Trip report - Tromso NYE 2007

Dec 28th, 2007, 09:53 PM
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Trip report - Tromso NYE 2007

Day 1

Ok - here we go my first attempt on this venerable website.

We did travel to Elba in September but I'm sorry "got up sat, on the beach, ate some Pizza, drank some Chianti, went to bed x 7 days" does not make for a good read.

This one starts with a rant - why is it that the UK Government feels the need to encourage the building of more runways withing 50 miles of their parliament When the rest of the airports in the UK are running at a huge under-capacity. Yet again we have had to make the nightmare drive across Britain to Stansted from Lytham. This time to use service to Tromso a direct flight with a two year old wins every time but can we have more flights from Manchester please, that don't just go to a beach in the Med.

To those of you from the Western side of the Atlantic where they speak Spanglish – the drive was across that black hole on your maps - the one that extends from Regents Park to Dove Cottage! Beautiful countryside – please remember it exists next time your over!

We are staying for one night at the SAS-Radisson Stansted which is a 4 star chain hotel and is literally half way down the runway with a 2 minute walk to the terminal building. With those of you who have a need to stay at the airport we couldn't recommend this hotel more. Airports are never a great place but this hotel is an oasis of calm. It has triple glazing so you are totally unaware of the planes next door and for children you can see the flights taking off from your bedroom window. The reception area has a huge glass atrium that extends to the height of the building and is one of those great spaces in life that seems calm whatever the bustle. There are 4 restaurants (but the Tapas bar was closed) – we ate at the Conran style Italian and the food was actually pretty good in view of the fact that the place was packed to the roof. We paid £119 for the room which included a four day parking deal. Considering the airport parking alone was £30 – we thought the room rate was pretty good value.

This is the first time that we have stayed at an airport the night before - this is definitely the way to travel when you are faced with an early flight. Setting off with a long drive to the airport at 3am was never a great start to a holiday. How the needs of children open you up to common sense.

off to the flight now speak to you all later!
markrosy is offline  
Dec 30th, 2007, 10:08 PM
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I'm looking forward to hearing more. I also enjoy staying at a hotel by the airport the night before.
WillTravel is offline  
Dec 31st, 2007, 08:54 AM
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Day 2 30-12-07

My hopes were confirmed - staying at the hotel was great - the SAS is 2 minutes walk from the terminal and we were checked in bags gone and sat in Duty Free all within 20 minutes - a good start to a break.

The flight left 20 minutes late due and was 3 hours of very straight forward travel. is a low cost outfit and like all the other they do not prat around trying to be something they are not. You cannot serve up crappy cold food when you do not serve food in the first place!

Landed Tromso 12:30pm local. Tromso is on a small island. The city has a population of 60,000. The airport is 12 minutes by bus from the city centre. Literally over the hill, the buses run ever half hour and the cost is 5 euros per person. Enquired about taxis - the tourist info guide at the airport told us not to bother as the bus does the job and taxis are very exepensive. There is an ATM at the exit for the terminal. The exchange rate is around 10 kroner to one euro. Do not do as I do and forget this - resulting in your bank rejecting (thnakfully) a request for 10,000 euro when you actually want 100!!

Arrived at our hotel - 4 star Rica - first impressions of the city - it is dirty! there is grit absolutely everywhere - is is 0oc and it has been for around a week but no snow and none forecast. The hotel is very modern from the outside but by total contrast looks very old style inside. The rooms are clean and comfortable but do need a make over. This is not SAS Stansted!

The staff are very helpful and the hotel's location is simply the best in town. It is on the waterfront with most of the rooms having sea views. Spent the afternoon getting our bearing. One over-riding impression is hard to avoid - this place is EXPENSIVE. We have seen most of Europe's money spots - Porto Cervo, Porto Banus, London etc - Tromso is without comparison. The average main course at restaurants seems to be 45 euros with starters around 20 euros. A pint is 12 euros and a latte 5 euros. Our standard buy of comparison - 2 lattes and 3 muffins comes in at 20 euros!!! compared to 5 euros in Elba (September).

More to follow once we get our bearings.

markrosy is offline  
Jan 4th, 2008, 02:48 PM
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Report in full - simply did not have time to post each day :

Had a GREAT time.

This planet is now clearly screwed. There is still very little snow in Tromso. On the second day there was a light dusting of snow which transformed the city. Overnight it became a winterwonderland and the snow covered up all the dirty grit that the effecient Norwegians has scattered everywhere. The Norwegians are used to 3 feet of snow by this time and they are also worried about the glaciers up the road that seem to be daily receding.

Hotels : The main hotels are the RICA, SAS/Radisson, Clarion With, Clarion Bryggen and the Nordic Grand. All are within 500 meters of each other.

RICA : we stayed here, the food was good with an ample buffet breakfast which included many local dishes. The hotel exterior is at odds with its interior but I believe that the flat screen TVs etc are going in soon. It huge assets is its location - sea front and the best in town.

SAS/Radisson : very new and great design - off the front with limited sea views. No doubt it will offer the usual high standards of this group.

Clarion Bryggen : looks the poshist of the bunch, is on the sea front but only a sliver of the building has views as it is a strange elispe shape - most of the rooms look onto :

Clarion With : a new hotel slightly more down market from its sister next door. Has full front views of the sea. It looked very clean and the bar had great local high design character - but it was closed for a refurb. This hotel's huge advantage is that it offers budget full board deals. This is a must if you want to avoid remortgaging your house to buy food in the outside world.

Trip budget : think of a number and double it add £400 and double it again. The legend is alive - Norway has to be the most expensive country in the world.

Norway : seems to have hugely benefited from avoiding the lunatics in Brussels. Norway seems to freely dip its net into the sea and take in the wealth at will. Its GDP per capita is 50% higher than the UK,USA and Germany. Strangely the Norwegians are not ostentatious with their wealth. Porsches are shunned for sensible Volvos and :

What to wear : leave the designer gear at home. The Tromsians seem to like C&A circa 1995! most of the fashion revolves round jeans, trainers and wlaking jackets. If you wnat to look like a tourist (as we did) wear posh wool winter coats. However, do not follow their lead with the layers - they seem impervious to the cold. Take lots a layers and warm walking boots.

The city : very strange mix of bars and restaurants. There seems to be 25 bars for every eating place. We ate at Emmas and Pepes Pizza - Emma's was a very good quality cafe/bar - Pepes an average pizza joint. We tried to get in atSjømatrestauranten Arctandria but they were closed for New Year Eve. This seemed like a very local upmarket fish affair - the smell of fish broth was immense and the menu looked amazing. This is a young city - 20% of Norway's student population go to Tromso's university. We did get an unusual view of life there as we visited outside term time. From the capacity of the bars - life changes dramatically once the students return.

Geography : the city is a one street affair - the main street runs parallel with the harbour and is around a mile long. It has a mix of upmarket interior shops, average clothes shops, quality jewellery and bars, bars, bars (all trendy affairs).

To do : after a slow start of "why have we come here?" the small town in the Artic circle grabbed us and we fell in love. I think the lack of snow on the first day left us feeling that this was an average town in Scotland - of which we have seen many. Tromso is on the edge! It is a frontier town. It is the last stop before the Spitzbergen – god knows what is there other than Polar Bears and after that you are on top of the world. The only place I have been to with a feeling that comes close was Aswan, Eygpt. These are towns where the hotel receptions are full of worn out travellers who tell stories not of sunburn on the beach but of encounters with death.

The lifetime experiences are dog-sledding, whale watching, SWIMMING with orcas, reindeer sleigh rides, ski-do messing about and cross country ski trips. The swimming with orcas is very specific to the area. We visited Vancouver in May and the Canadian are scared senseless that tourism will scare off their 90 odd whales. These whales are located in a 500 mile area. The area between Tromso and the Lofoten islands has a January population of over 600 whales in a 50 mile location. You are able to use survival suits to swim with them in temperatures of -20oC.

The final big one is the aurora borealis.

Having a two year old we limited our trips to a reindeer farm and to the Wilderness Centre which is the base for the main dog sled teams. Both trips were arranged through the tourist information office. The office acts as a non charging marketing agent for all the local excursion companies. The reindeer farm was really a campsite with some reindeer – that besides William loved it, we saw the Northern lights in a limited show and the local food was good.

The second trip was one of a lifetime. It sounds naff – but the Wilderness Centre was simply a dog kennel for the huskies. It was huge and a very slick operation. We went on NYE at 6pm – after a film about the centre’s exploits in Alaska where they entered “The World’s Last Great Race” – 1800km of Husky racing, we went out to meet 240 mad, loveable muts and 30 odd demented puppies – William was in heaven and we loved it!
We the went into a Saami tent with a fire inside to eat a traditional Saami Christmas meal. It was then that the show started – at around 8pm Aurora appeared in its form from the night before. A simple green band from horizon to horizon. Great we thought – two shows in one trip – “that’s nice!”. After around 20 minutes strange things began to happen – the band began to move like a snake, it disappeared then reformed, it danced, changed colour the red, pink then green. It broke into hundreds of pieces then reformed, it wiggled and wandered. This went on for the most amazing show I have ever seen – for two hours. In awe, we turned to Tromso at 11pm to catch a great firework display for NYE midnight. The local talk was that this was the last year of private firework purchasing – next year it was going to be public organised shows only. Apparently, over years when living on the edge the wilderness, the rescue services continually confused fireworks for rescue flares – so private use has had to be controlled. The result NYE 2007 was a show that looked like every Chinese warehouse in Shanghai had been emptied of its firework stores!

Other info/trips : The Hurtigruten cruise line runs the length of the Norwegian coast and also has more local round trips. It is possible to fly out of Tromso to Trondheim/Bodo/Narvik and cruise back. Alternatively, a shorter trip is a bus journey north to the beautiful Lyngen fjord then take the cruise back.
We went to the Polaria Aquarium in Tromso – small by world standards but perfectly formed. All the exhibits are of local species and they have the only bearded seals in captivity (very cute for the kids).

It is possible to to cruise on to Spitzbergen – this is the outer limits of what you would class as the safe world. The islands are directly north of Tromso – think ice bergs, polars bears and glaciers – it looks stunning and is as close to the north pole that you are going to get without needing your head examining!

In summary : Tromso is a very civilised city on the edge of the wilderness. As a low cost destination it provides a superb alternative to Latvia, Prague, Barcelona et al. What ever anyone says about the Aurora – forget Iceland – I have lost count of the number of trendy friends who have gone there to no avail. We saw the lights twice and according to the locals Tromso is directly on its superhighway. As far as I can say – if there is a clear night – November to February you will see the lights. Finally a note on the midday darkness – don’t worry – I thought that we would come back with seasonal depression! With a strong polar high pressure sat over Tromso – we witnessed some a of the most beautiful daylight I have ever seen. You see incredible twilight between 11am and 2pm – think of those magical 10 minutes before the sun goes down in lower latitudes – that’s what you get for 3 hours! Tromso is a magical place!

markrosy is offline  
Jan 4th, 2008, 02:50 PM
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BTW if anyone would like further help/info - please do not hesitate to email me on [email protected]

markrosy is offline  
Jan 5th, 2008, 09:56 PM
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Fantastic report!

I have been to Tromso three times; once during our 3800 miles Scandinavian driving odyssey during summer ages ago, and twice by Hurtigruten ship (once in July '03 and again on 31 Dec '04).

I agree with you about the beautiful noon-time twilight. We were up there at the time of full moon and we had 24 hour moon.

During our stop in Tromso the last time, we went husky dog sledding and it was great fun.

BlueSea is offline  
Jan 5th, 2008, 10:55 PM
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Bill Bryson has a very funny section in one of his books about his stay in a small town in northern Norway. He had to stay 12 or so nights to see the aurora borealis, but he didn't want to leave until he succeeded.
WillTravel is offline  
Jan 6th, 2008, 01:52 AM
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It is addictive and can become a serious drain on your resources - I think had we not seen it on our first trip - we would have been back in 2 weeks time to try again.

There again it does cross our minds to go again this winter to see a bigger and better display.

I cannot think of any other natural phenomena that is so far removed from our normal lives. Big mountains, waterfalls etc etc - you can put those all into the context of every day life. The Aurora is the sort of thing people used to worship because they didn't understand it.
markrosy is offline  
Jan 6th, 2008, 07:35 AM
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Wow, Mark. Your report made me bump Norway up a few notches on the target list. Wonderful read!
cmcfong is online now  
Jan 6th, 2008, 12:01 PM
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There is a huge stunning statute of Roald Amundsen on Tromso's main square. In a large smock and boots he stares out to the North Pole. I think that captures the spirit of the place. Adventure time!

Thinks about it - how many places remain unspoilt and ready for an adventure.

My dream was at one time was to sail around the islands of Fiji - finding a deserted heaven each day. Now it seems to be full of 5 star retreats. The same with many of earth's safe challenges.

Tromso gives you a taste of life as an adventurer in the 19th century.
markrosy is offline  

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