Records and Guesthouse

I can’t make it to Eistnaflug this year, but as the festival approaches, my thoughts wander to East Iceland. The tiny town of Eistnaflug has one record store – it’s a pretty good one, especially considering the size and isolation of the town. Upstairs is an apartment where press stays during the festival. I got to pass for press the first time I attended the festival, and met quite a few writers whose work I follow and respect, as well as some folks from record labels that have absorbed significant funds from my bank account over the years. I am quite fond of this little metal building in a remote Nordic fjord.

Rethinking the Blue Lagoon

The first time I went to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon was during Airwaves 2012. I entered on a press pass and listened to DJs while I soaked in the milky blue water, surrounded by lava rock. It was so cold and windy that day they couldn’t keep the water warm enough, but I stuck it out long enough to get a drink from the swim-up bar and experience each of the pool’s special features – waterfall, sauna, silica face mask. I concluded the Blue Lagoon was cool, but overpriced and over-hyped. Despite the pretty setting, the difference from normal Icelandic swimming pools didn’t justify the price.

Still, when I brought my whole family to Iceland this April, it felt obligatory. And now I’ve had to rethink my opinion. Continue reading

Festival Town

Hard to believe this little town is home to Iceland’s biggest heavy metal festival, isn’t it?

I’ve been there twice now, both times for the festival, and I marvel at how well the locals handle the influx of corpse-painted drunkards. (The festival mantra “No idiots allowed” is partly responsible, I’m sure.) One of these days, I’m going to visit on a normal day and get to know these easy-going hosts.

Creeping Thyme

I was disappointed when I found out that we don’t have to go to Iceland to see puffins because we have puffins at home, too. But I was tickled to see creeping thyme, the plant I fill cracks in my patio with, growing wild on the shores of a glacier lagoon in Iceland. The exact same plant, so far from home. How far this humble herb has crept.

Unfamous Falls

 

I’m in Iceland right now, but this photo was taken on an earlier trip. Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, and deservedly so. Those majestic 63-meter falls are quite photogenic, with a trail that runs right behind the cascade. No wonder it swarms so thickly with tourists you can barely see the water.

But right around the corner is a second fall, Gljúfrabúi. Harder to say, easier to see. Hardly anyone knows it’s there. It has cut a channel back into the rock. Visitors follow the stream back to the hill, then walk through a rock channel into a cave. The waterfall has carved out a doughnut-hole in the roof. You can climb up on a big rock in the middle, look up at the open sky, and feel the fine shower of waterfall spray on your face.

I Capture Craigdarroch Castle

Yeah, okay, I just toured it. But damn. Wouldn’t it have been nice to be a coal baron in the 1890s?

Most modern homes on this scale disgust me, and know the money that built this one was just as corrupt. I would totally live in Craigdarroch Castle if I could, though. In fact, I have often thought that I would be a really good Lady of the manor.

Cool as Sin

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This one time I was in Reykjavik and Sin Fang was playing an unadvertised show in an art gallery to promote a friend’s artwork. The performance was good but the sound was shit and that night I stepped outside of my own life and got to be a cool insider, leaning on an art gallery wall with my wine in a plastic cup and criticizing the mix. It’s the sort of thing that only happens (to me, at least) when you travel.