Travel Inspirations: How Epcot's Norway Pavilion spurred actual travels to the fjords

Yesterday evening as a new video-game took over our sitting room and transported us, virtually at least, to another time and place, David remarked how our next trip would probably be in line with the location in that game - but that’s a story for another day! He’s probably right though; we do have a habit of getting travel inspiration from the media that we consume - including our regular theme park visits!

One of the first time this travel inspiration happened was just over five years ago now. In August 2013, my father turned 65 years old and to celebrate, the whole Ellis clan descended on Walt Disney World to celebrate Mickey style. It was a great summer holiday spent with my parents, my now husband, brothers and my niece, who was ten years old at the time.

Here’s a family shot, minus our other niece, Talulah (who hadn’t been born yet), in another of Epcot’s Pavilions, the Kingdom of Morocco, which incidentally, we’ve also travelled to post-2015 Epcot.

Here’s a family shot, minus our other niece, Talulah (who hadn’t been born yet), in another of Epcot’s Pavilions, the Kingdom of Morocco, which incidentally, we’ve also travelled to post-2015 Epcot.

As I’ve maybe mentioned before, I’m an Epcot junkie so during our August 2015 trip a few days in Future World and World Showcase were definitely on the agenda, particularly as I knew that David would really enjoy the mix of edutainment and world culture. David had never been to Walt Disney World before at this point, but had been to Disneyland Paris many times in his role as a high school teacher as he had supervised many school trips!

I do love Disneyland Paris – but Walt Disney World just does things a little bit different and a lot bigger. And Epcot is just perhaps one of the places on Earth which I can just think about and t makes me super happy. And I was right, David loved exploring Epcot with me and one of the parts we loved the most was the Norway Pavilion of World Showcase.

Another point worth reiterating at this point is that, as the trip was in August 2013 so, in time marking terms, BF or before Frozen (and also before Maelstrom was replaced with the, still quite brilliant, Frozen Ever After).

We loved the stave church, enjoying sampling Aquavit and exploring the stores and looking at the crazily expensive (and warm!) woollen clothing. We loved Maelstrom and shortly after we returned were sad to hear that it was being replaced with the aforementioned Frozen ride.

Maelstrom was important as it was just a really fun ride, but also included a brief video segment at the end. I was always really annoyed to see people ride the ride and just skip out on the video. All the videos at Epcot have been crying out for a HD update, but they’re super well produced and a nice little snippet of a different culture. And it got us – it really got us!

So much so that we came out thinking, wow, we should go to Norway!

“The fjords looks amazing!”

“The painted houses of Bergen are just, wow, pretty!”

So as we returned to autumnal England in September we had this thought in the back of our mind. This thought was also cemented by return trip to World Showcase’s Norway during the same holiday as we drank around the world in Epcot (Mmmmm, Aquavit!) – and then, in December 2013, Frozen was released and Disney had the biggest hit on their hands in almost 20 years.

As a 35-year-old man, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I loved Frozen and David and I watched Frozen at the cinema plenty of times. And as we left the cinema, that thought returned to my head. Arendelle looked gorgeous, and familiar – it looked like the area in World Showcase and the video we sat through when we left the brilliant Maelstrom. So we decided – let’s go to Norway in 2014. Let’s go see the land that inspired Frozen and we loved so much in Epcot.

We travelled to Norway in August 2014 on Holland America Line on part of a week’s cruise from Dover, UK. We’d leave Dover on the Saturday and spend Sunday cruising towards the Arctic Circle and Norway and then we’d have four great days in towns and cities throughout Norway.

Bergen is famously colourful

Bergen is famously colourful

Our ports of call were Bergen (which the Norway Pavillion most accurately riffs on), Geiranger, Ålesund and Eidfjord, and then on the Friday we’d start our trip back to the United Kingdom past off-shore wind farms and oil platforms in the North Sea.

We were expecting to most enjoy Bergen, as we knew it would look just like the Norway Pavilion, but we found that the Epcot version of it weirdly was less tourist-trap and pricey and overall more “controlled” and therefore enjoyable to walk around. Still, it was a beautiful city.

How often do you get to dress like James Bond for dinner?

How often do you get to dress like James Bond for dinner?

The cruise was, at the time, our first cruise too and we enjoyed the ms Ryndam’s many bars, restaurants and clubs and particularly loved formal evenings. It was the beginning of our cruise fanaticism.

Tuesday saw us drop anchor in Geiranger, which is a beautiful little town set against some steep hills and cliffs that housed approximately 240 residents.

It had a long history in clifftop farming but as it became more dangerous to farm on the sheer cliffs due to rockfalls the town reinvented itself as a tourist haven. David and I hiked up to the highest viewing platform in the town to get a great view of the fjords and the views were stunning. Other than Eidfjord, this was the landscape that most screamed Arendelle to us.

Geiranger or is it Arendelle?

Geiranger or is it Arendelle?

Ålesund was the third city on our trip and this was probably my favourite. It felt less touristy than anywhere we’d been so far, and more lived-in than Bergen and Geiranger. It was a beautiful lived-in city and it was definitely the highlight of my trip. But it wasn’t very Frozen.

However, it seems that Holland America Line saved Arendelle to the last stop, or more accurately, Eidfjord. Just look at it – beautiful:

Eidfjord – land of trolls…or troll rocks!

Eidfjord – land of trolls…or troll rocks!

If you’ve ever cruised before you’ll understand that you enjoy yourself a bit too much with great food and drink, so Geiranger and Eidfjord were great opportunities to walk off a few martinis or that extra slice of cake. Eidfjord was beautiful to walk around, with a little church and a viking burial mound just outside of town on a well marked hiking trail. It was great to spot the landscapes that inspired Frozen too.

So we had one last night in Norway on the ship and then sailed back to England with some amazing pictures and great memories. We really were thankful to the Disney Company too for encouraging us to the do this trip with Frozen and Maelstrom. They set up our expectations and Norway delivered. A gorgeous and interesting country which I’d encourage you all to visit if you can.

We really fondly remember our Disney holiday without Disney.