Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Queen Saves the Day

Blogs are deceptive; actually, most reporting is.  Because there is always a lot that's missing from the picture presented. I know our life in Norway as portrayed here appears idyllic, and some days it truly is.  On the other hand, in the interest of at least partial full disclosure, let me tell you about a recent day that was a little less than idyllic. You'll notice that there aren't nearly as many photos this time, and not all were taken on the day I'm describing. I think you'll understand why.

First let me say that public transportation in Norway is excellent -- clean, reliable, punctual, accommodating of prams and bikes. We've chosen to be without a car this year and to use public transportation on a regular basis. Most bus stops have these signs telling you when the next bus will come. I find that amazing.

Several times I've seen day care center groups with strollers that seat 6 toddlers each taking a field trip via the bus. Buses and the subway are convenient and used by everyone.

Because of this reliability, one recent weekend, we decided to take the bus a couple of hours south of Oslo, to Sandefjord, for a two-day weekend. Sten had found a wonderful place to stay with meals and amenities in plenty as part of the package. In order to attend church there, we got up early to catch our bus downtown.  It was  just barely getting light when we left our apartment, towing our rolling carryon suitcase. The weather included pouring rain, and there was a fairly unpleasant wind blowing -- not the sort of day one would choose to wait outside for very long. 

Our first bus was on time, taking us to just in front of the city hall. 

From there, we walked 5-7 minutes to where we would wait for our bus to Sandefjord. Did I mention that since we planned to stay overnight, we were pulling a  rolling carry-on suitcase? And because it was raining, we each had an umbrella. At this particular bus stop, there was no shelter from the elements.   Lots of bus stops have them, but not this one, so we attempted to take shelter under the eaves of a nearby business. Also, for the kind of bus we were taking out of town, there was no electronic sign telling when the next bus would arrive (as in the first photo above). 

We noticed that there weren't many other buses coming by, and that there weren't many people waiting, which made us a little suspicious, but it was still pretty early. We had maybe 15 minutes to wait yet until our bus was to come. Meanwhile, we dodged the wind with our umbrellas and attempted to keep ourselves and our luggage dry. Did I mention that we were in our dress clothes as we planned to go directly to church when we arrived?

The time we expected our bus to arrive came and went. "Must be running late," we thought (which is highly unusual).  After waiting 20 minutes past the anticipated time of departure (in the cold, blowing rain), we realized we had made a mistake in looking at the online bus schedule. There are different schedules for Monday - Friday, for Saturday, and for Sunday. That fact had not been noticed, obviously. (For anyone interested, that last sentence is in the truncated passive -- often used when one wishes not to lay blame.)

"Oh well," we decided, "we'll take the train.  It's more expensive, but we'll still get there."  Getting to the train station entailed walking 5-7 minutes to the subway station (It was still raining and blowing, and we still had our luggage to haul.), waiting for the next train, and then riding a few more stops. Once in the central train station, we maneuvered our way through the crowds to the ticket machines to buy our tickets for the next train that was to leave in just a few minutes. The cost was more than twice the price of the bus ticket (Yikes!). We noticed that, though we had tickets in hand, the number of the platform wasn't written on the ticket. Since our train goes farther than Sandefjord, it's not necessarily going to be on the arrivals/departures board. We caught sight of a woman in uniform giving assistance to passengers. We waited our turn, asked our question, and were directed  to the right place. Running as fast as we can through the station and down a ramp to the outdoor platform,  we arrived just in time to see our train pulling away from the station. Ouch! "Can we get a refund on these tickets? I sure hope so." Not quite as quickly as when we came down to the platform, we headed back upstairs to where we bought our tickets. Fortunately, the person who helped us find the right platform was still there and able to use her keys to get into a locked office to refund us our tickets.  We're thankful. What now?

Since the central bus terminal is just across the street from the train station via an overpass, we decided to check on when the next bus would be leaving. After meandering through a maze of halls, escalators, and  finally the foot traffic overpass, we found the ticket counter for the bus station.  We're told there is no bus until the afternoon. Our cozy inn began disappearing from our future, and we realized that by now it's also too late for church in Oslo.

I'm sure you can image our state of mind by this time. Somehow there seemed to be a conspiracy keeping us from getting to Sandefjord for the weekend. We decided that we weren't meant to go  and headed back to where we catch the bus home.  

Something I haven't mentioned yet is that on our way going back and forth through the harbor area in front of city hall, Sten noted that a very large cruise ship was docked there.  He was sure it had to be something special because it was so much larger than the normal ones that come through every day. (If you have read my earlier post "Foggy Morning Walk," you'll recall that the boy in my husband is brought out by these ships.) Earlier, he was quite tempted to stop and see what the ship was, but he had resisted because of our tight schedule; however, now the day had no obligations. We got off the bus  and walked over to see the ship.

As Sten thought, it was indeed something special -- the Queen Mary 2. (Some lists of the biggest cruise ships place it 8th largest, others 7th largest in the world.  By length, it's the 4th longest. By weight, it is three times the weight of the Titanic.) My husband is thrilled. And I'm happy he's thrilled. He doesn't say so, but, I suspect that he might even think that missing our trip was somehow providential so we could see this ship. 

Does he look happy?  He was.

We learned from some passengers that they were in port just for the day, and they were to be back on the ship by 4:30 in the afternoon. I knew what to expect later in the day.  At 5:00, we walked to the waterfront by the Fram and Kon-Tiki museums.  It was dark now, and we hoped to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Queen Mary 2 leaving  Oslofjord.  In the distance, we saw the lights beginning to move. We watched in awe as this lighted city of a boat turned and headed out to the sea right in front of us. It's horn sounded deeper and longer than any we've heard before. Seeing her saved the day.

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