4am on a Thurday morning and the alarm went off. Normally I would groan, reset my alarm for a more reasonable hour and go back to sleep. Not this Thursday though. This Thursday we were heading to Iceland!
Bags packed, car loaded and up the M1 we went towards Luton airport. I managed to find a pretty good deal for airport parking (Airparks) so dropped off the car and was whisked away by bus to the airport.
When I fly I have a bit of a routine…do you? I normally get a McD's breakfast then head to the bar for a glass or two of wine. Not usually things that go together but I'm scared of flying (even though there are a lot of things I enjoy about being on a plane like being able to see the scenery as you take off, the trays of food and the films) and it all helps. This time was different though. No stop at the bar because we were picking up a rental car at the other end of the flight and also because rather than the previous solo flights, I had Mr Jones with me.
After a bit of a teary take off, a lot of staring out of the window and almost three hours later I spied something pretty amazing out of the window. See that below? That is the south east part of Iceland which is home to Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Iceland but also the biggest in Europe! What a view to welcome us to the country!
The plane followed the coast around to the south west corner of the island where we started descending towards Keflavik. I spy some pretty brilliant looking geographical features….
Keflavik ariport is small but very well designed and quite stunning. It took no time at all to go through passport control and take a quick wander to the edge of the car park to the Geysir car rental office to pick up our car (marked with a fly over from a couple of fighter jets!). I'll just mention now that the blast of cold air and wind when we walked out of the airport was, well, quite refreshing…very cold actually…this will be a bit of a theme for a lot of our visit.
My initital worries of forgetting to drive on the right side of the road quickly diminished (a common chant while driving by me and Mr Jones was "right, right, right, right!) and although the main road (Route 41) was quite narrow compared to English and American roads I've travelled on, there was little traffic and so I was able to admire the absolutely stunning countryside (and the abundance of Subways - I still don't know why they are so popular in Reykjavik!).
Once we reached Reykjavik we quickly found our hotel but as there was no parking specifically for the hotel we had to drive around a little to find a space. From what I understand there are different parking zones in the city with different tariffs which are displayed by the ticket machine. We parked a couple of blocks from the hotel and parking from about 12pm - 9.30 the following morning was ridiculously cheap at around £5!
Check in at the hotel was at 2pm so we dropped off our bags then hit the streets. The hotel was a block away from the main shopping street, Laugavegur, which is host to a number of restaurants, bars and shops. It was a little chilly but the wind was absolutely freezing. I gave up any hope of trying to look like I'd not been dragged backwards through a hedge and made a mental note to always smother on plenty of moisturiser before leaving the hotel!
I really loved how some of the buildings still had corrugated iron on the outsides, often in bright colours, and some were very minimalist and modern. Somehow they both fit together perfectly.
We stopped off for lunch at the Chuck Norris Grill - not the biggest menu but if you want an excellent burger, delicious fries and every single sort of hot sauce you could imagine, bingo!
We tried to walk off our burgers by taking a stroll up to the cathedral and down past the Parliament House.
Still feeling stuffed and a little tired from the wind we headed back to our hotel for a much needed nap.
Mr Jones napped a little longer than I did so I took a little walk to the end of the road just to take in the beauty of the landscape within view of the city. If you walk along most roads in Reykjavik going northwest, when you reach an intersection you will get an amazing view framed with some pretty lovely buildings…
I discovered this in the hotel - a board full of little cards with restaurant, activities and shopping suggestions, often with a discount available if you take the card with you.
Feeling refreshed and ready to face the wind again we wandered the streets to find somewhere we fancied for dinner. We had a browse down Laugavegur, Skólavörðustígur (a great street for art!) and then back down to the centre of town.
We almost ended up in the harbour area but the wind forced us back and we spied Grillhúsið - Grill House! We ended up covered in BBQ sauce from the chicken wings we had for a starter then Mr Jones devoured his steak (the sauce was a-ma-zing!) and I did my best to get through the tender and tasty lamb skewers I ordered that came with salad and a baked potato. Side note - the butter in Iceland is absolutely incredible…
Feeling full (and cold) again, we walked back up to our hotel in what felt like complete daylight (it didn't really ever get completely dark) to re-charge ourselves for the next day of adventures!
Day 2: The Golden Circle
Day 3 (pt 1): The Blue Lagoon
Day 3 (pt 2): Exploring Reykjavik