When we rented our car, our initial plan was to spend two days exploring outside of Reykjavik. But, after doing the Golden Circle the first day, we realized the kids were getting stretched pretty thin, and decided to keep thing closer to home.
First up, after sleeping in (we are still finding it hard to get moving and out the door before noon), we decided to finally fulfill Stella's dreaming of going up in Hallgrimskirkja's church tower. So, after a brief, tight elevator ride, we found ourselves confronted with a stunning, post-card perfect view...
Actually, you'll find pretty much this exact image on a number of postcards around town.
And my attempted to mix it up a little. Holding the camera out the window gives a better sense of the height and the church's striking shadow.
After a fairly quick look around, Stella forgot that she had been pleading the last couple of days to go up in the tower, deemed it "too cold" and hurried us back down stairs.
Since we hadn't had a chance to try traditional Icelandic cuisine yet, and since it was Mother's Day, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at Café Loki directly across the street from Hallgrimskirkja. While the kids went with crepes, Sarah went with a tasty Icelandic soup and lamb pate on rye, I opted for the "Braveheart Platter"...
The Braveheart Platter: (Starting at 12 o'ckock and going clockwise) Dried fish. Buttered rye bread and flat bread. Fermented shark. And, Brennivin, a shot of Icelandic alcohol.
So, how was the fermented shark?
"Stinky!" According to the Stella smell test.
Well, let's just say it reminded me of a stinky French cheese... if that cheese was made of fish... and soaked in ammonia. That said, I'd also go with "not as bad as I expected." But, I expected pretty horrid.
Oh, and Happy Mother's Day, honey!!
After lunch, we decided we needed to put our car to some sort of use... even if it wasn't as ambitious as we'd initially planned. So, we drove to the next neighborhood over to try out their public pools. Actually, we went to this pool specifically because it was rumored to be the best in town, and it didn't disappoint. With a large wading pool, a whole slew of hot tubs of varying temperatures, a lap pool, water slides and other varied games and services it was definitely a step up from our neighborhood's pool.
And, of course, we failed to take a picture of any of it.
Returning home, our evening quickly took a turn for the frustrating. The car rental company was scheduled to pick up our car at 6pm... but by the time 8pm rolled around, they still hadn't shone up. Meanwhile, dinner plans with our friend, Jody, who is also in Iceland, writing a cook book, fell through. So, at about 8:30, after firing off a terse email to the car company, with two hungry and over-tired kids in tow, we set off to find dinner... only to discover that our ATM card wasn't letting us withdraw money.
So, after skipping our first dinner option #1, because we realized it was too fancy for Team Meltdown, we settled on the more modest Paris Café (possibly in prep for our coming switch of locales)... where are least Sarah was able to get a nice lobster pasta dish for her Mother's Day dinner.
Our last full day in Reykjavik was also Sarah's Birthday and -knowing we had a big travel day ahead of us the next day- we decided to just continue with our layback exploration of the city. First, after taking forever to get moving again, we decided to try an Asian Noodle place we'd walked by a couple of times just for the novelty of having Asian food on pretty much the farthest point from Asian on the planet... and because it smelled good. But let's just say that, while it wasn't bad, Seattle's pho restaurants need not worry.
Then, for Sarah's Birthday gift, we went to an Icelandic wool knitting co-op to let her pick out a sweater. Sarah had actually spent the last couple of days watching to make sure Icelanders actually wore Icelandic wool sweaters, but once we were sure they did, she picked out a nice blue sweater...
...which we didn't take of picture of.
But, we did take a picture of the mittens Stella got!
Then, after a cookie break for the kids, we headed down to a park by the lake for some playtime in the sun. After trying out the parks trampoline, and exploring the nearby "fairy woods," we started our wander home, staying ahead of some ominous clouds. Honestly, some of our best times here have just been wandering. Often, it involves carrying the kids (Otto in particular is pretty much suction cupped to Sarah), but the streets and neighborhoods of Reykjavik are charming, and whether we are pointing out cafe's and curious buildings or organizing games of "find the fairies" or "kitty safari," we generally enjoyed it.
A typical walk in Reykjavik. Notice this location of the sun. That photo was taken at about 8pm. Still a couple hours till sunset.
Poor Sarah! More often than not, this is how she has to get around these days. With Otto attached to her. Meanwhile, Otto is pointing out a statue. For reasons known only to him, Otto really, really likes statues.
Back at the apartment, we grabbed our swim gear for one final run to the neighborhood pool.... which Sarah actually managed to sneak a picture of...
Visually unimpressive, I know. But, the kids love playing in the pool, and the naturally heated hot tubs (through the door in the back) were heaven to Sarah and I after carrying kids all day.
For our last hurrah, and to celebrate Sarah's Birthday, we met up with our friend Jody at KEX Hostel. Now, Generally speaking, if someone were to suggest meeting at a hostel for dinner and drinks, I wouldn't have been too excited... but KEX was definitely a hostel of a different color: Good craft beer. Tasty, creative food. A fantastic space. And, with a huge wall of magnet letters to distract the kids, we could actually relax and talk. As I observed while sitting down, "where were hostels like this back in our cheap hostel days?"
In fact, the whole evening had that charmed feeling where things just sort of came together. The food was good. The company was good (both catching up with Jody, and meeting several of her Icelandic friends). The kids enjoyed themselves. And, we even got to taste test some artisanal chocolates one of Jody's friend was preparing for market.
It was, simply put, the perfect sunset for our time in Reykjavik. Though the sun never seemed to truly set in that town.
Sarah and a shy Stella with our friend Jody. Long time readers may remember Jody from our Round the World Trip. A writer of cook books, Jody created a special recipe to commemorate each continent we visited.
The next morning, we began a new adventure, awaking before 4am to finish packing, bundle up some sleepy kids and head to Paris. But, that's a story for another blog entry.
We do not travel light.