Tag: norway

Norway in a Nutshell daytrip

I mentioned in my previous blog post that we wanted to experience the fjords without the length and cost of a fjords cruise from the UK. Whilst researching the best way to do this, I came across the Norway in a Nutshell trip.

Norway in a Nutshell does what it says on the tin – it’s designed to show you the best of what Norway has to offer in one short trip. Now I’m sure purists will say you couldn’t possibly experience the best of a country in a day, and I’m sure they’re right, but for us this was a great way to get what we wanted from our long weekend.

If you google Norway in a Nutshell you’ll find tour operators offering the trip; just select your date and times and book a ticket through them. This is, of course, an option, but don’t be mislead. NiN is a trip concept put together for visitors, but actually comprises of different travel operators with coordinated timescales, meaning you can transfer from train to narrow gauge railway, to ferry, to bus and to train again with relative ease. If you pay a tour operator for your NiN trip, they will book it through the individual operators and issue you with one ticket – obviously for a fee! But, with some research, it’s easy enough to do it yourself.

Tripadvisor is your friend

There are multiple threads on the Norway travel forums with people offering advice on itineraries and timings. I found it invaluable in gathering together information to plan our trip.

Also, do refer to companies offering Norway in a Nutsehll, as they will show their itineraries and times so that you can then go and book the various elements independently.

First things first; decide on your start and end point. You can travel from Oslo to Bergen, Bergen to Oslo, or do a round trip starting and ending in Bergen, which is the option we chose.

Our journey itinerary was to be as follows:

  • Train: Bergen > Myrdal
  • Narrow gauge railway: Myrdal > Flam
  • Ferry: Flam > Gudvangen
  • Bus: Gudvangen > Voss
  • Train: Voss > Bergen

Originally we’d planned to do the NiN trip on the second day of our visit, but certain trains weren’t running on Sundays, so that wasn’t possible. This meant we needed to do it on our first day. After not getting to the hotel until the small hours, it made sense not to start too early,. We caught the 11.59 train from Bergen Central station, heading to Myrdal, up in the mountains.

The scenery as you leave Bergen and head into the mountains would have been beautiful, but the weather was poor with lots of mist and low visibility. We did have moments of great views, but it wasn’t all I’d hoped it to be, unfortunately!

Myrdal station is 867 metres above sea level, and even in early June there was still snow on the mountains. There’s nothing at all to see or do here; just a small station with a shop and cafeteria. Again everything is mega expensive – they wanted £5 for a Norwegian pot noodle!

We had around a 30 minute wait at Myrdal station until the train to Flam came into the station. The Flåm Railway is one of the steepest standard gauge railway lines in the world, with 80% of the journey running on a gradient of 5.5%.

You’ll pass through 20 tunnels, have a short stop at the Kjossfossen waterfall where you can get off the train and see the falls from a viewing platform, and then head down the mountain into the lush green valley of Flam with it’s picture perfect wooden houses. The journey takes about an hour, and is very beautiful.

Thanks to the impeccable timing we didn’t need to kill any time in the harbour; instead going straight to the ferry which was to transport us during the main event – the fjords. Now I don’t have a lot of ferry experience, but this one was absolutely fantastic! I didn’t manage to get a picture, but have found this one as I just had to share!

Photo credit: Plugboats.com

The ferry was electric, so it was all but silent as it glided through the water. This made the whole trip so much more enjoyable, because there were no distractions. It’s zig zag design means that there is sufficient viewing space on the vessel so that every guest has at least 1 metre of space, even if it’s at capacity. Inside there were plush leather seats, good toilets and a snackbar serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, sandwiches and pastries. Because the ferry wasn’t fully booked we were able to move around to different seats during the 2 hour journey, as well as venturing onto the outdoor deck and different levels for photographs and to soak in the majestic landscape.

From Flam we travelled through Aurlandsfjord before joining the narrow Nærøyfjord, both of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We passed small coastal villages, towering cliff sides, and more waterfalls than I’ve ever seen; some tiny trickles seemingly appearing from nowhere, others gushing into the fjord.

It was an incredible two hours.

We arrived at Gudvangen and once again the next step of the journey was easy to access – the bus was sitting waiting for us. This was the only part of the trip that couldn’t be pre-booked as the buses only accept cash payments, which wasn’t a problem as we were already aware of it. The coach took us through very narrow hairpin bends (such driving skill required here!) and past yet more powerful waterfalls, mountain views and green valleys before dropping us off at Voss station for the final leg of the journey.

Not going to lie, by this stage we were all pretty tired – turns out that sitting around and looking at beautiful scenery for hours is exhausting! The train from Voss back to Bergen had multiple stops which made it a longer journey, and the scenery wasn’t that great so this was a matter of just waiting to get off, stretch our legs and find somewhere for dinner!

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m sure it’s impossible to capture the wonder of a country in just one day, but the fact that the Norway in a Nutshell trip is so widely revered and traversed is testament to it’s popularity, and we certainly felt satiated by it.

How I booked our Norway in a Nutshell daytrip

Train travel – this was all booked through NSB online. For the first leg of the journey (Bergen to Myrdal) there was an option for NSB Komfort seats costing just an extra £6 (ish) each. I was able to select our seats in advance and the price included free hot drinks for the duration of the journey. Knowing how expensive Norway is, this was well worth the money! There are no seat reservations for the Myrdal to Flam leg of the journey, but you are guaranteed a seat – they don’t overbook the train so there’s nothing to worry about there. We had prebooked seats from Voss to Bergen, but there was no NSB Komfort option on this train.

Fjords ferry journey from Flam to Gudvangen – I booked this at visitflam.com and was issued with an email confirmation which we used to board the vessel.

Bus from Gudvangen to Voss – as I mentioned this was cash only.

Create your own trip to suit your needs

As I said earlier, you can start your Norway in a Nutshell journey from Oslo if you choose, or go from Bergen to Oslo. You could do the trip in the opposite direction to the one we took, so the ferry would arrive into Flam and you would then take the narrow gauge railway up to Myrdal, rather than down into the valley as we did. You can also tailor the trip to take as long as you want – you could arrange overnight stays in Flam or at some of the fjords coastal towns (some of the ferries do stop offs between Flam and Gudvangen). It really is up to you.

We had a wonderful day, and the fjords really are an incredible sight. Nature at it’s best!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Read about the rest of our weekend in Norway here.

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A weekend in Bergen, Norway

When you reach a certain age, you have most of the worldly possessions you want, and experiences become more important than “stuff”. That’s why, for my Mother in Law’s 80th birthday in June, we took her away for a weekend break to Bergen in Norway.

She’d mentioned a long time ago that she’d love to see the Norwegian Fjords, but didn’t think that her usual travel buddies would be up for it. I stored that nugget of information and dragged it out at the beginning of this year to form a plan.

Now I love my mother in law, and she loves me, but I don’t think either of us would want to spend longer than a few days together, so a Fjords cruise was out of the question (as well as being very expensive and not really appealing to me anyway). Instead I researched where to base ourselves in Norway in order to experience the Fjords for a day, and also see something else of the country.

We flew from Manchester into Bergen with SAS airlines

Flight to Bergen over Manchester
SAS airlines flight from Manchester to Bergen

Our flight didn’t take off until 9.30pm, meaning we landed just before midnight and jumped in a cab to our hotel. We knew that Norway was an expensive country but here was our first experience – around £60 for a 12km cab journey. Ouch!

Day one – Norway in a Nutshell

Day one was a full one. I’d independently booked the Norway in a Nutshell tour, which involved a walk to the train station, then a train into the mountains, a funicular train back down the mountains, a 2 hour fjord cruise, a bus and then another train back to Bergen. It was an itinerary that took around 9 hours in total, but was such a wonderful day with the most incredible scenery. It sounds more stressful than it is; all we really had to do was sit down and then transfer from one method of transport to another! I’ll do a separate post about the logistics of the trip – it’s worth booking independently as it can save you money, too. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side (for the whole weekend, actually!), so some of the views weren’t as good as we’d hoped, but actually the clouds and mist made the fjords even more atmospheric. They’re incredibly beautiful and mesmerising, and photos cannot do them justice.

Kjossfossen waterfall Norway
View from Flam railway Norway
Waterfall from Flam Railway
View of Gudvangen from Flam Railway
Nærøyfjord Gudvangen Norway
Nærøyfjord Gudvangen Norway
Nærøyfjord Gudvangen Norway

Day two – wandering the streets of Bergen

We spent day two having a mooch around Bergen. It’s not a huge city, and easily doable on foot.

Bergen centre view to funicular railway
Velkommen flower cart in Bergen
Traditional ship in Bergen harbour
View across bergen harbour
St Mary's Church Bergen
St Mary's churchyard Bergen
Wooden painted houses Bergen

One of the main attractions is the Bryggen old wharf and wooden houses. This area is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and dates back centuries as a trading point. Behind the house fronts are numerous traders and workshops which are worth wandering around, and a few gift shops which, you guessed it, are very expensive!

Bryggen wooden houses
Bryggen wooden houses
Bryggen wooden houses
Bryggen wooden houses
Uneven wooden staircase Bryggen
Bryggen alleyway
Norwegian troll
Bryggen street manhole cover
View of Bryggen from across Bergen harbour

The centre of Bergen is dominated by the Fish Market, which is partially indoors and partially outdoors, with covered seating and heaters. We had a wander amongst it although we didn’t eat. I did have a chat with one of the lobsters awaiting it’s fate, though!

Lobster tank at Bryggen fish market

After lunch it was STILL raining (I hadn’t expected a tropical holiday, but apparently the weather was particularly bad for the time of year, according to a local). Umbrellas up and jackets fastened we took to the backstreets for some street art spotting, before heading back to the hotel.

Street art in Bergen
Street art in Bergen
Street art in Bergen
Street art in Bergen

Day three – Mount Floyen

Our flight home wasn’t until early evening on day three, so we’d saved heading to the summit of Mount Floyen until then. Floyen is classed as a “city mountain” and is 400 metres above sea level at its peak. There’s a super quick, super modern, super efficient funicular railway which goes from the centre of town to the top of the mountain in just a few minutes.

Fløibanen funicular railway station
Fløibanen funicular train
Fløibanen funicular and view from Mount Floyen
Fløibanen funicular and view from Mount Floyen
Fløibanen funicular and view from Mount Floyen

At the summit there are a couple of cafes, a children’s playground, some walks, some goats (rather random!) and views over all of Bergen. It was well worth the time, and definitely worth doing while you’re in Bergen.

View over Bergen harbour from Mount Floyen
View over Bergen from Mount Floyen
Goats at Mount Floyen summit

Top tips if you’re travelling to Bergen

Don’t expect a budget trip.

Nothing is cheap here. We already knew it was an expensive city and had paid for as much as possible in advance. Food and drink is particularly expensive; there’s no such thing as a cheap bite. If you enjoy an alcoholic beverage I’d suggest buying a bottle at UK duty free and taking it with you – that’s what we did! A small glass of wine was around £10, and the husband paid £13 for a litre of beer. A 1.5 litre bottle of Sprite from the supermarket was £4.

Cash isn’t king.

It seems that much of Bergen is attempting to go cashless. Paying by cash isn’t particularly welcomed; in fact the restaurant in our hotel only accepted card payments. Be sure to have a method of paying by plastic just in case.

It doesn’t have a great cuisine.

I could be doing the city a disservice, because my mother in law is a fussy eater, so we didn’t go to any traditional restaurants. But there didn’t seem to be any dishes really synonymous with the area. In fact there were a lot of pan asian restaurants and places serving pizza. It wasn’t a foodie holiday.

We had a great trip and saw some wonderful sights. I’m not going to pretend that the weather didn’t have a bit of a negative effect on things (I bloody hate rain!) but mother in law was super chuffed, which is what it was all about!

Have you been to Norway? Let me know in the comments!

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Travel plans for 2019

Travel plans 2019 - hand holding small globe

I’m the kind of person who is pretty much always a year ahead with travel plans, because there are so many places I want to see. It’s rare to start a new year with no clue of where we’re going – the bones are usually in place and I’m already thinking ahead to the following year. When your “to visit” list is long and your annual leave is short (in comparison), it’s inevitable you’ll think ahead.

This year was quite the exception

With the shambles that is Brexit I’ve felt wary of European travel. Neither the husband or I had any concrete “let’s do this” feelings as a result. The original front runner was our favourite place in Greece, but with rumours that Thomas Cook airlines are in some trouble, which is our only way to get there, that seemed a bit risky.

Also, as it’s my Mother in Law’s 80th birthday in June, I thought we should plan a trip with her. There’s nothing we could buy her that she doesn’t already have, and memories are so much more valuable than stuff. I know that in years to come we’ll look back happily on time together exploring a new destination. And of course we’ll have a great time while we’re there!

So, without further ado, here’s what we decided on.

March – 5 days in Lanzarote

Not a “to visit” list destination but the thought of a few days in the sun while the UK is struggling to make it’s way into Spring was very appealing! Food, drink, sleep, reading books, seafront walks and sunshine; what’s not to like? We’re going to head out into the island for the day too and visit Timanfaya National Park to see the volcanic landscape.

Travel plans 2019 Timanfaya National Park
Image from https://www.hellocanaryislands.com/

Late May – Bergen, Norway

Technically June, as we arrive at Bergen airport just after midnight on the 1st for 3 days of exploring with my Mother in Law. She mentioned to me many years ago that she would love to visit the Fjords, but was resigned to the fact she never would because the friends she goes on holiday with wouldn’t be interested. Step in the husband with her 80th birthday present! Bergen looks very pretty, with coloured wooden houses surrounding the old harbour, and a funicular railway up to Mount Floyen from where you can view the whole city below.

Travel plans 2019 - Bergen coloured houses

We’ll take the Bergen railway, considered to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque train journeys in the world, connecting with the Flam railway which holds the same accolade. We’ll do a couple of fjord cruises (details yet to be finalised) and probably get very confused by the midnight sun! I have to say that Norway has never been on my agenda. But once I started investigating it looks absolutely beautiful so I’m really looking forward to this.

September – New York baby!

Well, this one came completely out of the blue. Not that we haven’t talked about it – New York is on everyone’s list, surely? It’s just never quite made it to the top, for me, because of the cost, and the vast amount of stuff to see in a short space of time. You see, I always thought of New York as being a city break. Maybe 3-4 nights, running around like a loon, feeling the pressure from jet lag and perhaps not quite doing it justice in one trip.

But then, an email from Jack’s Flight Club advertising return Virgin flights for under £300 (not a typo) and a quick Airbnb search offering up an apartment in Greenwich Village at a very reasonable cost started the rudiments of a plan. The husband has been before and always said he’d love to go back. He wanted a slightly longer trip instead of a just a quick break. So we settled on 6 nights/7 days and that was that! I sent him a text about the flight offer at around 10.30am. By 8pm that same day we were booked!

Travel plans 2019 New York skyline
Image from TripAdvisor

We’ll do all the tourist stuff, obvs. It’s been 20 years since the husband was there, so he’ll benefit from a refresher!! Those extra couple of days will allow us the time to just hang out, eat (I’m excited for a reuben sandwich at Katz’s deli, which is right in our neighbourhood), chill, and soak up the atmosphere. Preferable to just running round like headless chickens ticking off places we need to see.

Oh, and it’s my first ever foray into the world of Airbnb, which I think could be travel-changing!

So there you have it!

Our planned and booked travels for the year 2019. None of which I would have predicted if you’d asked me this time last year. But all of which I’m super chuffed with.

Hoping to sneak in a couple of UK visits too. Every year I talk about Cornwall. So, if we get another amazing summer like last year, that may be a long weekend contender.

And then it’s time to start thinking about 2020!

Have you finalised any travel plans for 2019 yet? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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5 things I’m looking forward to in 2019

Things I'm looking forward to in 2019 - young smiling girl running through field with text "things to look forward to in 2019"

I don’t buy into the whole New Year thing. It’s just another day. A passing of time. Only the fact it comes with a new set of numbers really changes it from the year before.

That said, here are some things I’m looking forward to in 2019.

I’m going to be an Auntie!

By far the biggest thing to happen this year, my sister and her boyfriend are having a baby, due in July. I’ve already known for quite a while. I went to their private 10 week scan just before Christmas which was just beautiful.

Things I'm looking forward to in 2019 - baby scan

They’ve now had the 12 week scan and everything is as it should be. I was amazed, even at 10 weeks, to see the detail in the scan, the shape of the baby and it’s little stumpy arms and legs! As you’ll know if you’ve read this blog for a while I have no maternal feelings at all! That said, I cannot wait to be cool Auntie Kel, buying all the shoes and having fun days out with my niece or nephew.

My job

Sad but true! This sounds like bravado but it’s honestly not. Getting made redundant from my previous job last year was one of the best things that could have happened to me. It made me reassess what I want from a career, and what I want to put into it. I’ve only been in my new role since November, but already I feel more motivated than I have in a very long time. The company is very forward thinking, I’m already looking after a brand, and I know there are lots more good things ahead.

My garden

To say 2018 was the year of the garden is an understatement. Our garden makeover combined with one of the best summers I can remember in years meant I was outside as much as possible. From early barbecues in April through to planting bulbs as late as October, I took every opportunity to be in my happy place.

Things I'm looking forward to in 2019 - flowers and pots in my garden

The joy of seeing plants come to life and everything look so pretty will never fade for me. Really hoping for more of the same this year!

More holidays and seeing more new places

This will hopefully be on my list of things to look forward to until the day I die! Unusually we’ve started the new year with nothing booked or even planned. This is mainly due to the Brexit uncertainty and not knowing what effect it will have on the travel industry. That said, I am currently researching a trip to Bergen in Norway. It’s my Mother in Law’s 80th birthday in June and she’s always wanted to visit the fjords.

Things I'm looking forward to in 2019 - seeing more places (coloured houses in Bergen)

Basing ourselves in a city then doing trips out on the water seems to offer the best of both worlds, so I’m 90% sure that will happen.

As for the rest of the year…who knows? (the husband keeps telling me he doesn’t want to do long haul flights anymore. There’s some work for me to do there!)

Whatever other opportunities come my way

A bit of an ambiguous one this, and not just because I’d run out of things to look forward to! More so that we’re only 6 days into the new year, so who knows what lies ahead in the next 359 days? Things can change so quickly and dramatically that there could be events and plans out there way beyond my comprehension. Isn’t that part of the fun of this wild journey we call life?!

What are you looking forward to in 2019? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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