This trip came about because my husband Brian has been talking about seeing the Northern Lights for quite some time. We finally decided the time was right to knock this adventure off our travel bucket list.
I have to admit it was cold and dark! In the winter there is only about 4 hours of sunlight. You would think that you would get a lot more sleep. On the contrary, it feels like you are always waking up at the crack of dawn even when its 9:00am. Make sure you have tights or under armor to wear underneath your clothes. I learned the hard way the first day, as I shivered and my legs started to itch! After that, I did not leave the hotel without the tights on!
If the weather cooperates with you and you see the Northern Lights it is a surreal experience. Being out late at night chasing the Northern Lights is an experience in itself. Being out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by icy mountains and snow covered land can almost be eerie. There are no trees in Iceland and you can see for miles down the road. I took time to stand there underneath the vast starry night and just listen for the silence. It was so quiet you could hear the buzzing in your ears.
We landed in Iceland on December 26th and learned that Christmas in Iceland is serious business. They celebrate all month long! The town of Reykjavik is decked out like a winter wonderland. There is even a mailbox for Santa in the middle of the town. Along with Christmas lights and themed cocktails at every restaurant. You certainly start believing Santa Claus is somewhere around the corner.
Slippbarinn Myrargata 2, 101 Reykjavik
Our first night in Iceland we decided to give this place a try based on reviews we read. It seemed this place was a hot spot for cocktails and I see why! I had a "Winter Sour" which was delicious, with a blend of apple and cinnamon infused bourbon, pear and thyme syrup, with lemon and nutmeg. Truly winter in a glass! After a cold day walking around Reykjavik the traditional fish soup was just what we needed. It is a tomato-based broth that has some basil and a special "kick" to it. The chunks of fish were especially good, very clean, yet buttery flavor. We followed that up with Gratinated Buri cheese with honey and pine nuts. Who doesn't love melted cheese? We also had the "Clothes in a Steamed Bun." I would say to skip over these and try something else. Having access to some great steamed pork buns in NYC these just did not measure up. But other than that it was the prefect amount of food for tired travelers!
Grillmarkadurinn (The Grill Market) Laekjargata 2A, Reykjavik 101, Iceland
We started off the with the whale, langoustine, and goose burgers. We wanted to be a little bit adventurous. The whale was our most daring pick and I would compare it to pork belly . Then we moved onto the chicken and spring onion skewers. I loved the charred spring onions. Spring onions have a more subtle onion taste, almost as if they are a little sweet. We followed this up with the “meat gourmet.” This consisted of lamb, duck, and beef. All of the meats were cooked to PERFECTION. They were tender and very flavorful true to the cut of meat. We had 7 different kinds of meat in one meal, which we thought was pretty amazing.
The only negative I can see is that the service was VERY fast. Everything came out all at once with no breaks at all. Some people may like this. We ordered, got the bread, and then maybe 5 minutes later everything landed on our table. We also got the feeling that they seat all the "travelers" in a certain section. Not in the main area. Which was disappointing since we had made reservations. We also noticed this at other places we ate at. It could just be our imagination or a strange coincidence.
Salt Eldhus THorunnartun 2 | Skulatun House, Reykjavik 101, Iceland
At Salt we had the unique experience of taking a cooking class. Some people may wonder why go all the way to Iceland to take a cooking class? I think what better wayto experience another culture but through cooking traditional dishes! We were both looking forward to learning how to work with recipes and ingredients that were new to us. Another added bonus was being able to meet people from various places who were taking the class also. The kitchen is set up really well with plenty of space and natural light. Each of the stations has a stove and ample cooking space. The dining area is gorgeous setting as well! Our instructor “Matty” was wonderful, very welcoming. He was able to get everyone acquainted and was a wonderful host!
We had the pleasure of making 3 different dishes. Our first dish was Twice Smoked Lamb Carpaccio with Blueberries over arugula. We were even shown an interesting way to plate our food, in little jars! For our main dish we made Salmon Pepper Steak with Barley Risotto. This risotto was amazing, so creamy! We melted in a cheese called Ljotur, which is kind of like Brie. I learned that even melting the rind of the cheese into the risotto adds to the flavor. To end our lunch we made a classic Nordic rice dessert that is popular during Christmas time called, “Risalamande.” It is a creamy rice pudding that was paired with cherry sauce.
We were able to leisurely cook and eat while the sounds of Michael Buble floated through the air. Although it was two days after Christmas this cooking class had no shortage of holiday spirit.
Tapas Barinn Vesturgotu 3b, Reykjavik 101, Iceland (Miõborg)
We didn’t have a dinner plan for our last night and we ended up going here on recommendation. Also, the menu looked really interesting. We are always coordinating our orders to be able to share so this seemed perfect. We were so pleasantly surprised! If we were staying in Iceland longer I would have went for another round! We had:
•Foie gras de Canard with grilled bread & jam
•Saltfish with chourizo in tomato-date sauce
•Serrano með manchego and extra virgin olive oil
•Smoked puffin with bluberry "brennivín" sauce
There was nothing that I would have changed, except maybe try to fit more!
Laundromat cafe Austurstraeti 9, Reykjavik, Iceland
Funky place to get a great Chai Latte and a fresh juice! We didn’t get around to trying any of the food, but it looked like a good place for brunch. Brian made it a point to pick up a Chai Latte every morning!
The hotel was very clean and presented well. We were fortunate enough to stay in a deluxe double room, which was a little larger. Hotel rooms in Europe can be very small, but this was very comfortable. The bathrooms were very clean and neat. The bathrooms have one sink and a nice large shower. There was always hot water, which was a plus! The downstairs restaurant was very pretty. The location was more towards the harbor but we found that we enjoyed this part of town more. The city in general is very walk able and not overwhelming!
Make sure to check out Brian's blog to read about some Icelandic treats he sampled! http://thedonuthunter.com/