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The moon and a lagoon, but no Northern Lights

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I’d hazard a guess that seeing the Northern Lights (or, for the more cultured amongst us, the Aurora Borealis) features on almost everyone’s bucket list, and few places are more famous for viewing this stunning natural phenomenon than Iceland. When I clocked that Icelandair was offering a three night ‘Northern Lights City Break Tour’ to Reykjavik I was, therefore, as excited as the next person, and booked the trip as fast as my fingers could fill out the online booking form.

Given its small size and reputation for tourism, I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over by Reykjavik; if anything I thought it might be somewhat underwhelming. Having heard reports of extortionate alcohol prices we had stocked up on duty free booze before boarding the plane, and were quite prepared to give the bars a miss and have a few glasses of wine in our hotel room should the coffers fail to stretch sufficiently far.

We arrived in darkness and made our way to the fleet of buses waiting to ferry tourists like ourselves to their various destinations across Reykjavik, an hour’s drive away. After several drop offs we reached the Hotel Marina, and the second I stepped into the hotel foyer and saw the roaring fire and quirky wooden man sitting beside it I knew we had been right to choose a local three star hotel instead of the four star Hilton.

The main town was a short walk from the marina, past several quaint seafood restaurants with lights twinkling invitingly in the windows. As a special treat we had booked a table at the famous Fiskmarkadurinn (Fish Market) restaurant which, whilst far from cheap at fifty pounds per head for the tasting menu, did not disappoint. Over the course of two hours we were introduced to some delicious pan-Asian twists on classic Icelandic fare, such as herring in coconut milk and sashimi Minke whale.

For the second day of the trip we had indulged our adventurous sides and booked a scuba diving tour. It felt strange to set off at ten o’clock in the morning and not yet be in daylight, but as we drove out of Reykjavik the moon grudgingly gave way to the sun. After an hour of driving in a blizzard of snow we reached our destination: The Silfra Lagoon. Unfortunately, however, we couldn’t see much of the lagoon or its surroundings, swathed as they were in snow and ice. It was at this point, as I climbed out of the van and undressed in preparation for donning my dry suit, that I began to wonder if, on this occasion, my adventurous streak had led me down a path I no longer wished to follow.

Once kitted up we heaved our oxygen tanks onto our backs and trudged the fifty or so metres to the water’s edge. We put on our fins and gingerly broached the metal steps into the water, which was a balmy zero degrees. We conducted the final checks and sank beneath the surface of the water. The first thing I noticed was how far I could see – in the glacial waters of the lagoon visibility is an awe-inspiring 100 per cent – and the second was how incredibly blue the water was. Thirty five minutes – and one brief panic attack when I failed to work out how to inflate my dry suit at depth – later and the whole experience was over. We stood by the van clasping mugs of hot chocolate, not quite believing what we had just done.

That evening we ventured to the town centre once again, drinking in the Christmas decorations in almost every window and marvelling at the projected simulations of the thirteen Icelandic Santas on many of the buildings. We had another Icelandic feast at the unoriginally titled but wonderfully authentic Icelandic Bar, then headed back to the hotel bar for an interesting nightcap of duck fat and cognac (alcohol, as it transpired, wasn’t quite as expensive as we had been led to believe, though it was more expensive than in England, with the average price of a beer or glass of wine around seven pounds and cocktails nearer the ten pound mark).

On the second morning we rose early to prepare for the ‘Best of Iceland’ day tour we had booked, which would take us first to the famous Blue Lagoon and onto the ‘Golden Circle’ of the Pingvellir national park (where the Silfra Lagoon is located), Gulfoss waterfall and geysir area. When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon we beat the crowds and managed to get into the water before anybody else, and for a magical ten minutes we floated around in the geothermal water, watching the sun begin its slow ascent into the sky.

Two hours later we boarded the bus, refreshed and ready for the afternoon ahead. Fortunately the weather had improved and there was barely a cloud in the sky, which meant that when we reached Pingvellir we were able to see for the first time the incredible expanse of lagoon in which we had dived the previous day. If ever there was cause to describe something as awe inspiring, this place deserved the title. It quite literally took our breath away.

Next up was the magnificent Gulfoss waterfall, whose mammouth scale is hard to capture in words. Finally we drove to visit the geysir area, where sporadic spurts of steam shoot skywards, delighting tourists who stand with cameras poised for perfect pictures.

That evening, after a packed day of sightseeing, we finally had our much anticipated chance to see the Northern Lights. After several days of terrible weather the tour guides seemed optimistic, and as we climbed onto the buses we were buzzing with excitement. Three hours later, standing in the cold and staring into darkness, disappointment began to creep into our hearts. Despite the tour guides’ protestations that the mist we were witnessing was the ‘band above the Northern Lights,’ the Lights themselves failed to materialise.

We may not have seen the Aurora Borealis on this occasion, but even so our trip to Iceland far exceeded all our expectations. And you know what they say: If at first you don’t succeed…

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About Belle365

Hi, I’m Belle. Thanks for stopping by. Here's a list of ten things about me: 1. I want to write, but rarely do it. This tortures me daily, and, unless I seek to remedy it by writing more often, will continue to torture me until my dying day. 2. I worry: about hate, about greed, about selfishness, about the state of the world my (God willing) children will inherit. I worry about what people think of me. I worry that this makes me shallow. I worry about things happening to my loved ones. I worry how I would cope. I worry that this makes me selfish. I worry that worrying will send me to an early grave. But I'm so good at worrying that I also wonder what I would do if I wasn't worrying. Probably more writing (see point 1)....Oh. 3. I see myself as two people (though, as far as I am aware, I am not technically schizophrenic): a) the fancy dress loving party girl, who loves nothing more than having fun with her friends, because she has seen through her own experiences that life is short, so why not enjoy the ride? b) the more serious and reflective person who wants to learn and to help people and to find her higher purpose (I suspect it is also she who really, really wants to write). Sometimes these sides are conflicting. Fortunately they are in total agreement when it comes to chocolate, red wine and travel. 4. I don't see myself as an ardent feminist, but the older I get the more frustrated I feel by the societal view of women and ageing. Having just hit the metabolically displeasing age of 35 (now officially past it according to the massive wankflap that is Donald Trump, as well as virtually every media outlet on the planet, whether they overtly state it or not) I hate the fact I am made (and have let myself be manipulated) to feel that my fertility is now teetering on the edge of a clifftop free fall, and that even if I do negotiate this rocky march towards infertility and manage a miracle procreation, my usefulness as a financially solvent career woman will be over, seeing as having a baby in your mid to late thirties is pretty much akin to career suicide. It's enough to make you want to drown yourself in a vat of wine (hence why I often don a wig and do just that - see point 3a). 5. The older I get, the more I realise that you are never too old to love drum and bass (whether you are ever too old to publicly dance to drum and bass is an issue I am currently grappling with). Ditto UK garage. I will never be ashamed of these two great loves. Never. 6. Speaking of great loves, I have two: my husband, who (sickening as it is) completes me, and Leonardo DiCaprio, whom I have loved since I first laid eyes on him as Romeo to Kate Winslet's Juliet, and will love until my dying day (likewise the husband, all being well). As much as I like Kate Winslet, I will never forgive her for leaving him on that door. There was definitely room for two. 7. I am riddled with self doubt, and have a serious case of imposter syndrome, particularly in relation to my fourteen year communications career. I have never understood how anyone could deem me capable of running their campaigns. The lack of complaints would suggest I haven't made a total balls up of it so far. But there's still time. 8. Infinity and death frighten me senseless. I can't even talk about the universe without breaking into a sweat. I need to believe in life after death because death CANNOT be the end. I should probably have some (more) counselling to address these issues. 9. If procrastination were an Olympic sport, I would win Gold, Silver and Bronze (to give an example, I sat down an hour ago to work on my new novel, and instead have been updating this bio. I refer you to point 1. Sigh). 10. I make more lists than Buzzfeed. When I die, besides having Oasis's Champagne Supernova played at my funeral (deep breaths - see point 8), I should probably have a To Do list inscribed on my headstone for when I reach the other side...

6 comments on “The moon and a lagoon, but no Northern Lights

  1. Scarie
    December 30, 2012

    Loved Iceland!! But like you went on a northern lights our and no northern lights! Will just have to go again sometime!

    • belleagain
      January 5, 2013

      Exactly! Can’t wait until next time! 🙂

  2. be wonderful!
    December 30, 2012

    wow, what wonderful picture, thanks for sharing your fantastic experience!

    • belleagain
      January 5, 2013

      Thanks so much for your kind comment, you’re most welcome 🙂

  3. Forbrukslån
    January 4, 2013

    I hope your day is awesome. Thanks for taking time to write this. I admire your creativity.

    • belleagain
      January 5, 2013

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment 🙂

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This entry was posted on December 30, 2012 by in Bea Adventurous and tagged , , , , .
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