ICELAND: The Academic Work Trip

I am just back from a short but amazing visit to Reykjavik, Iceland. This was another academic visit where I met with our agent and some local collage and university faculty, visited some schools of design, spoke at a recruitment event, gave a lecture on design portfolios and attended the opening of a Photography exhibition. Even though this was officially a work trip, I arrived a day early so I could have a little look around. 

My first impressions of Reykjavik were "wow", it's amazing. The airport is very modern and early to get around. I flew Icelandair from London Heathrow, they were very welcoming and attentive, which helped as I still had a presentation to put together. My colleague had visited Iceland before so she advised buying transfer bus tickets on the flight as they are slightly cheaper. The bus journey takes about 40 minutes from Keflavik Airport to the Reykjavik, the capital city and will drop you at the bus station where you can get a smaller bus connection to your hotel. I stayed at Hotel Odinsve which was ideal, the room was adequate with a very comfortable bed, TV, wardrobe and ensuite shower room. Breakfast was served downstairs in the cute restaurant - check out the bar made of reclaimed doors.  

The tourist version: picture with a polar bear, the northern lights (not seen or photographed by me) and the winters light of an average day.

The landscape on approach to the city is just so different than anything I have ever seen. The drive through the lava-landscape (something which might be similar to Mars) from the airport into the city is just incredible. The buildings stand out, exposed to all elements, and the weather can change almost every five minutes, at least in winter, which gives way to a stark blank canvas. It's inspiring, and has to be said, very Christmassy with fairy lights everywhere. 

This trip was slightly more relaxed than most of the academic visits I get to make and since I had arrived a day early, I used my day to go exploring. I met up with a friend and we drove around looking at the architecture and general neighbourhoods. I love getting out of the tourist areas and really getting to see how people live.

We drove out of Reykjavik and headed to the Blue Lagoon, a natural geothermal hot spring set amongst some incredible landscape. It is pretty pricey, worth booking online beforehand, but oh so worth it and I will never forget this experience. We sat chatting in the lagoon as it changed from rain to sleet, sleet to snow, and then the sun came back out. its pretty damn cold outside though so I tried to not get my hair wet. We took shelter from the sleet in the cave where you can listen to some information on the lagoon. There are wooden boxes around the lagoon with the famous silica mud mask for you to try. It's a fantastic experience but one which will dehydrate you so slap on that conditioner and leave it in your hair whilst you soak, and drink plenty of water afterwards. We didn't realise at the time but you can use the swim-up bar for a refreshing drink and pay with your bands so no money needs to be carried, and you can stay warm in the lagoon.

Other than Harpa (the concert hall) and some rather statement churches, the buildings in Reykjavik are not hugely decorative or iconic but Iceland seriously does interiors. I visited KOL, a very trendy restaurant for a delicious meal and some cocktails featuring local ingredients. The Laundromat is a very cool laundrette downstairs/cafe upstairs with a bar of colour coded bookshelves. It's a great place for a filling breakfast and an opportunity to try the local Skyr (delicious yogurt). I spotted some great design shops as I walked around the city centre, especially ceramics, and picked up a few interesting gift cards.  

I still can't believe how lucky I was to get to visit Iceland, even for a few days, its always been somewhere that intrigued me and the Blue Lagoon was a highlight. I loved the crazy and changeable weather, the landscape, the inspiring sculptures and graffiti, the delicious food, good company and of course the design schools.

We visited the Reykjavik School of Photography who's exhibition I attended at the Harpa, and the Iceland Academy of the Arts where I took a tour of the different departments - the perfect place to take a ceramics class or just sit at a window in the inspiring studio and draw all day long.

Even though I only had a few days in Reykjavik it made such an impression on me - I can't wait to go back and discover more.