3:30 pm: Cafe Paris coffee,crepes B had a smoked lamb on bread smothered in mayo. The sun came out. Not much else open ! At least their tv programming? Is good- a video channel we both are feeling pretty crummy,
I don’t think I am the perfect person for Icelandair’s “Take-A-Break” holidays. They make it seem so refreshing, but here it is day two and I am still feeling completely run down from jet lag. Here we lie in the hotel watching TV. I couldn’t sleep on the plane and even though we are only 5 hours away from NYC, I am wiped.
My secondary frustration is there is not really any concise information around here about what to do. I know it is winter, but with everything shut down (especially today- Sunday!), with the exception of the KolaPortid flea market,which we exhausted in the first hour of our day, you would think they would have some in-town activities going on.It is chilly out and we’ve walked around trying to find a warm open cafe or a museum to visit.
We don’t find a place to eat lunch until 2 (Cafe Paris),and spend time at the bookstore next door to our hotel because it was the only other place open (besides the few tourist tchotchke shops). There is sun today, which I think is very lucky considering it is not even mid March yet. A bit too cold /chillier than we had anticipated, I guess I really was hedging my bets against the Gulf Stream’s magic.A guidebook said:”dress for a fall day in NYC”? Well, more like a shitty winter day in NYC.
Both the guidebooks I have brought along have been extremely unhelpful! Outdated, misinformation found in both. It must be expensive to publish a current guidebook for this area. I thought there would be a renegade guide like we found in Amsterdam to at least the night life, or some sort of definitive guide to all the pubs/cafes/museums that I have seen a mention of here, a write-up of there. I did not get my stuff together before the trip to cross reference everything. Well, I have read, people’s expectations of places are often misplaced when they are traveling.
The city absolutely shuts down on Sunday, which is a shame for us as it is our main day here. I would still like to find some things to love about this place. I have to give it a chance. Horrible fears well up that I have turned into an unenlightened city person.
You would think for a girl originally from Seattle,that the atmosphere would be heaven,and really for the most part it is. The air smells of the salt of water and fishing, which I love. The mountains that surround the city are beautiful. In fact, this place has a total mountain town resonance to it. I dare say though, much to a disappointment in myself, I find it a bit dull. There seems to be something missing, and I can not quite put my finger on it yet. The town feels very small, as the population count indicates… And what does one expect from a nation that boasts 100 percent literacy rates, the love of chess and handknit products? What did you think they would be doing? Maybe I will figure out why I don’t feel the excitement I was expecting. I am tired and fuzzy headed.
Our wallets are losing speed fast. Another downside,which I think is really sinking in is the expense. And I know all the guidebooks warned about it, but until you are drinking a $7.00 dollar beer with a 24.5% VAT tax added on top of that, you don’t realize really how thin your wallet quickly gets. It has kept us from our usual souvenir/junk collecting. Even the weekend flea market (KolaPortid) had no real thrills or deals mostly because they have a lot of the same cast off American products).
Luckily it was good advice (one of the first things mentioned in everything I read) to bring your own spirits and B brought two bottles of wine from home. The food we have eaten has been marginal because we have been trying to keep it affordable, and as B discovered (to his continuing disappointment),the beer is awful. So they are not a beer drinking country. The Brennevin,their national alcoholic drink, AKA “Black Death” is appropriately named as well, a caraway seed nightmare, as we found out last night. But I am not a fan of the hard liquor anyway, so who am I to say.
But on to more pleasant thoughts… because,it’s okay. The people here are extraordinarily pleasant and down to earth. Not snobby at all. And yes, so far my inability to memorize any Icelandic phrases has not led to insufferable shame. Everyone speaks English, and even look at you strangely if you attempt to say “thank you” in Icelandic.
Reykjavikites, in general,dress in hip fashion, which almost seems odd in the context of the landscape,but really it is just very European. I can say now though that I have seen a city that wears more black than New York City! I kept thinking,if the joke of the matter finds that Eskimos have over a 100 different terms for the color white,then people who live in Reykjavik have over a 100 different ways of wearing the color black. It was very funny last night to witness the unwritten dress code when we went to some of their bars.
The people here are attractive, but not in way like you feel like you are surrounded by a bunch of supermodel snobs. All the guys have short hair and dress up for going out around the town. There is something to be said for the posse of blonde people that were manning the club door last night, but there are allegedly more dark-haired people here than in the rest of Scandinavia.
The two coffee shops I have been in so far I really liked for their mellow temperament. I love being served a French Press of extremely good tasting coffee, to share with B. In the coffee department, Icelanders have it down to genius.
Hotel Skjaldbreid, our hotel is very nice, and lucky for us located right in the center of Reykjavik. In the morning we get a good meal in a very sunny breakfast room surrounded with windows. We accidentally showed up late today (our sleep schedules are such a mess) and they were putting the food away but insisted on bringing it back out so we could eat (“It is very good!”). Their breakfasts remind me somewhat of Dutch breakfasts with the eggs, slices of cheese, bread, although this time with the addition of fish.Icelanders like salty licorice as the Dutch do too.
Our room is pleasant and very Scandinavian in decor (blond wood, sparse in details). We have a few more amenities than in the places we can normally afford- like a refrigerator in the room, a hairdryer! The TV as I have already stated has excellent programming, a lot of American movies but I am finding it depressing that we have come all this way to watch it. We still have yet to have a good traditional meal, or get rid of our jet legged stomachs. I guess the two of us do not travel well.
That situation is soon resolved- finding us eating a chunk of Free Willy:
We were craving a more traditional meal, and the trip just rejuvenated itself when B took us out for dinner at: Prur Frakkar Hja Ulfari. They specializes in Seafood and Whale Meat. We found ourselves sitting in a very quaint and homelike restaurant, lovely lace curtains gave us a glimpse of the setting sun outside. We started with an appetizer of whale, Japanese style, which meant it was served raw with wasabi, soy sauce and chopsticks. It was delicious, as B said, better than tuna sushi (really sashimi). For a main course I had plokkfisk which is “hashed fish with black rye bread” and B had “Halibut and Lobster in lobster sauce”. They were both excellent. My hashed fish tasted as if there were mashed potatoes and cheese were mixed in, and the rye bread was sweet, and insanely good. B’s meal was also nice. We each had a glass of Merlot, although we found a bit later neither one of us had much desire to drink.
Our fellow diners appeared to be mostly American which I gathered from the conversational goings on. Two college girls behind us,(which I quickly surmised were from Boston) animatedly discussed in detail the plot of last nights television show Temptation Island.
A man to the other side of the restaurant kept asking the waitress really inane questions regarding the food, “Do you also serve dolphin here? Can I get shark”? We were fearful he was going to ask if they served human as well, from the strange tone in his voice.
My favorite moment, especially in light of the current foot/mouth meat scare going on in Europe right now, was when we complimented the waitress on how delicious the whale appetizer was, she said in a very matter of fact tone, “raw meat is good for your health!” Luckily we were in Iceland, where they have strict regulations regarding the import of meat considering this paranoid climate.
She was so proud,I felt if you did not like the food they were serving you would be personally offending her. Luckily we did love everything.