If you look up in the sky at any given time thousands of planes fly above you in every direction. One of these many aircraft’s flies north across the lower stratosphere travelling passed Europe’s borders. The hum of its engines vibrates through the cabin. Passengers sleep in their identical chairs while a flight attendant walks idly along the aisle. The entire plane is lulled, a giant hammock swaying 1000’s of feet in the air. All except one. A young girl sits with her nose touching the frosty window by her seat. She exhales releasing warm air that causes the window to steam up. Her face pushes harder against the window in an effort to improve her view. The night sky is pitch black except for the starlight that has been travelling for thousands of years just to greet us.  The land under her feet is constantly changing bringing new features for her to gaze upon. Greenland moved closer under the belly of the plane. A white landscape as far as her eyes could see and she thought what a complete contradiction its title was in this moment. As she Continues to gaze out over Greenland it dawns on her that soon she would step onto new soil. A place where earthquakes shake the ground and reform the landscape. So many stories have been told about this magical place and now she finally gets to tell her own.

Iceland I fly to thee…

We landed at Keflavik International Airport at 1:00 am. I discovered that unlike most international airports you can’t just walk out the door of this airport and catch a bus or a taxi that brings you straight to your desired destinations.  Shuttle buses are pretty much your only option unless you rent a car. The shuttle bus service will drop you off at your hotel or hostel as long as you remember to book ahead. The service we took was run by Flybus. Flybus also doubles as a tour company offering a range of bus tours around Iceland.  A lot of the bus company’s run both shuttles services and tours or at least that was my experience. We didn’t stay in a hotel but rented an Airbnb for our stay in Iceland so we got dropped off at the nearest hotel to our accommodation and mapped our way from there.

We stayed in a converted garage in an Icelandic suburb.  The owner was a young university student who rented out the flat during the summer period. It was artistically decorated and even had a funky free standing duck light in the bathroom (My favourite item in the flat). It was perfect ! and a mere 40 minute walk into town. All the more reason to explore.

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The next morning we were completely shattered from the previous travel packed day, so we decided to sleep in a little. It might read like a waste of precious hours but we would have never been able to appreciate those hours walking about with how exhausted we were.  When we were fully rested and ready to explore we mapped out our route and off we went. 40 minutes later after seeing nothing, we arrived in the town where the average suburbs faded away and a beautiful seafront town opened up in front of us. The land was only separated from the coastline by a rocky border. Mountains lay still cross the water and birds rested on the shore before continuing there journey to warmer climates. We strolled for hours along the coastline trying to take it all in.

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Every great country has famous landmarks that tell the story of its native history.  The Sun Voyager is a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason.  When I first saw this stainless steel structure it reminded me of the sinking Viking Ship Sculpture in Dublin city (created by Betty Newman). That sculpture was a little less grand and a lot more sunken but they both reminded me of a time long passed. It also struck me as being very similar to the boat that took the Elves and Frodo out to sea, towards the unknown (but that might just be the geek in me coming out). What does it represent to you?

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The Sun Voyager wasn’t the only creative structure we stumbled upon along the sea’s edge. We also found a quirky house that looked as though someone had put it together with rusty objects they found in a scrap pile. But on closer inspection, it looked as though every piece was placed in that specific spot for a reason. I later discovered that the house had a name. It was called ‘The Raven House’ and was once the home of Bjork. However, it now belongs to the film director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson.  To me, this house is a physical representation of an artists mind, so full of ideas that they couldn’t possibly keep them all inside. Instead, they carved them into the world.

 I wonder what the interior is like?

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Up a slope, you will find Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church. This church has a very distinctive architectural design which I think you can guess from the second picture below. Inside the church, a choirs song echoes high into the air and is trapped by the ceiling above. We stood and listened before continuing stroll.

The Horror Of SD Corruption

 I am sure can all understand when I say technology can be unreliable or even turn against you. Well, sadly it happened to me at the worst time possible. I lost all the photos  I stored on an SD card. NOOOOO!!!! An Absolute betrayal! Damn unreliable artificial piece of metal and plastic. I know it sounds as though I took it very hard but I did actually get over the loss quickly. I came to the realisation that photos are great for showing people where you have been and to mount them like a small accomplishment. But its the experience and the memories that really matter. Until we invent a memories video recorder my friend  Michelle kindly allowed me to use some of her photographs to fill in the gaps within this visual story.

Thanks, Michelle!

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Photo courtesy of Michelle  McAlinden

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Photo courtesy of Michelle  McAlinden

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Photo courtesy of Michelle  McAlinden

Across from the church, we found an open garden with statues placed all over. Each statue evoked a strong emotion. But some were a little stranger and as I stood looking at these particular ones I thought some explanation was needed. The museum is called The-Einar-Jónsson-Museum. For more information on the Icelandic sculptor, check out their website: The Einar Jónsson Museum

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The rest of the town looked like a trendy place full of young people. On the outside, they had a vintage vibe like the city itself but also had a touch of modernisation painted across the surface.

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Photo courtesy of Michelle  McAlinden

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Photo courtesy of Michelle  McAlinden

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Photo courtesy of Michelle  McAlinden

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Photo courtesy of Michelle McAlinden

Iceland You Ain’t No Cheap Date

I mean exactly how the title reads. Iceland is not a cheap getaway. The transport, restaurants and tours all cost quite a lot of króna.  But like anywhere if you are on a budget there are always alternatives to spending big in restaurants and that will still fill your belly (eg noodle station = big portions & affordable) but unless you drive and rent a car there is no avoiding paying big on transport. The shuttles services and tours packages are the only way to see everything Iceland has to offer. So my recommendation is to plan your trip well or you may have to miss out on some amazing sights the Island has to offer.

But staying positive! If you do have the cash there are plenty of places to eat amazing Icelandic fish.

Something To Consider Before Dinner 

Being a bit of a whale fan and someone who believes in the protection of endangered species it would be wrong if I didn’t mention that only 3% of Iceland’s population eat whale or shark and they only hunt them because tourists are willing to pay for it.  So if you are up for preventing more whales and sharks from being killed needlessly then look out for whale friendly restaurants!

Because if there is no demand then there is no need to kill them.

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The three explorers walk down an empty street. No one seems to be around. All of them have open jackets and were not wearing their usual hat, scarf and glove combo.  It was one of the warmest days they had experienced since arriving on the Island.  The sun can be seen etching its way down towards the horizon to give way to the night sky. Until now their path was silent. But slowly, distant indistinguishable tones can be heard from the town ahead. The closer they go and louder Reykjavik becomes. They see a blurry mass moving along the town streets. One of the girls squints to try and figure out what it could be. As they move closer her question is answered. The blurry mass separates into thousands of bodies flowing among each other like a leisurely river that sweeps up a reluctant bystander.  The streets themselves have become one giant outdoor marketplace. The smell of different food sizzling on grills cling to the surrounding current.  Icelandic music surfs the waves and collides with the chatter that moves among the stalls lining the pavement. Crafts swing from every newly erected display, calling to the shoppers who happily answer. The three girls stand stunned at the scene in front of them. They all thought the same thing, that this is definitely a sight to see.

That was August 18th, the anniversary of Reykjavik City. And what is an anniversary without one hell of a celebration! This is Iceland’s, Culture Night (Menningarnótt). The Culture Night welcomes 100,000 guests who flock from all around the country and beyond to enjoy the marvellous festivities. A delicious menu of art, theatre events, rock bands and graffiti artists served on a city-sized plate with an explosion of colourful fireworks for dessert. And if you don’t want to miss out on the appetizer,  a wonderful selection of museums that are open between 5 pm – 10 pm to keep you busy before the main event (free of charge). Full yet?

The night is organized by the events team at Visit Reykjavik in collaboration with other city departments, organisations, artists, societies and countless others. It is an absolutely spectacular event that you should call on at least once in your life. DO IT!!

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Photo courtesy of Michelle  McAlinden

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Photo courtesy of Michelle  McAlinden

 

Iceland was an amazing experience that I couldn’t possibly cram into one post. If you want to learn more about Iceland keep posted!  I will be writing more about the tours I took, the spectacular natural landscape and the wonderful wildlife that I was lucky to see, very soon.

 

 

Have you been to Iceland? What was your favourite moment?

 

 

Jess x

 

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January 27, 2017

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