Sunday, January 04, 2004

Once again, Iceland didn't disappoint -- and New Year in Reykjavik reminded me why the country is my favourite in the world.

Amazingly, the weather stayed crisp and clear, although unfortunately too cloudy to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

I can recommend the low-key but clean and efficient Hotel Leifur Eiríksson, right in the heart of 101 Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon (an obvious tourist stop-off but rightly so. Lying in the warm waters watching the stars never fails to disappoint) and a new discovery on this trip -- the Laxnes Horse Farm, in Mosfellsbær, an easy 30 minute drive from Reykjavik; beautiful Icelandic horses and breath-taking scenery.

I'm not sure what it is about Iceland that's so enchanting -- the clear city air? The melodic language, virtually unchanged since the time of the Sagas (although what they're saying is anyone's guess)? I just love the place...if only it weren't so expensive. However, a £5 pint in Reykjavik is worth 3 pints in some dingy London watering hole.

I'm still mystified, though, by the much-vaunted Icelandic nightlife. Yes, there are plenty of fine bars and clubs and it's not difficult to have a great night out along Laugavegur, but even in the early hours of the morning, the city's nightlife is not a patch on other European capitals. Don't believe the hype -- come for the scenery instead.

However, my personal recommendation is the suitably mellow Dillon Bar. Quiet and cosy, with a friendly and chatty clientele and great music it seems to have escaped many of the mainstream guidebooks. It's Reykjavik's Best Kept Secret!

The highlight of the trip was the spontaneous and awe-inspiring New Year fireworks display which turned peaceful Reykjavik into a war zone. Here's a short videoblog of the occasion -- it's 1'21" long and is a 1.5Mb download. As always I've kept it at a relatively low resolution -- if you'd like it at higher res, just drop me an e-mail:

Videoblog: New Year's Eve in Reykjavik (.wmv)

More Icelandic treats tomorrow, but here's one great link I picked up over there...Tonlist, a new website showcasing Icelandic music past and present, which the option to download 25.000 songs (for a fee.) Even so, there are plenty of demos and clips to get a feel for what's happening on the Icelandic music scene.

Iceland's also got a particularly rousing national anthem, which you can download here.


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