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Iceland – Day Two

Posted by joeabbott on December 23, 2009

Keeping with my previous entry, I’m just regurgitating my journal and adding a few pics. Suzy and I are already talking about things we’d like to do when we return. 🙂

Also, we have very few pictures from this first day. One, it was dead dark; two, we just didn’t have our A-tourist game going. Most of the pics here were pulled from the web.

12-11-2009, Friday

OK, somewhere over Canada or Greenland the date changed. Now that I have my watch corrected, let’s call it tomorrow already.

It’s just about 6 PM and the tour guide for the tour we were taking to see the Northern Lights called. Zero changes to see the Aurora Borealis tonight, are we still interested in going? We have a good guide lined up and an “excellent” restaurant so we’re still game. The tour was called Northern Nights and Lobsters!

Suzy was back in the room working on mail and her phone while I wrote a few postcards. Odd to write a card saying “we’ve done nothing yet.” Still, I’m not sure when we’ll have time for much other than touring after today.

I have a bit of the sniffles which I hope doesn’t progress and a headache. I’m of the opinion that a good night’s rest will take care of both. We’ll see.

30 minutes until tour time!

The tour was splendid! Although we didn’t see a Northern Light, we had a really good time.

Inga, our tour guide and driver, picked us up at 6 PM directly. She was a local girl “from one of the villages on the NW coast” who left for a stay in NJ for a year. She was an au pair for a couple just across the river from Manhattan and loved it. Then she came back. Her husband does something with Icelandic Climbing Guides and she works this tour. And has done so for the past 10 years.

She was a bit sarcastic, a good conversationalist, and had a breezy way about her. She was great.

On the way out of town we picked up another couple. A brother and sister: Paul and Sam. He lived in London and she in a Northern England town (somewhere near the Scotland border). He did something with the music industry and she was “in marketing” (but it wasn’t clear for whom). Paul made a passing reference to setting up a gig with Elton Jon in Iceland a year or two back. He was taking her to Iceland as a surprise destination for her 40th birthday.

Anyhow, they were a bit duddy. Didn’t ask much, didn’t offer much, and fell asleep on the tour back from dinner. At one point Inga pointed out their PM’s office and Paul made a comment about it being the size of the place the English PM kept his/her horses. I thought that was a lead-in to some other sassy comments. Nope. Just the one.

As we headed out, it was already very dark. We drove down “main street” and I can’t remember a single word of our guide’s narrative. Icelandic is quite a mouthful and they seem to use a lot of letters to build up their written words. Too bad as it makes writing a memory a bit hard! I later learned that “main street” is named “Laugavegur” … doesn’t really roll off my tongue but the natives can make it sound quite lyrical.

But, down “Main” street through many lights. Both holiday and traffic varieties. We got both Brits at some hotel or other on the main drag and then out to the countryside.

It was pitch black and little to no moon. And then there was the clouds and rain. That’ll put a damper on sightseeing. But moods were good, I had a lot of questions, and the driver told a good tale.

At one point we were heading over a moderate mountain pass when it became clear we had something like 10’ of visibility. But our driver kept motoring on and we popped over the crest and left the fog behind.

She named towns and highlights of places –geothermal wells, green houses, farming or fishing villages – and I was quite impressed at a couple things.

First, most everything was a ‘village”. Second, all of the villages were spread out like mini-cities! Massive land and electricity were used for each person. Giving a small place of 3000 people look huge.

But we drove fairly directly to our dinner place with a constant flow of conversation and data between mostly us and Inga. Our meal was in a little town, er, village called Stokkseyri.

The restaurant was pretty much like most any other coastal restaurant: low ceiling, lap board siding, local ocean art on the walls. But there wasn’t much else that was similar to what we have in WA. No fried food at all. This was delicious.

I did a little web-digging and believe this is the place: Við Fjöruborðið. They have a bunch of pictures.

They started with freshly baked breads and a couple of dips. One was balsamic vinegar, honey and some herb. The other was a garlic aioli sort of sauce. Both were tasty but the bread needed no additional flavoring to be tasty.

Then in short order came the lobster.

It was a tureen filled with little lobster tails about the size of a HUGE prawn or tiny lobster. They were beheaded, pan-seared, and loaded in butter and spices/herbs. Oh my. Delicious!

With them were a couple dozen tiny baby tates, some couscous, salad, and tomatoes rounded out the meal.

I ate well over a dozen of the lobsters and no one was wanting more. No fishy taste, very light and delicate, and 100% delightful. Yum-a-licious!

The meal went on for a while as we got to know one another a bit (no one really asked about me …). Paul had a couple pints while Suzy and I had water. Sam had a couple small carafes of white wine.

Suzy, Inga, and I had dessert. Suzy enjoyed the chocolate cake, I had carrot, Inga – meringue.

After dinner we walked out to see the ocean – just behind the restaurant – and then headed back north. At the ocean beach we saw the sign (above) noting “next land to the south: Antarctica”!

On the way north she took the vehicle off road and we motored a bit over bumps and sand dunes. It was fun but lost a bit of the appear in the dead darkness.

At one point we stopped and the driver produced Black Death. A local schnapps made from potatoes and caraway seeds. I tried to sample mine without really drinking it. Good thing it was pitch dark. Suzy wanted a baggie of sand and getting out made a good opportunity to spill out the rest. Ick. But the tiny shot glass made for a good shovel to scoop up the black sand from the beach.

Then the long drive back.

Paul and Sam didn’t stand a chance and were openly snoring. I started to doze once and then blabbed on the entire time to avoid dropping off myself.

And back we came. Inga dropped Suzy and me off first and it was up to bed and off to sleep. A very nice day.

Oh, I forgot to mention the cemeteries. Out here there are many tombstones (as opposed to plaques) and all of them were decorated with holiday lights. I’d also asked about the many menorah light decorations I was seeing around … Inga’s response, “Oh, we just like the design and don’t get so caught up in the symbolism or meaning. It just looks pretty.”

Wow.

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