When we flew into Keflavík, I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to think. It was very similar to landing on the big island of Hawaii actually; it felt like we had just pulled up on the moon.
It was a grey, overcast day with a light, constant mist slowly making its way down from heavy, dark clouds. Clouds that just an hour ago looked like big, comfy pillows up in the sky. I always imagine that Care Bears really do live in the clouds... perhaps one day I’ll find them.
My mom and I rented a tiny car and made our way into Reykjavík. I was not impressed with the landscapes at first but re-learned a timeless lesson as time went on: You cannot judge a book by its cover...
We decided to spend our first day in the city of Reykjavík; we were exhausted from jet lag and knew driving somewhere would put one of us to sleep leaving the other to fend for themselves. So the city it was.
Reykjavík is a darling, old city filled with slim streets, tiny but colorful houses, lots of gorgeous graffiti, not enough dogs, plenty of sweet cats, and packed with outstanding restaurants and fascinating museums (too many to count). It is overflowing with history and nestled so perfectly on the ocean side. Mountains soared to the East and North though it was often too cloudy to see to the tops of them.
That first day I think we literally went into every single store, bakery, and coffee shop Reykjavík had to offer!! Anything to stay awake really!! We skipped all museums (again, trying to stay awake...) but did wander into many just to see what they were all about. Figured we could always circle back on another day.
We went up to the top of the largest church in Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja. You can see it miles from the city in all directions and if you go to the top there is a fantastic 360° view of the city and countryside around. It was pretty darn cool.
And after reading nearly every menu in town, we settled on two different spots for lunch and dinner. Both to die for...
Our first meal was at a place called Brass. I had chosen it simply because they offered GF Fish & Chips!! I love Fish & Chips and can hardly ever find it in the states so I knew I had to give it a go. And boy was I SO glad we did! It was amazing!!
The fish was cooked just right - it was flakey and melted in your mouth. It was paired with this homemade tartar sauce that was just divine. Seriously. I would have eaten tubs of it. And that’s not something I often say about tartar sauce… maybe mustard but definitely not tartar!
My mom got her first of many bowls of Icelandic Fish Soup - a tomato based broth with some form of cream (coconut or dairy), spices, herbs, and filled with fresh caught fish. What’s not to love?!
For dinner, we ate at a restaurant called Matwerk. I was basically asleep at this point. SO TIRED!!! My mom and I had agreed though that we had to make it to at least 7p in order to combat the jet lag in one nights sleep. So there we were, at dinner at 5p, eyes half shut, trying to have some sort of fluid conversation.
Luckily, the food and drinks were incredibly smashing and left us “mmmming” and “awweeeing” rather than using real words.
We started out with the best cocktail ever – seriously!! It was some sort of berry liquor(s) with Icelandic vodka and pickled blueberries. It was sweet, sour, tart, and intense. Everything I needed to put me to sleep that night :)
I should also add, it was so good that we actually went back to Matwerk again just for the cocktail!! Our second time back, Eddy, the creator of the cocktail actually made it for us, in front of us!! Which made it infinitely better than the first time around if that was even possible?!
For dinner, we had our first introduction to Salted Cod. I have NO IDEA why no one makes this in the states!!! It is the juiciest, saltiest, flakiest version of cod you will ever have. It was so fantastic your eyes automatically closed shut with each bite as you savored the rich, salty, faint buttery flavor.
On top of Salted Cod, we also ordered a dish of lamb, which actually tasted like mutton! I know that sounds like a stupid comment but far too many times I’ve ordered lamb back home to find the meat actually tasteless. This lamb was different. It tasted natural and homey and simply fell apart underneath the pressure of your fork.
I told my mom that I could have gone home right then and there. I had felt spoiled rotten and was just beaming with joy. I could not wait to see what the next four days in Iceland had in store for us.
Getting back to that whole “never judge a book by its cover” thing...
On Day 2, as we drove into the countryside to attack the Golden Circle, we quickly fell silent as our mouths dropped and our eyes peeled open. The countryside was vast and never ending. It was filled with luscious green meadows for horses, sheep, and cattle to roam as they please. It was dotted with picturesque farmhouses and teeny tiny beautiful churches.
As we winded through, appreciating every curve in the road, we were greeted by hills, mountains, canyons, caves, lakes, craters, geysers, hot springs, and waterfalls just to name a few. I am not sure there is anyway to describe all of this without writing a short novel on each of nature’s masterpieces. It was stunning, peaceful, and far more than we bargained for.
To end our adventure on the Golden Circle, we escaped the countryside to a small fishing village. We ate at the only restaurant in town (Fjorubordid) and quickly found out that there need only be one restaurant in town when it is that good!!
We enjoyed Langoustine Soup with some hearty, seedy GF bread and then shared a pot of Langoustines sautéed in a heavenly herbed butter with baby potatoes. Not going to lie, after the langoustines were gone, we sopped up the remaining melted butter with bread and even ate some of it with just the serving spoon! It was honest-to-god that good!
Needless to say, after 12 hours of exploring the countryside on our own time, I passed out the minute my head hit the pillow.
On Day 3 we signed up for a tour. Iceland is a HUGE island and requires A TON of driving. And if you aren’t driving, you are most likely hiking, climbing, or horseback riding. It is anything but a lazy country.
So, this tour... ended up being fabulous!! You never know with tours… who are you going to meet? Will there be crazies along for the ride? In any case, we ended up in a small bus with just 12 of us and a funny, entertaining local driver.
Again, we set off through the countryside finding many new hot springs, farms, and majestic landscapes to ogle over. We stopped at Hraunfosser Falls to stretch our legs and take in the view. Man, what an INSANE waterfall it was!!
Photographs don't nearly do it justice.
And after two hours of solid driving, we unloaded off our bus and hopped onto an old military rig outfitted to climb glaciers. The tires of this thing were nearly bigger than me! Like Whoa!!
From there it took another hour to get to our destination: The Langjokull Glacier.
Except we didn’t just go to the glacier, we actually travelled on the glacier. To where? I don’t know. By the time our vehicle started going up a hill of ice and snow, it was basically a white out. We couldn’t see more than a foot or two outside the windows. When the vehicle finally stopped we all looked at each other like, “Could this be it?”
We unloaded from the vehicle and right in front of us was an ET looking tunnel...enter at your own risk. The tunnel lead you down 25 meters (82 ft) underground into the center of the glacier. It was UNREAL.
Ice tunnels dug out by Icelandic farmers surrounded us - they even went so far as to put a bar down there as well as a chapel and a bathroom! We stayed down there for about an hour learning about glaciers and global warming. Witnessing where the tunnel was melting and shifting across the glacier. Though it was manmade, the tunnels showcased nature at its finest.
After trekking down from the glacier we had another two hour drive back into the city. Our tour guide surprised us with a stop at a local farm where we were given a tour of the stables and their very own hot springs.
Get this - they make bread in milk cartons and place it in manmade vents in the hot spring. The bread then takes 25hrs to bake in the hot spring’s steam!! I wasn’t able to try it but everyone else told me it was fantastic!
But let’s be real here, even if I could eat the bread, I am not sure I would have had time to do so. See, the thing is, is that there were dogs on the farm! Three of them!!
So I was super busy giving belly rubs, ear scratches, and cuddles while receiving just enough slobbery kisses. I also spent a lot of time with the horses; they were SUPER friendly, which totally wet my whistle.
After the farm I passed out on the small bus. Most likely dreaming of the farm life I aspire to live one day. Oh, the animals!! A garden, fresh air, a blazing fire at night, the simplicity of it all...
Of course, our day would not be complete without more food :)
This time we ate at The Old Iceland Restaurant when we rolled back into town and it did not disappoint. We had delightfully Smoked Salmon with Dill Mayonnaise, Icelandic Fish Soup (this time with Basil Oil drizzled over top), and more Cod. As had happened before, I was blown away by all of the fresh flavors and intricate details of each dish.
Icelanders truly know how to cook.
Stay tuned for our last two days in Iceland and then I'll whisk you away to Norway!!
Lick the Bowl – You Only Live Once,