A New Year under the Northern Lights
So my day started like this…
It was January 1st, midnight to be exact, and I was drinking champagne, eating cake and ducking out the way of a party popper. 2014 had arrived and I was surrounded by my friends and the sound of London’s fireworks on the TV. But, it was a short and sweet celebration as at 12.30, whilst my friend were heading into town, I said my goodbyes, walked home and got in to bed to squeeze in a couple of hours sleep before heading to Stansted airport at 4am. I didn’t fancy spending my life savings on nightclub entries anyway…
One bag checked in, two overpriced breakfast, and three hours of flying later, I landed in Reykjavik Iceland at 10 am and then sun was only just beginning to rise. Groggy from flying, slightly hungover from Champagne and wine, and excited about the soon-to-be ticked bucket list item. Tonight I would spend my first evening of 2014 aweing at the Northern Lights.
The city of Reykjavik is one of simple beauty. Like any Scandinavian town, the homes are brightly coloured, the Hallgrímskirkja church (yes, I had to google that) was magnificent and the Esjan mountains were somethin’ else. By the time we had checked in and settled into our hotel it was midday, I had seven hours until the excursion coach would pick me up from my hotel and a whole city to discover.
Everywhere was pretty much closed as it was New Years Day – something I didn’t consider at all! But I managed to stop for lunch at a Mexican restaurant, as one does in Iceland, but it was very nearly going to be a Subway! The food was okay, but I had reached the point where I was so hungry that as long as it was edible I was going to eat it. I then did, as I do in every new destination on the first day, explored the town on foot to get a feel for what Reykjavik, was all about.
After a nap – I could no longer go on – our tour bus was ready to pick us up and off I went to fulfil my first New Year Resolution. Now, the one thing about the Northern Lights is that with Mother Nature being the unpredictable queen that she is, there was always going to be a 50/50 chance of seeing them or not. All I could picture were the photos I’d seen in the magazine and hoped that luck would be in my side and thank God it was! Iceland ain’t cheap.
After about an hours’ drive out of Reykjavik to get away from the light pollution of the small city, we pulled up on to the side of the road in the pitch black. We were told to take a photo of the sky as the camera lens could pick up the infamous lights better than the human eye, so desperate to see my Northern Lights, I did just that and there they were. Streaking across my camera’s screen was a green light and I eagerly squinted at the sky to see if there were more.
Shivering and sheltering from the wind, lots of the other ‘tourist’ (am I allowed to say that even if I was one of them?? #travelsnob) had retired to the warmth of the conveniently placed, over priced cafe which just happened to be open at this time of night. I refused to go in even though my gloves didn’t seem to be offering me any protection against the cold, my camera was full of photos of green lights in the sky but I had yet to see the iconic world wonder with my own eyes.
Then, with a tremendously cheesy gasp from the crowd (I even recall a few people applauding) as a vibrant, green light began to form against the dark sky, and I couldn’t help getting giddy. It actually reminded me of the time I had met Jared Padalecki (Sam, from Supernatural. Clang) when I was genuinely star struck, but instead of a celebrity, this was nature at its finest.
The light seemed to slowly twist and extend before it reached across the whole sky. You really have to see it to believe it, kids. There is a reason why there’s so much hype over the Northern Lights, let’s just put it that way. They’re gosh darn incredible. After watching the lights and struggling against the wind to take a long-exposure shot (a bad combination!) I couldn’t take the cold any longer and finally retired to the packed-to-the-walls cafe. Here I spent a total of £20 on a baileys hot chocolate and the traditional Icelandic Lobster soup…which after three spoonfuls I decided I didn’t like. But really none of that matter because it was January 1st 2014, a new year with a new start and I had done it, I’d seen the Northern Lights.
Now, how to top that in 2015…