Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Driving Around Iceland, Part 2: A Day in Reykjavik

(please do not use my photos without permission)

I’m actually starting this series of blogs in reverse chronological order because I want to save the best for last.

Our last day in Iceland was spent walking around Reykjavik (the capital city) with my Icelandic friend giving us a free tour and bringing us to a very nice and famous restaurant. It's a welcome respite to just take a relaxing walk around the city on our last day of touring around Iceland as we had been driving all over the country for the past days, all the while hurrying to see places few and far between.

First on our list was Hallgrimskirkja.  Like most Icelandic words, the pronunciation is entirely different from how it is spelled. I didn't understand which place my friend was referring to at first when she mentioned it, until she explained how certain letter combinations are pronounced a certain way, totally unlike the spelling.

Those linear columns are reminiscent of the spectacular basalt rock formations at the Reynisfjara (more about this later on)

The church's organ pipes

I was surprised that (rowdy) visitors are allowed to play the organ

This is the view of the city facing the west... I love how colorful and neat the houses look. farther out there on the horizon is the peninsula of Snæfellsness, which is the setting of Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (Voyage au centre de la terre, is the original french title)

Hallgrimskirja is actually a very modern Lutheran Church, which has a viewing gallery at the top, offering a magnificent 360-degree view of the city. Reykjavik is a nice city for walking, with lots of interesting places to eat, nice small shops and also a few quirky stops.

Yes, "Phallological Museum", you read that right ;) we just passed by it while driving in the traffic, trying to find our hotel

I kinda feel like this sometimes :D

This gay bar is right next to our hotel... this rainbow symbol seems to be brandished all over Europe, I noticed.

With my Icelandic friend who gave us a tour of the city

Musicians on the street wearing the flag of the country they came from... they came from everywhere!

We stopped by a book shop and then went for a drink at a bar where most locals go. It was packed for a weeknight! We sat al fresco to enjoy the sun -- 20 degrees is the hottest as hot can get in the summer, I guess. Without the wind, it didn't really feel very cold for me. My friend told us we were lucky to have this weather because she had a friend who stayed for a month, but only got a couple of sunny days.

there was a sale (utsala) in the book shop that we visited

I've always been curious about Haldor Laxness, as I've come across him at bookshops and book reviews online. I actually wanted to get "A Letter to Laura" by Thorbergur Thordarson (Þórbergur Þórðarson) because we visited his birthplace and museum in Hali. I didn't manage to find the book in English. I just contented myself with one that has excerpts from it (yellow book in pic).

The Blue Lagoon algae mask that I bought at the airport in Keflavik. I was not able to visit the Blue Lagoon (we went to the less crowded one in Myvatn up North instead), so i thought, I'd buy this mask to make up for it. :)

I didn't buy so much stuff from the shops except for a couple of books from Icelandic authors and some small stuff (magnets, postcards and key chains) to give to friends. I noticed that most of the items they sell in the shops are imported from other places and therefore, expensive. So I didn't really do a lot of shopping.

Fish Market restaurant, apparently one of the best seafood restaurants in Reykjavik

Strolling around the city after dinner to help digest the heavy food. This was almost midnight. This street stretches out into the harbour. We wanted to keep walking there to watch the sunset at first, but I was too tired and too lazy since our hotel (with a warm comfy bed) is already close by, and sleep beckons more powerfully.

The Hallgrimskirkja at night
We went to The Fishmarket (fiskmarkadurinn) restaurant that my friend booked in advance. We were glad to have done that, because the place was packed even for a weeknight. It was a pity my phone died right after we sat down inside the restaurant. But I doubt my phone pics would look nice anyway because the place is dimly lit.

We took the Tasting Menu that is composed of four appetizers, three main dishes (if I remember correctly) and two desserts. We had to buy the wine separately, though. The food was really good, so were the ambience and the service. The staff were friendly and they take the time to explain what is in each dish. I could never forget eating whale for the first time. We didn't really know what they were going to serve in the menu, so it came as a surprise that we're eating whale. It tasted like really tender beef. There are only three countries in the world where whale hunting is legal -- Iceland, Norway and Japan. I felt a bit guilty about eating it. It's probably the last time I’m eating whale.

After dinner, we wanted to go bar crawling at first, but we were so full and suddenly so tired. And also, my friend had to work early the next day. I was quite thankful the bar crawl didn't push through. We'd have to wake up at 5 AM the following day because of our early flight to Amsterdam.

Reykjavik is a nice little city that is good for walking. Especially if you are blessed with a wonderful weather, like we were. My friend says Iceland, especially Reykjavik, is fast becoming more and more touristy. We saw that for ourselves. They are starting to build more and more hotels around. We are lucky to see Iceland before it gets too crazy touristy and even more expensive than it already is.

Next time, I’ll be writing about Borgarnes and Akureyri. :)

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