"Few people take an interest in Iceland, but in those few the interest is passionate"  W H Auden We've recen...

"Few people take an interest in Iceland, but in those few the interest is passionate" 
W H Auden

We've recently got back from an amazing trip to Iceland and I wanted to share some of the highlights - top tourist spots, bars, restaurants and other cool things to do.

The main purpose of our holiday was to see the Northern Lights so anything else was just a bonus really and planned a bit last minute if I'm honest. In the end we booked our trips with local  tour companies and didn't hire a car as I had read that in the winter the driving conditions can be a bit treacherous. As it turned out, this winter in Iceland is the mildest winter in about 170 years so the roads were completely snow and ice free and we would have been fine! 

I'm not usually one for trips and coach tours (I don't even like getting on a bus for my airport transfer) so this holiday was a step outside my comfort zone but it turned out to be a very pleasant one. 

We arrived on the Saturday afternoon and a pre-booked coach took us from the airport through the barren and bleak landscape to the coach station just outside the city centre. From here we were all transferred by mini bus to our respective accommodation - buses and coaches generally avoid the centre of Reykjavik so this became a fairly regular process throughout our stay.

Our apartment was situated downtown which was really close to the harbour and the main shopping streets, making most of the restaurants and bars within easy walking distance.

Where we stayed

Swan House - very cool but cosy apartments in a great location downtown. Beautiful decor and friendly staff.

Where we ate

It's kind of a given that you'll try at least one hot dog whilst you're in Reykjavik. Don't be put off, they're not the pink plastic type but made from lamb and if you ask for one with everything at the Baejarins Betzu Pylsur stand near the harbour, you'll get one topped with ketchup, mustard, fried and raw onion and remoulade.

Fish and chips is a popular Icelandic dish and we had ours on our first night at Islenski Barinn - the batter had a weird but nice hint of curry powder and the fish was served with waffle fries instead of traditional chips. Try the crowberry vodka - it's really good!

Cafe Babalu ia a good spot to stop for lunch - the lamb soup was delicious and the decor will keep you entertained while you're waiting (it's eclectic to say the least!)

Rossopomodoro is a good italian which we all enjoyed. The pizzas are really good and big enough to share which is always a bonus with Iceland prices!

Sandholt - is an amazing bakery with some of the best pastries in the city. It has a cool restaurant at the side where we had brunch one morning. Their cinnamon buns are incredible.

My husband had his favourite meal at Le Bistro - a traditional french restaurant. Once he'd got over the fact that his beef casserole cost £35, he really enjoyed it...

Where we drank

Moka Kaffi is probably the coolest coffee shop in Reykjavik. It hasn't really changed since it opened in the fifties and I loved its dark, retro vibe and if you're a John Grant fan like me, you'll probably get very excited that it was here that the cover photo of his album Pale Green Ghosts was taken! The coffee is really good and it was here that we tried our first waffles - served with cream and jam.

Kex Hostel is an ├╝ber cool hostel with a large, ramshackle dining and sitting area. We went there twice but were too late for breakfast both times so I can't vouch for the food but you should definitely put it on your list of places to go.

Reykjavik Roasters is where I had my best cup of coffee - I loved the decor with its record player and little reading nook and it is the perfect place to stop on your way to or from the church.

Lebowski Bar is a loud and rowdy venue in the centre of the city with a mainly younger crowd but the music and cocktails are really good so well worth a visit.

Where we visited

I was worried that the Blue Lagoon wouldn't live up to all the hype but it was amazing! We'd booked the trip a couple of weeks prior but I would recommend booking as soon as you can as it does get busy really quickly. You can choose different package levels when you book to include face packs, robes, towels, etc. Our time slot was 5pm so I was a bit worried that it would get dark soon after we arrived but it didn't and we had the most beautiful sunset which just made the whole experience even more magical. Although you have a set time to arrive at the lagoon, you can leave whenever you like - the buses depart on the hour, every hour until 10pm.

A trip to the Reykjavik Museum of Photography is a great way to spend an hour or so with its display of Iceland's best photographers as well as foreign exhibitions.

Hallgrimskirja church is the best place to get a view of the whole of Reykjavik. Just buy a ticket and get the lift up to the top of the steeple.

We did a tour of the Golden Circle on our last day (again, we had booked this before we left home) which was a day spent hopping on and off a mini bus and taking in some of Iceland's natural wonders. The highlight for us was the geysers but we also walked down to the Gullfoss waterfall, took a small hike at Thingvellir National Park and stopped to stroke some Icelandic ponies. Our driver, Thor (yes, really) narrated the whole trip and we learned about the history, geography, cuisine and culture of the island.

Our trip to Iceland was pretty much based on the hope that we would get to see the Northern Lights and we did - kind of! Sadly the weather was very cloudy and rainy when we were there so our Northern Lights trip was postponed all week until our very last night - and even then the forecast wasn't good. A coach picked us up at 8pm and we were driven way out of the city to the coast. We huddled against the cold next to the blackest sea, looking up to the darkest night's sky and waited. The stars were so bright and so amazing and then there was a hushed silence and you could just start to see the 'halo' of the aurora borealis in a dark green, shimmering and shifting. Although the colours weren't bright and it was sometimes hard to see, I can't describe the feeling of wonder you get looking at them - it was a truly magical experience and the perfect end to a very special few days.

Top tips

One of our bus drivers told us that the public swimming pools in Reykjavik are a great place to go. They are very popular with the locals who use them before and after work.

The tap water in Iceland is amazing so there is no need to buy any bottled water. There are water fountains in a lot of places (including the airport) so just keep an empty bottle handy.

To really get a flavour of Iceland, why not read the 1955 Nobel Prize winning book by Halldor Laxness - Independent People.

Shop my Valentine Wishlist at Violet and Percy. From top, left to right (click the links): Kaweco fountain pen Bando phone ...

Good news if you're an expecting mum, there's a new book on the block that answers your questions and gives advice in a brilliantly...

Good news if you're an expecting mum, there's a new book on the block that answers your questions and gives advice in a brilliantly frank and honest way. 

'How to Grow a Baby and Push it Out' was written by Clemmie Hooper - mum of four girls, midwife, blogger and Instagram queen (her Stories are some of my favourites) - and she tells it how it is, in a way that most pregnancy books don't. It gives loads of great advice from how to prevent tearing during your birth to what you will need in your labour bag.

Photo by Charlotte Emily Gray

I was lucky to have dinner with Clemmie on Friday night and she told me how new mums are starting to come forward more and more to talk about the difficult bits; the sore boobs, the changes in their figures and the sheer boredom that life after birth can bring. She believes that through social media like Instagram, there is a real bond between women in similar situations and that admitting your fears and sense of occasional failure can only serve to help others. It's a kind of 'we're all in this together' collective mood which can buoy up new mothers. 

All too often women have felt the need to project an image of perfection, like having a newborn is a total breeze and if it isn't you're doing something wrong. Sharing the not so glamourous side of pregnancy and early motherhood with other mums can be a cathartic experience and one which helps to normalise it.

I told Clemmie about how I'd struggled in the first couple of weeks after my daughter was born to entertain visitors, making sure the baby, the house and myself were presentable. Clemmie spent a week in bed after her twin girls were born and pretty much declined all visits to the house and she believes that this kind of self-care is something women really should be focussing on more in the early days. It's ok to take things slowly and be kind to yourself and I guess that should be a rule that we take all through life.

Her warm wisdom and wit shines through in the book and I only wish it had been around years ago when I had my two.

Buy it here

"From how to prevent tearing during birth to what you really need in your labour bag, Clemmie reveals everything pregnant women and new mums need to know with a good dose of humour and wit."

Read Clemmie's Gas & Air blog here

Follow her @mother_of_daughters Instagram here

I can be a bit of a lazy clothes shopper and naturally gravitate to a handful of shops where I know the sizes are right for me and can usu...

I can be a bit of a lazy clothes shopper and naturally gravitate to a handful of shops where I know the sizes are right for me and can usually guarantee I'll find something I like. So with that in mind, I thought I'd have a little look online at some of the stores I never usually bother looking at and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised!

You can find my top picks below but I'd love to hear some of yours too to feature in a follow-on post.

1. M&S always seem to have a few pieces each season which stand out. This utility skirt looks great with a black top and shoes and is also available in khaki.

M&S belted utility straight skirt

2. I think in the past, I've only ever bought a black bikini from Matalan so I was pleasantly surprised when I found these gorgeous silver brogues.

Matalan silver brogue

3. This lace top by Monsoon is a real classic and comes in ivory (as shown), black and a lovely soft pink. I love the cuffs.

Monsoon lacey victoriana blouse

4. A denim jacket is a great neutral wardrobe staple - I always pack one for my holidays as there isn't much they don't go with. This Miss Selfridge one is a great darker denim with boxy details.

Miss Selfridge denim jacket

5. Also available in green, this dress from New Look would be a great for a late winter/early spring special occasion and at £29.99, it's a really good buy.

New Look funnel neck dress

I took the plunge on Monday and finally got myself a fringe! It's only taken me about ten months to pluck up the courage but here I am...

I took the plunge on Monday and finally got myself a fringe! It's only taken me about ten months to pluck up the courage but here I am and here it is and all of those words of warning about fringes being hard to maintain are back to haunt me.  Naturally I have googled 'fringe maintenance' and actually I've been pleasantly surprised by words of encouragement, 'how to' videos and tips on making sure it doesn't drive you completely crazy!

Here are a few of my favourites.

1.  Firstly, simply enjoy the cheap wrinkle cover-up it gives you. A fringe really will knock a few years off you.It's definitely a case of bangs before botox.

2. Watch Sali Hughes' brilliant video on how to dry your fringe with no fuss and no drama.

3. For a quick fix when you don't have the time to wash your hair and your fringe is looking a little greasy, use a dry shampoo like this one. It's a good idea to a keep a travel size one in your handbag too.

Buy here

4. Try an emergency recovery trick like this. Salon owner Paul Edmonds says, "When you've slept on your fringe and it's standing up or uneven, try damping a piece of cotton wool and rub it into the roots and then blow dry to get it back in line". 

5. Invest in a tiny pair of hair straighteners as it can be a bit tricky with regular sized ones.

Buy here

I love a family wedding. This Saturday my sister is getting married in a barn in deepest Gloucestershire and for the past couple of months ...

I love a family wedding. This Saturday my sister is getting married in a barn in deepest Gloucestershire and for the past couple of months I have been trawling the high street and the internet for the perfect winter wedding outfit - trying to find something suitably stylish that I'm not going to freeze in!

It hasn't been as easy as I thought but in the end I plumped for a Zara jumpsuit (now out of stock) and silver accessories.

I thought it was a good opportunity to share with you some of my other finds.

Ted Baker, £179

Cos, £45

Whistles, £250

Topshop, £39

Topshop, £42

Zara, £39.99


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