this autumn me, my mum and my sister all headed for a family holiday in one of the most unlikely places (..unlikely if you know my mum, and this was her
idea!) the three of us packed our bags and headed north to iceland for a long weekend over thanksgiving. we had a great time - iceland is an amazing country that's unlike any other - we explored, spent time as a family and experienced something different! from there my mum and sister headed home and I headed to the UK for a solo adventure.
we all did a full day of work and met up at the airport for our overnight flight to reykjavik (it's only about a 5 hour flight from toronto to reykjavik - nice and close(ish)) icelandair is a pretty cool airline and I'd definitely fly with them again.DAY ONE: 10 OCTOBER 2014
we arrived in reykjavik veeeery
early in the morning, got to our hotel (we'd actually rented an apartment which worked out SO well because we could make our own meals and as we found out later, iceland is very expensive and not very vege-friendly, so bringing food from home and buying fresh things like bread and cheese was a great idea) my mum and sister wanted a bit of a snooze once we'd checked in so I decided to go on a walk by myself through town. I walked around the old town, got some postcards sent off and familiarised myself with reykjavik. when I got back and the family was up the three of us went on another walk nearby the waterfront, seeing the harpa and then up to the hallgrimskirkja (the massive, modern-looking church in the town centre) and just around town a bit until supper. we had a lovely meal in our apartment and once it was properly dark out we headed to the coast to try and catch the northern lights. we ended up seeing a bit
of northern lights action - there was definitely a bit of green, blue and coral in the sky - but not as magnificent as you'd see on postcards, but definitely still cool!
DAY TWO: 11 OCTOBER 2014
we got up bright and early for our one-day golden circle tour
. the tour started at a greenhouse (iceland doesn't grow much food, but apparently all of its tomatoes are grown in greenhouses) - we learned about how the plants grow and my sister and I shared a really delicious cup of tomato soup amongst the hanging tomato plants! from there we headed to the strokkur geyser, which was amazing to see in person! every so often a huge column of (very hot) water shoots up into the air about 30 meters. we watched it a few times, climbed up some rocks nearby to have a better vantage point of the surrounding area and then had our packed lunch in a pavilion nearby. the geyser was really something cool to behold - unpredictable (though we learned to watch for the signs that it's about to go off), powerful and a really cool feat of nature. from the geyser we moved onto the gullfoss ("golden falls") waterfall which was in a big national park - absolutely stunning! it was a beautiful day - clear, bright, sunny, but a bit cold. we walked around near the waterfall and took in the landscape for a while. the last stop of the day was thingvellir national park where the first icelandic parliament was held at the law rock in the time of the vikings. this park was gorgeous, very picturesque and great for taking photos. in the evening we had supper at "home" and tried to see the northern lights but didn't have a ton of luck (we did
however make a mug of hot chocolate so we were well prepared anyways!)
DAY THREE: 12 OCTOBER 2014
we got to have a bit of a rest and relaxation day - we all slept in a bit and then got ready for our day at the blue lagoon
. it was about a 45-minute drive from our hotel to the lagoon and we had the whole day to spend there. it's a really neat place - there's a huge outdoor natural hot spring that you get to hang out in all day. there's also saunas, steam rooms, mini waterfalls and this "eggy cloud" (steam was coming up out of the water near the back of the pool that smelled particularly sulphurous) there was also this natural silicone clay mask stuff that you could put on your face
or all over your upper body
that K and I took advantage of. the pool itself was fairly hot considering they don't hear the water at all - it's all natural. we had a really fun day lurking about the blue lagoon and when we got back we decided to have our final meal of the trip out so after much searching for a vege-friendly place we decided on chinese and had a yummy meal there before turning in for the night.
DAY FOUR: 13 OCTOBER 2014
we went our separate ways this day; my mum and sister headed home for toronto and I headed to scotland! after a minor heart attack on the way to the airport (my airport pickup never arrived and I was left stranded at like 5:00AM in reykjavik - I eventually made my own way to the airport) I got to glasgow, checked into my beloved easy hotel (this would be the base for a lot of my trip - I checked in and out a few times in between excursions) and set about exploring the city. I'd never been to glasgow before - only ever edinburgh. I walked around a bit, hung out in george square having my lunch and jumped on a hop on-hop off bus tour (NARRATED BY NEIL OLIVER!!!!! I think I squealed a bit when his voice first came on) the tour went through merchant city, glasgow green, the glasgow cathedral and necropolis, the riverside mueseum and glenlee boat. it was a really nice day of sightseeing in the city - I had a quick supper and headed to bed.
DAY FIVE: 14 OCTOBER 2014
I met up with my friend from toronto who now lives in glasgow, amanda! we had a lovely lunch at wagamama (I LOVE wagamama!!), had some pastries from gregg's in george square and took a tour of glasgow city chambers (which is gorgeous
inside! marble everywhere!) we did a bit of shopping and then I headed to the "lighthouse" on my own (not a lighthouse per se, but a really tall building with a 360-degree view of glasgow)
DAY SIX: 15 OCTOBER 2014
I started my three-day tour of the highlands
on day six! I had a really amazing time, it was a small group of me, three girls from burma and an indian gentleman from leicester who'd recently moved to glasgow and our wonderful driver, bobby! we piled into a little mini coach and started off up towards the highlands, stopping in the village of luss on loch lomond and continuing on to glencoe and the great glen. for lunch we moved further north to aonach mor, nearby ben nevis (the tallest mountain in the UK) where I took a gondola and had lunch at the top of the mountain before exploring a bit - it was the perfect
day for it - sunny, warm, clear skies - could not have asked for any better. from there we headed through several glens, all with stunning scenery, and had a photo stop near the five sisters of kintail. it was breathtaking up there - absolutely amazing and rugged and beautiful. our final stop before arriving at the isle of skye was eilean donan castle, which kind of reminded me of casa loma here in toronto. we checked into our hotels in kyleakin and I had supper at the pub before turning in for the night.
DAY SEVEN: 16 OCTOBER 2014
this day we spent exploring the isle of skye - one of the most beautiful islands in the world. we headed north to elgol and took a boat trip near-ish to the inner hebrides - we saw seals and some beautiful landscapes (no dolphins on this trip!) from there our faithful driver, bobby, picked us up and we all headed to portree for lunch (I had a very healthy box of chips and some mushy peas) and a bit of exploring. we continued onto the faerie glen (a curious area where everything looks to be in miniature - small hills, lochs and trees - like a faerie village!) and then onto the skye museum of highland life, which was closed, but is an open-air museum so we got to see a few thatched cottages. we continued onto kilt rock before returning to kyleakin for the night. I had my supper and then had a bit of a walkabout on the island before heading to bed.
DAY EIGHT: 17 OCTOBER 2014
I woke up and had my breakfast in the B&B I was staying at in skye and then we headed back to the mainland with our first stop in beauly where we had time to check out the old priory and buy a picnic lunch for our boat ride later in the day. we drove to loch ness and had some time to explore around urquhart castle before getting on a boat trip through the loch. no nessie sightings, but it was beautiful all the same. next up we headed to inverness and from there went to the culloden battlefield and the clava cairns - an ancient, prehistoric burial ground that stands the same today as it did 4000 years ago! it was in a beautiful park, it was really peaceful and a lovely place to stop and stretch our legs. on the way home we stopped in pitlochry for tea and scones before heading back to glasgow where the tour ended. I had a super amazing time and would 100% recommend doing a tour like this, I absolutely enjoyed every minute. I checked back into the easyhotel and had a yummy curry for supper before walking around sauchiehall street and turning in for the night.
DAY NINE: 18 OCTOBER 2014
I hopped on my train down to liverpool and had a wonderful weekend in one of my favourite northern cities :) it was SUPER hot when I arrived - like, easily 22C. there was a hurricane coming in so the weather was all wonky..I nearly died in my fall coat and scarf and spent most of the day walking around in short sleeves! I did some shopping in liverpool1, walked through the albert docks, up to the liverpool cathedral and cemetery and through china town before meeting up with my friend.
DAY TEN: 19 OCTOBER 2014
milly and I headed to blackpool for the day - about an hour's drive away from liverpool. it was my first time there and it was so cute! we had a
chips lunch by the sea (milly says it's the best fish and chips in the country..it tasted pretty good.) we went for a walk along the seaside, we went up the big ferris wheel and enjoyed the corniness level, which was at an all time high. we headed back to liverpool and called it a day.
DAY ELEVEN: 20 OCTOBER 2014
I had a lazy start to the day and then caught a train up to leeds to visit my dearest friend, atchara!! by the time I got there we did a quick grocery shop, I made food and we just hung out the rest of the evening.DAY TWELVE: 21 OCTOBER 2014
me, atchara and her boyfriend drove over the the trafford centre in manchester for a bit of shopping. it's a strange place because there's different zones (ie, an egyptian zone, an orient zone, etc) and the middle bit where the food court is looks like you're on a cruise ship. bizarre, but cool. in the evening we went to a place in leeds called "little tokyo" for some delicious japanese food.DAY THIRTEEN: 22 OCTOBER 2014
still in leeds, our friend emily came up from warwick to hang out with atchara and me for a bit! we did some shopping and we went for lunch at jamie's italian (YUM!) we ordered nearly everything on the menu and had a great time catching up and scoffing down food
DAY FOURTEEN: 23 OCTOBER 2014
atchara and alex drove me bright and early to the train station and I hopped on a train to stirling, back up in scotland. once there I had a walk around town and also around stirling castle (warwick castle is still my favourite castle!) I walked around stirling town centre for a bit and then headed back to glasgow, checked into my beloved easyhotel, had a final walk around glasgow and supper at wagamama. I turned in for the night and the next day, headed home back to toronto.
overall I had an AMAZING time - I absolutely loved iceland and hanging out with my mum and sister and I really fell in love with scotland (more than I was before) - the landscape is stunning, the people are really lovely and I had a great time. england was wonderful too - it was so great to catch up with my friends :)