Looking around for a different kind of holiday, we alighted upon the idea of heading North for some winter snow and were delighted to discover that the south fjords of Norway are all geared up for families like ours looking for something else. We stumbled across a place called Risor Village on the internet. They offered activities such as ice fishing, boat trips, skiing - cross country as well as downhill and dog sledding. We decided to do the lot.
Our first day was spent on a rugged Norwegian fishing boat chugging round the beautiful islands along the coast from the white painted village of Risor (once visited by the eighteenth century writer Mary Wollstonecraft in pursuit of a sea captain and lost treasure). Everyone was given a rod and we fished off the side of the boat, reeling in startlingly large cod, coal fish and pollockLunch was a huge and delicious fish soup cooked on board made partly from the fresh fish we had caught ourselves. To keep the boat steady we moored at
the tiny and picturesque island of Lyngor which is peppered with pale painted wooden holiday homes, unspoilt by cars and has just one bar. Then it was back out to sea where the afternoon catch was even better. So many fish being caught that we ended up throwing them back. There is only so much fish soup a party of nine can eat! At the end of the day, as we headed back to Risor, the low winter sun was glinting on the icy sea and we spotted a whale rising out of the water in the distance. The captain about turned and we pursued it at a safe distance for a while, holding our breath.
The next day, we were off into the mountains an hour or so away for a day's cross country skiing, something that none of us had ever done before. It was such a different experience from downhill skiing. The boots are comfy, the skis are light and by the end of the day we could all more or less whizz our selves around without too many tumbles. It was much less hard work than we thought it would be and was a great deal of fun. In fact it could be the way to go for our families as we got very excited about the fact that you can cross Norway on skis, staying at lodges on the way....something for another holiday.
Day three was ice fishing and dog sledding on a frozen fjord a short walk away from our house (which, by the way, was a very clean and simple, Ikea furnished, warm and comfortable place to be). Our guide, Andy, had rigged up a camp complete with open fire, hot dogs and marshmallows. Some of us ice fished while others bum boarded, abseiled down a steep snowy hill side or walked out on the frozen fjord, a very strange feeling. We were the only people on the ice, the sun shone and the world was silent. Andy showed the boys how to use the large screw (technically an auger) to drill a hole through the ice and we were away. By the end of the day we had caught half a dozen fish, mostly huge great cod. Dinner sorted again. As we fished, Otto arrived with his five beautiful huskies and sled and took us all, one by one, across the snow covered ice and round the frozen islands. Dr Zhivago eat your heart out.
We had had three completely perfect days. Everyone had caught a fish. Everyone had done something new. Freddie, age 9, now thinks that Norway is the most amazing place in the world because you never do the same thing twice (unlike most of our holidays we now realise!) Day four, we boldly set off on a walk of our own, heading off via the frozen fjord to the far side of Risor. Following a rather basic map, we got a bit lost in the snowy woods, just like Narnia, but eventually joined up with a good path, climbed up to the highest point for a view across the fjords to the open sea. Beautiful. And we were the only ones there. It was a magical moment. The children had a fine time tobogganing home, seeking out slippy paths, the slippier the better for them. Day Five was spent downhill skiing for the thrill seekers. No queues, no English tourists (apart from us) and a cheap lift pass for the day. All the equipment is available to hire on site. The rest of the group had a joyous, 12km cross country ski though a pine forested valley and up to a frozen lake in the hills.
Reinvigorated by hot chocolate and dime bars, we were taken to a Norweigan piano bar run by the lovely Rita. It was a charming place, painted in Scandanavian greys and whites. We sat by a warm log fire and were served a delicious feast of traditional Norwegain food: cured meats, moose soup, an elk burger, Norwegian scrambled eggs, potato salad, fine wine....but all at an extraordinarily high price.
It was the first time we really noticed the famed expense of Norway. Self catering you won't feel it's too different. Only the alcohol is priced out of reach. Do what the locals do and buy it at the Duty Free when you land in Oslo (Torp) Airport.
We stayed in a lodge at Risor Holiday Village and flew (Ryan Air) to Oslo (Torp) Airport.