A Surprise Birthday Trip to Iceland – Part 2!

Waking up to this view on your birthday is the best.

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View from our bedroom window at Alda Hotel

I was sad to be leaving Reykjavík behind and our stay at the Alda Hotel in the centre of the city had been great. The rooms were minimalist but full of home comforts, the staff were super friendly and helpful and they had a gorgeous bar area where you could snuggle up by the open fire at the end of the day. The location was also perfect as it was walk able to all the main bars, shops, restaurants, waterfront and bus stop. Everything you could need for your adventure in Iceland.

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After a morning of opening cards, drinking prosecco and enjoying a leisurely breakfast, we decided to take one last walk along the waterfront to take in the views, before getting the bus to the Blue Lagoon.

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Birthday Bubbles!

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Getting the bus is super easy and cheap in Iceland and they all leave from the main bus depot so you don’t have to worry about finding a bus stop.

I was so excited to go to the Blue Lagoon on my birthday, and not only were we going for the afternoon we were also staying the night in their on site hotel. I’m very lucky that Matt actually enjoys visiting spas! I couldn’t wait to get there and see it all in person. Their website looked so sleek and exclusive, I envisioned it being very luxurious and beautiful, especially as it’s one of the 25 wonders of the World.

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The bus dropped us off at the main entrance for the Blue Lagoon, it was busy, very busy! We shouldn’t have been surprised though, as this is probably the most popular tourist spot in Iceland. We thought by arriving at lunchtime things would have calmed down a bit, but that wasn’t the case as it seems people continue to arrive all day.

We made our way to the entrance/ticket area and explained that we were staying at the hotel and asked how we could get there. We were told it was a bit of a walk and so they would get a worker to drop us off in a buggy, great or so we thought. We were made to wait in the tiny entrance area which had a couple of plastic tables and chairs with leaflets about the Blue Lagoon, nothing special or fancy like they had shown on the website, but I still had my high hopes as we hadn’t seen the real thing yet! But we ended up waiting for ages and every time we asked what was happening they would just tell us that someone was coming for us. Wasn’t the best customer service and we were made to feel like it was our fault for not being dropped off at the hotel. Not a great start as we just wanted to be in the Lagoon!

Finally someone collected us in a buggy and took us over to the hotel. Without suitcases we definitely could have walked it but the ground was so uneven (it’s icy lava fields) it would have been a nightmare to drag those along. Feeling a bit happier and that bit closer to the lagoon we made our way to reception for check in. We were greeted with the frostiest receptionist, she didn’t even smile or say anything when I excitedly said we were there for my birthday, it was like she couldn’t care less. It was all very bare and cold and almost felt like a hospital, not a luxurious spa hotel. We saw no other guests and made our way to our room on the ground floor. Again this was very minimalist but we were here for the lagoon and not the room, it’s just a bit odd though when you are used to the homely comforts of spa hotels in the UK, this felt clinical! One positive though was the beautiful views of the surrounding lava fields from our windows and it really did feel like we were the only ones there which I guess is a bonus.

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The lava fields 

I was about to get changed into my swimming costume and robe when I realised that we would have to make our way back over to the Lagoon again! What a palaver. That’s one thing when visiting a spa, I like everything to be under one roof, I hate the one’s where you have to walk outside to get to the spa area or back to your hotel room. It just makes me feel cold and what if it was raining? So we decided to pack our swimming stuff and wear all our layers as remember Iceland is freezing, to walk back over to the main Lagoon, as we didn’t want to risk waiting for a buggy again now we knew where we were going and we had already wasted time.

By staying at the hotel our entry to the Blue Lagoon was already included and we had been given our wristbands for entry. These also acted as a key for our electronic lockers in the changing rooms and you could also use them to buy food and drinks on site. When you leave they scan your wristband and it shows what you owe and you pay for everything then. Pretty clever I thought!

After the adventurous walk, going through the ticket entry system, finding a locker and getting changed, we were finally ready to enter the Blue Lagoon. A geothermal seawater lagoon, featuring three active ingredients, Silica, Algae & Minerals, praised for its numerous benefits and naturally heated to 37-40°C (98-104°F). Bliss!

And bliss it was, all the issues of the day soon melted away and we had a fun, relaxing afternoon. Floating around the huge lagoon, taking in the sights, using the natural blue mud as a face mask and just chilling in this natural wonder. A great place to spend any day but especially a birthday. They even have a bar you can float to!

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We popped back inside the main building to the cafe for a quick bite to eat and afterwards we got to enjoy the lagoon by night, which I think is truly special and something you should definitely do if you are visiting. Most of the day tourists leave by this time, so you get more space to explore. There are coves to find, the waterfall, sauna and steam rooms and even a relaxation area. Matt then told me he had booked us in for an evening water massage, so we had to make our way over to a reserved area, still inside the lagoon.

I had no idea what to expect from an in water massage, having never experienced one before but I was very excited to find out. You lay/float on what looks like a thin yoga mat but you can still feel the warmth of the water beneath you, so you don’t get cold. Occasionally my masseuse would dunk my body (not head) under the water to ensure I was kept warm. Then you are massaged using the Blue Lagoon mineral massage oil for a whole hour. I was laying on my back and that way I got to look up and see all the tiny stars in the clear, black sky above. It was very magical and something I will never forget. The actual massage was great too, just an all round amazing experience.

After feeling thoroughly relaxed we decided to leave the Lagoon and head back to our hotel room, as we had dinner plans that night.

Ladies and gents for that matter, make sure you cover your hair in conditioner before you enter the lagoon otherwise your hair will dry out and be a mess of knots! Especially if you dye/bleach it!

After attempting to sort my hair out. We then got a buggy to Lava Restaurant, which is located back over in the main Blue Lagoon building.

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How cool is this place? It’s built into a lava cliff, with views over the lagoon. As you can see we were pretty much the only people there! Not that we were complaining but it seems that Icelanders don’t eat dinner very late. We found this at every restaurant we visited during our trip, when booking a table for say 8pm they found this very odd and most places actually close quite early, so make sure you check timings when booking or visiting restaurants!

The food here was delicious, beautifully presented and the waiters made a big fuss about it being my birthday. I couldn’t decide between two desserts, so they got the chef to plate both of them on one plate for me, without even asking for it, amazing!

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After an amazing dinner and being the only ones left in the place we decided it was time to head back to our room. But then it hit us, it was pitch black and no buggy available to take us over to the hotel, we would have to walk back by ourselves! We had torches on our phones and there were tiny lights to guide our path, but it took us quite a while to walk the 10 minute usual walk, especially as I was wearing heels! But we finally made it back without any injuries.

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This was our view/path. Very icy!

The next morning we went for breakfast which was inside the hotel, but it was terrible, they say they only serve healthy breakfasts but there were barely any options and in the end we both just had some fruit and left pretty quickly.

Determined to make the most of our last morning in Iceland. We decided to take a dip in the small lagoon pool which was for hotel guests only. This was basically exactly the same as the main Blue Lagoon, just on a much smaller scale and part of the hotel so no walking. It was lovely and very relaxing just floating around all morning. Until sadly we had to quickly change and catch the bus to the airport to fly home.

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I would definitely recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon and Lava Restaurant, but I would only do it as a day trip and continue to stay in Reykjavík. Obviously I am happy we experienced it like we did and we still had a great time, but it was just a shame the hotel was pretty terrible and I felt that the walk between the hotel and Blue Lagoon was pretty unsafe especially at night. I have seen that they are building a new hotel though opening in 2017, so who knows, maybe they will make some good changes?

I absolutely loved my time in Iceland and cannot thank Matt enough for surprising me with the trip.

One day I would love to go back, although Finland might be next on the list for a cold location. I would love to stay in the Ice Hotel and you can try and spot the Northern Lights there too, as that is one thing we didn’t manage to spot in Iceland!

Love, Chloe xx

 

A Surprise Birthday Trip to Iceland – Part 1!

It’s my birthday this week, and as I have been thinking about previous celebrations, I thought I would share with you one of the best, if not THE BEST birthday’s I’ve had.. so far 😉

I had wanted to visit Iceland for as long as I can remember. Not my normal choice of holiday as I’m usually all about the sun, sea, sand, cocktails, you get the picture. But Iceland just looked so beautiful and interesting. I’m also obsessed with spa’s so was dying to float around in the Blue Lagoon and imagined being pulled along by huskies while searching for a hint of the Northern Lights. It all just seemed so magical.

I must of made a million hints to Matt and would always say Iceland as the next place I wanted to visit whenever holidays were discussed with friends. Everyone probably got fed up of me talking about it!

But 2 years ago Matt surprised me and I mean really surprised me. It was a few days before my birthday and we were sat eating dinner like any normal night, when he gave me a postcard where he had written, pack your bags we are off to Iceland in the morning! Excited was an understatement and less than 24 hours later we had landed.

The airport was eerily quiet, the runway had been cleared of snow and when we finally ventured outside we were hit with the ice cold air. On our drive to Reykjavík I thought we had landed on another planet! We were the only car on the roads for miles and the landscape was cratered looking with areas of ice and black volcanic soil dotted around with the view of glaciers or volcanoes in the distance. It really felt like we had landed on Mars or the Moon, but it was stunning and unlike anything I had seen before.

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We were told that 99% of the population live in Urban areas of which 60% live in the capital of Reykjavík which is why so much of Iceland is left in it’s natural beauty.

But this was a birthday trip not a Geography trip so onto the fun stuff!

We checked into Hotel Alda late afternoon, and decided to explore the main streets of Reykjavík, especially as we needed to buy a few more layers or even snow suits as it really was freezing cold!! We walked a long the waterfront and found a lovely and cosy, traditional Icelandic restaurant for dinner.

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You can’t take me anywhere! A slide inside a shop!

 

We had to get up super early the next morning, as we had a full day of exploring to do. Check out the size of the car!

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Check out that view!

We had booked onto a day tour and after a 45 min drive, our first stop was the Þingvellir or Thingvellir National Park. It lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, you can see lots of the large cracks that have been caused by Earthquakes! To its south lies the largest natural lake in Iceland. It was a beautiful, but yet again frosty, way to start the morning and watch the sunrise.

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From here we jumped back into the car to warm up and made our way down the deserted roads to Gullfoss.

Gullfoss which means Golden Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and we could see why, it is absolutely stunning!

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We would have loved to have watched the waterfall for longer but the spray was like ice and along with the bitterly cold winds we couldn’t stay outside for any longer. So as we had some free time in Gullfoss we decided to check out the large shop/cafe/restaurant/visitor centre. It was actually really interesting and nice to grab a bowl of soup and cup of tea to warm up!

I’m sorry to keep going on about the cold weather but seriously if you are planning on visiting Iceland take plenty of layers, sensible shoes (lots of snow, ice, uneven surfaces), hats, gloves, scarfs and if you have them ski jackets or the biggest coats you own. You will need them!

Now as mentioned above one of the things I really wanted to do in Iceland was go dog/husky sledding, but unfortunately we were a little too early in the season and there wasn’t enough snow on the lower ground to do this. However we weren’t sad for long as we were told we could go snowmobiling in the higher glaciers instead.

Feeling both nervous and excited we started the 2 hour drive to Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest glacier. The drive was an experience in itself as we started the journey in our tour jeep which slowly made it’s way up the mountains, the roads getting icier, the drops getting higher until we weren’t allowed to drive any more and so we all had to get into a new vehicle. Imagine a cross between a snowplough and a hummer. It was huge and could basically drive through any amount of snow or ice, the journey was a super bumpy one and we had some dicey moments but we finally made it to the glacier and witnessed some incredible views.

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We were given snowsuits and helmets to wear and then we were off on our one hour snowmobile adventure over the glaciers.

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The snow was pretty deep and I may of fallen flat on my face in front of the whole group, oops!

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Beautiful sunset in the snow

The hour flew by but it was so much fun and as the sun was starting to set we got back into our jeep ready for the final stop of the tour, the geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir has been mostly inactive for many years, Strokkur however continues to erupt every 5–10 minutes. It was fun to watch and wait, trying to guess when it would erupt and then making me jump every time it did!

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Rudolph noses! 

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Matt getting up close 

I couldn’t get over how beautiful the sky was! Just stunning.

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After a nice hot shower back at the hotel to warm up, we had another evening in Reykjavík and found a more modern restaurant for dinner, which did the best cocktails!

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Finishing the night with a walk to Hallgrímskirkja (church of Hallgrímur). It is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in Iceland and is beautifully Gothic looking.

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A beautiful end to our time in Reykjavík.

Love Chloe xx

21st Birthday Celebrations!!

I remember my 21st like it was yesterday..I loved fancy dress so chose a cops and robbers theme, I gathered all my best friends together, made them dress up in ridiculous outfits and headed into town for a night of shots, dancing and random games of limbo.. But *cough* enough of my reminiscing, this weekend was all about Hattie’s 21st Birthday Shenanigans….

Hattie’s birthday was actually nearly 2 weeks ago now, but inconveniently our boyfriends were playing a very important, last game of the season, game of rugby that day! So she politely changed her birthday plans to last weekend. I think I would have made more of a fuss! 😉

We did go to said rugby game though and made sure that everyone knew it was Hattie’s birthday, after all you’re only 21 once!

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^^ This was us driving to the match. Hattie is of course wearing the biggest badge we could find her and the inflatable crown meant for a child we managed to clip to her head, after many trials of it falling off. Doesn’t she look great? The Birthday Princess ❤

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^^ Post match, unfortunately the sun had decided to hide by this point!

We did manage to give Hattie a fun day though, despite the full day of rugby! We started off with a very sophisticated brunch, where we decorated the table with balloons and handed out presents. We then travelled about an hour away to the game and sang along to the amazing mega mix that Em had put together (think Britney, Backstreet Boys, 5ive you get the picture) The match itself was pretty exciting and made all the better when a cocktail van pulled up!! Yes a cocktail van!! They did the best apple pie cocktail which tasted just like the real thing with the added punch of vodka, yummy! After the game (our boys won FYI ha) we travelled home, indulged in a very large Chinese take away, cracked open a bottle of prosseco and then were just about to put a film on and chill, when Matt kindly decided to bring the after party back to ours! Needless to say it was a late one 😉

Now some of you might think that that was enough for a birthday.. but it isn’t really… is it? Especially for a 21st! So last Saturday we did it all again, just with better outfits and more booze!

The afternoon consisted of a BBQ at Hattie’s house, complete with what seemed like an unlimited supply of prosseco, a big chocolate fountain with an array of things to dip plus the huge BBQ and fire pit- well this is the British summertime we need as much help with the weather as we can get! We drank, we ate, we laughed, we gossiped and we also had the unexpected surprise of a magician (who might I add was realllyyyy good!!) Time really does fly when your having fun and before we knew it, it was time to pop home and glam up for the night ahead.

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^^ Finally glam, dancing shoes on and we were ready to party the night away

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^^ Birthday Girl Hattie in her amazing red dress!

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^^ Em enjoying her Pornstar Martini (Which were delicious)

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^^ and then things start to get a little messy when the shots come out to play. Yes that is me, being a bad influence to my friend Kitty who REALLY didn’t want a shot. Oops 😉

I think we were all a little bit too tipsy to remember to take any more photos of the night, but from what I do remember it was A LOT of fun! and I hope Hattie had a 21st Birthday to remember or not remember 😉 as the case may have been the next morning!

So here’s to the next one.. well birthday that is, we’re all a little past 21 now aren’t we ladies! :-p

Love, Chloe xx