Just like most spontaneous trips, this one started out (about 10 days ago) with the simple desire for a little escapism…
We had already decided on the Thursday evening before last weekend that we wanted to drive somewhere nice for the weekend… On the Friday after work we picked a gorgeous house on Airbnb, the whole thing for a better price than most hotels in the region… and hatched a plan to wake up early and drive to Alsace.
To a little town called Hattmatt, actually- to be precise.
Location: North East France.
The journey was smooth and rather enjoyable… sunshine present, radio blaring and of course, plenty of excitement in tow!
We very quickly settled into our gorgeous ‘home’ for the weekend- a detached, idyllic traditional Alsatian beamed house… complete with everything one could possibly need; 2 pet kitties, Barbecue, huge garden, terrace… We really felt as though we’d hit the jackpot with this last minute Airbnb pick!
We went to a nice big supermarket in nearby Saverne to pick up supplies for a barbecued feast for the evening. Then, we set off on a 3.5 hour hike in the hot afternoon sun… we headed from Hattmatt over to St. Jean Saverne into the Réserve Nationale de Chasse de la Petite-Pierre, and the beautiful, almost untouched northern French forest.
Lots of lovely wine and cheese and meat was enjoyed as a much-needed reward after our lovely long hike.
The kitties seemed to enjoy the feast too! (Especially Wolli, pictured above, who we renamed fatty! She flicked a steak off the table whilst we were up the garden exploring!)
Hattmatt was the perfect base for our Saturday night stay & springboard for another little Alsatian adventure. We drove back to Frankfurt Via Haguenau, where we enjoyed a nice iced coffee!
More importantly though… we went lake swimming in the Bassin des Mouettes in Lauterbourg (near the German border) and soaked up some sun!
On the whole, it was a really fantastic weekend. I would do it again in a heartbeat. If you get the chance… jump in the car with a map and a plan… (you don’t even need much of a plan!)
I had a wonderful, unforgettable trip to Iceland with my family at the beginning of April. We saw a good deal of Reykjavik itself, but spent a large portion of our trip hunting down the northern lights at all hours (to no avail) and visiting some of the most famous natural wonders of Iceland (The Golden Circle, The Blue Lagoon, to name a couple!)
I think something none of us had quite bargained for before we embarked upon our holiday, was just how exceptionally pricey Iceland would be. This is something you should know if you don’t already, though you’ll probably have a rough idea from a little research.
It’s really, really expensive. I’m not exaggerating.
If you’re from anywhere with a currency that isn’t a roughly comparable Kroner (like NOK, SEK or DKK), prepare to feel financiallypillaged. The exchange rates are unfavourable from pretty much any major western currency at present, especially the weak-ass Great British Pound £, but you’ll probably feel the sting of the ISK (Icelandic Krona) regardless… Everything is really expensive. Not just because of exchange rates, in fact, they aren’t even half of the story.
The average salary in Iceland is far higher than in most other developed countries… The average Icelander earns almost 3000 euros a month before tax… compared to the average UK earner, coming in at a little under 2000 a month (still talking in euros here, just for ease of comparison.) According to some sources, Reykjavik is actually THE most expensive capital city in the world. So don’t go without being prepared for the squeeze on your wallet. I went on a family trip, and my parents by no means scrimped, but we still felt consistently conscious of the seemingly ludicrous prices…
On our first afternoon we went to nice little cafe in Reykjavik, Stofan, (which I had previously spotted on tripadvisor)… It was cosy, warm and made a forgiving escape from the relentless freezing rain and icy wind… all was well until my mother figured out that the toastie my sister wanted to order (a veggie one, with mozzarella, tomato and pesto), which you would never pay more than £7 for in even the swishest London cafe (of equivocal centrality and vibes)… was going to set us back around £25. Roughly 27 euros. $32 USD. For a vegetarian toastie… To say it was a shock to the system would be an understatement.
You really wouldn’t believe the cost of alcohol in Iceland, either. A lot of the priciness comes down to the fact it is a tiny island nation in the arctic circle… But perhaps the shock was so distinct as Reykjavik certainly didn’t feel rural at all to me, quite comparable to many other European coastal cities I’ve visited. They don’t import that much by way of finished products… so it’s expensive to buy Icelandic, but even more expensive to buy imports.
There are *some* things you can do and see in Reykjavik on a budget. We made the decision to buy a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket… as taxis are pretty extortionate and we wanted to see all the city highlights in a day.
The Hallgrímskirkja is a stunning feat of modern architechture, probably the most recognisable landmark in Reykjavik and is free to visit. For a small fee you can ascend the tower for panoramic views over the city (although by this point in our trip we had decided to conserve our Krona for food wherever possible to avoid accidental starvation.)
We also ventured to the Harpa, a stunning glass building by the Old Harbour, complete with visitor centre, theatre, gift shops and great photo opportunities.
The geometric facade of the Harpa is mesmerising, even on a grey day.
There’s a stunning view of the Esja Mountain from the coast of Reykjavik- a unique backdrop for a busy city.
Though largely frowned upon by Icelandic authorities, colourful graffiti provides a free attraction in central Reykjavik for thrifty travellers, and brightens up a grey city on a grey day no end.
The breathtaking views of the sea and mountains from the city centre are certainly a free bonus worth enjoying if you visit overpriceland!
You’ll pay a lot for excursions too, but I would say they are definitely worth it once you’re there. The only thing i’d say was a waste of money for us was our ‘northern lights tour’ (we never saw any, and stood in the cold, deserted and perfectly dark lava fields of rural iceland two nights in a row at 2am). But naturally, that’s something i’m sure those who have gotten lucky would say is worth taking a chance on.
If you want to go on trips to places like the Golden Circle (which I would recommend entirely) or the Blue Lagoon (which was also pretty cool), book in advance to save money. The two main coach trip providers are Reykjavik Excursions and Grayline. We used the former for our trips and were not disappointed.
Finally, something that may give you a little giggle- I mentioned briefly in my post on The Golden Circlethat i paid the world’s most expensive toilet a visit. On the topic of overprIceland…. here’s the view from the sink..!
If you do decide to take a trip to Iceland, make sure you’re prepared for the prices… once you’ve got your head around that as an investment, you’ll most likely be pretty impressed with the place. I certainly was!