Monday, 22 August 2011

Still at Sea

Very smooth crossing on the North Sea. Still some 2 1/2 hours out of Esbjerg. Weather is fine and warm - absolutely as we want it.

Breakfast in the Commodore Lounge is very civilised. Typical hotel buffet fare, but decent quality.

Taking the North Sea route rather than flying to Denmark is clearly the slower option, but if you're not in a hurry then why not? No-service airlines are all well and good in certain circumstances but are never going to offer the same opportunity to decouple from the modern world for a few hours.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

From the North Sea

At a relatively late stage we decided to take a trip across the North Sea to Dave's adopted homeland - Denmark.
Stage 1 London to Esbjerg.

Public transport in England on a Sunday can be a bit hit and miss with lots of engineering works. But we got to Liverpool Street without problems - although the roadworks around Surrey Quays made an odd diversion for the bus.

Had got little worried about the effect of the V festival in Chelmsford on the comfort factor on the train but the number of people made us wonder about the necessity for the additional trains that National Express had added to the schedule. Also had the joys of UK rail pricing. Self service machine gave no option for an off-peak single ticket - despite it being a Sunday.

But we reach Harwich without stress levels being increased. Had bit of time to kill there as the train times didn't work too well with the boat. But there are much worse places to spend a Sunday.



We've been on DFDS' Dana Sirena before. Talking to the woman at check in we learn ship is only half full. Enough to allow for people watching! We've booked the top class Commodore cabins. Can be worth it as they include access to the exclusive lounge with free snacks and drinks. Excellent cherries among the fresh fruit. Sun is shining as we leave Harwich at 1715 BST. Can't say we remember having march music played over the tannoy on departure before!

Not much to do before dinner except relax and watch the cranes of Felixstowe disappear over the horizon.

The buffets on Nordic ferries are something we enjoy and tonight was no exception. The waitress was patient enough (and not too busy) to allow David a first opportunity to practise his danish. Great when that happens rather than being persuaded to do everything in English.

Shame that DFDS seem to have stopped offering the beer from Fanø. We'll just have to go to the island instead.

Scheduled arrival in Esbjerg tomorrow is 1300 CET.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Bergen

Final stop on the trip was the city of Bergen.

Here Hurtigruten has a terminal rather than just getting on the ship at the quayside, which is what we´ve experienced. Getting a taxi was a bit of a palaver, although the group of Germans who thought that they could get six with luggage into the car we ended up taking were a bit optimistic.

Seemed to be roadworks everywhere, but was amused that our driver understood the word "tosser" that I threw out when we nearly had an accident due to another car being driven on the wrong side of the road when we were leaving the port.

We´d treated ourselves to a posh hotel right next to the UNESCO world heritage listed hanseatic quarter, Bryggen - not cheap, but for a one off suited us. Little disappointed with the breakfast (but then may have been spoilt with comparing it to Lossiranta!)

Finding somewhere to eat took a little while. The places in Bryggen seemed to charge an extra 100kr on the main course just for location. Weren´t sure that we felt that was worth it, but was very pleased to find just round from our hotel a recently opened place called Aroma. Very friendly service and excellent food. We were very happy with the fish stew.

Next day, weather was warm enough that we could enjoy a picnic on the ramparts of Sverresborg as part of a day simply enjoying wandering in the sunshine.

We tend to splash out on our last meal before coming home. Potetkjelleren is one of Bergen´s best gourmet restaurants. Unfortunately, to get into the cellar proper you need to book well in advance and the ground floor room has nowhere near the same atmosphere. I may have been influenced by my knowledge that it was the last night of the holiday and return to reality (and the credit card bill) but one of the reviews of the restaurant (på norsk) says the same. But will agree with both DN and BT that although not cheap you do get what you pay for.

DFDS´ Newcastle<>Bergen service(the last ferry between the UK & Norway) was withdrawn in September 2008 otherwise we´d have considered sailing back to the UK. Instead, at the end of a holiday that had otherwise avoided flying SAS took us back to Gatwick.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Norwegian Coastal Express

The ad campaigns for the Hurtigrute sell it as "The most beautiful voyage in the world" and in late summer sunshine it is simply that.We´d been on the route before, three years ago - but that was a short stretch up in N Norway to get us to Lofoten.

Originally, the Hurtigrute was the most important communication link between the north and south of the country. Today, it earns much of its keep from lots of SKI-ing pensioners. But the ships are primarily working vessels operating a regular service to a set timetable - so although passenger comfort is a key issue, there is no organised entertainment programme. We´re with the passengers from Hamburg who told an American journalist that they appreciated the no-nonsense atmosphere. Maybe it´s because we´re sturdy Northern Europeans and we knew that we were simply making use of public transport.

If it´s the grey kronor the ferry company is after that may have to change as the government seeks to minimise the subsidy it pays. But hopefully they won´t spoil the experience


Yet again, we couldn´t believe how lucky we were with the weather. We were heading to Bergen - famous for being very rainy! Yet the sunshine across the country was newsworthy enough to merit a page in one of the tabloids.

The scenery is stunning and no words can do it justice. We amused ourselves spotting trolls in the rocks. Travelling at less than 20 mph is very relaxing and you can sit and read and look up and see something new. 




The catering´s not bad either. When we saw the menu for dinner we had to grin. OK it´s the last night of the "classic" voyage, but reindeer and salmon are about as Scandinavian as you can get. Suited us to T.

We were seated at the officers´ table - (unfortunately not with any of the crew)

Reckon about 72 hours is the most I could manage in one stretch, but be more than happy to break up the journey - and we seem to be doing it in bits any way.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Östersund-Trondheim

Moving on from Östersund we were taking the train to Trondheim.

Very friendly lady in the ticket office when we bought our tickets. Understood entirely that we weren´t up for getting the 7.18 departure - 16.27 much better for us, thanks. Given sunset wasn´t until around 21.00 still meant we got to see the scenery en route; and the journey is very scenic in parts.

The train is very definitely NOT a tourist route, though.On a previous trip to Norway we saw the Flåm railway - one of the most scenic journeys in the world but how much you can see when it´s as crowded as the average London commuter train is debatable.

The day we travelled to Trondheim our few fellow passengers seemed to be either women of a certain age (either in a group or individually) or college age students (again women, including one Spaniard who seemed to be able to talk non-stop). Many of them were simply using the train for local journeys, so it certainly doesn´t feel like a international service in the way that the Eurostar or ICE at the beginning of our trip.

We stayed at the Scandic at Solsiden. This is an area of the city redeveloped from industrial use with many restaurants and a shopping centre and often called Trondheim´s Aker brygge (referring to a similar area in Oslo).

With a relatively late arrival we weren´t too bothered where we ate and Graffi did the trick.Chatting with our waitress when we were settling up turns out she´d worked in KBH in one of our favourite restaurants on Nyhavn - Cap Horn.

Didn´t have much planned in Trondheim. Got to see the Talerøret before the official unveiling by the PM. As you can see some people had taken a peek inside already. Created by NTNU architecture students it´s a gift to the city from the university to mark its centennial year.

Weather stayed fine so aimless wandering fitted the bill.

Second night was our third micro-brewery of the trip simply called Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri (på norsk) Couple of beers and bacalao set us back nearly NOK500 (£50+) but the beer was good and not that much more you´d pay for ordinary beer in Norway.

Reasonably early night before catching the Hurtigruten next day.