Someone who follows my blog asked me during the week when I will blog again. Text’s exchanged: “when I can be bothered”, “when I get time”, “when I have something to write about”, etc. It’s not that I cannot be bothered but because I don’t know what to write. This is no longer a place to express my real thoughts. The texts continued: “how was your holiday?”… There’s a good starting point.
For those who don’t know: I went to Reykjavik in February. After watching a Joanna Lumley documentary a few years ago I had my heart set on seeing the Northern Lights one day. If only I had waited a few more weeks and I would have seen them over Surrey and saved myself some money… I joke. I’ve had a great experience.
Whilst planning the holiday I watched a lot of videos on You Tube and visited a lot of websites about Iceland. All the pictures and videos that I saw painted Iceland as a picturesque land. Anywhere can look welcoming in a video or photograph: London, for example. The reality of getting off the tube and walking around in the cold light of day makes you realise that London is not as pretty as photos depict it to be. I sort of had the same idea that it would be the same for Iceland but I was wrong. It really is the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen.
The only thing that let the holiday down was the hotel. We twin room but my friend and I might as well have been sharing a single bed. My friend joked that we could shower from my bed because we were so cramped. The breakfast wasn’t brilliant either. I got excited that we were having a different breakfast one morning because they had arranged the food in a different order from the morning before but to my dismay it was the same. On our final night the receptionist informed us that the restaurant would be open early for us to eat breakfast before we left for the airport. My friends response: “oh, goody”. Apart from the trivial gripes about the hotel, the holiday was a very enjoyable one. I would return tomorrow (if I could) but there is a bigger world out there for me to see.
We planned our activities around each other. Logic. Aha. We decided that after a late night flight (were we were both swabbed for explosives) that we might like a relaxing first day so we booked the Blue Lagoon. I would go back to Iceland for the Blue Lagoon. Shivering and the onset of hypothermia between the changing rooms and the water was worth it. I went in looking 27 and came out looking twenty years younger… I went in looking ok and came out smokin’ sexy… I had heard horror stories from other people about them finding toe nails floating in the water but the most ‘yucky’ thing I came across were stands off hair when I took a handful of the silicone stuff from the floor under the water. My friend and I went around the Lagoon a few times, finding the hotter water and for the first time in many, many months, I felt relaxed.
The Blue Lagoon did open my eyes to something though. Body image.
Whilst I am very comfortable with my body I appreciate that my body is not what many people want to see. I couldn’t find a cubicle so I did the gymnastic thing where you have to be double jointed in several different places to change under a very damp towel; where you have to try not to fall arse over tit in a bid to keep yourself covered. I also had to keep my head down. If I just lifted my head, just a tiny bit, I was faced with flabby naked bellies and hairy lady parts. Don’t worry, I don’t have a photo for that.
I embrace a confident body image: no matter what the size, shape or state. But I was quite overwhelmed with just how many naked woman I was changing with whilst I was at the end of the bench, trying to keep myself covered.
We had planned quiet days for Monday and Tuesday to explore the city. We found a nice little coffee shop in Reykjavik where my fiend had free wifi to check Facebook. Our reasoning was that Monday was supposed to be a late night because we were scheduled on the Northern Lights Mystery Tour, so we wanted a relaxing day. As the week progressed onwards we both resigned ourself to the fact that we probably wouldn’t be successful: Monday was cancelled due to snow; Tuesday was cancelled due to rain; Wednesday we were unsuccessful; Thursday was cancelled due to over cast skies. That left Friday…
So, we explored Reykjavik over three days. We found the coffee shop. We looked around the little shops. We read menus as we passed places that served food. We found a glove speed dating gate for the lost and found gloves. We noticed that the traffic flowed: the only traffic I saw was at traffic lights. The roads were in good conditions despite the incredibly icy paths which, for my friend and I, proved to be a challenge in staying upright at times. The houses and shops were painted in different colours which really brightened the city up. The lazy natives even kept their Christmas lights up – but that’s no surprise considering the sun didn’t rise until 10am and then set at 5pm. We walked along the sea front, I climbed up a hill and slid down, we found a KFC, we stumbled across a Penis Museum (we didn’t go inside :-( ) we hugged a wooden Viking and we went up to the top of a church where we got an excellent view of the city and the harbour.
The Golden Circle tour was dissected with mixed feelings: my friend and I thought that there was too much sitting in a coach; I found the tomato greenhouses boring; we both wish we could have spent more time at the hot geysirs… But, it was during this trip that I learnt about the country (when I was listening instead of snoozing), like, they only have one breed of horse in Iceland (at least they know what Tesco put in their burgers). The tomato greenhouse was – - – well, once you’ve seen one tomato greenhouse, you’ve seen them all.
The Gullfoss water fall is set within some really, really steep crevices. Looking down I felt a bit dizzy. The tour guide gave us a little talk about how it was once (upon a time) considered as being a source of electricity – that’s all I learnt from that. This was also the venue of our unsuccessful venture out to find the Northern Lights on the Wednesday night; my friend and I reckoned it was just a business opportunity for their ridiculously expensive hot chocolate sales (1,500 Kr for a hot chocolate and bottle of coke = £9+)…
Next stop was our favourite part of the tour. We found the hot geysirs and we watched one explode over and over and over again (Facebook readers: I posted the video when I got home). We learnt that this natural phenomenon has sprung up underneath people’s houses meaning that they’ve had to move out – I can’t imagine that it would be much fun to have boiling water burst through your living room floor whilst trying to watch the Grand Prix.
Then we stopped at a place where, with our current government, I wish could happen in London. We stopped at the rift where the Icelandic parliament fell down because of the tectonic plates are pushing further away from each other. Looking down I wished that it was Downing Street that I was looking down upon.
After a long day sitting on a coach, the following day we had a long afternoon sitting on a boat. We went whale watching where we found a Humpback whale. Like with the Northern Lights, this trip was reliant on nature. If the whales weren’t out playing, we weren’t going to see them. Just like if the weather wasn’t on our side, we weren’t going to see the Northern Lights. We were successful, though. As excited as I was to be at sea, though, my mind was on something else: the main reason that I had wanted to come to Iceland in the first place. The Northern Lights. I knew that there was no 100% guarantee that I would see them, but I had my heart set on it. When our trip was cancelled that night my friend put us on the list for the following night.
I suppose this is where Sod’s Law comes into play. We were booked on the Northern Lights Mystery Tour that night. We had to be waiting for our transfer to Keflavik at 3:30am (?). I was doomed by the prospect of another breakfast of ham, cheese and bread. We had to pack and make sure that we were ready. If the trip went ahead we weren’t going to be back until quite late.
It was the perfect bookend to the holiday. We were warned that if we were successful then we might not be able to see them with the naked eye. But, as bright as the moon was (and it was very bright on the cloudless night), whilst standing in minus-figure temperatures, in the middle of an iced-over golf course, shivering so badly that my nipples were chafing inside my bra, wrapped up like an eskimo – we saw the Northern Lights. They danced. They were not at all how I expected.
They move quite slowly – which I had learnt from the documentaries that I have seen. I thought that they would light the entire sky. Wrong. They make an arc across the sky and dance. They fade in and out. They move. Once you think that they have disappeared they reappear.
Our coach driver stopped on the way back from Keflavik where we watched them for a while longer. This time I was more focused on watching what was happening rather than taking photos. I wanted to enjoy them, and I did. I watched them dance, brightly in the sky. Even now, nearly two months later, I don’t think I fully appreciate what a spectacular phenomenon that I have seen.