Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Iceland

Incredible Iceland #5 – Miscellaneous stuff

One final post about Iceland…for now. It’ll be short and simple. I am sure I can write on and on about this beautiful country but five posts in this series is pretty good for the moment. This one will be about some miscellaneous fun stuff that I encountered in Reykjavik that I haven’t written about previously.

When I saw the back of the white polar bear from afar, I thought it was a huge dog…my eyes must be really bad 😦 Anyway, the focus of this photo is on the Icelandic flag, which like the flags of all other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway) has a cross on it. The three colours on the flag each represents one defining natural feature of the country: red for the volcanoes, white for the glaciers, and blue for the sea surrounding the island (source: bus guide Erlingur).

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Incredible Iceland #4 – Winter sunrise

On my final morning in Iceland, I decided not to explore anymore, in case I didn’t want to leave. Then the tears on the plane would be for Iceland, not Bordeaux…

…but I was going to see a sunrise on top of the Hallgrímskirkja. Sunrises don’t have to be painful ordeals at 5am. Head to Iceland in the winter months where the sun rises at 10am. Wake up bright (or not) and early (9am is barely early), eat a nice breakfast, drink a cup of coffee or two, and head up the Hallgrímskirkja for a grand spectacle. But…BRRRRRRRRRRRR!! It was COLD! Getting ready for Canada, yeah! Made me wonder why I missed the cold, and how I survived 14 Canadian winters.

The day before the sunset watch, I saw this beautiful scene by the Hallgrímskirkja in the morning. I wondered what it would be like to be at the very top of the tower, observing the rising of the sun as it happens.

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Incredible Iceland #3 – So much good food!

The thing about Iceland is that I had such high expectations in everything – and these expectations were exceptionally met – except for its food. Well, that’s not exactly true. More like, I didn’t know what to expect, except for a lot of fish and seafood, maybe. I had taken the time to research about the city of Reykjavik and the natural wonders of Iceland, but I didn’t really pay much attention to the food. It was more of a eat-as-you-go scenario, or so I thought. It seems that Iceland really is a perfect place, as the food was a very pleasant surprise. You go on Tripadvisor or other review sites and every restaurant in Reykjavik has a 3.5/5 rating or higher. So as it turns out, the food was pretty darn good. Add “culinary delight” to the ever-growing list of things I love about Iceland.

The first night I was in Reykjavik, I stopped by a restaurant close to the guesthouse, named 3 Frakkar Hja Ulfari. Apparently the name of the restaurant means either “3 overcoats” or “3 Frenchmen” in English. I sat down and ordered the “Gratineraður Plokkfiskur með rúgbrauði”, or “Hashed fish with black bread “Icelandic specialty””. Icelandic specialty…why not. (I had really contemplated getting the hakarl and was later relieved that I didn’t. The real hakarl experience will be shared in another post.) Don’t be fooled. The yellow blob is not an omelette, but hashed fish covered in some sort of sauce. I couldn’t make out what the sauce was in the hashed fish, so I asked the waitress. She didn’t know either, so she asked the chef, and told me that it was Bearnaise sauce. HUH. That was the strongest Bearnaise sauce I’ve ever had. The one I’ve had before was more on the sour side where as this one was really potent, really…fishy. Or maybe it was just the hashed fish. Good stuff 😛

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Incredible Iceland #2 – The Golden Circle

To illustrate why Iceland is my favourite place ever, this post is absolutely necessary. I loved Reykjavik already after one night of staying there, but I loved Iceland even more after immersing myself in the boundless realms of nature that it promised to offer. And it did not disappoint.

You see, when I planned my stay Iceland, I knew I wanted to see some nature. Maybe a lot of nature. A trip to such an exotic destination wouldn’t be complete without seeing its most defining features outside of the urban center – the waterfalls, the geysers, the national parks. I didn’t have a car to take me around the country, but that wasn’t an issue as there was a myriad of tour companies operating day-tours along the most popular tourist routes. One of the classic tours is the Golden Circle tour, a route that takes you around South Iceland and stops at several cultural and natural sites. The description seemed to suit me perfectly, and after signing up with one of the tours, I was on my way to see the other side of Iceland. And boy, that beauty…it was unfathomable.

We set out at around 8:30 in the morning, when the sky was still pitch black. The sun rises at around 10:30 in January, so that’d be another couple of hours before we’d see daylight 😛 On the bus, I saw some dedicated runners doing their morning runs in the dark, an interesting sight as I had never experienced a morning that was still dark at 8:30 am. The bus took us out of Reykjavik onto the “Ring Road”, beginning our tour around the Golden Circle, passing by the “greenhouse town” of Hveragerði. Yep, those rows of illuminated houses are indeed greenhouses, and they looked stunning in the dark, even from the bus, prompting a friend to say, “How can a greenhouse be this beautiful!”

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Incredible Iceland #1 – Reykjavik, the capital

Iceland is my most favourite place so far in Europe. There, I said it.

To me that’s a pretty bold statement and I had to contemplate a bit but yes, I decided to make the proclamation that Iceland has replaced Switzerland as my favourite European travel destination.

For a long time I couldn’t bring myself to blog about Iceland because I worry that no amount of elaborate descriptions or breathtaking photographs can ever do Iceland justice. It also pains me to remember my trip because it reminds me that such a dream-like place exists on earth, and I’ve been there. Yet I’m not there now, and if that place I’m talking about is Iceland, that thought is enough to make me slightly depressed.

Truth is, if there was one European country I wouldn’t hesitate visiting again, it’d be Iceland. Maybe it’s the friendly people. Maybe it’s the breathtaking scenery. Maybe it’s the smell of sulphur and the mystery of the hakarl…okay not really. Maybe it’s the serenity of even the largest city, Reykjavik. Every breath I took, I fell in love with this place more and more.

First impression of Iceland from the plane: barren. Cold, barren, deserted. From the aircraft window, the landscape already attracted my wandering spirit and I couldn’t wait to see what this country had to offer. I took Icelandair in 2010 when I first stepped onto European soil, and it is the same airline that takes me away from Europe and back to North America. This trip was planned as part of a correspondence on my way back home from France to Toronto, where I thought I’d take a 3-day stopover in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. After a very mild mid-winter in mainland Europe, I finally arrived to some real cold…if -1 degrees Celsius is even cold at all.

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