Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
32Trip End Aug 25, 2012
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Where I stayed
Linda and Bogi's summerhouse
We had a quiet start to the day but eventually got ourselves moving and packed a few things for going to Bogi and Linda's summerhouse at Stykkisholmur. Michael had difficulties pronouncing it and eventually dubbed it 'Stykkisummerhouse’ which stuck in the end and will probably become their new name for their family’s holiday house. Stefan couldn’t come with us as he is playing in the equivalence of the Icelandic Open, so we kept checking on his scores throughout the day and hope that he gets good enough rounds on Thursday and Friday to make the cut for the weekend’s final rounds. Before going to Stykkisholmur we visited the Blue Lagoon, unfortunately in the opposite direction down near the airport, but well worth going to.
The Blue Lagoon is a much more sophisticated place than the hot spring of yesterday, being set up as a commercial spa with beauty products, a bar where you can get drinks, icecreams and special scrubs as you soak in the water, and areas where you can pile the white chalky mud onto your face and arms to get an instant beauty treatment. Needless to say it was quite expensive, especially in comparison to the free hot spring at Landmannalaugar, but it was a very different and luxurious experience. Rachel was in her element and didn’t want to leave!
Once again these Icelanders are a clever bunch. The lagoon is filled in fact with the cooling waste water from a power plant a few hundred metres away. When a few people started bathing in it and realizing what a great place it was, they built a spa around it and started charging money! Anyway, we spent a lovely few hours there and then headed off to the Stykkisummerhouse, about 3 hours drive in the opposite direction.
We dropped in at a shopping centre on the outskirts of Reykjavik on the way to buy provisions – I had promised to make a special Olympic dinner the following night – and I was interested to discover that the food prices were much the same as in Adelaide. They had a huge devaluing of their currency after the financial crisis, which has made Iceland very affordable for foreigners to visit, unlike in the past. While we were inside shopping a driver sideswiped Bogi’s landcruiser, making it very hard for me to open and shut the front passenger door. The young woman had left her contact details, so it will all get fixed on insurance, and although it was a bit of a bummer, Bogi was quite philosophical about it and at least we were still able to use the car.
We drove two hours on to Stykkisholmur, a beautiful spot west of Iceland on the edge of the western fjiords, where Linda grew up. Their summerhouse is in fact the house she grew up in, so it was quite beautiful with plenty of rooms and a stunning view over the town and harbour. Arriving about 9 pm, we unpacked our things while Linda whipped up a lovely meal and then the adults went for walk up to the cliff top where I took a series of fabulous photos of the panorama at sunset, while the kids walked off for an icecream and played a bit of soccer. Then it was off to bed for a really good sleep…
Friday 27 July
We had a deliberately lazy day with a late start and I blogged, Michael relaxed and read, and we played cards with the kids while Linda and Bogi worked in the garden. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and it was beautifully warm in the sunshine. They are having a big family gathering here next weekend so they wanted to make the place look nice. We kept checking Stefan’s score on the internet and by the end of the day he had scored a low enough card to make the cut, which was brilliant for a young 17 year old!
In the afternoon we walked to the local pool which was lovely with two hot spars filled with local thermal water, a big swimming pool and a water slide. The kids had a great time there and we enjoyed soaking in the spa and then cooling down in the pool with a few laps. We left there after an hour or so and then the boys went off to have a few holes of golf at the local course while Linda, Rachel and I did a little bit of shopping and I prepared dinner. I decided to make a family favourite, Madhur Jaffrey’s Lemony Coriander Chicken with rice, cucumber raita and Gujarati carrot salad and it was all very delicious. I also made a pavlova, which turned out a bit flat and overcooked – the problem with cooking in someone else’s oven, but of course the great thing about pavlova is that whipped cream hides all defects! Michael had insisted on an Olympic theme so I decorated it with the Olympic rings and we all enjoyed it while watching the Opening Ceremony on television.
It was a brilliant opening ceremony – so different from Beijing’s extravaganza of precision and coordination which would have been hard to top. Instead it was quirky, funny, moving and quintessentially British – a wonderful celebration of Britain’s history, culture and achievements. I really loved the lighting of the cauldron by a group of young, up and coming athletes nominated by all those older athletes who people had been betting on to light it. I had been wondering what the copper funnel looking things were, which had been carried with the flag of each country as the athletes came onto the ground and finally we discovered when the young athletes together lit them all and they rose on long stems together to form the cauldron. It was both symbolically and visually powerful and moving, and I was disappointed to read next day that some commentators thought it was ‘underwhelming’ – probably sour grapes because their bet had gone west! Anyway, the ceremony finished after midnight, so then we headed off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
Saturday 28 July
After a nice sleep-in we got up, washed the bed clothes and packed and then went for a lovely walk around Stykkisholmur. It’s a really beautiful town, full of historical buildings and great views. In an old wooden building called the Norwegian house because the whole house had been imported about a hundred years ago from Norway, there was a museum with an exhibition on the Eider ducks from which down is collected. The locals collect it from the nests and then clean it of all the little sticks so it can be used in their high quality and incredibly warm eiderdown quilts. Linda told me her grandfather was born in the house and later pointed out another lovely little cottage where her grandparents had lived.
We then climbed to the top of what was once a little island but is now connected by a causeway, where there was a lighthouse and fabulous views over the many islands dotting the fjord. As we looked up to the sky we noticed a unique meteorological phenomenon with a clear rainbow and dark ring around the sun which we managed to catch on Tom’s camera.
Heading back into town past the lovely little fishing cottages, many of them now restored and used as summerhouses, we climbed up to the church at Stykkisholmur – an impressive modern piece of architecture with a beautiful, recently installed organ. Finally we headed back to the house where I made a kind of zucchini frittata to take to the function we were attending that night, and we cleaned up the leftovers from last night’s dinner for lunch.
After packing everything up we squeezed ourselves back in the landcruiser and drove about 2 hours to a summerhouse hired by a number of Bogi’s friends from university. Every year they get together for a weekend at a different summerhouse and luckily they were happy to include us. While we got to know the adults, the kids ran down the hill to a big hay bale and had fun doing gymnastic leaps on it. We loved looking at these hay bales dotted throughout the landscape like giant marshmallows on the green recently cut grass. Icelanders can usually get 2 lots of hay over the summer, sometimes 3, so the bales were everywhere. In the field across the road the bales had all been decorated, presumably by some school kids or artists, and they were great to look at!
Twenty of us sat down to a magnificent dinner of boned leg of lamb and jacket potatoes cooked in some Webbers and a delicious dessert of two different kinds of chocolate cake with a berry coulis. Afterwards one of the men got out his guitar and accompanied his daughter who is training to be an opera singer in Princeton. Her voice was quite magical and beautiful to listen to, even though we didn’t understand a word. Then it was time for us all to sing, and after producing some songbooks we all had a great time belting out various songs, some in English and some in Icelandic. The chap was very funny, introducing every song with a little story explaining how he came to write it, including all the Beatles classics and so on, all delivered with a dead pan expression. We sang our hearts out until 1 a.m. and then headed out into the darkness (the first I’d seen in my whole time in Iceland!) and drove the half hour back home to Reykjavik.
Sunday 29 July
The family woke late, me with a bit of a headache due to Bogi overenthusiastically filling my glass the night before, and had a quiet last day in Iceland. We watched the Olympics on television, I did some washing of clothes and we packed and got ourselves organized. We also kept track of Stefan’s golf score. He did really well, finishing about 60th in the field and all his scores in the 70s which was brilliant. We even saw him on television at the end of the day congratulating the winner of the tournament who comes from their club.
Linda and Bogi were hosting a big party that night, including Linda’s brother and his wife and 3 girls who live in Luxembourg and had recently arrived back in Iceland for their summer holiday. Also there were her parents, her sister and her husband and 2 boys, the friends whose summerhouse we had visited when we arrived in Iceland, and finally a lovely couple who are going to Brisbane in November for a 7 month sabbatical at the University of Queensland. They were all delightful and we have assured the couple that snakes really aren’t an issue in Australian gardens! We hope they will travel down to Adelaide and visit us, maybe in January during the school holidays.
Linda cooked a stunning fish soup that I must get the recipe for, and Bogi barbecued hamburgers for the kids, so all were happy. This was followed by Linda’s famous pecan pie, which was quite delicious! Finally, after a great night, everyone left at about 11 and we headed off to bed, conscious that we had to rise at 6 next morning to be at the airport by 7 for our 9.05 flight to London.