World’s Most Northerly Capital

We landed in Reykjavik at about 7pm, by the time we got our bags and got the shuttle to the hostel it was almost 10pm.  Our room was on the 4th floor of a building with no elevator, not easy with my 20kg+ backpack – really regretting being lazy at work and getting the elevator instead of stairs all the time.

We were starving so went downstairs to the bar to get a meal and a drink.  Looked at the menu and saw the Spicy “Freedom” Burger, well of course I want to know what freedom tastes like. Ordered that plus a beer, handed over the cash.  We sat down and I was like oh I should check the exchange rate. $51AUD!!!!! Whyyyyyyyy??? I just paid $51 for a damn freedom burger and a crap beer… I couldn’t finish the burger and I reckon I left about $7 on the plate! I’m a disgrace.

Sian and I were really confused by the daylight, it was almost midnight and the sun was only just setting.  We went for a quick walk down along the water to check it out, it was still slowly setting at half past midnight so we decided to go back to the room and to bed.

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Midnight Sunset

The following day we went out and explored Reykjavik. Breakfast was an Ostaslaufa from Reykjavik’s first and oldest bakery – Bernhoftsbakari, established in 1834. An Ostaslaufa is a bread roll of sorts filled with cream cheese and with poppy seeds on top. Delicious and also only cost me $4.30 which was amazingly cheap after my stupid freedom burger!

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Ostaslaufa

We walked into town, I don’t know how to describe Reykjavik… it is very quiet and clean.  Lots of colourful buildings and street art everywhere.  It is very much catered to tourists though, not surprising considering the booming tourism industry.  Last year they had 1.75 million tourists and it’s growing, bear in mind the population is 334,000.

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We wandered down the main shopping street, looking in the stores and checking restaurant food prices (outrageous of course).  We went into a Christmas shop, there was really nothing that great in it. I was more preoccupied with the bulk poppy seeds stuck in my teeth, spotted a mirror and leaned over to check out my teeth… anddd I smacked a little figurine onto the ground. Of course it broke and of course it happened 10 seconds after I read the sign that said you break it you pay for it. I awkwardly grabbed all the broken bits, shop keeper looked mad. Don’t see why she was mad, I now had to pay for this little ugly gnome man which I bet no one would buy anyway because it was crap. I prepared myself for the ridiculous price, but was pleasantly surprised when she said it was 800ISK (approx. $10AUD). Paid for the statue, she was going to keep it, but I was like no give me the ugly gnome man, and walked out feeling sorry for myself… and I still had stupid poppy seeds in my teeth.

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We continued walking down the road, turned up a side street to head towards Hallgrimskirkja. Hallgrimskirkja is the main church in Reykjavik, you can see it from most parts of the city. Quite distinctive architecture… I can’t decide if I like it or think it’s the ugliest thing ever.  We didn’t go inside because it was during mass, might check it out when we come back to Reykjavik after our road trip.

Walked on to Reykjavikurtjornin, small lake in the city. Saw MORE white swans! These ones had yellow beaks though, so that was exciting! Took excessive amount of photos as per usual.

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Reykjavikurtjornin

We were feeling hungry so started to look out for somewhere to eat.  I’d read about hotdog stands throughout the city which are a cheap delicious food option.  Found one fairly quickly, but decided to try out the place next door which was selling subs. Took forever to order… partly because I’m indecisive but also because I was stuck behind a group of American tourists who were more interested in talking about the night before than ordering their food. Their friend was in hospital with a broken arm, unlucky mate.

My sub was 990ISK (an Icelandic bargain!) and included a drink.  I wasn’t expecting much, but wow, I think I might have died with taste bud happiness. It was soo delicious! I got Lamb Teriyaki and it had red onion, pickles and crispy fried onions as well. Every bite was a crunchy mouthful of heaven. Definitely coming back for more!

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The best food stall ever!

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Mouth watering… more please

After lunch we went to the Settlement Museum, very informative exhibition.  All about the Vikings coming to Iceland, where they came from, what they did, farmed, ate etc. and inside the exhibition was the ruins of one of the old houses.

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Old Viking Home Ruins

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Walrus bones uncovered in wall of the Viking home

Next we headed towards the sea in search of the flea market, eventually found it.  Lots of second hand clothing, woollen Icelandic sweaters, books etc.  There was a food section which was interesting to look at, so much of the food is frozen here. Frozen bananas, mangos, beans, meat, seafood – you get the gist.

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We slowly made our way back to the hostel along the esplanade, walked past the Harpa – big fancy concert hall, there were lots of signposts along the way with history of Reykjavik.

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Along the esplanade

We got back to the hostel, went to the bar just after 5 and it was happy hour yay! Beers were 650ISK ($7.50AUD), tried the Icelandic Beer Brio – delicious! Spent next couple of hours enjoying happy hour and ate some yummy parmesan chips.

We got chatting to couple of guys from America, ended up going out for a few drinks.  One of them was Jewish and was saying he had done a birthright trip to Israel couple years earlier.  Apparently there is some rich Jewish guy in Vegas who spends millions each year sending under 25 year old Jewish people to Israel for free so that “they can love God more” – his words not mine.

Headed into the city looking for a bar, ended up at the American Bar, had an expensive beer and then moved on. Went to the English Pub because they had 600ISK beers. While waiting at the bar one of the guys asked me why the girl sitting next to us was wearing a see-through night gown. I was a bit confused but shrugged and was like maybe that’s the look she was going for. We sat down at one of the tables, and started to take in our surroundings. It was only after a couple more girls appeared wearing lingerie that we realised there was a gentlemen’s club upstairs.  Took note of who was in the bar and everything suddenly seemed a lot seedier.

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Detour to Hallgrimskirkja on the way back to the Hostel – taken just before 1am.

Quickly finished our beers then Sian and I headed back to the hostel because we were sleepy. Ended up asleep just after 1am – I’ve stopped passing out at 5pm, and instead I’m going to bed after midnight, mostly because we haven’t adjusted to the 24 hour daylight! (is that better or worse?)

 

Fun facts:

  • Everyone we have encountered speaks English, which I am so grateful for because Icelandic is just not an easy language. Seriously you try pronouncing snaefellsnes, patreksfjordur, eyjafjallajokull… you get the point.
  • Reykjavik has an estimated 20,000 cats in the city, supposedly you can see them everywhere. We only saw one – super disappointing!
  • During WWII the British occupied Iceland to deny it to Germany.  The US then came in to get rid of the Brits and at the time there were 50,000 troops here, which at the time was almost half the population!
  • Reykjavik is the only Western European capital that doesn’t have a McDonalds! McDonalds was not able to successfully break into the market and they closed the last one in 2009.
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The one cat we saw.  Being a jerk and walking away from me when I just wanted to shower it with some love.

…and here we go!

I left Canberra at 11:30pm on a direct flight to Singapore, plane was a bit dated and the movie selection was super average.  But overall the flight was pretty good, I slept most of the way which was nice. Arrived in Singapore at 5:45am, had 7 hours to kill before my next flight.  Got on the Wifi, went to check my emails BAM “Your login is suspicious, we have sent a code to your mobile please enter code”. You what mate? Obviously I can’t check my phone for texts in Singapore, so long story short I can’t access my emails until 4 August and now have to rely on my darling sister back home to check that nothing important comes in.  Makes me so mad, seriously I have used my email all over the world never had issues, WHY NOW?!?!

While at the airport I visited the butterfly garden, pretty cool to have that inside the airport. I avoided the duty free shops because I’m now a super budget traveller (we’ll see how that goes), apparently there is a massive slide somewhere but I didn’t care enough to try find it.

Flight to London left on time at 12:35, 13 hour flight went reasonably fast.  This plane was a lot newer which makes me happy, sat next to an Irish couple? I think they were a couple, but they didn’t talk once the entire trip (unless they had sneaky chats while I was snoozing and bobbing my head all over the place). This guy though, he was no joke eating non stop the whole flight. It was so bizarre, an hour did not pass where he did not ask for a tuna sandwich, or an apple, drinking bulk beverages the whole time. I’ve never seen anyone eat so much on a plane, I honestly didn’t realise you could get that much food on a plane and I felt like I should take advantage of it, but I didn’t… because I wasn’t hungry.

The plane landed at Heathrow at about 7pm and it was 31 degrees! Beat most of the people to immigration queue, when it was my turn I said I was meeting my friend who lives here before we fly to Iceland. Suddenly it was 20 questions about my friend. Who is she, how long has she been here for, what type of visa does she have, is it a working visa, how long does she plan on staying.  Was a bit confused as to why I was being interrogated about my friend and not about myself but fair enough.

Got my bags and went through customs, bought a SIM and a bottle of H2O for rehydration and was requesting an Uber at 8:30pm! Uber took a long time to come because the usual pick up area was being worked on which resulted in chaos between Uber drivers, taxis and other people doing pick-ups. One of the taxi drivers was going mental about Uber drivers how they ruin everything etc. Got in my Uber and 20-30 minutes later arrived at my hotel in Windsor! Amazing location, directly across from Windsor Castle. Got up to the room, threw myself on my bed and was thinking of getting ready for bed but conveniently passed out straight away.

It’s probably worth mentioning that I was meant to only spend one night in Windsor before flying out the following afternoon to Iceland.  But due to a *ahem* stuff up with dates I now had two nights.  Nothing wrong with that really.., just that I had to casually mention to dad I made a mistake on first part of my trip. Sorry Dad, I promise I’m an adult.

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My face when I had to tell Dad I stuffed up first part of my trip

Moving on… I woke up a couple of hours later at about 1:30am, said hi to the family. Dad told me off for being awake when I should be asleep and getting my body clock right, it’s not like he’s wrong… but sometimes sleep just comes and slaps you in the face and you can’t fight it (still working on that adulting thing)!

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Went back to sleep and woke up at about 7am, by the time I got myself ready I was out the door at about 9am.  Walked around a bit trying to decide what to do then decided to head straight to Windsor Castle as originally planned.  Went straight in, no lines which was nice, and picked up headphones for the audio tour (I love audio tours!).

Audio tour was very informative, I walked through St George’s Chapel, the State Room’s and the Queen’s Doll Collection.  I can’t remember everything and wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside and I’m all about not breaking laws in foreign countries, but some fun facts were;

  • Saw King Edward III’s sword, holy moly it was huge! I legit think it was taller than me, I don’t understand how you could even hold that up??
  • In 1992 there was a fire that burnt down a huge part of the castle, when they restored the St George’s Hall ceiling they used old techniques, so when you look at the wooden beams on ceiling you can see that the wood is uneven at the joinings and has cracks. This is because they used green wood that was freshly cut so that it could be easily shaped and over time as it dries out it shrinks!
  • On the ceiling they had the shields of various knights throughout time, there were a few random blank white ones, these were knights who had their knighthood stripped for whatever reason and they were left up there so that everyone could see their shame.

After visiting the Castle I wandered a bit more around the streets and decided to get on the hop-on hop-off bus.  It was so much better than I thought it would be, there was an audio guide (instant winner) It was about an hour all up, drove around Windsor, Eton and a bit of the countryside. Saw Windsor Castle at multiple angles, Eton College, a blue post box which commemorates the first airmail that was done in 1911.  Three planes took off to deliver mail and only one made it there safely, oh dear. Windsor farm which is where the castle gets all its fresh produce, when the King and Queen are in residence they use the same back entrance that the produce gets brought in. Bunch of other places, overall a really good tour of the area!

Finished the tour at 2:30, had a bite to eat then headed down to River Thames.  Got super excited about seeing white Swans, I’m sure I have probably seen them before but I don’t remember it so it was really great. Hopped on a river cruise, I got a discount with my bus ticket.  Such a waste of time/money, 40 minute ride up and down the Thames, saw nothing exciting, couldn’t hear the commentary because the kids in front were going mental, the few bits of it I did hear was just them advertising other boat tours that their company did. Cool mate.

Got off the boat, took lots of swan pictures which was fun then headed back to the room. Got back at about 5:30pm. I was going to have a bit of a sit down and repack my bags before heading out to dinner. But… I fell asleep. Whoopsie. Woke at 11:30pm, decided not to mention that in my message I sent to the family, I guess they will find out when reading this (sorry Dad I promise I’ll get my body clock back to normal tonight… unless I fall asleep again)

Stayed up for a bit to repack my bag then went back to sleep, woke at about 6am. Showered and went downstairs, had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, sat at a table that looked out at the castle which was really nice. Had 2 hours before check out so thought I’d go for a quick wander, stumbled across a plaque for the Queens Walkway, a 2 hour self guided walking tour.  That would have been nice to know yesterday. It was 9:20, so I spent 10 minutes trying to decide if I could do a 2 hour walk in less than that time. At 9:30 I was like yep I can do this and headed off.  I ended up sort of following the route but skipping lots of bits, partially because I thought I was taking shortcuts but really I was going nowhere near the sights, I blame their dodgy instructions.  The bits that I did see though were great, Long Walk, few historic streets, Victoria Barracks, statue of the Queen and her corgis! If I ever come back I want to do it properly, the online guide I found had lots of information that if anyone is interested you can read here.

I went back past the River Thames to get more swan pictures, lost track of time and had

to race back to the hotel.  Ran upstairs, grabbed my bag then went down to check out.  Waited about half an hour in the lobby for my taxi.  Watched the hoards of tourists lining up for Windsor Castle, so glad I went the day before because I swear the line was about a 1km long.  Policewoman was walking back and forth along the road yelling at tourists to get off the road because you know cars might hit you etc, so dumb.

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Queue for Windsor Castle

Headed to the airport, and met Sian! So great to see her after a year, and now we are flying to Iceland for a 2 week adventure yay!  Flight was delayed over an hour, something about them not having any flight attendants available for our flight, what?

So that’s all for now, I will post an Iceland update soon!