#redmondtraveldiary18 · Europe · Hurtigruten · Norway · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 16) – Hurtigruten Day 1

Day 16 – 5/10

After a glorious sleep in our rather large double bed, in our gorgeous room on the ship we did what we do best, we buffet breakfast’d!! Anyone who knows me, knows that breakfast is 100% my favourite meal. We lay out our table like we are preparing for Christmas lunch for a family of five.

In terms of the food available, it was lacking nothing! Hot food, eggs of all types, hash, potatoes, beans, bacon, cured meats, many different types of bread, a selection of cheeses (heck yes, the crowd goes wild!), salmon (heaven for me), spreads, juices, preserves, cereals etc. The lot!

The only problem in getting to the breakfast was the 100-150 advanced-aged guests walking around dazed and confused, dripping things, coughing on the food, pushing in, shoving snacks in their shirts, pushing in, pushing me, pushing each other and generally going from Point A to Point B without any care for what was in between. Oh and the lady who just started yelling “Flan!” At the wait staff without any explanation. Rude.

Once we did get to our table (and this was our first morning on the ship), it became painfully apparent that the dead-eye staring at me wasn’t going to stop. I’m not sure about you, but if someone catches you staring – you look away right? Or do you maintain judgemental staring with a grimace on your face for minutes? Maybe those who state aggressively should have been smashing the prunes on offer, get things moving and lighten up a bit!

Over the loud speaker it was announced that for those of us booked on daytime excursions once we were in port, we could collect a sandwich bag and make, and I quote (because it was adorable) a very nice sandwich. Which we did. A sandwich, two apples and we were good to go. One lady however was scooping up bread, meat and cheese like maybe she was making sandwiches for her entire Ancestry.com family tree. Actually come to think of it, this same woman did this everyday and then intermittently throughout the day you would see her and her husband snacking on sandwiches. Also, during our week on the ship I saw more teabags get smuggled into pockets of older gentleman than I have ever seen in my life. The cruise was expensive but seriously, are they now carrying 100 teabags in their packs thinking ‘haha I showed them!’ ?!

I was so excited to get off of the boat and to get moving. We had picked the BEST excursion. We were going on a mountain hike in the Hjørundfjord! It was a grade 4 hike but we figured we could manage. Once we were off of the ship, we were straight into it. It was raining which was less than ideal but really, how often do you get to hike a Norwegian mountain in the rain?! Also for this hike which was indeed grade 4, raindrops covered any sweat/tears during the journey.

Now I’m pretty confident I now know why Australian’s call it a Bush-walk and every other country calls it hiking. A bush walk will occasionally have flat ground, a hike however is something thought up by the devil himself, it has no flat parts and you are always going up. Always!!!

Our guide was the friendliest and coolest man I think I’ve ever met. I believe his name was Kieren, and I wish I could find his details because he was amazing and was also a photographer. The tour was ran through Hurtigruten though so not sure I can find the details.

This hike was full on, it started on an old farm road and continued on a tractor path. It’s a steep climb towards the top, and the last 1,600 ft you climb an old stone stairway. Now walking up an incredibly steep ‘path’ is one thing, but doing it in the rain, after the area has had days of rain is another. Everything was slush, it was slippery and again I couldn’t quite work out why my expensive hiking boots had such little grip in the wet.

When we did make it to the top, which was easily an hour and a half – the view was spectacular, the rain had stopped and we had an incredible sense of accomplishment (which almost outdid the heart palpitations). Our lovely guide had hot coffee waiting for us, we smashed our very nice sandwhiches and after a brief break, we then walked across to the other side of the mountain to view the village of Sæbø on the other side of the fjord!

At the top you can also visit an abandoned bear cave. Before we headed back down the mountain, our tour guide took a photo of us which is now one of my favourite photos ever. He worked my camera like a magician, nearly to the point I felt like I had no right even having my camera!

It took just on an hour to go down and even though it was not as cardio-intensive it was hard! The ground was wet, we were in the back of the group, so all of the messed up ground, was even further messed up. Sadly one of the older guys on our walk took a tumble and thankfully the guide and one of the guys on the tour helped him down the mountain.

Once we were back on the boat, warm and fed we waited until we pulled into port at Alesund, this was a place I had heard of, dreamt of and could not wait to see. We only had an hour and a half rocked there. We found an Irish pub (obviously), then we found an older pub, took a few pics in the rain, ran back to the boat and called it a night.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Courtney's Travel Tips & Tricks · Europe · Norway · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 15) – Sogndal – Bergen

Day 15 – 4/10

Well, sadly our time in Norway had come to an end. It was time to wave goodbye to our gorgeous Air BnB boathouse loft and head back to Bergen. Now on any other holiday and in literally any non-Scandinavian country we would have taken our time, we would have just paid the extra day. We however were renting a car in Norway and therefore there was absolutely zero chance we would be returning our car a minute past 11:30, because quite frankly we didn’t have the money to spare!

Grant woke us up at 6am and we were on the road by 6:30am, heading back to Bergen. Being the Wife of the year I consider myself to be, I very solemnly swore to remain awake and alert with Grant for the four hour journey (in the dark and in the rain). I then woke up in Njardarheimr in Gudvangen, which was around two hours into our journey. Bad Wife. Also, can I just say how confusing it is to wake up after sleeping to see two traditionally Viking dressed persons at the service station?

However this was not the most shocking part about the service station. Oh no, not at all. Pop quiz for all of you playing at home. How much would you expect 3/4 of a tank of diesel for a VW Polo? Did you guess $120 AUD? No?! Weird! Neither did we. I think we only cried for the next 40km.

Once we made it back to Bergen, it was apparent that the beautiful weather we had been experiencing was long gone, it was absolutely bucketing down. So rather than wrangling all of our luggage in the rain in a cab, Grant dropped me at the Hurtigruten terminal and took the hire car back and then he cabbed it back to me.

Now. What happened next may or may not be a miscommunication, but it kind of set the tone for the rest of that day. We were aware that you could do a bag-drop at 1pm (thank god!) and could check-in from 3:30pm and get onto the ship. So, we cooled our heals in the coffee shop at the terminal, excited to know that technically it was our last out of pocket expense for food for the next week (we had paid for the full-board package oh our journey (this does NOT include alcohol). We dropped our bags at 1pm and asked what we needed to do to check-in. Now, our recollection of these instructions were that we could get our tickets and then at 3:30pm we could go upstairs and board. Pretty clear right?

So off we skip, into town to try and see more of Bergen than we had the other day. Except it was hammering down rain, which we don’t mind, but it can really kill your strolling around town vibe! We went to the Irish pub we had seen, except they don’t open until 5pm and quite frankly, I am not sure the Irish are aware of this. Surely it’s against Irish law?! The barkeep (I am positive that’s not the term, but ah well) kindly told us (with judgement in his eyes) that no, we could not drink there but thankfully there was a coffee shop around the corner where we could get a meal.

We found a booth at said coffee shop, saw a sign for ale, reminded one another of the dietary blessing that is a stout that it’s magical liquid is basically a steak and two eggs and that technically we were eating.

Guinness was not available but we found Murphy’s Irish Stout and promptly ordered several pints of this. We FaceTimed the kids which is always really nice when we are travelling and let them know that we would be on a ship for the next week so reception might be poor. We then took a walk around the old fishing village and checked out a few stores.

Bergen was founded in 1070AD and was the capital of Norway for many years. A central point for Norwegian travel it holds the beautiful history UNESCO-listed Bryggen district, which is dated back to the 14th century. When we stopped in at one of the sweet little gift shops down an incredibly old alley, we learned that the Norwegians take great pride in their manhole covers on their roads, and in fact each municipality has a different plate with intricate designs on them.

We had an hour to spare before we could get onto the ship and so we found a local supermarket, bought two rather large beers and drank them like uncouth backstreet bandits. It was pouring and we had a few stouts under our belts. Not my proudest moment but hey, that’s travel for you babe!

Now is the time to bring back into focus the aforementioned ‘miscommunication’ at the check-in counter, because it’s a doozy. We make our way upstairs, the lovely lady tells us that check-in has been moved to 4pm. No matter. That’s just another half hour wait. We see downstairs that there is easily 200 people waiting to do their bag drop and check-in. Oh my god we think, thank god we did that earlier. That line looks horrendous.

So 4pm rolls around, we’ve got the jump on hundreds of people and then it happens. We find out that yes, we’ve done a bag drop but no, we aren’t checked in. Wait, what?!

So downstairs we go, beaten. Devastated. Horrified. We were now at the back of the line of hundreds of people who, and I mean absolutely no disrespect here, but people who in the event of any emergency are not winning that hate v. Tortoise race. Ever.

An hour and a half later we get to the front. We check-in. We’ve had at least 15 comments on our age, our lack of luggage, our height and our age. Great.

Hurtigruten is not marketed as a seniors cruise, so let’s get that out of the way. It’s an incredible, educational and adventure trip up and down the coast of Norway and guess what? We had every right to be there with ever other person and we had certainly paid for it!

All of that aside we finally made our way onto the ship and even though they advise your rooms are not available until 6pm we figured if the room opened we could go in and drop our belongings. I think we may have been the reason it was announced over the speaker that you were not permitted into your rooms until 6pm. Sorry Hurtigruten. Also when we made our booking we had requested and paid for a room with unobstructed views. Trust me when I say the price difference is noticeable. So when we first boarded and saw large life boats sitting outside our room, our hearts sank. However when we had a peek into our room we saw that for the most part we could see outside of our window. Not whilst in bed though, we could only see the lifeboats. So that was disappointing but not the end of the trip.

Once we were allowed into our rooms we unpacked, found the laundry – washed our clothes and got ready for dinner. Our dinner spot for the first night was beautiful, the food was amazing and our early night to bed, in the comfiest bed we had had all trip was welcomed.

It was time to start our Hurtigruten voyage!

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Australia · Courtney's Travel Tips & Tricks · Europe · Norway · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 14) – Sogndal & Flåm

Day 14 – 3/10

This morning we woke up and the night before we had changed our minds about driving to the Geiranger Fjord as it would have resulted in an eight-hour trip (without stops), so we decided that unfortunately would not be seeing this famed Fjord as we had also missed the season of going into this Fjord on our Hurtigruten cruise.

IMG_2452Instead we decided we would catch the ferry back across the Sognefjorden and visit Flåm. With the ferry crossing we were there within an hour and a half and it was like driving into the little town of every persons dream!

This sweet little village of Flåm has since the late 19th century been a tourist destination. It currently receives almost 450,000 visitors a year and if you’ve ever researched the tourist destination spots of Norway, then it is more than likely you have seen pictures of this wonderful spot!

During our original plans we had initially thought we would do the Norway in a Nutshell tour but again the price was incredibly expensive so we decided not to. Once we got to Flåm we decided it was time for hot coffee and maybe a picnic. We had taken our own food for the day, so what we did buy was two coffees (from a machine) and it seriously nearly cost us $20. Glad we had our picnic!

We figured since we were at Flåm, and as we had saved money by taking our own food, that we would splurge on a round trip on the Flåmsbana. Now the fare itself per adult return did set us back $780 NOK (or $150 Australian each). Which, to be honest is super pricey, unless it is something you really have on your bucket-list it’s not necessary but I really wanted to ride the tail and visit Myrdal.

Here are some fun facts about the Flåm- Myrdal railway:

  • The journey will take you from stunning Fjord landscapes up to beautiful snow-capped mountain peaks;
  • The journey explains to you the history of the area and gives you a wonderful background of traditions which do date back to pagan times;
  • The journey is 20km and the scenery does meet the tourism promise of dramatic scenery;
  • When you reach Myrdal, you are 866 metres above sea-level.

As you leave the azure waters of Aurlandsfjord you will pass the beautiful Flåm Stave Church (have you worked out our love for churches yet?), and this beauty dates back to 1667!

My favourite stop was the amazing Rjoandefossen waterfall, magnificently hurling herself 140m straight down the mountainside.

Rather than building bridges, the engineers actually opted to run the river through tunnels underneath the railway line. It is incredible! There is evidence of rockfalls and avalanches throughout the entire journey and it just reminds you again how brave and incredible the people who created all of these places we get to explore now really were.

IMG_2396There is a decent 1,320-metre tunnel, the Nåli tunnel, and past this you stop at the Kjosfossen waterfall. Now I’ve had some pretty amazing train + waterfall combos in my time, but I can honestly say this one was the BEST! Especially with the fresh snow all around us!

I don’t regret the expense or the experience at all, when it comes to travel it all comes down to what you are okay sacrificing in order to splurge elsewhere. For me and thankfully for my Husband as well – we are happy to smash servo sandwiches and filtered coffee in order to spend money on experiences. For others its fine dining. For some it’s shopping. Don’t let anyone dictate to you what is it is not a waste of money. It’s your holiday, you do you x .

After our Flåm adventure we hit the road, made it back to our ferry, crossed the river. Went through that bloody 24km tunnel again and then we were home. Home for our last night in our gorgeous little boat shed loft.

Somehow, the tiny village of Sogndal has a burger and gin joint which basically screams ‘Welcome Courtney‘, so we had our last dinner there – delicious. Although there was an odd man across from us who was participating in our conversation, without being in our conversation. If you know what I mean?

I don’t think we could have utilised our time any better than what we did and I am just so thankful to have a travel partner who travels the way I do. We take turns both in being in charge or navigating or having melt downs. It’s how it should be. For those of you who travel solo, I think you’re amazing. Seriously.

My tips for the Flåm rail:

  • Choose the return trip up to Myrdal;
  • Don’t panic if you cannot get a seat on the right hand side, your view up the mountain will not be “as good”, but that’s okay – I’ll tell you why in a minute;
  • Sit nearer the doors – the train will stop for a few minutes at the Kjosfossen waterfall, you want to be one of the first off your carriage and up to the barrier for the waterfall. If you move quickly you’ll get a few snaps in before the swarms make their way!
  • The train, regardless of how crowded on its way up, will NOT be that crowded on the return trip. Many people are doing the Norway in a Nutshell, which means flicks of your fellow passengers are getting off at Myrdal. You will then have the seat of your choosing! Swap sides from where you were on the way up and have a different perspective!

For more information on Flåm you can click here.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click-through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Courtney's Travel Tips & Tricks · Europe · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 13) – Sogndal to Loen

Day 13 – Tuesday 2/10 – Our day trip from Sogndal to Loen

This morning we woke up in our super-cute little Air BnB and knew that we really only had two days to explore inner Norway, so we needed to hit the road pretty early. We ate a delicious meal of pancakes with delicious strawberries, smashed several coffees and hit the road!

Grant had researched a place situated in Nordfjord, the small and incredibly stunning village of Loen, which is also below the Jostedalsbreen Glacier. We figured that at the start of Autumn we were out of luck for the glacier, but we were pretty excited to visit the area.

As we drove into Færland, we noticed that the ground was white, then the further we drove up the range, we noticed there was ‘rain’ hitting the windscreen…and then it took these two Australian’s who live in Queensland longer than it should have, that we were actually driving through snow. Honestly, it was the most amazing gift, neither of us could believe it was happening!

 

Our drive in total was around two hours, with a couple of scenic stops here and there. As we descended the valley into Loen, we honestly could not believe what we were seeing, I was starting to feel as though I was living out all of my Disney Princess dreams!

We ate our packed lunches (Norway is way too expensive, seriously – try to pack your own meals if you can and you want to save some cash!). As we sat overlooking the valley we noticed the Loen Skylift which we had read about. We decided to splurge on it and head on up! It is not cheap though, classic Norwegian prices at $505NOK (return) a pop, so w were well over-budget for the day.

IMG_2232The ride up the Loen Skylift is steep-as-hell and if you like heights than this is for you! It took us only six or so minutes and we spend the entire time being absolutely mesmerised at the windows. Luckily for us we really do seem to be travelling off-season, so we have been really lucky in terms of crowds.

Once we got to the top we could NOT believe it, there was lush, powdery and plentiful snow EVERYWHERE!!! So obviously we required drinks and then about an hour playing in the snow. As G pointed out, one of us looked majestic in the snow and then there was the other one (me), who sunk into the slush up to my knee and my boot filled with ice water and snow. It was awesome. Freezing but the first and probably last time I will ever have a boot full of snow and iced water! I also did my very first snow angel and although her booty was rather large, I think I did an okay job!

IMG_2273We enjoyed a couple more drinks at the top of the summit and then slowly made our way back home, stopping to play with Dronius Maximus a little, unfortunately winds and rain had been so high that we had not been able to take it out earlier.

The Loen Skylift from Oct 15 – Nov 1 of this year s closed on Monday and Tuesday’s but is open from 9am-7/10pm from Wednesday through til Sunday, as is the Bar & Café and A la carte restaurant. You can read more about the Loen Skylift here.

I could not recommend visiting Loen more, it was quaint, beautiful and the view from the top of the Skylift, though pricey – is fantastic. I can only imagine that dinner from the top is phenomenal as well.

IMG_2290ACS_0288I think that we spent the perfect day inland and definitely took advantage of the limited time we had in the area.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click-through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Europe · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 12) – Bergen to Sogndal

Day 12 – Monday 1/10 – Bergen – Sogndal

We woke up this morning in beautiful sunny Bergen, completely taken away with what an incredible location our hotel was. We were staying right near the fish markets and it’s location to the harbour made us wish we were staying for longer!

Our hotel came with a free breakfast and everything you could possibly want was available to us. I will never say no to a free breakfast, I’ll pretty much load up on as much food as I can to survive the day. Also, given the price of pretty much everything up here I’m inclined to shove pastries in my pockets (but haven’t….yet).

After a quick walk around Bryggen, several coffees and a forty-five minute battle with Lycamobile via phone / text / app and website to get G’s up and running. Here’s a tip, play dumb when someone rude as hell in an airport sells you a Sim and Credit, and ask them to top it up for you. Otherwise you are going to end up with a useless little plastic SIM card.

We ended up seating ourselves at a coffee shop, feeding off of the free WiFi and managed to get Grants sim working for 100NKK, which was around $20 Australian. Also, the credit that comes with SIM cards in Europe is crazy! He know has 60gig, which I doubt he would use in a year. I on the other hand, Ashe dutiful Wife will make light work of it!

We headed back to our hotel, I packed our bags and Grant caught a cab to the Hertz to pick our car up and drive it back. He was back with a zippy little VW within the hour, we did a small grocery shop and hit the road.

Our nav told us it would be four hours out to Søgndal and it was already passed lunch so we legged it. We drove straight through Flåm by accident and decided to keep going, with the hope we could see the area on our way home. Originally when we made our travel plans we had intended on doing the Norway in a Nutshell journey, but the price was obscene and still incredibly limiting without your own transport, so we scrapped that and decided to make our own way.

We had time to stop and see the incredible Borgund Stave Church, this place is absolutely incredible and was completed in the 12th Century.

Our little hire-car did the job and before we knew it we had made it to the Manheller-Fodnes ferry, which only costs around $20AUD to get across to the otherside. The efficiency of these barges are amazing. Once we crossed the fjord we were faced with two tunnels, one of which was 24km long! Which is a crazy long tunnel to drive through.

As we drove into Sogndal, we knew we had made the right choice, on heading in-land for a while, just our Air BnB in the loft above a boat-shed. We arrived quite late so we did a quick shop (just basics but honestly, the price of Norway is crippling!).

Sogndal is a municipality in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. It is a beautiful little town on the northern shore of the Sognefjorden and has a population of just under eight thousand people. Your three star hotel averages around 200 euro’s, thankfully we had managed to score our Air BnB for three nights for under $600.

We settled in with some wine, some Netflix and an early night, we wanted to make sure we made the absolute most of our time in the area!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x