The North Sea and home

At last a lie in! After another late night, (when the entertainment is on tap you don’t want to miss it- a comedian last night; very funny) I had hoped to sleep a little later than 7.30. The good news is that that means there’s more time for fitting in the yummy food! (Diet starts next week!)

Speaking of which mum & I enjoyed an excellent cooking demonstration by the head chef this morning, followed by a tour of the galleys, which was very interesting.

Whilst we had our coffee in the Plaza we were entertained by one of the bar staff doing a martial demonstration, which involved juggling & pouring 5 martinis simultaneously- very impressive!

Before lunch I managed to fit in a promenade of the decks (counting oil rigs) and then we watched a video of our trip (available to purchase, of course). The morning just whizzed by.

Paul Burrell, footman to the Queen and Princess Diana was this afternoon’s entertainment. It was a very interesting interview- much better than expected.

Unfortunately, packing for departure was necessary before hitting the hot tub & sunbed in the late afternoon sun, whilst the champagne chilled for our last evening on the balcony.

All good things must come to an end, more is the pity. What an amazing trip.

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The North Sea and home

Last stop- Bergen

Another early start- 5.30am and it was light (did it get dark??)and we were cruising through fjords once more, in the stunning early morning light.

By 7am we had docked in Bergen and I decided to head out for an early start to the funicular train which goes up to Mount Floyen. I made it to the ststion for the second train up (narrowly missing the first) and arrived to glorious sunshine & breathtaking views of Bergen, with only a few people there.

There was a short walk to a small lake at the top, through woodland. The Norwegians are great believers in being outdoors & had kayaks for public use, too. I overheard a guide telling her group that they have places out in nature that provides free or cheap food to encourage people to go out & enjoy the local area.

After the short walk, & a brief visit to the shop, I visited the very friendly mountain goats too.

I then went back down to sea level (where there were now huge queues for the funicular!) and made my way through the colourful, old wooden buildings to the fish market & harbour.

With four hours left in Bergen it was time to make decisions. Should it be:

1. A 3 hour fjord trip? Hmmm, too tight perhaps & we’ll probably see most of it on our sail out.

2. A trip to Greig’s house & museum? A bit too tight on time to be able to enjoy it.

3. HoHo bus around town?

Or

4. The cable car up Mount Ulriken (over 2,000 ft up) with panoramic views.

Yep, you guessed it!

Was there time to squeeze in an exploration of the city afterwards? Of course, it’s a Kerry style day! If I had not taken a left turn and ended up on the opposite side of the peninsula everything would’ve been absolutely fine… luckily, once I’d oriented myself, the ship was still in jogging distance!!

Ok, so it may not have been ideal to have to jog in the hot & busy centre of Bergen but there is never a dull moment when you travel Kerry style (as any who know me already know!)

I really didn’t need to worry though- I was onboard 10 minutes before the designated time and the ship didn’t sail for an hour after that! See, no rush! 😉

It was a fabulous sail away from Bergen, past picturesque islands in glorious sunshine.

I really didn’t want to leave Norway. What an amazing place. I think I will have to come back!

Last stop- Bergen

Gerainger fjord

Today has been one stunning spectacle followed by another. We woke to the passing fjords draped in misty low-lying clouds. We made a drop off by tender boats at Hellestyl. 90 passengers were disembarking for a full day trip & catching the up with the boat in Gerainger. We were treated to one stunning waterfall followed by another. We then approached the Seven Sisters waterfall, opposite The Suitor. Fabulous.

Seven Sisters (but only 4 clearly visible!)

When we arrived in Gerainger, & disembarked by way of the floating sea walk platform, mum and I hopped into a HoHo bus which took us up to the view point with spectacular views of the fjord.

From there we descended again but I hopped off part way down & walked along the torrent of the waterfall to the Fjord centre.

Passing some lovely old Nordic buildings with turf rooftops.

After a brief visit to the centre (narrowly missing mum!) the descent was on a narrow, steep metal staircase which runs beside the falls.

Mum ended up coming down these too- long story!

After a bit of a rest (&tea!) on the ship I decided to stride out around the edge of the fjord, which was lovely.

There are many ways to explore the area but if I return I think I have to try the little electric tour cars- what fun!

Our sail away was not as enthusiastic as it was from Olden but mum & I enjoyed a bottle of champagne (from mum’s 70th birthday) whilst watching the waterfalls as we passed by.

After sitting on our balcony with champagne & canapes watching the fjord for an hour we decided we really ought to change & go for dinner- such a hard life!

What amazed us though was how light it was when we got to the bar after dinner. We sat watching the sun set, listening to an entertaining guy on the piano, at 10.45!

And it was still light when we finally gave in and went to bed at midnight!!

Amazing. What a day.

Gerainger fjord

Olden & glacial hiking

I am normally an early riser but 5.30am did seem pretty early even to me, but as we entered the fjord at 4am it was a bit of a lie in really! Once you have glimpsed the view that lies behind the curtains, though, it is very hard to go back to sleep!

Stunning, breathtaking, awe-inspiring- none of these words can do it justice. As we sailed along and docked into the tiny town of Olden, we had fabulous views. What a way to start the day.

Today’s adventure for me was a 45 minute bus ride, past a series of vibrant green glacial lakes, to the Briksdal glacier.

It was a bit of a hike to the glacier and involved passing a lively waterfall, which gave me a refreshing shower!

The hike was totally worth it, for someone who has never seen a glacier before. What is worrying though is how far, and how quickly, it is melting.

After the return journey to the boat, for food & feet up with mum, I went off exploring Olden. It doesn’t take long, unless you spend a long time checking out the trolls & Vikings in the souvenir shops!

There is, however, a very charming red church to be found in Olden, which has the advantage of a stunning backdrop.

Sail away from Olden was fun: the locals gathered to wave & they played Rod Stewart’s ‘We are sailing’ whilst waving Norwegian flags! Perhaps they were celebrating our departure!


Tonight we sail through the Nordfjord and onto Gerainger.

Olden & glacial hiking

Stavanger

We cruised into Stavanger early morning and watched the docking whilst enjoying our room service breakfast on the balcony. What a life!

The cruise ship totally dominates the quay side & dwarfs the beautiful white wooden buildings of the old town.

Once we had docked I went in search of a boat trip along the Lysefjord &, being first in the queue for tickets, successfully got a three hour trip leaving at 10 (which meant there was time to fit in a second breakfast!)

The trip went past some seals, vagabonds’ cave and the boat owner’s goats (which we stopped at to feed) before cruising below pulpit rock. With binoculars I could see legs dangling over the edge- crazy people!

The boat trip was fabulous & I still had time to look in some of the very tempting and colourful shops

before returning to the boat for our sail further north…

Stavanger

Norwegian Fjords

Another adventure! This time it is just my mum & me on a week of cruising around the Norwegian coast & fjords. We set off from Southampton on Saturday to a great flurry of excitement in the sail away party & had a gloriously sunny sail past the Isle of Wight, spotting Osbourne House as we sipped our mocktails.

By about 11pm we had reached Calais & Dover. It was fun to see the Kent coast as we went.

Sunday was a ‘sea day’, which was great as it is a really relaxing day. The food is great & there is a real temptation to eat ALL day. Breakfast merged into 11ses, lunch following soon after and then you have to fit in afternoon tea before dinner!! I shall be at least one size bigger by next week.

It was formal night last night- a chance to dress up & enjoy a glass or two of champagne. Whilst we watched guests pouring champagne into the captain’s champagne fountain we bumped into a lovely couple that we had shared a dinner table with on the first evening. After chatting again & queuing for a table for while, we all sat together again. They are a really fun couple- one set up the very first MacDonalds is an artist & the other is into am-dram & opera.

Norwegian Fjords

From coast to Aalst

As we were packing, ready to leave Nieupoort, I belatedly discovered there are resident seals around the harbour so we went in search of them before our departure across northern Belgium. Although we saw curlews, oyster catchers & shelducks, the tide was too low for seals…next time!

We decided to avoid the motorways on our drive to Aalst so that we could see a bit more of the real Belgium. We have now come to the conclusion that everything looks much cleaner, tidier & neater here than in France but on the flip side of that it has less character & charisma than France does.

We stopped for a drink in a pretty town called Tielt.

We arrived in Aalst in time for the all-important play off for third place; the Belgians take it all very seriously- flags, t-shirts, partying everywhere. Once we had checked into our hotel (a prime example of elegant faded grandeur)

I left Phil with the proprietor in the lounge, to ride out the emotional turmoil in a mist of Belgian beer whilst I explored the town centre & air-conditioned shops!

The centre has a great atmosphere & some lovely buildings, with a charming chime every 15 minutes.

Once the football was over, we went out together to watch the elated Belgians celebrating whilst we enjoyed a drink & meal in Grote Markt- enjoying the chime of the bells and a busking piano accordion in the sunshine.

The last evening of our adventure across northern Belgium is a chance to reflect. We have both enjoyed our week and would definitely come back. We would bring our bikes next time & aim to see some of the castles & gardens outside of the cities. The weather makes all the difference, of course, but it is a trip I would recommend.

From coast to Aalst