I am writing this in our two-berth cabin, lying on my narrow bed, resting my feet against the wall, which is also the exterior wall of the ship.
I mention this because at irregular intervals the entire wall vibrates and shudders as a wave hits us side-on with immense force. At times it feels like the ship will break apart, although rationally we know better. Spray sometimes smashes against our window, making us jump (we are 5 floors up) and completely blocks out the view, which anyway is just huge black waves and white tops.
There is a massive swell, and people are staggering about the corridors and bouncing off the walls. Damp patches of carpet around the deck attest to not everyone keeping their breakfast down. Even the cool dudes in the canteen say its unusually rough.
At one point during breakfast I managed to stagger backwards into an automatic hand cleanser dispenser, which promptly squirted antiseptic down my back.
I kept hold of my coffee, though, so, you know, priorities 😊.
Despite the bravado of wanting a crossing ‘as rough as possible’ Lauren has looked a little green at times today, and once threw up. As children are wont to do, she vomited, announced that that was ‘much better’ and then ran off at top speed as she was worried the film being shown in the ‘cinema’ would have already started. It hadn’t, in fact they had forgotten about the showing as she was the only one who turned up for it!
Yesterday we arrived well on time for the ferry, having spent the previous night at Aalborg, a sleepy but picturesque town about an hour from where we had to catch the ferry.
It was funny to see the ‘John Bull’ English pub facing off directly across the street with the ‘Irish House’ Irish pub. The English had it on size (see above) but as we all know, size isn’t everything. Unfortunately, it was 10 a.m. and no time for larking about in pubs.
It was clearly election time (municipal elections I think) and as we wandered around the town centre with our backpacks, supporters of various candidates vied to give us freebies – we declined the red roses but Lauren happily accepted the various offers of sweets and lollies. In the interest of full disclosure we did explain we weren’t voters before accepting any gifts, but that didn’t seem to matter.
There seemed to be at least a dozen candidates – all seemed to look alike, all white, most blond, most in their 30s…. apart from Thomas (whose supporters proffered the roses) who Lauren declared was ‘Mr Creepy Looking’.
Make you own minds up:
Aalborg was pretty but we quickly ran out of town, and made our way to the train station.
There was no ticket office, but a pretty efficient machine, with all options in English. We joined a bunch of other Saturday morning travellers for the train to Hjorring on platform 0 (yep, stations in Denmark have platform 0, and why not?) and about a minute before the train was due they all suddenly started rushing for the steps.
Not knowing what was going on (and no one offering help, despite it being obvious we were foreign and confused), we followed the crowd. I still don’t know how they knew there was a platform change, there had been no announcement and no change to the screens as far as I could see… maybe they all had an app…. there seems to be an app for everything in Denmark.
The couple opposite us assured us (when asked) that we were on the right train, and then unpacked a bag of carrots (like, from the supermarket, unpeeled and seemingly unwashed), a pack of hazelnuts and some dark chocolate, and proceeded to snack on this interesting combination, spitting out the tops of the carrots. Odd, but she was reading Terry Pratchett, so they must be OK really….
Once we got to Hjorring, we still had one more train to get, and about 30 minutes to wait. Lauren decided she needed the loo (having, of course, not needed it 5 minutes previously when there was a perfectly good toilet on the train and when I’d suggested it). There were again no staff at the station, and on the bathroom door only a sign in Danish. Having enlisted the help of another woman who needed the loo (who was Faroese and heading home on the same ferry as us) we worked out you needed to pay 5 kroner (about 60p/80 US cents) to gain access, although children were free. Problem being, payment could only be online with a Danish card. A code for the door would then be texted. A teenage couple came over to try to help but they didn’t have the right cards. At least all of this served as a distraction for an increasingly agitated Lauren, and it was practically time for the train by the time we gave up.
Once on board I grabbed my camera, wanting to get a picture of the famous Jutland scenery. I waited and waited, and I’m sorry Denmark, but it was just very, very flat and dull. This is the most interesting picture I got. I’m sure all the beautiful bits were just over the next hill. Only there weren’t any hills….
On arrival in the town of Hirtshals, from where the ferry was due to depart, Danish public transport/efficiency proved itself once again, as the bus to the ferry was waiting for the train and we got straight on. Excitement built as we neared the ferry, which we could see moored on the opposite side of the docks. Up close, its enormous.
Having checked in we were allowed access to our cabin – fairly standard, two single beds, a window, a tiny but functional bathroom, a desk and a Tv that played a very strange combination of channels, my favourite being the ‘wheelhouse webcam’ which gives us the view from the bridge.
We dumped our bags in the cabin and immediately headed out to explore. It’s a fairly big ferry, with a couple of restaurants and bars, a shop, 8 decks, 4 of which for cars/containers and 4 for accommodation and services. There is also a pool on deck one, which was haven’t checked out yet. There are even hot tubs out on deck, for the nutty/brave. Up top, there was an incredibly strong wind blowing. We went up there at departure time, but after about 20 minutes of not departing, were forced down by the cold and strong wind. You can see from the pictures that even Lauren “I don’t feel the cold” Ennis agreed to more and more layers, progressing from “I’m not cold” in just a fleece, to a jacket and then even hat and gloves.
We made our way to the back as someone told us there were still a lot of containers to be loaded. We watched this for a while – the backward manoeuvring of these enormous trucks continues to fascinate me, these guys get them lined up with just a couple of cm between them.
Eventually, just over an hour late, we heard a siren and saw the back starting to rise. As it was halfway up two guys came racing out of the lower deck, squeezed through the half-raised metal slats that top the ramp, and jumped down onto the dock just as the gap between it and the raised ramp looked unfeasibly large. They got a round of applause from the cold but good-humoured crowd up top.
Things moved very swiftly once the ramp went up. The passenger gangway was withdrawn, and we almost immediately pulled away from the dock. We rushed up to the top – above the bridge – to watch as we moved out to sea. If we’d thought the wind was strong before, it was almost impossible to stay on our feet up there. Lauren loved leaning back into it without falling, and while she wasn’t going to get blown away and there were good high railings, it made me a bit uneasy. I filmed the departure, but haven’t worked out how to put videos on the blog, think I need to pay lots for an upgrade but I’ll post to facebook. It was pretty amazing and very exciting, to be heading out to sea on this great vessel, skin-piercingly cold wind driving through us despite all our layers, hundreds of gulls circling below us, and out there at sea only big grey waves with white tops.
Incredibly, as we pulled out of the harbour, I spotted some total lunatic among the huge waves, windsurfing. Insane but I’d imagine exhilarating.
Eventually the cold and the wind drove us back into the warmth of our cabin, and we chilled out until dinner time, only breaking this for a 10 minute ‘safety briefing’. Hardly anyone attended this, and it consisted of a crew member demonstrating on Lauren how the life jackets worked, informing us that there were enough lifeboats for everyone ‘so you don’t have to do a Leo di Caprio’ and that if anyone fell into the water they would survive less than 10 minutes, ‘so, you know, stay in the boat’.
I had booked the buffet for dinner, as it was the cheapest option compared to a sit down meal in the restaurant, and I figured with a wide range we’d find something Lauren would happily eat. It wasn’t exactly what we expected though – just seafood rice or beef and boiled potatoes and veg. No starter, no dessert, and not much choice. What we had was tasty enough though.
Last night we both slept really well, despite the crashing waves and up-round-and-about motion of the ship. Neither of us felt remotely queasy, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
This morning we did a few hours of schooling, and then Lauren went off to the cinema for the first of two films being shown for kids. It’s not really a cinema, just a small room projecting films, but it’s a good idea. As I said, she came back after the first film, threw up and rushed off again, leaving me to write this and enjoy the peace.
Or, more realistically, the pound and boom of the waves and the creaking and thudding coming from the ship.
Next up: The Faroes!