Friday, February 19, 2016

My Iceland Adventure!

So this week I had a unique opportunity to visit Iceland for 24 hours.  Icelandair is running a promotion for anyone who has booked a flight on their airline and flies through Reykjavik, you can "Stopover" for up to 7 days.  I have always wanted to visit Iceland. I booked my trip to Germany on Icelandair so I thought I might as well take advantage of the opportunity.  I decided to take the stopover on the way back when I knew I would be tired but would really need a diversion day.

I had to prioritize what I would be able to see in 24 hours and what was important for me to experience.  It came down to two things: the Northern Lights and Faeroe Island Salmon.  I have been to many cities in my travels so as much as I would like to experience Reykjavik I will save that for next time.

I chose instead to book a room in a little guesthouse not too far from the airport.  In my research, I found that transportation and food are particularly expensive. I needed to find a  place that would be far enough out to see the Northern Lights, be walking distance to restaurants, and would provide transportation to and from the airport.  This was a bit of a tall order.  Luckily, I found a place that had all the things I was looking for.  The Hotel Berg is in Keflavik, a small town about 10 minutes from the airport.  It is further out on the Reykjavik peninsula right, on the Bay.  It was originally the owners house but in 2011 she expanded it, remodeled it, and made it into a guest house.  I was amazed.  It had very homey touches like a hand crocheted afghan at the end of the bed coupled with modern looks like frosted glass showers with rain  shower heads.  The house is located on a cliff overlooking a small marina with mostly fishing boats.

The town on Keflavik is about a 5 minute walk from this little gem.  There is a walking path above the guest house that affords a beautiful view of the bay, snowy mountains in the distance, and darkness for a perfect viewing environment for the Northern Lights. 

I arrived about 5:00 pm so I only had about an hour of sunlight left before sunset.  I immediately changed into warmer gear and walked up the path to the cliffs.  It was so beautiful.  The light had just started to change and I could see the pink of the sunset starting to deepen.  Just as the sunset was in full glory, my phone died.  It was a spectacular sunset but you'll have to trust me. 

I made dinner reservations at a little spot close to the house and walked down about 7:00 pm. It was a really cute place with windows all around.  My only requirement being that they serve Faeroe Island Salmon.   I am obsessed with this salmon.  I live in the PNW where we have some of the best salmon in the world but one bite of this fish and Alaskans would be jealous. My best guess as to why it is so good is that the northern Atlantic near Iceland, Greenland, and the Arctic Circle is freaking COLD and that salmon needs to be really fat to protect itself in the frigid water.  The texture when cook correctly is like eating butter. It feels almost lush in your mouth.  It definitely tastes like salmon but more delicate in flavor.  I am drooling just thinking about it.  This little place only had one salmon dish so it took no time to order.  The strange thing was that almost everything on the menu was a combination of fish and seafood.  My oven baked salmon came with a lobster tail and garlic poached bay shrimp.  It was so much food!  It even came with potatoes and mixed vegetable.  Don't get me wrong, everything was delicious and cooked really nicely, it was just a big plate of food.  I ate it like a champ though and washed it down with a local Icelandic micro brew. 

It was cloudy and windy, not ideal conditions for Northern Lights viewing but everyone kept saying the clouds were due to pass.  Ok, so I am not stupid.  I know that I had loooong odds to be in Iceland for one night and think that I was going to behold one of the earth's most spectacular phenomenons.  A girl's got to try though.  I hung out for a while after dinner and got a call from the front desk that some guests out on the cliff path had just spotted the Lights.  I hurried out about 9:00 pm walked up the path and lo and behold a perfect fluorescent green beam!  It was peaking through the clouds but I definitely saw it.  It wasn't the dance of light you see in pictures but it was enough for me to know what it was and that I was lucky enough to see it.  Soon after, just like a rainbow, it faded and was gone.  It then started to snow - hard.  The snow was supposed to stop by midnight, be blown away by strong winds resulting in great view conditions by midnight.  I stayed up and at midnight bundled up with as much down as I had and walked up to the cliffs under the moonlight.  It was a COLD but clear night.  There was even a frost ring around the moon.  No more Northern Lights though.  I stayed out for about 30-40 minutes until I was just too cold to pretend the wind wasn't winning my battle to wait.

I am writing this on my return flight home.  I was in Iceland for 24 hours.  It was in a snowy white wonderland full of lovely people and gorgeous landscape.  I checked off another country on my passport.  I ate Faeroe Island salmon.  And I can say I glimpsed the Northern Lights from a cliff on a cold February night on the Icelandic coast.

A good day indeed.

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