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Lucy Travels

​The weather report said Iceland would be warmer than Scotland. We shouldn’t have listened to it. It completely failed to take into account the wind, which turned a wet grey winter day into a freezing hell of icy rain that sliced right through you. The wind chill was well below freezing and made my nose and cheeks ache. Claire and I set off in our exploration of Reykjavik after our plane landed early in the afternoon and pushed ourselves to see as much as we could despite the weather. 

Although Reykjavik is small, with just over 100,000 inhabitants, it’s certainly not pedestrian-friendly. We constantly ran into missing sidewalks or four lanes of traffic you have to run across with no signal. Plus the enormous puddles everywhere! Our shoes were dampened but our spirits were not and we started at the unique and impressive Hallgrimskirkja. The church was built in the 1920s so it looks incredibly modern and Metropolis-like. The Harvard choir were performing that night but as we walked around the church we got a free preview as they rehearsed. For a small fee you can take the elevator to the top (no stairs, sadly!) to see Reykjavik spread out below you. When I stood on the steps by the windows to look over the city, the wind pushed me back with a fierceness, so I stayed next to the walls and peered over instead.

Outside the church is a statue of Lief Ericsson, a gift from America. We walked down to the harbor to see another Viking artwork, the Sun Voyager.

On the way we discovered a bakery that sold my true love: cinnamon rolls! Still warm from the oven, they rivaled the ones we enjoyed in Norway. As it grew dark we walked along the main shopping street. 

There were so many lovely things too expensive to buy but beautiful to look at. I just couldn’t justify a $250 sweater to myself. Hungry from all the walking we went to Cafe Loki across from the church and got the only vegetarian dish on the menu. However, we had to try the more Icelandic fare, so we bravely ordered fermented shark and rye bread ice cream. These were both in tiny portions for silly tourists like us to sample. Claire thought the shark tasted like cheese. To me it tasted like alcohol-soaked socks. Made of jello. The ice cream was fantastic though! The rye bread here is malty and spicy and almost sweet on its own, so mixed into cream and sugar it tasted like gingerbread. While we waited for our food we admired the mural on the wall that told the story of the restaurant’s namesake

The minibus picked us up at the hotel that night for the northern lights tour. As our guide said, catching the northern lights requires many factors all working together — a clear sky, solar activity, the right time of year, and luck. Our guide was an older Icelandic gentleman and I loved hearing him pronounce the place names as we whizzed by. Icelandic sounds like birds talking, all sing-song trills and rolled Rs. Unfortunately the weather still wasn’t cooperating with us. Whenever we stopped the clouds would quickly cover the sky, and the wind was so strong it squeezed in the sides of the minibus and loudly slammed the door. Despite my layers my teeth started chattering the moment I stepped outside into the freezing gusts. Our guide and the other guests kept us entertained while we waited on the bus for the clouds to part. One woman didn’t seem to understand … well, anything. “Is it clear outside yet?” she asked as rain pounded the roof. When the guide explained that we were having difficulty seeing anything because of the clouds, she stated matter-of-factly that it wasn’t the CLOUDS that were the problem, it was the LIGHTS. Huddled in the relative warmth of the minibus, our guide passed the time telling us traditional Icelandic folk tales of elves and trolls. A familiar voice kept interrupting. “Yes, but HOW did the elves warn the farmers?” Exhausted and cold, we finally had to call it a night.

We feel asleep during the drive back and finally crawled into bed at the hotel at 1 in the morning. We were disappointed not to have seen the lights, but it was an interesting experience anyway.

After a few meager hours of sleep we were up in the morning to get breakfast before our next tour — riding Icelandic horses across the volcanic craters!

I have to sleep now but I’ll post more later. Another tour bus will be waiting for us before sunrise! (Sunrise is at 10:30, but still…)


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