A Presidential Residential

Come along with us on our trip to Iceland by following our daily blog, today’s entry is by James Turner and Eliza Garwood. 

With hail stones pelting down and 55 km/h winds shaking the bus, the SCDTP made our way to the President’s residence at Álftanes not knowing quite what was in store. After a quick dash from the bus to the door, staff greeted us kindly in a house full of historical artefacts, such as a 500 year-old table from the UK, a polar bear rug from Finland and a variety of Icelandic paintings.

One by one we shook the hand of the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, anxiously brushing down our clothes. President Jóhannesson was extremely welcoming, breaking the ice by immediately addressing the ‘pineapple on pizza’ scandal he’d faced in a nice, light-hearted fashion. Summary: he’s not a fan but won’t change the law to make it illegal… unfortunately. During the Q&A, James impressed the President with his extensive Icelandic vocabulary (one phrase) and the President kindly answered questions from many of the SCDTP group. Finally, President Jóhannesson showed us the oldest archaeological jug discovered in Iceland. Showing his humour once more, the President then pretended to drop the jug, giving all of our group a shock and a half.

While we were originally going to look around parliament after our presidential trip, scandal struck… Recordings of several MPs making inappropriate comments about their female MP colleagues were reported by journalists so the house was busy with a hot debate. Although our trip was cancelled, it was interesting to witness political drama unfold on a minute by minute basis.

To finish off the day, we had our last official visit of the trip with the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, who spoke to us about Brexit, Donald Trump and Liverpool football team. He kindly stayed an extra half hour to answer our many questions despite having a very busy schedule. We all learned a lot about how countries outside the EU are preparing for Brexit and the importance of a close relationship between the UK and Iceland. Viktor, our Icelandic colleague, was pleased to hear he’ll be able to finish his PhD in the UK (and obviously we are delighted too!).

For us the highlight of today has to be meeting the President. For many of us this will be the first and last time we will meet a President. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson definitely did not disappoint!

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