Thursday, January 19, 2012

Iceland Day Five

So! The last day was finally upon me, but my flight wasn’t until around 5pm (if I remember right) so I thought I shouldn’t be overly nervous and get to the airport hours before my flight needlessly, I thought I would at least do a few things before leaving my hotel for good. Checked out of my hotel and left their bag in the storage room thing, and decided today I would check out something called “The Settlement Exhibition”. During my stay at Hotel Reykjavik Centrum, I was always rather confused by this see-through big glass box outside my hotel, looking into something that resembled like a pile of rocks. Eventually at one point when I was waiting outside my hotel for one of my excursions to be pick me up, some guy came along to clean the glass box, and I asked him what this was. I don’t think his English was very good but he said “settlements. Museum. Round corner” and pointed. I returned this with “Vikings??” and he nodded and said “yes”. I looked round the corner and the building right next to my hotel had a big sign saying “Settlement Exhibition”- don’t know how I didn’t notice it before! Now, the settlers weren’t the Vikings in a way, I learnt once going to the museum. “Viking” is an old Norse word meaning “raiding pirates”, but Iceland was pretty much almost completely uninhabited until the beginning of the 9th century- and the people that settled there eventually were Norse, but they weren’t proper raping/pillaging Vikings, they were families and communities that wished to settle and stay in Iceland. Anyway, so this recently built museum/ exhibition has been created, to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of a man named “Skuli Magnusson”, who was the first treasurer of Iceland, and is known in Icelandic history as the “Father of Reykjavik”- because of the really important role he played in developing Iceland and it’s capital into what it is today. The exhibit was a very large room, with loads of interactive and fascinating pieces on settler history, and lot of archaeological pieces. All of the artefacts and information skirted round the original ruins of a 10th Century dining hall- which is what I could see through the glass box outside my hotel. The ruin was really well preserved and I like the way it had been lit- even with a fake hologram fire in the middle- really realistic looking. There was practically no one down there as well- so whenever I ended up walking past something/ underneath a spotlight and then suddenly noises would happen/ videos would start/ a recording giving historical information would begin, it scared the bejeezus out of me! I loved how interactive this place was though, if historical museums were a bit more like that in the U.K we would have more kids interested in our history. To be fair our science museums are usually quite interactive, but I think we’ve got a lesson or two to learn from this Icelandic museum. They had this cool bit at the end as well- where there would be a 3D projection of what the original hall would have looked like on a screen, and then theres this control panel in front of you, which you move with your finger. Eventually, as you slide the dot round the circle, it rotates the building, adds more layers to the building, and begins a recording telling you about the different layers of the building and how it would have been designed. Was awesome. Also, PS: I liked a sign I saw on the opposite side of the hall from when you come in- when they excavated the settlement, they found the bones of a cow or a horse, actually built into the walls. They believe this is an old Viking religious superstition, that building animal bones into the actual walls of the house would ward off any bad spirits, as they found examples of this practice being described in Viking folklore/poetry. After the settlement exhibition I decided to grab a bit of lunch at Café Paris, a little place I spotted near my hotel (recommended by tripadvisor). I must admit, I wasn’t starving yet because I had eaten a fair bit at breakfast, but I thought I may as well have one nice last meal in Iceland, considering that Indian meal last night was so diabolical. I ordered the Tagliatelli with chicken, olives, feta and a tomato sauce, thinking that would be a light option and it was quite reasonably priced, so I thought it may be a light/small portion. OMG though look what arrived!!! To be fair it was absolutely delicious, but I only managed to eat half of it, it was such a mahoosive amount! The staff in there were really friendly, and the atmosphere in the place was very relaxed, warm, and inviting, so I really recommend this place.

I saved the garlic bread to feed to the LOADS of ducks in the snowy square opposite the café. Infact when I walked through the square to the café, there was this crazy guy with one eye feeding all these ducks with bits of pan au chocolat, and when I walked past laughing (cause there were so many of them) he said “ You must feed zem or zey will eat you!!”. Funny! When you look at the pictures of them, they don’t really look like ducks do they? They look more like geese. But the guy I chatted to on the Northern Lights, who was in to bird watching, told me they were actually a breed of duck. Amazingly bold though, got a funny video of them eating out of my hand! Lol! I didn’t see any pigeons about when I was in Iceland, so I guess these birds may be what they have instead of pigeons.

After this I still had some time left, so I did a bit of shopping. I bought some reindeer pate from the Christmas market outside my hotel for my friend (who eats anything!), I bought some chilli bilberry syrup and a chocolate IPhone for my boyfriend (hilarious!) some rhubarb brittle/ toffee for my dad, and loads more chocolate for my mum/ other mates/ work friends. I noticed something out there about chocolate/desserts/anything sweet- these Icelandic people LOVE liquorice!!! I can’t stand the stuff, but my mum loves it too, so I brought her back loads of chocolate with bits of liquorice in it. Mum says its lovely but I couldn’t think of anything worse! Blegh! Used to like liquorice as a child, but I think Sambuca has ruined anything aniseed flavoured to me now, just makes me feel sick. Oh and I also bought myself a little miniature cuddly puffin toy, and a really nice hand painted mug.

So then after shopping, I waited in the lobby for the coach to pick me up for the airport. Also waiting in the lounge was this young guy, who I recognised from the northern lights tour. We got chatting and he turned out to be THE NICEST guy. His name was Shiraz (I know, literally my first question was “do you have a sister called Chardonnay?” and he sarcastically replied “yeah I’ve never been asked that before!”) and he was from London, he was meeting his girlfriend at the airport because she was spending the morning at The Blue Lagoon Spa (the people at the blue lagoon spa actually do transfers straight from there to the airport, so often The Blue Lagoon is a good thing to do on the last day of your holiday). He had been shopping as well- but he had bought a funny yellow antique dinner tray from a local antique shop near where I went to that tapas place (didn’t go in because it looked too expensive, but he actually said stuff was fairly reasonably priced in there). When he met up with his girlfriend later though she was like “ ruddy hell, what have you bought now??” haha! What I will say, if he ever ends up reading this blog (because I did tell him at the end what it was) I must say, I would apologise about the way I said goodbye. Because I pretty much spoke to him all my way to the airport/ a little in departure lounge, which was nice. But let me just say, my journey back was a little traumatic! Originally I had given plenty of time for when I arrived at Heathrow, to get my coach transfer (1 hour 45 minutes in fact! Landing at Heathrow at 7:30 and catching a 9:15 coach, which would get me into Bath at 11:55pm). However, originally my flight at the airport was delayed by 50 minutes, but I thought, O.K, 55 minutes to get my baggage and get on the coach, that’s still fine. It was then delayed another half an hour, waiting in departures, before we set off, so I though oh dear. Very panicked. What really pissed me off is the way IcelandAir sodded around at the beginning, giving us all the message about Icelandic folklore and telling us all about duty free and asking who wanted to pay extra for a special Icelandic hot meal on the flight, before they got the plane up and running. It’s like FKIN LISTEN- IF YOU ARE A FLIGHT THAT’S BEEN DELAYED ALMOST AN HOUR AND A HALF, YOU DO THAT CRAP WHILST YOU ARE IN THE AIR, NOT WASTING AN EXTRA 20 MINUTES OF OUR TIME WITH THAT BOLLOCKS!!! ……sorry about that, I don’t normally swear too much, but I was so angry, because guess what- I did end up missing that coach- by 4 minutes. So when I got my bag from the conveyer belt, I ran from there, and I was a bit upset/cry-y when I left and said goodbye to Shiraz and his girlfriend, so if either of you read this- I’m sorry I was just really stressed!

So I missed this thing by 4 minutes, meaning I had to spend an extra fiver and wait for the last bus, which means I had to wait in the coach station place for over two hours (had to wait until the 11:30pm bus, which got in at 1 in the morning!). I actually had a mini breakdown crying in Nero’s when I went to buy some water, because I was so upset about not being able to get home, and tired from travelling, that I tried to buy a bottle of water and I was crying a bit and this SUCH nice polish girl (I am actually welling up a bit writing about this, because I remember how upset I was about missing that coach) behind the counter at Nero’s was so nice to me about it. Again, thank you nice pretty polish girl who works at Nero’s Terminal 1 Coach station, you made me feel much better/ stopped me crying for a bit until I had to catch the next coach. When the coach arrived as well, it was 13 minutes late, which I thought was so FKING TYPICAL, that the bus previously I had missed by only 4 minutes. Was so tired on the bus, so figured I would actually be able to sleep on it, but first of all National express, despite having actually very comfy seating on night coaches light up the entire coach with this really bright blue light (maybe to stop people secretly jacking up? I don’t know) so it was impossible to sleep. Plus there were these three Arabic guys in front of me, chatting away to each other constantly, and really loudly. I understand some people need to talk a little bit on the coach, about travel arrangements and things, but they were talking SO loud, and everyone around them was obviously trying to sleep, so I stood up and was like “guys this is a night coach, people are trying to sleep, could you shut up please?”. They didn’t of course, they just spoke quieter, but what a pain in the ass. When I arrived, I felt so sick and tired, but at least my boyfriend was there to pick me up from the bus station, wearing a silly hat.

I missed him and home a bit. You know I think I would struggle going on holiday on my own for more than a week, I would just end up missing human interaction/ my friends/ my boyfriend/ my family too much. Going on holiday on my own was exciting and very empowering for me, because normally I am so disorganised, I have to rely on other people, but I managed to sort out everything myself, so I’m very proud of that. Also, travelling on your own, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, without having to ask what your family/ partner wants to do, which is quite nice as well. However, you end up missing on sharing your experiences with other people, laughing about stuff together, seeing things together- and that’s always nice. Overall I absolutely loved Iceland; it was such a wild, different place for me to go to, compared to all my other holidays, and such an amazing country geographically and historically. Theres still so much I want to do there, that I definitely would want to go back there some day, this time perhaps in September when theres a bit more sunlight, and with my boyfriend. I would love to go whale watching, husky sledding, and go on a helicopter ride as well. Plus you can do day trips to Greenland from Iceland, which sounds fun. Maybe one day when I save up enough money again (I did tell you it was expensive, I will tell you that once I had added EVERYTHING up, I had spent £1400 on this holiday- 1 person, 5 days. Very pricey) I will be back to this wonderful country. But for now, my next trip will be to Rome at the end of June hopefully, will update you of course! From Mel, From Iceland!

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