A dormer room, an ominous church, a nice city, lots of walking and the killer bee Taste of Iceland at Sjavagrillid.
Here’s part two of our first day in Iceland (and the trip). We FINALLY got a room at 11:30 am at the Radisson, after sitting in the lobby for three hours. We know it is difficult to expect a room before the check-in time, so we waited patiently (mostly). We were too tired to venture out. Our room was a bit of a surprise – it is a dormer-style room with a sharply sloped ceiling and the only two windows are skylights. We decided it would be ok for one night. We laid down and crashed for 2 1/2 hours, took long showers and felt like we had rejoined the living.
We hopped in our rental car and headed up the hill from the city center to the largest church in Iceland, known as Hallgrímskirkja. This basalt structure, a Lutheran church, is quite honestly one of the creepiest buildings I have ever seen, stark, huge and quite reminiscent of the domicile of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz.. On the inside, the stark simplicity continues, with no ornamentation to speak of, except for a spectacular pipe organ. In front of the church is a large statue of Leif Ericson, the Norse explorer who discovered Vinland (North America) 500 years before Columbus.
Our city tour continued around the harbor area and we did brief stops at the Sun Voyager sculpture (often mistaken for a Viking ship for some strange reason, even though that is not what it supposed to be) and the new Harpa concert hall. We decided to park the car for the evening by the hotel and walked for a time through the old town.
Our day ended with our much-anticipated dinner at Sjavagrillid (Seafood Grill). If you had told me this morning that we would keep our reservation at this restaurant I would have been amazed, but a nap will do wonders for your appetite. The restaurant, located half-way between our hotel and the big church, has a featured four-course menu. This was a fantastic experience, starting off with an appetizer of ocean perch and cold-water lobster (langoustine). The second course had small bites of marinated minke whale (yup, you read that right), goose and shag (cormorant). Normally this second course features puffin, but the main catch of the cute orange-beaked Alcid starts in July in the islands south of Iceland. The main course featured Icelandic lamb done several ways and the meal ended with a lovely dessert of a chocolate brownie surrounded by yummy treats like rhubarb sorbet. The service was excellent and we had nice wine pairings (the second course featured a dark Icelandic beer). All this exotic food may hit us like a ton of bricks during the night, but right now we feel great, trying to finish out the day’s diary in the hotel lounge (and we are both nodding off again).
We have a big tourist hotspot day tomorrow, so will have more news from our hotel by Keflavik airport, before we fly early Wednesday morning to London. We promise pictures soon!