Iceland in three days

So last month I went to Iceland and a lot of people asked me how I packed everything in to my trip, especially when Iceland is known for being notoriously expensive. I only went there for 3 nights and had 3 whole days to play with thanks to decent flight times. While there is an unlimited amount of beauty and things to see and be in awe of, a short trip can still pack a lot of activities in if you’re really committed to doing as much as you can (and willing to sacrifice some sleep).

So here is my itinerary of what I did while I was there:

Day 1 – Get your bearings Day

11.00am – landed at Keflavik International Airport. Be warned, the airport is a 45 minute drive to Reykjavik so you will need to factor this into your travel time and pre-book your transfers.

12.30pm – arrived at our hotel which was approx. 20 minutes outside of Reykjavik city in Hafnarfjordur (see my next post for the pros and cons of this)

1.00pm – settled into our room and gather hotel information. Collect as many maps and local information from the reception/hotel staff as possible, they are so approachable and more than happy to help and give you advice to make the most of your stay.

2.00pm – walked out into the local area to get our bearings. This is not only useful but a great way to see and feel more of the local life and surroundings – more than just the stereotypical tourist routes. Use this opportunity to find the nearest supermarket and bus stop.

5.00pm – ate dinner, this was included for the first night in our hotel package.

6.00pm – We were collected from the hotel by our excursion company – Reykjavik Excursions., for the Northern Lights Tour. This is a long tour and although we were fortunate enough to see the lights, they are not predictable and people are often disappointed, return to the hotel is between 12.00 – 1.00am.

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Day 2 – Scenic landmarks Day

7.00am – up early for breakfast before being collected again for the Golden Circle Tour excursion. After only 5 hours sleep and the exhausting cold of the previous night, this tour is 8-9 hours long – prepare to be very tired! The itinerary for this trip varies due to the tour operator and the weather but there are 3 main stops – the Geysirs, Gullfloss Waterfall and Pfellingvir National Park where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. Of course the scenery throughout the whole trip is breathtaking.

5.00pm – returned to the hotel. Went out to a local bar to try the Icelandic beer (check out my next post for getting the most out of food and drinks prices).

9.00pm – an early night to recover from our manic two days and to prepare for another early start!

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Day 3 – Reykjavik Day

7.00am – up early again for breakfast, make sure you try the Icelandic porridge, I don’t know what they do to it but it is beautiful and fills you up for a good day, especially because on this day there was a snow storm in the morning and the warmth was needed!

8.00am – got the local bus from outside the hotel to Reykjavik city centre. It took about 40 minutes – 20 minutes more than the direct route because it covers the local residential roads. I love taking local bus services rather than tourist transport or taxis because you see more of the un-touristy parts of the country, away from the main drag.

9.00am – we walked along the main shopping street area (Laugavegur) with the beautiful original buildings and icelandic shops. Then we walked out on the frozen lake in front of the Town Hall. Walk around and see the places you want earlier in the day before it gets too busy.

10.00am – we hopped on a City Sightseeing tour (having preplanned our route the night before). Although these are considered very touristy, for only around £20 a ticket, you can get around the entire city as many times as you like in 24 hours, and see the main sights with a very informative cultural and historical commentary. We used this as our primary means to get around the city for the whole day and to get to the main things we wanted to, including – Harpa, Hallgrimskirkja, the Harbour, the Reykjavik Museum and our lunch stops.

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3.00pm – we stopped for our last meal in Reykjavik where we decided to splash out and go to a seafood tapas restaurant in the harbour area called Casa Grande, which was very expensive but I can 100% recommend with its beautiful views over the sea and mountains and tasty, well-presented food.

5.00pm – got the City Sightseeing bus to the bus station where we got on our last excursion for an evening trip to the Blue Lagoon hot water springs.

6.00pm – arrived at the beautiful Blue Lagoon which looks just as spectacular in its well-lit, steamy network of pools as it does during the daytime. Complimentary drinks at the in-water bar and towels/entry/mud mask/anti-silica shampoo/goodie bag are included in the ticket.

9.00pm – the brilliant Reykjavik excursions picked us up and returned us to directly to our hotel and we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights on the journey back.

Day 4 – Leaving Day

8.00am – breakfast and pick up from our hotel for transfers back to the airport and our flight at 11am.

[all pictures my own]

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Theatre and Open Mic Nights

So recently I’ve been very cultured and tried to make a real effort to see more of what my home city of Nottingham has to offer in terms of the arts.

I’ve always loved going to the theatre and even more so since I’ve started my full-time job as it’s something really enjoyable to look forward to during the week. I’ve seen some bigger productions recently at the Theatre Royal, such as the classic Mousetrap ‘whodunit’ play, I’ve enjoyed some of the local and travelling theatre groups at the very intimate Lace Market Theatre – only 100 audience seats. Last week I went to Nottingham Playhouse to see their current play, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, which was fantastic and the set was possibly the simplest but most effective and impressive that I’ve seen at the Playhouse. Although that said, I saw The Mist in the Mirror there too and loved the set for that too.

A couple of weekends ago I also went to the Nottingham Contemporary for an open mic style night for International Women’s Day, called Phenomenal Women. It was in the Contemporary’s cafe/bar which I’d never been to before but the vibe in there was awesome and £3 for a gin and tonic wasn’t too bad either. The whole event was a great showcase of local Nottingham and Midlands talent and it was super intersectional too with lots of amazing women from different races and nationalities with incredible talents. Stand out performance was definitely Lia White from Nottingham, only 16 but with the most incredible voice.

Have you come across any local arts or theatre that’s really stood out?

Helena x

Commuter reads: Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

[As always, possible spoilers]

I had heard so many good things about this book and I can honestly say I was not disappointed. It may have been marketed as a primarily YA novel but I definitely think everyone needs to read and understand this.

Only Ever Yours is an extreme reality of gender roles and the consequences of enforced gender identity and female competition. This book is an exaggerated version of patriarchy at its worst. I was repeatedly shocked at the passive compliance to an inherently misogynistic way of life, and even more so when I realised the entire novel is a concentration of patriarchal voices that unfortunately are still present today.

freida and the rest of the eves live in a school for girls, not at academic school, but a school to teach them how they will conduct their lives in the service of men. The three categories they become reduce women to the sex which serves men. Companions will have husbands and produce as many offspring as possible, but only sons are born as female bodies have been genetically designed so their bodies are taught that a female baby is a parasite. Concubines serve men purely for their pleasure. Chastities are pure and teach future eves how to be perfect for their future roles in serving men.

The thing I love in this book is the detail. Immediately I noticed no female name is capitalised; women are the inferior sex. There are mirrors everywhere; body image is everything, there is a special sickness room which essentially provides the facilities to encourage bulimia after a meal. Hormones are medicated, periods are prevented, outfits are preselected. This is a world based on aesthetics and looks. The girls are rated every morning after they dress by the unknown men watching them from the outside world (hello creepy). These men will select their wives after the 16 years of ‘eve training’. The number one eve holds the most power and the rating system fosters rivalry and the worst kind of bitchy competition between the girls.

This again is another clever exaggeration of our own reality. The rating system is exactly like the ‘lad culture’ that perpetuates giving women a rating out of 10 solely based on their appearance. While it may not seem as extreme to us, women are constantly rated and judged for there outfits and looks in magazines, social media and newspapers. The inescapable idea of the ‘ideal woman’ does leave women feeling so unhappy with themselves that they develop eating disorders or feel the need to compete to be the prettiest, slimmest, best dressed etc

Phrases drilled into the girls minds: “There is always room for improvement” and “Always be willing” are horrifyingly uncomfortable sentences that overtly reveal the aspects of our society that tell women they can be prettier, or the rape culture which normalises victim blaming and the acceptance of male violence and abuse.

The difference between this book and our own world is that patriarchy is more covert for us. Gender stereotypes are in the process of being broken down but they are not non-existent. Louise O’Neill simply, and brilliantly, lays out bare the faults and disgraces of sexism and misogyny at its worst.

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Commuter Reads: The Way You Look Tonight – Richard Madeley

You might have seen my not so favourable review of Judy Finnigan’s book last week, I have to say I enjoyed her husband’s book far more. Although, ignore the ridiculous cover art, I have no idea how that actually relates to the content of the story!

Of course, [SPOILERS]

Set in the 1960s, The Way You Look Tonight follows Stella Arnold, something of a psychology Cambridge graduate genius, as she finds herself swept into the glamour of American life where she mingles with the likes of JFK and soon finds herself recruited by the man himself to use her knowledge of the criminal mind to track down a serial killer.

Madeley’s story felt a lot more fast-paced in terms of historical markers and the presence of politics. Plus my love of crime thrillers, psychological killers and a bit of gruesome detail meant this book was far more my cup of tea.

The differing perspectives between Stella trying to identify the killer, and the perspective of the killer himself, made the story far more captivating, particularly in reading the killer’s unsettling motives and psychology for killing young girls the way he does. Stella teams up with local cops, inevitably drawing the sexist distain of her male colleagues when they discover they are working with a female barely into her twenties. However, she proves her worth with each step and identifying characteristic that she attributes to the killer, which helps them close in on him.

The only bit of the book that really infuriated me was the seemingly inevitable underlying romance plot. Stella and lead-investigator on the case,  Lee, are initially at loggerheads at the thought of working together. They inevitably, and unrealistically quickly, fall for each other, and in the space of working together for around a week or so, declare their love for each other. Then despite Stella having been an enjoyably independent female protagonist, she finds herself having to be saved by Lee from the killer in the end and is left somewhat hysterical and psychologically traumatised. So what the book does for undoing sexist stereotypes in the 1960s, is undone by the unnecessary ‘knight-in-shining-armour’ ending. Frustrating, in my opinion.

Nevertheless, for an enjoyable and fairly easy-going read, I would recommend this book. It’s particularly suited as some good holiday reading material.

Commuter reads: I Do Not Sleep – Judy Finnigan

I have a lot of time for celebrities and well-known figures encouraging people to read, so Richard and Judy’s Book Club is an idea that I think is really great and I decided I needed to give one of their books a try (check out my next post for a Richard Madeley book review).

As always, possible [SPOILERS] alert

I Do Not Sleep felt like it had great potential. A bit of mystery but grounded in the real-life trauma of a woman’s loss. Reading the blurb had made me genuinely intrigued as to what had happened to her son; what could have happened that made a simple ‘lost at sea’ story be something else? What else could have possibly happened and did that mean her son was still alive?

So yes, the premise was gripping, it had some nice background stories woven in and since I’m a very visual reader, I found the descriptions of the Cornish coast absolutely beautiful. Of course that also meant pathetic fallacy was used in full force throughout, with the tempestuous weather reflecting the mother’s loss but also conviction that there was something more to her son’s disappearance (she refuses to believe he is dead without proof)

I know I have a strong dislike and general cynicism about emotions and how they are portrayed in stories, but this was too much. I wanted to shake Molly out of her blind denial and tell her it’s been five years since she lost her son, she needs to let go and move on before she pushes the rest of her family away (which she accomplishes very well I might add).

Of course she doesn’t listen to me, or her husband, or her other son and new daughter-in-law, who all love her very much. She pursues her motherly instinct that something else happened to her son and I’ll admit, she does eventually find answers. But they aren’t answers that the reader isn’t already anticipating and the great mystery of what really happened to her son, Joey, isn’t really a mystery at all.

A read a review of the book which said, “Intensely emotional and relentlessly suspenseful”. Perhaps as a testament to a mother’s love and the need for closure it is “intensely emotional”. But I was still waiting for some suspense and mystery even on the last line. It did keep me interested but only by its fingertips.