Day 3 – Driving around South Iceland

a tarmac road dissapearing into the distance

Today’s mission was quite simple – to visit Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, approx 2.5 hours drive east from Vik. It did take slightly longer, to once again being exposed to amazing scenery along the way. Waterfall after waterfall, rainbows, endless expances of lava fields, black volcanic matter, green mossy hills, some parts reminded me of the teletubbies landscape.

waterfall falling from a mossy hillside
One of many waterfalls

We were starting to get distracted, then realised we needed to get a move on and made it to Jökulsárlón around 2:30 in the afternoon, thankfully. After being there about half an hour it started to rain, hard, however by this point we were warming up with coffee in the cafe, which also sells soup and sandwiches, and souvenirs. Oh and free wifif – just ask at the desk for a code!

Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon blue icebergs against backdrop of mountains
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Back on the road towards Vik, we tried to stop off at the places we’d seen but not had time to stop at, most of the area is known as Katla geopark, and if you stop at the rest stops marked with signs indicating a picnic area, there are boards with information about the area.

a tarmac road dissapearing into the distance
The 1, ring road

Once we arrived back in Vik, we ended up going back to Hallsdorkaffi for dinner again, as we’d managed to yet again missed lunch (after a trip to Vínbúðin to stock up our room). Then exhausted, we headed back to our hotel, where we had a power cut, more rain, more rain, and upon reading about a high magnitude of aurora activty, set my alarm for 6am. unfortunately there was too much cloud (rain cloud), so back to bed we went.

Driving around South Iceland – Day 2

On our 2nd day, we awoke to the sound of rain pounding on the roof of our B&B, we’d been able to choose what time to have breakfast, so a long lie in was relished. For breakfast we were spoilt by our host – we got the opportunity to try foods that we wouldn’t normally – such as Icelandic lava bread (rye bread baked using the geothermal head underground), with boiled egg and pickled herring – this was so good (I can’t believe i’ve not tried it before), along with traditional icelandic smoked lamb, we tried two types – one was very smoky smelling, the other was marbled throughout the meat – this was my favourite. Along with all this was more meat and cheese, soft boiled eggs and homemade bread – all so delicious and washed down with a pot of coffee. We were sad to leave, I can tell you – but out into the rain we headed

Breakfast feast at Húsið við Hafið
Breakfast feast at Húsið við Hafið

Rather than use the SatNav, we decided to use the scenic map we’d picked up, so we drove on a more local road than the ring road, and stopped off at Knarraros Lighthouse, where some wild horses came to inspect us – I was slightly worried, as I’d always thought of the Icelandic ponies and medium hight, these were huge!

Knarraros concrete square Lighthouse
Knarraros Lighthouse

We continued on road 305, which runs along þjórsá – Iceland’s longest river. At times the road was nothing but a gravel, farmland type road (our car was covered in mud). We managed to miss ‘the greatest panorama in Iceland’ which oddly enough was right next to fljotsholar – apparently a great place to buy carrots, but neither were well signed posted so we carried straight on until we reached Villingaholtskirkja a small, traditional looking church and home of the great Saga writerJjon Erlendsson.

Villingaholtskirkja church made of currugated iron
Villingaholtskirkja

Next stop on our tour was Urriðafoss waterfall, after taking the turn off, then thinking it was the wrong one as it went past a little guesthouse, we eventually arrived down a potholed road. It was worth it, there was another car of 4 people there, so very peaceful, the roar of the water is amazing.

Urriðafoss waterfall in southern iceland
Urriðafoss waterfall

After Urriðafoss we joined the 1 (the Icelandic ring road), and headed towards Vik. We did make a few more stop offs, as the ring road is littered with picnic areas or small areas you can pull off the road, to photograph stuff. There’s a ton of waterfalls, and lava fields, and just all round amazing, stunning, scenery and nature. Btw, the birds here are very flighty when it comes to personal safety, flying across the path of your car, my heart was in my mouth a few times!

So we arrived at our hotel in Vik, Hotel Katla around 3pm. We unloaded, then headed into the centre of Vik to get food, as all we’d not eaten since breakfast! Seriously in need of caffeine!

We ate at Halldorskaffi then bought supplies from the shop a few doors down, and headed back to the hotel, where we jumped in the hottub again, we were hoping to see the Northern Lights, but no such luck – another night listening to the rain battering the roof and windows!

Driving around South Iceland – Day 1

communl area of sofa with low lighting

Yesterday we arrived in Iceland for the 3rd Airwaves festival in a row. Except this time, I decided it would be an excellent idea to tag on 3 days at the beginning for a South coast trip. Which sounds like fun for most people, except I was terrified, despite having driven around the US for 10 days, including navigating LA’s 7 lane highways, for some reason I was super nervous.

We landed at Keflavik airport, and after checking over our vehicle (and going back to report more damage – including a large window chip that only showed up as the windows steamed up, as we sat there trying to work out controls), we hit the road. Panic set in after about 20 minutes; we’d been feeling chipper as the GPS said we only had 20 minutes to our destination, then we passed the turn off the for the Blue Lagoon, which I knew was North on the way to Reykjavik, so we figured something had happened and the GPS hadn’t saved our destination of Stokkseyri. We found a ‘viewing platform’ to pull off at, reprogrammed the GPS and instead of turning us around, we carried on North, with me feeling stressed… I’ve since found out that there are two routes, the route that goes past Reykjavik is only 1 km and 2 minutes longer than the Southern route we were expecting to take. So panicking for nothing.

It turns out we arrived at our (rather gorgeous) B&B the time we estimated, dropped our bags and headed back out the way we came, to Selfoss for dinner. Anthony had found a great place called Kaffi Krus online, which turned out better than we even expected, after viewing the menu online. It was so cosy, full of locals and happy chatter. I had the greek salad, I dont normally order salad in resturants, but a greek salad (feta and olives, OMG) with cajun chicken – had to be done and didnt disappoint! Sadly we were too full to try any of the delicious cakes they had in the cabinet.

Cakes at Kaffi Krus
Cakes at Kaffi Krus

After dinner we drove back (again, the same road) to Stokkseyri, to fully appreciate our B&B – called Húsið við Hafið (the house by the sea), it’s a beautiful wooden house, set by the sea – in the dark we couldn’t fully appreciate just how close. After settling in, and cracking open a couple of Icelandic beers picked up from the airport, we jumped in the hot tub out on the veranda for a while Unfortunately the Northern Lights weren’t playing out but that didn’t reduce our enjoyment at all!

woman in a hot tub outdoors at night
Hot Tub!

Photos of the cakes and me in the hottub courtesy of @lukewarmdog

Time for Iceland Airwaves

This year has been a busy year with moving our lives to the other end of the country on a permanent basis, that’s my excuse for not updating my blog very often. This time last year I was in Iceland for the first time, for the Airwaves festival for the first time, where I attempted to write about it day by day. The festival was very full on and what I ended up with, was a note book with pages of writing that never made it online (although I managed to upload a daily quota of photos). This year I’m going to make more of an effort, and so tonight, I decided to write about some personal highlights from last year.

AMFJ at Dillon Bar

AMFJ at Dillon Bar

The decision to go see AMFJ was entirely that of my other half, he had looked up AMFJ online and liked the sound of him, I had no idea what to expect. described by some as ‘noisecore’ AMFJ uses feedback loops (lots of knob twisting on the mixing machine thing) with beats to create a loud and unique soundscape, whilst he sings (or shouts) over the top, his performance is very theatrical and mesmerising. What stuck with me most about his performance, upstairs in Dillon bar (a wood panelled rock bar), was that with all the commotion inside, I could see outside the window the wonderfully peaceful Icelandic landscape, the perfect juxtaposition. AMFJ is playing again this year, at Harpa, I intend to go see he perform again this year.

ÍRiS at Lucky Records

 

ÍRiS at Lucky Records

I’d heard a lot of chatter online about Iris, so we were stoked she was doing an off venue performance at Lucky Records (1 minute walk from our apartment), her performance was nothing short of stunning. She played segments of tunes, recording them then playing them back over each other to create a rich layered sound, with both a keyboard and melody harp, then did  the same with her vocals so it sounded so much more than just one woman with her two instruments.

Iris is playing again this year – a staggering 10 off venue shows over the 5 days, we will definitely be seeing her again!

Saytan at Cintamani

One of the amazing things about Airwaves, is that as well as the 200 plus bands part of the ‘official’ festival (where a paid for wrist band is required for entry), is the astounding off-venue program of free performances, which also has hundreds of performances, many bands playing several times over the days, and the venues! The venues can range from a bar (nothing unusual here) to a book or clothing shop, a hotel or hostel, music shop (not so weird) to pretty much anywhere a band can set up a drum kit, guitar and a couple of amps.

Saytan at Cintamani

We saw Saytan perform for the first time at Lucky Records, they were very rock n roll as part way through the first track (I cant say song, as there are no lyrics, so it sounds wrong), when the lead performer through his glasses on the floor and kicked them under a chair! You must realise, I had just had the shock of finding out how much a block of cheese costs in Iceland, so the cost of prescription spectacles must require some sort of bank loan! So we enjoyed Saytan’s instrumental rock so much, we decided to check out their final off-venue performance at trendy outerwear store Cintamani, where the band were performing in the window, amongst the existing window dressing, where they decided to play sporting some impressive cat style ski hats? Not really sure what they were, but made for an amusing show.

it seems odd looking back now that my fondest memories are all of off-venue stuff, but that’s just how it goes. Although Reykjavik Art Museum was possibly my favourite on-venue, venue, as here I ‘met’ (in the loosest sense of the word) Nanna from Of Monsters and Men, and spotted Bjork, inbetween all the great music, also as a venue it has plently of room to get around and never felt over crowded.

So to bed, as I have an early get up and 10-11 hour journey to reach my apartment tomorrow for our exciting week ahead

Music in Prague from Dubstep to Dvořák

Not doing so well with the daily posting for NaBloPoMo, as I still haven’t finished my posts on Prague and we’ve been back home a week!

Our last night and day in Prague involved music from opposite ends of the spectrum. Thursday evening saw us heading the Archa Theatre for a DJ Shadow DJ set (rather than gig) as a part of the Radio Wave Stimul Festival. Supporting were a band playing ‘psychadelic japanese rock’  called Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO  who were a bit crazy, but the crowd seemed to like them.

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO @ Archa Theatre

The Archa theatre is a great venue, if a little confusing – their tickets seem to have the standard you ‘must not take photos, cameras are not permitted your mobile phone must be switched off during performances’ etc which turned out to be BS, and although we had e-tickets with scanable barcodes, it would seem the door staff are not equipped to deal with this, therefore you have to go to the box office, where they scan your ticket then stamp it/scrawl on it, to present to the door staff. Once inside you can see that health and safety is not an issue, the stairs (the venue appears to be set over at least 3 floors) are littered with people chain smoking, which seems odd when you are free to smoke and drink on the ground floor of the venue. In very pleasant surprise the drink prices unlike UK Gig venues,  are not inflated  as such where as in the average pub /restaurant in Prague you would pay between 27-32 koruna  (85p -£1) for 50cl (almost a pint)  here you paid 28kr for 40cl – of Budvar, no nasty cheap Carling or something equally as tasteless, spirits & mixers were also reasonable as spirits come in 50cl measures so what would be classed as a double vodka & coke back home is about £3 and again, it’s premium brand. It’s one of the things I love about Prague, going out for a drink or food in a major city and not coming away feeling ripped off (if you DO want to feel ripped off, head to the ‘Irish’ pub off the Old Town square, they’ll happily charge you £3-4 for a crappy pint of fosters if it makes you feel at home). Another thing they had was not only the merchandise stalls you get at every gig (also cheaper than back home), but a guy selling CD’s & records, not just of the performing artists which was nice too.

DJ Shadow @ Archa Theatre, Praha

On to the gig, well the venue posted on twitter & facebook incorrect start times which was confusing, but turned out in our favour – they posted that Shadow would be on at 11pm,. rather than 10pm, so meant that we would be out as late, and we ended up leaving at 12:15am earlier than expected (but we still ended up walking all the way back to the hotel as the tram was gonna mean waiting longer than it would take to walk)…

So.. DJ Shadow did his DJ set, not a gig, which was made perfectly clear at time of announcing”All Bases Covered -DJ Set” , but still a lot of the audience seem to have expected a ‘greatest hits gig’  and really didn’t get this new angle he as approaching despite his fairly detailed explanation, that I’m pretty sure most other DJ’s don’t have to give. The comments on the Facebook events page after the fact were unnecessary and ill-informed  – “shitty dubstep” was the general feeling. Shadow explained his reasoning behind choosing the set as well as  mentioning that he performed the Shadowsphere set here also, which to my recollection (sorry if it’s a bit fuzzy, I only saw the show twice) was also fairly dubstep/breakbeat heavy, so I’m not entirely sure why the crowd was seemed so surprised,  if they are the hardcore fans they claim to be, then surely they saw the Shadowsphere tour that was so musically similar?

Crowd enjoying DJ Shadow @ Archa Theatre, Praha

Anyway, I wont waste time over so called fans not getting a show and therefore not dancing enough, the following day was our last in Prague, so we didn’t want to strain ourselves. Both being fans of classical music  the Dvořák museum seemed a natural choice, especially as it is housed in the Villa Amerika about 3 minutes walk from our hotel (the fabulous Miss Sophie’s if you haven’t czeched it out already).

Villa Amerika – Home to the Antonín Dvořák Museum

Although Dvořák never lived here, there is a permanent exhibition  entitled ‘The Journeys of Antonín Dvořák’ which focuses on the journeys he made across Europe and to America where he taught. The museum was undergoing some renovation work when we arrived which meant the entry fee was reduced, there was a piano along with a plethora of artifacts and letters. My favourite part was a wall with headphones where you could listen to re-arranged songs or remixes along with the originals including reggae and electronic interpretations.

Husband at the listening post in the Antonín Dvořák Museum

this was truly one of my highlights of the whole trip to Prague, I hope next time I can visit  a few more sights as there are several within the umbrella of Dvořák Museum’s to see.

České Budějovice & the Budweiser Brewery

That’s the original Budweiser, not the American Bud, the stuff commonly known in the UK as Budvar. This trip involved being up almost as early as we’d get up for work, as they only do unreserved tours at 2pm each day and the train to get us there in time left Prague at 9.15am, yes a lovely 2 hours 40 minutes into Southern Bohemia to visit a brewery.

Old School Train Carriage

I will admit it is a lovely train ride on an old fashioned style of train with compartments, instead of enormous carriages, riding through stunning countryside, especially with all the autumnal colours.

Country Side, Czech Republic

When we arrived at České Budějovice train station at 12pm, there was no information about how to get to the brewery, or any sort of tourist information, maps etc so we had to rely on the shambles that is Apple Maps, which tried to get us killed (by giving walking directions down the hard shoulder of a motorway, yes really). Luckily the ability to still use google maps for written directions helped out abit better and shortly before 1pm we arrived, sweaty and tired and bought out entry tickets. We then popped to the Budweiser pub next door for a swift half before the tour started.

Vats for malting and mashing
Tasting of unpasteurized beer
Bottling it all up

The approx 1 hour tour (done in Czech & English, us being the only English in the group) takes you through every step of the brewing process from the malt going in, mashing, adding yeast, fermenting.. we even got to try a sample of beer that wasn’t yet pasteurised, very fizzy it was, then the bottling was very exciting to watch and very noisy. It was all over too soon, we stopped by the gift shop to pick up some nice glasses then back into the Brewery Pub next door for another beer and some very nice food.

This was to fire us up for the long walk back to the station, approx 1.6miles (as the 2 bus option sounded too complicated to handle when tired and non czech speaking). The train journey home felt longer, even though we spent most of it asleep, looking forward to the lie in tomorrow.

Prague Zoo – redux

Yesterday (Monday) we went to the Zoo. We have previously been to Prague Zoo, but it’s huge and very easy to spend the whole day. We got there about 10am, after taking the metro to Holesovice and then getting the 112 bus to the zoo. Catching a bus in Prague is not the polite and refined art of queuing we have in the UK. The buses have 3 sets of doors, and no matter if you’ve been waiting there over 10 minutes and way before any of your fellow passengers  as soon as the doors open everyone surges forward and pushes on where possible. What doesn’t help is the signs saying prams/buggies not allowed then 5, yes 5 mums with buggies stuffed with toddlers they can’t be arsed collapsing piling on and taking up all the space.

Anyway, we started at the Seal enclosure/pool where we were just in time for feeding, where they performed, well, much like performing seals, clapping, waving and generally performing in return for fish.

Seal Swimming

We spent a good 5 hours walking up and down the Zoo which is built into a hillside, seeing leopards, lions, zebras, loads and loads of birds – including a raven who ‘fed’ one of his mice to us by carefully poking it through a small gap in the top of the cage to fall at our feet, makes me love ravens even more and these were huge.

Mice Surprise for lunch

After stopping off a spot of lunch and a beer, we carried on checking out tigers and lots of cute things that were cats, but slightly bigger than normal cats – then really BIG cats. And small dogs with really BIG ears, called Big eared dogs (no, really Otocyon megalotis).

BIG Cat eating nom noms
dog with BIG ears

Then we made our way back to Miss Sophies’ were we had a wee nap, cos all this walking, especially up hills and lots of steps is really taking it’s toll on our old joints. Then we went out for dinner just around the corner, nice food, in fact the ‘mashed potato’ that wasn’t really mashed, but more squidged with cheese, onion & ham was amazing, just a shame they allow smoking or don’t have a separate area for it.

Then for our last stop of the night we headed to Dirty Dog, a cocktail bar renowned for it’s excellent (and amusingly named) drinks, it was definitely worth the metro trip and small walk to find, if they don’t have something you like they’ll whip up something for you, the only downside was the slightly dubious music they were playing at the beginning. We must have had several cocktails, in addition to the beers we had earlier on, plus a free shot for our first foursuare check in, and no hangover! (sound the trumpets), which was very good fortune with the early start today….

Contemporary Art & Karlstejn Castle

So it seems my foray into NaBloPoMo is going poorly, as in I was too drunk to post Saturday and to exhausted Sunday, so it’s catch up time.

DOX

Saturday we had a huge lie in, as the hotel only had room for ‘brunch’  11am-12pm  left, so after a hearty meal of eggs,  bacon, cheese etc we set off into the Old Town where we’d found out we could get a free bus at 1pm to Dox Centre for Contemporary Art in Holesovice. Here there was no less than four exhibitions on, AMOR PSYCHE ACTION – VIENNA. The Feminine in Viennese Actionism we were told was quite unpleasant and had an 18+ rating. It had photos a lot from the 70’s of things such as castration, and performance art / actionism whereby people looked like they were covered in intestines of animals and blood and paint etc until they looked like they were injured/dying. Maybe I’ve seen too much but it wasn’t particularly shocking, or new… a lot of it felt very..contrived. But hey, onwards and upwards to the tower with Jan Jakub Kotík – Forces of Resistanceover 4 floors. It didn’t really make much of an impression on me, so not much to report. The most interesting exhibition was the Hidden River, an exhibition from students at the Studio of Photography of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (AAAD) in Prague which just felt a bit more fresh and alive than the other stuff we’d seen.

Prague Old Town Markets

After this we headed back into the Old Town where we perused the not-yet-christmas-markets, which were very similar to the Christmas European Markets about to descend on Manchester in a matter of weeks. Shopping for wooden gifts can only amuse for so long so then it was time to head back to the hotel to drop our heavy bags before heading out for dinner, we went back to somewhere we’d failed to get in on Friday night due to crowds, Jiny Stav – a restaurant we enjoyed so much on our last Prague trip we probably ate there most evenings. However, it would seem that the menu has changed considerably since last time and we weren’t as spoilt for choice as much as previously, so whilst we both had really nice meals we probably won’t be rushing back this trip.

We then headed back to our room where we decided unwisely to drink a few Czech vodkas that gave us the hangover of a lifetime on Sunday!

On Sunday we didn’t do too much – apart from getting a train out of Prague to Karlstejn to visit the castle.

Karlstein Castle
Karlstejn Castle

then getting back to our hotel, having food then reading until bed time. rock n roll.

Redeye Network Event – Moy Williams

Last week saw the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester playing host to another of Redeye’s Network events. On entering I was directed initially towards a series of photos in the upstairs space entitled “The loneliest road in America”,  of what I would call heavily processed photos to enhance surface and texture whether of the landscape or skin. This confused me somewhat as I had been expecting a talk by someone introduced as “Manchester’s Best known fashion photographer” to be talking about their fashion work, (note to self – read the blurb first) so this was an unexpected joy, as I most definitely prefer looking at scenes of Americana that people pouting in expensive clothing.

Moy Williams has been ‘in the business’ for approx. 25 years. This trip in 2010 was the first time he’d taken time out for a personal project.

© Moy Williams

He started the talk by showing a slick presentation of his commercial work from the past 2 years including a very well known Beckham shot (above) and Fashion shoots for brands such as Henri Lloyd (some gorgeous black & white shots on film!) and Rohan, and he kindly answered all manner of technical questions related to his fashion work and the behind the scenes processes. However I’m not ashamed to say that I was just eager for him to get onto the road trip photos after the speak preview upstairs.

© Moy Williams

Williams was there to promote “The Finest Piece of Black Ribbon” a book he’s created of images from his three week East to West Coast road trip along Route 50. Somehow whittled down to only 30 shots (I think that’s how many he said were in the book), it’s taken almost 18 months of selecting and re selecting to come up with the final book of images. It’s a shame I can’t find a link to it online as it’s a really beautiful book, maybe I was more interested than most as we also did parts of Route 50 in Nevada / Utah on our Honeymoon Trip earlier this year.

Williams’ talk was filled with amusing anecdotes including how he nearly got killed by Hells Angels, and when asked if he could do it again what would he change, he replied “I’d talk to more people” although the book does have quite a lot of interesting characters already.

Art-O-Mat

The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas is one of the newer, more contemporary hotels on The Strip, so it was quite a surprise to see  what appeared to be a vintage cigarette machine on the casino floor. Upon closer inspection it was something more far more exciting that we could imagine – and that’s no mean feat considering we’d just pretty much broken a vending machine that had cool gifts such as mini Diana camera key-rings in it simply by purchasing something… It was an Art vending machine, the Cosmopolitan prides itself of making art available to everyone “from the most novice observer to the most sophisticated critic” which fits right in with the ethos of Art-O-Mat

Art-O-Mat Machine inside the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

For the amazingly bargain price of $5 you can purchase your own piece of art-in-a-box, the selection options range from ‘random’ pieces of art, to more specific items such as monsters or pin cushions and in the overly manufactured land of Las Vegas, these were a really cool idea, something unique to take home.

art-o-mat quilted art
Mini quilt art

Above is a piece of quilted art by Nancy Goodman that I received from the ‘random’ selection, I also got a one of a kind pin cushion from Woolie Art, my friend Jen got a mini monster called Petey, who enjoyed the road trip around America

Petey the monster enjoying a bevvie

Each piece of art comes in a small 54mm x 82mm x 21mm white cardboard box, that plops so satisfyingly out the machines when you pull the knob like an excited child (or you may just be an excited child), which are courtesy of Art-O-Mat. Art-O-Mat have over 90 machines over the USA dispensing art works from approx 400 artists from 10 countries – if you’re interested in having your art in their machines, instructions are on the website above .

It’s a relatively simple yet exciting and unique idea to get art out there and in the hands of everyone, I’d be very interested in trying something similar here in the UK, so if you’re also interested in collaborating to make it happen, get in touch breakbeatx[@]gmail.com