My travel buddy, Stacy, called me a few months ago and I asked if I fancied joining her on a little Icelandic adventure in September. I took at look at my finances, saw they weren't in the best of shapes and knew there was only one thing I could say...
Of course I'm coming, Staceroo! Just try and stop me!
Because that's how I tend to work when travel opportunities come my way - book now, worry about the money later. I'm expecting this illogical and irresponsible approach to life to get me into trouble sooner or later. My feeling on the matter? The bailiffs can rob me of my worldly possessions but they can't take away my memories!
So we boarded our Easy Jet flight to Keflavik (one hour outside of Reykjavik) and just under three hours later we found ourselves in the magical, mythical land of wind, fire, stone, ice and elves. It was cold, granted, but not quite as cold as I expected which was an almighty relief since neither of us had packed a hardcore winter coat. We did, however, have an umbrella as part of our weather arsenal. This came in very handy on several occasions and as such is definitely something I would advise any visitors to Iceland to ensure they pack. That or a waterproof jacket with hood.
From the airport we caught a shuttle bus which most conveniently dropped us off at our lodgings, Fosshotel Lind. This is what it looks like from the outside:
If I'm being honest, none of the hotels we saw in Reykjavik looked particularly enticing from the outside - they all appear rather "blocky" and plain. We were hoping, however, that the inside of our hotel would be an entirely different story...
But alas, it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, it did have everything we required - i.e. bed and bathroom - but it was minimalistic and "no frills" to say the least. This was our room:
No pictures on the walls or any other form of embellishment but it was clean and we didn't plan on spending a great deal of time indoors in any case. Oh! And this was our itty bitty bathroom:
See the perspex doors? Standing inside there is akin to being in an MRI scanner or some other very claustrophobic tube like space. Luckily there are a couple of drains on the floor so you can just throw the doors open and flood the room! And a quick note about the water. It has a very distinct sulphuric smell (rotten eggs bascially) due to the geothermal origins of the hot water, making it ideal for bathing but not for ingesting. The good news is that the cold water from the tap is supposedly pure spring water and Icelanders boast it is the best drinking water in the world. I didn't try it myself so can neither support nor deny their claim.
Not wanting to waste a precious moment of sightseeing time we dumped our suitcases and began to pound the pavements of Reykjavik. The centre of the city is very compact and it doesn't take a great deal of time to walk around and take in the main sites such as the very impressive Hallgrimskirkja church:
or the Harpa concert hall:
The concert hall consists of a steel framework with geometric shaped glass panels of different colours. In other words, my less than amateur photography simply does not do the glittering array of colours any justice. I wonder if Stacy is getting a better picture?
From the concert hall you can take a walk along the harbour and if you happen to find yourself in Reykjavik during the weekend then you could head on over to the big flea market which is just opposite the concert hall. You may very well grab yourself a bargain which is no mean feat in Iceland! Yup, it's one hell of an expensive place so do stock up on your krona! The shops are all very inviting and tempting until you flip over the price tag and promptly faint on the spot. Needless to say other than shelling out for the (very worthwhile) day trips which will be the subject of the rest of this week's post I did not purchase a single item other than an I Love Iceland fridge magnet for Craigy Boy.
Snack time was soon upon as and earlier we had spotted a rather quirky looking cafe not far from the church. We retraced our steps, pausing to make friends with some locals along the way:
Cafe Babalu was the perfect spot to stop for a hot drink and slice of cake (the New York cheesecake is a local favourite). It's run by Glen, a Long Island native who moved to Iceland a decade earlier with his partner now husband. This is Glen hard at work:
And this is his beloved Cafe Babalu and some of the sweet and savoury yummies on offer:
If I lived in Reykjavik I have the feeling I would be a very regular regular and I also think that Glen and I would be the bosomest of buddies. He did, after all, give me a big spoonful of freshly made carrot cake frosting that I had spied in the kitchen! That alone makes him my friend for life.
Stacy Doll and I returned to the hotel to freshen up before heading back out for dinner. We were in a bit of a dining dilemma given the extensive range of restaurants and bistros to choose from. We sought advice from Trip Advisor and the Lonely Planet guide before deciding on Vegamot, which according to the Lonely Planet guide is "still a voguish place to eat, drink, see and be seen".
We weren't as concerned with being seen as we were with filling our rumbling tummies with good, wholesome fare and given that Vegamot has received consistently positive reviews for its international menu we were sold. I opted for the Jungle Curry (10 out of 10 and no lie!!) while Stacy chose the dish recommended by the Lonely Planet guide - the Louisiana chicken strips. They were good but not that good so do exercise caution when perusing guide books and don't believe all that you read. Trust your gastronomical instincts, my Warriors, because your belly knows best!
A sure sign that you're in your mid-thirties is when you finish up your dinner and head back to the hotel for "a good night's sleep" rather than hit the town! In our defence we did get up at 4.30am that morning and we had another early morning in store for the Golden Circle tour. So into bed we climbed, bellies full and satisfied and all tuckered out from our first day in Reykjavik. And as we drifted off to sleep our thoughts soon turned into dreams of the waterfalls, rainbows and geysers that awaited us the next morning.
GW and Stacy Doll, over and out.