Tag Archives: premier inn

Oslo 28th August 2014 (Day 1/5)

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

It’s 3:37am. It is dark, and it is raining. Not proper rain, of course; just that horrid grey drizzle, the kind that sits innocently in a layer on top of your clothes for ten minutes…before reaching critical mass and soaking in, drenching you more thoroughly than if you had run around in a proper storm. I am stood in the garish purple glow of the lights outside the Premier Inn, Gatwick A23. I am wearing – as usual – camouflage combat shorts and skate trainers, and for the first time since March, I am actually feeling like I may have misjudged my wardrobe.

I was waiting for a taxi, which was getting progressively later. I was due to fly out to Oslo that morning at 5:55am, and while my logical self had looked at the timescales and was doing its best to reassure me that everything was going to be fine, my risk-assessing self was remembering the horrendous queue to get through security on the way to Copenhagen, and the fuck up with the boarding passes on the way to Montpelier. The background whine of anxiousness was getting louder and louder.

After a disproportionately polite telephone call to remind the taxi company that I was waiting, a car arrived and whisked me off to the South terminal. The driver complimented me on travelling light, which instantly soothed my ruffled feathers, since it’s a bit of a point of pride with me; if it doesn’t fit in one rucksack, it’s not going.

I trotted through the terminal to security…where there was one person in front of me. Despite the fact that I forgot to take the liquids out of my backpack (because, you know, I don’t travel enough to remember…) meaning that the security staff had to go through my bag – very nicely, and almost apologetically – I was through in 4 minutes.

So much for worrying about not getting through in time. Fuck you, risk-assessing brain.

I took a slow amble around the departure lounge, and fuck was it hot in there. I’m not sure if they try to deliberately encourage germs to breed or what, but it was quite unpleasant. Most of the shops weren’t open at that stage, but there was a Costa Coffee and there was the bar, with the warm shiny lights and sports news. I decided that I wasn’t going to have a beer, which would have been traditional, and was very pleased with myself. Granted, it was only 4:10am, and that’s probably a little bit early, even for me.

Making Sensible Choices

Making Sensible Choices

I spent the next hour sat with my massive coffee, charging my phone, and quietly judging people. A mid-30’s couple with a pushchair sat down by one of the departure boards. She was very pale and tired looking, with her blond hair pulled back into an “It’s-4am-who-gives-a-fuck” ponytail. She was staring vacantly into the pushchair, looking largely incapable of thought, let alone conversation. He on the other hand looked positively relaxed. He was wearing a neatly pressed pair of bootcut jeans, with pointy slip-on brown shoes, a snappy polo shirt with a pair of wrap-around sunglasses hanging backwards off of his neck, and a hat that he had clearly stolen from the Man from Del Monte. He slid his arse forward as far as he could on the seat, sprawling his legs out far enough to be a trip hazard, casually leaning back with his hands clasped behind his head, taking a nap while his partner sat motionless, staring at the baby.

I bet he’s a prick.

Ooh, on a side note, in the hotel room last night, I had discovered a Gideon’s bible. I didn’t realise they still did that these days, but I casually tossed a challenge out to my friends via the medium of Facebook.

Gauntlet thrown.

Gauntlet thrown.

The response was fairly overwhelming, with some excellent ideas, but in my sleep- and coffee-deprived state, I settled on writing a new Foreword and Disclaimer.


I feel like I could have done better, but never mind. I will be more prepared next time.

Anyway, departure gate 51 was called and I headed off on a completely uneventful mooch. Flight boarding and takeoff was absolutely by the numbers, with the only unpleasantness being the woman sat on the other side of the aisle. She was really small and quite old, with exceptionally short hair. She looked like a Squirrel Monkey in sandals, and she was cheerfully picking at the skin on her feet throughout the safety demonstration.

Speaking of safety, apparently there are no calm and orderly departures from Norwegian airline planes…



No fuss, no trauma, no turbulence, no screaming children, and even the old lady stopped picking herself. It was all to the good, because my brain – being its usual assclown self – had woken me up at 0:50am and there was no way I could have coped with any level of stress whatsoever.

Scumbag Brain

Scumbag Brain

We touched down in Oslo Gardermoen in absolutely glorious sunshine. It was warm and bright, with a cool breeze, the sky was a crystal clear azure blue, and the drizzly misery of that morning was rapidly burned away. I bounced through the airport, grinning my tits off… and did in fact laugh loudly as an escalator slowly swept me down past a massive poster which appeared to show a load of statues in a veritable orgy of oral pleasure. I am perfectly prepared to accept that it might just be my mind interpreting it that way, of course.

I had pre-booked tickets for a bus to and from Oslo bus station, and I stood around the place where the timetable had suggested the bus would be going from. There was a large group of staff from one Finnish company all gathered around in the same place, although they weren’t waiting for the same bus I was. After the best part of 20 minutes had passed, risk-assessment brain was clearing its throat and saying “…are you sure you know what you’re doing?”.

Of course, the bus turned up on the dot of when it was due, the ticket I had downloaded onto my phone was absolutely fine, the bus was relatively empty and comfortable, and also had free Wi-Fi.

It was never going to go wrong, idiot.

It was never going to go wrong, idiot.

Fuck you, risk-assessment brain. I really need to learn to trust my own judgement more. Unless I’m very drunk. Then I shouldn’t do that at all.

I was struck by how much the outskirts of Oslo – where there was a load of construction work taking place on what looked like it might be some funky new office complex – looked really like the outskirts of Bergen. There is obviously a very specific style of building that is popular at the moment, all clever and full of shapes.

My ticket was supposed to be to the bussterminalen. I pressed the stop button (which didn’t light up, but I didn’t want to press it again, because I am a fool) and picked up my bag, shuffling to the edge of my seat in anticipation of the bus stopping. Which it didn’t. The bus driver slowed to a crawl, ready to stop, as I was poised to get up. Both the driver and I were waiting for SOMEONE to commit to an action. In any case, he drove straight past, and I ended out getting off at the next stop like that was what I meant all along. As it happened, it was way closer to my hotel, so I am taking that as a Win.

I was staying at the Smarthotel on St Olav’s Gate. I took a walk up to see if there was any chance I could check in early. There wasn’t. I guess I should have paid more attention to the “Want to check-in early?” option when booking…

Anyway, I went off to go and familiarise myself with the local geography. Oslo centre is remarkably easy to navigate, and once you know a few street names, it’s almost impossible to get lost. I sat for a little while in the sunshine by the fountain in Eidsvolls Plass, feeling utterly at peace with the world.

I am given to understand it was still raining at home. BAHAHAHAHAH.

I am given to understand it was still raining at home. BAHAHAHAHAH.

Utterly at peace, but for one statue, which was challenging my British sensibilities to their utter limits. The statue was of a satyr. With his knob out. Not just OUT, but also really happy to see everyone. There were streams and streams of tourists taking photos and posing with it, but I was way too busy politely ignoring it. I have therefore resorting to stealing someone else’s picture.

I… well, ahh… ahem… I still don’t know exactly what I am supposed to think about this. What is the correct response? Am I supposed to be aroused, intimidated, amused, admiring? I am too British to deal with this, damnit.

Something else that really struck me was the sheer volume of people begging for money. There were genuinely loads of them, you couldn’t walk 25m in any direction without seeing someone begging or trying to entertain for cash. They fell into two very distinct groups; 1) guys dressed as clowns and 2) the wives of Papa Lazarou.

Tired to sell me a magazine in the centre of Oslo

Tried to sell me a magazine in the centre of Oslo

The first time a guy walked past me going “Beep beep!” I was delighted. I thought that I had finally found a place were people were free to wander around and be clowns if they wanted. I figured out what was going on as soon as I laughed…and he immediately homed in on me like a magpie after Shiny Things. I gave him a £2 coin. Good luck with that, son.

I wandered through the town and down to the waterfront and the Opera house. You could actually SMELL the sea, and it’s funny how you realise that you missed something like that once you have it again.



Oslo itself reminded me a lot of Copenhagen in terms of the architecture, and little details like the pedestrian crossings, but it was really very different in the atmosphere and the way it felt. Copenhagen gives off the impression that is has been designed, like some kind of model village. Oslo has a much more organic feel to it, like it has grown up around the people and evolved into the space, much more like the slightly cramped and alive feeling you get from London.

Except Olso is clean.

In Biology lessons, we would occasionally use a piece of equipment called a quadrat. The idea was that you take it outside, lob it around, and wherever it lands you count all the insects, plants and animals you find inside as a measure of bio-diversity.

Never did I think that THIS would be the thing that I took out of Biology A Levels...

Never did I think that THIS would be the thing that I took out of Biology A Levels…

If you chucked a quadrat around in a town in the UK, inside it you would expect to find;

1 brown and greasy McDonalds bag
4 cigarette ends
1 crisp packet
24 pieces chewing gum, crushed
1 discarded lottery scratch card
12 pieces of broken glass
1 shattered soul

In Oslo – nothing. I genuinely looked, and all I could find were some cigarette ends, and that was seriously only a few, and all around benches where people would naturally be sitting. I even looked up at one point and the fucking PIGEONS were taking a bath.

Not even joking, this little dude is drying out after taking a bath in the fountain.

Not even joking, this little dude is drying out after taking a bath in the fountain.

There was a bit of military parade, with uniforms, horses and a marching band. I simply cannot hear a band like that without expecting them to break into the music used on the Monty Python TV series. I am fairly sure that marks me as one of a slowly dying group. Nevertheless, I was delighted that they had obviously chosen to honour my arrival with such a magnificent spectacle.

Floating hippies. Of course.

Floating hippies. Of course.

During my wanderings around the town, I spotted a pub called The Scotsman. Well, it would be rude not to!

Brings back terrifying reminders of my wedding day.

Brings back terrifying reminders of my wedding day.

I actually really liked it in The Scotsman. It was nice, and dark, and the beer was good. There were a couple of kilts up on the wall, and I am sorry to say I think I recognised the tartan. It might even be the McDonald tartan, but I don’t want to investigate that any closer. This pub really reminded me of a local pub in Northampton called the Racehorse…or at least how the Racehorse used to be many years ago, before it smelled overwhelmingly of piss.

The menu made me smile. Bangers and…potato salad? We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto.


To be fair, it all looked pretty tasty.

While I was sat there, I saw two different kinds of uniformed personnel ride past the front door on horses. It was a bit surreal actually. I am sure it’s more common in London, but in Northampton you only ever really see horses when they are being ridden down country roads – literally and figuratively – shitting themselves as cars have to pass them on tiny bends, which make you question the riders’ 1) judgement, and 2) will to live.

I was due to meet up with a friend in the evening, but I successfully managed to squeeze in another pint before going and checking in to the hotel. I did have an interesting conversation with one of the barstaff about language before I left, which made me challenge my own perceptions a little bit, but I will go into that in more detail at another point.

My room at the Smarthotel was small but perfectly formed. I, of course, utterly filled it with crap at the first opportunity. I had a bed, a desk, a shower, toilet and TV. It was clean and comfortable and cheap, plus the hotel was really conveniently located close to shops and public transport, and I would highly recommend it to anyone planning on going to Oslo.

I magically transform every environment I am in into a shit-tip

I magically transform every environment I am in into a shit-tip

All things considered, it had been an odd little day. Not least of which was probably due to having been awake for about 7 hours longer than normal. Ignoring that though, Oslo quite unexpectedly didn’t feel all that very different from home. Yes, of course there were differences in the details; the weather was brighter, the city was cleaner, the buildings were EPIC, and the beggars were just skating on the sinister-comedy side of reality. Also, I will genuinely never get used to cars actually stopping at pedestrian crossings. Freaks me the hell out, just wandering into the road and trusting that no-one is going to take your legs out.

It was easy to navigate, comfortable, and familiar. Part of my agenda for the trip to Oslo was to see if it was a place that I could live, and I could certainly easily do that. However, I hadn’t fallen in love with it in the same way that I had Bergen. I suppose that is obvious thinking about it, since Bergen is a) so very different to anything you can experience in the UK, and b) utterly, chest-squeezingly, fucking beautiful. I wasn’t going to jump to any conclusions though; I had another four days to spend in the city and see how I got on with it.

Anyway, later that evening, I had my first experience of the T-Bane, which is the Oslo metro system. It smelled just like the London Underground and I LOVED it. The hot, greasy, mechanical, recycled air smell… it’s just…phwoarr… excuse me for a few minutes…

Hur hur.... foreskin...

Hur hur…. foreskin…

Off to Copenhagen – 2nd June 2014 (Day 1/5)

About a month ago, when I decided I was nipping off to Bergen, one of my friends who had relocated to Copenhagen from Stavanger suggested I should go out and visit her some time. So I did.

My flight out from Stansted was at 7am, and working that backwards it would have meant leaving home at stupid o’clock in the morning. My sister had originally offered to drive me to the airport in the morning, but you could see the gradual dawning realisation as she worked out how far it was to Stansted… I made an executive decision to drive myself, and stay at the hotel on Sunday night – £80 for one night and 8 days parking, which frankly I think is pretty reasonable and cheaper than I was expecting.

Props to Premier Inn; really nice room, and there was actually a proper bath in the bathroom! I also had a chaise longue under the window which was perhaps a little excessive but pleasant nonetheless. Incidentally, the window did its job and kept out the road noise and the curtains even blocked out the light from outside – two things which cause me big problems when I’m sleeping. My favourite thing about the room had to be the air conditioning – which worked! I’m finding myself gravitating more and more towards colder temperatures these days, and having a nice cold breeze in my room was ace. I did consider moving in permanently, but then I realised that would put me a step closer to becoming Alan Partridge and I am not entirely comfortable with that.

I am going to take this opportunity to introduce you to three new brilliant things in my life;

Anker portable charger, Maplins USB power point, and Rekorderlig Apple and Guava cider.

Anker external battery, Maplins USB power supply, and Rekorderlig Apple and Guava cider.

The first and most important is the Anker external battery. After having read about my battery life issues on my trip to Bergen, one of my friends suggested that I needed one of these in my life, and he wasn’t wrong. You charge this bad boy up, and it contains enough power to fully max out the battery on a smart phone 4 times. It doesn’t lose power once it is fully charged, you can connect your phone up anywhere that you happen to be, and it fits nicely into your pocket. Well, into MY pocket at any rate, and that is all I really care about. I cannot recommend this enough if you travel around a lot. It charges off of a USB cable, which you can either plug into a PC or into the mains, which brings us neatly to…

The second new brilliant thing; the Maplins dual USB worldwide power supply. 1 plug, 4 interchangeable adaptor fronts for different areas of the world. Genius.

Last but not least, Rekorderlig Apple and Guava cider. Available from the bar at the Premier Inn. Nom nom and thrice nom.

Monday morning dawned. My alarm went off at 3:30am and I was genuinely regretting my decision to stay up and watch Resident Evil: Extinction. Damn you Milla Jovovich, encouraging me to make bad choices. Despite being tired and having a disappointing bacon experience at breakfast, parking was straightforward and well organised, and that pleased me. I drove over to Long Stay parking, dumped the car and fervently hoped that it would a) still be there when I got back and b) actually start again after 5 days of inactivity.

Sunrise over parking zone K

Sunrise over parking zone K

While I was waiting for the shuttle bus to the terminal, the sky was beautiful and I could feel the familiar fizzy-belly of travel excitement starting to build up. That wasn’t to last. Now, it might be fair to say that tiredness and the early hour had emptied my Patience Tank before I had even started, but I was not responding well to being surrounded by other people. I became aware of a current of underlying irritation during the trip to the terminal when it turned out that someone had leaned their bag – or themself – against a Stop button. The intermittent but constant beeping on the 15 minute drive scraped across my nerves like a small child playing a violin, with a hacksaw.

When we reached the terminal, Departures was way busier than I expected it to be for 5:15am. The queue to get through security snaked right the way back to the entrance, and everyone seemed to be determined to take up as much space as was humanly possible – which included wherever I happened to be standing at the time. After 30 minutes, stood watching for gate announcements, it felt as if my hair was stood on end like an angry cat’s tail, and the next person that walked into me or dragged a rolling suitcase into my ankles was going to get chinned. Thankfully they began announcing the departure gates for all of the flights and the crowd thinned out quickly.

According to the details on my boarding pass, the gate for the flight was due to close at 6:30am… At 6:25am, we were all still waiting in line to go through, and I was really beginning to raise an eyebrow about whether we were going to take off on time. Normally, I wouldn’t really care as long as I got on the plane, but since Jesper was going to meet me at Copenhagen, I didn’t want him to be stood around waiting, and I was starting to get even more irritable.

Eventually they started boarding people onto the flight, and it all felt hurried and chaotic, especially by comparison to my previous experience flying with Norwegian. I understand that there were more people on the flight to Copenhagen, but surely Easyjet had been doing this long enough to have developed a more efficient system?

…I was prepared to bet they didn’t have free Wifi on the flight either…

On top of everything else, they ran out of space in the overhead storage compartments, and were holding people in the aisle while they took their bags and boarding passes to move their hand luggage into the hold. The sense of disorganisation hung in the air like a bad smell, but despite the problems, they managed to pull it all together and we took off at 07:12am.

I have never really had any issues with Easyjet before, but that was when the only other airline I could hold up in comparison was Ryanair. Ryanair frankly are about the cheapest, bolted together Meccano set of an airline, and they pretty much stuff you into the plane and launch you into the air in the manner of a bored looking Medieval drudge yanking the lever of a trebuchet, while picking his nose with the other hand.

The overall experience began to improve once I was able to get my hands on some coffee. It was an interesting set-up; coffee in a bag. It was a bit odd, and took forever to brew to an acceptable strength, but perfectly drinkable and a much needed caffeine boost.

Coffee in a bag. Not, in fact, a carcass.

Coffee in a bag. Not in fact a carcass, as it might first appear.

There was not a spare seat on this flight. As I looked around, it struck me that a lot of the people were wearing suits or tapping away at laptops. I assumed that a decent percentage of the folks on the flight were travelling for work, and just as I had been on the train when I was heading to Gatwick, I was surprised. I never really consider working structures outside of my own, and I am amazed at the lengths that some people commute. I have a 12 minute drive in the morning to my own place of employment, and I find it mind blowing that other people will go through all of that on a Monday morning, just for work. I sincerely hoped that they were getting paid a shitload more than me.

One thing both Easyjet and Ryanair have in common is a somewhat loose understanding of geographical locations, to the point that after the first time I went to Norway, I created this;


Copenhagen didn’t suffer this problem, the airport was actually in the city where it was supposed to be, and that was in fact REALLY close to the sea. So much so that as the plane came in to land, all I could see out of the window was an expanse of waves, getting closer and closer. I trusted that they weren’t going to pitch the plane into the water but there is always a part of my brain that is imagining the worst possible outcome and playing it for me in HD.

Copenhagen airport itself was delightfully empty of people, an abject relief after the meat market that was Stansted. Jesper was waiting for me in arrivals, and it was great to see him again after 5 years. 5 YEARS. Seriously, where does time go? He didn’t look a day older either, which frankly made me more than a little jealous. He marched me off to the metro station attached to the airport to catch the train, which was all a bit of a weird experience for me; I would normally have fully researched all of the public transport links and timetables, and would have known where I was going and how the tickets worked. This time, I had abandoned all of that and just trusted in Anine and Jesper to point me in the right direction.

As it turned out, it was exceptionally straightforward; there were two lines that ran through the centre of Copenhagen, and everywhere I needed to be was along the line that ran through Øresund. All I needed to remember when getting on the metro was “Not the other one” – which was so simple that I was bound to fuck it up at some point. The public transport in Copenhagen was nicer and better organised than in Bergen, which I had been really impressed with. The roads however were a different matter entirely, but I will come to that later.

There wasn’t really all that much to see on the train, since the sides of the rail line were built up and shielded by massive metal sidings. What I could see however was really, really flat. The view stretched out in the distance for miles and miles uninterrupted.

I was staying with my hosts in a 5th floor apartment just off of the Amagerbro metro stop – and it was STUNNING. The 100 stairs up were a bit of a trial, but their apartment was so beautiful, it was worth it every single time I got up there. There was such a sense of lightness and space and serenity that I really started to review my own cave-like living arrangements, and wonder if there might be room to make some improvements.

I want this kitchen

I want this kitchen

Both Jesper and Anine had to work the first few days of the week, which worked out really nicely for me, because as much as I love my friends, I am an anti-social bastard at heart and quite like mooching around and discovering things on my own. As it happened on Monday however, I was so tired that I ended out staying in the apartment until they got back, I napped for an hour or so and also ended out terrifying their two Bengal cats. More on the cats later.

I was so pleased to see Anine when she got home from work, and we sat and chatted for hours. She had brought some Danish pastries back with her, one kind which was fairly typical cinnamon pastry baked with nuts inside (awesome) but she also brought a kind of cake called Brunsviger. Brunsviger was AMAZING and I ate way too much, but really couldn’t help it. It was like a kind of doughy bread, with a buttery brown sugar topping. Interestingly, everyone in the world calls this Danish Pastry…except the Danes, who call it Vienna Bread.

Pastries and Brunsviger. Shit-hot baking, right there.

“Hey, blame the Austrians; we’re not taking any responsibility for the diabetic comas.”

Anine had to leave in the evening to fly off for work for a few days. This left Jesper and I to take in a healthy evening supper (…KFC…) and catch up, talking the evening away until I was about ready to pass out from exhaustion. It’s amazing to me how tired I get when I am not drinking beer. There’s probably something worth thinking about in that…

The view from my 5th floor window

The view from my 5th floor window