The words I did not want to hear upon arriving at Farris Bad, Ascend Collection Hotel Larvik, Norway on a Saturday afternoon after paying $42 for a 3-hour train trip south of Oslo were, “I am so sorry, we have no reservation for you in our system.”
There was a line of weekend guests at the spa hotel and the cancellation without penalty period for my Choice Privileges points had run out 30 minutes before. I sat in the lobby and fired up my computer to find the Choice Privileges reservation for Farris Bad.
The reservation was made in July and still showed as active in my Choice Privileges user profile. The receptionist replied, “That does not look like a number that we use for reservations. Can I have your Nordic Choice Club account number?”
After explaining that this reservation was booked using Choice Privileges points and not Nordic Choice Club points, she responded that she did not know that was even possible.
Apparently, I was the first person to have come to Farris Bad, Ascend Collection hotel with a reservation using Choice Privileges points. Or at least the first person she had encountered. Regardless, there was no reservation for me in the hotel system and the place was packed with weekend guests. After some wait time, she had copied my reservation number, Choice Privileges account number, made notes on the computer, took my credit card for potentially what might be a $1,500 room charge and gave me a room key.
I was feeling happy that I did not have to take a train back to Oslo and burn some Club Carlson or Best Western points for a last minute room, or even worse, pay $200 per night for the Quality Inn in Larvik, the only other hotel I had seen in town.
One of the reasons I had come to Farris Bad was the ability to book a Deluxe Room that had a balcony and seating area and the best view the hotel has to offer. I planned to settle in for a long weekend and chill by the sea at a beach resort hotel. The published room rate at the time I booked the Farris Bad Deluxe room category was a little over $500 US per night. I paid 16,000 points per night instead for a 3-night reward stay.
I opened the door with my room key.
My mood turned as gray as the sky had changed during the day from the brilliant blue of Oslo to the darkening clouds of Larvik.
There was no balcony, no ocean view and no desk in the room to set up my computer. There was no bathtub either. This was not the room I had booked.
On the website the lowest category Standard Double photo shows a desk and couch.
Given that it was a Saturday, the place was packed and the system error seemed to me to be more likely an issue with Choice Privileges. I was not going to be the ugly American arguing with the hotel staff. I tried to shake it off. Shit happens when you travel, even when you have made the best plans.
At least I had a place to lay my head. For three nights.
The room was quite small.
I grabbed my camera and walked around the hotel to try and figure out where I should have been staying.
There was a window in the hallway that provided more of what I had expected for my Farris Bad stay.
Notice the Nordic Choice Hotels website for Farris Bad says radio-alarm clock in the room. Since coming to Norway, I am in my fourth hotel and none have had a clock. This week in Norway has been sort of timeless, except for dragging myself out of bed each morning and turning on my computer to check the time and be sure I have an hour to eat breakfast and pack in my food sustenance for the day.
Farris Bad on the sea
Farris Bad is a relatively new hotel opened in 2009 I think. I read there were plenty of environmental impact reports to allow the construction of a hotel on the beach over the water. Like new California hotels built on the shoreline, Farris Bad had to allow public access and there is a paved pathway that runs along the waterfront under the hotel.
Farris Bad, Ascend Collection – Larvik, Norway
The idea for my Norway trip was to come to the sunniest part of Norway and acclimate to the country before heading to rainy Bergen. My three days in Larvik turned out to be three days when this area was the wettest in Norway.
The persistent rain turned out to be a good reason to hang out in the hotel where there were indoor pools in Scandinavia’s largest spa. Speaking of Norway spa pools, some periods of the week and month are obligatory textile-free; i.e. mandatory nudity when using the spa pools. Mandatory nudity was not in effect for the days when I was staying at Farris Bad.
I quickly learned that summer tourist season ended here in August. While Saturday and Sunday were busy at the Spa, Monday and Tuesday had fewer than 20% of the guests over the weekend.
Larvik on a Saturday night revealed what off-season looks like as I sat in the city square eating a 25 NOK Subway sandwich.
Farris Bad hotel had a charming restaurant environment. At reception I was offered an opportunity to book a dinner reservation for a prix-fixe menu at 599 NOK ($100 USD). There were so many happy looking cute couples at Farris Bad on a Saturday night. I was not feeling too romantic on my own to settle in for a long $100 dinner.
The spa pools stay open until 10pm and until 11pm on Friday.
The bar was a happening space Saturday and Sunday nights as I could see from the bed through my room window.
I tried not to let the room downgrade get me down. After a long breakfast on Sunday morning, I packed my rain gear and back pack and headed outside for a hike to the next town five miles down the coast. I read that Bob Dylan played a concert July 11 in Stavern, Norway. I figured that must be a more happening town than Larvik if Dylan played there. I decided a pilgrimage to see the town where Bob Dylan played was in order for Sunday.
The weather forecast looked like it called for 3mm of rain. I could handle a little rain. Turned out it was more like Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”.
Of note is Norway has fantastic signage. I was walking on small back roads winding through the woods and farmlands and the cycling path was well marked leading me to Stavern. Only one spot did I have to make a choice of direction between two roads. I made the right one.
There was about 13 mm (0.5 inches) of rain during my 16 km hike. Wrong day to wear tennis shoes! At least the rain was not blowing sideways. At least not on the outbound portion of the hike.
I only snapped about 60 photos all day as I was afraid of damaging my camera in the downpour. There were bus shelters all along the way where I could get respite from the heavier downpours. But no Sunday bus service. Even slugs were seeking shelter from the storm.
Turned out Stavern on a Sunday afternoon was nearly as vacant as Larvik.
A Norwegian boat captain I spoke with told me the tourist facilities in town had closed up for summer two weeks before.
The journey to Stavern was not a wasted hike despite being soaked by rain for hours since I came across the historic 330-year old Citadellet Fort and Fredriksvern, home of the Royal Norwegian Navy for nearly 200 years before it was opened to the public a decade ago.
I sat on a swimming dock on a beautiful small harbor thinking about how joyous this spot must have been in July when Bob Dylan was in town and the temperature was in the low 80s. The rainfall during my day hike was three times the amount of rain that fell in these parts during the entire month of July.
It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don’t matter, anyhow
An’ it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don’t know by now
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on
Don’t think twice, it’s all right
Bob Dylan.com – Don’t think twice, it’s all right
I sang Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right to myself about a hundred times during my hike. I actually considered flying out of Norway Monday morning to Gdansk, Poland on a $30 WizzAir flight from Sandefjord-Torp Airport or taking the ferry from Sandefjord to Sweden after getting back to Farris Bad feeling wet and depressed.
Back in the hotel room I turned on the TV and to my surprise NFL Live with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints on FOX was being broadcast on a Norwegian TV station. I was ready for some Sunday night football. What an awesome first week game! Norwegian football commentators spent the FOX TV commercial breaks showing game replays and giving analysis. I assume it was analysis, but they were speaking in Norwegian, of course. The long game was so much more enjoyable with an hour less in commercials. Alas, the evening did not continue with the San Francisco 49ers – Dallas Cowboys game. I kept up on that game through internet.
Monday morning I woke up, ate a big breakfast and went to reception to speak with a manager about my reservation downgrade for the three day hotel stay.
Part 2 of Farris Bad will be more brief. Heavy rain kept me in the hotel for the remaining 24 hours. I didn’t mind.
The last day of my stay at Farris Bad was all good.
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