A Long Weekend In Iceland

Iceland seems to be top of everyone’s wish list at the moment. Personally I love nothing more than lying on a beach for two weeks and getting up periodically to grab a piña colada, but I have a husband who wanted to see the northern lights, so it was time to go and see what all the fuss was about.

In truth, we actually wanted to go somewhere “winter wonderland”-esque – wooden cabins, fires, snow you can fall into and instantly disappear, husky rides etc, but not wanting to blow a million pounds in three days, Iceland was the next best thing.

And we discovered we only needed one of those things to transform our concrete city break into a Christmassy bombshell – snow. And it didn’t just snow, it SNOWED. The heaviest Reykjavik has seen in 50+ years. Luckily, 55cm or so of snow didn’t stop us, and because a car would have been nearing on suicide, we whizzed round all of Reykavik’s must-sees in three days by coach. That’s efficiency!

 

Here’s my top five must-dos for getting the most out of a short stop in this icy Nordic gem.

1. If you’re going to the USA or Canada, do Iceland as a stopover!

We only had a small amount of holiday, but if you’re thinking of heading over states side, and Iceland is on your wish list, this routing is perfect for you, and Icelandair and Wow Air are currently serving up some of the cheapest fares over there, starting with the likes of Bristol to Toronto from £99 via Reykjavik. And leading on from that, I’m not being paid to say this or anything, I’m just being an airline geek, but Wow Air weren’t actually half bad. In fact, they were better than half bad, they were better than British Airways by a long stretch. But then who isn’t. Ignore the bad reviews online, these are purely from people who don’t understand the concept of a low cost airline, and the fact that an additional bag will cost you £44 extra, whether you choose to ignore that fact or not. The legroom = BA premium economy. No-brainer.

 

2. Visit the Blue Lagoon – either to or from the airport

The Blue Lagoon was hands down the highlight of our trip. One of the 25 natural wonders of the world, it’s algae-blue waters were a ridiculously beautiful backdrop to the constant blizzard we experienced. It is a 100% natural geothermal spa, heated to an average of 38 degrees by a volcanic lava field. On arrival we were handed futuristic wristbands with in built locker keys which you scan against a flashing blue wall implement. Then through to the lagoon itself, we stumbled half naked through sub zero temperatures, madly rushing to find somewhere to hang up our towels, before collapsing into the lagoon before our faces fell off with the cold. We had the whole she-bang – clear blue skies, grey fog, heavy snow. A Gull beer in hand was the perfect addition from the swim up bar, followed by a D.I.Y clay face mask from the surrounding buckets of mud (sounds grosse, but trust me).

One tip, shower thoroughly afterwards to remove the sulphur smells, or smell like an egg sandwich for the rest of the holiday.

 

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

 

3. Three inexpensive (for Iceland) local restaurants to take advantage of

Eating out in Iceland is not cheap, so when you find a decent meal that won’t break the bank you know you’re onto a winner. Here are three not-cheap-but-not-painfully-pricey delectable dining experiences not to be missed.

Laekjarbrekka – Bankastraeti 2, Reykjavik 101 Traditional Icelandic comfort food – think stews, pies, soups – definitely the most expensive out of the three but totally worth it. £54 for two mains, wine and beer and tip. I know, £27 each just for that, but it’s Reykavik, and I can’t tell you how much of a bargain that was, the pictures do not do it justice! I had the coq au vin which was every wine and meat lover’s delight but the lamb also looked divine, and there was even room on the menu for Icelandic classics such as fermented shark…

Primo Ristorante – Thingholtsstraeti 1, Reykjavik 101

What it says on the tin – Italian food, done well. Thin, crispy pizzas, creamy rich pastas, and of course more wine – although I avoided this as the cheapest bottle was about £60. Wine tends not to be the cheapest over here so I became a beer lover on most days. £41 for two pizzas and two beers inc tip.

Tapas Barinn – Vesturgotu 3b, Reykjavik 101 

Another brilliant choice to save a few pennies and to sample some amazing Icelandic/tapas fusion cuisine. The trick is to order the chef’s choice selection for one (just the right amount of food for two people). This includes an aperitif (two if you choose to share between 2), 7 meat, fish and vegetable dishes selected by the chef, and a dessert to share. The duck was probably the most amazing I have ever tasted. About £48 including the above plus beer and wine.

4. The Golden Circle tour

Perfect if you don’t want to hire a car and still want to see all the natural beauties that Iceland has to offer. The three highlights on the 300km route are of course the Gulfoss waterfall, with a 32 metre drop, the Geysir hot spring area and the Thingvellir National Park Rift Valley. Even if you encounter the amount of snow we did, the tour runs several times a day, with the tour guide happily churning out Icelandic myth after Icelandic myth to get you through the longest of the drives. We went with Gray Line but Reykjavik Excursions also do a very similar one.

 

5. See the Northern Lights (but don’t be disappointed if you miss them)

Like many others before us, we failed to see the northern lights. Best advice is to book a trip to see them through Gray Line or Reykjavik Excursions for the first night you arrive, and then if you don’t see them you get to go again each night for free! So give yourself the most amount of time you can. If it happens, then awesome! If not, then you can also come back and try again within two years for free (generous aren’t they?). We went solely for the northern lights and came back no more disappointed than had we not.

Iceland certainly lives up to the hype! Remember, if you don’t see the amazing aurora borealis, please don’t be disheartened. It’s just another excuse to revisit Iceland’s rich tapestry.

P.S. Fun fact for you – I actually caught chicken pox while I was there! Yes, at the age of 26 I finally caught a kid’s disease. Brilliant. I typed this from the comfort of my bed, all itchy and feverish. Good trip though!

What were your Iceland best bits? Is three days long enough, or do you think you need longer? Tell me your thoughts below, and share if you found this guide useful!

RH


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Review: 3 Fils in Jumeirah Fishing Village, Dubai

This is definitely a sign of a good restaurant: venues either side halfheartedly vying for customers’ attention with row upon row of empty seats inside and out, while the modest 3 Fils sits unassuming, tables packed and a queue to get in. Speaks volumes.

Late last year, this Asian-inspired seafood eatery popped up out of nowhere in Jumeirah Fishing Village with the aim of, in their own words, ‘making complex simple’. You could be forgiven for knowing nothing about its existence if it weren’t for food critics, influencers and and emirates now joining the queue to sample its mix of Singaporean flavours – small and simple-yet-delicious dishes to order over and over.

The name is an incorporation of all three owners (two Emiratis and a Singaporean) each giving bringing their own style to the table, or their ‘three cents’, serving high-end food at affordable prices. One of my favourite things about this place is its lack of Dubai flashiness which I think the owners were trying to avoid. Stripping that facade back, 3 Fils becomes totally about the food and the flavours – no gimmicks, no glitter, no glam. Just modest, local deliciousness. I say local – some ingredients are flown in from Japan, as you do.

Menu

Let’s cut to the chase – you can end up spending a lot here not because it’s expensive, but because you WILL want to order everything on the menu – so don’t turn up with hungry eyes and order two portions of everything because you may as well have gone to Nobu. Or you know, do order everything because it’s all well, spot on.

The chicken wings [AED 37] arrived first, sticky, garlicky and full of flavour. Next were my two personal faves, the Volcano rolls [AED 41] and Dragon rolls [AED 42] – the former being beautiful salmon coated in teriyaki and topped with flying fish roe. The latter, shrimp tempura rolls in a gochujang sauce with spring onion and picked red onion. I love the confidence here and how they don’t offer any soy sauce as a rule – they’re that self-assured that their food needs no extra flavour, so how dare you suggest otherwise? The spicy tuna rolls [AED 45] were also a hit, drizzled in wasabi mayo. The Sakura Ebi was up next [AED 68] – thin Capellini pasta cooked with lobster oil and garlic – it doesn’t sound like much but the savoury flavours were comforting and set off completely by the lobster oil. The Fremantle Octopus, the black cod and the Wagyu overload also looked particuarly tempting. A little here goes a long way, and at AED 233 for two people (not including drinks) we left satisfied and not ripped off, which tends to be so often the case with good quality restaurants in Dubai.

Perfect for a date night or a gathering with family and friends, 3 Fils sets the bar when it comes to affordable eating out – something which other new openings should be looking to for inspiration and which overpriced tourist hot-spots could learn a few things from.

You won’t have a problem finding this place – just look for the bustling restaurant straddled either side by ghost-town eateries – and of course the giant fishing harbour infront of it, dazzling with pretty street lamps which glimmer against the water. Perfection.

Visit 3 Fils’ website to find out more, or just rock up – cause you can’t book a table in advance. Expect a short wait – it’s worth it.

If you loved 3 Fils as much as me, or have some other hotspots you would recommend, comment below and tell me!

RH

 


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