Iceland 2010 trip, Day 1, July 18th: Reykjavik

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7:39am, Flybussen bus, in transit to Reykjavik

I'm in Iceland!

Turns out there is no free food on Icelandair. The best thing was the leg room and comfortable reclining seats. The 4hr 50min flight from Boston to Reykjavik was smooth, and I managed at least 1.5 hrs of sleep. We landed on time at 6:30am to a mix of sun and clouds, on the end of a barren peninsula. The 50 degree weather was noticeably cool. We grabbed our luggage, and walked through customs (just a passport stamp, but no cargo inquiries) into the airport lobby. Wendy bought us bus tickets while I exchanged $320 worth of Norway kroner (left over from last years trip) into Iceland currency.

We're now on the 45 minute bus ride to Reykjavik, admiring the huge cairns built along the rocky/grassy flatlands, and observing the various stores on the edge of Reykjavik. The bus will drop us off at the city hostel, where we'll be staying tonight.


First views of Iceland scenery, out the window of the bus from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik...

I hope I managed enough sleep over the past 2 short days to feel like it's early morning now.

12:10am, sitting in the lobby of Reykjavik City hostel....

We arrived at the hostel ~8:30am, and checked in, though we couldn't access our rooms until 2pm. So we left our bags in the luggage storage room downstairs, and took a walk to the nearby grocery store to investigate shopping options. Prices were quite reasonable, and we bought a 16oz skyr (high protein Icelandic yogurt) for $1.20. Cheaper than in US! Back at the hostel, we inspected the kitchen, and hung out in the computer lab eating skyr. I was wiped out, and zoned out for 15 minute with my head in my arms on the table, which helped my aching head.


Wendy is surprised to find Famous Dave's BBQ sauce at this small store in Iceland. She also holds some fish cakes, a favorite food while in Norway last year...

Wendy found out that the bus to town didn't start running til noon, so we decided to make the 30 minute walk to downtown, which would give us a deeper flavor of the neighborhoods by foot. The walk was easy, and probably more towards the 20 minute side. I noticed gas is ~$6.50/gallon. Once we reached downtown, we walked up some cute streets filled with stores, most of them carrying some type of wool clothing, in popular Icelandic fashion style (and warm for the winters). Several stores were closed on Sundays, or didn't open til 11am or noon (we arrived in town ~10:30am).


After a 15 minute walk from the hostel, we reached this park. Shops from downtown started popping up in the next block or two...


Some pictures from the streets of Reykjavik...

We targeted a fish market for lunch, but first noticed a huge church up a side street, and checked it out. Awesome architecture! A service was going on, so we couldn't go inside, but after a 10 minute wait, we made our way inside, just in time to hear the last 5 dramatic chords from the monstrous (and freaky looking) pipe organ. It was certainly a powerful experience, and there are $12 organ concerts several times a week. The organ's twisted pipes reminded me of something out of Stephen King's Dark Tower series.


Reykjavik has a uniquely architected church in town. Built in the late 40s, out of concrete...


The pipe organ's twisted metal was a bit scary looking, especially while hearing the thundrrous final 5 chords of the service's closing song. The pipes almost look like a futuristic weapon. There are daily concerts at 5pm that cost money, but those 5 chords were all I needed to understand the experience...

We then headed towards the wharf, stopping at more stores, and arrived at the fish market, only to discover that it was mainly a raw fish market, instead of food for lunch. So we continued to a Lonely Planet recommended eatery, which felt like a hole in the wall, but had amazing lobster soup, halibet fillets, and whale kebabs. We loved the soup so much that we tried their other variety, white fish with sea cucumber. It ended up being the same broth, with different meat (very little meat in both), and a couple bucks cheaper than the lobster. Dipping their doughy bread in the buttery broth was wonderful. It was a fairly good value mean, considering Icelands infamously expensive restaurant prices. 1800isk for kebab and hallibut (each), 1100isk for lobster soup.


This "hole-in-the-wall" restaurant is famous for fresh grilled fish and lobster soup. Look at all those kabobs. Good thing we noticed the halibet fish in the bottom left, which cames with a lot more "meat" on the bone. Small place, but they get tons of business...


Mmm... The lobster soup broth was beautifully buttery, perfect for dunking the sweet doughy bread. As you can see, the Halibut filet is a lot bigger than the whale kabob, for the same price. The whale was a bit chewy, and tasted like steak...


Outside of the restaurant, right on the harbor. There is room for outdoor seating here as well...

After lunch, we walked back through the fish/flea market, where I bought a pair of -1.5 near-sighted prescription glasses (plastic frames), for 1500isk (~$12)! Fortunately, I had my contact lense case on me, and was able to test the glasses. Amazing deal! Luckily both my eyes are about the same prescription, else Wendy would have tried buying some too. I wish the US had glasses like these. So cheap!!! I should have stocked upů We bought some farm eggs while at the market too.


Wendy holds up a cool bag in a wool store. I pose next to an anchor with a big hat on the wharf...

We continued up to a large lake, and watched families feeding the ducks. The weather was great today. Sunny and warm, but with occasional cool breezes. In the shade it was slightly chilly in a t-shirt. We hung out on a bench, taking in the scene, and contemplating the rest of the day. I ended up taking a nap, while Wendy surfed the widely prevelant free wi-fi all over Reykjavik on her iphone. Her iphone came in exteremly useful all day, as we could research restaurants and use live maps.


Lots of families with small kids were feeding the ducks bread. We almost felt like non-tourists, hanging out here with all the people, watching the ducks...


It was so peaceful (aside from the ferocious bird squawking sounds, when someone would through in an entire slice of bread at once), I was able to doze off. Wendy managed to take charge of picture taking duties while I was out...

We walked around town more, arriving back at the church, and then starting looking for a dinner spot. In the end, we were deciding between buying salad and fish from a grocery to cook at the hostel, or going to a fish and chips place, recommended by Lonely Planet, that features skyr based sauces "skyronnaise". Since you're only in Reykjavik once, we decided to visit the restaurant, which was much more reasonably priced than all the other places we checked out on the way. We each had a fried fish on salad, with basil (Wendy) and chili (Matt) skyr sauces. It was unique and enjoyable. Wendy suggested getting a skyr-cake dessert. A dessert with high protein skyr (in some of it at least) sounded good to me! We couldn't decide between the pistachio or blueberry variety, so we got both (reasonable at 590isk each). They were amazing! The blueberry was particularly perfect, so we tried to order another, but they were out.


The sun was more favorable from this vantage point now, versus this morning...


This park looks like a popular hangout sport for Reykjavik-ians. Lots of eateries and shops in the area...


Dinner time! Fish and chips on a salad, with skyr-mayonnaise sauce, followed by the most delicious skyr-cakes imaginable...

After this satisfying dinner, we walked to a small grocery store in town, and bought cheese, and lettuce to bring on the start of the trek. With our mission in the city complete, we walked to a bus stop, but got confused about which stop to wait at. We saw our bus number depart from across the street, and sat around waiting for the next one, which I thought was in 20-30 minutes. I was tempted to work on my journal while waiting, but left my laptop in my pack, thinking the bus would arrive any minute. After 40 minutes of dead time, Wendy read the bus maps, and discovered the bus ran hourly at this time, so we decided to save our 560isk, and make the 20+ minute walk back to the hostel. It was frustrating to have wasted this time which could have been used sleeping tonight. We wondered if waiting for the bus would have been faster, and found out the answer when the bus drove past us 2 minutes before we arrived at the hostel. Got some exercise at least, and saved $4.50...

At the hostel, we pick up our key, and prep our big packs in a 6 person room for tomorrow's early start. Despite staying up all night packing before flying out of Denver, it still takes a lot of time to fine tune our packs, and prep our luggage to be stored at the hostel while we're gone. I put a deposit down for a locker, to stow my laptop and our valuables. The main campground for Reykjavik is next door to the hostel, where I found a 24 hour store to buy fuel for our camp stove (1200isk).

Once our bags were in good shape, we ate some eggs, skyr, and an orange in the computer room downstairs at ~12:30am. When we returned, our roommates were all asleep, so we tried to be quiet while we prepped for showers and bed. I took an empty top bunk, and only needed my sleeping bag liner in the very warm room. In Iceland, you can save a lot of money simply traveling with a sleeping bag, and staying at hostels/guesthouses. They charge a lot for renting sheets.

Finally getting to bed ~1am. Good thing there are dark window shades, as it's still twilight out.

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