We spent most of today (Weds 28 December) at the iMac...scanning Booking.com and AirBnb for places to stay during our Norway trip.
We debated whether to get the ferry over to the Lofoten islands from Bodø and drive back round over the ten days. Or whether to stay on the mainland and aim for Tromsø and back again.
The ferry - probably not the best option for someone who feels queasy even on a canal. But Stu reckons he has endured worse when he went sea fishing (many moons ago) with his Dad. 'I might be moody, sick for the entire crossing and not want you near me - but it's only for three hours".
So anyway - the other way only involves a one-hour ferry. But hardly any places to stay for miles and miles.
By dinner time I was feeling very frustrated - having spent a day achieving nothing more than the hire car online book-in. Whereas Stu (whose glass was very clearly brimmeth over) decided we had achieved loads. "We've done a whole day of learning how hard it is to book this holiday. At least we can start tomorrow already knowing that".
What the f*ck did he have to drink today?
So anyway. Stu has been in bed since about 10.30. It is now 00:04 on Thursday morning. And I think I have found the answer - on a completely different booking site. One week stay in a cabin. With one hell of a view. Easy driving distance to some beautiful places.
Do I book it? Or wait until the morning and risk either losing it or changing my mind again.
I got as far as the Pay Now bit. And decided the obvious thing to do was to go write some blog. I might even go and make myself a decaf cappuccino too.
I might get the courage and the inspiration to MAKE A BLOODY DECISION.
(here's the cabin in question)
Yesterday was hectic. It feels like we didn't stop until about 10pm.
Today? I have hardly moved. I've either been on the sofa or back in bed. Just before Christmas I came down with a virus - that makes me cough like a horse. It's not very attractive once I get going. And it kept me (and Stu) awake most of last night. I have no idea why it seemed to be better for Christmas day and then come back with a vengeance once the last guest had left - but I'm very grateful.
The bonus of needing a lazy day today meant I was able to lounge around in one of two new pairs of PJs. With new slippers on. And some new thermal socks. Rock and bloody roll.
I would have eaten lots of chocolate - but that sets me off wheezing and choking (is that a thing - chocolate brings on coughing fits?).
I did manage to take my new Apple pencil out of its lovely white packaging (the ONLY packaging I seem to open with any care). I read the instructions - which involves four images and about ten words in total.
Ok. So it is charged. Connected. And ready for use.
To do what precisely?
In the end I Googled it. "Best apps for Apple Pencil?".
I downloaded two apps - one for photo / image editing and a colouring book.
After half an hour I had no clue how to use the editing app but I had managed to colour in half a Christmas tree (before I started getting fidgety legs and feet - my body's way of letting me know I am either bored or need a pee).
But the pencil is nice. Very nice.
I have decided that for now...I am best using it for notes - once I get back to work.
And I will be deleting the colouring book.
I crave snow. I need it in my life.
I am constantly checking the weather in Iceland. And the ISK/GBP exchange rate.
And it's not looking good. Right now they are 'enjoying' a mild winter. So mild they are even missing the snow themselves. And the ISK/GBP exchange rate? Pah.
In a bid to find some slightly more affordable snow I have decided to try somewhere new. In an north easterly direction (or it could be NNE...I wish I had paid more attention at school).
Anway - I have booked flights to Bodø, Norway. I chose there so that I get to use the special ø on my iMac - that and it is above the arctic circle.
I've also booked the car - a big jeep thing (that better have studs).
Next step was to look at places to stay - starting with night 1. And the final night. Booked.
When I started to look at potential stops further north - Lofoten and Tromsø - I noticed that the road disappears. And is replaced by a ferry.
So I decided against booking anything else until I have done more Googling homework. I have visions of tipping up for a quick ferry trip that has been cancelled due to bad weather. Meaning we can't get to our Norwegian cabin in spectacular surroundings.
Looks like we might have to book as we go. Risky possibly. But as Stu says ' the worst thing that can happen is we have to sleep in the car a couple of nights'. Yep - that's the worst thing I can think of ever.
Oh - old age has definitely kicked in. I popped into Waterstones in the Arndale the other day for some Norway guidebooks. I headed straight to the travel section - I'd been there before and knew where it was. I picked up a couple of books and a map. It wasn't until I got home that I realised that the reason I knew where the travel section was - was due to the fact that I had already done that exact same shopping trip. For Norway guidebooks. Knob. Head.
Anyway - after a third trip to the same Waterstones to return a couple of duplicates - we now own everything on Norway that Waterstones stock.
After our fifth trip to Iceland...the fourth during the winter I thought I would share some thoughts...
This year, for both our summer and winter trips, we have seen a very noticeable difference in the exchange rate.
So how do you enjoy Iceland but on a budget?
Firstly I have to be clear that 'on a budget' to us doesn't mean backpacking, guesthouses with shared bathrooms, camping or hostels.
This year I looked at Easyjet. Briefly. By the time you factor in the additional cost of hold luggage and the lack of complimentary hot drinks on the flight...it made sense to just book with our favourite, Icelandair. Be careful what film you choose to watch. If you're flying from Manchester: with all the announcements and interruptions it is probably not possible to watch anything much longer than a two hour film. And you will need to start watching it as the plane taxis to the runway!
As one hold bag each is included in the cost of Icelandair flights - pack food.
We managed to pack a meal for 7 nights out of our 8. And that was only because the final night we had already planned to eat out.
We spend approximately £40 when we were there - on bread, milk, eggs etc.
Where to stay:
As already mentioned - our 'budget' is quite restricted...to not very cheap options.
But we have discovered over time that the best option is self-catering (hence the food!).
Super markets aren't cheap out there - but even if you do stock up when you get there you will still save. Eating out is expensive...and to be honest...it gets dull.
Our last-night hotel was very good value. And it did have a fridge and microwave in the room. Check out the Bergas in Keflavik.
A lot of cabins (take a look at Airbnb) have washing machines. Very useful when you've had to use one suitcase for food reducing the amount of clothing you can pack.
This year we used Thrifty car rental. We usually book with Hertz or Avis.
So Thrifty were quite a bit cheaper. The cars tend to be a little older, have done more miles and not as clean. But if you're on a budget...none of those things matter.
I did notice though on this last trip that's the tyres on our 4x4 looked quite worn and the studs were a little worse for wear. And we had little grip on ice. I didn't feel as confident driving as I have previously.
So I guess you have to weigh it all up.
Seeing the sights:
The very best thing about Iceland is that the whole place is just beautiful...and once you are there...you don't have to pay extra to take in the views! Unless of course you're staying in Reykjavik and booking day trips. We've always hired a car and stayed outside of the city. So I haven't done a comparison on city hotels and tourist trips against self-catering / self-drive.
Blue Lagoon is expensive. And in my opinion, over-rated.
Into the glacier: we did this last November. I'd really like to be able to say it was amazing. But we just weren't bowled over at all.
Horse riding: my favourite Iceland pastime. But one we won't be doing again until the financial situation improves.
Dog-sledding: We really enjoyed this. But similar to the horse riding...not essential on a budget:)
Hope this has been useful!
No lights last night. Even though I had checked the cloud / weather map and drove down to the nearest spot (on the coast) that was showing to be clear. We sat for a couple of hours. Watching a sky full of thick cloud.
Bugger it. To be teased with a level 5 - that wasn't bloody visible.
Anyway. I didn't sleep too well last night. Stu must have had wind or something as he fidgeted all night (sorry Stu). So because I kept getting out of bed he didn't sleep too well either.
Today we left the cabin at Lak Thingy and drove south and west - taking in the coastal and long route to Keflavik.
Lots of lava field and hot steamy muddy stuff. And rain. And black ice.
We've checked in to a hotel for our last night - Bergas.
And we're off out for the usual Fernando's pizza in a bit. Stu has been dreaming about it all week.
The sky looks gloomy again - so I doubt the camera will be making a show again this holiday.
We've already planned where we want to go in Feb / March. If we can afford it again so soon. But I can see me booking the flights before the weekend is over :)
That's it from Iceland November 2016 (unless we get some lights tonight).
I slept like a log last night. On a very comfy bed. Until 10.20am.
By the time I'd had breakfast, showered and dressed it was almost lunchtime. So not a great deal of daylight left. And it's been a cloudy one - with a dusting of snow.
Given that we're staying in a cabin on Lake Thingy today seemed a good day to drive round to Thingvellir and then do the full Lake circle. Past some favourite spots.
I don't get the diving and snorkelling thing that people were queueing to do at Silfra (at Thingvellir). Not when today was a balmy -4. I watched some of the snorkellers as they got out of the water after their tour. Strangely they were remarking how they couldn't feel their face or body. Weird that.
Anyway - if you're a diver...it really does look stunning. Check out this site for info (I've threatened to buy Stu a Silfra snorkelling tour for his birthday in March - he told me to save my money!) - https://www.dive.is/dive-sites/silfra/.
Another strange thing at Thingvellir is that people throw money into the crystal clear water. I contemplated lowering Stu into the water to collect some - he'd have been fine...they had a life buoy.
Must mention here - I said we're being thrifty...
If we don't include the cost of the car, the fuel or the cabins...we have spent the grand total of £40 since we arrived last Wednesday.
We'd have spent an extra £3.50 today for parking at Thingvellir (the ONLY place we have come across in Iceland that charges for parking) - but some nice chap passed his ticket to us as he was leaving. Probably not allowed. But hey ho.
The waterfall in today's pictures is Öxarárfoss. Easy to access from Thingvellir. So we went from the other side instead and slipped our way down to it on an icy rocky path.
Today I had on six layers. Two hats. A scarf. Two pairs of wool socks. Gloves. It was a bit like being in a quilted straight jacket (for some reason I had to Google how to spell straight jacket...and was disturbed to find they're for sale on Amazon. Let me know if you want the link.)
Look at all those coins!
One of many cairns (waymarkers) we've seen around Iceland. Don't remove rocks or add to them...they've been around for a long, long time.
One of the first photos I took on our first trip five years ago was of this little church. Had to stop today to get another photo.
What a day - after a good night's sleep in Palli and Helga's cabin we decided to do the mammoth drive to Jökulsárlón.
Up and out by 8am we arrived around 12:30 - after a short pit stop half way. I'd forgotten how dull some of the drive is but it is well worth it once you get there.
We didn't have time to stop on the journey, there or back, at any of the other sights en-route. We wanted to get back for dinner at the cabin!
We finally arrived back at around 7:30pm - with the northern lights guiding our way for the final hour.
The glacier lake was stunning - but once again our favourite was the ice-covered beach. If it wasn't so cold I could have stayed much longer.
Talking of cold - today's temperatures ranged from -9 to 16 degrees. The 16 degrees was obviously some weird blip on the car's thermometer. There is no way it was that warm anywhere outside the car today.
The lights are still on - but not quite bright enough at the moment for photos. We'll be keeping a look out for them as long as we can keep our eyes open!
Stu's bum actually got stuck to that ice.
After a lovely chat with the Cube hosts (should have got a photo of them!) we set off on the drive to Cabin #2 at Thingvellir.
Host Anna gave us some good driving advice before we set off: "Drive safe and watch out for the Chinese" (she quickly explained that the Chinese tend to drive the biggest cars...on the wrong side of the road...and are notoriously bad drivers in snow)
We drove for about ten minutes, arrived at Kolgrafafjörður and stopped.
The sunrise was beautiful. The photos don't do it justice.
And just before we set off...I heard that distinctive noise of the Orcas. And sure enough there were four of them heading towards us and the fjord. So that's where we stayed for two hours. With three rather nice Germans for company. Like us, they were staying to the bitter end - until the orcas swam back out under the bridge.
They didn't give us a show this time - but we knew when they were heading back out as all the ducks absolutely poo'd their pants as the orcas swam under them - back towards us.
The rest of the day was a blur of stunning scenery with flashbacks of orcas. You have to experience it to understand. The Germans were really grateful firstly that we told them it was orcas and not dolphin that they spotted in the fjord, and secondly that we explained their behaviour and that we recommend they wait until they swam back out. (I also need to tell you that they were supposed to fly home yesterday (Saturday) but they are having such a good time they cancelled their flight and have no idea when they will eventually go home - but they're planning a second visit to the fjord tomorrow.)
Anyway: Cabin #2. It's massive compared to the Cube. And as we arrived the sun was just setting over the lake. Right now the skies are clear with hundreds of stars visible. Stu has spotted The Shopping Trolley (The Plough) and Uranus's Ring (Orion's Belt).
That's it for today - unless the lights come out. Then there might be a part two!
That noise the trucks make on the ice...that's the noise the Mazda's studded tyres make on ice covered gravel road.
We drove miles today, on sheet ice...not very fast. But why would you want to drive fast and whizz past the scenery? (Rhetorical question Stu...don't need to answer me.)
Hawk-eyes Heald spotted a boat wreck some way off. Then I decided that, as we weren't near enough to the sea for Stu to get a good photo, I would try 'this little road here'.
One of those 'oh crap' moments...but you put a brave face on and your best foot forward (just not the brake foot....gotta keep those wheels moving in the deep muddy tracks).
We survived. The under carriage of the Mazda survived (😳). Stu didn't have a full on heart attack. And I was able to breathe again once I'd found a less muddy / icy somewhere to do a ten-point turn.
It's our last night on Snaefellsnes and in the Cube tonight. It's as beautiful as ever. But we've been let down by the orcas and seals. Not seen a single one. Just plenty of ducks, sea birds and cormorants.
We've also had no northern lights. Though they're forecasting level 4 tonight (another 'they' is predicting a level 2 - we're ignoring them). Camera and tripod will be prepped and ready - for me to wake Stu so he can carry them outside before he makes me a cup of tea - should the need arise 😜
Tea and jam on toast in bed. In the Cube. With a view of Kirkjufell. That's how our first anniversary began. Well...that's how it began for me. Stu made the breakfast. And presented me with the fake orchid that is on top of a Cube kitchen cupboard. Good effort.
The rest of the day was about memory lane. The southern coast of Snaefellsnes...beginning at the little black church.
This time in full-on arctic clobber. Thermals, base layers, mid layers, whatever the next layer is called then the wind-proof jackets. Gloves. Hats. Those weird neck warmer things you can pull over your ears. Thick sock. Big boots.
No flimsy airy fairy white dress. Or kitten heels.
And this time we had flasks of coffee, more egg sarnies and Stu-sized slabs of Bara Brith.
We were a bit pissed off that there were 'tourists' at the church. How very dare they.
Anyway. The plan was to recreate some of the wedding photos. We didn't do very well. Took me a while to sort out the timer on the camera and then I think I fluffed up the focus. And then we were too cold (and lazy) to take more. Not such a good effort.