July 9, 2016

Day Four – Epic Odyssey

Today, we continue our journey to Iceland — another misnomer, as it is quite green. We certainly tested the endurance of the small but capable staff at the Hotel Narsarsuaq, with all 26 of us checking out at 6:30 a.m. They rose to the occasion, but we ended up departing about 1.5 hours behind schedule. On departure, two of the planes (RB and PZ) fly out information for an air-to-air shoot over the glaciers. The flight is thrilling and the scenery spectacular, and we find ourselves recalling one of those crucial rules of flying: Don’t hit the mountains! The journey to Iceland is a quick and scenic 2-hour flight. We land at Reykjavik Airport (BIRK), unload and sail through customs. We all request the passport stamp featuring Iceland’s unique design, shaped like the country! We proceed by taxi to the Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel, a new addition to the increasingly busy Reykjavik tourist trade. It is quaint and charming and the staff is exceptional! We quickly check in, grab a snack at their café, and then almost immediately depart for our afternoon excursions, some for a city tour and others for an ATV tour. The city tour group manages to see quite a lot in a short time, visiting Hallgrímskirkja, the striking Lutheran Parish Church, the Sun Voyager sculpture, and the unique houses built into the landscape, which conjure up memories of the Hobbit dwellings in “Lord of the Rings.”

The ATV adventurers climb the two mountains surrounding the city, through lush hills and valleys. Despite donning protective jumpsuits, gloves, and helmets, we manage to get totally soaked after getting caught in a rainstorm. The stunning landscapes and views of the city make it worth braving the elements. With little time to spare, we all convene back at the hotel for a quick refresh, then off to the famous Grill Market Restaurant to experience their classic Tasting Menu. The restaurant, located in the heart of downtown, is very modern and upscale, like much of Reykjavik. We are seated in a delightfully cozy cellar room, with eight (yes, eight!) tasting courses, including a duck salad, special fried squid and cod, a sashimi-style Minkhe whale (not eco-approved), ribs, steak, and more. I can’t honestly remember them all – but the grand finale desserts are a spectacular finish to a true gourmand’s delight! After dinner, the group disperses in various directions to explore a town that rarely seems to sleep. Of course, having daylight nearly 24 hours a day can help with that! Interesting Fact: Reykjavik has a population of about 120,000 — the entire country is only about 350,000 — but they host nearly 50,000 visitors a day. Incredible! There is no doubt we would have liked to extend our stay, as well.