Hanging around Reykjavik

Jul 28

Hanging around Reykjavik

So yesterday we arrived in Spain at midnight and didn’t make it to our hostel until 3am. We had every intention to put up a blog post last night, but sleep over-ruled. Lets start with were we left off…

Our hostel in Reykjavik was a rather interesting experience. We arrived at the hostel after a long 2 hour drive back from Gullfoss. During the ride we were both so tired, I fell sleep 3 or 4 times while sitting up and attempting to do something engaging, and Ryder started singing at the top of his lungs to stay awake (there was no music playing). By the time we made it to Reykjavik, I was super giggly and Ryder was ready to be out of the car. We parked along a street that was only a block away from the street our hostel was located on. We didn’t know where exactly on the street it was so we started walking… 10 blocks later and one bathroom break and we arrived!

 The hostel itself may have been nice, but we had a room in a flat across the street in a completely different building. I’m a clean freak and this place gave me the shivers. Lets just say I only showered once and under duress. After we settled in, we headed out to the local grocery to purchase dinner (our room came with a shared bathroom and kitchen). It’s so strange because it was 11:30pm at this point and still completely light outside with plenty of people walking around. Our first night, as you can imagine, we passed out. We woke up at 11:00am, ate the breakfast of champions (bread, peanut butter, and nutella) and set off to explore Reykjavik!

Our first stop was the famous church Hallgrímskirkja a few blocks away. This church is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure. The statue in the front courtyard of the church was a gift from the US! We were able to get tickets to take the elevator to the top and the views were spectacular!

We left the church and stopped at a hot-dog stand just outside the plaza to try an Icelandic hot-dog with sweet mayonnaise (rémoulade), ketchup, and mustard. It was quite good. Then we walked back to the car to drive to the Viking museum on the water front. On they way, we stopped into a photographers studio and spoke with the artist’s wife who was managing the shop. She was from Thailand and gave us some great information on what to see and do when we get there.

Then it was in the car and we were off. Unfortunately, we went to the wrong museum. I had wanted to see the museum with the replica viking ship, but the one we went to was the Icelandic Maritime museum. They did have some information on the vikings but it was a small display at the front. We went through the whole exhibit before we realized our mistake and hurried out back into the car to drive to the right museum. It was closed. 🙁 Oh, well, something to see next time we visit.

We walked around the plaza a bit, wondering what to do with the remainder of our evening (it was 5:00pm at this point). Ryder did some searching on his phone and discovered a “warm beach” about 20 minutes from where we were. We decided to stop by an information booth to ask about it. The guy we spoke with suggested we go visit one of the many public pools in Reykjavik instead of the beach and pointed us to one about 15 minutes away with “great views.” We hopped into our little car and off we went to the public pool!

Public pools in Iceland are numerous and seem to be a community space for people to escape the biting cold weather in the winter and still cold weather in the summer. We arrived at the public pool, payed for our entrance and split our respective male and female lockers to put on our suits. Now, let me mention that I am a rather conservative person when it comes to, well, being naked. I only do it in the privacy of my own home. In Iceland, it is required for all people entering the pools to wash in the open showers in the facilities BEFORE putting on your bathing suit, ie butt naked. I verified this with a woman using the locker next to me who promptly said, “It’s the Icelandic way.” Ok, when in Rome, well in this case when in Iceland…

I met Ryder on the other side in the pool area. He had a similar experience to mine in the male lockers, lots of naked men (in my case women) walking around talking to each other. We wasted no time jumping into the pool, and swam our way over to the numerous hot tubs surrounding the pool with lots of bubbles and jets. We soaked for quite awhile and I think just about everyone knew we were foreign as they were all locals and we received plenty of stares. Ryder took a few minutes to steam in the steam room and then we went back into the lockers, showered again, dressed, and left back to Reykjavik.

Once in Reykjavik we walked around the shopping district close to our hostel and stumbled upon this plaza filled with people around our age drinking beer and listening to a DJ spinning tracks. The plaza was surrounded on all sides by three to four story buildings and each one had the most amazing artwork. We hung around here for a bit then headed to a bar to get some local Icelandic beer. We went into an bar that turned out to be an Irish pub and had two beers, a Guinness and Kilkenny. We met three people, a man and woman from Ireland and a man from England. We had hilarious conversations with them. At 10:45pm we decided we should probably get dinner, said our goodbyes, and headed down the block to this sandwich shop. The sandwiches were GREAT and immensely satisfying. We headed back to the hostel after and got to bed pretty late.

I’m going to take a break from writing to see some of Barcelona today. Tonight, I’ll add another about the Blue Lagoon yesterday and our travel to Spain.

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Keflavik to…

Jul 25

Keflavik to…

Today marks our first full day in a foreign country. I, Amanda, have to say, it isn’t what I had anticipated. I unknowingly and unfortunately came into this trip with a preconceived idea of what it would be like to visit another country as an American. In my rose-colored vision, people would be friendly, ask you if you needed help or strike up a conversation. Apparently I think the rest of the world is warm and fluffy… well, I feel much more aware and less naive now. This change isn’t from some horrid experience, but just something I’ve become aware of over the past 24 hours. Guess it’s back to reality…

Anywho, we flew into Keflavik at 11:45pm Iceland time and after some frantic running around, found our bags and our shuttle to our first hostel. We arrived only to find that our reservation had changed from our own little cabin with kitchen and bathroom to a twin room on the first floor with a shared bathroom. Eh, no big deal. We settled in and skyped with some family out in the hallway until 2am (9pm EST time) when we tried to get some shut-eye. 5 hours later, Ryder was waking me up for our big day! We had planned to catch a bus to Reykjavik from our hostel then take a shuttle tour of the “Golden Circle” of Iceland, BUT Ryder surprised me with a rental car!! Yippee!! Instead of siting on a bus for 6 hours, we could do our own version of the Golden Circle from the comfort of our own car!

A few harrowing roundabouts, one close call, and a few grey hairs later, we arrived at our first touring destination, Þingvellir National Park! Now this is the site of the first Parlament called Alþingi and was Iceland’s supreme legislative and judicial authority from its establishment in 930 until 1271. The Lögberg (Law Rock – seen in photo with the flag) was the focal point of the Alþingi and a natural platform for holding speeches. Additionally, this site marks the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates which can be clearly seen in the cracks surrounding the valley. The lake at the site is the largest natural forming lake in Iceland.

After our hike around the valley, we drove on to the next stop, the Great Geysir! This geyser is the reason all other geysers are called, well geysers.  It shoots water rather high 🙂

After hanging around the geyser for a bit, we drove to the last and best stop, Gullfoss waterfall (English: the Golden Falls) located in southwest Iceland.

I had planned to write more tonight, but it’s 12:48am here and I’m pooped out! More info on our drive to Reykjavik and stay at the 101 Guest Hostel tomorrow… good night all!


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Jul 24


We made it to Iceland, yay!! The flight over was so great! We waited in the airport for about 2 hours, got lunch and met some people on our flight (Yes, I’m a friendly chatter box just like my momma). We met two really nice ladies who were traveling to Paris. They plan to stay in a flat for a month and hopefully we can connect with them when we get there! Icelandair is the best airline I’ve flown with in quite a long time. We received a pillow, thick comfy blanket, and had our own screen to watch movies, tv, listen to music, etc. Ryder, of course, spent the time watching Icelandic movies and listening to the local music. I, on the other hand, watched Hunger Games and Rio (I just had to thrown in an animated film, as those of you who know me understand).

We got to Iceland right on time and then went through customs. The officer who checked our passports asked us how long we would be in Europe… We both said, “Uuuhh… 3 months?” He wasn’t very impressed. After a few more questions, I started to sweat thinking “Oh great, first freaking country outside the US and our trip is over before it starts!” Ryder was cool as a cucumber and it turns out the customs official was just trying to be nice and let us know we only have 90 days to spend in Europe. Stamp, stamp and we are in Iceland! My first stamp in my passport, eek!

We walked to the baggage claim and waited for our luggage. It felt so strange to be in a space where no one was speaking English. I’m not sure if it will be like this throughout Europe, but at least in Iceland all signage has english underneath. Good thing to, I tried pronouncing some Icelandic with our driver to our hotel and I butchered it so badly. At least I know how to say a short version of thank you, “takk.” We are staying at this interesting hotel right outside of the airport called Hotel Alex. You can stay in a room in the main building or in a single cabin or you can camp. We had booked for a cabin, but our reservation was mixed up a bit and we ended up with a room in the main building. All I can say is, at least we have a place to stay! Tomorrow we will be traveling to Reykjavik where we will spend two nights, then its back on a plane for Spain. Oh, that rhymed! Hopefully we will get to visit the Blue Lagoon and go on a tour of the country before we go. Here is a photo outside our hotel. It’s 2:26am here as I type and the sky looks like this…

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