Monday, 31 March 2014

Norway 2014

I'm just back from a wonderful trip to Norway, tutoring the Northern Lights knitting cruise and I have to say that after the amazing trip its pretty tough being back at home - it appears that no one is prepared to cook breakfast lunch and dinner, no one to make my bed and hang up my towels and no one seems to want to do the washing up either! Even looking out the window to my garden I find that the view is a little disappointing in relation to what Ive got used to over the last 8 days and so I find myself in a bit of a post 'holiday' grump!

Day one of the trip, myself, 18 knitters, 3 artists, 2 added husbands, art tutor (lovely Mike Chaplin) and our tour manager Caroline set off to Bergen. We arrived at lunch time and no sooner had we arrived than some of the group managed to find one of the many yarn shops just behind the hotel. The weather was wet, but the intrepid group of yarn hunters were not deterred, many of them seeking out yarn and knit shops along the Bryggen and in back streets around the city to find an array of lovely yarns and garments. Deneen & Rosemary both bought an Oleana cardigan - something Ive been coveting for quite a while, but as yet have not saved enough pennies for. If you want to take a look at the Oleana web site then click on this link

We had a lovely meal at our hotel and an early night after our day of travelling. Day 2 was also spent in Bergen, where we were treated to a guided tour of the city, visiting all the sites around town and getting an insiders view of how things work not only in the town, but in Norway itself.

There are lots of yarn companies in Norway with many famous brands, but actually lots of the yarns are made in China or Sweden, so it was really great to find a store selling true Norwegian yarn. We managed to find a small shop specialising in local yarns and many of us felt that buying lots of hanks of it was too good an opportunity to miss! You can see more of the yarn range here and there is an image of the yarn shades I bought below:

Later on in the day we boarded our ship called NordNorge, which is one of the 11 ships that make up the Hurtigruten fleet - you can find out more about our ship's route by looking at the Hurtigruten web site here. It was really exciting setting sail later on in the evening and we all spent a bit of time getting our sea legs and exploring the ship which was to be our home for the next 6 days. We found a good knitting spot at the top of the ship and made it our daily base for our knit classes. The project I prepared was a knitted bag based on traditional Norwegian designs and included the fair isle and intarsia and the group also got to make Dorset buttons and do some beading.

We were lucky enough to have some fabulous weather - which was a huge relief as the week before had been stormy and wet. We were treated to some amazing scenery along the way and kept having to put our knitting down to gasp at the view.

We crossed into the Arctic Circle on day 5 and many of the group went on a trip to the North Cape - they rewarded themselves with apple cake, cream and hot chocolate on their return. The food on the cruise was plentiful (to say the least) and of a very high standard - huge buffet breakfasts with hot food, cheeses, smoked salmon and gorgeous fresh bread, followed by huge buffet lunches with an equally wonderful array of tempting foodie delights and a served evening meal which was beautifully cooked and presented.

Pretty much every port we called into had a knitting shop and the knitters did their best to fill their suitcases with yarn and patterns. One of the group (Pat) was incredibly prolific and not only completed the knitted bag project, but also worked on a hat and headband. There is knitwear and knitters everywhere in Norway and the choice in the yarn stores was huge. Most larger towns have a store called 'Husfliden' which sells home things like table mats and smart ceramics alongside national costumes (of which the Norwegians are extremely proud) and yarn. There is a link to the Tromso store web site here if you want to get an idea of what the stores sell.

Dale of Norway sell knitting patterns, yarn and made up garments. The garments are beautiful and the designs are just fabulous. Norway has a huge 'library' of traditional patterns, including the Marius design shown below and they also recently designed a sweater for the Sochi winter Olympics.

Arne and Carlos (those famous Norwegain designers) have also designed their own version of a Norwegian Sweater which features space invaders - not traditional at all, but great fun! 

All too soon our time on our cruise was over and we had made it all the way up the Norwegian Coast to Kirkeness and the Russian border - where we took pictures and played with this beautiful polar husky puppy. Our final day was spent on a bus tour followed by lunch at the Snow Hotel where some of us also got to go on a dog sled ride across the frozen fyord. It was totally amazing and one of the most incredibly and exhilarating experiences of my life so far. The dogs were incredible and so so fast - tearing off over the frozen ice at a terrifying speed.

I was so lucky to have the nicest group of knitters ever - including Deneen, Rosemary and Kathrin from Switzerland, Melanie from Germany and Lucy and Nancy from the US - the UK participants were a great bunch too and I don't think I have laughed so much in a very long time - thanks in particular to Mandy, Trudy, Wendy, Trixie and Fifi who managed to make everyone laugh until their sides hurt most of the time. Thank you to all of you for making it such a memorable trip and to Caroline too for looking after us so nicely.

I have my fingers crossed that the lovely guys at Arena will ask me to return to Norway again in 2015, so do keep an eye on their web site for more info. There are more trips for knitters including Shetland, Iceland and Ireland trips and I will be off to Shetland at the end of May with another group of lovely knitters.