Refreshed and now on Icelandic time, we were ready to see what Iceland had in store for us during out our last 24 hours in Reykjavik.
0730 hrs / Discovery: out of the four of us travelling together, I was the only morning person. #doh. Up and at ’em, eating delicious Skyr yogurt for breakfast we’d purchased last night at the Icelandic equivalent of a 7-11.
0830 hrs / The reputed must-do “Golden Circle Tour” was duly coordinated. We chose IG Tours because they had an option of using a smaller mini-bus rather than a huge coach. I’ve never been much of a tour person, so this was a bit of a stretch for me but a quick and dirty way to get out into the countryside and have someone else do the driving. Waiting outside the hostel for the bus, the street was littered with plastic cups and other signs that a massive party had gone done while we slumbered! About four buses circled by us and checked our names – tours are a big deal here. Finally our wee minibus pulled up and off we went.
0845 – 1630 hrs / We spent the majority of the day rolling through the countryside on the Golden Circle Tour, hitting the major sites of Gullfoss (a rushing waterfall a la Niagara), Geysir (a series of steaming, spouting geysers) and Pingvellir (home to Icelandic parliament’s beginnings), with somewhat barren landscapes in between. I picked up more Skyr to snack on and a book (Independent People) by the Icelandic Nobel prizewinner for literature, Halldor Laxness.
Side note: our tour guide pretty much confirmed that the Icelandic views of the “Hidden World” are a very real thing – trolls, elves, dwarves, ghosts, etc. – and if you choose not to cooperate with these ancient peoples, you’re going to run into trouble. He was dead serious. And then he took us on a side trip to visit some Icelandic ponies where he chittered to them in Icelandic.
1700 hrs / Back in town, our driver dropped us at the harbour upon request. Checking out the waterfront we saw the Harpa concert hall (funky facet architecture), whale tour excursions, bike rentals, and any number of things to do should we have a bit more time and money to work with.
1830 hrs / On the hunt for Reykjavik’s best lobster soup… found down at the Sea Baron (Sægreifinn). Not much more than a hole in the wall, we squeezed onto the bench seating to slurp back the soup and large baskets of bread with Icelandic butter. Delicious! Throw in scallops and a whale steak, and yum! Perfect supper.
1900 hrs / We retired to the hostel for patio drinks (wine, plus vodka mixed with the local orange pop, Appelsin), enjoying the weather. A local music group was filming a video on the surrounding rooftops.
2000 hrs / Thus began the bar-hopping…more Viking, more Gull. A shot of Brennivan (Iceland’s savory schnapps – which I don’t really need to ever have again). Lots of walking, talking and laughing. We made a few new Icelandic friends, some who’d never left the island. We sang loudly along with the live music to Ring of Fire and – believe it or not – Islands in the Stream. A little Kenny, a little Dolly…
0230 hrs / The night (or morning) ended with the search for an all-night hotdog stand, as apparently the hot dogs here are like an unofficial national food (made mostly of lamb and served with a bunch of creative condiments) and the testing out of the free-standing coin operated single bathroom stall that looked like some sort of time capsule. I managed my only official “run” while visiting Iceland, a one-minute trot around the square, during these hi jinx.
Having jotted this all down, I realize our two days was a lot about hanging out and eating…! Every person we met was super friendly (except the convenience store guy who spoke to me in Icelandic and when he realized I wasn’t local, was kinda cranky), and went out of their way to ask why we came to Iceland…
Would I go back? Iceland makes a great stopover and is an ideal place to shake off jet lag. If I was to return to Iceland, I’d enjoy a few days in the capital but then there’d be a tent and rental car involved so that I could drive the endless roads around the edge of this massive island, and see all the hidden wonders that make the pages of the travel brochures. Until next time…