Iceland

Click on the picture or this text for the best of our photos from Iceland. Or click here for the unfiltered collection.

We left Seattle after work on Friday, leaving the kids with Les and D, and flew to Reykjavik. Icelandair boarded late and slowly for no visible reason. We arrived in Reykjavik at around 9 in the morning. Looked around in the duty free shop while waiting for our bags, and found sheep dung smoked whisky. Got our bags and went to Alamo to pick up our rental car, a Nissan Micra (tiny!).

We drove to the Blue Lagoon, a touristy-resorty-not-exactly-natural hot spring (as I understand it, the water is natural, but piped into an artificial ‘lagoon’). We ate lunch at their fancy restaurant, Lava, where I had lamb and KrisDi had a delicious langoustine soup.

Then we actually went into the lagoon, and almost immediately got a beer from the wade-up bar (Gull). We waded around, and after a while we went to have floating massages. KrisDi apparently didn’t talk much with her masseuse (her face got covered with a towel), but mine and I chattered throughout. She likes to go to car shows in Florida for her vacations because she’s into American muscle cars (she was excited about my car — or at least professed excitement). After the massages, we went and did a couple facemasks — silica and algae.

Afterward, KrisDi spent the next five days or so complaining that her hair felt weird and crunchy from the minerals in the water. Please tell her that her hair looks awesome in all the photos.

Then we drove into Reykjavik, checked into our room (Aska Apartment), and walked from there. We walked to Hallgrimskirkja, then headed to the Fish Company for dinner (we were distracted on the way by a liquor store where we bought a few Icelandic beers).

Kristen ordered Mexico Tomato with Sear Ahi Tuna and Soft Shell Crab. I had Iceland Fish — fried wolffish, sous vide arctic char, and broiled ling. They gave us a little interested appetizer — smoked haddock with herb foam. We had some kind of milk chocolate confection for dessert.

After that, we went to a nearby beer spot — the Micro Bar. It was a cool place. I was surprised to find some fancy Belgian beers in small bottle format in a cooler there, and asked I could buy them to go. “No, that’s not allowed.” “Oh, OK. That’s too bad.” “Well…it’s not allowed the same way jaywalking is not allowed. Everyone does it and no one cares.” “OK then…I would like to jaywalk.” “OK!”

Then we went to the Mikkeller bar and had some more beer. This place was busier and appear to be trendier, I would say, but I probably would have preferred hanging out in the Micro Bar.

After a couple beers there, we went to the Lebowski Bar, where we drank from their expansive White Russian menu. First round, a Caramel Russian and El Duderino. Second round, From Russian with Love and Jackie Treehorn. They were delicious, the bar was quite busy, and no one else was drinking White Russians.

We decided a late night snack was in order, so we went to the nearby Icelandic hotdog stand — apparently, famous for having some combination beef, pork, and lamb in their hot dogs. KrisDi took a big hearty bite, while I’m a bit daintier in my eating.

At this stage we realized that although it was still pretty bright out, it was almost midnight and we should go to bed.


The next morning, we went to a nearby bakery (Brauth and Co) to buy food for later, and then to Early in the Morning for breakfast.

After breakfast, we headed out on KrisDi’s pre-planned “ring route” — a long series of interesting sites looping us back around to Reykjavik by the end of the day. Part 1, and Part 2, separated only by Google’s apparent limit of ten stops on a route. Straight driving, it was planned at about 170 miles.

First, we went to the Nesjavellir geothermal power plant. Shortly after leaving Reykjavik, we left pavement behind, driving on fairly well maintained gravel roads through the sparse greenery and rocks. We stopped along the way when we found a long, slow slope right next to the roadway with a neat peak on it, and I walked up to the top (I think it’s bigger than it looks — that last photo was taken with the huge zoom lens).

There was a lot of beautiful scenery along the way. The power plant was closed when we got there, so we looked over the security gate and drove away. I don’t think we saw a single car through this.

Then Ljosafossstoth, which I think was a hydroelectric dam. On our way, we were nearly crushed by a giant offroad vehicle coming the opposite way (there are a lot of “not safe for standard vehicles” roads in Iceland due to fords-instead-of-bridges, and they have a special sign just for warning people of this, and you frequently see vehicles that are prepared for this). The gravel roads on this path were loose — like, scary to drive in a little car. Anyway, when we got to the place, it was closed, too. A bird had nested and laid eggs right by the entrance, and she was very angry at me for getting close to her babies.

Kerid Crater (maybe Kerith) was the next stop — it’s a lake in a caldera. It’s unnaturally easy to reach, right off a major road. It’s pretty, and you can walk all the way around the rim and right down to the water at the bottom of the crater. I don’t really have a lot to say about it, but it was one of our favorite stops.

On to Skalholt Cathedral. We didn’t get to go inside because they were holding a mass and we didn’t think we should barge in and start taking pictures. My favorite thing there was the old sod-roof building. The most mysterious thing there was that the churchbells were going bonkers, with no pattern or reasoning that we could discern. Also interesting was the tunnel entrance into the basement of the church, which we weren’t allowed to go into. Overall, it was kind of a boring stop to look at — more historically interesting.

Then we had to change plans because our lunch reservation couldn’t be set up before 3 (good thing we picked up bread first). So, rather than going to lunch next, we went to the Secret Lagoon at Fludir.

It was a nice spot — but we got bored and impatient pretty quickly, and it got hard to breathe pretty fast, too. We think there was a higher sulfur content. It was a genuine active surface-level geothermal site, and it was pretty cool, with tiny little geysers that went off every few minutes.

We then drove to Gullfoss, a huge and magnificent waterfall. Hundreds of people were there. We took hundreds of pictures — more in the “uncut” album of course. Not much to say about it, other than that it was huge and magnificent, and go look at the pictures.

We went to see a pair of geysers after that — Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir is not dormant, but not very active. Strokkur erupts apparently every 10 minutes or so. We wandered around and drank some beer, and saw Strokkur go off about five times, and got a couple cool pictures of that.

Then it was finally time for our lunch reservation at Fridheimar tomato greenhouse. The restaurant is inside the greenhouse. It’s pretty warm. We couldn’t figure out the back story — who decided they should grow tons of tomatoes year round in Iceland, and serve them to people? Anyway, everything they serve was made with fresh tomatoes — best tomato soup and bloody mary I remember having; one of the few tomato beers (still not successful) and the only tomato ice cream (disappointingly icy). Pasta with a delicious marinara sauce for me, pizza for KrisDi.

Efstidalur ice cream barn was the next stop. It’s a little dairy farm that makes ice cream. They sectioned off a portion of the barn for the purpose of selling and serving it. It was really tasty. Ice cream is not particularly well paired with the delicate aroma of cow shit, however. Roads to get there were even worse — gravel again, and not as well cared for — NoDaks will probably know what I mean when it seemed like the grader’s blade was jumping.

Afterward, we made an unplanned stop because it was pretty and KrisDi was falling asleep in the car. I think we stopped by Thingvallavatn, a lake. We took a bunch of pictures and drank some of the beer we had bought the previous day. I thought it was amusing to open a very fancy beer by popping the cap off on the side of a picnic table.

Finally, Thingvellir national park. We took a long walk, by this time my back was already pretty tired. We saw a waterfall at the end of it. I picked my way across the rocks extremely carefully for photos, thinking very consciously about whether my back would let me get back. Another case of “Lots to see, very pretty, tons of pictures, not a lot to say.”

Back then to the apartment (a cat was very interested in crawling on our car), to our room, where we repacked, and then went to Brewdog for dinner. Not yet wanting to go to bed, we went back to the Lebowski bar and had more White Russians. Then bedtime, despite the light.


That night, I was fooled by the light — I woke up at 12:30 AM, and it looked bright outside. I thought my phone was wrong, and we slept through our alarm or something. I thought Kristen’s phone was also wrong. I ended up getting up to check an independent (and not internet dependent) clock before relaxing and going back to bed.

The alarm went off at 4. Headed off to the airport, stopped for gas, dropped off the car, with no incidents.

We were confused by our plane tickets, because they gave us each one ticket that was good for two flights (on two airlines). We ate some skyr (it was thick and dry — reminded me of a kind of chalky mud).

Icelandair continued to be shitty at boarding their fucking planes — they put us on a bus to take us out to the plane, and made us wait on the bus for about 30 minutes before letting us actually get on the plane.

Strangely: Not once did they check our IDs.


Conclusions: Iceland is pretty, sparsely populated, and expensive to eat and drink in ($10+ for a regular beer, $35+ for KrisDi’s little tuna dish). There’s a ton of interesting stuff to see. If you’re into hiking or offroading, it might be a paradise (in the summer). Everyone speaks pretty good English. Reykjavik is not a huge city, but it’s got some interesting things. The seafood was great.

Posted by snaotheus

2 comments

Is skyr like the Icelandic version of dwarf bread?

I’d love to have tried out the geothermal pool.

I’m amazed at an entire menu of white Russians.

snaotheus

I don’t know about dwarf bread. Skyr is a thick yogurt. Well, maybe technically not.

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