One of my first trips when I joined The Artisan Travel Company brought me to the beautiful island Gozo. After arriving at Malta airport, my taxi driver was already waiting for me and I was brought to the ferry port to board the ferry.
Already just the crossing from Malta to Gozo gave me a holiday feeling.
As I was so excited about the trip I almost forgot to pick up my luggage, but thankfully my friendly taxi driver reminded me to do so. My adventure could then finally begin.
I checked into my lovely room and had a wonder around the hotel, which has a converted 350 year old farmhouse as its central area.
The village of Xaghra is only a few minutes' walk away, so I decided to go and was positively surprised, to be honest. It is a small, picturesque village and also offers a historical heritage.
After I had seen the village, I decided to stroll back to my hotel and enjoy the rest of my day and the lovely sunshine.
Being one of those people who tends to plan their day around meals and loves to try out new food, one of my favourite parts about travelling to Lapland is sampling the Scandinavian food which is rich, varied and plentiful.
In the depths of Northern Finland and Sweden, food is (logically!) sourced firstly from the landscape – fish are caught in the lakes, reindeers are bred in the forest and berries and mushrooms are foraged from the ground. This gives the food here a natural and fresh taste and I love the fact that the meals here feel so hearty and wholesome.
The very first dish I enjoyed on a visit here was a simple one – sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, but in the bitingly cold arctic environment it was, quite honestly, perfect.
I have been lucky enough to visit Menesjärvi twice during my time working for Artisan. The first time was in September during the wonderfully scenic Finnish autumn. The drive here will take you away from the small town of Ivalo and into increasing wilderness – the trees grow denser, the roads grow quieter, and you pass nothing except a small handful of houses (owned mostly by local reindeer herders) before you come across the main hotel here.
Hotel Korpikartano is located on the banks of Lake Menesjarvi which at this time of year, is a beautiful glittering vista of water, reflecting the changing colours of the surrounding trees.
One of the more memorable evenings of my visit to Northern Norway was spent in the home of a local fisherman who specialised in King Crab.I will admit right from the start that I on the whole don't eat seafood, but still found this whole evening a wonderful local experience.
King Crabs are rather famous on the north coast of Norway, namely in Kirkenes and the North Cape of the country.
Despite their immense popularity as a local delicacy, we learnt that King Crabs are not native to this region and were in fact introduced artificially by Soviet Scientists in the 1960s to provide a new valuable catch for Russian fishermen. Their native home is the Barents Sea surrounding Alaska where the population is declining, despite strict fishing controls, yet here on the coast of Norway they are thriving.
I defy anybody about to embark on their first ever dog sledding adventure not to feel the slightest hint of trepidation, I know I certainly did. It's the cacophony of sound emanating from the feverishly excited dogs that really sets the butterflies a-flapping in the stomach, there's something almost primeval about that wolf-like howling.
The first time I went dog sledding and on the numerous subsequent occasions, I found myself imagining how early trappers must have felt when they heard that long, deep, lupine "haa....rooooo!" echoing across an untamed wilderness. It's enough to send shivers down the spine.
The final part of the week was a combination of the idyllic south shore and the island's northernmost city of Akureyri. First though, we went to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, on the west of the island, the self-proclaimed 'Iceland in miniature' which has a little bit of everything else you will see across the island - waterfalls, beaches, lagoons and glaciers.
We stayed in Stykkishólmur, which is one of those ridiculously quaint fishing villages which speak of an easy way of traditional laid-back life.
On the south shore we drive past glaciers and more waterfalls and the site of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Here you can visit the tiny and informative museum which shows you the eruption in 2010 that not only impacted millions of air passengers across the globe but also completely covered the tiny community and farms here in vast quantities of ash.
My love of Iceland - Part 2: Adventures in the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik and two thirds of the Golden CircleFriday, 22 August 2014 Be the first to comment!
When we arrived in Iceland, the first thing we did was drive to the Blue Lagoon. To get here you drive across unending black lava fields which many would find desolate, but to me had a sort of bleak beauty and it is really no exaggeration that I basically fell in love with the landscape at first sight - as overly dramatic as that sounds!
At the Blue Lagoon we changed into our swimwear and headed out to the water. I must admit the weather was pretty bad (I learned quickly that the best way to describe the weather in Iceland is 'wildly unpredictable...').
However, the milky blue water was toasty warm and as we floated around I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the place, with its pitch black lava backdrop against the blue of the water. It is well known as a tourist hotspot and I've heard some people say it's too busy and too commercial so I was a bit dubious but, it was quite simply wonderful. Yes, there are a lot of people there, but the lagoon is large enough that it never feels overcrowded and, as my very first taste of Iceland, it was pretty great. Speaking to fellow travellers the best times to go are early in the morning or late in the evening as it is much quieter then – late evenings in particular during the Midnight Sun are said to be rather special.
My very first memory of Iceland is seeing it on a travel programme as a child and being completely captivated. I couldn't quite tell you why – I think it planted itself in my 6 year old mind as this big frozen country – a mystical, otherworldly place in the middle of the sea that seemed so far from and so unlike anything else.
As strange as it sounds to most of my friends and family, I have never been a fan of hot places and whilst I appreciate a bit of sunshine every now and then it's the cold that I enjoy the most (I'm one of those people that enjoys when the English two week summer is done and I can get out my woolly jumpers again...) so Iceland, even by just its name, was a place that called out to me.
Since then I always wanted to visit and it was forever in the back of my mind as a sort of bucket list place that I knew I wanted to visit when I was a grown up (as far off as that seemed at the time).
On a trip to the north of Norway in February 2014, I had the rather exciting opportunity to stay overnight in a snow hotel and I must admit that it was an evening I'm unlikely to forget!
The location was Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, just outside the Norwegian town of Alta. The hotel here has been constructed annually for the last 15 years, utilising talented artists and architects to create a more impressive design each season.
After a delicious dinner in the restaurant we were shown through into the igloo hotel which is just outside the main building. Stepping inside, the first thing I noticed was just how incredibly quiet it was. Effectively, you are inside a huge dome built of snow which muffles all exterior noise and so it is a rather peaceful experience.
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