The MT Diary

The reckoning for Reykjavik; watch those bubbles burst; mystery brief for Mandelson.

by Howard Davies

Late in 2000, my wife and I spent a long weekend in Buenos Aires - as you do. We had one free evening, and the friendly neighbourhood ambassador recommended a decent, but not lavish, steakhouse nearby. Half a cow later, we asked for la cuenta, which turned out to be as eye-watering as the steaks. How could it be, we wondered, that the price of a meal in Argentina was even higher than in London? Well, the answer was that it couldn't be, and soon afterwards the Argie peso fell to earth with a thud that could be heard across the pampas: devalued by two-thirds overnight.

The same thought struck me in Reykjavik a couple of years ago. I changed a few Adam Smiths at the airport, and there was nothing left over for a beer in the hotel, after I had - judging by the fare - bought most of the taxi that had taken me there.

For years, Reykjavik has been famous for all-night bars and drunken weekends for overpaid City folk. That didn't greatly appeal, so my healthy hosts took me to the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik's premier tourist destination, where you swim outside in a thermal pool, hard by a powerstation. It was January, but that was of no concern to the Icelanders. Every now and again we climbed out and headed down an icy path to a sauna or a steam room. Then, when my senses were completely numbed, it was inside for a plate of smoked fish.

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