Wanderings, wonderings, Springsteen and The Chicks
Iceland November 2014
It all started with Addie, Chris and Geraldine planning to go to the Airwaves festival in Reykjavik. Then I added myself to the trip with a view not to go to the festival but to go hiking. Chris was unable to go because of her illness and Geraldine wasn’t able to go either. So Addie recruited Rosie and then there were 3.
Sun 2nd November
Stayed in the Radisson Blu at Manchester airport. I dropped the bags off, drove to the Meet and Greet parking to find I only had parking from Monday to Monday. The guy took pity on me and gave me a night for free! I walked the Skyway back to the hotel, settled in and met up with Addie and Rosie for a beer in the bar.
Mon 2nd November
My deal of park (limited) and sleep didn’t include breakfast so I walked into T2 but no shops there without setting off to the wrong location and particularly no M&S so thought I would get something in T1. Lovely surprise, Addie brought me a bread roll, an apple and a yoghurt! We walked the Skyway to T1, checked in, did security (thorough frisking for me even inside the top of my pants)! Shopping was a large bottle of whisky. Coffee, then onto the plane.
Smooth flight up through Scotland and along most of the southern coast of Iceland. Cool but sunny on arrival. Onto bus to cross a very flat lunar landscape. To Reykjavik and a quick switch to a minibus which took us to the Embassy Luxury Apartments see the link for photos of the flat. The Russian embassy is across the road from the flat. At first there was no answer to the intercom but we soon got in. Freya then rang us to check we were ok. Flat is v spacious and comfortable with 4 separate table areas – kitchen, dining room, vast leather sofa for watching TV and another relaxing set up in sitting room. Hot water is geothemically heated so smells of sulphur which we will get used to after a few weeks, we are only here for one week. Cold water comes off mountains and is delicious. We all got nice bedrooms. I went for the twin as small and cosy. Lots of books mostly in Icelandic and a large number of hideous and in two instances disturbing items of “art” on the walls. Settled in and unpacked then out to explore. Looked in supermarkets and food is expensive, in fact everything is. We went to Caruso to eat. I had quiche baked potato and salad which was good. Nice firm pastry and chunky veg.
Did some shopping in the 7:11 and then home via the city pond (Tjornin).
Tuesday 3rd November
Got up early for collection by David (an Englishman) of Iceland Horizon. Drove out of city. He gave us lots of info and quite a few opinions some of which were a bit old fashioned but he knew a lot and was good on geology and birds and culture. We stopped often and jumped out for the loo and coffees, then a waterfall to walk behind, a farm under Eyjafyallajokull (I can almost say this now) which had made a video of when the volcano went off, their house was covered in ash, they had to leave. The farm is pretty much self sustainable with its own hydro electricity since the 1920s and hot water and heat from geothermal sources. Then to the beach at Myrdal with basalt columns. Another cafe at Vik where we surreptitiously ate our sandwiches. On the return trip to a glacier with black ash from Eyjafyallajokull making it look very grubby, then another big waterfall at Skogafoss. Dark and snow on the way back. We tried valiantly to keep the condensation off the windows but it was a somewhat thankless task and had a certain bonkersness to it as we had to share just 2 water scrapers back and forth up and down the minibus. Back at the flat, A and R quickly produced leek and potato soup and pasta with veg and sauce. We stayed up late and drank whisky. David said there would be no buses at all to Mt Esja as no one lives there or has any need to travel there or even past there.
Wednesday 5th November
We all got up late and walked to Harpa, the gleaming new media centre. Addie and Rosie got their wristbands for the Airwaves festival. I then went to the tourist information centre and got information on the non-existent buses to the places where people do live and even for journeys beyond. I wandered around the town, went to the church, a creperie – Eldur og Is and had a cheese and sun-dried tomato crêpe. Bought some beer and some Brennavin for Kate. Came home and just chilled. Had some soup for supper.
Thursday 6th November
Slow starting the day. Walked to Volcano House cinema via the old harbour. Watched a film about volcanic fissure on Heimaey Island in the Vestmannaeyjar Islands near Vik in 1973. Then another one about the Eyjafyallajokull eruption in 2010. Got a Reykjavik welcome card. Went to 871 + – 2 Settlement exhibition which is a Viking long hall. They’ve built the exhibition around the actual dig.
Lunch at Gio raw food. 3 salads for £4.50 with rye bread included. Very good. Located the Handknitting Association of Iceland. There were ladies knitting by hand in the back of the shop! Walked across to the national museum which gave me a comprehensive history of Iceland. I saw the actual axe and block used to behead Agnes Magnusdottir, I am reading her story in Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and recommended to me by Chris.
Bought veg so as to cook dinner for when the girls returned from the Blue Lagoon, all chilled out! Made noodles, veg, tofu and peanut sauce with toasted nuts. They seemed to like it.
Friday 7th November
A and R went to the Blue Lagoon so I went to the local hot baths which were included in my 24 hour city pass. I thought I was mad walking across to the pool in my swimsuit in very chilly air temperature but then the relief of the warm water made it all ok. I swam myself warm in the first pool, then moved into the next one to get a bit warmer, and then the next one to get warmer still. There were hotter pools but I was quite happy at 38 degrees. The lifeguards appeared to be wearing snowmobile suits so I dread to think what they would do if someone needed them, maybe they strip off very quickly or perhaps they use a pole.
We all went into town and I set off to do a bit more shopping and then went down to the prom to take some photos of the stainless steel Viking boat. I was nearly blown away and it was icy cold in the wind. I went back up to Gardurinn Buddhist resto for a veggie curry which came quickly and was lovely.
It was bitingly cold wind chill that day requiring hot chocolate when I got back to the flat.
I then went out to the university cinema which doubles as a conference centre to see the first of a series of films to commemorate 25 years since the wall came down in Berlin. I was very interested to see all this as I’d kind of missed it all at the time because my dad was ill and dying. There was an introduction by an Icelandic chap to welcome us all (mostly a German audience). The first film was Zug in die Freiheit (The Train to Freedom). There was a panel at the end of Icelanders who were in Berlin at the time so they said their bits and asked for questions but none were forthcoming! Good film.
Saturday 8th November
Up early to the bus stop near the Radhus in the dark. No. 6 Bus didn’t come. 10 mins later as I walked away it did come very fast and wouldn’t stop so I think the driver overslept. All well as went home for loo, coffee and to pick up my phone which I’d left on charge.
The next bus did arrive and went through the burbs to Artun which is not very nice just a big bus stop on a busy road. The 57 bus came and dropped me off half an hour later at Esjuraetur Hiking Centre. This is a big name for a bus stop. There is a cafe which was shut and a portaloo and a hand drawn picture of routes up the mountain. I had given my details to Iceland 112 in advance. My map was limited by being 1:100,000 and my head would struggle to do the maths but the sky was clear and it was sunny so I could see my path went up the east side of the valley. They really do need to make some maps at a larger scale. It was also very very cold and very very windy. There were a few other hikers out. I was warm enough with all my gear but wished I’d remembered the balaclava. One girl was out in trainers and no socks. Not for long I bet. I went about half way up but stopped when the ice became too difficult without crampons. The path was clear but I drew the line when the wind blew shards of ice into my face. Went back down across a bridge. Chatted to woman taking photos. Back to the shut cafe having just missed a bus. Hung around in the sun and ate oatcakes and cheese. The woman met up with her husband and they offered me a lift to a bus stop somewhere but I said the view was probably nicer where I was and they agreed! Having seen the bus stops I was right!
The 57 Bus came and I went back to Artun, waited half an hour. The next bus didn’t go back to Radhus despite being a No. 6 but I got off at the top of the road and walked back home.
Out again to the university cinema to see 2 parts of Der Turm (The Tower) which was good but part 1 ended at 9.30 and part 2 was due to start at 10.00 however the person doing the mechanics couldn’t make the DVD player work so it started at 10.25. I got out at midnight only to find I’d missed a 5 min show of the Northern Lights. Buggeration!! I went to behind the Marina Hotel now the Icelandair Hotel but nothing doing (David had said this was the best place to see them). Addie took some photos of the event. A and R also managed to get a good home for the spare Airwaves ticket which is great as it went to a woman who wanted to see her son playing drums.
Sunday 9th November
We had a restful day at home packing and eating. I made a short foray to the shops.
Out to the cinema for Die Unberuhbare which was dire. Don’t even think about it.
Monday 10th November
Up at 4 a.m. The minibus arrived on time. It then stopped for ages in the town whilst the driver got a coffee. Eventually back to the bus station and into the coaches. Got to the airport and quite a slow performance through security. I was invited to have my flight case opened but this was because I had a large lump of cheese in it! To be honest I was so sleepy I didn’t really care. I was allowed to keep it that’s the main thing.
The flight home was fine and fab to see the sun coming up. Little Ted was dancing on Addie’s head, honestly he’d spent the whole week drinking whisky and beer and set himself up with a Facebook page. That bear is irrepressible!
Thank you to Chris, because it was all your idea! I’m so sorry you couldn’t be with us and I missed you every day but you will get to go there. I loved Iceland and would like to do the round trip.
Thanks also to my great companeros who bravely went to something like 25 bands over the course of 5 days! And why have just one hat when you can have 6?! Here’s one for you which may or may not have been sung by Anna Calvi! See, I was listening!