Robert Hampton

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1st July 2015

Norway José
Posted by at 9.27pm | No responses | Out and About

Ryanair planes

The first half of June was a stressful month. My ongoing Open University studies – already sucking time away from me like a Star Trek: Voyager anomaly – culminated with an End of Module Assignment, Exam and Tutor Marked Assignment all due within ten days of each other. I managed to finish them all on time (although how well I’ve done on the exam remains to be seen) and felt rather pleased with myself. All it required was the complete abandonment of all activities outside of work and sleep (and sometimes I skimped on the sleep, too).

The whole experience left me drained. I needed to relax, unwind, recharge my batteries, discharge some tension. But how to do so? Killing sprees in the office are frowned upon. Even a hot bath, filled with the most ridiculously large fizzy bomb I could find in Lush, failed to do the trick. I needed a holiday.

Anticipating this, back in April I’d started looking around for somewhere to go. This highly scientific process consisted of me looking at Liverpool Aiport’s destination map and choosing more or less at random. The destination for my summer 2015 weekend away would be… (drum roll) Oslo!


It wasn’t just the cheapness of the air fare (a princely £14.99 each way); Oslo’s attractions were many: it’s a beautiful city, steeped in culture and history, and you can spell it by putting 0.750 into a calculator and turning it upside down. The final discovery – that Oslo Pride would take place during the final weekend of June – sealed the deal. I was on Ryanair’s website to book the tickets faster than you could say, “No, I don’t want the optional travel insurance and why is it so hard to find the option to deselect?”

I was travelling alone, and I was worried. My solo trip to Berlin last year had largely been a success (despite the ludicrous seven hour delay to my outbound flight). However, I’m still an anxious traveller and a host of worst-case scenarios started playing out in my mind. A missed plane, lost passport, an international incident caused by a language misunderstanding – all seemed scarily plausible.

Perhaps those worries are why I turned up ludicrously early at the airport, and got through security and into the departure lounge still with 80 minutes before my gate was announced, and one of the first people on the plane.

Fears started to evaporate towards the end of the flight. As the plane descended and burst through the cloud layer, the Nordic countryside below looked amazing.

Norway from the Air

Yeah, this might not be too bad.

We touched down on time, but that wasn’t the end of the story. This being Ryanair, of course I was only slightly closer to Oslo than when I departed. Flights from Liverpool land at Torp Sandefjord, a small regional airport approximately 110 kilometres (and a 1 hour 45 minute train journey) away from Oslo.

A long train ride? OH NO WHAT A SHAME. The return train ticket cost 520 kr (about £43) which somewhat cancelled out the cheapness of the air fare, but oh well. I booked online at the NSB website and collected my tickets from the vending machine at the airport. There was a brief moment of panic when the machine rejected my booking reference, but it turned out I’d keyed it in wrongly. If that was the worst thing to happen on this trip, I would be grateful.

A shuttle bus is provided to take passengers to Torp station, from where there is an hourly service on the Vestfold Line to Oslo and beyond. Torp’s facilities – a single platform and shelter – make Tees-side Airport look positively luxurious, but on a sunny day, surrounded by countryside, and a lovingly restored disused station building, it was a pleasant place to wait.

Torp Sandefjord Station

I had to do quite a bit of waiting, as I had caught the wrong shuttle bus. There are two buses per hour – one connects with the train to Oslo; the other with the southbound service to Skien, and it was this that I had boarded. I watched the Skien train roll in and disgorge some travellers dragging suitcases, all of whom headed straight for the waiting airport bus.

NSB Train to Skien Oslo/Skien Direction Sign

With the train and bus gone, I was left on the platform with a couple of other people who had evidently made the same mistake I did. The tranquility was briefly broken by a shirtless man on roller skis whizzing past on the adjacent road.

At 15:42, heralded by the alarm on the level crossing, the Oslo train arrived. This is one of NSB’s regional services, stopping at most stations en route. The train was perfectly comfortable, with seats and legroom that frankly put our trains to shame. There was, in the words of He Who Must Not Be Mentioned, “room to stretch out and move about”. There was also a vending machine on board selling drinks and snacks – a nice innovation, but one which probably wouldn’t last too long in the UK without someone taking a hammer to it.

The journey to Oslo was very pretty. We followed the course of fjords, cut through forests, visited picturesque villages and towns. Unfortunately, I was sitting on the wrong side of the train to see most of it, and it was too busy to move to another seat. I did have something to look at, as an impossibly handsome chap boarded at one of the intermediate stations and sat next to me. He got off at Drammen, making an already pretty city look even better.


By this time, a lot more people had boarded and the train was full and standing. We plunged into darkness as we travelled beneath Oslo itself in tunnel, before emerging into the sunshine at Oslo Sentralstasjon – a busy, bustling, buzzing hub right in the heart of Norway’s capital.

As is expected of city railway stations, the platforms play second fiddle to the shops on the main concourse. I was pleased to see the rainbow flag flying from the balcony of the station’s Starbucks (in fact, rainbow flags were to be seen everywhere over the following three days).

Oslo Sentral Rainbow Flag in the Station

At this point my anxieties had faded, and I was looking forward to the weekend ahead. But at that moment, I was tired and needed that reliable medicine for English people, wherever they are in the world: a Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. I exited the station into Jernbanetorget (Railway Square), where I made a quick stop at the tourist information centre to pick up my Oslo Pass. I then wandered off in search of my hotel.


What I’d seen of Norway so far had already enchanted me. I was excited to discover more as soon as possible. I had three days to explore, and was determined to make the most of it.

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