My Cornwall and Norway holiday travels, 4/7/'19 to 6/8/'19

 
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
A few days before I left work and Melbourne, I received a call from Royal Brunei (RB) whom I had originally booked my Business class flight with to London and Return to ask if I'd mind being bumped over to QANTAS as their Dreamliner for that day was defective and had to be replaced with a smaller capacity aircraft.

I, along with my two travelling companions who were booked in RB cattle class were happy to oblige. The QANTAS flight left an hour earlier than the scheduled RB flight which meant an hour earlier into London at 5:30 which was a bit of bummer.

DAY 1 - The Flight left Melbourne, stopped in Perth for 90 mins then travelled non-stop to London, around 17.5 hours from Perth. Needless to say, after avoiding QANTAS for around 15 years I was interested to see how the in-flight service would go, also bearing in mind that the QANTAS business fare was around $3,500 more than RB's $5,300.00 fare.

The in-flight service was impeccable...totally faultless. Spoken to by name by the in-flight crew, meals on china plates on linen with steel cutlery, as much wine as I could consume before becoming delirious, the cleanest in-flight toilets ever seen, cleaned seemingly after every visit. Nightcap service before 'retiring' to bed and a genuine wish to please and to make the flight as enjoyable as possible. The in-flight manager even asked for constructive criticism of where they can do better and gave me her business card in case I wanted to write to QANTAS later...which I did to praise her and her teams professionalism. The only thing I thought of that could possibly be a negative is the vegetables in today's fad cooking were too hard Exclamation

Arrival was 15' late and I was pleased for any lateness at all...and as I was travelling Business, I was entitled to go to the Star Alliance Business lounge for a slap up breakfast and take a shower and freshen up whilst my friends, also full of praise for the in-flight service in cattle class grabbed a coffee at a cafe at Heathrow before we headed into Paddington First class on Heathrow Express on the first day of our 8 day South West pass.

Next Monday, I'll be flying home RB, so it will be interesting to make a comparison of the two aeroplanes which are scheduled to be the same, therefore only the in-flight service will be able to be compared.

Is it worth paying around $3,500.00 extra than RB on a Business class fare to keep an Aussie in a job...this is what seriously weighs on my mind...it's a lot of money...but I have a conscience, but also a limited holiday budget...

It was 27c in London that day and London, nor I for that matter does NOT cope with heat over around 25c. London has almost hopeless or non-existent air-con so our first hotel room which wasn't air-con at all became an oven after the sun rose around 5:00 next morning. Anyway, the first day, we left our bags at the hotel and caught the tube to Rotherhithe station so we could visit the Brunel museum. Me being a Brunel fan I learnt much and had a great time at the former 'site office' for the first tunnel to be built under the Thames which is now the tube line through Rotherhithe.

By the time we got back to the hotel and found a good olde English pub for a meal and a pint, we had settled in...though my friends from cattle class were a bit jet lagged... Smile

DAY 2 - Friday...we were off to Brunel's Paddington station late morning to enjoy the First Class lounge off platform 1 before departing on the midday 'Royal Duchy' 10 car, 2 set, electric and diesel Hitachi service to Liskeard, Cornwall. This getting close to school holiday time the train was packed out with people as the Great Western Railway (GWR) seat booking service had generally turned up its toes and there were people standing everywhere in the train...even in First class where we were there were two people standing the 200 miles and 2 hours to Exeter Exclamation

GWR in my opinion, if they had any input into their new train acquisition have sadly bought a turkey with these new Hitachi's.

  • Too narrow therefore 'mind the gap' is heard ad-nauseum.
  • not as quiet to travel in as the former HST sets.
  • toilet door micro-switches go out necessitating a shove to the revolving toilet door to get it to work effectively.
  • seats in First are hard...and not covered in quality materials making them look cheap.
  • Carriage interiors look cheap.
  • carpets in First look like industrial carpet...no class whatsoever that the HST's used to have.
  • toilet modules have hand wave operated taps, detergent and driers which are awkward to use and the water goes everywhere.
  • no buffet car as the former HST sets did.


Nevertheless we departed Exeter and the poor conductor is also dispensing tea and coffee for the second time whilst attending to the still packed train as he pushes the trolley along offering 'free' sandwiches, cakes, cool drinks and everything else one may desire in First class with the cars struggling in the heat of the barely cooled carriages whilst still running the train with red and green FLAGS, no less...hows that for safeworking being behind V/Line Question

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  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
DAY 2 - continued - After we checked in our luggage at the Hotel in Liskeard, we walked back to the station and caught the next DOWN to St Erth where we cahanged to the St Ives branch line for the 10 minute ride to that Atlantic coast typically English and very pretty seaside town with lovely white beaches and rolling blue sea. After partaking of a pint, we adjourned to the nearby fish and chippery which itself had been there for over 100 years and I partook of a chip butty, well 2 actually as I was very hungry from the sea air..Smile

After a bit of a wander it was back to the station for the short ride back to St Erth to connect with the 'Night Riviera UP train back to Liskeard. The Night Riviera is the only diesel loco hauled train to/from Penzance and is the nightly overnight train to London which during the holiday period features 5 sleeping cars, lounge car for sleeping class pax and 4 sitting cars. All recently restored and featuring night interior subdued lighting, special night soft furnishings and a general 'presence' the Hitachi trains simply lack entirely.

Soon we were on our way in an almost empty sitter but picking up pax at every stop till Truro where around 100 Plymouth bound soccer fans boarded and that made things a bit lively in the cars for a while as they had been drinking at the soccer match and were a bit 'happy'.

The trains very friendly and accommodating conductor said to my middle aged travelling companion, Julie that if she felt intimidated by their behaviour she could sit in the lounge car for the journey, but she was happy to remain and as we travelled north they settled down and many went to sleep. Soon enough we had reached Liskeard at around 23:30 and we watched the Night Riviera flagged of by the conductor roll north into the night.

Not a bad afternoons train travel of over 200 miles and already our 8 day First class pass repaid compared to the the walk up fares we would have been charged had we not purchased our passes in Australia beforehand.

DAY 3 - off to one of my favourite Cornish seaside towns in Looe...

What a delightful ride along the picturesque Looe Valley from Liskeard station under Brunel's towering mainline viaduct and along the Cornish countryside looking at the contented cows, the green pastures, the blackberries all flowering, brilliant sunshine and the general tranquility of the English countryside on a Summers morning to arrive at that delightful typically English seaside town.

We checked in our bags at the hotel and Julie waited for the hourly bus to the next town 4 miles away at Polperro whilst Ross and I threw caution to the wind and walked along spectacularly scenic Channel Coast trail to that town as well. However I well under estimated the strength of the English summer sun and got well and truly burnt for my troubles on the sometimes very steep trail and I felt my age well and truly despite my relative fitness and arrived at Polperro in DESPERATE need of a cooling pint and lots of ice water which we duly received at the friendly 400 years old Three Pilchards Hotel. We had an enjoyable lunch and caught the bus back to Looe for another hot night. At least this hotel had an oscillating fan in the room which was required all night.

A hearty breakfast, included in most hotel tariffs if you look and book carefully was had the next day as we made our way to Looe station and the rail motor that took us back to Liskeard and our short wait for the DOWN Hitachi set to take us to Bodmin Parkway where we changed and caught the Bodmin steam train to Bodmin general station on the branch line. The steam train is fun, operated as usual by happy and enthusiastic volunteers despite the hot weather and we arrived at Bodmin general around 20 mins later. We travelled on to its terminus at Boscarne Jn and returned to Bodmin general where we caught one of our few taxi rides to Tredathy house, an old English grade two manor house for the night.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Day 4 - Another hearty English breakfast was enjoyed and the taxi took us back to Bodmin Parkway station for the train to the next station at Par. We were staying at the Royal Hotel a mere 2 minutes walk away so we checked in to our rooms and left our luggage and walked back to the station to catch the next train to St Austel and our day visiting the Eden Project.

The Eden Project was built using a HUGE old Cornish tin mine and has some futuristic looking domes which are 'zones' representing different parts of the planet and their habitats, Tropical, Mediterranean, Australian etc and it all works very well to show visitors how the tropics and other zones are with full sized trees and tropical fruits like bananas growing successfully.

As the whole site is based in a former deep open cut mine, it has its own eco-system as well and it was a very warm day and many of the plants growing there are the same as plants grown in southern Australia, like blue gums etc.

The owners of this attraction are discussing with the Andrews government taking over a former coal mine, man-made lake in the Otways near Angelsea to create a second Eden Project.
This was a great day out and visitors who arrived by public transport got an extra admittance discount.

Back to St Austel and the train one station to Par.

Day 5 - An early start at Par station as we watched the DOWN Night Riviera disappear into the early morning light whilst we waited the 20 mins for the next train to Penzance, a HST, very similar to the XPT, recently refurbished to operate the local, Plymouth to Penzance train services. The refurbs have been very well done and now feature plug doors like V'Locity's instead of the old slam doors of the early days...though there are still some 'slam door stock' HST's still operating so I was able to show Julie how you once had to push down the window and open the carriage door from the outside then SLAM the door behind you to ensure the door was shut.

After alighting at the beautiful seaside town of Penzance, where BTW I could not find affordable accommodation hence our stay and 1 hour train ride from Par we were off to catch the 09:00 'Scillonian' ferry to the Isles of Scilly.

I've often thought that this very pleasant and out of the way islands around 40 miles off the Cornish coast would be an ideal retirement place to break up a Ballan winter when I eventually retire and I was right.

Very warm and sunny, clear air, lovely uncrowded English pubs, pretty beaches, local micro-brewery, a few wineries and a bike hire place to go roaming over the various islands for a few weeks...all a few hours by ferry or light plane from the mainland. We had a great lunch at the Scillonian Club overlooking the beautiful blue Atlantic and adjacent islands and soon enough it was 16:00 and back to the ferry for the three hour crossing back to Penzance where we had a few drinks and a meal at the nearby to Penzance station, Longboat Inn. Then back to Par.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Thanks Mike.

You have obviously put a lot of effort into your posts which I have enjoyed reading.

I will be particularly interested in your comparison between Business Class on Qantas and Royal Brunei (RB). The YMs and I have considered RB on several occasions but ultimately decided against them mainly because of our irrevocable policy of avoiding Heathrow at all costs and needing, ultimately, to get to Zurich, Vienna or Copenhagen where by flying with others to Bangkok/Hong Kong then SAS, Swiss or Austrian one can avoid Heathrow. Rightly or wrongly, RB has always been something of an unknown to us.

Only flown Business with Qantas once, on a 747 which says how long ago it was, and this was when Qantas in a moment of madness was offering 'two business for the price of one'. That was our introduction to business class and now if we cannot afford 'low cost' business we don't go.

There is little doubt, however, that Qantas is superior to any of the foregoing carriers but with fares at 50% plus above any of the others one has to chose.


I look forward to the next epistle.

Regards
YM Smile
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

Thanks Mike.

You have obviously put a lot of effort into your posts which I have enjoyed reading.

I will be particularly interested in your comparison between Business Class on Qantas and Royal Brunei (RB). The YMs and I have considered RB on several occasions but ultimately decided against them mainly because of our irrevocable policy of avoiding Heathrow at all costs and needing, ultimately, to get to Zurich, Vienna or Copenhagen where by flying with others to Bangkok/Hong Kong then SAS, Swiss or Austrian one can avoid Heathrow.
YM-Mundrabilla
I too have enjoyed reading Mike's posts. A return to Cornwall is "on my list", but I hadn't considered the Isles of Scilly.

YM, like you we avoid Heathrow at all costs. We typically fly Singapore, and you can fly one-stop to Copenhagen and Zurich with SIA. Not to Vienna though.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
We sometimes don't mind even two stops (albeit at the extra risk to the luggage) as it may mean a late morning or, sometimes, afternoon arrival when you can go straight to the hotel rather than being 'homeless' for much of the day from 0600 until 1400 or so.
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

I agree arriving early is the pits. Rather than two stops though we tend to catch a train somewhere else (Venice from Milan, Gothenburg from Copenhagen, and Caernarfon from Manchester for example) to give us something to do before checking in.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
DAY 6 - Seemingly getting used to travelling towards Penzance, I was going to head back to Bodmin general either by steam train or bus then take a walk along the old Wenford railway which is now a shady rail/walking trail. However the hottish day got the better of too much exercise and the promise of the Camel Valley winery one has visited before so we travelled back to Penzance with all our luggage in-tow and stored it at the Longboat Inn as GWR, nor any railways anywhere in AU or UK store luggage...and with a view of catching the bus to Marazion and to walk or catch the boat...depending on the tide, to St Michaels Mount.

We arrived at Penzance late morning after a bit of a sleep in due to the late previous nights and a bit of jet lag. Quite often though it was the warm nights and even with the window open in the hotel room it was still warm. Nevertheless we caught the boat across to St Michaels Mount and spent the day climbing up the old mansion and church built upon that precipice and saw furniture that hadn't been moved in over 200 years and generally took in the olde English charm of the place.

Later that day as the enormous tide was receding the path to the 'Mount was revealed and people started the 2km walk back to the mainland on the raised path across the seabed. We too enjoyed that experience as barefooted off we strolled with hundreds of others who had also waited until the tide was receding to enjoy the same experience.

On to the 30 min frequency bus back to Penzance and we partook of late Cornish afternoon tea back at the Longboat Inn, whilst listening to Aussie music from the 1980's.

Later on we caught a train around 16:00 as we had to travel to Dawlish that night which necessitated two changes of trains. One at Plymouth and one at Newton Abbot. We arrived at Dawlish about 21:00 to check in to the Railway Hotel, a 400 year old pub with three bedrooms. However the new owners...and by NEW owners, I mean they had arrived at this tiny historic pub about three hours before us to find the previous owners had done a runner and took all the confirmed reservations with them in the computer and as much of the alcohol and other fittings as they could manage, leaving the new owners in complete bewilderment and with us knocking around 21:15 looking for our rooms Exclamation

They we very nice people...Sue and Callum and so apologetic as they explained the situation to us and that they couldn't put up three people in two rooms as the place was a total mess, resembling a bomb site.

We wondered what we could do so I rang the on-line Hotels agency where I had booked all our hotels with and tried to convey to them the predicament we were in at the increasingly late hour...fortunately it was warm and still daylight. I was hoping they could find another hotel in the town so we could just go there. But as it was Sunday night and the town quiet, I left it entirely in their hands...until my phone credit ran out and as I had the only phone to call UK numbers, cheaply, I had to think on my feet after a LONG day and the time now around 22:30.

As Exeter was the next largish town/city I decided we would catch the next service, in about 40 mins at around 23:15 and travel the 20 mins there and hope we could get a hotel. My thinking was if not, we could board the Night Riviera and at least spend the night heading towards London and our next hotel booking.

Fortunately a taxi driver at around 23:50 at Exeter suggested the Great Western Hotel...yes formerly owned by GWR and as we dragged our luggage the 100 meters to this grand old hotel, they were still open and we were able to get two rooms at around £80.00 we were grateful and included an English breakfast as well.

DAY 7 - As my plan was to visit Exeter the next day, we had a bit of a sleep-in as we were already there and we visited the old cathedral and an old Hotel where Sir Francis Drake had apparently consumed a few in his time around 400 years ago. So later that day with our passes in hand we caught an UP Hitachi express to Paddington and had a First class car to ourselves and a chatty conductor who was all for plying us with sandwiches, tiny cakes and cups of tea. So all's well that ends well on that fateful late night at Dawlish.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
I recently traveled from Berlin to Oslo via Aarhus and Karlstad (there was no direct train between Göteborg and Oslo without a bus leg)

Also Manchester Airport to Blackpool, Clitherowe up to Glasgow and down to Brighton, In the UK

Along with Zürich to Interlarken, up to Jungfraujoch, across to Buchs and Bern to München via Mannheim (should of been high speed running, but No, heat related speed restrictions and a detour)  
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Day 8 and onwards with no specific dates - Our scheduled departure on Eurostar was 9:15, but as we were staying in Paddington and the train leaves from St Pancras, and me not being at all familiar with London's tube stations, I decided to leave the hotel early and walk the 4 Km with luggage in tow.

About an hour later I arrived at St Pancras to find the station barely coping with the huge number of pax travelling to Paris, Amsterdam and all points on the Continent. I have to emphasise the station was barely coping with all the holiday maker pax and business people and it was a bit third worldish under the roof of that beautiful old station.

Nevertheless after Customs was dealt with we were waiting propped up against a pillar and in no time we were being called to the platform. We were informed our train arrived late due to a late arrival from Paris and it was in the process of being 'serviced' Unfortunately the servicing did not extend to sufficient vaccuuming nor a whisk with a toilet brush so the interior was looking distinctly second hand. Combined with dirty exterior cars, the 10 car Eurostar was looking somewhat drab and a poor introduction to our Continental holiday.

Once we were on-board though and the driver cranked up the train as soon as we left the station, we were soon up to 200Km/h and zooming towards France via the tunnel.
We stopped briefly at Calais and then the train really got going...over some apparent MUDHOLES which is a bit disconcerting to be in swaying cars at high speed. I'm somewhat concerned about private enterprise and maintenance which never goes well and may ultimately end in tears.

Arrival briefly at Brussels and change to a really old banger of a high speed train, the Thalys which is really showing its age and complete with lots of corrosion in the cars added with the general dirtiness of the cars for additional poor presentation impact. The interiors with threadbare carpets but still comfy seats in First really needs a complete makeover.

Off to Cologne then change to the train to Copenhagen.

Some standouts:
German Railways, though this was my first ever time with them from Cologne to Copenhagen via Hamburg have apparently really dropped the ball. Train was cancelled and replaced with an old banger from the 1980's that only had air-con in First... fortunately we were travelling First. Lots of people standing in Economy throughout the journey. One small group brought a slab of beer...yes a slab on board and when I walked along the cars a few hours into the journey, had well polished off all those cans. With windows open and young people in particular along that 10 car train in groups singing, chatting, and generally trying to make the best of the warm afternoons journey.



Interesting though travelling through the flat German countryside looking at the farms and wind towers as we travelled along all day till we arrived at Copenhagen...and bikes...hundreds, thousands of them and battery scooters....silent death, zooming everywhere at speed with kids piloting them when the App said they should by 18 and over.



Mike.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
Interesting though travelling through the flat German countryside looking at the farms and wind towers as we travelled along all day till we arrived at Copenhagen...and bikes...hundreds, thousands of them and battery scooters....silent death, zooming everywhere at speed with kids piloting them when the App said they should by 18 and over.



Mike.
The Vinelander
Did your train take the ferry from Putgarden to Rødbyhavn (Only takes a 4 carriage DMU) ? or did you go via Jutland and the Great Belt Link ?
  M636C Minister for Railways

Our scheduled departure on Eurostar was 9:15, but as we were staying in Paddington and the train leaves from St Pancras, and me not being at all familiar with London's tube stations, I decided to leave the hotel early and walk the 4 Km with luggage in tow.
Back in 2013 I was staying in Paddington but wanted to see Bittern departing King's Cross as part of the "Mallard 75" celebrations.

I caught the Circle line but had to change at Edgeware Road for Kings Cross.
If you had caught the Hammersmith and City (from the other Paddington LT station) you might have got a through journey.

Had you had the time you could have checked out 221 Baker Street on your way, which had a plaque regarding Sherlock Holmes. There never was a 221B, however... It isn't far from the Baker Street Metropolitan station.

I'd had a hard day. My American Airlines flight from Washington National to Boston to connect with BA to London was cancelled without replacement. After some discussions with AA, I came back next morning at 0600 for a flight to Chicago with a connection to London, but arrived at 2330 rather than 0915, so a day checking out travel didn't happen.

After seeing the A4 away I returned to the hotel for breakfast...

Peter
  Brianr Assistant Commissioner

Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Last September on the way home, I flew in and out of Paris but spent a month in London going to the Proms, I travelled on the Piccadilly line from South Kensington to St Pancras. It was peak hour but being grey haired with luggage (I was 74 then), I was given a seat. Actually customs at St Pancras is much easier than Gare du Nord. The French customs did not even look at my photo just the NZ cover then stamped it. Much the same 5 weeks earlier arriving Charles de Gaulle from Dubai. Going into UK a month earlier there were huge lines and the UK official asked me all sort of questions about what I was going to do in the UK. There were young people in tears as they risked missing their train I had given myself plenty of time.
It seems to depend on the age of the Eurostar cars. Paris to London was very shabby but much better on the way back.

Will be interested in your Hurtigruten report. I travelled on the MS Richard With in September 2010. Boarded in Bergen and spent 11 nights up to Kirkenes and back to Trondheim. Would love to do it again.
On the way back, I went by train all the way from Oslo to Copenhagen, changed in Goteborg, no bus then. I went over by overnight ferry.
Unfortunately I mainly travel cattle class. I usually go Emirates and stay overnight in Dubai. I have been with Etihad and stayed over in Abu Dhabi. Next year I have booked with Qatar to Bucharest and am staying 2 nights in Doha. I am now considering booking the flight home from Athens and considering whether I can afford Business (Over Au$4,000 instead of about $1100) I always stay 3 -4 nights in Sydney (free board) before flying with Emirates to Christchurch.
  apw5910 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
You'd think somewhere to put your luggage would be a no-brainer, but have only found it in Valga, a border town in Estonia where there's a three hour wait between trains from Tallinn to Riga. There is a military museum in town to pass the time. And a surprisingly good canteen, had the best goulash.

You're right about the bikes and scooters in Copenhagen. Either whizzing around silently at high speed or piles of them everywhere, forcing pedestrians onto the road to get around them. Talk about a disruptive technology. The scooters are everywhere in Europe now, except in the areas of really old cobbled streets.
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

My trip on the Hurtigruten, in 2017, was on the NordNorge, Bergen to Kirkenes. From there we used a mini-but to get to Inari, overnight, then a scheduled bus to Rovaniemi, where after a couple of nights we travelled by train to Helsinki. I to am looking forward to reading Mike's reports on the Hurtigruten - it's a trip I would love to do again, but there are lots of other in queue at the moment.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Interesting though travelling through the flat German countryside looking at the farms and wind towers as we travelled along all day till we arrived at Copenhagen...and bikes...hundreds, thousands of them and battery scooters....silent death, zooming everywhere at speed with kids piloting them when the App said they should by 18 and over.

Mike.
Did your train take the ferry from Putgarden to Rødbyhavn (Only takes a 4 carriage DMU) ? or did you go via Jutland and the Great Belt Link ?
Nightfire

No, the train did not take the ferry due to, if what you say is correct, the length of the train of at least 6 cars. The trains over here even on the lesser used and slower speed lines would not cope if they were only operating 4 cars and like yesterdays train from Bergen to Oslo, even at 8 cars had obviously left many people behind who did not book several days ahead.

Mike.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
ONWARDS towards, but not quite to... the END -
We travelled on a few of the sparks around Copenhagen and saw some new lines being opened, however I'm doing this from memory and I cannot recall the stations.

The real standout is the chronic graffiti in Copenhagen and the new lines and the pedestrian subway we used to see new stations, barely even in use and already graffitied with no sign of CCTV to help alleviate that scourge. We also travelled to the airport on the frequent driverless train and return.

One additional bonus was at the Absolon Hotel around 2 blocks from the station and the in-room 'free' use of a mobile phone which also had GPS etc. The free phone came in handy for a technical issue I was having with my laptop when I was on hold with Telstra Technical Support for over 40 mins...then a few minutes longer whilst they told me how I could fix the problem step by step. There was no charge on my bill for all this time.

Although I'm a big bike supporter and ride my own and was pleased to see so many in Copenhagen, I wasn't all that impressed with the City being flat, obviously not that city's fault and no real points to grab me. The graffiti though is a real bummer and perhaps the city fathers see it as 'street art'...I do not.

Next day on to Oslo via 'Gotham City' and the fantastic bridges and tunnels we went through and the change at Gothenburg to another train to a locality around 60Km short of Oslo where as it turns out and we could see from the rail replacement bus, they are replacing a small bridge and those works should be completed by 5 August.

Oslo became my standout City...and in all my travels via the Norwegian Railways reminded me of V/Line...'tries hard but could do better comes to mind'...but more of that a bit later.

Oslo has this fantastic Opera House where you can 'walk' on the roof...others were riding scooters...yes scooters here as well, but not so many bikes...and Tesla's...everywhere. I reckon I counted 15 without even trying...and later I saw them all over Norway.

We took the bus around Oslo and the standout for me is the Viking Museum and the fact that the weather was still so warm. I was wondering why I bothered to pack any winter clothing at all. Every day to date, from St Mary's & Penzance to Oslo had been shorts, thongs/sandals and T Shirt Exclamation

We were in Oslo two nights and enough time to make me realise I'll be back, though I'll probably fly to Hamburg then train it to Oslo. We then caught the train via mountains, lakes and pretty Norwegian towns in the sunshine to Trondheim in Komfort Class... same seats as Economy but, free coffee, tea or hot chocolate and no kids... is a beautiful city and also among its three daily trains also has a sleeping car train of 4 sleeping cars and sitters during the holiday time. Trondheim is very pretty, historic and worth the visit and the 450Km line is also electrified from Oslo.

Onwards via Mo-i-Rana and the wonderful fjords in brilliant sunshine to visit a smaller Norwegian town and get an idea of rural Norwegian life. Oldies 'driving' covered electric buggies got me so they could be enclosed in that tiny space in the vicious winters and still get about doing shopping and everyday life. This was the first time I also saw a self propelled lawn mower which we found fascinating as it went about maintaining lawns.

The next day...still in shorts as we travelled over the Arctic Circle and the clouds closed in as if on cue...and we were thinking oh well...this is what we came for. However we were crossing the top of a mountain range and we looked down the precipice to the highway far below and as we descended the mountains, the temperature rose again to Bodo where it was 18c, sunny and very pleasant indeed.

Bodo is a nice regional city and the locals and tourists were taking full advantage of the sunny late evenings to stroll the pretty harbour area and take in the village atmosphere of that recently renovated space. We watched a few trains come and go and the overnight sleeping car train to Trondheim as well.

Interesting how much freight in Bodo, Trondheim, Bergen etc goes by train even though the distances are around 500Km from Oslo and certainly more freight than travels the distance from Melbourne to Mildura and vice-versa.

Mike.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Onwards but still not quite to the END -
Along with about a dozen others at Bodo, we boarded MS Vestarlen at 12:30 and after around an hour…but long enough to be told we could NOT have lunch in the Dining room that day, despite paying for the meals upgrade but never mind, ee checked into our cabins and there was a lot more opportunities to eat three meals a day for the next three nights.



As we voyaged north, expecting deteriorating weather as the snow on mountain tops became more apparent...the sun shone, the seas were becalmed and it seemed we could have been in a hotel room each night instead of being on what is potentially an extremely rough going sea which occasionally I’m told have seas up to 25 metres.


The ship called in at several ports along the way, day or during what passed for night for as long as up to 2 hours or as little as 15 mins as we headed to the terminus at Kirkenes and around 20 Km from the Russian border.
Kirkenes according to the very congenial and local advocate for his town accompanied us on the tour to the border and also advised that next year the town will be booming once more as the iron ore industry starts up again after a 15 year slumber. The ore travels around 15Km to the processing plant right by the sea and is carried by the worlds northernmost railway, which currently is a bit rusty.


As we were staying in Kirkenes one night to see the place we had come from the other side of the planet to see we had the opportunity to travel back to Bergen on the MS Midnatsol.

Whilst in Kirkenes, it was hot…no other word for it. Around 28c and the locals were really feeling it. The hotel only had cooling in the reception and dining room and the rooms were only cooled by opening the windows. However around tea time whilst I was advocating for a burger at the nearby Summer only alfresco eatery…Julie was advocating for a meal in the dining room.

The dining room won out and I had one of the best chicken Caesar salads I’ve ever had.

Whilst we were in the dining room a cold breeze blew through the town and the temperature dropped to around 12c…but it wasn’t to last and the next day was sunny as usual.


The MS Midnatsol which in the northern winter takes travellers on tours to the Antarctic was a much bigger vessel than the MS Vesteralen and had had glass lifts and other bling as part of its décor. Being a bigger ship it also carried more passengers and the intimacy of the smaller crowd of the other ship had changed to that of a cruise liner.

Nevertheless it was a good, albeit smooth voyage south and the meals etc were very good…if you like fish which I really do not.  
However there were a few other choices for the non-fish eaters.  The menu ranged from slivers of reindeer which I’m certain were raw…perhaps they were pickled and one night the salmon main course was served Japanese style, raw which I simply refused to eat.


These nights were considered to be exclusive nights as the menu was fixed instead of everyone eating buffet style.
As we travelled south we visited Hammerfest, the world’s most northerly city and Honnisvag, the world’s most northerly town where I visited still in shorts and T shirt and took delight in commenting to the locals we met that they had such a lovely climate…to which they would say, you should have been here last week etc. English is spoken widely by the locals.
Honnisvag also had a nano-brewery which served beers on tap for 59Euro for a large glass with a very high head. At Hammerfest we climbed a steep hill and overlooked the city and took some scenic images and one of me in shorts by the sign proclaiming the world’s most northerly city at 70.6634° N.


Sailing south and visiting some wonderful fjords and the skyway cable car at Tromso and the funicular railway at Trondheim and Bergen gave wonderful views over their cities and harbours…but some of the fjords are simply stunning.


I’m not a ship person so I cannot give much info on the respective ships except to say the crews were great, the food was good however a stubby of Mack’s beer pronounced ‘Mock’ served at the table in a glass worked out to $16.00. I shouted an average but ok bottle of Red from Chile and it worked out to $97.00 a bottle.

More details on Hurtigruten can be found here:

https://global.hurtigruten.com/

Hurtigruten have been operating virtually every day, war notwithstanding 6 night voyages which connects the far north of Norway's isolated fjord towns for over 100 years.

Mike, (in Frankfurt)
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Interesting though travelling through the flat German countryside looking at the farms and wind towers as we travelled along all day till we arrived at Copenhagen...and bikes...hundreds, thousands of them and battery scooters....silent death, zooming everywhere at speed with kids piloting them when the App said they should by 18 and over.


Mike.
Did your train take the ferry from Putgarden to Rødbyhavn (Only takes a 4 carriage DMU) ? or did you go via Jutland and the Great Belt Link ?
Nightfire

We travelled via the ferry over the big stretch of water, the Femer Bealt to Puttgarden which took 45 minutes whereas when we were travelling northward a few weeks ago we went the other way that does not include the ferry, but did include a long tunnel if I recall and a spectacular bridge

I can only assume this is a secondary line between Copenhagen and Hamburg as the track wasn't quite to the same standard as the other and FYI, it was a 4+ hour journey without refreshments being available on board the train, except on the Ferry...so make of that what you will.

Mike.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Thanks Mike for the ongoing 'Trip Reports'.

Couple of my pics of Vesterålen at Honningsvåg for anyone interested in Hurtigruten ships at:

https://www.shippinghistory.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=17055&c=searchresults&searchid=5178

https://www.shippinghistory.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=17056&c=searchresults&searchid=5178
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

Is 59 Euro correct for your beer at Honningsvag? That works out at about A$100! Honningsvag also claimes to have the northermost roundabout in the world! We called in on the northbound trip, had a bit more than 3 hours there. It was 9 degrees in the middle of the day, June 10.

Did you get to ride on the tram at Trondheim? That's a most interesting trip.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Is 59 Euro correct for your beer at Honningsvag? That works out at about A$100! Honningsvag also claimes to have the northermost roundabout in the world! We called in on the northbound trip, had a bit more than 3 hours there. It was 9 degrees in the middle of the day, June 10.

Did you get to ride on the tram at Trondheim? That's a most interesting trip.
duttonbay

Hmm...things are dear here...but probably NOT that dear... Surprised

I didn't keep a receipt and memory of recent events...which will also be reported are perhaps a bit foggy.

We were in Tromso for around 4 hours, so we walked the 2.5Km to the cable car and over a steep bridge. By the time we got there and went to the top and back again after thinking to myself that people are walking everywhere here on unmade and unformed walking tracks and are killing the slow growing Arctic flora.

By the time we took in the panorama and walked back across the bridge to the wharf...I was out for the count and taking a nap in my cabin.

In some glaring ways Australia is way ahead of Norway. Stronger smoking restrictions, better fresh food handling, far less speeding on the roads, better disability access and OHS on building work sites to name a few.

Mike, (travelling on the ICE back to Hamburg and on to Puttgarden. Shocked )
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Onwards but still actually still a LONG way to the END –


Bergen…yes what a lovely city, set with a mountain backdrop. We arrived there, said goodbye to MS Midnatsol and my
two travel companions decided to take the red open roofed bus to see the City sights, however as I like to walk and
had been eating nearly continuously for 6 days, with only a couple of goes on an exercise running machine, I was
looking forward to the short 2Km walk past a glorious central lake and manicured lawns and perfectly presented flower
beds to the hotel…and what a beautiful old restored hotel it was. This was a great welcome to the historic city.


I make note here that the Continental part of our trip was made by Railbookers who obviously specialise in rail travel
and obtain the best fares…much better than just booking online in advance, so I highly recommend and will utilise
them again.


Bergen also had glorious weather when we arrived and my friend Ross decided we should visit the cable railway. This
was a great decision as when we got to the top around 7pm we were able to see the rain falling about 5 km away and
headed straight for the mountain. All pictures were captured just in time then…down it came with many unsuspecting
people who obviously have no idea of their surroundings were running for cover from a distance away.10 minutes later the mountain was still copping a good downfall and the fog came as well just to completely close everything in…but even with that, it still wasn’t cold.


Bergen is surrounded by steep hills as the foreground to the mountains behind and some of these hills are extremely
steep and the houses perched on the sides facing the city….it’s an interesting view looking up at them and thinking the
ticker might not manage a walk up those zigzag access roads.

We escaped the wet mountain by travelling back down the hill in the cable car, which is stepped inside so nobody sits
at awkward angles, but seating is minimal and people stand for the 4 minute ride.



As it was still raining at the bottom as well…who’d have guessed Question   We decided to make a run to the closest eating
establishment for tea…
Coincidentally this happened to be a TripAdvisor highly rated Tapas café and we dashed inside…

The meal and local Norwegian beer was great and we again dashed in the pouring rain to the nearest taxi to take us back to the hotel directly opposite the station.


I decided to visit the station to see where our train to Oslo was going to depart from only to find a signal failure along
the line had the current train from Oslo running over THREE hours late and the following train, scheduled a few hours
later from Oslo was also not far behind it.

Bergen has a kind of Inter-urban train service that utilises the main line through the mountain I spoke of and a great
long tunnel then to villages and small towns along the way…and the occasional branchline as well.


These are all sparks with overheads and modern trains, considering we were hundreds of Km from Oslo.
The thought of signal failures made me think of home…so it’s definitely not just in Melbourne and V/Line that gets
signal failures Exclamation


The next morning we boarded the 8 carriage train and we were off towards Oslo…soon to be very slowly. Because it’s a
crowded single line with crossing loops. The Ballarat line came immediately to mind…minus the picturesque villages,
glaciated valleys, snow sheds etc.


So we were to hear the first of the MANY announcements…’we must wait here (crossing loop) for the other train to
pass by then we can go’.


The line is very busy and even with the tunnel widening…no mean feat as it’s an extremely long tunnel and I imagine it
will enable freight trains to descend into Bergen without tying up passenger trains too much and the line traverses such
difficult terrain and the traffic by way of opposing passenger and freight trains soon makes it resemble a bad day on
the Ballarat line except this line is well over 400Km long Exclamation


Further along…climbing the ‘spine’ of Norway…spectacular scenery, glaciated valleys picturesque villages and what are
the young people on board doing…of which there were many Confused:  They were connected to the Wi-Fi and staring at their screens…go figure.

Perhaps they were looking at images of the scenery instead of looking at the scenery out of the window.



The other problem is as this is recognised as one of the world’s most scenic railways what does the Norwegian
Government Railways do to encourage custom and try to grow the service even further…a flat NOTHING.

  • Mediocre customer service.




  • No commentary whatsoever (surely an opportunity to work in with the Bergen universities as Alaska does with its


railroad to engage young locals to interact with passengers from all over the world).


  • Seats even in ‘Komfort class’ almost bereft of padding so numbum sets in early, Speaking of which, these 1990’s cars haven’t seen much of a makeover either so the furnishings are dated as well as hard to sit on.



  • The lack of an observation car on the 8 daily trains where the Norwegian Railways could change a premium fare, offer an exceptional standard and really showcase the whole experience…but nothing.



The final gripe is the train was packed out…I saw groups of people get off at one station to be replaced by groups of
people at the same station. Some seats had turnovers four or five times over the journey.


It was obvious that the trains are far too short (8 cars)to cater for the number of passengers offering, and passengers
are definitely being turned away especially during the busy tourist season in Summer. The cars also need more storage
space for the huge backpacks that are brought onboard.


We booked 6 weeks out and couldn’t get into Komfort class so that gives an idea. So on we go…getting later and later till the breakdown occurs when the timetable simply went out the window. We were in a crossing loop and the same announcement…'we will wait here' etc…except this time the opposing passenger train had broken down so the driver had to take one of our two electric locomotives to rescue the opposing train, then we were on our way around 25 mins later with one loco…at least it was mainly downhill from there to Oslo Exclamation


There were some panicky pax on-board as they could see connections slipping away etc…and the end of the journey
came…75 mins late…not bad considering, but no real apology from the train crew...unless it was said in Norwegian and
not English. Once we arrived in Oslo, I said to my travelling companions, I’ve had enough, I’m checking in to the hotel
and I'm getting a coffee from that Nescafe pod machine that I knew was there from the DOWN journey about 10 days earlier.

The coffee in Norway, onboard the ship is execrable …weak and bitter…how do they do that Confused:

And to pine for a Nescafe pod machine for a decent coffee that didn’t cost the equivalent of AU$10.00…shows how bad
things are in Norway for coffee aficionados…

Mike.
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

When we travelled to Norway I bought tickets online thru nsb.no without any hassles. If you book early you can get the "minipris" tickets which are at a very good discount. You do need to know when how many days in advance bookings open to get them though. As an example, the minipris fare from Oslo to Bergen on November 5 (when bookings open) is NOK 249 compared to the standard fare of NOK 964.  You add NOK 100 for Komfort class regardless.
Coffee is always a problem when travelling - we are so lucky here to have excellent coffee. We did find a very good coffee shop in Bergen (called Kaf) in Bryggen which my notes describe as "very good coffee indeed". But I agree it's hard to find good coffee.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
I am amazed at the fares some of you pay for Business Class air travel. You need to find yourselves a good Travel Agent like I have been fortunate enough to do. The particular lady has been handling my overseas travel for nearly nine years, and nothing has ever gone wrong. She also does all overseas travel arrangements for my son and daughter in law.

The trip I have just finished included these flights - all Business Class.
13-07-29 Qantas QF35 Melbourne - Singapore.
14-07-19 Swiss LX177 Singapore - Zurich.
15-07-19 Swiss LX632 Zurich - Paris.
31-07-19 Lufthansa LH795 Frankfurt- Hong Kong.
05-08-19 Qantas QF 30 Hong Kong- Melbourne.

Total Cost of flights: A$ 6,042.90 plus GST.
Booked about 3 months in advance; paid for about 6 or 8 weeks in advance.

My Qantas Club numbers benefited by 20,800 Points and 240 Status Credits.

My tip? Never do your own bookings with airlines.

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