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WOW Air & Ace Rental
I landed at Keflavík International Airport an hour earlier than scheduled.  It was very easy (well, at 3:30am at least) to get through customs.  I booked a rental with Ace because I could get a 4×4 standard for a pretty good deal and they’re also 24 hours; however, you will need to call the number they email you if you book Ace.  When I called them, they were able to give me a ride to their location (which is not with the other rentals but a short ride away from the airport) earlier than scheduled.

Oddsson Hostel
The weather was pleasant: clear and 40s.  Only a few raindrops in the whole day.  I had difficulty with my data and ended up driving in circles trying to talk to Verizon before I could finally pull up my maps and locate my hostel (Oddsson).  When I got to the hostel, it was both too early for me to check in and too early for anything in Reyjavík to be open.  I caught up on some emails in the lobby instead and made a map of places to go.

 

 

1. Breakfast at The Laundromat Café Egill Jacobson Kitchen + Bar
Find this place proved to be a challenge because I found no evidence online that the name had changed.  Nonetheless this was one of the first places open in the city on a weekday (about 8am).  I was excited for the coffee, water carafe, and poached egg/avocado sandwich.  For those wanting a taste of Iceland, you can add smoked Arctic char for 400 crowns.

2. Ingólfur Square to Old Harbour
I walked around some in Ingólfur Square, home to Micro Bar and Skúli Craft Bar for those interested in trying Icelandic beers (they carry many).  On the way I passed the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand which has yet to get veggie dogs.  This led me through Ingólfur Arnarson and down to Harpa, the famous concert hall whose glass is made to look like the scales of a fish.  (Historically the economy of Iceland has been tied directly with the availability of cod and has been threatened by such past events as the Cod Wars.)  Harpa sits beside the Old Harbour, a geothermally heated pool running to the south and a backdrop of Mount Esja rising to the north.

3. Key Restaurants in the City
Did you know there are even Mexican restaurants in Reykjavík?  I had such an ambitious list of restaurants to try but only managed to eat two meals!  After breakfast, I ate at Kopar for a late lunch.  This place features a wide view of the harbor.  Like everywhere in Iceland but especially in Reykjavík, meals are relatively expensive and a beer typically costs about $10 each.  (Fun fact: Beer was prohibited until 1989.)  Other restaurants on my list included Culiacan (Mexican), KOL (European), Þrír Frakkar (seafood), Burro (Latin American), Kaffihús Vesturbæjar (café), and Matur og Drykkur (European).  For more brews, check out Mikkeller & Friends or Bryggjan Brugghús.

4. Museums & Buildings
There are numerous parks throughout the city, some featuring monuments.  Several shopping plazas also draw many people around town.  The Parliament Building and City Hall are two substantial government buildings that appeal to a lot of tourists.  The Church of Hallgrímur is a famous visit up the hill from the Tjörnin lake, filled with various kinds of birds hungry for bread.  (If you go to the church, beware the tower closes at 4:30pm.  I didn’t know this and showed up at 4:33pm.  I hope to go back on my last day to do that because you can still go inside, but you can see a nice view of the city from the top.)  For museums, there is the National Museum of Iceland, The Settlement Exhibition, and the Saga Museum which I did at a student discount.  Some people prefer to seek out the geothermal pools around town.

Besides these listed things, I also walked along the bay, trying to tell if I was seeing a whale in the distance or not.  To help offset food costs, I went to Bonús, an Icelandic grocery store.  I was amazed to find their refrigerator section is not a refrigerator but a refrigerated room that you walk in to.  Although the majority of Iceland is powered by geothermal energy, I couldn’t help but wonder how much energy they were losing – even when I look at windows that are steaming up and realize people prop at least one open every day, even with the kind of cold that’s outside.

Day 2 will feature the Blue Lagoon and some national park exploration as I start eastward along the Ring Road.