UK 2013, Part 1: Iceland Layover

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Well I’ve been totally MIA lately. We got back from our vacation a week ago, and since then, I’ve been in a major post-travel funk where I just don’t want to get back to normal life (blogging included). Does that ever happen to you?
Reykjavik, Iceland
I figured I’d ease myself back into the blogging arena with a multi-part series of posts on our trip. The first part of our UK trip didn’t even happen in the UK. We had a layover in Reykjavik, Iceland from about 6am to 4pm on Sunday – not a ton of time, but enough to see a little of the city.

We arrived on time and picked up our rental car, then immediately headed toward the city, about 45 minutes from the airport.  Mission #1 was food, but while we were looking for a place to eat, we saw a couple of the landmarks including Hallgrímskirkja church and Höfði House.

Reykjavik, Iceland

I knew it was going to be tough to find somewhere to eat that early on a Sunday morning. I was proud of myself for doing the research ahead of time and finding a bakery that opened at 7:30. The only problem was that we couldn’t find the bakery! After some additional wandering, we were lucky enough to stumble upon Fjalakötturinn Restaurant. The large buffet breakfast was exactly what we needed.

Reykjavik Breakfast

After we were sufficiently stuffed, we went back out to see a few more of the city sights. This time we stopped by the Sun Voyager sculpture and Lake Tjörnin. All of these landmarks (and our breakfast spot) were within easy walking distance. If you have the time (and the weather-appropriate gear), it would be a great place to stroll around. Since we didn’t bring very warm clothes, we opted to drive around the city instead, which also proved to be easy – plenty of spots to pull over, and a small enough area that it would be hard to get too lost.

Reykjavik, Iceland

After we were finished sightseeing in the city center, we made the short drive over to the Pearl. I’d definitely recommend a stop here – the observation deck is free of charge and offers lovely views of the city. The building also houses a museum, a restaurant, and a cafe. We only made a quick stop here to check out the views, and this is where I accidentally dropped my lens cap – which proceeded to bound off of my toe and fly out onto one of those giant tanks. Oops. (Luckily my cap-less lens survived the rest of the trip.)

The Pearl, Reykjavik

After taking in the views, we headed to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa. If you’ve seen photos of Iceland, you’ve probably seen photos of the Blue Lagoon. Although the country is filled with geothermal pools, this one is the most well known. I kept wavering in regard to whether we should make this stop (did we really want to get all wet before getting back on a plane?), but I’m so glad we did. After an overnight flight with minimal sleep, it was the perfect way to relax for a few hours while still feeling like we were getting part of the Iceland experience. In addition to the glorious steamy water, there was a swim-up bar (yay!) and a silica mud mask area in the pool, plus amenities that made the trip simple like electronic lockers and towel (or even bathing suit) rentals. (And bonus, we got to see what a lifeguard uniform looks like in Iceland – see the guy in the yellow jacket? haha)

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

It was a fun little stop, especially considering we were able to save about $400 on our flights by taking this layover! The only snag we ran into involved our credit cards – we quickly learned that our old-fashioned American swipe cards don’t work at automated kiosks (most of Europe uses cards with electronic chips), and that most Icelandic gas stations are completely automated.  Despite the annoying fee we got slapped with for failure to fill up our tank (even though we tried!), I still think we made out well with the rental car option – and the fact that we actually saved money by taking a little tour of Iceland. It was also really interesting to see a glimpse of this unique country – the volcanic landscapes and lack of trees make it feel almost like another planet, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to experience it (albeit briefly).

Next up: England!

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