Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Exploring Reykjavik

One could spend 2 weeks sightseeing in Reykjavik, and there would still be 2 weeks worth of things to see. This having been our second trip to Iceland, many tourists we met asked what our "must-sees" are when visiting the country for the first time. Honestly, no matter where I travel, my favorite activity is exploring the sights and culture of the city in which we are staying. I love learning about how people live, as well as how they make the most of their climate/location.

When in Iceland, do as the Icelanders do.

Visiting Hallgrímskirkja

I'm a sucker for organs.

The front door of the church.

"Getting Lost" in the City

It's actually pretty hard to get lost in Reykjavik. At any given time you can do a 360 degree turn, find Hallgrímskirkja (the giant church), then know exactly where you are. The surrounding mountains are also helpful landmarks when navigating the city. If for some reason you do lose your way, the locals are friendly and speak very good English.

Iceland has very high building standards, and color standards too, I guess.

I've never seen so many tree houses!

Statues galore! There is a statue garden on the list of cool things to see in Reykjavik.

And here's a picture of the same place from October of 2011.

You know where to find me...

And one more from our previous trip to compare.

We found the local cemetary.

Biggest birdhouse I've ever seen.

If you are searching for a wool Icelandic sweater, your best bet would be to go to the Flea Market to find a local artisan. If there are none sold there, I suggest befriending a local to see if they have a contact. The price of the sweater will be high, but you will be getting high quality, 100% local Icelandic wool made fair trade by an artist. It takes an entire week for a professional to make a custom sweater that will last a lifetime. When you look at it this way, $200 really isn't too high a price. You can always impulse buy one at the airport on your way home, but to me this is not as special.

That's all for now. To fuel our long walk, we stopped at Cafe Loki for Swiss mochas (SO YUMMY!), and took a break at the book store Eymundsson, where we saw many locals enjoying coffee/tea and a quite place to read - this is also a cheap(er) place to find souvenirs.

P.S. The best souvenirs come in the form of Icelandic liquor. I'm not a fan on vodka, but I can drink Reyka vodka straight from the bottle. Birkir Liqueur is another delicious choice. Both of these options can be found at the Duty Free store on your way home. And for the cheapest drinking experience in Iceland, get a bottle when you come into the country and drink it at your hotel. Alcohol is expensive in Iceland, and one trip to a bar can set you back $75.00 (not including food).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Iceland: The Perlan (The Pearl)

One of my favorite places to visit in Reykjavik is called the Pearl. The city's hot water (which is naturally warmed by the earth's geothermal activity) is stored in giant tanks on top of a hill near downtown. To make these storage tanks prettier they put a giant glass dome on top and called it a work of art.

Inside, one can find art displays, a posh rotating restaurant, a cafeteria, and a gift shop. However, my favorite feature is the 360 degree view on the observation deck.

There are trails which lead up to the building. The trees and solitude here provide a nice change of scenery.

Check out this exact same picture I took in the fall of 2011. It was fun to see the city in different seasons.

The basement of the Pearl has a geyser.

Much of the artwork we have seen in Iceland has a common feature: it is closely connected to natural elements. I think this comes from living in such a naturally dynamic place. 

This was a clever little fountain tucked away in a corner.

Next time we visit we will bring Everett. He would have loved watching the planes take off and land. These are domestic flights that go to smaller cities on the island or to Greenland. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Iceland: Day 1

It seems like everyone is traveling to Iceland these days. We just got back from our second trip there and are already talking about what we will do when (not if) we return. People wonder why we love the country so much, and it is easy to understand once you have been there.

Iceland is populated by 300,000+ badasses who can handle the harsh elements that come with living in the far north. These resilient individuals are also obviously part elfin, as the Icelandic populace is by far the most attractive race I have ever encountered, despite the fact that they are descendants of brutes. They are a people who have withstood isolation and desolation, and whose creativity and adaptability have allowed them to live on a deserted island for hundreds of years. They have mastered Ayn Rand's ideal of civilization, as each individual plays a key role in sustaining community; in fact, when a community of thousands was threatened by volcanic destruction in the 1970's, all lives were saved when the whole town pitched in to help get families to safety. I just can't see that happening here.

In conclusion, we love Iceland and Icelandic people. But mostly it is super cheap to travel there in the off-season.

Day 1 in Iceland begins with a plane ride from Seattle. The flight is about 7 hours, which is not too shabby when you remember how long a trip to Europe from the Pacific Northwest usually takes. If you are lucky, you can sleep through the plane ride and wake up at 6:00am for your first day in Iceland. Of course, I can never sleep on planes. I ordered a mini-bottle of wine, hoping it would get me tired enough to sleep, but the only thing this masterful plan accomplished was giving me a sufficient buzz, which made me think that doing Sudoku puzzles with a buzz was a good idea. Lesson learned: Sudoku and wine do not mix, and not even wine can put me to sleep on an airplane.

It is a good thing I could not sleep though, because we got to see the Northern Lights from the plane. It was incredible. We were literally flying next to them. I will never forget the experience.

After we landed and checked into our hotel, we decided to explore the city a bit so we did not go straight to bed at 9:00am Iceland time. Here are some pics from our first outing. 

Our first stop was the Seabaron, which serves the best lobster soup in the world (according to the NY Times and my husband).

No trip to Iceland is complete without visiting Harpa. 

The building is just as stunning as I remember from our last visit, except now there are beautiful birds on display.


I appreciate how much art is valued in Iceland, and how unique displays of creativity can be found on every corner.

This is a simple, but beautiful, display of bottles.

And of course the Old Harbour is a must-see.

After taking our obligatory first-day jaunt, we napped for a couple hours, then woke up to visit the spa, eat pizza, and consume copious amounts of Duty Free Icelandic liquor. Unfortunately, most of the pictures from these events were taken via Snapchat, meaning I have nothing more to share here.

Stay tuned for more...
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