We finally came across a take out place and the girl was about to close the door because it was around 8:00pm by now. But, she welcomed us in and showed us what was left. She had a nice lamb soup that Ruth had, and I had a meat patty with a fried egg on top, and some veggies and cabbage and potatoes. Total cost was 2,000 koronas ($16.30), so that wasn't too bad. The place was called Mamma Steina at Skolavordustig 23. Delicious traditional Icelandic home cooking! Ordering food for takeout. One of the items was horse meat. Maybe next time!
We were up early again yesterday because Reykjavik Excursions was picking us up at our hotel at 8:30am for the Golden Circle day tour. This is one of their most popular tours, and if you only have a short time in Iceland then it's a good way to see some interesting sights that are fairly close by.
This tour takes you about 120 kms (75 miles) inland from Reykjavik, heading pretty much straight east. First stop along the way is a greenhouse where they show you how they are growing their own tomatoes and cucumbers here in Iceland, and they are doing it year round! Iceland is fairly expensive in a lot of ways, but two things that are cheap and abundant are hot water and electricity. So these greenhouses have tapped into the natural hot springs and the water supply keeps the greenhouses at a constant temperature year round. The lighting is all computerized to make use of the short periods of natural daylight that occurs during winter as well as the long days of summer. Computers also control humidity and CO2 which are important for perfect tomatoes. The tomatoes are totally natural and no pesticides of any kind are used.
From there, we head to the Gulfoss Waterfall. This is a popular tourist destination and is a very busy spot. We are surprised by the number of tourists still visiting Iceland at this time of year. Our tour group yesterday was two busloads and over 100 people.
Then we started backtracking, making our way to the Strokkur Hot Springs where a natural geyser shoots a spout of hot water into the air every 4 to 8 minutes. Tried really hard to get a picture of this, but it happens so quickly and then all that is left is steam which is quickly blown away. Also, it is not like clockwork. Sometimes it's a column that goes straight up, and other times it's a big bubble that looks like it pops. Either way, it's something else to see but it's very difficult to get a great photo of! Natural steaming pools of water. Too hot to dip your hand into, with many of them close to the boiling point!
The next stop was Thingvellir National Park. This place is significant because it's where the tectonic plates that separate the American continent for the Eurasia continent are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year. Every few decades there's a bit of an earthquake that causes the plates to drop, and there's now a significant crevices in the ground that runs miles across the land at this point. You can see the huge cracks in the ground due to the shifting of the tectonic plates. This is the actual spot where the North American continent officially ends. They have built a ramp where the ground collapsed a few years ago so that you can walk right through one of the crevices.
For us, it's all about value. Our room was €75 ($93.75) per night. Considering this hotel is right in downtown Reykjavik, it's a decent deal for what you get. Breakfast included is the way to go here, since restaurant breakfasts are expensive on their own, and the room rate itself is on the lower end of the scale anyhow. My only complaint with the room rate is that it should be priced in Icelandic Korona's, which is the local currency.
The room itself was perfect for us. Fairly small, but we're used to living in a motorhome so we don't notice small rooms anymore! No complaints at all, and the bed and the pillows were very comfy. We didn't hear any odd noises through the night and we slept very well. I had a shower last night before bed, and no complaints there either.
So, we got to the boat on the south shore and everybody got on board. As soon as we got going, they explained the safety rules and also said that we might be warmer and more comfortable with one of the "overalls" they had available for us to wear. It can get pretty cold out there, even though it was a bright sunny day. The temperature was about 10C (50F), but it was still really windy. I figured I was okay with what I had on, but Ruth decided to put on the suit they offered.And then the excitement started. No, I couldn't get any decent pictures. But everyone was scooting from one side of the boat to the other and then to the front while Sunna was directing us to look out for a pod of harbour porpoises. Sure enough, we did see these small marine mammals a couple of times before they disappeared, but the strong winds made getting a photo of these guys pretty tough. These porpoises average between 5 and 6 feet in length.
And then, as we were getting close to the harbour, we spotted a group of white beaked dolphins. We think there were four of them, and they played and swam around for a while, but they are pretty quick, and again no decent pictures. But we had fun watching these slightly larger creatures. Still not as big as a whale, but the white beaked dolphin grows to between 7 and 10 feet long. We had a fun time, despite the fact that the whales didn't co-operate. Elding knows what they're doing with this whale watching stuff, and they make every effort to make sure you can see something. We stayed out there for almost four hours and they investigated every possibility. It just didn't happen. Glad we did see the porpoises and dolphins though, so that made it all worthwhile.
We ate at the Krua Thai restaurant, and we each had the same dish. This was a chicken panang curry dish and we both agreed that it was delicious! We had brought our own water so we didn't order anything to drink. On the menu this dish is listed as being 1,950 koronas ($16.00) each. Tax is included, and there is no tipping in Iceland. So our total bill was 3,900 ($32.00) for dinner.
Our second night in Reykjavik was spent at the CenterHotel Arnarvholl, a slightly more upscale hotel in the Reykjavik downtown area. This hotel is right on the waterfront, and a lot of rooms face the water. This room was a deluxe double...slightly larger and with an beautiful view. It's a little more expensive than our stay at the CenterHotel Klopp, at €115 ($143.75) per night. A standard double room can be had for €90 ($112.00) per night. The CenterHotel Arnarvholl also has a classy restaurant on the 8th floor overlooking the water. A stunning view, and that's where the breakfast buffet takes place. Once again, breakfast is included in your room rate.
We drove around a few neighbourhoods and then up to the "Pearl". This is actually six huge hot water storage tanks overlooking Reykjavik, and they have built a restaurant and lookout on top of the tanks. It's actually a pretty neat place and there are also quite a few short hiking trails in the land surrounding the Pearl.
This is the largest of the CenterHotels group of five hotels in downtown Reykjavik. It has 180 rooms and it's located (as the name suggests) right in the plaza of downtown. The rooms are large and the view over the plaza is bustling with activity. CenterHotel Plaza rates are between €75 and €100 ($94 to $125) per night if you book in advance. This is pretty reasonable for downtown Reykjavik, and once again there is added value because of the great breakfast.
We had no complaints with our visit to CenterHotel Plaza. If we had to think of a downside, it might be that it can be fairly busy at the plaza itself so you might get some outside noise on weekends. We had no issues though.