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I got my usual thrill of excitement when we woke up to see the coast of Norway. When I used to travel over to Norway 50+ years ago on the Bergen Line we used to stop sometimes at Haugesund, but there was never enough time go ashore and explore and I knew little about the area, so I had booked us on an organised tour for the afternoon.
We arrived in Haugesund just before lunch and were welcomed by the town jazz band and girls in national costume.

Welcome to Haugesund

Welcome to Haugesund

Haugesund Jazz band

Haugesund Jazz band

 

After lunch we set off on our tour. Our guide was Celia and as usual she was excellent both showing us the sights and giving a potted history of the area. I had not realised before what an important part it had taken, particularly the Viking period, in the history of Norway.

We drove first around the old town on Risoy and then over the bridge to the main shopping streets. Our first stop was at the town hall and park, which had been given to the town by the shipowner Knut Knutsen andd his wife Elizabeth, who were great philanthropists.

Knut Knutsen

Knut Knutsen

 

Townhall

Town Hall

 

After leaving the town centre we drove out to an area which has been preserved for the enjoyment of the outdoor pursuits for which Norwegians are justly famed. We drove up a steep narrow road, which is prohibited to private mechanised transport. At the top we had a magnificent view over Haugesund and its surrounds.

picnic spot

picnic spot

 

View to the sea

View to the sea

 

From there we drove to Haraldshaugen to see the monument erected to mark the unification of the states of Norway by Harald Fairhaired in 872. This is a 17m high obelisk and is believed to mark Harald’s last resting place. The monument is surrounded by 29 stones to represent the 29 regions which were unified.

 

Haraldshaugen

Haraldshaugen

Ancient Cross

Ancient Cross

 

Olav Tryggvesen brought Christianity to Norway in the 12c. in the reign of Hakon the Good.

The area was the home of several Viking kings, and stone monuments, construction artefacts and sagas tell us much about the Viking era. Contrary to the tales we had in our history books they were not only “rapers and pillagers” but great seamen, fishermen, farmers and traders. They are believed to be the first Europeans to reach America (beating Colombus by several centuries!) and they traded in the East and Mediterranean as well as Britain and Ireland. They travelled, of course, in the famous long boats, which could reach incredible speeds.

An exact replica of a longboat has been built using the same methods and materials and is hoping to sail around the world.

Viking ship

Viking ship

 

Womens Suffrage came to Norway 100 years ago, largely due to the efforts of two spinster ladies (I think called Hanna and Babatka) who wanted to become ship owners. They managed to buy a ship through a male friend and became very successful business women. Another famous business lady was Amanda. It is claimed that women have always run things since Viking times when their menfolk were awy so much.

The modern city of Haugesund is relatively new. It started as farmland and then the herring came and the herring industry was founded which led to the boat building industry and now of course the oil, gas and renewable energy.

On the way back to the ship we saw a painting on a wall of Morris Rabinowicz. A Jewish immigrant who settled in Norway and built up a large clothing business which was very successful until WW2 when the Nazis deported him and his family  to the concentration camps.  The painting remains as a memorial and to remind people that they can start with nothing and build up a successful business.

This had been such an interesting tour and I had learned so much about Haugesund and Haugalandet.

photography by Justwilliams

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the first evening we met our two friends,Eileen and Terry, from the Highlands and Islands cruise which we took in July. We also met our new dining companions. Through the night we sailed along the South coast and turned into the North Sea. As usual I slept like a top, (I really should spend more time on the sea!)
We were very fortunate as the sea was calm, just enough movement to let us know that we were not on dry land.
I enjoy these days spent at sea. Even though Balmoral is one of the smaller cruise ships and does not boast an ice rink, climbing wall or shopping mall etc. everyone is catered for on the entertainment side.
There are talks about the ports we will visit, specialist talks (this cruise we had a gemmologist and a lady with humorous snippets about Norway. You could learn pyrography, learn to dance, improve your bridge, play deck games, be pampered in the Spa, or just relax and listen to music. I like to talk to the other passengers. They are an eclectic mix from all walks of life. Most are just ordinary folk like us, nurses, teachers, hairdressers, policemen, postmen etc. One of the common themes of these conversations was the differences in training and working conditions when we trained and now. In all the different jobs we had strong discipline and low wages, but we had job satisfaction and most said that they would not want to enter those jobs in today’s conditions. We had far less interference from government agencies.
Another common theme was the fact that, for a generation who were brought up with an abhorrance of debt and a tradition of saving, they had seen their savings and pensions eroded by minimal interest rates and government measures such as QE, and had decided that they might as well enjoy their savings before they disappear altogether!
That evening was the Captain’s welcome cocktail party where we met the Captain and senior staff. This was one of the formal evenings where we all doffed our evening suits or smart dresses. I think most of the women enjoy this chance to “dress up” and the menfolk put up with it!
In the evening there is a choice of entertainments in each of the bars or theatre, from a string quartet to a revue by the entertainment staff.
For anyone who can manage more food there is a supper club at 11.30pm.

When we were on the Highlands and Islands cruise in July I was given “an offer I could not refuse” and booked another cruise. JW and I were due to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in September, so where better than on the Balmoral cruising up the coast of my favourite country?
I am normally quite an optimistic person, but where holidays are concerned that natural optimism seems to desert me.
We had already celebrated on the actual day with Jennie and family, so I began to wonder whether I had let my enthusiasm run away with me.
As this had been a last minute booking (at an anchor price) I could not choose the cabin, only the grade. I usually choose an outside cabin on the main deck, midships, but this grade has cabins two decks higher, which are larger but may have an obscured view. That was worry number one!
Worry number two was the weather. We had lousy weather in the weeks preceding departure, rain and howling gales. I have crossed the North Sea many times before and it can be quite horrendous.
Worry number three was what to do on shore if the weather was atrocious.
When we left Cardiff the sky was grey and did not look very promising, but as we crossed the bridge into England a watery sun showed briefly and there was, (as my mother used to say) enough blue sky to patch a sailor’s trousers.
The now familiar journey went well and about three hours later we were driving into the cruise terminal road.
The porters took our luggage and ABP met us and took away the VW, leaving us to go through security etc. and forty five minutes later we were boarding Balmoral.
The cabin was indeed larger than we had had before and the partial obscuring of the view was neglible as the window was larger than those on the lower decks.

The cabin

The cabin

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From the window end

From the window end

There was a beautiful floral arrangement (compliments of Fred Olsen) and a charming letter enclosing a voucher for a free formal portrait and inviting us to inform them which day we wuld like to have champagne and canapes delivered)

floral display

floral display

Before the boat drill we availed ourselves of a  “cuppa” and a snack, and then at 5pm we watched the casting off and sail away and then back to the cabin to unpack and get ready for dinner.

My worries had (as usual) been needless.  The car had not broken down, we had arrived in plenty of time, the cabin was lovely and everyone was as friendly and welcoming as ever. 🙂