ICELAND: A MYTHICAL DESTINATION
By Laetitia Missir de Lusignan
For many people, Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland is like a mythical destination, inaccessible and wild, lost in the middle of nowhere, or more specifically in the middle of the Atlantic ocean…Land of ice, fire and water the country reflects perfectly the image of its inhabitants whose creativity and originality continues to create an identity that is totally their own. Visit.
Even if the temperatures are at their lowest point, the inhabitants of Iceland are definitely not familiar with morose temperament! Since a number of years and in accelerated mode, the islanders of the land seemingly forlorn in the middle of the ocean, have exhibited more and more creativity in the different aspects of society such as design, gastronomy, plastic arts, painting, sculpture… ! This is a strange and totally unexpected observation especially when one has just landed on an icy underground, under a freezing rain and with a couple of very dark clouds overhead.
It has to be said that the days are very short during more than 6 months per year and that this “climate” related given is not without influencing the way of living and the whole identity of a people that has developed influenced by the strange landscapes of this forgotten corner of our planet where nature plays a very specific role.…Peculiar people, these Icelanders…and yet very likeable, often unfathomable and with a great intellectual view of the world. To enliven the longest months of the year they organize a plethora of festivals and events throughout the year. They do not have to envy New York or other exciting cities around the world. Iceland and more specifically Reykjavik defend themselves very well, thank you very much!
An example is the month of September, placed entirely under the sign of culture with a load of different events such as contemporary dance, ballets, operas, visual arts , etc…In October, music takes the forefront with the famous Jazz Festival a worldwide benchmark (Iceland Airwaves Festival). It’s the so called alternative genre that has made this into the most original and unusual festival in the world. The national literature, the sagas, the novels of Nobel Prize winner Halldor Laxness and the troubling crime novels of young contemporary writers have also played a crucial role in the effort to pierce the isolation of this volcanic island situated at 64° 04 North latitude, near the Arctic Circle.
After December other events bring the city to live...Do you know the proverb that says: ‘half of the Icelanders write books, the other half reads them’? You could say this is still very much true but add to that also an animated nightlife with artsy bars, varied museums and luxury shopping and you have an attractive destination on offer for Europeans, Americans and Asians alike.
But who started this nightlife movement that does not have to take second place to the more electric capitals of the moment? The abolition of the Beer prohibition in the early 90’s was definitely a turning point. The party” centre of Reykjavik is situated around the 101 Quarter and around the «Laugavegur» literally «the hot wells road» in Icelandic. It is the main drag in Reykjavik and it starts getting animated on a Friday night with a contagious fever…Until the small hours of the morning colorful and original looking characters fill the streets and bars, the perfect antidote for the long winter nights. Everybody has fun, laughs, drinks and creates new thoughts under the impulse of local stars such as Olafur Eliasson and Matthew Barney, friends of Bjork and Gabriela Fridriksdottir, all famous in the world of music. Art galleries have also developed into major attraction poles such as” i8 “where many artists from all over the world have successfully exhibited.
The fascinating aspect of Reykjavik is its human dimension with the cosmopolitan touch. It is not unusual for Icelanders to leave their country for a couple of months to go to America or elsewhere to immerse themselves in other cultures and bring back new impressions without ever losing their own identity. If you want to meet with the intellectual set in the centre of town, it suffices to open the doors of Cafei Oliver or Kaffibarinn: they’ll all be there, re-organizing the world until all hours. At dawn, small cafes and shops open their doors.
A «must visit» address is Kaffitar: a warm and cozy place where young people gather to talk and work for hours on their laptops …A little further on the other side of the street is Solon, ‘the’ design address for a great brunch in a cool, elegant and chic décor with vibrant colors. Contemporary art lovers have a couple of floors of the Reykjavik Art Museum to visit: Kjarvalsstadir (design), Hafnarhus (room dedicated to the Icelandic master painter Erro) and Asmundarsafn (sculpture).
For those wanting to know more about the Icelandic history, the first settlers and the northern adventure a visit to the National Museum of Iceland (www.natmus.is) is mandatory. More into architecture? Stop on your way to the museum at the important work of the Finnish designer Alvaar Alto (1898-1976).
This is the highlights of the small town of Reykjavik, only a small part of Iceland. The rest of the country is vast tracts of land, water and ice, fire and lunar landscapes and glaciers extending for miles and miles. This makes it an ADVENTURE destination ‘par excellence’, ideal for the organization of incentives with a Nature angle. The perfect program organizes a few days in Reykjavik for the discovery of the art and culture followed by an escape into nature with specialized guides: The Mountaineers www.mountaineers.is !
A FEW GOOD ADRESSES IN REYKJAVIK
Where to sleep ?
The city has a good hotel infrastructure for both small groups of visitors or larger conventions. The choice is yours in the city centre or in the vicinity of the city…
Hilton Reykjavik Nordica
Contemporary style and classic design are the correct definition of the Hilton Hotel in the capital. It offers a variety of possibilities for the organization of seminars and other business travel events. Located near the city centre it offers an absolutely mind-blowing view of the city from the top floor!
Sudurlandsbraut, 2 108 Reykjavik,
Iceland-Tel : +354. 444.5000
Fax : +354.444.5001.
E mail : email@example.com and www.hilton.com
The hotel Spa proposes a great line of treatment products….a dream !
Careful : for all MICE requests, use : firstname.lastname@example.org for the attention of Brynja Pradtardottir (Sales Manager MICE)
Radisson SAS Hotel Saga
Also in the centre of town a mere 20 minutes walk from the bubbling heart of the city, the Radisson is also a great option for a seminar or convention as the infrastructure is ideal for this sort of event. The 119 rooms are simple, elegant and refined at the same time.
Hagatorg 107 Reykjavik, Iceland Tel: + 354.525.99.00
Sales.Saga.Reykjavik@RadissonSAS.com or surf to www.radissonsas.com
Grand Hotel Reykjavik
Recently restored to increase the comfort of the business traveler even more, the Grand Hotel is a reference for the organization of business events. A very welcoming lobby lets in the famous Icelandic light and sets the tone for the rest of the property...
Sigtun 38 IS 105 Reykjavik.
Tel: + 354.514.8000
E mail: email@example.com and visit the site: www.reykjavikhotels.is
The following hotels are a little more intimate which only increases their charm underlined by their very central location: CenterHotel Thingholt
Tel: 354.595.85.30 or visit www.centerhotels.is and the 101 Hotel
Tel: 354.580.01.01 or go to www.101hotel.is
* Fish Market (354.578.88.77)
A discovery and a must visit address!! Recently opened, it brings the richness of the Icelandic cuisine (fish, shell food, etc) mixed with an impeccable but warm service, in a charming environment, refined with highly original Asian touches. A great address for the informed business traveller.
* Sjavarkallarinn (354.511.12.12)
Adalstraeti 2. The glamour and hot place to be of the city. Do not miss out on the specialty: crab with mushrooms, carpaccio of kangaroo, a ceviche of lobster with aloe or the wasabi tart…delicious !
* 101 Restaurant (354.580.01.01)
The restaurant of the hotel with the same name.
It reminded me a bit of hotel Costes in Paris, where the glitterati and VIP stars meet. Also, the chef is Indian which explains the spicy dishes, an asian-icelandic fusion cuisine.
* Primavera (354.5618.55.55)
A gentle mixture of local and Italian cuisine with the produce of the Atlantic. This results in dishes such as pasta with fish, a local risotto and not to forget the polenta, an ideal dish to warm you up.
BEAUTY THE ICELAND WAY….
Used to extreme climatic surroundings, the Icelandic people pay special attention to their skin and body care…Nature has given them natural beauty treasures of great purity and excellent all round. A good address: the Jurta Apotek (354.552.11.03). They make custom made products adapted to your needs. www.jurtaapotekid.is
The other wellness address is situated 2 hours outside Reykjavik. It is the famous Blue Lagoon. The setting is spectacular: large surfaces of white and blue thermal spring water in between rock stones and escaping natural fumes …In silence you spend a day of total relaxation and immersion in the mineral rich seawater. A piece of advice: try the «Volcano Treatment, the powder of Icelandic nature» at the Spa of the hotel Nordica (www.nordicahotelreykjavik.com)
Finally, the LAUGAR SPA is a quiet corner of heaven and a 5-star spa that can be visited for a couple of hours, a day or even longer…Jacuzzi, thalassotherapy and massages with local products or hot stones…Baths, pools, waterfalls and warm waterfalls outside, it is a great experience, especially at night! The restaurant of Spa has a menu which contains dishes that not only are good for you but just plain good! Visit www.laugarspa.is
ACTIVITIES AROUND REYKJAVIK
Although the town of Reykjavik definitely deserves a thorough visit it is the excursions to the surrounding areas that definitely merit a closer look...The nature has a spectacular beauty that is exuberant and galactic, poetic and dry with looming mountains, fuming hot springs and star-studded nights of exceptional clarity. It is like traveling in another world where silence and contemplation are the main ingredients.
Since a couple of years a really exceptional professional company organizes incentives and excursions into the Icelandic nature with a special flair. The options are quite extensive: a discovery trip to Pingvellir National Park, famous for having been the seat of the very first Icelandic Parliament in 930 AD, an adventurous trip in 4X4 in the snowbound mountains, visits of the glaciers in small snowmobiles, having fun on a volcano safari and lunar landscapes, the possibilities and the originality are without bounds and can only be found in Iceland.
All this is possible with the agency Mountaineers: all is organized and made to measure for each client.
Mountaineers of Iceland-Adventure
Fax: + 354.580.99.01
www.mountaineers.is or www.activity.is
ORGANISATION OF THE TRIP
A mine of information can be found on the site of the Official Tourist Board of Iceland www.visiticeland.com, or of the city of Reykjavik www.visitreykjavik.is or also on www.culture.is
See also the Icelandic Embassy in Brussels.
Rond Point Schuman 11, 1040 Bruxelles.
Tel : 02/238.50.00
Or contact directly Tinna Petursdottir, Marketing Manager
City of Reykjavik
Tel: + 354.693.93.69
email : firstname.lastname@example.org or www.visitreykjavik.is
Visit also www.Get-the-idea.is for ideas on business travel , incentives and group travel.
For flights see www.icelandair.is.
From Brussels via Amsterdam it takes approximately 3 hours to fly to Reykjavik.
ICELAND FESTIVAL IN BRUSSELS
Iceland on the Edge! is the name of the Festival organized at BOZAR offering a fascinating discovery tour of a faraway country of ice and fire!
Bubbling like a hot water geyser, the artistic scene of Iceland can be discovered until June 15th, 2008 in Brussels. From dance to movies, music and literature, it is pure discovery of a country not many people have visited and yet so rich in culture.
By the way, a blog has been created, functional since December 20th for visitors and artists alike to exchange points of view and impressions:
L’Islande, Le choc des hommes et des éléments. Cyril et Sophie Demange (photos). Anne-Marie Buston (texte). Le moindre des mondes, roman de Sjon. Rivages. Islande de glace et de feu, collectif sur la littérature contemporaine islandaise, Babel éditeur. Nuits à Reykjavik, roman de Vilhjalmsson, Actes Sud.