Highs and lows

Sing it with me: traaaaaaavel day! We had a rather pleasant five o'clock departure today - in the afternoon! No early rises, no rushing to the airport on the first train. It was a relaxed morning, with a bit of lunch before catching the bus to the airport. Our apartment was great, and Helsinki was pretty charming, so I appreciated having a couple of hours to enjoy it rather than just racing out of town in darkness.

We were heading to Oslo, and got on board our aircraft roughly on time. Little did we know that the flight would shamelessly pilfer every bad flight stereotype you've ever seen. First up, the old 'waiting for takeoff clearance' and so sat on the ground for about twenty minutes before towing out. Next - the crying child. The row behind us, a small baby cried mercilessly for much of the flight, and indeed had started before we'd even got in the air. That wasn't it, though. The row in front of us was occupied by three - count 'em, three! - toddlers.

Now, these toddlers were being "watched over" by their mother from the aisle opposite. And they did not want to behave. They were screaming their lungs out in excitement and then fear and then hunger. Ear-piercing shrieks. They bounced around on the seat, undoing their seatbelts and waving the emergency information cards at us in the row behind. They stood on the chairs, yelled 'mama' constantly to the hopeless woman in charge of them, and generally made a racket. The ran up and down the aisle, and rolled around on the ground. The couple behind me were jostling my seat too as they manoeuvred their child around.

At a certain point, it just became funny. There were three screaming kids in front of me and a screaming baby behind me. The plane hadn't departed and I had my knees at my ears in a tiny economy seat. At the front of the plane, workmen were using mechanical tools to drill something because they'd had trouble closing the cargo door. If I had had the food poisoning I'd flown with from Amsterdam, I'm fairly confident I would have opened the emergency exit in midair and just walked out. Thankfully, with my noise-cancelling earphones and a relatively short flight once we got going, it wasn't long before we were in Norway.

Of course, at this time it was now after 7pm, given our late departure. We caught the express train into the city centre - another European city putting our Australian infrastructure to shame; how do people get into town from our Airport? - and walked for ten minutes to our hotel. Now, this is a nice place. It's called the Comfort Hotel Xpress, and it feels brand new, modern, funky and is very eco-conscious. It's got a small, semi-automated check-in, with one assistant on hand standing upright at the table in the middle of the foyer.

The foyer is intended as a hangout area, with a foosball table, pinball machines, and a food and drinks fridge offering a variety of consumables for purchase. Downstairs, there's a kitchen, microwaves and fridge, so you're able to use it to store and prepare your own food if you like. Free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, free coffee in the foyer, and styled in a cool, graffitied, urban feel. The key cards are chip access, not magnetic swipes, so it feels like you're getting backstage access to a festival whenever you go anywhere. Our bedroom has a large wall-mounted HDTV, new beds and large bathroom.

They only service your room every four days, and have exercise and health tips in the room. Reception advises walking routes of the city depending on your exercise desires and physical fitness. It's clearly in tune with its market - affordable, with all the modern essentials included, enabling self-sufficiency until you want more. It's not going to offer that five star service, but I think it paints an exciting vision of the future of hospitality. They have a broader focus on customer health, offering takeaway organic breakfast baskets to encourage people to eat something in the morning rather than skipping the meal on the way to their first meeting or whatever. I really, really like it.

Stepping out to get a quick bite - Pad Thai, as it happened, and a fantastic one at that - I already have a good feeling about Oslo. It's reminds me somewhat of Vienna, with the express train line from the airport, tram-riddled streets, and open plaza areas. Plus, it had a real night energy, even on a Wednesday. There were people everywhere, having a drink outside on terraces or wandering through the city centre with friends. With only two full days here, it's going to be hard to know where to start.