What to do when you know nothing about Alesund

I tend to go a bit overboard when planning for trips to new destinations.  I’m prone to obsession over the nuance and detail of the hotels and the restaurants, hoping to find the best (that I can reasonably afford) and ensure that I get to experience them.  When the average trip duration is only about 2 days it is rather important to know where the good stuff is before arrival.  Otherwise there is way too much potential to miss the essence of a city.

On our most recent Scandinavian adventure I put a fair amount of planning into the Copenhagen aspect of the journey.  That was where we were spending the most time and where there seemed to be the best options available to choose from.  That meant our arrival into Ålesund was completely unplanned.  From the minor details of how to get from the airport to our hotel to where we should eat, I had nothing.  There weren’t even taxis at the airport (my fallback plan) to take us into town had we needed one.  It was rather unsettling actually.  The good news is that we managed to not suffer for it.

Transfer from the airport turned out to be easy – there is a bus that handles that.  Sure, it is on the edge of reasonably priced (NOK100/person, ~$15) but that’s WAY cheaper than the taxi option and it did take us right to where we were going which was a nice bonus.  We even figured out the bus back into town for dinner the first night.  That was only ~$5/person and it gave me a much needed 15 minutes of research time on my Blackberry, time I used to search desperately for a restaurant in town.  All the search results pointed in one direction.  Sadly those same results misrepresented the operating hours of Sjøbua, falsely indicating that it was open on the Saturday night that we arrived.  Strike one for the internet, but we did manage to make up for that a week later.

So instead of seafood we wandered into an Indian place, Agra that proved to be quite passable.  Yes, it was expensive ($6 for an order of naan?!?), but not really all that out of line with what any other restaurant in Scandinavia seemed to be running us for dinner.  And since it was our last meal before heading out into the kayaks for our fjord paddling we decided to make sure it was a good one.  We also passed by the same restaurant on our return a week later.  Apparently while we were gone they changed their name to Zangra and divorced themselves from the chain of restaurants on the west coast of Norway under the same name.  That was somewhat confusing but the food still looked just fine, even after the change.

The small downtown area was rather pleasant to wander through, with some cute shops and hotels scattered about along the waterfront.  We meandered for a bit and took a look at several of the hotels scattered about the harbor area.  We ended up booking in at one of them – Hotel Brosundet – for the following week and then got ridiculously lucky.  We spotted the guide from our tour, the same guide who was staying in the same campground as us 15 minutes out of town – driving along the road.  A loud shout from me, an illegal u-turn from him and a sprint through traffic found us happily ensconced in the company van, headed back to bed down at the campground rather than trying to figure out the return bus schedule. 

Thus ended our first experience in Ålesund.  Not bad at all and an excellent precursor of the great experiences to come a week later.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.