Day One In Iceland!

Trip Start Oct 21, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

10.22.09               Reykjavik, Iceland

After an overnight flight from NYC's JFK, we arrived at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport around 6am.  In an interesting  change, while Customs was a cursory stamp in our passport (no questions asked, no inspection of baggage), we did have to go through the full security screening again (taking off shoes, setting liquids aside, running our baggage through machines)!  As Keflavik is about 50km out of town, we’d arranged for Flybus (Iceland’s Super Shuttle) to take us to our B&B in Reykjavik – Guesthouse Sunna – where we had a double room with shared bath. Lovisa, Sunna’s owner, was nice enough to have breakfast waiting for us to arrive – homemade bread and marmalade, bread crisps, meats and cheeses, Muesli, granola, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, etc – very Scandinavian breakfast, and very yummy! 

After breakfast, Murray and I took a much-needed nap before heading out around 11am.  Our first destination was less than two blocks from our Guesthouse – Hallgrimskirkja (accent over the "i"), Iceland’s biggest church.  Enormous building, all sweeping concrete but really quite plain.  For a while, we listened to an organ concert in progress, which was quite impressive – 5,275 pipes!  We also took the lift to the top of Hallgrimskirkja’s Tower.  The first room was inside the lower clock towers, and we also ascended more stairs to the very top of the Tower.  Incredible views of Reykjavik!  Huge smoky mountains in the distance, and painted rooftops everywhere you looked.  Leaving the Tower and Hallgrimskirkja, we passed by a statute of the great Leif Erikkson, who we later saw was present in many locations throughout Reykjavik!

From Hallgrimskirkja, we walked downtown on the main road Skolavordustigur. Before lunch, we needed to take out some Icelandic currency (kroner) from the bank.  Long story short – the ATM almost ate Murray’s debit card, which would NOT have been funny given that this was the first day of an 11-week holiday! 

At any rate, we got some cash and stopped at the recommended Café Paris for lunch, where we shared lamb stew and open-faced lamb sandwiches.  I also had the fruitiest, best ice tea of my life!  After lunch, we walked on to Reykjavik’s main shopping/restaurant street of Laugavegur, where we popped into several shops (lava pottery, Icelandic wool sweaters), passed by the National Art Museum, and strolled along the waterfront.  Mid-afternoon, and we found a little tea shop called Tiu Dropar, where we had drinks and a Belgian waffle covered in Nutella, fresh banana slices, and fresh whole whipped cream.  Ummm, yum.

After our tea stop, we walked to the Hlemmur Bus Station and caught the No. 18 two stops to Perlan, about 2km away.  The Perlan complex is high on Oskjulid Hill, and based on huge hot water tanks.  It is an odd, chrome-plate covered dome-shaped building.  We took self-audio-guided tours of the Saga Museum, which was very funny and odd and sort of creepy.  The Saga Museum takes visitors through the bloody history of Iceland, with Viking battles, witch burnings, and the slavery of Celtic woman.  The audio tour was punctuated with the sounds of beheadings and burnings at the stake! 

Perlan has a wonderful hexagonal viewing platform, so after the Saga Museum, we took a look up there.  Another opportunity to see spectacular views of Reykjavik, this time looking at Hallgrimskirkja as well.  The sun was just setting while we were on the viewing platform, so great to see the beautiful sunset, too.  Back at the bus stop, we waited about 20 minutes for the No. 18 to take us back to city center.  Instead, the No. 18 flew by our bus stop without even slowing down.  So much for that effort!  With the sun now down and the Iceland cold descending, Murray and I walked down into a new neighborhood in search of a cab.  Interesting to see more houses, apartment buildings, teeny tiny balconies, etc.

After getting back to Guesthouse Sunna, we had some down time – I started this travel blog and uploaded my pictures from the day.  Great to have this little netbook along!  Around 7:15pm, we went to dinner at Hereford Steakhouse, because earlier in the day Murray had seen a billboard advertising “Whale Menu” and “Puffin Menu” price fix menus there.  There definitely are puffins everywhere in Iceland – we’re out of season to see them live, unfortunately, but they were present in every gift and souvenir shop around town.  Previously, I’d only known puffins through “Barbara’s Puffins” organic cereal (you know what I’m talking about, right?), so seeing dead but stuffed puffins in store windows – and seeing menus where puffins played a big role – was a little jarring to me!

Anyway, Murray tried the whale menu (I went with neither whale nor puffin!) – and my bite of whale was meaty, dense, and had an unbelievably deep fish aftertaste.  I had to spit it out in a napkin – just couldn’t stomach it.  Dessert was lovely – passion fruit sorbet with fresh fruit, served atop skyr – Iceland’s wonderful yogurt-like creamy pudding.  Back to Guesthouse – back to writing more in the blog – and then to bed. 

Murray’s noteworthy item of today: he tried three different beer types – Gull, Polar Bear, and Viking!
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brentford2 on

Great posting.

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