Thursday, 30 March 2017

Iceland Day 3: Tips for visiting Iceland


On our last day of Iceland, we decided to explore the rest of Reykjavik, because we couldn't afford to go on any more trips. We would have loved to have visited some of the glaciers and waterfalls around Iceland - but I guess it just means that it's an excuse to go back again in the future!


The first thing we did was go for lunch at Svarta Kaffid, a cafe that sells soup in bowls made out of bread. I was recommended it as a place to eat at, and we were really pleased that we went. There were two different types of soup (leak and potato and Italian meat soup), but these change each day, and they are served in a huge hollowed-out loaf of bread. We paid around 1,800 krona for the meal (£13) and were very full afterwards (although I did manage another doughnut at Dunkin' Donuts about an hour later...).


We looked around the shops and then went inside Hallsgrimskirkja church, which as I mentioned in my first post, is actually really plain inside. There isn't much to see, but it is definitely worth a quick look around.


We found yet another Christmas shop! These seem to be very popular in Reykjavik.


Our final stop was at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, a hot dog stand situated down near the old harbour. It is famous for selling the best hot dogs in Iceland, and for selling one to Bill Clinton back in 2007. They were only 450 krona (around £3.50), and did taste really good. The sauce was delicious and it was served with dried fried onion pieces, which made the texture crunchy. There was quite a long queue and it moved quickly - plus I guess that means that you know the food is likely to be good!


In the evening we went out for a northern lights tour with Reykjavik Excursions, which cost us each around £40. The tour was cancelled the first two nights because of the weather, but the good thing about it was that we could book on to the next night for free, until we saw the lights or our holiday ended. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the northern lights because it was so cloudy, but the bus driver was really friendly and told us a lot of interesting information about them and about Iceland in general, and they took us to a huge field which would have had a good view if it wasn't cloudy. The lights are best seen during winter, from November to March, but are completely weather dependent.

I thought I would give you a few general tips for if you visit Iceland, which would have been useful for us to know beforehand!
1) Rent an apartment with a kitchen
Iceland is very expensive, especially food and drink, so it is worth renting an apartment that you can cook food in, and prepare sandwiches for lunch time. We found an apartment through Airbnb which was actually cheaper than a hotel room as there were 5 of us - we each paid around £60 for 3 nights' accommodation. Bonus seemed to be the cheapest supermarket, so we bought some food from there to prepare for breakfast, lunch and one evening meal.

2) Hire a car
This is the big tip that I wish I had known before I visited Iceland. The bus tours are all quite expensive, so I think we could have done more outside of Reykjavik if we had hired a car as we could have driven ourselves to the waterfalls or glaciers. One bus tour to the golden circle we were looking at was over £100 each. Someone I know visited Iceland for a week and paid around £300 for a hire car, and they drove to see all of the places that they were interested in. Obviously you would have to factor petrol in, but you would also have more freedom with timings and places to visit.

3) Buy alcohol at the airport in the UK
As I've mentioned, alcohol is really expensive in Iceland (a glass of wine will set you back about 1,200 krona, or £9). We bought a bottle in duty free in Manchester airport for around £10, which saved us a lot of money.

4) Take lots of layers
Whilst we were in Iceland the temperature changed quite quickly as we were in and out of cafes and shops. In the day it wasn't actually too cold, but it got really freezing at night. I found myself layering a couple of tops, a sweater and a coat, so that I could remove layers if I became too hot, or add more on when I was cold. Scarves, hats and gloves are also a godsend.

5) Visit the Blue Lagoon
If you don't do anything else, visit the Blue Lagoon. It was my favourite day of the whole trip and we had such a lot of fun - I definitely felt like we got the most out of our money.

6) Make sure you have a camera
If you forget everything else, just make sure you have a camera, your passport and a warm coat. There is so much to see in Iceland, even just in Reykjavik, and I found that my camera was my most treasured possession whilst I was there.
Life is too short not to make the best and the most of everything that comes your way every day.
#projectsmile



Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Iceland Day 2: The Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Our second day in Iceland was spent in the Blue Lagoon. If you're not familiar with it, it is a man-made lagoon fed by the water from a nearby geothermal power plant, with an average water temperature of 37 degrees celcius. The water is rich with silica and sulphur (which causes its milky blue colour), and can reportedly help some people with skin problems such as psoriasis. It is located in a lava field in Grindavik, around 50 minutes away from Reykjavik.

Blue Lagoon Iceland Face Masks

We booked onto a bus tour through STA for our day in the Blue Lagoon, and that cost us each around £60, which seemed to be the cheapest that we could find it without our own transfer. This included return transfers and entrance fees. Once we arrived, we went into the changing rooms to change. We all took our own towels, but you can pay to rent a towel and a robe, which would have been quite nice because once the towel is wet you can exchange it for a new one. We also all smothered our hair in the conditioner provided in the showers before we entered the lagoon, as the water can apparently make your hair really dry and stiff if it is not conditioned properly.

When you arrive, you are given a wrist band. This band is used to lock your locker (these are complimentary), and if you buy any food or drink whilst you are at the lagoon, it is recorded on your band and you pay at the end. This saves you having to carry any money around (plus you can then visit the swim-up bar without getting your notes wet!).


Guess who forgot to change the date and time on their camera?!

When we stepped outside, it was absolutely freezing. But as soon as we were submerged in the water it was really warm. The lagoon is actually really big so, although it was quite busy, it never seemed cramped. We spent the day exploring the various areas of the lagoon - we particularly enjoyed the cave and waterfall. There are also steam room and saunas, plus an inside area of the lagoon. We also made the most of the free silica mud masks - they made our skin feel really soft afterwards.


We also made the most of the swim-up bar and cafe. I had an orange juice at the bar, which cost me about 400 krona (around £3), and a lovely smoked salmon sandwich in the cafe, at around 1,200 krona (around £9). It was quite expensive, but not extortionate considering it was in Iceland. The bar also sold wine, cider and beer, and there was a restaurant that sold hot food (although you have to get dressed to visit, and we couldn't be bothered with that!). There are also various water fountains dotted around - you need to stay hydrated as the water is so warm.


I really, really enjoyed the Blue Lagoon and would definitely recommend it to anyone that is visiting Iceland. We had a really relaxed day and just spent the time chatting and swimming. The atmosphere in the lagoon was quite magical, because of the steam rising off the water - it made it feel like there were less people there too. Definitely one to go on the bucket list if you've never been!

In the evening we decided to go out for dinner. We visited Tommi's, a burger bar situated at the back of a bar on the main street in Reykjavik. I ordered a veggie burger with chips (paying around 1,500 krona), and I have to say that it was one of the best burgers I've ever had! The burger sauce was what made it, as it was so tasty and made the burger really moist. There was also live music in the bar which was really fun - they sung everything from Journey to Britney Spears! We had a lot of fun singing and dancing along.

Part 3 coming tomorrow!
The most reliable way to predict the future is to create it.
#projectsmile



Monday, 27 March 2017

Iceland Day 1: Reykjavik

On Thursday, after a 4am start and a 5am drive to Manchester airport, we arrived in Reykjavik around midday. We caught the bus to the city from Keflavik airport, which cost us 4000 krona for a return ticket (around £30) - this seemed to be the easiest way to get to Reykjavik if you weren't driving.


We couldn't check into our apartment until 2pm, so we decided to find somewhere to eat for lunch. We found the main shopping and restaurant streets of Reykjavik but found that everywhere was really expensive - so we ended up at Dunkin' Donuts, of all places, most likely the least Icelandic place on the whole island. To be fair, the doughnuts were delicious, and I ended up visiting again later over the weekend for another one!


We then checked into our apartment and decided to have a wander around Reykjavik. One thing that really stood out for me was how colourful it was - loads of the buildings had some sort of mural painted onto the side of them, and they were all painted different colours of the rainbow. It seemed like a very cheerful city, and was definitely Instagrammable!


We also found the old harbour area, which had great views over some mountain ranges. There was a big glass building called Harpa, which was a concert hall with some gift shops inside, which we had a look around. The shops in Reykjavik sell some really lovely things, but it is all so expensive. I wanted to buy a pack of cards to play with in the apartment, but the cheapest I found was around 1,000 krona, which is about £7.50. Needless to say, I didn't bother buying any! Everything seemed around two to three times as expensive as the UK; for example, a glass of wine in a bar would set you back around 1,200 krona (around £9). Iceland is definitely not a place to visit if you are feeling really poor. 


We enjoyed looking around some of the quirkier shops, such as the Christmas shop, the viking shop, and the polar bear shop.


We also visited the Hallgrimskirkja church, Iceland's tallest church that can be seen from most areas of the city (which was useful, as we used it as a landmark to help us navigate Reykjavik). It has a really modern and interesting shape, and we were expecting the inside to be really impressive - but it was actually rather plain. One of the girls decided to go up the tower (paying 900 krona), and said that it had great views over Reykjavik and beyond.

Hallgrimskirkja church, Reykjavik, Iceland

As everywhere was so expensive to eat out, we decided to cook for ourselves on the first night. We found a Bonus supermarket, which seemed to be the cheapest in the city, and got some pasta and sauce. This was still more expensive than buying food in a supermarket in the UK, but worked out much cheaper than a meal out.

Stay tuned for day 2 of Iceland tomorrow - which was my favourite day as it was when we visited the Blue Lagoon!
We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.
#projectsmile



Sunday, 26 March 2017

Iceland

This is going to be a very quick post, as I got back from Iceland today and I feel exhausted! I will be doing a full post tomorrow.


The past few days have been so fun, spent exploring Reykjavik and the surrounding areas, including the Blue Lagoon, and eating lots of nice food. We arrived in Iceland at around midday on Thursday, and spent the day getting our bearings and settling into our accommodation.


On Friday we visited the Blue Lagoon and spent around 5 hours there. I think this was definitely my favourite part of the trip, as it was so relaxing and such a surreal experience.


Yesterday was spent in Reykjavik, exploring the shops and the main church, as well as wandering around the harbour area. In the evening we went on a trip to see the northern lights, but unfortunately they didn't show themselves, which was a little disappointing.

I had such a nice few days with a lovely group of friends, and I would definitely go back to Iceland again as there is so much more that I would like to see in the form of waterfalls and glaciers. It is such a magical country with so much to offer for everyone.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Spoilt by Baylis & Harding



As a blogger, I don't really get that much stuff sent to me - mainly because that's not what I'm blogging for. So when I do get something it's always such a lovely surprise, and it feels like a bit of a reward for all of the posts that I write.

I have received products from Baylis & Harding quite a few times before, and they are always so generous. This time they emailed asking whether I would like to try any of their new stuff, and I liked the look of a set of 3 candles so I asked if I could receive them. So when a huge box turned up at my door with Baylis & Harding writing on the sides, I was shocked! When I got into it, I was amazed to find so much stuff in it, and I love it all. I think Baylis & Harding are a very elegant brand and their products really reflect the trends of the moment (i.e. pink and rose gold!).


The one and only set of beauty products that I received this time was their La Maison linen rose and cotton bath set*. This lovely little heart box contains a body cleanser and body lotion, and I think it would make a lovely gift. The La Maison range reminds me of a country cottage, and the smell reminds me of my grandparents' garden. I think I have enough body wash to last me for about 3 years right now...

The only qualm I have with Baylis & Harding packaging is that they put a silver seal over the openings of their products, so you have to peel that off before you can smell what's inside. It just annoys me as I can never get it off and I'm always so impatient to test the product inside - but if you can deal with that, you'll be fine!


Another item from the La Maison range was their linen rose and cotton reed diffuser*. I love a good reed diffuser because the scent lasts for ages and is constant, rather than having to light a candle (I guess it's also much safer!). I didn't open this and put it together today because I want to keep it for my flat that I'll get over the summer - I really want to have a bedroom with hints of pink, so this will fit in perfectly. If it smells anything like the bath products it will be gorgeous!



The next products are all candles, which I was so happy with because Baylis & Harding candles are so beautiful, and my favourite items that they produce. The first one was this gorgeous pink prosecco and cassis cloche candle*. I love that it comes in a glass jar - I don't have any other candles like it and I think it makes it look really elegant and more expensive than it actually is. I actually received some of the pink prosecco and cassis range back in February (review here) and I mentioned that it was my favourite scent of theirs so far - well, this candle is no exception. It has quite a sweet fragrance with a slight hint of berries, and I think it will smell amazing when it's burnt. I also love the packaging of this range, with the pink and rose gold speckles.



This was actually the set of candles that I originally asked for from Baylis & Harding. I love the pink, grey and white colours of the ceramic pots (again, I was thinking that these would work in my new bedroom!), and they all smell slightly very delicate and flowery. The only problem is that one of the candles arrived with a chip in it, but I think I will be able to cover it by putting it at the back.




Although this candle is also from the La Maison range, it is supposed to smell of sea salt and wild mint. It has a very subtle scent, so would be more for people that don't like to be overwhelmed by the scent of candles. But I absolutely love that it is 3 wicks - I think that just makes a candle look so much more expensive and posh than it actually is. Again, this would make a great gift for someone - and the container is white, so it would suit any decor.



I have saved the best until last - I think this is my favourite out of all of the items that I received. Again, a 3 wick candle, which I love. Again, the pink prosecco and cassis candle, which I also love. And it's pink with a silver mirrored inside, which is amazing! This will definitely be going in my bedroom, but I couldn't resist lighting it whilst I was having a bath - and I can confirm that it smells as gorgeous as it looks. Plus it's only £8! I now have three multi-wick candles, so they will be spread out all over my flat.

I've had quite a relaxing afternoon, having a bath and testing out these products, but the rest of the day will be spent packing and driving up north for our flight to Iceland, which is early tomorrow morning. I'm so excited to go! Stay tuned, as I will try to post as much as I can while I'm away - or keep up to date with my Instagram @hannahev19 :)
Sometimes it ends up different, and it is better that way.
#projectsmile