Archive for August 2013
After spending a couple of days in Oslo and then a day in Kirkenes , Norway, I boarded the Hurtigruten coastal cruiser “Midnatsol” for a week-long cruise south along the coast to Bergen.
Each day I walked down to the gift shop on deck 5 to look at the beautiful Dale of Norway sweaters. The heavy hand-knitted sweaters are iconic Norwegian. They're beautiful and they're expensive. The women’s sweaters, usually in the $200 to $350 range, can sell for as much as $600.
At the end of the cruise, when we docked in Bergen, I checked into my hotel and went for a walk through the neighborhood. Almost immediately I noticed a rack of beautiful vintage Norwegian sweaters through the window of the Fretex, or Salvation Army, thrift store which was exactly what I'd been hoping for. (When I traveled to Iceland I picked up my prized Icelandic sweater at the same kind place.) It was too late to shop but I was there when the store opened the next morning.
The sweaters were older versions of what I'd seen on the ship and in store windows down by the touristy section of town. The most expensive, a long red Dale of Norway sweater was priced at only $83. I was tempted and tried it on but it was too big. That’s how it goes when you’re thrift shopping. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.
I moved on to the books where I spent the next hour, my head tilted at an angle as I moved along reading titles. There were pre-war schoolbooks, beautifully illustrated art books and even Norwegian translations of American classics like Margaret Mitchell's “Gone with the Wind.”
I looked through the household items and was seriously tempted by a partial spice set with the names of the spices written in curling script on the front but let them stay. They were pretty to look at but not something I needed or would use.
I did leave Bergen with one vintage souvenir, though: a small hotel-silver coffee pot. I didn't recognize the hallmarks on the bottom but it is heavy and in great condition. Perfect for serving coffee or hot chocolate on the patio, or by the fireplace in cold weather.
I'm bringing home the usual assortment of standard souvenirs for my family but so far, with reindeer antlers, the vintage coffee pot and sea glass I picked up by a fjord, my own keepsakes from my trip to Norway are more unique and personal.
And that’s exactly why I’ll treasure them the most, of course.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at email@example.com
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of the hours I spent sitting sideways across my grandfather’s big reading chair, one padded chair arm at my back, the other under my knees, and a book under my nose.
We had an old set of My Book House books, a classic collection of stories edited by Olive Beaupre Miller. They may have been my mother’s when she was a child, but for as long as I can remember they were on the bookshelf by that chair and I read them all. I liked the old-fashioned Nursery Rhymes and I was intrigued by the myths, but my favorites were the Fairy Tales. As a young girl my head was filled with the elaborate illustrations of tall castles with moats and towers, dashing knights in armor and fierce horses draped in colorful blankets and bridles.
The day before I left for a recent trip to France, I dropped into The Vintage Rabbit. I’d been upstairs at the public radio studio to record audio essays for the upcoming weeks and although I was pushed for time, I couldn’t resist. I walked through quickly and was turning to go when I saw the distinctive green-to-blue “rainbow” covers of the books I’d loved as a child. The mixed-edition set was a bargain at only $28. Sold. I gathered the books, paid and left.
I knew what would happen if I opened one so I put the set on a shelf near my favorite reading spot and didn’t go near them again until I was packed and ready to catch my flight the next morning. Finally, worn out from all the work that goes into preparing for any trip, keyed up and a bit stressed, I sat down and looked over what I’d bought.
It was like going back in time. The stories and illustrations were so familiar to me I knew exactly where to find my favorites.
A few days later I was walking down the narrow, curving, cobblestoned streets of Carcassonne, the beautiful medieval fortress city in the south of France. As I climbed up to walk along the stone walls, I thought about the little girl who’d buried her nose in fairy tales. The lucky coincidence of finding the books again was particularly sweet.
Then, a week after my return from France, a friend and I drove down to the little town of Rockford to shop at Hurd Mercantile. One space was filled with vintage French items, including books. One 1907 book, ‘A Spring Fortnight in France’ was particularly intriguing. The cover was illustrated with an old photograph of the French countryside and it was about the travels of two young women who’d visited southern France more than 100 years before I’d set foot there. The chapter on Carcassonne had photos of the city as it had been at that time. Sold again. I brought it home and read most of it that night.
I traveled on a modern Air France jet. I carried an iPhone, a digital camera and a credit card, but my trip was even more memorable because as a child my imagination had been fired by the illustrations in a set of story books. Then, when I returned home, I was able to contrast my trip with the words of a woman writing for other women more than 100 years ago.
My own experience was bound with words and pictures from long ago.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.