After a six-hour flight, 20 minutes of sleep, and a lot of free Icelandic TV and movies — because I sat in the one seat without American content — we arrived in Reykjavik for our 20-hour layover.
Because we did not realize the need to plan ahead and that everything in Iceland is very, very expensive (island life, I guess), we limited our day to within the center city. No Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, etc. Someday. What landscape we did see on our long bus ride from Keflavik Airport into the city looked like it belonged on another planet, not continent.
Despite the rain and cold, we arrived to crowded streets and happy faces. Reykjavik is likely the largest “small town” I will ever set foot in. Walkable, clean, friendly. Oh, and for nervous travellers, everyone speaks perfect English!
Our day consisted of visits to Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland’s tallest church situated at the top of a hill; Harpa, a gorgeous, unique concert hall; the Icelandic Phallological Museum, a place as immature and unnecessary as you think it sounds; and a lot of walking and ducking inside for drinks and warmth.
We avoided the touristy garbage restaurants (places named “Asia,” “Roma” and “English Pub” abound) in favor of authentic Icelandic cuisine. We were happy with the traditional hot dogs (seriously) and open-faced sandwiches featuring different arrangements of fish. We were both utterly revolted by Hákarl, which has a taste resembling burning gasoline and dog shit. Gull Beer was pretty bad, but cheap (in a city where you spend a lot of money quickly, this is important), but we loved Brennivin, the national spirit.
When you get past the tourist traps (a feature of every large city in Europe) there is a great, authentic city here showing off the best of a small, proud culture. In spite of the city being pricy, Icelandair offers cheap fares and multi-day stopovers at no extra cost on your way to Europe. We would go back, and you should consider heading there.
But after a long day on our feet, we became more and more impatient to get to Paris. At 6:30 Monday morning, all of the stress that built up over the last 10 months of planning melted away. It’s been a long time since I had felt that happy that early in the morning.
Now the real adventure begins!