After the nightmare experience I had travelling to Montpelier, I wasn’t taking any chances with time, and the running out of it. I was flying from Gatwick, and I had found that there was a train that ran directly from Bedford, all the way to the airport – happy days. My flight was at 10:50am, so I made sure that I bought a ticket for the train that would get me there two hours before departure, leaving the train station at 6:54am. Bedford itself is only 20 minutes away, but I was still refusing to take any chances. I really don’t like lots of standing around, but it is way better than the alternative.
I set my alarm for 5:30am, but being me, I was of course awake at 4am. My sister had kindly offered to drive me over, and we left just before 6am. Half an hour and lots of excited squeaks later, I was at the train station, buying the largest black coffee I could find. I have developed a certain travel paranoia, at least on the leg out of the UK, and spent the next 20 minutes or so with a constant watch on the information board in case of delay/cancellation/apocalypse.
Not long after I got on, the train started filling up with grey, unhappy looking people brandishing laptops and Blackberries. It then clicked that this train was going through the middle of London, so I was going to be jammed shoulder to shoulder with the general public on their way to various office cubicles. I counted myself lucky that at least most of them were likely to have bothered washing that morning.
Normally on public transport in the UK, you are pretty much guaranteed that no-one is going to make deliberate eye contact or try to interact with you in any way, in case you try to steal their wallet. However, that morning, two gents on either side of the walkway started a loud and merry conversation between them. Not only was this shocking and unusual, but also incredibly irritating. It wasn’t even 7am and these two were gabbing away like they were friendly human beings. The nerve.
Thankfully I’d had the foresight to pack my headphones. I spent the next 90 minutes grinning like an idiot listening to Trollfest – Brakebein (cracking album – check it out; https://play.spotify.com/album/7IfCzUaJipeWPXlrdwJTp6 )
It greatly amused me to be enjoying myself so thoroughly while everyone else was commuting to work. Schadenfreude; a German word that sums up a large part of what it is to be British. Except I realised after two rotations through the album that what I was in fact doing, was caning my phone battery in the early stages of travel, with no guarantee that I would be able to charge it before I actually got to the hostel in Bergen. By that stage though, the source of the earlier irritation had left the train, so there was no pressing urgency to have an aural distraction.
I arrived at Gatwick Airport, straight into the South terminal, and immediately headed for departures, no messing. I only ever travel with hand luggage – it’s a point of personal pride – so once I was through the doors with two hours before departure, there was nothing left to do except get some breakfast…
I got a text from the airline – http://www.norwegian.com/en/ who are ace, by the way – to say hi, and tell me what departure gate I needed. I will repeat, they really are ace – if Easyjet did the same thing, half the trouble I had on my last international flight wouldn’t have happened *shakes fist*. I wandered through the departure lounge and into my gate, taking full advantage of all the available power points on the way to try and squeeze some more life into my phone. When I got to my seat on the plane, not only was I by the window, but I had a spare seat next to me, and there was free Wifi. Just when I thought it wasn’t possible to be any more impressed with a flying experience, they started playing Pingu cartoons on the overhead video screens ❤
I topped up with some Carlsberg and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The flight itself was an hour and 50 minutes – as someone who has flown to Australia, European air travel barely even registers.
As the plane started approaching Bergen, I had my face pressed right up against the glass, trying to take in as much of the Norwegian coastline passing underneath me as I could. It was already so gorgeous, it was making my belly fizzy.
The plane landed without incident, and then it was straight out, right into the awaiting Flybuss and off to Bergen. Not the slightest hint of any of the issues I had experienced in France, for which I was infinitely grateful. I did very shortly run into a problem which is a deeply personal issue for me, but which most people probably wouldn’t give two shits about.
3G. Oh my god the 3G, or lack of it. I had actually planned ahead and got myself a Norwegian pay-as-you-go SIM card in my spare phone, so I could keep tight control over how much I was spending. I have had absolutely horrific bills on my contract phone after travelling abroad in the past, and wasn’t prepared to do that again. Could I find a 3G signal?? Could I, bollocks.
So, sat in the middle of Bergen – which is astoundingly beautiful – slowly losing my rag with my phone/s. There was a complete absence of 3G signal, so I knew that it was due to a setting somewhere but without an internet connection to search for how to fix it, I was stuck. Eventually I just utterly lost my temper and went for a walk.
As it happened, I started to recognise street names from having looked at the map before I flew out. I was able to negotiate my way to the pub where Trollfest would be playing the next day, Garage on Christies Gate. Luckily, Bergen is incredibly easy to navigate.
I walked back to the bus station, and picked up my Skyss bus travel card, and then hopped onto the bus to Montana where I was staying in the hostel. Again, extremely straightforward to find my way around; I recognised the street names and within 2 minutes I was checking in.
The hostel was basic but clean, had free Wifi and I got to stay in MOTHERFUCKING BUNKBEDS. I love bunk beds. They appeal directly to the part of my head that is and always will be 8 years old.
I spent the next hour charging both phones, and learning a lot about Access Point Name (APN) settings on mobile phones, and with a considerable amount of guesswork, effort, swearing and eventual delight, I got both phones hooked up to 3G networks.
I was ready to face the world; phones charged and ready to deliver unto me the Internet, wallet full of cash, travel card in my pocket, and a firm idea of where the pub was. The simple things in life make me feel happy and alive.
The Garage in Bergen ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Garage-Bergen/122901644434721?fref=ts ) is quite simply home from home.
It’s dark and pleasant, plays good music and serves good beer. The bar staff are friendly, forgiving of my inability to speak Norwegian, and quite easy on the eye. I also discovered Brooklyn lager, which is amazing.
I sat and drank Brooklyn happily for about 4 hours, taking advantage of the again free Wifi and good atmosphere. I decided about 8pm that I was tired and should probably go home before I got too drunk to be able to leave with any sort of dignity.
I stopped in at a supermarket on the way back to the hostel to pick up some bread, cheese and what my limited Norwegian told me was chicken slices. I also picked up some beer, but was advised when I got to the checkout that they couldn’t serve alcohol after 8pm. For real. I was later informed by hostel staff that it’s 6pm on a Saturday. My brain is still struggling to cope with that as an idea.
Balance was restored to the universe though by having a vending machine with beer in at the hostel.
I retired to my room with my bread and cheese and beer, and started charging my phones again. I was really beginning to understand the toll that was being taken on the smartphone batteries. I was incredibly glad that I had bought two phones with me, if only for the fact that one did not have enough power to last for a couple of hours.
Then came perhaps the funniest and most ridiculous moment of the trip. Trying to get into the bunk bed. The ladder (which looked at first glances like a solid part of the bed’s construction) was tucked away down the side of a desk. “Pfah!” I thought, “I don’t need a LADDER to get up there!”.
So there’s me, in the pitch dark, half drunk, butt naked, trying to climb over an adult sized wooden fronted top bunk. I was going to boost myself up using my arms, but couldn’t remember how much headroom I had and didn’t feel much like braining myself. I ended out standing the bottom bunk, throwing my leg over the edge of the top bunk and doing some kind of combat roll into bed. I laughed my arse off at how much of a twat I was… and then proceeded to tell everyone else on Facebook too.