Our travelling pharmacist Dave Harcombe, a cruise virgin, has chosen P&O Cruises for his first expedition on the high seas accompanied by his wife Babs. Dave’s first-timer blog is not to be missed.
DAY FIVE: Fjord Focus
Another day another dollar. Well Norwegian Kroner. And another fjord – Hardangerfjord.
The whole area in spring is a gardener’s paradise. Pink and white fruit blossom usually adorns the valley. But after this year’s severe winter nature seems to be three or four weeks behind.
Snow capped peaks everywhere. Mountains with finely sifted icing sugar cover. More waterfalls than yesterday. Precipitous flanks, V-shaped jagged valleys, wooded hillsides. Unforgettable moments again.
We hopped onto a tender to reach Eidfjord village. Babs and I loved the village. It had a heart and purpose – something that Flam lacked. Perhaps it was the rain yesterday which clouded our opinions. Today it was lovely. Eidfjord had a couple of supermarkets, a sprinkle of touristy shops and a few cafes. And mountains that cast a protective blanket around this gentle community. Beautifully dramatic.
We took the Trolltoget – the troll train upto the plateau above the village. We saw no trolls but this road train took us past Iron Age burial mounds. The sun continued to shine as we had a coffee and tea and a slice of apple cake with cream. Mmmm.
After a lovely walk , we sat and read and then to the tender back to the boat. It was so warm so we stayed on deck for the sailaway party. And then got ready for the evening entertainment. Black tie again and another chance to get dressed up.
The warm dark chocolate and praline fondant with vanilla bean ice cream and cappuccino Anglaise was the perfect end to a lovely evening meal. With a charming couple of fellow travellers from Norfolk – Isabel and Peter. Great company.
At 11pm ish we left the protection of the fjord and hit the North Sea. We experienced what is known in nautical terms as choppy water – the first really bad spell of the whole cruise. I’ve never danced the quickstep going uphill – but tonight we did. In the energetic Mayfair quickstep a gap suddenly appeared between the circle of dancing couples. All the dancing pairs were at one end except for two lonely couples at the other, as the ship lurched left, right and up and down. And sometimes seemingly all at once! It became so choppy that Babs and I couldn’t really dance.
Time for a malt whisky night cap. And then another. And then bed.
We both slept really well.
DAY SIX: Last Port of Call
I looked out of the window. Colour of the day – Battleship Grey. It was pouring down. Sea and sky almost mingling into one. Misty and cold too. A great shame for our last day on Norwegian soil.
Kristiansand is the capital of Southern Norway. Known as the “coolest Riviera”, it is a magnet for sun-seeking Norwegians. But not today! A quiz fact. It has the highest number of sunshine days in Scandinavia. But not today! At the start of the 19th century Kristiansand boasted one of the world’s largest fleets of sailing ship. But not today!
Babs and I walked from the ship into town – a 10 minute walk. We cut through the famous fish market and the gloom was lightened by the colourful restaurants offering fresh fish and other regional specialities. Markens or Markensgate is the main street.And finally after our few days in Norway some really nice shops. Different from the U.K. Obliging, smiling, shop assistants too. WH Smith please take note.
The town has a great choice of eateries. Reindeer, elk and venison are local specialities.Kompe dinner is lamb,dumplings,mashed turnip, potatoes and sausage. We ate in a local corner cafe frequented by the locals-always a good recommendation.The tea and coffee were superb.We sat and observed office workers popping in for their “lunch to go”. With a beef sandwich at £10 plus I will never ever complain when we are in M&S. The old quarter is lovely. Yes even in the rain. It is home to Northern Europe’s largest collection of low white wooden terraced houses some dating back to the 18th century. It’s a bit like Stavanger.
A ten minute drive out of town brings you to Kristiansand Kanonmuseum. Home to some of the largest cannons in the world. Cannon fodder for WW2 fans. After the German invasion in 1940 artillery installations were built along the coast to protect the strait here between Denmark and Norway. Here at the museum is a 20 metre long cannon , 38cm calibre. Range 30 plus miles and capable of firing one shell per minute.
Back at the ship we soon dried out, but our clothes may take a little longer. With all crew and passengers onboard, our mighty ship began to thrust off the berth laterally, slowly began to come astern to port, swinging the bow off the berth to starboard, then slowing coming ahead passing north of the small island of Dybingen I have no idea what all this means-I copied this from the cruise log .But I know it was the last we saw of Norway as we set our southwesterly course back home. A journey to Southampton of 627 nautical miles.
Evening drinks: Yes whisky again for me, wine for Babs. Cocktail. Summer’s love. A blend of grey goose la poire, apple juice, elderflower cordial and soda. Mocktail, Bananaberry Crush again.
Highlight of the evening meal: Classic Saute Coq au Vin with mashed potatoes, green beans and warm French Bread. Orange curd meringue tart with chocolate pastry and citrus fruits. Need I say anymore.