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A Woman Abroad // Oslo

By Kelsey.

It’s not that cold in St. Louis, Missouri. Not yet anyway. I don’t mind the cold, I find it invigorating. And I am fully aware I may be one of the few that do. I love walking out of the house in the morning and seeing my breath escape and disappear into the frost. But like I said, St. Louis isn’t quite there yet and typically a St. Louis winter is missing a key ingredient, snow.

Just before my 24th birthday I asked a few friends to suggest a weekend get-away. A couple cities sparked my interest but after Googling “Oslo” and discovering the 2012 World Snowboarding Championships were the weekend of my birthday I was smitten. And there was going to be snow everywhere.

I booked a flight from Dublin on RyanAir for 45 USD round trip. The bus I took from Cork to Dublin was the same price. I wasn’t prepared for a Norwegian Winter, I didn’t even have a pair of boots but lucky for me I was living in a hostel and there’s a plethora of left-behinds in the lost and found. What I couldn’t find in the boxes I borrowed from fellow travelers. My coat and snow-pants were far too big and made for the other gender and with a baggage allowance of one small carry on, I was bound to wear the heaviest items for the duration of my travel.


Planning was easy until I learned that Oslo is the most expensive city in the World. Hostels were at the very cheapest 50 USD a night and I feared the trip was going to break my bank. Then I had an epiphany; Couchsurfing!


I stayed with a host just outside of the city centre in a quiet neighborhood. I even had my own room and on my second night’s stay we made tacos, my favorite.


I wrapped myself up and spent the first day walking the city. The centre is relatively small so it’s easy to navigate. Public transportation is simple and always, always on time. I ventured to the Nobel Peace Center and what should I find across the street but a group of guys skating on the steps Oslo City Hall.



Frogner Park is as stunning as it is enchanting. Under a blanket of snow the bold and beautiful statues burst out of the white.


I spent a majority of the afternoon strolling along the Akerselva River, it cuts right through the heart of the city. It was a frigid walk and I had to remind myself to trust my feet and look up and around me to bring it all in. Not only are there cafes and shops along the river but places to stop and feed ducks or spot a hermaphrodite with devilish eyes carved right out of a tree.


This trip though was all about the half pipe. I made the trek up to Oslo Vinterpark, rented a board for the day and rode down to the training area. I can’t read a word of Norwegian but lucky for me it was a small mountain and only a handful of trails down.


I made camp at the base of the Half Pipe and spent hours watching boys and girls hurl themselves into flips and turns and grabs I couldn’t even do on a trampoline.


As it was the first days of training and the official competition was three days away, all the athletes were as smiley as they were chatty. Every rider ended their run into a mess of high fives and back-pats, it truly was the friendliest competitive atmosphere I’d ever witnessed.


I ended the day with a few more runs and a giant coffee that cost me the price of a pound of coffee back home in the States. From the city centre to the top of Vinterpark, I was never less than mesmerized by Oslo.



A Woman Abroad // Ireland

By Kelsey.

Eire’ll be back.

A small island with a big heart and boy do they know it. I’ve never met more consciously humble individuals in one place. I spent four months in Ireland during what I am told is the worst time of year; Winter. Days were short and the rain rarely ceased. It was cold, perpetually damp and windy. Sunshine was revered and rejoiced by you guessed it, a pint. I spent most of my days in Cork, the second largest city in Ireland, located in the Southeast corner of the island.

Cork is busy, it’s bustling with college students and the local airport and train station make it a hot spot for Stag and Hen Dos (the Euro version of Bachelor/Bachelorette parties). Cork likes to party. And so do I but I often found myself searching for the quiet, remote Ireland I was certain existed.

So I did. My favorite thing about Cork was the ability to take a short bus ride and see an entirely different landscape. The first trek I made was to Ballycotton, a small fishing village right on the coast. It was a miserable day. I hiked 8km on slippery and jagged cliffs, through farmland and down the one road that takes you to the center of Ballycotton; where I ate at the one cafe and had a Beamish at one of two pubs. The bartender, a gruff older man inquired as to why I came to Ballycotton. I said, “A friend told me it was beautiful so I thought I’d see it for myself.”

His reply “Aye, rocks an’ water.”

The esteemed Blarney Castle is close by too. I went on an off day in mid-January and the place was so empty I walked right past the Blarney Stone. It wasn’t until one of the men sitting at the top of the castle (who was jamming out to Beyonce) asked if I wanted to kiss it.

“Excuse me?”

“Teh Blarney, love. Wouldjah lie ter give it ah kiss?”

It wasn’t until May that I made my way to the West coast. Starting in Dublin, Rachel and I looped South and eventually crossed over and in to Northern Ireland. My favorite thing about Dublin? Howth, another small harbor village. It’s serene. It’s cute. And most importantly, it’s quiet. After even just one night in Dublin it’s easy to understand why anyone would like a day out of the city. The music pumps and the pints flow until the wee hours of the next day.

The West Coast’s gem is the Ring of Kerry. It’s overrun with tourist busses these days which make the narrow and windy roads just that much more intimidating but the views are worth every pinched turn.

Continuing North to Galway, you can catch a morning ferry to the largest Aran Island where you will find thatch roofs, stone walls, stone walls and more stone walls.

I even spotted a furry friend on the bike ride.

Then en route to the (far) North we stopped off at the Cliffs of Moher, a towering monstrosity of cliffs that are safest to look over if you lay flat on your belly. It was there I crossed paths with this man who thought it better to jig a bit every few steps along the safer, fenced in parts just outside of the tourist office.

I didn’t know that I had crossed over until I saw petrol prices labeled in British Pounds. It was much too quick of jaunt up, we stopped off at Giant’s Causeway, where once again the Irish have a secret with only folklore to explain it.

The decision was made to spend the night in Bushmills so we could take the “Other” Whiskey Tour and as luck would have it we wound up having pints with Kenny, the Master Distiller. It wasn’t until the following morning we realized we were in the company of Whiskey Royalty. We had missed the tour the night before and decided to wake early for the 11am. Our lovely guide took us into the belly of the whale when a smiling face looked up at us and waved. “Aye! Gurls! I seeyas got ‘ome alrigh.”

Ireland is what you make of it. For too many it’s just a weekend of binging in search of “heritage.” But as I always will, I implore you to look deeper, sit longer and discover what you will.


A Woman Abroad // Get Lost

By Kelsey.

Advice that’s not asked for can come across as a lecture. So when it comes to traveling or as I like to call it “going and doing” I’d like to offer some travel suggestions.

First and foremost never, ever, under any circumstances walk on a slippery surface with your hands in your pockets. Because when you slip and fall you’ll need your hands at the ready.


Prague, Czech Republic where I decided to climb a snow embankment to “get that shot” and fell flat on my face.

Also, Get lost all the time.

I am embarrassed by maps and to add to that I refuse to drop the dime to pick up a fancy international GPS device. Plus every moment I spend trying to find north on Google Maps in correspondence with my current position is a moment I’m not taking in my surroundings. Allowing yourself to get lost though does debunk the childhood motto; Never talk to strangers. Your all grown up now and you’re lost. It’s okay. Breathe in and ask for directions.


Ljublana, Slovenia where I got lost and found a squatters “village” and the most fascinating street art work I have ever seen. This place would inspire Banksy.


Plus not only are you taking an advantage of a locals know-how, it’s a conversation starter. Sure it pegs you as a tourist but that’s what you are.  Deal with it. I own a fanny pack and by now you are aware of how many pictures I take. I suppose what I am getting at is this; Traveling is about contradictions. It’s about being certain and comfortable in your ways and actions only to discover “fanny” means something entirely different in British/Irish slang.


Dublin, Ireland where a local suggested St. Stephen’s Green and the girls and I stumbled on and indulged in a photo session with quite a strange chair.

The best part of getting lost as a solo traveler is knowing it isn’t anyone’s responsibility but your own. If you walk a mile in the wrong direction, there’s nobody to nag and say I told you so!


Healy, Alaska where I walked a few miles and wound up at the beginning of the Stampede Trail, where Alexander Supertramp began his trek into the Wild. (Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer)

Ask for directions.

All this being said, my getting lost has always been in a city which means there are people around. As for the wild, I would not endorse asking a bear which direction is North. Remember the sun rises in the East and sets in the West so if all all else fails and you find yourself alone just look up. And if you’re lost at night, you’re on your own on that one. I’ve never been one for astrology with the exception that I sure do know those stars and moon are pretty.


Istanbul, Turkey.


A Woman Abroad // Croatia

By Kelsey.

My decision to venture to Croatia was based on two things; 1. It was recommended by several friends and 2. Beaches. So in late April of this year I packed my swimsuit and fleece (just in case) and headed from Budapest, Hungary (that’s another story!) to Zagreb by way of train and just after 7 hours landed in the country’s capital city.

I’ve found the “man-on-a-horse-statue to be quite the staple in major European cities.

I spent just one night because Plitvice National Park was heavy on my mind and I was beyond anxious to see it with my very own eyes and inevitably through a camera lens.

The day began a bit dreary but by mid-afternoon it was nothing but sunny skies and puffy bright clouds.


Plitvice National Park is home to an abundance of creepers and crawlers, mammals, birds, fish and so far over 1,267 different plants have been counted.


If you are afraid of heights or weary around rushing water, this is not the adventure for you. The trail predominately consists of wooden boards that take you inches from the water at times. A steady foot is necessary and if you make the trek during the summer months, good balance will come in handy too, the trails are thin and well, wooden slats aren’t the most even surface to trudge on.

Busses run from Plitvice to Split, one of the larger cities along the Dalmation Coast. It is a busy city as it acts as a port to many of the Croatian Islands. Arriving in a torrential and chilly down pour, hopes of the beach (in a traditional sense) were washed away but I came for the beach and I was getting in.

The statue of Grgur Ninski “Gregory of Nin” (a 10th-century bishop who introduced the Croatian language into religious services) towers just outside the cities wall and it is said rubbing his foot brings good luck, I was hoping to swap sun for luck and low and behold it worked though I should have had the forethought to request warmth as well.

The stunning white walls of the Old Town of Split, as well as the Diocletian’s Palace are a product of Brač stone, which was imported to the US and used in our fair country’s Presidential Palace otherwise known as The White House.

It is just a short ferry ride (roughly 2 ½ hours) to the most outer lying Croatian island,  Vis. The island was under Yugoslavian rule until 1991 and so it is one of the lesser developed and quieter islands.

For those seeking solidarity, Vis is the place for you.

 On the opposite side of the island, a long and windy 30-minute motorbike ride rests the harbor village of Komiza.

To continue down the coast it took a return trip to Split and a bus ride that passes briefly through (and to my pleasure) the portion of the Dalmatian Coast that belongs to Bosnia-Herzegovina. So after the pit-stop was the last stop, the Fortress of Dubrovnik.

By far the most touristy city in Croatia, even in the off-season, Dubrovnik was a hustle and bustle of busy. The Old City sits within the fortress walls and though it is a mess of tourist traps and shopping centers a dart down an alley will lead you to the homes of the locals.

It’s easy to disappear and find amusement in the souvenir shops and main roads of not only Dubrovnik but most big cities travels take you to. Remember though, that what you see is what you get and remember that this place is not only someone’s home but history too and that is not to be overlooked.


New York, Part III

While in New York we managed to avoid most tourist attractions. It was not an intention, it just sort of worked out that way. With a ‘tour guide’/host living in the city, it was easy to skip the things like the Statue of Liberty to enjoy the neighborhood hangouts. Sometimes, however, I like to force the people I visit to be a tourist in their own city. A day in Central Park, a long stroll through Manhattan, a walk along the High Line and sunset views of the city skyline from a pier in Williamsburg provided just that for Chris (and myself, Sarah, and Shannon).

New York was good to me for three days. Would I move there? Not anytime soon. I think maybe the West Coast is is the next destination…

What’s your favorite city to visit in the Continental US?


A Woman Abroad // London

I am stoked to welcome my friend Kelsey to City in a Jar as a contributing writer. To find out more about her and the column, A Woman Abroad, see here.

by Kelsey.

London. The Olympics. Etc.

Should you find yourself to be one of the lucky thousands in London during the Olympics this summer there’s a good chance you’ll need a break for the sporting life. Serenity will be sparse so pack your day bag and hit the town.

Travel tip #238 – Expect to get lost; wondering is wandering.

Go see a comedy show. London is comedy mecca and comedians are often friendly and like to talk so you’ll have the inside scoop before you even knew what you wanted to order.

Jester Jesters at the Plum Tree.

Look closer. When you’re not avoiding running into the passer-bys. Camden Market has all the tourist goodies and even a few gems.

The main attractions are worth the look but keep on walking.

In Decemember 2010 I had a checklist with a lot of boxes unchecked so I set out to see what I hadn’t. Then all of a sudden a few hundred Santa’s showed up and Trafalgar Square turned into a sea of red and weird. It was one of the highlights of my entire 5 months in London-Town. I doubt there’ll be a Santacon during the Olympics but it just proves you never know quite what you’ll run into.

Another market, yes but unlike the others. Borough is about food and lots of it. Have lunch or buy your groceries.

On Sunday mornings a corner of Hyde Park turns into a soapbox. Speak your mind if you feel so inclined or stroll around and listen to the prophecies of the impractical, the religious, the bored and the strange. This event is a people-watchers dream come true.

Take an inner-city hike. At the edge of Regent’s Park towers Primrose Hill, the highest point in London. If the sky is clear you can see the whole skyline and it won’t set you back the $30 the London Eye will.

London is a city you can take at surface level and thoroughly enjoy but I encourage you to get lost in it.