Travel Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017

Almost there to Keflavik, Iceland.

20170216_010402

We finally land.

20170216_011321

After passing through immigration, we are welcomed at the Duty Free Shop.

20170216_014005

While admiring the Icelandic Whisky, I notice a sampler option. And I decide to bite.

20170216_014053

We pick up our bags.

20170216_015801

And meet up with two other travelers who flew in from Baltimore, Maryland: Ben and Saboor.

20170216_020610

After walking around the entire airport looking for our Airport Direct pickup, we call them, and later find him. If you are coming to Keflavik, be prepared to call your pickup vehicle. Using my phone, I signed into the free airport Wifi, and used Skype to make international calls.

He has a sign for us with ALL our NAMES. Everyone is here, including Dionna, whom we met randomly at the airport just a few minutes ago.

20170216_022132

He walks us to our bus. It is the yellow one, all the way at the end. As we walk outside, I realize that it is not really that cold. The weather is quite warm for winter, and feels just a little colder than Virginia.

20170216_022514

It is quite early in the morning, and the sun is not out. But we are all excited!

20170216_022845

It is 7:53 AM. Sunrise is around 9 AM to 10 AM from what I hear.

screenshot_20170216-075333

And then we hit morning traffic.

20170216_081659

Look at that line of cars heading into Reykjavik, Iceland.

20170216_081958

Reykjavik is about a 45 minute drive from Keflavik International Airport. But it does take us a long time to get there due to the rush hour traffic. We are supposed to meet two other travelers at Reykjavik Roasters, so we re-route the bus away from our apartment to the coffee shop.

20170216_084443

We walk into Reykjavik Roasters. Jon and Astrid are no where to be seen. And then we find out there is another location about 10 minutes away. Shit!

20170216_084430

It is time to walk.

20170216_085937

Turns out the other Reykjavik Roasters is exactly where our apartment is. But at least we learn a little about Reykjavik on foot.

20170216_090328

20170216_090347

We walk in and find Jon and Astrid. This place is wonderful!

20170216_090657

I get some overpriced but delicious treats.

20170216_091406

And some pour over coffee.

20170216_091742

The entire group is now here. We just sit, relax, talk, and get to know each other.

20170216_092043

After 11 AM, we go up to our rooms and drop our bags off. My room is being cleaned, so many of us head over to the girls room. And linger around until we have to head out for lunch.

It is time to be hopeless wanderers, walk about Reykjavik, and explore on foot. As we walk downhill, I begin to notice the various colored buildings, and artwork and graffiti.

20170216_110843

Impromptu selfie.

20170216_110933

And just like real tourists, we walk in the median.

20170216_111306

We were supposed to make a left here. But we decide to walk ahead to the coastline and enjoy the view of the ocean, and smaller islands nearby.

20170216_111326

The water is so clear!

20170216_111757

And the views of the smaller nearby islands are impressive.

20170216_111830

Lots of picture taking opportunities. First Jon.

20170216_112055

Then me.

20170216_112323

Then Jon and Katie, with our entourage in the background.

20170216_112539

We pass by this structure. It looks like a Viking boat made out of forks. Forks, really? Well, that was my first thought. A quick Google search indicates that it is a Sólfarið: Sun Voyager. It is a huge 1990 stainless-steel sculpture of a boat by Jón Gunnar Árnason, set on granite beside the sea.

20170216_113243

Iceland also has a fascination for murals, which I appreciate.

20170216_113653

We pass by the world famous Harpa concert hall: It is a modern glass honeycomb concert hall & conference center, home to the national opera & symphony.

20170216_114013

Nearby, there is a large set of stones stacked, one of top of each other. I find out (a couple of days later) that it an Icelandic tradition. Before there were roads and markers, the locals would leave markers as such to indicate safety. Obviously, these markers were quite large and visible from far distances. This is the miniature version.

20170216_114106

More Harpa stuff from the outside: Velkomin (Welcome)!

20170216_114310

20170216_114350

20170216_114416

We continue walking to the Reykjavik Old Harbour.

20170216_115651

Cassie made reservations at the Hofnin Restaurant.

20170216_115629

They serve fish. Lots of it!

20170216_131400

We are fashionably late, due to our long walk and picture taking. But we are also on vacation. And we literally have the entire restaurant to ourselves.

20170216_122509

20170216_122046

I wish I remembered what I ordered. It was fresh, had bite, and was delicious.

20170216_124015

We are off to a good start. Smiles everywhere!

20170216_124122

After a wonderful lunch, we walk towards the around the city, and look for a coffee shop. There is one in a store, all the way up at the third level. I love the signs on the stairs. A brilliant idea!

20170216_133347

After our coffee fix, we head out to the Parliament Building to meet our guide for a “free” City Walk tour.

20170216_135221

A crowd of people begin to gather from various countries.

20170216_135335

20170216_135612

Our tour guide Ehri (I think that is his name) gives us the local history.

20170216_141314

The Parliament building: Alþingishúsið. Notice the four symbols on the top level windows. It can also be found on the Icelandic coins. And the Danish crown on the top. Icelandicers don’t like the Danes very much.

20170216_135653

We walk down the colorful streets.

20170216_141836

A statue of Skúli Magnússon: considered as the Father of Reykjavik.

20170216_141955

This area is also where the celebrate LGBTQ rights. I believe out of the 330,000 people who live on the island, 60,000 celebrated the last time.

20170216_142924

Behind Skúli, is the oldest tree in Reykjavik.

20170216_143236

Ehri tells us about the Settlement Exhibition. The first settlers are estimated to have arrived around 871 AD. Notice the 871 +- 2 on the building. Why +-2? A layer of rock fragments and particles ejected by a volcanic eruption was deposited around 871 AD. This layer, which was deposited all over Iceland, had been dated to 871, with a possible range of error of two years either way, so 871 +-2!

20170216_142244

We walk by the oldest part of Reykjavik. The corrugated houses that protect the old house structure from the weather elements.

20170216_144408

20170216_144505

20170216_144511

20170216_144612

We pass the famous hot dog stand in Iceland. President Bill Clinton tried the hot dog, and said it was the best hot dog he ever had. Apparently, there is always a line.

20170216_145900

20170216_150103

We walk up the hill to a statue of the first said Iceland Settler: Ingólfr Arnarson

 

20170216_150553

20170216_150715

20170216_150739

From the top of the hill, you can catch a good view of the Harpa concert hall.

20170216_151011

We walk through one of the busiest streets, and catch the Hallgrímskirkja in the distance.

20170216_152536

We turn right, and walk by some of the other local houses. I find this mural interesting.

20170216_152808

I cannot exactly remember the story behind this landmark, but it was tied to a feminist movement in Iceland. Iceland is a proud feministic country, and is well known as the best place to live for a woman.

20170216_154557

We walk around towards the Reykjavik City Hall.

 

 

20170216_155117

A row of houses and swan greeters.

20170216_155134

20170216_155409

We meet the monument dedicated to government bureaucrats.

20170216_155327

It is time to actually visit the Reykjavik City Hall: Ráðhús Reykjavíkur

20170216_155543

The beautiful map of Iceland and its volcanoes.

20170216_155740

Do you know what this is? Yes it is what you think it is: a vagina.

To promote their feminism and celebrate it, Iceland City Hall has a vagina painting on public display.

20170216_155818

And now for our treat, that Ehri promised us at the start of our tour.

20170216_160248

It is a bag of liquorish treats.

20170216_160627

Yes. It is was delicious. I took a couple more treats on the second pass. This concludes our free city tour. It is really a donation based tour. You do not have to give any money, but obviously it is encourages. They accept all kinds of currency.

Ehri did mention:
1000 króna will buy his a beer
2000 króna will get help him out a little more
3000 króna will allow him to buy his mother flowers. And he loves his mom. (hint hint)
3000 króna is approx US $30.00 ($27.27)

20170216_160334

Other artwork in City Hall: Skuringakona which translates to cleaning lady.

20170216_162318

20170216_162324

After the tour, we walk back to the Hallgrímskirkja: The Lutheran Church of Iceland.

 

20170216_164332

It is shaped intentionally like a volcano and the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.

20170216_164355

The large pipe organ.

20170216_164748

Jesus the Christ.

20170216_164812

Candles.

20170216_164829

The altar.

20170216_165031

After a quick tour, the doors of the Church closes at 5 PM.

20170216_165443

Some of huddle around outside and wait for all the visitors in the church to leave.

20170216_170727

Around 6 PM we head over to 3 Frakkar Restaurant: Þrír frakkar which means 3 french coats.

20170216_172113

20170216_195143

 

We settle in.

20170216_175730

 

I order the Hákarl: a national dish of Iceland consisting of a Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) or other sleeper shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. It has a strong ammonia-rich smell and fishy taste.

20170216_182030

Time to get that first bite.

I try some whale meat.

20170216_183621

And puffin meat.

20170216_183624

And then my entree: grilled fillet of lamb with mushrooms, and bearmaise and pepper sauce.

20170216_184548

Happy faces.

20170216_184715

After dinner we walk back home.

20170216_195259

The Hallgrímskirkja at night time is lit, and beautiful.

20170216_200547

We pass by the penis museum: The Icelandic Phallological Museum. They have single socks for public display, or should it be called sock.

20170216_201653

We make it back to our Brautarholt Apartments #2.

20170217_075932

Back in the boys room, we lounge about.

20170216_202650

20170216_202702

 

 

And then it is time for bed. We have to get up early tomorrow for the Golden Circle bus tour.

20170216_202642

Reflections:

Things and moments to appreciate:

  • Arriving safely in Iceland, and the comfortable ride to Reykjavik.
  • The warmer weather. It was quite comfortable and not a harsh winter.
  • The good pour over coffee of Reykjavik Roasters.
  • The coastline walk and view of Reykjavik.
  • A wonderful ‘almost private’ lunch in the Old Harbour.
  • An amazing “free” or donation based city tour with a charismatic tour guide.
  • Learning about Icelandic history, culture, flags, and the food.
  • The magnificence of the Hallgrímskirkja Church.
  • A really nice apartment and bigger than I expected.
  • A wonderful dinner.
  • Good company.
  • Hot and clean water, and yes a bed to sleep in.

Expenses: $481.91

  • Beverages: $36.62 (Samples: Whiskey, Gin, and Brennivín at Duty Free)
  • Shuttle Bus: $27.85 (this was just one leg of a round trip fare from and to the airport)
  • Apartments: $263.37 (Brautarholt Apartments 2 was for 4 days; approximately $66 daily)
  • Breakfast and Coffee:  $14.64 (Reykjavik Rosters)
  • Lunch: $31.54 (Hofnin Veitingahus)
  • Tour: $27.27 (3000 Krona)
  • Dinner: $80.62 (3 Frakkar)