We are laying on a sun bed on the beach in Chania. We shared a bottle of wine last night as well as a cocktail (or two) and are feeling a little delicate, so plan on resting today
Madam turns to me and says ‘You didn’t write a blog on our trip to Bergen’
I concurred that this was indeed the case.
‘You should write one’
‘But only four people read the last on.’
‘I read it.’
‘I will see how much I can remember then.’
My memory isn’t what it used to be. Forty years ago you could tell me a phone number or an interesting fact, such as the orbital velocity of one of Jupiter’s moons, and I could recite it back to you three months later. I haven’t quite got to the stage of needing a sign around my neck with my name and address but I fear it is in my future.
‘It’s so blue’ said Madam, as she gazed out to sea, ‘go away and write your blog’
I find a spot in the shade and start to type.
‘I’ve downloaded Norwegian for my language app’ said Madam.
‘You mean for the three people in Bergen that don’t speak English’ I replied perhaps a little sarcastically.
Our flight on Norwegian Airlines left fifteen mins early. It was half full. As soon as the seatbelt sign turned off Madam jumped up and moved to a window seat on an empty row. She summoned me to the aisle seat and spent much of the flight telling me about the amazing view she has of the islands and fjords.
The flight attendant announces that they will be serving refreshments but can only take credit cards. I start to read the menu. A cup of tea is ambitiously priced at €5.90. Cold? Need a blanket? That will be five Euros please. I stop reading and hope Madam is neither thirsty nor cold.
The man across the aisle orders a cup of tea. He is handed a small cup of hot water and a tea bag. He doesn’t look impressed.
We are staying at Hotel Norge which as about as central as you can get. It has a view over Lille Lungegardsvanned and just around the corner from the central square. We took a taxi from the airport. £65 for a twenty minute journey. People told me that Norway was expensive. I didn’t realise just how expensive. Annoyingly, we later found out that the tram from the airport stopped a hundred yards from the hotel. Tram tickets were £3.60 each.
We checked into the hotel and I waited impatiently while Madam unpacked and rearranged the furniture to her satisfaction. She checked that the shower has sufficient pressure and looked under the bed for dust. She called down to reception and asked for extra pillows, towels and other sundry items. I always want to dump the suitcases in a corner and go out and explore but I never win that argument.
She was finally ready and we walked around the lake. We sat by the edge of the lake for a while and people watched. ‘They all look happy’ said Madam, ‘and prosperous too. Even the seagulls look fat and contented’
Indeed, the Norwegians are all prosperous. When North Sea oil was developed in the 1980s Britain spent the proceeds on tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy, tax breaks to the oil companies and privatising public bodies and utilities. Norway, on the other hand, thought it would be a jolly good idea to just save the money and invest it in a sovereign wealth fund. It is now worth something like £220,000 for every Norway resident. The income from the fund supplies a quarter of public spending. There were no signs of any homeless people or destitution. No need for food banks. We did see one East European gypsy woman begging who seemed to have a regular spot but it was nothing like Brighton, a city with a similar sized population. Britain is run by Conservatives and Norway by Socialists but I’m sure that is just a coincidence.
Choosing where to eat dinner is always a lengthy process. Madam has to search the internet and read reviews for every restaurant in the city. These are carefully filtered by location, availability and cost. She eventually found something suitable. It was a small neighbourhood restaurant and had plenty of tables available. I had the fish and chips and Madam had something with reindeer. I think it was called a Rudolph Wrap. The fish and chips were excellent. Two meals and two drinks came to about £65 which wasn’t bad by Norwegian standards but left me thinking that this was going to be an expensive break.
After dinner, we walked down to harbour area. It was the main tourist area with a large fish market and many gift shops and restaurants. It was still light at 9pm in September. Had we been here in June, sunset would have been 11pm. Bergen is on the same latitude as Alaska and gets long days in summer. In winter I suspect everyone just stays in bed all day.
We booked an all inclusive package trip for Chania, or, as Madam calls it a ‘fly and flop.’ We had a previous trip to the Greek island of Kos three years ago and liked not having to worry about where to eat or whether we wanted to spend €8 on a cocktail. It was nice, for a while, to have nothing to do but watch the sea and read. It is tempting to compare the two resorts. Is the food better here? Was the bed more comfortable there? Is this a better beach?
The Chania hotel bills itself as five stars, and is very much, to quote the vernacular, up its own arse. The have a dress code for dinner and I have to change out of my comfy shorts and t-shirt and put on dress trousers and a fancy shirt. In thirty degrees it’s a bit much. As soon as we finish eating I have to go back to the room to change. The entertainment here, so far, consists of a violin recital yesterday and a piano recital today. It would be fine in a swanky London hotel but this is a Greek beachfront resort. To me, it should be all beach wear and ‘can I fetch you another drink?’ The shop on the Kos resort sold things like sun block, snorkels, cards and snacks. Here we have Lois Vuitton handbags, Swarovski and Versace watches, and Montblanc pens. I don’t have much use for these on a beach. To be perfectly honest I do not think a Louis Vuitton handbag would suit me anywhere.
It’s not all bad though. The room is nice, we can walk a dozen paces from our patio door and be in one of the many hotel pools and it has the best rainwater shower we have ever had. I think the food is slightly better here although Madam disagrees. The service is attentive. As soon as our bottom touches a bar chair someone rushes up to take our order. Attentive but a bit too formal for me. The staff in Kos were far friendlier, were happier to share a joke and chat about their lives. We are still facebook contacts with a couple of the staff from Kos. Maybe the Chania hotel will grow on me. I will let you know.
I write for a while then explore around the hotel and beach. The hotel sits in a wide shallow sandy bay in the north shore of Crete. It has multiple pools and areas on different levels which was confusing as I have zero sense of direction. I walk round at random and see an alcove along a corridor with four comfy sofas. A sign on the wall tells me this is the library. There are no books. I find a well equipped gym. A man with muscles on his muscles is grunting and doing something with large weights. I would have joined him but I did not want to embarrass him with my lithe body. A dozen people are jumping up and down in one of the pools to loud pop music and shouted encouragement from a young holiday rep. Five people are playing boules on the lawn. A line of older pale Brits are lying on sun beds gradually turning a lobster shade of pink.
A sign on the beach proudly announced that this is a Blue Flag beach and has been for 18 consecutive years. The sea does look clean and clear. I am not big on swimming. My body density means I sink like a stone unless I flap my arms around in an extravagant and flamboyant manner worrying fellow swimmers and causing lifeguards to run to the water’s edge. The sea is tempting though. I may paddle up to my knees later.
The picture in England is very different. Last year the privatised water companies, following a bonfire of EU red tape, as the UK government put it, managed over 370,000 raw sewage discharges into rivers alone. Even more flowed into the sea. Earlier this year the Conservative government voted to allow the water companies to carry on discharging raw sewage until 2050, The water companies took this to heart, bless them. As a result, many beaches were closed over the summer and people were advised not to swim in the sea, lest you swallow human faeces. Maybe England could host a new olympic event. The 400 metre freestyle dodge the jobbies. Hash tag BrexitBonus as they say.
I went back down to then beach to see if Madam needed anything, to mop her brow and fetch her water. There was a part drunk Pina Colada beside her. ‘I thought you weren’t drinking today?’ I said.
There was a pause and she replied, ‘well… the waitress came by and asked me…and…anyway, aren’t you supposed to be writing about Bergen?’
I opened my iPad. One the front page was the weather forecast for London. Drizzle stopping in 16 minutes, then restarting again in another 16 minutes it told me. No need for such precision in Chania. It is 24 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.
Breakfast at the hotel was a massive array of food and crowded with fellow guests. Half a dozen different juices, a table full of pastries, fruit, salad, seven different types of bread and hot food (lukewarm anyway).
‘Did you see a toaster?’ I asked Madam.
‘I don’t think Norwegians do toast’
The hotel seems to be the choice for visiting business people and they were all eating bread and salad.
There are seven high hills towering above Bergen. One, Mount Floyen, has a funicular that climbs 320 metres to the top. We had decided to get a one way ticket up to the top and walk down since several online guides had said that it was a scenic and pleasant walk down. The views from the top were everything we expected and more. I’m sure you will have seen Madam’s pictures by now, so I will not trouble you with my inadequate description.
We followed the signs from the summit towards the city centre as recommended. The route turned out to be a three kilometre long boring grey winding road. We had to jump onto the verge to avoid the occasional car or delivery van. The road had trees and undergrowth on both sides blocking any view. It was hard work walking downhill, our calves and feet were aching once we reached the outskirts of Bergen.
‘Look!’ said Madam, ‘there’s another path! I think we were supposed to take that one.’
A line of people were walking down a long set of steps.
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘let’s get the funicular back up and try this again.’
Madam stared at me and rubbed her calf. ‘How about we just find somewhere for dinner.’
We once vowed that we would never eat at a McDonalds unless we were desperate. Somehow we ended up in one by the fish market. Two meals were a shade under £20 which was a bargain. We celebrated saving £40 by spending £10 on two ice creams.
Our flight leaving Gatwick was fifty minutes late. On the bright side, the journey was only going to be three hours and twenty minutes instead of the expected four hours. I had expected EasyJet, being a budget airline would not be high on the punctuality tables, so I looked on Google, the font of all knowledge. According to a table published by Time Out magazine they are close to the top. They do better than British Airways, Air France and American Airlines. Although there isn’t a lot of leg room they have been fine the few times we have flown with them.
I looked at their in flight menu. A cup of tea was £3, much lower than Norwegian, although the crashing pound post Brexit doesn’t help when comparing currencies.
I know I’m getting old – my knees remind me every morning – but £3 for a cup of tea? It’s a cup of hot water and a tea bag. I remember when I was about five or six years old my mother and I went into a cafe in Gravesend for a cuppa. Tea was 5d and coffee was 7d. I knew that she preferred coffee so I asked why she hadn’t ordered coffee. ‘I don’t have that sort of money!’ she replied. I think I had a cup of tap water or maybe I just watched her drink her tea. She must have felt guilty as she later bought me a Neapolitan ice cream. It was from Woolworths at the end of the indoor market. It cost 4d.
There was a coach from the airport to the hotel included in the price of our holiday. I can only imagine that it was designed for malnourished nine year olds, or perhaps handicapped people with no legs. The front of the seat was almost touching the seat in front. I crawled into a seat and Madam pushed hard on my legs. There was a popping noise as my feet hit the floor. A thin layer of skin from my knees was smeared down the back of the seat in front. My nose nestled into the hair of the woman in front. It smelled of airplane toilet.
‘Aren’t you going to put on a seat belt?’ asked Madam.
‘I don’t think I can move my arms.’
We are up early and go down to the beach after breakfast. Madam wades out to swim. The sea is shallow and she is out fifty yards and still barely above her knees. She wades out a little more and decides to float. Forty minutes later she is still bobbing about in the water. I am worried she is falling asleep and will float away to Turkey or Tunisia. She finally realised she is drifting with the current and wades back to the shore. She is smiling.
After dinner we head into the main bar and play a few rounds of Uno. Madam gets excited when she is a few points ahead. The piano recital turns out to be a very talented Greek piano player singing songs from the 1960’s, so we put our cards away and find a seat near him. The audience are… how can I put this politely… of an older generation. They are clapping in time and singing along to familiar tunes. It is like entertainment night in an old peoples rest home. I rather enjoy it.
The following day, we have breakfast and Madam heads to the beach. Are you starting to see a theme here? I’m not big on lying in the sun, so I’ll find a shady spot and tell you more about Bergen.
‘We need to book!’ said Madam.
‘There might be tickets.’
‘No we need to book. We probably should have booked a month ago! Maybe even last year!’
‘There might be tickets for this morning.’
‘Very unlikely. These tours are really popular.’
‘We can walk down and check anyway. I’m sure they always have extra tickets.’
‘No chance. Why don’t we just book for later in the week?’
We were trying to get on a three hour cruise up one of the local fjords. A cruise amongst the Norwegian fjords has been a long held ambition of mine ever since I heard that Slartibartfast received an award for designing all the wiggly bits around the coast. We once thought about taking a seven day cruise from Dover up to the fjords and back but a friend said she was bored for the whole trip. They all look the same, she said.
We were standing at the ticket office an hour before the scheduled time. The ticket office never opened in spite of a large sign saying ‘Ticket Office – Book Here’ in English.
They started loading the pre-booked passengers.
‘We should have booked.’ said Madam sullenly.
We joined a line of standby passengers until the boat had loaded. ‘I have room for twenty more!’ said the man checking tickets. Everyone waiting on standby got on.
We were sailing up Sognefjord, the longest and deepest fjord in Norway. And boy, was it amazing. High mountains towering over the boat on both sides, blocking out the sun at times, the captain carefully steering the ship around narrow bends. Waterfalls cascaded down the sides of the mountains, trees grew from hollows at improbable angles. The mountains were so close to each side at one point I felt I could lean out and touch both sides. Unfortunately my arms aren’t twelve feet long so I just had to gape in awe at Slartibartfast’s skills. You will have seen Madam’s excellent pictures by now. If not, go and look at them immediately.
All too soon we were heading back to port.
‘What did you think,’ asked Madam after she finally put her phone away.
‘Oh, if you’ve seen one fjord you’ve seen them all.’
We were close to the port in Bergen standing next to an American couple. Now bear in mind we left from Bergen. He turned to her with a note of consternation in his voice and said ‘Is that Bergen?’
We were surprisingly tired after the cruise. In spite of wearing shorts and t-shirts in the morning, we ended up on the boat wearing coats and bracing ourselves against the wind. We went back to the hotel for a nap.
I don’t recall where we had dinner that night but it was probably expensive. Maybe I should start posting pictures of my dinner on Instagram.
We walked around the commercial district after dinner. All the shops were closed which was disappointing to Madam but a relief for my wallet. One shop selling raincoats had a large sign in English in the window. I don’t remember the exact message but it was along the lines of ‘You are in the rainiest city in Europe. What are you doing outside? Come in and buy a raincoat right now! You will regret it if you don’t!’
Almost every local we spoke to told us how lucky we were with the weather. I checked the weather statistics and Bergen has an average of 239 days a year of rain. Every day we were there, apart from our last day, it was dry and warm. The weather must colour perceptions of a place. We both loved just about everything about Bergen. The friendliness of the people, the buildings, the food and the amazing scenery. It seemed a great place to live. Had it rained every day our view might have been different. Maybe we will go during the rainy season. Or maybe not.
Madam wants us to both to have a massage here, so we call in at the spa to check on prices. ‘What?! £90 for a back rub?! You have to be kidding me!’ I clutch at my heart then at my wallet. I start to tell her about the time you could buy a cup of tea for 5d, but she has lost interest and starts walking towards the beach.
We have booked into a speciality Greek restaurant tonight. Our all inclusive package gives us an evening meal at either two or three speciality a la carte restaurants per week. The hotel website says two, The holiday company website says three. The third is a sushi restaurant, which we both like, so we will need to seek clarification from reception.
Madam wades out into the sea intending to bob around for a while but comes back after a few minutes limping.
‘I think I broke my little toe on a rock! It was sticking out at a weird angle!’ Her toe, not the rock.
Somehow she has caught it on the edge of a rock as she waded through shallow water. She pushed it back into position but it is badly bruised and painful. We debate finding a hospital or at least a first aid post but in the end she just limps back to the room and takes some paracetamol.
Luckily the specialist restaurant is just around the corner from our room so we walk slowly and get a table outside, right next to the beach where we can watch the sunset. The food is okay but we did not find it much better than the buffet in the main restaurant. It is nice to try a little of everything rather than a single dish.
It’s the following morning and I look on Dr Google to find out what we can do about Madam’s injured toe. Looking at pictures and descriptions it looks more likely that it was dislocated, rather than broken. It is still very bruised this morning but less painful. I searched for possible treatments. The first site on the search results was from the USA.
‘Go directly to a hospital for emergency treatment! Do not delay! Do not pass Go! Call an ambulance if you have to. Maybe consider an air ambulance. Never attempt to put your toe back in position. You will need an X-Ray and an MRI. A local, possibly general, anaesthetic is needed before a doctor can reposition your toe. You may need surgery and a long period of physical therapy, depending on the size of the doctor’s mortgage.’
Thus was a little worrying, so I looked for an NHS site further down the search results.
‘Push it back into position, ice it if it swells, keep it elevated and rest it for 72 hours. Take paracetamol if it hurts.’
You think I’m exaggerating don’t you? If you don’t believe me, search on Google for ‘dislocated toe treatment’.
This goes some way into explaining why health care costs are so much higher in the USA.
Madam says she will lie on sun bed all day today to rest her toe. I cannot work out how that is different from the last two days but feel it best to remain silent as she is injured.
Madam stays on a sun bed on our patio by the pool all morning, resting her foot and reading while I find a shady spot to tell you about Bergen.
London forecast: 13 degrees and rain.
We wanted to see some area outside of the central bergen area so I looked on the internet for areas of the city worth visiting. High on the search results was a site that listed several areas so be bought an unlimited travel bus and tram pass and headed to the first. It was a grim industrial area. Shipping containers were piled six high on the dock where a beach was supposed to be. We quickly realised that the guide had been written by someone that had never visited Bergen. They had simply picked some random places and made up stuff. That’s the annoying thing about the internet. You can find out just about anything you want but them half the sites returned from the search have gamed the search algorithm and have nothing but ads and false information. Search for something useful that cannot be sold, like the orbital velocity of Ganymede (10,880 km/s), and it is right there. Look for something that could possibly be monetised and it is buyer beware.
We tried a second area which had a vaguely nice view across the harbour but really wasn’t worth the effort of getting there although it had a totem pole gifted from Seattle which pleased Madam.
I forget where we had dinner but it was expensive. As we left the restaurant there was a group of older people singing something in Norwegian. ‘That’s not something you see everyday in Eastbourne.’ I said.
‘I don’t think many people in Eastbourne speak Norwegian,’ Madam replied.
She may have missed my point but I let it pass.
We stopped and listened for a while then headed to the main square. In our absence they had set up a stage in the square and groups of dancers were performing. A trio of Mexican dancers were waiting for their turn so we watched them and a few other acts. We were later told that it was Culture Day. I searched the internet so that I could tell you interesting and useful information about this day, but I cannot find any reference on the first two pages of results. Lots of advertisements promising me a cultural holiday in Bergen but nothing else. I fear the internet is fast becoming like a TV station with nothing but commercials. But enough of my moaning, we were in Bergen and having a great time.
There was an even larger stage set up in front of the lake but it was dark and empty. A sign across the back of the stage read ‘Funkislagen.’. We assumed it was set up for the coming weekend.
‘Do you think it might be a Pink Floyd reunion? Maybe a surprise stop of the Rolling Stones tour?’ I asked Madam.
‘I thing it’s more likely to be something for young people.’
‘Will it be that thumping music where they keep shouting ‘Funk you up’ over and over again?’
‘It may be.’
It was late and nothing more seemed to be happening so we went back to the hotel and to bed.
I stop in at the coffee bar. The barista is too busy flirting with one of the holidays reps to focus on my order or much of anything else. I could have eaten all the cakes, tucked the till under my arm and turned off the power and he would not have noticed. I did eventually get a lukewarm cappuccino. To be fair, the holiday rep was Swedish and as beautiful as only Swedish women can be, so I guess I will forgive him.
I check the weather forecast for London. Thirteen degrees and rain.
The holiday company have an app where they list the day’s activities at the resort. Yoga at 10am, Viking Chess at 11am, wine tasting at 3pm, that sort if thing. Viking Chess, for those unfamiliar with the game seems to consists of throwing blocks of wood to knock over other blocks. Those Vikings knew how to have fun. There is also a chess board nearby for those who prefer a more cerebral activity. One of today’s activities is ‘Bonkers Bingo.’ I’m not sure how it happened but we seem to have signed up for it.
We present ourselves at the appropriate time and place and the holiday rep hands us a piece of paper and a pen. This will be easy, I think, even I can cross off numbers on a piece of paper without undue mental strain.
‘We can’t do bingo today, so we are going to do a 1990’s music quiz! Bingo is boring anyway!’ says the bubbly holiday rep.
My knowledge of 1990’s pop music could be written on the back of a postage stamp. A small stamp. My interest in music mostly stopped in the 1970’s. Want me to list Pink Floyd albums in order? No problem. List the tracks on the Beatles White Album? Full marks there. Identify a Leonard Cohen song from a single line? I’m your man.
The first question was the theme song from the TV program ‘Friends.’ Maybe this won’t be so bad I thought. From there on it was all downhill. She asked questions about names I didn’t recognise and played songs I had never heard. All of my responses were along the lines of ‘Who?’, ‘Never heard if them’ and ‘is that what they call music nowadays?’ None of them were deemed helpful by Madam. She has much wider music interests and knowledge and she managed to answer another nine correctly, giving us a total score of ten. ‘Should we sneak off now?’ I asked Madam.
‘No, let’s see how we did.’
We came a creditable fourth. The other three teams did better. One young man scored twenty.
When we are choosing a hotel a trip away we always look at the reviews on Trip Advisor. Madam goes for the positive reviews and I go for the negative. I will let the psychologists decipher the reasoning behind this but, once you filter out the obvious reviews from competitors, you can see any issues the hotel may have. Many of them are petty – ‘my white wine wasn’t chilled so I only gave them a one star review’ or my favourite ‘it wasn’t sunny on my holiday’.
One of the negative reviews for this hotel, edited for brevity, was:
“it looks too beautiful… it feels that you are walking around a CGI rather than a real place…. none of the beauty translates into anything remotely that tells you that you are actually in Crete.”
As ridiculous as this sounds I kind of see the point. It’s hard to know that this is Greece until you leave the resort. Take away the sunshine, warm seas, great food, unlimited cocktails on demand, sun beds and umbrellas, multiple warm swimming pools, helpful staff, palm trees and temperatures in the high 20’s and low 30’s at the very end of September and you could well be in Blackpool. I guess you would have to add in vomit slicked pavements, the general air of menace after dark, and a fish and chip shop on every corner but you get the idea.
Clearly we need to rectify this lack of Greekness so Madam informs me that we are taking a bus into town tomorrow. But first, a little more about Bergen.
Leaving aside the wisdom of having closely spaced wooden buildings before the days of an effective fire brigade, in the 1800’s Bergen was Europe’s largest wooden city. Some fifty-five of these houses have been preserved and relocated from central Bergen to an open air museum on the outskirts of the city. Actors dressed in 19th century costume try to persuade us that they are of that era. You can walk into the houses and see people sitting in armchairs and chat to them. Even though we all know that is the idea, it is still weird wandering into peoples houses, opening their cupboards and looking at their stuff. We walked the cobbled streets, peering through windows and walked through a few houses. I was wearing my Rolling Stones North America Tour 1975 t-shirt and one of the actors couldn’t quite control himself and commented. I told him it was from the future and that I was a time-traveller. He was happy to accept that and popped back to 1870.
More interestingly, on the edge of the site there was an open house where a real resident lived. Once a year Bergen opens a number of houses to the public in different architectural styles. We had not heard of this so it was pure luck that we came across this man’s house at the right time. We got to look in his bathroom, in his bedroom, look under his bed and in the closet where he was storing all his stuff to make his house looked tidy. It was furnished in traditional Scandinavian style and had amazing views over the water. I think Madam was ready to make an offer until I ushered her out and reminded her that we couldn’t live in Norway after Brexit.
The stage in front the lake was showing signs of life by the time we got back to the hotel and we walked over and found a seat near the edge of the open area.
‘If it’s hippety-hop I’m leaving,’ I told Madam.
It wasn’t hippety-hop. The bass player was wearing a faded Rolling Stones t-shirt and their first song was Honkey Tonk Women. They followed this with Money for Nothing by Dire Straits and Whisky in the Jar by Thin Lizzy, as well a few other classics. The bass player pointed to my t-shirt and we exchanged a thumbs-up as he left the stage. I was hoping for an evening in front of the stage but then somebody came on at 5pm and made a long speech in Norwegian then the whole thing closed down and they dismantled the stage. It seemed an awful lot of work just for an afternoon but I guess that is how the Norwegians have fun.
We started the process of sifting through reviews to find a suitable restaurant for dinner. ‘This Italian has good reviews,’ I said.
‘Okay, you choose,’ she replied. I think she was fed up with trying to find anything with her exacting criteria that matched my desire to spend as little as possible. I looked over the menu. It was exactly the same as every other Italian restaurant outside of Italy the world over. Pizza and pasta. The same pizzas, the same pastas. Why is that? I’ve been to Italy. They have all sorts of different stuff in their restaurants in Italy. It’s like Mexican restaurants in America. In truth, they only have one item on the menu. They just wrap it differently. Taco, burritos or enchiladas. I have ordered all sorts of things in many Mexican restaurants in Texas. I always get something covered in cheese with refried beans and rice on a plate. I’ve also been to Mexico once but had to cook my own dinner but that’s another story.
The Italian restaurant was a single stop away on the tram. ‘It has great reviews,’ I told Madam, as we searched back streets for the address. We finally found it on a corner in a residential area. It was closed. ‘Did you check the opening hours?’ asked Madam.
‘No, it’s Saturday. What restaurant would close on Saturday?’
‘This one does. What’s your backup plan?’
We started walking back towards the centre. Another pizza restaurant looked good but it was packed and people were waiting outside. We finally found one which described itself as a French Tacos and Burgers place. It was almost empty but turned out to be really nice. I couldn’t find any reviews for it.
We are going into Chania today to see if we can find authentic Crete.
I could not make any sense of the bus timetables. They were in Greek, obviously, but seemed to only list a start time. I was left with the impression that they were once per hour but with no idea when they would stop here. In the end we decide to ask the receptionist to call for a taxi.
We take the taxi to the edge of Chania old town. He doesn’t seem to have a meter running. He stops in the middle of the road in Chania, points and says ‘There! Twelve Euros.’. He then starts muttering about ten Euros plus two Euros for something else. I think the extra is because we are tourists.
Old town is all narrow lanes firmly aimed at tourists. Lots of leather, clothes and jewellery shops, and restaurants. When we booked this holiday, Madam insisted that we would have to take at least one boat trip, probably two. We walk down to the harbour to see about a glass bottomed boat trip. People are crammed onto the boat about to leave, shoulder pressing against shoulder. Madam says ‘I’m not sure I want to do a boat trip today. It looks a bit squashed.’
‘And hot.’ I replied.
The thermometer read twenty-nine degrees but the buildings seemed to reflect and amplify the heat. We walked around the fort and back through the town. Madam bought a hat for €11 and I bought two bottles of water for 50c each. There is a church in the middle of old town. We can hear loud chanting from within. Assuming it is a service we quietly enter, but it’s a funeral so we leave just as quietly. We have only been here a couple of hours but we are soaked in sweat and exhausted. We find the taxi rank and, with the help of a helpful translator, head back to the hotel. Her meter is running. It costs €7.76 and she refuses let me pay more than €8 because we are tourists. I’m not sure we have seen authentic Crete yet.
The holiday company app informs us that there will be traditional Greek dancing from 8:30 to 10:30 this evening with the piano singer from 9:00 until 11:00. I want to see the piano man as it will be good practice for when Madam books me into the Bexhill Rest Home for Aged Gentlefolk next year. Madam wants to see the dancers so we are waiting for them to start at 8:30. Three men start playing what I assume is Greek classical music. There’s no sign of any dancers. We wait until 9:00. ‘Maybe they are imaginary, like the Greek Gods’ I say. We go up to the bar to watch piano man then head to bed.
It is the next morning, Friday, and we have booked at the Asian restaurant tonight. The receptionist assured us that two visits were included in our all inclusive package. We both like sushi and they have a few different rolls and a limited selection of nigiri.
We spend the day lounging around on the beach and watching the sea. Madam floats in the sea while I read. We shower then head to the restaurant. We both have the mixed sushi platter. It is excellent and I book for next Friday. The evening entertainment is just listed as ‘Classic Rock.’ It is one man and his guitar singing covers from the 1960’s and 1970’s. He has a great tonal range. That is all I can say. Not many people are watching.
It’s the following morning, Saturday, and we wake up late, almost 8am, and there is a long queue for breakfast. Madam turns to me and says ‘We’re almost half way through this holiday!’
‘There’s still a week left though. What happened to the glass half full?’
‘But it’s half empty!’
I can’t argue with that so we wait patiently in the queue.
After breakfast, Madam lays out by the pool and I find a shady spot with a bit of a breeze. There is a table in the coffee bar that has some residual air conditioning from the gym. A man is running on one of the treadmills. I would have join him but I’m not wearing the right shoes.
Miss Sweden isn’t in evidence this morning, only an older woman mopping the floor. The Barista ignores her and is able to focus on making my cappuccino.
I’m supposed to be doing something I think. Oh, I remember, I’m telling you about Bergen.
London temperature 9 degrees.
It was our final day in Bergen, a Sunday, and everything was closed. ‘We haven’t been in that direction,’ said Madam, pointing. We walked up a long hill and a large flight of steps to Johanneskirken, then down through Engen with its collection of old wooden houses. A walking tour of Italians were being shown around Bergen. They looked tired. We stopped in at Espresso House on the main square for a hot chocolate then headed out in a different direction. We came across a statue of Henrik Ibsen. It was the ugliest statue I have ever seen. I can only assume it was commissioned by someone who hated him. By the afternoon there were heavy leaden skies that had a promise of rain. The forecast was dry for the rest of the day but rain all day tomorrow. Our luck with the weather had come to an end. We realised we had seen most of Bergen. We sat by the lake for a while. It was deserted. It seems that Norwegians all stay home on Sundays.
We went back to the hotel to look for a restaurant for dinner. Before we traveled I had changed £200 into Norwegian Krone in case places didn’t accept cards. Everywhere did. I still had over £100 left so I was prepared to let Madam pick a more expensive restaurant to use up the cash. It soon became apparent that our biggest problem is that most restaurants were closed on Sundays, especially those that were more expensive. I finally found an Italian that professed to be open on Sundays. ‘You are absolutely sure it’s open,’ asked Madam.
‘Goggle and TripAdvisor say it’s open,’ I replied. There must have been some doubt in my voice as she asked ‘Definitely?’
‘Umm… probably definitely.’
It was open and I had a pizza. It was the same as every other pizza I’ve had outside of Italy. The bill came and I proffered a bundle of banknotes. ‘We don’t take cash, only cards!’
I managed to spend some cash at the airport on overpriced drinks but still brought some home.
London 13 degrees. Drizzle.
It is hot in Chania today. The Met Office forecast is for a high of 32 degrees, AccuWeather says 34 but will feel like 38. That is a shade over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in old money. I am curled up in the only patch of shade I can find on the beach hoping for a breeze. Madam is a hundred yards out bobbing in the sea. She is talking to a fellow bobber.
She returns after an hour and tells me that her fellow bobber was from the Netherlands and has stayed at the hotel several times but will never come again. She said that it had really gone downhill after a change of management. The levels of service and the food were not as good. This is our first time here but I have seen a few cracks in their supposed five star status. There was a lipstick mark on my glass at breakfast this morning. The fried eggs were burned to a blacked crisp at the edges but raw in the middle. A waiter tried to take Madam’s plate away before she had finished. All minor points but I can see how they add up. There are a lot of good points about the hotel. Cleaners are constantly out in the public areas sweeping and tidying and mopping. Service in the bars is efficient and polite. A little formal for me but some people like that. Overall I am happy with the hotel but would have liked to have seen it before the management changes. Will we book it again? Probably not. We had more fun in Kos with better entertainment for a lower price.
We have a few more days in Chania, but I have told you everything I can remember of Bergen. I found a half-written blog from Kos saved in my word processor if anyone wants me to finish it. For now, I will find a shady spot and read, or watch the sea and let my mind go blank which is what I do best.