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Iceland, Travel

11 fun, free things to do in Reykjavik

March 14, 2017

11 fun and free things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland

It’s true; Reykjavik is an expensive city (especially if you’re British because the exchange rate is so bad for us). Luckily, there are plenty of free things you can do while exploring Iceland’s capital city.

 

Reykjavik street art magic rainbow unicorn

Admire some weird and wonderful street art [Read: 10 pieces of Reykjavik street art you need to see & where to find it]

Reykjavik has a reputation for it’s street art. It’s plentiful and it is all kinds of weird and beautiful.

You really don’t have to look far to find it either because you’ll find some of it adorning shop fronts down Laugavegur, you’ll catch glimpses of it down side streets, and if you go wandering you’ll find it decorating neighbourhoods.

Reykjavik street art I miss you, I miss the smell of your hair

My personal favourite was this really simple but powerful piece. I saw it and these whole waves of the feels hit me.

 

 

Reykjavik Harpa

See the city from Harpa

Impossible to miss, Harpa is Reykjavik’s concert and exhibition hall. While the events are ticketed, anyone can wander into the building, and up the stairs to see the city from a height.

The building itself is really pretty, with oddly shaped windows, some of which are tinted, which make for a nice pattern against the city.

 

Reykjavik sea wall at sunrise

Walk along the sea wall

Once you’ve visited Harpa, take a left out of the building and walk along the seawall where you can let the crisp air hit your face and take in views of Mount Esja.

 

 

Sun voyager, Reykjavik

Photograph sun voyager

This sculpture on the seawall is one of the most touristy spots in the city. I mean, it’s easy to see why; it’s a beautiful sculpture depicting a ship with the sea and Mt Esja in the background. And if you go down at sunrise or sunset, your bound to get a brilliant photo. Though you might have to wait your turn because everyone wants a photo in front of it.

 

Reykjavik walking tour Tjornin

Take a free walking tour [Read: Discover Reykjavik on a free walking tour from CityWalks]

CityWalks offer a very popular two-hour walking tour around Reykjavik, covering the history of the city and the Icelandic culture. From personal experience I can tell you that this tour is absolutely worth it and is a brilliant way to see and learn about the city.

This tour is listed as free, as it doesn’t have any kind of ticket price, and you basically pay what you think the tour is worth. Technically, it’s free as you don’t have to pay your guide anything. But if you do pay your guide, it’s probably one of the cheapest activities you can do in Reykjavik and is certainly worth it.

 

Reykjavik snowy Tjornin

Stroll around Tjornin

Tjornin is the park next to city hall, where you can take a nice leisurely stroll around a lake and enjoy looking at the nice neighbourhoods around it.

 

Map of Iceland in Reykjavik city hall

Get up close with Iceland…and a vagina?

Ok, so I’m going to start on the one that caught your attention here; the vagina. So, Iceland’s mayor decided that the best way to celebrate 100 years of women being allowed to vote in Iceland was to unveil some artwork depicting a vagina. It’s not immensely obscene and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have realised what it was had I not been told.

I mean, I kinda see the major’s idea; people don’t say the word ‘vagina’ all that often and look you’ve read it four times in the last minute! On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like the most progressive way to stop sexism but Reykajvik does also have a penis museum, so I guess it balances out. Plus, it is a very liberal city.

Once you’ve gotten over that, take a look at the huge 3D map of Iceland.

 

Get a panoramic view at the Perlan

The viewing deck of the Perlan offers 360 degree views of the surrounding area, making it a perfect place to get a really good view of the city. (The best place is probably Hallgrimskirkja right in the city, but that’s not free.) It’s completely free to get to the viewing deck, but there is a restaurant and a cafe if you fancy a bite to eat.

 

Reykjavik Hallgrimskirkja

Admire Hallgrimskirkja

While it will cost you to get up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja, walking around it and admiring the church is completely free. You can also go inside the church for free. If you do want to get up to the top, get there early or prepare to queue.

 

Seeing the northern lights in Reykjavik

See the northern lights

If the conditions are right, it’s possible to see lady aurora from the city. We headed down to the sea wall on a clear night, when good solar activity was forecast (you’ll find the aurora forecast website handy), and we were rewarded with a patch of green in the sky.

It was hard to spot at first, and to begin with I wasn’t sure if it was a cloud and my brain was playing tricks on me and turning it green. But no. The green got stronger and we saw it for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I had broken my tri-pod the day before so my photos were not great (as you can see).

When it comes to the lights, it really is about having the perfect weather conditions, especially if you’re in a city where light pollution can make them even harder to see.

If you’re a keen photographer and want to head out of the city on a trip to see the lights, I cannot recommend Arctic Shots enough & you can read about my experience on their northern lights tour here.

 

Spot the Yule Lads

If you’re visiting Reykjavik during the festive period, make sure to keep your eye out for the Yule Lads being projected onto buildings.

The Yule Lads are part of Icelandic folklore. There are 13 of them and 13 days before Christmas, one comes into town each night.

Over Christmas, the Yule Lads can be seen projected onto buildings, which makes a pretty fun kinda treasure hunt; especially if you’ve got kids.

 

Would you add anything else to the list?

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Iceland, Photography, Travel

Discover Reykjavik with a free walking tour from CityWalks

January 31, 2017

domkirkjan church reykjavik

One of the best ways to find out about a destination is to speak with the locals; and that’s exactly what happens on CityWalks’ free walking tour of Reykjavik.

While my Mum and I were researching what to do in Reykjavik, we came across CityWalks on TripAdvisor. With so many rave reviews, it looked like a great way to explore the city and figure out what else we wanted to do while we were there.

Iceland's parliament building in Reykjavik

We met our guide Sara, a history graduate and local teacher, outside the parliament building; which, by the way, looks very understated in comparison to parliament buildings in other countries. With it being so early, and so cold, we didn’t really expect many other people to be on the tour with us, but there must have been about 25 people. Despite that, we had no problem hearing what Sara was saying and our experience wasn’t at all affected by it being a larger group of people than we expected.

While the snow fell outside the parliament building, Sara told us about the relationship between the Icelandic government and the Icelandic people, and it sounds like a pretty good one. When they were unhappy that their president was involved in the Panama Papers, they protested outside parliament and he stepped down. When Icelandic bankers were naughty in 2008 and fudged stuff up for everyone, Icelanders took to the square with pots and pans, and made a racket. And do you know what? It worked; they held bankers accountable and jailed them.

Tjornin, Reykjavik

From there, we headed to Tjornin, a popular park in the centre of Reykjavik. Thankfully, Tjornin is right next to the Town Hall, which provided us with some much needed warmth for a few minutes.

A yellow house in Reykjavik

Houses in Reykjavik

An elf rock in Reykjavik

Sara took us for a wander through some of Reykjavik’s prettiest neighbourhoods and explained a little about elves. In Iceland, some people believe in elves and being the nice, friendly country Iceland is, people accept and respect the wishes of elves.

When construction was being carried out in a neighbourhood, they came across a rock (yep, it’s that rock in the photo above – doesn’t look that big, huh?) that couldn’t be moved and all the machinery broke. There was no physical reason that they were unable to move the rock, so they decided it was an elf rock and that they needed to respect the elves wishes, and simple moved the construction project somewhere else. How nice!

A street in Reykjavik

Our tour covered other things such as their love for hot dogs, and how much natural energy the country has. Studies have found that even if there were 2 million people living in Iceland (there are around 323,000), they have enough resources for free heating indefinitely. Unfortunately I can’t actually find the source of that comment, but as an environment science fan I got so excited by the mere thought of it.

Harpa, Reykjavik, in a snowstorm

The windows in Harpa, Reykjavik

View over Reykjavik from Harpa

Typical to Icelandic weather, we got caught in a very sudden snowstorm and rushed to Harpa, their concert hall, for warmth. There, Sara continued to tell us about what it’s like to live in Iceland, and it sounds wonderful.

Iceland is a very progressive, welcoming, and open society. They have no military presence, are impartial, and no longer have foreign military bases on their island, as they believed it hypocritical to their peaceful nature. Higher education is very accessible, they seem to have a pretty decent healthcare system, your nationality, religion, or sexual preference doesn’t matter, and there’s a website to find out if you slept with a relative the night before as the population is so small. What more do you even want from a country? In short, Iceland is probably what most people would like their own country to be more like.

If you’re headed to Reykjavik and want to get your trip off to the best start, I cannot recommend CityWalks enough. Though the tour is advertised as free, you can obviously tip the guides. They do also do some other tours, which are paid for; you can find out about those on their website.

Have you ever been on a walking tour?

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Exploring Reykjavik with CityWalks free walking tour

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Iceland, Travel

10 pieces of Reykjavik’s street art you need to see & where to find it

January 12, 2017

10 pieces of Reykjavik street art you need to see and where to find it

Reykjavik might not be the kind of city you’d associated with a big street art scene, but you cannot miss the colourful, and slightly bizarre, pieces plastered on shop fronts, peeking out from alleyways, and on the pavement.

This post is by no means an extensive list at all; it’s just the coolest stuff I saw that I think you should see too. I Heart Reykjavik lists some other great pieces.

According to Iceland Review, graffiti on public property is considered vandalism and is, as such, forbidden. Howe

Magical intergalactic rainbow unicorn

There is no better way to start any list of any kind than with an intergalactic rainbow unicorn, and my Mum is sure some kind of Davie Bowie reference needs to be added to that description too. We spotted this near Reykjavik’s city hall.

Where to see it: Near city hall, down Sudurgata. The exact location is here, and it’s the green building on Google Maps.

 

Reykjavik street art

Where to find them: You will spot the Reykjavik Design March piece on the end of a building on Vonarstraeti, and then the stamp piece will be right in front of you then; you can actually see that one on Google Maps too.

Godzilla and Bender attack Reykjavik

King Kong Reykjavik

Ok, so maybe this piece is my joint favourite. If Godzilla attacking Reykjavik isn’t cool enough on it’s own, Futurama’s Bender is also at it. And King Kong is just chilling round the corner.

Where to see it: About half way up Laugavegur; you can’t miss it.

 

Isey, Reykjavik

And while you’re searching for Godzilla and Bender, there’s no way you can miss Isey all painted pretty.

Where to see it: Isey on Laugavegur.

 

I love the detail and vastness of this piece. There’s just so much to look at, and I’m not entirely sure “what the message is”, but I like it.

Where to see it: Down Freyjugata. This is the exact location, but on Google Maps the building is blue and covered in ‘standard’ graffiti.

We won't be like them Reykjavik

I miss the smell of your hair reykjavik

This one really got to me. It’s just the simplicity of it; when I read it I could just feel someone’s longing, and since I wasn’t there with Daz and missed him, it got to me.

Where to see it: These are just a little down the road from the piece above, and on the end of a building that goes down the Valastigur alley. Again, this is the exact location but Google Maps is out of date. If you walk a few more metres down Valastigur, you’ll see a couple more pieces.

Wild Welva Reykjavik

I was really taken aback when I saw this piece; it’s just so detailed, and it reminded me of Rafiki from The Lion King. When I got home and did some research, the detail made sense. This piece was created by Wild Welva, a Spanish street artist, who first creates his work on paper and then pastes them onto walls. You can find out more about his work on his Facebook page

Where to see it: Keep going down from the magic hand piece towards Tjornin and you will come across this on the side of a building. This is the exact location, but the wall is just white on Maps.

Marley Coffee Reykjavik

Where to see it: Marley Coffee on the corner of Grettisgata.

Where’s the best street art you’ve seen?

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Life

Share the love – July 2017

August 3, 2017

Share The Love July 2017 collage

I really missed not writing a Share The Love post at the end of June, but I was jetlagged and unhappy about being back in England so, I’m sure you can forgive me.

July seems to have whizzed by and at times I’m left wondering whether it was only last month that we were chilling by lakes in Canada. I got confirmation that I am now the proud owner of a BSc (Hons) first class in Forensic Science, *does a little happy dance*. I’m pretty proud of myself for that one. A couple of weeks after we got back from Canada, we spent a few days in Edinburgh, searching for places to live and Daz got himself a job!

Last Monday, my friends from work threw me a surprise leaving party, which was so sweet and I really didn’t know what to say. I was lost for words. We had a brilliant night, played Cards Against Humanity, and ate some delicious brownies one of my friends made, and it was wonderful. I truly am going to miss them so much; I think I might leak from the eyes on my last shift, which will be terribly undignified because I ugly cry.

I’ve also finally plucked up the courage to begin editing our photos from Canada and I immediately realised I was not strong enough because I WANNA GO BACK RIGHT NOW. I’m not going to lie, I fall in love with a lot of places I visit (for a while I was seriously going to Sweden to do a masters, but money) but Canada is like nothing else; it felt like home straight away and England doesn’t entirely feel like home now.

 

BLOG – Hopscotch The Globe

This is one of my favourite travel blogs and YouTube channels. Kristen and Siya are an adventuring couple who produce some of the best travel videos and blogs I’ve seen, and what I think makes them even better is how friendly and chilled out they come across. It feels like you’re listening to friends when you watch their videos. 

Last year, they brought an Airstream and started renovating it. I’ve been eagerly following their progress videos and they finally revealed their incredibly beautiful and spacious looking Airstream in July. I challenge you to watch it and tell me you don’t want to live in an Airstream right away, because I do. I want to move to Canada, renovate an Airstream and explore Canada, and wake up to new forests and mountain views whenever I fancy it.

 

LINKS

 

LISTENING TO

July was an amazing month for new music. While Daz is slowly being subjected to a little less Paramore than in June, it’s still popping up in my playlist a lot. Also popping up is new music from:

  • Kesha; damn, can we talk about how amazing Rainbow is going to be? She has released three singles off her upcoming album and they are all incredible. Take a listen to them here: Praying | Woman | Learn To Let Go
  • LIGHTS; Skydiving is so darn catchy.
  • While we’re talking about eagerly anticipating, I couldn’t not mention that SHANIA TWAIN IS RELEASING A NEW ALBUM IN SEPTEMBER. I cannot wait. I grew up on her music and I cannot wait to hear Now.

I also got into two podcasts this month:

  • Estee Lalonde released the pilot episode of her podcast, The Heart Of It. In the pilot, Estee spoke about protests and I absolutely loved it. I’ve watched her videos for years and her tone of voice is really similar to how she is in her blog and videos, only she gets into important topics.
  • I finally got around to watching Anna and Lily’s podcast, At Home With and it was just so easy to sit down and relax to.

 

WATCHING

All I need to say here is that Game of Thrones is back.

 

POPULAR POSTS ON GIRL IN AWE

 

Now I want to hear about your favourite things from July; send me all the links!

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Share The Love

Share The Love – May 2017 edition

June 1, 2017

Share The Love May 2017 edition

At the start of May, I remember saying April felt like a long month but May has flown by and here we are with our feet planted firmly in June.

I sat my last undergraduate exam a couple of weeks ago and I’m now obsessively refreshing my university app for any sign of results; I tell you what I will be glad to be in Canada soon with no internet connection the majority of the time so I can break this darn cycle. Since finishing university, I’ve been working full time to save some pennies up for this expensive summer we’ve got coming up, and starting to sort through things we’re not going to take with us when we move.

My two best friends and I went to see Twin Atlantic in Coventry, which was brilliant. Their Radio 1 Big Weekend set is well worth a watch. I want a Glaswegian accent so bad. Days later, the horrific attack was carried out in Manchester as happy kids and young people left an Ariana Grande concert. Anyone who has been to a gig knows what it’s like to leave a venue feeling so excited, and to have that moment of elation shattered in such a brutal way is evil. It’s not just in the UK that innocent lives have been lost in the last week, an attack in Baghdad left 27 dead (at the time of writing). I am so sick of innocent lives being lost. No, the western world is not perfect and we have caused chaos and the deaths of innocent people and walked away from a mess we created for it to bite us in the ass. I’m just so tired of hearing about lives lost, it needs to end.

 

BLOG – GO LIVE EXPLORE

I discovered Go Live Explore a couple of months back while doing some research for what to do in Victoria and Vancouver and completely fell in love with Alicia’s blog. Her photos give me serious wanderlust, she’s got great tips for travel, fitness, and life in general. She’s also kinda living my dream a little bit because she’s a Brit who moved to Canada. She’s also completely lovely, so go get addicted to her blog.

 

LINKS

What diving in the Maldives taught us about climate change and the global ocean crisis – Airplanes & Avocados | If you read one blog post off this list, make it this one.

Thoughts on magazines – The Lilac Linnet | A lot of women’s magazines claim to support and empower women but that’s a bit of a slap in the face when you read that across the page from adverts subtly telling us we’re not good enough.

On ethical living and feeling overwhelmed – Not So Quiet Grrl | As someone who begun delving into ethical living at the start of the year, I can completely agree that it feels so overwhelming sometimes, but it is worth it.

Dark chocolate snack bites – Go Live Explore | This is what I was on about when I was fangirling about Go Live Explore up top. So good.

My top 5 zero waste shower essentials – Going Zero Waste | A handful of places to start when switching to a zero waste bathroom.

How to survive Europe on a vegan, gluten-free diet – Hopscotch The Globe | A few tips to make travel easier if you’ve got dietary restrictions.

5 steps to make a change and live your dream – Go Live Explore | Quit putting it off, and go for it because you can do it.

 

LISTENING TO

I have pretty much exclusively spent the month listening to Paramore’s new album, After Laughter. Fake Happy, Idle Worship and Rose-Coloured Boy are my absolute favourites. I get the feeling Daz is going to be so sick of hearing them soon.

 

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How was May for you?

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Travel

Why I fall in love with places; what about you?

April 4, 2017

Walking through Gamla Stan, Stockholm

Photo taken in Gamla Stan, Stockholm

Sure, some places are awe-inspiring but I fall for the feeling, the possibilities and all the little things about a place.

My Mum would tell any one of you right now that I fall hard for places. Everywhere I go, I seem to fall for it and I’m plotting ways to get back there before I’ve even got on the flight home. It’s what I do.

I have lived in the same town all my life so when I visit somewhere new I can’t help but wonder what it might be like to live there. How it might feel to have mundane stuff to do, like visiting the post office or going food shopping, in places like Reykjavik, San Francisco, Banff, Stockholm. How it might feel to be going out for pizza and looking a little to your left and seeing mountains tower over you (that happened in Banff and it felt goooood). What it might be like to immerse yourself in a new language. How awesome it would feel to wake up and see a few feet of snow outside and know you’re probably stuck at home today. What it would be like to take the dog for a walk and see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance (I did that too, it was seriously cool).

I suspect this is one of the reasons that I’m beginning to shy away from hotels and prefer things like camping or Air BnB because I think it gives you a slightly less touristy outlook on your trip. If you’re staying in an Air BnB you can stay in a residential area and find out what it’s like to get into the city, and maybe pretend for a minute that you’re a local. Or if you’re camping you need to find a grocery store to stock up. It’s not that I think there is anything bad about being a tourist at all but I definitely like to try and get a feel for what a place is like if you are a local.

When I went to San Francisco last year I stayed with a friend and it was easily the best experience I have ever had in terms of seeing somewhere as a local. We went into Oakland on a Friday night when they had an art festival on and went to this amazing little cinema with sofas and food delivered to your seat, and it was incredible. We stopped by one of her favourite Mexican food places and coffee spots, and I walked to hers from the BART station feeling the warm evening air. Yes, we did the touristy things too but those little things allowed me to pretend to be a local for a few days. 

While I do like to go sightseeing and exploring, the things I remember first are always the feelings:

  • The feeling of calm or that nothing else matters in Canada; it was long a really nice exhale that instantly relaxes you.
  • The chilled out, welcoming “everyone is equal” feel of Reykjavik.
  • The diversity and acceptance in California.
  • The friendliness of the locals in Ireland.
  • The unsurprising go-go-go atmosphere in New York.

Why do you fall in love with places?

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Life, Share The Love

Share The Love | February 2017 edition

March 9, 2017

Share The Love February 2017 edition

I’m a week late, sorry! Last week I was so wrapped up in writing a huge chunk of my dissertation that the week flew by and I completely forgot to finish this post off.

University work was the overwhelming theme for February really; I’ve finished my practical work off now so it’s just a case of the write up now. Is it really sad to admit that I have looked forward to writing my dissertation for so long? The great thing about doing NaNoWriMo for the past few years is that 10,000 words is absolutely nothing at all in comparison to writing 50,000 in a month.

It wasn’t all university work though, I managed to find a fairly good work/life balance for most of the month, which was nice. I took a trip to the Natural History Museum with university, and it took me all of 10 seconds to remember why I hate busy cities. February also saw Pancake Day and Daz made some delicious and excellent pancakes, and I discovered I am not a very good tosser; at least that’s what my Nan told me anyway.

Pokemon Go also released Gen 2 pokemon in February, so Daz and I have been getting out a bit more trying to hunt down some Gen 2 that isn’t Swinub (our town is just Swinub and Drowzees…), and I’ve been trying to catch some things he doesn’t have (which is hard, because he plays it all the time) to try and make myself feel marginally better about the fact he is way ahead of me.

 

BLOG: Brittany Thiessen

I discovered Britanny’s blog just before Christmas and every time I see one of her posts, I know I’m in for a good read that’s going to leave me full of wanderlust. As a Canadian, she’s got a lot of posts about Canada (which I love!), she’s currently documenting her trip to Guatemala (and now I want to go), and she also talks about veganism, and traveling and living sustainably. One of my favourite blog posts she’s written recently is about what she’s learned after eating vegan for a month.

If you want to read a travel and sustainability blog, you really can’t go wrong with Brittany’s blog.

 

BLOG POSTS

As always, I like to share a handful of blog posts I’ve read during the month that I really enjoyed.

 

LISTENING TO

I created a new playlist in February, so it’s been a mixture of Green Day, All Time Low, Paramore, old school Avril Lavigne, PVRIS, Fall Out Boy, oh and Lorde’s new single. I’ve obviously heard music from her first album but it didn’t ever hook me, but I am loving Green Light; I suspect it’s because of the quite clear T-Swift 1989 vibes.

 

WATCHING / PLAYING

In February we started watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, and watched a lot of Pokemon. We’ve also got a serious problem with the LEGO games and I’m hooked on LEGO Jurassic Park at the moment.

 

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How was February for you? What have you been up to lately?

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Life, Travel

I cannot deal with big cities

February 23, 2017

Natural History Museum London

Last week, I went down to London with my university for a trip to the Natural History Museum and was quickly reminded why I do not like London; it. is. too. busy.

That’s not to say I’m not a city person at all because I’ve visited and loved some beautiful cities, like Edinburgh, Reykjavik, and Stockholm. What I can’t deal with is cities with people everywhere.

Honestly, we got off the coach and in approximately 10 seconds there were far too many people for my liking. I hate that feeling of being surrounded by people and having to bustle your way through crowds, and get touched by strangers, eww. That’s not my thing at all and makes me feel claustrophobic and a bit panicky.

Cities I do like feel kinda half empty. They might be geographically big or small, but you can walk down the street without walking into people and can easily stop and take in your surroundings, without feeling like you’re in someone’s way.

A good rule of thumb for me is kinda like how teachers used to tell you to space out during PE lessons in primary school; if you hold your arms out and you’re touching someone, you’re too close. If I can (mentally, obviously because actually doing it would look weird…) put my arms out and not hit a stranger, we’re good; there’s enough room here and I’ll like it.

Ideally, I would move to the edge of a lake, at the foot of a mountain, and live in a cabin with my only neighbours being deer, moose, and the odd bear. I know, I might have to forgo Domino’s delivery, but I think I could deal with that.

What about you? Do you like busy cities?

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