It's no secret in the office that I love Norway, but I used to think that I avoided tipping over into obsessive territory pretty well (the fjord ferry calendar above my desk might make it seem otherwise but that was a present and it's actually pretty helpful, thank you very much). However after visiting again last month, I can no longer remain a mere fan… I'm a big old Norway nerd and frankly you should be too; it's an incredible country and a holiday there will leave you wanting to run away to the mountains and never come back.
Scrape that jaw off the floor
The first reason (of many) to fall in love with Norway is the scenery; glacier-topped mountains soar above dark blue fjords, slicing the Western Coast ragged and making it a crime to drive for more than 10 minutes without stopping and admiring the view. When you live in central London (which I do) it's easy to forget how dramatic nature can be, and you really get a sense that Norway was a country forged over the course of millions of years. Impressive doesn't even begin to cover it when you scramble down a knife-edge path to stand behind a waterfall that's crashing down 50 metres below you.
No cruises allowed, thank you
This is a place best enjoyed by getting stuck in and exploring, which is why the bloated cruise ships that float up the coast, stopping for 5 minutes and a photo, totally miss the point. Even the most indolent visitor will find themselves lacing up their hiking boots, grabbing a kayak and careering off into the wild. I blame the Norwegians for this actually… to say they are a hardy lot is an understatement and it's one of the things I love most about them. I like to think I fall towards the more active end of the spectrum (I walk to work and don't purely go to the gym because I can watch Bake Off on the giant TVs) but a "gentle morning hike" with one of my Norwegian colleagues turned into a vertical climb that left me wanting to be air lifted off the mountain. Grannies will skip past you as you heave yourself onwards and you will feel like the biggest slob on earth in comparison to just about every Norwegian.
Somewhere to rest your head
Feeling suitably humbled, you'll want to limp back to somewhere lovely to spend the night, so it's a good thing that the hotels are as close to paradise as I will probably ever get. I started off with a night at Hotel Union Oye which you reach by winding down through the Sunmore Alps. The hotel is actually one of the oldest in the country, and has an eclectic mix of former guests including Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The whole place is groaning with antiques, stories and charm.
Juvet Landscape Hotel provides the perfect counterpoint thanks to fiendishly clever Scandinavian design that makes you feel like you're camping but without all the horrors that tents entail. It's nice to wake up to the sound of the birds twittering and the river bubbling away 10 metres below than to the sirens of London's finest.
Hotel Brosundet in art-deco Alesund is also an exercise in minimalist design, but the real highlight is the restaurant, Maki. I had already died and gone to heaven well before they let me have all three of the puddings on offer… how there isn't a maelstrom of hype surrounding this place baffles me.
And my favourite
Lastly there's Storfjord Hotel which, for me, provided the pinnacle of a trip that was already overflowing with highlights. I would describe it but it'll just make me sad that I'm not there this very minute; trust me, stay there and you'll see what I mean.
Norway is somewhere we're going to be making a lot of noise about in 2015 and I am already counting down the days until I can go back - you should beat me to it.