Happy 1 year Blogiversary! (the story of how it all began)

Today is the one year anniversary of ExploreLoveTravel.net!

I honestly never thought I’d ever reach this milestone, but here I am. Still telling stories, still sharing photos, still climbing up, falling down and getting back on my feet again. Then falling straight on my big fat butt once again, before getting back up and trying over and over again. Ah, the life of a blogger. Incredible, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for my muse and my “motivational coach”, my amazing boyfriend who always believed in me and always told me to follow my passion and never ever give up on my dreams. He told me I can be exactly the person I want to be, if only I believe in myself. Such a cliche, right?

But guess what, since one year ago (and for the first time in my life) that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. The road is as bumpy as they get, and boy have I been facing my fair share of obstacles. Nobody ever said it was gonna be easy, did they?

Well, when life gives you lemons, make the most freakin’ brilliant lemonade anyone have ever tasted. Or spice it up with a little rum, and call it a margarita…Because, after all those bumpy rides and obstacles, mama needs her drink!

Thanks to my male muse, I am currently working on my first novel (written in my native language; Norwegian) and I’ve started treating this blog like a business and not just some random online diary.

Still, my blog and I both have a lot of growing up to do in this crazy world of social media marketing and the endless sea of travel blogs, and I hope I’ll one day get to be where I want to be. Fingers crossed.

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And where exactly is that?

Well. Ever since I was a little girl, my dream has always been to become a writer. A writer of short stories, travel novels, memoirs, fiction, poetry, articles.

Writing has always been my therapeutic outlet for my social anxiety and all the darkest moments I’ve had to go through in my life. When I was bullied as a child and when my parents got divorced, I wrote poetry and short stories to cope with the sadness and loneliness I was going through. Just like I did when my father passed away. And all the times I’ve had my heart broken. And all the times I’ve moved from city to city, country to country, to start a new life – a better one – somewhere else, hoping that the grass would be greener on the other side.

I always dreamed it would be.

I dreamed of big city lights and endless possibilities. Those dreams brought me to the capital city, but that was still not enough. I dreamed bigger, and somehow ended up in England. As I continued searching for my purpose, still not satisfied with the path I had taken, I returned to Norway and took a break from it all. I had given up on the idea of becoming the person I wanted to be. I had given up on me.

That is, until the day I got back on the horse again, ready for battle. This is when I decided to chase the American dream, many years after running back to Norway, defeated and disappointed.

In the land of the brave, I landed a job at the happiest place on earth (Disney World, duh), where I spent most of my free time traveling from state to state – and this is when I started getting closer to realizing what I should have known all along.

I am, and always have been, destined to become a storyteller. Well, at least I feel that way.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that I’m no freaking Hemingway. Nor will I ever be as good as Bill Bryson. Nor will I ever win the Pulitzer Prize. Now that’s certain!

But there is room for everyone, even writers like me. Writers who laugh at their own shortcomings and find inspiration in embarrassing moments and awkward scenarios. Yes, that’s me. The girl who laughs at her own jokes and doesn’t have a lot of friends because most people think she’s just weird.

 

In the world of blogging, I’ve found my audience. People who enjoy my style of writing and my sense of humor. People who search for imperfection in a world full of glitz and glamour and pretentiousness.

My novel, as well as future e-books, are/will be written for these people. For the travelers who can’t navigate without getting lost. And those who can’t eat without spilling sauce all over that new, white tee.  And the ones who can’t hike on a rainy day without tripping and falling into the mud at some point. Those who accidentally fart loudly in front of their crush, thinking it would go unnoticed. Those who realize they just told the most inappropriate joke ever and wasted every opportunity they had to become friends with the cool crowd. Those who can’t even form a sentence without messing it up. Or buy train tickets. Or even hold their liquor.

You are my crowd. I write for you.

Ever since the day I created my WordPress account, while on a trip to Sweden with my mother, I knew I had made a life-changing decision. I hadn’t quite figured out my blog’s identity yet, but I knew I was on the right track. I knew how much I wanted to dedicate all my time to travel blogging. I knew how much I wanted to become a writer. I had no idea how hard it would be, but I wanted it. Now more than ever.

In the world of blogging, one year means your blog is still just a baby. But even as a baby, my blog has blessed me with freebies, a couple of paid articles and some sponsorships and affiliate links. Those are the extra compliments I need, in order to stay focused and motivated.

So guess what, I’ll keep that smile on my face and wish my blog a happy happy birthday. May there be many more!

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Paris Outskirts: Oise (thrill rides and castles)

Paris is beautiful. No doubt about it. Beautiful parks, amazing Haussmanian architecture, famous monuments, delicious food, fashionable people. But do you know any thing at all about the banlieues (suburbs) and the districts close to Paris?

Paris. We’ve all seen the thousands of photos shared on social media. We all know what the Eiffel tower looks like. And the Louvre too. And most of us Francophiles have heard the song “Champs-Élysées” and have either been – or want to go – shopping on this famous boulevard. “Now I feel like a real Parisian,” I heard one tourist say out loud as she let her friend hold her fancy shoppingbag from Ladurée – containing overpriced macarons- while she was trying on a beret from a souvenir stand. She was probably the kind of tourist who came to Paris determined to visit the same sites, do the same things, and share almost identical photos with others who had been there and done that before her. Or maybe she wasn’t like that at all. Maybe she just didn’t know any better. Maybe she even wanted to befriend locals and get to know the REAL Paris. Maybe even….the towns and villages close to Paris? Certain Parisians would probably burst out laughing and tell you you’re wasting your time exploring the suburbs, when everything you need is right there, in the centre of Paris. Others would encourage you to see absolutely everything and maybe even offer to come with you. Me, I am a curious soul, interested in seeing every corner of France – and not just the ones mentioned in glossy magazines. 

Before I moved to Paris, I was completely unaware of all the amazing places located only a stone’s throw away from the big city. Parks as beautiful as the ones in Paris, enchanting castles, charming little villages, lovely cafes and restaurants. It’s enough to make you wanna book a flight to Paris – without even visiting Paris.

I will write about each department individually, as this post would seem never-ending, otherwise. You see, the outskirts of Paris have quite a lot to offer!

First, I’ll take you a bit further than just a stone’s throw away, but still not too far to qualify for a spot in this series:

Oise

Parc Asterix

Oise (named after the river Oise) is a department 84 km north of Paris. The biggest tourist attraction of the department is also one of the most visited annually by locals; Parc Asterix – a theme park based on the stories of Asterix (a series of French comics). The park has a large variety of roller coasters as well as many other attractions and shows.

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Beauvais

If you’re flying to Paris with Ryan Air, you’ll be arriving in Beauvais, which serves as the capital of the Oise department. I have never been to Beauvais myself, but I’d love to visit the city’s spectacular gothic cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Beauvais)  and photograph the facade of the Museum of the Oise Department, which is a museum in the former bishop’s palace and is classified as a historical monument. And why not visit one of the expositions at the museum while you’re there?

Senlis

Medieval town Senlis is another destination you should add to your list. Visit the impressive, Gothic cathedral – a national monument of France. The ruins of the Royal Castle is also worth seeing. The actual castle dates back from the 1200’s. Once you’ve visited the cathedral and the castle ruins, sit down and relax with a glass of red or white in one of the local restaurants.

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Château de Pierrefonds

Another must-see is the Château de Pierrefonds, a beautiful medieval castle built between the late 1300’s-early 1400’s. I visited the castle last year, and coincidentally  got there in time for the local medieval festival. I bought myself some souvenirs and farmers produce from the festival market and enjoyed a tasty crêpe to-go!

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Château de Chantilly

Last but not least, Château de Chantilly, a historical castle located in the town of Chantilly. The chateau houses the Musée Condé, which is one of the finest art galleries in France and is open to the public.The park is a French formal garden, which is the same style of garden as the ones of Versailles. While visiting the beautiful garden, we saw happy newlyweds posing for photos, using the gorgeous nature as a backdrop for their wedding photographs. The estate overlooks the Chantilly Racecourse (Hippodrome de Chantilly) , and the Great Stables. Make sure you check out the equestrian shows and demonstrations while you’re there. It’s great fun to watch!

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Château de Montvillargenne

Would you and your significant other like a romantic celebration at a 4-star spa hotel? Then check out Château de Montvillargenne. My partner and I celebrated our one year anniversary at this luxurious chateau. They have an indoor swimming pool, sauna, Turkish bath and they offer a variety of spa treatments – including a duo massage for couples (we tried it, we loved it!). The rooms are neat, the interior is modern and the restaurant serves fine gourmet cuisine. If you’re already in the neighborhood and if you have the budget for it – why not spoil yourself a little?

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Château d’Ermenonville

Set in a medieval chateau, this sophisticated hotel château d’Ermenonville is located in a calm environment – in the heart of the Ermenonville forest, overlooking the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Park. The restaurant has a good reputation and I’d love to dine there someday soon. Just waiting for yet another special occasion.

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And you, will I see you in the department of Oise?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Visit my Hometown, Stavanger (Norway)

As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to grow up and move away from my hometown. A boring, old-fashioned city with bad climate. How anyone could possibly fall in love with that place, was beyond me. But times have changed. Now I fall in love with my hometown again and again, every time I come back to visit. Let me introduce you to Stavanger, a charming little gem in the southwest of Norway.

The city is primarily known as the Norwegian oil capital, which has shaped the identity of the city in many ways. For example, one of the main tourist attractions in the city is the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, the local hockeyteam is called “Stavanger Oilers” and the city’s nickname is “Oljebyen” which means “Oil city”.

But there’s more to Stavanger than that. The region is blessed with spectacular nature. Visit the beautiful Norwegian fjords, Kiragg mountain and the pulpit rock. And when you’re done hiking or finished your tour with the Lysefjord sightseeing cruise, there’s plenty of cozy coffee shops where you can go to relax with a good cup of coffee in Stavanger city. Norwegians love their coffee, and they take their coffee-culture very seriously. Don’t forget to order one of the local pastries like kanelbolle (cinnamon roll), skolebolle/skolebrød (bun with egg cream) or solskinnsbolle (cinnamon roll with egg cream) to go with your beverage – to get the true Scandinavian coffee-break experience. 

Take a stroll along the picturesque Old Town, where all the houses are itty bitty and painted white. Visit the little galleries and charming boutiques and imagine you’re back in the early 1900s. Here you’ll also find the Norwegian Canning Museum, which displays a typical factory from the 1920s.

And for a completely modern approach, visit Øvre Holmegate, more familiarly known as “Fargegata” (Colorstreet). This colorful neighborhood is home to some of the most chic bars, cafes and boutiques in the city and is a joy to visit. It’s a good spot to take some cool Instagram snapshots too!

Dining in Stavanger can be expensive, but totally worth it – as long as you select your restaurant wisely. My personal favorite is the Renaa restaurants, Re-naa; a gourmet restaurant which has been recognized for its excellence and awarded with a Michelin-star, and Renaa: Matbaren, which is the cheaper option – but with the same, high quality and a relaxing atmosphere. Another favorite is Døgnvill – Bar & Burger, for when I want a delicious gourmet burger accompanied by a tasty milkshake.

Should you check out the nightlife in Stavanger? If you want an awesome night out, yes! Believe it or not – and this is coming from someone who has lived in Oslo (the capital) too – I’m not the first person to say that Stavanger has better bars and clubs than many other Norwegian cities. And most of them are centered around the port! Check out Checkpoint Charlie , Gnu , Chevy’s and Folken if you wanna hit up the indie/rock/metal scene. If you’d rather dance the night away to the beats of the latest house/pop music, check out Alf&Werner , Hall Toll or Hexagon. If you prefer dancing to a more underground style of electronica and indie music, check out Cementen. If you just wanna hang out and drink craft beers in a more relaxed and mature atmosphere, Cardinal is the place for you. Or Circus , if you want a beer bar with a younger vibe.

The best time to visit Stavanger is between May and September. Every year in late July, there’s the annual food festival Gladmat (which is great fun if you’re a foodie) and the Tattoo Convention (for the alternative crowd). Next year – in May – there will be a wine festival too!

So what are you waiting for?

Visit my hometown in Norway. Visit Stavanger!

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