This Portland winter has been one of the wettest, coldest, and most miserable since I moved here six years ago. It has been pretty terrible. To combat the winter blues I started to look at flights to faraway lands. When I stumbled across a $370 (round-trip!) flight to Europe I couldn't resist. The flight was through Iceland Air and included a 24hr stopover through Reykjavik.
Coincidently, one of my besties from Wisconsin, Jen, flew into Reykjavik on the same day, only fifteen minutes after I landed. Jen's sister, Jeannie, author of the super cool blog, Life with a View, has been living in Iceland with her husband, Bobby, and they scooped us up from the airport. From there we headed to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with mineral-rich water in an amazing shade of icy aqua. At one glance, it can heal even the harshest winter blues.
The lagoon is a tourist-heavy activity, but it’s hard to resist, especially after an 8-hour flight. There’s something healing and almost medicinal about the pool. The aqua, silica-rich water, jaw-dropping setting, great company, and plush, white robes all came together to create an unforgettable experience.
Leaving the steamy lagoon we felt relaxed, refreshed, and really freaking hungry. We headed to Noodle Station, one of Jeannie and Bobby’s favorite spots.
I ordered the Núðlusúpa með kjúkligi, or noodle soup with chicken breast. It was 1540 króna, or $14.50. The whole time spent in Iceland I was always shocked when the cashier would tell me the cost. Yes, Iceland is expensive, but it was really hearing the number “one thousand five hundred and forty” for lunch that caught me by surprise.
The noodle soup was a perfect post-lagoon choice. The broth was so dark and salty. And you could tell the chicken had been stewing for hours. Juicy and tender. I also loved all the little add-ons: peanuts, scallions, bean sprouts and a variety of pepper sauces.
And a solid lunch really wouldn’t be complete without a quirky, anime comic painted on the wall.
After lunch, Jen and Jeannie took off on their Ring Road adventure. Bobby was nice enough to take me to my hotel in downtown Reykjavik. En route we stopped at the port for some famous Icelandic ice cream. I opted for a cone with two scoops: mint and chocolate biskit.
The ice cream in Iceland is different than I’ve ever had. It light, airy, almost frothy. It’s also not as sweet as ice cream in the U.S. When I was younger I loved to mix a scoop of ice cream into a glass of 2% milk. I’d stir it until the ice cream melted into the milk and then drink the mixture. It wasn’t really a milkshake seeing as it was like 80% milk and 20% ice cream. This childhood milky mixture reminded me a lot of Icelandic ice cream – refreshing, slightly creamy and not-too-sweet. Definitely a fan.
The rest of the afternoon I walked around downtown Reykjavik. The port area had some great little details, like these ropes and rusted dock hooks.
I also stopped in the Harpa, a multi-use community center and concert hall right on the water. It’s a new structure, built in 2011, and is quite striking. The colored, oddly shaped window panels make it a unique building. Beautiful to look at from the outside, in and inside, out.
My last outing and meal in Reykjavik was at Sushi Social. Considering the sea surrounds Iceland, sushi was recommended on more than one occasion and Sushi Social was always part of the conversation. I sat at the sushi bar and started thumbing through the thick menu. I first decided on a drink. It was the night’s special with mezcal and vinegar, two of my favorite flavors. When it arrived, I was taken a little off guard…
Holy shit. Talk about over-the-top presentation. The whole ‘unit’ was served in a ceramic bowl full of crushed ice. In that bowl was a small glass caraft, which contained the cocktail, a tiny glass bowl to pour the cocktail into, and some foliage. This exuberant presentation did come at a cost – a Ulysses S. Grant cost. Luckily, the cocktail itself was real tasty.
The sushi was also great. I wouldn’t say it blew my mind, but the roll was well composed and the nigiri was simple and super fresh.
After my $100+ meal for one I headed to my hotel to get some sleep. Zürich-bound in the AM!