Norwegian Fashion

Back in the United States I was never a huge shopper.  I loved clothes, but I could never seem to find what I liked.  The whole process of going through store after store with no results was incredibly frustrating.  This combined with my natural tendency to be extremely indecisive protected me from becoming a spendthrift.

Coming to Norway and seeing the fashion and shopping selection here was overwhelming.  I was in heaven.  Finally!  I could find jeans that actually fit.  The United States doesn´t really cater to the tall and skinny type.  And not everything was bright, neon, and tacky.  At first, I held back and would only get items that were on sale…but after a little while I was lured in and couldn´t resist taking advantage of the excellent shopping selection while I had it.  Apparently I have even accrued a reputation for shopping.  I was voted by my class as “Most Likely To Spend All Their Money On Shopping.”  Great.

Out of all the places that I have shopped, Norwegian fashion is my favorite!  This brings me to this post’s original topic: Norwegian fashion.

Seeing what Norwegian fashion is like has been one of my favorite parts of my stay in Norway.  Most girls wear tight jeans and loose tops.  Scarves and converse shoes are fashion staples.  Within Norwegian fashion, there are several subcategories of distinct styles.  Most people wear lots of neutrals, but some use lots of color.  The third style is more difficult to describe…for lack of a better description I would say it is “grungy”.  It is definitely a harder style to pull off, but somehow people make grungy look good!  Europeans and Norwegians in general seem to care a lot more about how they look than Americans.  Here at ACN, people are very relaxed about fashion, but I’m told that in high school everyone dresses up on a daily basis.  Very different from the sweatpants and Ugg boots that I was used to seeing in high school.

Millie’s fashion is the definition of feminine.  When I first met her I was reminded of Reese Witherspoon’s fashion in Legally Blonde.  Like Reese, Millie’s motto could be “Think Pink”.  Her fashion really stood out to me because most Norwegians shy away from bright colors, but color was Millie´s main fashion trademark.

Ida has a much more classic sense of fashion.  Her clothes are very versatile and she can really mix and match how she pairs her accessories.  Even where she wears her outfits are flexible.  She somehow manages to put together outfits that are just as fitting for a business meeting or a party.

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It’s strange how what the people around you wear can have such a huge effect on what your own fashion sense is like.  I find myself liking clothing items that I wouldn’t have liked back in the U.S. now.  I wonder if when I move back to North Dakota my clothing taste will revert or stay the same.


Day by Day

Day by day schedule:

  • 22nd: Got to Paris.  Found our hostel.  Went to bed.
  • 23rd:  This day we were feeling ambitious.  Too ambitious.  We hiked all the way to the Louvre (about a two hour walk from our hostel), along the way we checked out a mall, rested our legs in a peaceful chapel called Église de la Madeleine, and then we walked on further to see the Arc de Triomphe.  I didn’t realize this when I was there but apparently you can walk up inside of the Arc de Triomphe.  Oh well, I suppose that is for my next visit to Paris!
  • 24th: We finally got smart – or maybe we were just being lazy – and bought a metro pass.  With a metro pass, we covered a lot more ground.  We spent six hours in the Louvre marveling at the gorgeous sculptures and fantastic paintings.  You’d think staring at art all day wouldn’t be too physically draining, but by the end of the day I was ready for bed!  We were drawn to the Eiffel Tower all lit up in the distance though, so we wandered there and hiked all the way up (we took the stairs instead of the elevator).  What a beautiful sight!  I looked over to my right and caught a very different sight of my roommate spitting over the edge of the Eiffel.  Well, to each his own!  We also ran into some Italians and for the first time I saw an Italian do the stereotypical fingertips kiss complete with an exclamation of “perfecto!”  I also got my cheek pinched with a “Ciao, bella!”  I couldn’t help but miss Rome.

One of the many galleries in the Louvre. The lighting and art displays were all very thought out to give the art the right effect.

After dark, every hour on the dot the Eiffel Tower “sparkles” for ten minutes.

  • 25th: Ahhh… the Palace of Versailles (in a suburb of Paris).  This was by far the best moment of France and arguably the best moment of my study abroad experience to date.  Wandering through the gardens at sunset listening to Bon Iver­ = perfect.

The palace was beautiful but the gardens were better!

  • 26th: We were all over Paris on this day.  First stop on the metro was Porte de Vanves where we found the antique market.  Next, we stopped at Porte de Clignancourt where we found outdoor markets for everything, ranging from gorgeous vintage dresses to Hollister sweatshirts.  Lastly, we got off at Saint-Michel and saw the Notre Dame as well as some of Paris’ nightlife.  We ended up in a cozy brasserie eating a gourmet meal.  Unlike Rome where there were only two lines on the metro, Paris has too many to count!  It took us a little while to get the hang of it. 

Night certainly brings a whole different feel to cities.

  • 27th: After ten amazing days in the two most romantic cities of Europe, we headed home.

“The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Now, I certainly am not the best American, but Fitzgerald understood that anyone who knows Paris knows art, love, and culture.  I can’t take credit for that either.  To truly know Paris would take considerably longer than the five days that I spent there.  However, I do feel like the small glimpse that I got was enlightening.  This is hard to believe considering how I was feeling when my journey started.

Flying to Paris was a bittersweet moment.  I couldn’t help but linger on everything that I had experienced in Rome.  I wanted to savor every moment in that beautiful city.  Paris was a rude interruption to my musings.  Just as when my roommate and I had first arrived in Rome and instantly missed Norway, when we arrived in Paris we instantly missed Rome!  I literally had to force myself to focus on Paris.  I didn’t want to regret my time there because my thoughts were stuck in another place.  Travel is all about living in the moment!

The directions that we had printed out that directed us from the airport to our hostel were incredibly helpful and specific up to the point where we got off the metro.  From there it just said, “The hostel is just a five minute walk from here.”  Great.  Five minute walk in what direction???  So we picked a random direction and started walking.  Not the most strategic or savvy of our plans, but good ole guess and checking never fails.  As we walked along we started to notice a shift in the types of stores we were seeing.  We went from seeing “Bip Burger” and a supermarket to the blinking neon lights of “Porno Shop” and “Erotic Museum”.  In fact, there wasn’t a single appropriate store.  No one tells you that Moulin Rouge, the famous cabaret club, is right smack dab in the middle of a pretty sketchy area.  The types of people we were seeing were different, too.  On the benches we passed by were men holding the necks of half empty bottles of alcohol.  Needless to say, we reversed, picked up our pace, and tried to look tough.  It was not the best first impression of Paris! 

Moulin Rouge. There’s a Starbucks right across the street.

Seeing Paris in the morning light gave me a completely different vibe.  The Paris I had seen the night before seemed like a bad dream once I saw Paris come alive in the morning.  What a different feeling from Rome though!  The buildings have more wirework and more neon lights.  At first I thought the neon lights cheapened the look of the city.  I was still infatuated with Rome’s nostalgic appeal.  Going to Rome was like stepping in a time machine.  Paris seemed much too modern.  It felt…rushed.  Everyone walks with a purposeful stride. 

The French are taller than the Italians and have more delicate yet sharper features.  Everything about them seems exacting and new.  Moving moving moving.  Never stopping to sit and appreciate the moment.  Much different from the relaxed feel of Rome.  In Rome, many store owners would stand in the doorways of their shops and have a cigarette as they waited for customers.  In Paris, it is rare to see someone pause long enough to even smoke a cigarette.  They smoke while walking or driving to their next destination.  I even saw a biking smoker.  They are definitely multi-taskers! 

However, the French aren’t too preoccupied with their busy schedules to give up common courtesy.  Despite all the rumors that I’ve heard about the rude French I found just the opposite!  One woman saw us with our map and confused looks on our faces and stopped to help us find our way.  Another day, I needed help finding an ATM and every person I talked to was extremely accommodating.  Although the Italians are considerably louder than the French, the French are definitely more talkative to strangers.  Many times we had someone come up to us and say something and we had to say, “Je ne parle pas français!”  (just now when I checked the spelling on Google translate I realized we were pronouncing it all wrong…may explain some of the reactions we got :S).  The French don’t speak very good English though, so instead of switching to English like the Italians did, often the conversation just ends.  Or my personal favorite was when they just kept on speaking French even though I clearly did not understand a word they were saying.  They definitely have a certain pride about their language.  EVERYTHING is in French!!!  You name it.  Even the most touristy areas.  The captions under the art in the Louvre.  The historical information in the rooms of the Palace of Versailles.  The metro.  Everything.

Another thing that sets the French apart is their sense of humor.  Or maybe it’s just that I looked like a particularly gullible person.  Twice, I had a French person look at me with a completely serious face and lie to me just to see my reaction.  A woman who worked at the hostel told me that the Wi-Fi cost extra and as I told her we wouldn’t be wanting any after all she burst out laughing for a good five minutes.  It was free; she was just messing with me.  Another time my roommate bought food at a concession stand and when I ordered the same thing seconds after the worker announced with a solemn face that they were closed.  My face must have been pretty alarmed at the idea of not getting my baked potato because he wasn’t able to keep a straight face for very long!

As I’m sure you’ve noticed food is very near and dear to my heart.  It is the one area that I am quite adventurous in.  French food was delicious!  I am really going to miss European bread when I go back to the United States.  The French eat perfectly crispy baguettes with every meal and they are wonderfully cheap!  They also have many outdoor fresh produce markets and instead of bistros like in Italy, they have restaurants called brasseries everywhere you turn (don’t confuse this with the French word “brassiere”…very different meaning!)  On our last day in Paris, my roommate and I split a 16 euro (over 20 bucks) gourmet meal in a brasserie.  The first course was escargot in a garlic butter sauce.  It came with these strange clamp and prong contraptions.  We ended up using our fingers and probably disgracing ourselves…  Once I managed to forget I was eating snail it was delicious!  Second course was a salmon fillet with a warm lemony dill sauce and for dessert we had the best crème brûlée I have ever tasted!!!

A platter of escargot with some delicious French baguetes.

 But Paris isn’t known so much for its food as it is for its fashion.  Shopping was definitely something that I was looking forward to!  Shopping in a mall in Paris has a different feel than shopping in a mall in the U.S.  The stores (I’d say they are the equivalent of American Eagle or Pacsun in the U.S.-nothing like Gucci or Chanel) have guards in nice suits by the doors.  Talk about initiative not to steal!  I saw two women have to open their purses and let the guards search through them.  The prices weren’t all that affordable either…I went to several thrift shops as well but didn’t have much luck.  It is hard enough to find something good in a thrift store in the U.S. where I am familiar with all the good brands!  I ended up buying things at the outdoor markets.The outdoor markets were…an interesting experience.  We went to two types of markets.  The first one was strictly an antique market.  I tried buying a little box, but I think the man selling them was offset by the fact that I didn’t speak French.  I asked him if he spoke English in French and he just shook his head disgustedly and walked away.  This was the only time I encountered a rude Frenchman though.  Needless to say, my endeavor ended with me sheepishly walking away from the market with empty hands.  I also saw another American there (he was an antiques dealer) and learned a little bit about the whole haggling method.  He let the seller know that he knew his antiques and lowered his voice a bit and the price dropped too!  Unfortunately my attempts at haggling were less fruitful.

Here is one of the stands at the antique market.  I think this picture captures the essence of Paris so well.  Fashionable, romantic, and the perfect blend of vintage and modern.

The second market we went to had a little bit of everything.  There were shoes, coats, jewelry, vintage dresses, antique furniture, and handmade leather bags.  I bought two things for 10 euro each which is as cheap of a price as you can get.  It was odd because they had some American brands like Hollister selling for ridiculously high prices and other American brands like Adidas, the North Face, and Nike selling for a little cheaper than in the U.S.  The culture of this part of Paris was very distinct.  Most of the population was black.  We felt even more out of place than we already did!  Everyone seemed to think we were Spanish and would greet us with “Comó estás?”  They must have a lot of Spanish visitors.  I also got asked if I was Lebanese.  Overall it was a day filled with surprises! 

The Palace of Versailles.  Words cannot express how amazing this was!!!  As I strolled through room after room of lush extravagance they began to blur together.  Trying to imagine Marie Antoinette or King Louis XVI themselves wandering through the hallways is mind boggling.  The best part was the garden.  Huge expanses of green with sculpted bushes and trees and fountains and statues galore.  It’s hard not to be swept up in the moment and get lost in it all.  In fact, I lost my roommate at one point.  Neither of us have cell phones and we had no preconceived plan of a meeting place.  Even this wasn’t enough to shake us out of our rapture; we both just sauntered off in our own directions and eventually wound back up in the same place (pure luck if you ask me!)  When we did finally meet we each bought a huge baked potato and sat down under a tree to watch the sun go down and enjoy the beauty of it all. 

One of the places in the palace was called “The Hall of Mirrors”. When I walked past the mirror paneling I noticed that there was a spot I disappeared. If you look closely you can see the tips of my boots, but the rest of me has vanished.

Honestly, I don’t remember what a single room in the Palace of Versailles looked like. They were all so lavish that they started looking the same to me. However, too rooms did stand out. Everything in this room was yellow and another one was pink and green themed.

Our flight home was a nightmare.  It was at 9:00 a.m. so we woke up at 5:30 in the morning and were on the metro by 6:00.  Everything was going smoothly until we learned our last connecting metro line happened to be closed.  So we started walking…in the wrong direction.  Once we realized we were going the wrong way we reversed and started running.  We arrived out of breath at the bus that was leaving for the airport and asked what the departure time was.  The answer wasn’t relieving.  “Now”.  Once we bought tickets we sprinted to the bus only to find that it was full and we would have to wait for the next one to leave.  Luckily, it turned out there was just enough room for us on the first bus and we slumped down in our seats in exhaustion.  We couldn’t fully relax yet though.  The time we were scheduled to arrive at the airport was around the time the gates were scheduled to close.  The moment the bus stopped we were dashing inside, passports and tickets in hand, but we soon discovered that apparently the airport has two buildings and we were in the wrong one.  We ran to the other one and looked at the clock.  8:15 a.m.  If we had gotten there ten minutes later the gates would have been closed.  You’d think as we sat on the plane and thought about how lucky we were to be on it we’d be happy.  We weren’t.  Just the thought that we were so close to things going so bad was hard to accept.


Snow? In Rome?  It snowed for the first time in 26 years in Rome on February 3, 2012. This contributes to the weather erosion of the ancient structures and it’s not too fun for tourists either…

Apparently it is not unusual for Asians to take pictures with random strangers on their travels so they can take them back and show all their friends.  I thought a Chinese man wanted me to snap a picture of him and his family, but the moment I said I would I was suddenly surrounded by five Asian women and was the center focus of the family shot! My roommate managed to get a shot of the second time I was asked to be in a picture.

Say cheese!. . .Why do we say cheese anyway?

Shopping was one of the only areas that I was disappointed in. There don’t seem to be really any chain stores in Rome… (although I did go into an H&M). As a result, a lot of the clothes are really pricey. You can always pick up a shirt for 10 euro from a street vendor, but then you have to worry about quality… I bought a shirt and ended up not even bothering to pack it with me to take home because it ripped.

I felt bad for all of the street vendors. It seems like they were prepared to sell something in any situation! When it rained, *poof* they magically appeared with umbrellas. Where there were romantic candlelit bistros, they suddenly entered with a dozen red roses. When it was cold, they showed up with scarves galore. The problem was sometimes they were there too much. I learned really fast not to make eye contact or show any interest.

Day by Day

Here’s all that we did to the best of my memory!  We were able to see all of these sites by foot with the exception of the Vatican.  Everything touristy in Rome is fairly close together so we saved some money by not getting a metro pass.  My feet are pretty sore though!  When we did use the metro to get to the Vatican it was very simple.  There were only two lines.

Day by day schedule:

  • 16th: We arrived in Rome around 5 and it was dark outside by the time we found our hostel.  After checking in, we enjoyed some free pizza and wine (special deal with our hostel) and went for a night stroll.
  • 17th: Our morning trek throughout Rome started at 6:30 a.m.  Yes, we were on a mission.  We managed to visit the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, and Roman Forum all in one day.  Then just for the heck of it we tried out a pub crawl that night.
  • 18th: This day was supposed to be a nice break from the previous day of walking, but even though we took the metro to the Vatican, the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel proved to be quite the workout!  Unfortunately St. Peter’s Basilica was closed but at least we didn’t have to wait in line for hours.  Then to finish off the night, we wandered to Piazza di Spagna just in time to spot a wedding procession going down the Spanish Steps.  We also stumbled upon a huge birthday bash in a mansion (I’m talking red carpet, Lamborghinis, tuxedos, and full-length gowns kind of birthday) and talked to some Italians who were guests at the party.  It was a very random ending to the night!

One heck of a birthday party.

View from the Spanish Steps.

  • 19th: By this time, we were beginning to feel the effects of doing so much everyday so we decided to take it easy.  We saw the Diocene Baths, stumbled into the middle of a street carnival procession (I kept finding confetti in my hair all throughout the day), had some pasta in a cosy bistro, went to a painting market in Piazza Navona, and to top it all off we had a delicious buffet meal in a candlelit outdoor bistro in Campo di Fiori (wine, olives, bread, cheese, grilled meat and vegetables).  Afterwards we bought some Italian chocolate and walked around until we were too tired.

All of the paintings were gorgeous and very reasonably priced.

Free entertainment!

  • 20th: I was exhausted and sick this day, but we ended up once again finding ourselves in the middle of a carnival procession near Piazza de Popolo which cheered me up considerably.  This time there were people on stilts, jugglers, and a poi performance (swinging fire).  Piazza de Popolo also has one of the most stunning views of Rome.

Street carnival by Piazza de Popolo.


More free entertainment…

  • 21th: After all that we had accomplished in Rome my roommate and I were beginning to wonder what else there was to do that we hadn’t done already!  I realized that we hadn’t gotten a taste of what the none-touristy part of Rome was like.  So we meandered into the residential area.  Here we got a completely different vibe.  The dilapidated buildings that look so beautiful next to structures such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum lose some of their luster when they were removed from the beauty of the historical ruins.  But the beauty of the Italian culture is still just as vibrant.