As you learned from Bob, we drove A LOT in Norway. In fact, the day trip home was one of the longest days of all. We really wanted to head to the coast and see what fjords look like as they recede to the ocean. This part of the fjord is the oldest and the ice has had more time to wear down the landscape. We went from large jagged granite mountains to rolling green hills and finally rounded granite islands bordering the ocean in just under two hours. Bob found a route that would take us through these small islands called the “Atlantic Road”. The view was beautiful and after a quick stop to take pictures and wave at Maine, we headed back on the road towards Kristiansund, then Trondheim, and finally back into Sweden to Are (pronounced Aura). Our destination was a youth hostel in Are where we would spend the night before the next leg of the journey through Sundsval to Stockholm – another 650 km.
I happily enjoyed the scenery on our way to Sweden (the boys slept most of the drive and Bob complained about the tolls) stopping to spend our last Norwegian Kroner before going over the
border and then stopping again to get our passports stamped at the Duty Office. We finally arrived at the Are Youth Hostel around 8pm. It was closed – completely quiet and no one around to speak with. Sigh. It was a Sunday and we had been warned about things shutting down early in Norway, we didn’t think Sweden would have the same customs. So, worried we would be stuck with a $400 plus a night hotel room, we started driving around Are…in the rain. Down the hillside by a lake we could see a large building that said “Holiday Club” across the front with a huge covered waterslide in the
back. Bob said, “We’re going there!” After 9 hours of driving we were desperate that it would be a place to stay. Turns out it was a timeshare property but they rented out rooms to non-members – yeah, we were in luck and only 1300 SKr! And, they had a nice restaurant where we could get quality food. However, Bob’s eye’s lit up when he saw a big sign that said “Sauna World” across a large paneled entryway. But, alas, it was closed – he would have to wait until morning to explore.
After breakfast we quickly packed up our bags and headed down to explore the pool and “SAUNA WORLD”. You have to get a wristband and enter through a turnstile (they take their swimming and sauna-ing very seriously here). You come into a large changing room for men, women and children – this is called the “Mixed” changing area – people in various states of dress roaming around a very large locker room. Europeans have a totally different perspective on privacy and nudity. They are so much more open than us prudish Americans when it comes to their bodies. After changing (in private rooms) we headed into the shower and out into the pool area. This was a huge glassed-in space with 4 pools and 2 hot tubs, dry sauna, an elevated bar/café, and poolside seating area. Stairs took you into a corridor leading to yet another swimming pool outside. And, the icing on the cake was a 3-story waterslide that went from indoors to outdoors and back indoors again. We scored! This place was great! In addition to the amazing pool complex, they had a complete arcade and indoor mini-miniature golf course. Are, we were told, is actually one of the best ski-resort towns in Sweden. You could see from all the family-friendly activities that this was a great place for Swedes and Norwegians to spend their winter or summer holidays.
As we make our way out of the pool after three hours of fun, I head to the shower room to wash up. There is no place to leave your clothes in the shower room which leads into the “Mixed” changing room and I was wondering how I was going to get from that area back to the private changing area without having to put my wet bathing suit back on. There are no doors or curtains on the showers and as I finish washing up and go for my towel across the room, I notice this man and his son standing right outside my shower stall. I took a deep breath, ran to get my towel, wrapped it around myself and walked out into the main room with my head high. You know what they say, ”When in Rome…”