Friday, January 14, 2011

Reykjavik Day 1-2

My first night in Iceland, after taking a red-eye from New York and lounging in 98-102 degree warm water all day, was spend in deep slumber. In the morning a scrumptious breakfast awaited me at my hotel, traditional Icelandic fare consisting of a variety of cheeses, bread, fruit, and Skyr yogurt.
Delicious breakfast at the Blue Lagoon clinic hotel

I took one last dip in the exclusive pool at the clinic from 8:00AM in the darkness, and then at 10:00AM I received another comp pass to the Blue Lagoon and made one last trek across the terrain. At 10:00AM the sun was just beginning to rise, but daylight didn't come until 11:00AM. One advantage of visiting the Blue Lagoon during the winter, and especially during these odd hours, is that there are so few people bathing in the pool. Despite this, I happened to meet quite a few Japanese this morning, and befriended a group of three Japanese who will actually be returning to London on the same Iceland Air flight as me on January 18th. At 11:00AM I rushed to get dressed and made my way back the clinic to pack and catch my bus to Reykjavik. 

The rest of the day was pretty much a wash. Perhaps it's a combination of jet lag and bathing 4+ times in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon, but I've been exhausted since my arrive. On my first day in Reykjavik, I checked into my hotel, the CenterHotel Thingholt early and then took an afternoon nap from 2:00-4:00. 
Entrance to the CenterHotel Thingholt
Sadly, the sun began to set at 4:00PM (somehow I was in denial of this before my arrival!) and the wind was really howling, so it was not the best time to start my day. Never the less, I wanted to begin my exploration of this fascinating city. I walked up Laugaveger, the primary shopping street in Reykjavik, and checked out a couple of shops that drew my attention. I wandered in and out of some of the boutique shops and enjoyed scouting out a few items that I might like to pick up before departing. I was so impressed at the absence of any international chains. It was interesting to learn from a local shopkeeper that Iceland is one of the few industrialized countries in the world that does not have a McDonald's or Starbucks. Needless to say, these leads to some fairly unique finds in this city. For dinner, I had fish stew in a jar at the Icelandic Bar (Islenski Barinn). I had difficulty sleeping during my first night at CenterHotel Thingholt, and was up from 3:30AM to 7:00AM or so. I eventually got back to sleep, but ended up oversleeping until after 10:00AM and nearly missing breakfast downstairs! Somehow, my body just doesn't want to get up when it is still dark outside. Perhaps the lack of sunlight has something to do with my low energy. I wonder how energizing Iceland must be in the summer when the country is bathed with the midnight sun!?!? At any rate, I got dressed as soon as possible and raced outside to enjoy the remaining daylight hours. I wandered around the shops and spend an inordinate amount of time in Bad Taste Records listening to various recordings of Icelandic folk music, eventually purchasing three CDs that would be difficult to find in the U.S.A. In one day I easily explored most of the downtown area. I particular enjoyed the pond, where I humorously watched ducks walking on the frozen ice!
 I also found the view from the top of Hallgr√≠mskirkja church to be just spectacular, with the LEGO-like rooftops providing dramatic contrast to the otherwise gray sky. 
View of downtown from the top of the Hallgr√≠mskirkja church
In the evening I made my way down to the Old Harbour to sample what is reputed to be the best lobster soup in town at Saegreifinn (The Sea Baron). It was undeniable delicious, but not quite the standard of the lobster soup found at the LAVA RestaurantThe Sea Baron also grills up generous portions of seafood on a skewer, and offers controversial items on their menu such as (yikes!) mink whale!

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