An Easy Day in Faroe Islands

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We took it easy on Friday for two reasons. The first was that it was raining. The sunshine of yesterday was well and truly obstructed with low hanging clouds and a developing rain. The second reason was that I was feeling off. It wasn’t the food from the night before, but generally feeling…off…so as much as I wanted to see all the things I didn’t feel like being far from a bathroom.

So we had a slow start to the day and then, eventually, because I was going to feel even more awful if we didn’t DO SOMETHING Glen suggested we go check out the lookout from the top of the hill that the taxi driver recommended the night before.

We were soon high above driving along the ridges of the hills and ensconced in cloud/mist. This was scary enough but then we turned off the main road to ascend the hill. This was a single lane road, again with the pull-over sections, but with the clouds having rolled in we couldn’t see very far around us. 

I got us to the top safely, and without confronting another car, but, of course, once we got to the top, there wasn’t anything to see (we weren’t high enough really to be above the clouds), so after a little while of feeling like we were stuck in The Others we drove back down.

Clouds started to clear then and perhaps if we’d gone back up to the top we would have seen something but we decided against it and headed back to Torshavn. We parked the car back near our accommodation and went for lunch (I managed to eat) then drove to the National Museum for a looksy.

The displays covered natural, geological and archaeological history, the biggest section being devoted to their fishing and Viking history. Plenty of settlements around the islands that turned up treasure. I was hoping to find out some information on their World War II history but there wasn’t any.

Once we’d had a look around I was ready to head back and lie down for the next millennium. I slept part of the afternoon away while the rain pelted it down. Not having suitable wet weather gear, being ill, and also not being that keen on walking in the drenching rain, sleeping through the afternoon was probably a good way to spend our time.

In the evening, I made dinner for us again, we watched the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race and then went to bed. We were exceptionally lucky to have had the sunshine on the day before and if we were to come again, it’d be a good idea to stay for two weeks to get as much sunshine in as possible. 

Having said that, the Texas couple at dinner had arrived on Monday (after being delayed on Sunday due to bad weather) and had had terrible weather apart from that one day we had so even staying a good length of time is no guarantee. I’m just grateful we got to see so much of the islands in such beautiful light.

All the Sunshine in Faroe Islands

Thursday was one of two full days we had available in Faroe Islands. I’d annoyingly forgotten to book a helicopter/ferry early enough to take us to the island of Mykines where you can see puffins but that means more time to explore the other more accessible islands.

We set out with a list of places to see—actually, I think I had the list and had vaguely mentioned some of the things on it to Glen but let’s just say he had full involvement and vetting, shall we? 

The sky was a bit grey when we set out, heading northwest to Saksun, a small farming village with a church beside water in a valley. (Faroe Islands is mostly farming villages with a church beside water in a valley but this one was very pretty in the brochure.)

After a while the road leading to the village became one way and cut through a lot of farm land and in between picturesque hills. As we got closer the sky started to clear (though the wind stayed cold) and soon after the sun stayed out for the rest of the day. It was an exceptionally beautiful day (even the locals couldn’t believe the sunshine) and was perfect for seeing as much as possible.

Saksun had a few very old grass covered farm buildings and an impressive waterfall. I climbed close to the top, put my hand in the cold water, took some photos and then came back down to collect Glen and off we went. 

We took one of the scenic ‘buttercup’ routes down half of the island of Streymor then cut up the west side of Eysturoy up to Eidi and passed Slættaratindur, the tallest peak on the islands. The guidebook said that on the longest day of the year (i.e. today) it’s a tradition to climb to the top, watch the sunset, then stay and watch the sunrise. I wasn’t quite sure whether that was something they tell the tourists to do as a prank. It would have been damn cold. We contemplated the idea but…no.

Down along more winding roads, pointing out and oohing over more stunning scenery and waterfalls and sheep until we stopped for lunch in Klaksvik. We’d been driving for a while then, and not had much luck in finding suitable places to stop for a bite but Jacqsons in Klaksvik was great for us.

We drove through more tunnels that went both under the sea and then through mountains, aiming for the town of Kunoy on the island of Kunoy. By this stage the tunnels were no longer two-way but one-way with pull-over stops every hundred metres or so. The tunnels were also very dark and made me think of the tunnel leading into the Batcave. It was hair-raising going through, especially when a car came from the opposite direction. Not to mention that the tunnels aren’t ‘finished’ in that the walls are still uneven rock so it looks a little like a natural cave.

Kunoy was another pretty and small village. Rather than hike to the top (or almost the top) we took the car up the narrow dirt track and took our pictures from up there before heading back down and driving to Vildareidi on Vidoy, the northernmost spot we could get to. 

Despite all the sunshine, we didn’t do much walking, and the islands are a wonderful place for hiking when the weather is right. It would have been nice, if we had the time, to pick one hike and do that, to go to some off-the-path places but we were definitely treated to a lot of beauty on our drive.

Glen drove us home—about an hour and a half—while I napped in the passenger seat. We got home about 4 or so, lounged around, and then it was time to get ready for our taxi to Koks.

Dinner at Koks

Koks is a Michelin star restaurant serving Faroese inspired cuisine. I’d booked it months ago. A taxi picked us up before 6 and gave us a bit of a toured drive from Torshavn to the restaurant, stopped at a viewpoint along the way, and then passing the prison (it used to be a NATO base). Crime is low in the Faroe Islands, with serious crimes (of more than one years’ sentence being sent to Denmark) pretty low. Mostly drunk driving, domestic violence and pub fights.

He also told us about a nearby viewpoint (where the radars are positioned), told me the name of the national bird (oyster catcher, which we’d been seeing around the place) and that they’d had a drought not long ago with all the grass brown and dead. But after a week of rain everything was green. It was amazing. You’d just assume it was green all the time with the waterfalls running constantly.

He dropped us beside a chatelet, a traditional wooden larder that the Faroese use to dry lamb, fish etc and store excess food. We were joined with two other couples—both from America—and shown inside where we saw fermented lamb legs and dried fish hanging up. We were seated in the next ‘room’ and given some snacks and something to drink, all of us sharing a sort of gallows humour about what was to come next. One half of one of the couples was going for vegetarian; the woman on the other couple promptly asked if she could switch too. Glen and I were beginning to be a bit worried.

We were then driven to the main house/restaurant, hurtling along by the shores of a lake brimming with fish. We were shown to our tables and then began a 17-course dinner with seven matching wines. Despite our initial trepidation, there were only a few dishes on the menu that really raised eyebrows.

The first was the raw scallop which was exceptionally fresh and delicious, but the shell was covered in still living barnacles. The off-putting thing about this was watching them, well, gasp for air was the way I’d describe it. 

The other dish, which I didn’t have but Glen did, was the fermented lamb leg. I don’t like lamb anyway and I don’t think Glen’s much of a fan. That was the only one he didn’t eat all of. 

Apart from those ones however the meal was creative, very filling and flavoursome. We liked the langoustines the most—again, fresh as but cooked to perfection and so moorish. There was also a constant stream of staff coming and going, taking away plates and bringing out new cutlery. 

We finished in the lounge (though after moving into there I would have preferred to stay at our table as that room was warmer). We had some sweets and tea/coffee, then paid the bill and ordered the taxi.

We finished up about 10:30pm, the sun just beginning to dip below the hills (though still up in the sky). In fact, we’d been seated by the window for dinner so had to keep moving my seat to avoid getting blinded, and were amazed that the sun was still out so late.

The jeep drove us back by the edges of the lake to our waiting taxi and the 30-minute ride back to Torshavn. I was well and truly ready for bed (and a little in pain from an overstuffed stomach). It was definitely an experience and one I’m glad we did.

We didn’t drive out to the mountain to watch the sunset. I went to bed. Even so I struggled to fall asleep and got up multiple times during the ‘night’ so felt like I probably got a good impression of this land of the midnight sun.

Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

Wednesday morning we left our hotel in Copenhagen for the airport and our 11am flight to Faroe Islands. The flight was only about two hours and relatively uneventful except for the pilot coming onto the PA towards landing time to say that the runway in Faroe Islands is short so he’d be landing fast and braking hard. Brace yourselves! Despite the warning, the landing was fine. Bit disconcerting seeing the end of the runway though…and the drop after it.

We collected the hire car and exited into a chilly 12*C with wind and grey skies for our 40-minute drive from the airport to the capital Tórshavn. The drive was stunning; we drove along scenic roads, through undersea tunnels, along ridges overlooking beautiful scenery with waterfalls, sheep and green grass everywhere. Faroe Islands was really putting it on.

We arrived at the AirBnB around 1:30 and checked it, dumped our luggage and went grocery shopping at the shops which were literally around the corner. Torshavn (at least the downtown part we were staying in) was more like a small country town (although in comparison to the actual small country towns in Faroe Islands it was the cosmopolitan big cousin). 

Loaded up with groceries—and the ingredients to make scones, which Glen had a hankering for—we went back to the accommodation and Glen got to work on the scones. The owner of the apartment, Bjorn, came by to see how we were settling in and then gave us some suggestions of places to visit. He also told us that it only took 1.5 hours to get from Tórshavn to the most northern island (as far as we could get without taking a ferry or helicopter) so that gave us an idea of the scale of things.

We also told him we had reservations at Koks, a Michelin-star restaurant that serves Faroese inspired cuisine, and he said it was interesting and that he’d be interested to hear what we had to say about it after we’d been. That didn’t exactly inspire us with confidence, being the picky and non-adventurous eaters that we are.

After Glen’s scones were baked and we scoffed a few, Glen acquiesced to us going out and exploring a bit of Tórshavn. As we only had a few days, I like to make the most of the time by packing in as much as possible—something which exhausts Glen no end. But with Tórshavn literally on our doorstep, we couldn’t not check it out.

Luckily it’s not a huge place so it was fairly easy for us to see some of the historical sites within walking distance. We took the winding paths and steps down to the harbour, grabbing a coffee in a cafe with a bunch of other people eager to get out of the cold. Definitely not the kind of summer we were expecting.

From there we went to Tignanes, which is the site of the old Viking parliament on the island but also the site of the current prime minister’s offices and other government buildings. They’re painting red with green grass roofs. If there was any security, we didn’t see it. It was all very quiet but pretty.

We walked to the other side of the port where there were rows and rows of winnebagos waiting for the ferry either to Norway or to Iceland. We passed by all these grey nomads chatting to each other and walked up to the fort on the hill, first checking out the rock pools at the water’s edge, then heading up to the top of the old grass covered fort. Picturesque would be one word to describe it.

We then cut back into the main part of the city, up to a monument on a hill, and then back to our accommodation. And that was us done for the day. I wasn’t feeling the greatest so, strangely, was happy to sit down…although that didn’t happen until after I’d made dinner. It was then a quiet night on the couch before bed around 10:30.

The sun still hadn’t set and with it being a day before the summer solstice it wouldn’t go down until about midnight but even then the light wouldn’t go completely (maybe for about half an hour) before the sun came up again around three. I blinded myself with a sleeping mask to blot out the last bits of sunlight that crept around the blinds.

A Day in Copenhagen

Tuesday was our only full day in Copenhagen so we had to make it count. About a week or so prior I’d looked up some things to do, bypassing most of the museums in favour of outdoor or quirky things. Perhaps we could have crammed more in but in the end we got to enjoy a pleasant day walking around Copenhagen.

First stop was the Royal Library Gardens, a quiet spot near the national museum and Jewish museum, that has a very tall fountain and typical country gardens, all well manicured. The sky was a bit grey at that time of the morning but it was still a pleasant place to be.

Freetown Christiania, billed as an anarchist community, was next, after going for breakfast at a bakery chain we’ve since seen around the place. Christiania was, as expected, a bit wild looking with graffiti everywhere and a homespun feel, and the whiff of marijuana smoke in the air. We strolled through, walking a long way up the peninsula and then down through a separate part of town that was quiet, well ordered and, by the looks of things, expensive. The opera house was nearby…

I really enjoyed walking through these disparate areas, even if we didn’t actually go into anything. We cut across bridges and well-maintained cycle paths into the slightly touristy area of Nyhavn, with its canals, boats and brightly coloured buildings. It reminded me of The Danish Girl and, as I’m sure most people think, found it the prettiest.

We were headed for the Medical Museoin next, which took us past a beautiful domed church (Frederiks Kirke). We went inside for a while (and to sit down, praise be). The inside of the domed roof looks 3D but I’m sure it was just painted to look that way. It was a wonderful spot for a rest.

Medical Museoin

The Medical Museoin was on the next corner. I’d read a bit about it and, considering we’d had a good time at the Wellcome Collection in London, thought it would be a good option for a visit and something that Glen would find interesting.

I don’t know what it is about museums nowadays but I really struggle to engage in anything to a deep level, usually ready to leave in about 30 minutes. We wandered through the displays, some of them well designed, and others looking a bit slapdash. 

There were a few interactive displays that were excellent, however, such as the life game (where you choose different body sections that either increase or decrease your life expectancy) and a pill dispenser that dispenses actual pills (sugar pills I think) based on the options you choose along the way.

The building was once something to do with the early medical profession and was both living apartments as well as laboratories/medical examination rooms etc. It even had an auditorium and a pharmacy. One fact though was that Niels Bohr grew up there!

Glen spent a while looking at the fetuses in jars, finding them educational. Some of the diseases and their effects made me feel a bit ill. I wondered how Dion would handle such a place. There was also a whole display on genes and blood samples that I thought would resonate with Ben. 

After about an hour, I was done and my back was starting to hurt so we left. It’s not a big museum and if you’re into medical things, it’s worth a visit.

 

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The old pharmacy

 

A Picnic Lunch and the Little Mermaid

We wandered into the Design Museum…for lunch, but left without ordering as they only had open-faced sandwiches. I have a feeling we probably should have visited the displays as well, but we were hungry and that’s not good when trying to learn.

Rather than cough up a huge amount of money for lunch, we went into a nearby supermarket and bought more food than we could eat and went and had a picnic in the park. The sun came out—as did the ducks eager for a handout. It was incredibly pleasant to sit out in the open, beside a river, and chow down.

We walked through the park, capturing beautiful vistas on our phones, seeing cygnets and ducklings, as well as lily pads. I’ve never seen lily pads outside a botanic garden so I was thrilled. We soon approached a church and a fountain—and a lot of tour buses. We were on our way to the Little Mermaid statue.

There was a crowd at this statue on a rock. I got close, took some pictures around the gaggle of tourists and that was it. Tick. We then walked the exceptionally long way back to our hotel, beside train lines and parks and busy roads. We cut through what is probably the gay district as we saw a lot of bars, clubs and shops targeting gay men. At that point though, all I wanted to do was sit down.

Taking it Easy

The rest of the afternoon, once we got back to the hotel, was spent lounging around and recuperating. So much else to see in Copenhagen but I thought we’d done enough to satisfy ourselves. I really like the city and could have spent a few more days there taking it easy, especially as the sunshine and warmth was bliss.

In the evening we went for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant, taking over a table that was probably reserved but we got served anyway in this small hole-in-the-wall place. We walked through a few more streets, cutting closer to the town hall and taking silly photos at the bull-and-fish-monster fountain.

Despite us being home by 9, I was worn out and happy to flick through TV stations for a while. Meanwhile, outside the sun was still shining. In fact it was still up when I closed the curtains at 10:30pm and we went to bed. Daylight savings is great…if you’ve got the stamina to stay up and enjoy it all. We’re going to be in Faroe Islands and Iceland when there’s nearly 24 hours of daylight. That’s going to be interesting.

Malta to Denmark

 

Our very quick trip to Malta ended on Monday. We were up with plenty of time to spare, finished packing and sat and watched Bridesmaids for a while. Donna and I seem to know most of the words now…

Because Donna had hired the car for three days, that meant a fairly easy ride to the airport with no faffing around with taxis. Big hugs at the airport as we said our goodbyes until next time—we’re seeing her in London in November—and then we were off to check-in.

We had plenty of time to kill in the lounge, grabbing some food, and then we were on our short flight to Frankfurt and then to Copenhagen.

Copenhagen

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I’d managed to book a hotel—Hotel Alexandra—that was close to the main train station and in a fairly busy tourist area (it was near Tivoli Gardens). This made it very easy to get to. Everything is either in English or Danish so signs and ticket machines were easy to understand. We emerged from the central station and walked past Tivoli Gardens to our hotel.

The streets are wide, there are big bicycle lanes and pedestrian lanes, and it’s all quite clean and ordered. I liked it. What I didn’t like was the worrying feeling in my stomach that I was coming down with gastro. Despite this, we soldiered on and went for dinner at Sticks ’n’ Sushi (yes, a Japanese restaurant).

The great thing about this restaurant was that it was on the third floor of a building that overlooked Tivoli Gardens. With it being daylight savings and close to the summer solstice, the sun didn’t go down the whole time we were there. In fact, we got to see golden hour. 

The restaurant served great food and a lot of it. We hadn’t quite realised the currency exchange so ordered a few things that were very expensive for their size. We ate a lot, shamefully leaving a few bits at the end because we couldn’t fit them in. Downside was that the place was heated to within an inch of its life and that made me feel less than optimal.

There was a light rain shower while we were in the restaurant, looking down at people getting out of the wet, but it had finished by the time we left. Though we’d not lost or gained any time between Malta and Denmark we were still wiped (actually, I’ve been tired most of this trip), so by 11pm we were ready for bed. I think the sun had only just set too.

 

#DateNight in #Copenhagen. #gaytravel

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Waiting for all the food.

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Malta by Car

When planning this trip, I’d been advised not to hire a car because the Maltese drive like maniacs. We decided to go against this advice and hire a car anyway and were surprised that it wasn’t as bad as expected. 

Sunday the loose plan was to go to the Blue Lagoon on the island of Camino but we hadn’t really looked into it very much, and instead Glen had found the Blue Grotto (different place). It was about 30 minutes drive south of us and was an €8 boat trip to see, bringing us back to dry land in not much time at all. We opted for this.

We roused Donna at 9am and left the apartment by 9:30. Hertz didn’t have any cars available so we walked to the next place, which was a newsagent/convenience store/tour booking operator/car hire place. Looked dodgy but they had a cheap car available.

It took a while to get it sorted as none of our credit cards worked (one was required to ‘hold’ in case of damage). Glen walked back to get one of his but in the meantime the guy got it all working so by the time Glen got back to us we were ready to go.

Donna drove as she was the only one on the forms. Usually I’m the one who does the driving so it was nice to sit in the back and do nothing for a change—nothing except occasionally offer helpful (and incorrect) directions, much to Glen’s annoyance.

Blue Grotto

We arrived at this tourist trap at about 11:30 or 12 and wandered down to buy our tickets. Little boats that fit nine people left every ten minutes; we didn’t have to wait long. Glen came along, despite his fear of drowning or being eaten by something and his propensity to get seasick. He’d enjoy himself, or die trying, dammit!

The boat puttered along the beautiful and rocky coastline, going in and out of bays and caves, with the driver shouting out the names of the caves or pointing out features. The Blue Grotto itself wasn’t very blue, mostly because we weren’t there at the right time of day. It was pitch-black inside.

The water itself was stunning! Such a vibrant blue, and then when you looked down you could see all the way through. I loved it. And for a 20-minute experience it was about all I really needed. It would have been nice to go for a swim but it wasn’t allowed (it was also quite rocky).

We got back to dry land and jumped in the car, heading to Mdina for lunch.

Mdina

Mdina hadn’t been on my radar but as it was the previous capital city and in the vicinity we decided to go. So glad we did. It’s a small walled city and very quiet—I think it’s also called the Silent City. Easy to walk through, I loved it.

While in Mdina it was very easy to keep saying ‘Mmmm dinner’, and then ‘Mmmm lunch’. I’m surely the locals must love that.

We stopped for lunch in a cafe inside a palace. Everywhere was busy because there are tourists and it’s father’s day but we managed to get a table underneath a lemon tree and had a wonderful relaxing lunch.

We completed our walk of the city and exited the city gates, finding the car intact and heading off to visit a beach.

Ghajn Tuffieha

Our Airbnb host had suggested Ghajn Tuffieha as a good beach. It also wasn’t too far from where we were. We found a parking spot and headed down into the wind, the water in the bay looking quite rough. Nevertheless, we hired sunbeds and an umbrella and set ourselves up by the water.

Donna and I dutifully applied sunscreen (You can take the kids out of Australia…), lounged for a bit, then Donna and Glen went into the cold water. Glen didn’t get beyond his shins but Donna continued on then I joined her, forcing myself through the chill. It turned out to be really lovely.

Then Donna got stung by a jellyfish and I turned around to see a nasty purple-tentacled one coming straight for my chest. I might have shouted out something. We decided to go in. Donna went and got her leg sprayed—along with a lot of other people. Most people cleared out at that point. 

We stayed on our sunbeds then. The wind picked up. Clouds kept obscuring the sun. We’re spoilt for beaches in WA—shame Glen and I never really use them. We decided to call it a day and then at 4:30 packed up and Donna drove us back to town.

Last Night in Sliema

We had a quiet night at home—washing, cooking leftovers (along with a few other things Glen bought from the supermarket), and watching TV, drinking, and chatting to Paul who came by for a visit. I think we were in bed by 10. Talk about an early night! But with all the sun and the activities, I wasn’t sorry about it.

It’s been a great—if quick—trip to Malta. I wouldn’t mind seeing Gozo and the Blue Lagoon, maybe if we have another few days to kill while we’re somewhere else in the area. Maybe combine it with a longer trip in Turkey (which still has plenty to offer). Malta has been lovely and I’m so glad we got to have this little bit of time here, especially with my sister.

Off to Copenhagen tomorrow.

Exploring Valletta, Malta

We took our time getting up on Saturday morning. The plan for Malta was pretty loose, the only booked thing was a free walking tour of Valletta at 10am. We got up, walked down to the bus stop and could our €2 and 40-minute ride to the capital city of Valletta. We walked into a demonstration put on by the emergency services so there were a lot of sirens going (and K9 unit dogs barking).

The tour started at 10 and went for 90 minutes, taking us to see some cathedrals, the prime minister’s office, the Upper Baklava Gardens (which is not how it’s spelled), the cathedral and another residence and square. 

The city is small, beautiful, full of old buildings and a lot of stone. We got a good impression of the history of the place, involving the Knights of St John and the events of World War II. Unfortunately the guide talked just that little bit too long and considering we were standing in the sun, it got a bit frustrating. Always leave your audience wanting more. 

Glen, Donna and I got lunch at a food hall and caught a bit of the Australia vs France match on the big screen, before heading back to catch the bus to Paul and Florent. We were going on a boat tour of the harbour (without Glen who gets seasick), but while on the bus we got word that the seas were too rough so we cancelled it. Donna and I got off the bus and went back to Valletta for more of a look.

I wanted to see inside the cathedral but, true to form, when we got back there, it had shut. So we walked around some more, seeing a lot of the city, and then returned to the city gates to meet Paul and Florent before going to a small wine bar—Cru Wine Bar—for drinks and food. The city is small enough to walk around and there’s always a beautiful streetscape to get a pic of.

We dipped our feet in the water at the harbour then Paul drove us back to his hotel where we lounged by the pool for a bit, had some drinks in the lounge, and then Donna and I walked back to the apartment. Glen had a nap and cooked pasta.

In the evening—after watching the latest (and very boring) episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race—we met Paul and Florent by the water polo pool (it’s famous now) and then walked around to have dinner at a restaurant by the bay in St Julian’s. 

We chose the restaurant because they had an extensive vegan menu. Unfortunately out of the five dishes we ordered, Paul’s tagliatelle was the only one that was more than half decent. We left unsatisfied. 

Plans to go out partying were scuppered—mostly by me. We wandered into Paceville, which is the nightclub district, and walked into a version of hell. It was full of 20-something-year-olds going to nightclubs and gentlemen clubs. It was vile and considering

I was by now pretty dead on my feet, I wasn’t really in the mood to wade through much of it. Glen agreed so we were keen to go home, which unfortunately meant it was easier for Donna to come home with us. (Poor girl, she’s got an old brother.) Paul and Florent went out for a drink but didn’t get much rowdier than that.

My head hit the pillow just before midnight and I was so pleased.