Lights out

"I'm pulling the ginge," the text message read.

It had come from JT back on the coach, parked outside the little rest stop where I'd been in the queue for the bog for 25 minutes.
We'd stopped here for refreshments and a loo break (a coach load of us for a single trap) on our voyage in search of the Northern Lights.
JT had invested his downtime in cracking onto the two girls in the seats in front of ours.
And as he was sharing their bottle of red wine when I got back onto the bus, he'd evidently been doing quite well.

We didn't see the Lights though, just spent an evening driving through darkness and necking the shared Merlot. 
It was a shame as it was really the whole reason the two of us headed to Iceland for a long weekend in January in the first place.
In truth, neither of us believed we'd see the Aurora Borealis once we'd landed in Reykjavik as it was snowing as we touched down and never really stopped.

Didn't matter though, because Reykjavik is a great little place. If a little odd.
The main strip in the smart little capital has loads of bars and restaurants. There's just nobody in them.
We weren't sure if it's because everyone is skint - the banking crisis hit Iceland hard, remember - or we were missing something.
Eating and drinking in Iceland still hurts the wallet but perhaps not as bad as it did pre-crash. Maybe the locals know about an illegal moonshine den.

The mystery cleared itself up at about 11.30pm when the bars suddenly got an injection of people. They just go out late in Reykjavik. We never really worked out why.

Some of the restaurants on the main street sell puffin and whale but skip those (Iceland Air gave us a bit of puffin to try on the plane) and head for Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. When President Clinton visited the city in 2004, he stopped by for a snack. It's a ramshackle hotdog stand.

In the absence of the light show, JT and I did take in all of the other "must do" sights. 
We covered our faces in the mud of the blue lagoon and bobbed around in the hot waters, beer and ice cream in hand.
We watched The Great Geysir shoot boiling H2O 70m into the air of the Haukadalur valley. 


And we Instagrammed pictures of the Gullfoss waterfall which looked good but in no way told of the awesome display of power nature puts on as it forces around 100 cubic metres of water a second over the drop.
Nor could our snaps convey that I was the coldest I've ever been while I stood there taking them. There was driving snow and wind which felt like it was burning the few bits of skin I had poking out of every piece of thermal clothing I own.

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The most incredible sight on the trip for me, though, was at the Þingvellir national park - a place where elves and trolls abound if you ask the people who live nearby.
As a bachelor of Geography I spent a great deal of my time in school, college and uni thinking about tectonic plates and here they were, the Eurasian and the North American, meeting in front of me in desolate wonder.

So my search for the Northern Lights will have to go on but in no way was I disappointed by Iceland, a place both beautiful and strange.
My only regret is that I missed out on the chance for the ultimate holiday pic. 
As our coach left for the airport the driver got on the Tannoy and told us we were passing the Prime Minister's office.
He's in the phone book, apparently, and you can have a chat to him if you cross paths. No blacked-out Range Rovers and secret security service for Mr Johannsson. 
A selfie with the PM would have put the Ice-ing on the cake.
But hopefully I'll catch him and the light show next time I visit.