While traveling around Europe, we stuck mostly to big cities and destinations that were easy to get to from London. Our major exception was my birthday trip to gorgeous Norway. This trip was a trek, but if you are looking for a place to completely get away from it all, our home away from home in Norway was about as far as it gets. London to Oslo, Oslo to Alesund, two ferries and a rental car will get you to a tiny village called Trandal, population 8, along Hjorundfjorden in the district of Sunnmore.
Our hosts, Jorn and Sarah, couldn't have been more accommodating. Their lovely house has an apartment on the ground floor that sleeps six and the views they advertise on their AirBnb site are not exaggerated. Both Sarah and Jorn work on the ferry boats that travel throughout the breathtaking fjords of Sunnmore.
As it was June, the sky never really darkened and midnight almost always offered clouds with hues of pink and orange. It can be difficult to sleep so if you do plan to spend time there in the summer and like a dark room at night, bring a sleep mask!
In and around Trandal there are various walks and hikes. There are only a few roads leading out of Trandal and none go very far but all offer stunning views.
To the West, you can walk to nearby village, Barlindneset. Along the way, you will see the beautiful houses and gardens of the locals. An interesting feature of some of them are the turf roofs. Some mossy, some grassy, these roofs offer stability and insulation.
To the North, you will come across a mostly uphill road (pictured to the left) that passes farms and sheep ranches.
To the East, Trandal boasts a tiny pub, Christian Gaard, that hosts an annual blues festival, Trandalblues. During the first week in July, we were told, the area is swarming with people and accommodation for tourists can be scarce, even in surrounding villages.
If you are interested in attending, you can camp in nearby village, Saebo, or try and find Airbnb accommodations in Trandal or Standal.
What we quickly learned about Norway was how expensive everything was, even compared to London. Ferry rides cost about £20 no matter the distance. The pub cost £25 per person just to get in with drink at £10 after that. The great thing about staying at Jorn and Sarah's was the big kitchen where we were able to prepare most of our meals. However, if we needed anything, we would have to leave Trandal to do our shopping in Sæbø across the fjord.
Rather than wait for the ferries that run a few times a day, Jorn let us use his boat to travel up and down the fjord and even try our hand at fishing. Unfortunately we didn't catch anything and it was so cold out on the boat, we quickly gave up anyway.
Saebo is only slightly larger than Trandal with a local post office and grocery store. Unlike Trandal, Saebo is connected to inland towns by road and offers camping.
From Trandal, our only excursion was to Unesco World Heritage site, Geirangerfjord and it's main village, Geiranger. While it may look close on the map, it is only accessible from Trandal by two ferry rides, the first Trandal to Urke, then a 2 and a half hour long drive, and the second ferry from Hellesylt to Geiranger. The village of Geiranger is quite a bit bigger than Trandal, with hotels, bars, restaurants and plenty of shopping. It would be a nice homebase for a visit to Western Norway if Trandal seems too remote. From Geiranger, we took a short hike to Losta to take in the stunning views of the fjord.
We then spent some time in the town exploring and shopping. The Norwegian Fjord Center is a beautifully designed space that offers you a chance to learn about the history of the region. It's also just a nice place to stop and have a drink and recuperate or warm up after a hike.
On our last day in Norway, we spent the day in Alesund, a beautiful city on the west coast that was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style after a fire burned the city to the ground in 1904.
Just walking around in this city is entertainment enough as you take in all the beautiful architecture. Visit the Art Nouveau Centre and Kube Art Museum while you are there to see some beautiful local examples of Art Nouveau design. Kube features local modern art in an airy modern building just adjacent and tickets can be purchased together at a discount.
Just before leaving we dined in the (now closed) Sjobua. Situated right on the water in an old fishing warehouse, the thick stone walls and low beamed ceilings made it an incredibly romantic spot. It boasted the reputation of being one of the best seafood restaurants in Norway and after failing miserably to find seafood to speak of in our various excursions, we could see why. The dishes were well portioned, classic dishes with incredible sauces - some rich, some bright - that paired very well with their accompanying fish. I tried the smoked whale for a starter and had a bream with caramel sauce that inspired me later to try and recreate it. It was sweet and savory, rich and mind-blowingly delicious!
I cannot recommend Norway enough and would love to go back and visit some day. It's a huge country with plenty to offer in the way of rugged outdoor beauty but, of course, I am now biased towards Trandal and Alesund. It's definitely worth the visit but be sure to plan ahead. This is not the kind of place where you can fly by the seat of your pants. Getting around requires knowledge of the ferry schedules and systems long winding drives to contend with. Go with an open mind and get ready to blown away by Norway's stunning beauty!