My Little Grand Tour: Iceland

I don’t mind travelling alone. It provides me with a chance to focus and I find it particularly beneficial if I have to figure out shit. Which I do. This summer, hence, I took advantage of some business proposals and I basically went hiking. Only with less mountains. And more oysters. A lot more oysters. I […]

I don’t mind travelling alone. It provides me with a chance to focus and I find it particularly beneficial if I have to figure out shit. Which I do.

This summer, hence, I took advantage of some business proposals and I basically went hiking. Only with less mountains. And more oysters. A lot more oysters.

I took a low cost flight to St Louis, where I had to attend a convention as a speaker, and the flight had a 22 hours stop in Reflavik, Iceland, which is basically on the other side of the bay from Reykjavik. I took the chance and, instead of camping in the airport, I stretched my legs to a nice hotel above the hill where a giantess lives (no kidding, more on that later). If you’re stranded in the international airport for more than 12 hours, it’s something I strongly encourage you to do. There are lots of things to do and to see, even without wandering to the main city or to the blue lagoon. What is there, you ask? Well, this is what I’m here for.

Things I saw in Reflavik

First of all, you have to understand that I don’t like to travel with much luggage. On top of that, my main luggage was being shipped straight to St Louis, therefore all I had was my carry on. I hope the guys at Wow (the low cost Company) won’t get offended, but… well, I was very much afraid they would loose my luggage. So. In my carry on luggage I primarily had the clothes I needed to pull off my two classes in St Louis: a light blue lace skirt for the main class, a white one with laces for the lab, a shirt with 3/4 sleeves, a sleeveless jacket (also crucial for the steampunk costume needed on the gala dinner), another sleeveless shirt. Weather in St Louis was going to be hot. No sweaters allowed. But I’m no fool, so I packed also my ankle boots (also convenient for the steampunk attire), my new lace-leather jacket which I adore, my beautiful woolen cape and… well, did I say I’m no fool? I kind of am. I left both pairs of trousers in the hold luggage. My only chance not to freeze my knees was sitting tight in Reflavik international airport, while I was wandering around in a solid 8-10°C. Good news is: it’s not that cold. Bad news is: it’s still quite cold.

General Tip: how to survive in summer clothes

I devised a strategy in order to survive Iceland dressed in two layers of summer clothes. It’s called pubs.

Reflavik has things to see every 20 minutes of walk. Now, thing is you cannot walk for 20 minutes in the freezing wind dressed in two layers of summer clothes. Good news: there’s a pub every 10 minutes. So, my advise is: go into a pub, order a hot fish broth, drink it, get warm. Get out, walk for 10 minutes, get into the museum, see the amazing stuff they have, get warm. Get out and aim for the next museum. It’s going to be 20 minutes away, so pick a route that involves pub. After 10 minutes, get into the pub, order a hot fish broth, drink it, get warm. Get out. Reach the museum. Repeat at will. Both things are amazing (museums and fish broths I mean).

And if you can’t make it, you can buy stuff. I really hope you like those sweaters your mother gives you for Christmas.

1. Nature

Of course this is the main thing in Iceland. Also because, and I really mean it, it’s really really really the only thing you have in something like 95% of the Country. When you fly above it, look down and shiver (already). It’s a beautiful flat disc of moss, with few stones here and there (they’re called landmarks) and a single road circling around the place. They call it “the Ring”. No shit.


2. The Stekkjarkot

If I tell you that these are houses with grass on the roof, you would think I’m making fun of you. Actually I’m not. Icelanders did this way before it was cool, way before architects called it “a green roof” they were turf-houses, a word that doesn’t have the same ring and real estate would never accept. Seeing these is really something that brings you to question if what you’re doing is really innovative, really significant, or if you’re really bullshitting everybody, including yourself.

3. The History Museum of Reykjanesbaer

If you can’t find enough fish broth to keep you going until you see a Stekkjarkot, this museum makes for a fine replacement. They took one of those houses and encapsulated it into a steel contained, for your own (warm) amusement. They have a nice collection of objects and tell the story of the Dutch merchant who lived in the house: how trade developed between the two countries, became binding, how Icelanders broke free, and the evolution of everyday life throughout that span of time. They have a spinning wheel that looks exactly like the Sleeping Beauty one. Unfortunately, piercing your finger doesn’t make you fall asleep forever. Not that I tried. IMG_4014 They also have a small model of the turfhouse, at the top level of the turfhouse. Within the model, in the top level, you have a teeny tiny little model of a turfhouse, and if you watch closely… IMG_4021

4. Keflavik Maritime Center

Do you like model of boats? Well, I sincerely hope you do. And if you do, you have to visit the Maritime Center. It’s right next door to the History museum I told you about before and at the same level of the Duushús Museum I’ll tell you about in a minute. IMG_4025 It’s a couple of rooms, one with reconstructions of boats and the other… well, with smaller reconstructions of boats. An amazing collection of models. Unfortunately, you cannot play with them. IMG_4027

5. The Duushús Museum

Right next to the Maritime and the History Museums, you have this gallery of modern art. Nice pieces, all things considered, and it will allow you to stay warm a little while longer. IMG_4031

6. The Giantess under the Hill

It’s an art installation, sort of, and a quite nice at that. If you have kids it will be fun. If you don’t but you don’t have a stick up your ass, it will be fun as well.


They posed a giant papier-mache statue of a female baby-eating giant, snoring and everything, in a cave right under the Hotel Berg where I was staying. She has a sort of Christmas tree where she hangs all the pacifiers of the children she ate and a huge bed that looks so uncomfortable it’s no wonder she’s sleeping seated.

7. Viking World

If you’re up there, you have to get yourself a daily dose of Vikings. The museum was very far, compared to where I was staying, but with the lifestyle I described it was manageable to get there by foot. The architecture is interesting enough too.

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Sleep and Eat

I had a nice stay at the Hotel Berg (if you’re in for strong emotions: they have an open-air swimming pool, 40°C inside, 8°C outside). It’s neatly designed, I loved both the rooms and the main areas. And it’s just above the giantess which, I guess, might come in hand should you happen to be staying there with a bunch of unwanted noisy children.


I had wonderful fish at the charming Library, and at the Beint úr sjó, two aesthetically different kind of places: the first is a nice bistrot with an awful entrance; the former is a diner with nice touches here and there but overall could use some work. Kaffi Sudur and the Sigurjónsbakarí have nice food too. You have to try the Lava Restaurant, for the location alone. And I had a wonderful pecan pie at Orange & more. Really truly.

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