Tag Archives: iceland

Awful!

I thought I’d go for the double meaning again for this weeks PhotoFriday challenge, “Awful!” In the most common usage it means extremely bad. The weather in the above shot, taken on a December trip to Iceland, was undoubtedly awful.

Chrysler PT CruiserHowever, the original meaning of the word was “full of awe” (we tend to use “awesome” these days1). In this sense, geysirs shooting water high into the sky was an awful sight.

The thumbnail to the left (click to zoom in) was my second choice of picture. The PT Cruiser was a truly awful car.

Please also vote for my entry in last weeks challenge, “Flight.” I’m entry number 150.

  1. Eddie Izzard has some interesting things to say about contemporary use of the word “awesome.” []

My Little Secret

My Little Secret is this, the best coffee shop in Reykjavik, Iceland — it was always half-empty even though they had great drinks and even better cakes.

That’s also this weeks PhotoFriday theme. I found it a tricky subject1 and I’m not entirely happy with this pictures connection to the topic, but I do think I captured the lighting and the atmosphere of the cafe well.

Please also vote for my entry in last weeks challenge, “Electricity.” I’m entry number 225.

  1. Seems to be fairly common. I can’t see how most of the current entries match the theme! []

Jordan and Egypt

"No Camels & Horses" sign, Dahab, Egypt

I always have immense difficulty choosing my next travel destination. The bottom line is that I’d happily visit almost anywhere I’ve not been before. And even then, many of the places I have been to I’d happily go back to. With around two hundred countries in the world this presents a problem. Then you need to combine this with the fact that I love reading about travel — books, brochures, back issues of Wanderlust — and you can easily believe that it can take me months to decide where to travel to next.

I know. I lead such a hard life.

Anyway, after a relatively short holiday last year, this year was going to be India. Except. Long story short: I did not have enough leave from work to be able to do everything I wanted.

Eventually, through a process of compromise and whittling down that I couldn’t explain even if I tried, I ended up deciding on the middle east in general and Jordan and Egypt in particular. I’ve had a mixed experience with the Middle East in the past. I loved Turkey but wasn’t keen on UAE. Fortunately both Jordan and Egypt promised more of the history and culture of the former and less of the shiny, characterless modernity of the Dubai I had seen.

As I have done for the last couple of trips, I felt it made most sense to break the holiday down into bite sized chunks. I am going to cover the sights in Jordan in the following posts:

And Egypt in these:

Iceland

“Why?” It’s rapidly becoming the question that people ask when I announce my next travel destination, and my Christmas in Iceland trip was no exception.

To be fair I did have doubts. Having spent a winter in Norway a few years ago I was expecting short daylight hours, cold and snow. And it was Christmas so I was expecting a few things to close. But I was also expecting some wonderful, directional light, ideal for photography; I was expecting crisp, blue skies and pristine snow; I was expecting cozy bars and restaurants; and I was expecting to see the Northern Lights.

I had a great time, but not everything went to plan. The one thing that I thought I could rely on — the weather — turned out not to be such a sure thing. My first tentative steps around town were accompanied by the squelching sound of my quickly waterlogged trousers. Ironically, I spent the driest, crispest day in The Blue Lagoon, a geothermally heated outdoor pool.

What follows are a some photographic highlights and light commentary. Click on the thumbnails below for a larger version.

The main shopping street and a lake were just a short walk from the hotel. The lake had many pretty houses along the side, and the main street had pretty much the entire population of Reykjavik (if not Iceland) in a Christmas Parade.

My first venture out of the capital took in a volcano, the site of Geysir, which is where we get the word from, Gullfoss and Thingvellir1.

Gullfoss was famously saved from the hands of greedy developers and is a spectacular sight, even in heavy rain.

Thingvellir looks dark and moody and was the site of the original Icelandic parliament, the Althing, which was the first parliamentary democracy in the world.

Overlooking Reykjavik is a building called The Pearl which holds enough geothermally heated water for half the city, plus a museum and an exclusive restaurant. Unfortunately it was shut when we visited, but it still looks space age and the views down hill show how low-rise the city is2.

For my last full day I decided to head out of town on a bus to Akranes. I had no idea what was there. The guide book insisted that it was pretty but the details were scarce. To cut a long story short, I imagine that it’s a very pretty place in summer but at Christmas you really need to know where you’re going before you get soaked!

Instead, I was rescued by a local couple who gave a tour of the area and then insisted on feeding and watering me! It’s always nice to meet genuinely friendly locals. Somehow I expect to find them in far-flung places but not Europe.

And finally, no, I didn’t get to see the Northern Lights. You need a cold night and a clear sky, and I had neither the whole time I was there. Maybe third time lucky..?

If this has piqued your interest, there are plenty of other sources of information on the Internet. I found the following particularly helpful:

  1. Icelandic has a thirty-two letter alphabet, rather more than my keyboard supports and perhaps more than the typeface on your computer allows. The “th” in “Thingvellir” is more-or-less how it is supposed to sound but actually looks a bit like a ‘P.’ There is also a letter that looks like a ‘D’ with a line through it, which is pronounced “eth.” []
  2. The guide said that Reykjavik is the size of Barcelona but with a twentieth of the population. This is partly because they have the space but mainly because all the building need to be able to withstand strong earthquakes. []