Monday, September 17, 2018

Iceland - Days 5 + 6

On Saturday morning, we headed out for an Icelandic horseback riding experience with Íslenski Hesturinn. It was so amazing. We learned so much about the horses, most notably the fact that they genetically have two extra gaits - the tölt and the pace. Most horses only have three - walk, trot, canter. Maybe it's because I used to ride in high school, but this was super fascinating to me. You can watch this video to see what they look like. Brian can now check off horseback riding as a thing he's done!
After getting warmed back up with hot baths and showers, we headed back into the rain for some lunch at Supa (veggie and vegan soups served with the most delicious bread). I loved the painting on the front of their building and the little window nook with a table for one. I had the Malaysian soup - sweet potato, peanuts, tomatoes, onions, and ginger - it was so tasty!
After exploring the city on foot, we got ready and headed back out for dinner at the Fish Market. I started off with this incredibly tasty cocktail called the Dumbo which contained elephant sloe gin, yellow chartreuse, rose hip and lemon.
The amuse bouche was a delectable wonton with tuna crudo (served on a big rock). 
And then we moved on to the best veggie tempura I have ever eaten - perfectly salted and crispy - served with wasabi peas, wakame and jalapeno dressing.
We had sashimi (salmon, tuna, scallop, arctic char, ocean perch and sweet shrimp) that they poured liquid nitrogen into to keep chilled while we ate and the volcano langoustine maki - langoustine tartar with sesame oil, 7 spice and chili on top of maki roll with salmon and cucumber. Everything was so delicious!
On our last day, we woke up late and had breakfast before packing up. We walked around the city to see the Harpa (their performing arts hall) and the Sun Voyager. Afterwards, we headed to Hverfisgata for the most amazing pizza and cocktails. I had the "Who let the gin out?" which was divine - made from gin, tangerine shrub, lemon, carrots & honey, topped with a Fernet and lemon foam. Just incredible.
While this picture definitely doesn't do it justice, the pizza was so amazing - garlic oil, mozzarella, mushrooms, parmesan, and herbs. And the salad we had, so good - it had grass salad dressing, yum! We ate every smell!
Before heading to the airport, we stopped at Kaffibrennslan for coffees and traditional Icelandic donuts - the kleinur and the love ball (which is basically the same thing as the kleinur but with a few raisins tossed in). They were very dense and slightly sweet. Not my favorite but we had to try them out, obviously.

The trip was amazing and I would highly recommend heading to Iceland as soon as you get the chance. And, it looks like the direct flight from KC to Reykjavik might be sticking around for a little while, because maybe I was looking to book a return in May 2019, you know, checking for a friend. Take care and safe travels out there friends!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Iceland - Day 4 - Dinner Edition

We started off dinner at Nostra with a cocktail (Brian) and a glass of sparkling rosé (me).
The meal was six courses, although it was more with the amuse bouche (cheese and chives wrapped in radish), the tiny focaccia rolls (not pictured), and the tapioca and seaweed crisps (hiding out of focus in the background). The courses were paired with delicious wines from New Zealand's St. Clair Family Estate (now we definitely have to go back to visit the South island!).
The first course was tiny scallops in a cream sauce with basil oil (also, I am recalling most of this from memory as there was no written menu, so pardon my brevity or incorrectness, in case the restaurant is peeking here). I have never liked scallops, however, these were raw and delicate and I loved them.
The second course was raw shrimp and cod liver wrapped in radish, 
The third course was arctic char with accompaniments.
The fourth course was a barbecued carrot with pistachios.
The fifth (and main) course was torched salmon with chive oil and hazelnut and grilled romaine salad. The salad was particularly amazing.
The sixth (and final) course was a jasmine poached pear with white chocolate sorbet and verbena oil. Very delicious! Hope you're not too hungry now - see you real soon for the concluding weekend's recap.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Iceland - Day 4

We left our skylight shade open when we went to bed and in the middle of the night I thought I saw the sky moving. We got up and got dressed (twice actually) and headed outside to stare up at the Northern Lights. They were more white than colorful but they were still beautiful, dancing across the sky in the freezing cold. We woke up and headed down to breakfast. I thought the vintage tablecloths were so pretty and there was a different one on every table.
Sheep dot every landscape in Iceland. As the sun came up and we headed off to our next adventure, I had to jump out and take a photo of how they snuggle up to each other to stay warm. I also love how mischievous they are, often spotted outside the fences intended to hold them in.
We drove out almost to the end of the peninsula to hike down into Vatnshellier Cave, which is an 8,000 year old lava tube and the volcano behind me, Snaefellsjökull, is the starting point of Journey to the Center of the Earth. I was fully prepared with my helmet and a flashlight.
The cave has no lights inside, so our only source of light was our flashlights. The guide had a large light that could illuminate the rock formations for us to see, although not really enough to produce high-quality photos. This staircase was our last decent into the lowest chamber of the lava tube. At 11.5 meters, it had my knees knocking a little bit on the way down (still scared of heights, despite my recent ropes course victory) but I survived. The cave was super cool to explore.
Don't worry, here was our waterfall stop of the day - Kirkjufellsfoss. It was a little cold and cloudy, but we managed a quick hike around the falls for photos from every angle. I just can't get enough!
We stopped at a little cafe for lunch at Hotel Rjúkandi and I had this amazing lox and avocado sandwich on a toasted sesame bagel - yummy!
After lunch we had a little dessert - I had a dark chocolate cookie and Brian had a local concoction called Snaefell (after the volcano) of espresso, sweetened condensed milk, foam and cinnamon. I'm hoping to convince our local coffee shop at home to give it a try on their menu this winter.
We drove the rest of the way to Reykjavik, checked into our hotel (see my IG for photos!), and took a little walk to see the famed church Hallgrímskirkja. We didn't go inside yet, maybe tomorrow, but enjoyed the grounds and the sun.

Our dinner experience was so incredible, I am going to give it its own post, if that's okay with you! Coming to you tomorrow...

Friday, September 14, 2018

Iceland - Day 3

Before heading for our second overnight destination, we stopped at a few places along the way. Right around the corner from our hotel was the Reynisfjara Beach (black sand) and Hálsanefshellir Cave, which had more amazing basalt (see last post for explanation of that). I climbed up for a photo.
The next stop was Geysir, which is a bit touristy but still cool to see (I try to avoid the tour bus destinations but it's a small island - roughly the size of Kentucky). We were hiking around a little bit and I just happened to turn around and catch a geyser going off. Also, fun fact - Geysir is most well-known for having lent its name to geysers all around the world.
Not to be outdone by the waterfall sightings of the previous two days, Gulfoss did not disappoint (although I am not sure I agree with one website which claims that it rivals Niagara Falls). Also, the mist at this point was a bit thick, hence the slightly out of focus shot, but you can see a rainbow!
There was an awesome trail that went up and into the middle of the action - this is the back of the lower falls.
We drove quite awhile to get to Hótel Búðir which is situated on a lava field on the westernmost tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. This is the dining room where we had our best meal in Iceland so far.
I had the Sloe Black Death cocktail - Brennivin | Sloe Blueberry Gin | Thyme - which sounded quite bizarre when I ordered it, "I'll have the slow black death, please."
I also had the oven baked trout with two kinds of potatoes, fried kale in garlic butter, broccolini, and edible flowers. So yummy!
We shared the chocolate brownie for dessert - it was divine.
The view through the window of our room. We went to bed with our name on the Northern Lights wake up call list - fingers crossed that we'll have exciting tales to tell tomorrow!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Iceland - Day 2

After breakfast, we drove two and a half hours to Glacier Lagoon (aka Jökulsárlón, which I don't know how to say). I've always wanted to see glaciers and icebergs (Antarctica has been on my bucket list forever), and this destination did not disappoint. 
We took the amphibian boat tour to get a closer look at some of the icebergs in the lake, including this black zebra one (named for its black stripes where volcanic ash had layered into the ice). We learned that the glacier these icebergs have broken off of - Breiðamerkurjökull - has been receding 200 meters a year for the last 20 years, and last year it receded 600 meters. This is due to a variety of factors including sun, acid rain, increased salinity of the water, and higher temperatures. It's hard to imagine them disappearing altogether.
They passed around a chunk of 1,000 year old ice and we got to taste little pieces of it - it tasted like ice!
At the end of the lake, the smaller chunks of ice that had broken off were headed out to the sea. The water wasn't very deep though, so pieces got stuck along the way. The water was moving very fast and it was fun to watch things bob along and crash into other ice. (See my IG for a video of a round iceberg in action.)
Beyond the bridge was a beach they called "Black Diamond Beach" because of the black sand and the glittering chunks of ice that came ashore. I particularly liked these two beauties that looked like sculptures to me.
We grabbed a little lunch and then hiked out behind the restaurant to see the Svínafellsjökull Glacier. I know it might just seem like we've been chasing ice around all day, but we have and it's amazing!! All the white framed between the two mountains is thousand (plus) year old ice.
Svartifoss was well worth the 5 mile round trip hike. Located in Europe's third largest National Park - Vatnajökull National Park - which covers 13% of Iceland, this waterfall was super impressive, surrounded by hexagonal basalt columns, which were created when lava cooled very slowly and the molten rock could crystallize.
Our last stop of the day, okay third to last, was Fjaðrárgljúfur, a canyon with a river/stream running through it. It was absolutely beautiful but the time of day and the position of the sun made it a little challenging to capture - this was my best attempt.
This church is right behind the place we're staying, and if you've ever purchased the latest edition of Frommer's Iceland guide, you've seen it on the cover. We barely made it back in time before the sun went behind a mountain, and a crew was working on the right side of the church with a big ugly lift, so I was pretty happy with capturing this baby so well in all her glory.
We finished off our day with dinner at Smiðjan Brugghús. It was so good - the Google reviews did not lie! I had their amazing vegan burger - complete with vegan cheese - it was gone in minutes. I also had a yummy gose beer, or two. We even met up with Brian's cousins who happened to be in Iceland at the same time as us. It's a very small world! Thanks for stopping by - more adventures await tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Iceland - Day 1

When your flight lands at 4:30am, you pick up a rental car in the dark and you start driving in a place where you struggle to pronounce anything on the map - it's a big victory to have found a bakery for breakfast. In this case, the chocolate croissant felt like a trophy.
Our day consisted of finding spots I had marked on a Google map - some of them were easier to find that others. First up was Seljalandsfoss, which you can hike all the way around (see the trail behind it?). It was in the high 40's (F) and pretty washed out on one side, so we just hiked up to both of the sides and took some photos underneath.
Right next to that waterfall was this waterfall. So many waterfalls and I never get tired of them.
Next up was a hike into the Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool. The views were amazing.
Built with three concrete sides and one side mountain, I found this one sight not to miss. At 25 meters long, this pool is full of thermal waters brought in from a small PVC pipe. 
The next waterfall was even bigger than the last ones! Skógafoss is on the Skógá River in the south of Iceland and offers a hike up beside it - almost as many stairs as the Great Wall (okay, maybe not that many). It's hard to tell, since I managed to take this with no tourists in it, but it's 60 meters tall and 25 meters wide. 
Last up on our tour of beauty for the day was Dyrhólaey (which was behind me when I took this picture, but I thought this side of the beach was nice too). The black sand and the river meeting the sea was amazing.
If you look way out, you can see the arches in the rock, which is the actual formation named in the caption above. It was so windy and cold that we took some photos from afar and didn't hike in too much. It was still pretty to see.
We checked into our cabin by the sea at Icelandair Hotel Vik. While I would describe it as very modest, it was clean and close to the water. We explored the town a little bit, had coffees, dinner at the hotel and crashed by 8:30pm. A pretty wild, but much deserved early night! Thanks for stopping by!