Chasing Bookstores and Eating Great Food. That was About It.

After wrapping up my blog post at around 1:30 am last night, I listened to an audiobook for a while. It was darker than it had been at 11:30, when it was almost full daylight. By 2 am or so, it was twilight–dim, but still plenty light enough to walk around outside, if that’s what you wanted to do. I did not, and went back to bed, where I slept like the dead until 9:00 am. I probably would have slept longer, but Tom awoke me–breakfast was waiting.

Edda had really gone all out on breakfast. She had boiled eggs, skyr (Iceland’s lumpy yogurt), blueberry scones, smoked salmon, rye bread, assorted meats and cheeses, tea, coffee, orange juice, cherry tomatoes, and fruit. It was clear she was not going to permit us to depart hungry. Edda sat on the couch while we ate, occasionally chiming in on the conversation.

Edda is not the first B&B hostess that I personally think might have been better suited to another line of work. She is very uncomfortable with anything that violates her expectations. Example: I left my suitcase next to the dining area before I twigged to the fact that this was intended to be a shared space with other guests (there are none). I went back to move it after I realized–and there was Edda, glaring at my suitcase. I apologized and moved back into “our” room. She did not like it when I used a mug from the kitchen instead of the one in our room. And when I carefully washed the mug, teabag holder, and spoon I had used in making tea, laying them on a clean towel to dry, I found them in the sink when we returned. She clearly doesn’t want us in her side yard, where we went a couple of times to ask her something. She wants to be communicated with through a door in our area that is locked on her side. She walks into our area without knocking, however, at any time. It’s not that I dislike her, but she is so clearly uncomfortable with the presence of strangers in her house.

We had no fixed plans for the day, just a list of things we thought we’d like to get to. First stop was Perlan, a round, glass-domed building that houses a number of exhibits about Iceland’s natural environment. This includes an artificial ice tunnel made to look like a glacial ice tunnel. It may be manmade, but the ice was real, and it was very cold in there. kind of a cool experience, if you will excuse the pun. I have no intention whatsoever of experiencing the real thing–that’s not why I’m here.

There was a planetarium-style show of the northern lights, which gave me some good ideas, actually. And they have a 360-degree revolving restaurant on top that is not revolving at present because they are waiting for parts. The views from the restaurant over the city of Rekjavik and the ocean are spectacular. I didn’t take pictures because it is a very gray day, and I didn’t think photos would convey the experience at all.

The gift shop in the museum had some really unique things. Which included taxidermied puffins, making my skin crawl. Puffins, whales, and Greenland sharks are all endangered, and tourists eat most of them, not Icelanders. The Greenland shark is more than worth a mention here.

We visited the Reykjavík Cathedral, which is a Church of Iceland (Lutheran) edifice. It’s quite unique, but I have mixed feelings about it. It is a towering icon, dwarfing other buildings in a city that has very few tall buildings, and no skyscrapers. Its architecture combines the Gothic with… I dunno. The interior is the most austere and severe I have ever see.

The Iceland National Cathedral. The gentleman sculptured in front is Leif Erickson, natch.

Interior of the cathedral.. Gothic, but no stained glass or furbelows of any description.

Then it was another lunch at Snaps, every bit as wonderful as the previous day. I had moules frites and Tom had duck confit, both as good as I have ever had in my life. Then we set out in search of a book store.

Icelanders prize books. They have a Christmas tradition of giving books and spending Christmas in reading and eating chocolate, which is pretty much my idea of heaven. I wanted to find a bookstore owned by the Icelandic publisher Ferlagid. I bought several books from them previously, and was hopeful they might have a larger selection of the topics I am researching.

It turns out there are several Ferlagid stores in Reykjavik, and we went to the wrong one. The woman in the shop gave us the address for the main store, which turned out to be located in a strange industrial section of town that seems to be in the process of gentrification. I found a few books, but not quite what I was looking for. The nice ladies there sent me to another bookstore located right downtown, so we went there. This one, Eymunsson, had four stories of books and a cafe. I found another book or two there, and regretfully turned down a book about the role of Icelandic dwarves in mythology. You have to draw the line somewhere when you know you have to haul it all home is your suitcase.

The counter at the main Forlagid store is held up by books.

Then on to check out the geothermal beach. I had heard that the beach had warm water, even in winter. I was tempted to go, but wanted to check it out first. Reykjavik is under a huge amount of construction that makes it difficult to get around, but we found it. Nauthólsvík is an artificially-created beach of golden sand with hot pools. People were out in the water of the harbor, too, so it must also be warm, if not hot. There are changing rooms, but I needed to know if you had to bring your own towels. Every place is different, and I didn’t want to emerge from a warm pool into 60 degree weather with no towel. Three teenaged boys were drinking beer on the steps and watching girls, so I asked them about towels. They said best to bring your own, and helpfully directed me to a place I could buy towels and maybe a bikini. I told them my bikini days were long past.

Wild lupine near the geothermal beach. Masses of these can be seen on the way from the airport.

Off to the mall next to pick up some wine. They had California wines at astronomical prices. We bought Spanish and Argentinian. I noticed that their liquor section was tiny. The majority of tipples on offer were gin. And they were all in plastic bottles (not the wine, just the booze).

Then we headed back to the sleepy town of Harfnarfjordur where our guesthouse is. We were heading back at rush hour. There were a few cars on the road, but not many. It was almost eerie to be on a sleek freeway, in a capitol city, at rush hour, with what we would call no traffic.

We ate dinner at a restaurant in Harfnafjordur, not wanting to drive back to Reykjavík. (Not that it’s very far.) We found a restaurant on the harbor in a kind of odd little collection of businesses. I ordered Arctic char, and Tom had mussels and also lamb’s neck–not a dish we had ever seen before. Everything was wonderful. I really was not prepared for the level of excellence we have encountered with the food here. And the portions are reasonable–I hate it when I have to decline a doggy bag because I have no place to reheat or prepare the food I have not been able to eat. The prices are about what you would find in any city, although many other prices are much higher, like fuel. And, to be frank, books.

During the day, I came up with a lot of interesting stuff to tell you all. But I’m afraid jet lag is still affecting my ability to do more than attempt to appear normal–although I’ve had worse. Still, time to sign off and go to bed. It’s 11:50 pm, overcast, so not so bright as yesterday–but still light. Maybe I’ll remember those fascinating details in the morning!

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