My Norwegian adventures came to an end, and I had to return to Brexit Island. The journey to the airport and the flight home was uneventful, and a few hours later I was touching down in Manchester Airport, where I was greeted with the usual welcome: a long, slowly-moving passport queue. Great first impression of the UK for visitors, WELL DONE.
Despite the problems I had along the way, it was overall an amazing trip. Norway is a beautiful part of the world, and I was glad to spend a week there sampling some of what it had to offer. Bodø in particular was a lovely surprise – a charming town with plenty to do and see.
I have to give Railbookers their due – they gave a refund for the non-running sleeper train and the cancelled Northern Lights tour without any quibble. I’m not sure, given the number of emails and phone calls I had to make to book the trip in the first place, whether a specialist tour operator required less effort than just booking the different parts of the trip separately online. On the other hand, you do have that all important ATOL protection, which may be an important consideration for some.
I’m hoping to travel extensively in 2023. Will I be going back to Norway again? Maybe not next year, but I think I will be heading to Scandinavia again sooner rather than later. Wherever I go, it will be blogged in excruciating detail – watch this space!
September 19th, and over in the UK, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was being laid to rest. A queue had snaked across London to view her lying-in-state, and there was no escaping the news, as TV channels cleared their schedules for the funeral coverage.
In far-off Norway, I couldn’t let unfortunate events back home spoil my holiday, so pressed ahead with my plans.
I did have the TV on in the background while getting ready that morning. The only English-language channel in my hotel room was Sky News, which was in full funeral mode, so I didn’t linger there long. Norwegian television had found its own angle, with late 90s boyband A1 being asked about the Queen on TV2’s breakfast show. It wasn’t a tenuous connection at all: Ben Adams met the Queen once when he was a choirboy at Windsor Castle, so there.
I stumbled out of bed at 6.45am, and groggily made my way to the bathroom, in an attempt to wake myself up with a shower. The early start was needed to get myself back to the railway station for the 7.58am rail replacement bus to Bodø. Yay!
It was so early that the hotel had not put out the full breakfast buffet, and I had to make do with some cereal and a croissant. I ate in a deserted dining room, with a solitary other diner who looked about as happy as I was.
I checked out of the hotel and headed back to the railway station, where I joined other intending passengers on the concourse. Tucked away in one corner was the check-in point for the sleeper train, just to taunt me.
I headed straight for the ticket office at Trondheim Sentral and enquired about the sleeper train to Bodø.
“They are all cancelled this weekend,” said the friendly woman on the information desk. “Engineering work is taking place.”
So this ticket I have, is for a train that does not exist?
“Yes, you will need to take it up with your booking agent.”
Oh, don’t worry. I WILL.
I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and dialled the travel agent, thankful that my mobile provider still offers European roaming at no extra charge.
There was a long phone call, which involved extended periods on hold. The woman at the travel agent was very helpful and apologetic, but could only come up with one option: instead of the sleeper train, I would be on a rail replacement bus departing at 8am and taking 11 hours to reach Bodø.
To be fair, they also arranged an extra day’s hotel stay in Bodø, but on the downside, I would have almost no time in Trondheim. I would have to leave early the following morning, rather than spending most of the day there and leaving by train in the evening.
Next morning I was at Oslo Sentral bright and early – well, early, anyway – for the next phase of my trip. Exploring Oslo was all well and good, but the purpose of this trip was TRAINS! So I was happy to be back on the rails again.
Oslo Sentral is a typical European railway terminus. In other words, it’s a giant shopping mall with the trains almost an afterthought amidst the branches of Starbucks.
I found my platform for the 08:02 to Trondheim, which was operated by an offshoot of the Swedish state-owned railway operator, SJ.
I had a full day in Oslo to explore, but I was far too lazy to do my own research on what to see, so instead I joined a Free Walking Tour of Oslo. I duly arrived at “The Tiger Statue” in Jernbanetorget, outside the main railway station, on Thursday morning.
Our tour guide, Daniel, introduced himself. There was a large group of people from many different countries, but thankfully, no “get to know each other” bit at the beginning, which always feels supremely awkward for me on these tours.
The delay to my train turned out to not matter, as my plane was also delayed, and the security queues were relatively short and fast-moving.
I lucked out with my flight, as despite not paying for allocated seating, I was randomly assigned a window seat, and so could stare out of the window in wonder at the Norwegian scenery below as we approached Oslo.
Passport control was the now-familiar scenario of being forced to queue up in the “Other Passports” queue while people in the “EU/EEA” queue breeze past, followed by some intimidating questioning by an immigration official to make sure I wasn’t going to outstay my welcome. That ordeal over, I emerged into the arrivals hall of Oslo Gardermoen airport.
Twenty years is a long time to work in the same place. Two decades of showing up to work on time each and every day, diligently working hard with my esteemed colleagues to add value to the business. Since the day I was on-boarded, I have relentlessly pursued corporate synergies and leveraged the opportunities and challenges that have arisen in my workflows.
(Did the above sound good? Please take my word for it, and definitely don’t go through my Twitter archive)
My lack of ambition was finally rewarded on my 20 year anniversary, when my employer offered to purchase a gift to celebrate my inability to get sacked. The only rule was that it had to be a single, tangible gift (no asking for a cash alternative).
I briefly toyed with the idea of buying Hornby’s new model of the Advanced Passenger Train, together with the additional coaches to make it up to a full length prototypical train, but I quickly realised that I would never be able to actually run it anywhere, due to lack of space.
Thoughts then turned to the possibility of a holiday and — because I have a brand to maintain — I started looking at train trips.