Would you rather...,
The thrill of chasing waterfalls? Or the genteel activity of wandering around a town admiring art nouveau architecture?
And if wanting to immerse yourself in both, you have the delightful Ålesund! A port town on the west coast of Norway.
Our English speaking, Norwegian accented taxi driver from the airport tells us Ålesund was more or less destroyed in 4 after a fire started in the buildings of the Aalesund Preserving Factory. Adverse wind conditions of the Atlantic coupled with the wooden structures of the time only contributed to fuelling the spread of the fire.
But this tragic situation led to the picturesque town that is Ålesund today. Because as the town began rebuilding itself - 'art nouveau' architecture was in vogue, and the rest is history, as they say.
It's overcast as we drive from the airport to the hotel. The sun wants to come out, but the clouds refuse to part. Instead, it's drizzling. It is grey. It's the end of the summer, and the temperature manages fourteen degrees Celsius, not much different to the weather left behind in London. But here for the weather - we are not; we are here to chase waterfalls, fjords and art nouveau style buildings.
Ålesund is an all-year-round destination. From alpine and cross country skiing dominating the winter months to equally exhilarating water sports and hiking at Sunnmøre in the summer. This town also has its fair share of festivals and concerts in spring and autumn.
It is the summer months, however, that bring the largest flock of tourists to the town. Cruise ships dock for the day, offloading their map reading, fjord seeking people cargo if only for a few hours. And the town seems to speak any other language but Norwegian.
Today, there are no cruise ships in port. The best thing about it is you have all the activities without the crowds.
Girl About Art Noveau Town
Ålesund is truly renowned for its art nouveau architecture. But an unhurried stroll around town, and you also notice how clean it is. The fresh Atlantic sea air is never far from your nostrils. (A distinctive smell that reminded me of the eastern side of my island Montserrat which faces the Atlantic). We picked up a guide map at the tourist office about five minutes from the hotel and took to the pedestrianised streets.
Prepare to strain your neck upwards, taking in the very intricate details that adorn these buildings.
The weather may be grey but that's the one thing this town isn't! They went to a carnival when it came to the colours on the buildings and the ornate designs of their facades.
We were not there for shopping, but it's worth knowing we came across some very inspirational home interior stores. Just as a well, I only had a weekend luggage case.
Mount Aksla's 418 Insta Worth it Stairs
The plan, to take the town train up to the top of Mount Aksla. It's much quicker! At least that's how I sold it to my mini-me, but she was having none of it.
So off we went, only 417 more steps! And then she shouted.
Race you to the top, mom!
Today I am up for a challenge, and before I could finish saying 'okay', she was off. Then she was out of sight.
Minutes later, I begin to feel twice my age, needing new lungs, legs and my virtual inhaler. Not even halfway, I am walking with my hands on my knees for support. Who knew 418 steps was this challenging?
'You can do this!' I kept telling myself.
'Climbed Chances Peak on Saturday morning' was my conversation with myself.
'True, but you were 18 then', I retorted.
Okay, time to call 'time out' when my face became parallel with the stairs. (I don't want to leave Ålesund in Norwegian Air's hold.) That's how steep the stairs are at some points.
Some way up is a platform to rest, and then the panorama over Ålesund starts developing.
Mom, I thought you said you were fit', came a voice shouting back down the climb at me.
So I grinned, bore it, cursed under my breath at Mount Aksla's 418th step and smiled at the commanding view.
Yes, it is worth it!
Now let's eat, drink and get the train back. Haha, no such look. I was made to walk back.
Join me in part two as we chased waterfalls!