Spoiler alert: This was probably our favorite port.
After the crappy respiratory feelings incurred in Iceland, I was determined to make this day count. We had another bus trip scheduled for the afternoon, but with the ship docked right in the middle of the town, I wanted to get up and see it in the morning.
Ålesund, Norway is in the lower-third of the country, and still about 7 hours away from Oslo by car because there are no straight line roads through the mountains. The city sits on a peninsula surrounded by a number of islands that are connected by tunnels. The main part of town doesn't have any buildings older than a hundred years and change, because of a fire that burned most of it to the ground in 1904. The rebuilt city leans on art nouveau vibes and something that I can only describe as exactly what you'd expect from seeing Norway in pictures. The EV percentage was even higher here than in Iceland, I'm guessing probably two-thirds. I know new car sales in Norway are more than 90% plug-in now, according to an article I saw a few months ago.
Unfortunately, we were there on a Sunday, so most of the retail was closed, as well as most of the restaurants. Nothing we could do about that. Diana and I left the ship in the morning, and did a random walking tour around the central part of the city. This was the closest thing to "warm" that we had experienced at that point, with the temperature around 62. I was comfortable in shorts, and periodically took my hoody off, especially when the sun peaked out. There was one restaurant/bar prepping to open around noon that looked pretty great with an outdoor patio, but unfortunately we had to get back to the ship to get lunch, Simon and ready for our bus trip.
We met a gigantic dog and his human, and they were one of a very few locals we met. They clearly take the day off pretty seriously, and I admire that. There were a couple of souvenir shops right by the dock, and we picked up a few things for next to nothing. We also grabbed a magnet for one of our favorite bartenders, who collected them from each port, but wasn't able to get off the ship that day. Take care of the people who take care of you!
None of the tours that we researched were big standouts, relative to what was available in Iceland, but I would have been content just to drive around. The hills and shores are stunning. What I found particularly satisfying is that, outside of the city, people lived in nice but modest homes with a fair amount of property. We saw neighbors in different places just hanging out and talking to each other in the single-lane street, where our huge motorcoach seemed out of place. If it were a little warmer, I could see living there. It was idyllic.
Our first stop was to a 12th century church in Giske. Most of what you could see was introduced within the last 250 years, but the bones of the building are very old. There's also a grave next to it that they believe contains the guy who built the church. The exterior is actually marble, but covered in layers of stuff to protect it. There was something satisfying about having a young woman sporting serious goth vibes acting as guide for the church (she's called out as a "lovely" positive in the last two Google reviews!). Most of the graves outside were fairly "new," which is to say they were from the last 250 years.
Next we headed to Godøy, the next island over, where we visited the Alnes Fyr (lighthouse). This was first built in 1853, though most certainly rebuilt over the years, since it's wood on a steel frame. It's a narrow climb to the top, and there's a grumpy old keeper that appeared to moderate tourists going in and out. The view from the top is certainly impressive, but the landscape is already pretty impressive at the ground level. The air there is different, that's the only way that I can describe it. There is a small cafe and art gallery built into the side of the hill. There was cake included in our tour. You can't really go wrong with cake.
From there we headed back through the four tunnels into Ålesund, as the bus climbed through quite a few residential streets to Fjellstua Aksla, the overlook, which sits about 600 feet above sea level. The view of the city from that position makes it seems almost as if the entire area was created for the purpose of making a movie. Even more remarkable, there are hundreds of stairs that you can take to walk up from the city below to this spot, which I am happy to say I didn't have to worry about because of the bus. This was another spot where we could see the ship in its entirety, and again it was so weird to see "the Bahamas ship" in Europe.
Overall, it was a really great day, even though the sun didn't spend a lot of time showing itself. The forecast was originally suggesting a washout all day, so I'm perfectly happy with what we had.