Ferry to the Faroe Islands, Part I


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:

Thomas, the Creepy.

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….

Fascinating Jutland scenery….

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.

Cold? Me? Nah!
Messing about in the wind…
Not making much progress….
Look, 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.

Finally underway as the sun sets ….
Out of the harbour walls, and that wind only gets stronger…
Goodbye Denmark, it’s been… interesting.

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!

On the Road Again!

We are finally on the road again. Write ups a few days behind our actual travels…


Our current aim is to do a loop through northern Europe and visit the Faroe Islands and Iceland, hopefully seeing the northern lights but really just experiencing a completely different way of life – 6 hours of daylight, subzero temperatures and getting about by boat should be sufficiently different, I think.

The first leg of the journey was from the home comforts of St. Albans, through London at rush hour, to Liverpool street, where we caught the train to Harwich, in order to board the ferry to Holland. Of course it would have been quicker and cheaper to fly , but wheres the fun in that?!

We were both adapting to our new backpacks – wheelie bags may be great for round Europe, but I find a backpack easier on my damaged back than the constant tug and lift of a wheelie bag anywhere other than the super smooth surfaces of hotel lobbies and airports. At least, once I get the damn thing on my back.

Loaded down with school books, my laptop (for schoolwork), and the numerous layers of waterproof and warm clothing we will need for this leg, plus the ‘emergency’ food because I am paranoid that Lauren might miss a meal (which as we all know leads to rapid meltdown), we navigated our way gingerly through Kings Cross and Liverpool street, at the height of rush hour, trying not to hit people with our bags, and boarded the train well in advance of departure. The train actually went through Maryland, the station that for a few years was the closest to home – which was a little odd. How my life has changed since those days.

On arrival at Harwich there is an exit directly from the platform to the ferry terminal, with a lift, which my knees welcomed after the homping up and down the tube with a ton on my back. I’m either going to be crippled or a lot fitter after this trip.

Excited to be on board and off on our travels again.

There were few passengers at the passenger terminal, as most people were crossing with cars, and there were also a lot of trucks crossing to the continent. Long distance truckers seem to be a hardy, hard drinking, lot and there seems to be a sense of camaraderie among them – those we came across on the crossing from Italy to Greece seemed to have the same brash approach to things as those on the UK-Holland ferry. They have their own separate areas on the boat, including a ‘tuckers only’ canteen and bar.

Having checked in we were taken by bus to the ferry, and climbed up from the car deck to where our cabins were waiting. I’d booked an outside cabin for 2, but we had been upgraded to a family room, which consisted of a double bed with a single bunk above it, plus another set of bunk beds. Everything was clean, shiny and new seeming. The shower was large, and the bathroom itself small but perfectly functional. There was also a desk and chair, a flat screen Tv, and controls for the room temperature. This was all pretty much wasted on us, as we dumped out bags and headed out for a quick explore of the boat before bed.

There were 2 restaurants, but we had already eaten and so we headed first to the shop, where I bought a cheap watch as mine had gone completely haywire, and Lauren spent some of her money on a magnet. She is collecting badges, magnets and postcards from every country we go to.

After discussing our travels at length with the bored Dutch guy on the till, we headed outside to watch the loading of the trucks, and enjoy the fairly chilly sea breeze. The outside area had a bar and even a volleyball pitch, but we were the only ones outside.

The ship wasn’t due to sail until 23.00, which was midnight Dutch time, and would dock in Holland at 0800 Dutch time so Lauren reluctantly agreed we should go to bed before sailing. While it would have been nice and romantic to watch the lights of the UK slowly disappearing into the night, I wanted to make the most of a day in Amsterdam, and Lauren was also starting with a sore throat, so pragmatism prevailed.

The next morning we enjoyed the approach to the Hook of Holland as the sun rose, mist hanging below us as we were overtaken by container ships and surrounded on both sides by windmills looming out of the gloom, cranes and all sorts of boats.


We docked dead on time, and after some pretty relaxed immigration and customs guys, were free to jump on a bus to the nearby town where we would continue our journey to Amsterdam.


Next: Amsterdam 



Italy to Greece by Boat


There is something so romantic about travelling from one country to another without the stress and artificiality of flying. We were both super excited about the prospect of crossing over from Italy to Greece by overnight ferry.

We pottered across from Naples on the west coast to the east coast of Italy on the train, through some beautiful mountains, and down the coast to just above the ‘heel’ of Italy. We stayed the night in the port town of Bari, which didn’t seem to have a lot to recommend it. There is a pretty ‘old town’ by the port, which is clearly either thronged with cruise ship tourists, or dead, depending on whether there’s a cruise in port. Being used to travelling in Africa, I probably overestimated how much of a margin we needed for everything and we could easily have got the train down the same day as the ferry, as instead we had a day and half in Bari, which was about a day and a quarter too much.

Anyway, it gave us a chance to stock up on vegetables after all that pizza, and we made a huge vegetable stir fry in the hostel – I think we fed half the backpacker community of Bari with the leftovers.

It was finally time to embark, and again, I had built in far too much time, as the checking in process took all of 5 minutes, and then we were on board hours before sailing. Mind you, this gave us ample time to scope out the best viewpoints and stake a claim to a table on the deck. Lauren was fizzing with excitement but after 4-5 full tours of the boat, she was happy to settle down on deck.

We also got the chance to watch the loading of all the trucks carrying goods (and live animals in a couple of cases) across to Greece, which was actually really interesting, seeing how the trucks were manoeuvred backwards into spaces with centimetres to spare.


On board there was an interesting mix of tourists (mainly young Australian backpackers travelling in a huge group and getting drunk on cheap booze and freedom) and hardened truck drivers (also getting steadily drunker on the cheap booze, ultimately ending up in a punch up in the restaurant later, much to Lauren’s amusement and my alarm).

Our cabin was tiny but functional, with a pull-down bed for Lauren above my bed and a teeny weeny bathroom. It was about the size and set up of the cabin we have booked for a 30-day crossing on a cargo ship from London to Montevideo in December, and given that within 2 minutes our possessions were liberally scattered over every surface and bit of floor, it did cross my mind to wonder how on earth we will cope on a longer voyage.

As we are currently working our way through the Corfu Trilogy by Gerard Durrell, Lauren was keen to see Corfu when we passed it. Luckily the woman at reception told her there was no point waking up at 5am to see it, as it would be dark and we would be too far away. I should have slipped that woman a tenner. Anyway, when we did wake up closer to 7, we were threading our way between beautiful outcrops and islands, and it was a pretty idyllic start to the day.

We docked just before midday in Patras, and again, I had planned a night here “in case things go wrong” and while it was a lively little place, surrounded by mountains and with a lovely vibe especially as it was Sunday and the whole town seemed to be out for Sunday lunch and a stroll, it would have been easy enough to get straight on to Athens the same day. Instead, we went for a late lunch (kebabs, of course) and then hid inside doing schoolwork for a few hours as it was nearly 40 degrees. We went for a stroll in the evening, enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a G&T worthy of my father (for me) and an early night, happy to be in Greece and excited about Athens the next day.


Next: Athens – The Acropolis, the Parthenon and will the Souvlaki be as good as mine???