All posts by Sarah McGurk

About Sarah McGurk

I am a veterinary surgeon and author from the UK. I currently live and work in Norway.

Linken and Tromsø

Sunrise/sunset: 03:50/ 21:51. Daylength: 18hr1min

Today we head north again. We will be spending tonight in Skibotn and the night after, who knows where? I made the mistake of looking up the coronavirus map yesterday and saw that the north of Norway is currently lit up like a viral Christmas tree, but hopefully that and the hairy-legged northern mosquitos won’t trouble us too much. Anyway, back to this week’s news.

On Monday, Ann, Ammar and I headed out for a walk after work. We climbed a hill called Linken. I’ve been very interested to see how rapidly we have left summer behind. We had just arrived this time last year and so I missed those wild and exuberant months, where the abundance of life thrust its way into every crevice. The change arrived almost as soon as the sun began to dip below the horizon again. At the start of the summer, there was a delay. In my head, those long, long days should have brought warmth and growth, but it took time for the land to recover from the long hard winter. Now we have plummeted into autumn. The trees are only just beginning to turn, but the forest floor, so recently dominated by lime green ferns and brightly coloured flowers, is now filled with berries and mushrooms.

Ammar made the most of the blueberries.

The view from the top of Linken was mostly obscured by trees, but I managed to take a couple of photographs.

On Thursday, Anna and I drove to Tromsø so I could sit my citizenship test. I spent last weekend and took most of a day off during the week to revise. I learned a few odd facts along the way. I hadn’t realised the Viking period lasted only about 250 years. Somehow, it has always felt like something timeless. And who knew that Norway’s highest mountain is Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 m (8,100 ft) above sea level? I told Anna and she pointed out that translated, it’s name means Crazily High Peak. One has to wonder whether the map maker asked one of the locals and received a rather tongue in cheek reply, which then was preserved for all time by officialdom!

The test is thirty six multiple-choice questions and I knew I was reasonably well prepared, but because of the deadline (an appointment with the police at the end of August) I needed to pass if I didn’t want to delay my application any further. The test was meant to take up to an hour, but in the event, I was finished after only eleven minutes. I wondered whether I ought to scroll back and check my answers, but the woman who was checking our proof of ID had just arrived at my desk. I wasn’t sure what the protocol for finishing was, so I asked her and then went ahead. Walking up the stairs to get my results, my heart was in my mouth, but as I walked back down, my heart was singing. I don’t know what my mark was, but I had passed and that was all that mattered.

Having driven all that way, Anna and I spent some time exploring Tromsø. First off was this wonderful book (and toy) shop that we found tucked away in a little yard down near the docks.

I’m a sucker for all things Harry Potter, and so I was delighted to see some fabulous memorabilia.

There was a reasonable sized English section (albeit sci-fi dominated) and I took the chance to buy four Terry Pratchett books. Only a few weeks ago, I was thinking that I almost never read anything new, but now I have plenty of reading to look forward to.

We wandered around the docklands area for a little while. I don’t know much about Tromsø’s history (a topic for another day perhaps) but it really did seem to be an eclectic mix of old and new and definitely had some quirky elements.

We also found a pub. I’m not sure I’ve actually been in a pub in Norway before. There isn’t a pub tradition here in the way there is in the UK. This one had a very British feel to it and Anna and I immediately felt at home.

Anyway, I’ll have to go now and get some breakfast. The car is packed already and I’m feeling in a holiday mood. Thanks for reading. See you all very soon!

Dog in a Bog

Sunrise/sunset: 03:14/ 22:29. Daylength: 19hr14min

I am looking forward to my holiday. It’s only a week away, and somehow until now, it seemed distant, but now it’s almost upon us. Not that we’re going far afield. Coronavirus has seen to that. But it seems fitting, given that this past week has been the anniversary of my epic drive from the southern tip of Norway to here, that I will be heading north once more, this time to Nordkapp. Our accommodation will be mixed. The first night will be in a tiny cabin with four bunk beds and an electric hob. I haven’t managed to book anything at all for the second night. Everything seems to be full, but we’ll take the tent and hope it doesn’t rain. Then we’ll be staying in a hotel while we explore Nordkapp. I had hoped to spend a couple of nights in a lavvo, which is a Sami wigwam. We found one on AirBnB and I quickly booked it, but my request was sadly rejected after twenty four hours with the succinct explanation “holiday”. I will keep my eyes open for it reappearing though. Despite the fact that it would undoubtdly be inhabited by the unexpectedly vicious Northern Norwegian Mosquitos with their huge evil fangs, I still find the idea very appealing.

On Thursday next week, I will be sitting an exam. I applied for Norwegian citizenship last year and happily filled in the section that said I had passed an exam in Norwegian social studies. I thought this was covered by the Norwegian course and exams I sat ten years ago when I first came to Norway, but I recently discovered that the rules had been changed and now everyone who wasn’t schooled in Norway has to take a test. As soon as I’ve finished writing this, I shall start revising. A lot of the subject matter is based on things I have experienced, such as the inner machinations of the health service and workers rights. But some of the questions on the mock test I took were very specific and rather obscure so I’d better get learning. My appointment with the police is on the week after I get back from my holiday, so I only have one chance, unless I want the whole thing to be delayed even more. I feel like getting a Norwegian passport will mark both the end of another journey and a new beginning.

Ann and I went out for another walk yesterday. Last week, we had a walk, followed by fish and chips. This week, Ann came over to mine and we went for a walk on Senja. I took her to Ånderdalen, of course. It’s still my favourite walk. But Ann, it turns out, has some books about walks in the area, so now we are planning more. In the meantime, I will spam you with the usual Ånderdalen imagery of pale ghost trees and mountain vistas.

Triar found both a bog to jump in (when does he not?) and a Burned Sausage of Unknown Origin, secreted in the barbecue close to the shelter at the highest point of the circuit. Ann very quickly prised his jaws apart and rescued the sausage, which was definitely a sausage and not the more traditional hot dog. The civilised Norwegian habit of providing both a grill, and the wood to burn on it at the end of a pretty walk continues to please me. I must get into the habit of taking matches, whittling knife and food with me more often.

Anyway, I must go and study. Procrastination won’t get me very far. Hope you will all join me on my journey next week. And in the meantime, a toast from Senja. Cheers!

Strange Days

Sunrise/sunset: 02:31/ 23:11. Daylength: 20hr40min

It was on this day last year, that John and I set off to drive To The North. In a week’s time, I will have been here a year.

It’s been a strange time, all in all. Not that it hasn’t been wonderful in many ways; it has. But coronavirus has had an effect on all our lives that would have been difficult to imagine only a few years ago. In the past year, I have lost an uncle: a wonderful man, larger than life, of whom I have many wonderful and cheering memories, and also an aunt – not technically mine, but an aunt by marriage who was one of the kindest people I have ever met. I could never have imagined that I would be unable to attend their funerals. Nor that I would have been unable to visit my mum and dad for a year and a half, with no definite sign of an end to restrictions amid continuing reports from around the world that the virus is continuing to spread and mutate, despite (or perhaps even because of) the vaccine.

So here I am. Logically coming was the right decision. John has settled nearby and has a permanent job and friends with whom he goes climbing and walking. Andrew has settled into school and has taken up the piano. Anna has been with us since she came home for Christmas and wasn’t able to return to university in the UK. We have a lot of freedom to go out locally. The Norwegian government have done a sterling job in limiting the spread of the virus and we are so remote that often it’s hard to remember during everyday life that we are in the middle of a pandemic.

But it’s odd to think that I have been here a year, in an area I had never visited before I drove up here in a few chaotic days one year ago. I haven’t been home to Yorkshire or Scotland. I am hoping to see my parents at Christmas, but everything seems so unstable that it is impossible to make firm plans.

Still, life goes on. While on a grand scale, everything is filled with uncertainty, on a small scale, I am thriving. This week at work has been special. When I started work a year ago, I was given a list of tasks to complete. One of them was to engage with colleagues who worked in other sectors within Mattilsynet. We cover everything from drinking water to cosmetics as well as food safety on all levels between farm and plate. It had been discussed occasionally, but due to the strict coronavirus rules, where nobody was meant to go anywhere that wasn’t essential, it was always put on hold. But last Friday, alone in the office with Randi and Øivind, I decided it was time to seize the opportunity and I asked whether they had anything planned for this week.

The result was that I went out with Randi on Wednesday for some Smilefjes tilsyn and Friday with Øivind to inspect some waterworks.

Smilefjes is Mattilsynets system for inspection of restaurants and food outlets. When you enter an eatery, there’s generally a certificate on the door showing a happy Smiley. If the inspection didn’t go so well, the Smiley might be less cheerful, but the kitchen we inspected was well organised and clean. I was shown around the restaurant and communal areas of the guesthouse as well, while Randi wrote her report. It was a lovely place: an old building in an area where few old buildings exist. There was a huge fireplace in the restaurant and comfortable couches in front of a large television, which the owner proudly told me was the only one in the building. There were photographs too, black and white pictures of years gone by. I felt nostalgic for the times when staying in hotels was a casual weekend activity and I wanted so much to stay overnight. I took a photograph out of the window as Randi was finishing up her report. The book in the foreground is to record the weight of the fish you catch in the river outside.

On Thursday, quietly melded between the restaurant and water inspections, I carried out my first solo animal welfare inspection. I say solo as I had no other inspectors with me and the responsibility for the case lay with me, but I had support from a fabulous member of Dyervernsnemnda (a little about Dyrevernsnemnda here) called Berit. Berit drove down from Tromsø and she was wonderfully helpful and reassuring. Thanks must also go to Birgit, who made sure I followed the correct procedures beforehand.

Afterwards, I went out for some fish and chips with Ann to celebrate in the cafe that serves the ski slope at Fellandsby.

Yesterday, Øivind took me out to inspect some waterworks. If that word conjures up an image of a huge building with pipes and filtration, then like me, you will have to think again. We drove out onto Senja and headed south to a remote village, where we met the group of men who organise the water supply for the few houses in that area. We sat outside in the sun, as Øivind asked a series of questions about cubic metres of water per year and how many people are supplied. It was an interesting discussion, partly because of the logistics. In summer, there might be fifty people there, whereas there are only four permanent residents. But for me, it was a stark reminder of social changes and history. The four permanent residents are all over 80. The rest are a mix of tourists and very likely people whose parents used to live there, who have moved away, but return at weekends and for the summer. I found myself wondering about those still living there: all of them are in their eighties and nineties. It’s a very long way to the hospital if anything goes wrong.They likely still have families on Senja who look after them. But when they are gone, will the village only exist as a holiday place? There was an old schoolhouse, which is now used for social events. But once upon a time, there must have been families and people who worked the land and/or lived from the sea. Did the four people still living there attend the school, all those years ago? It was a reminder of how much things can change within a lifetime.

After the conversation, we walked up to see the water source. No filtration in sight and the small pipe that carries the water to the village was underground. The water comes from a river. I found myself surprised that it doesn’t freeze in winter, but the water must continue to run underneath all the snow and ice.

This was where we walked to. It was perhaps a kilometer up a grassy track from the village.

Such a peaceful place. I could have passed a happy few hours, listening to the water rushing over the rocks.

And here is the “waterworks” we inspected!

So the village is supplied from the water that runs down from the mountain. It’s not filtered or cleaned and technically, it is a water supply and not a drinking water supply. Øivind made some recommendations. The water source cover should be locked with a padlock, just in case. And the quality should be checked at least once a year. Likely times for the check would be after heavy rain, or when the snow is melting, preferably at a time of year when more people are arriving.

But those who run the system assured us that nobody had ever been unwell from the water in the fifty years since the pipes were installed. It was another reminder of the differences in the lives people in Norway lead. The idea that everyone in Norway should be treated exactly the same (one of Mattilsynet’s aims) is challenging, to say the least. There has to be flexibility when dealing with a country where the ways of life are so very diverse.

And to finish up, here’s are some pictures from Tuesday, when we met one of Anna’s old teachers, who was up for a holiday in the north. We took Triar for a walk in Ånderdalen afterwards. It really has been a very good week.

Very British

Sunrise/sunset: 01:14/ 00:34. Daylength: 23hr

There has been a massive change in the weather this week. Until now, it’s been warm and sunny, on and off, but the forecast this week, courtesy of YR.no looked like this.

Not only has it rained a lot, but those temperature listings aren’t very accurate. I took John to the airport on Tuesday and noticed that the temperature was a rather chilly 5.5°C. I took a picture after dropping him off. The mountains were shrouded in mist and the river was a distant mirage.

When the mountain peaks emerged now and then, they too showed evidence of the chill in the air.

I was reminded of the weather forecasts in October and November last year, where they announced that the snow line was now at 400m, 300m, 200m and you could watch the gradual descent into winter.

I am very much better than I was. My blood pressure has returned to normal, thank goodness and I seem to be generally on the mend. I was back to work yesterday. I was afraid that I would be too tired, but I had a good quiet day in the office catching up and arranging things for next week.

Though I spent much of the week resting, Anna and Andrew offered to take me out for a Senja Roasters brunch on Thursday. How could I resist? I’ve been wanting to try the French Toast ever since I read the description and it didn’t disappoint. It was wonderful, filled with caramel flavours.

French toast , brown cheese and mascarpone whipped
cream, honey, roasted pears, and pumpkin seeds

Our trip did lead to one of those truly embarrassing British moments, however. Thomas is always telling me off for thanking him and I probably still apologise way too often, but this was one of those more toe curling examples. The lovely waitress was explaining to us that there was no cured ham for the Banger Toasts. Instead, they were substituting chorizo. I’m not sure where she was from, but I didn’t quite catch what she said at first. When it dawned on me, I said, in a rather loud voice, “Oh, chorizo!” About one second later, my brain caught up and I remembered that, of course, her pronunciation was almost certainly the genuine article. It was more an announcement of realisation from me than any attempt to correct, but it was one of those wonderfully cringeworthy moments I love to share with you all!

We walked down the track to my favourite beach afterwards. Happily it was between rain showers. Though summer is passing and the green has passed its vibrant zenith, Senja is still stunning. There are orchids and harebells, sandy beaches and misty mountains. And sheep with bells on. What could be more Norwegian than that?

In Sickness…

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

This will be the last time this summer that I will write: Sunrise/sunset: Up all day. Next Saturday, the sun will dip below the horizon for almost an hour.

I haven’t done much this week. Last weekend was mostly spent resting with a headache, and as headache tops the currently listed top five symptoms of COVID, I went on Monday to take a test. It had been raining, and when I came out, I took a few photographs of raindrops on the leaves and flowers growing around the test station.

Happily, the test came back negative, so having spent Tuesday and Wednesday resting, I took myself in to work at the abattoir on Thursday. Working on the line was okay. It’s routine work and not too strenuous, once you have learned some knife skills. Hilde had come over to visit, and I spent a while chatting to her. I was still feeling exhausted, so after some discussion, it was agreed that I would go to the doctor for a check-up. It hadn’t been so long after my vaccination that I had fallen ill, so it didn’t seem impossible the two things were unrelated.

I have to pass the surgery on my way home, and having tried to book earlier in the week, I knew they didn’t have any routine appointments until August. The receptionist started telling me about calling in the morning for one of their emergency appointments, then glanced up at me. I guess I must have looked as tired as I was feeling because she took pity on me. After another check of her computer, she said if I waited now, someone would see me.

So I’m signed off now for a week. As I hadn’t been sleeping well, I was given some sleeping tablets, but I woke this morning feeling so groggy and nauseated I’m not sure I’ll continue. I’ll give them one more night and see.

Anyway, though I haven’t been out as much as usual, I have managed a few gentle wanders. Anna and Andrew are back and Anna and I went to the stony beach a little bit north of Silsand on Senja where we often walk Triar.

I took some photographs there of a bumble bee. There are so many of them here at the moment.

And these were taken in the lane at the back of the house.

And to my amazement, another bee sequence. I took a photo of one of the rose-like flowers in the back garden, and a bee emerged, and then another.

Anyway, nobody enjoys being unwell. With any luck, the title of next week’s blog will be very easy! And if being laid up in bed is boring, at least I was lucky enough to have good company.

Hot and Cold

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

John and I went swimming in the sea last Sunday. It was after midday and the knowledge that we had to get up soon after 4a.m. the next morning was hanging in the air, but the sky was a wonderful clear blue and the air was warm. It seemed a shame to waste it. So rather than spending the day lounging around, we set off and drove to an isolated beach up on the north-western tip of Senja.

Golden sand at Skaland, Senja.

John had been to the area before, having walked up the hill in the photograph above with a colleague from work. We might walk up it together some day, but for now I was content to kick off my sandals and walk across the soft sand. The water was a chilly nine degrees, but we took the plunge anyway. There weren’t many people there, but there was a boat anchored in the calm waters of the bay. Its owners were also enjoying a day in the sun and it struck me, not for the first time, that having a boat would give a whole new perspective to exploring the area.

Moored sailing boat in the bay at Skaland.

At the other end of the bay there was a building, jutting out on stilts over the sea. With the backdrop of turquoise sea and yellow sand, I was reminded of the Caribbean shacks in the TV series Death in Paradise (filmed in Guadeloupe) though there was also something distinctly Norwegian about it as well.

Beach at Skaland, southern aspect.
Building on stilts at the water’s edge.

It got very warm on Monday and Tuesday. Thirty degrees is not something I expect here, though when the sun is up twenty four hours a day, it does allow a lot of hours for the heat to build without the cooler evening and night to offset it. There was a thunder storm forecast for Wednesday night, and I found myself contemplating whether I might find a way to capture a picture – you know the type – a perfect bolt of lighting on a backdrop of darkness. I confess I thought about this more than once before I remembered the inconvenient facts that

a) By ten or eleven o’clock in the evening, I would have already been in bed (and hopefully asleep) for a couple of hours.

And more profoundly

b) That it wasn’t actually going to get dark – well not that proper kind of black darkness I had been considering – for at least two months.

I’m not sure whether the storm ever actually arrived. If it did, I slept through it. It definitely rained and was cooler afterwards, but I had to content myself with a picture that reflects the perfect stillness of the air in the early evening leading up to it. I was hoping that in the morning, it would have been stripped, but it wasn’t, so I’m guessing it didn’t even rain that hard but in my head, I’ve given it the portentous title “Before the Storm”. I’m not going to change that, just because events inconveniently didn’t unfold in the way they ought to have done!

See you next week.

Before the Storm!

Hazy

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

We’re into July now. Time seems to be passing almost too quickly. In a couple of weeks, the twenty-four hour daylight will be past. In August, I will have been here a full year. I only have one week of holiday booked this summer. Norwegian holiday laws are odd. For some reason, you are paid holiday pay in arrears, the year after you took the holiday. As I only worked from August last year, I’m only entitled to ten days of paid holiday this year. Last year, my only holiday was the ten days I spent driving up here, so it feels like a very long time since I’ve had a break. Anyway, given the continuing COVID restrictions, I thought it would be appropriate to use my week in August to travel up to Nordkapp, right up at the top of Norway. I will then have driven the full length of the country.

I had my COVID vaccination this week on Wednesday. Though Norway is a little behind the UK, everything seems to be moving along now. John had his on Thursday and Anna will have hers when she returns from Rogaland. I’m not sure what is happening with under 18s yet. I hope that Andrew will receive his in due course. The UK seems to be about to head into crazy territory. Allowing the virus to run rampant through the young people, knowing how easy it is for the virus to mutate, seems like a very strange pathway to choose, given that there’s a viable option to vaccinate.

I don’t have much else to report. I saw some moose on the drive to work and yesterday came across a gorgeous reindeer wandering about on Senja, but as usual, photographing wild animals proved more difficult than taking pictures of the scenery!

In the depths of the polar night, the light was bluish and very clear. Now in the height of summer, there’s a haze hanging in the air that lends the distant mountains a sense of magical unreality. And then there are the flowers. They are everywhere. I’ve taken a few photos as usual. Hope you enjoy them.

Dyrøya from Senja.
The mountains of Senja from my back garden.

Summer Days

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

I took Anna and Andrew to the airport on Monday morning. They will be away for another week and a half, staying with Charlie down in the more southern regions of Norway. John and I have spent more time together. As well as the visit to Roasters, we spent some time exploring the southern end of Senja and have also taken a couple of walks up around the local ski area, which looks very different without snow. I haven’t much by way of commentary. There must be bloggers who can tell you all the names of the flowers and the mountains, but I am happy for now just to gaze and wonder… and share the photographs with you in blissful ignorance.

I’ll start with the ski slope. It’s small, I believe: just one tow. Next winter, I hope that Andrew and I will get season tickets, but for now, it’s open for hiking. Triar was with us, of course. When is he not?

While Anna and Andrew are away, John and I are hoping to get a night or two away camping. Weather permitting, I still hope to take a midnight hike up one of the easier hills on Senja. We found a possible campsite as we were driving down to Roasters. It’s down by the edge of the fjord, by the side of a river. Wild camping is allowed in Norway, so we hope to make our base here.

John, Triar and I also went for a wander around Stonglandseidet and back to the beach where Thomas and I were taken on our reindeer hunt.

Stonglandseidet has a lovely church. It’s spread out around flower meadows, between two stony bays with a mountainous backdrop.

After a short stroll there, we went back to the beach, which is also surrounded by velvety meadows and grass verges, stippled with flowers.

And finally, this is possibly the happiest photograph of Triar I’ve taken. He really brings a huge amount of cheer into my life.

The Roasters Return

I said last weekend that it wouldn’t be long until John and I returned to Senja Roasters. We decided to explore the three course menu and so we booked a table for this evening. There’s always anticipation before going to a new restaurant. It’s not always possible to predict how the food will taste from reading a menu and though there were good signs (local and international ingredients, paper menu, limited choice) those things don’t always translate into food heaven. This time there was no disappointment. John and I decided to share the meat and fish options, though next time, if there’s a vegan risotto, I will definitely go that way. But for now, I want to share this evening’s fabulous meal with you.

Senja Roasters Café.

The starters sounded interesting: Cod tongues and coffee-crusted tataki reindeer. The cod was wonderful, light and crispy. For me, this was extra special. Fish in batter isn’t common here. It was like a tiny taste of home.

Cod tongues with tangy-mayonnaise and wakame salad.

The tataki reindeer was exquisite. Almost black on the outside, rare in the centre. It was meltingly tender and packed with flavour.

Coffee-crusted tataki reindeer with beetroot ketchup.

We must have looked hungry because in the fairly brief interval between the starters and the main courses, we were brought some more of those delicious crusty bread rolls we had last Sunday.

Onto the mains, again we shared the meat and fish dishes. The waitress was very attentive and happily brought us separate eating plates and bowls for all three courses. We started with a tasty halibut dish on an unusual sweetcorn and red onion salsa. The flavours were lifted by a light-touch citrus sauce:

Halibut with maize salsa and orange chimichurri.

Next up, slow roasted lamb shank with a rich red wine sauce. Traditional flavours, but extremely well done.

Lamb shank with fried butternut squash in red wine sauce with a hint of chocolate.

We spent a few minutes chatting in between the main course and the dessert. The view outside the window kept drawing my gaze as the light changed over the fjord. Here we were in a modern restaurant, not in the centre of a city, but out in the wilds of Norway. Imagine popping over in your boat and tying up outside… maybe one day!

And finally, onto the dessert. Two very different choices here: a rhubarb crumble, sweet and piquant, and a tiramisu, bittersweet coffee taste with a sweet, creamy finish.

Rhubarb crumble.
Tiramisu

We rounded off the meal, me with a cafe latte and John with the hot chocolate at the top of the page. It was a perfect end to a fantastic meal. I think our enthusiasm must have been noted because the chef came out at the end to talk to us. As John pointed out afterwards, you know when you’ve had a great meal when you run out of ways to tell the waitress how much you loved it all.

And a final touch, when we were in Roasters last Sunday, they told us they were expecting a visit from Mattilsynet and hoping to earn the smiley face that means the inspectors found the hygiene was good. It seems they must have passed as I saw this on the way out.

Here is this evening’s menu, for Norwegian speakers. For any non-Norwegian vegans reading, the starter was cauliflower soup with fried almonds, raisins and mint oil, and the main course, butternut squash risotto with porcini mushrooms.

Edit to add a photo of the risotto from a week later. Also delicious!

Senja Roasters Website.

Senja Roasters

Something caught my eye as Thomas drove into Stonglandseidet on Friday. On the front of an unassuming building, a sign: Senja Roasters. It seemed an unusual name for somewhere so far out into the countryside. Cafe culture hasn’t reached rural Norway to the same extent it has reached the UK. I have driven round the northern end of Senja before and thought that a coffee shop would have turned a pleasant drive into a proper day out. And so I tucked away the information in my head to check out later. It was more a stir of curiosity than a white hot hope.

I checked it out when I got home and my interest grew. Senja Roasters, I discovered was indeed a café with, as I had hoped, a special interest in coffee. Not only that, it had a real foodie vibe. Local Arctic ingredients – tick! Complementary use of imported food – tick! Vegetarian? Vegan? Yes to both. There it was, a truly international eating experience, tucked away on an island in a remote part of Norway.

The menu sounded great. The brunches or Frunches (the Norwegian word for breakfast being frokost) included the delicious sounding Challah Toast – “French toast made out of challah bread or brioche, brunost and mascarpone whipped cream, honey, roasted pears, pumpkin seeds and almonds.” and Banger Fritters – “Beetroot and ginger, smoked carrots, and crispy tofu.

The dinner menu sounded good too. Butternut soup with fried butternut and crispy cabbage, poached halibut with cherry tomatoes, sugar buttons and saffron sauce, homemade rhubarb crumble.

And so this morning, I asked John if he would like to come out on an exploratory mission with me. Good as the café sounded, there was a chance it wouldn’t live up to expectations. I also wondered about price. The website didn’t say and it seemed liked the kind of upmarket place that would charge upmarket prices in a city in the UK. How expensive would the same experience be out on Senja?

It was a fair drive from home, so by the time we arrived, it was definitely approaching lunchtime. First impressions were good. Though it was empty, the surroundings were very pleasant: a mixture of clean blue walls and rustic wood that fitted well with the menu.

We had intended to drink coffee, check out the prices, and come back another day. We ordered coffees – a cappuccino for John and a latte for me. The waitress (I think she was Daniela, though I forgot to ask) brought our coffees very promptly. I explained we probably wouldn’t be eating today, but would like to see the menu. She brought them – printed on ordinary A4 paper – another good sign. A pre-printed menu doesn’t always indicate poor food, but if the chef is using local ingredients, which can vary from day to day, it’s much more likely the menu will vary as well.

To my pleasure, the prices didn’t seem any higher than they would have been in London. For Norway, they were normal. The coffee was wonderful too: well rounded and smooth, with no trace of bitterness. Within a couple of seconds, all my careful plans were abandoned. I asked John whether he would like to share the cheese platter, and he agreed he would.

The website had listed the team behind Senja Roasters as being from Spain, Finland, Germany, Russia, Australia and France, so I was hoping for a truly international selection and I was not disappointed. There was Manchego Ezequiel, imported directly from Spain, Chevre goats cheese, Norwegian Brie from Dovre Ysteri and Gorgonzola pikante defendi.

It was accompanied by homemade blueberry and onion jam and quince marmalade. There were warm, crusty bread rolls, salt biscuits and Norwegian flatbreads. It was a wonderful combination.

I asked Daniela a little about how long Roasters had been open. To my amazement, she told me that it had only opened last week. Like us, the team had felt that Senja was rather short on coffee shops, and rather than regretting, as I had done, they had decided to do something about it. Amazing to think that if Thomas and I had passed by only a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have made such a wonderful discovery.

As it is, we will definitely be going back. Today’s menu sounded delicious, and Daniela said it would continue until the end of this week. After that, there will be summer menus. I hope that the tourists, who flock to Senja in the summer, will discover Roasters. It is definitely worth a visit.

Senja Roasters Café Website.