Brief: 'Send me up a fjord to disappear for a weekend'

Sarah Smith on 11 July 2014
This is one of my customer's reviews sent to me on the return from his weekend away, I thought it was perfect to share on here!

SAS airlines are excellent, no messing about, no fuss, they just get you there. Also the coffee is OK.

Oslo airport isn't bad, we grabbed a decent bite to eat there. Aalesund airport is a bit like Humberside, but hugely efficient, clean and tidy. Car hire is right in the arrivals hall. The staff were friendly and efficient, not quite the German level of efficiency at Dusseldorf, but very close. Our car was upgraded to a rather smart Volvo.

Out of the airport, through six miles of tunnels under the fjords and we ended up in the middle of town. Apoteksgata was first on the right. There is no parking at the hotel but the receptionist was super-helpful and told us about an underground car park 600m away where the credit card machine was broken, so we had three days free parking. It’s normally £16 for 24 hours, but this is bang in the middle of town.

Think of Venice, but really clean. The hotel room had French doors that opened right over the harbour, straight down to the water. The hotel was an old salt warehouse. Staff were very efficient and helpful; right up there with The Marriott. Their internet service was fast and we could use their laser printer too which was great for boarding cards and maps.

We didn't check the calendar, but there was a huge boat festival going on. There were live bands each night, a huge food marquee and dozens of exotic food stalls, plus hundreds of visiting boats and their associated crews. The only downside was that finding a restaurant seat was tough. We managed though.

Prices were similar to London. A half-decent meal with wine was £70. We also ate from the street food vendors, superb paella from an Italian who was selling English preserves and Italian cheese and salamis as well.

We went off into the fjords, skipped over a few ferries and up to the snow line. It was 25 degrees at sea level, but still glaciers and snow. It was a bit like Morocco in fact, baking hot but still snowy up high.

We were hoping to get to Geirangerfjord, but we were seduced by a little restaurant/bar alongside the ferry and were treated to a superb halibut fillet, local fish soup and smoked salmon salad, and on a whim, jumped on a different ferry and went up through the hills to the north. The views were stunning, and we didn't get back until 11pm or so, but it was still full daylight and the boat festival partying was just beginning.

Sleep was rather tough, as the party went on until at least 1am and it was still completely light. Hotel breakfasts went on until 11am so not a problem. The breakfasts were really good, with bacon and eggs and home-made warm bread. There were also rice cakes for those of us who are gluten-free but also bacalao (salt cod with onions, tomatoes and spices) and marinated herring, cold meats, porridge, several different fermented dairy products and cured air-dried reindeer sausage.

The highlight of the visit was probably the Atlantic Park aquarium, with enormous shoals of herring and an amazing huge tank of cod, whiting, halibut and haddock. Lunch there was excellent, really good cream fish soup, salmon salad and bacalao.

Second best was the living museum of Sunnmore, with replica Viking boats being built and 20+ houses from the 1600 and 1700s through to 1900s which have been moved to the site. We didn't have time to get to the Fishing Museum or the Cube modern art gallery or the shops or the Art Nouveau museum in town, but we are tempted to go back.

We went off exploring the countryside and went up to the park at the top of the hill above Aalesund. It’s pretty much a wild area, but then you follow a track and have a panoramic view over the town, the dozens of islands, the harbour and the distant snow-capped peaks. Military aficionados would enjoy the Atlanticpark, with pillboxes and old gun emplacements for British Armstrong heavy guns from the late 1890s.

Aalesund was burnt to the ground in 1904, and as a result, many of the buildings come from the Jugendstil or Art Nouveau period. There are lots of new buildings too, the place felt really booming.

The ferries are excellent, a 24 hour service once per hour and once every 20 minutes from 7am to 8pm or so, and lots of tunnels. It would have been possible to get around without a car, but it made such a difference having our own transport.

Prices were, as expected, ludicrously high, but we had a stunningly good time. The place didn't feel like it needed tourists, it was buzzing and managed fine without us being there, which added to the allure considerably. Highly recommended so long as you don't expect it to be touristy.