Thursday, December 01, 2016

1 Week in Iceland: Day 6

On our final full day in Iceland, we let ourselves sleep in just a bit. Our first stop wasn't too far from our apartment so we had to wait for the sun to do its thing a bit more before we left. Most of this day was spent exploring Reykjavik, which to be frank, was sort of underwhelming. The rest of Iceland was just so amazing, it was kind of boring to be in a city. However, it was nice to walk around instead of relying on the car.
For breakfast, we took full advantage of our kitchen and made a hearty hash using the leftovers from our dinner the night before.

GERÐUBERG CLIFFS
Basalt columns are my favorite. I love how they're so geometrical and orderly. It's just an interesting phenomenon to see in nature. We saw them in nature three times during this trip: at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Svartifoss, and here and it did not get old. What did get old was the fact that so many architects tried to pay tribute to this phenomenon; that definitely got old. I mean, Hallgrimskirkja and Akureyrarkirkja are both really beautiful for sure, but we also saw the most random buildings giving a nod to these columns and it got a bit redundant. Like, we get it, you love the basalt columns; so do we. But not everything can pay tribute to them, you know? Be inspired by the moss rocks or the lava fields or something, geez.
According to Google Maps, this gem is not accessible by car when in reality it is. There's a little gravel road (which isn't in great condition but is still drivable) just off of Route 54. If you're coming from the west, you'll pass a road called Kolviðarnesvegur on your right just before the gravel road you need to take to the cliffs on your left. You can see the gravel road on the satellite view of Google Maps; it just doesn't recognize it as a drivable road.
While we were here it started hailing and it would have been fine except the wind was pelting it into our faces. It turned our cheeks purple and we were cry-laughing with pain.
BORGARNES
As we got closer to Reykjavik, we stopped in Borgarnes to admire the mountains. I can't imagine just living in a town and waking up day in and day out to a view like this. Though, I suppose if you've seen it all your life, it's pretty mundane.
There were two routes to Reykjavik but we followed the one Google told us to, which was shorter. We ended up paying a 1000 kr ($9) toll to use this super long tunnel.
ELLIÐAÁRDALUR
Before we made our way into town (it was still a bit early and we assumed our hotel wasn't going to let us check in just yet) we stopped at this little park. It was quaint and well-maintained but since the trees had lost all their leaves, it looked really forlorn and sad so we didn't end up spending much time here.
REYKJAVÍK
REYKJAVIK RESIDENCE HOTEL
Our final hotel of the trip was a cute little place in the city center. It was basically an apartment, though it didn't have a full on kitchen, just a kitchenette. But it was cozy and conveniently located and we were only staying there one night so not having an oven wasn't the end of the world.
HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA
Our first site in our whirlwind Reykjavik tour was to visit the iconic church, inspired by Svartifoss. This is probably the most instagrammed spot in all of Iceland. The views from the top are beautiful and I do encourage you to go. It's 900 kr ($8) to take the lift to the top but no one even checked to see if we had tickets so we were joking we could've done it for free. But again, 99% of what we did in Iceland was free so we were happy to pay fees when applicable.
Everyone always shares the views from the top but the viewing platform itself is really dingy. It was insanely windy up there - the windows were whistling and howling as the wind blew through them - so be careful with your belongings when you're up there.
EINAR JÓNSSON SCULPTURE MUSEUM
The actual museum has a fee, but if you go around back, you can look at the sculpture garden for free.
Just as we were getting ready to leave the area, the clouds started breaking up and we caught some glimpses of blue sky. I was rather annoyed that the sky didn't do that for us while we were at the top. Mother Nature can be so annoying.
BAEJARINS BEZTU PYLSUR
The one Icelandic word I learned whilst abroad (I learned "takk" a.k.a. "thank you" before I left) was "pylsa" and "pylsur" a.k.a. "hot dog" and "hot dogs."
We stood in line for about ten minutes to get our hands on these famous hot dogs. I don't know why everyone comes here. Admittedly, the hot dogs are quite good but they weren't any more exciting than the gas station hot dogs we enjoyed. That being said, I don't know where else you can get a hot dog in Reykjavik and they were quite affordable (and may I say, appropriately priced, if you catch my drift) at 420 kr ($3.70).
HARPA CONCERT HALL
SOLFARIÐ
TJÖRNIN
This little pond is home to loads of swans and ducks and mallards. We had some bread in our pockets (from an earlier attempt to feed some ducks) so we made some friends.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
This little mermaid wasn't quite as elegant as Den Lille Havfrue (after all, Reykjavik's LM was covered in bird poop) but it was still fun to see her, especially with Hallgrimskirkja in the background. Apparently, she was gifted to a former mayor by some shopping center and she's identical to a former statue that was blown up in 1960 in an unsolved crime.
RÁÐHÚS (CITY HALL)
BÓNUS
We saw this chain of Icelandic supermarkets everywhere while we were on the road. It just happened that the towns we stayed in each night did not have one. So, I was happy when we finally got to shop at one. Our family loves pigs - not sure where that love came from - so it was a lot of fun for us to shop here. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed because some a-hole had scratched a swastika into this pink pig (who didn't deserve to be marred with a symbol of hate) but I photoshopped it out because swastikas do not vibe with my happy holiday. I didn't even have to share this little story except to say that even in one of the happiest countries in the world, there is someone so unhappy he/she felt the need to share their misery through vandalism.
We quickly ran out of things to do in the city - there's definitely a limit to the length of time I can walk around in the freezing cold - so we headed back to our hotel to warm up with some hot chocolate and make dinner.
I made a pho-inspired ramen for dinner that evening. Basically, I made broth with beef bouillon, onion, garlic, and cilantro. I added the noodles once the broth seemed flavorful enough, and then served it up with sliced chilis, more cilantro, and lime wedges. This soupy dinner hit the spot after a day of weathering the blistering cold.
GARÐSKAGAVITI
Since it was our last night, we decided to go aurora hunting. The forecast said high activity but the cloud forecast did not look favorable; we thought we might as well go out as we didn't have anything to lose. The cloud forecast showed the little tip of the Keflavik area to look best so we headed to the lighthouse. We snuggled up with a blanket we borrowed from the hotel and caught a few little glimpses before the clouds rolled in too heavily.

We got really jealous of a plane flying around; the pilot was obviously circling to give the passengers a show.
Shortly after it became clear that the clouds were obscuring the aurora, four massive tour buses arrived and unloaded hundreds of tourists onto the beach. I don't know if they were there for the aurora, but we smiled to ourselves since we knew they'd missed it and we'd seen some.

We drove to the lighthouse in Reykjavik, Grótta, in the hopes that we might see some more, but it was just too cloudy. There were a bunch of cars in the parking lot when we arrived - several with their headlights on (stupid idiots) - but even when we rounded the corner and got away from the lights, it was pretty obvious that the sky was clouded over; we couldn't see a single star.

Despite the lackluster aurora hunting, we were satisfied that we'd caught a glimpse and again, we were just so grateful for what we'd experienced on Day 2, we couldn't be mad.

Here's my travel map:

Here's my video diary:

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