Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coolness of Another Kind

I was just having a look at my Feedjit map and seeing where I've had page hits from recently. I've had a bunch, actually, and that is very gratifying. I've even had a hit from Japan. Of course, my page is written in English, and I am an Englishman, so countries where English is the national language are the ones you would expect a lot of hits to come from, so most of my page views are from the US and England, naturally. But it surprises me somewhat that in all the months I've been writing (going on 6 months now) I have not had one single hit from either Scotland or Ireland. And seeing as how my friend Nigel, my best friend in secondary school, with whom I spent a great deal of time after secondary school either in bands or just hanging out, actually lives in Scotland, in Dumfries to be precise, and who ought to be reading this blog (hint, hint), let's hope we can rectify that.
I was talking to my sis a few days ago and looking at some of her holiday snaps. It was fascinating, because I've been away for a number of years. There were a lot to go through. One of the trips she undertook was to the Isles of Orkney.

She and some friends drove up to Orkney, which, as you will know if you've ever bothered to look at an atlas with any interest, is a group of islands located just north of John O'Groats, the northeasternmost point of mainland Britain. To say they are somewhat remote is not an understatement. Beautiful, too. See?
Anyway, this got me to thinking about some of the places that I would love to spend a vacation, or even live. I love cold. I love windy, bleak, and remote. Call me a nut, but it's just in my blood.
First off, one place I'd love to go and spend some time is The Hebrides. Both Inner and Outer. They are a group of islands off the western coast of Scotland, and possess a lot of the qualities I look for - windy, bleak, remote, and above all, stunningly beautiful. Some of my readership may puzzle over exactly where the Hebrides are. And how to pronounce it.
It's pronounced HEB-rid-eez. I'll post a little map here for you too.

There they are, in yellow and pink. If you're still struggling, think of the Isle Of Skye. Think of Paul "Fab Macca Wacky Thumbs Aloft" McCartney's "Mull Of Kintyre". Think of Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighthouse". Let's not forget the wonderful Laphroaig, a single malt from the isle of Islay that is just like nectar. The isle of Jura is where George Orwell wrote 1984. How bleak can you get? But to me, the word 'bleak' does not mean miserable. It means wild ragged beauty. Like the cliffs on Skye, seen below.

Another vacation spot I fancy is Iceland. Again, cold, bleak, windy, remote, beautiful and also volcanic. What more could one require?
Seeing nature in all its raw naked powerful glory is what it's all about. I went to Yellowstone Park a few years back, and seeing the natural geysers and mud volcanoes and the like was incredibly fascinating, stimulating and a little bit scary at the same time. I loved it.
Just being close to the violent earth was enough to make you realise how incredibly insignificant a human being is. If there is such a thing as God, places like that make me feel like I could reach out and touch him. So Iceland has a lot to offer, in my opinion. As well as Björk

Greenland, too, is cold, a bit icy, sparsely populated, a little mysterious, and therefore exciting to a strange person such as myself. It's also quite gorgeous.

I've been to Alaska. Not the really snowy part, but the southeastern tip, to a little place called Petersburg, on Mitkof Island, a fishing community. I went in the summer and I must say it is a strange sensation to come out of a bar at 11 pm and walk straight into broad daylight. I loved it though. A very pretty place. I want to go to Denali National Park, though, and see some mountains.

But if I were to really think about it, my ideal holiday would be spent on the island of Spitsbergen. (I can hear you all scratching your heads.) Spitsbergen is the largest island of the archipelago of Svalbard, owned by Norway, far above the Arctic Circle, and in the town of Longyearbyen (largest on the island, population approx. 2060) is the SAS Polar Hotel, (a Radisson!) which looks like this between 26 October and 15 February, where there is permanent night, and

this for the rest of the year. 
The blurb on the Radisson website describes it thusly: "The world's northernmost full service hotel surrounded by wild artic nature 78 degrees north. Located in one of the world's most exotic areas. Hotel offers accommodation, a well reputable Brasseri, professional meeting and conference facilities. With it's 95 rooms and meeting capacity for up to 140 delegates, Radisson Blu Polar Hotel, Spitsbergen is a perfect spot to hold meetings and conferences. Free broadband"

The rooms are nice too. (See pic below). And guess what? It's only £157 a night ( about $250 USD) so for the world's northernmost luxury hotel, located at 78°54′N 18°01′E, approximately 1500 kilometres (930 miles or so) from the Norwegian mainland, I think that's pretty reasonable.

Hey, I may want to be surrounded by wild bleak ruggedness and glacial magnificence, but I never said I wanted to be roughing it.

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