Dan and I were blessed to get a Christmas present of a few days in Iceland, from my darling Joanne. It was on my bucket list, so that’s a tick. So many people told me it was a country out of the ordinary and who am I to disagree. We went early April, so I would highly recommend that you bring lots of layers. In fact, everyone was wearing much similar clothing as you would skiiing. Hill walking trousers, thick socks, hiking boots, and even woolly balaclavas. Trust me, from about September onwards up to mid April, this is de rigueur. Maybe bring those little glove warmers.
First off recommendation, fly directly to Reykjavik. We flew to Belfast and the less said about the queues the better. The G & T on board helped dissipate any potential menopausal crankiness. The flight is about 2 hours 20 and we had hired a car through Hertz. Turned out to be a good idea. We were staying in Keflavik itself, which is the airport town. To be honest it was fine, but having the car made all the difference. The hostel/hotel was also fine; clean and dandy and very suited to young and old hikers alike. We had a job finding some place to eat that was not fast food, but thank god for Google and the recommended restaurant called “Rain”. Glorious view of the ocean and peaks of snow and twinkling lights in the distance whetting my appetite for the next day. I had a dish called Arctic Char, very like Trout. The only negative thing about Iceland is the price of food and drink. Come prepared. A good restaurant will set you back anything from €85.00 to €100.00 per head – without wine.
Read my DK Eyewitness Travel as my bed time read, and made plans!!!
Weather Thursday -2 degrees.
Straight to Reykjavik, taking us about 40 mins, and espresso bound. Parking is cheap and as it was Holy Thursday, we got it easily and it cost us nothing. We went to a quirky cafe called Grai Kotturinn. Basement and full of character. People are friendly from the get go and I had an enormous plate of bacon, eggs, spinach and tomatoes. Dan had pancakes; always watching that waistline. Don’t expect to do a huge amount of shopping. to be honest, nothing that I wanted to spend my time in and perhaps it wasn’t the season. We went straight to Hallgrimskirkja Church, 240ft. high, resembling a volcanic eruption. You must go to the top of the tower for the views
Both the National and Settlement Museums are superb and non po-faced. Easy and good at holding your attention. Culture Museum, oh, just ok. We latched onto a really good 2 hour walking tour, organised from the City Hall. It’s a free service and given by students with the most embarrassing command of English and great patter. Puts one to shame. Lots of interesting and funny anecdotes and one highly recommended app suggestion called “Appyhour” Gives the times of all the Happy hours in local pubs. I was saying to my son, Senan, that he would love it here, but wouldn’t find it as cheap to get around as say the likes of Berlin, where I think he lives off kebabs. Here, it’s a different story. People pay very high taxes, they have an extremely cheap health and education service and crime is very, very low. But the likes of coffee, beer and even fast food are quite expensive. The population of Iceland (see how I listened) is about 330,000, equivalent to Cork, and some smart students created an app so you could tell who you are more than likely related to. A handy Tinder. We had booked a great restaurant after watching Rick Stein in Iceland called Matur Og Drykkrer and had cocktails beforehand in Slippbarrin – wonderful espresso cocktail with cinnamon and the meal was to die for and go to heaven afterwards. All mouth watering courses, including trout smoked with sheep dung (hmmm), halibut soup with mussels, apples and raisins, oh and lots more. Expanding jeans required.
Friday we drove straight to Pingvellir National Park. Me being me, was dying for my wake up espresso. The Tourist Centre there is ill equipped for food. Just freezer of ready made sandwiches and coffee machines. But grand. It was bitterly cold but blue skies and shining sun. Iceland’s location on the mid Atlantic ridge is obvious here, You can see a huge crevice where the European and North American tectonic plates drift apart at 2cm per year. Nothing to worry us unduly. We descended to the Law Rock (explained in the National Museum the day before, so I was feeling very clever) all the time trying to get circulation into my hands to take a photograph. It was like when I played with snow as a child and my hands hurt when I came inside. A bit moany, was I. We walked to the pretty church. Peningagja on the way, is glorious. A deep but narrow lava fissure with peacock blue water with a naturally created wishing well with coins left by visitors
Off we headed back to gloriously heated bottoms in the car en route to the Geysir Hot springs area. The Visitor Centre there is just terrific; great food and even better coffee – for lunch or early dinner if you wish. Passing the oft neglected Litli Geysir (everyone say awwwh) and on to the wonderfully exploding Strokkur. It erupts every few minutes; just don’t turn your back, as to Dan’s great guffaws of laughter, I kept missing it, and do have your camera set to video. And be patient. You might just get splashed by the sweet smelling sulpher. The water is boiling hot, so don’t be an Ed Sheeran and test the water. It’s about 100 degrees.
We then went to Gullfoss. Following our Guide Book – to the letter. The sheer scale of the waterfalls, put even our Powerscourt to shame. Don’t miss this, in any season.
We once again followed Rick Stein’s lead and headed to a coastal restaurant called Fjorubordid in Stokkseyri. Their menu is worth reading from a story telling point of view. We had langoustine soup followed by a huge bowl of same. We actually tried Rick’s recipe at home, but it’s just missing that secret ingredient that they won’t tell you about. Maybe chili powder? Who knows. Two amazing desserts later we waddled into our little car.
Saturday we drove to the Perlan Observatory. Great views from the top and they are in the process of renovating it and I think it sounds like it will be wonderful, come summer. We drove through Grindavik, a fishing village and onto the Blue Lagoon. We had booked the Comfort Ticket, which gives you a towel, two facials and a drink. It was divine. I had thought I might find it too commercial, but it all ran so smoothly. It was all super clean, the water was like a warm bath and to lift your face up to the sharp, crisp and sunny blue sky was bliss. You lather on the Silica mask yourself with a spatula and then rinse it clear in the water. Then on to our Incredible Hulk moment with the algae mask whilst sipping a very nice sparkling wine. They have it sussed here; everyone gets an arm band so they make sure no more than three drinks are consumed. No singing “Take me up to Monto” from Dan, then. The showers are great, provided with nice shower gel and moisturiser. Don’t let your hair get wet, or lather it with conditioner before going in. I would recommend you bring all your toiletries inside with you. You are given a locker, which can be opened or closed with your arm band.
Then, airport bound and ready to get lots of kisses from Snipe. Don’t miss Iceland. Bucket list territory and like being on another planet with it’s basalt land. Lovely, friendly people so just save very, very hard.