– Grundarfjörður, Iceland to Reykjanesbær, Iceland –

Today, since we thought we needed to hand in our car at 3pm, we were all prepared for a short day in Reykjavík after we drove back over to it from Grundarfjörður, and a long evening of getting to our hotel and hanging out until we need to be at the airport early tomorrow morning.

We didn’t actually do it that way, luckily, but we thought we were this morning, so we didn’t bother to get up until 8am. We packed up all of our stuff neatly into our bags like we would have to lug them through public transportation and were out of the hotel by about 9:30am. We were fortified with our delightful skyr, and all prepared to meet the day.

A still-frozen lake in the mountains
A still-frozen lake in the mountains

We didn’t stop too many times on the drive to Reykjavík, although we did stop for some pictures of an interestingly still-frozen lake with snowy mountains in the distance, which was too perfect to miss. Beyond that, we only stopped for bathroom breaks and some coffee for Mark along the way.

This time, we took Hvalfjörður Tunnel underneath the fjord that we skipped on Wednesday. It shaved more than an hour off of our drive, I believe, and we weren’t missing anything we hadn’t seen, so we weren’t too concerned. Besides, Mark loves tunnels, even when they have a toll.

Getting ready to enter the dark abyss
Getting ready to enter the dark abyss

The tunnel is about 3.5 miles long, and it goes about 542 feet below sea level. It takes less than 10 minutes to drive through, but it feels like forever when you are underneath that much water. Supposedly the tunnel has received a “bad” rating by the European tunnel test, which I’m not certain what entails, but I know that I don’t like the sound of the word “bad” in that particular context. I’d rather my underwater death tube got at least a passing grade.

I can’t say I was particularly nervous or anything about it, and it seemed safe to me, though I’m obviously not an expert. Mark got a kick out of it, and we didn’t die, so I think our tunnel crossing went well.

Ok, maybe not so dark an abyss
Ok, maybe not so dark an abyss

From the tunnel, we made it on to Reykjavík without incident. We first stopped by our rental company to ask a few questions. You see, we’d had an epiphany. The international airport here has a shop set up at the exit, so technically we might be able to return our car to that location rather than the one we’d rented from in the city, and that’s directly across from our hotel. It’s only about 5 miles away. That would save us a world of pain trying to get ourselves and our bags the 40km to our hotel from the rental space.

We also realized that we could actually just rent the car for another day, if they would let us, and then we could turn the car in early in the morning when we needed to be at the airport for our flight. That would save us another public transportation nightmare. We were so excited by our new plan, which they agreed sounded fine, that the extra $100 was totally worth it.

So now, our rental car is due back tomorrow morning when we go to the airport for our flight. We didn’t have to drop it off at 3pm, and we could do whatever we wanted with the rest of our day, since we still had a car and no longer needed to spend several hours navigating ourselves around without it. We’d gained back our day, and it was only noon.

Vegan food from Gló in Reykjavík
Vegan food from Gló in Reykjavík

Since we were now free to do as we pleased, we drove into Reykjavík and wandered around for a few minutes before grabbing lunch at a local vegan eatery called Gló. The menu was pretty simple- you picked one of six main meal items from the board, and then you chose three side salads from the salad bar and they passed you your plate.

It was delicious, and it was the most fresh vegetables I’ve seen on our whole trip here. In the grocery stores, especially outside the capital, vegetables are frozen or packed in very small sealed packages, like we see hamburger. They have a few staples that are not, but they are universally expensive. Gló was a bit pricey for what it was, but you almost always pay more when you visit a restaurant that’s totally vegan or vegetarian. It’s like a hipster tax.

Once we were full of food, we decided to walk around Reykjavík and do some touristy shopping and sight-seeing that we’d missed earlier in our trip. We picked up a few more small things at the local shops (including some little lava rock stud earrings for me) and then we walked for about an hour around town, until our metered parking ran out.

Inside Perlan, or The Pearl
Inside Perlan, or The Pearl

We weren’t sure what we wanted to do next, until mark mentioned Perlan, or The Pearl, which is one of the city’s landmarks that I hadn’t seen earlier in the week. We drove up to that and got out to have a look around.

Perlan is an art gallery, a revolving restaurant, several small shops, and an event space housed in a single dome-shaped building that sits up on a hill. It used to be a collection of three hot-water storage tanks, but in 1991, the mayor decided that the tanks could be more, so he had them revamped and added a building on top. It’s a very interesting building, and the view from the top is pretty cool. We didn’t know the history of the building until this evening, and I think that is the best part of it all. The mayor just decided that the hot water tanks could be doing more for the city, so he made a building on top of them. It’s quite clever, if you ask me.

Since we were at the top of one building, looking out across the city, I realized that we’d missed another building that we could go to the top of: Hallgrímskirkja, the big church that is the iconic symbol of the city. Mark thought that sounded great. Apparently he hadn’t really mentioned going to the top, since he knew I was afraid of heights, but if I was volunteering, he was more than happy to take me up on my offer.

All those bars on the windows in Hallgrímskirkja made Kristy feel safe
All those bars on the windows in Hallgrímskirkja made Kristy feel safe

We drove back towards downtown and parked again in the metered parking along the streets. It seems like lots of people get tickets for ignoring the meters here, because they are so far away from the cars. You have to print a ticket and put it in your windshield, or the meter maids will leave you a present. Earlier in the day we’d had to figure out how to get the machines to give us instructions in English, but once we could read it, we had it all figured out. The meters were perhaps 5 cars away from our parking space, easily, so I can see how tourists would be confused, especially since there aren’t any signs indicating that you need to pay to park.

With our POS safely stowed, we walked back to Hallgrímskirkja and bought our tickets to the top. No one really seemed interested that we had them, though. No one even asked as we got on the elevator and rode it up to the stairs that led the rest of the way up. You can’t take the stairs from the bottom, apparently.

The featured image at the very top of the page is the view from one side of the upper level of the church. It’s a pretty spectacular view of the city, and you can see out on all four sides. I think it was worth the ticket price to see the city like that. It looks very colorful from above.

The US Embassy, in case something goes terribly wrong
The US Embassy, in case something goes terribly wrong

Our meter didn’t expire until 10pm (which is still an hour from now, as I type this), so we had plenty of time left to kill. We walked around the city for another couple of hours, checking out little shops and taking photos of the sights. We even found the US Embassy by accident. I wouldn’t have noticed it at all if it hadn’t been for the American flag waving out front. It almost looks like a prison.

We started to drag at around 5pm, and Mark mentioned that he’d had a very nice vegan carrot cake with Lauren and some other folks from his conference before I’d come to Iceland, so we walked back across town to the cafe where he’d found it and sat for a while with tea and coffee an cake. Mark had more vegan carrot cake with his coffee, but I went with chocolate cake and a lemongrass and ginger tea. The chocolate cake was heavenly. I think after Mark tried it, he suffered from a terrible bout of cake envy. Don’t get me wrong- the carrot was good, but the chocolate was perfect.

Delicious and cinnamon-y chocolate cake
Delicious and cinnamon-y chocolate cake

Full of cake and tired of walking, we wandered back to our car and drove the 40 or so minutes down to our night’s lodgings in Reykjanesbær, which like I mentioned, is very close to the airport. We won’t have far to go at all in the morning when we need to leave, and we won’t have to figure out how to get there without a car now that we’ve rented for another day.

Our guest lodge has a resident long-haired chihuahua, and the owner called him her youngest son, at 12 years old. He’s adorable and very sweet. He followed us everywhere while we hauled our bags inside. We wouldn’t let us pet him, but he would lick our fingers and hands when we held them out to him. He’s so small, I was constantly worried about stepping on him. I tried to know where he was at all times.If I were that small, I’d be nervous too. I discovered by accident that if you set your hand on the floor, we will basically go to town licking your entire forearm, so I made a new friend. He even came in to hang out in our room while we tried to get in the door. We had to shoo him out to shut the door, and I felt like a monster for making him go back to his mistress.

Our hotel is adorable, and I would definitely recommend it to others. It is called Bergás Guesthouse, and it is a family business in the industrial area of Reykjanesbær. It was somewhat confusing to find, since we didn’t realize it would be surrounded by warehouses, but since this area was almost certainly once attached to the military base that the airport is on, it seems logical that many of the buildings would be old and repurposed. This one has been totally revamped into a very modern guest lodging, and the staff is great, especially the tiniest member.

Kristy's tiny new friend at our hotel
Kristy’s tiny new friend at our hotel

With a heavy heart, I abandoned my tiny friend again when he met us in the hallway and we drove into the town here to buy some dinner and fill our rental with gas. We weren’t too hungry, since we had cake not too long before, so we bought some croissants, cheese, tomatoes, and juices and had them with some grapes we’d purchased earlier in the week that we needed to finish. We also bought our final juice and skyr for tomorrow morning. I’m glad we get to have it one more time.

We made it back to the hotel for dinner at around 7pm, and we’ve still got some repacking to do before we are ready for the airport tomorrow. We’re getting up at 5 and we need to be over there by 6:30am, so I’m not too worried about the timing. Once we are all packed tonight, getting ready in the morning won’t take any time at all.

Our light hotel dinner, complete with juices
Our light hotel dinner, complete with juices

Today is our last official day in Iceland, and I am really going to miss it. We had a lot of fun today, and tomorrow promises to be long and dreary. I’m not looking forward to hanging out in JFK Airport for 8 hours, waiting for our 3-hour flight back to DFW. Sometimes flight scheduling is really a drag.

– Trip Total :  5,490 miles

2 thoughts on “Iceland Trip: Day Eight

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