Friday, July 27, 2007

European Vacation

Yesterday I picked our car up at the shop. It needed a new computer for the ABS system-- which costs much more than a home PC, by the way. It also needed a little other work, since a few days ago it started randomly stalling. I don't know if this has anything to do with BMW reliability issues, or whether we were spoiled back in our Toyota days. All I know is that I have purchased used cars for less than the price of these repairs. I was a little nervous about leaving on a road trip to the Netherlands the next day, but the speedometer seems to be working, and the car runs great.

Today we set out today about 40 minutes late, after loading the car in wind and rain. There was room for a bike that I had disassembled-- in the car. During the drive down I suggested we purchase a roof rack. That idea was rounded supported by my wife. I might actually buy it in the Netherlands. Our drive down was mostly rain-- except when we took tours of Norway's countless tunnels. Seriously, they are everywhere. I have no concept how many there are. We stopped and met some friends in Flekkefjord half way to Kristiansand-- where we were to meet our ferry to Denmark.

We arrived at the ferry landing an hour before departure, and were queued up, waiting for it to arrive. We were told that it was running late-- two hours late. There were cars everywhere waiting for ferries. A massive ferry was moored nearby. We were scheduled on an express boat--only 2.5 hours to Denmark. The plan was to spend the night in Denmark, head south through Germany, find a place to spend the night, then roll in to visit our friends in the northern Netherlands sometime on Sunday. It was the perfect plan.

Since the ferry was running late, I suggested we grab a bite downtown Kristiansand, an easy walk within sight of the ferry landing. We checked with the ferry staff, who suggested we return by 18:00- when it was scheduled to arrive (three hours late). We grabbed a bite at a decent restaurant. I was not feeling particularly relaxed, since we had to return to our car by 18:00. Lise was uneasy. She told me she had a bad feeling about the ferry, and wanted to reschedule. I was quite annoyed. I don't get seasick, but I don't do particularly well in big seas. I know that out in the open ocean, waves can easily be larger than houses. I have a system for dealing with it, but it is not something I look forward to. I had been anticipating nasty seas all afternoon, and was ready for them. Waiting until tomorrow was unacceptable. Lise's concerns were compounded by her father, who phoned to voice his worries. He could not have called at a worse time. My reasoning was based on the fact that ferries would not put passengers in danger-- that if it was too rough, the ferries would not be running. My larger concern was that it would be impossible to find a hotel tonight, in the height on tourist season, in southern Norway, on a Friday night. Lise's concerns were about Julian, that if the ferry was already late, it would arrive even later--- would definitely not be some express 2.5 hour trip, but could easily be twice that. That could put us in Denmark at midnight.

As we walked back toward the ferry landing, essentially arguing about what to do, Lise said she just wanted to drop in and ask about the delays. It turned out to be the best thing she could have done. We found out that our ferry was canceled. It had been decided for us. The next ferry was scheduled for 10pm- but there was no guarantee that would depart. She rebooked on a morning ferry. When we arrived at the landing, I realized that all the cars queued up for the other ferry line were still there--- they had canceled all ships. As we approached our car, we saw our Color Line ferry pull in. Everyone in our queue entered their cars, anticipating they would leave soon. We knew better. I managed to wiggle out of our parking spot. We were in one of the few spots where it was even possible to escape, since most lines allowed no such room. I managed to drive against a one-way street and leave the endless wait behind. No one was updating any of the drivers waiting to leave. We were free.

We pulled into a nearby parking lot, and Lise immediately started phoning hotels. There were no vacancies anywhere, except a few single bed rooms. After extinguishing our list, I offered to sleep on the floor-- as long as we had somewhere to spend the night. When Lise attempted to recall the hotels, she couldn't even get through. We expanded our quest for shelter to include cabin at campgrounds, and accommodations in neighboring towns. Nothing was available. Julian was upset. I was stressed. Lise phoned a number to a vacation apartment in a nearby town, and found no vacancy. The proprietor mentioned that he had an apartment in Kristiansand that was available. As a coincidence, we were in Kristiansand. We took it. We were given directions as we drove. It was a little strange, it it was our only real option.

We ended up with a very nice apartment-- at a price cheaper than a fancy hotel room. We leave tomorrow at 8:15am. I later found out that the wind around here was 18m/s-- which is very near storm velocities. We are rebooked on a regular massive ferry-- not one of the smaller, express ferries. It will take twice the time--- and I would imagine four times the time to load and unload all the vehicles. At least we have no real timelines. It does raise concerns for our return-- I have work meetings the Monday after we return to Norway. I wonder how all the other passengers have coped with the ferry "irregularities." I guess we ended up with good bad luck. Our landlord told us that he received about 20 calls right after we phoned.


EuroCrash said...

Free advice of the day: Don't take the Eigersund-Hanstholm ferry during x-mas time.

lectron said...

Guess I should have mentioned that we spend much of the summer just outside Kristiansand (Brekkest√ł, Lillesand) and that we would more than pleased to have some guest coming over. We have two extra bedrooms to spare.

Next time. Give us a call ;)