Monday, July 23, 2007

The Canada files

That's right folks, here I am, on holiday with my man. So, first off, here's my never-been-camping-or-without-access-to-a-hairdryer-for-more-than-24hrs guide to camping in the wild, beautiful north of Canada.

I am so sorry not to have posted in so long, this is my holiday from the ship, and, to be honest, other things always seem to come up when you're on vacation. But now, in lovely not-so-sunny Dorset sitting with my man while he re-blisters up his fingers via bass-guitar (being a musician must be one of the only professions for which the callouses on your fingers are most definitely encouraged) I will recount my time in Eric's home-country in the form of a guide.

1) Campsites in Canada are seriously spacious compared to England. And you can have fire!

1a) This is a cone-shaped fire, tried with relative success by Eric. He wasn't entirely happy with it, as you can see, and ultimately better for the size of wood we had (larger chunks of pine and maple, maple is harder, heavier and so slower-burning don't you know) was

1b) The criss-cross stacking technique as shown here, on his second attempt the following evening.
Our site in Mont Tremblant, part of the Sepaq institution of beautifully maintained national parks, consisted of a fire-ring, a picnic table and plenty of room for our two tents, plus the marquee we put up.

2) This is the out-house. No, it didn`t have a flush facility, and I learnt quickly that on many occassions a secluded spot AWAY from any other tents or walkers was a more pleasant option.

3) You can bring walking sticks, they're useful for longer walks or walks involving steep hills like our trip up to La Roche, here we are somewhere near the top. Sadly, I hadn't yet worked out that you actually lengthen the sticks before you start walking.

4) You should most definitely bring chairs. They`re good for sitting by the fire, and also on the beach where you can get your boyfriend to perform reflexology on your feet.
5) Putting up the tent, and any shelter facilities you have is usually done at Beer o'clock.

6) Staying in a tent of this size requires you learning to master the skill of horizontal dressing.

7) Stay alert. In and around the campsite you may see all manner of wildlife. I found tadpoles the size of my fist (bullfrog babies), chipmunks, tiny toads, deer (I love this picture of Celine, see the deer just off her shoulder?) and sadly no wolves or bears but that doesn't mean there wenren't any!

8) Pointing is allowed on walks providing it's justified. Also, take a sketch-pad, this kind of scenery will make you think of that man on cable who used to have a programme called "The Joy of Painting" ("So many happy little trees")

9) Take hooded tops for the evening. It keeps the heat in and it's just a camping thing.

10) In mountainous regions, mobile phone reception is scarce. Even on long walks, be prepared to take calls from family while you can!

11) If at all possible, all family should be around. And your boyfriend.

12) ALWAYS remember where the car keys are.

13) Um, yeah....

14) Canoeing, walking, swimming and all such outdoor persuits are rewarding and fun, but it does all get you very tired at the end of the day.

15) The dismantling of the tent should be done preferrarbly (make that MUCH MORE preferrably) in clear weather, and at Beer o'clock as before, even if Beer o'clock happens to be significantly earlier than any previous experience.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The $20 Kebab

Yes, really. In Norway, Alesund to be exact, this passes for that well known English (yes, English!) post-pub-crawl institution, a donner kebab. That's right, there are chips ('fries' to those from the States) in that polystyrene package. It doesn't even come in a pita bread with optional hot-sauce. But the real kick in the preverbials comes when you look at how much one of these sets you back. 100 krone, or £10, or $20.

Eric and I ate it on a park bench, and shooed away pigeons as Eric yelled "For $20, you're getting NOTHING! I GET IT ALL!" Yes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Eidfjord...Eid walked for ages looking for Viking Graves, more like!

Eidfjord, where we’d wanted to rent a canoe, turned out to be, well, a disappointment in a few respects. Of course we still managed to glean some goodtimes, we still rocked it (I'll explain later) but the canoe thing just doesn't seem to want to happen for us.
It’s pretty, and misty, and those who rent canoes want to brief you on how to use them, but they don’t like to rush to get to you. The guys who wanted to rent to us were 20 minutes away from the kiosk we’d gone to and paid to rent one from, apparently, and although we’d already paid around 400 krone, we asked for our money back and went for coffee and to rethink our plans. On the way, I saw my dream Wendy House. Should I ever have kids, I want them to have one of these. Then there was this sign, which tickled us. After a quick coffee and some Firklover chocolate in this cute coffee shop, we ran into Stacey, (whose blog can be read by following the link on the right of the page under “Read this Blog!”) who told us there were Viking Graveyards a mere scenic walk away. VIKING GRAVEYARDS! My heart was set on it, imagining ancient, maybe petrified wooden crosses and the horned helmets of fierce Viking warriors strewn nearby or placed as sepulchres marking out the buried heroes.
We set off on what looked like a fairly elementary walking trail. It was gorgeous, with white water rapids and wild strawberry patches, and this calm, serene clearing where we skimmed stones on the glass lake, until this group of fishermen and women whistled angrily at us to stop disturbing the fish.
It was soon after then that we made our fatal mistake, we took the advice of another fellow crew-member, to “not even look at the map” and listen to his directions to get to the graves. These involved, amongst other points of interest, meeting two men in a handmade boat with a big red Nissan truck. He said at first, we’d wonder what we’d gotten ourselves into, but it was worth it, and that if we saw a black horse, we’d gone about as far as it was worthwhile to go. I began feeling like I was in an episode of LOST.
We set off with renewed enthusiasm. Two men, handmade boat, red truck, check. Turn left and see upward trail through grass and bush, check. 20 minutes of climbing later, upward trail disappears somewhat, eventually to nothing but these stones (yet Eric sees a rope to scale the cliff-face further up) and we know we’ve gone wrong. Surely these are not Viking graves....
There would be no grave sighting today, time was running out, and we were not sure of our map location any more…
We made it back, singing the well known Scarrott tried-and-tested, down-but-not-defeated walking song “Nothing Compares to You” made famous by Sinead O’Connor. Eric left me to go to rehearsal, with all the unused canoe money to spend in the one souvenir shop that Eidfjord has to offer, and I bought him a couple of stickers, one of a troll and one showing two moose, er, together, for his electric bass.
That night, you see, I was to guest-sing the Four Non-Blondes hit “What’s Up?” (but known typically as “HEY, Yeah, yeah-eh-eh!” or “What’s Going On?”) in crew bar, with Eric playing as part of a crew jam in which the Galaxy Orchestra band plus another one of the ship’s bands would play.
Now, I know that he played this song on his very first ever professional gig, so I didn’t want to mess it up. All photos came out badly, it was a tough light, but it went well by all accounts, and I did manage to get a few photos of my man, rocking out in a bass solo or two later on. These are the nights one remembers for a long time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Buying Bergen's beverages breaks Becky's Bank-balance

Bergen is bigger than many of the ports we’ve docked in recently, but it’s still Norway. Norway is the richest country in the world, and it shows. They charge SO MUCH for everything. Apparently taxes are high too. I mean, you get a beautiful, picturesque country in return, but it’s SO EXPENSIVE!

Clearly, they spend money on more artistically detailed road-signs here. I love the male pedestrian's jaunty hat. So did Eric.
The big thing to do in Bergen is to take the funicular up 1000 ft from sea-level to experience the views. Here we all are, Wolfie, Rachel, Carla, Juan, Eric and myself, about to go up. We were waiting, because for 70 krone each, that’s £7 or $14 for a 10 minute trip, I’m making sure I get a seat!
The views were beautiful. Here’s the ship. I bought a cider in the cafĂ©, £5 or $10. Here we all are, in the gorgeous sun and with a beautiful view but clutching at our purse strings.
Eric, Wolfie and Juan left us at this point to climb a little further up, leaving Rachel, Carla, Matthew and I to our own devises for a few hours.
We managed to change money in the local post-office, and changed it all together so as to avoid incurring the 75 krone (£7.50, $15 for changing any amount!!!!) charge more than once.
We spent some money on chocolate, and then stopped briefly in the pedestrian street to see this capoiera performance. I love the musical instruments and the singing involved, plus you can see the elements of self-defence as well as the principles of break-dance that seem to be demonstrated. After that, we went to another bar to wait for the guys, spending 84 krone each on a bloody mary (by this point I’m sure you can do the math!)... Then we had another. This is what an £8.50 bloody mary looks like, complete with drinkers. Luckily, I found a 50 krone note in the street with no takers, so added it to the pot.
The boys returned, and after a while, Eric and I headed off to the fish and flower market, where we hoped to find an affordable dinner.
We tried whale-meat, this woman is chopping it up. It’s dark and tasted faintly like tuna steak. We had an oyster each, this was my one, freshly shucked and gorgeous, for 50 krone each. It was STILL worth it!
Then we had a prawn roll and a salmon roll which were slightly less expensive but less tasty before heading back. We also got ice cream for the walk. On the way back, we saw these wonderful warped timber housing structures, all part of the hanseatic Norwegian heritage site, and walked around them.
I like it here, I just can’t afford it!