March 13, 2018

Iceland Diary, Part 01

I honestly still can't believe I just got back from spending just under a week in Iceland with Rachel. I've always talked about how it's on my list of places I want to visit someday and to be able to now say that it's a country I'd go back to one day instead is so, so surreal. As a matter of fact, it's just as surreal as the country itself, what with Iceland having its outrageously gorgeous, right out of a movie landscapes, the utter charm of its downtown streets and the kind folks who went above and beyond to make our experiences special. Capping off the surreality of this entire trip? Having it be the very first international trip I ever went on with Rachel, and having it proven once more that we are excellent travel buddies in terms of our interests and our attitudes.

I'm really excited to be able to share this trip with all of you by the way of a couple of short recaps sprinkled over the next few days. I've divided up the trip into three parts, so today, you'll be hearing about what we did on the first two days of our trip.

Rachel & I departed on Saturday afternoon, which meant that we arrived in Iceland around five in the morning on Sunday. Because of its location, we had decided beforehand that we wanted to visit the Blue Lagoon as soon as we'd arrived... only we weren't quite counting on being there quite so early. After grabbing a couple of hours' rest in one of the hotel lobbies (where Rachel fell asleep and I ended up binge reading Scorched), we made the trek (suitcases and all, mind you) in the early morning down to the area where the actual lagoon is located.

I'm fairly confident that most of you have probably seen a glimpse of the Blue Lagoon at some point, considering it's one of the most well-known tourist spots in Iceland. It's an outdoor geothermal spa that's heated naturally, and it is just as lovely as you'd imagine. While it's quite a process to get ready to get into the water (you have to shower before hopping in and make a short run from the door to the water in the cold), it's worth the time you'll spend soaking in the heat and feeling all your troubles melt away... or that could just be me. All in all, it was just what I would have wanted after being on a plane for six hours, and I'm really glad we decided to put it first on our itinerary!

After soaking for nearly an hour, we grabbed some lunch at LAVA. I wasn't sure what to expect from this restaurant, but I quite enjoyed our meal! We both opted for two courses, one main course (lamb fillet and shoulder of lamb for both of us) and one dessert (crème brûlée for Rachel, and “Ástarpungar” & caramel for me). The food was delicious, and just the right amount of filling, plus we got a free glass of wine with the spa package we'd chosen.

One hour later, we found ourselves checking (very easily, mind you) into our AirBNB and taking a little time to settle down. We had assumed we'd both want to take it easy, but we'd also forgotten that we wouldn't want to fall asleep until it was actually a decent time to sleep (to fight off any jet lag) and so we ended up exploring downtown Reykjakvik. It was actually quite unexpected, but we managed to see a lot of the things we had planned on seeing the next day - the exterior of Hallgrímskirkja (the well-known church you might have seen in a photo), the Sun Voyager sculpture and Harpa Hall (which is a concert hall-slash-shopping spot-slash-architectural marvel). We also popped into Reykjavik Roasters for some coffee (that cappuccino was delicious!) and Cafe Loki (for a bagel sandwich of sorts), before we headed home with our takeout and all ready to crash for the night.

The next day started off with breakfast at Prikid, home to an excellent dish called the French Connection (which you'll hear more about in a later post from Rachel!). After stuffing ourselves silly and drinking enough coffee to properly wake up, we wandered up to Hallgrímskirkja to properly explore it. The interior is fairly simple, though there is a breathtaking pipe organ and some pretty big windows to let the light in. Visitors can also take the elevator to the top, which costs more or less around $11, and it is worth it just to see some pretty stupendous views of the city, the houses and the mountains in four different directions.

After visiting the church, we did what any bookworms on vacation might and visited some bookstores! We ended up popping into four different ones and scoring some major wins in the form of Icelandic translations of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (for me!) and Anne of Green Gables (for Rachel!). I also ended up doing a fair bit of souvenir shopping and basically crossing off all but two people on my list, and we also went to Bonus to stock up on snack supplies (a supermarket which is very popular and pretty decently priced). 

We stopped for coffee (at Te and Kaffi in one of the bookstores), had hot dogs from Baejarins for dinner (which was delicious, especially with fried onions), and picked up pastries for snacking on from Braud and Co. (we got cookies, vanilla buns, kruffins and an Icelandic pastry that I cannot spell or speak, and all of it was really great). 

We also attempted to go and see the Northern Lights that night, and though there was a very, very, very faint glimpse of them in the sky, I wouldn't say it was a success (and neither would Rach). Still, we couldn't be too disappointed because we hadn't been expecting to see them anyway! 

There you have it, my recap of the first two days of our trip (Don't forget to check out Rachel's day one recap as well)! Don't forget to come back tomorrow to see what happened during the next portion of our travels (hint: it's got a lot of outdoorsy adventures).


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