In the thick of Winter Isafjordur only experiences three hours of daylight, so we followed the example of the locals and stayed in bed until late morning. That’s one of the joys of coming to Iceland – we always catch up on sleep. The beds in the Managisting Guesthouse were lovely and firm, and the duvets so warm that even with thick snow on the ground we needed to keep the window open. As the only guests it was also extremely peaceful, so I’m not surprised that even though it’s only been open since July 2013 it’s already fully booked this summer. Known locally as ‘The Castle’ thanks to its distinctive architecture, rooms cost at least half what they do at any other guest houses in town, and the flybus will drop you off at the front door.
After a breakfast of skyr, and an omelette (served separately), we spent another hour leisurely wandering around the town in what was by now daylight. The children all came out to play on sledges and mini skidoos, and in their arctic romper suits looked adorable. If we lived here, we’d definitely have a skidoo. And a monster truck. No half measures.
We’ve always been drawn to towns and cities that are hemmed in by mountains, and Isafjordur certainly doesn’t disappoint. The tourist information centre was closed, as were many of the shops and cafes, but we ambled back down to the old harbour and museum (closed between September and April), and then to the Culture House – a very grand building which used to be a hospital but now houses a large library, art gallery and small museum. We browsed a little and then made our way back to the supermarket to buy what turned out to be quite an expensive lunch, despite being sparse. A packet of ham, cheese and a small jar of pickled herrings cost a whopping £8, but then most of the food does have to be flown in during Winter, and eating out would have cost more.
After our picnic, the Managisting caretaker very kindly booked use two spaces on the flybus for later that afternoon, and I walked back into town in search of a souvenir. I was overjoyed to find an arts and crafts store run by a local artist who sells her work alongside that of 70 other artists from the West Fjords. She makes beautiful glass pieces, and when I mentioned that I make mosaics she insisted on taking me into the workshop to show me the kilns and a mosaic that one of her colleagues was working on. I bought a stunning blue star to hang back at home, and promised to come back for a longer visit on our next trip.
The flybus arrived on time and dropped us at a terminal full of Icelanders making their way to Reykjavik for the New Years Eve celebrations. Take off was a little bumpy, but I forced myself to relax. Turbulence increased as the Air Iceland plane ascended sharply to exit the fjord, but I didn’t think too much of it as we’ve experienced slight turbulence like this before. Then the plane dropped and my stomach lurched. It steadied, and I drew a breath. Then it dropped again, and for the first time ever on a flight I started to feel sick. The third time it dropped I couldn’t help but think that this might be our last holiday ever. The plane had started shaking and I was by now holding onto Rich’s hand and arm for dear life. A child a few rows in front had started screaming – I couldn’t tell if it was with fear or delight, but everyone else stayed quiet. I was terrified. I kept looking at the air hostess and preparing myself to grab the life jackets if her composure started to crack. If we landed in the fjord at least there would be boats on hand to stop us dying a Leo DiCaprio Titanic death. But then the best pilot in the world pulled the plane above the clouds, out of the wind, and all was calm. When I turned to Rich the only word I could manage was “fuck”. He however, was grinning from ear to ear. Whilst I’d been about to tell him I that I loved him and would die happy knowing that I’d been loved in return, he was apparently quietly humming the lyrics “ship’s going down!”
Fortunately the descent into Reykjavik was a much less traumatic experience, and within a few minutes of landing we were knocking on a taxi window trying to wake the driver up. After a quick cuppa back at the apartment we raced off to Bonus to try and beat the last minute New Years Eve shoppers, but still spent 15 minutes queuing and trolley watching. Still, it’s always good to learn what locals buy. Mainly pop and cake by the looks of it, at least at this time of year.