Of Croissants and Campsites

After leaving Quiberon we moved on to Raguenes Plage, a tiny hamlet [‘hameau’] whose nearest notable towns would be scenic Pont Aven or touristy Concarneau, where we’ve been before, although all I could remember about Concarneau was falling off my bicycle into a nettle patch after an evening out…

On first sight, the campsite at Raguenes looks wonderful- and indeed it is as ‘luxurious’ as the ACSI book describes- beautifully laid out in gorgeous grounds, with a brand, spanking new indoor pool and an outdoor pool which is a work-in-progress. The showers etc are excellent and all seems great. We are welcomed by a jovial monsieur in an apron, wielding a spatula. He is caretaking the site on this Sunday while the reception staff have a day off. Not only is he pleasant and friendly but tells me I speak good French. He is multi-tasking by also preparing pizzas.

Here at Raguenes the spacious site is almost deserted and having selected our pitch we drive around to it and see only two other vans anywhere…

There isn’t a lot to the village; another site, a farm or two and private houses, although it’s picturesque, several of the old, stone houses having ancient wells in the garden or an old, outside bread oven.

It’s a short walk down the hill to the rocky shore and at low tide it is possible to clamber over the rocks to Raguenes Island, but best of all there is a coast path in both directions. The weather has turned overcast since we moved but will be fine for walking. There’s no shop, bar or boulangerie in Raguenes. Through the window of the site ‘takeaway’ behind the receptionist’s office I can clearly see two pains au chocolat, which is exactly what we would like with our coffee, but while we’ve ordered bread from site reception the woman manning the desk assures me that nothing else can be purchased unless we’ve pre-ordered it. Perhaps the pastries have been reserved by one of the two other units on site…

Perched above the rocky shore is a hotel/restaurant/cafe that may, or may not offer coffee. We wander down there. It’s quiet, but inside a conservatory a man sits using a computer and the door is open. Can we get coffee? Yes- and Bretonne style cake besides.

In the afternoon we stride out along the path towards Trevignon and despite the cloudy weather it is a great walk with lovely views and a carpet of dune-dwelling wildflowers and plants covering the sandy cliffs. Once we arrive at the tiny town there’s little to see and it’s bank holiday, but a couple of bar/cafes are open above the small marina. Then there’s nothing for it but to turn back and return via the same route. By the time we’re back the sun is out and as we pass the takeaway window I’m interested to see the two pains au chocolat still sitting on their plate, no doubt stale and inedible by now…

The following day is drizzly and we’re footsore from our walk so we unhook the van and take a trip to Pont Aven, nestling in a deep ravine and teeming with sightseers. We manage to find a parking spot and then must plunge down a steep hill to the centre. It’s an arty little town where Gaugin apparently went to school. Galleries abound as do gift shops, exploiting the arty vibe. The ‘pont’ is attractive, the river winding around the buildings, with a water mill wheel and a weir. We slog back uphill and have a last night at Raguenes Plage before moving on…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Back in the Swing of Things. France April 2022

We’ve chosen Conleau for our first site on this celebratory return to France, It’s just outside Vannes- near enough to walk in- and next to an estuary, a saltmarsh nature reserve. Across the road a popular beauty spot skirts the marina, overlooked by a couple of bars. It’s all bathed in sunshine for our first evening and we take a short walk then get a beer outside in the sun. An elderly man at the next table is eager to chat, which provides me with more French practice, and he with English…

The site is half full, mostly tourers, mostly French. There’s only one other British pair plus one or two other nationalities, which suggests that post-covid wandering is slow to get going. But I’m delighted that ‘turning up and booking in’ seems to be back on, as I’d worried we might never be able to be spontaneous ever again!

Next day we start out to walk around some of the estuary and discover that Vannes is not all that far, so continue on to the old city, walking along the river. In spite of all the modern architecture we’ve driven through to get to the site, the centre of the town is ancient and characterful with half-timbered buildings and cobbled streets. It’s full of tourists- again mainly French, and there’s a fair bit to see.

We’re a little weary and footsore and get a bus back almost to our site- except that the driver pulls up and turfs us off a couple of hundred yards before we get there.

We’re aiming to try and build back up to walking after our doses of Plague, so the following day we walk the other way, along the nature reserve, following one river.

It’s time to move on and we’ve opted for Quiberon, where we’ve stayed before on a few occasions. The site we opt for looks good and it’s near the sea, but although it is part of the same chain as Conleau its services are feeble. The showers, in spite of the new, modern building are feeble, the internet non-existent. The good news is we can walk into Quiberon town, which we do, along the seafront. All is just as we remember, including the ice-cream shop!

The coast around the Quiberon peninsula is scenic and rocky and the weather is fine, so it’s more walking, then on our second full day we plan to set off later, inspect the town and get a meal. We spend a lazy afternoon then head off, browsing the shops and getting a coffee. It takes a while to select a restaurant and it’s Saturday so many of them are ‘complet’. In the end I persuade Husband into the ‘Bistro du Port’ which he’d been convinced was a burger joint, but in spite of its unassuming exterior the restoranteur is enthusiastic and charming, welcoming us into his establishment, recommending dishes and engaging with us. The food is mostly seafood, fresh and delicious as you might expect in a port restaurant.

We walk back full and contented, and we’re ready to move again next day, which is Sunday. We’ll need to be up and away to catch a supermarket before thay close at midday…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

French Renaissance April 2022

It’s a momentous day. After two and a half years we’ve renewed our acquaintance with Brittany Ferries’ trusty vessel, Barfleur and have managed to cross the English Channel and get to France. Oh- and it also happens to be Polling Day for the French, who are choosing between Emmanuel Macron and Marine le Pen.

                It’s an early start to be ready, packed up and into the sparse queue for check-in at Poole, but we are luckier than most as it’s a short drive for us. And it’s quiet on a Sunday. We been a little anxious about attempting another trip abroad after the Iceland debacle, but once we’ve trundled to the booth we only need our passports and vaccine passes, then we’re through and in spite of a security check of the van, [due perhaps to being the ‘1 in 10’ or whatever], it’s all straightforward.

                The ferry is quiet, occupied by ancient travellers such as ourselves and one or two young couples with toddlers making the most of back-to-school time. There are no excitable parties of schoolchildren galloping round and round the decks and no gangs of teenagers crowding the shop and thrashing hell out of the gaming machines.

                We get a quick coffee and a pastry then descend to the deck below where a salon offers warmth, quiet and comfortable recliners. Soothed by the engines, gentle swell of the sea and sunshine I’m soon drowsy and most of the crossing passes in a pleasant, sleepy stupor.

We are soon making our way down a familiar route towards Bretagne and our first planned night’s stop, an aire at Tremblay. It’s not hard to find, sandwiched between the cemetery and some old people’s homes and it;s dead quiet[!], except for a yard full of dogs yapping. We’re on our own in the 8 place aire, which has a service point and little else. A short stroll around the village reveals little on this sleepy Sunday, the two bars and everything else closed apart from the Mairie, which is a polling station. I’ve been hoping to fill my water bottles as we’re close to being out of water and the service point ‘ne marche pas’ so I make a cheeky entrance to the polling station and beg some water from the kindly polling clerk, who is very obliging.I thank her and wish her luck whilst itching to know who’s in the lead…

My French is rusty from 2 years of disuse but begins to be revived. We sleep well in our spot next to the cemetery. Aires often seem to be situated by churchyards, or sometimes sports grounds or police stations. Next morning there’s very little traffic to disturb us except for the dustbin lorry. We make a feeble attempt to get water from the service point, which rejects our 2E coin, give up and get underway.

We’re getting back into the swing of it- but we’re too far in towards the centre of Vannes to find a large supermarket by the time we think of it and the SATNAV leads us unhelpfully to a non-existent Hyper-U in the centre of town. We locate a Carrefour at last but find ourselves grabbing a quick lunch in the subterranean gloom of the car park.

Our mobile internet has failed us, a hitch that needs solving. The giant store has an ‘Orange’ outlet and we head there, to find my burgeoning recall of French severely challenged as I try to explain our difficulties. I manage it though and we come away with a stop-gap solution. It occurs to me that much of holidaying this way is problem-solving and perhaps that’s part of what we enjoy…or not…

At last we get to our chosen site- and it’s lovely, nestling by an enormous natural harbour. There’s time for a walk and a beer, sitting in the sunshine by the marina and we remember what we love about holidaying this way…

A Journey in Itself

Having cut short the Sussex trip, [https://gracelessageing.com/2022/03/20/cutting-it-short/], due to the Plague we made a second attempt at an early spring jaunt, this time even closer to home. We are back at Tom’s Field, Langton Matravers in the beautiful, Dorset Isle of Purbeck. We’d been encouraged by a promising forecast of warm sunshine. This is a rustic campsite that has existed for years and years and one we’ve been patronising for years, too. The services, while oldish and not luxurious are clean and efficient, the showers powerful and hot. There is also a campsite shop, not comprehensively stocked this early in the year but open and useful. We’ve only booked for three nights, midweek but I’m sure that by the time the weekend arrives it would be packed with vans and tents. The site does not accommodate caravans.

The dose of Covid that prompted our swift return from Sussex has been a bit of a journey in itself. Initially I felt shivery, achey and tired. I coughed. I was lethargic. At home I lolled around, did nothing and kept falling asleep. After isolation finished I managed some pottering in the garden, then by the weekend I was able to go out and about- to the theatre and to spend an evening with friends.

Then the sunshine prompted a packing of the van. Despite having felt well enough to get around I slept badly, waking often with a blocked nose and a hacking cough. It seemed that The Plague had moved into another phase. Loading the van was an effort but we made the short hop to The Isle of Purbeck in unbroken, warm sun and joined the 3 other vans in the south field. The site only opened 2 days ago.

Having spent yet another night propped up and blocked up, I staggered awake and did very little until Husband suggested a walk to the excellent Square and Compass pub at Worth Matravers to get lunch and a drink. I wondered if I’d manage the short walk across the fields and along the Priest’s Way but sitting outside the old hostelery with a pasty felt worth the effort. For a description of this wonderful, old pub click here: https://gracelessageing.com/2021/09/19/short-and-sweet-in-dorset/

Then another uncomfortable night followed and I decided against joining Husband for a favourite walk over the hills and down to beautiful Dancing Ledge, where the sea would be sparkling on this warm March day, opting instead for a doze on my lounger, catching up on missed sleep and watching the antics of the blackbirds chasing each other in and out of the ivy hedge.

I made it down to the lovely old KIngs Arms for something to eat, then trudged back for the next long night of sleeplessness. We’ll have to hope the next van trip of 2022 is less dogged by mishap. Third time lucky, perhaps?

Cutting it Short

After a couple of days at the Emsworth site [as described in last week’s post], we’ve determined there’s not too much left to see and it’s time to move on, this time to Littlehampton. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my [admittedly defective] memory, I seem to recall that we were despatched there from London as students in the fine art department of my college, in order to produce some work of a seaside nature. Other than this I remember nothing, so presumably the results were under-whelming and unlikely to set the art world on fire.

I’ve booked tickets to see The Weald and Downland Living Museum, an open-air attraction covering a large area and celebrating South Downs life with constructions of homes and businesses from days gone by. It’s also the home of ‘The Repair Shop’- a hit British TV series where expert restorers of every skill revive items that are brought in by members of the public. The objects chosen need to have an emotive back story, such as having been used by a beloved, now deceased parent or grandparent, which precludes Husband or me submitting ourselves for repair or any of the rubbish we have cluttering up our house.

We’ve been given a time-slot for revival and since we’re taking in the museum en route to our next site at Littlehampton we park and have lunch first. In the enclosure, some of the installations are set up as working premises, manned by volunteers who are eager to impart their knowledge and undertake demonstrations. We go first to the potter, who stands behind his wheel clearly gagging for the punters to stop and listen, which we obligingly do. And it’s here I hit my first snag with the museum: about half the items on display are things we had in our household when I was a child. Here in the potter’s shelter lies a ceramic mixing bowl- two of which we have in our kitchen cupboard right now, as I write. The potter imparts some interesting facts, although there’s little new in his exposure of all things pottery. I used to teach a pottery evening class myself, many moons ago and know about pug mills, kiln explosions etc.

I’m aware that we’re trapped by the ‘expert’ but then we’re rescued by some fresh victims visitors, allowing us to move on to the blacksmith’s shack. The expert here is an ex-volunteer but seems to know how to make a curly piece of iron. From here we can see the venue for The Repair Shop TV programme, although we’re not allowed too close due to it’s being a film set. A scaffold to the side of the thatched building indicates it is being repaired…

We continue to the mill, nipping away before we’re caught again then leave via the bakery, which is flogging yummy little oat cakes, still warm from the big, wood-fired wall oven. We’re getting the hang of avoiding the ‘guides’ and stick to visiting the unmanned houses. There’s a mixture of eras from medieval to Victorian. As before, many of the homes are furnished with items I remember my mother using: a ‘copper’ and a mangle for laundry, a range, chamber pots in the bedrooms. There are some glaring omissions though. We’d no bathroom before I was five and we were bathed in a tin bath by the fire. Also our toilet resided in a wooden shack towards the back of the garden and was furnished with a wide, wooden plank into which two holes were carved- one large and one smaller. A child could sit and cogitate alongside an adult there- although I don’t remember sharing with either of my parents! Under the seats was a long drop down into a cess pit. There are no outside toilets at the museum as far as I can see…

There’s a small farm area and a charcoal burners camp in the woods, then we’ve done it, neatly dodging the well-meaning volunteers.

We head off to Littlehampton and park up in our pitch. I still have a sore throat. The site is quite different from Emsworth, with more caravans, but it’s quiet and we’ve found a sunny spot. There’s next to no internet signal here for our little mobile pebble hub, but we pass a peaceful evening.

I wake feeling achey and unrested. After a while I decide a Covid lateral flow test is in order and Lo and Behold…there is the second red line. There’s not much deliberation and we’re not far from home so the second night gets scrapped as we pack up and take to the road home. Next morning it’s raining…

A Wander in West Sussex

Having regrouped from our debacle in Iceland, picked ourselves up and dusted down we opt for a modest, local jaunt in our campervan. It’s a while since we packed and prepped for such a trip so I resort to consulting our inventory list in the certain knowledge that we’ll have forgotten something. A few years ago we arrived to one of our favourite Isle of Purbeck sites to discover I’d loaded no bedding of any description, which resulted in a visit to Swanage’s one and only duvet and sheet stockists.

This March has come in like the proverbial lion, with ferocious, biting winds. At least the abortive Iceland trip was good for something, in that we amassed excellent cold weather gear. The van itself is cosy and warm- [warmer than our house!]. Also I’m reminded that the Ukrainian refugees are fleeing their war-torn country in icy, snowy conditions with their babies and all they can carry.

On our way back from Gatwick last month, the train passed through Emsworth, leading us to consider returning to have a look. It’s a modest distance from our home but not an area we’ve explored much so we’ve headed there, to a site at ‘Southbourne’, not the Southbourne, Bournemouth we moved from 5 years ago…

For our first day we wrap up well and walk down to the coast path and along to Emsworth, which is either a large village or a tiny town. It’s attractive, with a pretty harbour and not a lot else, including shopping, so I give up on the soft toothbrush I was hoping to pick up [having- yes- neglected to pack mine]. We get a coffee outside a small harbourfront cafe, sitting in a sunny, sheltered spot then it’s a short bus ride back to Southbourne.

Next day we opt for a visit to Chichester, accessed by a bus ride in the opposite direction. On the bus a single, portly, mature man feels the need to chat, starting with harmless remarks about bus stops and gradually progressing to rants about his pension, his dentist, his rent and why doesn’t everyone vote Conservative, at which point I no longer feel able to nod and murmur and I’m praying for his stop to be soon, please…When he gets up to leave the bus the woman who’d sat behind him is moved to tell me ‘Well that’s lucky…’ I also noticed that Husband, who’d been lucky to have taken the window seat, had found the passing countryside totally absorbing throughout the man’s diatribe.

We alight right beside Chichester’s magnificent cathedral but don’t enter as a recital is taking place. Instead we walk through the cloisters with their barrel-vaulted ceilings and the close- all very scenic. Then it’s a stroll of the streets and a quick look in a gallery or two. It’s a beautiful city with many historic pieces of architecture, including a wonderful market cross. There’s just time for a look at the Bishop’s Palace Gardens before we head back and the garden is extensive, although it’s too early in the year for many colourful displays.

The return bus is full to the gunnels, mostly with schoolchildren who act just exactly as you would expect groups of adolescents to-

Then we’re off to the pub, just a step along the road, for a very acceptable meal. We’re gearing up to move on to the next site in the morning…

Sightseeing in Iceland

On this, the last day of our abortive trip to Iceland, we made it out of the hotel to tour some sights at last…

So finally we were out and about together to see three of the ‘must sees’ on offer in Iceland for tourists and the sun was shining in a blue, cloudless sky. Our guide for the day, Albert, kicked off with a few hackneyed jokes as we exited Reykjavik then we were away up into the snow clad countryside, following the route we’d returned on the previous day when I’d travelled alone.

It became clear that we’d be doing the trip in reverse this time, first to the Gulfoss waterfall. I was delighted to be seeing it again, not least because the huge falls were bathed in sunshine this time, the water sparkling as it tumbled down over the ledges and a rainbow visible in the spray. We looked from the top then moved down the steps to view it from the lower level. I was better pleased with my photos this time!

En route to our next stop- the geyser- the weather did an abrupt u-turn. A viscious wind sprang up and blew a blizzard across almost horizontally, so that when we pulled in at the car park for the thermal springs and pools and got out of the bus it felt like being cut in half, such was the ferocity of the gusts. We battled across the slippery road and up the path to the geyser, where we stood just long enough to see the spout fly up into the air in a wheezy plume and be blown sideways. Then we felt we’d had enough, although as we turned to head back several people in wheelchairs were arriving, pushed by brave and strong helpers, demonstrating a tenacious will to live life to the full!

There was time for a hot drink in the cafe before we left. By now the weather had deteriorated further but we’d still to visit the national park [first on the list the day before]. The weather had worsened again, rendering visibility a problem for our driver, who’d also to deal with the high wind, which made steering difficult. Albert asked us to move up to the front seats of the bus to help with stability- even so it was slow going and by the time we got to the National Park the light was fading and the cafe had shut. We spent a few minutes there, but crossing the two tectonic plates and seeing the fissures in the snow was still thrilling.

We headed back in the growing darkness, to the lights of Reykjavik and were dropped off near our hotel, thankfully. But rather than go up to our room we trudged round to the Food Hall- a large, blue building on the harbour where the walls are lined with all manner of food stalls and the center filled with long, trestle tables. You choose your cuisine, collect it when ready and can sit together to enjoy your meals. We followed with a hearty beer before returning to our hotel for a late drink in the bar, feeling, at last that we’d had a tiny taste of Iceland…

On our return to the UK the plague began to recede along with rules and regulations. Maybe ‘normal’ life was about to be resumed? But then, as we looked over our shoulders at the fading brute of the pandemic a much larger and more frightening monster was rearing up in front of us; unthinkable, unbelievable. War in Europe…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Iceland: The One Day Out…

Husband was finally free of our hotel room after 3 days isolation. With only one day left, we were set to make the best of it…

It was our last day in Iceland. And at last we could go down to the restaurant and have breakfast together, instead of me dining alone and parcelling up breakfast items for him. I wondered what our fellow diners would think of my appearance with a man- Had I picked him up somewhere during my lone travel escapade? Bonded on a bus or in a bar and shacked up together in the hotel room?

We’d one more task to complete for the return to the UK and I was determined to get it over and done with before our day out. We’d to fill out a ‘passenger locator form’ for each of us. I sat down with my laptop and found the form. To begin with it seemed simple and I began to congratulate myself [always a bad idea]. I got almost to the end, to the request for the serial numbers of our return-to-UK, lateral flow test kits, which were resting on a cupboard top in our house, ready for our return. Horrors! Who knew? I tried various numbers on forms, to no avail, gnashing my teeth and groaning. Then I had a brainwave. I could ring our neighbour to go in and look at the boxes in our house. Hooray! I rang her, and she, kind soul that she is, dropped everything and went upstairs in the house to look at the kits. She talked me through her search, a number here, a number there…I tried all the numbers. None of them was correct.

The time ticked away. Soon we’d need to be in the lobby to await our bus for the tour. In desperation, I turned to Monsieur Google for help and got an answer. The numbers would have been on the invoice email. I looked at my inbox, which yielded no correspondence from the company, Randox. I looked in the trash. There! There it was- an email with some serial numbers! I keyed them in and pressed submit, holding my breath. And it went. Phew. We had to do it all again, of course, for Husband, but then we were done.

We began donning layers for our day out. The outside temperature was set to drop to -9. I was glad of my thermal tops and fleecy walking trousers. We were ferrried to the bus station as I’d been the previous day and went to the counter to pay for the day’s tour. At this point things went in our favour. The fact that I’d already taken the tour alone and Husband had missed it was known to the ticket clark. She looked at me. ‘There’s no charge’ she said. ‘Forget it’. After all the trouble I felt tearful when faced with her kindness.

We boarded the bus- together this time- . Our tour guide was not the world-weary Johanna of the previous day but Albert, a mature, jovial character who began with his -clearly much practised] jokes as we swung out of the bus park. The day was bitterly cold but the sky was a sparkling blue and not a cloud in it. And we were out together…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Iceland Day 3- Tour and Test.

We were half way through our four day visit to Iceland but no nearer to achieving the freedom to explore as we wished. Scroll back to previous episodes for the full story…

Now it was Wednesday. I’d undertaken a solitary tour to not see the Northern Lights and was now preparing to join the next tour we’d booked, the ‘Golden Circle’ tour. Since the Icelandic authorities had come no further towards contacting Husband regarding his ‘inconclusive’ Covid test we determined that all he could do was walk out of city as far as he could get and try to see some countryside, perhaps. It was a sad state of affairs.

I went to breakfast, stopping off to order him a room service one. A woman I met in the dining room told me she and her husband had almost been caught the same way by ordering Randox test kits and then at the last moment had gone to a pharmacy and got tested there. Otherwise, she told me, they’d be in the same sorry boat as we were.

With a little time to spare before my tour I looked at covid.is website and engaged the ‘chatbot’, where I vented all my frustrations regarding Husband’s position.

You may wonder why we didn’t simply ignore the regulations regarding Covid in Iceland- after all, you may think, who would have known if we’d have just carried on regardless? But we figured that a] we’d no desire to be caught, fined and possibly quarantined for two weeks and b] no desire to be hypocritical and to behave like the members of our own, criminal and dishonest, UK government. https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2022/jan/14/how-no-10s-alleged-parties-took-place-as-uk-covid-death-toll-rose-interactive

For this next tour I’d ensured I’d be returned to my hotel, not wishing to be abandoned at the locked bus station at some ungodly hour again! Along with some others, we were ferried to the coach, where I sat alone once more. Our guide for the day, Johanna, began her narrative as we left the city, an informative commentary but delivered with a somewhat world-weary style as she huffed and puffed in between parts of her notes.

Rolling along in the bus, I remembered the hot dog van. Although we’d saved parts of breakfast for Husband’s day of walking, he’d be able to get something hot to eat without entering a cafe. Hooray! I texted him this thought, then he rang me back, just as Johanna was beginning another desultory morsel of information. Husband had good and bad news. He’d heard from the authorities. They would come to the hotel and do another test on him, but he’d need to wait in the hotel room for up to 4 hours, effectively obliterating his plan to walk.

The tour continued and we stopped for the national park, where a portly fellow passenger told me of yet another tourist he’d met who’d been thwarted by the Randox tests. Onwards, then to the waterfall, which was impressive. I made sure to photograph everything to show Husband, imprisoned and waiting for the medic. Lastly there was the geyser and the thermal springs, again, well worth a look. I went to the cafe afterwards and had tea. But while lone travel has advantages [described in previous posts] I was missing a chance to share those snippets and asides my companion provides.

Back in the hotel, Husband had not heard any results of the day’s test and had passed his incarceration by parcelling it up into different activities: internet/reading/stretching- but still been bored mindless. I went to order our meals and it was while I was talking to the waitress that he called me to say his result had come: negative…of course…

Having ordered the meal we were not able to go out to eat, but as soon as we’d finished we went out to find a bar and have a celebratory drink, the first outside of our hotel. We had one more day left. What could we do with it? …

Reykjavik Unravelling

In last week’s post I described how we’d arrived to Kevlavik Airport to have our Covid test certificates rejected, after which we went to our hotel to await results of the airport test...

We awoke on Tuesday morning, confident that we’d have our test results and be liberated for our first full day in Iceland. We’d been told ‘within 24 hours’ so when we’d heard nothing by breakfast time we used the hotel’s excellent ‘breakfast in bed’ service, although we’d have preferred to have joined everyone else in the restaurant.

As we were allowed to walk about outside, after breakfast we donned our thermal layers and set off to explore Reykjavik, taking great care on the icy pavements. It was an easy walk into the centre from our hotel, although as the day progressed intermittent snow blew into our faces.

We were in the penis museum when the pings on our phones heralded messages. We’d chanced a visit, mindful of the instruction to avoid crowded places, ‘like malls’. The tiny museum was very quiet. We’d been around a couple of times, though there is a limit to how many views of whale penises and lamps made from scrotum sacs you need or want- We’d wanted to make the most of our £15 entry fee whilst simultaneously enjoying some indoor warmth.

My test result was negative, said the text. Husband looked up from his phone, aghast. His result was ‘inconclusive’ and he was instructed to adhere to Covid rules until he received further information. Horrors! We left the museum and trudged on. There was no hint of when the ‘further information’ would come. This was day 2 of our 4 day trip.

By mid afternoon the weather was deteriorating, we’d seen Reykjavik’s beautiful Hallgrimskirkja church and its stunning opera house and had enough of stumbling along the slithery pavements. I’d rebooked our ‘Northern Lights’ tour for that night [it began at 21.00] but chances of our being able to go were diminishing. There was also the prospect of another meal in our tiny room. Since my test result was negative, Husband suggested I should go on the tour, a pragmatic but sad solution to the problem.

I descended to the hotel restaurant alone to eat, dining at a small table and remembering previous holidays I’d taken as a lone traveller. I ordered the same meal for Husband and having explained our predicament to the kind waitress, she had it prepared and packaged up for me to take to the room. Then I prepared for the tour and left him to the TV choices, the mini-bar and his book.

I went to the lobby, where others waited to be ferried to the bus station and in due course we were decanted on to a larger coach, one of about four going out to seek the aurora borealis. The weather did not look vastly promising but as we left the city to find darker skies we were assured by the Italian [!] tour guide there was every chance of seeing the lights. Sitting alone on the bus reminded me of my lone skiing trip [https://wordpress.com/post/gracelessageing.com/3225] – everyone paired or grouped, everyone bonding. But I had the double seat and the window to myself.

After about an hour we pulled into a car park next to the lava tunnel tourist attraction and duly piled out into the snow, which by now was quite deep. There was an incline up which we were encouraged to clamber, a lava field covered with snow. The only light came from the lava tunnel building [closed] and intermittent trucks on the road. We stood to await the spectacle, assured by the coach guides that only a break in the clouds was enough. I stumbled as far as I felt able and stood looking up. And stood. And stood. I felt immeasurably grateful for my warm layers and coat as we waited on in the dark. After an hour or so there were a few exclamations from the guides that the lights were beginning and while everyone craned their necks to see I couldn’t help but view all this as an ‘Emporer’s New Clothes’ situation.

A van turned up selling hot chocolate and snacks, which proved very popular. We moved around at the whims of the guides, who pointed out pale grey wisps of cloud to us. After another hour, my feet were cold, in spite of my thermal socks. A steady trickle of passengers was clambering back into the buses, although I’m proud to say I stuck it out to the end. It was late. The bus fired up and took us back to town, where it began to detour and drop people off. I’d booked a transfer to my hotel, not wishing to walk the icy, dark streets from the bus station after midnight.

There were just a handful of us left when the bus pulled in, the others melting away into the night. It was 1.00am. I climbed down from the bus and tried the bus station door. It was locked. I dashed back to the bus and collared the guide, who’d no clue about me. He disappeared around the building and made a call then returned to assure me somebody was coming. The bus went, leaving me alone at the locked station. I held my breath. At last a minibus caming careering into the car park and I was ferried back to the hotel in solitary splendour, cold and tired but extremely relieved!

In our room, Husband was in bed but awake after a solitary evening, but had not missed anything. That was Day 2, then. Half way through our trip. What would Wednesday bring? Who knew?…