Monday, 23 December 2013

Daily Life: Quick Update & Festive Cheer!

As I sit here typing, the Disney animation of Alice in Wonderland is playing on TV - as much as I love Alice, I feel like I should at least update before the year is out. The tree's been decorated, there are presents under the tree, we're planning Christmas Day, and I couldn't be more grateful for everything that I've been lucky enough to receive this year - unconditional love, new friendships, continued friendships, a job, insights into different countries and their cultures.. but I'm also thankful for something that I think most people forget.. The fact that I am still alive, happy and healthy, with a roof over my head, clothes to wear, and food to eat. We get so caught up in our materialistic wants and anxious worries that we often forget that being alive is already a blessing in itself.
I was lucky enough to go to Iceland this month; a rather cold country with the warmest and friendliest of people. I don't know how many times cars stopped and allowed us to cross the road despite their green traffic lights.. it's a small thing, but it really gave me that warm fuzzy feeling. Our stay was in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, home to ~120,000 people - a drop in the ocean compared to the 8+ million people living in London right now.
We stayed at Reykjavik Lights Hotel, which was very modern and well kept.
The Icelandic people who we encountered spoke fluent English, and the hotel staff were really helpful with everything. It seemed like everyone were very laid back, which sometimes meant tour companies arrived for pick up around an hour late..

On our first night, we had the famous hot dog from Baejarins Beztu Pylsur.
The hot dogs come with ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onions, and remoulade. I'm not really a big fan of hot dogs, but these were really amazing!! I think it was mainly the mix of remoulade and crispy fried onion pieces that did it for me, but I had two on the first night before dinner, and then 1.5 the next day! 
Although I didn't get to try any Icelandic delicacies like minke whale, reindeer, or puffin, this is certainly something that I would happily return to Iceland for!

On our second day, we went whale watching. We were taken from our hotel to the tour company's main office to collect our tickets, before being transferred to the harbour where the boat was waiting. The weather was beautiful - clear blue skies with a gorgeous sunrise.
I love being on boats - the different sceneries you can't see on land, the different perspective, the sound of the waves lapping against the ship whilst you gently bob along..
I must say it was very windy and bitterly cold! :P It was all worth it though, as we saw the whales come up several times and I even managed to snap some pictures! :)
We went to try our luck with the Northern Lights that evening, but they didn't appear.. 
Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Your screen is not dirty. Those are stars. Beautiful, bright, shining stars!

The next day, we took a tour of the Golden Circle. We saw the Faxi waterfall...
 The geysers...
Warmed our hands using rocks from the 80-100°C geothermal waters...
Waited patiently for Strokkur to erupt...
 Stopped off to see the Gulfoss after lunch...
 This was probably my favourite of the tour - such beauty and immense power!!!
We also stopped off at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Rift Valley.
On our way back to Reykjavik, our tour guide allowed a five minute stop for us to take photos with the horses.. but the sunset was too beautiful to not snap first!
I did end up taking a photo of the horses... but what's the good without a selfie? :D
He/She even posed for us ^-^
They were so unbelievably beautiful and sleek! Such classy and elegant animals ^-^
It began to snow that afternoon, and continued through to evening, which meant the cancellation of our second attempt at seeing the Northern Lights.
We flew back to England the next morning - our flight was delayed due to the snow, and we ended up landing in Gatwick 2 hours later than planned.

The trip was rushed, but it opened up my eyes to so many natural wonders of the world, just through the two full days that we had. I got to see a snow covered volcano that has been inactive for a thousand years, see and hear the power of the Gulfoss and Faxi, experience the boom and sight of an erupting Geysir, and walk along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Rift Valley!!

It was a good trip that left me wanting more - I will definitely be back to try my luck with the Northern Lights again, and I have yet to take a dip in the Blue Lagoon! But for now, I shall look back at these photos, and reminisce...

Thank you for being on this continued journey with me, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a happy and healthy 2014.

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