I’m writing the first part of the blog entry today sitting in the lounge area looking out onto a scrolling landscape of trees and snow. It doesn’t really get boring, either, as the hills all have their own character, some peppered with snow, some surrounded by mist, others having thick blankets of white covering them. The clouds here are different, too. Even the dark ones don’t seem as foreboding, dark or depressing as they do back home. Light and blue sky breaks through and light levels are changing even as I type. Hills are popping out of the mist right now, before disappearing as nature performs its magic tricks. I watch a bird keep up with us on this port side, before landing on the still waters nearby. Laptop on table, camera ready if need be, iPhone providing gentle tunes (Nora Jones at the moment), I’m in gadget/relaxation heaven.
The gadgets and equipment have done me well so far. I was asked to blog about some of my equipment when I was doing the marathon, so I thought I might mention the gadgets I’ve taken with me, just in case anyone’s interested. The Canon 450D with 55-250 zoom lens is a joy to use and perfect for the close-ups. The SD1000 (Ixus 70) is a good foil for it, providing a quick normal lens to avoid swapping lens on my 450D, but also for movies too, which the SLR doesn’t do. It’s also the one I give to others to take pics of me as it’s easier! A special mention must go Dave who advised me on getting a trigger, which meant I could get some night time photos I would have struggled to get otherwise. I’m sure Alli’s tips have also helped, so thanks and enjoy critiquing my snaps, as I know you will!
I download the photos onto the Eee PC 901 that I’m typing this on, which has an excellent battery life of up to 5 hours, and also connects to the ship’s internet via (albeit expensive!) wifi. You should be able to see all my Norway photos on my website under the cunningly-named Photos tab. My iPhone – as much as I hated the thought of being one of the iPod generation and had resisted for ages – provides the email connections and of course the music. To fully surf on it here would cost a lot, so I only pick up emails every few hours. Always nice to hear from you, though, and hi to Ryan and Rachel who’ve sent me a few Facebook messages. Not sure how much Steve’s call to me from USA cost me to receive, though! The only problem I have is my too-fancy-for-its-own-good Casio Waveceptor watch which synchs its time with regular time signals throughout Europe. Great – except you have to tell it which time zone you’re in first (I‘m one hour ahead)…and I can’t remember which bloody sequence of the four buttons I have to press to get it to change!
The clothes I bought also are top notch. My Timberland 3-in-1 coat has been perfect for even night strolls, the waterproof trousers brought from TK-Max (cheers Jonny for the tip on that!) are also great. Pockets must be one of the best inventions ever, I think, and these have enough for any trip. The boots borrowed from Dad are comfy and perfect for the snow; no terrain yet has proved a problem. Fingerless gloves might be a strange choice, but how better to keep most of your hands warm but free to operate the tiny camera controls? Lastly, my iPod hat that I wouldn’t have considered had Si not said that it was cool and that I should get it. Easily influenced, I coughed up the money…but was glad I did! Not only is it extremely warm and covers my ears, but it links to my iPhone via speakers near the ears, effortlessly providing the tunes as I stroll around on the top deck. Now if only I could snowboard…
Anyways, enough of all that. I’m sure some of you just want to know what I’ve been up to so far today. Whilst I continue to look at the ever-changing view outside, I’ll take you back in time to this morning. It all started at the stoooooopid holiday hour of 7am…
Dammit! It’s early. But I have to get up for the breakfast before the early start of the excursion to Trondheim – Norway’s third largest city, behind Oslo and Bergen (all three of which have been the capital at some stage.) I’m hungry, and after missing yesterday’s breakfast buffet I’m determined to take it on. Plan is to skip lunch (not included, so I’d have to paying a lot of money for a snack) so I will load up big time with whatever’s there. I get up and wonder what view I might see, so open the porthole curtains. Oh, we’re docked. Of course – we got to Trondheim at 6am. I get dressed and a bit bleary eyed I go down to the restaurant. The selection’s not bad – a mix of continental and some fried stuff. Yeah, there’s some healthy fruit and cereal, but maybe tomorrow. A couple of large helpings and I’m done.
8:45 we meet outside for the tour. The weather is overcast but still quite bright, partially due to the glare of the snow. It’s cold, but not particularly so, wrapped up as I am. I’m not looking forward to this as much as the other trips, but this was the only thing to do on this day and it looked ok. I board “the English bus” only to find it’s like everything else on this cruise – dominated by our German friends. Announcements are made in both languages, with English first, so any jokes have a few minutes delay before they all LOL it up. The city isn’t as beautiful as Alesund, but it has character. We go to the main attraction: Nidaros Cathedral, built 1000 years ago in a very gothic style. We were told the history by a Norwegian, speaking excellent English, as they often do. The cathedral got burnt and damaged over the centuries, but took a mere 250 years to restore. It’s huge! No, not huge – vast. Not unlike Notre Dame, but less oppressive, I felt. The stain glass windows tell the story of the bible, and the main rose window has 10,000 pieces of glass. Not the original middle age window that was destroyed, but a carefully-constructed copy done by someone who obviously had a lot of patience. I take a few photos outside, and hurry back to the bus. We then go through the streets, before winding our way up to a hill overlooking the whole town. Great views here, and I ask a German girl whether she can take a photo of me with Trondheim in the background. She takes two, which come out quite well, I think.
Back down the hill, we go past the university (1 in 6 of the population here are students) and a snowy playground where kids wrapped in mittens and hats play freely. More information about the history, and back through the streets before we’re given the option to be dropped off for a nice walk back. My waistline, still full of breakfast, agrees I should do it. Back to the quayside, I stop and take more pictures as a canoeist paddles out to seemingly nowhere.
I board the ship again, and as I’m all wrapped up still I go to the top deck to take in views. A flurry of snow greets me, and I try out my hood for the first time. It’s dark overhead and looks like winter really is coming in. After ten minutes, I decide I’ve had enough and go inside. A bit later we leave the port, and the weather improves. I decide to write up this morning and download my photos, so I plonk myself down in the lounge and gadget myself up. Now, how should I start today’s blog entry?
The second part of the day was pleasure and pain. Do not – repeat DO NOT underestimate nature!! Hey, Mr fingerless gloves – you know how good you thought they were a few hours ago? Nice, warm coat that will cope with anything? Well, have some of my really cold stuff and then come back to me…
It’s approaching two thirty in the afternoon, and apparently we’re due to cruise past a lighthouse. I have no idea the significance of this, but it’s worthy enough to go on the schedule. (later I find out it’s the Kjeungskjaer lighthouse.) Weather looks ok, so I gear up and head outside. It’s a bit windy on deck 6, but ok. I can see something in the distance that looks like it could be, so got a while to wait yet. I turn the corner round the back of the boat and…f**k me! Gale force winds welcome me to the port side, daring me to walk the length of the ship. Undeterred, I don my hat and continue. I chat to a friend I met yesterday on the trip who’s not in much more than a jumper. He soon scurries inside, but I stick it out and try to get a good position. As I manoeuvre round the front of the ship, I almost have to walk horizontal, as nature really gives it some. I position myself at a corner, as many others gather round to wait for the lighthouse. Most have little cameras, but there’s couple of serious one with big lenses and even a monopod. And then we get transported to the North Pole…
The weather in Norway is weird! Suddenly, we’re in a blizzard. My trouser legs are blowing crazily and all warmth is disappearing down my back. My head’s warm, but I have to move my scarf so that I look like a bandit. If anyone is aboard the lighthouse, they might think we’re here to rob it. My fingers…are…actually, where are my fingers? Are they going black? I may lose my fingertips here! It feels like minus gazillion out here. The red lighthouse is slowly but surely coming into view, but even auto focus is struggling to pick it out. Snow then sweeps in, covering my camera in white specks. This damn thing better be worth it! We pass it and I manage to fire off a few shots in between solidifying into a block of ice. So, was it worth the hassle? Ummm, unless it was the first sighting of a mythical lighthouse that only appears once every thousand years, then no. We came, I got cold, it was red and in the middle of nowhere. That’s it.
I then defrosted inside before deciding to venture up top again to see if anything else interesting could be seen. I take a few pics of a wind farm, and then almost bump into a man, naked except for two badly placed towels and flip flops. The outdoor Jacuzzi is obviously popular for the insane.
After warming up, I decide to download more photos to the laptop. Soon, an announcement is made about a very nice fjord coming up. Comfy, but always ready for a photo opportunity, I move. Now this, is worth it. Winding our way through narrow waters, a bridge and mountains come into view. The weather’s improved and it’s quite a scene ahead. We watch as the boat steers its way right and then left in some very narrow sections. We soon pass under the thin road bridge and a few houses appear. The whole place looks like a gateway to some magical land, beckoning us into its kingdom. There’s not much colour and the light is fading as dusk draws near, but you can’t take your eyes off of the scene. Soon, the ship straightens up and heads for clearer waters. It’s time I better head back and change.
Dinner is ok, maybe not as good as yesterday, though. Cauliflower soup tastes better than sounded, served up surprisingly well by the staff, given the return of the choppy waters. I’m getting used to the swaying, despite it making the journey to the table feeling like a Friday night after eight pints. Szechuan pepper baked trout follows, and mocha fromage to finish. More holiday talk, including praise of Madrid, which is handy as I’m going there next week. Afterwards, they head off again to explore our next port of call. I’m now left with a dilemma over what to do next, but this is resolved when I meet David – who I met yesterday on the Alesund trip – and his sister and her husband. We chat for ages about holidays, computers, cameras, their jobs; the credit crunch didn’t come up, miraculously. Very pleasant people, and I’m glad I joined them. They head off about 11pm, but as I’m in no need to go to bed yet I sink a few beers, watch the singer again for a while and send a few texts home. Finally, I turn in and finish this blog. Goodnight!