This trip has been about a year in the planning, thanks to a brief glance at a post on Instagram, I suspect without social media it would have never happened at all, and all thanks to my Chef/Baker friend Richard Bertinet.
As my followers know, I have been to Richard’s cookery school many times, and had the pleasure to learn from some of the best UK chefs, and Richard had posted something about ‘Kitchen On The Edge of The World’ and Rick Stein, I was immediately distracted, what was Kitchen On the Edge Of the World?
I fired up the browser and started to search:
WHAAAAAT…….I searched some more and found my next bucket list item, but suspected this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, how would I find the money, it was a worthy investment. My sales had been good, I was over target, maybe I could make it happen.
So next was the challenging bit, explaining to your wife of 35 years:
A. You wanted to go to Norway
B. It’s going to be an ‘investment’
C. It will never happen, how can I justify etc………
So I showed her the internet advert, she knew how much I liked Rick, having spent a week in Padstow the previous year, two days at his Cookery School and trying the many restaurants which you can read about on a previous blog. The conversation went something like…. How much! You’re Kidding!, well I suppose it’s Rick Stein, and that bloke Valentine Warner who I have heard you talk about occasionally, the one that eats pretty much anything (yep, another food hero)! And Richard Bertinet is going, you know him don’t you, well sort of yes, he is a very good baker and runs that cookery school in Bath I keep going to, for the odd days cookery class.
I let the conversation at that, not saying anymore, it wasn’t going to happen so I would find something closer, and bit more cost effective and tried to put it out of my mind, which was somewhat challenging to say the least.
A week later and ‘The Boss’ suddenly said, hun, that food trip, if you do your target you can go, BOOOOOOOM, it was starting to come together but several months to go before I was in a position to actually book anything and feel confident that it was going to happen.
Over the next few weeks I began to think, The Kitchen on the Edge was Thursday to Monday, it made sense to try an add somewhere to make it a bit more of an experience, I am not saying its not in the slightest, it definitely is but If I was going to travel all that way it would be nice to see somewhere else and maybe eat some local delicacies, ah Tromsø, the most northerly city in the world, where people travel to ‘hunt’ Aurora Borealis, The Northern or Polar Lights (there is a southern version too), that’s the place.
I started to look at options, flights, modes of transport, things to see, do and eat and slowly an itinerary was starting to form. Fly to Tromsø first thing Monday, fly to Bodø first thing Thursday, depending on weather, either a Ferry to Lofoten or a flight, both were options and the timings allowed me to visit The Norweigan Aviation Museum and the Trade Museum before going to Lofoten, perfect.
Time seemed to stand still for months, still no view of target being met and the necessary funds to start my planning in earnest, it was all still a dream until one day the figures came in and I hade done it, over target and enough money to cover the trip and any extras I would need to make it all happen. I appreciate I am in an industry that does mean I can enjoy the odd luxury but my wife cannot work for medical reasons and our son has ADHD so money is not as easy to come by as you might think, but extremely hard work had paid off and I wear able to pay the deposit, if my band would actually let me!!
I went online and within minutes my account was FROZEN! What’s happening, I just want to transfer some money. I had to ring the fraud team and explain for half an hour, that it was a reputable company, I knew what I was doing, it’s wasn’t a fraud, i knew the people involved (Rick bloody Stein, isn’t he a little well known), eventually they cleared the transfer and confirmed future transfers would not be blocked.
For the next few months, apart from Christmas I had one thing on my mind, a place called The Lofoten Islands, a boutique family hotel called Holmen and Tromsø, a city I was going to visit. I remember the city (Paris of the North) from an episode of Michael Palins Pole to Pole, day 14 where he visited the city of then 50,000 people, MUCK actually Mack, a local pure beer which is brewed not far from where I am staying in the city centre and the Ice Cathedral, a modern shaped building close to the the Fjellheisen cable car, the first trip planned on my arrival.
I was determined to pack in a much as possible whilst in Tromsø so looked at Museums, Restaurants, Sight Seeing Trips in fact everything about the city that was for me, interesting and over the next few months I booked, flights, ferries, a hotel, restaurants so that when I arrived everything should fall in to place, and so far it has.
It’s currently Tuesday afternoon and as you can see from my Balcony (not many of those in Tromsø hotels overlooking the harbour, only 3 in the Hotel Clarion Collection Aurora) it’s snowing heavily. Markus Varik from Greenlander contacted me a couple of hours back, I am chasing the Northern Lights tonight and he wants us to leave at 17:30 instead of 19:00 as the weather is good in Finland!! More of that on the next blog.
I created a list of things I wanted to see and do, you have already had the chance to view Tromsø from the mountain overlooking the city (tick), prior to that ‘Rakketen’, smallest bar in the world and famous Hot Dogs (tick). It was very good by the way, and the evenings entertainment was my first restaurant Mathallen which I booked months ago.
The food was exceptional and ‘different’, a definite preference for a sweeter flavour was apparent but nonetheless the chefs excelled, producing plate after plate of delicious delicacies over a period of about two and a half hours. There was Salmon, Herring, Skrei (Cod), Beef Cheek, Duck and Pear with a wine flight perfectly matched to accompany definitely a memorable evening
It was snowing as I walked back to the hotel, and passed the Lutheran Church which looked completely different than I had seen it before, actually quite stunning, eery, almost spiritual I guess. Back in the hotel a quick brandy, I started to write my first blog of the trip and now I have to get my arctic gear on for our trip to Finland, more of that soon.
……………………….Until Next Time……………………L8ers………………….
Sounds totally breathtaking. How I wish I was there 😍. For now, I’ll settle for reading about it on your blog. Have a ball. ☘️🇮🇪
PS what a lovely wife – and sun – you have