A Travellerspoint blog

Norway Part 4 Bodo to Tromso to North Cape - flying!

Time to put some distance under me quickly as I head to North Cape to meet my boat.

Saturday the 22nd July
Walked an hour to the Bodo airport from town. I had plenty of time before my 8:20pm flight to Tromso.

I wanted and got a window seat on the left of the plane. The initial views of Bodo and Lofoten were great, but then we entered the layer of cloud that made today 'overcast'. On flying above it - WOW! Bright sunshine and the clouds below me formed valleys and 'mountains' that looked like powder snow. I just wanted to jump out and snowboard on it!
Tromso was wet and overcast. Welcome to 'Paris of the North'.
Caught a cab to my hotel dropped my bags and headed out to see what a Sat night in Tromso looks like, apart from not being dark. This is the last day offically of 'midnight sun', but the weather meant that I don't actually know if there was sun at midnight.
Every pub wanted a cover charge. Add that to the price of drinks and not knowing if it is a good bar or not, empty of patrons or full of life, made me realise I was not that thirsty.
Yippee! A hotel room with my own bathroom. After a few weeks of hostels, this is a welcome change. They have internet and a PC, so I used the chance to put all 1000 photos off my camera and memory cards and onto CDs.

Sunday - Day exploring Tromso.
No surprise to regular readers of my stories, today I walked for hours.
Tromso is on an island. I walked to the wharf, then along the shore to a huge bridge across to the mainland. From there I walked to the cable car base station. Here I was faced with a choice - hike 2 hours up a mountainside through forest, ferns and streams with views of the city and nearby mountains all the way, OR take a cablecar with a screaming kid in it to the top in 4 minutes.
Not a choice for the Wandera really.

The hike up to the top at nearly 500m was physical, but fun. (I'm going to be stuck on a boat for a week, so took my chance today.) The views of Tromso and the harbour were panoramic. Right at the top the layer of cloud just hovered above me. I've hiked up to the clouds, literally! The cold wind reminded me how far north Tromso is.
I caught the cable car down and continued my wanderings of Tromso. No I don't have a map, but it is not that big.

As for 'Paris of the North'? Where do silly names like that come from? No Eiffel tower, no underground railway, not even a croissant to be had. A few French tourists around though got me wondering - Did they come to find 'Paris of the north, or did they call it 'Paris of the North' because it is full of French people? I could say I will get back to you with an answer, but the truth is I won't because I don't really care.

Another Sunday in Norway where everything is closed.
The Mack brewery was closed. (Can you imagine if Little Creatures or the Sail and Anchor breweries in Fremantle closed on Sundays?) Walking along the harbourfront I saw 'my' ship, the Kong Harald. Tomorrow I fly from Tromso to Hammerfest and then to Honningsvag at the North Cape. Here I will meet the Kong Harald Hurtigruten ferry, my home for the next week as I journey the full length of the Norwegian coastline from Kirkeness near Russia, to Bergen in the south.
The Kong Harald was parked up for 4 hours this arvo before continuing to head north, where I will board it at lunch time tomorrow. I could have caught it here, but then I wouldn't get my flights over the rugged north Norwegian coastline, or catch up on my blog on the PC in the hotel.
I found the Polar Museum and it was open. Very interesting. It was not so much the polar hunting history, but rather the history of exploration that interested me. It is through the efforts of famous and heroic explorers like Roald Amundsen, that paved the way for future journeys to the polar regions, something I will be doing in just 10 days.

Monday - Couldn't sleep and up early for my 8am flight to Hammerfest.
What a journey! I LOVE flying and the smaller the plane the better. This one had propellers.
I'd been faced with the 'choice' of two days by bus from Tromso to Alta and then to Honningsvag, eating hotdogs all the way, or, two short flights. Tromso - Hammerfest and then Hammerfest to Honningsvag. As the plane departed Tromso snow-capped mountains, deep-blue fiords and the white-capped Barents Sea were the view from my window seat. Don't worry, I had my camera handy! I have paid more, for less amazing 'scenic flights' and this was just a commute. Northern Norway is spectacular, even if a little harsh.

After a 40 minute flight of wonder, I arrived before 9am with a 4.5 hour stop over, before my 20 minute flight to Honningsvag (North Cape). A pain? NO! An opportunity! Yep! The wandera once again gets to wander.

The lenticular clouds, a favourite of mine, http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Lenticular_cloud hovering over nearby mountains gave me false hope this would be a great place.

I walked into town photographing wild reindeer beside the road on the way. The road entered at the far end of town and I walked the full length of the shoreline, photographing reindeer on the shoreline on the way to the main shopping area at the other end of the bay. I don't use the word beach, because you might think of a sandy thing that would be pleasant to lie on. Probably doesn't matter anyway in this god-forsaken place. This is summer and no one here knows the freedom of running around in a t-shirt, shorts and thongs.
There was a couple who wanted to have sex on the beach, but before they did, she broke it off!:-)

Hammersfest has an interesting church. AH ha! A hill to climb. The 'zig-zag path' circa 1893 took me to the top for panoramic views of this bleak place. "The northernmost town in the world". (Apparently other communities further north such as Svalbard where I will go soon, don't count as they are not big enough to be a town, or so say Hammerfestians.)

It is summer, but a freezing wind roars through this town, straight from the Arctic and off the Barents Sea. Brr!
This is one of those places that just makes you glad you don't have to live here. I thought old people came here to die, but I think if you lived here the urge would kick in sooner!
The Nazis razed the place in 1945, burning it to the ground as they retreated. Perhaps they should have taken the hint and moved to warmer climes?

4.5 hour wait for a 20 minute flight from Hammerfest to Honningsvag - North Cape! This flight was not the joy of my earlier one today. The weather had turned to muck and so views not so good.
On arriving in Honningsvag, the horizontal freezing rain reminded me I was now at the northermost point of the European mainland.

I caught a cab to the wharf for my embarkation on the Hurtigruten.
I shall leave you at this point. The next blog will be my journey on the "World's Most Beautiful Voyage". Their claim.
I will report in full in my next blog - The Hurtigruten.

If you would like to follow my progress, first northwards to Kirkeness, then south to Bergen, I am on the Kong Harald. Use the link http://www.hurtigruten.com/en/default.aspx?side_id=421to get there.

Posted by TheWandera 15:01 Archived in Norway Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Norway Part 3 - The Lofoten Islands

North of the Arctic Circle offshore from Bodo there is a chain of mountains rising from the sea - the Lofoten Islands.

Sojourn - a temporary stay.
I chose 'Scandinavian Sojourn' as the title of my blog as that is what I'm doing, hanging out for awhile in Scandinavia. Norway is the country in which I will spend the most time and the more I see of Norway, the more I know I made the right choice.

Monday the 17th of July 2006 - Train journey from Trondheim to Bodo.
As I gushed in the last blog, the staff at the Trondheim Interail Centre are great. They opened earlier than the usual 7am breakfast so that I could have a bite to eat before hitting the tracks for the day. MMmm! Homemade bread warm out of the oven.

Caught the bus to the station in time for my 7:40 am train to Bodo. What a beautiful journey it was. Absolutely stunning scenery. I had a window seat and spent 10 hours transported to.....Norway! Mountains, waterfalls and the fiords. Most of the journey was alongside fiords. Despite the mountainous nature of Norway, if you look at a map, it is interesting to see how far the fiords (ocean) penetrates inland. For us on a train, that meant the long way 'round, with unbelievable scenery all the way. The train would follow the shoreline of a fiord and to straighten the track, dived into a short tunnel each time the shoreline made a 'point'. The views of this amazing country from the train were awesome.
Yes! I am now north of the Arctic Circle for the second of three times this holiday.

Something that makes me laugh about trains is that unlike planes, where they take knitting needles off old ladies, on this train axe murderers don't even need to bring their own axe! There was a big one on the wall ready to use and a sign pointing to it just in case you didn't see it!

Having now done this train journey too, I have an idea that the "Worlds Greatest Train Journey" should be a 3 day adventure. Bergen - Oslo - Trondheim - Bodo. If you only do Bergen - Oslo (or VV), you miss out on so much.

I (we) arrived in Bodo at 5:30. I say 'we' because Regula and Jurk, the Swiss couple who'd been with me to Hell and back last night, were on the same train. They had a bed booked at the hostel in Bodo, but I thought I'd wing it and had nothing booked. The hostel was full and I spent the next hour wandering (I don't always like it!) around town to the sight of 'No vacancies'. I eventually found an expensive hotel with a room for me, but on returning to the hostel to collect my bags, they had a bed because someone hadn't shown up.
Happy with what I'd saved, and with access to a kitchen, I cooked dinner for the 3 of us, using Lofoten salmon. It cost what I would have spent on one restaurant meal. It fed 5 because 2 others had dinner from what we couldn't finish. Don't you LOVE hostels for the social aspect. Later in the evening, over a couple of beers, we met Tony the Scot. Whilst shopping, I'd discovered that they do sell beer in supermarkets. Still not cheap. $30 for 4 cans!
Bodo, a coastal town 130km north of the Arctic Circle doesn't have much to offer and like us, most people only stay one night on their way elsewhere.

Tuesday - Ferry trip from Bodo to the Lofoten Islands.
Regula, Jurk, Tony and I got a table together on the 10:15 ferry to Moskenes.
The coastline is awesome. Mountains on the mainland and inshore islands were photographed as they disappeared behind us.
Later, as "The Wall of Lofoten" appeared on the horizon, I got an inkling of what all the fuss is about. A chain of sharp-peaked mountains pierced the sky, rising higher as we approached. WOW!
With such scenery and conversational company, the 3 1/2 hour journey went quite quickly and before we knew it we were arriving at the Lofoten Islands, reputedly one of the most beautiful places in Norway. That from a most beautiful country, meant that Lofoten was on my 'must see' from an early stage in my research and planning for this trip.

The ferry pulled into the tiny port of Moskenes in the shadow of mountains. We were booked into the hostel in Å (pronounced 'oo' as in food.), 5km south at the end of the road and a local bus had us there quickly. Å is the last town south, and also the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet.

I get to stay in a museum! Yep! The tiny cod fishing town of Å is actually the 'Norwegian Fishing Village Museum' with many houses, shops and fishing buildings preserved as they were a century ago.
I got to stay upstairs in "Grandma's House" museum. It was a twin room with period style furniture, including the bed. Glad I am not tall. The whole room was wood - walls, ceiling and floor, and was accessed by a steep wooden staircase with footmarks worn into it with the passage of time.
The others stayed next door in a dorm room above the bakery museum and woke to the smell of bread fresh out of the wood-fired oven.

It might be summer, but these islands are bleak, cold and windy. Today is freezing! Just a reminder that we're north of the Arctic Circle.
I got to wear my down jacket for the first time and went for a wander, as I do. The air temp was probably about 8 deg, but it was the wind that whipped through that was cold. It was fun to be all rugged up and I am looking forward to the high polar Arctic in August. THAT should be cold.
I found racks of drying fishheads, lakes and other points of interest.

Å is a truely magical place. A tiny fishing town with red fishermans huts called rorbuer on stilts lining the waterfront.

The nesting seagulls provide the raucous soundtrack 24 hours a day.
Drying codfish heads provide an omnipresent odour.
The overhanging mountains and cliffs provide a backdrop to the west as you look east over the sea towards Norway.

At this time of year it doesn't get dark at all.

I came to Lofoten to linger and "Smell the roses", but all I got were stinking cod heads!

Tonight I used the kitchen to cook and shared my meal with Justin, an Aussie guy I'd just met here at the hostel. The kitchen and living room were shared between 3 buildings so were quite the social centre.
We travellers all had a couple of beers at 'home' then headed down to the only bar and restaurant in town perched on the waterfront for a beer. Gotta love hostels for the socialising!

Wednesday - Today I climbed a mountain.
I feel priveledged to experience Lofoten and intend to make the most of it, weather regardless. I have 4 nights in this special place, so I'm very happy with that. Hiking, cycling and kayaking were on my list, but with the closest kayaking a 6 hour bus ride each way away, it only left hiking and cycling, and as you will read, they did not disappoint.

With food, warm and waterproof clothes in our packs, Justin and I set off to climb Mt Tindstinden. (At 490m ASL it would prove to be a warm up for a higher mountain on Friday.) We walked 3km from Å to the next town and then headed uphill away from the coast. Passing waterfalls and jumping over streams, the mushy path headed upwards and whilst the weather appeared yucky, it didn't actually rain. It took us a couple of hours and the going was okay in most places, even if the path was hard to follow. The occassional wild cloudberries were a welcome treat.

What an amazing view from the top!

The town of Å lay the bottom of an almost sheer cliff below us and we could make out the individual buildings.
You know my feeling about mountains - they are inspiring and humbling....and I love climbing them!
We had special lunch on the top and lingered for the good part of an hour. A view is even better when you work for it.
As if that hike wasn't enough, we turned left at the road and walked the 2km to Moskenes to check email, then walked 5km back to Å. I've earned a beer or two tonight I think.

As planned, Justin and I went to the restaurant for dinner. We'd been recommended the whale steak and the cod's tongues also on the menu didn't distract us from our whale eating mission.
When they arrived, Justin did come out with a real 'blonde' comment. On seeing a piece of meat, he said, "I didn't order beef!" Turns out he'd slept through the class at school that said that whales are mammals and was expecting a big piece of fish!
What does whale taste like? Not chicken! It's a strong flavour in the way venison and kangaroo are strong, but it doesn't taste like either of them. Not the tenderest thing I have ever eaten either.

Thursday - Time to explore southern Lofoten on bicycle.

Living in a museum does mean you become part of 'tourist' photographs. People visit Å by the busload, but unlike us, they only have a short while to see this amazing place. This morning I was having breakfast and looking out the window to see people photographing 'my' building and by default, me.

I had a lazy start to the day, because I can, but that all changed once I jumped on the bike.
The first few towns are quite close together and in places form a waterfront string of red rorbuer and fishing wharfs.
When I see photogenic subjects from a moving bus, I get frustrated because I can't stop and take a picture. Today that was not a problem. I had my camera with me and intended to use it and did.
The sky was overcast, but it did not rain all day.
If I saw something I stopped and photographed it. If I saw a side road, old shack or hidden lake, I would detour and explore and photograph as necessary. Today I was wandering by bicycle and loving it. All these beautiful villages with mirror calm water and a frame of sharp mountains is the stuff of calendar photos.
I think I suffered a case of digital diahorrea, but I don't care.

I stopped for lunch by a natural harbour. Despite not knowing any Norwegian, I like buying random things in supermarkets. Today's lunch was not a success. The 'fish in a packet' turned out to be salted mackeral and when I bunged it in my roll, all I could taste was salt. Oops!

Continuing northwards the road stayed just a stone's throw from the waters edge, not always a good thing on a narrow winding road shared with cars.
I passed a couple of 'falling rocks' signs. It got me thinking - are they wanting me to look UP so I can see them coming and speed up or stop, or should I look DOWN and not run into a fallen rock?

At the 20 km point I had a decision, return and make it 40 km or continue on to Randburg and catch the bus back. I continued to Randburg 35 km from Å. It had taken me 6 hours including lunch stop to ride 35 km, a crazy time for that distance but, I was prone to stopping and wandering with my camera.
The solid bike seat had taken its toll on my bum and I was happy to jump on the bus back to Å.

We had some drinkie poos in the common area with quite a multinational crew in residence tonight. On heading to bed at midnight, I noticed that all the clouds had gone and everything was bathed in a gorgeous soft light.
This was the light I've been waiting for.
Facing east, they don't get the 'midnight sun' in Å, but on clear nights you do get 'white nights' where it never gets dark.
Tonight was pure magic. Justin joined me and the two of us spent the next two hours exploring Å with our cameras until 2am.
Soft pinks filled the horizon to the west, making the mountains of mainland Norway visible through a pink haze. To the north, a sliver of moon rose over an orange mountainscape.
The incessant seagull sound was tonight interrupted by moaning, as I had multiple photographic orgasms.
This was the 'magical light in Lofoten that has drawn artists from all over the world', that I'd read in the guide book.
I went to bed happy, knowing that I captured a money shot, or two.

Friday - Today I climbed another mountain.
My climbing buddy from Wednesday, Justin was going to Stamsund to meet his ferry north tonight, but we planned to hike first. We caught the bus 2 hours to Stamsund, dropped his bags, then hiked the mountain that overlooks Stamsund - 509m ASL this time. Both times we have actually started the hike at sea level, right on the coast.
The sky was clear and today it was quite warm to hike. The views of Lofoten were, once again, stunning. It was so clear today we could even see glaciers on mountains on the Norwegian mainland far off to the west.
It took a couple of hours up, Justin signed the book, then we followed the ridge alongh the top for a bit before heading back down. I had a bus to catch back to Å.
I'd only met Justin on Monday here in Å, but someone commented last night that they thought we had been friends for ages. I guess you just 'hit it off' with some people. Although from Newcastle NSW, he has lived in Perth, so I knew he must be a good bloke.
I said good-bye to Justin with plans to meet on the Hurtigruten at North Cape in a few days time? More on the Hurtigruten in the next blog.
Once again we had a few drinks at home before heading out, this time 3 km to the town of Sorvagen, which also has a waterfront restaurant and bar.
Walking back under clear skies, the light was a repeat of last night. This place is a very special part of the world. Rough, rugged, but amazingly beautiful.

Saturday - travel day. Å - Bodo - Tromso.
I got to sleep in and take my time this morning. The weather has returned to crap, making me all the more appreciative for the rain-free time I have had here. The bus was at 1:15 and the ferry to Bodo at 2. Tony the Scot was also on the boat as he is now heading south. The lenticular clouds over Lofoten gave me one last photographic treat as I left.

I had some time in Bodo from 5:30 until my flight to Tromso at 8:20. We already knew that despite a tourist office called 'Destination Bodo' it isn't, so we went to the supermarket to grab a bite to eat instead. On leaving, I passed a bakery and wanted to buy a bread roll. The girl behind the counter couldn't sell it to me as they were closed. So I said if you are going to throw it out, can't I just have it then even if you won't take my money? She hesitated, so Tony pipes up, "We'll sing for you." She accepted and next thing I'm standing there with my backpack, singing Baa Baa Black Sheep for my supper. Silly moment - but I got my bread roll.

I'd been told the Bodo airport was within walking distance from town and I guess it was - an hour later!

Posted by TheWandera 13:26 Archived in Norway Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Norway Part 2 Trondheim - Heaven and Hell?

Train journey through heaven one day and a train journey to Hell and back the next!

Sat 15th July - Maximum Travel Day!

At midnight, as the clock ticked over to Saturday I was fast asleep on the night train from Stavanger around the south coast to Oslo. Thanks to my trusty eye mask and ear plugs I had a good sleep.
I had been trying unsuccessfully to purchase an inflatable pillow since mine developed a slow leak in Sweden last month. This train came with a great 'night pack'. Blanket, eye mask, ear plugs and....an inflatable pillow. The ear plugs were so useless they made me laugh. After rolling them between your fingers, they would return to shape so quickly you could not insert them into your ears! I used mine instead and added the complimentary pillow to my packet of travel essentials.

After a 9 hour journey during which I slept for most, I arrived in Oslo, with enough time to change trains and not much more. I did check email, but none of you buggers had written to me. So selfish! You are happy to read what I take the time to write in this blog, but not a peep from you. (Don't forget I am going close enough to the North Pole to find Santa and I WILL have a chat to him! You have been naughty!)

The 7 hour train journey from Oslo to Trondheim is a journey from Heaven! Norway is just unbelievably beautiful! It's like Mother Nature was just trying to show off!.....and this journey didn't include any fiords!
The train followed magical valleys, sometimes through the bottom, sometimes halfway up, and sometimes along the ridge, but always the views were breathtaking. I had my book with me, but there was so much of interest to see out the window that I was scared I would miss something if I read my book.
During part of the journey the train travelled through an elevated plateau over 1000m ASL surrounded by snow-capped mountains that went to 2000m.
I am loving Norway. It might be expensive, but the landscape is priceless!
On arriving in Trondheim I walked to my accommodation. It was further than I thought, but the sights along the way were interesting and I saw a cathedral I would return to once I had dumped my backpack.

Yikes! On first impression I thought I had been diddled on this place! The internet booking service had described the dorm as having far less than the 34 people in the room! Cheap is good, but what price a good nights sleep? This is a student-run centre for the summer holidays only, with student prices on everything. Cheap and nasty? Cheap yes, nasty, NO.
How wrong first impressions can be. This place is actually really good. The staff, students working voluntarily are SO NICE and happy to help, unlike the staff at Piccadilly BP in London who treated you, the guest as a major incovenience.
They serve an evening meal, my cheapest yet in Norway and unlikely to be beaten. Beer is as affordable as Norway gets, so yes, I broke my drought.

"A man is not a camel. A camel can go for 14 days without a drink. I can't!"

After ditching my backpack, I went to the cathedral I'd passed on the way. Dating all the way back to the 1200's, this must be the most gargoyle-infested church I have ever seen. As you know, I am collectin g gargoyle photos for a friend. She will be impressed with this jackpot! One photo has over 100 statues and gargoyles in one picture!

I crossed the river back to the hostel for dinner, before taking my bag, camera and lenses to set off exploring Trondheim in the evening. The sun low in the sky, but hanging there for ages has given me more magic photos. i particularly liked some waterfront reflection photos.
Sometimes I have to really sniff out the spot to get the perspective I want, sometimes I see a shot but have to return at a better time of day, and then sometimes I have to wait for the sun or other things to do what I want, but when it all comes together....they are the photos you will see in my abridged slideshow.

I wandered the riverbank, getting nice reflections of buildings, then followed the harbour through town. It might have been 10pm, but I found a bar on the harbourfront with tables in the sun! It's Saturday night, so I had a beer. Spotting me on my own, I was invited to join a table of locals, which was fine, briefly, as they were so pissed they would ask me a question, slipping from English back to Norwegian and then ask me in English if I knew what they were talking about.

What's with Norwegians and alcohol? They are the only country to vote prohibition on themselves. The only bottleshops are government run and are called Vinmonoplet. Open very short hours and about as rare as a Dockers win. Scandinavians have a strange binge drinking culture no more evident than walking around on a Friday or Saturday night. It seems that 'controlling' something does nothing to stifle the demand. I hear that home distilleries are rife which is more of a worry, because get it wrong and the result will send you blind! With both cannabis and alcohol, it seems that government measures to crack down on a substance that some members of society enjoy, only drives the trade from the 'white' controlled market to the black market, with a loss of control over the quality, perhaps to the detriment of your citizens, as well as lost revenue in taxes.
I excused myself after that beer and continued wandering, as I do. Back streets and narrow alleyways - walk up these for the experiences others don't get.
As mentioned earlier, my mask and earplugs meant I had a great night's sleep, even in a dorm of 34.

Sunday - As the Bangles sang "...Sunday, that's my fun day, the I-don't-have-to-run day."
Too right! First impressions about this place have been shot to pieces. Not only is this the cheapest I have paid yet, and one of the friendliest, the breakfast is included and, unlike London (see England blog), is really good, including bread baked on the premises. So, I had some food and a coffee or two, while reading my first English language newspaper in awhile. Doesn't seem I've missed much. Oil price up, Israel fighting with a neighbour, and someone somewhere was racist! Amazing but true! Lazy morning because I can.

It was noon before I started wandering.
I walked along the river again, then saw a flag on top of a hill, my cue to climb that hill. No map, I headed upwards.
Tip for young players - if you keep heading upwards eventually you will get to the top of the hill!
I did, and WOW! what a view. It is an old fort, and surprisingly for Norway, was free! That didn't matter, as the view was priceless. After taking some panoramic pictures of Trondhiem, I sat on a grassy bank and read for awhile and enjoyed the sun and view.
Continuing my wanderings for today, I headed back into town.
By now I felt in need of lunch, but I'm learning that in Norway everything shuts on Sundays. Too bad if you want to eat! I found a bakery and had a sweet iced bun for lunch.
Time for the wandera to go tramming. Trondheim only has one tram line, so there wasn't the usual sense of randomness about it, but catch it to the end I did. The line wound upwards, affording me views of the city opposite to the hill I had climbed earlier. On topping the hill, it headed 'bush' or in this case forest.
On returning, I found a fruit shop open and purchased some fruit for now and a stash for tomorrow's train journey. MMmm! Nectarines.
i wandered the city some more before heading back to the hostel for dinner and beer.

This evening I went on a train journey to Hell and back!

I'd met a Swiss couple last night and today invited them to join me this evening on a train trip to Hell! What the? Hell!?
We each had rail passes so the journey was free, but that's not the point. Hell is a town 33 km from Trondheim.
The novelty of a town called Hell appealed and it was not lost on the conductor who laughed when we said where we were going. He even asked us to state clearly "We are going to Hell!".
We were the only people who got off! Hmmm! What to do with the 75 minutes before the next train back to Trondheim? Of course the obligatory photos in front of the railway station sign - Hell. Now it was time to find a bar for a drink before returning. Despite our wanderings, we were informed that there is not a bar for miles. No wonder they call it Hell!

Train back to Trondheim was preceded by an amazing moment that I must share. Standing on the platform for our train, a train came in the other direction and stopped, as they do. The driver got out and came over and asked us if we were going in his direction or not! I have never anywhere had a train driver take that initiative. Wow! Gotta love Norwegians for their friendliness and helpfullness.

The journey to Hell and back should rate a mention. It is a fantastic journey in and of itself. The track follows the shoreline all the way, so you have oceanfront views the whole half-hour journey.

Back in town, we stopped at Trondheim's microbrewery for a pint of Amber Ale. MMmm Beer!

That's Trondheim for me. Tomorrow morning, early, I leave for Bodo. It s a 10 hour journey, and way above the Arctic Circle, it's as far north as the trains go.

Keep smiling. The Wandera.

Posted by TheWandera 08:12 Archived in Norway Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

Norway Part 1 - Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger

Fiords and mountains, and the ubiquitous red barns.

Saturday the 8th of July 2006 Malcolm is Off to Norway!

I got up early, or at least it felt that way after my cultural effort last night of comedy and pints of English ale, and caught the tube to Heathrow. No delays – Woo! Hoo!
I got my first ever business class upgrade. It was only a 2 hour flight so the real bonus was the included meal of smoked salmon and salad, which, being Norwegian and not British, was actually very nice.

After catching the train from the airport to Oslo central station, I followed instructions from the hostel on which tram number to catch. They went both directions out front and unfortunately they didn’t specify which I should take.

Why is it that when faced with a 50/50 choice there’s a 90% chance of getting it wrong?

Changed trams and took one back the other way, found my digs okay and dumped my backpack and went off wandering, as I am wont to do.
Armed with an all-you-can-ride for 24 hours tram ticket I set off ‘tramming’ around Oslo. To begin the randomness, I caught the first tram that came past, regardless of the number. It was #12 and I took it to the end of the line. On the return journey, it passed the waterfront. The evening light was golden, so I jumped off and took a couple of photos of the harbour and castle, realised the expensive waterfront tourist restaurants would not be where I was eating, and jumped on the next tram back.
i found a restaurant near the hostel for a steak dinner. Scotch steak great, asparagus missing and vegetables were frozen packet ones and still cold. Glad it only cost me $50.

Sunday – Oslo’s enchanted forest.I’m staying in Oslo for 2 nights, which gives me all day today to explore.
(Foreshadowing - I am returning here for 3 nights at the end of the month when I will meet up with my friend Nathan who is joining me for the last 3 weeks. We will fly to Svalbard and kayak near the North Pole looking for polar bears and walruses amongst the ice floes, but that is an adventure for August and it is only July. Stay tuned to www.thewandera.travellerspoint.com)
If you want to say 'hello'by email it's malcolmonholiday@hotmail.com

I began the day with a buffet breakfast at the hotel next door. Great value and a filler for the rest of the day. Like everything in Norway, food here is very expensive.

I wanted to leave Oslo as a clean slate for when Nathan is here, so didn’t want to ‘do’ anything that we might want to do together. It was only for Nathan’s benefit that I didn’t go to the knitting museum. I did, however, walk across town to the National Gallery. (If Nathan really wants to visit the gallery I will happily go again.) They have a varied collection, the feature of which is of course a room full of Edvard Munch paintings. He is Norway’s most famous artist and the painter of ‘The Scream’. I think too that I might have found the only free thing in Norway. Even having a leak will cost you $2.50.

Wanting to reconnoitre the place a little, I went tramming again, this time ending up on the #13 tram. This one went so far out it wasn’t on my tourist map! Jumping off at the end point, I went wandering and investigating.

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but methinks I will be fine. So far – so good.

Heading back towards the tram stop I noticed a thick forest with a narrow rough track leading into it. Wondering where it might take me, I followed it to find out.
The path, lined with ferns, wound downwards steeply through a dense canopy of trees. I reached the bottom to find a beautiful cascading stream. What a magic place! An enchanted forest all to myself. I paused to reflect on the difference of only 2 days ago. London – grey skies and buildings, a crush of people and that ever present city noise. Here I was on my own in a special place surrounded by green, with the only noise a gurgling stream and chirping birds. This spot is not in any guidebook! The Wandera scores again!
Figuring that if I followed the stream I couldn’t get too lost and would end up somewhere, eventually. The rough path continued streamside through a verdant valley and I stopped to take some special photos at a small waterfall. Beautiful slow shots that blurred the falling water. This was not the Oslo I had expected and a little reward for my fondness for tramming and wandering.
On exiting the forest in to a small town 2 hours later, I ascertained my location and caught the train back to Oslo.
Still time to try one more line and this time I caught the #19 as it went in completely the other direction. The map gave no indication that this one went high up a hill overlooking Oslo, so I jumped off at the top for a look and photos. Another bonus for The Wandera

Tonight it’s the World Cup soccer final. Time to find a pub with TVs. I’d heard Norway was expensive, but my first beer here cost me $17! On checking out the bar menu the $30 cheeseburger had a diet-like effect on my appetite. $30 would buy me two beers!
World Cup ‘football’. What a stupid game! Here we had another important soccer match that goes to penalty shoot out. Why not save 2 hours of everyone’s time and just go to the penalty shoot out?
Has anyone stopped to think that if you have a game where two teams regularly play for two hours and NO ONE wins, there is a fundamental flaw. Make the goals bigger? No off-side?
This travelling Aussie sure misses REAL football – Aussie Rules football. AFL way to go!

Monday – Oslo to Bergen.
I’m crossing the country by train for this one. What a magnificent menu of scenery was dished up as I looked out the window.After beginning with a 10km tunnel of blackness, fortunately the scenery just got better and better. Mountains, lakes and farms with the ubiquitous Scandinavian red barns were the entree. (Being a rebel, I’m tempted to buy a barn, paint it blue and see what they do!)
As the track rose from the coast in Oslo to over 1200m ASL, snow-capped mountains, glaciers and waterfalls were the main course.
As we descended towards Bergen, hugging the sides of mountains as we did so, Dessert was served. Waterfalls of all sizes cascaded into rushing rivers which in turn flowed into cliff-lined fiords.

What is a fiord? Not sure myself, I looked it up while researching this adventure.
The dictionary definition is - A long, narrow, inlet of the sea between steep slopes. esp. Norway. Even the dictionary says - when you think of fiords, think of Norway.
I've seen fiords in New Zealand and in the far south of Chile, but as the dictionary suggests, Norway takes the prize.

Arriving in Bergen was like being catapulted into one of the world’s truly beautiful cities – except that I had come here via “The World’s Most Beautiful Train Journey”, not a catapult! Their claim.
“The World’s Most Beautiful…….” is a claim I am seeing often here in Norway, but if that train ride is a sampler, they could well be right.
Perhaps “The World’s Most Beautiful Country?” I’ll get back to you on that one after I wander and explore this country some more.

According to the tourist brochure, Bergen is “The city surrounded by 7 mountains and 7 fiords.”
Another location winner. This hostel has the best location in town, better even than the best hotels. The view from the terrace roof over the harbour is fantastic.
It was 4pm by now, so time to go wandering – first stop the fish markets on the harbour front. I saw and photographed a whole anglerfish, trawled from the deep. Euphemism – monkfish.
Many samples available and when in Rome, or Bergen in this case, there is ‘hval’ to try. It’s pronounced ‘vale’ and yes, it is whale meat. Meat is a good word for it because it doesn’t look like fish, which is good because they’re mammals. I tried it smoked - delicious, and raw - not so nice.
I explored Bergen away from the waterfront and found a nice park with a big fountain. After enjoying a bargain dinner of an all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ, I went back to the harbour to continue wandering. It was later in the evening now and armed with my camera, I took advantage of the gorgeous golden evening light that bathed the town. Sunset was at 10:45.

Tuesday – With the price of meals in Norway, the $12 breakfast on offer at the hostel was not bad value, just as long as you grabbed a ham and cheese roll for lunch as well.
Weather overcast and raining. Perhaps they should call this place, “Bring a brolly Bergen.”? This is summer, but on enquiring I discovered that it rains here 400 days a year!The average temperature in July, their warmest month, is 14 deg C. Yikes! Gotta LOVE Perth! I do!

My solution to the precipitation problem was to jump on a sightseeing tour of Bergen. 3 hours in a bus out of the rain. No such luck.
First stop – an open air museum.
Second stop – 10 minute walk from the car park to the house museum of Edvard Grieg, Norway’s most beloved composer.
The third and final stop was a tiny viewpoint of the city that was crushed with the people from 5 coach loads of tourists all trying to get their ‘been there’ photo!

There are however, some benefits of being herded - sorry guided - around, and today on the bus has made me realise how much I am missing out on as a solo traveller.
Today I felt a real sense of belonging that I have lacked, as I too got to wear a yellow sticker that identified me as part of the group.
I got rehearsed and clichéd comments from a guide, instead of the hassle of actually meeting a local person and having a real conversation.
I got to feel young, as I was the youngest in the group by about 20 years.
I realised that using my eyes and other senses was NOT the way to do it. What I need is a video camera stuck to my hand and view my holiday as it happens, through the viewfinder and then watch it all in slow motion when I get home. i can't believe I am trusting my memory for the sights and sounds of this holiday.
I realised I am wandering and exploring too fast. Silly me for walking at a normal speed. As the group moved at the speed of the slowest member I realised I must be missing something by moving SO FAST!
Finally as an independent traveller I would otherwise have missed out on having the same photos and going to exactly the same places as all the cruise ships and other package tours that land on Bergen’s shores. Imagine going to Bergen and being the only person without ‘that’ photo.
Imagine? I do!

The inclement weather drowned my plan to hike to the top of one of the mountains this arvo so I used the internet to book some travel bits (flights over fiords) for later in the month as I explore the far north of Norway and meet up with my ship. It is all coming together beautifully. Arctic Circle here I come for the second of three times this trip.

Pizza was a dinner option, until I realised they were $60 – for pepperoni pizza! I kid you not. When you find a good thing stick to it. Mongolian BBQ again.

The weather was beginning to break, maybe, so hoping for some nice sunset photos if the clouds cooperated, I grabbed my camera and set off walking to a vantage point by the harbour that I’d spotted on the bus tour this morning. (See, there was some benefit.) It was a lot longer to walk than I realised, but I was in no hurry and neither was the sun. My optimism paid off as an orange hue draped the buildings by the wharf. The clouds too put on a show and I felt like the only spectator.
I wandered, as I do, back a different way, through some small old wooden houses that fronted narrow cobbled streets. The quaint part of Bergen. Another nice discovery for he who wanders.

Wednesday – ‘Brunch’ at the hostel, then I caught the 10am fast catamaran ferry from Bergen to Stavanger. According to their brochure, it was supposed to be an “Amazingly beautiful journey”, but with overcast skies, and rain all the way, I’ll have to take their word for it. Like Bergen, the beauty of this region depends on some sunshine, something lacking today. As the ferry weaved through the islands and fiords of southern Norway on its 4-hour journey southwards, I did take one photo which I will title, Shades of Grey.
I was met in Stavanger by Sigrun, a pen friend of my mother for longer than I have been around. (A 'pen friend' for those of you too young to know is someone you write to in another country and quite likely have never met. Mum and Sigrun did not meet until over 20 years after they began regularly writing.) I will be staying with Sigrun for the next two nights. No point sightseeing this arvo as summer here is still pretending to be a Perth winter. Hey! At least it’s raining here in Norway. I hear Perth has had a dry winter. That would be right! Just the winter I nick off!

Thursday – Sightseeing and then a triple treat.

After a traditional Norwegian breakfast, including a brown sweet cheese, Sigrun and I went touring the islands of Rennesoy in the Stavanger region, accessed by a 6km tunnel from the mainland that goes 223 metres below the sea. Perhaps the speed restrictions are so you don’t get the bends on the way back up?
The sun was shining mostly and we had a pleasant meander around the quiet rural areas of this group of islands, stopping at the Abbey of Utstein, dating to 1260.
We wandered around Stavanger town centre and I had a small world moment on the wharf. On hearing, “Hey Aussie!” I turned to see the lady I’d sat across from on the train from Oslo to Bergen.

Interesting museums never cease - Sigrun and I toured a canning museum, but it was a bit fishy. Not as fishy as that pun though!
By mid afternoon it was time to visit her sister on the farm they run as an activity centre. We had a family meal together that was the ‘most traditional Norwegian meal’. Meatballs, plain boiled potatoes, split pea puree and gravy. No vegies. It was nice to share a meal in a home and of course, quite different to the restaurant meals I have been having. I know that it is a ‘most traditional Norwegian meal’, as they served that one on the train too. Yikes! Not a national dish to rave about.

I’ve come to the realisation that people
go to Norway for the scenery, not the food,
Sweden for the women, not the scenery,
Finland, hhmm. Saunas? Not a fan myself. Perhaps that's why I don't hear of many people who have been to Finland?
As for Denmark, Danish pastries? I am going there near the end, so I will report back on that one.

My triple treat followed and began with riding Icelandic horses through Norwegian forest. These beautiful, stocky and agile horses are a delight to ride, and ride them we did. How exhilarating to gallop past ponds, canter through the trees and clamber up steep tracks to the hill top. They are the only horse that has a fifth gait, called a tolt, between a canter and a gallop but much smoother than a gallop. Once we turned them home, they knew the way and were often keen to go fast. Luckily, so was I. Even the intermittent rain did nothing to dampen my enthusism.
Part two was to go kayaking on a salmon stream that runs past the farm.
Part three was to wear out whatever parts of me weren’t, on a climbing wall.
I had a heap of fun and Sigrun’s brother-in-law was suitably impressed by my competency at each of the activities undertaken.
What a day! A real bonus for staying with a local and definitely not one for the tourists.

Friday – Day trip to explore the Lysefiord.

Lysefiord is the most beautiful fiord in this region, so Sigrun booked us on the car ferry that took us 40 km, the full length of the fiord, to Lysebotn.
WOW! Words can’t really describe what I saw today, but I’ll give it a go and hope my photos do it justice. Psst! I took too many photos, but is that really possible in Norway? (Without access to a proper PC, I am unable to shrink and post any photos until I get home. Probably not a bad thing to spend my holiday ‘getting out there’ and leave photo editing until my return.)

I think that perhaps Norway may yet take the crown as “The worlds most beautiful country.”

Lysefiorden - Sheer cliffs rise 1000m out of turquoise water, from high above waterfalls cascade straight into the fiord, seals dive away as the boat approaches, and picturesque historic farms cling to a meagre existence stuck to the side of some of the less steep parts.
WOW! If this was a movie set, you would think it was fantasy.
With the depth and steepness of the fiord, the boat could approach close to the sides of the fiords without running aground giving us close-up views of the sides.
The four hour boat journey was non-stop awe and the weather was just as sensational.

On arriving in Lysebotn at the end of Lysefiord, Sigrun drove us up 27 hairpin bends and one single lane tunnel to bring us 900m up to the top of the mountains. We had a salmon lunch with a window seat in the Eagle’s Nest restaurant. “The worlds most beautiful restaurant view?”The road wound up some more and despite it being the middle of July, there was still some snow hiding in places. The road home was narrow, winding and gave us different views of this amazing area.

If this is a sampler, I can’t wait to see what the rest of Norway dishes up.

I am on the night train tonight from Stavanger on the west coast, around the south coast and up to Oslo – 9 hours. In Oslo, I change to a train for 7 hours to Trondheim, on the west coast again, far to the north.
It’s a good thing I love train journeys.

Not having had a drink since the World Cup final, it's offical! Norway has made the wandera an economic teetotaler.

Posted by TheWandera 22:36 Archived in Norway Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Enjoyable England? Absolutely!

Summer fun in London.

rain

If you didn't think beer drinking could be a cultural experience, read on.

Monday 2nd July 2006 -
I flew from Vienna to Heathrow, or at least that was the plan. We were on the airport bus to take us to our plane when they decided it wasn't airworthy, always a decision best made BEFORE take-off! We then had to wait while Austrian Airlines 'found' another plane.

How do you 'find' a plane? Check under the mat? Hey guys here's one under the potplant!
How you 'hide' an aeroplane in the first place?

It's annoying when your delay is longer than the flight, and unlike Qantas, Austrian Airlines don't provide you any refreshments while waiting, as a consideration for the delay. Then they want you to pay for any food on the flight, except you wouldn't have been hungry if they had flown in the middle of the afternoon when scheduled!
I got to Heathrow, eventually, only to hear that the baggage unloading system had suffered a 'meltdown' whatever that means. (I didn't realise baggage systems were now nuclear powered!) Happy moment amongst all this, I wasn't on the flight that had just arrived from Madrid. According to an announcement, their plane had taken off with no baggage at all! Not happy Jan!
Baggage collected eventually, I then caught a bus directly to Cambridge to meet up with my Auntie and Uncle, but by now, had now missed the family dinner. They actually live in a little village called Histon about 5 km from Cambridge.

My cousin Yan had come home to meet up with me, and we both went and spent the morning, lunch and afternoon with my Grandpa. He lives a short distance away in Godmanchester. What would any self-respecting English gentleman feed his grandsons if he takes them out for lunch. Fish and chips of course! Also with mushy peas. MMmm! Mushy peas.
Hot and humid late afternoon was spent by Yan and I in the middle of Cambridge. Hair cut, and gargoyle-adorned cathedrals photographed, we returned home.
Tonight we had a family dinner outdoors, something I never though would happen in England. Something else I never thought would happen was burning my feet on hot ground! Before dinner, I popped down to the post office in the centre of the village. Having already taken off my shoes, I thought a barefoot walk downtown would toughen my feet up. WOW! Today was really hot and the ground was too. I've ended up with blisters! Bugger!

Tuesday - enjoying 'being on holidays', I only headed to London mid afternoon and the local bus from Histon to Cambridge train station was HOT. Then I felt the heaters were on and realised they probably can't turn them off! England copes with the cold as the houses have heating etc. What they don't do well is heat as nothing is air conditioned.
English efficiency – At 14:50 I enquired at the info booth on the platform whether the 14:54 was an express train to Kings Cross or should I wait for the 15:15. She said the 14:54 had already gone and the 15:15 was an express. When I pointed to the giant station clock on the platform, she had no idea either. WOW! To make sure you run on time, you leave early!
The express train to London was quick. Apparently London is in the middle of a ‘heatwave’? Front page of today’s evening newspaper 32 degrees!

Sometimes hotels, sometimes backpackers. This holiday is nothing if not variety. Each has it’s benefits and the downsides allow me to appreciate each in turn. During my 4 nights in London, I am staying in Piccadilly Backpackers in a ‘pod’ dorm.
“What the hell is a pod dorm?” you ask. I know I did!
Actually it’s an improvement on a normal 6 bed bunk dorm. The 6 beds (3 wide and 2 high) are like pigeon holes on a shelf and you climb in the end, rather than the side. There is a plywood ‘wall’ between you and the person next to you. This means if you hang your towel over the end, you have privacy and darkness. I’m staying here for the LOCATION as it is right in the middle of London’s West End action. There's a theatre next door and the Piccadilly tube stop is a stone's throw, and I can't throw far!

Later this afternoon The Wandera went wandering.
True to form, London had by now clouded grey and was getting ready to unleash a humid thundery downpour later tonight.
My West End wanderings brought me to nearby Leister Square and a pub! Since reading all about a few months ago in a book called The World of Beer, my mission on this visit is to only drink 'real' ales. They are the cask conditioned beers with no carbonation that get hand 'pulled' by a pump from the cellar. The first pub in Leister Square had 5 to choose from and I tried 2. One was called Hophead. MMmm! Beer! :-)

I lived in London in 1992-1993, and this is now the third time as a 'tourist'. Whilst I’m clear I would not like to live here, I do enjoy visiting London, and never lack for things to do.

It was Samuel Johnson who said,“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

The intention of this visit is to do some cultural stuff. Art galleries, theatre, pubs, comedy clubs, etc. I have 4 nights here, and the first one was the cultural experience of being in a centuries old pub in London called The Crown, drinking real ales and watching WC soccer with a bunch of Londoners. Cosy, and smoky. Unfortunately it seems that Europe, with the noteworthy exception of Ireland, is way behind Australia in making pubs smoke-free and a healthier place for all.

Wed - I skipped the dodgy breakfast at the backpackers. Queuing up for two bits of stale toast and bad coffee doesn't count as ‘breakfast’ in my book, but hey, they get to put "Breakfast included" on their website. I stayed here in 2004 and the location is 10/10. Brekky? Worst!
My first goal this morning, after a 'real English breakfast' elsewhere, was to secure a ticket to a musical tonight. Magazine to read in hand, I got to the half-price ticket booth in Leister Sq. half an hour before it opened at 10 and was one of the first in line. (If you get there at 10, you will wait more than an hour in line. Not such a dumb %u#& hey!) I got a great ticket to We Will Rock You, the Queen musical written by Ben Elton.

‘Heatwave’ yesterday and raining today! I went wandering towards Trafalgar Sq., just a short walk from Leister Sq. and before I knew it, like bees to a honeypot, there was Malcolm being sucked into the National Gallery. Like a timewarp, I entered before noon and reappeared into the daylight of Trafalgar Sq. about 3pm having been lost in the amazing collection of art they have. I went to the National Gallery in 1992, and I was familiar with Constable, but a revelation for me on this visit was the work of Turner, another English landscape artist. His capture of the nuance of light was just magic. He did it in a very literal manner, unlike Monet, an impressionist. On the subject of Monet, they have a whole room of them in the National Gallery.
No Monets for Malcolm! Unfortunately it was closed for a week for renovations, right when I am here!
Bloody Murphy keeps following me!

Next I walked to the Photography Gallery. I found it inspiring for a different reason. If the featured artist can be such, by taking boring family snapshots over a 3 year period, there’s hope for any of you reading this, and me!

I continued walking up Charing Cross Rd to Oxford St with lots of shops as I’d been hunting for a new travel clock. I eventually found one. What time to set? I didn’t know, but knew it was time for a beer! The Ship poured me a nice pint of London Pride, and my cultural experience continued. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

We Will Rock You was a great show and would be appreciated by anyone who knows at least a couple of Queen songs. Ben Elton’s humour crept into the ‘plot’ of course and it was a lot of fun, which is what a musical should be. Add to this the ‘sense of place’ as it is showing in the Dominion Theatre, where it has been since opening 5 years ago. The lobby and other areas are adorned with archival and historic photos of Freddie and Queen, providing interesting viewing in the interval.

Thursday – As I said, this is not my first time to London. It was however the first time I have ever done the hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Great idea! Undeterred by the overcast sky, I jumped on board the open-topped double-decker bus. It was a great idea until, true to London form it set in raining.
I jumped off near the London Eye, but with weather like this, I was not going to waste money on a view that wasn’t there. (Two days ago in the heat people were being ‘fried and microwaved’ in the plastic bubbles on the London Eye! Today they can’t see for rain!) My reason for getting off here was that the Dali Universe is right next door. I discovered the Dali Universe gallery by accident on my last visit and he’s my favourite artist – crazy, but inspiring. Creative, expressive, and not too bothered what people thought.

My favourite Dali quote is,“An artist is not someone who is inspired, rather someone who inspires others.”

As expected, I left inspired to greater creativity and artistic expression.

Lunch was in a Japanese sushi bar, but the dish I chose was Spanish fusion, I guess. I had a seafood paella eaten with chopsticks with miso soup. Japanish or Spanese?

St. Paul’s Cathedral was my next stop. WOW! Christopher Wren, you have done well.
The Tate Modern gallery followed, and I was here until closing at 6pm. I wanted some balance to the art in the National Gallery. Spending time at the Tate Modern, I was reminded how much of a crock some modern art is, when a painting that was just brown with a white stripe on the right border was described by the w#nker, sorry art critic, on the audio guide as being, “Moody and melancholy - with the white providing refreshing optimism to the whole and creating tension between the parts.” What a crock! It was a brown canvas with a white stripe that any primary school kid in the UK could have done, and some twit at Tate Modern spent thousands of taxpayers pounds on it. Glad I’m not a Pom or I would be annoyed.

Today was an international one for meals – English breakfast, Japanese lunch and now an Indian Rogan Josh curry for dinner.

Tonight’s cultural adventure was some stand-up comedy. I found a place literally right around the corner from where I am staying. Told you the location was good! It was upstairs at the Queens Head, a morbid name referring to none other than Anne Bolyn, the queen beheaded by Henry the 8th (I think it was he who invented fractions.)
Cosy venue with less than 40 in the audience and the ‘house full’ sign on the door. The MC worked the crowd to warm things up before the 6 comedians to follow came on. Asking if there was anyone not local and where they were from, I of course piped up ‘stralia. After stating that Aussies are always smiling, happy, optimistic and easy-going, he then went into a very funny tirade about how much he hates Aussies because despite the efforts of the English at being sad, downcast, miserable and pessimistic, it has no effect on the Aussies and they stay cheerful. A national compliment I thought. “Many a true word spoken in jest.” as my mother would say.

Friday 7th of July and my last day in London.
MMmm! Cooked breakfast! I walked to Embankment Pier for the 10:40 river cruise up the Thames to Greenwich, another thing I haven’t done before. Despite the grey sky still, it started off beautifully with the open topped boat and sights such as Tower Bridge and the Tower of London passing. Then the rain came, the roof was closed over and I am still waiting to see London with blue skies. The postcards I bought had a copyright date of 2002 and I suspect that was the last time they had the chance to take pictures of London with the blue skies.
On returning at 1pm I walked to Temple Gate to photograph the knight statues. Temple Gate is the gate/archway that divides the City of Westminster from the City of London. I hadn’t realised until yesterday on the bus tour that they are two cities. I thought it was all London.
From there I caught the tube (underground) to the Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum. It focuses on design and whilst it did have some paintings, there were many other objects of art on display. I particularly liked the sculptures.
Catching the tube back to Piccadilly I stopped at the Devonshire Arms (another pub within 50m of where I am staying) for a pint of ale. London seems to have a tiny pub on every corner and sometimes even in between - Australia has much fewer, but much larger pubs.
The bargain meal I’d sniffed out in the form of a Thai buffet, turned out to be a reminder, that you usually get what you pay for!
There was comedy on again at the Queen’s Head. Different organiser and different comedians. Tonight was quieter, with only 21 in the audience. I had the comfy chair in the corner and was picked on at various times as “Malcolm in the corner.” The comedians weren’t a patch on last night and there were even times that the banter amongst the audience was funnier than the person up front! One even swore at us and walked off. Very amateur.
I’d do stand up comedy, but I’m scared of being laughed at.

Why is it in England that everyone always talks about the weather?
News Flash! Unbelievable but true! Man in Kent caught beginning a conversation with something other than the weather.

Quirk of history. It seems that over the centuries many countries have tried to invade England.
Perpetual grey skies, incessant rain, cold, damp and overcrowded. Kinda begs the question - Why anyone would want to invade England?
Visit? Sure! I did and once again, had a great time!

Posted by TheWandera 16:04 Archived in England Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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