A few of the visual highlights from my recent excursion to Iceland. The view of Reykjavik from 8 stories up, the itchiest jumper known to man kind and the beautiful named, Golden Waterfall. Teeheehee.
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Thursday, 7 November 2013
Sadly today is the day we must depart. Nothing of note happened at breakfast time this morning. I guess it really is the end. The waitress looked pretty put out when we all asked for different types of eggs again so perhaps the other waiter just liked us. He gave us free coffee on the fist day and looks like a scooby doo character.
After finishing all our packing we had an awkward amount of time left before our flight so decided to go for one last bracing walk in town. It was just starting to snow, which combined with the wind felt like daggers being blown into our eyes. It was lovely.
We hopped onto our airport transfer and arrived with slightly too long to spend in the departure lounge. The airport itself was really nice and not crowded like the usual Gatwick/Heathrow zoo. I was in a really bad mood so I consoled myself with buying sweeties and M&Ms. The rest of the pre-boarding time was fairly uneventful. The real fun began once we got on the plane.
I really hit the jackpot this time around with my seat allocation. One of the first things I noticed was the 'out of service' sign on the screen in front of me. This was annoying for 2 reasons; I didn't want to watch a film when I got on but now that I couldn't watch a film, I wanted to. Also, if I decided I was bored of my music or finished my book I'd be forced to, gasp, make conversation with my family.
Now, I believe there are two types of people in this world. The first type are those who recline their seats on planes, coaches etc. And then there is the second type who do not. They are what you call normal. As you might be able to guess, I was lucky enough to be seated behind the type of person who reclines their seat.
So I understand they have reclining seats for a reason. They are there to be utilised for the comfort of the passenger. What this fails to factor in is the comfort of the passenger behind them, who will likely be forced to recline theirs and so on. The problem with this is that you get one really unlucky person right at the back who's stuck unable to recline and who just has to suffer. I am thankfully not this poor soul at the back of the plane but that still doesn't mean I'm putting my seat back.
Maybe I sound like I'm being a little bit harsh here, because I am. People may have the right to do what they want with a seat that has the option to recline but this isn't about doing something just because you can, if we all went around with that attitude this world would be in a sorry state. It's about having a bit of courtesy for the person who might be sitting behind you. Me, for example. A really tall person who is now EVEN MORE SQUASHED THAN THEY WERE TO START WITH.
I might be biased but seriously, do short people have any idea how uncomfortable standard size seats are? It's like being one of those kittens who are forced to live in tiny glass jars so they grow all tiny and cute (deformed). There are very, very few occasions when it is less than desirable being tall. Most of the time I love it. Even when I'm getting eyed up by a man (whilst seated) on the train, who suddenly looks away when I stand up for my stop and it turns out he's a foot shorter than me. Even then.
At the risk of making a massive generalisation here, I'd go so far as to put money on the fact the man in front of me who reclined his seat is a) short and b) an arsehole. Anyway, despite the fact he scraped my knees when his seat flew back I've forgiven him. Because he's put it back now.
Luckily for you my lack of TV meant I had this spare time to write. And some time to reflect on my holiday. The highlight for me was probably the trip to the Blue Lagoon, I really enjoyed that and I've already decided that's where I'm going for my hen night. Even though I'm not engaged to be married, nor in a relationship. Doesn't hurt to be prepared though. I have also already decided I want to return to Iceland for another holiday even if it is just a weekend. There is definitely more to do in Reykjavik and I'm still yet to see the northern lights. It's the perfect place to go with friends so maybe I'll try and plan something when I win the lottery and can afford to go. In the mean time it's back to the rat race...
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
As it's day almost our last day we can officially start moaning and complaining about how we don't want to go home, thus ruining the remaining time we do have left.
Just when I thought breakfast couldn't get any better, today we were offered the option of having boiled or scrambled eggs. The options here know no bounds. I would never usually consider eating bread and cheese at breakfast but I'm a convert. You can never have enough cheese and bread I feel.
The windy weather continued today as we spent some more time exploring the city of Reykjavik. This involved less walking and more being swept along as we took in the harbour and Old Reykjavik. We also had the pleasure of playing in the worlds most unsafe playground. At a glance it could have been mistaken for a mechanic/boatyard dumping ground. It was incredible. You had the choice of climbing up a wooden teepee construction onto the rusted, nail filled old boat or swinging on old tyres and buoyancy aids, tied with rope. There was even some coloured fishing nets lying on the ground. I don't really know what that was for though. Maybe some traditional Icelandic game. As we balanced on the unsafe planks of wood I could practically hear the lawsuits singing in the wind. It was the sort of place that wouldn't get shut down in the UK, but only because it would never be allowed in the first place. People these days.
We continued on our way, taking in the seafront and battling insane winds. I got a few more beautiful shots of the mountains across the water and on the verge of frostbite and earache in one ear, we escaped to a cafe to defrost. The establishment we graced with our presence was the oddly named Babalu cafe. I don't really know what that was about but there was a plastic dinosaur, a quarter deck of cards and the first fifty shades of grey book on the side. So, you know. I guess you could call it quirky. They also served us a giant slice of cheesecake which I had no objection to sharing. That's pretty big, if you know me.
Tonight we will dine in the Fish Market restaurant. We're taking some time back in the hotel to chill out before we go, preparing ourselves for the amount of money we are about to spend. I used to think living and eating in London was expensive. How naive I was.
Other notable things to have happened today include seeing what I presume was a homeless man taking rubbish out of a bin. This only goes to reinforce my point that you must be a millionaire to live in or visit Iceland.
Breakfast is quickly turning into my favourite time of the day. Today it took me 15 minutes after I'd left the cafe to realise I'd left my (my brothers) iPod on my table. Everybody insisted I hurry back before someone steals it, I was quick to remind them we are no longer in England and declared the Icelanders seem like 'honest folk'. I was absolutely right and my iPod was right where I left it. Ha!
We all then questioned whether my mother had possibly had a stroke when she realised her make up was packed in her Wellington boot after all. She has spent 2 days with no eyebrows for nothing.
The terrible news was delivered yesterday that our proposed jeep tour had been canceled due to bad weather. Honestly. These people with their excuses. Slippery glaciers and minus temperatures never killed anyone.
Anyway, instead of a potentially suicidal jeep tour we have settled for the mysteriously named Golden Circle tour. This included less life threatening scenarios but you can't have everything. The coach set off about half 12, and headed first for the Golden Waterfall. The time it took us to get there I can only presume the golden bit referred to its proximity to the sun. I wish. Maybe they thought 'golden' would distract you from the fact it was fucking freezing. It was so windy I didn't even have to walk down the '100 or more' steps, I was pushed. (More number based facts from the Icelandic tour folk.) It was all worth nearly losing my hands for because the waterfall was really amazing. It was like a scene from The Land Before Time.
After the waterfall came the hot spring park named Geysir. (Lol @ the fact it sounds like gay). These hot springs are all over Iceland, they are pools of boiling hot water bubbling up from under the ground. They are so hot they emit steam which, because it can be so flat, are visible from far away and occasionally erupt with water that shoots metres in the air. We were reminded on many occasions not to be tempted to put our hands in to check the temperature of the water, because she can tell us now: "it is warm."
Following this we made another stop to admire some tectonic plates. This was also pretty cool. An episode of Game of Thrones was recently filmed at this same place so you have an idea of the landscape I'm talking about. The more I see of Iceland, the more I want to see of it. It's incredible how flat some areas are, yet it is so mountainous in others.
Once we got off the tour coach I was desperate to get home and sleep. Quite frankly I could have slept for a week. Instead we searched for a place to eat dinner. We settled for The Laundromat Cafe, and it turned out to be very good. And they didn't name it The Laundromat Cafe for nothing, because there was an actual laundromat in the basement. This didn't take away from the fact the food was nice, the atmosphere really relaxed and the interior generally pretty damn cool.
More bad whether is predicted for tomorrow. If it gets any colder I'm going to need a hand transplant.
Monday, 4 November 2013
I had a good feeling about day 2. During breakfast one of the team spent a few moments elegantly dressing, sprinkling and generally tarting up his boiled egg. At this point my mother kindly pointed out he may want to peel the egg first. Another handy hint, egg shells are white in Iceland.
Turns out my suspicions were not unfounded. Our second day and first full day in Iceland got off to a musical start when we took a walk up to God's House. That's not a joke, it really is called God's House. It was the start of the Sunday service so we had a taster of the choir as we took the elevator to the 8th floor. The 8th floor is only the beginning as you can take a flight of stairs up the the very top and feast your eyes on the incredible view.
9 stories above Reykjavik looks pretty spectacular as it turns out. The snow peaked mountains look like a postcard or an advert for Icelandic water. If you told me there was a giant poster being held up by a team of Icelanders I would have believed you. It really was that amazing. We took a bus load of pictures trying to capture a view that cannot be captured by anything but your retinas. I imagine the bars placed across the windows were only added after a bout of desperate tourists threw themselves off the top because they failed to realistically capture the beauty.
We continued on our way. Next stop was the 'world famous' hot dog stand. It was pretty good. I think it's world famous because it's the only place in Reykjavik where you can purchase a mere morsel of food that costs less than 1000 kronor. This sounds like a lot because it is. But it actually translates to about £5. Seriously though, don't go to Iceland unless you're a millionaire.
After this my hands had frozen to twice their size with the cold so we retreated to a pretty spectacular looking building that turned out to be a concert hall. It is made of glass and steel and looks a bit like it has been made from giant sized versions of the weird key you use to open the sim tray on an iPhone. We used the toilet there, took pictures in the cool mirror then made the last minute decision to go to the Blue Lagoon. We hustled back to the hotel and our fabulous receptionist booked everything for us. I like to think she specifically requested our driver because she knew we'd love him. More about him in a moment. We had apparently 'hustled' for no reason because we still had 40 minutes to spare before pick up time.
So our driver picked us up. He was only taking us about 1km down the road to be picked up by a larger coach but in that short space of time he still managed to spew forth a surprising amount of number based facts for one man. I felt very well informed about the population of Reykjavik that weekend.
After a few pick ups, a disco nap and an Ed Sheeran album we arrived. We queued for an unreasonable amount of time, spent another unreasonable amount of time figuring out how to lock the locker with a wristband loaded with a micro chip and I showered with my bikini on even though you are required by law to remove them. Hehe!
In case you don't know what the Blue Lagoon is, it is a geothermal spa. Translated, this basically means you get in a massive pool of hot water that is spewed up from holes in the ground. Although the pool is man made, the water pumped in and renewed every 2 days is all natural. In some areas it is hot, in others it is unbearably hot and there's a bar so you can get pissed while floating in a huge hot bath with steam rising above you like a scene from The Mist. The water itself is said to help some skin ailments so it's healing too. Plus the water is actually blue which is pretty cool. You have the option to get a massage in the water, cover yourself in clay masks or sit in the steam room. It's really beautiful with the steam rising everywhere. When you're in the pool you can hardly see a few feet in front because of the steam, yet when you view from above everything looks super clear. I highly, highly recommend it and it's definitely one to tick off the bucket list.
Swimming in hot water is rather tiring and I couldn't wait to get back to the hotel to sleep. Other notable things to have happened include:
Trying on the itchiest sweater of all time;
My mother taking a long drink out of a bottle of 'water' that turned out to be gin;
My mother realising she forgot her make up and having to spend the holiday with no eyebrows.
Sunday, 3 November 2013
Today, like Bjork before me, I will travel to Iceland. I'm pretty sure she's Icelandic. This is the first holiday I have been on in eons (a year), and after putting the trip out of my head, knowing it was a couple a months until we leave, it has suddenly arrived.
I have spent the last week preparing and pre-packing, washing and generally organising my clothes - lest I have a packing induced nightmare. This is a fun side effect of airport based anxiety whereby you dream of arriving at the airport with no bag, the wrong bag etc etc. I once had a nightmare when my friend was flying to New Zealand. Not me, my friend. As hilarious as I find these dreams I try to avoid them by getting started early.
The trip itself got off to a roaring start when the taxi driver was late picking us up. If that gift wasn't enough, he proceeded to spend the entire journey telling us why this was our fault (duh). My mistake, buddy, I thought it was your job to know where you're going. Forgive me. This monologue was interspersed with some mild racism. A winning combination, I think you'll agree. Here's a helpful hint, when ordering a taxi you must always provide a manifesto detailing the exact location of your home and the directions when approaching from all possible directions. Because apparently in this day and age, giving your postcode and full address isn't enough. You idiot.
Thankfully, this slight set back didn't impact too much on the enjoyment of the airport departure lounge experience. If you thought packing based anxiety dreams were bad, you haven't met my mother. Clearly she foresaw the taxi driver episode and had booked the picked up time allowing us THREE hours once we got to the airport. We wouldn't have been late if we'd tried.
We all arrived at the airport and were allowed through security (amazingly) and this is when the real fun began. We were treated to a long queue for the toilets and overpriced water in a climate similar to that of a jungle. Why are airports so damn hot anyway? We set off on our 5 minute walk to the departure gate and managed to overtake an obese woman being driven to her flight. You'd be mistaken for thinking she was disabled because after being dropped off, at the same gate as us naturally, it turned out she did have a pair of fully functioning legs and walked herself down to the plane unaided.
In the midst of all the fun I've been having, I have made a startling and pleasant discovery. If you are from Iceland or on a flight to Iceland, this immediately equates to attractiveness. There are no exceptions to this rule. Bar the obese woman.
So I am currently mid flight, eagerly anticipating the Icelandic fun and games ahead of me. We are lucky enough, or unlucky depending on how you look at it, to be arriving at the peak of a music festival. I'm not sure what Icelandic music will be like but my expectations are pretty damn high.
As a parting gift I will end with the Icelandic word of the day. Loftslag. Teeheeheeheehee. Apparently it means 'climate'. I wouldn't advise saying that to anyone in the UK. You might get some funny looks, or a punch.
Saturday, 26 October 2013
Shhh. They're over there. In the corner.
My stomach lurched and my heart skipped a beat. There was nothing in the corner, I was suddenly, stupidly, afraid. I couldn't see or hear anything but she was so convinced I thought for a second maybe I was the one with the problem. There was such fear and insistence in her eyes, she was pleading with me to hear it too.
These are the fleeting moments of pure clarity in her voice and you feel the total conviction in her words. The frustration and desperation that seems to come directly out of her heart and penetrate into mine. It is frightening because she so firmly believes it. But we have no reason to lie to her. We're not hiding anything and we can only reassure so much. How do you explain to somebody that what they believe, know isn't real? I can see the sky is blue and I could not be convinced otherwise so how is her delusion any different?
There is a part of me that thinks she knows the end is nigh. I cannot begin to fathom the fear of knowing that the end is coming. I hope I achieve a state whereby I am no longer afraid of dying but I sense it is something you will never truly understand until you are faced with it.
Maybe for some the fear is too great for the heart to bear and the head takes over. I think sometimes she is confused at what is happening to her. I know she is angry. Maybe she is too far gone to be confused by it? I'm not sure. She has spent too many years now with no control over the body that is slowly failing her. All she had was her mind and now that is unravelling. Regrets and mistakes are presenting themselves in mysterious ways. Is she sorry for the way she treated someone? Is that why she hears their voice when it's not there? And yet, still, she has the ability to surprise us all with the most lucid of statements. I'm not happy. They are such heartfelt words and they hit you right in the heart.
The mind is a very powerful tool and I hope that hers helps to make this transition a little easier. Perhaps it might make it harder for us but I just hope that she can be at peace when it is time to go. I don't want her to be haunted. I don't want the past to cloud the present. I don't want her to be afraid, confused or angry.
We are luckier than most in that we have had more time to prepare. This was inevitable. But it doesn't make it any less sad, it only makes it less surprising. It is the beginning of the end.