I’m back. Back from my amazing holiday, back to normal life and back to my blog. This particular idea came to me when I was in the Big Apple, New York, a city full of surprises. It’s not like the previous blog posts I’ve written before, but it’s more of a list or record of some of the incredible, memorable, interesting, strange and funny things that I saw while I was away. Things that I don’t want to forget and that I would love to share with you! I’m going to start at the beginning, in Iceland, but I have got a lot to tell you, so this might be the first of many parts of “What We Saw On Our Travels” and I might even add to it over time!
1. On our second trip to Iceland and third attempt to see the Northern Lights, we finally saw it. Third time lucky and it was well worth the wait! We caught the lights on the coast of Iceland on our very first night there, with the sea beneath it and the moon bright in the sky. It was a beautifully clear night, not to mention absolutely freezing, and the Aurora Borealis was shining brightly above us. It’s hard to explain with just words – the lights danced in the sky, changing form and rippling above us. The green light was magical, almost ghostly, and the Aurora was mysterious and mesmerising to watch. Apparently, that night, we witnessed one of the top five best displays of the Northern Lights of the winter season. So it’s safe to say we feel very lucky to have seen this spellbinding sight!
2. As if once wasn’t enough, my brother Matthew and I saw the Northern lights again on a second lucky occasion, surprisingly in a place that we least expected to see it. Strolling through the streets of the city of Reykjavik at night, wrapped up warm to keep out the bitter cold, we laughed about some silly girls who seemed to be taking photos of the clouds thinking they were the Northern Lights. It was only when we looked up and realised that the Lights were actually above us that we felt like the silly ones! It’s unusual to see the Aurora in the city, as there is too much light pollution. They can sometimes be spotted from the outskirts, but this was right in the centre of the city, surrounded by street lights and cars, yet the Aurora was so bright it was even visible then. This time, it was swirling and twisting fast, in a minty green haze above the city. What a treat to see it again!
3. At the end of our stay in Reykjavik, the city was preparing for the Festival of Lights, a captivating light display illuminating significant buildings in the city. We saw the iconic cathedral lit up in a moving light display resembling an erupting volcano – a tribute to Iceland’s volcanic heritage. We also saw the architecturally stunning opera house, a structure shrouded in glass to reflect the colours of the breathtaking landscape and Aurora lights, this time graced by rainbows of coloured light rippling across the surface like waves. I kept taking photos because every time I looked it was different, and I wanted to capture that.
4. On our previous visit to Iceland two years ago, we were a bit unlucky. Not only did we not see the Northern Lights (the main purpose of our visit), but we also went on a whale watching boat trip and saw no whales, and there was even no snow in Iceland in November. But we fell in love with the country anyway, with its unique volcanic landscapes and its nature-loving people who are proud of their heritage. It’s difficult to describe but the light seems different there, almost paler and softer. The country is full of character hidden beneath its seemingly barren surface; from volcanic craters to boiling hot erupting geysers, and ancient glaciers to blue ice caves. We saw all of this before when we explored Iceland’s Golden Circle, except this time it was blanketed in snow. It was just as breathtaking as before, but we definitely witnessed a different side to this incredible island and there’s still so much we want to see!
5. At the end of a long day exploring the Golden Circle, we took a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon. Set in a lava field of black rock, in the shadow of a geothermal power plant, this is the last place you might expect to find a luxury spa. But without these two things, it simply wouldn’t exist. The geothermal power plant extracts volcanically heated water from deep underground to harness power from its high temperatures, but this thermal water is so mineral rich that Icelandic people cannot drink it. It has no other use. So it is pumped away into the lava fields into pools where it gradually cools, and this is where the Blue Lagoon spa was born. People started swimming in the warm waters and soon recognised that the mineral-rich qualities of the water could be beneficial. The water itself is like a nice hot bath, milky blue in colour due to high levels of minerals like silica. You can’t see the bottom. In fact, you can’t even see yourself in the water. We spent time exploring the Blue Lagoon, appreciating it’s warmth despite being surrounded by snow. We tried the obligatory silica mud face masks (Matt’s first ever spa treatment!) and we relaxed in the soothing waters, enjoying a well-earned rest after a busy day!
That was the end of our Iceland experience. It is truly one of my favourite places in the World and I’m certain that I will return one day to see the black sand beaches, go ice-caving and adventure inside a volcano. But right now, our next stop is Canada – Toronto and Niagara Falls. Don’t forget your passport…