STN-TRF Way back in 2009

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STN-TRF Way back in 2009

Post by Sealink on Wed 26 Nov 2014 - 21:42

So, another Ryanair trip. Would this be the one where it all went wrong?

I made the mistake of going out to Watford the night before, and didn't get home to 1.00am on the morning of 13th June. I was determined to get to Stansted Airport using public transport only, which meant leaving the house at... 0245am. So with about an hour of sleep I ventured out in the warm, clear night.

There's something very reassuring about a bus timetable that is so specific that it says that the bus will arrive at 0257hrs. And it's doubly nice when, at 0257hrs, a bus appears. I don't know why that is, but it gives me a warm glow. The NightBus was only to get me as far as Brixton Hill, where I would catch another to Liverpool Street Station, and that connection worked too, the N133 being seconds behind N137 that I was on. The journey to Liverpool Street was as expected - full of revellers and drunks and clubbers, all very good natured but a bit loud. The journey was uneventful and I got to Liverpool Street at 0400hrs, for the 0410hrs non stop to Stansted Airport.

Some observations - the ticket machines at Liverpool Street are bamboozing to most people, who don't know about the seven thousand possible fares to Stansted. Wink There was a man at the barriers selling tickets too, but the barriers were open anyway, and there were no ticket checks at any point.

They decided that the best place for the 0410hrs train would be right at the far end of the platform. The train was busy. Usually about now, I would post a picture of how dirty the train was, and you're probably thinking 'He's forgotten. Or maybe it was clean?'.

No, on áboth counts.

The first train from Liverpool Street

Stansted Express now has shiny new trains, and now charges ú24.50 one way

We got to Stansted on time (the express taking 50 minutes, for some reason) and there we joined the queue for security.

From the queue to the shops took about 15 minutes - and while I was fine, my friend crossed the rudest, most bad tempered security person I have ever seen. I know the job can be stressful, but this was beyond the pale. It was like she was herding sheep rather than people, and I was relieved that I had been seen by someone who was a bit nicer, but in context that is not saying much. All the security people in our queue seemed to have a very condescending attitude, which was not pleasant at all. It's a tough job, but why make it tougher by antagonising people? My friend is pondering whether to complain formally, so I won't go into details.

Gate 87 for us today, my last three flights have been from this island, it's quite an easy walk too. We always wait until the very last to board, and today was no exception.

Boarding was quick-ish, there were no priority boarders today, and the staff were really lovely. I printed out my boarding card on blue paper as I had run out of white, and the Ryanair said 'Thank you - it's nice to see a bit of variety!' and walked with us to the plane. At first glance it seemed very busy, but then you notice that there a lots of rows with just one person in them, and even with us being the last to board, we got a row each.
Classical music was playing, not the usual Mr. Superfly...!

The flight was very nice, the crew we had seemed to love their job (even at Ryanair!) and it was a very relaxing flight, believe it or not.

The approach to Torp is fantastic - all of a sudden, from the frigid North Sea you fly above the rugged coastline, the sea dotted with islands, and intensely green farmland.

We landed at Oslo Torp 15 minutes ahead of schedule (queue fanfair) and were through security and passport control in minutes.

We had no intention of going on a bus for two hours to Oslo, so we headed into Sandefjord instead.

Public transport to places other than Oslo is a bit flakey, we ended up sharing a taxi with four ladies on a day trip too, and they like us had discovered that the train from Torp to Sandefjord is every two hours and we'd just missed it!

Moving on, Norway is eye-wateringly expensive. But the sun shone all day (that far north it really means all day!), the people were lovely, and the scenery breathtaking.


The return trip would prove to be more eventful...
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Re: STN-TRF Way back in 2009

Post by Sealink on Wed 26 Nov 2014 - 21:44

The Voyage Home


The forecast for Sandefjord, according to the BBC, was for light to heavy rain. I texted my friend Su: 'Best bring a coat, just in case.'

The BBC was wrong. We reached the little harbour, at 1000am, and it was already very hot. We wandered around the parks, harbour and shops, before sitting down in a little cafe for a coffee (7) and omelette (11.00). Now, don't worry, I am not a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I would happily pay the same prices again, because we had a magical day in Norway, and the sun shining was a welcome bonus. Just that morning, we were jostling for a table at Pret at Stansted, and now, here I was enjoying a fresh cappucino and a rather tasty omelette - at the top of Europe (almost!)...amazing, really.

Sandefjord Harbour

Whaling Memorial

Our breakfast venue

One of the local bands

As we wandered about the town, we heard a band start up. There was a small concert in the town square, and that seemed to be as good a place as any to have a rest.

As the bands played, and the sun got hotter, the grass got comfier, and the previous two nights travelling caught up with me, I fell asleep. All was well with the world. My friend went off exploring, discovering some bellringers a few streets away, leaving me to doze with all the locals in the town square.

I got red. Very red. I was glowing I was so red! Still, we had six hours to go, so we took a walk to the train station, to catch a train to Larvik. We did have the option of sailing to Sweden on a Color Line ship, which tempted us, but we decided that it would be rude to Norway to do that.

The train station was very clean, the fares structure very easy, the ticket machines laughingly simple. ONE FARE! Just ONE! And it's double for a return trip! And if you are going back to a different station, the machine can do that!

It was NKR 100.00 to Larvik, about 10, for a twelve minute journey.

Here is the train station:

The Norwegians have an ingenious way of making railway stations accessible to the disabled. The platform dips in the middle, allowing wheelchair users to cross. No footbridges, no lifts required. Mind you, this line has a very light service but it's a wonderfully practical solution.

Inside the train, the seats were comfortable, and at every seat there was a strip of tear-off bags for rubbish. The train, while not the Orient Express, was fairly clean and tidy. It also had a coffee vending machine built into the wall by the door, but I have no idea what the coffee tastes like!

The scenery was intensely beautiful, lush farmland, woods and distant valleys passed speedily by until we arrived at Larvik, the next town on the line.

Larvik Station

Larvik is a little seaside town, where a Color Line ferry to Denmark leaves daily.

We never ventured into the town, on a day like this it seemed strange not to go to the seaside, which was so alluring - with rocks to clamber over and views to be had in every direction.

We both went to the park near the harbour, and fell asleep in the baking sun, a gentle but persistent breeze cooling the air ever so slightly. We awoke to catch our train back to the airport, and reached the station at 1850hrs, for the 1924 train...

The was a train at the station, so I presumed that this would be the one to the airport. It left 'Out of Service'. The station attendent, in broken English, told us that the bus would be over there. I wasn't in the mood for a bus, so told my friend to be patient, the 1924 would be here soon. If this was the UK, the following words would should now have been flashing in my head 'Rail Replacement Service'; but it wasn't the UK it was Norway, the sun was shining, and the train would be here soon.

It wasn't. I went over to the station attendent to ask when the next train was 'It wasn't a train, it was a bus' he said. 'There's no more trains tonight'.






I know! I'll get the bus. There's bound to be a bus to the airport! I studied the timetable. No bus there either.





A taxi... was how much? The airport is over there! You can almost see it.... NKR 600 was about 60.00. But it was the only option. Now where was an ATM?That issue was neatly sidelined as the taxi had a credit card machine, so I handed over my plastic, non-chalantly, while inside cursing my stupidity.

On the plus side, this did give us a chance to see a little bit more of the country - and again, that rolling farmland and lakes and forests was as beautiful from the road as it was from the train.

The taxi driver was quiet, but polite (a Norwegian trait, maybe) and got us to the airport in time.

As he left us at the drop off area, I put my hands in my pocket to get my boarding card, and realised.... my wallet wasn't there.

My wallet had my Oyster cards, credit cards, train tickets back to London, GBP 50.00 and NKR 300.00! A frantic search of my coat and pockets, Su's coat and pockets revealed nothing.

I had it in the taxi! I remembered that much. I had the taxi receipt - now what was the flipping code for Norway? 55? 40?

My friend Su didn't help by laughing uncontrollably at this, but she did manage to let me know that the code for Norway was 47.

I called the taxi company, the asked me for the taxi number, which I am able to get. 'Let me call him'.

A few seconds later 'He is on his way back to the airport, he wasn't that far away'. A nailbiting five minutes passes.

The taxi appears. 'I saw your wallet...' but now he can't find it.

I am a little manic. Su is suppressing her giggles.

There is nothing on the backseat. 'Hmmm, this is strange' he says, 'It was definitely here'

He pulls up the cushions, pushes the front seat forward, and has a really good rummage. Still no wallet.
If I wasn't glowing red I would be, er, glowing red. I feel really really stupid - firstly for missing the bus and now this!

And then I see it. My wallet has slipped all the way down to the front passenger seat. Inside everything is intact.

I offer the taxi driver some of the NKR, but he won't hear of it, nor will he take any more money for his interrupted journey home.

So, we head off into the airport, and join the queue for security.

A very pleasant, and actually, we both note, very handsome man checks my things. He is impressed with my green check-in slip, and the whole process takes seconds. He is polite, smiles and I swoon a little.

All the security staff are polite and smiley.

It has a few shops, a bar and a Duty Free area - even with Norway's non-EU status, it's not that cheap, but I did pick up a bottle of 'VikingFjord' Vodka for a tenner. It's made from glacier water, don't you know, and won a Gold Medal at something. Javelin, maybe. At the very least, it's in a nice bottle.

The airport is actually lovely. It's one of this breed of small European airports that manage to combine functionality with a little bit of style. I think it's the windows that do it. And the little imaginative swirls here and there.

The airport is mainly used by Ryanair, Wideroe and Wizz. But KLM was visiting too...

And so, after our full day in Norway, it was time to leave. Our day of laughing and almost crying; a day of music, a day of lazing in the hot Norwegian sun, a day of beach walking, train travelling, taxi-sharing, of having beers by the sea and our photographs taken by bemused locals, and most of all, a day of exploring was at an end.

Passing through passport control, for the first time ever I asked for a stamp, and the controller duly obliged, smiling.

We reached the gate with twenty minutes to spare.

Ryanair, with it's 188 seater Boeing 737-800, selling seats from 1 including all taxes, managed to find 48 people to travel on the 2215hrs to London.

We took off on time, the Ryanair staff reassuring me, after my earlier mistakes that I was indeed on the Stansted flight. They seemed a happy bunch too, shortly after take off while I was nodding off, one of them came over and said that I was welcome to stretch out over the two empty seats next to me (Su had nabbed a row to herself too and was already asleep)...

I managed to get a couple of pictures before tiredness overcame me. This seems a fitting one to end on...

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