would even accept their luggage for check in that early. He said it was too late as they were already all checking out. I cannot believe after all the time they spent stuck in airports a couple of days ago on their way over that they would want to sit there for 4 hours waiting on their flight this morning.
Got everyone else checked out and on their way back to the U.S. Ben and I caught the Radisson SAS bus from the airport to the Radisson Hotel downtown where I stayed last year. They had our rooms ready and we are on the 27th floor. I have a beautiful view of the city from my room. We got directions from the front desk and headed over to an area called Bygdoy for sightseeing. Stopped along the waterfront for lunch and then took the ferry across. We toured a cool Viking museum (not as cool as the one in Sweden though). It was a HIKE up a hill to get to it and we hiked back down and took the ferry to the Kon Tiki museum. From there we wanted to see the Holocaust museum and took the bus to it. We got off that the right stop but there were no signs indicating where it was. We finally asked a lady walking down the street and she gave us directions. It was really strange…absolutely NO signs at all. The parking lot was deserted and we were the only people in the entire museum. It was really interesting. I’ve toured the Holocaust museum in DC which is much better than this one though.
We walked back to the bus stop and figured if we took the same bus going the opposite direction, it would take us back to the ferry stop. WRONG. Thirty minutes and about 30 stops later, we were back in downtown Oslo only a few blocks from our hotel.
Walked back to the hotel to get information about our Norway in a Nutshell tour and then I wanted to do “recon” on finding the correct track that we would depart from at 8 am tomorrow. We got SO lost for some reason. We got in the bus terminal and could not get to the train station. Last night, we had no problem getting from one to the other! We finally gave up and went to eat Indian food at Mr. India – the restaurant where I ate last year. It was excellent. Stopped back at the train station on our walk back and got our tickets and “directions” for tomorrow.
The hotel has a bar with a panoramic view on the 34th floor so we went up there for one drink. I had something with lots of different fruit juices and rum in it that was good.
Came back to my room to “work” for hours. The weather report said rain and I’m sitting here at 12:30 am watching the most amazing lightning storm ever outside my window. Thunder and huge bolts of lightning! Wish I could get a photo of it but it’s just too dark outside.
We must have our luggage in the lobby by 7 am tomorrow so that a porter can take it to our hotel in Bergen for us. We’ll be taking trains, boats, and buses for our little escapade tomorrow. Hopefully, we won’t get lost!
TUESDAY, JULY 13TH – NORWAY IN A NUTSHELL TOUR:
Got 4 hours sleep and no time to work out this morning. We were downstairs at 6:30 am and left our bags in storage so we could eat a quick breakfast. I met the porter service in the lobby at 7 am and gave him our bags. They are supposed to be in our hotel by 3 pm today. I asked him to make sure they were delivering to the correct hotel because we had changed the hotel last week. He assured me that it was. When I got back up to the room, I checked the receipt against our hotel info and it was the wrong one. I called the porter service and he assured me that it would be delivered to the correct hotel. We shall see!
Walked to the train station and the first part of the journey was via a nice train. There were lots of “groups” taking the train and we were sitting with a particularly loud and obnoxious group. We had assigned seats, so couldn’t move. Then a man came up to me and said we were in his seats. Evidently, there are two “cars” and we were in the wrong one. Made it back to our correct seats and our seatmates were much nicer. Only drawback was we were sitting backwards for the entire 5 hour trip. L People would get on and off the train at various stops and a family got on near the end. She said they were traveling with a kitten and wasn’t allowed to bring the cat into the car we were in because it was one designated for no pets. She asked if anyone was allergic to cats and I waved my hand as I was rubbing my suddenly itching eyes. She eventually moved to another car thank goodness. The first stop was in Myrdal and was very quick. Only enough time to grab some water and a sandwich and board the next train. That train took us to Flam – the highest railway station available. I guess some of the passengers didn’t know they had to get off when we boarded, so it was a scramble for seats. I was waiting for a couple to move out of their seats so Ben and I could sit down. When they moved aside and I started to sit, a man pushed me aside and sat down. I said, “Excuse me. I was going to sit there”. He mumbled something in what sounded like German and had his wife and 2 kids move from where they were sitting across the aisle into our seats! Pissed me off royally. When we made a photo stop, I was going to stay on board and sit in his seat but he never got off. My other plan was to squeeze my water bottle in his seat so it would be wet when he got back on. Hate that he decided not to get off. L Took about an hour to get there and the view was breath-taking. Huge mountains with multiple waterfalls cascading down the sides into the beautiful green valley that looked like it was about 5 miles below us. Some of the mountains were still snow covered.
From Flam, we took a boat for 2 hours to Gudvangen. That was a beautiful trip, too, with seagulls following us the entire way. I made the brilliant decision to pack my fleece and send it in my luggage to Bergen. I purchased a really good jacket at a gift shop in my son’s size so I can give it to him when I get back. We sat inside on the ferry because we figured it would get really cold out on the deck once it got underway. Wrong. The ferry went SO SLOW, it would have been faster to swim. The seagulls were actually “circling” the ferry we were going so slow. Still, sailing through a fjord is an awe inspiring experience. I am not going to take any more photos of waterfalls though!
From Gudvangen we took really nice buses to Voss – about a 2 hour drive as well. Our bus driver looked like he was 12 years old. Not good because we were on the one lane roads made for two way traffic. We wound our way to the top of the mountain and then started down. There were hairpin 360 degree turns all the way down. I thought I was going to get sick! One wrong turn or brakes failing would have sent us over the side of the mountain. When we finally reached the bottom, everyone applauded the young driver!
From Voss we took the train again (talk about planes, trains, and automobiles, this trip was trains, boats and buses!). When we were on the first part of the journey, a man in our compartment said he had his wallet stolen in Oslo at the train station the day before. He had it in his front pocked, buttoned up, and they still managed to get it. The trip to Voss was about an hour long and while it was beautiful, I was getting tired of scenery. This was great for Ben because he’s been able to see the country-side, the city, and now the fjords. Only thing missing has been a glacier!
We arrived in Bergen on time and walked to our hotel which was only a few blocks away. Didn’t get lost but one time. J Hotel is really old and doesn’t look as nice as the one we stayed in with Bellamys. Very disappointing because Radisson’s in Europe are usually awesome. I asked for rooms on the same floor and they said the only thing they had were “large” rooms that had tables in them for displays. I figured it would be okay but when we got in there, it was terrible. One little bed that was more narrow than my body and tables everywhere. The bed was hidden in a little closet and the bathroom was all the way on the other side of the huge room filled with tables! We went down and changed our room and they gave me one that was “half” of a suite with a folding cot in it! Couldn’t believe it. Changed it again to one that was really nice – big queensize bed – but the window opened to the “inside” of the hotel so couldn’t get a breeze and no air conditioning. Then I went in the bathroom and there was a dirty towel hanging from the towel rack. I went to the lobby to meet Ben and he said his bathroom had a used toothbrush in it. We told the front desk and they said they would find new rooms for us while we went to have dinner before everything closed. The hotel gave us the name of their recommendation for a Thai restaurant. We walked and walked and seemed like we were going into a really bad part of town. The number for the building they gave us did not exist! We finally walked back into the center of town and found a Chinese restaurant that was really good.
Came back to the hotel and they had new rooms for us (my fourth!). I moved in and it was a really nice room. Got everything situated and turned on my laptop and NO INTERNET CONNECTION. I was beyond frustrated. Spent an hour on the phone with their server and finally told him I was going to walk out into the hallway to see if it worked. Of course, it did! So, I’ve been sitting in the floor in front of my door for 3 hours now answering email. It’s 2 am and I’m going to call it a night and deal with moving my room AGAIN tomorrow!!!!
WEDNESDAY, JULY 14TH – BERGEN, NORWAY:
Decided to skip breakfast and go jogging. Glad I did. Weather was beautiful. We have really been lucky because rain has been in the forecast all week. I knew where to jog from my visit here a couple of weeks ago.
When I got back to the hotel, I changed rooms to a room right down the hall. Evidently the hotel knew the internet signal was too weak in the room they gave me but they don’t share that information with their guests! Got everything moved and showered. Ben called and said he had just moved into my old room. Forgot to mention that every time I moved last night, so did he because there was something wrong with his room each time, too. When he told me where he was, I had just noticed that I did not have my diamond rings or other jewelry with me. I called the front desk because he said he couldn’t find them anywhere in the room. Housekeeping brought them up a few minutes later and had found them in the THIRD room I was in last night. Glad they are honest people working here. I tipped her generously. Even though the rings were valuable, I was more concerned about the bracelet that I wear for the Vigianos who were lost in the Twin Towers. That cannot be replaced. I’ve worn it every day since June 2003 when their Dad gave it to me.
Ben and I walked down to the water front and went into EVERY souvenir shop in this city, I think. He got everything he needed. I have teased him this entire trip because he carries a calculator with him and figures out what everything costs. I had forgotten the memory stick for my camera which was still in my computer from last night. So, I purchased a fan for my room and walked it back down to the hotel and picked up my camera. Ben even figured out what I was paying for the fan. One of the sales clerks in the store was teasing him about it and said, yes it’s about 6 NOK to the dollar and he immediately rattled off 6.1435 or whatever it is today. LOL
We had lunch down at the fish market. Can’t find fresher fish anywhere. Then came back to the hotel to do some work. Ben walked down to where they are holding a huge outdoor concert right by our hotel tonight. A clerk in the 7/11 where I purchased water this morning said it’s top artists performing 50 of the top hits songs – all in Norwegian. My friends explained that it was a free concert hosted by the second largest newspaper in Norway. It’s a very short concert. The entertainers only sing 1-2 songs each to entice the public to purchase their cds.
The promoter on the Bellamys date a couple of weeks ago and his wife met us at 6 pm and took us up to the top of one of the mountains surrounding Bergen via a tram. There are 7 mountains total that surround Bergen. One of the nearer ones is accessible via a cable car which is what I did NOT want to do. It was breathtaking when we reached the top. There was a restaurant at the top but didn’t look very good, so we came back down to the waterfront. My friends suggested a “Tex Mex” restaurant and it was good….but as you can imagine not exactly like we have in the U.S. I had the chicken fajitas. The service was very, very slow which is typical in Europe. We’re supposed to be enjoying the company of our friends and taking our time eating a meal — a very foreign idea to us.
Was back in the hotel around 9:30 pm and have been working ever since. Ben is packing for his 7 hour train journey back to Oslo tomorrow. He leaves for the U.S. on Friday morning very early out of Oslo. Tomorrow I will finish my shopping and work, work, work. Have to leave for Breim when Patty Loveless arrives on Friday afternoon.
THURSDAY, JULY 15TH – BERGEN, NORWAY:
Met Ben for breakfast at the hotel restaurant before he had to leave on the train to go back to Oslo. Wish he had flown out of here so we could have had one more day. Really missed my “sightseeing/shopping” buddy today.
I went to the hotel “health club” after breakfast looking forward to a workout because it was raining. Got down there and the only thing they had was a swimming pool – and I didn’t have a swimsuit! Very disappointing. But, as my trainer once pointed out to me, “there’s no excuse for now working out in your room”. She was right. Plenty or arm, leg, stomach exercises I could do for a good workout.
Before I forget, let me tell you another interesting fact about Norway. You can’t buy alcohol (except beer and wine) anywhere but at a specialty store and it is very expensive. And, you can’t buy beer and wine after 8 pm even at a convenience store. A hotel can’t sell you a bottle of alcohol and if they could, you’d laugh at the price. One shot is about $17 U.S. so multiply that times say 20 shots and your bottle of booze prices at $240! Okay, back to important matters. J
Showered and went shopping. Lucky me, this is a “special” day in Bergen and the shops stay open until midnight! As if I didn’t already spend enough during regular shopping hours. L I also walked down to where the OTHER Radisson Hotel is located and it’s 10 times better than this one. I didn’t realize it was right on the waterfront as well. The internet is very deceptive for its location. NEXT time, I’ll be staying there.
It rained off and on today – usually more “on” when I was walking outside from store to store. LOL. But, all in all, we were blessed with incredible weather.
I walked down to a Thai restaurant and got take away but it wasn’t very good. Ben emailed me that he was back and decided to have a McDonalds Big Mac to see if it tasted like the ones at home. Said it did but then he also gave me the price in Kroner and U.S. dollars as well as the price of the Radisson bus as compared to the train. LOL. I should have messed with him and taken his calculator away from him. Probably would have been impossible to do though because he probably slept with it. J
He said the train trip was easy and the first half of 7 hour trip, he had lots of empty space in his compartment. Then a huge group of Chinese got on and one guy was snapping photos out both sides of the train non-stop. He was supposed to have to get off the train near Oslo and take a bus into the city due to construction. Luckily, there was no construction and he took the train all the way in. He flies out EARLY tomorrow morning.
I’ve got a late checkout and will be departing to the Bergen airport at 2 pm. Looking forward to “working” again. It’s been a nice break and I couldn’t have asked for a better “touring partner” but now I’m ready to work and get home!