Tuesday 15 July 2014

Rambling down a Fjord

Did I mention I went to Barcelona? No? How about Stavanger? I went there too. Boredom, basically. The family were away, I should perhaps have been with them but that’s another story. Anyway, with a weekend to kill – in June I might add, so no decent birding possible* - it was a choice of hanging around Wanstead seeing manky Mallards and doing a pile of useful but boring jobs – or going and doing something interesting. I chose the latter, and seeing as I have not done a lot of travelling recently, decided to push the boat out and go to Barcelona for the day. And then as that wasn’t enough to keep the Mallards at bay, I also booked up a fjord cruise in Norway for the following day. My carbon footprint is terrible, then again the planes would have left without me. Is it OK to say that?

So, an early start to get to the airport, but Barcelona isn't far and it wasn't long before the shuttle bus dumped me at the Placa Catalunya, at the top of Las Ramblas. I've been to Barcelona a few times, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Nothing. Nothing beyond walking around a lot, and having tapas for lunch. And so that is precisely what I did. I visited no Gaudi landmarks, went to zero museums or galleries. I meandered, I got lost down side streets, I wandered around markets, and sat on benches. I found my favoured tapas bar, and after overdoing it on Cava, had a nap in the sunshine by the sea. In other words it was highly unpleasant and I cannot for one moment recommend it. As mid-afternoon beckoned, I met a colleague who happened to be in town, and we had an extremely large beer together in a palm-lined square. Horrible. It was a relief to get back on the plane I can tell you.

The Catalans know how to live

Las Ramblas is full of interesting sights

I have no idea. Meccano possibly.

Possibly the best Tapas bar in Barcelona

Lunch. First course.

A listing shop

Think I got away with this one

I elected to stay at Heathrow, and so the following morning was fairly relaxed with a decent breakfast in the lounge and then off to Norway. Beautiful weather in the south-west, and my pre-booked cruise up the Lysefjord was on! I wandered around Stavanger old town for a while, breathed in the clear air, spent my ISA on lunch, and then got on the boat. It was wonderful. I honestly cannot think of anything quite as pleasant that I have done for quite some time. I just stood on the deck and admired the view. For three hours. Various things were pointed out, but I wasn't listening. Beautiful is all I can say. Perhaps that's what the boat captain was trying to say too. We stopped twice, once to feed some 'wild' goats, once to collect some water from a waterfall in a bucket, which all the passengers then partook of. Cliched, yes. Cool and refreshing, also yes. And that was that really. Once back at Stavanger I had another wander round town, and then caught the plane home. The whole thing was remarkably easy and relaxing. 

Stavanger, famous for its staute of "Little Boy and Ducks (and Panther)"

Stavanger Old Town. Picturesque in buckets.

The Costa Stillafloatia was in town

How are you feeling today? A bit Tractor.


The entrance to the Lysefjord


More horrible


Binoculars? Nope, not on either day. Sometime it's really good and positive to do something different. I tend not to do "tourist". I fly to major cities and then head the other way, and learn very little about the country I'm in. Can't say I learned a great deal about Spain or Norway, but the point is that I was free from the stress that is constant birding. Or something like that. It was a pleasure not to need to attempt to identify every moving speck, to be able to have a nice cold drink, to eat proper food rather than either starve in the middle of nowhere or eat junk, and to not worry about light, flushing, exposure theory or whether my battery was going to run out. I've got a few more of these lined up, and if they're as fabulous as this weekend was, it could become a regular feature. 

*apart from summering megas like Short-toed Eagles of course


  1. I hadn't read this post until just now as I had been away myself (and I know that you know that Jono because you kindly left a comment on my last post). You too left the bins behind to become (whisper it) a fully functioning human being rather than a gibbering wreck who needs to be up at 3AM to drive 275 miles down a track to spend all day searching for Andalusian Hemipode BECAUSE YOU NEED IT!!!! This could be the start of a new trend...

    1. Ah yes, but whilst I felt 'free' without the bins, I've since spent four days birding on Iceland with almost no sleep, and on Monday I twitched the Great Knot BECAUSE I NEEDED IT!!!!

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through this post, Jonathan. What a way to spend a weekend :-)!