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The Pursuit of Leisure Don't expect too much, and you won't be disappointed.

Takk Fyrir & Bless

ICELAND | Monday, 27 June 2011 | Views [970]

View of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja

View of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja

So ends my time in Iceland (for now)! I had a very easygoing day just around town. I had my buffet breakfast in the morning and then walked around central Reykjavik taking photos. Today is probably the worst day of weather I've experienced since being here. There were blue skies in the morning, but also a very strong wind that made the weather a lot colder than what I've been used to here. It's the first time I've had to wear both my down vest and winter jacket and beanie around town, and it was actually so windy that I got pushed over a few times when I was walking. However since there were blue skies and good visibility in the morning, I headed over to the church Hallgrimskirkja to ascend the bell tower to get a good view of Reykjavik. I was expecting to climb up hundreds of steps but this was pretty much a straight elevator ride up 8 stories, and then ascending 2 flights of stairs to get outside. The views were gorgeous and all the buildings look so colorful when viewed from up top, but the wind was also very incredible. It reminded me of being on top of the Empire State Building in NYC in winter.

After leaving the church I went to so many bookstores and souvenir shops to find SOMETHING to buy that seemed “Icelandic” enough. I am amazed at the prices here on simple things like key chains. I thought about buying volcanic ash from either the Grimsvotn or Eyjafyallajokull eruptions, but it was like $10 and I couldn't help thinking that Iceland needed to get rid of the volcanic ash somehow and what better way than to market it as a tourist souvenir. So I didn't buy any. This is probably the least amount of souvenirs I've purchased when traveling internationally, so family and friends, if you don't get a souvenir from me remember that I'm bringing back something even better. Love? (Second only to fine merino wool or precious gems).

Then I had myself a hot dog “with everything” at Baejarin's Bestu again. I could probably eat at least 2 of these for a meal but I had a big breakfast and wanted to get an early dinner. I sat down at the one outside table right beside the stand and then this man asked me in Icelandic if he could sit down as well. I'm guessing that's what he asked but when I nodded and gestured for him to sit down he laughed. He asked where I was from and then I told him how long I had stayed in Iceland and that I enjoyed my time here. He said it was a bit cold but I told him I thought the weather was very good except for today. He told me that the weather was really good last week and that he was at his summer house in Husavik. Then he told me he was a police officer for 40 years but then he retired, but then had to work again as a taxi driver once all the Icelandic banks all failed in 2008 when the economy busted. Then he told me he used to pay 58,000 krona for his monthly summer house payment but now it's 78,000 so he's thinking about maybe selling it and buying a smaller house. ($1 USD = 110 krona). It was pretty interesting; I just love the random conversations strangers will start with you if they see you're traveling alone.

More souvenir shopping followed after this and then I went back to my hotel to drop off my stuff, along with taking an hour-long nap. Shopping is exhausting? Then I went to dinner at Einar Ben, this restaurant right in the center of town. I chose it because I wanted something very Icelandic and a bit nicer since it was my last night here. It's located in an old house and when I went in at 6 p.m. I was the first patron there. I picked a little table in an alcove right by the window overlooking the street. This was probably the most romantic restaurant I've ever eaten in by myself, and it was a little funny because the restaurant is located on the second level of a house, and when I walked up the stairs one of the waiters and one of the other workers were talking but then they dispersed and once I sat down at my table I heard a computer sound over the speakers and then “Besame Mucho” started playing over the speakers. It was a little hilarious.

I ordered the lamb loin as my main course and did not order a starter dish. After I had started digging into my very hot and freshly-baked bread rolls, my waiter came over with a dish saying the chef wanted me to try something. It was a very fancy plate with tender beef slices and it was very good. I wanted to take pictures of the food because it all looked really good, but the atmosphere just felt too homey and I wanted to get away from being a tourist for once. What's really interesting about the restaurant is that there is no set menu and it changes daily depending on the fresh ingredients they have and what the chef feels like making. This family of 3 came in about half an hour after me and they did NOT get the special chef's plate of beef that I got. Muahaha. My lamb plate then came out and it was small of course but the presentation was very nice and the meat was exceptionally tender and flavorful. It also came with sliced potatoes that had been pressed together to look almost like a cake, and yes it was also very good. I've been eating so much seafood here, which is obviously very fresh, but the lamb is also well-regarded here and I was very happy with my meal. I saved enough room for dessert and ordered the skyr, which is similar in taste to a tart yogurt, and that came with ice cream on top and blueberries and strawberries around it. Definitely the best meal in Iceland I've had.

When the bill came, much like the rest of Iceland, tipping is not done here so there isn't even an option to tip when you pay the bill. I read that waiters get paid pretty well here because of the labor unions so you shouldn't feel bad about not tipping. Nice to know that they will still provide good service even though it's a fixed salary. So I got a nice little side dish in addition to what I ordered. Not bad at all. I have to say that I've very much enjoyed not needing to tip anywhere; it makes paying so much easier.

I walked around town for a bit more after dinner but the wind was just brutal so I had to call it an early night. The streets were almost empty because of both the wind and the rain and I'd hate to be here when there aren't any tourists walking around. I was at a tourist shop and the cashier knew Spanish so I overheard this man say in Spanish to her jokingly about the weather, “We are suffering here.” I popped into the chain bookstore Eymundson and ordered a hot chocolate from Te & Kaffi and then walked back to my hotel where I had a nice, long hot shower. I almost don't notice the sulfur smell anymore.

Final thoughts: I had a really good time in Iceland. London was definitely impressive, but I enjoy smaller crowds and once I dug into Reykjavik discovered a good number of restaurants and cafes to keep my stomach happy, and the people here for the most part have been incredibly friendly. I couldn't make a longer trip here because the prices are so high so I think the length of my stay here was good. I don't know if it's being outside in nature or the fresh air or clean water, but I feel very consistently refreshed and better than I have for a while. I'd be walking or hiking or standing outside in the crisp air and just start grinning stupidly for no reason and it feels great. Tomorrow I head to Boston. I'm very sad to leave Iceland but it's time to move on and it'll be good to get my feet back on the homeland again.

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