We both held a glass of champagne with our names on tiny little stars hanging from the stems. We sat at a table with over a dozen other guests and an array of home cooked foods. The spread consisted of fresh Italian breads, olives, stuffed peppers, fresh tomatoes and a variety of meats, cheeses and pulled pork belly. Alcohol was offered generously and in all varieties. Once the appetisers were inhaled by the satisfied guests, the main course was self serve. We had three options; A mushroom and prosciutto risotto, rich red wine lasagne and a sweet potato shepherds pie. There was more alcohol consumed, discussions between guests, football watched and finally dessert. Fresh Norwegian strawberries, lemon or strawberry topped panna cotta and a variety of ice creams. We were in a newly built, modern style house owned by our couchsurfing host Gard. He was throwing his birthday party. Our fellow attendees were an international, mixed group of his friends. They were all extremely friendly to talk to just like Gard and his wife Nikki, who were kind enough to host us on short notice.Then came the live music. One of his friends was a music producer/composer and had just come from playing at a venue. He brought a keyboard and microphone inside and sang some songs while we sat at the table dumbfounded. We had been so fortunate to ask Gard to host us and we cannot thank him enough! The night, for the two of us, ended at 1am as our long days of traveling were beginning to catch up. Feeling grateful for all the amazing people who were entering our lives, sleep found us quickly.
The next day we woke at 8am to sunlight flooding our room. It had been an odd experience partying until late while the sky never quite darkened enough to truly be called night. We ventured upstairs to make breakfast where we found Nikki already cleaning up, joined moments later by Gard. While we sat down and ate together Gard ran through some options for the days activities. We had not expected him to be feeling energetic after such an eventful night let alone be feeling adventurous! He suggested a drive through town, seeing some street art, a walk up a hill overlooking the city, exploring an iron age nordic village followed by a short hike to a waterfall. We happily agreed and before long were leaving out the front door.
Stavanger holds a street art festival annually where various artists from around the world are given the opportunity to showcase their skills on buildings and house walls. Parking in the old harbour industry area which has now turned hip), we walked alongside renovated warehouses and historic weatherboards. Amazing pieces of street art were hidden around every corner and we took pictures as Gard explained some history of the town. From there we drove to a car park where we took a steep 200m path up to an observation building. The building provided us with views over the city and the surrounding land. Gard continued to fill us with information and we left to begin walking a couple kilometres to a small, Iron Age replica village. It allowed tourists and school groups to grasp what it would have been like to live back in the viking times. The sun had shone the entire day and before driving back to his house for lunch, we stopped at a bakery. It had a dozen large plastic boxes filled with an assortment of various pastries. Gard kindly offered to buy us some so we took a bag, sorting through the tasty options.
Once back at his house we ate together before leaving again for another activity. It was a 45 minute drive along a road sandwiched between two mountains with countless valleys and waterfalls. There were numerous interconnecting lakes and small houses with grassed roofs blending into the rolling green hills. Once at the carpark at the bottom of the hike, we took a steep rock track which had chain handrails to aid climbers with the upward scale. It was only a 15 minute trek however we climbed over 150m in elevation. Once at the top the waterfall was well worth it. Spilling from a funnelled canyon, was a huge barrel of water which free fell into a rock lagoon below. It had enormous power and we could feel the water vapour all the way from the top. We took photos for a couple of minutes before the weather threatened to rain. I had a quick dip in the river below before we rode back to Gard’s house.
On the way back, he introduced us to Norway’s beautiful beaches as he took the coastal road. Once again Gard generously offered to cook us dinner stating that we were his guests and he enjoyed cooking for people. We helped where we could and within minutes we had a cheese and pepper pasta that tasted unbelievable! The night was finished early and we all went to bed around 10pm. In the morning on his way to work, Gard drove us to the city centre and we thanked him for being such an incredible host. He was beyond kind to us and our experience in Stavanger was amazing because of him and his lovely wife, Nikki.
(Thank you Gard and Nikki for having us! You are incredibly kind people)