The city of love vs the city of lava

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Europe » Iceland
September 19th 2008
Published: September 19th 2008
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Paris and Iceland
Driving west of Switzerland, we entered France. Staying one night in an African themed ‘room above a pub’ in some small eastern French village was interesting. We drove into Paris to return our rental car and our last leg of continental Europe. Driving into Paris we fluked it and didn’t get lost navigating our way to one of their three airports. After a few metro trips and a good walk we arrived at our hotel in La Defense, western Paris.

Paris was great; stylish, diverse, old, clean, picturesque, leafy, classic but of course touristy and large. On the last leg of our Europe trip we felt we didn’t and couldn’t do Paris justice in our tired state, and so attempted smaller things at a slower pace. After a free breakfast of croissants and hot chocolates we headed out to conquer….the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and other touristic centres. Cool fun and we even met some cuzzies from Wellington.

Food is of course very pricey, and after throwing away our gas cooker we had to think strategically. Turns out McDonald’s have a French menu, with La Petit options, so a cheap Petit meal was in store for us. Aside from the budget McDonald’s option, the other cheapie is baguettes, of course. So we walked around with metre long baguettes stuffed in our mouths, as Parisians look on in disgust (or maybe it was our jandal wearing ways).
Whatever it was we realized we were far too laid back for Paris, and not nearly fashionable enough. But this was ok for our next destination; Iceland the land of fish and lava (and not that much ice).

We caught our three hour flight with Iceland Air (!) and arrived in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland and home to Bjork and……um yeah nothing. The sights of Reykjavik are very cute and you feel like the travel writers are scratching the barrel… galleries….food…..churches….yeah we get the picture, nothing different. Staying here was a good option though as a storm was brewing (the 100 year one apparently) and we needed to recharge the batteries after a hectic seven week stay in Europe. After overusing the free wireless and (English speaking) TV we hired a car for one day to attempt as much as we could in 24 hours.

This included geysers, waterfalls, sheep, grass, lava, wild horses, huts buried under grass, and various other truly Icelandic sites. On the way back from our escapade we came across an old lady and two younger gus with a flat tyre. Turns out they had been waiting hours for someone with a jack to stop and although we couldn’t get the wheel off, we gave them all a lift back to town. Being stranded in the middle of nowhere in freezing Iceland is not cool, and out of their gratefulness the two Dutch guys shouted us kebabs (with meat!!) for dinner. We tried to say no (especially as they were $20 each kebab!) but they insisted and we were so hungry and thankful we ate the kebabs at a lightning speed. Understandable when every meal in Iceland has been 2 minute noodles due to the excessive price of everything ($7 for a loaf of bread?!)

Iceland sure is a quirky place. The whole country has small town vibe which breeds boredom, which in turn breeds alcoholism. This seems to be one thing that unites the country; weekend binges. Thankfully we have a quiet guesthouse on the fringe of things and have been keeping a quiet existence since arrival. The second important fact about Icelanders is their love of music. If you aren’t in a band either your mum, best friend, boyfriend or cousin is. Thirdly these people love hot pools; sure it is freezing but competing for leg space in a public geothermal lagoon is slightly weird for us.

Aside from it’s quirks, Iceland has many of (weird) things to offer, and is fast becoming a tourist magnet. Tourist traps abound and hiking over glaciers, chasing dog-looking-sheep, looking for puffins, geyser spotting and various other ‘activities’ are very popular. With an abundant bank account and lots of time we would have loved to have better explored Iceland, but it’s time to fly to the city of all cities; NY.

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19th September 2008

Geographers fascination
Such a fascinating landscape - one of those waterfalls is intriguing. I guess it is the combination of that glaciating by ice sheets and the lava flows. We felt exactly the same as you in Paris - too tired to do it justice. Next time is our motto.
20th September 2008

I love the Icelandic Cow! Oh, and Jane you look like an international supermodel in front of the Eiffel Tower!
21st September 2008

Yet another great blog!
I really enjoyed your thoughts on Iceland. It surely seems to be a quirky country, but I think that's why you need to visit it! As always, your pictures are gorgeous. What kind of camera/equipment do you two use? Can't wait to see what you think about the States!
21st September 2008

Icelandic Horses!
Have been reading about the horses, aren't they fascinating, such intriguing history going back to 800 AD and the Vikings! They're meant to be intelligent, courageous, strong, and charming and never kick or bite, amazing. I want one!! We have some in NZ, what do you think? Need a farm first. Have seen many photos of the Eiffel Tower but not at that angle, it looks fantastic. Rest up, if that's possible, love Ngaire.
22nd September 2008

Hi, Thanks. We have a Nikon D200, with 11-18mm f1:4.5-5.6 lens

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