In early February this year, me and my boyfriend Josh had a winter weekend trip to Reykjavik, Iceland. He bought the tickets for my birthday (boyfriend points for him) after watching me coo over pictures of Icelandic landscapes online for months.
We flew to Iceland from London Gatwick on the 4th February after spending a few days preparing for the perilous cold temperatures we knew to expect. I bought a fresh new pair of hiking boots, thermal socks, a thermal fleece and even waterproof trousers- I absolutely hate the cold and was determined to be ready to brace the weather at all costs (spoiler- I wasn’t). At the airport, after successfully checking in and getting through security, which was pleasantly surprising considering that both of us are big kids, we decided to go for a drink to celebrate. We relaxed and had a couple of pints, smugly talking between ourselves about how dumb our parents are for always going to the gate early. What’s the point waiting in a queue at the gate when we could spend that time in the pub and get there just on time instead? Flight’s at 4pm, let’s get there for just before 4pm- ha, defeating the system again. We got one last half-pint, thinking it might be risky to go for another full one. Eventually leaving the pub and dawdling to the toilet, Josh nonchalantly points out that ‘oh, look we’ve got ages, the gate is still closed.’ ‘…it says it’s closed?’ ‘Yeah!’ ‘You know what that means?!’ ‘Huh?’ ‘WE GOTTA RUN!’
(Yeah, gate closed means it’s opened, let everyone onto the plane, and then shut again. For good. Everyone knows this except Josh.)
So we sprinted to Gate 32, which of course was one of the furthest gates from the lounge. Josh took the bags and ran ahead whilst I puffed and wheezed on my little legs behind him. Thoughts of us both, head in hands, weeping after missing our flight flashed through my mind. (I also imagined the murderous wrath of my parents after they found out we’d wasted all that money). ‘HEY! GATE 32!’ I heard Josh yell in front of me. The flight attendants had literally just left the desk and were making their way to the airplane. Thank the lord, they stopped and let us on the plane but not without displaying their contempt. ‘Next time you won’t be let on the plane, you know.’ We spent the whole duration of the flight laughing hysterically at how close a call it was.
It was nighttime when we finally arrived in Reykjavik. We got a taxi from the bus station to our apartment and driving through the city, it all seemed so magical. It was snowing, everything was white, fairy lights illuminated the houses- it felt like we’d been thrust into a picture perfect Christmas Day two months too late.
We rented a room in someone’s apartment on Airbnb. It was on the outskirts of the city, about a 20 minutes walk to the centre of town but I wouldn’t have traded our location for world. In the morning, we woke up to the spectacular view outside our window. Sharp, white and grey mountains in the distance behind a stretch of navy blue sea. The coldness of the water was almost visible to the eye, hostile in its depth and darkness. Opening that window and breathing in the cold Icelandic air, listening to the regular hush of the waves and watching the mountains, still and transfixing- nothing could be more peaceful. It seems like a different universe to London altogether…
On our first day, we decided to explore the city for a bit. Equipped with maps, cameras and about ten layers of clothing, we set out on our trek to town centre. Having gotten irritated with my hat the day before, I left it in the apartment and this proved the biggest mistake of the day. Despite my insulating layers, I was chilled to the bone and the wind whipping my hair about my face made navigation incredibly difficult. We walked past the Saga museum and even though we’d only been walking for a few minutes, decided to stop at the café for a few minutes to break from the treacherous winds. What had we gotten ourselves in for?
Embarking again on our walk to Iceland’s capital, we had plenty to distract us (partially) from the cold. The street art in Reykjavik is spectacular and the Nordic architecture is adorable. After taking pictures of absolutely everything, we came across the Reykjavik City Museum and paid to take a look at The Settlement exhibition. The exhibition was awesome, with artefacts from the Viking Age and in the centre of the large room, the remnants of a hall from the period, including the foundations of the turf walls from the oldest human-made structures found in Iceland. The settlement can be precisely dated from before 871±2 due to the tephra found within glacial ice in Greenland from a volcanic eruption in the area.
After a few hours in the museum, we wondered around for a long time looking for a place to eat. This is when we realised just how expensive Iceland was. We’d asked for recommendations for places to eat in Reykjavik from a local at the museum, but the place they suggested was completely full. We found a vegetarian cafe, but the options were limited. Finally, getting fed up we settled for a random place on the high street. The menu was full of strange options and not very clearly marked in terms of ingredients/whether it was vegetarian. I ordered the ‘fake pizza,’ being intrigued as to what would turn up. It ended up being about 5 nachos, covered in some beetroot and goats cheese. Despite being extremely tasty, it really didn’t do much to satisfy my ravenous hunger and was extremely overpriced. Josh’s meal was equally as pathetic and we came away feeling especially ripped off. After some research, we’d probably ended up in one of Reykjavik’s ‘appetiser’ restaurants where they only serve a collection of small starters rather than hearty meals. In the evening we found it hard to be served past 8pm, which for us is normal dinner time so food generally turned out to be a bit of a problem on the trip.
After lunch, we took a walk to the Hallgrímskirkja Church, which looked incredibly beautiful with the sunset behind it. Unfortunately we’d left it too late to climb the tower because it was shut but it was lovely all the same. We walked down to the viewpoint on the Reykjavik coast line, which had similar stunning mountain views to our apartment. In the evening, we found Húrra, an awesome jazz bar. Again, drinks were quite expensive, but the atmosphere was amazing and at the end of the night the band came into the bar, played percussion and everyone danced in a circle. It was amazing, definitely check out this bar if you’re there on a Monday!
More on Iceland, the perfect winter destination in my next post, check it out to hear about our adventures at Blue Lagoon and the town of Hveragerdi, the small Icelandic town where we almost got lost in the snow…
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Much love <3