Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Away from Anglesey

My wife's birthday was on 19th March and she had reached the 60 milestone. Before Christmas last year we were discussing what we could do to mark and celebrate this important day. Last year had seen our Ruby Wedding Anniversary and we celebrated that on a month's holiday in Greece. This time, as it was Pauline's birthday she wanted to do something special that she would remember.

For some years now Pauline has followed winter sports with a keen interest. I took a look at the Eurosport website to see what might be happening around the 19th of March. I noticed that it was the last large hill in Ski Jumping at Holmenkollen near Oslo in Norway. Pauline confirmed that the location was just on the outskirts of Oslo so it should be easy to access. Thus it was that we decided to go to Oslo for the weekend, using our Air Miles. The flight and hotel were booked through Air Miles and the trip was on.

In January we visited some of the outdoor pursuit shops in Snowdonia to buy some warm clothing. From now on we had to simply wait for the weekend to come round. Just before we left we bought a supply of Norwegian Kroners to make sure everything was covered. Some weeks previously I had gone on the Ticketmaster website for Norway and purchased two tickets in the best area at the stadium. All was now ready.

Early on Saturday we drove to Manchester Airport, parked the car and checked in for our flights. It was necessary to take the Heathrow shuttle and transfer to another aircraft for Oslo. The aircraft to Heathrow was a Boeing 757 and it was full. In next to no time at all we landed at Heathrow and transferred from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4. I had heard so much about Heathrow in its present form and looke forward to seeing it. I was not impressed. It looked like a haphazard design of ugly buildings with miles and miles of taxiways leading to the runways. The amount of walking we did was impressive with a short coach transfer at one point.

Eventually our flight was called and we boarded an Airbus 319. This aircraft was superior to the 757 because it was a newer design and we liked it even more because it was smaller that the 757. Thye flight was quite normal and we arrived less than two hours later at Oslo. This is a newer and more bijou affair. Whilst there was a long walk involved as we passed from the gate to the baggage hall it was pleasant and airy. Having passed through the baggage reclaim area we made our way to the railway station to catch the Flytoget (pronounced Flee two get!) into Oslo Central Station. The journey was smooth as smooth could be in a streamlined silver train that took only 22 minutes to arive at Oslo.

We took a taxi to our hotel and checked in. It was a Best Western Hotel and was very comfortable for us. By the time we had showered etc we sat down and located a likely restaurant for our evening meal as the hotel offered only bed and breakfast. The man at reception told us which tram to catch and where to alight. The restaurant was just round the corner but they had no table free. Popping across the square we tried another establishment that had a table free. It was here that we tasted a fantastic meal. Pauline started with mussels and I chose a dish called Taste of Norway. Both were lovely. The main course Pauline chose was a trout dish and she was thrilled with it. I chose turbot and thoroughly enjoyed it. We both chose passion fruit creme brulee followed by coffee. Together with wine we paid about £140.00. But we already knew Norway's reputation as an expensive place to stay so we were not too surprised.

The next day was Sunday when the ski jumping was held. Norwegian TV told us the previous day that our hero, Polish ski jumper, Adam Malyscz, was jumping well and would be last to go on the day. We walked to the Central Station and then descended to the underground railway which took us out to the village of Holmenkollen up in the hills above the city. As the train climbed the hill there was more and more snow to be seen. Outside the station we slowly climbed further up the hill to the stadium with the huge ski jump tower above it. We had gone early to catch the Nordic Combined event that was on before the main contest. But the conditions did not allow it to continue without interruption. They kept working on the in run which kept deteriorating. Eventually they postponed this event till 4.00pm.

Off we went to the refreshment tent where we watched a couple of Biathlon events and made friends with some young Greeks. Coming out of the tent we heard the brass band strike up and saw that the musicians were lined up at the top of the out run. One after another came the skiers carrying the flags of the participating countries. The last flag was that of Norway.

Now the competition was ready to start. There were 59 jumpers and Pauline knew each name! I knew quite a few but she was familiar with them all. We started to make our way to where our seats were. When I say seats, we shared a concrete shelf! How Pauline made it up to level 72 I shall never know. She has an arthritic hip! However we arrived at our places and sat down to enjoy that sport. The terracing was built in such a way that we saw the competitors come from behind us and then land in front and below us. Above us there was a small special stand where we could see King Harald of Norway and his family.

The jumpers got better and better as time went on and each time a Polish jumper set off down the in run the Polish supporters cheered like mad. But they, like us, had come to see one man - Adam Malyscz. Finally the top three jumpers were Simon Amann of Switzerland, Martin Koch of Austria and Matti Hautamakki of Finland. Therev was just Adam still to jump and we were ready for a great spectacle as we expected him to leap further than anyone else as he was in such good form. A great shout went up from the Polish contingent as he raced down the slope. Then the wind wind whipped him all over and he landed short in 54th place. We were speechless. Seeing what had happened, the jury called off the rest of the competition and Simon Amann was declared the winner.

Anyone other than Adam Malyscz could have been seriously injured in such rogue conditions but thankfully he was OK. There is now one more competition in Slovenia where he might just jump better than Anders Jacobson of Norway to get the World Cup title. We shall see! It was a wonderful day and we took quite some time to filter out of the stadium and down the road to the station where train after train toook hundreds of passengers home.

We ended up in a basic pub restaurant that night and ate more cheaply but still enjoyed our food. We experienced the best pizza we had ever known that night. The next morning saw us rising at 4.15am to catch an early flight back to the UK. That night was when we celebrated with our family in our son's house in Rochdale. It was a lovely evening and we slept like logs till morning when we drove back here to Anglesey.


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