Saturday, 21 November 2009

Iceland: Final Days - Art, Posh Nosh & The Blue Lagoon

I'm at the end of my tether with the job this week and I've lost count of the number of times I've been tempted to quit. I have to keep reminding myself that I can't just blow this coconut stand without having something else to go to. I'm not sure what that would be though since I am not feeling the love for my current position and am feeling the need to try my hand at something new. Are there jobs widely available for people whose primary talents are laying on the sofa and drinking wine??
We spent our last full day in Reykjavik whiling away a few hours at the Art Museum admiring the works of Erró who donated a large collection of his work to the museum in 1989.
and an exhibit "Revisited Frames" in which Icelandic filmmaker Friðrik Þór Friðriksson selected frames from his own films and those by Lars von Trier which were then painted in oil on outsized canvases.
They were rather beautiful and I loved loved loved the score by Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson. I bought a copy of his album Dust to Dust when I got back. I thought it would be very soothing to listen to at work and help me feel less stressed, but it works a little too well and makes me want to snooze. Ironically I find listening to the Foo Fighters serves me better at the office when I need to focus and drown out the surrounding hubbub.

Afterwards we popped into the eclectic and charming Grai Kotturinn cafe for a light lunch where the interesting sculptures adorned the walls, like this gaggle of swans - is gaggle correct for swans or is that only applicable to geese? - on the wall by the bathrooms....

And this one, which was my particular favourite, although it did not photograph too well as the cafe was dimly lit, but I loved the sentiment, "I like your hairstyle, your trousers and your manners". That's pretty much my criteria for a man :-)

The piece de resistance of our day was an unmissable trip to the Sjavarkjallarinn Seafood Cellar where we indulged in the 10800ISK tasting menu - $80ish I think it worked out to be, but the tax and tip are included in Iceland so it turned out to be less expensive than tasting menus I've come across in New York. No exaggeration it was quite possibly the best meal I've eaten in my 38years and if you are ever in Reykjavik you should definitely make the effort to eat at this place.

I'm going to bore you with a few foodiot shots now, but not too many. I'm not going to go through the whole meal, well I am, because I want to document it for my own selfish purposes, but I'm not going to make you look at all the photos. I can salivate over those in my private time.

So, the tasting menu started with an amuse bouche of mussels - or rather mussel, singular - you have to pace yourself with tasting menus eh, followed by, get this, sliced french bread with apricot, peach, mango soup with a peanut, pistachio, star anise and sesame dip!!

I know!!!!

It sounds completely revolting and I did shoot our waitress a bit of an incredulous look as she described it, but my God it was amazing. If I could only eat that for the rest of my life I would be a happy woman. It was so good we had to move to the shelf at the side of our table, because had we left it in front of us we'd have eaten it all and would have been too full for the deliciousness to come and who wants to pay $80 for a tasting menu and then fill up with bread. That would not have been clever.

Next up was lobster shrimp pot with foie gras sauce followed by tuna tartare a dish which when described to us Melissa and I both thought we heard the word 'seahorse' but surely not right...I mean those things are teensy, there's no meat on one of those. I think our waitress must have said something about a sauce, but with her accent and the noise of the restaurant we misheard. I really really hope so anyway, I don't think I could live with myself if I'd eaten a seahorse.

S'tuna right??? Definitely looks like tuna to me, she says crossing her fingers!!

Next up sushi - salmon, swordfish, tuna roll, crab roll - followed by lamb with a spiced crust on a mushroom mashed potato and then - who ate ALL the pies - fish fantasy which consisted of 4 pieces of fish: tuna, salmon on mashed potato, salt cod on polenta and monkfish which I am not usually a fan of, but this was melt in the mouth amazing as we most of the seafood we ate in Iceland. It's so fresh that when I returned to New York I had to avoid fish for a few days as my palate would have been appalled by the relatively sub-standard quality. Not to dis NYC fish, but in Iceland you can tell it's straight from the ocean and onto the plate within a matter of hours. Of course now I'm completely back into my canned tuna habit and loving it ;-)

Behold, the beautifully presented fish fantasy!!

Dessert was a two parter, molten chocolate chopped banana and papaya sorbet and a fruit and sorbet plate that included pineapple, passion fruit and strawberry sorbets served in bamboo over a terracotta dish. The waitress placed it in front of us and then turned around and picked up what appeared to be a teapot and proceeded to pour what I can only assume was liquid nitrogen into the terracotta dish beneath the bamboo.

The results were impressive, like something the Addams family would serve for dessert and I'm surprised it's something I've never seen in other restaurants, but then again I'm not usually one for ordering dessert so who knows, perhaps it's a common presentation and I'm behind the times.

The whole gastronomic ravishment was washed down with a couple of cocktails - well you have to have an aperitif don't you. A slutty temple for Melissa and a Reykjavik spring punch for me - followed by a delicious Clay station Viognier from Lodi, California which I shall definitely be seeking out at my local offie.

We completed our evening with drinks at the bar of Icelandic restaurant, Einar Ben and I woke up with a bit of a hangover the next morning. Lucky for me we had booked a visit to the Blue Lagoon en route to the airport for our 5pm flight back to New York which is a perfect cure.

Despite the fact that it is incredibly touristy no trip to Reykjavik would be complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon and I have to say paying a visit en route back to the airport is a very efficient way to do it. We were packed and ready and checked out of the hotel in time to be picked up for the 10am bus to the Lagoon. We arrived at the Lagoon just before 11am. There's a little locked hut where you can store your luggage if you are en route to the airport as we were and the bus returns about 2pm for the 30minute drive to the airport. The timing is perfect. You get to spend a good hour in the Lagoon and also have time for a snack and a look around the facility before the bus to the airport arrives.

I was so excited to arrive here, although I was surprised, and somewhat disappointed, to learn that the Blue Lagoon isn't a naturally occurring phenomena but man-made, created by run-off from the Svartsengi power station, but don't let that fact put you off, it's still ranks up there as one of the coolest experiences I've ever had.

Walking down to the entrance.

You have to shower without a bathing suit before entering the Blue Lagoon since pools in Iceland don't use any chemicals so you are trusted to thoroughly clean yourself before going for a dip and posters by the locker room showers indicate which areas to pay special attention to. I noted though that not all tourists followed the rules and the prudish inconsiderately shower with their bathing suits on clearly not washing as thoroughly as directed. How charming!!

I really wanted to take a photo of the poster in the women's locker room, but I felt a bit self conscious and would no doubt have looked like a bit of perv wandering in the vicinity of the showers with my camera. Fortunately ricksphotos101 didn't feel quite so self conscious in the men's shower area.

Thoroughly showered and hair protected by gobs of conditioner - some people bring swim caps - we braced ourselves for the 20-yard dash outside to the edge of the pool. The weather that day was close to freezing that day and I have to tell you it's not the most comfortable temperature to be clad in nothing more than a damp bathing suit for even the briefest moment. Brrrrrrr!! Robes were 700ISK to hire ( (towels were 400ISK)) and I'd recommend indulging in one if you're there in Winter since you'll find yourself popping in and out of the pool. I did love the contrast though of the frigid outside air with the heat of the pool, which just smacks the hangover right out of you.

Water from the power station has a temperature of 158°F (70°C) and is as salty as the ocean. The water is transferred to the Lagoon via a pipeline and is directed through special mixing wells where the water is cooled down to more comfortable bathing temperatures of around 98-102°F/36-39 °C, that's according to the Icelandic tourist board at any rate. It didn't always feel as hot as 98F to me. It certainly isn't consistently hot and there are pockets where it can feel relatively cool. The edges are the hottest where the water flows in and in places there are signs which warn you to keep to the center. The bottom of the lagoon is sandy underfoot when you first get in, but its wise to tread cautiously since it is uneven and quite rocky in parts and toe stubbing is a risk. Some areas are so shallow you can sit and to pass through you have to crouch low so as to expose only a minimal amount of skin to the bracing October air whereas in other parts you're chest deep and the water can be cool.

Melissa in the Lagoon. What a good friend I was to run back to the changing rooms in a wet swimming cossie in the freezing cold to get my camera. Let's pause while I pat myself on the back ;-)

I recommend you take moisturiser with you as the lagoon is very drying and there's no complimentary moisturisers in the locker room as I assumed there would be - if you have fine hair like I do you may find you have the best hair day ever and after spending 4days with hat flattened hair harshness of the water (tastes very salty) my tresses were pleasingly voluminous after styling it with the wonderful Praxler hairdryers - easily as good as my favourite Babyliss - although Melissa didn't appreciate the effect it had on her naturally curly long hair.

Photos from the viewing deck.

Crazily beautiful Icelandic topography. I was sad to head to the airport, I definitely hope to pay a return visit to this amazing country.


Lily Hydrangea said...

this looks amazing! I want to go here!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Lily, you should go, I highly recommend it. I had the best time in Iceland :-)

spandrel studios said...

What a spectacular recap, Fish!! I'm amazed at how artful the presentation of food was - totally unexpected. And the quirky artwork was so neat to see!

But the shots of the Blue Lagoon and the topography are even better - you're really gifted at sharing your travel experiences in an entertaining way... have you thought of freelancing and working as a travel writer? In any case, it's worth putting out feelers for new jobs - some companies *are* hiring.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks Spandrel, glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for the compliment on my writing. Freelancing is something I've pondered I just need to find the time to do some research about it. Maybe the Christmas break will help.

Kitty said...

ha, I love the sign. HA!

I'm so sorry to hear of your work situation, though. Argh! I think the economy gives offices false license to literally abuse their workers. It is so not right.

Can you at least get comp time for all your extra hours? In my view, time is money (and health, and more lying on the couch).

It's tough to change professions at such a time. My thought is, you've invested so much of yourself at your place and you're obviously good at what you do. To capitalize on what you've built would be best, no?

Either a job related to what you're doing or another company that will not take advantage of you. There are 'good' companies around, believe it or not, looking for good people. Next year is probably a more realistic time. Things are picking up but almost no one is hiring (at least in my field).

I also forget what it is you do? Mark has had a very good year this year, so anything advertising-related has suffered but not so terribly as some other fields.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks for the kind words Kitty. I hear what you are saying re: capitalizing on my existing experience. The problem is my job has moved away from what I enjoy doing into a more project management type of role and that's not something I particularly relish and while I feel I am relatively okay at my job I just don't love it. The trick is to find something that uses my existing skill set and is also something I like. It's a tricky one.

Amel's Realm said...

WOWWWW!!! Looks like a little piece of heaven there he he...

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Amel, Iceland was lovely I highly recommend it :-)