Besides the restrooms, probably the most interesting part of travel is the food. When we went to France, I was not particularly impressed with the food. I did have the most amazing chicken I had ever had but then found out it was actually rabbit. (What is with me and the rabbit in international travel?) We always had our go-to order of frites (French fries) and wine. It was great for a snack and we always knew it would be yummy. But lets talk about Iceland.
The hotel we were staying at provided us with breakfast. I can’t rave about it. There were some, what I assume were traditional, foods in the spread. Some sort of fish, meats, cheese, and a fruit plate. Oatmeal, scrambled eggs and bacon were provided on the other end of the counter. That’s where I lined up. Every morning I got either scrambled or hard boiled eggs and a bowl full of bacon. This was washed down with the little tiny cups of coffee and orange juice they gave us. (See Adventures in Iceland) I guess it was your basic continental breakfast.
10. Serve Yourself With A Smile. Interesting thing about Iceland, most of these places are a serve yourself sort of thing. We dined at some local spot one night. They primarily served fish and so I had a very delicious salad and a bowl of tomato soup. At this particular restaurant (which I can’t remember the name. Poo. It was full of locals) they gave our party of 8, two menus. The menu was also written on a huge chalk board at the front but it was all in Icelander. So we took turns checking out our menu and then figured out that one has to go to the front counter to order their food. This was not a diner type place either. It’s just how they do things there. There were shot glasses and pitchers of water near the front as well, so you could serve yourself. They do bring the food out to you though. It was the same at the bars. We’d fill up a booth at the pub and sit and wait for service but no one would come. Finally, one of our Men would belly up to the bar and order a round for us. Then they’d wait there to be served and carry the drinks back to our table.
“I don’t know about this,” Caren’s Man jokingly whined. “Wine just tastes better when someone else serves it to me.”
It’s cool though because, like France, you don’t tip in Iceland. There are places that do wait on you though.
11. Slippbarin. Here’s a little more Icelander for you, “barin.” I gathered that barin means bar. Our favorite place to dine and drink in Iceland is Slippbarin in the Marina Hotel. The ladies and I stayed at Marina our first visit to Reykjavik. If you read Get Thee To Iceland you will get a full account of the fabulous Slippbarin and her Mistress of Debauchery, Alba. We brought our crew there one night for dinner and everyone loved what they were served. Several ordered a fish soup that was raved about. I got my “usual” at Slipp and that’s flat bread topped with mixed greens, goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, pears, and grapefruit. There’s other stuff but I can’t recall that part. I only remember the insanely yummy goodness of it! My Man is still talking about the cod he ordered. We also ordered a superb appetizer that I, again, can’t remember the name of but that we called The Skillet O’ Cheese. It was just that. A hot skillet full of melted cheese and slices of toasted bread. You just can’t go wrong with melted cheese. If you go and ask for a skillet of cheese they will know what you mean.
The drinks at Slippbarin are very unique. They have your standard beer and wine but they have a genius of a mixologist that makes all kinds of crazy concoctions. I highly recommend the Basil Gimlet, Winter Sour (when in season) and Cookies and Cream. The Cookies and Cream is served with a cookie and is a lovely way to “close the stomach” after a meal.
The other thing one should know about Slippbarin is that it is pricey. Be prepared to spend around $100 a person if you are ordering appetizers, drinks and a meal. One plate runs about $30. Drinks are typically over $10. It is well worth every krona. You can find Marina Hotel and Slippbarin in the harbor of Reykjavik. Just walk towards the boats. Also note, water was served in actual drinking glasses here. Also, we came back another night because Slippbarin is tops in atmosphere, food, drink, snyrtngars and…AND you get the added bonus of meeting and hanging out with Alba. You can’t beat Alba’s stories. You just can’t. If you go, it will do you know good to drop my name with Alba but she may remember that Caren keeps her business card in her laundry room. She thought that was a hoot!
Our third day there was our Road Trip Day! As I mentioned in Adventures in Iceland, we found that it was cheaper to rent a van than to take a guided tour. Our original plan to drive to Vik was thwarted due to closed roads due to high winds.
12. Wind. The wind is an issue. If the ocean “breeze” would just cool it the place would not be so darn miserably cold! One night we walked back from Slippbarin to our hotel (4 or 5 blocks) in hurricane force winds. This is no exaggeration. It was difficult to take even one step forward and boy did it sober us up! Ha! We just put our heads down and charged our way “home.” I wanted to take a picture but I was afraid I would not be able to hold my phone.
“HOLD ON TO LU-SEAL!!!” someone yelled. With one hand on Lu and the other on My Man’s back we forged on. No walk was more difficult or more fun! As the wind raged, we howled with laughter. Once we got back to our hotel, we agreed to meet at the bar upstairs, in our jammies. From up there we could see the waves crashing over the harbor and over cars. We ourselves felt like rubber having just been essentially hammered by the wind. Again, please refer to the #1 rule of international travel. Some would’ve found the experience to be awful. My friends can’t stop talking about the best walk home ever!
I digress. Trip to Vik was cancelled but Hobbs’ Man had an alternate plan! I was told to meet in the lobby at 8 a.m. That is NOT vacation rise people! I was not happy. I was even more unhappy when I sat down with my bowl of bacon and shot of coffee to a table full of men. The other ladies were still slumbering because we did not need to be in the lobby until 8:30. I know its just 30 minutes but that’s like hitting the snooze button 6 times. Man! Anywhoo. This day was already not going too great for me. The guys walked to the rental place and met us all at the appointed time. Somehow I ended up in the very back of the van, sandwiched between My Man and Caren. The car had not even moved and I was feeling nauseous. I couldn’t see out the front window because Caren’s Man was sitting directly in front of me. He’s the tallest of the group so….that’s perfect. We headed out of the city toward the vastly spread lava plains of Iceland. For some reason leaving the city means going through a hundred roundabouts. Caren and I both struggled to keep the bacon bowls in our bellies. We made pleads for more gentle roundabouting but we were so…far…back… The good thing is one is quickly out of the city and into the barren wilderness in only about 20 minutes.
The scenery is so beautiful! It appears that it’s snow covered but if you get out and walk on it you’ll find you’re walking on solid ice. As we drove down one particularly vacant road we came upon another white rental van. It was parked off on the side of the road and had been there long enough to have no ice underneath it. We laughed at the possible scenarios that had placed this car abandoned on the side of the road in a tundra waste land.
“Pull over. We should probably check and make sure there’s no one dead in it or something, eh,” Alicia’s Man suggested. Alicia and her man are new to our group. They were recently added to us from Canada. Alicia’s Man is a paramedic and tends to always be in Search and Rescue mode. So Alicia and Caren’s Men got out.The abandoned van was unlocked and completely empty.
“Are there any provisions we can take from it?” I asked.
“Oh, I brought granola bars, eh,” Alicia said. (She didn’t really say “eh” but I’ve kind of decided that’s how it will be from here on out.)
“Granola bars?! If we get stranded out here I’m gonna need more than freakin’ granola bars.”
This began a whole discussion of which of our party we would eat first. I voted for Caren’s Man because he’s the biggest and the whiniest.
“Nah. He’ll be too stringy, eh,” Alicia said.
“Why do you think he’ll be stringy?” I asked.
“Because he exercises.”
“Everyone here exercises,” I reasoned.
“Not you, eh,” she laughed with a hungry look in her eye.
“I…do to exercise. Sporadically. I dance. Sort of. I’m too small. Caren’s Man would last us for days, possibly weeks!”
Then there was discussion on whether or not we had enough gas.
“I checked the gauge and I think we’re full,” My Man said.
“What do you mean, you THINK we’re full?” I asked.
“Well, we’re either completely empty or completely full. It’s not a regular gas gauge.”
And yet we pressed on. Hobbs’ Man continued to drive until we arrived at Pingvellir National Park.
13. It’s actually pronounced Thingvellir and it doesn’t start with a “p” but with some funky letter that looks like a “p.” There were scads of tour buses in the parking lot so we knew we had come to a good point of interest! Thingvellir is one of two places in the world where you can see tectonic plates drifting! I don’t know what that means really but…you don’t want to miss it!
As soon as we got out of the car, the cursed wind blew volcano sand into my eye. I jumped back into the van to rinse my contact and eye with saline. Everyone else had already spilled out and were starting to explore. As I rinsed my contact someone closed the van door. There was a “chick chick” sound that had the finality of a shotgun being cocked. My head came up and I blinked as the saline overflowed from my eyes. I looked around and watched as Hobbs’ Man walked away. Everyone was gone. They’d all left me. Probably, because as soon as they got outside they headed for the information center for shelter. I finished administering first aid to my eye and then headed out to find my party. Problem was, the doors were locked. I mean, seriously, locked. I tried to lift the manual locks but nothing happened.
Well, I’m sure they won’t be long. And I’m warm. So far.
After a few minutes Hobbs showed up at the van. She tried to open the door.
“Hey! Unlock the door!” she hollered to me.
“I can’t,” I yelled back.
“What do you mean you can’t?! Just unlock the door!” Hobbs continued to yell at me through the van window as her hair was whipped by the wind. “Let me in there! I’m being sandblasted out here by volcano dust!”
I tried to climb over the seats to reach the electric locks but they did not work either.
“I can’t unlock it! Your Man locked me in here with the car keys…thing!” I shouted back to her.
“Oh my God! My Man has driven us to The Valley Of Ten Thousand Deaths!! It’s freezing out here and the wind is tearing my flesh off!!!”
Hobbs pounded the windows and, for her sake, I kept trying to get a door unlocked. And then, “chick chick.” The doors to the back of the van open and Alicia is standing there.
“How did you do that?!” I asked as if she’d parted the Red Sea.
“Do…what…eh?” she asked.
“Open the door?”
“Oh Hobbs’ Man gave me the keys.”
I was saved! And so was Hobbs! She got into the van to retrieve whatever it was she needed. I’m guessing money because they charge 200 kronur to squirt the snyrt at this stop. I got out to see what the visitor center had to offer but then everyone was ready to go and we got back in the car. Then everyone had to test the door locks because no one could believe that you could not unlock the van from the inside.
Hobbs’ Man apologized. “I didn’t see anyone around, so I locked it.”
“You couldn’t SEE her?!” Hobbs challenged.
“No! She’s too little. I guess she was down behind the seat!”
When I retell this story the number one question is, “Did Your Man not wonder where you were? Did your friends not notice you missing?” Indeed, friends, I pose the same questions to you. I was unseen and unmissed. They will eat me first.
Our trip continued. We all had things we hoped to see. Alicia was so hoping to see a waterfall or two. Hobbs had her hopes on a geyser or whatever the source of the steam coming from the ground was. I dreamed of Icelandic horses!
14. Icelandic horses are very unique to their country. Their legs are shorter than our horses and their hair is long and thick. They do not like it when you refer to their horses as pony’s but….they do look like My Little Pony. The Icelandic horse is known for having 2 additional gaits that no other horse in the world has. One gait is called the tolt which is speedy but is so smooth, the rider feels as if he is gliding. I can’t remember the other gait but I’m sure some quick search on Google could tell us. I so wanted to ride one but the weather was not good for it.
“OO! Steam!” Hobbs shouted as she saw steam rising up on the horizon. “Head towards the steam!” she commanded.
We watched as several tour buses turned in the direction of the steam but Hobbs’ Man kept us on our road to the End Of The Earth.
“Horses!” Caren and I shouted from the back, back seat. On the side of the road were quaint farms with the mythical looking horses bucking and playing. The crazy Iceland wind blowing through their manes. The van rolled on. Picture op lost. Also, on the roadside you’d sometimes see these little grass mounds with a door in it. They looked like Hobbit homes and I so wished to get a picture of one of them!
15. Elves and Trolls are real. A large part of the population believes in elves and trolls. The Elves are called Huldufolk, which means hidden people. A lot of construction has been halted or at least rerouted to go around the little mounds of rock that they are thought to dwell in. There have been reports of equipment breaking and falling apart, elves being the suspects. So they find it cheaper to build around them. Alba told us this story and I’ve also found the same tale told on Wikipedia. So…it’s true. They’ll even build little churches in the hopes of converting them to Christianity, because Jesus died for elves too. There were protesters who came out when they were building the airport because they were afraid it would endanger the elves.
The Trolls are said to be big enough to swallow a whole man. Says Alba. I think she’s messing with me. You will see large rocks and those are said to be trolls who turned to stone at sunrise. Those bad boys have got to be indoors before the sun comes up.
As Hobbs’ Man drove us through the country side, we saw distant volcanoes. The terrain would go from being sort of smooth volcanic rock to a much more jagged rock that Hobbs said was formed from lava bombs. Lava bombs reminded us that we would eventually need the snyrtngar and where would the nearest town be? The answer was a little town called Somethingfoss. I’m sorry I don’t remember the name. It’s hard to see the road signs from the middle of the third row when you’re only 5 feet tall. (Though Hobbs says I’m 2′ 5″, I happen to know that she is wrong.) We knew foss meant falls and so we were hopeful to see waterfalls there but Hobbs’ Man said it was a shitty little town with shitty little waterfalls. It did not sound like he was going to stop.
“Horses!!” we squealed again. These ones were just a few feet from the roadside and had a big black volcanic boulder behind them. Probably a stone turned troll! The van…rolled on… We were sure we’d find the End Of The World Soon.
“Oh! Here’s Somethingfoss. Let’s stop here to eat,” someone suggested.
“Yes, and drink. My BAC is way too low for this kind of travel,” Hobbs groused.
“OK, just holler when you see a restaurant,” Hobbs’ Man said.
With in the first few kilometers of being in town there was a nice looking place and I recognized the word “restaurant” on the side.
“Restaurant!” I shouted. But the van rolled on.
“Restaurant!” we all shouted at various times.
Finally Hobbs’ Man stopped and parked the van here:
“No. I can barely stand the Mexican food in Colorado. I promise you that I’m NOT eating it in Iceland,” I declared.
We all fussed at Hobbs’ Man for not stopping way, way, way back there at the REAL restaurant. Now we had to walk back to it, in the wind. Why? I have no idea why we couldn’t just turn the car around but I’m thinking our driver was “done.” We crossed the street and someone asked inside a florist shop where we should dine. She referred us to an adorable café with a 9 rating snyrtngar! We were saved! Me especially, as the natives were not going with my plan to eat Caren’s Man first.
Our meals were delish and we got the A back in our BAC! Before leaving I asked the waiter about the waterfalls.
“Are there any near here?”
“No. There are two outside of town. You have to drive about 14 minutes up highway 1,” he tells me.
“Fourteen minutes? That’s it?! We’re on highway 1 now, yes?”
“Will there be a sign? How will we find them?”
“Oh they’re pretty big. You can see them from the side of the road.”
Shitty little waterfalls, eh?
I reported back to the group and we explained to Hobbs’ Man that we needed pictures of adorable little Icelandic Horses and of waterfalls. Poor thing. He got the message. Onward we drove and, just as the waiter said, 14 minutes up the road there was a turn off. There was also a big sign with a map on it.
“Oh a sign! A map!” many of us shouted.
And the van rolled on.
“Oh my lands! He will stop for nothing!” I laughed.
“HORSES!!!” Caren and I yelled. Wonders of wonders the van stopped. I jumped out of the car and fought wind and sandblasting to get to the fence line and snap a few shots of the frolicking little horses! It was a dream come true! Hobbs’ Man made it happen! Caren’s Man got way better pictures than me but here’s one of mine for you:
We made the stop quick. The weather just blows. It was really awful. We drove maybe 2 minutes from the horses and there they were. Huge waterfalls! Not Niagra falls huge but bigger than the ones you see in say, Hawaii. Bigger than any I’d seen in my life. I got as close as I could for a picture but I could hardly stand the freezing spray and the wind. Alicia and some of the others got much closer.
After that we headed back towards Reykjavik. Hobbs’ Man needed a nap and Hobbs’ needed a Gull. On our way back we saw steam and, Hobbs’ Man now beaten down and demoralized, pulled over. We got out to investigate and found one of the Hobbit holes I so wanted a picture of! Alicia’s Man investigated it and said it appeared to be an old changing room. We also found a small hot springs.
It was not hot but it must be noted that it was also not frozen. I’m guessing it was once hot and people would come, change in the Hobbit hole and take a soak. Near the spring was a hole of boiling mud. This place was alive with geo thermal activity!
That pretty much concluded our road trip. We ended that day at Slippbarin with Skillets o’ Cheese and Basil Gimlets. It sounds like it was rough but it was truly a hysterical day! We laughed non-stop and my abs were sore from the work out. You may wonder why I rarely mention My Man. While we all laughed and harassed, My Man spent most of the day rubbing his brow and shaking his head. We all raised a glass to Hobbs’ Man for all of his planning and for driving.
“To Hobbs’ Man!” I cheered, “You drove us to The End Of The Earth while we drove you crazy!”