Friday, 23 December 2011

NOR-WAY Bussekspress

NOR-WAY Bussekspress provides a Seat guarantee so there is no need to reserve seats in advance for the 2 short journeys we are taking.

I emailed them to check and received a very quick reply confirming the guarantee so another task completed.

Caledonian Sleeper

There are no bargain berths available on the nights that we want to travel.   I started to look at the other options and found the 10 ticket flexipass.  Not only will it work out cheaper in the long run when we take all our journeys into account,  it also gives us a lower berth each and a better breakfast.

I bought the flexipass yesterday and there seemed to be a slight hiccup when they tried to book the actual journeys for us...   but today a phone call to the Customer Services line meant we got 3 of our journeys booked.  It's still too early for the other 2 but at least the price is guaranteed because it's been pre-paid.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Road to Corran

Road to Corran
Looking across the water towards Glencoe on this very snowy winter morning.

The road here is better than where we'd just been.  It was obvious the gritters had been along because, besides hearing them, the grit was visible on the road.  


Unfortunately few vehicles had driven towards the ferry before us and so the grit hadn't had time to work.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Excursions

We don't normally take the planned excursions,  preferring to get to know the people in the communities we visit.   On this occasion it is different and we've already booked some excursions on the Hurtigruten.  The Marco Polo excursions we'll book when the forms arrive.

See the activities page.

Scheduling

In between the thunder storms of the last few days,  I've been able to do much more of the scheduling so we can arrange to meet friends and relatives as we travel around Norway.

The itinerary is almost finished apart from the transport tickets that haven't been made available yet.   I've taken the times from the timetables but will continue to watch for alterations right up until and during the trip.

7 of the 9 hotel stays can be cancelled up until the evening before our stay. This means if any of our planned transport are cancelled or delayed,  we'll be able to change our plans without incurring costs.   The early booking price of the other 2 hotels made it worthwhile to take the risk.

Our house sitters are talking to each other to make sure there is someone 'at home' throughout our trip which is good news after last year's burst pipes.

I'll update the itinerary this afternoon.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Hotels

All the hotels for the trip are now booked.  One booking went slightly wrong,  must have been credit card fatigue?   but it's all fixed now because the sensible receptionist at Kristiansand Scandic fixed it with us.

Still slightly frustrating that I can't book any of the land transport yet because no-one puts their availability online this early.   When it does go online it's a mad rush to get the best prices.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Glencoe/Rannoch

Glencoe/Rannoch
Snow falling over the hills and sleet falling on the road as we drove home yesterday

Friday, 2 December 2011

Land accommodation

Now I know the dates for our land stays,  it's time to choose the hotels.    No problem choosing in Bergen and Oslo but trying to find a hotel in Kristiansand doesn't appear to be so easy?   Kristiansand doesn't display any hotels in some of the usual websites where I'd book hotels,  probably because they haven't listed their room availability yet?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Boat hire

There is a ferry that runs between Bergen and Mo (Modalen) in the summer but not while we are visiting.   I've send off two email messages to boat hire companies in Bergen to see how much it would cost to hire a boat for the return trip.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Hurtigruten booking

I've just booked the Hurtigruten round trip, or rather I've just requested our friendly travel agents book it.   I do wonder if the 'early booking offer' will turn out to be the best deal so have only booked an inside cabin to make sure we're on the ship.

With the whole holiday schedule to book,  it isn't wise to wait until next spring and find we can't get on the ship on the date we want.  There is some flexibility in the itinerary but there won't be when I book the hotels in the next few days.

Travel Insurance

It's the same every year.  The renewal letter arrives,  we telephone them back and answer all the questions.

Then the policy documents arrive and they are wrong-  exactly the same mistake as last year.

Bergen wins

I've thought through whether to disembark from the Hurtigruten in Trondheim or Bergen.   Bergen won!

It seems very sensible to leave the arctic clothing in Bergen and not carry unnecessary luggage on the trains, fast ferries and buses.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Trondheim or Bergen?

It's possible to disembark from the southbound Hurtigruten in Trondheim instead of continuing down to Bergen.

As the itinerary stands at the moment,  we're visiting Bergen 4 times because it is the common hub for the places we want to visit.

If we disembark in Trondheim,  it would allow us to take the sleeper train to Oslo and free another 2 days into our schedule for doing other exciting things.   Perhaps we could stop at Dombas?  or Lillehammer?

Will it add on a lot of extra cost?  or will it actually make a saving?

I had originally thought of leaving our 'arctic' clothing in Bergen rather than carry it on the Fjord and Southern trips.   Something else to consider.

So, more decisions to take... watch this space again.

Deposit paid

We paid the deposit on the return sailing from Norway on Thursday.   Now we're just waiting on the booking numbers from Cruise and Maritime via our travel agent.

If you've been watching the itinerary,  I managed to muddle up the years and so the days were all wrong.  Once I recognised this and made the corrections,   some of the travel arrangements changed from the weekend to a weekday and became possible.   In addition,  'missing days' reappeared and it looks like we'll also managed a sailing into Sognefjord.

This is something I could leave until we're actually in Bergen and see what the weather is like.   I'm hoping for a beautiful spring like the one we had in 2012 however,  if the weather is particularly damp,  there are lovely museums to visit in Bergen.

Easter now falls when the Hurtigruten ship is sailing in the far north so we'll not only enjoy the comfort of the ship,  there are no longer issues with travel arrangements at Easter.

Plans for our house-sitters are well underway, I'm told holidays are being requested!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Bookings and insurance

The ship home is now fixed,  with just the deposit to pay tomorrow to confirm the booking.  The travel insurance is also paid.  This now means I can go ahead and organise the remaining itinerary.

I'll update the other pages tomorrow,  it's been quite a long day trying to sort all this out.

More tomorrow...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Itinerary changes

Plans are changing by the day.   Because of weekends and Easter timetables,  we cannot fit together certain parts of the journey.

Expected alterations:
Sailing on a different Hurtigruten ship at a different stage of the trip.
Changing the order of the southern & fjord journey.

Watch this space...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Bookings (not today)

This morning I was going to visit the travel agent,  finalise more of the reservations for the trip and pay the deposits.   Unfortunately this isn't going to happen because I'm still waiting on the availability emails from the cruise/ferry companies.

... but it's not a great problem because we're far enough in advance that a few days isn't going to make much difference.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Orange aurora?

When we sailed the Norwegian coast on MS Nordlys in February 2008,  we were called up on deck to see the aurora. 

I couldn't see anything but found this picture when I downloaded the camera. Was it the lights? I thought they were always green but perhaps not?

or was it just wishful thinking?

Missing emails?

Waiting on 5 emails today that I need to progress with the planning.  2 emails from cruise companies and 3 from other people.
  • Did my emails to them go out?  well 2 definitely did because I've had interim responses.
  • Did they reply and the emails didn't arrive?  all too frequent at the moment
  • Have they not replied yet?  they may be busy
  • Are they not going to reply?
The internet is so good for finding information and contacting people but sometimes you're just left guessing.  I'll wait until Monday and then make a few phone calls if nothing has arrived.

Cabin choice

As I said before,  we're very happy with an inside cabin but which one?  There are various factors to take into account.

  • Do we want to be on a lower deck where there will be less movement if the weather is bad?
  • Do we want to be in a higher deck with easy access to the outer decks if (I mean when) the northern lights are seen?
  • I don't want to be near a lift or stairs,  either for passengers or crew.  Avoiding corridors where passengers will be returning to their cabin after a night in the bar also sounds like a good idea.
Decisions, decisions!

1893 Ambassadors

People who have sailed with Hurtigruten before are able to register for their 1893 ambassador programme that entitles them to various benefits and discounts.

My registration has just arrived so,  as soon as I'm able to make our 2012 booking,  I'll be doing so.   This is all getting very exciting,  so many things are falling into place today.

Karmøy Fiskerimuseum

I emailed Karmøy Fishery Museum to ask for their 2012 opening hours.

Unfortunately they don't open for the 2012 season until June.   However, they have very kindly said that they might be able to allow 'Himself' to look round and to contact them again nearer the time.

Waiting...

Just waiting, today, for word back from Cruise & Maritime about the availability on Marco Polo.

I've asked for an inside cabin because we really spend very little time in the cabin.    Even if the ship had balconies,  I don't think I'd book one because we like to spend time out on deck and be able to watch the scenery on all sides of the ship.   I have one favourite spot on deck too!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Which ship?

It is difficult to choose which of the Hurtigruten ships to sail on.  Ultimately, I suppose, it will depend on the sailing date.

MS Finnmarken will have returned from Australia and resumed her place on the coastal route,  replacing Nordstjernen.
(photo from February 2008)

My alternatives are Polarlys, Nordnorge or Vesteralen.

Of course a major part of the trip will be onboard another of our favourites,  the classic cruise liner,  MS Marco Polo
(photo from summer 2010)

Planning

Planning a trip is half the fun,  particularly during winter when it gives something to look forward to.

I suppose we're fortunate in having several contacts within Norway who have local information on bus services and the best transit ports for ferries.

The second part of the journey is already booked;  sailing on the Marco Polo to view the Northern Lights over Arctic Norway visiting several ports along the way.   There is always a risk of missing ports while sailing the Norwegian coast during winter because of bad weather and winter will still be very evident.  Having said that,  it is well worth the risk because the scenery is beautiful and daylight has returned.

Planning the third and fifth parts of the trip is more difficult.   In which order to we visit the southern towns and the fjords?   I think it is all going to revolve around the fact that the third part will be over a weekend and some of the ferries and buses don't run.   I'd like to avoid backtracking as much as possible because it is such a waste of valuable time (and money).

The Caledonian Sleeper train between Fort William and London is part one and probably the last part that I'll book.   It only goes on sale 3 months in advance and I'll also want to watch for any proposed disruption because of track repairs.

Part 4 is the Hurtigruten coastal voyage.  Which ship?  exactly which dates?  Do we complete the voyage or do we hop off the ship at one or more ports (port-to-port).  I'm just waiting now on the replies to some questions.

Part 6 is getting home on Marco Polo and again,  I'm just waiting on the information to allow me to make the reservation.   None of the other parts can be booked and confirmed until we definitely know how to get home.

... but the sun is shining outside and I don't want to spend any more time indoors.   Planning can wait.  Where is the camera?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bonfire 2011

Strontian bonfire 2011 2/2
Managed to pop along to the bonfire and fireworks this year.

Great soup and scones too on the first real cold, dry night of winter.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Swan family

Swan family
Swans enjoying some 'family time' at Lomond Shores before opening on Sunday.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Glencoe and Loch Linnhe

Glencoe and Loch Linnhe 2/2
low cloud over the hills that later cleared to sunshine.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle
3 distant photographs from this afternoon combined into one. (same eagle)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Monday, 26 September 2011

Fram and Isle of Mull

Fram and Calmac 1/2

Hurtigruten's explorer ship, 'MS Fram' and the Calmac ferry 'Isle of Mull' in Oban Bay yesterday.


and below, the - not very good - video

Friday, 23 September 2011

Dundee from the Tay Road Bridge

Dundee from the Tay Road Bridge 1/2
Catching up with the photographs from the east coast earlier this month-   this is Dundee on 04 September.

Taken from the moving car without really being able to see the subject.




and the - not very good- video

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Fingal of Caledonia 2011

Last week saw me sailing down the Caledonian Canal and the lochs of the Great Glen on the activity barge 'Fingal of Caledonia'. The theme for the week was new, 'Highland Hill walks', with several Munros and Corbetts being climbed as well as some more leisurely walks along the tow path for those not wanting to climb.

barge reflections 1/2Departing Inverness 1/4Departing Inverness 2/4Departing Inverness 3/4Departing Inverness 4/4Inverness canal lampost
Caledonian Canal cruiseCanal greeneryLampost and skyKessock Bridge and canal locksCaledonian Canal cruiseCaledonian Canal cruise
Caledonian Canal cruiseCaledonian Canal cruisePylonsCanal trip boatCaledonian Canal cruiseCattle by canal
Caledonian Canal cruiseOther barges 1/2Other barges 2/2Caledonian Canal cruiseWatch your speedCaledonian Canal cruise
My emphasis was on photographing the canal and lochs from the barge so I stayed on board throughout the cruise.

The weather forecast was bad-  weather warnings about the remnants of Hurricane Katia but we never really encountered it apart from the rain.   Decisions were made about activities and overnight stops based on the forecast.  The crew and passengers sat down and planned after dinner for the next day's itinerary.

Food was good-  I'm not sure we ever managed to finish all that was put on the table and again, meals were adapted with the flexibility that the skipper and crew excelled in.

The cabins were comfortable with quite a bit of storage space and smashing showers in the en-suites.  Wet clothes were put in the drying room so the cabins stayed nice and dry.

Next time I want to sail north, perhaps in springtime,  because I'm sure the scenery will look very different from the other direction at a different time of year.  It is certainly very different from the view from the road.

I had no idea that I could share a set of pix like this-  makes posting much easier and I'll know in future when uploading them.  Video to follow

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Jungle City- Edinburgh

Jungle City- tiger
this is the first tiger we met on our visit to Edinburgh Botanic Gardens.

The tigers, birds, elephants and alligators are now appearing in various places around Edinburgh.

Click through the photo for the rest of the animals...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Elizabeth G

Elizabeth G
Sailing in the Sound of Mull on board Elizabeth G.

Friday, 5 August 2011

West Highland Yachting Week 2011

West Highland Yachting Week 2011
I was lucky enough to be on board Elizabeth G in the Sound of Mull during the WHYW race.

There are a whole series of photos so I won't post them here but please click on this photo if you want to see more.

The wind was almost non-existent during the day and only the skill of the yachtsmen and women meant there were winners.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sørlandet rope

Sørlandet rope
I quite enjoyed taking 'different' photographs onboard Sørlandet- this is one of them.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Red Arrows at Greenock

Red Arrows 1/11
display at Tall Ships, Greenock, 2011

Fantastic display- went on for quite some time.

Red Arrows 2/11

Red Arrows 5/11

Red Arrows 9/11

Red Arrows 3/11

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Greenock fireworks

Greenock fireworks 5/11
the fireworks on the last evening of the tall ships festival in Greenock were really spectacular



Greenock fireworks 7/11
These were taken from Sørlandet