September 18, 2015 – Day 2 – Iceland Trip
We slept for something like 2 hours before getting up to explore. About all we could muster on that first day? Eating and drinking, which meant we could be sitting. But before I get to that, some context about our surroundings.
Iceland is an island. Duh. In Icelandic, the name is spelled Ísland. This took me a bit to catch on to. I kept thinking, “why do they use the word ‘island’ so much?” Duh. Reykjavík is situated in the southwest corner of that island in a bay. Reykjavík can be loosely translated to “Smokey Bay” in English. It is the northernmost capital in all of the world. Iceland’s total population is just over 329,000 people, and roughly two-thirds of the total population live in the capital area. Our hotel was located in the “business district,” which meant that there were a few not-too-tall office buildings around us. These buildings were so not-tall that they did not interrupt our view of the bay at all. These were the only tall buildings in the entire city, other that the iconic church (Hallgrimskirkja) in the center of downtown. (More on the church in a later post.)
Our hotel was about a 30 minute walk from the downtown area. It took us a couple of days to realize that as hotel guests, we could take the bus for free. So on day 1, we walked.
Downtown Reykjavík: CUTE! Another thing we learned is that Iceland is one of the largest producers of aluminum in the world. Many of their buildings are constructed out of varying colors of aluminum, which makes for a very charming cityscape. We stopped in a bajillion different shops while we were there and spent a ton of money, but it was ok because their money doesn’t look real at all. It was sort of like playing a board game, only that board game is actually your bank account.
Side note: We learned very quickly that while some businesses do have public websites, more often they use Facebook. I read a lot of blogs about Iceland while planning for our trip, and I loved links! So, I’ll do my best to get you to at least some resource that is available to the public. But “like” each business on Facebook if you have an account!
Stop #1: Food. Chuck Norris Grill is a burger joint. A delicious, delicious burger joint. It was clear that whomever opened this restaurant *really* likes Chuck, a whole lot. There were lots of “Chuck is the best” statements on the walls. Some of our favorites:
- Chuck Norris counted to infinity… twice.
- Chuck Norris can divide by zero.
- When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
We each got something terrible for us. We also met a cute, plucky couple on holiday from Britain. We chatted with them while we devoured our food.
Stop #2: Icelandic Phallological Museum. Yep, it’s a penis museum. There are peni from all different types of species, real and fantastical. Everywhere you look? Penis. It was good for a few laughs. Oh, and I bought a t-shirt from the Phallus Store.
Stop #3: Beer. Dillon Whiskey Bar. They also had beer. We ended up coming back to this place, later in our trip. It was really cozy, with live music on certain nights. It’s also where we were introduced to Einstök beer, which was one of our favorite Icelandic beers. Fun fact: beer was banned in Iceland until 1989! There are a few, larger beer companies in existence now, but there was not a huge variety.
EDIT: Luke reminded me that this was also where he managed to get some homework done on our trip. I think homework is gross, so I’m sure that’s why I blocked it out. Important side note: don’t waste your money on an international data plan for your cell. I did, and it was completely unnecessary. I didn’t use it at all because most places had Wi-Fi. Iceland has pretty good cell coverage across the island. It’s an important part of their emergency alert system. I’d imagine the scariest text of your life would go something like, “ALERT: Volcano eruption imminent. Massive lava flows expected.”
After our adult beverage, we walked to our only predetermined plan for the entire day: dinner.
Stop #4: Food. Perlan. We made exactly one dinner reservation for our entire trip. This restaurant was on every “Things to do in Iceland” list that we saw. As it turns out, I’m not sure if a reservation was necessary. We were told that it is a very popular dinner location for locals on the weekends and during the holidays. In any event, the food was great, and so was the view. Perlan (or “Pearl” in English) sits on top of one set of the city’s hot water storage tanks. It is a revolving restaurant, offering 360 degree views of the capital area.
Iceland is home to many volcanoes, hot water springs, and waterfalls. These renewable energy sources are how most of the power and heat in the country are supplied. This results in low utility bills and very hot building interiors. This was something that we had to get used to while we were there. The heat is free and it is always on. Average temperatures were in the 40s while we were there, so we would bundle up to walk around, and then sweat when we went inside.
Dinner was four courses:
- Arctic char with avocado cream and a cucumber sorbet.
- Lobster bisque with lobster tail.
- Lamb with hazelnut purée and red wine sauce (Luke) and blue ling with broccoli, barley, and a hollandaise (David).
- Dessert was something delicious that we cannot remember. It was sort of a cheesecake, but sort of not.
Stop #5: SLEEP. We were TIRED. So tired that we took a cab. This was the only time we took a cab during the entire trip. It was way too expensive, so it was either walking or bussing from that point forward.