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The end

Back in Reykjavik and the UK

Returned to Reykjavik to buy a small puffin and other bits and pieces, and to take in a couple of museums. Also to spend one night in relative luxury at the Radisson SAS Saga hotel, which has a spa, which is why we booked it. We've been looking forward to a soak for a few days now.

Went to the flea market in the morning where I sampled Hakarl (it tastes a little like blue cheese), and then ate a hotdog at Icelands most famous hotdog stand, formerly used by none other than Bill Clinton. High praise indeed. I'd say the hotdog was OK, but not noticably better than any other. Then holed up in a bookshop and cafe for a couple of hours. At three pm, visited The Volcano Show at Red Rock Cinema... it was nothing like I pictured it to be, and is well worth a visit. Run by a fairly crazy old guy who has built a cinema in his shed, and chases volcanos for a living / hobby (unclear), he also stars in the movie - which will be cut short if he has to leave to film a new eruption. Awesome and inspiring.

Then to the hotel. We were unceremoniously told that the spa was closed on Sundays. Of course. So we could use it for an hour or so when it opened at 8am the following day. Disappointed, we went out to the Icebar - good fun and very blue in photos - before eating dinner in the attached restaurant. I had fish (galore). Back to the hotel. Arose at 7.30 and went to the spa. It had opened at 7am. The lady at check in at the spa was unhelpful, offering us (compulsory) slippers, but phrasing it as optional, and then blankly staring at me when I said I was a size 50 (European shoe size), and waiting until I selected, at random, a lower number, rather than telling me what their largest flip flop size actually was. The spa was pretty good once inside, all Egyptian and with a window in the ceiling. Finally, visited the Reykjavik +/- 1 or 2 (or similar name) museum, which was a great example of technology in museums, including one excellent interactive and several other good digital displays. And one large archaelogical find.

And now we're back in the UK.

Posted by urchinjoe 00:47 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Circles

...as the holiday draws to a close.

sunny

Drove, via Godafoss (small but pretty and historical) Akureyri, a town of 16,000 people, seemed like the most extensive and busy metropolis in the world after the North-East coast. We visited several churches, all with their own unique charms, including one in a valley to the South of town with a turf roof (the church, not the valley). Finally got medicine for illnesses. Left. Drove 400 km, calling in at Blonduos (church like a volcano, interesting but small), and detouring to an invisible troll rock (or maybe we just couldn't find it), and Reykholt (Snorri's pool: world's first hot-tub) and Barnafoss / Hraunfossar (great waterfalls). Then to Borganes where we were accosted by the world's friendlies but most in your face Danes. They didn't even let us put our bags in the room before they started quizzing us on the common market, singing the praises of Iceland and recommending sights in Reykjavik (we went). Slept. Woke.

Visited Borg, a large rock and sight of Egil's saga, then went to the settlement centre (nice museum, some great little displays but very confusing staff and headphones system that spoils the pacing somewhat. I enjoyed it though, especially downstairs. Then we did the Golden Circle: Thingvellir, a lake and nature reserve on the mid Atlantic rift, interesting cliffs and gorges as a result, and the birthplace of democracy: the Althing and Law Rock. Historical. From there we drove down the WORST ROAD IN ICELAND to Laugervatn, and on to Geysir, the original geyser, now sadly broken, but made up for by its smaller cousin. It was fun. He bubbles. Finally, Gullfoss. Although I was sceptical, this was actually the best waterfall of the holiday, and possibly in Iceland (certainly the most famous). Ate many posh foods. Slept.

Awoke and drove South to the ghost centre at Stokesteri (spelling?) and listened to ghost stories while a boy in a hood made Laura scream and tweaked my nose. Brilliant, and a testement to the power of imagination and old warehouses. Then finished the real circle, driving North into Reykjavik, where we looked at the original manuscripts of the sagas, sorted out a discount on our car for an early return, and checked into our penultimate sleeping quarters - Reykjavik HI hostel, one of the best hostel's I've ever been to. Good work. Tomorrow is our final day, then home and back to the drawing board.

Posted by urchinjoe 11:34 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The western side and some tasty geysers

Spouty water and an expensive tunnel

overcast 8 °C

We stayed in Akureyri two nights ago, where we were amazed to find traffic lights and to not immediately be able to park. Ie this was an actual town. And a nice one with a good church (closed obviously).

The next night was in Borgarnes where we saw some fantastic waterfalls and stayed in the sort of timber clad room I had always imagined for a Scandinavian stay. Perched right on the bay and filled with some of the craziest Danes I´ve ever met (I´ve not met many but I think the superlative might hold for some time).

We went through a 5km tunnel to get to Laugarvatn and paid 800 krona (about four pounds) for the privilege. Tonight we have eaten a great four course dinner near the famous geysir, which spouted satisfyingly high and bubbled beautifully. I´m rather ashamed to have eaten carpaccio of minke whale as part of dinner. Bad me. I won´t do it again.

Posted by snowboot 15:24 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Hot meals

The food of the gods

rain 5 °C

We have discovered that the travel guides do not go far enough in informing their readers of the potential for establishments to be closed in winter (from Oct 1st). It is a potential extremely high.

Today we walked across a load of snow to get to an angrily bubbling volcanic field. The signs implored us to stick to the paths and to avoid the dark coloured ground (it was all under the snow, both the good and the bad ground). If we were stupid enough to ignore these instructions, the signs then asserted 'You are here at your own risk'. Encouraging. We only fell down a fissure once.

We have failed to find restaurants and museums open, a lot. However, Iceland is awesome, beautiful and worth eating freeze dried noodles in the guesthouse kitchen for.

However, they seem to have no desire to have a winter tourist season, and if anyone is daft enough to come here then, they provide no signage or infrastructure of any kind to allow them to fend for themselves. The interpretation is also generally poor.

Icelandic for goodbye is 'bless' though, aww.

Laura Keating MA Mus. Stud.

Posted by snowboot 14:25 Archived in Iceland Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Adverse weather conditions

Rain, wind, sulphuric steam, bitter cold and a layer of snow too deep to drive through.

all seasons in one day

From Egilstadir we drove north to Husey, which, when you include ourselves, the two Germans in the room below ours, and the population of the community, calls itself home to about ten people. The road to Husey is long and bumpy, and winds through some of the most homely landscape we have seen in Iceland: green fields, and a turf roofed house, hemmed in by two long mountain ridges; the road follows a river which allegedly houses seals. The hostel is blue, guarded by dogs (friendly), and is an old farmhouse, full of bright paint, many rooms, a sitting room with comfy chairs and a kitchen. There are at least two shower rooms. The house was cold when we visited, but radiators helped. It is also full of seal skins, crabs (ornamental), and other similar things. Checking in and out could have been streamlined with the addition of a reception desk / working doorbell. We spent the evening playing chess and exchanging tips with the two Germans (Nikolai and Sarah) who had done the circle and missed their boat. They gave us stuff for the tyres to kill snow, and advised us that the road to Dettifoss was getting hairy. Next day we rose early, looked for seals (none there) and drove on.

We decided to see Modradalur, Icelands highest farm, on the way to our next point, Thorshofn (Þorshofn), which is the gateway to a peninsular that looks like a duck. The road to Modradalur was terrible, and on occasion looked impassible, but careful driving got us through. The farm was closed for the season, and we went without the hearty soup we had craved. Onwards to Thorshofn. We ate in a petrol station - I had lamb schnitzel - and enjoyed pretty scenery. Arrived in town and joyously found a pharmacy - which was closed - and a restaurant, which was open, though food was excessively creamy. We have found Iceland to be generally closed, and have consequently planned a return south to where it might be open soon. Had a bath in a hotpot, and watched the northern lights, which again danced slowly and subtely across the sky. Hostel, clean, new, full of welcoming bones and does a great farmhouse-like breakfast.

Morning saw us check out some abandoned farmhouses before hitting town, photographing ham, and leaving. Went to drive the shortest route to Myvatn, but rapidly found our road blocked by snow, which we both tried to drive through, and failed. Luckily neither got stuck nor slid off road. Went the long way round, and saw Icland's most northerly point (2.5km below arctic), and some scary scarecrows. Road to Dettifoss also blocked, so went via Husavik - home to the famous phallalogical museum, closed, but with an impressive facade. Continued to Myvatn where we took a "nature bath" hot, cold, outdoors, similar to Blue Lagoon but less finished and otherworldly, and more extreme in temperature.

Following day we found Dettifoss still inaccessible, so popped up the road to Hverir - ugly, alien, stinking and fascinating volcanic field, and Krafla - much the same, but bigger. I nearly fell in a hidden crevice. We left soon after. The weather was bloody awful and we sulked greatly, this would have better suited a summer day I think. But we went on to Dimmuborgir, the "dark castles" home to trolls and their children, and namesake of a Norwegian metal band. It was pretty amazing, canyons and formation made of cooled lava, and we spent over an hour their. Went home to get ready to eat, but found all restaurants closed (bloody annoying), so, we're heading back towards Reykjavik a little swifter than planned - its getting old that we have to eat nothing but frazzles and chocolate every day, and that hot dogs are a luxury. We will therefore not get to Europes westernmost point, nor to a glacier beloved of Jules Verne. In exchange, we plan to visit many other attractions, including a rock, a hole, and some ghosts. So lets see if we make it.

Posted by urchinjoe 13:57 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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