Author: 2017onceinalifetime

Chaam, Poperinge & Homeward Bound

17th July 2019 – 30th July 2019

We absolutely love van life, but with the horrendous heatwave due we decided to hunker down in a campsite where we have plenty of water, electric and hopefully some shade. We stayed in a small family run campsite near the town of Chaam North East of Antwerp. We found the only tree in the whole campsite that would give a little shade, but only in the afternoon. The heatwave hit with the temperature reaching 42 degrees and hotter in the van. We were certainly suffering, but poor Chloe coming from a chilly 12 degrees in Norway only a matter of weeks ago to 42 degrees was suffering more. We filled buckets of water, let the sun warm them up and then slowly poured them over her. We cycled to do some shopping ( yes in the heat !) and found a paddling pool for 6 euros, thinking Chloe would lay in it. How wrong we were, we had to pick her up and put her in, but she didn’t like it. However, David and I loved it, big enough to lie flat in, it was the perfect dunking pool and the best 6 euros we have ever spent to date on this trip. We stayed for four days, melted and then headed west to Poperinge in Belgium. We stayed a couple of nights in the rolling countryside, lovely and quiet, just the sheep bleeting and the geese hissing at Chloe as she passed. We cycled into the town on Sunday for lunch, passing through the hop fields. Know as the hop country, with it’s imposing hop vines, there are many Belgian hop farms producing 80% of Belgian beers. We sampled the local poperings hommel beer with lunch, a big fat steak and chips. We couldn’t remember the last time we ate red meat and it was delicious, oh what carnivores we are ! Poperinge during World War 1, was one of only two towns not under German occupation. It was to billet British troops and also provided a safe area for the field hospitals. In the middle of the town and a stone’s through from the main square is Talbot House. In 1915 chaplain Philip Clayton opened a club for soldiers there. A home away from home where every soldier was welcome, regardless of rank. There were no soldiers,officers or lieutenants in Talbot House, only people who wanted to escape the horror of war. Today, it is a guest house where you can stay or you can just have tea in the lovely gardens. David said that my Dad has some affiliation with Toc H as it was know, he remembered him talking about it. I wish he was alive to ask him. On the way back we cycled to Dozinghem Military Cemetery, here lies 3024 British soldiers together with 81 Canadian, 14 New Zealand, 15 South African, 34 British West Indian and 65 German casualties. We have visited many other cemeteries during our various trips and it is humbling and so, so very sad to walk amongst the beautifully tended grounds and see thousands of graves. To read, the ages of these brave men, 18, 19, 22 years old it breaks my heart. An important place to visit and one that puts into perspective how very lucky we all are. As we cycled back to the van, David turned into a big kid, riding down the hill as fast as he could, with me trying to play catch up all the time. What is it with men and boys on bikes, always a race. I like to look around at the fields, houses and like a gentle cycle, always looking at David’s back as he is getting further and further away from me. I was pleased to see a family pass us on their bikes, the husband and son way out in front and his wife and daughter some way behind. It made me feel better,to know that I wasn’t the only one always playing catch up on a bike. For our last day we drove to the coast to enjoy the sunshine and a nice 26 degrees. Just 30 minutes from Calais we found a beautiful sandy beach that went for miles and miles, as far as the eye could see. Chloe of course was in her element, although she desperately wants a ball to be thrown, sadly those days are over as arthritis is setting in. I think we need to get her into the Greek sea again to massage her joints.

Well, our ‘Once in a Lifetime’ trip part 4 has come to a close. We have travelled for 112 days and covered 5,822 miles. This has been the trip with the most miles covered, Norway is a long way ! It has been a trip where we have constantly felt on the move, but to do this trip we could not spend weeks on end in one place. For me, I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. Norway is just so amazing, as you probably have guessed with our blog posts on the country. We have seen the country in probably the best mode of transport, being able to park up and sleep on the edge of fjords, fish to our hearts content, find beautiful sandy beaches and watch the midnight sun. See moose, reindeer and white tailed eagles. Drive to the base of glaciers and sleep looking over turquoise lakes. We have to look at the photos to remember all the amazing places we passed through and wonderful vistas we saw. I had been so excited to set off on this trip and wow, it didn’t disappoint, memories to last a lifetime.

Lubeck & Munster – Germany

6th July – 16th July 2019

As we crossed the border into Sweden, we were like rabbits in headlights, cars and people everyone. It is funny how you get use to near solitude and it felt strange to be back into the hustle and bustle, which by no means is like the U.K. but from driving along roads and not seeing anyone to suddenly seeing lots of vehicles on the roads felt strange. We stopped at the first supermarket we found and with the packed car park it looked like everyone else did the same, even the Norwegians heading back into Norway. We got excited at the prices and we were still in Sweden so not that cheap, but cheap to us after Norway. I lost David, he was in the alcohol aisle, which still had limited choice, but enough and reasonably priced. So,with alcohol purchased and the cupboards replenished we set off again. We are now retracing our route through Sweden and Denmark and heading back into the U.K. to avoid the school holidays and packed roads . We stayed for 3 days just North of Gothenburg in a lovely small campsite owned by a young couple. Within walking distance there was a salmon river where you could fish, but we have a sea fishing rod and not a fly fishing rod and so, reluctantly we couldn’t fish. I think I was more upset that David! We walked all along the river and there is a lovely waterfall which the salmon jump up through. To assist with the conservation of the salmon, concrete stepping pools have been constructed to help the fish jump up. We watched a salmon jump in the water, but were told later that with the weather being so warm last year there had been a reduction in the number of salmon in the rivers. As we were preparing to leave, we met our first Englishman in 101 days of travelling. He was staying in an apartment on site and he was with his daughter who was playing football in England under 17’s. He lived in Essex and his daughter Ruby placed for Arsenal, what a small world. We would have loved to have visited Gothenburg but we had heard rumours of Motorhomes being broken into and when we looked at places to park in and around the area, nearly all said that there was problems with break-ins. We didn’t want to chance it, especially with Chloe being left in the van. We left Sweden at Helsingborg over the very expensive bridge, but it is certainly impressive and into Denmark. We deliberately stopped for lunch at the most delicious burger restaurant, that we had stopped at on the way into Sweden, freshly made to order. If you are ever in Sweden and fancy a burger check out Carls Junior. We stayed the night in the same place as when we had travelled through Denmark before, just outside Middlefart as we had read that there was some harbour porpoises swimming in the area. This time, it was busier with vans but we were lucky enough to see the porpoises swimming. No photos unfortunately, as they are too quick to capture and then it would only be a fin out of the water ! After one night we headed to the nearest supermarket to spend our remaining cash on alcohol before leaving Denmark. We sound like alcoholics! We then headed into Germany, I was losing track what country I was in, but we were back in the EU so no more different currencies. We stopped for lunch and the normal ritual is David takes Chloe out to have a wee etc. I prepare lunch, beverages and get Chloe’s biscuits ready. This time, David come back just as we are about to have an exciting cheese roll and says, they do Bratwurst sausages. Now in David’s language this means I want a Bratwurst sausage ! So our first meal in Germany was a very healthy German sausage and of course chips. We stayed the night in Lubeck and our first draught beer which went down very well. A beautiful town on the river Trave with extensive Gothic architecture and listed by UNESCO as a world heritage Site. It was here that we saw the first bus that changes into a boat. A tourist bus that I saw first on the road and then when we were sitting having a drink it goes past on the river. It looked like something out of a James Bond film. Telgte was our next destination, where after so muchmuch travelling we decided to stay for 4 days. Again we stayed just outside the town, but within easy cycling for groceries etc. Now some of you will think this weird, but opposite where we were staying was this beautiful wooded cemetery which we walked Chloe in. It was vast and surrounded by mature trees and shrubs. I think I have said before but I find cemeteries fascinating. At the very end of this vast cemetery there were two separate war grave areas. One German and one for the Allied Forces. I have never visited a German war cemetery before, all the stones were formed out of a very dark grey stone and there was not a flower or shrub adorning any of the hundreds of graves. Many woman were buried here aswell and it felt a very sad place. What is different in this cemetery is that there are many family plots and they are spread apart and tended with loving care. Mature shrubs and very unique and original headstones or rather sculptures make this a fascinating place to wander. It is a beautiful place to rest your head after your time is up. We visited the vibrant town of Munster, known as the bicycle capital of Germany and guess what, we were cycling in it. It reminded me of the Tour de France again, bells going behind me to let me know they are coming up on the outside, I need to get one of those mirrors for my bike ! Older people burning me up on a normal bike, no electric for them. Germany is brilliant with their cycle paths and you certainly feel safe from cars, but not other cyclists. It is fantastic though seeing 70 and probably 80 year olds cycling away in their everyday lives. Muster has a brilliant market on a Wednesday and Saturday, full of colourful plants and flowers and the most mouth watering of foods. We found a cheese stall with a Comte cheese called ‘David’ of course we had to buy some. A wedge was cut and it was a large wedge but at 20 euros we were hoping it was going to live up to it’s name. We bought fruit, nuts, beautiful fish, cheese, the most amazing apple and raspberry juice and savoured mini fish and chips before cycling home for siesta. Oh what a life !

Hadet Norway

3rd July 2019 – 5th July 2019

As we continued South through Norway I was desperate to see some of the famous Norwegian wooden stave churches. You know me and a church !. More than 1000 stave churches were built in Norway during the Middle Ages and are Norway’s most important contribution to the world’s architectural heritage. Today, only 29 of these churches remain and they are mostly located in the south of Norway in areas not easily accessible. David being the great navigator however, drove us to the first of these in Uvdal. Located on a slope overlooking a high valley, it was a very impressive sight to see and pure excitement for me. The staves, or columns are the bearing elements that gave the stave churches their name, but there are many other structural elements that are unique to these churches. The interior of Uvdal Church gives you the impression that time has stood still. The wooden font shaped like a hour glass is made from one pice of solid wood and is a rare item in ecclesial art. All the interior wood is painted in robust colours dating from 1600s. There are painted wooden masks beneath the ceiling and carvings on the gallery dado from the Middle Ages. Our guide told us an interesting story of a bronze and enamel crucifix that had been hidden in a time of danger by nailing it into the interior ceiling of the church and painting over it to look like it was part of the ceiling. It came from Limoges in France and was made during the 13th century. Today it is the National Museum in Oslo, but a replica is on display in the church. Family names are painted at the end of the lines of pews, however, originally there was no seating in these churches everyone had to stand, seating was a later addition. What is wonderful is that the church is still used in the summer months and what a place for a wedding ! Outside the church there are a scattering of other wooden buildings that have been preserved and you are able to look back in time to see how these very hardy Norwegians lived and survived. We then visited Nore and Flesberg Churches, both beautiful in their own rights and each having their own individually. I was so pleased to be able to visit during the short few months that they are open. The other 26 will have to wait for another time, as David had had enough by then ! We visited Fredrikstad old town, which is Northern Europe’s best preserved fortified town and a beautiful place to spend afew hours. The buildings have been well preserved and a honeypot for tourists with shops and cafes. The sun was out and so we decided to buy ice-cream. When I popped into the little cafe and bought the most delicious ice cream, the young woman asked where we had come from and I always say London, England, as if I said Essex, I am sure they would glaze over !. She gave me a small pin and asked if I would put it into their world map on the wall. We were the first visitors from England ! The central square of the town had a set of stocks which David was keen to keep me in, as the shops were too tempting !. I was good though, all I bought was a cookie cutter. Our last night in Norway was spent near Steinringfeltet at Hunn. One of Norway’s finest heritage sites. It looks like Stone Henge with stone rings, a spectacular cultural monument, with large stone blocks placed in rings. People have pondered the nine circles for centuries and archaeological evidence suggests it was an Iron Age meeting place. Chloe loved running in and out of the stones and to me it had a magical feel. I laid down in the middle of one of the rings, shut my eyes and just breathed. We feel so, so grateful for our journey through Norway. I have no words to say how amazing it has been, there are no best bits as it was all wonderful, (maybe not running out of alcohol !). David catching his first fish, me catching mine, the competition of catching the biggest fish. Jumping out with our fishing rod as soon as we stopped the van. The visits to the fishing tackle shops to buy more supplies, better than visiting sweet shops. The scenery, to say it took our breathe away, just doesn’t do it justice. Waterfalls, glaciers, fjords, turquoise lakes, moose, reindeer and white tailed eagles. OMG we loved it. Thank you Norway.

Jostedalsbreen National Park – Norway

27th June 2019 – 2nd July 2019

Well Norway keeps producing the most amazing sights and our next stop did just that. We had just left the turquoise lake with the Briksdal glacier in the distance but there was a glacier that we could drive to and see close up and this we wanted to see (well me mainly). After a short drive, we arrived and there were quite afew tourists buses with us, we assume it must be on the cruise ship itinerary. With a walk of 10 minutes you are at the foot of the mighty glacier. As you look around you the mountains are flowing with waterfalls and finally pooling into the lovely turquoise meltwater lake. Oh it is such a beautiful sight. The Boyabreen glacier in the Fjærland area is located in the Jostedalsbreen National Park and forms part of the huge Jostedalsbreen Glacier, the largest in Europe and this glacier is the fastest moving glacier in Norway, moving two metres a day towards the glacier front. The steep and short shape of Boyabreen gives a quicker response to the changes in weather and climate than most glaciers in Norway. Heavy snow at the glacier one winter will result in an increase in ice at the glacier front after only three years. Looking up close the glacier with it’s captivating hues of blue and white it is an astounding sight. I stood and just gazed in awe at nature, totally memorised by it. David had had enough and had gone back to the van, but I just stood there not really believing my eyes. Japanese tourists ran passed me, posed with their hands in the air and then disappeared into their coaches and then in the evening we had the glacier to ourselves. I went back down again with Chloe, who dipped her paws into the lake. I think she was keen to get in, but I didn’t think that was a good idea. The next morning, we were surrounded by the local cows which grazed in the nearby pastures, Chloe’s early morning walk was cut short and a hasty retreat to the van, as they seemed to take a great interest in her. We also found a natural swimming lake which looked so inviting, if only it was as warm as the water in Greece, I might have gone in. We took one last walk down to see the glacier and left before too many more tourists arrived for the day. (I know, we are tourists ourselves !) We drove for afew hours and parked in a small village, bought some more delicious strawberries and chilled out for the rest of the day, with David fishing of course. (No fish caught !) The next day we caught our last ferry in Norway, a total of 13. They were like catching buses and Chloe never got up from her bed in the end as we boarded them. The weekend was approaching and we decided to spend a couple of days hunkered down, we chose a little place called Borgaholmane. It had lovely views out to sea and perfect for you know what ! After spending many hours fishing David came in for dinner without having had a nibble of a fish. I go out after dinner and only land my first Mackerel, OMG how happy was I ! There was a small VW van parked near us and they had the all singing all dancing kayak and David hears him telling his girlfriend as he is coming back to shore that he has caught the biggest fish in his life and it took him 20 minutes to land it. If only we had a Kayak ! The next day David catches a huge mackerel, the biggest I have ever seen. But this is where the competition starts, we weigh both the fish we had caught and David’s is far larger than mine, so now what do I go and do, I go out fishing at 9 o’clock at night trying to catch a larger mackerel. However, the cold wind get the better of me and after an hour I retreat to the van, empty handed.

We departed the next day, David with a full heart after landing the biggest mackerel we have ever seen and me, just hoping that my time would come. We were hoping to visit Bergen and this was the reason why we had taken this route from the North of Norway. However, the weather was awful, wind and rain and we decided to save Bergen for another trip. It turned out to be an expensive day though as we crossed the Harmanger Bridge, 1380 metres long and one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. It cost us £60 for a one way drive. The bridge crosses the Hardangerfjorden and replaced the ferry connection and to be honest it is very impressive. What is more impressive though is the Villavik tunnel 7,510 metres long and it has a roundabout in it, that was put in when the Harmanger Bridge was constructed. Lit up in bright blue lights, the roundabout is a great piece of engineering I must say. Mind you, they must be racking it in, with the tariffs. The bridge has a viewing area and this again is frequented by the tourist coaches. You can also walk along the bridge, but we decided against it, far too much exercise !. It was time now to start crossing over to the east of Norway to Oslo. We had mainly hugged the coast roads coming down through the west coast of Norway but now we needed to cross over. The 40 route took us up to the highest of vistas and a dramatic new view of Norway to what we had seen to date. Our van did us proud as we climbed up and over mountains, the scenery took on a completely different view. Along the roads there were poles on each side which must in the winter be indicators of where the roads are to clear them of snow. We imagined that at this height though that the roads would be impassable. We passed the town of Geilo which had the most ski runs we have seen in Norway and through the Hallindskarvet National Park. It looks more like moorland, no trees at all as far as the eye could see. The weather wasn’t great and although it was still stunning it must look amazing on a clear bright day. We passed hard core cyclists which we are in awe of, carrying all their belongings and with calves of steel to ride these roads. There were still pockets of snow, which at this height we assume never melt. This was a truly memorable ride, one for the memory book.

Sunnmore – Norway

22nd June 2019 – 26th June 2019

Whilst we were in Ålesund we decided to climb the 418 steps to Fjellstua viewpoint which a German man the previous day had said we should see, giving an incredible view of Ålesund. We could do with a bit of exercise and so we set off. The weather wasn’t great but at least it wasn’t raining and when we reached the top, we were asked to pay £6 to go onto the viewing platform, we decided against it and just took some photos as we descended and luckily the clouds broke which did indeed give a fantastic view. As we returned to the van, after a little rain, we were greeted with a wonderful rainbow over the water. We set off after lunch and headed for Stordal Old Church. I don’t know what it is with churches, but I love them and graveyards aswell, am I weird ? Anyway, the church wasn’t too far out of our way and this church is a Rose Church from 1789. Much of the interior is from the old stave church that stood on the site in the Middle Ages. It has stunning Baroque and renaissance adornments. David of course stayed in the van and I went in and although very small it was painted with the most stunning designs and wood everywhere. It was so unusual and like nothing I had ever seen before. On the same site was a traditional Losetstova farmhouse from the 1790s. They must have been really small people as even I had to bend over to get in the door ! We are now in the Sunnmore with numerous fjords, islands and mountains. You will not find more beautiful fjords anywhere else in the world I think. Geirangerfjord is the most famous and listed on UNESCO World Heritage. David found an amazing spot, although down a very, very steep road which had no mention of Motorhomes in the parking app, just 4×4 vehicles. All I do is sit deep in my seat, hold on tight and pray. We arrived in one piece and so did the van. It was on the Norddalsforden and absolutely stunning. It is hard to put into words the beauty and to everyone it may not be beautiful, but to us it is. I look at the view and wish that loved ones and friends could see it aswell. It was a perfect fishing spot and we stayed for 2 nights, firstly for me getting over the drive down, before the drive up again and of course for the idyllic spot. The only noise you could hear was the waterfall and the odd boat that passed. David unfortunately not for the want of trying did not have any luck with catching a fish. Then I decided to have a try on the last evening and what did I do, I only caught a fish. Sounding like a fish wife echoing in the fjord ‘David, David’ I shouted ‘I have caught a fish’. David jumps out of the van and with me beaming, we decide to put him back as he’s too small. (I feel better putting them back). The next morning with David’s excellent driving we make it out and catch another ferry over to Stranda and then stop at Ljoen. Here you have the most spectacular view into Geirangerfjord. I know I keep going on but wow, the view, you can understand why all the ships cruise down this most famous of fjords. David and I have said we would love to come back in the winter, not in the Motorhome but to get a ship to sail through this most spectacular of scenery. We found a campsite for our next stop, we had a lot of washing to do and launderettes are basically non existent in Norway. You could make a killing with opening some here. The drive to the campsite was another nail biting one. There are a lot more coaches on the roads now the tourist Sean is starting and the roads are basically only one vehicle wide. Anyway, as we navigate around the mountain on a track rather than a road, having afew near misses with three coaches we come to the campsite. Right in the Nordfjord region on Lovatnet lake, turquoise in colour surrounded by ancient mountains and view of the Briksdal glacier. Could a view get any better, I don’t think so. We exhausted the washing machine, cleaned everything that moved and David of course fished. A lovely sight was a Norwegian Motorhome that parked close to us that arrived with us and a family settled in. As soon as they opened their door, a young boy jumps out, fishing rod in hand and starts fishing, followed by his sister who must of been only around 6 years old, with her pink fishing rod and reel and casts her line out into the turquoise lake. We have learnt that every Norwegian owns a fishing rod and loves to fish, just like David. We left after a couple of days and thankfully did not meet any coaches coming the other way, as we navigated out.

Trondheim & Ålesund – Norway

15th June 2019 – 21st June 2019

Now lets talk food. We knew Norway was expensive and to be honest, some things have not been much more to buy than in the U.K. But then there are Mangoes at £5 each and 4 chicken fillets at £12. For a small bottle of beer it is £5, that’s if you are lucky to find a store that sells it. They do grow the most delicious strawberries here, with all the light in the summer as it doesn’t get dark, it is perfect growing conditions and they are delicious and the same price as home. Every time we go shopping we buy a punnet. Today we did our biggest shop as we were passing a large town and a bag and a half of shopping, no alcohol came to £98. We had depleted the freezer which we had stocked and kept until we reached Norway, so David is tasked with catching fish. He is not allowed back from a fishing trip without dinner he has been told ! As we travel further South it is getting warmer, we have lost the snow capped mountains, but the scenery of the lush greenery is still lovely. Spring and Summer is crammed into afew short months and the Norwegians love their gardens. Spring flowers and shrubs are in full bloom now and everyone is out cutting their grass. It is all so green, I can’t get over it. It’s like the first few weeks of Spring in the U.K. when everything is that lime green colour. What we have noticed is that the Norwegians must have the most robot lawnmowers per household in the world. Most houses have these little boxes that drive automatically over the lawn cutting the grass, then putting itself back into it’s charging box. I have seen them in France before but so many houses have them here. I have not seen any in the U.K. but ever the pessimist, I said to David, if we were at home someone would steal it out of the garden. We are still looking for Moose and the warning signs are still on the roads but they are very elusive. We headed to the city of Trondheim. The third largest city in Norway and that meant shops. Now I do love shopping but in van life that is very limited due to available space in the van and in Norway, well shops are very, very few and far between. So for me, any shop is a shop to walk into, regardless of what it sells. Trondheim is Norway’s largest student city with over 40,000 students. We parked the van and with only a 15 minute walk into the city we left Chloe sleeping. It turned into a beautiful day after rain in the morning and we did a whistle stop tour of the city, which we are quite good at now. Nidaros Cathedral which is the world’s northernmost gothic cathedral and an important pilgrimage site. Now if we were pilgrims, we would have got into the Cathedral free and also spoken to the priest, should we have wished to have an audience with him. The cathedral is build over the tomb of St. Olav, the Viking King who brought Christianity to Norway. It is very impressive from the outside and reminds me of the Cathedral in Reims France. Apparently you are not allowed to take photographs inside, we did not go in as David gets all churched out and I need to save him for the stave churches (more on that later !). We passed Stiftsgarden which is the royal residence in Trondheim and Scandinavia’s largest wooden palace, built in 1774. We also walked to the small fish market, which was just a large shop really but had the freshest fish I have ever seen and the largest fresh water prawns that David hasn’t seen for over 25 years he said. Although we didn’t buy anything, fish and any seafood is reasonably priced in Norway, compared to the U.K. I, of course went in to as many shops as I could but when you look at the prices, £50 for a woollen hat and £200 for a pair of trousers and David picked up a pair of shorts, price tag £150, we decided not to look anymore. We did buy some ice cream and sat in the sunshine watching the world go by around the marina, a lovely way to spend the remainder of the afternoon. The next day we departed and had been debating which route to take and if to visit Bergen, which if we did it would incorporate another 6 ferry crossings. As this is ‘Once in a Lifetime’ adventure we decided we couldn’t miss it and have therefore taken the coastal route that will take us to Bergen. We stopped for the night on a harbour, as we had read that it was a good place to catch Mackerel. Alas David was out of luck, but Chloe had her first swim in the Norwegian Sea, she is braver than me and absolutely loved it. She just loves the water now and I wish that we had taken her when she was younger to have enjoyed it. But, she hasn’t done too bad with swimming in the Greek sea last year and now the Norwegian Sea. We travelled through Averoya, Eide, Fraena and Bud, travelling the Atlantic Highway, which according to ‘The Guardian’ newspaper is the world’s most beautiful road trip. Winding it’s way over rocks and reefs right out in the ocean and travelling over the seven bridges. Everytime you turn a bend there is another stunning view, Norway certainly takes your breathe away, or if you’re me it brings tears to your eyes. We stayed the night in a beautiful spot with some pretty cows for company and our ever Norwegian companion ‘Olive’ (as I have named all of them) the Oyster Cather Bird, which is a frequent sight all along the Norwegian coast. They are beautiful birds but they do make a noise, I think it is the female making all the noise and she is loud. Our next destination was Ålesund town with it’s Art Noveau architecture, multitude of towers, spires and ornamentation. In 1904 a dramatic fire raged through Ålesund and 850 buildings were reduced to ashes, as a result. The town was rebuilt with the assistance of the Germans who brought ships laden with supplies. The town now reflects the different aspects of the building styles and expressions of art nouveau. We stayed in the town and meandered around the fascinating streets, saw the biggest yacht I’ve seen, all the way from Georgetown. We sat admiring it and the crew were busy on the deck, then suddenly a man appears who must own it, as we had already looked up if we could charter it and you cannot. Anyway, he was mid seventies I think and there was about three crew on the quay with walkie talkies obviously saying he is on his way. He was assisted onto the yacht and there waiting was a lady with a tray of hot towels passed to him with silver tongs. OMG how the elite live ! We treated ourselves to coffee and cake in ‘Wayne Coffee Shop’ and then back to the van for a spot of fishing for David. Chloe and I went for a walk and when we returned David had caught a Mackerel, we left him hoping to catch more. At 10.30pm the lone fisherman returned, but alas with only the single Mackerel. Nevermind, a fish is a fish !

Kystriksveien – Norway

04 June 2019 – 14th June 2019

We caught the early morning ferry at 7am a four hour crossing journey which would take us from the Lofoten Islands to mainland Norway. We think it was the right time to be leaving as there seemed to be a great number of Motorhomes descending on the islands and with the small roads, we have heard that it is horrendous in the few summer weeks and even the local people have started to complain about the influx of people. Obviously very good for the economy but I can fully understand it. It is such a beautiful place. We arrived in Bodo and on the recommendation of some Spanish people that David met, we are taking the FV17 South, it is meant to be the world’s most beautiful journey. The scenic route Helgelandskysten is connected but 6 ferries which we will take, the coast is characterised by a unique archipelago of more the 14000 islands and inlets, surrounded by shallow waters and amazing mountains. Along the way we saw four moose grazing and stopped at Saltstraumen which has the world’s strongest tidal race and described as a spectacular natural phenomenon. Here over the course of 6 hours up to 400 million cubic meters of seawater is pushed through the shallow sound and the water can reach up to 40km/h. Here is one of the world’s best cold water diving sites and 24 square kms has been designated as underwater marine conservation areas. We parked up and went to look at the water, it is rushing so fast with whirl pools in the centre and hundreds of seabirds mainly seagulls swooping down because of all the shoals of fish. There were quite afew people fishing and you could see David’s eyes popping. As soon as people were casting their lines they were catching fish. We made a hasty return to the van, grabbed the fishing rod and off we went. David caught a small pollock which we put back and then it was my turn. I cast out and then said, it’s stuck on the bottom, I was reeling the line with the rod between my legs and suddenly I see a huge goldfish (because it was orange) on the end of my line. David is jumping up and down and I finally land it. It is the biggest fish to date. I felt sorry for it though, but we did keep him as David is yearning for fish & chips. We stayed one more day at this mecca of a fishing spot and the scenery of the beautiful snow capped mountains and the saltstraumen certainly made it a memorable stay. We stopped for lunch the next day looking out onto a beautiful vista of a fjords and blue skies, we sat and had lunch outside and then as we were preparing to leave we saw the most wonderful white tailed eagle fly past at the same height as us. It was a spectacular sight and the phase ‘where’s the camera when you need it !’ Came to mind. We stayed a little longer hoping it would make a return flight and eventually we were lucky it did, but not as close, but this time we got a couple of souvenir photos. We also passed Svartisen, Norway’s second largest glacier located in Meloy. You can take a glacier walk which we would have loved to have done, but not with Chloe in tow. Travelling on the scenic 17 route means using the local ferries to island hop, varying from a 20 minute to a 40 minute journey. It is just like catching a bus here, sadly the weather hasn’t been great and so with low cloud and sometimes rain the beautiful scenery at sea has been limited. It was announced on one ferry to look to our left as there was the point at which we were leaving the Arctic Circle. I felt a little sad, but so, so lucky that we had experienced travelling through it. We stopped at Berg for the night, the morning rain had cleared and out came the sun in the afternoon. The Norwegians just like the Swedish strip off to get all the vitamin D they can in these short summer months, little children running naked in their gardens and me, still with my winter clothes on ! David went fishing and said he wouldn’t be long, 3 hours later with dinner ready I turn to Chloe and say ‘Do you think he has fallen in ?’ I leave Chloe in the van and go and investigate. I can see David on the small getty talking to another man who is fishing, I decide to leave him to come back when his belly is rumbling, which he did. He had met Gordon, a young German guy who had been living in Norway for the last 15 years. David said he was a really nice, who said that he didn’t really need to fish, as his freezer was full of it. But when in Norway, I think this is what most people do in the summer months. He was telling David that everyone makes moonshine at 60% and 90%, we could do with some of this !, but apparently if you are caught it is a prison sentence. There’s obviously no messing about in Norway. Mind you, the reason why alcohol is so expensive, is Norway had an big problem with people drinking and the only way they solved the issue was to make it too expensive to buy and the good thing is, it has worked. Gordon was also looking for a good woman. David asked if it was easy to find a partner (hope he’s not looking !) and Gordon said there’s no problem finding a Friday girl but that he wanted Monday girl, which I thought was really sweet. Now a couple of days later we met Naomi and I wish Gordon could have met her aswell. A match made in heaven I feel. We drove down a very small track, which I am not so nervous about now, as I used to be and came to a little piece of paradise. (Yes, another one !) As we came into the clearing there was a stunning bay with a lovely beach and mountains either side. When we arrived we were the only van, but a little while later a small belingo van came down the track and parked up. A young girl, Naomi from Switzerland was travelling with her dog Nikki, a lovely chocolate Labrador. She was an inspiration; in her mid 20’s she decided before she started her physiotherapist course she wanted to travel to Norway and Sweden. She had looked into renting a Motorhome but lack of funds, resulted in her buying a van and converting it herself. She had recently separated from her boyfriend and I think this was a journey to heal herself. She had travelled to Nordkapp the furthest North you can go in Norway, got a puncture whilst on the way, but nothing phased her. We spent many hours chatting to her, I fed her and thought how she needed a Gordon in her life. We loved it in this little oasis and near the beach was a wooden sculpture of a woman’s torso which commemorated the woman of the island. At this beach the woman came to be on the look out for their loved ones out at sea, when the weather was at it’s worst. There is a small boat landing place on the beach which was a port of refuge which saved the fishermen from rowing round the island. The woman by the coast had golden arms, to protect themselves and their dear ones alike. And sometimes, they crossed themselves in prayer or thanksgiving to an unseen helper. We stayed here 3 days and it was hard to leave, at it always is for me. David had fished, I had walked with Chloe admiring the lush green vegetation, found wild orchids which I was so excited about and marvelled how nature can make the world look so beautiful.

The Lofoten Islands – Norway

29th May 2019 – 3rd June 2019

We stayed one more day at the amazing midnight sun spot in Bleik and enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach, spotted various birds including afew white tailed eagles, but failed to spot any puffins that lived on a large rock just out in the sea. On our way back we walked through the small village and we were dumbfounded to find a Liverpool football fan who had spelt Liverpool in his lawn, which we only noticed as the lawn was on a large slope. But they did have signs saying Liverpool fan parking only ! I think if they were an Arsenal fan, David would have knocked on their door. That evening, the sky was cloudy and so midnight sun. It is so strange not having any darkness, we look at the clock and see the time getting later but when you look outside it is like lunchtime. We have to shut all the blinds in the van to try and create darkness and our body clocks are confused. Mind you, it must be strange in the winter not to see daylight. I am not sure I would be able to cope with that. Maybe this is why you can’t seem to find any alcohol to buy and lots of knitting wool for sale. It was with a heavy heart we left Bleik. The most amazing place to see the midnight sun and a memory that will last a lifetime. We are now heading South into Vestvagoy, Flakstadoy, and Moskenesoy which make up the Lofoten Islands. The landscape is truly majestic and breathtaking, the region is a mecca for amazing walks, canoeing, diving, climbing, surfing and skiing. We followed the E10 through the island as this is the only main road and to be honest, in some parts only wide enough to fit us through. Luckily there are plenty of passing places and everyone is very considerate. All through the landscape we saw racks and racks of fish drying in the open. The Lofoten Fishery remains an important seasonal fishery that attracts fishermen from Finnmark in the north to Mandal in the south and is a fascinating sight. At this time, fish factories all along the Lofoten are working at full stretch and huge quantities of fish are hung up on the drying racks. In June the dried fish is taken down, graded into eighteen different qualities and exported around the world, with Italy being the biggest customer. The fishing villages scattered all along the islands are a perfect landscape for a photographer. The traditional building material in Norway for most buildings is wood and it is coated/painted in a deep sienna red, which was easily obtained before the introduction of industrial paints and so the tradition continues. A lot of buildings also have a grass roof and at this time of year, plenty of yellow daisies scattered amongst the grass aswell. Most of these little villages are very small, one road in and one road out and fairly quiet as the season starts from mid June until the end of August. We meandered slowly along the E10 stopping for the night as some of the most picturesque of places. I know I keep going on about it but the landscape is just amazing, everything and more that we had imagined. As we were driving (well David of course !) I spotted a church spiral near Gravdal and asked David to stop. Luckily there was a lay-by which David could pull into. David decided to keep Chloe company in the van and just as I get out, a tourist coach pulls up and 50 plus Germans jump off and start heading for the church, what timing ! So, I followed the throng into the church and it was lovely to see inside. A beautiful wooden structure painted in pretty colours. There was I assume an interesting talk about the church, if only I could speak German and then the lady started to sing a traditional Norwegian song, it was beautiful. Now I was pleased the coach had turned up, as I am sure if it was only me, I would not have received such a rendition. The following day we stopped for lunch on the edge of a lovely sandy beach with a waterfall on our left ( I am not making this up !) and to our amazement people were surfing in the sea ! OMG, they must have been freezing and they were mostly young girls but they had wetsuits on that covered ever part of their bodies accept their faces. Admiration all round. David took Chloe for a walk and came back and said you never guess what, there’s a little cafe and it’s selling WAFFLES ! We are in the middle of nowhere and we have found WAFFLES ! Well it was like I had won £50,000 on the lottery. Off I go with my purse and inside this little hut was an elderly Norwegian and his wife with flasks of tea and a little hot plate to make waffles. Homemade raspberry and strawberry jam was on offer aswell. They were delicious and worth the £7 (for two). The most southerly point on the islands is A with a little o on the top, but I do not know how to type this ! The fishing village was gearing up for the season with all the small fishing boats ready to hire, one restaurant which was open and a small bakery. I said to David ‘oh lets go in’ I can’t remember the last time I went in a shop ! As I pushed the door it was on a pulley with a large stone weight behind it and a museum of a bakery. On display to buy was some small bread rolls, small loaves and cinnamon buns. Shall we get a couple of cinnamon buns I said, not at £5 each came the reply ! So we shared one. The sun was shining and there was some people outside including a young English family with three young children, which is the first English we have seen in Norway and Sweden and they had driven in their car here aswell. They had driven over 2,800km, what an amazing adventure for those children to be experiencing. David also met a young guy on a motorbike from Amsterdam who was on a tour for 5 weeks, travelling through Sweden and Norway. Travelling with him was his lovely little black Spaniel dog who had pride of place zipped in this own little bag on the front on the motorbike. Just brilliant. The next morning we took the 4 hour ferry crossing to take us to the mainland of Norway. The Lofoten Islands was all and more that we could ever have imagined, it will stay in my heart forever, it was the midnight sun that did it for me

Vesteralan Islands – Norway

25th May 2019 – 28th May 2019

One thing you need to remember as you cross the border into Norway is not to have any potatoes in your possession, yes, you read right, potatoes. Apparently potatoes are illegal to import, as well as lots of alcohol. Luckily as previously mentioned we sailed through the border not seeing a human sole, potatoes and alcohol safely still in our possession. The scenery continued to be magical, a scattering of snow on the ground and the huge breathtaking mountains in the background. As we headed into the Vesteralan Islands, our first stop was on the edge of a cliff with the most wonderful view of the the Ofotfjord. Now this place gave me a restless night, firstly because it was really windy and second, David had in my eyes parked quite close to the cliff edge. He said, what do you think is going to happen, I say, we might topple over the edge. He rolls his eyes turns over in bed and off he goes soundly to sleep, while I am left thinking all sorts. Still alive the next day, we travel west and into the lush green scenery of the islands. I can’t believe how just behind us we leave a vista of white snow and now we are in what feels like a paradise garden. It is like we have just walked through a door into another world. The sun shone, the lime green colour of all the trees are so vivid, the lush green grass, spring has just sprung, as everything is coming to life. The daffodils are just emerging and so is all the other fauna. We parked in the small harbour of Borkenes and this was the perfect opportunity to try out the fishing rod. Tackle at the ready David set off, while I stayed in the van doing a spot of squashed yoga. The next thing, the door flies open, I’ve caught a fish, I’ve caught a fish David says. Chloe and I go rushing down to the quay and there on the end of his line is a cod. I couldn’t believe it and and neither could David, he said as soon as he cast the line, he thought he had got it stuck on the bottom again, he was hauling the line in only to find a fish on the end. What do I do with it he said, as I looked down at the fish I said ‘Oh put him back’ and that’s what we did. Not before taking the obligatory photos of the catch. David cast the line again and I could see the line pulling, I said, you haven’t got another one have you and all excited he said ‘I think I have’ and in came another cod. We put this one back as well. David’s luck then dried up, the line got caught and we lost the bait and retreated to the van to have lunch. Off he went again in the afternoon and Fishing Widow sprang to mind. No luck in the afternoon but the fun that David and I had with the earlier catch was just brilliant. I am so glad we bought the fishing rod, this is going to provide hours of fun and maybe food, if we get brave enough. We stayed here a couple of days and then headed to Sortland. As we approached the village, I caught something moving out the side of my eye and said to David, what’s that ? It was only a moose, yes, our first sighting of a moose. OMG, the excitement, it was the size of a small horse and we stopped to take photos. This needed to be recorded, how we had waited so long to see one. We went for a walk in the afternoon and were greeted by two young boys on bikes keen to know where we were going, who we were and where we had come from. They told us where there was some nice walks and said how nice Chloe was. We passed the local school the next day and it was playtime, it looked like there were only 10 children in the whole school ! We finally reached the furthest point North we are going on this ‘Once in a Lifetime’ adventure Andenes. With it’s rich fishing history and end of the road feel with the wind swept harbour on the edge of the Atlantic. We then took the road to Bleik and on this road is Andoya Space Centre, Norway’s only operational Space Cente. Of course it wasn’t open to explore (only 6 weeks in the summer) but here you can experience a virtual mission and send up a virtual rocket. I would have quite liked to have done that. We found a site to stay in Bleik, with views over a huge long sandy beach which wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean. Just stunning. Chloe was so excited, sand between her toes ! As I went into the reception to sign in, I heard the owner saying that we might see the midnight sun tonight. There were afew clouds in the sky but as the evening wore on and the skies cleared, we saw the most amazing spectacle we have ever seen, the glorious midnight sun. It’s midnight the sun is still shining, it is completely light. There are no words to explain it, magical, lucky to be alive, truly blessed. It will stay with us for the rest of my lives.

Hejda (Goodbye) Sweden

23rd May 2019 – 24th May 2019

We continued our journey North on our favourite road, the E4. We stayed the night near Hortlax on the edge of a fjord, with a lighthouse, that you could walk up into, but did we, of course not. Here we met our first Norwegian, who like us was spending the night looking out at a beautiful view. He spoke very good English and told us that there are now many, many more Motorhomes in Norway and Sweden with 1 in 2 Norwegians owing one. David and I looked at each other and thought we need to open a Motorhome dealership in Norway ! He also said that over the years the amount of snow that falls is half what he remembers as a child. Still a huge amount in our book, but it is a sad story to hear. We stayed the following night in the town of Lulea in the harbour, with a free washing machine and you know what that means ! I washed everything and would have even washed Chloe if I could have. Lulea is the last town on the road we grew to know well, the E4 and now we start to head west, into the Arctic Circle and Norway. Instead of coastline our scenery changed to that of the open landscape of inland Sweden. The E10 was our new road and wow, this is remote. It didn’t stop us though talking about hotdogs and hoping to see an Esso garage to stop in at lunchtime to purchase one. David kept saying, just over the hill I can feel an Esso garage emerging ! This did keep us amused for at least half an hour, when the realisation did finally set in and we stopped for a cheese sandwich for lunch. We stopped overnight to break the journey and the next day was the day when we crossed into Norway. Day 42 of this adventure we crossed into the Arctic Circle and saw wild reindeer for the first time. We took the obligatory photo, with David in his shorts in a lay-by by a sign stating that we were now in the Arctic Circle. As we continued our journey the scenery took on the most magical feel. Frozen lakes, fjords and snow capped mountains, this is a road that I imagine not many people take. We passed huge lorries carrying timber felled from the local forests. These lorries had massive grills on the front of them, which we assumed was to protect the vehicle should they hit a moose. Now we have seen, as I have said before loads of warning signs for moose but we still haven’t seen one ! As we are driving through this wonderland of scenery, I welled up with tears at the complete and utter beauty of this place. I am so glad we made the long journey up through Sweden and across this road because it was so worth it. We also saw some people ice fishing, I hope they knew what they were doing. Passports at the ready, we crossed the border, not a sole in sight. A beautiful black helicopter but that was it. I am sure they never got a queue at customs here. We high fived into Norway.