Iceland Visit, 2012, part 1 of 3

The second port on my three-month ocean voyage was to Reykjavik, Iceland.  Iceland is probably not a place I would have planned a trip to on my own, since I inaccurately pictured it as a cold and barren place but I am so happy I went, and would definitely recommend it if you’re thinking of someplace different to go.  In fact, there is so much to say about Iceland that I will have to share it in several blogs.

In this first blog, I’ll cover the weather and food, and in the second, the people and the land, followed by the animals and only downside of the trip.

Ocean/Weather:  The first surprise was something I noticed before we even docked, and that the fact that the air in Iceland is absolutely crystal clear.  You could see many miles to the horizon.  Breathing in Arctic air is an entirely different situation that typical air we breathe in the United States; it’s fresh and clear and smog and haze free.  The next surprise came during the four or five days when we steamed in the area north of Iceland.  Thinking about Iceland, Iship north of Iceland had in mind stormy seas and nasty skies when in fact, the waters north of Iceland were silky smooth and calm.

The weather when we arrived in the port of Reykjavik on June 2nd, 2012 was unseasonably mild.  The day before we arrived, there was a snow squall over the ship, and the temperatures were in the 20s and 30s.  On the day we arrived, though, the sky was clear and sunny and temperatures were in the 70s, followed by sunny and 70-80s the following day, 70s the day after that, and a little chillier 50s on the last full day of our visit.  So while typical June Iceland weather is closer to the 50s, if you’re planning a visit, don’t let the weather stop you.  You could be pleasantly surprised.  In addition, in the winter, it’s rare to get snow in the southern section of the country, so don’t let the “Ice” in Iceland deter you.

Also, keep in mind that being so close to the Arctic Circle, days are not typical in terms of length.  When we were in Iceland in early June, the sun was basically “up” almost 24 hours per day.  When I went to sleep at 10pm, it was still up, and it was up again at 4am.  I believe the sun officially “set” and “rose” between perhaps midnight and 3am, but in reality, it was always bright out.  The reverse is true if you schedule a trip in early December.  The sun is only up for a few hours per day, so it’s basically dark most of the time.  Food for thought when planning your trip – in fact, speaking of food….

Food/Drink:  Everything we ate was delicious, and there didn’t seem to be anything resembling a bad meal anywhere in Iceland.  The first night, we ate at Frau something (still hunting for the right name).   I tried a seafood sampler, which included minke shark, Icelandic fish stew, a shrimp dish, dried cod and a pate-like fish.  The food was absolutely delicious.  A side order of garlic bread turned out to be quite a caloric treat.  The two huge slices of bread were about 2” thick and perhaps 6” square.  They tasted as though they had been soaked in butter and garlic, and they were covered with melted cheese.  Scrumptious!

The Fiskmarkadurinn was also referred to as the Fish Market.  For approximately $40 US, a full fish buffet was available, which included sliced marinated and smoked minke whale, crab and shrimp dishes, marinated fish of all types, tuna, salmon,  raw fish and cooked dishes.  Dinner included éclairs, chocolate cake, fruit and cheeses, and the only additional cost was for beverages.  This was definitely worth the money if you’re a seafood fan.  I thought every single dish was scrumptious.  You can also choose dishes from the menu, if the buffet is not your style.

One day a friend and I lunched on delicious lobster bisque at the SeaBaron, which was a very small restaurant in the Old Harbor area of Reykjavik.  But this isn’t a very comfortable affair.   After ordering lunch, diners must squeeze onto tiny stools in a squashed room, but the food was quite tasty and the bisque was served with a big bowl of bread for dipping.

Choices of beer in most restaurants and cafes were typically slim, with basically a choice of large or small.  Viking beer was common.  In terms of wines, house wines often came from Chile, so were not Icelandic, but were tasty, and most restaurants had a healthy selection of other wines which were available by the bottle.

Cafes were everywhere; almost all provided free Wi-Fi (which was also available at the library).  Some cafes provided huge upholstered couches and chairs for comfortable visiting with friends.   They all seemed to have a nice selection of beverages and desserts as well as entrees (i.e., from delicious brownies with vanilla ice cream and a coffee, or wine and a meal)

Kat in IcelandBottom line?  The weather and food got two thumbs up from this traveler!

My next Iceland blog will cover the people and land.



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