Tromsø Travel Guide

It had long been a dream of mine to visit a winter wonderland, see wild whales and the Northern lights.  

After a lot of searching Tromsø appealed to me most, a vibrant university city with close access to the fjords for whale watching and within the Arctic Circle for a chance to see the elusive Northern lights.  We chose to visit in January and packed a lot into our 4 night trip, from whale spotting to husky sled riding and plenty of eating!

Where to stay?

After lots research we decided to stay at Bed & Waffles and absolutely loved our time there.  The rooms are really comfortable with a kitchenette and waffle making facilities!  Each morning fresh ingredients are delivered to your door containing everything you need to make a delicious waffle breakfast.

https://bedandwaffles.com www.instagram.com/bedandwaffles

The views of Tromsø and surrounding mountains are beautiful with close access to the city via bus or foot.  There are many options in Tromsø for accommodation including large hotels on the harbour but the cute intimate B&B suited us wonderfully. 

The best night at our B&B was when we woke up at midnight and saw the Northern lights shining above us right out of our bedroom window!

Seeing the Northern Lights was truly wonderful. We had spent one of our nights driving out into the countryside in the hope of seeing them but sadly didn’t. It made it extra special to be able to see them when we weren’t even chasing them.

What to pack?
Before we went to Tromsø I spent a long time looking at what I should take, here is a list of what I actually found useful while I was there:
Thermal layers (merino wool is great)
Warm and waterproof winter coat with a hood
Snow boots (big dilemma with these, I ended up packing them and wearing trainers on the plane. I am pleased I did this as I ended up wearing my trainers quite often for going into the city despite the snow! Sorel boots are fantastic)
Tops, jumpers and jeans
Fleece jumper as a second layer on extra cold days
Gloves with touch fingers for using devices
Ski type gloves for over the top or wool mittens (especially needed for whale watching and dog sledding!)
Snood
Woolly hat
Merino wool socks
Rucksack
Hand warmers

For sight seeing around Tromsø I wore my thermals with jeans and a jumper or fleece over the top. Then my coat hat and gloves for extra warmth.
Some days I wore my snow boots but found for walking to dinner and things trainers were sufficient!
For the activities where I would be out in the cold a lot more like whale watching and dog sledding I definitely needed my snow boots and extra things like the second pair of gloves and snood as well as more layers like the fleece and jumpers. Our tours did also provide snow suits.

What to do?
There are so many things do in Tromsø!
Whale watching (October – January), husky sledding, Northern lights chasing, skiing, hiking, shopping, there are also fabulous restaurants, lovely cafes, and good nightlife.

Top of the list for me was whale watching, I booked our trip through Arctic Explorers https://arcticholidays.org
There are many tours running from Tromsó but this one seemed the best trip for the best price. For ours we had to get up rather early (4am!!) to travel by bus to Skjervoy, I have since seen tours available which travel to this area by boat from Tromsø.
The journey had some spectacular views to enjoy on the way so it did’nt feel too far. Once we arrived it was a quick change into snow suits supplied by the tour company. You do still need a lot of your own layers for underneath though, as I mentioned earlier. We were then ready to go out onto the fjords on a RIB, a very exciting and cold experience! It was all worth it though when we spotted the Orcas and Humpback whales.

Another trip we did took us to the Tromsø Wilderness centre https://villmarkssenter.no
We had the best time with all of the lovely dogs and puppies there including a dog sledding experience. After the tour we enjoyed some delicious food and Norweigan cake around the open fire in their Gamme-hut and played with the dogs a lot.

Within Tromsø we visited the Polaria as well as the Cathedral and also took the cable car from Solliveien in Tromsdalen up to the mountain ledge Storsteinen, there are spectacular panoramic views of Tromsø and the surrounding islands, mountains and fjords.

This was the lightest Tromsø got while we were there. The Polar Night had just come to an end and the sun had just begun to peep over the horizon for a short time each day.

Tromsø is such an amazing place with so much to offer and I would recommend it to anyone. One day I will return to the Arctic Circle.

Our experience of Cuba

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My best friend Hannah and I visited Cuba in July 2015 as a treat for surviving a whole year as Dental Hygienists working in the real world of dentistry!  I naively booked our holiday and Havana excursion independently online thinking it would be plain sailing while we were there, not realising how two young women alone would attract so much attention.  

We stayed in an all inclusive resort in the Holguin area North East Cuba which was beautiful.  Stunning white sandy beaches just like all those pictures we had seen, lovely rooms and attentive staff.  The male staff some what too attentive some days!  We ate at the resort restaurants and loved one of the nights we had at the resort ‘nightclub’.  Drinks were bought to us on the dance floor by the end of the night and Hannah was up in the DJ booth taking requests from other guests. The 4am dip in the pool made us realise it was probably time to go to bed!

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Havana was a must do for us while we were in Cuba so I had booked us domestic flights there and a hotel for one night so we could experience it. A forty minute taxi ride took us to the national airport and we found ourselves in a very small and run down terminal.  Long delays ensued due to a tropical storm but luckily we made friends with a French man who could speak far better Spanish than me who kept us informed! When we finally arrived in Havana it really did feel like stepping back in time with the 50’s cars and old buildings.  Walking around Havana was a bit of a problem as we didn’t feel entirely comfortable wandering the streets alone, in the end we rode the open tour bus around the city so we could see the sites. In the evening we decided to have dinner in a hotel opposite to ours at their roof top bar, our waiter was being a bit odd then eventually asked us if we were famous making us laugh a lot, we explained weren’t and were just on a holiday.  He was a big Beatles fan so was very pleased to learn we were from the UK.  

After dinner we went back down to the street and found a bar, it was a bit scary to be the only women inside who weren’t night workers so we decided to leave and bumped into a group of Belgian men who offered to take us for drinks at a different bar.  We took them up on their offer as they seemed nice enough (our naivety showing again!).  A taxi ride along the waters edge took us to a really cool jazz bar that you entered through a telephone box, we had cocktails and chatted to the guys we met realising they were a little odd.  The next place we went to was another taxi ride away in the middle of lots of really run down Cuban homes, a modern club with all white decor and modern music which seemed so out of place.  After a while we realised what the guys we had met were expecting of us and thought we should get out of there sharpish.  Coming out of the club we found we had no idea where we were or how to get back to the hotel but thankfully our Dutch courage prevented us from panicking and we hung around outside chatting to a group of guys who were from Mexico.  They were surprised to see us there alone and asked why we did not have a Cuban guide!  We were lucky they were so kind and asked their own guide to find us a taxi back to our hotel, and even luckier that we actually were taken back safely in another cool 50’s car.  I didn’t sleep much that night, as historic and cool as our hotel was it felt like I was in the shining! 

The next day we rode that tour bus again and made a new friend who took us to Ernest Hemmingway’s favourite haunts, this was really fun and we loved the mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio, made with brown sugar and really crushed up mint.  Later we made our way back to the airport and flew to Holgiun.  We landed very late at night and had to find a taxi back to our resort which was tricky as most people arriving were locals who had family picking them up.  Eventually someone said they would take us, we got into his taxi and found seats covered in plastic and sex position stickers all over the windows!  He pulled over for an older man to get in the passenger side and Hannah and I looked at each other reassuringly, both hoping this was going to be ok.  The whole 40 minute journey in pitch black was pretty scary, not knowing if we were being taken to the right place or if something awful was going to happen to us, the men spoke no English and offered us chewing gum making me worry even more. The car kept stalling on the way too making it even more hair-raising until finally we spotted our hotel lights, overpaying the men we thanked them and the driver explained somehow that he was learning to drive hence the stalling.  We ran into our hotel so relieved to have made it safely!  

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The attention from men in Cuba wasn’t totally awful, just a constant stare and lots of comments.  Things like ‘I love your physique’, ‘we could spend half the year here and half the year in the UK’, lots of teeth sucking/kissing noises and the best one of all ‘your breasts are amazing’, whispered into our ears as we walked along a street in Havana.  We had only just walked along this street with no hassle at all as we were joined by a nice man we met on the open top bus who showed us around for a while, the contrast was very noticeable! 

On our final day back at the resort in Holguin we decided to book a massage at their spa.  It was very beautiful and we felt relaxed after getting back to the resort in one piece.  We were led out to meet our masseurs, as they opened the door we were greeted by two men dressed all in white.  These were our masseurs for the afternoon, after a week of hassle from men we were now willingly going to let two touch our entire bodies!!  Our faces would have been hilarious to see as we were led to our treatment room and told to lay face down on the beds ringing the bell when we were ready to begin.  We both agreed we should just go for it so laughing a lot Hannah rang the bell. Our massages were actually very good and the masseurs were very professional, only the smell of garlic on mine slightly off-putting.

All in all we did have a great time in Cuba and I would love to go back, knowing more Spanish would really help and having more of an idea of what you want to do there would help too.  The people are friendly and it is beautiful.  

 

Past Adventures

As a child I had many trips to Germany as my Father worked there.  I loved these holidays, spending a lot of time swimming in lakes, cycling through huge pine forests and enjoying Rügen and Hamburg.  I remember making a friend called Sebastian who used to hang out with me and show me around, his parents were close friends with my Dad.  I recall us all laughing a lot playing games in their garden which one night ended with us wheeling a friends mum back to the house in a wheel barrow, the Schnapps was that strong!

I have also had family holidays to Mallorca, Spain, Ibiza and Disneyworld Florida.  Mallorca is such a lovely island and I always enjoyed the holidays to Spain with a big group of my Fathers friends and their families. Disney world is amazing of course, the waterparks were great but the one we went to the most, River Country is sadly closed down!  

In my teenage years I went to three different party destinations, Malia in Crete, Magaluf and Ibiza.  I had a great time on all of these trips but I wouldn’t call them cultural or adventurous.  Just a lot of fun!  My favourite place for that kind of holiday was Ibiza, a mixture of cheap bars but also really amazing clubs to go to.  The beaches are great and there are so many hotels to choose from, if I ever go again I would love to stay at Ushuaia in Playa d’En Bossa.

Im lucky enough to have experienced three different festivals so far too, Download 2007, Reading 2009 and Rock Werchter 2010.  They are all quite different to each other, for me rock werchter was the most exciting as it meant travelling to Belgium and spending a bit of time exploring Brussels before we went to the festival.  The heat was almost unbearable though with very little shade and an extremely hot tent!  

Reading festival was great fun but I often felt uncomfortable with my surroundings, I witnessed a lot of fights, got very crushed during Prodigy’s performance (granted this is to be a little expected and I usually would not mind but this was extreme) and my friends had their tent cut into on the last night putting a bit of a downer on the weekend.  Download festival on the other hand was amazing and I can not fault it except for the long drops being gross obviously.  Everyone was super friendly and I just had a really great time.  Bring on Glastonbury 2019, fingers crossed its great too!

Something Tookish

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Travelling is on my mind almost every day and something tookish seems to wake up in me that desire to travel and enjoy new adventures is often with me. 

This blog is a space for me to write about my trips and keep my memories of them together.  It is also to give any information I think might be helpful to know if someone fancies doing something similar. I love to remember places I have visited, imagine what other places are like and dream up my next adventure. 

Researching my next trip is almost as much fun for me as actually going on it but I often sweat the small stuff (do you wear your snow boots on the plane if you’re landing somewhere snowy??) I thought if I could give any small insights after being somewhere, it might pay it forward and help someone else, who like me has these little concerns.