July 28, 2018 - This morning, Viking Sky is sailing toward the Lofoten Islands where we will dock at Leknes, the largest town on the island of Vestvågøy. Since the ship is not scheduled to arrive until noon, I have time to attend another excellent lecture delivered by Michael Ryan titled World Peace-Are We Up To The Task?
The lecture ended just about time for lunch. Rickee and I decided to pay another visit to the Pool Grill on Deck 7. We arrive about ten minutes before the grill is scheduled to open and a line is already forming! After lunch, we get ready for our first of two shore excursions. When we get back to our stateroom, we can see Lofoten as Viking Sky makes its approach.
Because of the way Viking schedules shore excursions, it is actually possible to do two, or even three shore excursions in a day! Today, Rickee and I will do the included excursion, Panoramic Lofoten, which arrives back at the pier at 2:45pm. Then we will part ways and I will go on the 3:10pm optional excursion, Aalan Farm Visit.
We disembark Viking Sky and walk to the end of the pier where we meet with Viking Shore Excursion staff to get assigned a motorcoach for our first excursion, Panoramic Lofoten. It is an unbelievable 86 degrees today, freakishly warm for this part of the world, even in the summer. This becomes immediately apparent when we step aboard the coach to find the air conditioning is not working. Although our guide assured us that once we got moving, the AC would kick in, it never did. It was probably 90 degrees inside the bus for the entire tour. We looked forward to our first stop, a visit to the small fishing village of Ballstad.
Our local guide took time to explain the history of the fishing village. We also had a little free time to explore a local craft and souvenir shop. We reluctantly re-boarded the warm coach for a drive to Haukland Beach, which is crowded with locals and tourists on this unusually warm day in Norway.
We see lots of campers and tents. Apparently, anyone can pitch a tent on any piece of property in Norway, even in someone else's front yard! They have to remain a certain distance from a home or business, and they can only stay for two weeks, but basically, there is no trespassing law in Norway. We walk along the beach and come across a very unusual rock formation, obviously manmade, but interesting.
We spend about an hour exploring the beach area and enjoying the beautiful day. We re-board the coach once again for the drive back to the pier in Leknes. When we arrive at the pier, there is not time for me to go back to the ship, so Rickee and I hang out at a small gift shop near the entry to the port until time for me to join my next excursion, a visit to Aalan Farm. Fortunately, the motorcoach for my excursion had functioning air conditioning!
The drive to Aalan Farm only takes about 20 minutes. Along the way, our local guide draws our attention to various points of interest as we drive through the town of Leknes. Soon, we take a small road into the hills outside of town and arrive at Aalan Farm. When we disembark the coach, the owners of the farm are there to greet us.
This small family farm raises goats, which they use for the production of a brown cheese called Brunost. The brown-colored whey 'cheese' has a distinctive sweet caramel flavor. Technically speaking, it really is not cheese. The water from the whey of goat’s milk is boiled down, which caramelizes the sugars. The resulting product is left to cool and the result is Norwegian brown cheese. We were taken on a short tour of the production facility where we saw the tanks used to boil the goats' milk.
The "cheese" is formed and placed into a chilled room where it ages and becomes firm.
After this brief tour, we are taken to an upstairs tasting room where tables have been pre-set with cheese samples.
The Norwegian brown cheese (in the foreground) looks like chocolate, but don't be fooled, it is Brunost. Other goat cheeses and a cow's milk cheese are also sampled for comparison purposes. After the tasting, we have plenty of time to wander around the farm property. We can see goats running through the fields behind the farmhouse.
There is a small herb garden where the farmers grow fresh herbs used in making spice mixes and teas that the farm also sells.
The highlight of the tour was seeing and petting the baby goats.
The Aalan Farm excursion only costs $109.00 and was a good value and an enjoyable way to learn about a unique product from a local family. Notwithstanding the lack of air conditioning, the Panoramic Lofoten (included) excursion was nice, but I would say my favorite of the day was the visit to Aalan Farm. My excursion was the last to arrive back at the pier just before the 5:30pm scheduled departure from Lofoten.
Once back on board, I have time to shower and dress for our 8:00pm dinner reservation at Manfredi's. This is our second visit to Manfredi's on this cruise and, as soon as we arrive, we are greeted by Head Waiter, Bagus.
We get a wonderful table for two next to a window. Once again, our waiter is Hector, who already knows what I am going to order for my main course.
Tonight, Rickee tries a couple of new dishes (new for her). The Insalata del Mercato, her first course, a salad with ridicchio, endive, arugula, and zuchinni, served with an olive tapenade flatbread, received a thumbs-up from her. I went back to my old standby, the Caprese Salad with Mozzarella and cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. I could eat this every day!
Rickee went back to the Cold Cucumber Soup for her second course and I decided to try a small portion of the Bucatini Freschi alla Carbonara, a beautiful handmade Bucatini pasta in Carbonara sauce with Pancetta. Delizioso!
For main courses, we each ordered the Bistecca Fiorentina, the expertly-seasoned and tender Rib Eye steak. Rickee ordered the half-portion and still got more than she could finish.
Both steaks were perfectly cooked to Medium, as ordered. And, both were delicious. This was Rickee's first time to try the Bistecca and she is now a believer. She claimed it to the be the best steak she had ever eaten, a real punch to the gut since my grilled steak used to be her favorite.
It should be noted that Rickee also said her side order of grilled asparagus was excellent, as was my creamed spinach. And, during the entire meal, we never once reached for the salt or pepper grinders. Everything was perfectly seasoned. Manfredi's is becoming one of our favorite restaurants at sea, on any cruise line.
After Rickee enjoys a glass of cold Limoncello, we return to our stateroom to try and sleep off the excellent meal. Tomorrow is another day at sea as Viking Sky sails toward Lerwick, Shetland Islands.