Friday, October 21, 2016

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We are now on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the west of Iceland for night 4 and day 5. This peninsula is an extremely special place - cloaked in a magical sunlight that seems to radiate an ethereal presence - you can feel it the moment you drive onto it and that splendor lingers until you leave. 

We arrived to Stykkishólmur and checked into our teeny-tiny but nicely appointed room in the cozy, well designed Hotel Egilsen. We took a stroll to check out the peaceful harbor/town/church, highlighted by an intense teal sky and fluffy clouds tinted pink. Our dinner at Narfeyrarstofa consisted of local seafood - scallops in a maple sauce, arctic char, and the best fish soup I've ever had, all caught in Breiðafjörður Bay. You better believe we drove out of town hoping for Northern Lights, but there were too many clouds. We would never be so lucky as our night in the east.

The next morning we found the local bakari for croissants and donuts and I can now confirm, donuts in Iceland are the best. We drove further west to see Kirkjufell Mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss in the town of Grundarfjörður. Kirkjufell is known for the way it juts out on its own little peninsula, an affirming mark over the town. The small falls were pretty but very crowded. As we continued our drive the tranquil landscapes - especially the reflection of those charcoal and dusty amber mountains over a small pond were astonishing. Then, out of nowhere I spotted the old Reykjavik / Snæfellsnes bus. (I had seen photos and was intrigued. It is on private property with a no trespassing sign posted.) Finally, we had an obligatory middle of the open road photo shoot. So much fun in Snæfellsnes!

Onto Reykjavik we go!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Akureyri + Beyond

After our third day of driving from East Iceland to the North and exploring Dettifoss, Mývatn and Goðafoss along the way, we reached our home for the night in the village of Svalbarðseyri.

Stay: This Airbnb at Sunnuhlíð farmland - 12km from Akureyri. I was obsessed with this tiny house. I wanted to move in. It was perfect.

Dinner - Rub 23 in Akureyri is a refined Icelandic restaurant that highlights ingredients from local fisherman and farmers. We loved our meal here. Notably - the arctic char sushi, creative maki, and the bento box with reindeer carpaccio, duck salad, seared scallops and langoustine tempura. I also had a really good coffee/Frangelico/Baileys drink for dessert that came in a fancy chalice.

Northern Lights - I was so disappointed. On the 1-9 point scale we were at a 5. We came home from dinner, set up shop in front of the big window...and....nothing. We stayed up late, too. Considering our wild show the night before, I shouldn't have been too disappointed, but I couldn't help it! This time we were ready with a Northern Lights iphone app and my camera with the correct (?) settings. Ah well. 

Breakfast - The city center is home to a number of sophisticated coffee shops; we wandered into Bláa Kannan and grabbed a caramelized onion and red pepper quiche with croissants, cheese, and jam for the road.

The drive on day four showed off an enchanting landscape with farms and small towns nestled in between handsome mountains. It was drizzling on and off, and out of nowhere appeared a huge rainbow. I didn't pull over, but I'll never forget how it sprawled all majestic alongside us. 

Everything is so different now from what we've seen in the south and the east and even yesterdays northern points. I know I keep saying that. It is one of the best things about Iceland. You're ready for what's next and what's next never disappoints. 

Our route to Stykkishólmur lead us off Ring Road - which was a welcome change of pace. We took 61 to 59 to 60 to 54 to 58! These routes are not all paved, but most are well sealed so you can keep your speed. At the crossroads of 60 and 54 we detoured two miles to the sleepy little town of Búðardalur for gas plus an exciting lunch of gas station hot dogs at N1. I had read all about them as a popular Icelandic meal, so it was finally time to try one. The soft bun is loaded up with ketchup, mustard, raw onions, crispy fried onions and cradles a fresh dog topped with an earthy sweet remoulade. It was good!  Aside from the hot dogs, Búðardalur was also special because I bought my wool sweater here. We came upon the cutest little shop run by a sweet older woman. I tried on about eight sweaters and finally found the one.