the above snapshot was taken from Dolly Alderton, 26 writing for the Sunday Times
She’d been watching too many movies clearly, those Before and After Sunrise type ones where you want to just grab Ethan Hawke, snog and shag him senseless into silence.
But who am I to make these pre-judgements? The thing is I’ve not been patient enough to wait 5 years – less than a month into being single and I’m hooked up with someone has been the story of my dating life. Except in the last 1.5 years – which gives me another 3.5 to look for that someone in real life. In the meantime I went on holiday with the first one from a dating website, optimistically called *****… Soulmates (!), and returned home NOT feeling like knowing him had been a huge mistake. Thing is though, having had your heart broken and definitely approaching the end of days makes one a tad cautious.
Here’s a little preview of diary entries during that holiday –
It was promisingly sunny but bracing when we arrived and were met by our car hire rep. I never quite got used to driving on the wrong side of the road, causing Jan to wince and chastise me for veering into the hard shoulder on the passenger side fairly frequently – it was mostly good humoured ribbing as he was equally incompetent. I drove towards Stykkisholmur, stopping at Bogarnes to take in a heritage museum and hear Egil’s saga – he of warrior poet fame, slaying his first foe at the tender age of seven to the fulsome praise of his mother.
That evening the rain came down and tested our rain jackets. We were recommended a pleasing diner at the tourist information centre by an enthusiastic young information guide (there are lots of good restaurants around here, well, ok not lots, but good …). So we found Skirinn where we each had two large pints of the local brew with our first of many fish meals. My inhibitions very much lowered after the strong beers, as we headed to the harbour and the lighthouse to take photos of the stunning sunset and rainbows when the rain cleared, I declared that I was ready to give my heart to the island. I’m sure Jan must’ve thought me utterly reckless and almost as crazy as the rest of his women friends!
Our second full day, Jan at the wheel when we crossed over to the Westfjords with its breathtaking landscape saw us reaching for our phone cameras; he stopped the car every few minutes to take another scenic shot with his DSLR. We were headed towards Bolungarvik at the northern tip of the Westfjords opposite Hornstrandir peninsula. En route we stopped off at the Dynjandi falls where the rest of the tourists on this wild bit of Iceland had also decided to congregate. It was still magical enough and we were able to have quite a few moments just taking in the booming majesty and spectacular beauty of the place.
Fresh off the ferry from Stykkisholmur earlier we’d paused at the side of the road and walked down the sides of a waterfall. I particularly revelled in the cushiony mossy banks. If it hadn’t rained a few minutes before, I might have lain down on it. But it was damp and the hovering midgies also a nuisance.
The mountains throughout the journey had rough black faces of lava rock, some were tiered with columnar basalts and some still had sheets of unmelted snow on them; the glaciers were only faintly visible, merging with clouds in the far far distance. Some greenery was creeping up from the valleys, along fissures where water might have carved small rifts downwards. It was beautiful and although most of the guidebooks said that we would encounter few people in these parts we did pass a number of cars on our journey – a sign of mounting tourism.
We arrived at the guesthouse – Einarshusid. It was quaint and built at the turn of the last century. To be honest it wasn’t very inspiring initially not least because the washing facilities were shared but the hosts were charming and the place grew on us – we stayed there for three nights.
The next day we drove up to a bay at the end of the headland – the sands were a dark grey and there was a seal having a little swim in the deserted water. We walked on the mossy grassy cliff top towards the end of a waterfall and I had a little drink. It started to rain and the clouds descended rapidly as we drove away towards Isafjordur. There we joined a ferry to Hesteryi, once a thriving settlement centred around a profitable whaling industry and then later when whale hunting was quota curtailed, herring. But it lost even that trade when all the herring left the region, coincidentally at the same time as when telephone cables had been laid in the waters’ bed. Now it is only visited by hikers, campers and the odd tourist like us. There were two resident arctic foxes who gambolled up to us with quite docile expectation of feeding. We all snapped away at them with our cameras and then it was time to get back on the ferry where the whales obliged us once more with their surface presence.
The hosts at the guesthouse were really a number of students on summer jobs but one of them, Alex, was particularly informative and helped us find amongst other attractions a lovely fish restaurant where we ate on our last night there.
It was called Tjorhusid (the Towerhouse) and we made friends with three other diners on the long tables who were seated next to us. One was a young American from LA although he was born in Oahu, the other two a French couple from Brittany. Jan was his convivial self and invited Kevin, the American for a post prandial drink but he declined. We ended up in the basement of our guesthouse but no one else joined us. Ennis, who was a Berliner had had a drink with us the previous evening, regaling us with her tales of driving woes. She was making her way towards Akuryeri on her own and the previous evening we had been invited by two German couples to join them on their film night. They had connected the TV in the bar to their laptop to play Fading Gigolo. We watched it to the end that first evening and went to bed at around one in the morning.
When we woke up, Jan had been a little amorous but we were fairly chaste after that. Goran has been messaging me on what’s app throughout this trip and I detected a little despondency in his tone on Sunday. He asked and I confessed to him that Jan and I had had a little romp that morning and nothing since which was the truth.
We get to the middle of our holiday after an epic 5 hour journey weaving in and out of the fjords on smooth roads. We play our music on our iPhones to each other and take turns with the driving. Intent on arriving, a little anxious about the journey and destination, we missed a couple of sights. We had eaten our packed lunches fairly late and didn’t feel like having a full meal so went for a walk on the beach and into the tiny interior before going back to the hotel bar for a drink.
I am enjoying this holiday a lot as both Jan and I quite like spending time reading on our own, not making any unreasonable demands on each other’s time. We’d had an honest sort of chat about our circumstances which helped tremendously to lay the boundaries for how we relate to each other.
I broke off from writing this halfway to entertain Jan on his PPE whimsy, Peston and Corbyn came up a few times and then we got distracted somehow and now I’m back to writing as he seems to be intent on a game on his phone. I go off for a dip in the hotel hot pool, joined by a honeymooning couple from Kansas. Jan sees us but disappeared back into the room. I get out after the pool closes and find him on his phone, intent on the screen, lying on the bed.
We’d had a chat about what we want in our relationships with people and he is very much happy in his present state although still very much looking. A bit like me. We are all looking for something that will suit us. What suits is not getting hurt after an adult lifetime spent with the wrong partners. The next morning we’d had an unexpected romp – I was in a silly giggly mood. The walls were uncompromisingly thin and we dared each other to remain silent in our enthusiasm. He’d said the night before that sex was like sneezing but took it back after I challenged him post-coital. We settle into an easy, comfortable pace and he says that I am nice to go on holiday with as I’m not at all mad, unlike some of his other women friends. I laughed but felt inwardly quite pleased and then wished I might be thought a little mad after all.
The day of the journey down the F35 dawned blue and golden and the sights magnificent – glaciers in the far distance, moonscape in the foreground. Sheep in threes – ewe and her two lambs were a fairly common sight, in the middle of the road licking the salt and then skittering off as we approached. The road became rough and full of pot holes so we stopped off at hot springs at Hveravelir, and had some tea before pushing on to Gullfoss – the mother of all waterfalls. The road thankfully improved as we reached the tourist trodden Golden Circle before getting to our final guesthouse. Towards the grassy plains in the south we saw plenty of Icelandic horses.
Last full day – quietly seeing the main city, a visit to the penis museum and then some souvenir shopping before a drink at b5 to revive us. I’d come across Halldor Laxness at one of the bookshops and am determined to find him at the library. It was late – around 4pm but I managed to persuade Jan we should drive to the Black Sand Beach in Vik. It would have been even more spectacular if it hadn’t been raining and so we spent a mere fifteen minutes there before picking up a couple of Russian hitchhikers on the way back. The talk inevitably turned to Putin and the Russian economy, or laughable lack of it, according to them.
Things I liked about the holiday – listening to Jan’s music – Pink Floyd, Emiliana Torrini, June Tabor and a bit of his early band Valhalla – whilst on the road trip; also the breathtaking landscape and quiet desolation of most of the north west; and of course the final guesthouse just outside Hverargedi – a modern charm of simplicity, owned and run by an Icelandic sculptor. She was an interesting character and Jan wished he could have chatted more with her, found out more about her etc. I also found the last two nights refreshingly relaxing and would vote it the best place to stay. The holiday could all have been a little cheaper but we’d had a fairly incident and drama free week.
Said goodbye yesterday and we returned to our ordinary lives.
And for your patience and reading to the end of the additional 1800 words, this is why I adore the music of the Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini –