Having chosen to visit Iceland in April, I knew I was going to have some less than ideal weather. I’d had a beautiful first day for my driving tour of the Golden Circle. The forecast for the second and third days of my visit were not good, with heavy downpours and sleet predicted for both days.
The clouds had begun to roll in by the time I arrived at the Hallgrímskirkja, the massive national cathedral in downtown Reykjavik. Complete in 1986, it is the 2nd tallest building in the country and the city’s most recognizable landmark. It was built to resemble basalt columns, reflecting the volcanic forces which have helped shape the island.
The vaulted interior is quite beautiful, even if it is sparsely decorated.
My main reason for visiting was to take advantage of the views of the capitals colored roofs and surrounding mountains from the cathedral’s observation deck. The wind was picking up when I reached the top, but the panorama was totally worth it. ( A complete Hallgrímskirkja photo essay is coming later this week.)
The promised nasty weather turned up just in time for me to make the hour drive to The Blue Lagoon, the geothermal pool and spa that is Iceland’s most famous tourist attraction.
Bláa lónið is well-known for it’s silica and sulfur rich waters, which are great for the skin, as well as being a natural treatment for psoriasis and other skin conditions. The facility also offers a number of deluxe spa packages, but I stuck with the standard package which included a dip in the pool, a towel and plush robe rental, and a locker to lock my valuables up in. I had scheduled this specifically for the day I though I would have the worst weather (which it turned out I did), figuring that since the waters were heated, it wouldn’t matter how cold or rainy it was. While I was right about the water (I wasn’t cold), the experience was less than ideal since the high winds across the Grindavík lava field caused the rain/sleet mix to be blowing in my face the whole time is was in the water. It also made it nearly impossible to take outdoor pictures with my dSLR camera. I was lucky I had the waterproof camera case for my GoPro, but those pictures turned out blurry from the precipitation. I still enjoyed the experience. (Full post on the Blue Lagoon also coming soon…)
After the slow drive back to Reykjavik, where my little rental car was nearly blown off the road, I headed to Cafe Loki, located right across from the Hallgrímskirkja, where I heard I could get traditional Icelandic fare for lunch. Not being an adventurous eater, I made a promise to myself that I would try to break out of that mold on this trip- and with this meal, I succeeded. (Read about my lunch experience here.)
The previous evening I had struck up a conversation with the workers in the local store where I’d purchased my Icelandic hot dog for dinner. Seeing the store sold beer, I’d asked about the beer scene in Iceland. The two guys told me if I liked good beer not to buy the stuff on the shelves there, but instead to visit a place called the Micro Bar. I napped briefly after my lunch at Cafe Loki, then took a cab back into the city, in search of the ‘good beer’. I loved the Micro Bar- great beer selection and a friendly knowledgeable staff. (My full post on the Micro Bar can be found here.)
At the Micro Bar I made friends with a friendly woman from Denver. She was also looking to try some more traditional Icelandic food, so we headed toward a place that had been recommended to me by the owner of my B&B. As we walked there I noticed some clearing in the skies, and I hoped that it was a good sign for the next day, as I was leaving Reykjavik and heading north and my new friend had a glacier tour scheduled.
The place that had been recommended to me was a restaurant named Tapas Barrinn, which took the idea of traditional Spanish tapas and gave them an Icelandic twist. If my lunch had been adventurous, I really outdid myself with dinner. (Adventures in Icelandic Food- Post #2 here.)
I was certainly proud I’d made the most of a lousy weather day. As much as I really liked Reykjavik, I was looking forward to getting out of the city and seeing more of the country, something I’d done very little of on my visit 15 years earlier. Now if I could just get some non-Icelandic weather…
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