Friday 24th February – Arrival

For my final year, the trip abroad for the professional placement became Iceland. I was not with my usual fellow Media Production students this time around either – the Communication, Culture and Media (CCM) course had recruited me to assist them in filming an experimental narrative style of film. I had eagerly accepted, for the chance to work with new people and create a media artefact from a different perspective (although granted, this was still for my showreel).

The day started at 5:00am, and I woke up and headed for the rendezvous. Comparisons to last year’s disaster project in Prague were inevitable, but this time around the bus turned up bang on time. All members arrived in plenty of time, and we arrived at Gatwick ahead of schedule. We killed time in a Cafe Nero, reminiscent of my first trip to Tenerife last year, before finally checking in and boarding the plane.

Killing time with our actress Cristina as we wait for the plane to depart in the airport.

We were warned that alcohol is the most expensive things to buy in Iceland, and with this being a predominantly second year placement, students were all too keen to compensate – we raided the duty free area of Gatwick, trying out some free shots of tequila before purchasing a smooth-tasting silver tequila brand, atop scotch whiskey, wine, and several variations of premium vodka. Add to this rum I was already importing and we had quite the cocktail amassed for the final ‘wrap party’.

My feet have been sweating all day in my huge walking boots – I predicted an icy mountainous region. With fear of putting too much weight in my luggage, I left alternative footwear at home. This may have been a mistake.

A curious advertisement to find on aeroplane seat regarding warm clothing lines – bad time to make a global warming joke?

After a three hour flight, we touched down at our destination to a sleet storm. The temperature was approximately zero degrees – half of the brown rocky terrain that formed the flat desolate landscape was covered in frosty white ice, and the rest was formed of puddle-filled streets being battered with freezing rain. We got the latter.

Sadly, the luck ran out at this point – a student had booked the coach to get us the hotel, and was unaware she was booking it for my CCM group as well. Two of our numbers went on the pre-paid bus to some unknown location near the capital city, whilst the rest of us got a taxi directly to our hotel (to be reimbursed).

The blues and hues in the landscape can only be described as alien – in St. Ives in Cornwall attracts artists because it has a very unique style of light, and the same thing goes for Iceland. The ocean was almost violet as the sun set behind it, and the sky is a cross between a deep blue and turquoise colour. Splotches of grey rain all over the horizon made the distant landscapes look like water-colour paintings, with the defiant orange sun the only familiar view as it hung in the sky. Sunset took three hours before the night crawled in.

We arrived at The Capital Inn on time, and our lecturer carried on to another hotel further inside the capital city. Unfortunately we had been lied to – our hotel was supposed to be in the city, to say we are on the outskirts is putting it generously. It the equivalent of my own house in the relation to my home city – roughly one hours walk, or twenty minute drive, away. Because of this, a second lecturer doing another project named Mafalda decided to cut her losses and move hotels later in the week. Us students are going to stay and catch the bus as we are only here for three days.

Our hotel’s logo.

The two students who went on the bus eventually managed to find their way back to us – they foretold they were practically abandoned, and had to get a taxi to our location. I was unsure of the moral of the team at this point – personally I thought things were running pretty smoothly, yet some members of the team looked thoroughly demoralized and tired and upset. One thing we all had in common though was that none of us had eaten in several hours – we needed food. We asked at reception and were directed to several nearby diners.

After wrapping up and going outside, Iceland was confirmed to be a not-so-cold place, and again I found myself overly wrapped up for the occasion. We almost got lost in the unusual hybrids of dual carriage-ways and suburban residential zones around our hotel. After trekking for one hour, we found one lone restaurant that was open. It only served gourmet food at £10 each (i.e. not pub grub), but we had to eat and it seemed to be only place around that was open. I had lasagna – it was rich, but very nice. I felt I was making up for a bit of ground lost in Planet Hollywood back in Paris in 2001, when I’d spent all day travelling and ordered lasagna, only be unable to finish it because it was too rich.

My lasagna.

Mafalda and myself saw a pizza with bananas on it, and decided that we would come back later to try it. A pint of beer at this restaurant cost £5 sterling – evidently the rumours of the expensive booze here was true!

After a nice meal we retired back to our hotel, only to find we had no drinking water. We decided we had no choice but to drink from the taps – this was no doubt a dangerous move. However, the cold water seemed fine, and we were told by the receptionist that it was okay to drink. The main issue was that it was common knowledge that all tap water (hot and cold) comes from the mountains. Iceland does not have any boiler systems like the UK – the hot water is pumped directly from the volcanic caverns below, heated naturally. This also means that when you wash your hands, the ‘rotten egg’ smell of sulphur comes out of the sink, and makes your hands smell… well, strange. To drink that would be to ingest sulphur, which I’m pretty sure is toxic regardless of where in the world you’re from.

The cold water comes from rivers that are not heated, reducing the sulphur content, but Mafalda confirmed the sulphur content is still there – the water is high in iron and you can taste the minerals when you drink it (an aftertaste not dissimilar from watered down cucumber). We’ll see how many of us are ill in the morning!

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