Paradise Found: From Iceland to New York in 24 hours
A five-day trip taking in Reykjavik and New York is a shake-up for the senses – here’s the best way to do it
I’m floating towards the edge of a natural infinity pool wearing a woollen beanie and a swimsuit. Above me are swirls of biting sleet; below are 40 geothermal waters, and straight ahead nothing but roiling Atlantic waves. This is part one of the seven step ritual at Iceland’s Sky Lagoon, and it’s extraordinary.
A 13 minute drive from downtown Reykjavik, Sky Lagoon is like returning to the womb, and reason enough to visit Iceland. Tickets are best purchased in advance, and how you ‘do’ Sky Lagoon is up to you: plenty here wrap smartphones in ziplock bags, all the better to secure that essential in-water selfie.
Others concentrate their attentions on the cave side, in-water Lagoon Bar, where a misty glass of white wine looks something of the divine. I select a deep breath before flinging myself into the cold water plunge pool; the endorphin hit delivering a lingering high. Five ritual steps later – including a sauna, steam experience and a salt rub – and I depart Sky Lagoon feeling born again.
Twenty four hours later and I’m underwater again; this time in a heated New York rooftop pool, wearing a swimsuit and a mild hangover. Welcome to the Gansevoort Hotel Meatpacking, the coolest stayover in the city’s coolest area. Overseen by the impossibly suave, delightfully indiscreet Irishman Anton Moore, the Gansevoort was once famed for the bacchanalian charms of its lived-in nightclub.
Today the property is all grown up, with smart, spacious bedrooms, three dining options, a rooftop bar and pool, and contemporary art in the order of Banksy on the walls. Its location is spectacular, with the best of the Meatpacking within skipping distance: whiskey bars; chi chi boutiques; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Hudson River and its whimsical interloper, Diane Von Furstenberg’s Little Island; all right there. I spend three nights at the Gansevoort and record my best trip, of many, to New York yet.
Travel has changed. We’re living in the year of experience tourism, where holidays are designed not to switch off, but to shake up your senses. Consumers, the research says, would overwhelmingly prefer to spend their cash on experiences and not things, and the more experiences that can be packed into our precious days off, the better.
Enter disruptor airline PLAY, whose wings I’ve succumbed to for this five day trip. The Icelandic fun, no frills carrier offers alternative connections from Europe to North America and Canada, and I’m trying their Dublin-Rekjavik-New York return itinerary.
The promise here is pretty magnetic: a two and a bit hour hop to Reykjavik for a twenty-four hour layover, and from there a six-hour transatlantic flight to New York. There’s so much to like here, not least the pulse-quickening contrast from glaciers to skyscrapers, from rugged beauty to the city electric.
There are wrinkles, too, as savvy travellers will need to plan their PLAY trip well in advance to secure the best prices, and the transfer from New York Stewart International to downtown NYC can take two hours; worse if traffic insists. It all works on aggregate, though, and it’s easy to elongate the itinerary to recalibrate the travel-rest equation.
Glimmers are also a thing this year, apparently. Described as the opposite to ‘triggers’, glimmers are the micro-moments that sustain us; the happy vignettes that leaven the daily grind. And in five days I’ve gathered more glimmers than I’ve had all year; the sight of skyline behind the Brooklyn Bridge, the sorcery of Icelandic air hitting warm waters, the taste of sushi with sake wine at Saishin, the Gansevoort’s omakase restaurant.
Another glimmer involved walking quietly in New York’s Dunbo, eating an almond croissant so delicious I let out a small shout (Almondine Bakery on Water Street, for your reference). If it’s experience you want, you’ve come to the right places.
EAT at Heddin, the cool and calm restaurant with an open kitchen in downtown Reykjavik. Try the five course Adventure Trip menu which starts with the best bread and whipped butter you may ever eat. The room, a former steelworks, is delicious too.
In New York
SHOP at two:minds, a ‘multi brand’ boutique for men and women right beside the Gansevoort Meatpacking Hotel. Expect an interesting selection from brands like Jacquemus, Isabel Marant and Bottega Veneta, plus some wild cards ( from labels you’ve never heard of) in jewellery, shoes and denim.