Travel With Bradley

Visiting Norway on the Queen Victoria

Visiting Norway on the Queen Victoria (continued)

Saturday November 23 – Narvik

The Mountain View’s from the Queen Victoria while overlooking the community of Narvik are beautiful.  Some of Norways highest mountains are found in this region.  

Narvik has a population of 17000.  This is an industrial port.  Tons of iron ore is transported from Sweden to Narvik and then its shipped by boat around the world.  Narvik’s harbour remains ice free year round.  

In comparison to other parts of Norway, English isn’t as widely spoken.  

Sunrise today was at 9:50am with sunset at 1:22pm.  The weather has been mild which is unusual for this time of year.  The Brits are starting to admit they packed too many suitcases of warm clothing for this cruise!

Our train excursion from Narvik to Sweden’s Lapland was a perfect choice.    The scenery was breathtaking especially when we exited through one of the many train tunnels and were surrounded by a winter wonderland.  The trains journey took us through very remote areas where we saw few people – but many reindeer and eagles.   Our guide told us there are a few hundred thousand reindeer in this region.

We concluded our train journey in Sweden.  We transferred by motor coach to a local lodge with a stunning million dollar view over the mountains.  As a treat the hotel staff prepared homemade sweet rolls and coffee/tea for us to enjoy but most of us spent the majority of our time outside so we could snap pictures.  

We then continued our journey back to Narvik by coach.  It was a 90 minute ride.  There were a few unscheduled stops along the way because reindeer didn’t want to get off the road.

The road conditions in Sweden were not ideal because they were extremely icy.  I don’t think I’d want to be driving on these isolated roads during a snow storm.  There are tall plastic markers on the sides of the road so drivers know where the road is during poor weather conditions.  

The guide pointed out the many cottages that are located throughout the mountains.  Most of them do not have road access, or the comforts of home – like electricity.  

After we crossed over the 2nd largest bridge in Norway we were back in Narvik.  It was already pitch dark but we still very much enjoyed the continued tour around town which included a scenic overlook stop which provided a perfect view of the sparkling Queen Victoria.  

We were hungry when we returned to the ship so most of us attended Cunard’s afternoon high tea in the Queens Room.  

Soon after we departed on our next excursion – In Search of the Northern Lights but tonight the weather did not co-operate.  Without clear skies nobody is going to see the Northern Lights.  Our coach driver gave us the opportunity to admire some scenic lookouts and a stop was made at the Polar Park attraction where we heard wolves howl (similar to coyotes at home).    The Polar Park staff provided us with a hot festive rum beverage and smoked salmon wrap sandwiches.

It was after midnight when we got back to the ship.  Since there were so many of the ships passengers on late evening excursions, Cunard offered a full dinner buffet at the Lido until 130am.

Sunday and Monday November 24 and 25 – Days At Sea

Days at Sea are wonderful especially when sailing a ship as grand as Queen Victoria.

My passengers have enjoyed their conversations with fellow passengers from around the world.  I just can’t believe how well travelled most of them are!  For those of you that think I travel all the time, I’m a novice traveler in comparison to many on board.  I met a younger couple who have already traveled on “three” round-the-world cruises.  Some of the world travelers gave me advice on some new destinations I should offer “Travel With Bradley” passengers.

The Captain told us that we exited the Arctic Circle at 6:05am (Sunday).  

The seas continued to be smooth – so lucky!

Tuesday, November 26 – Stavanger 

The population of Stavanger is 134,000 – there are 5.3 million people living in Norway.  From the Queen Victoria decks we looked over many of Stavanger’s white timber buildings, located in Old Town.  Historic small homes in the downtown core will set you back around $700,000 USD.  You can do what ever you wish with the front door of these historic homes but any any other outside renovations needs to be approved.  

We boarded a coach for a “Countryside Journey”.  Our guide was excellent and so was the tour.

The many large country homes/farms we passed were impressive.   Some have roofs covered in grass to help keep them cool during the summer and warm during the winter.  

The interiors of road tunnels are often painted white as that helps to keep drivers alert at night.

We stopped at a very impressive retail space in the middle of nowhere.  We entered a large cave were we were served massive size pancakes with preserves and sour cream.  

The citizens of Stavanger are thankful for the sea.  For 80 years sardines could be found in the area waters and harvesting them provided locals with good incomes.  After the sardines moved elsewhere the community suffered but a last ditch attempt to drill for oil (32nd try) was successful, turning Stavanger into an international city (1969).  

Oil is the #1 industry.  

We traveled past many potato farms.  The farmer that harvests the season’s first potato wins a contest and their potatoes will be eaten by Norway’s King and Queen.  For 8 years the same farmer been awarded this honor.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are also widely grown.

Strawberries are the favourite fruit in this region.  They are extra sweet because they soak in the many hours of sunlight during the summer.  

The local ladies like to can beets so their family can enjoy them as part of Christmas dinner.  

Spain is where the locals escape in the winter for heat and sunlight.

When our tour finished a number of us visited the wonderful shops in old town Stavanger.  I’ve been here many times and know it well.  What a colourful place.  

Wednesday, November 27 – Day At Sea

My group started the day by gathering for champagne breakfast.  We had a fun time.  

We cheered for one of my passengers when she performed as part of the Cunard Choir.  Eighty passengers signed up for the choir and after hours of rehearsals they sang for hundreds of us in the Queens Room.  Sounded great!

At todays high tea the ships orchestra performed.  The dance floor was packed.  We had to arrive early in order to find a seat.  

I treated my passengers to a culinary dinner in the Verandah Steakhouse on board Queen Victoria.  We spent a few hours chatting about our wonderful journey while enjoying scrumptious cuisine.  We were pampered by seven servers.  

We were able to turn our clocks back one hour before retiring.  We appreciated the extra hour of sleep.  

Thursday, November 28 – Happy American Thanksgiving

The Cunard staff bent a few rules and allowed us to depart the ship first with a group of VIP passengers.

I quickly found our luggage in the terminal building and our private charter was the first passenger coach to depart for Heathrow.

I was able to get us into a preferred check in line for our Air Canada flight.  After we cleared security we had time to relax, shop and grab a snack before boarding our flight to Toronto.  

I’ve never seen Heathrow airport so quiet – I’m sure its because of American Thanksgiving.  Many airport stores were offering “Black Friday” sales!

It was a smooth flight back to Toronto.  We enjoyed the ride onboard a wide bodied 777 aircraft.  

This was an exceptional journey – Norway and Queen Victoria did not disappoint.    Most importantly the Northern Lights shone in all their splendour.  Thanks to my wonderful passengers who bonded like family.  

The next time I customize a Norway Journey you don’t want to miss it.  The Northern Lights are waiting for you!

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