Wandering Reykjaví­k

Dateline: Sunday 23rd July, 2006 A gift from the US AmbassadorMonica eats an Icelandic cake thing.For our second day in Reykjaví­k we walked down to the harbour and then into the flea market. There was only the usual sort of bric-a-brac, but we did get a nice cake thing to share.

We walked toward Ingólfstorg, via the Rammegeðin store. It's really hitting home how pricey this country can be! We didn't buy anything at Rammegeðin, but at the shops on Ingólfstorg, Monica bought herself some wooly hats. Once again we walked south, past Alþingi and Domkirkja, past Tjörn and Frikirkjan í Reykjavík, we headed up to Perlan.

PerlanPerlan sits atop a hill to the south of Reykjavík, and looks for all the world like a giant silver mammary gland pointing at the sky. It's built atop the city's geothermally heated hot water supply. At Perlan there is an artificial guyser, and a restaurant built into the glass dome (a cheaper café is also there).

At one point we were on the viewing platform at Perlan, looking out to the artificial geyser, chatting to a pleasant-seeming American woman. A guy climbed over the barrier to the geyser with his girlfriend and stared into the hole of the geyser. The American woman got quite agitated at this point, but from where we are there was nothing we could do. Besides, the signs are pretty clear that the thing uses superheated water, and that approaching it too closely might not be wise. I said something like 'I view it as a form of natural selection', Monica was amused - but the American woman took it very literally and just walked off. I think she must have been offended at the use of the term 'natural selection' - not at my apparent inhumanity (being on the viewing platform, all I could've done was yell, and that would be ignored - and I notice that she took no further action herself).

After exploring Perlan, Monica wanted a swim, so we moved down to the Nauthólsvik Geothermal beach near Perlan, she decided it was too cold there, so we hot-footed it across town to the Laugardaur pool (which may have been geothermally heated, but looked boringly like a regular pool to me).

Monica at 9pm in ReykjavíkWe went back to the hotel via the sea wall, taking some evening photos as we went, and at 10pm were ready to go out for a meal - it was still light out (obviously), and the sun was up - so we didn't imagine a problem. How wrong we were. The restaurants near the hotel closed at 10pm - in the summer Reykjavík could be a 24 hour city (perhaps the centre is?) - but near our hotel it was virtually impossible to get food. We ended up with a takeaway pizza, very nice - but even that was hugely expensive.

Good things about Reykjavík so far? Lots of light, friendly sort of place. Bad things: Hugely expensive, difficult to get a sitdown meal in the evening, and service can be slow.

First day in Iceland

Dateline: Saturday 22nd JulyWe had an early start. We had to check in by 5:30am, this meant a 3:00am start, latest. And we were a little late! Fortunately we always build in some wiggle room, and so there was no problem.

The flight to Reykjavík was on a tiny little plane (well, it was a jet, but compared to the other things at Gatwick it looked tiny - it wasn't really). We had a full day to explore and be tired in.

We had a transfer from the airport, and were delivered to Hotel Björk, a nice enough place, and it had free internet access in the lobby. It felt like we were in the outskirts of town, but soon came to realise that this is Reykjavík! Upon arriving from the UK, it feels more like a provincial town than a capital city - after a week driving around southern Iceland, it feels like a metropolis!

Sólfar, Sun VoyagerLeifr Eiricsson at Reykjavík CathedralAfter settling in, we walked along the shoreline, past Sólfar (finding a geocache there), and then up to the cathedral. This is a distinctive cathedral, reminiscent of large basalt columns which rise from the ground. It's also a modern cathedral - there is a lift which goes up to the top.

We toured Reykjavík for a while, seeing the Alþingi, and other such places, stopping in Café Paris for a bite and a drink, and then walking near Tjörn, before returning to the hotel for a snooze in the late afternoon/early evening.

We woke at 11pm to find it was still light out, despite not being in the arctic circle, we were close enough that the sun only dips just below the horizon - so the middle of the night feels like early evening in the UK. It's still light out. For the first few nights I was glad of the blinds supplied by airlines (we still had some from the India trip, there were none supplied for the Iceland hop).

Good points about Reykjavík so far: it's easy to get about, it has a few interesting bits and pieces to see. Bad points: The graffiti - it makes the place feel generally run down - and at times it can seem too quiet for a capital city.