Two Weeks in Scandinavia (TAPIF Vacances de la Toussaint)
Part of my current job as an English Assistant with TAPIF includes running with the academic schedule of the primary schools and the rest of France which consists of six weeks on/in class, and two weeks off/on vacation. Over seven months, that makes four to five two-week breaks. Since each break begins on Monday and it’s usually quite easy to get out on a weekend, especially if you plan ahead, that brings each « two-week break » to about seventeen or eighteen days.
So the dilemma as a TAPIF participant is what to do with all that vacation time, especially if you come from the States, where vacation time is much harder to come by and usually only ever can be taken a week at a time. I was torn between several ideas for a couple different reasons, and I learned so much in the planning process about travelling around Europe even before the break began.
For the first break, « les vacances de la Toussaint » (All Saints’ Day) I considered doing England, Scotland, and Ireland, but another participant recommended that for the Spring since the weather is usually quite rainy. I also considered going south to Southern France, Monaco, and Northern Italy to catch the last little bit of warmth since I’m living in a colder, northern part of France. The final option I had come up with (and my « most wanted ») was to go north to Scandinavia to try to see the Northern Lights before it got too cold.
In my opinion, the thing about living somewhere that’s already pretty chilly on a regular basis is that once you get acclimated, coming back from somewhere warm just puts you back having to reacclimate again only to colder weather. So adding onto the long list of why I wanted to visit Scandinavia was that I knew it would be so much colder later, even towards Springtime.
Another reason (really the main one for this particular trip) was that Northern Light season runs October to March, and later in the year I was hoping to visit other places for specific festivals and seasonal activities. That, combined with the cold, and the fact that most of northern Scandinavia experiences Polar Night on some level from November to March which makes the day’s sunlight last from 0-4 hours, All Saints vacation was the time to go.
I remember calling my husband being a little intimidated by the plan to visit three places in 18 days, one of which is four hours north of mainland Norway, inside the Artic Circle, and holds the titles of the northernmost town. I had hoped to find some other assistants who might be interested in doing the same trip, and boy did I find them. It’s so funny how you have friends you haven‘t met yet, and once you meet them, it’s like you’ve known them long enough to understand what the other is thinking just by looking at them, even while taking time to get to know them!
I put a message about trying to decide between the UK and Scandinavia, and Chloe (ChloesCarryon.com) messaged that she and another assistant were planning on doing the same cities, including Svalbard! So, the moral of the story is to send the message in the 350-person group and just see what happens. If it goes wrong, you can jump ship, but you might just make some of the sweetest, most fun friends.
Our itinerary was planned out as far as having all transportation and hotels/hostels booked, as well as a couple google docs and personal notes on what we each wanted to see in each city and information on each city’s available CityPass options. Be on the look-out for city-specific details, but here is the overall itinerary with hostel information and some landmark highlights.
18 Days in Scandinavia: Copenhagen, Oslo and Svalbard.
10/25 travel day to Copenhagen
Stay: Next House Copenhagen
10/26 Day trip to Malmö, Sweden
Highlights: Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen Museum, Little Mermaid statue, Church of Our Savior, canal cruise, Gasoline Grill.
Stay: K7 Hostel, make sure you book a room with a private bathroom to avoid weird bathroom in the hall lol)
10/29 afternoon: Travel Day to Oslo
Highlights: Akershus Fortress, National Museum, Nobel Peace Center, Munch Museum, Oslo Street food, Holmenkollen Ski Jump, Den Glade Gris.
10/31: Travel Day to Svalbard
Stay: Haugen Pensjonat Svalbard
Highlights: Glacier hike, Seed Vault tour, Dog sledding tour, northern lights watching, Svalbard Museum.
11/4 Travel Day to Oslo
Stay: K7 Hostel
Highlights: Fjord boat tour, dinner at Jarmann Gastropub, Changing of the guards at the Royal Palace.
11/6 travel day back to France
Overall city ratings:
Most fun: Copenhagen
Most beautiful: Oslo
Most other-worldly and adventurous: Svalbard
There’s so many photos from this trip that are so beautiful that I’ll be sharing in city-specific posts, with more details on logistics, hacks, and highlights, so be on the lookout :)