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  The Continental Tripping 2011 Journal Norway #1  
    
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The trip was suggested to me at quite short-notice.  The Husband came home from work for a weekend, mentioned that he was going to take the Z4 and drive back to Norway, and did I want to go with him for a while. Give me a change of scenery while I'm still recovering from the major surgery.  With a bit cabin fever setting in here at Starry Towers, I went and got into a real cabin.  I was hankering after a bit of an adventure.
 
  
  
 Leaving Scotland
  
Sunny D to TanangerLeft Sunny D at 0600 and we drove down to Harwich, and when I say 'we', I mean 'The Husband'.  Heroically I stayed awake for the entire drive, apart from a load of nodding-off-in-car episodes, which is totally normal passenger-in-car behaviour, in my opinion.

We took the east coast route down through Engerland, and I spotted The Angel Of The North from the motorway, my first time actually seeing it on the way past, despite always looking for it from the M.

About half-way down we stopped at a motorway cafe for lunch.  The Husband got silly with some soft toys.  One was a dog on a leash.  The Husband threw it around, giving it 'heal!' and 'sit!' orders as he flicked it on the end of it's faux-leather lead, hitting it down really hard on the cafe table.

He enjoyed a right hearty laugh with this, I looked him hard and cold, serious stare and eye-contact.  I told him, no, put it back.  He did, he knows what's good for him.  I won't tolerate ugly & un-cool-ness in a soft toy, I just won't.

Prior to hitting the harbour we took a quarter hour out to have the Z4 cleaned and polished.  It's an uncomfortable story of Eastern European faux-ignorance permitting a fly touch-up.  I was thinking of not blogging it because the telling of the tale from my point of view, it is so in danger of sounding racist, BUT, from a feminist type place, I have to tell the tale.  I didn't touch him, he did me, and to me, that makes him the nasty little shite, regardless of nationality.  It is what it is.

He was one of 5 or 6 men at a hand car wash.  He touched my knee, no doubt about it.  As The Husband thought they'd finished working on the Z4, he told me to get in.  I followed instructions, but the 'boys' still polished some more after I got in, especially this one.

This one opened the passenger seat door where I was sitting, wiped the inside of the windscreen on my side, touched my leg, so deftly, so quickly, I spent the next 5 minutes thinking it didn't happen.  On reflection, none of them opened the driver's side door and the inside of the driver's side of the windscreen never got wiped.  Cheeky bastard.

An overnight sail with a Sirena Class Cabin on the MS Dana Sirena.  A wee tip bout the Sirena Class Cabins, the price you pay includes everything in the mini-bar, take it all, bung it in your bag for later.  The bottles of water, white wine, red wine, cans of Coke, the peanuts and the fruit...take 'em, they're yours.  And if you're final destination is Norway, them 4 little bottles of alcohol will save you a small fortune.

The Husband made some jokes bout how I took the shelves from the mini-bar fridge too, I didn't, honest.
  
 
  
  
 Approaching The Continent overnight
  
  The 2003-built Dana Sirena is a very nice ship, it's quiet, there's no disco, cinema screens or casino.  Mid-week there's dinner and/or quiet drinks with the guitar playing singer guy.  We booked for dinner in the Blue Riband à la carte restaurant.

When they bring you menus, you realise you can mix and match the à la carte and the Explorer's Steakhouse dishes.

I went for the Lobster starter from the Explorer's menu, then over to the the à la carte for my main...Stegte Rødspætte...which translates as fried plaice with herb sauce, potato and garnish.  Then I finished with the absolutely adorable, à la carte, Fragilité, an ice cream of Swiss Roll and Toblerone which is served with marinated mixed berries.  The Husband went with the same fish main then the Jordbærtærte, which is Strawberry Pie, served with mascarpone crème and fruit coulis.  I don't recall what starter he picked, but I do know he didn't join me with the lobster.

It was a totally delicious meal, the waiter was a friendly Norwegian guy and we both had a lovely evening.
  

   
  Still Approaching The Continent, overnight and the next morning
   
  The overnight experience was very comfortable and quiet.  My only issue was to do with nasal passages becoming all blocked and stuffy, and in the early hours nearer day-break there was the menopausal sweat thing keeping me awake for what seemed to me to be hours, or at least half a one.

Next morning I spent a couple hours on the top deck, passing the time with sunbathing and iPoding before we disembarked early afternoon, was a very pleasant way to pass the time.

There were many Ladybird bugs spending their time on the same deck in the hot sun.  I was worried some might fly off to the side then the boat would move on and they'd get left behind over the sea and wouldn't be strong or fast enough to fly and catch up and get back on the boat.  After a while I had to decide to stop fretting bout them.  There were loads of them and even one I was trying to save, wouldn't get off me, I spent minutes encouraging it to get off my fingers while The Husband stood holding a door open waiting for me.

We considered if they might be English, or Danish, Ladybirds, and reached no educated decision.
 
   
   
 
 
 
  Denmark 
   
  Off the boat and we had a 4 hour drive up through Denmark.  If you didn't know you were in Denmark, you'd probably guess it was Holland, though you would worry bout where the canals had went.  Denmark is flat and uneventful.  Flat countries are so especially boring to me.  My opinion may be due to my Scottish-ness and our gorgeous Highlands

Tres boring is Denmark.  Flat and not even canals to raise an occasional eyebrow.  Half way up we stopped at a road-side food-stop for a fried fish dinner.  Well, it was either the fried breaded plaice or hot-dogs.

Back out in the car park, looking for all the world, the spitting image of what the middle-aged paedophile looks like in Hollywood movies, all severely parted and greased down flat fair hair, pressed brown trousers and some blouson type jacket, everything about him was uncool.  Strange the snap judgements that can be made on appearances, but lets just blame The Husband, I hadn't even noticed the guy till The Husband pointed him out, standing there staring vaguely in our direction, smoking on his cigarette, on the look out for children.  I bet you anything, he has a basement, shudder.
 
    
   
 
 
 
   
  Ferry from Hirtshals, Denmark to Kristiansand, Norway  
   
  You will most likely arrive at the port in Hirtshals with time to kill before your boat.  DO NOT go to the bother of walking over to the ferry terminal facilities, because there aren't many facilities there.  Do go if you need a luggage locker, an ATM machine, a ticket, a lift or a pay phone, them things are there.  They say they have a café, but it's more like vending machines, in fact, it is actually vending machines.  There are toilets, but there's other toilets closer to the car parking.  If you do indeed require an ATM machine, a ticket or a lift, then just remember to take your boarding pass ticket thing with you, you need it to get back in. 
      
  The 2007-built Color Line m.s. SuperSpeed 1 ferry is great.  Business class gets you your own big comfy chair, your own TV, internet connection, newspapers, drinks, fruit, biscuits.  One particular biscuit, a sweet biscuit, lets just say...I got our money's worth.  
    
                       
 
 
 
   
  Kristiansand to Tananger  
   
  Then there was the drive through the night, singing, 'I drove all night, is that all right? I drove all night, crept in your room, woke you from your sleep to make love to you, is that all right? I drove all night', and when I say 'I drove', of course I mean The Husband.  
    
  Norway is serious on it's road speeds, 50km/hr, 60km/hr, the roads may be empty (cos it's 0200) but still, if them crazy Norse peoples have decided it's 40km/hr, then it's 40km/hr.   
   
  Arrival time, Hummeren Hotel, Tananger, Tuesday 23rd August, approx 0400 hrs. 
   
    

 
   
  The Hummeren Hotel, Tananger, Norway  
   
 

Holed up in the sea-front Hummeren Hotel for a week, there's way worse places to be.

The Hummeren

 

While recovering from major surgery this is a particularly good place to be.  Our private terrace facing the sea was a perfect sun-trap and many a long hour I sat with my Kindle or my Asus Eee baby-laptop, topping up my Scottish leg tan.  Yes, with all this time off work, all of July and all of August, I have actually managed to achieve a rather attractive shade of honey brown to my legs, in Scotland.

 

Norway is so expensive on food and drinks, it is well worth bringing your own alcohol, heck if you have the room for it (sports cars don't) I would advice bringing your own supply of non-alcoholic drinks too.  A small bottle of Pepsi Max works out about £1.25 in the supermarket, approx £2.50 in petrol stations, and £3.90 in bars, restaurants and hotel room mini-bars.  I find it quite upsetting parting with these extortionate sums of money for stuff that is much cheaper back home, I'm Scottish, I think it's been previously well established that I'm tight with my money, some would say a tad mean.  So just as well The Husband was funding this entire trip.

 

'Hummeren' is Norwegian for 'the lobster' and a highlight of The Hummeren Hotel is without doubt, the lobster experience.  Expensive, but it has to be done.  And I do like lobster, a lot.  They have the tank in the restaurant, and the opportunity to choose your own.  The Maître d' and the head chef get together with a fishing net and...I couldn't do it.  I couldn't look the creature in the face, or any other part of it's anatomy, I just wanted to eat it and not think about it.  Eee gadz, I'm a bad person.

 
    
  So The Husband did the pickin', the Maître d' did the fishing and the head chef did the cookin', I just did the eatin'.  I can report, it was delicious.  
    
  I don't know for sure about Norwegians and how they do their drinking.  I think they have a high rate of alcoholism and suicide.  No offence Norway, Scotland has it's own problems.  And they have a long dark Winter and it's all about fishing, mountains, snow and sea, there isn't much more than that, it's all very beautiful, but it seems less than cultural and cutting-edge exciting.  I've been told home-brewing and the illegal home-distilling are popular in rural communities.  I know the alcohol is expensive.  I know they do booze cruises for the tax-free, I know every traveller out of Norway is expected to bring a tax-free bottle back home.  The Husband tells me what they do is drink at home and go out much later in the evening.  My personal experience of the way they enjoy their alcohol related social events are few and far between, obviously.

I've been in a few Norwegian bars and restaurants early evening time, witnessing office workers having a single glass of wine on the way home, others having one or two glasses with a meal.

But then, I got a very real insight.  It was Saturday at The Hummeren. 

We came in late afternoon/early evening to find a wedding party standing around the lobby, a staff member guy was at the road-side with silver tray in hand, two glasses of fizzy wine atop.  Everyone was watching up the road, sorry, only us.  The hotel car park was full, we had to drive on and park out front a local Tananger villager's house.

We wasted as much time as we could, hoping the happily newly married pair would get there before us, they didn't.  We walked towards the hotel, the staff guy was still standing there, we hung back some more.  Then damn it, they arrived, in an old VW Beatle with white satin ribbon bows about it's boot and bonnet.

They got out, picked up their wine glasses and the photos started in the lobby.  Eventually we got fed-up waiting for their photo-taking in the lobby to stop, we tried to find an alternative hotel entry, but there isn't one.  We had to walk in to the midst of the wedding party.  The wedding guests were all very posh looking, very frowny and proper self-important the lot of them.  In way of apology I said to her, as I tip-toed past the annoyed faces, 'you are very beautiful', I lied, not only did she look too angry to be gorgeous, but she also had a big nose.
 
    
  Anyways, back in our room all was pleasantly quiet.  THEN...around midnight, the noise of music from downstairs started.  It was midnight, what the hell, how many speeches are there at a Norwegian wedding? 
    
  The Husband and I did our best to sleep through, and with a combination of his ear-plugs and my iPod earphones we got there, until...it was 0430 hrs according to my watch.  Members of the wedding party were running about in the corridor outside our room, drunk, and noisy, like most drunk people at weddings...but really...0430 hrs?  
    
   
 
 
 
 
  Other eating experiences in Norway  
   
  There was lunch with the captains of industry.  Each work-day The Husband picked me up and took me to his oil company offices for lunch.  Norwegians eat lunch too early, it was always before midday.  The canteen subsidised prices are the most reasonable in Norway.  Two main courses and drinks for less than a tenner, wowzer!  
   
  Then there was Pizzabakeren, a pizza chain, offering a reasonably priced meal in Norway.  We went, I think three times in the week I was there.  First time, we took our pizzas and sat on the pier, another time we ate in, another time, took it back to the hotel.  Also, it's always too much so you fridge the leftovers and next day cold pizza is, I think, nearly as good as hot fresh pizza.  The best deal is, ask for one big pizza, your choice topping and your partners choice topping, half and half.  They're happy to do this. 

One day we drove out to Byrkjedalstunet.  It's a great touristy shop with adjoining restaurant, I love their Lefse, and the Lappe with a choice of sour cream and/or raspberry jam, mmmm.

Another afternoon we had a trip into Stavanger and enjoyed burgers at Cafe Sting next to the 1853 Valberg Tower, the old watchtower and watchmens' museum at the top of the hill behind the colourful waterfront sea houses.  Where a burger and a few chips costs about £12.
 
    
  Norway does tooth-picks.  Everywhere we ate there were a ready supply of toothpicks.  Back in Scotland, toothpick use seems to be frowned on.  Certainly I've never seen anyone openly using a toothpick in an eating establishment back home.  It's more an embarrassed keep-it-to-yourself type thing back in the UK, but in Norway, people sit post-meal, happily fiddling with toothpicks in the mouth, and no-one frowns upon the behaviour.  I like it.  
    
   
    
 
 
 
    
Geology, Fauna & Flora
   
   
  a dead Norwegian bearThe Husband and I went mountain-and-water-side a few evenings.  It's all very picturesque pretty.  A lot of the time it's easy to believe you're back home in the Scottish Highlands.

There's a right lot of rocks.  There are some really good fields, pasture land that's obviously had a lot of rock-removing work put into it.  I found myself thinking they could be doing a lot more of that, there's still a hellava lot of valley floor acreage heavily covered in rocks.

Thing that bothered me, I saw a few quarry-sites, where they're digging into the ground to obtain rocks.  Why?  There's hunners of rock type stuff just laying around on the ground.  I reckon they should use the rocks that are just lying around, blink and you'll trip over one, before they go making ugly quarry scars in the ground.

Some of The Husband's work-mates, in the canteen, spoke of local wild-life.  Brown bears, wolves, eagles, seals.  Thereafter I kept an eye out for that kind of thing, sadly, I only found dead stuffed taxidermied examples in the Byrkjedalstunet shop.  It's a really good shop, I loved it.  Came home with my Viking (with the axe option), a pot of Norwegian honey for The Parents and a heart-shaped polished stone that's pleasant to hold, touch and look at.

The flora side of things Norway-wise, I noticed lots of the same hardy perennials and trees we have back home.
   
   
 
 
 
   
  Sweets 
   
  Nidar SmashI've mentioned how in Norway, it's so expensive, in general, to go into a shop and leave with items you obtained honestly.  Maybe Norway is the most obvious asking-for-it shoplifting country in Europe.

However, I never did, despite being shocked at the cost of shopping over there.  The one thing I did buy, a lot, after one taste, I wanted lots more.  I even brought some home to Scotland.  I bought x3 bags to take home.  I ate a bag in the hotel before I left (I tried to fight the urge, but...), another bag went to The Boy, he liked a lot, and the last bag, I ate as soon as I got back home.  

Nidar Smash!  Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmmmm.  Tasty as!  Salt and sweet.  A unique Norwegian invention consisting of salted corn cores covered by Nidar’s milk chocolate.
 
 
   
 
 
 
   
  Going home  
   
  I wasn't looking forward to my trip home, because I had to get home solo.  Flights times two, Stavanger to Edinburgh, via Amsterdam.  Amsterdam is such a huge busy airport, I wasn't looking forward to having to stay so focused to get myself from that arrival gate to the correct departure gate. 

But happily it all got really special on the way home.

The Husband had just kissed me goodbye and I went through alone to the departure bit, I was standing around on that far side of check-in, I was focusing hard.  Staring at the TV screen, awaiting the announcement of the gate for my flight.  The Husband had already told me it would probably be the first one on the left after the bar.  He was right.

But meanwhile, as I was submerged in concentrating, in a nervy type way, a man approached and asked if he'd seen me in the canteen in a certain oil company's dining room.  I told him, yes you did, The Husband works for that particular oil company, and I've been in for lunch lots.

He told me he works there too, pipes department.  He was booked on the same plane out of Stavanger and offered to buy me a drink and make sure I got on the plane to Amsterdam.  Excellent, I didn't have to focus anymore, AND he was going to give me wine.  Was dead easy to talk to too, AND he has a Z4 and motorbikes, was like a The Husband substitute.
 
   
  So he made sure I was on the plane to Amsterdam and offered to take me to the Business Class lounge at Schipol.  Would you have said no?  I don't think so, and neither did I.  True to his word, there he was and he treated me to two flutes of fizzy, cheese cubes and nibbles.  Then he took me to the right gate, 10 minutes before my gate closure, and off he went to his own gate, the next one along going to somewhere in Engerland, his flight departing 10 minutes after mine.  It all worked out rather well. 
   
    
 
 
    
  Edinburger  
    
  Back home, it's always so good to get home, a couple KLM flights and Edinburger was waiting on me.  Though I had to sit in the back row, seat 33F, amongst a load of Russian school girls on the Amsterdam to Edinburger stretch.  It all went really smoothly and The Parents were waiting for me at the Edinburger airport pick-up point.

Kiss and kiss and kiss-kiss, so happy to see them wonderful people, I gave them the pot of Norwegian honey The Husband and I choose for them back at Byrkjedalstunet.
 
    
    
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mmmm  mmmm