* Footnotes | Going to Iceland

As if the original post wasn't long enough, I'm including here some extra material for those interested. Other people's blogs, vlogs, accounts, experiences etc. ad infinitum were pretty useful for us in planning our trip. There's nothing like a first hand account, including the mistakes. But also, there's plenty of stuff that you can't really put into an essay-style post that I wanted to include. 

 

1 What I Read:

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was, Sjon

A book recommended to me by the novelist Iain Reid — this, before he knew I was going to Iceland. It’s a slight, quiet novel; very poetic, very surreal. It tells the story of Mani Steinn, a boy who’s coming-of-age, working as a prostitute, and becoming obsessed with surrealist cinema and a girl called Sola G. It also follows the outbreak of Spanish Flu in Reykjavik and the simultaneous fervour for Icelandic independence. It's one for good representation of queer characters, particularly sex workers, by treating them with agency and empathy. And it's a very quick, luxurious read.

The Blue Fox, Sjon

Bought for me by a friend and fellow bookseller. I enjoyed this one slightly less, but still enjoyed it. It’s a lot closer to poetry that Moonstone and a lot closer to fable. It often came across as quite slapstickish and, like Moonstone, also tries to deal with the ways in which Iceland has often been cruel to those people whom it doesn’t understand. There's a bit of history in there, a bit of myth, a lot of poetry.

The Earthsea Quartet, Ursula Le Guin

Earthsea and Ursula le Guin deserve a blog post in their own right. The quartet is four separate but sequential fantasy novels, that are thoughtful, philosophical and much more concerned with questions of how we should live than with epic quests or mythical beasts. Despite the ethical weight, they’re also just damn good stories. The Tombs of Atuan, the part I read while in Iceland, feels more like a novella. It's about Tenar, a priestess of a disturbing island cult. It's more small-scale than some of the others and way ahead of its time in terms of its nuance. 

White Egrets, Derek Walcott

Excellent, visual poetry — for fans of the best nature poets and for anyone who enjoys careful, considered verse. He died while we were in Iceland.

The Atom Station, Halldor Laxness

Halldor Laxness won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his portrayal of Iceland and his use of the Icelandic language. He’s written many works but I chose The Atom Station for its brevity, and because it sounded like something I would enjoy: it’s a cold war satire and a meditation on class. Quite funny and also thoughtful.

Hannah Read:

2 What We Listened To:

Podcasts:

  • Radiolab
  • No Such Thing as a Fish
  • Hello Internet
  • Cortex
  • Voicemail Poems
  • The Ezra Klein Show
  • Vox's the Weeds
  • I Think You're Interesting
  • Song Exploder
  • 99% Invisible

Audiobooks:

  • The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

Music:

I'll be attaching here a link to the playlist that Hannah made, in due course. Stuck deep in my memory are Bon Iver, PhosphorescentSun Kill MoonJulien BakerTallest Man on EarthLaura StevensonSufjan Stevens

Below is a Google Map of our trip. I've tried to make it as clear and thorough as possible, while also literally mapping the route we took. The best way to look at it is clicking on the top left and then unticking and ticking the various filters. Then, it gives directions by each day, and also each of the stops of the whole trip.

3 The Route:

4 The Photos:

Here's the complete collection (though, slightly edited) of the photos from our road trip in Iceland. The photos were taken by Callum McAllister and Hannah Carter in 2016 on a DSLR camera and an iPhone. These are not intended to be professional; we are amateurs. Though, I think these are quite serviceable. You can also view it outside of this annoying carousel feature here, and by clicking the link below:

5 A Few Travel Tips

As a guide, we used The Rough Guide to Iceland. We had the Lonely Planet as well, but I think the Rough Guide is better for this sort of thing. We were going by region and so it's always useful to see what they think are the best bits, and they're also quite honest about what's not worth seeing. The maps were also helpful. We used Google Maps to travel, using 4G on my phone, and had a Michelin Map, which we used once. 

In terms of companies we used WOW Air, for the flights (they were very cheap - but skimpy on luggage. Beware). We used CampEasy to rent the van and rented the "Easy Small." They were really helpful, didn't fuck us around or charge us for anything they shouldn't have. They picked us up from the bus terminal and dropped us off at our AirBnB before and after the rental. Also, the rental came with a discount for fuel. The car itself is small but perfect for two people, if you're happy to cuddle whoever you're with. The heater is really really good and the battery is never going to run out. I'd recommend getting a Bluetooth radio transmitter for the car just in case, so that you can listen to whatever while driving (as there will be a lot of driving). Download podcasts, audiobooks, whatever before you go. But, if you're going from the UK and happen to be using o2, you can get unlimited 4G for £2 a day, which is actually really worth it. Coverage is pretty good in Iceland. 

We were in Iceland for 11 nights, and got around the island in 9 days. This is doable, but maybe you want to go slightly slower. For example, we spent a long time in the south and north, but not much in the east. And, for obvious reasons, we couldn't go to the West Fjords. We spent 2 days in Reykjavik, and while it's a lovely place, unless you've got money to spend and a car, 2 days is about right. It's quite small. 

For money, we used a currency card. The one we chose was Revolut. It only costs to get a physical card. You can top it up on the spot via an app, and it will always give the best exchange rate on the spot when you use it, and helps you calculate it, and tracks your spending. It's even bloody contactless. It was useful as well in terms of budgeting. We each put the same amount of the card, so when we spent money, if there was a discrepancy we knew who had spent more, and who owed what. The thing to bear in mind though is that the automatic petrol pumps in Iceland will only accept credit cards. We got out cash just in case, but most places in Iceland accept card, so you may never need it. It's also worth knowing that you can't return Icelandic Krona unless it's in 1000kr notes. 

We went in the winter, and there are obviously disadvantages to this. In the summer more things are open, the days are longer, etc. The advantage of going in the winter are (a) if you particularly like the winter (b) the price and (c) things are far less busy. A lot of places we went, we were the only ones there. But plenty of times, we weren't! We still bumped into a lot of tourists, sometimes the same ones, so I can't imagine what it's like in the summer. The price will often be around 50% of what it is in the summer, or at least discounted slightly, from everything to entrance fees, van rental, hotels, Air BnBs. Everything. Because Iceland is really expensive this is something to factor in. April marks the beginning of the on-season, and we went in March. This meant we had 12 hours of daylight, many things were open, and we missed the busy season. Any earlier in the year, it would've been quite dark and quite difficult to do things.