What's up folks! I'm back on home turf, i.e. Dublin, Ireland after spending the last week in Iceland on family vacation. Such a great trip and awesome destination. Epic blog below lol...
A bit of background.... my parents spent a few years living there in 1972 - 1975 and actuallly got married there. They had always wanted to take us 'kids' - bro, sister and myself - to visit and show us the beauty of the country. Unfortunately dad became to ill to go but we went in his memory this summer, as a treat from my mom.
We departed Dublin at 6am and arrived in iceland about 5pm, due to having to fly through London and a 4 hour delay until connecting flight. London to Iceland takes a lil less than 3 hours. We arrived anyway safe and sound and found our hotel / apartment on the main shopping street of Reykjavik - a place called Room With a View. It was very slick, 2 big bedrooms, 4 beds, big living room / kitchen and bathroom. Right outside the door was the main terrace with top of the range hot tub - something that would be used every day lol.
So Friday night we cruised around town, went out to eat, saw the old and new parts of the city and had a few drinks. My mom also found her old apartment which was cool to see. A really nice spot in the old town. Cool to see where parents lived.
Around 11 my sister and mom crashed out but myself and my bro hit the town. Reykjavik has some strange activites lol... all the young people cruise the main square continously from around 10pm till 6 am lol, literally going around in circles (yes I know I said it's a square lol) all night hollering out the window to anyone who will pay attention lol. pretty strange to say the least! Anyway we hit a few bars and clubs, struck up some conversations with the locals and danced and drank the night away.
NB: Totally awesome note - there is 24 hour daylight there at this time of year! So at 4am it looks like 4pm lol.
Icelanders definitely drink heavily and I would even say I have never seen people more drunk lol, and I live in Dublin!!! It was crazy lol, total rampage on the streets with drunken debauchery lol - though maybe it is because it is still so bright that you can actually see everything going on - as opposed to things being hidden in the dark!
The bars and clubs are fun and everyone is super friendly - particularly welcoming actually. Myself and my bro represented Ireland well, maintaining pace with the beers, shots and vodka tonics and rolled home about 4 or so.
The next morning we got up and just chilled, lay in the hot tub, cruised the city some more, ate, drank and soaked up the city - this was to be the quietest day of the trip.
Saturday night was complete mayhem. We hit the sports bar for the UFC 100 (awesome, go Brock lol) and met up with some Icelanders. We then hit a club and partied our asses off. Wisely my sister went home around 1 or so as we had a big excurssion planned for Sunday 8am! Lol! The club was a night filled with dancing, partying with locals, drinking very very heavily lol. Around 6:30 my bro was occupied with one girl and I got a moment of clarity - I need to go home and sleep for one hour before we go on the day trip!!! I got home, drunkenly chatted to mom and sister, explaining that I was entirely sober and that bro would be home shortly too, then collapsed into my wardrobe, er um I mean into bed lol. Bro arrived home about half hour later, surprisingly sober lol.
Woke up an hour later, manged to shower and dress somehow and got on the bus tour - taking us around the Golden Circle of southern Iceland. It would be a day filled with a lot of time sleeping during the bus ride and being woken for the various awesome stops. Thankfully I did not feel sick or anything like that, just exhausted and somewhat delirious lol.
We visted and stood on the edge of tectonic plates, drove over volcanic grounds, visited geysers, stunning powerful waterfalls and a lot of countryside land. really stunning scenery and very cool to see this side of nature that is not visible in many other places in the world.
Got back home in the evening and chilled out, went for nice dinner (actually all the restaurants in Iceland are very good quality, even the regular burger joints) and took it easy.
On Monday we had another trip planned - whale watching!!! Awesome, I was really looking forward to this and it did not dissappoint. We saw multiple minke whales and sperm whales - the closest being about 15 metres away, though most being about 50 metres away. Very cool to see them in their natural habitat, coming up to surface for food, blowing water into the air and taking deep dives again - just like tv with their tail popping upright before they disappear unerwater for another 5 minutes. We also saw Puffin and multiple other bird species. The trip lasted about 4 hours before we were back on dry land. The whole family enjoyed this one as it was a truely unique experience.
We spent the afternoon just lazing around and chilling out, a bit of shopping, a few afternoon beers and of course some people watching. Throw in a power nap or two there too lol. In the evening we went to a Tapas bar for dinner and sampled local dishes such as whale and puffin lol! Felt like we had to at least try it! The Puffin was a little like game, or duck - chewy and stringy, though not particularly tasty. The whale was disgusting in my opinion lol - it tastes very much like liver. I also tried kangaroo (very strange that it would be on the menu so far from Australia lol but hey I'll try anything twice) - it tasted like steak and was actually quite nice.
NB: I am against whaling and put my name to a form in Iceland to stop whaling but felt like I should taste it anyway to be more informed and experience everything.
Tuesday was the real tough day and one we had joked about on Sunday, saying Tuesday would certainly not be a day for softies! It would be a 16 hour trip all around the south of the country but incredibly worthwhile and interesting. We travelled through beautiful green countryside, roudning mountains, alongside the stunning ocean and over volcanic desert land. It is a beautful clear blue (though extremely cold). We visited a waterfall first then drove on to what would be my favourite part of the trip - the largest glacier outside of the arctic. This glacier was incredible and visible from so far away... we saw it up on the mountains but still took at least another hour to reach it.
The sheer size and power of it is spectacularly enthralling, just absolutely monstrous, dividing the mountains, running down into multiple waterfalls etc and you can even see where it has retreated from over the past few hundred years. There were many times where our guide pointed out remains of previous bridges that had been collapsed by it lol - as we drove over equally weak looking bridges lol. We arrived at the mouth of the glacier and took a boat ride around the lagoon - where the mountain ice has melted into multiple icebergs and lakes -very cool. We even got to hold a piece of the ice that was over 1000 years old! Awesome. I love that type of powerful nature that has been there long before you and will be there long after!
We then drove back the way we came and made a few more stops - one where we got to walk behind a big waterfall which was pretty cool - kinda like that scene near the end of Last of the Mohicans.
We arrived home to Reykjavik about 16 hours after we left but it was entirely worthwhile daytrip. The natural beauty of Iceland really stuck with me. It is compeltey untouched but for one or two farmhouses and the landscape is just spectactular and incredibly relaxing. We hit the hot tub, had a beer or two and crashed out. We would all sleep well that night, regardless of anyones snoring!
On Wednesday my sister, bro and myself went on a white water rafting trip while my mom stayed behind to take care of some business. Again it was a 90 minute or so journey to our destination. As usual we were collected at our hotel, by a couple of young Icelandic guys and driven in their 4x4 while listening to local reggae lol - a chilled out journey through the countryside and up into the mountains. We thought it was just going to be the 3 of us but when we arrived at base camp we were met by about 30 elderly Americans lol (70-90 yr olds). They were all really nice and were on a tour of Iceland too - it seemed many of them had white water rafting on their 'bucket list' lol. I won't lie - I looked at my sister and said 'I told you we shoud have went for at least level 2 difficulty' hahaha all in good teasing spirits.
So we did our initiation, hopped in the rafts and hit the rapids like no tomorrow lol. We stopped midway for a quick series of cliff jumps (of the 40 people only my bro and myself did it lol). The water was surprisingly warm actually. Then back on the raft and continue the journey. MUltiple times the guide would ask 'do you want to continue the relaxed ride or do you want more action?'... the elderly ladies would quickly reply oh relax for sure, though thankfully my voice was lounder, 'ACTION PLEASE' hahah, so we did a few spins and hit the rapids at weird angles to make it slightly more intense lol. All good fun though and great craic with the Americans. I admire their sense of enthusaism, unsqueemishness and lust for life. I hope to be that active at that age!
Back to basecamp, sauna, steam room and shower then hop back in the 4x4 and ride home, arriving back around 6pm - in time to meet mom, chill a lil and head out for another gourmet dinner to regale the stories from the day lol and prepare for the last full day of the trip the next day.
Thursday around noon we got on our last tour bus - a trip the The Blue Lagoon - a natural hot spring spa. It is basically a huge natural swimming ppol that has been slightly converted so that it is a spa, with natural hot springs, mud masks, saunas, steam rooms, in-water massage therapy and all that kind of thing. A very nice relaxing place and a great way to wind down the holiday. Not to mention the weather was spectactular. We chilled there for about 4 hours and left feeling revitalised and refreshed.
Thursday night we hit dinner then hit the town again (though bars and clubs close around 1am midweek) and hit the hay around 2am, semi drunk lol. A fun night to end the holiday.
Friday we chilled out in the morning and surprised my mom with a trip to the botanic gardens for her birthday. We brought a picnic, checked out the fauna and wildlife and took a nice walk - just the sort of thing she loves. A very relaxing morning overall.
Back on the plane in the afternoon around 4pm and arrived back home in Dublin around 10pm.
Overall it was a brilliant trip and one I will not forget. It was really cool and special to see my parents history (as we had heard so many stories and seen so many photos of it growing up) and a great way to remember dad.
It was also surprisingly great how many easily accessible activities were on offer - and ones that appeal to all family members. I can' think of a single other holiday I have been on like that. We were also lucky to visit during a heat wave so that added to the pleasure, as well as the 24 hour daylight! I guess we were lucky too that the Icelandic currency was in a time of turmoil too as it made things a lot cheaper than it would have been a few years ago... now things are almost identical prices to Dublin (where they were previously double, e.g. pint of beer was previously €10, now its €4). We learned a lot about the country and its history as well as its current economic climate. But all Icelanders are naturally very positive people so it didn't seem to have afected their general mood at all which was great to see.
It was a truly memorable family va'ca and I will definitely be returning! I strongly adivse you to visit too, there is something there for all age groups and noone will be disappointed!