Appropriate title for my first post about Iceland. With approximately 4 hours of daylight a day in December and January, I wondered why exactly I had decided to come here in the middle of the winter. Of course, the lure of seeing the Northern Lights would be at the top of that list, but also, as we researched a little bit, there are many unique charms to Iceland that one can only experience in the dead of winter; sunburns and flip-flops are not among them.
Our flight arrived at 6 in the morning, at which point we were supposed to find our rental car (more on that later) and get to the housing office to pick up the key to our apartment. When we came out of customs however, we noticed that there was an extemely large number of people stockpiling wine, beer, and any other liquor you could think of at the duty free arrival store. Mind you, it was 6 in the morning. The easy explanation to this of course, is that everything is so incredibly expensive in Iceland, that people, tourists and locals alike, pick up a much as they can when arriving in the country, so as to avoid the weighty prices of these goods someplace else. In an effort to fit in with the locals, we joined them.
From here, after a bit of confusion, the representative from “sad cars” rentals greeted us at the terminal and drove us about 10 minutes outside the airport, across a barren desert of snow, to what amounted to a car shed in the middle of no where. Here is where we were to pick up our car rental for the next week.
“Do you feel comfortable driving it out?” he asked, to which Michelle, somewhat aprehensively, replied “yes.”
“Okay, good. Let’s go over the damage blah blah blah blah. And here, be careful when opening the door because it can be blown off by the wind.”
“Yes, it is actually the most common damage to our cars. Have fun, enjoy Iceland””
When we finally arrived in downtownReykjavik, what felt like midnight was actually 8am. The sky was completely dark and there was not a soul in the streets, with the exception of a few lost, wandering tourists looking for their hotels. After getting the keys to our apartment and finally finding it on a residential street just north the lake, and after a short flight with little sleep (by the way, no food served on Iceland Air…boo!), we all decided it best to take a little nap, and go exploring when the sun finally came up….at 10:30am!
First thing we saw as we began to explore the city was Halgrimskirkja; the iconic church that sits up on a hill looking down on to the rest of Reykjavik. Before visiting the church, we decided to stop off at Loki Cafe for some coffee and a bite to eat. To my and Gina’s delight, they were notorious for serving traditional Icelandic fare, including mashed fish, fermented shark, sheeps balls, etc. So many choices, so many choices. Alast, we decided to split the Icelandic Plate which consisted of homemade rye bread served with mashed fish, and herring and eggs, served with a side of homeade rybread icecream. I know it sounds weird, but everyone tried it and the verdict is out; rybread icecream is delicous!
After breakfast, we visited the church briefly, making our way via elevator up to the bell tower which offers a panoramic vies of the city.
After visiting the church, we explored the city by foot, taking in the two main shopping streets filled with cute boutique stores, souvenir shops, and nordic themed restaurants. The Christmas decorations help to brighten the otherwise gloomy day.
We eventually had a late lunch/dinner at Laekjarbrekka; a classic Icelandic restaurant in a house that was built in 1834. Here, I tried traditional Icelandic Meat Soup and Grilled Whale, which quite honestly tastes like steak.
We meandered around some more, finally heading back to the apartment to take the car for our first failed attempt at seeing the Northern Lights. The lights throughout Reykjavik will have to do for now.