Iceland Road Trip: Jökulsárlón, Skaftafell & Stokksnes

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Read the rest of my posts about our Iceland road trip here.

After our brief nighttime view of Jökulsárlón, we were a little worried we might see the lagoon with zero icebergs. However, our day dedicated to it was just as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be. Overnight a new crop of icebergs had appeared, and there were even a couple of seals bobbing around in the water. We spent the morning on the beach in front of the lagoon, known for good reason as 'Diamond Beach'; smaller icebergs float down from the lake into the sea, which breaks them up and deposits the large chunks left all over the black sand. Five or six people stood at intervals along the beach, trying to capture the glistening shards of blue and white ice. After we'd spent a couple of hours wandering around the beach, sitting on icebergs and generally enjoying the quiet view, we made our way back over to the lagoon to admire the icebergs and listen to the slow cracking of new icebergs calving from the glacier. We had planned on doing more driving, but we decided to stay on at the lake for a slow day instead. Some intrepid surfers appeared, playing music from their car and with surfboards strapped to the roof. They swam in the freezing water, yelling to each other and climbing onto the smaller icebergs to launch themselves off, laughing. It looked like fun, but shivering on the beach in five layers, I wasn't entirely jealous. As the sun went down, the lagoon changed through blues to golds to dusky pinks, and we sat on the black sand until nearly all the light had died away before heading back to the guesthouse. That evening we joined a couple we'd met, tucking into cured arctic char and rúgbrauð (rye bread), and steaming bowls okjötsúpa (a traditional lamb soup).

The following morning, we got up early, eating skyr, toast and tea whilst looking over our maps. We joined [] and [] on their trip to Skaftafell, a beautiful preservation area in thVatnajökull National Park. After some decidedly wintry days, pulling up to Skaftafell was like turning back the seasons to the best of sunny Autumn. The trees were covered in a blanket of bright yellow and orange leaves, the sky was a perfect blue, and little rock ptarmigans pecked at the grasses. As we made the short hike to Svartifoss we found ourselves stripping off our usual thick layers. The waterfall was spectacular, and we sat for hours in the sunshine in our t-shirts, eating cereal bars and trying to capture the rainbows appearing in the spray at the foot of the waterfall's columns. We hiked back via a different route, stopping off at the viewpoint at Sjonarsker for a panoramic view; then down to the old farmhouses at Sel, looking across Skeiðarársandur's kilometres of black sand straight to the sea. The little turf-roofed houses were abandoned in 1946, and are now frozen in time - little wooden beds with woollen blankets, original furniture and old farm equipment. 

Back at the car, we decided to push on to try and reach Stokksnes and Vestrahorn for sunset. We arrived just as the sun had set behind the mountain and sat in the dunes among the grasses, listening to the sea. The perfect finish to the evening was hearing the sound of hooves, and turning to see a local riding an Icelandic horse at tölt along the track, framed against the sun. We drove the few miles into Höfn and grabbed a hot dog and a few hours sleep before our pre-dawn start to catch Vesturhorn again at sunrise.

Hackney Jungle

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Since doing my 100 Day Project, I've really enjoyed finding little shots which go unnoticed - but I've also grown to love finding some of the often-photographed places too. It can be surprising to see some things 'in real life', and realise how creative people have been to get great shots. Ainsley and I had a coinciding free afternoon so we decided to head to a couple of the insta-famous places in Hackney; if you're on Instagram, chances are that by now you'll have spotted the places in this post at least once or twice!

First up: the beautiful jungle that is Conservatory Archives. It's the kind of place which makes people stop and do a double take as they walk past - filled to the brim with giant cacti, little succulents, trailing plants hanging from the ceiling and, my favourite, little air plants. Whilst we hadn't planned to come away with anything, neither of us could resist bringing home a couple of new additions. One day, I'll have a house exactly like this, all industrial fittings, concrete, aged textures and a metric tonne of greenery. For lunch we paid a visit to Temple of Seitan's new venture, Temple of Hackney, serving up vegan fried 'chicken'. I've posted about them before - but this time I got to try some too, in the form of their popcorn bites (delicious). Much to our amusement, there was a continuous flow of curious teenagers walking into the shop to ask whether it was 'actually chicken' and what 'vegan' was. Finally, we walked up to Palm Vaults. Their pastel-coloured lattes, pink and green colour scheme and retro interior are perennially photo-worthy. I grabbed a hot chocolate (they have five types, from white through to dark) and Ainsley had a pretty rose soy latte; I really want to come back for food! The staff were friendly, there was a great early-2000s playlist, and we were even blessed with a tiny dog.

FIND CONSERVATORY ARCHIVES AT: 493-495 Hackney Road, London, E2 9ED
FIND TEMPLE OF HACKNEY AT: 10 Morning Lane, London, E9 6NA
FIND PALM VAULTS AT: 411 Mare Street, London, E8 1HY

Copenhagen at Christmas

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Both my mum and I have a habit of trawling travel sites for cheap deals - but it's very rare our schedules ever line up well enough to actually take a trip together. Last summer, a deal popped up to visit Copenhagen right before Christmas, and knowing we'd both be able to take some time off we booked our tickets straight away. Fast forward to December, and in the midst of work, essays and a rescue dog, I'd all but forgotten I was going anywhere. I found myself shoving a few bits into a bag thirty minutes before I needed to leave for my hometown the night before our flight. My coat wasn't warm enough, I forgot my gloves and, most unusually for me, I hadn't even looked up any museums! Luckily, we managed pretty well through wandering and some hotel wifi (and I ditched my ratty parka for an oversized puffa jacket which used to belong to my grandad and has featured in family photographs from the last thirty plus years).

After dumping our bags at the hotel, we decided to take it easy. We headed down Strøget to admire the flagship Tiger store, and the lovely homeware shop Hay, exploring a few of the side streets and grabbing some mulled wine from the Christmas Markets (I wouldn't make a special trip for the markets, as they sell nearly all the same things at all of them now!) Dinner was down in the meatpacking district, Kødbyen, at pizza joint Mother - the sourdough pizzas are great and packed with high quality ingredients, at a relatively reasonable price for a city known for being expensive. On day two, we hopped on a boat tour to learn a little about the history of the city from the water, walking back to the National Museum of Denmark and then onto Tivoli Gardens. I wasn't expecting to enjoy Tivoli as much as I did; big crowds, fairground rides and a Disney atmosphere aren't exactly my thing. However, with it all lit up for Christmas in the dark and another mug of steaming mulled wine in hand, I did feel pretty Christmassy! 

Our final day was spent wandering more of the city. The 17th century Rundetårn was such a surreal experience; the slow climb of the sloped floor is beautiful and the building has a fascinating history. It's especially good if you're claustrophobic and struggle with the narrow spiral staircases you'll usually have to deal with to get a great view of a city. It was also playing host to the Museum of Broken Relationships, which I saw on tour in London and really enjoyed. Trinitatis Kirke, at the foot of the tower, is free to visit and very simply beautiful. We then walked up towards Nyhavn, stopping on the way to pick up some very sticky onsdag snegl (a kind of cinnamon roll) and look in some vintage shops. Kaabers Antikvariat was such a great find - it's filled with antique books, homeware, furniture and everything else. I picked up some beautiful vintage Swedish matchboxes, which spurred me on to start collecting label designs (for a great matchbox label collection, see matchbloc on Instagram). Sadly I had to throw away the lovely bright pink matches inside before our flight home!

Copenhagen is such a beautiful city, and whilst I didn't get to see as much of it as I wanted, it is definitely on my re-visit list; especially to get a glimpse of it in the summer months. I'm a sucker for a coloured or wonky house, so nearly every street ticked that box! I may even have to go back just to photograph the Palads Teatret - after seeing Naomi's photo I can't believe I missed it. Next on my list are the Botanical Garden, the street food on Papirøen, the Leckerbaer bakery, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (for Kusama's 'Gleaming Lights of the Souls installation), and Superkilen park.

Post-apocalyptic & Dystopian Reads #4

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Lev AC Rosen
Rising sea levels have left a future New York over twenty stories underwater, now a landscape of the towers left behind connected by bridges and waterways. We follow a private investigator as a simple job leads to a much more complicated outcome. I wanted to like this book, but I really struggled through it. I just didn't warm to any of the characters, and I had to force myself to pick up the book after realising I'd not read any for weeks. Personally, I saw far more potential in the actual setting than in the detective plot.

Kenneth Calhoun
Black Moon features a premise which I hadn't come across until fairly recently: sleeplessness. Initially insomnia didn't seem such a terrifying prospect compared to some other post-apocalyptic scenarios. However, Calhoun really plays on the fears and irrationalities of sleep deprivation; the anger the sleepless feel towards sleepers for their ability to rest was frighteningly easy to empathise with. It's dark and violent, but it's also poetic (the way Calhoun portrayed the progressively disintegrating syntax of the afflicted was especially interesting) and engaging; I just wish it had tied itself up a little better.

H. G. Wells
Strictly speaking, The War of the Worlds is more apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic, but nevertheless it's a classic in the genre with a serious reputation. A meteor lands just outside Victorian London, drawing a slightly strangely unpeturbed crowd - until the mysterious creatures reveal themselves to be dangerous. After reading so many contemporary novels recently, the language and tone of The War of the Worlds was refreshing. Despite knowing the plot (as we all likely do) it was a great read, and I even forgave the happily-ever-after(ish) ending which I'd usually hate. Aside from the storytelling, it was also quite illuminating in terms of the geography of the late nineteenth century city.

Octavia E. Butler
Rather than a catastrophic illness or a nuclear war, Octavia E. Butler bases the first of her two-novel series on a quieter, more insidious disaster - the slow collapse of civil society through the neglect of environmental and economic problems. Our protagonist Lauren is relatively lucky in her gated community, but she also suffers from an unusual affliction: hyperempathy, causing her to be severely affected by the pain of others. I found the world Butler created frightening (and worryingly close to a future I can imagine), and I was genuinely interested in the characters, but I mostly cringed my way through Lauren's writing and just couldn't get behind her new faith, 'Earthseed'. However, I am going to give the sequel, The Parable of the Talents, a go.

John Christopher (Samuel Youd)
The idea of a virus which kills off all grass species could seem relatively innocuous, until you consider the fact that they make up a huge part of natural habitats across the world, and make up over 70% of all crops and a fundamental part of the world's economy. John Custance must take his family across an increasingly apocalyptic England to reach his brother's potato farm, hopefully a safe haven. I feel like this book has been really overlooked in the post-apocalyptic genre, which is a shame because although I rolled my eyes a little at some of the gender-based comments, it's fantastic. It has been compared to Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids in the sense that the disaster is plant-based, but this is a darker, less cosy kind of catastrophe. It also left me thinking a lot more closely about the food systems we currently rely on.

Visiting Deal, Kent

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

January was mainly a total whirlwind. With my museum contracts finishing just before Christmas, I've spent most of my days working on Master's degree related things - essays, new courses, dissertation ideas - and planning for the next stage. After one of my latest deadlines, we decided to use our Saturday to explore some of the Kentish coastline and headed over to Deal. We took the dog for a very cold walk along the beach; she's still not quite got a handle on the sea, so she got a bit of a shock from a large wave! Beautiful Middle Street makes up Deal's Old Town, and we spent a good hour wandering from pastel house to pastel house, talking about which of them we'd buy if we magically got hold of a few hundred grand. I fell in love with some little cottages on a side street and all the nautical-themed door knockers. A trip to the High Street provided us some local apple and rhubarb juice for the drive home, and then when we got too cold we headed to the dog-friendly Royal Hotel for pies and sandwiches (and a sausage for Angel). The weather held up perfectly all day, treating us to clear skies and a lovely sunset to watch from the pier along with the fishermen. This year I'm hoping to make more time for little trips out like this!