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Reykjavik Travel guide

Now I’m not self proclaiming that I’m worthy of hipster status but I can appreciate an 80’s bomber jacket, graffiti as art and smashed avocado as a brunch staple so I think I can offer a thing or two about Reykjavik and what it has to offer.

It’s a cool place (excuse the pun!) that isn’t trying too hard. That’s hipster in itself right?!

Pretty streets, cool shopping boutiques and cafes in abundance, it’s a great place to stroll around and not doesn’t have to be a stopping point en route to the wider country. Here are some top tips for your stay..

View Point…

The Church of Hallgrimur is the icon of this city. Walking towards it along the vibrant streets will take some time as you will want to stop for lots of pics! You can head inside and walk to the top tower to see beautiful views of Reykjavik’s colourful rooftops and further out to sea. The design was intended to resemble the natural landscape or Iceland with its ice caps, volcanoes and basalt columns. It’s a must see landmark in the city.

Insta Shot…

This was an easy decision and it just has to be the Harpa, the striking Concert Hall and Conference centre and recipient of the prestigious Mies Van Der Rohe award for architecture. It is situated in the heart of the city and features stunning views of snowy mountains and across the Ocean. Wander inside and take a good look at the different light that the centre draws to it. There are shops that offer Nordic designed crafts and gifts. We didn’t watch a concert but I’d love to check out the listings if I was heading back.

Something different…

For a population of just 320,000 people, Iceland has produce chart topping music from well known, respected artists Björk, Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men to name just a few. Reykjavík feels like the beat of the country and is home to a buzzing live music scene. Café Rosenberg was our favourite evening choice playing live jazz and some of Iceland’s breakthrough bands. An awesome stop during the daytime has to be Kaffe Vinyl, a new bar/cafe and record store. It wouldn’t look too out of place in Dalston and also hosts live performances in the evening.

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Something active..

So Iceland is renowned for its hot water springs but what about its cold water swimming! Not to be put off by ‘ice’ being the former syllable in the country’s name and being quite used to a cold lake or sea swim training for triathlons in UK’s great excuse for a summer I was quite up to the challenge. Close to Reykjavík town is the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach, where the sea temperature can reach minus 2 degrees in the winter. After a very short swim attempt, when actually deemed a terrible time of year to try it we committed ourselves to the hot springs close by. All year round, people enjoy the use of the geothermal beach’s hot-tubs, steam-bath, changing facilities and showers, even when the water drops below freezing. Whichever you choice it’s a great addition to a stay in Reykjavík.

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Something to eat…

So when we think of a hipster, what culinary choice often comes to mind is street food, or pop-up style, cheap and inventive food in a minimal setting. This could not be a better choice for a pricey country. We tried Icelandic Street Food, considered the first fast food concept in Iceland with traditional Icelandic food. It is a family owned business with recipes made from the owner’s Grandmother. He was in attendance on the evening we visited and pointed out that his Grandmother had made the cakes, which meant we just had to try them! I tried the seafood soup, and ordered a can of beer. This came to less than £20 so still expensive but much more reasonable than other options, and a lot more tasty than an overpriced spaghetti Bolognese.

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Something to drink…

Named after two Icelandic words for birch, Birkir (birch schnapps) and Björk (birch liqueur) are a fantastic showcase of native Icelandic ingredients.

Birkir, the stronger of the two at 35%, has a boozy and earthy aroma and mixes well with soda water or tonic for an easygoing cocktail. We bought some at the airport to take advantage of cheaper prices. Most of the rest of the team we enjoyed a beer or two!

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Something interesting…

I’d recommend a city tour with I Heart Reykjavik. They take you to their own favourite places in the city centre and teach you a few words of Icelandic. This is a great tour to get an overview and introduction to the city. I was amazed to see so much awesome graffiti art dotted around!

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My next post will share some of my favourite stops along the Golden Circle.

Have a great weekend all.

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CityGirl x

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Four things I’ve learned from my first triathlon

A triathlon is such a great way to get fit. It is also so easy to train on holiday. I love swimming in the ocean, running across the mountains and exploring a city by bike. I’m so proud and happy to have completed my first tri taking part in the sprint challenge in London. Here are some tips if you’re thinking of signing up..

The swim is a different kind of beast

 

As runner and a cyclist the swim was always going to be my toughest challenge. It differs to the other disciplines because to me it felt like a real test of mental strength, me against the elements, the beast of the open water. And technique is absolutely crucial for efficiency! I realise now that I should’ve got to the lake more for training as there really is no other way to get to grips with the murky waters, the claustrophobic rubbery wetsuit, the crowded free for all and the lack of any ledges to catch your breath.

 

It’s really difficult to hydrate 

 

After the swim, I struggled out of my wetsuit feeling lightheaded and flustered. There’s a lot to think about and it’s hard to adjust your mindset. I find it difficult to grab my water bottle on the bike and it’s difficult to hydrate sufficiently during those manic transitions. I already want to sign up to another one so I intend to spend a day on my bike with the sole purpose to practice a cycle – grab water bottle – drink – put water bottle back routine

 

The run feels kind of strange..

 

It’s something every expert warns you about but it’s really easy to underestimate how different your run is compared to a normal training run. The cycle can lead you into a false sense of security. You’ve got your rhythm and just the run left to tackle. After dropping off your bike you notice a feeling of slow motion, it’s takes a while for your legs to respond, like running through treacle, slow and sluggish. I noticed that my muscles eventually got back into the swing of things and I could’ve tested the waters a little earlier! I intend to try a spin class next week and run home afterwards to get used to the sensation and to know my limits.

 

And one last tip for us ladies.. 

 

After spending the day amongst a range of ladies of different ages, shapes and levels of fitness I noticed a pattern when it came to hair style. There were a lot of plaits! Let’s be honest it’s really not an attractive look, the rubbery wetsuit that you can never quite get on properly, the butt padding, the goggle marks (say goodbye to waterproof mascara in these conditions!) and the compulsory helmet! How are we supposed to feel feminine and confident. It was great to see so many ladies with different styles of plaited hair. It’s very versatile for a post swim and it doesn’t interfere with head gear. I now feel like I’ve ‘got the note’ regarding triathlon uniform and will be embracing this feminine touch. After all, we should all be very proud to be female triathletes

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Namaste

I remember using this greeting for the first time in Thailand and thinking this is a beautiful expression that truly represents this friendly and welcoming country – the land of smiles.

If we fast forward a few years, it is now a very recognisable word in western society, predominantly from its use in yoga classes. I was intrigued to learn more about its meaning and if it deserves the instagram ‘glory’ that it experiences today.

Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together. In Hinduism it means ‘I bow to the divine in you’

During a yoga class, Namaste is often exchanged both at the beginning and at the end of class. Usually, it is done at the end of class because the mind is less active and the energy in the room is more peaceful. The teacher initiates Namaste as a symbol of gratitude and respect toward her students and her own teachers and in return invites the students to connect with their lineage, thereby allowing the truth to flow—the truth that we are all one when we live from the heart.

In the urban dictionary it is described as ‘an ancient Sanskrit greeting still in everyday use in India and especially on the trail in the Nepal Himilaya’

I’ve always loved the energy it derives during a yoga class but along the Nepalese trail towards the mighty Everest, through the remote towns and villages it warmed my heart to say this word. It’s more than just a hello, a respectable and spiritual exchange between two people from completely different worlds.

Whatever it means to you, as a fellow yogi or traveller I hope it warms your heart like it had mine.

I was so incredibly inspired by the himilaya region, I can’t wait to share more stories with you. A dream come true.We had such a great time at Kathmandu Durbar Square, and UNESCO world heritage site that unfortunately had many buildings destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. With temple after temple to explore though you will not be disappointed.

Namaste, Citygirl Xx

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My first wanderlust

A trip to Thailand was the first time I packed a backpack and before this I’d only ever visited Europe and America. I was giddy with excitement when I arrived in Bangkok and armed with my list of top things to do I set off to Khao San Road. If there is one defining moment that installed my desire to travel and see the world it was probably here. I was in love with the way Thai culture blended with that backpacker chill out scene, pure chaos yet so calm! I look back and think of how naive I was that this place was such an outrageous experience for me, especially after another 8 years of travelling the globe and hearing how Thailand has westernized since. I was met with so many different experiences all at once, the smell of rubbish and dirt on the streets, alongside street food sizzling on the woks close by, a bob marley playlist pumping from a bar coupled with the urgent demands of street sellers.It was reassuring how easy it is to adopt the backpacker lifestyle, whether you have come from  a backpacking escapade across the globe, or like me a three week break from the city grind. In that moment you all have the same experience, the same agenda and that’s probably why the first sensible thing to do was to grab a Chang beer and a Pad Thai and simply get stuck in. I look back at lots of things I’ve experienced over my years, travel, fitness, challenges I’ve faced and I realise that everybody has their own unique experience that should be acknowledged, appreciated and admired by all. Every marathon runner has to start somewhere! I look back at this time in Thailand and remember how proud I was to achieve such an amazing experience and even though it might be considered almost tame to the travelling world these days, that doesn’t mean I’ll forget how incredibly rewarding it was at that time and what a special place it will keep in my heart.And with that I pass onto you a message from my yoga class yesterday.

‘Nobody is better than us, Nobody is worse than us. In fact nobody is equal to us because we are all  unique’

Make yourself proud and love yourself always.Citygirl xx