Color me surprised to find that Icelandic hotel breakfasts are far more than cold bagels and single servings of cereal. The Radisson Blu offered a dang smorgasbord of smoked fish, steaming oatmeal, charcuterie, and fresh juices. After that jet lag sleep, we needed a jolt of coffee and some good eats to get moving. Iceland takes its fishing culture so seriously that the breakfast bar featured not one, but two offerings of fish oil! I chose a capsule rather than a shot of cod liver oil. Hard pass.
The Hallgrimskirkja cathedral stands like a guardian over the city. Its iconic façade was the perfect place to meet our I Heart Reykjavic tour guide. Jide and I have found that walking tours are our favorite way to learn about a new city, and I Heart had glowing reviews online. We knew we'd made the right choice upon meeting our guide, a tiny, elven woman in a giant parka wearing two pairs of woolen mittens.
We learned some history, sure, but it was great to get a feel for the city as it is today. Curious neighborhood cats rubbed up on our legs and children in a preschool pressed their faces against the windows to greet us. Iceland is friendly as hell. We couldn't help but be envious learning about the government-funded child care and paternity leave. Those perks made me think we should cross an ocean and get to puttin' a bun in the oven. K I D D I N G.
Street artists are encouraged to put their work pretty much wherever, and we got a taste of their talent.
We learned it was "Beer Day," a celebration of the anniversary of the repeal of a 74 year long beer ban. I don't drink beer (the whole "no gluten" thing), but I cosign any holiday that encourages raising a glass. Just make mine cider! I also banked info on how the streets are de-iced (the naturally scalding water underground is fed through pipes under the city) and that the jail is a pretty regular building in the middle of town. The guide even admitted she often sees Bjork at one of the local public pools!
I'm crazy about any experience that gives me more factoids for my future stint as a Jeopardy contestant, so this tour was perfect for me. I can't recommend I Heart Reykjavic enough and it's safe to say I heart them too.
We had half an hour to kill before our whale watching tour, so we warmed up with steaming bowls of ramen at Ramen Momo. Jide is a ramen freak, so he was pretty stoked. Luckily there were rice noodles for L'il Miss Gluten-Free. Properly fed, we headed over to the dock to go hunt (ahem!) spot some whales.
We were given giant suits for the cold, and I thought I didn't need it. That didn't last long. I soon zipped up that sucker and was able to stay functional. I'd never seen a whale, and was excited that one might appear close to our boat.
Three hours later, and no dice. The tour guide was struggling and was pulling whale facts out to keep everyone entertained. It wasn't working. Children began to fall asleep on their parents' laps and young folks bought mini bottles of Kahlua to keep warm. Oh, whale! At least we got some laughs. The guide offered us tickets for a cruise the next day, but we declined and said farewhale.
Next up was the Saga Museum. Everything I'd read about the spot proved it was right up my alley. I love a weird attraction, and this one was certainly that. An audio tour led us through the history of Iceland, and the wax figures that depicted said history scared us the whole time. I swear I saw one move. We were the only folks in there, so there was no need to stifle our giggles. I knew so little about Iceland's history but afterward walked away feeling much more competent in the subject, despite the super creepy wax people. Are you sensing a theme here? I WANT ALL THE FACTS, PEOPLE.
Jide got to play dress up in the museum's lobby, and I had no problem art directing his Viking photo shoot. The "look away" is his go-to Blue Steel, so feel free to rib him about that!
We snagged some souvenirs (loose leaf tea, postcards, and volcanic salt) then headed out into the cold. I spotted a pretty rad horse statue and despite not being very limber, was able to hop onto its back. There's a long running joke in my family about my fear of horseback riding so I had to send them a quick text saying I'd loved my equestrian experience in Iceland. Trolling from across the world? Now that's dedication.