Friday, July 3, 2015

Mum (to be)'s gone to Iceland (with apologies to my friends who are of Icelandic heritage)

For Brits, Iceland is not just a breathtakingly beautiful island state between Greenland and Norway, it's a cheap supermarket where you buy frozen foods high in additives and low in nutrition with the slogan "Mum's gone to Iceland".

Let's all take a moment to think of those mums, dejectedly pushing their trollies between aisles of frozen chicken tikka bites, sausage rolls and arctic rolls, thinking: "Why the f*** have I gone to Iceland again? Why? Why hasn't Dad? It's the normative gender stereotypes of modern day advertising that really piss me off, as they seem to reinforce my position as the poor sod who has to brave this vision of fluorescent-lit hell to buy frozen polystyrene masquerading as food."

Anyway, that's the feminist bit out of the way, let's get on with this "What I did on my holidays" post. 

Last summer I was pregnant with Desert Baby, a fact I may have mentioned one or two times in the course of the past nine months or so, and due to a saga involving passports, we were confined to the UAE for the duration. Spending the hot season here can be trying at the best of the times for a spoilt ex-pat, but when knocked up, it's a form of purgatory, because you can't even partake of the consolations of brunching and swim up bars to pass the searingly hot and humid days quicker.

By the time we had resolved the passport debacle and cobbled together our annual leave, we were more fed up than usual and desperate for cool air. And so, in late October we chartered a long boat to Iceland, home of Vikings, sagas, rotted fermented shark-based snacks and fantastical prices. We found found ourselves a place to stay through airbnb and spent a week trotting around Reykjavik, hiring the world's smallest four-wheel drive to explore the countryside and generally wrapping up in winter coats, turning our faces into the bitingly cold wind and saying: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh."

We saw the Northern Lights, which locals refer to as "dancing Elves". I think at six months gone and up in the middle of the night in freezing conditions to view them, I may not have been entirely predisposed to appreciate them, but the pictures (taken by him indoors as I lack the technical ability and patience) suggest it was a pretty impressive sight.

 We also visited the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, described by the guide books as a "shameless tourist ripoff" which may be true, but, frankly, we have lived in Dubai for getting on for five years, so an attraction has to be fairly far beyond a shameless ripoff to put us off. While you are there, you can get a massage, which means meandering through the naturally heated water to float on a rubber mat while said massage takes place in the open air. You are dunked under the warm water every now and then to make sure you don't get too chilly on the cool air.

Ripoff it may be, but I enjoyed the heck out of that massage. The attraction was also pretty popular with a large party of British teenagers, presumably all from the same posh school, providing him indoors and I with plenty of opportunities for snorting laughs. For me, it was at the girls stressing about their super model, St Tropez sprayed and designer bikini clad figures in the changing rooms, while I looked on in frank envy as I squeezed my pregnant bulk into a swimming costume. For him, it was overhearing a bunch of teenage boys say: "I'm gonna exfoliate sooo hard" while smearing on gallons of the restorative pots of gritty white mud placed at convenient intervals around the main pool. Times have changed since us 30 somethings were teens and applied Biactol to our pimpled complexions under cover of darkness, I tell thee.

One of the fascinating things about Iceland is its natural geothermal resources, which I managed, somewhat ineptly, to capture on video at Geyser. Because, you see, geysers are all named after Geyser, the place where this rather brilliant example of the  phenomenon is located. I am not even going to begin to try to explain the science behind them because I will make a total t*t of myself, but from what I gathered, this incredible natural force provides sustainable energy meaning Iceland is far less reliant on fossil fuels than the rest of us.

I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking, apart from my four other favourite fascinating facts about Iceland.

1. Icelanders refer to each other by their first names, even in formal situations. For example, Snorri Sturluson, writer of some of the most famous Icelandic Sagas and 13th century politician, who met a bloody end typical of the age, is largely referred to as "Snorri".

2. Icelanders like to eat fermented, rotted shark as a snack, washed down with a spirit, the name of which translates as "Black Death".

3. Many Icelanders believe in elves, and that rocks are the homes of elves, and that terrible things will happen if these homes of the elves are moved or destroyed. So, you will find rocks built around or disrupting building projects, with claims that the rocks cannot be moved due to mysterious mystical or super natural forces, with bulldozers grinding to a halt, pneumatic drills breaking and shovels bending.

4. The population of Iceland is roughly 300,000 people. Many Icelanders can trace their ancestry back to the country's original settlers, ergo, finding someone who you are not related to in one way or another to marry can be tricky. A result of this is the foreigners often "do very well" in terms of naughtiness as locals are keen to look for opportunities to breed outside their own nationality. This crude generalisation is in the guide books and everything. It might have been that I was a bit touchy due to being Dubai Sand Witch with added beach ball stomach, but I had to give a very stern look to a beautiful Icelandic teenager who gave some rather lascivious glances to him indoors while serving us meat soup, the ancestrally Viking hussy.

Anyway, more pics below.

My actual dream home. 

Such vehicle owners, so at home in Dubai, have also made their way to Iceland, it would appear.

We popped down this road to see if Bjork would invite us in for a shot of Black Death, but she was a bit busy believing in beauty with Venus as a boy
Practical stuff: There are tons of options for flights to Iceland from Dubai, but no direct flights. We flew with Qatar Airways via Doha and London, picking up an Icelandair flight to Reykjavik. You can get a taxi to the centre of town from the airport, but it's far cheaper to get a bus, and unless you're a millionaire, you're going to have to watch your pennies while you're there as the cost of living is sky high. Bus tickets are available in arrivals.  

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