My alarm wakes me up at 5:15 after just a few hours sleep. The room was quite noisy as it was directly opposite reception and the temperature was a little too warm for my liking, but I feel fine. It’s the first proper day of my holiday – I’m flying to Norway today!
Transport to Terminal 3 was smooth, very efficient and relaxing. No stress, and the hotel was definitely a good option, I think. I find the airline self-service booth and within just a few minutes everything’s done, even choosing my own seat. Time for breakfast.
There’s something about having a pint of beer at 7am. It’s not something I’d ever contemplate doing on any other day, but it just seems the thing to do when you’re at an airport. A nice cooked breaky completes the look. With lots of time to spare, I play on my phone, sip my beer, watch the latest sports headlines and chill to the gentle music being piped in. Eventually, I leave and get a few bits, including a Rough Guide to what may be my next destination (to be revealed at another date!) Waiting to get the gate number, I pull out my Nan’s diary she kept of her and Grandad’s Norway trip some thirty years ago. Wow – I’m more-or-less following in their footsteps. It’s great to read her hand-written notes; who knows, one day someone might read this on their own way, emulating me. I laugh at hearing how Grandad had to run after the bus after going out of his way to get a decent photo opportunity, her mention of Germans everywhere and her love of the scenery. I’m sure they’ll be with me in some form over the next few days.
The board tells me to go to Gate 11, which I almost trip over following the first signs – quickest gate I’ve ever been to! With zero hassle, I’m on the plane, comfy and looking forward to Bergen via Copenhagen. Blue skies and bright sunshine wave me off as I ascend.
Denmark appears to be very snowy, and fields of white appear below like a patchwork quilt made by someone with limited coloured threads. We land – I’m in Scandinavia! An uneventful transfer and soon I’m back in the air again en route to Bergen, Norway. Sit next to a big guy from Huddersfield who’s going for a job interview in Bergen. The most common conversation dominates again – the credit crunch. Is there anyone who has a conversation these days without mentioning it? He paints a pretty grim picture of life up t’north, job-wise, and despite Bergen even rivalling Manchester in terms of rainy days, he seems keen on starting a new life in Norway.
Then the magic happens – Norway starts to unveil itself to us, little by little. First, it’s just miles of rock and snow; a jagged, uninhabitable landscape. Next, it’s like another planet, as snow, ice, frozen rivers and mountains stretch out as wild nature dominates. Finally, the trees start to appear and it looks like Norway from the postcards, as man finally stamps his mark. By the time we land, I feel totally transported into a winter wonderland.
Scandinavian beauties with kind smiles point me in the right direction for the bus to the quayside for the ferry. A long wait on board, and then a drive taking in the sights. Snow-capped mountains whiz by in the distance, frowning upon the ubiquitous golden arch of a certain fast food chain far below them. Despite the travel information saying otherwise, to my amazement and delight, we can check-in, board and go to our cabins right away. Ten minutes later, I’m in, unpacked and settled. The whole journey has been fantastic so far; so relaxing – less stressful than going to work the other week in the snow!
The tannoy announces in various languages that dinner awaits – sit anywhere for tonight (allocated tables for the rest of the trip for dinner) and enjoy the buffet. I’m hungry, having just had a snack mid-flight (in between grunts of agreement with the interview bloke next to me) so this is very welcome. I go to deck 5’s restaurant and survey the choice: sirloin, pork, fish of many kinds, potatoes, salads, bread, and lots of different sauces. As the boys would say, the money’s in the meat, though! I load up and go to sit down.
It’s at this point I realise a couple of things: 1) There’s not many English around – Germans have invaded – sorry, boarded – the ship in their dozens, and there aren’t many English accents that I can hear. 2) There’s no-one I can see who is also on their own. I’ll just sit at this table for two and pretend the wife is ill. Not that I really care – I’m quite happy here in my own company and I may even be getting an extra smile from the waitresses. Tomorrow will be different, anyway, with the set table arrangements. I go up for seconds, then try the puddings. Choccy heaven, plus ice-cream and raspberry trifle. Need some exercise tomorrow to burn this off!
10:30pm arrives, and we leave Bergen to at last set off on our journey. I’m properly on a cruise now! Watching the lights melt into the distance, darkness envelopes us as we head off north. I spend the rest of the evening savouring a few beers (you can’t down them at £6 a pint!!) and listening to a multi-lingual keyboard and singer act who fill the deck with soft tunes. Tired and slightly drunk, I head back upstairs to Deck 7 and my cabin. It’s at this point I realise that I’m not so drunk as I thought – the ship is swaying a bit now. Crap, didn’t think it would be this bad. I wonder if I can get used to this. Eventually I settle down, looking forward to the new sites ahead tomorrow.