The Frozen North

Sunrise: 9.28am Sunset: 12.53pm

When we got up this morning, I noticed my ankle was looking a lot better and the swelling had gone down a lot. Nevertheless, I decided to wear my trainers today instead of my walking boots, so as not to irritate my old scar again.

After breakfast we went along to the reception desk to collect our tickets for the shuttle bus into town. We had a wait of about 45 minutes, so we decided to go to the Secret Garden for a cup of coffee.

Eventually our bus number was called so, wrapping up warmly, we disembarked the Boudicca and made our way over the crisp snow/ice to the waiting vehicle. It was only a 15 minute ride into town, where we were dropped off at the bus station.

We decided to go and have a look around the shopping mall (at least it would be warm!) and I made a beeline for the supermarket to get some more salty liquorice; I also wanted to buy some postcards.

We browsed around the shops and I got some Spikies, the rubber ice-grips that fit over your shoes/boots. At 59 kroner (£5.90) they were less than half the price of the ones on the ship. As winter is coming at home in Durham, I will probably also get some use of the ice-grips walking to work.

In a bookshop / stationery store, we spotted some postcards, calendars and other souvenirs featuring the Northern Lights. I liked the postcards; they had a 3D effect, which meant that the Northern Lights changed shape when you tilted the cards back and forth. We decided to get a couple, and when we got to the checkout we found they were 49 kroner (nearly a fiver!) each, certainly the most expensive postcards I’ve ever bought.

We then decided we’d go to the post office for the stamps, then find somewhere to sit and have a drink and write the cards out. As we emerged from the rear of the shopping mall we noticed it was already dusk. We walked along a wide pedestrian road which already had the Christmas lights up; not many people were out in the -7ºC temperature so it was quiet and peaceful, and so picturesque with the lights twinkling off the snow in the blue dusk. Beautiful!

At the end of the pedestrian area we spotted a bar. At first we thought it was closed because there didn’t seem to be any lights on, but when we looked through the window we could see customers sitting at tables; the place was lit with fairy lights and lots of candles. It looked cosy and inviting so we went in.

We ordered a couple of beers and chose a table next to the window. At 12.55pm the sun had set, and we had the impression of it being much later than it was. I wrote out one of the postcards, but then decided they were so nice I was going to keep the other one for myself. 🙂

It was really lovely sitting in the cosy, dimly-lit bar looking at the beautiful winter scene outside. The bar also had wi-fi, so we were able to connect to the internet, check emails, online banking etc while enjoying our beers.

We realised we hadn’t had any lunch, but we were not really too hungry; on a cruise we are hardly likely to starve and we knew we’d get a good dinner later.

After our beers we went out once more into the crisp Arctic air, posted the postcard then made our way back to the bus station, in time to see the shuttle bus pulling out! Typical. We therefore returned to the shopping centre (better than standing in the cold and dark) for 10 minutes or so. When we came out, we noticed that a queue for the next bus had started to form, so we joined it and had a wait of about 15 minutes.

Back on the Boudicca we dumped our coats and bags in the cabin, then went up to the Lido Lounge for a drink and some nibbles (peanuts and Twiglets) to make up for our missed lunch. Presently we were joined by M & M and another couple for the afternoon quiz. Needless to say, we didn’t win. 😦

After the quiz it was time for us to retrieve our coats once again and assemble in the Neptune Lounge for this evening’s tour. We were going to the modern church in Alta (only built last year, 2013) to see a musical concert. The architecture of the church is unique in that the tower and spire are constructed to represent the Northern Lights. The titanium spire twists around in a spiral, with vertical lines to emulate the shape of the aurora. In fact, it’s nicknamed the Nordlyskatedralen, which means Northern Lights Cathedral, even though it’s not actually a cathedral, it’s a church.

Street in Alta, with the Northern Lights cathedral at the end
Nordlyskatedralen , Alta

When our bus number was called, off we went to deck 3 to disembark the Boudicca. I noticed that the gang-plank had been gritted and salted; nevertheless I trod very carefully and held on to the railings at both sides. The other couples from our table, Trevor and Eileen and David and Jill, were also on our bus.

Once we pulled up at the church we hurried inside, in order to get a good seat and unimpeded view of the concert. All six of us were lucky enough to get seats in the front row, where we could see the stage already set up with an electronic organ/keyboard and a microphone, as well as a white screen onto which images would be projected.

The concert was given by a couple of blokes who called themselves Åja. One of them was tall and fair-haired and he played the keyboards and saxophone. The other was stockier and had long, black hair, and he was dressed in leather trousers and a traditional Sami woollen tunic; he was the vocalist.

We were treated to a musical show in which the singer sang some typical Sami songs and chants, or joiks; he had an impressive vocal range and the acoustics in the church were brilliant. The music was very atmospheric and, during each song, a slide-show of Arctic landscapes, from all of the seasons starting with winter, was played out on the screen.

The concert lasted about 40 minutes and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I can imagine that it probably wouldn’t appeal to everybody. Then it was a bus ride back to the Boudicca, in time for dinner a little later at 6.30pm. We had a good appetite by now and really enjoyed our tasty meal.

The show tonight featured the classical male/female duo La Musica, and they performed excerpts from The Phantom of the Opera (which I love) and other pieces. The guy also played a brilliant Glen Miller-inspired boogie woogie on the piano, accompanied by the fabulous ship’s orchestra. As ever, it was an excellent show.

Up in the Lido Lounge we joined M & M once again and swapped stories about what we’d been doing. One of the things we find on Fred Olsen cruises is that the vast majority of our fellow passengers are, like us, well-travelled and seasoned cruisers, and conversations are often based around previous ships and ports where we have been or would like to go.

Nope, we didn’t win the quiz. We scored 16/20, but we would have got 18 if we hadn’t changed our minds about two of the answers!

It was another late night tonight. I joined in with the dancing quite a lot (I couldn’t get Trevor to get up) but the Boudicca was underway once again and the ship’s motion was very noticeable. It was funny seeing people on the dance floor start at one side and gradually roll over to the other side. When one of the dance hosts, Derek, attempted to teach me some salsa and cha-cha steps, it was a pretty hopeless task, combined with the vessel’s motion and the several glasss of cava I’d drank.

It was nearly 2.00am before we went to bed. Walking along the corridor to our cabin we were first of all going uphill, then downhill, then uphill again. It proved to be quite a rough night, but that’s all part of the fun of being at sea. 🙂

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