Mystic MK

After a week struggling with sleep patterns, the body clock is finally getting readjusted to UK time. Probably not the ideal occasion, one might think, to get up at 2am after 3 hours sleep and drive to Milton Keynes. “Milton Keynes?”, I hear you cry, “Why would you go there anytime, let alone at 2am?”.

Well today, of course, is the Summer Solstice and – as the cognoscenti know – Milton Keynes is a temple to the sun.

A new town born of the 60’s and 70’s, the chief architect for Milton Keynes clearly had a hippy streak as wide as Midsummer Boulevard. Given the option to create a street grid system oriented north-south east-west, the creators opted to shift the axis slightly such that the sun on the summer solstice would shine down Midsummer Boulevard. Kudos.

And so it is that we find ourselves stressing our way down the M1, through everpresent road works, wondering just how annoying it would be to get up at 2am and not arrive in time for sunrise. No need to worry, we make it to the light pyramid in time and are treated to a glorious sunrise, along with our fellow revellers…

As the sun rose in the distance, we were expecting a cheer or clapping, but the atmosphere was subdued. In the distance, a lone percussionists had taken it upon themselves to drum in the solstice. Fair play.

Anyway, hands numb from the early morning chill, we went in search of coffee and a view along Midsummer Boulevard and yes, it does pretty much line up – although I am not privy to the exact calculations around timings and alignment. Pretty impressive though.

So, mission accomplished? No there is more. Putting aside the fact that every building is a little weird

Pyramid Bingo
What shape shall we make the new bingo hall? As if you need to ask

There is a stone circle and a tree cathedral to visit. Well, we thought that the tree cathedral was likely to be less than impressive from the ground and so opted for the stone circle. Not an original neolithic you understand, just another recent addition. The “energy” line through various gates in the circle lines up with the Tree Cathedral and Midsummer Boulevard. Obviously.

And then just through the trees this … because, why not?

pagoda

Milton Keynes may have a reputation for being dull, but that clearly doesn’t apply to the city planners. I suspect that beyond any hippy inclinations, it may be a stroke of marketing genius to get the conspiracy theorists all riled up. What3Words has the location of the Light Pyramid as

lifetimes.dangerously.imported

Probably a hidden message there I expect.

Clearly a town for the Age of Aquarius.

Looks like the moon, no?

Looks like the moon, no?

…opined the receptionist as we arrived at our hotel in Reykjavik. From the little that we had seen on our way from the airport, it was hard to argue. Spectacular in its bleakness, I had a good feeling about Iceland.

moonscape
Looks like the moon, no?

According to What3words, our hotel can also be known as younger.aquatic.scout and I couldn’t help but think that this was a good omen for Ethan’s aspiration to explore the Blue Lagoon.

From the moment we arrived, everyone was remarkably friendly and helpful.

New Friend
The natives are friendly

Even the motorists seem to defer to pedestrians. Where is the road rage? (I was later to find that it is, in fact, possible to induce this if one tries hard enough by sticking annoyingly to speed limits). Could it be that all of the national umbrage was used up during long past Viking raids and now Iceland is emotionally becalmed? Whatever the cause, the culture seems to be based on politeness and mutual respect, and that is hard not to like.

Of course, the politeness could just be a mechanism for diffusing any potential flashpoints over restaurant bills. Oh yes, Iceland: breathtakingly beautiful, eye-wateringly brutal and changeable weather and prices which combine the physiological effects of both and the aesthetic impact of neither. Retreating from the bars (£8 per beer if you would be so kind sir), we drifted into a supermarket to provision ourselves for the day of driving to follow. Several sandwiches, some crisps and chocolate? That’ll be £60 please. Damn, they had better be good. I had thought that the Blue Lagoon prices were a little steep until I realized that equated to the cost of a packet of crisps. To be fair, this was all amateur stuff, Ethan (whilst menu surfing) discovered an Indian restaurant offering poppadoms for £52. No that is proper gouging.

So a few hours wandering around Reykjavik to the sound of pounding Icelandic rap spilling from one of the bars finally took its toll and we retreated back to the hotel. Something of a slog in the cold (walking had seemed like such a good idea earlier), but we were rewarded by the clouds parting to reveal a green curtain of aurora. My first sighting! Shame it was largely drowned out by the street lights, but you have to take what you can get. I was hungry for more, but Ethan had ticked the box in his mind and was ready to move on out of the cold. Maybe tomorrow…

Day 2 and time for some serious exploring, starting with a quick hop between two continents. Looks like someone has dropped in between – not often you get the chance for intracontinental travel.

Intracontinental Travel
Is it America? Europe? Seems it’s neither

 

Back onto the European continental plate and on to see a series of geothermal wonders. I swear I am beginning to like the sulphury smell – although showering in fart water still takes some getting used to.

 

 

So, geysirs (or should I say THE Geysir – it being the original),

 

bubbling mud, steaming landscapes,  Thermal

 

waterfalls Gulfoss

 

 

 

 

 

and savage, windswept vistas.Snow & Sun

 

 

 

 

At Geysir (or more accurately Strokkur, which is the more active and hence tourist friendly), I was continually baffled and amused that people stood downwind of an erupting geysir – only to scatter in panic as they are engulfed in steam. Who could have predicted it?

Strokkur
Thar she blows

According to What3words, Geysir’s nomenclature is scatters.inclement.beliefs and,  as I watched the tourists run for cover, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was true. Takes all sorts.

 

 

 

 

Day 3 and an opportunity to explore Reykjavik during daylight – communing and empathizing with the unknown bureaucrat

Unknown Bureaucrat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and then just time for a quick, heavy duty pastry breakfast from what appeared to be the most popular bakery in town.

 

bakery
Best Danish ever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just the thing before heading off to the Blue Lagoon en route back to the airport

Blue Lagoon,

 

via a quick stop at a somewhat understated, and completely unannounced lava cave.

 

Lava Cave
Enter if ye dare!

 

And just when I thought that Iceland couldn’t hold any more surprises…

Noel Fielding
Is that Noel Fielding?

 

Outstanding!

 

 

End of the World?

Well not quite. Pretty much the end of the UK in one direction though.

Finally made it to Spurn Point(ish) – or

as I like to think of it – at the 3rd time of trying.

Had to speed walk to the end and back to avoid being stranded on the part which is temporarily an island twice a day since the great tidal surge of ’13 washed part of it away into the Humber (cooincidentally shortly before the last time we tried to visit).

Anyway, that’s another one ticked off!

end ship tower posts mud

The Desert

So it turns out that there is a desert in Britain. Nonsense I hear you cry! I shit you not –  a bone fide, meteorologically verified desert. Discovered my Ethan of course, but how he stumbled across the strange micro climatic oddity is anyone’s guess.

Still, we duly packed up the car and headed south to the strangely compelling, slightly weird but utterly cool Dungeness.

beach

bleak

Bizarrely, the humidity changes so quickly that even walking to and from the headland, there is a noticeable difference. The landscape is somewhat alien, which probably explains the constant stream of film crews using this as a prime location. Minds suitably blown we had to have a rest and refuel with a lobster brioche at the Dungeness Fish Shack…

fishhut

 

…if only because it is a fish shack in a desert!

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, a weird phenomenon – even if it is caused by a nuclear power station. Well worth a visit. Could this be the coolest (warm) place in Britain?

longboard winder silverstream railbopat rail2 rail1 PICT_20150710_125551 crossing boat dancesongs