Romy and Sam go Motorhoming: New Zealand’s North Island

Our Route: 

Wellington > Tongariro > Rotorua > Paihia > Auckland

To avoid totally boring you to tears vs. half boring you to tears, I split my New Zealand posts into the South and North Island. So, picking up where I left off on my previous post, we were about to board the ferry from Picton on the South Island to Wellington on the North Island. Just a side note: I bloody hate boats. With a passion. All consuming panic and nausea takes over. However, Sam’s aunty recommended some absolutely ACE travel sickness tablets, which meant that I not only survived but slightly enjoyed….(?) the ferry to Wellington. I could actually enjoy the spectacular views, take in the blueness of the water, the low lying clouds and lusciously green mountains…..AND watch the Fyre festival documentary on Netflix without feeling like I was going to pass out! Brilliant! It is notorious for being a rough journey, but honestly our experience wasn’t bad at all….. could be the tablets talking, but we’ll go with it. 

Once we arrived in ‘windy’ Wellington (as it’s known), we headed straight to the hotel we had booked for a couple of nights, ditching Marco the motorhome for a bed that actually allows you to sit upright, and a loo that you don’t have to empty yourself. Wellington had a great feel, really friendly people and loooads of independent vintage shops and boutiques, which I loved a browse in, even though I really couldn’t cram anything else into my case. It felt busy and buzzy yet not over-crowded and intimidating. We also found some unusual street art down completely unassuming lanes and hidden alleyways, which we loved. 

What to do: 

  • Explore the streets, without a doubt. There’s all sorts of hidden gems, unique places to explore and unusual cafes that you might not find on Google.
  • Te Papa- The Museum of New Zealand. A pretty big museum, but with some brilliant interactive contemporary exhibitions and a (surprisingly) windy lookout deck. 
  • Wellington Cable Car. We struggled to find the entrance to this at first and walked past it about 5 times while grumbling ‘Google maps is so shit!!’ before realising that in fact it was us that were shit… at navigating. A really sweet, traditional wooden cable car with a light tunnel halfway up. The Botanic Gardens were at the top and although very hilly, were extremely pretty but FREEZING when the wind blows… which is all the time. 

Where to eat: 

  • Viva Mexico. A tiny, hidden Mexican restaurant with the best jalapeño poppers with pickled red onion. AND the most delicious vegan tacos. That you would never know were vegan. However, they asked us if we wanted to taste their delicacy, fried crickets…. Which we politely declined. 
  • Fidel’s Café. If you fancy a hearty but healthy breakfast, here is a great shout. Tasty, fresh and pretty decent portions. 
  • They also have a Wagamama (and it’s on Uber Eats)…. We did get quite over excited about this as we were both feeling slightly yaki soba deprived.

We drove from here to Tongariro National Park, planning to do the famous Tongariro Crossing hike, however, the weather got in the way. Despite this, we did a different, brilliant, slightly shorter hike to Taranaki Falls, which had the most beautiful views all along the route. The terrain changed constantly, from open rocky paths with clear snowy mountain views, to narrow forest trails, streams, rushing waterfalls (where we kept saying ‘is this THE one?’) to the final Big Daddy waterfall, Taranaki. I’m actually so glad we did it and made the most of the National Park, despite our plans changing. It just means we’ll have to go back to complete the crossing hike another day!

Rotorua was next. One of our favourite places in the whole of New Zealand, probably a very close second to Queenstown. We stayed at such a great, central campsite (Rotorua TOP 10) with the best welcome. It was a small town, but packed a punch. Reknowned for its proximity to Hobbiton, the Lord of the Rings set, for being the hub of Maori culture and for being located INSIDE a volcano. We loved it and met some amazing people during our stay too. 

What to do:

  • Happy Ewe Cycle Tour. This was recommended to us by some people we met in Australia and I couldn’t be more grateful that they did. It was amazing. Rodger, the guide was honestly one of the nicest (hate the word nice) people I have ever met. Full of energy, enthusiasm and positivity, he really brought the town he lives in to life and you could tell how proud he was to live there. He took us to some amazing locations, gave us such a great flavour for the town and was a complete ray of sunshine. Thoroughly recommend. 
  • Hobbiton. When we visited, I hadn’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings films. I know, I know….but despite this, I loved it. I have a huge fascination with film anyway and it was just absolutely magical. I don’t even think it massively mattered that I hadn’t seen the films. I did lie when the tour guide asked us if we’d watched them I hasten to add….but even so it was brilliant. 
  • Tamaki Maori Village. We did a night experience here and were thrown head first into the wonder of Maori culture. They sang, danced, took us through some traditional crafts and activities, made us a Hangi feast and welcomed us into their village. It was wonderful. 

Where to eat: 

  • Atticus Finch. One of my favourite finds of the whole trip. As I write this, my mouth is watering thinking of the burrata arancini. 
  • Artisan Café. We ate here for every breakfast and loved it. Really lovely veggie options and tasty coffee. 

After Rotorua, we drove past Auckland and right up to Paihia (Bay of Islands). I had a streaming cold by then and luckily we had decided to book an apartment for a couple of nights, so there were a few more comforts (sorry Marco) AND A WASHING MACHINE. We relaxed on the beach and soaked up a little bit of sun (through a sweatshirt) and had a chilled couple of days pottering around the town and reading. There wasn’t masses to do there, but we just enjoyed the scenery and rest.

Auckland was next and where we dropped off Marco and concluded our motorhome journey. We loved Auckland. It was the first place we had been in New Zealand that felt like a proper city. Outdoorsy, picturesque places are probably our favourite, but there are aspects in me that love the city life too and saying that, Auckland actually was very pretty in parts. It was super clean, a great contemporary feel and sooo many cool areas to explore.

What to do:

  • Visit Ponsonby. Our favourite area. Funky cafes, boho boutiques and stylish shops. Oh, and one of the best burgers of our trip was consumed in this area. 
  • Lime Scooters. After our first experience of scooters in Christchurch, we were thrilled to find they had them in Auckland too. They were pretty much our only mode of transport for the 4 days we had here. Fun, cheap and fast!
  • Auckland Tower. So high. Not sure what else I expected, but it had such a brilliant panoramic view of Auckland. And the queue was nowhere near as long as the CN Tower in Toronto, so that was a bonus. 

Where to eat: 

  • Chuffed. Great brunch place, great coffee and located in a tucked away spot, with an outdoor courtyard decorated with twinkly lights and faux fur throws.
  • Ponsonby Central. The foodie area in Ponsonby, with so many different street food spots, cafes and bars and an outdoor/indoor feel.
  • Burger Burger. I couldn’t keep you waiting any longer before I had to reveal where THAT burger was consumed. Wow oh wow. Mouthwateringly delicious.
  • Depot. Yummy, sharing, tapas dishes. Still dreaming about the tempura cauliflower with taramasalata & anchovies.
  • Dizengoff. We didn’t actually eat here, just had coffee. We regretted it as soon as the steaming breakfast plates wizzed past us out of the kitchen. It looked amazing.

We absolutely adored New Zealand. We knew we would. We just didn’t realise quite how much. Without a doubt we’ll go back, experience all the things we missed and feast our eyes on the unforgettable scenery once again.

Romy and Sam go Motorhoming : Sydney to Cairns

After our wonderful week in Sydney, we picked up Mabel the Maui Motorhome (have you noticed we like to name our cars…. I say we, I mean me) and set off on our East Coast adventure for 22 days. We were beyond excited when we went to pick it up and couldn’t believe how big it was! We felt like we were in ‘We’re the Millers’ – minus the drug smuggling. It wasn’t quite RV size but for people who had never driven a motorhome before, Mabel was a big girl! We made ourselves at home pretty quickly and set off on a crazy 3 weeks of beaches, comfort zone crushing, new friends, sunsets, tattoos, fly bites, spectacular views and campsite cooking. 

OUR ROUTE: 

Sydney > Anna Bay > Coffs Harbour > Byron Bay > Miami/ Surfers Paradise > Brisbane > Noosa > Hervey Bay/ Fraser Island > Rockhampton > Airlie Beach/ The Whitsundays > Townsville/ Magnetic Island > Mission Beach > Cairns 

I won’t go into detail about every single thing we did and how we spent every moment *hears everyone heave a sigh of relief*, but I will share our highlights, top tips and favourite campsites. 

(SOME OF OUR) HIGHLIGHTS: 

* Our first night. Climbing up onto the sand dunes behind our campsite in Anna Bay and experiencing one of the best sunsets we have ever seen. The rapidly changing colours, the rainbow on one side, the immaculate sand. Massive wow factor. 
* The town of Byron Bay. We loved the little coffee shops, bars and boutiques, along with the gorgeous beach. It all had a great feel. Also Sam surfed here again and loved it just as much as before.
* Miami… an unexpected gem. We decided to stay here instead of directly in Surfers Paradise, but it was a short taxi ride away and Miami was lovely and peaceful. There was the most epic pink sky both nights we stayed there too. We also loved the buzzy atmosphere in Surfers Paradise and although the beach was busy, we felt totally relaxed.
* Getting tattoos in Brisbane. Just so much fun…..Despite the tattoo shop being called ‘The Stab Shack’ and there being a python in the corner, we loved the whole experience. There was another girl having a huuuge chest piece done at the same time as us,  not even flinching and I was asking a million questions about the aftercare and pain etc. (typical me) for our tiny tattoos that literally took minutes to do – I am so hard core.
* Koalas, kangaroos, dolphins…… the wildlife everywhere is just something else.
* The Noosa Everglades. Woweeee. So beautiful. We rented our own boat and went first thing in the morning. The water was a sparkling mirror, so peaceful and it was actually quite romantic (sorry vom). The previous day, we hired kayaks and attempted to do a 6 hr open sea trip and nearly got stuck (hilarious looking back, but paddling against the wind and going nowhere for a good 2 hours was a smidge frustrating). 
* Lake Mackenzie on Fraser Island. Totally clear, going into turquoise and then a deep navy colour. Also 100% rainwater. Paired with the whitest sand… it was ideal. 

* Our last-minute motorhome break in Airlie Beach. We were worried about a thunder storm (that we ended up missing) and so booked an apartment for a few days so we could explore the Whitsundays without worrying about Mabel. It was actually a lovely break as it had…..A WASHING MACHINE!!! I know, I could barely contain my excitement either. Other than our lovely apartment, we had the best time in Airlie Beach. We did an amazing jet ski tour, seeing dolphins and stopping for a delicious brunch spread at Paradise Cove. During this trip we had the pleasure of witnessing another person on the tour having an impromptu nude photo shoot…. no I’m not joking. The next day, we did a snorkelling Whitsunday islands tour ending at Whitehaven Beach. Truly special and Sam was a complete hero as it was totally out of my comfort zone. Overall so much fun, so much beauty and so many new experiences. 

* The Barbie-mobile on Magnetic Island. We rented a tiny mini jeep (I thought it looked like a bigger version of a doll’s car I used to play with) and drove around the whole island. We pulled over for a torrential rain storm, eating cookies and sitting under a tarpaulin on the side of the road until it stopped. 
* Evenings with a glass of wine (or a camomile tea), playing Pass the Pigs and chatting at the campsite about everything we had seen and were still to see. 
* Finding scones with clotted cream & jam in Cairns ….You can take the girl out of England…. Oh and seeing crocodiles in the Daintree Rainforest. 
* Turning all the lights off in the evenings as they made you feel like you’re in an operating theatre….. and lighting our bergamot candle. It actually made it feel so cosy. 
* Singing in the car and snack pitstops. Sam always came back with about 5 drinks because ‘they were on offer’. 

 

TOP TIPS:

* Buy a candle (see above). It made the motorhome feel lovely and cosy at night and made it smell nice too!
* Flip flops in the shower. The camping showers we encountered were actually all clean and completely fine. But still. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…..hygiene. ( And other people’s hair on the floor- no thanks).
* Book your campsites a couple of days in advance if they’re in really popular areas or in a particularly good location. Eg. Byron Bay. 
* Most tours don’t need to be booked too far in advance, especially somewhere like Airlie Beach as there are SO many adventure shops that will pretty much always have some availability. We booked ours 1 day in advance.
* Buy a collapsible clothes dryer/line. It made doing washing soooo much easier as we had somewhere to let our clothes dry outside the motorhome. 
* Camping apps that are pretty good: Maui, Campermate, Maps.Me
* Share the driving. This might be an obvious one, but it is nice to take turns as then one person isn’t completely wiped out after a long drive. 
* Stay at least 2 nights in places you’re really interested in. Maybe more. We felt even 2 nights felt rushed sometimes, so try to set off early on longer drives as then you still have some of the day left once you arrive at your campsite. 
* Keep the motorhome clean. Now I’m not going all Marie Kondo on you, but it seriously makes it more pleasant to be in if there isn’t a whole sandpit in there when you’re trying to climb into bed. 
* Try as best as you can to go to a campsite that is as close as possible to the area you’re exploring. They are sometimes a little more expensive, but it means that you don’t feel miles out from everything and you can walk out and leave your motorhome plugged in and awning set up rather than having to pack everything up and drive a while to get to where you want to go. 
* Ask for a camping spot reasonably close to the loo block. No one wants to walk too far in the dark with bats flying over your head. Even though we had our own loo in the camper, as you can imagine it’s much more pleasant to use a real one!
* Have your own jobs. I did all the booking & organising and most of the cleaning in the camper. Sam did all the outside stuff, the setting up and techy things, and quite a bit of the cooking, although we did share that. It was nice to get into the flow of it and know what both of us would do before we could settle down for the evening!
* Double check your campervan draws before you leave the depot. It sounds totally ridiculous, but virtually every time we went round a sharp-ish corner, some of our draws flew out as they were loose, risking china plates flying all over the motorhome!! This did happen a few times as well! Funny but only until something breaks….

 

FAVE CAMPSITES: 

* Reflections Clarkes Beach Holiday Park- Byron Bay. Great great great location. Right on the beach. Short walk into town. Lovely facilities. 
* Ocean Beach Tourist Park- Miami. Such a peaceful, small campground. Again, really lovely facilities. Again, right on the most gorgeous beach. Perfect morning coffee spot right next door. And the sweetest woman who you can rent clothes pegs/lines from if you do some washing.
* Habitat Noosa- Noosa. Really amazing. We were surprised they had a spot. You can rent kayaks and boats etc. and make you own way to the Noosa Everglades. Opposite our camping spot there was a forest, home to a huge group of kangaroos. They relaxed (and fought) on the grass each evening as the sun went down and it was completely wonderful to watch. They also had a little restaurant on site which was cool. 
* The Palms- Hervey Bay. The people here were SO NICE. They were super helpful when we wanted to book a Fraser Island tour and even came to help us set up the motorhome in our spot. Small campsite but worth a visit. 

 As I write this post, I think how much fun we had…working it all out together, getting it wrong, getting it right, getting cabin fever, getting on each other’s nerves at times, loving the cosy bed cabin, playing music, sitting in the sun on camping chairs, laughing A LOT and Sam always being the one to empty the loo without moaning at all and never letting me do it no matter how many times I said I didn’t mind.

Thank you so much for reading xx

23 in Sydney

I was lucky enough to celebrate my 23rd birthday in Sydney this year. When we were planning our trip, it happened that the dates worked out and we would be staying in Sydney around the time of my birthday, so we decided to stay there for a week to really take in the city. We stayed in 2 different places, firstly Pier One at Sydney Harbour for 3 nights over my actual birthday and secondly Mantra Apartments for 4 nights, further into the city. We loved both for different reasons and would highly recommend both too.

Pier One was beautiful, with great views of the harbour and was situated directly under the Harbour Bridge- how amazing. It was a short walk to restaurants, shops and not too long to the Sydney Opera House and Botanic Gardens too. Our room was a lovely calm white and blue theme with rustic beams and some lovely artwork.

Mantra was also a perfect location in another way, right in the thick of the city. Our apartment was a lovely size, with a sunken kitchen and gorgeous contemporary decoration. There was a pool on the roof of the accommodation and although there wasn’t loads of room by it, it was a great spot to catch some rays in amongst the craziness of the city. We really enjoyed feeling like we had our own little place and really settling in!

I have to say, we adored Sydney. It could be partly because we settled in the same area for longer than our normal stops, but it could also be because it’s pretty fabulous. The perfect balance of beach and city, greenery and buzzy streets, we really loved it. I might go as far to say that it was my favourite city. Although it’s a large place, it didn’t feel it. The beaches of Bondi and Manly really aren’t far at all from the city centre and so you don’t feel as though you have to trek to one area for the whole day.

TOP TIPS/SPOTS

* Go on the Hop on Hop Off- like some other cities we’ve been to in the world, we used the city tour as our way of getting around. Not only are the tours brilliant and show you all of the key spots in the city, but the 2nd Sydney route takes you to Bondi Beach – saving money on taxis and also showing you the whole area!

* Walk away from the main drag in Bondi, into the smaller streets and alleys for some gorgeous boutiques, little cafes and vintage shops. My faves- Tigerlily, Miss Brown Vintage, Playa by Lucy Folk

* Do the Bridge Climb- we had SO much fun! Even for people scared of heights, I’d say that it’s totally worth it. The moments that are the hardest to climb are a bit lower and involve ladders. When you get higher up, it is just a really easy pathway and so rather than focusing on how far away the ground is…. you just enjoy the beautiful views across the harbour. Our guide was brilliant and took some great photos of us too! We did ours first thing in the morning, but I believe you can book them for sunrise/sunset too and I bet that would be amazing.

* The Blue Mountains- these are a bit of a drive out of the city (obviously) but worth the effort. We booked a tour with Mount n Beach Safari and they were great. Such a lovely tour guide and although the day we went was a little bit cloudy, the views were incredible. We did a great hike along the bush trail looking over the Grose Valley. It wasn’t too difficult but the scenery was a gorgeous reward. We also stopped at Calmsley Hill farm on the way, where we saw an orphaned joey kangaroo in a washing basket covered in blankets to replicate its Mum’s pouch. (All together now….. *aaaawwww*).

* Watch the sunset over the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair lookout. We met up with some friends from my uni and they recommended this….it’s a must do! Walk through the Botanic Gardens round to the other side and signs will start to appear. There’s a little ‘bar truck’ that sells cocktails, wine, beer… all the good stuff. Grab one, carry on walking up, then sit on the hill and see the beaaaautiful orange sky over Sydney (and lots of people having Instagram shoots).

* Bondi Beach- GO. It’s amazing. Although very busy and definitely touristy, it’s fab. I already mentioned the shops, but as a place it’s a buzzy, vibrant, cool spot. We went on my birthday and had such a fun day. I’d definitely recommend going to the Icebergs pool too ( the one that’s always on the postcards of Bondi where the waves crash over the pool). Although the pool is beyond FREEZING, it’s so much fun sitting right by the edge and being thrown to the other side of the pool by a crazy wave (trust me). Also as someone who doesn’t looove swimming in the sea, it feels like you are!

* Visit the lovely library. Although it isn’t quite as spectacular as the oldest library in Australia in Melbourne, it’s still a gorgeous, peaceful space. And they give you free pretty bookmarks.

* Manly Beach- even if you have a strained relationship with boats as I do…. get the ferry over here. Manly is a sweet little surfy town with some cool shops and a relaxed vibe. Less busy than Bondi, we had such a chilled day here and rented sun-beds (which they don’t offer at Bondi). This was a nice alternative to becoming a sand monster when just lying on a towel… Sam rented himself a surfboard here and had a go at riding the waves…..he actually did really well!

* Darling Harbour- a pretty place to have a stroll around and a meal on the waterfront.

* Royal Botanic Gardens- now it wouldn’t be one of my blog posts without a proper mention of the Botanic Garden. A great place to sit and read or just relax in the sun right by the Opera House but out of the busy streets. Gorgeous views, peace and greenery- yes please.

TOP EATS

* Gelato Messina- this little gem lives at the entrance to the Gateway Plaza on Circular Quay. Hooooly Moly. The best gelato I’ve had outside of Italy. My fave flavours were Dulce de Leche and White Chocolate & Hazelnut….. say no more.

* Contrabando- Latin street food and scrumptious cocktails. We had the Mexicola set menu- lots of little sharey dishes. Our faves- the chargrilled corn with all sorts of tasty things on top, the fish tacos and wagyu cheeseburger spring rolls. Woweee.

* Smoking Gun Bagels- we came here for my birthday breakfast and had yummy, fresh bagels crammed with avocado, crispy fried egg and some other tasties. Coffee also great.

* Public Bar- at Bondi Beach. They do mouth-wateringly good Double Squish cheeseburgers here. As we all know, the perfect bun is very important… I can report it was extremely delicious.

* Georgie Boy’s- our favourite morning coffee spot near our Mantra apartment. They do an absolutely roaring trade, it was crazy busy every morning but we never waited long. Almond milk iced coffee and a halloumi breaky wrap to go?

* Bennelong- this is the restaurant inside the Opera House and I couldn’t recommend it more. Sam booked it as a surprise for my birthday meal and it was so special. The restaurant has a huge jutting-out slanted window treating you to a view of the beautiful twinkly lights of the city as you eat your delicious dinner. Also if you fancy a giggle (hate the word giggle) sit near the window, you see people walk into it as it gives the illusion that it’s flat.

* Mejico- the best chunky guacamole with plantain chips. Tacos were also yum but the guacamole stole the show.

Sydney was a complete dream. We would go back in a heartbeat. Everyone we met was so friendly, the streets were so clean, the sun shone (majority of the time) and we spent our week in perfect harmony with burgers and beaches.

Ice Iceland baby

On the 30th December 2017, my boyfriend Sam and I went to the land of lava, fermented shark and the blue lagoon… otherwise known as Iceland. We had the most wonderful time, in the most beautifully unspoilt country. I wanted to share how we spent our days, our recommendations and some of our amazing pictures.

We stayed for 4 nights in Reykjavik, in a lovely apartment hotel called ’41 A Townhouse’, which was slap bang in the middle of the main shopping, eating, pretty much everything street called Laugavegur. We couldn’t have wished for a better location after booking pretty last minute and as we all know, if you want to stay somewhere over New Year…. book early. We didn’t, and many of the hotels were full, but luckily this looked gorgeous, and it really was. Complete with the most delightful receptionist who constantly gave us friendly recommendations, it was the ideal place for us. I didn’t know much about Reykjavik before we went as it wasn’t massively on my travel radar, but I can honestly say it is my new favourite city. Completely charming, quirky, trendy (such a Mum word) and unique, it was full of individual shops, restaurants and cafes that we totally soaked up. We didn’t have one bad meal, with some of the most delicious burgers (obvs), soups and breakfasts we’ve had.

So I’ve digressed slightly into a complete love fest for Iceland, but I’ll take you back to the beginning, when we first arrived.

Day 1- 30th Dec
We landed into a dark Reykjavik at about 3pm local time and went to pick up our rental car. The first thing I noticed was that it was FREEZING. Now I wasn’t expecting tropical temperatures, but it really was nippy. After stuffing all of (my) over-packing into the car, we set off for the apartment. Luckily with cars, Sam is like a fish to water, so we were absolutely fine finding our way, and to be honest; the roads weren’t massively complicated anyway. It took us about 40/45 minutes, and when we arrived, we parked on the road outside our apartment. One thing we found in Iceland was that parking is SUPER easy, we were panicking that we wouldn’t get a space but everywhere we went there was plenty of room, which made renting a car that much more of a benefit. We dumped our stuff in the room, and set off to explore Laugavegur and the centre of Reyjavik, making our way towards the famous church, probably the focal point of the city, Hallgrímskirkja (don’t ask me to say it). It was spectacular, and seemed to just appear out of nowhere. Absolutely huge, super high and incredibly beautiful, we walked around there for while and at this point I realised that Reyjavik was somewhere special.

I know I have been pretty detailed up to here, but I just had a moment of ‘Romy people don’t care about your holiday as much as you do…..’ so I’ll be much more brief from now on… thanks for hanging in there.

Day 2- New Years Eve.

After a tasty breakfast at a quaint little café called The Grey Cat, (apparently Bjorn’s favourite breaky- not sure but we’ll go with it), we explored the city fully, shopping, eating and doing everything we do best. One thing I was absolutely amazed by was the vast expanse of sea just on the edge of the city, just the most incredible landscape. From the graffiti covered buildings, to the multi-coloured houses, I was loving Iceland more and more by the minute. One thing we discovered on the first day was how little daylight hours they have in winter. It didn’t get fully light until at least 11 in the morning and started going dark before 3, which restricts you slightly, and you end up feeling sleepy at about 5, but we managed. We went back up to the church, where a quirky waffle van parks every day, and sat watching the sun setting while we stuffed our faces with Belgian waffles smothered in Nutella…. Romantic? Not so much, when you have to eat so fast to avoid your fingers dropping off from being out of your gloves. Cue Nutella chops and HUGE mouthfuls. After freshening up, we set out in search of dinner, and struck gold with a restaurant that had a no-show reservation which meant we had their table- AMAZING! And the food was too. After this, we went back up to the church (sensing a pattern here…) and watched the never-ending firework display done by the whole city, it was PACKED. The streets were completely rammed, and luckily we got there a bit early so we had a really good spot. They were beautiful and it was the perfect way to enter 2018, in the freezing cold with the person who always lets me use his phone to video the fireworks for Snapchat when my phone runs out of battery. No I’m kidding, I promise I didn’t watch the fireworks through my screen, pinky swear.

Day 3- New Year’s Day

Waking up in 2018 with a (reasonably) clear head felt pretty good, and we set off driving around The Golden Circle, a route taking us to several natural phenomena. I won’t describe every single place in detail, as you can literally type ‘The Golden Circle’ into Google and entire websites dedicated to it come up, but I will say, each one was uniquely wonderful in its own way. From the vastness of Pingvellir, to the spectacle of Geysir, we loved road tripping in a different way than ever before, not knowing what each destination would bring. We ended our day at The Blue Lagoon, potentially my favourite moment of the whole trip. We arrived at 4, and discovered that once you check into the Lagoon, you can stay as long as you want, which meant we had a relaxed 3 and a half hours in there! We were given two different masks at the Mud bar, a complimentary drink at the Lagoon bar, and spent the next few hours chatting, swimming and soaking up the peaceful atmosphere of a place that we will never forget. We ate at the Lava Restaurant in the Blue Lagoon, and once again, the food was amazing. Sam and I got very excited for the rest of the meal after the most insane selection of bread came out just after we sat down…. (the best part am I right?). It really was magical, and although we arrived in the dark, we got a different sort of experience of the Blue Lagoon and floating around in the water watching the stars was a truly memorable moment. To top it off, we saw the Northern Lights driving back to the apartment, which was just the best start to 2018 we could have wanted, I mean what more could Iceland give us???!!

Day 4- 2nd January

On our last full day in Iceland, we spent the morning walking around the city, and spent the afternoon Lava Caving. I know, I hadn’t heard of it either, but apparently it’s a MUST DO for Iceland. Before I tell you about it, just another reminder of the BLOODY FREEZING WEATHER. Now I’m ready…. So our lovely tour guide picked us up, and he took into the middle of nowhere (there’s probably a more geographically specific location, but bear with me), and he firstly showed us several different hidden gems, such as the black beaches and a geothermal area that smelt like rotten egg. And we loved every minute! He then took us down into the lava caves, which are lava tubes from volcanoes that have turned into caves which you can explore without getting burnt to a crisp. We didn’t plan on doing any expeditions before we came to Iceland, so unfortunately I was wearing Mom jeans, however I still managed to clamber through some pretty narrow spaces, avoiding the sparkling icicles hanging down from the ceiling. It was an activity completely out of my comfort zone, but I’m so pleased we did it, and we took some pretty amazing pictures, before finishing off with a hot chocolate in the car! We spent our last evening after dinner in our favourite bar near the apartment, drinking mojitos and laughing at each other’s hat hair.

It was the most amazing holiday, I never expected to love Iceland so much and I most definitely would go back, as I realised how much there was left to see. If you’re still here after all of my ramblings, I didn’t quite succeed on making it shorter but thanks so much for reading and I hope it has inspired you to put Iceland on your travel list. Just before you go, here’s my top tips for Iceland.

TOP TIPS-

  1. If you’re going in the winter, bring a WARM coat, and I mean WARM. I know this seems obvious, but I genuinely thought my coat was snug enough, and it bloody wasn’t.
  2. If you can, rent a car- we found the freedom and adventure so exciting and it meant we could travel about on our own terms and at our own pace… also driving in Iceland is BEAUTIFUL, the landscape is just breathtaking, so you don’t quite get the same feel on a coach trip. Plus, you can sing as much Pitch Perfect at the top of your lungs as you want.
  3. Book the Blue Lagoon before you go, and spend as much time there as you can. You won’t want to leave.
  4. Take a thick moisturiser…. the cold holds no prisoners.
  5. Order the house white- EVERYTHING is expensive, so if you fancy a tipple, order the cheapest thing- except if you want a mojito…. Then always go for the mojito.
  6. Be up and out by 9 even though the sun isn’t up, and there’s virtually nowhere open for breakfast. The sunrise is worth it.

 

Food you HAVE to eat-

  1. The Grey Cat- the croquet madame was delish.
  2. Sand- the breakfast there was amazing. We both had Eggs Royale and it came with kale… I know I know, but it was actually delicious, I even surprised myself.
  3. Sandholt bakery- the sandwiches, just the sandwiches. And the cakes, and pasteries…. You get my drift.
  4. Snaps Bistro- delicious fried ravioli & mouth-wateringly rich beuf bourguignon.
  5. Lebowski Bar- we didn’t try the food but fab mojitos and a really lively atmosphere, plus they have this sign on the door…. ‘If you are racist, sexist, homophobic or an asshole… don’t come in!’ I think that sums it up.

Thanks for reading, here are some of our pictures!

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He made us stare at the wall!!!!

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