New Years in Iceland; Moulin Rouge Paris; Ski-ing in the Alps and Amsterdam..again :)

We spend the last day of 2018 back in Reykjavik  taking it easy, using the spa facilities (there’s something sublime about dashing from a sauna through icy air, into a warm pool and sitting there while snowflakes twirl above you) and exploring the city.  The whole of Iceland is dramatic landscapes, stark, colours pared down to white, grey and blue.  Here is no exception though of course more shops and houses, many of them, specifically in the Main Street very quaint. The town sweeps down to the harbour with the towering snow covered mountains behind that. 

Reykjavik city centre
Reykjavik city centre
Reykjavik city centre

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Iceland Day 2 & 3 – Glacier Hiking & Ice Caves

Ooops guys, I almost forgot to include the final stop we had before spending the night at UMI hotel – it was at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall which has it’s origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. It roars and splutters, icy cold spray stinging the face as we shuffle carefully closer to it over icy and wet stones.   The light was fading fast and I was beginning to really feel the cold so we didn’t linger long – nor was it easy to get a decent pic however this probably accurately reflects how I was feeling at the time.

Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss

The following morning we set off at a reasonable 8:30 am to further explore the South Coast – Skógafoss, a waterfall 15 metres (49 feet) across situated on the river of Skógá which runs through the Skógárgil canyon until descending dramatically from the edge of the moor for a 60 m (200 ft) drop as the Skógafoss waterfall.  The waterfall and the river above were declared a protected natural monument in 1987.  Now ensconced in my Mitchelin man outershell pants and thicker socks it was easier to appreciate the beauty without feeling the cold.

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Iceland – Glacial and untamed

Arriving at Keflavik airport after a 3 hour flight from Amsterdam we immediately boarded a bus for a 40 minute ride to Blue Lagoon spa, a spa built around geothermic waters.   We highly recommend the Private Retreat Spa option.  Although more expensive it allowed us to jump the long queue and gave us a private room where we could store our luggage.  It also allowed access to a self treatment room, the restaurant, private pool and relaxing rooms.  All in all worth the extra bucks if you can afford it.  Unfortunately you cannot take pictures there so you will just have to imagine us in this space https://www.bluelagoon.com/

We shed our clothes ate a light lunch and then dived right into the warm pool.  The  warming water and ice cold air causing steamy tendrils to rise above us.  When our fingers were pruney enough we climbed out and went to a room where attendants guided us through a process of scrubs of salt, volcanic ash, applications of silica and algae followed by a lovely soothing oil which we applied to our faces.  Feeling renewed we went to lie in one of the relaxing rooms where chairs and loungers surrounded a little fire.  Soon we were both dozing. We reluctantly roused ourselves and got ready to head to the hotel.  An amazing experience I can highly recommend, of course, try not to miss your bus back to Reykjavik as we did. Instead we caught a taxi and, since nothing is cheap in Iceland that cost us a cool 18000 Kroner, around R1800.  Arriving at The Central Hotel Midgardur on a blast of frosty air we checked in and enjoyed a lovely dinner in their restaurant before hitting the sack in preparation for an early start.

Reykjavik - church in the distance
Reykjavik – church in the distance

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Amsterdam old friend ….

Stepping out of Amsterdam Centraal the neon lights and Christmas decor blinked against a palette of greys.  A chilly wind pushed back our hoods and teasing out hair (for those of us that have hair).  Suddenly aware of how inadequate our jackets were we prioritised going shopping for jackets made for European winters.

I’d wondered how I’d feel about my old friend Amsterdam visiting her in the Winter instead of Spring or Summer when fields of brightly coloured tulips abound and pots of pretty flowers overflow. I need not have feared – the welcome was as warm as ever even if the streets were the quietest I’d ever seen.  It was the 26th of December and clearly people were recovering still from their Christmas festivities.

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