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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

My ticket to Iceland is booked

After weeks of waiting for my boss to get back to me, due to the fact that we both work such different hours, and also that one of my colleagues wanted the same dates as I did, I have finally confirmed my holiday dates for Iceland - as far as my boss is concerned, 5th to 18th July. I will in fact be flying a day earlier than that, on Sunday 4th, but as I finish work at 2pm and the flight is not until 7.45pm I did not need to take this day off. It would have been better perhaps to have travelled on the Monday instead, as the flight times are a little more reasonable being during the day time, and it will be a bit of a rush, leaving for the airport just 2 or so hours after finishing work, but the prices were so vastly different (£230 to fly on the Monday, as opposed to £67 for Sunday) that I really had very little choice. I do not have that high an income, and it is important that I keep the costs down as much as I can.

So, now I have booked the ticket, the rest can be done in dribs and drabs over the next few months. The first thing I will have to decide is where to stay - probably youth hostels. I will then need to become a member, as members receive a hefty discount. There are 2 hostels in Reykjavik to choose from - one which is 2 kms out of town, and a new one which opened last year and is right in the centre of downtown. This is smaller with more beds per room, and quite bit more expensive, but it seems to have the same facilities as its larger counterpart across the town, in a much more convenient location, right near the harbour, so I may plump for this one. In the smaller communities that I hope to visit, there is no choice - the Westman Islands has just one hostel, and in Skaftafell it is choice between camping or sleeping bag accommodation in the local farmhouse. I guess then I shall be taking a sleeping bag (without the tent).

Once the accommodation is booked I can then worry about buses and domestic flights. Day tours can be booked on arrival (the travel agency that has a desk in both Reykjavik hostels offers a discount, so it is in my interests to wait). I would rather though book buses to the different places in which I hope to stay though than turn up on spec and hope. I just prefer it that way, it gives me peace of mind. So, I hope to visit both the Westman Islands and Skaftafell National Park. The Westman Islands I have been to before, twice in fact, but I have not been to Skaftafell, I have passed through en route to other towns further along the coast. The Park which is Iceland's biggest, is situated in the south eastern corner fringed by the Sandur, a large expanse of black and desolate volcanic sands from the nearby volcanoes, and boasts some of Iceland's finest scenery with hours of walking.

In the past when I have visited I have tended to do a lot of guided bus tours and so on, but this time, after so many years of visiting Lundy and doing my own thing, I feel that I really need my own space and the freedom to set my own pace. So, when I realised that I had a choice between Skaftafell and Myvatn in the north, which is also renowned for its beauty and bird life, but nevertheless a tourist trap in the height of summer, and Skaftafell where I can walk by myself for hours at a time, it had to be Skaftafell. I hope to spend three days there, two for walking by myself and exploring the different trails and paths (I will have to buy a good map) and one for visiting the Laki craters. I will travel one way by coastal bus and the other way by mountain bus via Landmannalaugar for a soak in the famous hot springs. I did toy with the idea of staying overnight at Landmannalaugar, but you have to know your own limitations, and so I reluctantly decided against this - maybe some other time.

I am sure this will be the sixth of many more visits to come.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

A change is as good as a rest

It has been a month since I wrote this blog, and the time seems to have passed in a haze - a haze of work, snow and more work. Since my recovery from the bug that swept through the home in which I work, it has been pretty much non stop. One of my colleagues has slipped a disc, she supposedly bent over at home to pick something up and her back just went - I suppose that can happen, so for the past three weeks it has been all hands on deck, and I have been doing more than twice my normal hours. My colleague has been signed off for another four weeks - starting as from Monday just gone (I have this week off, thank goodness), and I am not sure what I will do after next week, as this clashes with the exams that I have been booked to invigilate. I suppose I will have to be ruthless and work out who pays the most - I suspect that will be the nursing home (the hourly rate may be less, but they can offer me more and regular hours instead of an hour here and an hour there with large gaps in between). As long as I get reasonable time off in between that is all that matters.

I had been hoping to have been able to book my air ticket to Iceland during this week, but I will have to wait until I am back at work on Monday, as one of the other housekeepers wants the same dates that I do. We work different hours - she during the day and I mostly in the evenings, but I may be needed (provided again there are no exams) to cover her hours, so I shall have to discuss it with the boss. There will be still be tickets left, but I just wanted to get it out of the way, as it won't seem real until I have booked that ticket. I will book the rest - accommodation in the various places I plan to visit, buses, domestic air travel and so on in dribs and drabs so as to spread the cost. Most of the timetables are now available online, and the Internet makes it easy to book and plan such things. There will be one phone call I need to make - to a farmhouse where I hope to stay in Skaftafell National Park - it is in fact the only accommodation available for those without cars, apart from a tent that it, and I don't fancy camping. Been there, done that.

So, it has been a nice rest from work for a week, catching up with all those things that have been neglected - sorting out bank accounts, business accounts, cleaning the house and going to the gym. Coran and I are off to Stone Henge in a little while to stay overnight at the Travelodge. We hope to go to Avebury tomorrow, which is quite close by, apparently the National Trust have a very good vegetarian restaurant there - their only own, so that will be a treat (I just hope it isn't full of wheat and cheese). In typical style it is peeing down with rain, but we have waterproofs and walking boots and are intrepid souls, who won't let a bit of water put us off. Hopefully it will put off the coachloads of tourists, and it will be blissfully quiet. It is a shame it is just for the one night, but sometimes that is all you need. I am sure it will be a nice relaxing break, and you know what they say - a change is a good as a rest.