Highlights of a city almost at the top of the world…Reykjavik, Iceland Barbara Kingstone November 1, 2019 Destinations, Europe, Hotels, Ireland I certainly underestimated Iceland, I thought I’d see the Norther Lights, touch an iceberg, and soak in the hot springs. Then I’d be on my way to my next stop, London UK. But there are so many places and sites to see and in the four days there, ( not long enough ), I did discover as much as possible of this charming, very northern city of Reykjavik on the cutting edge with new beautiful architecture, hidden- away fashion designers and well thought out food made local ingredients that are not imported. Import duty makes Reykjavik feel as though you are in expensive New York City but without the hyper steroids. I didn’t meet any Vikings but was totally swept away by the variety of polite, helpful locals and interesting city sites. Reykjavik was always my thought of being on the top of the world and what a better time visiting my 100th country and counting As a single woman traveller, one of my first objectives and a tip to first timers, when available, take a Hop On/ Hop Off, bus which helps familiarize the entire city. Four days doesn’t do justice to this city with a population of 124,000. To see more of the country, one needs double that. However, I did push a lot into those days. ARCHITECTURE The most obvious building to startle you is, Hallgrimskiekja Lutheran Church, an edifice sweeping upward, 74.5 metres (244 feet). Located atop a hilly street in the centre of the city, it has become a landmark which can be seen from almost anywhere in Reykjavik. Semi rounded columns attached to the building and worked in textured concrete, with a heavy main door and detailed with red mosaic tiles and brass and the huge spire are the first inviting sights. Inside traditional pews, marvellous high arched ceiling with a huge organ in shiny golden colour as though absorbing the autumn colours. And then there’s Leif Eiriksson’s large statue which stands in the front..a sort of welcome to this majestic piece of architecture. One of the most unusual grand examples is the Harpo Centre, a masterpiece in any country. This unexpected glass creation is by H.Larson Architects in Reykjavik. It is first a musical venue where world renowned musicians perform and also has conference utilities The interior is exceptional since that, too, has glass walls while the ceiling is unique mix of various metals WHAT AN HISTORIC SIGHT. Who knew that President Reagan and Secretary Gorbachev met in Reykjavik for Summit Talks then shook hands at the city’s mayor’s front door? These two politicians are no longer around but the house has become a destination, much to the now-mayor’s consternation.. However, you can’t get too close to that door but certainly offers great photo ops FOOD I admit that I didn’t take much time to eat but from what I did ‘nosh’ and see was either the same old e.g hamburgers with every topping one could imagine and freshly made sandwiches. On the other hand, I did have soup, beef and veal in a cream and tomato base which is served in bread bowl, right out of the oven I still salivate when I think of it. There were a few Chinese eateries but everything was deep fried with heavy grease batter, and why go to Iceland for Chinese? So I left. And besides, I try to always eat what the locals are eating . The fish, as I expected, was delicious. One choice was lightly seared scallops and my neighbour seatmate, oohed and ached about his cod dish. However, that said, breakfasts were most acceptable, especially good for their coffee and yogurt. However, strangely, hot dogs made with pork and lamb in natural casing is a staple and the extravagant multi toppings make it the most popular offering. This reasonably low price makes it one of the most sought after foods. Originally, the Icelandic menu included fermented shark, puffin, boiled sheep’s head but only a very few menus feature these ‘delicacies”. For those who are ‘foodies,” there are a few culinary tours. THINGS TO DO Since rooms aren’t cleared from previous guests until mid day, and early arrivals can’t have their room until 1.30PM . So how smart is this?. A bus takes you to the Blue Lagoon. Leave your luggage at a small building exclusively for that purpose and destroy your perfect packing as you dig for your bathing suit, where ever that is. Now expect a 7-10 minute walk through a gravel stones road between stunning lava fields. That is particularly lovely. Once you’re at The Blue Lagoon ,you’re asked to take a shower, (showers are divided by gender,) then into your bathing suit and rush as quickly as you can outdoors until your get into the man made hot springs. The temperature outside is cold. But once in the lagoon, temps are from 33-39C (97-102F). Who would have guessed that flip flops and a bathrobe would be a necessities… you can rent them. The Lagoon is out doors and it is chilly to say the least, until you get into the hot silica filled springs. I hadn’t realized while I was defrosting, that I could have been in the lagoon from a inside door, (usually for handicap people) without having to hold your breath until I quickly dunked my body into the hot water. However, all that said, it was a enjoyable experience. Museums are a must. The Museum of Whales , the National Museum which shouldn’t be missed. Icelandic Phallological Museum, with 282 phallic symbols in a smallish but adequate space is probably the only one of its kind in the world. It features penises of seals, whales, and even a few donated by humans. The Final Member, was a film produced and directed by Canadian document markers, Zach Math and Jonah Bekhor in the 60s. It’s located on, Laugavegur St.. aka the “shopping street”. HOTELS There is certainly something for everyone…and hotels are shooting up like the Northern Lights (which I didn’t see due to clouds). There are already a few Hiltons, a Marriott in the process of being built (2019) and most probably other chain hotels heading for construction. Once there were about 40,000 tourists/year but you can’t keep a good country hidden for long. Over 3 million visited last year. I stayed on the main street, Laugavegur Street, at the Alda Hotel. It’s a terrific location and very modern facilities but. ..and there is usually A BUT, Unfortunately, it was pouring rain and the hotel was three blocks away on cobblestones. Buses are not allowed. Nobody mentioned this difficulty when I booked my accommodations. The street is just too narrow. The kindest gesture was from two young German girls who are artists. They insisted on helping with my luggage. I needed different clothing since my next stop was sophisticated London, so I had two pieces of luggage. THE MARVELLOUS ENDING I took the girls for lunch which they told me was the first ‘real ‘ meal they had. Starving artists exist in Reykavik, since the city’s old and new sections make this perfection for scenic art form. But no matter how charming it is a very expensive city. So, my new friends were delighted and the hamburgers disappeared very quickly. The mid twenty year old girls were so grateful while I was the one who was so very grateful for their assistance and a great introduction to Reykjavik, Iceland, where I intend to visit again.