Larry's Special Day! Woo WOoo!

Trip Start Jul 02, 2008
Trip End Jul 25, 2008

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Flag of Norway  ,
Thursday, July 10, 2008

OMG!  What a beautiful part of the world.  Alaska pales, and I mean PALES, in comparison.  The fjords are spectacular!  The waterfalls are spectacular!  The people are lovely, and the scenery is beyond belief.  We followed our guide (kinda) to the train only to discover we had about 35 minutes before it arrived, so Carol and I booked to the souveneir shops so she could look for something for Ariana.  And what a cool sweater we found for her.  I have never seen Carol move so quick as when shopping was involved under a tight time line.  She was by people and up the stairs and into the shop so fast my head spun! 
The train had arrived and we were able to walk down the platform and board immediately.  Soon we were off, the electric Flam railway whisking up the fjord valley, passing by even more spectacular waterfalls and scenery.  Not only was I loving the train, but the scenery was amazing.  Even Michael, who had been poo pooing Larry's train tour, was enjoying the trip.  We wound up the valley, over bridges, through tunnels, clinging to the sides of cliffs, it was wonderful. (see photo's).  The train stopped at one particular waterfall and everyone was able to get off and shoot photo's.  There was some music playing and then some cheesy tourist performance ensued with a Viking and a damsel or some such nonsense.  A 10 on the cheddar scale... but there was little time to enjoy for we were back on board and up the rest of the way to the Vatnahalsen Hotel, and a brief stop for waffles with fresh raspberry preserves and cream, coffee and tea.  The trip to the hotel was about 45 to 60 minutes of pure enjoyment. 
After wolfing down my waffles, I went out exploring since we had about 40 minutes or so before the train returned and we started back down the valley to Flam and the ship.
I walked a ways following a sign to the Tavern, but stopped because the scenery was not that great.  Instead, I headed back the other way and went down this road that crossed the rail way and discovered a beautiful valley, the gravel/stone road clinging to the side of the cliff with the train a ways higher.  Below was a switchback road (single lane road at that) all the way to the bottom.  You can't see it in the photo's, but it was cool.  And I stood at the top of the waterfall, it was amazing.  But time was short, or so I thought,  so I headed back up the road to toward the hotel.  I had not realized how steep the walk down had been, and boy was I breathless by the time I made it back to the tracks and the train stop, jus tin time for the announced return of the train.
Only the train did not return.  The entire tour group, some 325 people, stood on the platform waiting for the train.  Then some sat down, others paced, still others wandered nearby shooting photo's.  It was 4 o'clock, and the ship was sailing at 4:30.  What can you do?  It is a sanctioned tour, they would wait, or so we hoped.  Finally, 5 past the train rolled up and stopped, only the conductor got off and said no one was to get on.  We had to wait for the train to go up to the station at the end of the line and return.  More people sat down.  More photo's were taken (I had a great vantage point from atop an outcropping) and we waited.  Finally, the train showed and we boarded.  4:15.  Hmm, would there be a ship waiting for us when we reached the bottom.  Captain Von Donselar runs a tight ship ;-).  But we were on our way, back down the valley, by spectacular waterfalls and more scenery from a different angle.  Then the train came to a stop, and we sat for a few minutes.  Hmmm, what was going on?  Finally a conductor/tour guide came over the P.A. saying they were having technical difficulties, and we were to remain inside the train with the coach doors closed.  That lasted a good 15 minutes before it was resolved (it had something to do with the train coming up the valley, and the passing track)  Finally we made it back to the port, with the Eurodam still sitting there blowing her horn (like it would make us hurry, we weren't even off the train yet!).  Everyone piled off and headed for the dock, but where was Michael? 

As we stopped at the station, Michael had said "let's go this way, honey" opening the door to the wrong side of the carriage.  I didn't see him get out, thinking he would discover he was going out the wrong way when he looked out.  But he was no where in sight.   I scanned and looked around, but no Michael.  I swore under my breath a little, and began looking in earnest for him.  Then he showed up carrying two hats he had seen in a shop directly across from where he had hopped out of the carriage.  He said he had gone that way because he wanted to get the hat for me (it has rails and ties on the brim) and time was tight.  We were still on beard early, ahead of a 100 or so other people, and I was able to get a picture of Bob, one of the last to reboard. (I never did ask why)  But no sooner than the last was aboard, we sailed.
Back out the fjord we went, some 100 miles or so because the four of us met for card in the Crows Nest and we were still sailing up the fjord when we broke to dress for dinner.
Flam and the fjords were wonderful.  I would love to go back just to visit there, hike, stay in a cozy cabin, canoe and adventure around.  You can drive there, there is a series of tunnels connecting it to the outside world (the world longest auto tunnel goes there, 24.5 kilometers long.).  It was truly spectacular.
I met friends we had spent some time with earlier in the trip and on the tour for drinks before dinner, and got several favorable comments on the cool plaid slacks I was wearing.  Afterwards, I headed up to the Silk Den for a quick martini before I met up with the rest in the card room.  We played cards until almost 11:30 (carol and Larry beat their butts!).  When I went on deck for a nice stroll, it was as light as 7 p.m. back home.  You gotta love being this far north. You were suppose to be able to see the Northern Lights around 1 am or so, but we were too pooped to stay up.  It was a wonderful day though, one I will remember for a long, long time.
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