Reykjavík, Iceland

Monday, May 22, 2017

Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, is the world's northernmost capital city. It's a fun, quirky town with colorful buildings, funky modern architecture, and serves as the gateway to the rest of the country.
Our first stop in exploring Reykjavik was the Hallgrimskirkja church, which was literally out the front door of our airbnb.

This immense concrete Lutheran church was built beginning in 1946 and completely dominates the skyline of the city.
Being a Lutheran church, the inside is very reserved with limited decoration.
For a few bucks you can ride an elevator up and then climb the last few floors to the observation deck at the top of the nearly 250 foot tall tower.
Views! You can see our airbnb building with the white roof in the center-right of this picture. Great location!
Quintessential Reykjavik views. I LOVE the colors!
THE view of the city looking down Skolavordustigur street towards the old harbor. Google "Reykjavík" and this is what you'll see.
Across the bay.
Out front, a statue of the Viking explorer Leifur Eiriksson, the first European discoverer of North America, stands proudly. The statue was a gift from the US to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of Eiriksson's voyages.
Then we walked into the heart of town.
Colors everywhere! It looks like a Mondrian painting.

Strolling down one of the main shopping drags, Skolavordustigur.
Snippets from our walk.
Jane. This girl is somethin'!
Town details.
Down in the center of the old town is the Tjornin lake. The area is a magnet for birds with more than 40 species visiting at different times of the year including swans, geese, terns, and of course, ducks. Ducks trump all.
Nearby is the Domkirkja, Iceland's main cathedral. It's a modest little church but it played a vital role in the country's conversion to Lutheranism.
The inside has a lovely wooden interior with hints of gold.
Hotel on the Austurvollur green with a restaurant by Jamie Oliver inside.
Main square.
Unsurprisingly, we've never seen an Iceland plate on a car as we've driven around continental Europe. Iceland plate - check!
Jane started feeling a little sick, but she's a trooper.

The Harpa is an example of some of the cutting edge, modern architecture that is springing up in Reykjavik. The building is a concert hall and cultural center located right on the water's edge.
In the afternoon we booked a puffin tour so we walked down the gangway in the Old Harbor to hop on our boat.
From the boat looking back towards the Old Harbor.
From the harbor you have tons of options for tours, many of which are whale watching since the waters around Iceland are rich with marine life, including the humongous Blue Whales.
Our kids didn't last long on the tour before the hum of the engine, the rocking of the water, and the coziness of the life jackets put them to sleep.
Our tour was a success! We saw puffins!
On coastal cliffs and islets all around the country, puffins return year after year to nest and hatch their young. The puffin season was just starting so we were lucky to get some glimpses of these cute (and fast!) birds.
Thankfully, the weather held and the only reason we got wet was from the spray of the ocean as we sped around.
Back on dry land we walked up Laugavegur street, another popular shopping area.
This shop advertised itself as the cutest shop in Iceland. I agree!
Fox loved the robot mural.
Hello aqua house!
We don't travel lightly.
The next morning we woke up at 3:00am (we tried to stay on Germany time though so it "only" felt like 5:00am) to make our way to the airport. Reading material states: "Earthquakes, fires, volcanoes, floods, neglect, and pestilence." All things Icelanders have had to overcome.
Flying back into Germany, we passed over the bright yellow rapeseed fields that dot the country every spring/summer/fall.
On the drive home we spotted this bright pink Fiat. GIMME!!
Little clips of walking around Reykjavík and the puffin boat tour:
Our family in Reykjavík, Iceland on Wednesday May 3rd 2017.

And that concludes our trip to Iceland! Next trip: Oslo, Norway!

Golden Circle, Iceland

Sunday, May 21, 2017

East, Northeast of Reykjavík is the famous trio of sights known as The Golden Circle. Within 60 miles of the capital city you can see the rift between two continental plates, a tremendous waterfall, and the original spouting hot spring.

We headed out early. Iceland is two hours behind Germany and it gets light so early that our kids were up and raring to go by 4:30am local time. We didn't actually leave the apartment until 8am or so, but even still, I don't think we saw more than two other cars on the road out to our first stop.
Driving through Thingvellier National Park along Thingvallavatn Lake.

Such a crazy place. So rugged and harsh, but beautiful.
Cute hotel in a little town we passed through.
We decided to start at the farthest sight: Gullfoss. This is Iceland's most famous waterfall and is a spectacular double cascade. The water drops over 100 feet before rushing away down a narrow ravine.
Pictures just can't capture how massive these falls actually are!
Looking away from the falls out towards the plain. Also, it was suuuuuuuuper windy! The trail leading down closer to the waterfall was blocked off, for good reason, we were literally picked up off our feet a few times as we were running around.
If you're looking for relaxed nature walks and peaceful meditation, Icelandic tourism isn't really geared towards you, as evidenced by these crazy machines companies have to explore the island!
After the falls we drove the short distance back to stop #2: Geysir.
This area is known as the Haukadalur geothermal region and is home to several geysers.
The hissing, bubbling, steaming area is free to enter and explore.
The geyser Strokkur is a very reliable spout and goes off every 5 to 10 minutes.
The impressive plume shoots over 50 feet into the air.
Other pools surround the spouts and reminded us of our trip to Yellowstone in Wyoming.
So pretty!
And here she is, the geyser after which all other geysers are named: Geysir! We didn't get to see it go off, however. It goes through periods of increased or decreased activity, and lately it has been a little sleepy. Still, it was fun to see the OG: original geyser.
Our family in front of the Great Geysir.
A visitors center is located across the street with a couple cafes and shops so we grabbed a few snacks. Also, I don't think I've mentioned yet how incredibly expensive Iceland is. A simple small magnet costs $15. Yes, you read that right, $15. The food? Holy cow. Bring your own EVERYTHING!
Then we drove to stop #3 on the Golden Circle Loop: Thingvellier.
The park plain is situated on a tectonic plate boundary where North America and Europe are tearing away from each other at a rate of up to 18mm a year. As a result, the area is scarred with fissures, rifts, and rivers.
The great rift between the plates is called Almannagja and a path runs along and through it.
The area is also an important historical site since it was where the ancient Icelandic parliament would meet and hash out issues for the island. 
It was a fun and incredibly interesting day dipping our toes into the vast natural wonders that Iceland has to offer.
Back to the airbnb for the rest of the day to relax!
Highlights from the Golden Circle:
Our family at the Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland on Tuesday May 2nd 2017.
The next day we explored Reykjavík!
Paige Taylor Evans © // Quinn Creatives DESIGN