Interview with David Gillson: Trip to Iceland

I have always loved travel, and so I am thrilled to be adding some more travel articles to my blog. I think you will find this series of travel Q&A enjoyable, but also interesting, as we delve a little into how much things cost and how the economies in various countries are developing… or not.

This first Q&A is on Iceland… and how expensive a glass of wine is!

Director of Carlton Hair South Africa & Issy’s, Belgravia, London.

Why Iceland?

Carlton Hair and Issy’s make use of an eco – friendly product called Davines. Davines is produced in Parma, Italy. They have an annual global conference, and this year it was held in Iceland!

What was your best/standout experience?

Iceland is the cleanest country on earth and very eco friendly.  It was amazing to experience both unpolluted air and water.  There was a noticeable difference.

Any bad experiences?

Yes, buying a glass of wine!  It cost R250 to R300 for a glass of average wine!  A beer cost R160.

Although this was a work conference that you were attending, did you manage to do anything indulgent/interesting?

Yes…I went to the Blue Lagoon Spa Resort, which is a hot springs – and for me, the next level of sophistication and cleanliness. I also visited the Diamond Beach, which is a beach with black volcanic rock and ice crystals.  Truly amazing.

In addition, I visited the Gullfoss – ‘The Golden Falls’ waterfall – which is the biggest and most powerful in Europe. I also went to see the Geysers. Electricity prices are low in Iceland and geothermal power heats a large percentage of houses in Iceland.  Iceland meets its electricity needs from environmentally-friendly renewables (hydropower, geothermal, wind).

What was your favourite meal and how much was it?

Food was not a highlight for me in Iceland. I enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables, which were in short supply.   Most of the food is imported.  My favourite meal was a hot dog, which cost R200! The fish was also good.

How much was a cup of coffee?


Were the people friendly?

Extremely, and everyone spoke excellent English.

What did you buy?

A puffer jacket which cost R2 000; volcanic salt which is amazing, and wool.  The sheep in Iceland are amongst the purest breeds in the world.

Were the people happy with their economy, and their government?

Very.  You do not see beggars or any sign of poverty. Nor are there any ostentatious signs of wealth.  It is a very egalitarian society.

How did you get around mostly?  

By taxi or bus.  The public transport system is excellent.

What are the most interesting things you learnt?

The population of Iceland is very small, at about 350 000 people. More than half live in the capital, Reykjavik.  There are no indigenous people in Iceland. The first settlers were Vikings. 

Notably, it is geologically speaking a young island. 

It is split between North America and Eurasia.  The split spreads at about 2.5 cm a year!

Any scary moments?

Buying a glass of wine!

Would you recommend it as a destination?

Definitely.   A very underrated destination and one of the best trips I have ever done.

Top travel tips or advice to others travelling to Iceland?

I would recommend spending two days in the capital and then hiring a car and exploring the country. There is a ring road that covers the whole country and one can explore the country and stay in B+B’s.   There is good Wi-Fi everywhere, so you will not feel cut off.  Everything is safe and well organized.

You are also a Director of a hairdressing salon in Belgravia London.

What does a cut and blow dry cost in London? 

60 – 120 GBP


150 – 350 GBP


75 – 150 GBP

What is the norm regarding tipping in hair salons in London? 

Unlike in South Africa, many hairdressers in London do everything themselves: from washing hair to cleaning the washing bowls.  In this case they can be tipped 10 – 50 GBP and the tips are usually left at the front desk.

In the case where there is someone else washing hair, this person would normally be tipped 5 – 10 GBP…and again the tip is left at the front desk. The hairdresser is then tipped separately.