notyourmonkey: (if I held my breath)
End of Day Two, featuring awkward dinner set-ups and the Norwegian Karen Carpenter. )

Day Three: Trondheim. )

In conclusion: A+++ would visit again. Trondheim would be a lovely city in which to set up base camp, explore the region a bit. For my next Norwegian holiday, I’ll be sure to do just that.

Our next stop isn’t until nine this evening. Today is the day of long stretches of sailing. After Rorvik tonight, we won’t go much more than three hours without a stop for a couple of days. Tomorrow’s planned excursion is a Wiking Feet (or Viking Feast, whatever), which I’m passing on. We’ve got a two and a half hour stop at Bodo at noon tomorrow, and most of the other stops are only fifteen or twenty minutes. Lots of relaxing boat time between now and then.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I”m going to go admire the Trondheimfjorden a bit. Third longest in the country, I hear. 130 kilometers. I’m going to be a walking guide book by the time I leave.
notyourmonkey: (if I held my breath)
Molde. What can I say? There was some sort of conference/camp/people wearing matching clothing in town, and it was sleeting. We only had forty-five minutes, and truth be told I only dashed off to try and find a grocery/liquor store. (NB - it is all well and good to buy the v. nice bottle of wine at a v. v. nice price at the duty free store, but if one does not have a wine opener to accompany said bottle, it becomes a tragic paperweight instead.)

There’s a main drag/high street about two feet off the boat ship (must remember - ship ship ship. not boat.), and I wandered it about ten minutes in each direction. Shockingly, it was mostly a lot of closed stores and people in blue and white scarves running up and down. There was a v. interestingly-shaped church that I managed to snap a few pictures of, but that was about it. No grocery store, at least not one that was open, so I trudged back through the sleet - did I mention the sleet? because it was sleeting - to the little convenience store right at the dock and loaded up on everything but my silly corkscrew. (Namely, those mysterious cheez doodly things and some cashews, because for as lovely as the frites were in the little cafe, they were egregiously expensive, and I don’t want to have to pay twenty bucks for a quick snack if I miss lunch because I’m off making friends climbing mountains during regular lunch hours.

Also, I need to learn the word for “sparkling” in Norwegian. I wanted to buy some bubbly water that was not five dollars for a third of a liter, but I was defeated by the language. Oh, sure, I got the various flavored waters (definitely a raspberry, probably an orange, maybe a…pear? that one was a bit obscure), but nobody seemed to be illustrating tiny, happy bubbles.

We have to sanitize our hands every time we come on board, and I’m fairly convinced that it’s just pure rubbing alcohol in a squeeze bottle.

(As for my post-Alesund, pre-Molde activities, I dried off, bought myself a lanyard, made another cup of tea, and had a plate of surprisingly good fries with cajun-y spices in the cafe. I then toddled back to my cabin, intending to change shoes and meander over to one of the viewing lounges, but instead I sat down to take my boots off, folded slowly sideways, and napped for about an hour. Woke up just before they announced the arrival in Molde, and off I trooped.)

And did I mention the sleet?
notyourmonkey: (if I held my breath)
Holy crap. Norway is beautiful. I say this already having rhapsodized yesterday about the middle/western half of the country, but the coastline? All the islands? It’s *captivating.* Really, Really Old Guy from last night said he liked it because it reminded him of Scotland, so I don’t know if it’s due to his suggestion or if it really *does,* but the shape of the mountains remind me of what little I’ve seen of Scotland.

My sleep was a bit shabby last night, probably due both to growing accustomed to the ship and because I left my blinds open. I was so terribly worried about there not being any daylight, but, duh, I am traveling right at/after the spring equinox. The twee little guide they provide even has a chart of average sun-above-horizon (I hesitate to say daylight - clouds are apparently a way of life around here) hours through the year for various ports of call, and looks like it’s almost exactly twelve, except for when it’s more.

They said we were at the end of the season, so I’m a bit nervous about missing it, but I am positively *desperate* to see the aurora borealis. We have two days above the Arctic Circle! Please oh please!

Anyhoo. Daylight. Lots of it. Starting at six thirty this morning. I dozed on and off from then until eight thirty, when I finally bestirred myself to move the six whole inches (uh, quite literally) to the couch, where I read about today. A little after nine, I shuffled off to breakfast, where again I sat at a table of six by myself. (This sort of trip by single occupancy is certainly not for the faint of heart about such things. I imagine it will be rather quiet, but I’m perfectly okay with that. (Ask me again next Friday.) I have my books; I have the most amazing view; I’ll talk to people when I get home. And at our assigned dinner table. Or something. This may be just the vacation this introvert needs.)

I’ve only ever been on one cruise ship before, and it was huge and in calm waters. These waters are pretty damn calm, too (I, uh, think? They seem so?), but this boat (for as big as it is) is comparatively much smaller, and you feel much, much more movement. Not jarringly so or nauseatingly so, just, you know. More. We’re headed mostly north-ish while the waves run in west to east (ish), and the movement of the ship is like riding a very, very (very) slow canter. The dining room was at a gentle angle for much of breakfast.

Speaking of which: herring + mustard + cream sauce != breakfast food. My deepest respect, etc. to the Norwegian cultural traditions, but this particular culinary adventurer will be saving her experiments for later hours of the day. I had another lovely, mysterious roll (v. crusty, maybe rye, had little seeds on it), lots of apple slices, some amazingly fresh pineapple, corn flakes, and swiss cheese. Ooooh, and more tea in my little tea-any-time mug. They have a quite nice selection.

Interesting side note: of the handful of couples I’ve seen under the age of forty-five, they seem to be almost exclusively composed of a very tall man (6ft+) and a very short woman (well, shorter than me at 5’4”). I am gently amused.

So I lounged in the dining room, right at the juncture of windows on the aft starbord side, the mainland side (incidentally also the side of my cabin - yay Grace The Booking Agent once more!), and it was lovely. I wandered through the various panoramic lounges, and it was lovely. I went to the aft seventh level deck (from where I watched us depart last night) to watch us dock in Torvik, and it was lovely. Only a little brisk, and one day I *will* remember my coat. I may also take a cue from a group of ladies up there, in that they bundle up a bit, grab a blanket, and stretch out on lounge chairs out there. It’s not warm or sunny, but I find I like it far better than the lounging on my last cruise.

[Side note for the version not releasable to the family: I think I’ve had a change of heart about my big bang. I’ve been reading far too much Georgette Heyer and not watching near enough Michael Phelps.]

It’s an hour to Alesund, and I’m quandrying over what to do about food. Dinner poses to be quite the, ah, experience (yet another kind of fish in mustard and cream), so I definitely want to eat lunch, but I finished breakfast, like, twenty minutes ago. Lunch is from 11:45 - 14:30, but we’re in port from 12:00 - 15:00. Do I grab an early lunch, even while full, or do I grab something in town? I have to go see my art nouveau buildings!

Ooooh. The sun is shining.
notyourmonkey: (if I held my breath)
When even the guy supposed to be selling you the phone and internet cards is like, “Uh, it’s really expensive and massively slow,” I think it’s time to take a hint. No connection for me, then, except in an emergency. I have the work ‘berry, but I’m actually starting to feel guilty for using it while on leave. Okay then.

So here I am at my desk in my cabin on the ship, my all-you-can-drink-coffee-and-tea-souvenir-mug holding about three fingers of Bushmills (not Jameson as I originally wrote; I have no idea why I mixed the two up), and we’re eight minutes from leaving Bergen. I can feel/hear the…enginey things doing their…enginey stuff.

[Interlude]

And now I’m back from actually watching us shove off. I’m apparently a little dense, because I heard the “we’re about to leave” message and immediately dashed off to the top aft deck…without a coat. It’s hovering right around freezing, so it’s unclear whether it was raining or snowing, but either way - coldandwet falling from teh sky, and there I was, beaming like an idiot as I swiftly froze.

Still, that’s quite the moment, when you start to see the land slide away from you. I’m on a boat! For a week! Ish! (It’s five days and twelve hours, give or take.)

My cabin, it’s kind of ridiculous. I’m pretty sure it’s bigger than my hotel room last night. Better storage in any case. I was originally going to go with the lowest-cost cabin (inside, tiny), but I sprang the extra hundred bucks to upgrade two levels to the baseline, nothing-wrong-with-it-to-knock-money-off cabin. I checked, and technically my cabin is classified at that level, but *dude.* It’s a triple, meaning I have two Murphy beds arranged like bunkbeds and a couch that turns into a bed. I have a desk and chair with storage. I have three closets. I have random extra space (where I think a tv used to be). All my toiletries are in triplicate. And it’s just me! I have a full-size, unobstructed-by-lifeboats window, and unlike the similar cabins on the fifth level, no one will be walking past it, so I can keep my blinds open.

(Okay, for as “big” as this cabin is, I still can’t think of a single person I like well enough to share it with, much less two. I mean I would, but wow. We’d be spending a lot of time elsewhere. As I plan to anyway.)

For a cruise ship, this is pretty much my ideal. Bunch of cabins, a dining room, a 24 hour cafeteria, a couple of bars, a library, and the majority of the public space devoted to comfortable seating and huge windows. There’s a couple of outdoor jacuzzis, which makes me regret the “of course I won’t need a swimsuit; I’m going to the Arctic impulse.”

No casinos. No shuffleboard. No onboard entertainment.

\o/

(Plus, that’s what the wee little mac and my dvd stash is for.)

My fellow passengers are pretty much what I expected - way, way, way older than I am and mostly in couples. The vast majority of people are at least thirty years older than I am, and a huge swath is forty to sixty years my senior. The few younger people are 95% couples, although I’ve spotted a few roving duos/packs of twentysomething German boys in the bar. I’ve been exchanging furtive nods/conversation with my fellow singletons, including the British gentleman who had decided that he wasn’t ever going to leave the UK again before he died (possibly any day now, if I’m being less than generous), but he realized he still had six months left before his passport expired, so he decided to sneak in another trip or two to the Continent.

(There was also young crewmember trainee Sven - I am so not making that up - who made light conversation and admired my Kindle. Ah, there’s the way to a young woman’s heart: admire her technology. No, seriously.)

Dinner was a buffet like I imagine lunch will be most days. All’s I can say is…wow. Wow. Wow. That’s a lot of something right there. For the record? Fish does not ever belong in jello; I don’t care how dire the situation is. The last cruise I went on put jello on top of cake, which I felt was pretty damn wrong, but this takes the, so to speak, cake.

I’m making it a point, though, to have at least one new culinary adventure per day, as long as the opportunities present themselves. I think there will be plenty. Today I’ve had two, and frankly the reindeer heart was far tastier than the overly-spiced pressed meat/bologna thing. I might, uh, actually have some more tomorrow.

(Although it was tasty, I will admit to having my first moment of profoundly getting vegetarianism in a way I never have before when I forked that little sliver of organ meat. Delicious, and the texture wasn’t even that funky, but, uh, wow. Heart. And tomorrow may be Reindeer Tongue Day.)

We hit thirty ports of call, first one this morning around 4:30, and there’s at least one each day with enough time to get off and poke around. (You can get off at any port, but some are for fifteen minutes, and nobody wants to get left behind, now do they?) I’m passing on most of the arranged excursions (I can walk around a town by myself plzkthx, plus I have to go buy a corkscrew to open my duty free wine), but I’m definitely doing the tour of the North Cape, unless I can figure out how to do it on my own. I am regretfully passing on both the dogsledding and snowmobiling, as I’ve done those before (but not in Sami territory! ::pines::), and I’m egregiously bummed that my flight from Kirkenes leaves too close to docking to leave me time to go see the ice hotel there. (Ice hotel! ::pines::)

Tomorrow is Alesund (imagine a little circle perched on top of the A for proper spelling) at noon. We’ve got three hours, and apparently the whole town was redone Art Nouveau style after it burned in 1904. Am inordinately excited, as Brussels has inspired in me quite the fascination/appreciation for Art Nouveau. (Also, that’s totally the style of illustrations in the versions of some of the Oz books I read when I was little.)

In the meantime, I’m still exhausted, even after one night of mostly-decent sleep. You’ll have to pardon me for not rhapsodizing over the train ride from Oslo to Bergen tonight (even though part of it was some of the most unbelievable scenery I have ever seen or may ever see - oh, Norway), but I am going to go curl up with the Kindle, a second Heyer novel in as many days, and my coffee cup of whiskey. In just a little bit I will fold down my bed and crawl under its lumpy down blanket and sleep the sleep of the righteously on vacation.

ETA: ahahahahaha. I just figured out what the random ladder in the closet is for. Not for daring sea evacuations, no. It’s for getting into the top bunk. ::facepalm::
notyourmonkey: (if I held my breath)
First there was the slight miscommunication/differing expectations as to what exactly constitutes "pepperoni" in a calzone. (I would have called it salami.)

Then there was what was admittedly my own fault, in that I am accustomed to Bruxellois dining times so therefore left my hotel a little after eight for dinner, only to find that the restaurants within a four-block radius that didn't close at eight were the ones that closed at seven. Except for, of course, the McDonalds, the Burger King, and Dennis's 24 Hour Kebabs.

Okay, I said then, let's be all adventurous and whatnot, and let's go for the kebabs. You like kebabs. You like pita. Mmmm, shish taouk-y kind of things. Except for how there was more sauce than substance, and the meat(?) that was on the normal rotate-y kebab thing sort of looked like a leg of Spam that had been shoved on a skewer and tasted about as appealing.

Luckily the kiosk across from the hotel was still open, so now I have a bar of kinder and a bag of potet skruer, which Google Translations tells me are potato screws. They look (and taste) kind of like rotini made out of vague potatoey substance. Still, it's food, and I will take it at this point.

I'm a bit sad, though. Two of the restaurants I sought out around my hotel were sushi, and they looked really good. Especially the salmon.

(Side note: Tiniest Hotel Room Ever also has Thinnest Walls and Floors Ever. I'm directly above the kitchen. There is no point at which I have been in THRE that someone has not been chopping something.)

ETA: wait wait wait! I forgot my first food (for a loose definition of food) encounter in Norway, and it was totally a win: duty-free liquor! I have a bottle of really nice Barolo from Italy and a frickin' litre of Jamesons, for less than twenty dollars each! Let me repeat: a litre of Jamesons. Eighteen bucks. That's, like. Half price? Or less? Dude.
notyourmonkey: (Default)
I'm in Oslo! I'm in the Tiniest Hotel Room Ever! I have a twin bed, a v. comfortable chair, and a bathroom where the toilet is essentially in the shower (do not try and fool me with your "shower curtain;" if I turned the shower on while perched on the toilet, my feet would get wet), but I'm pretty much okay with that, because the floor is heated!

The travel was super, super easy, for values of "easy" involving "actually waking up with the alarm at six am after less than five hours' sleep for the second night in a row, having just enough time before the cab arrived to wheedle a tiny teacup of espresso out of the closed kitchen while checking out of my hotel, having a lovely conversation in half French, half English with my cab driver, avoiding long lines at the airport because I totally win for checking in online last night, getting an extra discount on my duty-free camera bag because I am traveling to Norway (??? - but I'm not complaining), getting a smoothie for breakfast that is apple, strawberry, mint, ginseng, guarana, and yoghurt (OMGYUM), being mildly vexed at Brussels' airport's refusal to post gate assignments until actual boarding time (no, really, WTF), having a whole row of three to myself on a v. pleasant flight, racking up booze at the duty free store, realizing to my chagrin that I didn't actually need my passport to get into Oslo, because I was arriving from a fellow Schengen country, arriving just in time to catch the express train to downtown, and my room being ready when I arrived at my hotel only two blocks from the train (albeit a long two blocks when wheeling a suitcase over construction and cobblestones."

So, yeah. Easy.

I rolled in around 1:30 and was back on the streets by 2, desperate for food. (The smoothie, she is not an all-day meal.) Grabbed a dubious calzone from a little deli thing, which redeemed itself by having v. comfortable cushy chairs for eating and relaxing. The weather is heartbreakingly gorgeous here, blue skies and right around forty degrees, which is practically balmy if the locals' activities are any indication (hordes of people everywhere, packed sidewalk cafes, and more outdoor ice cream consumption than you can shake a stick at).

Unfortunately, my feet remain deeply jacked up, and my one afternoon to walk around is being hampered by the whole "walking around" bit. I saw the old fort; I saw several v. old and v. scenic buildings; I found the yarn store and fondled Dale of Norway sweaters (OMG I'm in a country where stranded knitting is a national souvenir), and now I'm kind of done.

I'mma call my mom and squee/whine at her (Oslo! :D Feet! D:) for a little while, and I'll probably venture out for food (again) later on, but I'm not going to kill myself here. Doing my best impression of the original little mermaid story does no one any good, even if this is my last big day of walking for a little bit, I think.
notyourmonkey: (shrubbery!)
Have made it through another round of meetings and awkward small talk. Slept horribly last night, so any grand cavorting plans for this evening have been tabled in favor of drinking while packing, maybe some nice Thai for dinner, and if I finish up early enough, one last beer in the hotel bar. ::happy sigh::

Life Lessons From Brussels, In Bullet Point Form )

I've been watching the sun fade away over the rooftops while curled up in my hotel room (not, as you might have noticed, packing). The sky shades from deep blue to deep pink, with all sorts of interesting purples in between. It's a little chilly, but overall the weather's been exquisite for the last four days - high fifties to low seventies, not a cloud in the sky.

I hear it's been snowing in Oslo for four days straight. Can't win 'em all.

My flight leaves tomorrow at 9:30 am, and the cab comes a little after 6:30. I have mastered the irrational guilt and impulse to nevertheless paint the town red this evening, so I think I'll toddle off to dinner here in a minute. Me and the Kindle are MFEO traveling companions, and I think I may go have a drink with an umbrella in it to celebrate my last night here. It would be a fitting end to a really genuinely lovely stay in, if not my favorite city ever (actually, I'd be hard-pressed to pick one), a city for which I hold a great deal of affection.

Next stop: Oslo. For less than twenty-four hours. Thence to a train for seven or so hours, and thence to a boat where I will live for the next seven days.

(Note to self: when preparing to travel on a boat north of the Arctic Circle, perhaps The Terror is not one's best choice of reading material, hmmm? Maybe?)
notyourmonkey: (shrubbery!)
Bienvenue once again, mes amis, from an almost disturbingly modern hotel room! I kind of feel like I'm living in the Jetsons! I haven't slept! I am reminded once again of how much I hate my traveling companions! We're having a sightseeing get-together later this afternoon! Whee!

From my mid-atlantic handwritten ramble:

I glory in each and every inch (all five of them) of extra leg room in Economy Plus. Worth every damn dollar, especially when one's original seat was in the middle of five, all surrounding seats filled. All in all, I hate to jinx myself at how well everything is going.

Ran a little bit late last night, but at this point, it's an almost comforting ritual to stay up until some obscene hour, alternately packing and downloading stuff and yarn-plotting. This feels like as big a trip as I've taken in several years. (Maybe 'cause it is?)

Cut the timing close there at the end on a couple of things: downloading season 4 of SPN and yarn prep - selection, winding, needle decisions, etc. (1st thing forgotten: pattern for the shawl I'm in the middle of. this is what happens when you leave your regular travel portfolio at work.)

Ultimately I was only about ten minutes late out the door (which is practically early for me), everything accomplished except seeing Watchmen and taking out the recycling. Had a lovely cabbie who drove v. v. v. slowly, talked the economy and international travel, and accepted credit cards. Super-fast check-in, even with my Morally Dubious One Way Ticket. Security took forever, both other people's bags and mine. (Apparently I have a v. suspicious necklace?)

Arrived at the gate just as my boarding section was called, with just enough time to fill a water bottle and have a hurried conversation with my mother. (Looks like I'm seeing Phantom in Vegas. My inner seventh grader remains pleased.) Easy loading, plenty of time to settle, and I dozed off about thirty seconds after takeoff. Then Now it's beverage/dinner time, and that forty-five minutes of drifting is probably all the sleep I'll get, even after my strategic bulkhead positioning.

Most amusing thing so far? One of the in-flight movies is Twilight. Oh, the pasty Cullens.

/handwritten stuff

My prediction was right; no sleep, just a numb butt. The Kindle remains The Greatest Invention In The History Of Ever (and I remain amazed at how eliminating the "what books do I bring with me/do I have space to bring with me?" question almost entirely de-stressed the packing process for me). So. Much. Love. I have 211 books/stories with me! And should I decide I need something else, I can acquire it via the wee little mac, and my luggage doesn't get any heavier! That is amazing, says the girl who has on multiple occasions done rather foolish things in order to make weight limits often tipped over by indiscriminate book purchasing.

So now I'm waiting for people to return phone calls, debating whether to nap or not, and [stress ranting redacted].

Breathe. I'm in Brussels. I love this city. Must remember that.
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