Hotel Frón

Frón is Icelandic for Biscuits, apparently. Surprisingly because someone from there told me it was something to do with rock or stone. Odd. Cute.

As mentioned in previous post, I, initially, wanted to stay at an airbnb apartment, which was located near a lighthouse. The host unfortunately declined due to unavailability on my requested dates. Which was just as well, as I found out during my trip.

I chose this hotel because it was the cheapest option for my 5-day trip. Of course, there were hostels and guesthouses, but I wanted to pick one that served breakfast everyday and located in the center of Reykjavik. And I thought a hotel would be safer for me as a first time solo traveler to Iceland. It also had great reviews (as per Booking.com), though I didn’t realize it was only a 3-star hotel.

My flight from Heathrow arrived in the late afternoon and the sun was just setting. The Flybus bus was ready to depart to its main station in Reykjavik, where we were moved to different vans, categorized by zones, by our hotels. There were two other Asian girls and I, navigating through Laugavegur street, as our driver dropped us about 50m away from the hotel. His accent was super thick when he told us where the hotel was, although he was speaking in English. The two Asian girls and I looked right and left on the main high street when our driver drove past in his van, looking at us while pointing his finger towards our hotel.

The streets were not too busy, and there were ribbons of sunlight across the sky. Dragging my luggage through the cobblestones, I looked at the surrounding buildings, which reminded me of the high street in Canterbury, but the Icelandic walls were covered with interesting top-to-bottom art. I recognized the street immediately as I’ve google-street it before. Opposite the building with black & white art wall was the distinct green teal exteriors, with signboards that said Hotel Frón.

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The distinct art wall opposite the hotel
The entrance was a glass door with a wooden frame. Greeted by more wall art and stone tiles, the lobby seemed welcoming and it definitely was warmer than outside. The two girls went to check-in first as I looked for my reservation copy. The lift opposite the reception closed its door, taking the two girls to their room, as the lady behind the counter processed my check-in. She asked me if I was alone to which I said I was, and then she told me, “Okay, good. Your room is 301 on the third floor.”

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The Viking-themed lobby
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I pondered on her “okay, good” comment as I exit the lift. I stood outside my room for a moment as it was, directly, next to the stairs. And whoa, was I in for a treat!  I entered my room to find that it was NOT a single that I booked for. It was a STUDIO room. Two large singles made into a double, a kitchenette and…no view. Lol. The view was a hallway to another studio room, which was a bummer, but no matter, I had a STUDIO for the next five days!

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Of course, being me, I was worried that maybe the hotel mis-booked me and I’d have to pay for the “upgraded” room when I check-out. I thought about this for a few seconds, and brushed it off. Told myself to just go with it and enjoy the huge room for me, myself and I!

Over the next few days, I used the hob twice, once to cook my pre-packed spaghetti carbonara, and once to re-heat the cooked pre-packed spaghetti. Haha. I was thankful for this kitchenette because it saved me two restaurant meals, which would have cost a lot! The kitchenette was complete with a coffeemaker, utensils, pans and pots. I did have dinner at the restaurant that’s attached to the hotel and had their special dinner dish. I can’t remember the name of the dish (silly me) but it was baked fish and it had this delicious sauce and fresh potatoes as sides. Also, had a nice glass of house white wine to go with it. Restaurant ambiance was friendly, warm, and not intimidating – important for a solo diner!

Some mornings I went to have breakfast at 6:30 or 7 because I had a tour bus to catch at 7:30 or 8. It was the same everyday, being continental breakfast – cold meats, bread, cereal, bananas, etc. Yes, I’d have liked some warm cooked food, but I’m thankful for the cold meats to fuel my energy for a day of adventure. Just enough and I didn’t have an upset tummy. Lol.

The surroundings of the hotel were adequate for your needs of shopping, bars, restaurants, and just hanging out. I spent time walking up and down Laugavegur – actually passed a vigil for the Icelandic girl that got killed weeks before my trip. It was a beautiful gesture by the Icelanders; candles lit on the steps of a building where she was last seen on CCTV.

It took me about 10 minutes to walk to Hallgrimskirkja Church from my hotel; up the main street and turned right where I saw the magnificent building. I could imagine it being more beautiful in warmer times.

I think Iceland has put a lot of thought in their tourism industry to be able to arrange all the logistics this way. Your tour company also would arrange pick-ups from your hotel in vans, then transfer you to a bus at their station. They have a long list of hotels, guesthouses and hostels that tour companies can arrange pick-ups for. Very convenient for those who don’t plan to rent a car in Reykjavik.

There’s a grocery store near the hotel, 10-11, but if you walk a little further, Bonus is a cheaper option, apparently. Actually, I didn’t go to any of these, because I had my spaghetti and snacks from a gas stop when I was on tour in Vik.

That Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep well. Maybe it was because of my jet lag, or maybe it was because of the music being played out loud either at the bar next to the hotel or a club somewhere nearby. Icelanders party till 5 in the morning, apparently! I returned from my NL hunt that night at about 10pm and dozed off at 11pm. Got woken up at about 4 in the morning to the bass music. I remember, waking up, smiling about the time I read on this piece of information about weekends in Reykjavik.

Besides that weekend music, the steps of guests walking up and down the stairs, which was next to my room, could be heard almost every night. I could’ve grunted and become bitter about it, but I just accepted it; it wasn’t unbearable.

I had the Parliament live on tv few afternoons when I was in my room, and it was interesting to watch, even though I know nought about Icelandic language. It also took me awhile to get used to the rotten egg smell whenever I showered. The smell doesn’t stay, of course, else that’d be a waste of soaping and shampooing. Lol (oh, I should explain that the smell is of sulphur – Iceland’s hot water is natural, from the ground and direct to the pipes).

I informed the receptionist the night before that I had a 6am flight to London, so had to leave by 4. They booked my Flybus and told me that they served light breakfast by 3am if I needed to have a bite or two. I went to the breakfast room at 3 and found myself alone, besides the male receptionist in the other room. I made myself some tea and a cold sandwich, and admired the array of photos on the wall beside me.

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It was almost 4am so I looked outside the hotel and saw no sign of my Flybus van. There were a couple of tour vans that passed, to which the receptionist said, “no, those aren’t yours. It’s okay, just sit down…they will come. Don’t worry” Lol. When my van actually arrived 5 minutes after 4, the man said, “Wow, they’re here, already! They’re early!” He was nice.

Oh, when I checked out, I was praying so hard, quietly, of course. “Ah, yes, 301. Okay, here’s your bill,” said the receptionist. I was SO glad that I was only paying what I initially booked for. What a bargain! A blessing! I never asked why it happened that way; probably because I checked in late in the afternoon so my booked single room was given away or simple unavailable. Or maybe they noticed that my birthday was just the day before. Who knows. I just know that I paid one-third of the actual price. Hehe <3

Oh, there’s actually a cafe that has live music almost every night. It’s literally about 100m or 200m away from the hotel. Unfortunately, I decided to check it out on my last night there, which was also when it decided to be closed. Lol. Ah well. The harbour, where you need to go to for whale-watching, is about 15-20 minutes walk from the hotel.

I would recommend Hotel Frón if you’re looking for a mid-range budget hotel. Their staff is helpful and straightforward; they won’t beat around the bush like being too polite like the English can be, lol. Everything is within distance and Reykjavik is quite easy to walk around in. The hotel is more upper Reykjavik, I would say, as places like the famous fish & chips restaurant, the American Bar or the English Pub (they’re very obvious names, aren’t they? Lol) are down the street, about 10 minutes walk.

If Frón really means biscuits, there was nothing biscuit-y about the hotel. :D

 

What I did for my birthday 2017…Iceland!

When I bought my flight ticket to London, I had no idea what I was going to do while I was there. I’ve practically been solo-flying to London every year since 2015, and I just thought that this would be my yearly solo vacation spot.

I love traveling solo. It’s liberating…something I’m comfortable doing, yet always something new to experience.

So, this “something new to experience” brought me to choose Iceland as my main destination for this trip. I had always been caught up with its name since I was a little girl – a land made out of ice? Ha. Furthermore, I could experience the Northern Lights. Two things to strike off the bucket list at the same time.

Also, it was time to go to a place where English isn’t the national language. But I’m so glad Icelanders speak good English!

Here’s a summary of my trip expenses (excluding food and miscellaneous items):

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The green colour indicates “paid”, while the red one indicates “to be paid when there”.

  • 26th Jan – depart BWN, Brunei
  • 27th Jan – arrive LDN, UK
  • 28th Jan – depart LDN; arrive KEF, Iceland, Northern Lights hunt
  • 29th Jan – South Shore Adventure (Vik)
  • 30th Jan – Golden Circle Classic
  • 31st Jan – Leisure in Reykavik
  • 1st Feb – depart KEF; arrive LDN
  • 3rd Feb – depart LDN
  • 4th Feb – arrive BWN

Initially, I wanted to stay in an airbnb in Reykjavik (the world’s northernmost capital city!), and there was this beautiful apartment next to a lighthouse(!!) but the host said that he wouldn’t be accepting guests on my requested dates so…bummer. I’m actually glad for this because the hotel that I booked for (Hotel Fron) was one of the best decisions I made for this trip. Will tell more in another post!

I’m usually not for big tours, but upon researching into hiring a car, I thought better of it. Hiring a car to drive in winter would be a first for me…what more driving solo. (Many advised about solo driving in Icelandic winter – not recommended!) As much as I would have loved to drive, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, I had to scrap the idea and opted for guided tours. I splurged on one of the tours, which was for the Northern Lights hunt. Reading the reviews for the hunt with a big tour seemed like an almost impersonal experience, so I chose the jeep tour, which had me and four other people, plus the driver. It was a little pricey, but definitely worth it! The experience was magical, and for another post! ;)

Oh, right. I researched on flying into Keflavik International Airport, and found two competitive budget airlines, flying from London i.e. Icelandair and WowAir (baggage allowance included in fare). Of course, reviews are important, and tbh, there weren’t much difference between the two, in terms of their pros and cons. What made me decide to go with Icelandair was that it had a reasonable flight time and a convenient point of departure that I wanted to fly from i.e. Heathrow. It was overall a good flight experience for me. Also for another post. Maybe. Haha.

Be prepared to pay more for food. I think I only had three proper restaurant meals on my 5-day trip. Had breakfast every morning in the hotel, and hot dogs when I was out and about. Their hot dogs are famously affordable and they fill your tummy just right.

I didn’t get to try the beers (did try wine! Nyum!) except for one…which I can’t remember the name of, but the bartender said it’s similar to Viking’s. Not a fan of beers, but that one was just nice. Had loads of free, drinkable Icelandic water.

All in all, I’m glad I chose to go to Iceland for my birthday trip. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do, and, the fact that Iceland earned the numero uno position in Global Peace Index (last checked in 2016), it was perfect for my thirst of solo travelling.

Iceland was magical.

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Photo taken by Superjeep.is, my jeep tour guide, 28.01.2017. Beautiful!

Winter socks (results!)

Yes, I’m really gonna review my socks. They’re an important accessory to your winter outfit, honestly.

The Universal Traveller socks were indeed woolly and you would think that they’d keep you warm on their own. Alas, no. They didn’t feel warm and weren’t thick enough to fill my high ankle hiking boots. And they felt sweaty. Eugh. So I ended up wearing them once throughout the trip.

The Wigwam was a winner! It filled up the spaces in my boots so they were warm and thick enough for me. I wore these the most throughout my trip and they were indeed sweat-free i.e. odour-free! Loved them.

The wool tech socks from the Chinese online shop was thick and warm, but they didn’t feel as comfortable as the wigwam. I alternated using these and the wigwam (but I wore the latter more, obviously).

I wore the Uniqlo socks together with my tights during my London stops as I wanted something with style and a bit of warmth. London was definitely warmer than Iceland!

Some people overlook the importance of socks when going for a trip in cold places. If you’re not comfortable walking in your socks, you won’t feel comfortable walking in the shoes they’re in. And that will distract you from immersing yourself into your trip. Your feet might sweat, your shoes may not be the right fit because of the constant walking, etc, etc.

FYI, the high ankle hiking boots, Hot Potato, (China-made!) I got from GL extra (same as the Wigwam’s!) were great. They were bigger than my normal shoe size, but with the right socks, they fit just right. I was so scared, walking on slippery ice, but I really had to have faith on the soles because they did their job right. I actually brought another pair of shoes, which looked more appropriate for going out, but I ended up wearing the hot taters throughout the trip. They didn’t look too rugged, I don’t think…plus, I didn’t exactly go for any fancy outings whilst on my trip!

Don’t worry, I won’t write about my coat. Nor about my hat. Or about my lovely knitted headband.

Winter socks

 So I just realised that I bought FOUR different types of socks for my upcoming trip.

L-R:

  1. Universal Traveller (Miri) Angora and Merino blend wool socks
  2. Wigwam All-Weather American Raised Wool Midweight socks from GL Extra (Kiulap)
  3. Winter Sock (yeah…) Wool Tech from a Chinese online shop (yeah…)
  4. Uniqlo Heattech socks from Singapore (mmm uniqlo ^_^)

I wasn’t sure which type but I heard merino is supposedly good for really cold weather. I’m loving the way the texture feels off Uniqlo’s and it’s got the casual but chic vibe to it, while the rest of them are more into rugged lifestyle. Will see how they feel when I use them!

About two weeks left to the trip and I’m already packing the “essentials”.

Can’t believe I’m writing about socks. They’re really just socks, tbh. Haha

Late night

It’s almost one am on a worknight and I can’t sleep. Maybe it’s the peach tea I had for dinner. Maybe it’s the conversation I had with a friend at dinner. Maybe it’s the ice cream I had after dinner. Or maybe it’s the dinner.

Or perhaps I’m just scared that by closing my eyes and falling asleep, I’d wake up to a new day that I, somehow, know still won’t make me better. I just want to stay up and think all my thoughts over and figure this out. Figure life out. But that’s not gonna happen. Wouldn’t happen for anybody. Can’t know all the answers. Not right now. Not at once.

Of course I am grateful. I should be more grateful. But hey, I’m allowed this time to overthink and overthink again.

Sigh. That question of what is my purpose. Of what is my passion. Those questions are circling in my mind over and over and I just want answers so I can get to it. Then I realise that the small things matter. Walk more. Drink more water. Travel more. Smile more. Write more. Sing more. Love more. Forgive more. Small, simple things…slowly but surely, life becomes more meaningful. How do I know? I don’t. But it doesn’t hurt to try.

Well, goodnight. I think I can sleep now.