Sunday, 4 October 2015

A Shady Terrace By The Rosencrantz Tower by Trisha Ashley

And yes, I know what popped into your head when you read the title of this post: ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.’ Am I right? But there really is a historic Rosencrantz tower in Bergen, Norway, and the week before last I was sitting in a shady courtyard right next to it on a hot summer’s day, drinking a deliciously tart berry juice and eating a big cake with chunks of apple in the middle, which seemed to be a square version of the famous Bergen bun I’d consumed only an hour before from a shop in the middle of the town. Life’s a moveable feast, isn’t it?

I was in Norway on my first real, non-work-related holiday in over fifteen years (though of course, like the rest of my life journey, it will eventually compost down and be reused in a novel). I had unplugged the umbilical cord of the internet and even the small laptop was abandoned, despite its desperate attempts to jump into the suitcase at the last moment.

Fred Olsen kindly wafted my cockleshell across the North Sea, in a reverse-Viking invasion. (My father says we’re all descended from the Vikings in my bit of Lancashire – town names like ‘Ormskirk’ are a bit of a giveaway).

I boarded with a map of the ship that would lead me to the two venues where I expected to spend most of my time: the dining room and the coffee shop. Other than this, I had a fully loaded kindle and knew how to use it. I’d also booked myself onto four daytrips to see as much of the country as I could, three of which involved much wondrous scenery viewed from almost vertical ascents and descents in a variety of conveyances interspersed with a lot of long dark tunnels.

Then, on a hot summer’s day, I absconded two hours into a three hour walking tour of Bergen and stumbled across this delightfully shady, cool terrace with a café right by the Rosencrantz Tower – of course I did, it was inevitable.

And once refreshed, my hands automatically delved into the deep recesses of my enormous shoulder bag to find a good old-fashioned pen and notebook to jot down a few home thoughts from abroad. It turned out that there are a few essential things you need to know about both Norway and cruising. Or at least, things I needed to know.

(1) Everywhere you turn in Norway there is a turquoise fjord, a vertical waterfall, a huge mountain topped with snow, or a glacier, so that after only a couple of hours your vocabulary has been reduced to, ‘oh, wow!’

(2) Turf roofs on houses are very eco-friendly and also, you can graze your goats on them. This one had harebells growing on it.

(3) If you like moose, you’re going to love the souvenir shops

(4) Norwegian floppy waffles spread with jam and sour cream are the most wonderful thing in the world.

(5) If visiting an apple farm, eat a good breakfast because at ten thirty you are going to be facing a line of glasses containing apple brandy, two kinds of strong cider and a large apple juice to wash it down with.

(6) Every tour guide tells you how delicious the traditional delicacy of sheep’s head is, provided you can get past the eye looking at you and the teeth grinning away on your plate.

(7) Don’t sign up for an almost vertical coach ride down eighteen hairpin bends unless you have a good head for heights.

(8) Completely enclosed tender boats full of people give me acute claustrophobia.

(9) And for a cruise, next time don’t pack three pairs of black trousers and several almost identical t-shirts, because people will think you’ve been wearing the same clothes the whole trip.

(10) You are going to put on half a stone, because of the amazing food. Just accept it and go with the flow. Flow round the promenade deck a few times a day, too, that might help.

(11) If your vision is poor, don’t assume every man in a striped polo shirt is your brother. Their wives don’t like them being chatted up by strange women. I even poked one poor man in the back with my flag (that’s another story) with the words ‘Oh, there you are!’ He’s probably still explaining me away.

(12) By pure chance, do choose the one cruise when all four Fred Olsen ships are berthed in their home port of Bergen at the same time, so that the whole town is one giant party and you steam off next day in a line, full of strange celebratory cocktails and waving the aforementioned flag, while singing favourite traditional sea shanties like ‘We are sailing…’

(13) This is the unexpected aftermath. Although I’m a good sailor who felt fine aboard, I suffered a week of something called Mal de Disembarquement when I got home, with migraine headaches and everything going up and down in a very dizzying way. Apparently this is quite common.

But I’ll tell you what, it was worth it!

This post originally appeared in the August issue of Trisha Ashley's newsletter, which you can subscribe to

Trisha Ashley is a Sunday Times bestselling author of romantic comedy. Her latest book A Christmas Cracker is out on 22nd October 2015 and is now available to pre-order.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, I am beyond jealous, would love to go to Norway!! My sister Julia (Aries) has been there a lot and can speak it. Lovely post :)


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