All Around Ålesund

ARMISTICE DAY

When we woke up this morning, the Boudicca had already docked in Ålesund. We hadn’t been to this port before, so we were looking forward to exploring.  After breakfast we therefore got our coats on and disembarked the ship. We had about an hour to look around before returning to the ship for our organised tour at 11.30am.

The sky was clear and the weather was crisp and cold at about 5ºC, although it wasn’t as cold as we had expected. There was no wind and the air was perfectly still, so there was no need to wear a hat.

We took a slow stroll into the town and the first thing I did was go into a confectionery shop to look for some salmiak, or salty liquorice, which I love (although some people say it is an acquired taste!). In most of Scandinavia salmiak is very common and it is a typical Norwegian snack. Wrigley’s also make a salty liquorice flavoured chewing gum, and I always buy this whenever we come to Norway. We have a friend who goes to Norway a lot, and he always brings back some salty liquorice gum for me whenever he finds any! 🙂

I bought two packets of salmiak sweets and six packets of the chewing gum. That should keep me going for a few days, ha ha.  🙂
We then got some postcards and stamps, and found a bench to sit on to write them out. Then, after posting the cards, it was time to go back to the Boudicca.

At 11.00am exactly the ship’s whistle sounded to mark the start of the two minutes’ silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Then we got our coats on before going to the Neptune Lounge to be called for our tour.

We were allocated bus number 7 and our guide was called Netta. Her English was excellent and she proved to be a very knowledgeable guide, having been born and living all her life in Ålesund. We learned a lot about this lovely little town, which is located on one of many little islands, with the mountains giving a dramatic backdrop to the scenery. Lots of pretty wooden houses were built on the hillsides, and they all enjoyed absolutely breathtaking views. Netta informed us that property prices were very reasonable in Norway, but the cost of living is very high (we knew this from previous visits to Norway!) and cars cost approximately twice the price that they do in Britain.

Ålesund had been razed to the ground by a huge fire in 1904, in which 10,000 people had been made homeless. Netta pointed out to us where the fire had started, in a margarine processing plant; a spark had fallen onto the wooden floor and then ignited it; the fire then raged throughout all the wooden buildings, wreaking devastation. There is a stone plaque which marks the place where the fire eventually petered out, and Ålesund has been rebuilt over the decades to the attractive little fishing town that it is.

Our trip lasted a couple of hours, so we were back to the Boudicca in time for lunch at 1.30pm. I was quite hungry by now so I enjoyed some salad and cold cuts, washed down with a glass of chilled wine. Then we did another five laps of the deck before repairing to the Lido Lounge for another couple of drinks, where I did some of this blog and we took part in the afternoon quiz. We scored 15/20, not enough to win.

Evening falls quickly in northern latitudes, and the sun had already dipped below the mountains when the Boudicca slipped her moorings at 3.30pm. With the sun gone we experienced the lovely Norwegian twilight, in which the light has a distinctive blue hue.

We went back to cabin 5050 before relaxing for a while and then getting washed and changed for dinner. Tonight we didn’t got to the Four Seasons restaurant, but instead to the Secret Garden café where they were holding an Indian buffet.

The food was delicious; I enjoyed some beef rogan josh and some lamb curry, along with rice and some hot lime and chilli pickle. I was very good and didn’t have a dessert.  🙂

Then we had a cup of coffee and enjoyed chatting with another couple, where we talked about different cruises and ships we’d each been on.
Then it was off into the Neptune Lounge to get a good seat for the cabaret. As usual, the show was preceded by the ship’s orchestra playing music for dancing, and many couples were on the dance floor. Trevor and I got up to do a St. Bernard’s Waltz, before enjoying a pre-show drink.

The show tonight was called “Hey, Rock and Roll” by the Boudicca Show Company. It featured music, singing and dancing from the 1950’s, so it wasn’t really to my taste, although the performance was very good.
As ever, it was off to the Lido Lounge to do the quiz and finish off the evening. We were joined by Malcolm and Margaret once again, but we only got 16/20. The winners got scored 18.

Then the ‘Timeline Duo’ came back on again to do another mediocre performance. The female half really cannot sing; she has an annoying breathy voice instead of singing the notes clearly. The male half plays the guitar but most of the music comes from backing tracks, so there’s not much musical skill required. Nonetheless I suppose they provide some background music if you fancy getting up for a bop.

At around 11.30pm, someone came in from outside and shouted “the Northern Lights!” So everyone rushed outside to have a look. It was cold and windy and we couldn’t really see much due to the lighting around the ship. So we went back to our cabin and for wrapped up in our winter coats before returning above decks, where we made our way to the ship’s bow so we were facing north.

The Boudicca‘s officers on the bridge had thoughtfully put out the bridge lights so it was nice and dark at the bow. This enabled us to look at the northern skies where, sure enough, we occasionally saw a small green glow and ripple. It only lasted a few minutes at a time, however, and we were denied a spectacular display on this occasion. We stayed out in the cold about half an hour, but the aurora didn’t reappear.

The ship has put on an “aurora alert” service. If we tune our in-cabin TV to channel 6 and leave the TV on, there will be no picture or sound, but if the aurora appears then music will be played on the TV and the words “We are experiencing aurora activity” will appear. Then we can get out of bed, get dressed and go up on deck so we don’t miss anything.
However, the TV screen remained blank all night, so the Northern Lights had decided not to come back for the time being. Hopefully we’ll have a fantastic sighting later in the voyage.

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