Thursday, January 12, 2012

Iceland Day Four

So feeling a little tired from the late Northern Lights tour the night before, I woke up to get ready for my next excursion- something that they called “The Lava Tour”! Don’t worry guys, it wasn’t abseiling down into any volcanoes! It was actually going horse riding; they called it the lava tour because you go riding round the volcano, on top of the lava fields (cool sounding ey?). I did have a think about what I wanted to do on this day, but I remember trip advisor had a thing that was like “10 best things to do in Iceland” and the horse riding was the most best rated activity- so I thought I would try this out. On the coach to the stables, instead of a guide there was a CD they played that told us a little about the rules we should follow when at the stables, but mostly about the history of Icelandic horses. Basically they have been a pure breed for over 200 years, as they do not allow import of any horse into Iceland. They say Icelandic horses originate from a mix of the Norwegian and Shetland horses that the Vikings brought over when they settled there, which would definitely explain the thick fur/ short stature of them.

So we got to the stables and I got into my thick jumpsuity thing, and I was introduced to my horse- Vinterhusid (I think that’s what it was? She told me it meant winter in Icelandic). Horse riding was THE BEST thing I did on my holiday, it was truly magical. So your riding your horse through the snow, surrounded by snowy pine trees (it was honestly like Narnia I swear) and then you clear through the trees and ahead of you is a huge snowy mountain (which if you looked at the top of it, you could see a little bit of smoke coming out of it- because it actually wasn’t a mountain it was a volcano). Also, I thought about it suddenly, and figured that before then I had never actually ridden a horse. I mean when I was little, when we used to go to centre parcs, I went horse riding, but I was being led by someone- this was ACTUAL horse riding, with me controlling my horse, and galloping and all that! People were telling me the other day that it was quite brave to do this, since I’d never been horse riding before, but I was fine about it really, the instructors were great. This is a silly video I did, just to prove to people that I actually went horse riding all by myself, it was quite hard to film because I still had to keep cold of the reins, but you get the picture. (wheeee….horse riding….hahaha!!)

Halfway there we stopped, met back up with another riding group (the intermediate ones that wanted to ride faster, lol) and got off our horses. Was so funny- when I leaned down to sort out my laces on my shoes, my horse decided my head look tasty, and literally started eating my hair!! I mean I know theres no grass around here in Iceland but naught winterhusid! Naughty Horsie!!! On the way back it really suddenly started snowing heavily, so we had to gallop our way back to camp- I felt like I was in an old fashioned film set in the wilds of Russia or something, it all felt rather dramatic! Plus after I got off the horse, even though I’d kinda only been riding for 40mins/an hour, my god my thighs/ ass hurt!! I was thinking horse riding must probably be such a good excercize to tone up those muscles, I bet my cousin that trains horses for dressage must have buns of steel by now- haha!

When I got back the horse riding had really built up an appetite, so I hunted around for a nice place to eat. Found a nice place opposite the post office, called “Happ”, which my friend Sif had recommended me. I was freezing by the time I got in there, so I ordered a mocha whilst I had a gander of the menu (which by the way, was massive! And also scrumptious). The place is a very veggie friendly, health eating restaurant (even with a “raw dish of the day” on it!). It still has a couple of meaty options, but most of the menu is vegetarian. I decided to order the Bean burger with cucumber relish, pumpkin chips and salad. Now, what arrived was absolutely delicious, and I ate every last scrap of it, don’t get me wrong, but this was NOT a burger. I get annoyed with all these places that serve posh burgers, and often they are “deconstructed” or served in a bizarre way, but this was essentially a bean patty, on toast, topped with salad. In my opinion, a burger is not a burger unless it is between two slices of forms of bread (ciabatta is fine). The chips as well weren’t really chips, they were just strips of roasted pumpkin, but very yummy nonetheless. Difficult to eat, but very tasty, and actually in the hours after this meal, I felt so energised- so healthy. I think it was probably a good idea to have a healthy veggie meal at some point, considering I had been eating so much meat/ cakes and things so far.

After lunch I decided I would check out the Art museum in the centre of town. Not sure if this is Reykjavik’s main one, as it was rather small, but it was packed full of interesting art work and exhibitions. Also, for people checking the museum out, the cafĂ© looked quite nice too, so that may be worth a visit as well. I admit I love modern art museums, for two reasons. First of all, because the art tends to be a little weird, with loads of underlying meanings within them, I always leave modern art museums feeling quite clever. Secondly, I love taking photos of crazy artwork/ artwork that you’re not actually sure whether it is artwork or just a smudge on the floor, lol.

First of all there was this really interesting new exhibit of artwork that a load of under 16 year olds had drawn in Reykjavik, they were allowed to send in artwork on any subject they wanted, the only rules is that they had to be drawn- not painted/ sculpted etc. Here are a few examples, can you believe people under 16 years old drew these? I think it’s incredible.

The next large exhibit was on the most famous modern artists “Erro” (except with an accent over the o). His work was very strange and different, he started off drawing colourful, animal based art, then moved onto an almost Mexican skull style type of art, then went rather abstract, and in the last few years he has suddenly started doing art that very much resembles the artwork from manga/ Japanese comic books. Interesting to see artwork from one artist, change and development into so many different genres. I think I preferred his early stuff though.

Then I’ve included a few photos of some of the general modern art lying about the place. 1- I’m pretty sure that’s not Elton John, 2- Art, or random pink block on wall? 3- Art, or missing painting? 4- A modern piece of art, including two things- a human hair and a line of staples: honestly, how do people get away with this crap? 5- some pretty cool body art to be fair. 6- I actually really liked this piece, thought it was rather pretty.

This was an installation by a young alternative Icelandic artist (called Bjork but it wasn’t the actual Bjork we know). They kinda look like hammocks, but they are all actually kites. In the background there was edgy music , and the projections on the wall were showing videos of people practicing martial artist. It was all about the amount of "control" we have in our life, like how as a kite we can fly freely in the breeze, but we have to be tied down/ controlled by something. And how martial arts is a form of strict control, not just art which is considered to be a creative thing. Looks at the barriers of controlled living, and life vs. art vs. control. Makes you feel clever, lol (:

After the museum I got back to the hotel, and then had a MINI FREAKOUT because I couldn’t find my hat anywhere. I went completely mental, like crying and everything. I don’t know why, I think it’s because it wasn’t just a hat, it was symbolic- I didn’t want to lose anything, or for anything to go wrong with my holiday, because that would be a personal failure. Plus also I love that hat- it takes me hours to find a nice warm hat because of being allergic to wool. Turns out the next morning I retraced my steps and I had left it in a locker at the Art Museum (which I was well proud of myself for retracing my steps properly, because of my poor memory), but I suppose that night I wasn’t in the best of spirits.

I decided, screw it, no use crying over spilt milk, can’t go looking for it until the morning anyway, so I decided to comfort myself by going out for a filling Indian meal. Curry always make me feel better. EXCEPT THIS ONE. This is definitely THE WORST Indian meal I have ever had IN MY LIFE. And you guys know I remember every meal I have eaten since I was two- I don’t forget food. Even worse than a south Indian restaurant I went to with my parents once, and they served me this fermented/mouldy mango curry thing which I couldn’t eat. This place was called Shalimar, and was recommended by Tripadvisor, and I haven’t done this yet, but I really need to log into my account and rate them on tripadvisor, to honestly try and warn people. For starter I ordered chicken pakora, which came on kebabs with pieces of pepper, and served with mango chutney and a yoghurt dip. The mango chutney tastes really weird- very sort of “earthy”, I think they had added far too much turmeric to it. And the chicken was absolutely flavourless- no form of seasoning had ever touched that meat or batter during any of the cooking process. The main, a lamb sagwala, with peshwari naan, was not very nice at all. Granted, the meat was tender, but the curry was in a brown generic sludgy sauce- not like normal sag or sagwala dishes, which are usually green/dark green, and it was SO volcanically hot that it was almost impossible to eat. Sagwala dishes are not supposed to be hot at all, and there was no warning on the menu that this dish was spicy, so this really pissed me off. Plus, the peshwari naan was quite thin, and had to texture of flatbread rather than naan, barely had any coconut filling, and to be honest tasted a little bit of garlic which was quite off-putting.

I was so fed up about this meal that I thought, my god, maybe this place might try and serve me a decent dessert. I was utterly ignored, and my plates of half uneaten food were left on the table for over an hour, despite me trying to glance up at them and grab their attention as often as possible. The horrifically rude waitress paid plenty of attention to the families and couples and people upstairs, but completely ignored me. I don’t care if I’m a lone diner- theres no bloody excuse! Especially since this place is a tiny restaurant, only about 9 tables I reckon? Eventually some guy came up, because the place was full now, and said to me “you can spend as longer time here as you want” and I, stupefied, said “erm, I know I can, will you please take my plates and dirty cutlery away, and may I have a look at a dessert menu please?” the man replied with “ah, we have two desserts, carrot halva and gulab jamun”. I asked whether they had made their own halva, and he replied with “no, we get it in pre-made, it would be far too time consuming to make it from fresh”. I didn’t reply, because to be honest this guy was talking crap- I have made halva before, it barely takes any time at all and it is very easy. I ordered gulab jamun, knowing that it would be pre-packaged in syrup, like you get it all Indian restaurants in the U.K, but I happen to quite like them so that was all right.

What was served to me was beyond disgusting. First of all the gulab jamun was served hot (which I have had served like that once in an Indian restaurant in Bristol, so perhaps that bit wasn’t bizarre) and served covered in whipped cream, and in what can only be described as a thick gloopy chocolate sauce, that tasted like they had just melted a terry’s chocolate orange! I ate two of the gulabs, scraping off the cream and sauce, and then TRIED to get the bill. Again, I waited over half an hour to get my bill, despite trying to grab people’s attention again. Infact at one point the rude waitress almost tripped over me and I said “er, exscuse me, could I have the bill NOW please” and she just gave me a sly bitchy look and went back into the kitchen (which was open so you could see into it). After I heard the chef whisper to her “c’mon, you really ought to give that lady that bill” which she ignored, I almost walked out without paying. I am NOT JOKING. I was so close, to walking out of a restaurant, in a foreign country, because I had had such an appalling meal/service here. But I started getting my coat and stuff on and turned to the door, and it was only then that she plonked a bill on my table (which I think was the most expensive meal I’d actually had in Iceland, which was like rubbing salt into a wound- but at least the woman was so gormless she didn’t realise I had even been served dessert, so I didn’t have to pay for it). I went up to the counter, gave them the notes they needed, and not an isk more- and left”

I must admit, I wasn’t in the best mood when I got to my hotel, I felt a bit rubbish really. A nice meal would have got me to stop thinking about losing my stuff, and then would have helped me sleep better, but this meal had just given me indigestion and got me in a sad mood. A place like that would not be open in England for more than two seconds, it’s only because they are in Iceland and theres less competition, that this dreadful abortion of a restaurant is still open. I went to bed upset to be honest, and so if any of you guys ever visit Iceland, don’t go here, unless you want to make yourself sick and disappointed. That being my last dinner in Iceland, I went to bed, nervous about travelling home the next day.

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