PART 1) REYKJAVIK
We had to get out. We had to get away. Portugal was cancelled and one of the few other options was Iceland. So Iceland it was.
I visited Iceland 26 years ago on my way to New York. It was then winter and the country was frozen over, so I was now looking forward to a green lush summer visit… Hehe. That’s what I thought!
This time I brought my son, 16, and the trip was very much aimed at getting us out into the nature but also for him to get some great photos and videos for his social media channels. This meant I didn’t feel pressure to film or take photos = more of a holiday for me, although it was of course hard to resist capturing the breath-taking views and landscape!
See separate blog for advice on Covid-regulations for travelling to Iceland:
We arrived in Reykjavik early morning on a Sunday and it was of course a busy airport with a long queue to get tested and released.
The Flight bus waited until it was full and then got us into the bus station in Reykjavik in around 50min, where we swapped bus to a smaller one, which took us to our hotel.
Flight bus is around €22 for adults, we paid 2,000ISK (£11) extra to be dropped off at our hotel.
I’d let my son choose hotel, and he’d gone by bathroom. Backdrop for Insta shots obvs.
The apartment hotel was simply called R13 A Townhouse Hotel and I booked it via www.booking.com.
A brand-new cosmopolitan place, where the paint had barely dried. There was a funky bar lounge downstairs, but the place was so new, it hadn’t opened and you couldn’t even get a coffee there.
It did indeed have a very nice bathroom and the rest of the flat was fab too, but, it’s located in the outskirts of town, in one of those semi industrial office areas you see in every little town of the world. So we looked out of the window and we could have been in Staffanstorp, Bosnia or San Diego. The back of the hotel faces the mountains, but there is a garage next-door, so the noise on that side would probably have been rather annoying.
There was literally no restaurants or cafes around us, everything else was Sunday closed too, but we walked down to a local Bonus supermarket, where we stocked up on gorgeous bread, ham, Skyr yoghurt and goodies we didn’t know would last us through our whole trip. There were a couple of chain restaurants like Domino’s and Subway but we went back home to eat our picnic in the lounge.
After that, my son decided to go and explore Thor’s Power Gym. Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson is the strongest man in the world and features in Game of Thrones, and since my son is a dedicated power lifter, he of course wanted to check his gym out and see if he could meet him.
Chances were obviously fairly slim, but being a teenager and eager to explore, my son’s dedication paid off. There were two people in the gym when he got there, and Thor was one of them. He ended up lifting 170kg with Thor and his mates and caught it all on video. His trip had already paid off and he could gladly have gone back home again.
In the meantime, I was debating what to do. It would have been a bit rushed to get into the Nordic House in town, where there was a picnic concert and an exhibition to be seen. I was very tempted but opted to just go for a walk to Laugardalslaug, a local communal pool. And this was a good choice!
I have to admit that although I’m Swedish and have been to Iceland before, I may have been a bit naïve when I booked our tickets – before checking the weather. I kind of just assumed it would be similar to Sweden?? But it wasn’t. Luckily I knew by the time I packed that we would be met with +10C, strong winds and a lot of rain.
So slipping into the +28C main pool was a real treat – and then I found the mini pools! There were five of them, ranging from +38C to +44C. This might not sound too high if you’re not familiar with water temperature, as it’s close to body temperature, but +44C is the equivalent of your bath at home, when you can barely step into it.
I’ve been sea swimming in Brighton all year round. The water temperature in June maxes out around +16C, so dipping into these pools was close to heaven!
We regrouped in our flat after and of course my boy was in Thor heaven and told me all about it.
We’d been up since 3am, so we fell asleep in our lovely bed and woke up hungry and keen to explore more.
A big bonus here was the midnight sun, in fact, this day was Summer Solstice – when the day and night are equally long. We made use of the night light throughout the whole trip, exploring places late evening and even at midnight, so where it normally be full of tourists, we were all alone.
Reykjavik isn’t very big, but it was too far to walk to the centre and a taxi ride would cost around £17. So we explored by electric scooter!
This was real fun and didn’t feel as dangerous as it looked at all. They’re stable and easy to manoeuvre if you’ve done some kind of cycling or scooting before, and people are used to them on the pavements so you don’t need to drive on the roads.
You simply download the Hopp App and tap in to start, pause and end your journey. I guess a bit like Boris Bikes in London if you’ve ever used those, but easier, as you don’t have to lock them up, you can just leave them anywhere and they lock up automatically. Don’t forget to “Pause” if you’re stopping!
You can see on the map where the nearest free scooter is.
The scooters aren’t free, and of course the Icelandic prices are quite high. We calculated .18p a minute, which means around £11/hr per scooter. This is still very much worth it, it’s exhilarating, an adventure, you see loads and it’s cheaper than taxi or even bus, most of the time. Do NOT scoot under influence, as you can get a hefty fine!
We arrived on our scooters to Hallgrímskirkja at golden hour – just as the sun set behind the city skyline around 9pm and the light turned everything to gold. It’s an impressive building, interesting architecture. It’s hard to guess the age of this church, it feels modern but old. And the fact is that the drawings were started in 1937, the building work started in 1945 but the church wasn’t properly finished until 1986! I remembered it as small and insignificant, but it’s really quite remarkable, this iconic church in the centre of Reykjavik. We didn’t go inside though.
After exploring the city centre a bit more, it turned out all restaurants were closed. This is not a 24-hour city, especially on Sundays, and we were now struggling to get food, which is pretty much the worst sin a mother of a teenage boy can commit. We ended up at a kebab bar, eating lamb shawarma at 10pm! If, for whatever reason, you feel like a shawarma while in Reykjavik, this is The Place to go: Mandi!
We continued on foot to the harbour, of course all very quiet at this hour, and we suddenly felt very very cold and tired and it started raining. We took a taxi back to our flat (£17-ish) and I fell asleep straight away.
DAY 2) LEAVING REYKJAVIK FOR THE GOLDEN CIRCLE BY CAR
I woke to a heavy drizzle of rain outside, but I still decided to take a scooter over to the car rental company and pick up our car.
I had prepared well, so I had three jackets with me: one rain coat, one thinner North Face hiking jacket and a full length Seasalt jacket, similar to the Janelle. I’ve lived in this Seasalt jacket for about six years now and it’s travelled the world as it’s water proof, light and super comfy. But today it was definitely raincoat and rain trouser weather.
I managed to reach 25km/hr on the scooter on the cycle path there, which was pretty cool!
I had booked a car online on one of those websites that gives you the cheapest deal. I had a strange feeling about it but I did have a print out of my order. It was booked via Discovery Cars, but collection was from Atak. And low and behold, as I arrived at the hire company, my booking was not to be found. The ladies at Atak were quiet but very kind and helpful. They organised a new booking, although they didn’t have the smallest size car, so we had to pay extra for a bigger one. They did give us a discount though and in the end I was happy to have the extra space and it felt quite similar to my Mini Countryman back home. I also managed to extend the booking so we could keep the car all the way to our return flight, as it would be much cheaper than local fares and taxis and our last space was in a remote area on the Keflavik coast.
After a few more portrait and video setups back at R13, we were finally off!
See next blog for our GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR, coming soon.