notyourmonkey: (if I held my breath)
(In the Morgue now, which is actually mostly empty, and it’s also actually kind of chilly. Who knew? Also, I have a diet coke purchased from a vending machine at the dock, and the machine’s job was actually to keep the drinks warmer than they would be outside.)

I’d be hard-pressed to say whether I like Trondheim or Tromso better. Tromso is somewhat tainted by my sore feet and hint of regret at not taking full advantage of my four hours here, but it had its own rewards.

Needles, Yarn, and Herring. )
notyourmonkey: (if I held my breath)
Bodo smells like fish. Dead fish. Three days’ dead fish. That is my lingering memory of that town.

There are no particular places of Historic Note that must be visited, and I’m a little churched out at this point, and it started to snow again, so Ella and I decided Bodo was the perfect place to do a little Norwegian shopping. The mall was right across from the tourist office; it seemed meant to be.

Alas, Norwegian prices meant that it was a strictly look-but-don’t-touch scenario. I browsed a bit, but really the only notable thing was the busker in the second joined mall. She had a minuscule electric guitar hooked up to a teeny weeny amp, but mostly it was just her and her voice. She did a lightly accompanied version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, covered with great adroitness by Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Buckley, and K.D. Lang among others, and this Norwegian street busker outshone them all. It was glorious. I gave her all my spare change and thanked her profusely.

After that, I came thisclose to getting a second set of holes in my ears, or some other piercing, but common sense finally reigned. I’m pushing it with work as it is with my current set, as tame as they are, and I should really consider before moving on to anything else. This is kind of a huge trip for me, and I feel the urge to commemorate it.

In the end, it turns out that I’m not the kind of girl who can hop ship for a couple of hours, approach an unknown artist, and have them punch needles into me. I need a little more time and consideration than that. There’s a shop’s reputation, healing time to consider, any issues related to getting work done in a different country, et cetera. I’m just not that hasty or flamboyant.

Which is why I did a little internet research, found a very reputable shop in Tromso (where we’ll be for three four hours tomorrow), and, well, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.
notyourmonkey: (if I held my breath)
I’m technically in the “Panoramic Lounge” right now, but I and my tablemates have more appropriately dubbed it The Morgue. It’s a lounge surrounded by windows in the bow of the top level, and the view is simply exquisite. The ship is half-full or less, so there’s never any danger in not getting a seat. True, there are some mirrored pillars that reflect slightly oddly, but it’s a beautiful room with copious, comfortable seating.

And I spend as little time there as possible while still maximising my scenic appreciation. It’s deadly in here. The average age is four hundred and twelve, or ten minutes from death. There are pockets that have the distinct air of a nursing home, with people hunched over staring out blankly, but instead of empty walls, they’re staring as some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. It’s a little too hot, and it’s absolutely silent. Some read; some knit; most just stare. Cameras everywhere.

Still, we crossed the Arctic Circle this morning, and my previous panoramic seventh-floor perch has gotten a tad less appealing. The aft portion of the seventh floor is a deck, and part of it is sheltered in glass. There are lounge chairs available, and if you bundle up enough, it’s really, really pleasant to stretch out on the deck and stare avidly from there. The atmosphere’s a touch less stultifying, and it’s *much* less crowded.

But it’s been spitting snow on and off all morning, and I wanted to haul out the wee little mac, so inside I stay for the moment. We’re a couple of hours out of Bodo, where we have two and a half hours or so to wander, so for the moment I’m just hanging out.

I tried going back to sleep after breakfast, but it didn’t take. I have learned that I have a hard time sleeping through dockings, and we docked four times last night between midnight and seven thirty, which is when I woke up, threw on about twelve layers, and dashed out to take pictures of the Arctic Circle crossing. Alas that I didn’t know any of my fellow nutters prancing about on deck in the frigid wind, because I really, really would have loved a picture of me with the marker (giant gold globe-y sculptural-y thing on a rock on the middle of the ocean) in the background.

Haven’t seen my compatriots at all this morning, except for a brief glimpse of William as he dashed in, then immediately out, of the the dining room. No one’s out on deck (smart people), and they’re not in any of the lounges. I can’t say I find myself too displeased, because even as I love having congenial people with whom to pass the time, the alone-and-quiet time is nice.

(Oh, much better. I just changed from the couch to a chair, and the chair is actually low enough ot the ground that I don’t have to contort my feet to keep my knees at a ninety-degree, laptop-appropriate, angle. I can feel blood rushing back to my toes! Also, it is really warm in here. My cabin runs a bit cold, and here I almost wish I had a t shirt.)

The second half of Day Three. )

[Ed. - Am un-cutting this, because it is rather crucial information for anyone thinking of Hurtigrutening themselves.]

Round about nine, we docked at Rorvik (running about twenty minutes late, thanks to complications departing Trondheim yesterday afternoon. turns out they couldn’t get the gangway closed for the longest time, then tried to just jam it shut, which has led to a new and exciting bend in the handrail), where one of the other Hurtigruten ships - southbound - was docked. M/S Nordlys (northern lights?) is a sister ship to my M/S Nordkapp (north cape), and passengers from both were permitted to do a little look-see next door.

Our dinner waitress, when queried, had no hesitation. “Nordkapp is much nicer. Much,” she said, with no hesitation. Given that I had not read any online reviews that were particularly enthusiastic about their ship (I believe the words “adequate,” “sufficient,” and “clean” were what I read the most), I was intrigued, because I rather adore Nordkapp.

It’s nothing like a Carnival ship. For one, the carpets do not visually assault you as you walk down teh corridors. The lounges are all in shades of blue and grey, and the furniture is low and curved. The walls are white, the floors a polished blonde wood, and overall the lines are clean, simple, and elegant. It feels like what it is: a classy working ship that funds its useful transportation service by carting around tourists to gawk at the scenery they pass every day anyway.

So you can imagine my surprise when we boarded the Nordlys and immediately drew up to a halt. “It’s…it’s Vegas,” Ella whispered. And it was. The essentials were the same - same layout, lowlying furniture, polished wood and brass - but the effect was entirely different. Everything was circus blue and red, with spangly chandeliers, and even the carpet was loud and distracting. On Nordkapp, everything is in service of complementing the views out the windows, directing your attention outward, whereas Nordlys is all lookatmelookatmelookatmeeeeeeee!

I know which I prefer. Greatly. Our waitress was rightly proud of her ship.

So if anyone is ever thinking of doing a Hurtigruten, I strongly recommend checking the schedule and getting on the Nordkapp. I’ve also heard that one of the original ships, the Vestersomethingorother, from 1954, is also very nice. It’s much smaller and is less modern, but it comes recommended by several people, including the Nordlys-disparaging waitress.



Not much else of interest to report from yesterday. Went back to my cabin as we pulled out of Rorvik, read some more, did a little research to get ready for today. (My tablemates have dubbed me their tour guide (as the designated “tour guide” for the ship openly admits that she knows little about many of the destinations and is primarily onboard to sell excursions), as I tend to scour the various publications and have found several interesting little tidbits, including tonight’s - heh - planned excursion to an ice bar not far from the dock in Svolvaer. It’s a small consolation for missing out on the ice hotel in Kirkenes.)

[Side note: the elderly French gentleman seated in front of me just whipped out a Nintendo DS and is going to town on it. Heh.]

It’s been fascinating to watch the landscape change and we plow ever further northward. Again, the essentials are the same - mountains, ocean, scattered islands, all in shades of brown and grey - but the differences are kind of thrilling. Things are softer down south, still covered with hints of shrubbery, the sharp edges filed away a little bit, and sometimes there’s even a little smidge of flat land between the base of the mountains and the ocean. Things got craggier as we went further north, the shrubbery giving way to scraggly pine trees, and some sides would get a light dusting of snow. This morning, it’s all sharp juts of rock plunging straight down to the ocean, and even though things aren’t completely snow-covered, not a single scrap of land doesn’t have snow somewhere.

It’s also much foggier today, probably due in part to the sporadic, spitting snow. It’s not slowing down the fishermen, who are out in droves, or the birds - gulls and other kinds of all sorts that I don’t recognized - who flock behind the fishing boats and occasionally cruise alongside us. (Secretly, I’m really hoping to see a puffin at some point.)
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::
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