We had been through Keflavik Airport a few times. Each time, we had the same impression. What a weird, lunar, perpetually gray landscape! And yet we kept hearing about how great it was. So on our way back from Norway we decided to stay for a couple of days to see what the fuss was all about. We got hooked.
At first, we thought we would take a highlights bus tour to pack as much as possible into our 40 hours in Iceland. I also toyed with the idea of a helicopter ride. But as we got closer, we became more and more convinced that we wanted a more DIY experience. Good call. And if you’re hoping for a report on the Blue Lagoon, stop reading now. We didn’t go. We preferred a combination experience of rough and tumble Reykjavik and a drive through the eerie, yet beautiful countryside.
We had booked a studio (not too many hotels in Reykjavik) in a place called “Room with a View Luxury Suites“. The location could not have been more central, right on the main restaurant/shopping street, and a view there was! The only down side was the street noise at 4:00 am when the clubs closed, but we survived that and it was worth the trade off. The first night we were able to park our little rental car right on the street (free after 6PM, but our hotel owner gave us a coin to tide us over after our 5:30 PM arrival). The second night we were able to score a parking spot in the hotel’s minuscule lot in the back.
Our first meal was at Jamie Oliver’s favorite spot, Prir Frakkar. We were enchanted by the pubby atmosphere and congenial staff. The restaurant prides itself in its seafood, but has some other interesting options (smoked puffin!). We started with soup – mine was a creamy mushroom and Ray’s a seafood melange. Then I had a seafood gratin and Ray had hake with lobster. It was all good, especially my soup, but probably, a little too much cream for our taste. Still, a wonderful experience and a cozy place on a blustery night. Less expensive than Norway, but who’s checking prices?
The next morning we headed out shrouded in mist. Not unexpected. We found early morning pastry and coffee in the travel agency/boutique/coffee bar next door. Reminded me of a place in Missoula, Montana! Then we hopped into our adorable red VW and sped off to Vik on the southern tip of Iceland. A few miles out of Reykjavik the landscape changed dramatically. Giant black craggy mountains leapt up from the emerald green pastures. Waterfalls cascaded down behind white stone farmhouses with red roofs. Shaggy horses and shaggier sheep studded the rocky, surreal fields.
Although it was pretty foggy, and sometimes raining, we were able to trudge out to the black sands and crashing surf at Vik. We imagined Viking ships sailing by, or submarines from Russia, or James Bond! But time was short and we had more to see, so we turned around to find a few of Iceland’s treasured sites along the road to Geysir (yes, the original Geysir, for which the others, after a spelling change, were named). And oh yes, we were treated to a sunny afternoon!
Then back to Reykjavik before the shops closed! The streets of the small town were packed with an international set of shoppers and others just enjoying the scene and the sunny glow of a September evening. Instead of a fancy restaurant, we opted for a photo editing, FB posting, beer drinking and tapas eating session at a cool little bistro called Solòn. We were there for quite awhile, chatting with our server, an international law student from St Jean de Luz. We finally decided we should make a change of venue, but as we headed up the street we literally ran into, Mathieu, the son of our great friends, Laurence & François Roy. He was there traveling around the whole island in an 4×4 with a buddy from Grenoble. We invited them to come have a drink with us and we had an animated, laughter-filled conversation, which was a highlight on an already incredibly memorable trip.
At dawn we arose to return our car and ourselves to the airport. Even though we have plenty of other places we want to see, I can definitely imagine another trip to magical Iceland.