New Year, New Travels Part 1: London, England to Reykjavík, Iceland.

Day 1: Jan 16th 2016, Burbage to Edgware.

I’d been waiting so long to final embark on these winter wonders! A couple of months ago my cousin Lauren and I talked about taking trip together to a place somewhere neither of us had been and we settled on Iceland. Other than Scotland, a country that I’ve been to before, I haven’t really left England since I returned from the USA. In all honestly I haven’t wanted to, I became obsessed with my homeland- 10 months is actually a really long time to be away! The Christmas holidays were filled with essays and gym sessions, so booking a trip right after the deadline date kept me going through a hefty workload.

I arrived in Edgware from Burbage around 3pm at my Aunt Deb’s house. It was good to catch up since I hadn’t actually seen her since before I went to the USA in the summer of 2014. We had dinner at Mill Hill Tandoori- my first curry of 2016! 😀 We always talk a lot when we see each other so we watched TV and stayed up until the early morning hours. Deb wasn’t completely sure of my plans, claiming she would have ‘baked me a cake’ if she’d known (you know the song). I joked that ‘there was still time’ so she baked me one of her specialities, which was really nice.

Day 2: Jan 17th 2016, Edgware to Harrow.

I’ve been having great difficulty sleeping for the past two months and even more trouble waking up! I told my Aunt this so that I didn’t waste the day away, setting a few alarms to ensure I woke up at a respectable hour. As you can imagine, I got the shock of my life when my Aunt came in with an air horn! Fortunately I was already awake otherwise I’d have been super shocked. After breakfast we headed to Brent Cross as I needed to get a bag for my camera. It took a lot longer than I expected after finding one in John Lewis but it not being registered on their system. They eventually sold it to me for the same price as Curry’s. I headed to Harrow at 4pm, the roads being typically congested. My cousins and I got pizza for dinner and then Lauren and I made final changes to our suitcases. I went upstairs to get my bag from Ellie’s room when I saw her guitar. We started messing around with it and made up our own silly songs and filmed them. (You can see these on my Instagram account lisalace07). My dad always made up silly rhymes when we were younger so it is a trait I’ve grown up with. The jingles and the prank calling made it hard to believe that there is a 9 year age gap between Ellie and I. I did eventually finish packing, drifting off around 12:30am.

Day 3: Jan 18th 2016, Luton to Reykjavík.

I’d set my alarms for every five minutes from 4:20am to 4:45am but I actually stayed awake after the first alarm. We were on the road by 5:10am for our 7:45am flight from Luton Airport. I said to Lauren that I don’t wear make-up when I fly and that I wouldn’t be able to wake up in time to shower in the morning. I asked her if her hygiene standards dropped when she travelled to which she said “no, but yours clearly do!” *I showered as soon as I got to the hotel.* I had to read the instructions to Lauren in the dark but we found the car park in good time. We looked like we were part of an organisation since we flew in the t-shirts that Anthony Washington sent us for Christmas of his company logo. It was cute. We got through customs smoothly and entered a stuffy gate at 7am. EasyJet weren’t very organised, the staff having mixed answers on how many bags a person could board the plane with. Finally we boarded, both of us getting aisle seats next to one another. I don’t get to see my London family a lot so when we see each other there is always a lot to talk and laugh about, this flight being no exception. Neither of us could sleep on the plane so by the time we got to the airport, we were extremely tired. We got our bus tickets and within an hour we were at our hotel, with me dosing off towards the end of the bus ride.

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Lauren said that I “looked like I was about to die” as I was so out of it with tiredness. She made a coffee for me as soon as we got in the room because I was about to nod off again. After freshening up we went for a walk since we’d spent most of the day sitting down. It really was freezing in Iceland, to state the obvious. It was the kind of cold that completely wakes you up in a refreshing way. We were both starving so we went on a food hunt in the town centre. We immediately noticed how deserted the place was, people were sparsely populated as we trudged along the sea front and took photos. There really wasn’t much to do in the area and it didn’t take long to learn that Iceland is an expensive place. So we got the cheapest food we could find- Icelandic hot dogs and then bought sandwiches and snacks in the supermarket before heading back to the hotel.

Again, I couldn’t keep my eyes open for much longer and ended up having another nap after dinner. Apparently I was making noises in my sleep (not at all unusual for me) so Lauren woke me up (with some difficulty) with another coffee under my nose. We got ready for our Northern Lights excursion and got on the bus. They called it the ‘mystery tour’ because they mystery was whether you would get to see the lights, as they weren’t guaranteed. It took an hour to get to the destination, maybe more and we spent another 2.5 hours waiting for the lights to show up. I got us doughnuts to pass the time and a hot chocolate for my freezing hands. The longer we sat, the more I got disheartened as we both fell further into earth-shattering tiredness. I’d borrowed my sister’s gloves and one was messed up on the inside so I passed the time trying to thread them back together with my hands. Suddenly the tour guide rushed in showing the beginning of the lights on her camera and within a minute everyone had dashed outside, cameras poised to capture this wonder. It was a long time before we saw anything, we were practically hallucinating about them in our eagerness to see them in the mind-numbing cold.

When they came out though, everyone was in complete awe. I’ll never forget it. I started to take photos but my hands were too cold to move so I gave the camera to Lauren and tried to warm up. They were honestly so beautiful. The way they streaked and danced across the sky to me symbolised that the greatest moments in life are fleeting. Ain’t that the story of my life. Watching them also made me realise that sometimes, some things (and people, I guess) are worth waiting for; despite the fact patience isn’t really a virtue I attain much of. I often joke that there is no such thing as natural beauty but the lights were flawless. I’ve lived across the globe now and tangled with some extraordinary hearts, souls and personalities but the lights were in a complete league of their own. We stood out there for over an hour, the cold becoming increasingly painful. It was gone 1:30am by the time we got back to our room and we had to get up early again for our next excursion.

Day 4: Jan 19th 2016, A Day Trip Galore.

I was unbelievably tired when I awoke the next morning. After a quick breakfast we headed out to the bus for jam-packed day of excursions. Iceland is a much dispersed country (from what we saw) so the journeys to all of our destinations were never short. I tried to stay awake but I drifted off not long before we arrived at our first destination. The fresh cold air woke me instantly as I stepped off the bus. The first thing I saw was a huge monster looking truck that reminded me so much of my time in Mississippi, so I felt obliged to take a photo. I took comfort in the thought that, even though I left the USA, the USA never left me. She is everywhere and no Usain Bolt sprint will be enough to escape America’s global influence. We walked onto the observation desk and the view was spectacular. Pure white snow covered the ground and in the distance one isolated mansion looked like something out of a film. After many photos and videos I got postcards for friends but mainly for Madison. I felt like it was the least I could do since I’d been oblivious to her desire to be in the place that I was currently treading across. *I’m such a thoughtful friend.* 😉

Next, we headed to Geysir– a place known for its hot springs. Obviously it was freezing and I regretted not being able to button up my salopettes at the stomach because this was one of the rare moments in which I needed them. The springs were incredible, although they came up so quickly that you could miss them in the blink of an eye, and also on your camera- which we missed. It was so cold that Lauren’s phone died and so my phone became the source of all selfies and other photos. After a while we went inside and I got a hot drink to keep my hands warm and we ate the food I’d got Lauren to uncomfortably take from the breakfast buffet and carry with us all day. It’s not like they can reuse it once it’s been touched by a customer…

After Geysir we went to a waterfall called Gulfoss. We could feel the cold a lot more being closer to the water and it wasn’t enjoyable since it was painful and Lauren had a blister which made walking unbearable for her. It was a brief stop on our way to the geothermal pools, the main trip of our day. Blue Lagoon was being refurbished so we went to The Golden Circle instead. One guy that worked there showed us that he had baked rye bread underground and that we could try it. We were a bit put off considering it came from underground and Lauren dared me to eat some, and it wasn’t that bad. After this we got changed for the pools, both of us opting for the toilet cubicle over the public benches. Nakedness makes me super uncomfortable and super self-conscious. Lauren saw the tattoos I’d acquired in the USA, claiming that the placement of ‘Only when I’m gone have I been away too long’ was hard not to look at, and it was also very cynical. I had it there because it so apt about my time abroad and I don’t often wear short clothing so nobody really sees them. I don’t regret them either, I’m an advocate of tattoos being a form of self-expression and they mark milestones in my life. But anyway, the tour guide had told us on the bus that “in Iceland we shower naked first and then put on our bathing suits” and a deadly silence fell on the bus. You would not catch the English participating in such awkwardness and thankfully nobody did that in our changing room! I don’t care about free the nipple, people should dress according to their body and I’d rather they had clothes on!

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Digging up the rye bread.

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We took plenty of photos in the pools. It felt so nice to relax in their warmth! Sadly the same can’t be said for walking between the pools- since they were outside. Lauren wanted to test the lake since other people were doing so. It was SO COLD, the pictures have me portraying the biggest grin which is me displaying my fine acting skills (I joke). I screamed when I tested the water but Lauren told me to “run in, pose and get out” so I did just that. We were so busy talking when we eventually went to get changed that I didn’t realise that I’d marched us right into the men’s changing room. The funny part was that my mind registered that there was a man in the shower block and I just thought “oh its unisex.” As we walked further into the shower block a guy said “you’re in the wrong changing room” and then I realised that they weren’t unisex since we’d gotten changed in the female changing room. Lauren found it hilarious, we were in fits of laughter at my mistake. I’m just so glad that we didn’t see a willy!

It was already dark by the time we reached the hotel that evening. It was too cold to walk into the town to have a sit down meal and our hotel didn’t do dinner, so we decided to order a take-away pizza and stay in the room. We had to get the receptionist to help us since the menu was all in Icelandic. We asked her if there were any cheaper places since Domino’s is expensive in London and she smiled and said “London is cheap compared to Iceland.” So we enjoyed a feat and chilled out in the room on our last night together.

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Day 5- Reykjavík to London

Lauren helped me pack because I just wasn’t with it. We were on our way to the airport after a quick breakfast, the sky still dark outside. Even though our grandfather died 7 years ago now, I still feel like I’m learning about him from the stories from family and friends and sometimes they me realise my worth, being related to such an admired and successful man. I told Lauren a story I’d heard at Christmas from when our Uncle Roger was a child when granddad told him rather bluntly “there is no such thing as shyness Roger, only a lack of character!” This had us laughing the whole trip, as did the new lines that arose in the duration of our trip such as “we’re 100% not normal” and “you’re on another level mate.” Our flight attendant was amusing on the telecom as we flew back to London, making sarcastic comments and saying that he’d sell any left-over items on the plane, which caused Lauren to say “he definitely isn’t lacking in character!” Getting out of the airport took longer than we anticipated but it was good to be in familiar territory again. After 30 minutes back at Lauren’s house, I hit the road since I had to get up early the next morning for a trip to Germany- I’d planned both trips separately. It took almost 3 hours to get home in the rush hour traffic and I still had to make last minute changes so I was shattered by the time my head hit the pillow at midnight, with my alarm set to wake me up in three hours!

I’ve been on many trips in my 20 years of life and it doesn’t take a genius to tell you that it is more about who you’re with than where you are. Some say that you see more when you travel solo and that is true to some extent. But sharing the experience with someone you care about is much more enjoyable; plus if I don’t go alone there is more than one of us to laugh at my jokes! 😛 As Madison Etheridge once wrote ‘postcards, souvenirs, and phone calls are fine, but nothing beats having someone to share in the experiences of a lifetime.’  [https://madleighinlovewithtravel.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/having-seen-the-moon-shine-on-the-other-side/]

Therefore I’m glad that I took the trip with my cousin and first ever friend. Watch this website as 2016 looks set to be travel heavy! 

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