Thursday, June 18, 2009

More on Reykjavik

My campground is in a valley surrounded my sports and leisure facilities. You see all sorts of Icelanders out, young and old, Nordic walking (with poles), running, or going to/from the swimming pool. I went swimming yesterday and the mix was the same, young and old. The pool was an outdoor pool with several hot pots (think jacuzzi soaking tubs) to choose from: 38C, 40C, 42C, and 44C. I maxed out at 42C. Maybe I'll try 44C tonight.

Yesterday was the national holiday. I caught the parade downtown - two parades in fact - first a motorcade of old cars, from the 1930s to the 1970s. I didn't realise 1970s cars were considered antiques! After that was the parade of people. By Montreal standards there weren't that many fancy floats but it was a really nice atmosphere. There were, however, a few "Vikings" dressed in bright red, white, and blue superhero outfits with capes (I think) and helmets. Some kayaked down the road (ok, their kayaks were floating atop mini-cranes, with a blue tarp to suggest water), others bounced down the street on springy elliptical stilt-like contraptions. They would cry "BEP" or something equally mystifying, seemingly in response to certain individuals, but it made more fun than sense. Maybe if I understood Old Norse...

At the end of the parade, there was a troop of about a dozen adolescent guys in the garden of an official building. They would take a few steps and do a back-flip. Or run up to the 8-foot stone wall, run up the wall, and do a back-flip down to the ground. Or run up-hill and do some more back-flips. Wow, their acrobatics were impressive to watch!

I caught part of a concert, with two sets: the end of a girl-band, and the start of a jazz big band. Setup for the second concert took a long time but they were fun to watch. Next to me was a family with young kids - by the way there are LOTS of young kids in Iceland - and I never would have guessed that little kids liked jazz so much. One was spinning around, half-dancing, half-running, for almost the whole time with an infectious ear-to-ear grin. His sister was sitting on the shoulders of her father (grandfather?), playing the drums on his patient pate.

I've visited two museums: "Reyjavik 871 +/- 2" which shows an excavated longhouse from 871AD plus or minus two years, and the Culture House. I came near closing time, so I had to skip some of their exhibits (like on Icelandic film) and go straight to the exhibit on medieval manuscripts of the sagas, eddas, and other significant texts, this was very impressive. In addition to the museums, I strolled through the Botanical Gardens on my way from my campground to a shopping district. At least I think it was the Bot Gdns, though it could have been an adjoining park. It was attractive though, shall we say, restrained.

Two nights ago I went to dinner with my friend John from Montreal, who is a travel consultant here for part of the year. He took me to a wonderful and inexpensive restaurant called Icelandic Fish & Chips ( The fish was impeccably fresh, the batter shatteringly crispy and light, the oven-roasted potato chunks deliciously redolent of olive oil, the dipping sauces beautifully seasoned ("skyronnaise", like mayonnaise, but made with skyr, see previous post), the house-made lemon-ginger soda very gingery and not too sweet, the mango salad a lovely flavour combination yet not too sweet, and the carrot cake a satisfying conclusion. When in Rekjavik, don't miss this place.

Last night, I went to another restaurant John had recommended, serving Thai food. I ordered fish in red curry sauce. It was tasty, though not at all what I expected. The fish was covered in a rather thick batter and deep-fried. The fish itself was very fresh but a bit chewy in texture (wolf-fish? older haddock?). It was served on a bed of chili-oil, coated with a big layer of red-curry paste, garnished with deep-fried veggies and herbs, and served with a suitably generous portion of rice. I left feeling satisifed but with perhaps a tinge of heart-burn.

Today's adventures revolved around doing some shopping: another pair of liner socks, a refill cannister of gas for my camping stove, sunscreen, and a new cell-phone power cord. The latter two were surprises in a way. I forgot my sunscreen at home, and got a bit burnt yesterday watching the parade. Today I found out that sunscreen, unlike dairy products, is on the list of things that are very expensive in Iceland. Hmmph. The need for a cell-phone cord rather irritates me. The phone is from the UK with a gigantic UK plug at the end fo the cord. Before I left Montreal, I bought a UK-to-EUR power adapter. When I tried to plug it in yesterday here in Iceland, I discovered that a square peg (power adapter) does not fit into a round hole (power outlet). Grrrrrrrrrrr. Hence the need for a new power adapter. I'm not sure I'll use the phone much since I can't get things right to do a top-up (my other piece of international traveller blues) but it's my alarm clock and my emergency contact device so I don't want to take the risk.

Tomorrow morning I leave Reykjavik. I've really enjoyed my three days here. It would be easy to stay a few more days but I think it's time to start discovering more of the country. I've been agonising over whether to go south and east, or north and west. Tonight I'll decide. Perhaps in a few days I'll find internet access again and be able to write more about the next stage of Vikjavik's adventures.

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