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My Reykjavik Journal

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...dear God, if it’s in your plan for me to be in a plane crash, please let it be on the way home."


8 PM. Reykjavik, Tower Guesthouse. I'm finding it hard to believe that we arrived just this morning. Just after 6 AM. A lovely nap in the middle of the day has given us two days for the price of one. The flight here was both short and long at the same time. Only four and a half hours in the air--but uncomfortable seats and wretched food and a lame ass movie made it seem interminable. Oh, and there's also my fear of taking off and landing. But that mostly exhibits itself in sweaty palms and silent prayers that go something like: "God, if it’s in your plan for me to be in a plane crash, please let it be on the way home." (On the way home, the prayer is something like: "I still have so much to offer the world! Oh, and God, please note, there are innocent children on this flight!!").

Our first glimpse of Iceland was, not surprisingly, the airport. And a cozy airport it was. One unique feature is the opportunity to shop duty free on your way into the country. And a good place to do some too if you're a smoker or a drinker. This reminds me: if you are planning to go to Iceland, remember that prices for a lot of things are fairly high. Please don't complain about it when you get there. Just deal with it. Remember you chose Iceland and all that comes with it. But I didn't find the prices to be excruciatingly high. First of all, cigarettes cost the same as they do in Massachusetts, though I guess if you're from North Carolina the 500 kronur might seem a bit steep.

Keflavik Airport was a breeze. Passport control, money exchange, baggage claim, and customs all went smoothly. It was even easy to find the Reykjavik Excursions bus into town.

Oh, I almost forgot the highlight of the flight:

PASSENGER: Stewardess, my seat won't stay in the upright position.

STEWARDESS (without missing a beat or fully stopping on her way down the aisle): Oh what a pity! Thank you for telling me.

As I write all of this I'm sitting here drinking a Tuborg, well a low-alcohol (2.25%) Tuborg. But I don't mind the halfway to O'Doul's taste of it. Not for a mere 100 kronur. And the best thing is, you get to drink twice as many of them. Or something like that. Beers--real beers--at the bar cost at least $6. But that's okay too.

Oh, back to the airport bus--the bus let us off at a hotel near the city airport and we had to get a cab from there to the Tower. The cab driver--a kindly-looking older gentleman--took us on a French Connection-style chase scene drive through Reykjavik. At one point, as we squeezed between cars parked on either side of a narrow road, I saw the speedometer. We were doing nearly double the posted speed limit. It was scary, but funny too, especially when we pulled out of one street onto another, disregarding the oncoming traffic. All that fun for just 900 kronur.

The hotel suite is wonderful. Better than I had dreamed and well worth the price. Gudmundur, the proprietor, seems very nice. We'll have to get some dining recommendations from him. He gave a couple this morning, but it was 8 AM or so (really 4 AM to us) and a lot of what he said washed over me.

We had a great, light dinner at the Cafe Paris. I had a baguette with olive spread and sun-dried tomatoes. So so good. Well, that's all for now.

FOR THOSE OF YOU ABOUT TO ROKK: Grand Rokk rawks!! I loved the instant energy the band created. And I loved that I found out what Einar Orn is doing nowadays (he played there last night). The blonde guy (hey, narrow it down) in the mosh pit was worth the 1000 kronur admission. More tomorrow...

WHAT’S THAT YOU SAID?: I´m posting this brief blog from the heart of Reykjavik. I’m having trouble finding all the right keys, making blogging difficult. All I can say is that my hearing has been permanently impaired by a heavy metal show we saw last night at Grand Rokk. It was great though. No one in the audience was sitting back at the bar trying to look cool and bored. Gotta love being away from home. We decided to leave as the fun was peaking which, by the way, was when people started to pour beers down each others throats: camaraderie…

As I write this a fierce wind is blowing. Part of the storm that Gudmundur warned me about yesterday. And we've had a good bit of weather today: heavy, sideways rain, winds lashing in our faces, and mild sunshiny weather. Oh, and a little bit of hale. I will say that it really hasn't rained much while we were actually outside. Thank you, elements.

DONATIONS ACCEPTED: Well, we went to the Penis Museum today. I won't point out that in two days it's our only museum visit so far. It was an interesting experience. I couldn't tell if the proprietor expected people to take it seriously--in a way he certainly does himself--I mean, lots of mammal phalluses (or is it 'phalli'?) in formaldehyde but also a section with erotic, not to mention some goofy, things related to penises. Anyway, the mood of the place changed when a group of Icelandic tourists came in with beers in knit cozies around their necks and they started hooting and hollering like they had never seen a minke whale penis before. Anyway, I'm happy to know that four human penises have already been promised to the museum so I'm off the hook.

Tomorrow, it's off to Geysir and Gullfoss and the Blue Lagoon. A busy day out of town. Hope it's a good day.

AS I SIT HERE: in the Internet Cafe, Ground Zero, three guys are playing some sort of interactive computer game, calling out directions to each other--most of them in Icelandic--until, suddenly, I hear one say: "That was a big mistake."

“We laughed at the wind”: Sunday was one of those days that’s hard to encapsulate in a few mere paragraphs: heading out to the moss-covered lava fields that surround Reykjavik, seeing an active volcano--well, it´s been three years or something like that since it erupted--enduring 70 mph winds while trying to visit Geysir (geysers are named after the place, not the other way around). OH, LET ME STOP A MOMENT TO NOTE: When the winds are about 70, geysirs just kinda spew steam sideways rather than up. Oh, and also, when the wind is blowing at you like that, small pebbles smack into your face like a challenge to a duel. But the mantra of the day was: “At least it’s not raining.”

We also got to see the rift between the two continents. Iceland splits apart at this point about 2 cm a year...Oh, and there are about 2000 small earthquakes a year here. That means we went through about 40 of them while there.

Today’s quote of the day comes all the way from ingvellir: A woman getting off one of the tour busses steps out with her camera. Briefly surveys Iceland’s most important historic site (the long time site of the Aling) and proclaims to no one in particular: “There’s nothing here.” And gets back on the bus.

We’re taking a brief break after a hectic morning of sightseeing here in Reykjavik. Okay, we went to the big church on the hill and the art museum, but that’s hectic enough after yesterday’s gale blowing in from Greenland. This afternoon we’ll shop a bit and walk the streets.

The computer gamers seem to be doing well. Someone just obliterated a monster. Smiles all around.

AN IMPROBABLE SWIMMING HOLE: On the night of the Greenland Gale we visited the Blue Lagoon for the first time. The "tour guide" on the bus we took to get there didn't seem to be a big fan. He pointed out that Icelandic people go to swimming pools in town not to this "coincidental" place; he seemed to feel we all should be doing the same. He also emphasized that the Blue Lagoon is formed by run-off from a power plant. A good point I must admit. But the evening did end in a surreal, tranquil time, brought to you courtesy of the power plant outside of Reykjavik. We spent the evening soaking away the wind effects in the lagoon, a 100 plus degree pool created by the previously mentioned water run-off. It’s milky blue and soothing and filled with wonderful minerals not to mention dead algae. One of those, ‘this is lovely but should I really be bathing here?’ places. Being there was like being in heaven. The warmth of the water and the cold cold night air invigorated and soothed me at the same time--and after a day of fighting 70 mph winds it was worth the stuffy noses and sore throats we came home with.

Tonight’s quotable quote comes from an American woman who was going on and on about her many trips as she lounged in the lagoon with her companions. She got on to the topic of all the sweaters she’s bought around the world and brought up the slew of them she bought in Scotland: "I gave them to charity. They were itchy anyway."

Tonight we are off in search of a lovely and relatively inexpensive meal. For the most part, we have become regular customers at the 10-11 grocery store. Though more expensive, we found it to be much better than the Bonus. Today we had some salsa from 10-11 that was quite a bit sweeter than we are used to. And I continue my low alcohol beer tour of Scandinavia. The "Bjarna Bragg" is not bad. The Gull (which is Icelandic) is quite good.

And I must stop a moment to recommend the hot dog (pylsur) as a cheap and interesting treat. Try it with mayonnaise; it’s better than it sounds. And you absolutely must try the fried onions. They make having hot dogs fun again.

As this seems a good place in the journal to add randumb thoughts, I will remind myself that one evening as I started to drift off to sleep I made this really strange noise in response to a question. This has nothing to do with Iceland but it’s something I want to remember because we found it so damned funny.

A LOT OF WALKINGToday we woke up to cloudy skies, a bit of rain and occasional snow flurries. None of this deterred us from going to the Botanical Gardens. It was a long walk there, but gave us more of a chance to see the city up close. We opted for the bus back downtown though, giving us yet another new Reykjavik experience. Most interesting thing about the bus: books attached to each of the seats by plastic cords. Gotta love literacy. We also walked out to the University, mostly so I could get a Haskoliislands t-shirt--which we in fact did find. It’s so cool and black. We also shopped a bit today, took some photos and hung out at Cafe Paris one last time. A very soothing place, even with the "ugly Americans" sitting next to us. And the final joy of the night: a free plastic bag from the cashier guy at the 10-11 market.

Well, we're packed, but not ready to go. Off to the Blue Lagoon tomorrow before heading back to Keflavik for our flight to Boston....

október 28, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Welcome to Reykjavik: The Blog

My goal is to create a site for people who are interested in Iceland and in Reykjavik in particular. Please email me or comment below if you have any ideas or suggestions.


What you can find here:

Good Advice, Unsolicited Advice (updated November 18, 2003) Useful advice, not-so-useful advice. And advice you may not have known you needed. Plus a few opinions.

Almost Interesting Facts of the Day (updated November 21, 2003) I will try to make these entries as almost interesting as possible.

Current Airfares (updated January 14, 2004) All this is is information I get from my Iceland Air emails. You can get it too if you sign up at their web site.

Reykjavik Journal (updated October 26, 2003) My journal from my trip to Reykjavik. Some of it was written while there. Some upon returning home. Some hasn't even been thought of yet.

Web Stuff (updated December 18, 2003) Links to web sites from or about Iceland. How very blog-like of me.



október 9, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Good Advice, Unsolicited Advice

Thanks to Kristen for this link from "The World's Best Bars."

Also, if you're into the cutting edge noise of Einar Orn he'll be playing Friday in London at the Tate Art Gallery as part of their Late at the Tate series.

Good Advice, Unsolicited Advice: Welcome to the newest secton of Reykjavik: The Blog. As time goes on I'll build this section around my thoughts and, far more importantly to those of you who seek useful advice, Kristen's as well as any other advice I pick up from various sources. If you want to be a "various sources" please leave your personal advice on Reykjavik in the comments below or email them to me and I will post them here.

First bits of advice. Here is some of the advice that Kristen offered someone who is considering a trip to Reykjavik this November. I've also chimed in:

As far as where to stay, it really depends on what you want to spend, but definitely stay in Reykjavik, unless you really want to rough it and stay in a farmhouse. They are pretty secluded. 
Our place was fabulous: we stayed in Apartment 304, which cost us 165 dollars a night. So, we spent most of our money on the guesthouse, which was worth it, because when it was cold or windy and rainy, we wanted a welcoming refuge. The bathroom was small, though, but the rest of the place is FABULOUS. Gudmundur was our host and was great.  Make sure you aren't squeamish about phalluses though. Gudmundur's got a planter on the fourth floor balcony where the jacuzzi is and it's, yeah, shaped like a penis.
Tower Guesthouse was located smack dab in the middle of the shopping district, which is the street called.....oh wait, what was it called, Laugevegur or something. (I would not recommend the Hostel even though it's cheap because you have to take the bus to get to anything, although it really depends on Your Budget.) Other places that would be good might be the Hotel Borg which is right downtown and I think the same price as ours, but more hotelish (room and bed, no living room or kitchen like the awesome Tower). By the way, the Tower looks crappy from the outside, but it's gorgeous.

J: The Tower is at Grettisgata 6, a quiet street but incredibly close to the shopping street and a short walk "downtown." It's truly the most beautiful place I've ever stayed.
Also downtown, was Room With a View right on the shopping street. That place looked really good.  I think you could probably throw a stone at Prada's front door, if I remember correctly. Then, there's Hotel Fron which was more starkly-modernish, but I'm sure very nice. 
Don't stay in any of the airport hotels, as you'll spend your money on a cab or bus to get to the city, especially Icelandair Hotel - Hotel Loftleidir. It looks like a junior high school. Nordica is also far away from town. This website really helped us narrow it down to Tower Guesthouse.

J: I agree that downtown is the best choice. Even though you can get a multi-day bus pass, you have to wait for one to come along. At the Tower we could step outside and start our day. If you're planning to spend a lot of time at the domestic animal zoo or the botanical garden, though, some of those other hotels would be more convenient.
As far as what to do:
1. Go to the Blue Lagoon, even though it's touristy. It's fifteen minutes from the airport and Reykjavik Excursions bus company will take you there. Do it on your last day. We went twice. :) 

J: Reykjavik Excursions has a bus that takes you to the Blue Lagoon and THEN meets up with your flight to the USA. You get to the airport around 2:30 PM which is two hours before all the flights leave for the USA. I forget if it leaves town at ten or eleven, but there was plenty of time at the Lagoon. Also, they pick you up AT YOUR HOTEL. This is true of all of their tours.

2. Eat at Cafe' Paris. It's right downtown and they have light meals that are relatively inexpensive. We went there constantly.

J: The baguette with olive tapanade and sun dried tomatoes was amazing!

3. Research what the different kinds of milk are.

J: Ab-Mjolk=some kind of yogurtty thing...

4. the 10:11 Grocery store is much better than the Bonus grocery store.

J: The Bonus was a bit cheaper, but the 10-11 was so much nicer. I have to admit, at first I thought it was called "lo-ll"

5. We took a bus tour to see the Golden Circle: the waterfalls, geysers, the Icelandic Parliament, the Continental Divide etc. It was worth it, but it was very touristy. We think that next time we'll rent a car because now we know the terrain and where to go. Gudmundur told us renting a car comes to about 70 bucks a day, flat rate. We loved everything about Iceland, but could have done without the bus taking us to all of these tourist traps along the way. But, for your first time there, maybe a bus is the best thing, because they can show you where to go, etc.

J: The next time, we'll rent a car. There are few roads to get lost on and they seemed to be well-marked.

6. Other places to eat...We enjoyed this restaurant/bar called Cafe Victor that serves burgers, chicken sandwiches, you know, bar food, but really good. Also, our only VERY expensive meal out was at Galileo, which serves Italian food. Gudmundur recommended the Lobster House, which was out of our price range.

J: The chicken sandwich with garlic sauce at Cafe Victor was amazingly good. Galileo was beautiful. Very romantic.

7. We loved Iceland. If you like a cosmopolitan, city atmosphere, but where people take it easy, spend a long time in the cafes', smoking their cigarettes and drinking their coffee, where everyone is gorgeous and dresses creatively, and simply fabulously, then Reykjavik is your place.

J: I've been all over Europe and Reykjavik is one of only a few places that I MUST go back to. I'm looking forward to our next trip there.

8. Grand Rokk. We went on a heavy metal night. We had a great time, even though Heavy Metal really wasn't our thing. Spend at least one night observing Reykjavik nightlife. Icelanders really like to party..........

J: Go to the Grand Rokk. Depending upon your timing, you might be seeing a huge band in a small place.

9. Beer is expensive. You can get cheap, although low (2.5%) alcohol beer at the supermarket.

J: It was nice to have around, the supermarket beer.

10. Icelandair will get you there. From Boston our flight was 5 hours. There was a four-hour time difference, so we napped our first morning there.

J: A great thing about our guesthouse, The Tower, was that the proprietor was willing to take our luggage whenever we arrived, even if our room wasn't ready for us. As it turned out, it was ready right when we got there. I wish I were more awake when Gudmundur gave us an introduction to the neighborhood.

J: USE ATMs!: Well, I knew that a long time ago ATMs and credit cards were the way to go when going to Europe, but I wasn't sure if this was still the case. But it is. I just got my bank statement back and the exchange rate was better than 80 kronur on the dollar. And only a $1 service charge for using the ATM. This compares to the 77 or so I got from the Landisbank at the airport (and there is an ATM at the airport, so use it). Of course, you should check with your bank to make sure your card will work, but if it's on any of the major networks (mine is on Cirrus, for example), it will undoubtedly work. Plus there's all that 24 hour convenience, no lines to wait in, etc. By the way, as a sidenote, some touristy places (from example at Geysir) will take U.S. dollars, but the exchange rate is even worse (75 to a dollar I believe it was). But that's what you get for not using the local currency. I hate when people are so arrogant that they can't change their money into the local currency. But that's just my opinion...

október 5, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Almost Interesting Facts of the Day

ALMOST INTERESTING FACT OF THE DAY: So, anyway, today I was searching through the Althingi web site--as I'm sure all of you do on a daily basis--and came across this fact about elections.

ALMOST INTERESTING FACT OF THE DAY: I just found this one today on the Internet: Iceland was the first country to legalize abortion (1935).

ALMOST INTERESTING FACT OF THE DAY: I heard today's almost interesting fact on the radio this morning. And now I found the link to the story. I can't even think of anything else to say about this one...

ALMOST INTERESTING FACT OF THE DAY: Today's almost interesting fact of the day comes to you from my friend "the researcher who-shall-not-be-named." Last night, on the West Wing rerun, the president was meeting with the Icelandic ambassador, Victor Olafsdottir. Clearly they didn't do their research. Or else
Victor has some gender-confusion issues. Personally, I think that kind of mistake is terrible. I mean it takes about a minute and a half of reading about Iceland before you come across how people are named. Which reminds me of a second almost interesting fact: Icelandic phonebooks are alphabetized by first name. I know you probably knew that, but it's pretty cool nevertheless.

ALMOST INTERESTING FACT OF THE DAY: Reykjavik is--geologically speaking--in North America.

ALMOST INTERESTING FACT OF THE DAY: Did you know that Icelandic is the 12th most popular blogging language? I found this fact on the internet yesterday. Sorry, I don't remember where so there's no link. Someone had done a survey. If I remember, this search of the net (and I don't know how it was conducted) found about 800,000 English-language (the most popular) blogs and about 4000 Icelandic-language ones.

Thanks to Magga Dora's information, here is that list of most common blogging languages.

október 3, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Current Airfares

january 14-04: Here's the latest offer from Icelandair. Yes, $249 to anywhere they fly. Here's to wintering in Scandinavia (or Paris or Amsterdam or London)...

january 04: Throughout the winter, the airfares have been holding steady in the $240 range (plus taxes, of course). If you go to Icelandair's web site (linked to below) you can get all the details and special offers.

october 27-03: Here's the latest offer for those flying in November or early December. You need to be part of the Frequent flyer program, but that's easy enough. Just sign up on the web site.

october 22-03: Well, this section of the blog is certainly in a rut. Same airfares as the last several weeks. I will point out that are ridiculously low. I wish I had the cash.

october 8, 2003

The airfares are still the same low price. I can't imagine them going any lower. And there's a big music festival this weekend. (You can find more information at the Icelandair web site.

october 2003:

If you'd like to go to Reykjavik in October, Icelandair has just posted their "Lucky Fares" (just sign-up for their email list to be eligible) for the month: $278 to Reykjavik. $234 to London!!! That's almost cheaper than staying at home!!!

október 1, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0)