What a beautiful start to the day. The sun was up, the air was a brisk 58° and we were arriving at our first port-of-call Ålesund, Norway. We went up the lounge for a quick breakfast then down to the cabin to get ready to ashore. We decided today to tour the town on the CitySightseeing Hop On – Hop Off tour bus with Doug and Sue.
By the time we made our way to the pier the clouds had rolled in and little spits of rain were falling as we stood in line to buy our tour tickets. After a bit of a wait our double decker bus came along. We made our way up to the top level and plugged in our earphones that were included in the price of the ticket. I was amazed to see that there were eight languages to choose from.
We decided that we would ride the entire 1-hour loop taking in the points of interest along the way and then ride again getting off at places we would like to enjoy on foot. Along the way we were given small bits of information about the city and its people.
As I mentioned yesterday, Ålesund is actually built on 7 islands connected by a system of bridges and has a population of 45,000. Ålesund is a port city and is the most important fishing harbor in Norway. It is also known for its art nouveau architecture. The organ inside Ålesund Church is one of the largest in Norway, playing 64 tunes.
As we traveled around Ålesund we drove past the Sunnmore Museum, the Aksla viewpoint, Parken Culture Centre (stop for those interested in shopping), the tourist information center, the Art Nouveau Centre/City Centre, Ålesund Church, Ålesund Aquarium and then back to the cruise terminal.
At the end of the tour we decided that we would like to go to the Mt. Aksla viewpoint and then ride to the city center to walk around a bit and find a place to have lunch.
Our ride up to Mt. Aksla was interesting with many sharp turns on a narrow road but the views were worth it. By the time we made it up to the viewpoint the temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up. There was an outdoor restaurant, café and a large platform to enjoy the view.
According to National Geographic, “Ålesund could be the backdrop for a Nordic fairytale”. From where we were standing I understood the sentiment. From where we stood we could see a panoramic view of the archipelago, the town center and the beautiful Sunnmore Alps.
Evidently, there would be another bus at the stop every ½ hour. When time drew near we made our way to the stop. While Sue and I waited the boys spotted something they wanted to investigate. Just as the bus was nearing, Doug and Randy appeared and walked quickly to meet the bus.
I asked Randy what they had found. “Doug and I thought it very interesting that there were still pill box defenses left over from WWII so we decided to explore them”, he replied.
We all decided to sit up top again and this time in the front seats. Now that definitely gave me pause. As I mentioned the road was narrow and every so often if a car was coming our way something had to give. Usually it was the other vehicle.
Our next and final stop was the city center. We walked along the cobble stone streets admiring the beautiful art nouveau buildings, canals, statuary and flowers; all bright spots on a cloudy day.
We stopped to take a few photographs then walked along trying to find a restaurant to get a quick snack and hot coffee before returning to the ship. We stopped at one interesting restaurant right on the canal. It looked like an old bar filled with beautiful, highly polished wood booths. We looked over the menu and were aghast to learn that a hamburger would cost $25.00. We left and continued our walk.
We finally stopped at a restaurant called Wayne’s Coffee. It reminded us a little of Starbucks with its comfortable seating, long list of coffee specialties and yummy looking pastries. We ordered a lite lunch and settled down for a while and talked about our day.
We decided to walk back to the pier enjoying our last looks at this beautiful city. All the way back to the ship I could not help but wish we had more time to enjoy this lovely, picturesque place.
We returned to our cabin and watched as the ship left port. By now the skies were dark and it was raining. But no matter, our spirits were sunny as we noticed that a covered plate was waiting our return with tasty hor d’oeuvres.
We met Vilma and the others at dinner and talked about our day and what we had seen. It seems as though everyone had a wonderful day ashore.
Another favorite was on the menu but after eating lunch late and snacking on the hors d’oeuvres I decided to only order a main dish. I ordered the Pan-seared fillet of Sole with Parmesan potato & artichoke gratin, cherry tomatoes and lemon beurre blanc. The dish was light, refreshing and very, very good.
We decided not to attend this evening’s entertainment and instead retired to our cabin for rest before turning in. Randy and I chatted about our day and I asked him what he thought about the Hop On – Hop Off bus.
“I liked it”, he replied quickly.
He went on to say, “It was a great way to see this Nordic town. The narration was good and I thought it was a good idea to do the entire circuit before getting off. I loved the stop at the highest part of town and enjoyed the excellent view of the town and surrounding area”.
“If Norway is this nice, I can hardly wait to see the rest of the country!” he concluded.
Tomorrow we will be cruising across the Arctic Circle.