To be honest the shops in Haugesund weren’t especially thrilling but we did stop at a co-op supermarket to see what sort of things Norwegians eat and how much they pay for them. We had some difficulty in understanding the prices and everything seemed horribly expensive but then we realised that a box of cornflakes couldn’t possibly be £25 so finally understood that prices were in øre which is a hundredth of a krone and effectively therefore the equivalent of a penny or a cent.
Actually, it didn’t really matter a bit about the price of things because we were browsing not shopping and some of the merchandise didn’t seem to be especially thrilling anyway and if you have ever wondered why sometimes products change their name to be more universally accepted then here is an example why…
Continuing along Haraldsgate, even at midday it was still quite dark and although the Christmas lights were still twinkling this was doing little to lift the gloom and the overall impression on this mid January Saturday that this is a town teetering on the edge of dullness. An indoor shopping centre was a little more lively and on the third floor I found the state liquor store.
I had imagined that the Vinmonopolet store would be a seedy and secretive sort of place where people might be half ashamed to be caught shopping but it was not like that at all. It was probably the best laid out shop in Haugusand which was in keeping with the stated aspiration of the Government owned enterprise to be ‘the world’s premier wine store’.
Out of curiosity I took a look around the shelves and for research purposes only compared the prices to those we would expect to pay at home and I imagine that at £50 for a bottle of gin or vodka and an average price of £15 for a bottle of wine that this place probably easily achieves the Government policy to set high price controls to limit the drinking of alcohol.
We didn’t spend much longer in the shopping centre and were soon back on the main street where we noticed that the people seemed to be outnumbered by the statues. Every few metres there was a bust or a figurine of some kind or another and I was left with the impression that the city council must spend a considerable amount of its budget on sculptures and street art. At the end of Haraldsgate we came to a paved public square and behind it the town hall itself which is an imposing neoclassical building painted a surprising and, in my opinion, inappropriate shocking pink!
There were a few spots of rain now so we headed back in the direction of the waterfront and the hotel just in case we might have to make a run for cover and down at the harbour side we came across a statue of a young and flirty Marilyn Monroe. The reason it seems that she should surprisingly turn up here is that her father, Martin Mortensen, came from the village of Skjold, just twenty kilometres away and lived in Haugesund before emigrating to America in about 1880. After abandoning his family after only six months of marriage, he was killed in a motorcycle crash without ever seeing his daughter – Norma Jean Mortensen.
The rain was getting heavier so as we had been walking for a couple of hours or so we went back to the hotel to shelter. Another really good thing about the Hotel Amanda was complimentary tea and coffee throughout the day so we were saving money all the time as we sat in the lounge to warm up and enjoyed a hot drink.
I usually prefer a beer at about this time when I am on holiday and because I thought it was rude not to sample a genuine Norwegian brew I slipped back to the co-op and spent my children’s inheritance on three cans at a massive £3 each and returned with my purchases just hoping that the Frydenlund Pilsner and the original Hansa Fatøl would be worth every øre.