Though David and I always revel in our back-to-back birthdays, this year was extra special as December 6 marked my 30th.
To celebrate, I chose Iceland as our final European destination before returning to the US. While we were a bit wary of heading so far north during the winter, Iceland ended up being the absolute perfect pre-Christmas holiday destination. Yes, it was cold and wet, but the snow made the rugged mountains and desolate fields of lava rock even more breath-taking. And yes, there was only about five hours of sunlight per day, but that never stood in the way of sight-seeing. What better place to get into the Christmas spirit than the world’s most northerly capital city? Tiny Reykjavík was laced with cosy Christmas lights. In fact out of the 17 countries I visited this year, Iceland was one of my favourites.
Just a few notes for anyone planning an Icelandic adventure. We stayed at an absolute perfect guest house called Baldursbrá, where the kind proprietor, Evalyn helped us plan and book our entire stay. Sightseeing in Iceland isn’t cheap, but it is extremely convenient. All tours will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel and some are tailored for sight-seeing up until the moment they drop you off at the airport. Though the tours are a bit pricey, getting to Iceland is relatively cheap. Icelandair provides cheap flights between the US and Europe with no additional charge for a few days of stop-over in Iceland.
As far as I could tell, Iceland’s only major flaw is its cuisine. On our last night, I plucked up my courage and tried a sampler plate from Café Loki – mashed fish, smoked trout, smoked lamb, fish jerky, and fermented shark. The first three items were all spread over rye bread or Icelandic flatbread; they were all decent although the smoked items were particularly smoky. The fish jerky was surprisingly good; maybe not my snack of choice, but definitely tasty. Finally, the fermented shark: I have nothing good to say about this item except that I’m proud of myself for choking the stuff down, unlike the poor tourist at the table next to ours who ended up depositing hers back in a napkin. Basically it was a squishy pungent cube that left a stinging presence akin to rubbing alcohol in the nose as it went down. Fortunately I washed it all down with traditional herbal tea made from birch and moss and David drank Viking, an Icelandic beer. For dessert we had a lovely pancake stuffed with Skyr – the protein-rich Icelandic yogurt and cream.
Not a bad way to bring in my 30th – can’t wait to see what we’ll do for David’s next December. Suggestions, anyone?