This is post #3 on our trip to Iceland. Find the others here. This post is mainly my notes, check the others for more pretty pictures!
Days 3-4: In Reykjavik
This was the first day of Megan’s conference, so we took a taxi to Reykjavik University on the south side of town in the morning. The entire university fits inside one building, which is quite cute. The university also has excellent foosball facilities!
While Megan spent the day at conference sessions, I took a walk back up to our hotel (about 40 minutes away). The weather was fantastically sunny, and I was able to take off my down jacket and hat, leaving on nothing but a long-sleeve shirt topped with a sweater… Now that is summer weather!
In general, the weather has tended to be quite chilly–highs in the low 50s and lows in the high 30s. However, the wind is the biggest factor and it is often blowing hard. We tend to dress in layers: a sweater over a long sleeve shirt, a lightweight down jacket, and then a midweight wind/rain jacket for particularly windy or rainy days. And of course a winter hat.
Iceland has plentiful geothermal springs, so hot water in buildings generally comes directly from a mini volcano below rather than a heater. This is quite convenient, but the rotten egg smell from the water’s sulfur content does make showering a bit of an odd experience.
The length of the days is also strange–at nine or ten at night it would feel like the sun was setting, but then we would realize that it had just gotten cloudy and in the distance we could still see mountain tops gleaming in the sun. After midnight it does get a bit darker, but we certainly haven’t seen anything I would consider complete darkness while here. Sunrise is supposed to be around 3:22AM, so maybe a bit before that. Surprisingly, the hotel does not have particularly good blinds for keeping the sun out; either these were purchased and installed in the winter, or Icelanders really try to soak up all the sun they possibly can in the summers!
For dinner we went to Nautholl, a restaurant along the bay next to the university. We ordered small plates: scallops and pumpkin risotto, and their two soups: carrot ginger and fish stew. All of the food was excellent. The skyr (Icelandic yogurt) and butter combination they put on bread was also very nice.
Food in Iceland is quite expensive, although the prices do include all taxes and tip. Nautholl was certainly a fancy restaurant, but $28 for a deluxe hamburger or $23 for a chicken sandwich is a bit much. I passed a corner store fast food joint that had value meals around $10. The crepes we bought the day before were about $10 each, and our Noodle Station dinner was around $12-15 (probably the best price to quantity ratio). We have not been drinking much booze, but that would further add to the bill–most small restaurants list beers and house wines at around $7.50 a glass. We later found that many restaurants that weren’t nearly as nice further outside the capital charged as much or more! It’s fairly easy to spend $50 or more for two people to eat at a gas station, although we usually were able to find some decent, (slightly more) reasonably priced options.
On the second day of the conference the sun was replaced with wind. I wrote and organized pictures while Megan attended talks. I had a nice simple lunch at Cafe Babalu and checked out some of the Icelandic knit goods at nearby stores.
In the late afternoon we walked over to the “thermal beach” near the university. Here a hot spring wells up to fill a public hot tub, and the water is also pumped out into a small cove in the bay (perhaps 150 feet wide). This lets more adventurous swimmers enjoy a mix of lava heated hot water and polar ice cap melt. There were quite a few people there, although they were all staying in the hot tub except for a few kids who would run out into the bay and then retreat. Amazingly, we saw several others swimming in the bay outside the heated area.
In the lower part of the picture, note the children bundled up in winter coats playing on the play set. In the middle of the frame the other kids, in bathing suits, are getting into the water for a swim.